|Name:||Novalin 'Nova' Melanon|
|Occupation:||Secretary of The Underground|
|Wealth Status:||Upper Class|
Novalin 'Nova' Melanon was born to her fairly wealthy parents and lived what others would consider a dream life. She went to school, lived in a large house, and had parents that loved her. Living among the wealthy in a rich area of Mallaston, Nova's family was obsessed with looking rich. Nova followed the practice, desperate to fit in with her peers. She grew up with her parents constantly telling her she needed to work hard and get a well paying job.
Being towards the top of her class, Nova spent much of her time studying and maintaining her grades. She had accepted that a relationship would have to wait until she had more time in her life. However, this changed when Ellis, a friend in many of her classes and a frequent study partner, asked her out. She agreed, sharing similar feelings, and their relationship worked out pretty well since they were both focused on their school work. He seemed to be the perfect match for Nova, coming from a similar family dynamic and going through similar social situations.
When Nova's grandmother died of old age, she was devastated. Her grandmother had practically raised her as her parents worked long hours. She had been the one that Nova learned many of her skills from, and was the only person that knew about her water magi abilities, and encouraged her to practice.
During this time Ellis took the opportunity to tell Nova about his secret plans to run away and start a new life. At first she was entirely against it, afraid of how devastated her parents would be, and of how she would have to abandon all the plans she and her family had arranged for her future. Ellis, however, was persistent and convinced her that what had been planned for her was not what she wanted, and that she would not be happy perusing the life that she was headed towards. He told her that the world was being cruel to her by taking her grandmother away and that the world is cruel to those that are too pure-hearted. He also mentioned that he had friends that would be able to put in a good word with their employer and get him a job fairly quickly.
Convinced that this plan was what she wanted, Nova agreed, and that night after her parents went to bed she ran away with Ellis. She had no idea where they were going, but she didn't care. Her head clouded with grief and thinking that the world will only continue to be cruel to her, she was content with leaving her old life behind. She was tired of living up to the standards of others, and found the idea of making her own decisions exciting.
Ellis brought her to a bar and told her to wait outside while he meet up with some acquaintances. He returned with a couple of similar aged boys who drove them to a part of the city Nova had never been to before. It was more run down than the pristine area she was raised in, but she trusted that Ellis knew what he was doing. They were dropped off in front of another pub, which Ellis had clearly been to before. He led her directly to a table where the friends he had mentioned were sitting. He told them that he was finally going through with his plan, and his friends were clearly excited. They directed him to go to his new home, and that they would take care of the rest.
Ellis brought Nova to a small apartment within walking distance of the bar. It was very different from the lavish house she had grown accustomed to, but she liked how much cozier it was. The next day Ellis went back to the bar, but Nova stayed home to do some housekeeping and straighten the apartment out. He came home later that day, officially employed under The Underground, something that Nova had not heard about and assumed was the name of the bar.
At first, Ellis worked what seemed like part time. He would get a couple days off a week, and only be at work for a few hours with the exception of the occasional day that he worked the whole day. But pretty soon he was working full days, and sometimes be gone for multiple days.
Nova didn't mind too much. She enjoyed having the time to think and practice her water magi in private, and she didn't mind having to struggle with money. However, this changed when Ellis began to treat Nova with less respect. It started with the occasional complaint about dirty dishes and not having enough money, and grew into him controlling every aspect of her life and treating her like an object. He stopped allowing her to leave the house as frequently and complained about everything she did. He began to physically abuse her when something at work hadn't gone as expected and she remained positive. In these times he reminded her that the world was only cruel to her because she was too optimistic and passive. Whenever she threatened to leave, he would beat her and threaten her life. She became too scared to disobey him and accepted that this was the life she was stuck with. Through details shouted at her in heated arguments and beatings, she came to realize what The Underground really was, and finally understood the reasons behind Ellis' long work days.
One day Ellis came home early and told her that they needed her help at work. Confused, but terrified of questioning his demands, she walked to the pub with him. He led her over to a group of mostly men, who gave her a once over and said that she was definitely a good candidate.
Before she knew it, she was handed a change of clothes and given a location. She obediently changed in the next room, a pit forming in her stomach. She knew that something was up, but she was too afraid to defy these men.
Out on the street and standing at the right location, she felt eerily alone even though the group had promised to stay close.
A sudden pressure on the back of her neck interrupted her thoughts and made her heart beat even faster. She then heard the tense whisper of a man behind her say, "I have a crossbow, don't try to run or yell or else I will shoot." Terrified, Nova obeyed. The stranger led her a few blocks down the street and through an alley to a backdoor. The man opened it and led her inside. He tied her to a post and began to rummage through her pockets. Frustrated that she had nothing, he began to yell at her, saying that this was supposed to be how he fed his family for the month, that the commission he gets for turning an Underground into the authorities would not be enough. Out of frustration he hit her over the head with the crossbow, just as The Underground men barged into the room. She slowly slipped into unconsciousness to the sounds of crossbows being fired, screams, and blades hitting wood, followed by the unique feeling of a stream of stranger's blood and the smell of burning flesh.
She woke up on the floor of the pub, her head spinning and ears ringing. She could hear the clinking of beer mugs and shot glasses as the men and few women drank to their success of "ridding the area of another lowly competitor". They began boasting about how he begged for mercy, and the way he pleaded for his kids not to be slaughtered in front of him.
Nova, for the first time in her life, was furious. She felt all her built up rage towards Ellis for bringing her into this life and letting her being used as bait, but mostly towards these men for slaughtering innocent children in front of their father.
The world had been cruel enough to her, and it was her turn to be cruel to it.
She stood up, the back of her left hand pulsing. Most of the men behind the bar looked surprised to even see her standing. One, however, was downing a shot. Nova stopped it in his throat, thrusting the strong liquid deep into his lungs, crushing them. He fell to the floor, feebly attempting to use his crippled lungs only to spit up blood. Ellis ran to his side while the others took arms, but Nova's rage only fueled her power. She thrust bullets of vodka through the skull of a woman beginning to point a crossbow at her, enjoying the sound of her enemy's skull fracturing as the condensed beads burrowed through her head. Emptying a glass on a nearby table, she thrust a small wall of water up as another threw a knife at her, and caught it in the transparent barrier. Looking into his eyes, she watched as she propelled a sheet of water towards him, burrowing it in his neck.
And now, only Ellis remained.
Nova savored the look of sheer horror on his face, the fear that burned behind his eyes as he looked up at her was so satisfactory. All he could manage to utter was "Nova" before her knuckles connected with his jaw, snapping it shut and sending him reeling to the floor. His expression, tinged with pain, gave her a rush like no other. It empowered her knowing that he no longer looked at her like she was worthless. God how she hated feeling worthless. But being seen as something, no, as someone who mattered changed something in her. And she realized, this is exactly what Ellis had been teaching her all along. He needed a taste of his own medicine, and he was due for a large dose.
She walked over to where he had landed. He looked up at her and pleaded, “Nova, please, you know I love you.” She snorted, “I’d believe that if you hadn’t been using me as a punching bag for the last few months. And what have I ever done to you?” With that she delivered a kick to his ribs, knocking the breath out of him. She was screaming now, feeling a blinding sense of anger. “Do you know how many times you took your anger out on me when all I wanted to do was make you happy?” She kicked again, this time at his hip, but he caught her foot and yanked. She fell to the floor, caught completely off guard. Ellis took his chance. He drew his knife and thrust himself on top of her. She grabbed at his wrist, attempting to control the hand that held the weapon. Ellis’ eyes were now crazed with adrenaline, “You know what, you’re right. I’ve treated you like shit and beat on you. But you have never considered the one thing that kept me from beating you to death,” He locked eyes with her, “and that’s defying me. But now, you’ve finally given me the chance to kill you. And you can only blame yourself for that.” He plunged the dagger down, striking Nova right above the left collar bone. She screamed and fought against his weight as the blade sunk into her flesh. “The world is cruel, Nova, and I’ve taken my place on its side. It’s too bad you didn’t join too.” He pulled the blade out, sending a renewed shoot of pain through her body. She screamed, and attempted to roll out from under him, but he grabbed her by the back of the neck and shoved her head into the ground. He plunged the blade once again into her right side. She shrieked, and felt her own blood begin to pool underneath her.
“Aw, poor Nova,” Ellis said, pouting his lips in false pity, “Did the bad man touch a pretty little hair on the princess’ head?”
Her vision began to blacken around the edges as excruciating pain gnawed at every nerve in her body. Then she felt the wet flow of blood on her left hand, and knew that she wasn’t completely helpless. She formed feeble beads of blood and then blindly flung them at Ellis, striking him in the chest and face with just enough force to burrow into his skin and cause him to draw back. Nova escaped his clutching fingers, turning only to aim the next blow. Feeling her strength fading fast, she drew more of her blood, this time directly from the wound in her right side, and hurled the newly formed pellets at Ellis. She put all her remaining strength behind these projectiles, burrowing them deep in his abdomen. She watched, as he staggered backwards and lost his balance. Collapsing to the floor, he writhed in pain, and began coughing up blood.
Breathing heavily, Nova watched as Ellis struggled for air. She felt rattled to the core. She had never been in a fight and had never taken anyone’s life before. However, that same brokenness she felt from the fight seemed to release something within her, something dark, something freeing. And she knew that she beat Ellis. She was the final victor, and it felt so renewing to finally overcome him, to reduce the man who used to abuse her to a pathetic heap.
Nova stood up and shuffled over to Ellis, wincing at every step she took. She stooped and put her face near his ear and said in a soft voice, “This is the closest you will come to understanding what you have done to me; to understanding the person you have turned me into.” She stood and made her way out of the bar, listening to the gruesome sound of Ellis’ labored breathing as she made her slow exit.
It was still night, probably early morning, as Nova staggered to her apartment. Luckily, the streets were abandoned at this time of day. She opened the door, entered her apartment, and locked the door behind her. She made her way over to kitchen sink, running the water and lifting her shirt to assess the damage. She knew that she couldn’t go to a hospital without filing a guard report and then being the suspect in multiple homicides, so instead she needed to treat herself. She started with the stab wound on her right side. The wound was deep, and still bleeding. Too weak to use her magi abilities, she began splashing water over it to try and clean the clotted blood that had covered her side. She found a small sewing kit, and after a while of convincing herself that she could tolerate the pain, began to suture the wound with a shaky hand. She took one of Ellis’ shirts (he shouldn’t need those since he was bleeding out on the floor of a bar), and cut it into strips. She tied the makeshift bandage around her waist to try and stop the bleeding. Looking at her shoulder she found the same, and repeated the process. She managed to shuffle over to the couch, and ended up falling asleep, exhausted after the night’s events.
She roused from her sleep sporadically, checking the clock and watching as the day went by. She woke up around 6:45 p.m. She sat up slowly, extremely sore from the night before, her stab wounds now throbbing and sending splitting pains through her body. She started rubbing the remaining exhaustion from her eyes, but stopped when she thought she heard a faint click come from the entryway. She looked up, but passed it off as nothing when she didn’t hear anything else. She slowly stood up and made her way towards the sink to wash her hands, which were now splattered with clotted blood. She looked down at her shirt. There wasn’t much of the original color left after being soaked with the both the blood of her kidnapper and her own. The red had turned to more of a rust color and was now stiff and flaking off in areas where it had folded. She unwrapped the injury on her right side, assessing her far from perfect stitching job. Then her hand shot up to the side of her neck as a sharp pain sent a fresh rush of adrenaline through her body. She was surprised to find her hand meet by that of another person’s holding a small, thin object. Another arm clamped around her waist as she began to struggle, desperately trying to free herself from the holds of an intruder. But the hand on her neck was put, the arm around her waist steady, as she squirmed in futile desperation to escape, and reopening the stab wound on her right side. Then the sedative began to set in, making her limbs heavier and heavier until she not only was unable to fight back, but also unable to support her own body weight. Her arms went limp at her sides, her legs giving out underneath her. She couldn’t fight the overwhelming weight of her eyelids as she slipped into blackness.
The first thing she noticed was the chill of the tile flooring. It radiated through her body, indicating she had been there for some time. She wearily opened her eyes, still feeling the effects of the drug, and pushed herself into a sitting position, her wounds from the previous night’s fight throbbing. A wave of dizziness passed over her, and she brought her left hand to her forehead. It had been wrapped in some sort of cloth.
“Easy now. Don’t need you bleeding all over my floor again.”
She froze, stricken by terror as she now realized she wasn’t alone. Her eyes widened, still shielded by her left hand.
“The worst of the dizziness will pass soon enough. My men accidentally dosed you with a little too much. I wasn’t expecting you to be so small considering the shape Ellis is in.”
Nova dropped her hand and whipped her head up to look at the tall brunette standing on the other side of the room. “Who are you? And how do you know about Ellis?”
An amused smile crossed the man’s face. Her panic seemed to entertain him. “Ellis warned that you wouldn’t know who I was.”
Ellis was alive. Nova paled, immediately feeling sick to her stomach. She leaned back against the wall, the dizziness intensifying.
“And to answer your question, he works for me. Along with all those other people you killed. I’m Darrius, head of The Underground,” He said with pride in his voice.
She started shaking. Being nervous always made her cold, and the tile flooring certainly wasn’t helping. She knew her chances of winning a fight against this guy were slim, and definitely not worth the risk.
“I’m so sorry for what happened to your workers,” She said in a desperate attempt to keep Darrius from hurting her.
“You’re not sorry. Nobody kills people like that and then feels sorry," He said with a grimace. "It's precious that you think a poor excuse like that would make me forgive you." He shed his jacket, exposing a well toned torso.
"Sir, you're not going to beat a woman, right?" A third party butted in. Nova turned her head to see another man, this one all dressed in a black t-shirt and baggy pants.
Darrius pinched the bridge of his nose, his forehead furrowing in annoyance. Through clenched teeth he spat, "You imbeciles always know the exact wrong thing to say." He lowered his hand and walked over to the other man.
"I'm sorry sir, I didn't mean to upset you, " The man in black pleaded. "I promise it won't happen again."
"And that's what you said last time." Darrius threw a punch backed by incredible might, his muscles bulging with energy. His fist met the jaw of the other man, sending an echoing crack through the room. The man was now on the floor, screaming, and throwing his hands up to block the forceful blows yet to come. The floor was scattered with his teeth and blood.
Nova was dumbfounded, and too terrified to do anything as she watched Darrius grab the man by the collar of his shirt and suspend his torso above the ground. He punched him again on the side of the head, sending another booming echo through the room. With one arm, he flung the man across the room, sending him tumbling to the floor, his leg obviously broken. "You white knights always think you're so important," He hissed, walking over to where the white knight lay. He delivered a powerful kick to the gut, causing the man to spit up blood, and send more teeth spilling out his mouth. Another kick to the chest sent the man into a coughing fit as his lungs were flooded with blood. Darrius watched as the man convulsed, and eventually lay still, a smile spreading across his face like a child after receiving all A's on a report card.
Nova was horrified. Her heart hammered in her chest as he turned to face her, the other man's blood speckling his body. "It's your lucky day, Nova," He said as he walked towards her. "You got a special preview of your own fate."
Nova was left with no choice but to fight. She tugged at the wrappings on her left hand, but they wouldn't come free from her arm. She needed to get them off in order to use her water magi.
"Those aren't going to come off." He said, pausing only for a second to enjoy watching her struggle. He reached for her left hand, and before she could draw it away, he had his fingers firmly wrapped around her wrist. Despite her attempts to break free, he easily turned her palm face up and pointed to a black mark. "These symbols are adhering it to your skin. You have to know the right magic to erase them." He smiled. "Now what are you going to do without your water powers?"
She pried at his fingers with her other hand, but they held strong. She panicked. "Let me go!"
"Nobody tells me what to do," He said, anger rising in his voice. He lifted his other hand, the sculpted muscles in his shoulder tensing as he prepared for the blow. Without thinking she lashed out at his throat with her free hand, clawing at the thick skin, damp with sweat from his previous match with the white knight. As her nails begun to sink in, his poised hand shot down, clamping around her wrist and thrusting it away from him. He slammed her hand into the wall behind her, shattering bone. She cried out in pain as it shot down her arm and made her eyes sting with tears. Through blurred vision she saw the smudges of red begin dripping down his neck.
"Hope you're not right handed." He said, exposing a row of teeth as he smirked. He released her crippled hand, watching it limply fall to the floor. Still restraining her left hand, his eyes locked on the gash poking out of the collar of her shirt. He reached across her body and pulled the collar down over her shoulder, exposing the laceration Ellis had inflicted. "Well look what we have here," He said, slightly intrigued. He placed his thumb on the already agitated skin and began to apply pressure. Nova screamed as his hand fastened around her shoulder, sinking his thumb deeper into the wound and spilling fresh blood. She turned her head and bit down on his arm like a wild animal. She felt her teeth break the skin, flooding her mouth with the metallic taste of a stranger's blood. He withdrew his hand from her shoulder, and wrapped his fingers around her throat, extending them to the base of her skull. He pivoted her body, taking her from a sitting position against the wall to pinning her on the floor. She couldn't breathe as he squeezed her throat. She was helpless as she gasped for air, her good hand still controlled by Darrius. Her lungs burned for oxygen as her vision began to spot. Her limbs grew weaker and weaker as her oxygen levels dropped. The overwhelming relief came when the pressure was lifted from her throat and her hand was finally released. She rolled over, turning her back to Darrius, and inflated her lungs with air that smelt of death. Darrius stood up from his kneeling position beside her and left the room, closing the door behind him without saying a word. She lay there for a long time, breathing in the stench of room and letting the cold seep into her sweat and blood drenched body.
Everything hurt. Her shoulder kept bleeding, her neck throbbing, and the pain in the back of her head giving her a migraine. But she just lay there, wishing it would all be over.
She had no idea how much time had passed. There were no windows or clocks to show the passage of it, just the drying of pools of blood as they lost their reflective characteristic. She managed to sit up and take her first assessment of the room. The walls were barren except for the few torches lighting the room. The chain that bound her leg to the floor was short, granting her very little mobility. She stood up slowly, feeling the memory of every impact from the fight, and feeling lightheaded from the blood loss. She made her way over towards the nearest torch, and with the chain taught, she could just barely reach it. She pulled it out of it's holder with her unbroken hand. She sat back down and began to hold the flame so it licked at the chain. The metal heated, and after setting the torch down, gave it a good yank with her leg. The metal cuff dug into her ankle, but the chain links began to stretch, giving her hope of escape. She held the torch to the disfigured links, and once again, heaved against their strength. The links snapped. A wave of relief passed over her. She made her way over to where Darrius had first punched the man, and rummaged through the broken teeth. She found one that still had a root attached-just what she needed. She inserted it into the keyhole, and with some luck, heard a click and felt relief as the manacle slid off.
She began gathering the broken teeth, picking them from the reddened floor. She cautiously approached the corpse, the eyes, now glossed over, seemed to hold her gaze. Like a black hole, they were so empty, and absorbed the whole room. She averted her eyes and finished picking up all the broken teeth as if they were pieces of his life that he was leaving behind.
She made her way over to the door, and pushed her ear to it. Silence. Taking a deep breath to calm her nerves, she slowly opened the it just enough so she could peek outside. She exhaled a sigh of relief when she saw that the hallway was empty. Her heart pounding, she slipped out of the room. Staying close to the wall, she silently made her way to where it branched off. She could either go straight or right. Glimpsing around the corner, she saw a white knight keeping guard of one of the doors. She took a step back to keep out of the view of the guard. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She had to get by him. She grabbed a tooth with her left hand and poked around the corner once again. She threw the tooth over the guard's head, and heard it hit the flooring beyond him. He turned his head towards the noise and she made a break for it, keeping straight to avoid passing him. There was only one door down this hallway, her only shot at getting out. She approached it and listened for any noise on the other side. Again, silence. She wrapped her fingers around the handle and began to open the door when suddenly she felt her shirt tighten tighten around her shoulders as someone's fist clamped around the fabric. They jerked her back from the door with immense force and slammed her face first into the wall beside it. The blow to her head dazed her, sending a renewed pain through her skull. The powerful hands grabbed her shoulders and spun her around, pinning her back against the wall and revealing her worst fear. Darrius.
"Where do you think you're going?" He questioned, entertained by the idea that she made it out of the room and past the guard. He mocked her optimism, "You can't seriously think that you would make it out of here alive." The noise caught the attention of the guard and he started making his way over to them.
Nova's eyes swelled with tears. She didn't want to die. Not like this. Not alone.
Her tears only seemed to anger him. "I thought someone like you would have a little more respect for yourself." He slapped her hard, turning her face away from him. "Have a little more decency than to face a fight with crying." His fingers wrapped around her jawbone, and she watched as her field of view was turned once again to his face. "They don't know..." She began in a whisper.
"They don't know what?" He spat.
"That I love them. I never even said goodbye. I just...left them."
He slapped her again. "Don't you dare..." He said in a softer voice, his eyes slightly more reflective.
She continued anyway, tears streaming down her face. "I never thought I'd die alone. I thought I'd always have someone to protect me. But I guess things don't always work out how you want them to."
A lone tear started sliding down Darrius' face. "You okay, boss?" The guard questioned, noticing that Darrius had started crying. Darrius let go of Nova, allowing her slide to the floor. He grabbed the side of the guard's head, and slammed it into the wall. The swift blow cracked the white knight's skull, killing him instantly. Darrius let the body crumple to the ground, and turned to Nova again, his expression almost that of someone looking at old photos. He picked her up like a child, delicately, almost as if he were now afraid to hurt her. He opened the door the rest of the way with his foot and carried her inside.
Nova couldn't put up much of a fight. She was already weak and dizzy from the blood loss over the past couple days. Her head hurt from being slammed against the wall, and the splitting headache made it nearly impossible to think. With her unbroken hand pinned between her body and his, all she could manage to do to resist him was tense up.
He laid her on a couch, pulling a bowl of water closer to him and sitting on the floor in front of her. She tried sitting up to get away, but he gently put his hand on her chest and pushed her back down. She feebly grabbed his wrist, trying to push it away, but she was far too weak to even make his hand waiver.
"Take it easy." He said. To her surprise it didn't sound like a taunt.
She turned to face him, tears still streaking her face. "Please..." She said in a helpless whisper.
"It's okay, I'm not gonna hurt you." He said in a level tone. Nova turned her face to the ceiling again, exposing the still bleeding wound on the side of her forehead from when he slammed her into the wall. Using his water magi, he brought some of the water to her wound. She flinched at the unexpected chill, but relaxed a little when it began to melt the pain away. "See? Not so bad." He reassured. The water slid down her neck, wrapping around her throat like Darrius' hands had, sending a fresh rush of panic through her. She moved her hand to brush the water off, but Darrius' caught hers. "It's okay, I promise." She felt the soreness in her throat lift as the cool water moved over it.
"Why are you doing this?" She prodded.
The water around her neck fell, pooling behind her on the leather couch. He immediately tensed up, clenching his fist. His fingers whitened as he kept pushing them into his palm. He took in a deep breath, and pulled his fist back into a striking position. Nova flinched and prepared for the blow.
But he stopped. He lowered his fist and let out his breath. Without a word he resumed, taking more water from the bowl. Nova didn't say anything, her breathing became shallow and her heart raced, worsening the dizziness. She averted her gaze, only taking quick, sideways glances at him. He pulled the collar of her shirt down over her shoulder, exposing the gash. He stopped, and brushed his fingers over her skin again, a puzzled expression crossing his face as he rubbed them together. He pushed two fingers into the side of her neck, taking her pulse. It looked as though for a fleeting moment he was concerned. He opened his mouth to speak, but before he could say a word, the world faded.
It came back into focus. Darrius was pushing himself off the floor.
He was leaning over her. She could feel water passing over her body.
The haze began to lift. She gasped for air, feeling herself take a full breath for the first time in a while.
"You're lucky I'm extremely advanced in water magi. Another two minutes and you'd be dead. Blood loss is a bitch." Darrius was sitting on the couch on the opposite side of the table. She began to sit up. "I don't recommend doing that," He advised. She didn't listen. She hoisted herself into a sitting position, immediately overwhelmed by a migraine. She rubbed her temples to try and alleviate it, noticing that her hand was no longer broken. "Told you," He added. She held her hand out in front of her, amazed that it looked and felt completely normal. She had learned how to heal flesh wounds with her water abilities, and she had even gotten pretty good at it, but she had never been able to heal a broken bone. She remembered sitting in the bathroom for hours after she had broken her leg, but she was never able to heal it. It was almost as if he hadn't only used water magi...
"You're welcome," He said, snapping her out of her trance.
"Thanks," She replied semi-absentmindedly. She touched her shoulder and side, relieved to find that her entire body had been healed.
"So, Novalin Melanon, you have quite the history," He began, "Wealthy parents, born with magi powers, straight A student, well, except for that one B in history." He smirked.
"I see you've been talking with Ellis," She said in a flat tone.
"Let's just say he's not gonna do much more chatting until his jaw isn't in pieces." He smiled, remembering the feeling of bone cracking under his knuckles. Nova liked the idea of Ellis suffering, finally paying for the things he did to her.
"Come with me," He said, standing up and heading to the door. She got up and followed. She didn't want to disobey, especially after what happened last time. He led her down the hallway and took a left, heading towards where she had thrown the tooth. He opened the door the white knight had been guarding and stepped inside. The room was similar to that of the one she had been kept in. And there was Ellis, chained to the floor. His face was disfigured, probably from the beatings Darrius had so generously provided for him. He looked up at her, his eyes widening despite being bruised and swollen.
Darrius lifted her left arm and swiped his hand over the wrappings. The symbols disappeared and he unraveled the cloth from her hand, exposing the water magi mark. He picked up a bucket of water at one end of the room and placed it at her feet. "You two kids have fun," He said as he turned around to leave the room.
"Wait," She said, surprising herself with her own courage, "Please heal his jaw. I want to talk to him."
He paused, weighed his options, then sighed, "Fine." He walked over to where Ellis was. Using magic to control the water, he let it slide over Ellis' jaw, concentrating more than Nova would have expected from someone who was highly skilled. She heard the pieces of bone slide back into place, linking together like puzzle pieces. Darrius returned the water back to the bucket as he soundlessly left the room, leaving her alone with Ellis.
Nova watched as Ellis touched his jaw, an immense amount of pain being released from his face. He noticed her staring. “Do we really have anything to talk about?” He said, leaning his head back against the wall and looking up at the ceiling. “I know you hate my guts and want to kill me, so just do it. There’s no need to make this longer than it needs to be.”
Nova let out a breath she hadn’t realized she had been holding. She closed her eyes and formed two fists as she felt anger surge through her body. “You sure have that right.” She looked at him. “There have been so many times that I have imagined myself bashing your skull in, slitting your throat, squeezing the life out of you with water as you took a shower; but I just could never bring myself to do it. I had always been too much of a coward. But that night at the bar, something changed within me. That was the closest I had ever come to fulfilling that dream. To being free from your anger and your control.”
“Then why didn’t you do it? Why didn’t you just kill me then?” He was nearly shouting.
“Honestly, I thought you would bleed out on that floor. Alone and helpless.”
“I wish I did. That way I wouldn’t be stuck here talking to you,” He spat, his tone more level.
“Trust me, talking to you isn’t exactly the easiest thing for me either.” She said, picking up the bucket and moving it to Ellis’ side. She took a seat on the floor in front of him. “But over the past few days I’ve realized something.”
“Oh yeah? What’s that?”
“I hate you for who you’ve become, but I can’t let the last thing I do to you be out of hate. I won’t let you die at the hands of those who turned you into this monster.”
Lifting her left hand, she removed a stream of water from the bucket. She slid the liquid over his black eye, watching it melt away until it was completely healed. He weakly grabbed her hand. “Don’t.” He was almost pleading. She continued anyway, healing his remaining wounds. She returned the water to the bucket, and looked him in the eyes, hers now watering as she held back tears.
“Just remember that I will always remember you for who you used to be, not for who you’ve become. And I know that you would have wanted me to do this-not letting you die alone.” She cupped his face in her hands, putting her forehead against his.
She felt the warmth of tears pool around her hands as he began to cry. “Nova,” He whispered.
“Yeah?” She replied, matching his tone so she wouldn’t need to hear herself lose control of her own voice.
She jerked her hands in a twisting motion, hearing the snap of bones breaking. He instantly became limp, and she caught him in her arms, embracing his still warm body. She let herself cry, her body shuddering as she succumbed to the fit. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” She repeatedly whispered as she rocked back and forth. “You’re free now. You’re finally free. And so am I.” She heard the snap of fingers. Ellis' body suddenly collapsed inward, instantly turning into a pile of ash. She looked down through blurry eyes and saw that she was now covered in a fine layer of gray dust, a pile at her knees. She turned around to see Darrius' hazy figure standing behind her. "Alright, I've had enough. Come on," He said, sliding his hands under her arms and lifting her to her feet. She fell once again to her knees, not wanting to leave Ellis' remains. But he picked her up, impatiently wrapping one arm around her waist and easily dragged her out of the room and up the stairs to a bar.
He sat her down at the bar, effortlessly hoisting her onto a stool. She rested her elbows on its surface and buried her face in her hands. She couldn't believe that she had killed him. That she had been the one to bring his life to an end. She heard Darrius pull out the stool next to her and take a seat. He drummed his fingers on the bar waiting for her to calm down.
She cried until she no longer could; until she had come to terms with her decision and pulled herself together. She took a deep breath and wiped the remaining tears from her cheeks. Their wetness mixed with Ellis' ashes, creating a paste-like substance.
Darrius interrupted her thoughts, pushing a paper towards her. "Tell me what this says." Through tired eyes she read the paper, her forehead furrowing in confusion. "It's a bill for furniture." She looked up at him in hopes of an explanation, but he was already sliding another paper towards her. "And this one?"
"It seems like a report from a sector in Mallaston." And then it dawned on her. She looked at him once again, this time catching his gaze. In shocked surprised she whispered, "You can't read."
Her comment seemed to agitate him. "No, I can't. And my last secretary didn't exactly work out very well." He slid a stack of papers towards her. "Organize these and total up the expenses. Also, read the reports to me. I need to know if anyone is slacking." She could only imagine what happened to the last secretary, and certainly didn't want to find out. She reached for the stack and pulled them closer to her and began her task. He watched as she carefully organized and totaled the bills, making comments under his breath as she read the reports to him. Clearly, not too many people impressed him. When she finished he said with some interest in his voice, "You know, I do have an opening since I just got rid of my last secretary. The pay is good and I'll give u a place to crash."
She really just wanted to go home. She missed her old life, and felt drawn to its simplicity. She felt guilty for not only leaving her parents when they were already grief stricken by the death of her grandmother, but also without ever saying goodbye. But she also knew that she had been turned into a criminal as soon as she murdered those people; that she would never be the same. And despite The Underground being an elaborate crime organization, it was where she belonged now. It was the force behind who she had become, and she certainly did not want to be its enemy. She had already gotten a taste of what that was like, and she never wanted to go through that again. "Okay, I'll do it." She said, sealing her fate.
The wooden legs of the stool scraped across the floor as he pushed back from the bar and stood up. "I'll walk you home, but first put this on." He threw an outfit at her, giving her the perfect opportunity to display her lack of athletic ability. She awkwardly threw her hands up, flinching as she miraculously caught it. He smiled. "We don't need anyone calling the Guard on us because they saw a woman wearing clothing covered in blood." He pointed to a door on the other side of the bar. "You can change in there if you like. I know how women are about their privacy."
"Thanks," She said, ignoring his sexist comment and blushing with embarrassment at her clumsiness. She slid off the stool and made her way towards the door. When she opened the it and slipped inside, she wasn't surprised to find that it was a supplies closet. Conscious of Darrius waiting for her, she quickly changed into the black t-shirt and jeans, and emerged from the closet holding her dirty clothing. "What should I do with these?"
"Don't worry about those." He dismissively waved his hand and they disappeared. "Now come on, I don't have all day."
He led her out of the bar and onto the street. She was stunned to discover that she was in the midst of the richest sector of the city. She had never been in it before, but she and her friends would always walk to a cafe just outside the heavily guarded district and admire its grandiose structures. Darrius noticed the awe sprawled across her face and remarked, "So I take it this is your first time here." She just nodded her head as he began to lead her down the street. She marveled at her surroundings, dazzled by the beauty of everything she looked at. He stopped and inserted a key into a door. "I had someone stop by earlier and leave some clothes for you. I also had them get you a few groceries since you probably haven't eaten in a while. And don't worry, I took the key back." He pushed the door open and gestured to the inside. "All yours."
She was amazed that she would be living among the richest. She was speechless. All she could manage in response was, "Thank you."
"I'll send someone to walk you back tomorrow. I highly doubt you can find your way considering how distracted you look." He watched as she stepped inside, and handed her the key. "Clean yourself up a little bit and get some rest. You look like Hell frozen over." She smiled and closed the door, making sure to lock it. When she turned around and saw how she would be living, her jaw dropped. She felt like she had walked into a castle. The ceilings were high, the couches leather, and every decoration something of worth. She had to walk around and touch everything to convince herself that it was real. This was someplace she had only dreamed of living.
Her stomach growled and snapped her out of the daydream. She needed to eat something. She opened the cabinets and found them fully stocked. She quickly threw together a vegetable stir fry and scarfed it down. She made her way to the bathroom and began running the water. She hadn't realized how fitly she was until she learned how long it would take for the water to stop turning a rusty brown. Afterward she changed into a different t-shirt and some sweat pants, and went to bed, nearly falling asleep before her head even touched the pillow.
She woke the next morning to the sun just barely peeking over the horizon. The light filtered into the room, displaying its fairy tale essence. She rolled out of bed, still feeling the effects of having missed a lot of sleep. She groggily changed into day clothes, and made her way to the kitchen. She heated a pan, cracked some eggs, and began making an omelet when someone knocked at the door. She lightly jogged over and unlocked it. She opened it to someone in familiar clothes; those that resembled the white knights'. He dutifully spoke first. "I'm supposed to take you down to the bar."
"Oh yeah! I'm going to be a couple minutes. Do you mind waiting?" She replied.
"Just make it fast. I don't have all day." He impatiently responded.
She closed the door and finished making her omelet, eating it as fast as she could. She hastily cleaned up her mess and left the apartment, making sure to lock the door behind her. The man started leading her back towards the bar. She tried to start a conversation. "I'm Nova, by the way."
"I know." Was all he responded with. She looked away, getting the hint that he didn't want to talk. She settled on nicknaming him Blue Eyes until she actually learned his name. He escorted her the remainder of the way to the bar in tense silence.She also took the opportunity to memorize the route between her house and work since she had been too shocked the day before to learn her way around. When they entered the bar, he led her back down the stairs to the basement. She followed him through the hallways and into a room where Darrius was sitting behind a desk. "I have done what you asked," Said Blue Eyes. Darrius silently dismissed Blue Eyes, and watched as he strode out of the room, closing the door behind him. He turned to address Nova, pushing his fingers together as he reclined in a black leather chair. Nova was sure to hear a snarky comment escape his lips the moment he had a chance seeing that she was now working for someone who had beat the crap out of her the day before. But all that he said was, “You know what to do,” and motioned toward the other side of the room where a stack of papers sat. For a second she was taken aback by the lack of instruction he gave her. but she quickly turned around and picked up the stack. "You can do that in one of the workrooms. Just take a right out of here, then a left down the hallway and go all the way to the end. There are no doors on it so you should be able to find it pretty easily." He said, absently examining his nails.
"Okay," Was all she responded as she left the room. It felt strange to have been hired the day before and already be working on her own. As she walked down the hallway she reminisced on the days that she always had work to do; when she went to school and seemed to have a continuous flow of homework. It had been nearly a year since she had a definitive purpose in life, and she hadn't realized how much she missed it. As she made her way into the workroom, she quickly found peace within it. She sat down in one of the more private work spaces and rested the stack of papers on the table. She looked down at her daunting task and smiled. Direction had finally been restored to her life.
She completely enveloped herself in the work, meticulously crunching numbers and keeping track of purchases. Her focus only broke when she heard the scuffing of boots on the floor behind her. She glanced over her shoulder, expecting to just see someone walking by, but to her surprise Blue Eyes was standing in the entryway, leaning against the frame. She startled a little, her heart skipping a beat. He laughed, amused by how easily he scared her. “Hey there, Jumpy.”
She laughed nervously, and blushed with embarrassment. “Sorry, didn’t expect to see you here. You don’t seem like the paperwork type.”
He shrugged. “I’m just supposed to check up on you every once in a while.”
“Oh, okay. Well, I think I’m good. But thanks for checking.” She was still red with embarrassment. She could feel the heat radiating from her cheeks as she turned around and hoped that he’d leave. She distractedly went back to work, nervously shuffling papers and squaring off stacks. She waiting until she didn’t hear anything for a few minutes and tried to discretely look behind her. Blue Eyes was still there.
“It’s fascinating to see how nervous other people make you.” He said, still watching her.
Nova turned back to her work. “I’m glad I can entertain you. Now if you don’t mind I need to get this done.”
“Go ahead, I’m not stopping you.” He retorted.
Nova took a deep breath, clearly displaying her frustration.
“Anger. Now, that’s a new one,” He continued his sarcasm, “My, you are an exquisite specimen. I need to watch you more often; In fact, I think I’ll stay a little longer.”
She turned to face him. “I didn't realize that being an ass was your favorite passtime.” She spat back.
“Ouch,” He said pushing off from the wall so he was standing. He took a step into the room. “And the claws come out.” He must have been able to tell that she was only getting angrier, and said, “I can tell you want to hit me. Well, go ahead. If it will make you feel any better, give me a good whack on the side of the head. It’s not like women can hit very hard anyway.”
Nova pushed back from the desk and stood up. She was pissed at him. She never used being a woman as an excuse for anything, and she certainly wouldn’t tolerate being looked down upon because of her gender. But she knew she was angry, and she didn’t want to start a fight, not on the first day, and not with someone who had been trained. Refraining from punching him, she settled on saying, “You disgust me,” as she began to walk towards the entrance. He stepped in her way, not letting her pass. When she tried to go around him, he grabbed her shoulder. She attempted to brush his hand off. “Let go.” She assertively said. He responded with jerking her back into the room. She immediately spun around, sending a fist into the side of his face. His face turned to the side, but his hand held steady. He turned back to face her. “You know, for a girl, you hit pretty hard.” He said with the intent of angering her. She let her rage take control of her. She no longer cared about getting into a fight; she had just started one, and there was no going back. She pushed her hands into his chest, throwing all her body weight behind them. He staggered back into the wall. She took up a fistful of his shirt, feeling something solid in her grasp. She raised her other hand, swinging it once again at his face. He caught her fist in his hand. “I’ve gotta say, for a peanut you’re not too bad.” He said as he stood back up. He tried to push her away but her hand was firmly clamped around his collar. He did it again, this time shoving her away with enough force to rip the fabric from her hand. He began to walk out of the room. “It was fun playing with you, but I’ve got things to do.” He disappeared around the corner. She clenched her fists in frustration, and felt something solid in her hand. She opened her palm to see the white gleam of a dragon tooth, the black leather cord still wrapped around it. Blue Eyes must have been wearing it as a necklace.
She pocketed the jewelry. She was too furious with Blue Eyes to even think about returning it. Plus, she figured that taking his necklace would be the only way to get back at him for treating her so poorly, considering that she probably wouldn’t be able to beat him in a fight. She sat back down at the desk and tried to let her frustration towards him subside as she finished her work. She leaned back in her chair and eyed the impressive stacks of paper, all organized, marked, and totaled. She wasn’t sure how long she had been there. There was no clock to indicate the passage of time, and being in a basement meant there were no windows either. She stood up and stretched, her back cracking, and began to gather her papers. She sauntered out of the semi-private office and back to Darrius’, proud of her hard work. Holding all the papers in one arm, she knocked on the door. She heard a muffled “Come in” from the other side and pushed the heavy door open. She entered and saw that Darrius was no longer sitting behind his desk, but lounging on one of the couches, obviously bored. “You took longer than I expected.” He said, watching her as she crossed the room to his desk.
“Oh. Yeah, I uh, ran into a small problem, but it was my mistake. Don’t worry, I figured it out.” She said, putting down the stack and trying to avoid talking about what happened with Blue Eyes.
“Worrying is not something I do. It’s a waste of my time and doesn’t help anyone.” He sat up. “But I am intrigued. You don’t seem like the kind of person to make many mistakes in your work.”
Instead of turning around to look him in the eyes, she started laying out the different piles of paper, nervously squaring off the stacks. “It’s just been a while since the last time I did paperwork.”
He stood up and stretched. “Alright.” He walked over to his desk. “What do we got.”
Nova recited the list of purchases, letters, and reports, relieved that he had changed the subject. When she finished, Darrius walked behind the desk. “So now that you’re on board with us,” He pulled a drawer out and reached inside, “You’re going to need to wear this.” He presented a simple silver ring, something that reminded her of her grandmother’s taste. “I require that everyone wear something representing The Underground. I take great pride in my organization, and anyone who works directly under me should too. If someone doesn’t want to wear it, then they don’t take pride in this group and don’t deserve to work for it. I take great offense if I catch you without that, and in turn will take your limbs and possibly your life, no questions asked. Not to mention that you are going to need it to enter this basement. We have tight security for reasons I’m sure you understand.” Nova nodded, taken aback by the force in his voice. She accepted the ring from him, feeling its cool metal press against her skin. She slid it on her left thumb, surprised to find that it was the exact right size.
She thought back to all the people she had seen that worked for Darrius. None of which had been wearing the ring he had given her. “I haven’t noticed anyone else wearing this ring though.”
“That’s because everyone has their own object. I just figured that you would want a ring.” He motioned towards the silver jewelry coiled around her thumb.
“It’s a good choice. It’s subtle, fits my taste, and matches everything!” She admired her ring, despite its simplicity, she found it absolutely beautiful.
He grabbed a glass of water of his desk and began walking back to the couch. “Glad you like it.” He said passively as he sat down, resuming his position. She let her gaze shift beyond the couch to the books stacked on shelves. It spiked her interest, and Darrius seemed like he’d have the time for a few questions. She began to make her way over to the bookshelves. “What kinds of books do you have?” She was curious to know what kinds of books an illiterate man kept.
“It’s just stuff that magi teachers would use. I have it all committed to memory.”
She reached for a book. “Then why do you keep it in your office?”
He shrugged. “Decoration. The shelves came with the office and I had to put something on them.”
She pulled the book off the shelf and leafed through the pages that had browned with age and use. She furrowed her forehead in confusion. “These seem pretty well used.”
She could feel Darrius' eyes on her. “They’ve been passed down through many generations. These books get used many, many times and are passed from teacher to teacher. Not all of them are very common to come by, but all these are just the basics.”
She looked at him in surprise. “Oh, so you’re a teacher?”
“Only when I have a decent enough student. I don’t waste my time with people who aren’t that interested in learning or don’t have the discipline of a true scholar.”
She turned back to the book, examining the pages more closely now. She was surprised to find that they contained instructions on different techniques of earth magi. She returned the book back to the shelf, running her finger along the spines until she found a water one. She pulled it off the shelf, sliding her fingers over the textured leather bound cover. She flipped it open to the first few pages. She read about a technique for letting the magi become second nature, one that you do not need to focus on. She began imagining moving the water, how clumsy she still was with her skills; how much focus she had to put into controlling it.
“Uhm, excuse me.” He said with an edge, suddenly breaking her concentration. She heard a high pitched glub as she turned around. “Thank you.” He continued in the same annoyed tone. She realized then that she had lifted the water out of the glass and had dropped it when he broke her concentration. She immediately flushed red, closed the book and put it back on the shelf. “I’m so sorry!”
He laughed. “Don’t worry about it. Just be more mindful of what you’re doing from now on. If you’re up for it, I could even try teaching you a few things so you don’t accidentally steal peoples’ drinks anymore.”
She hadn’t expected him to offer her such an opportunity. She assumed that he would think she was not worthy of his teaching since she was not very experienced in controlling her magi. “Yeah, sure! But I thought you said you didn’t teach beginners.”
“I never said I didn’t teach beginners,” he retorted, “I just said that I only teach those with the right mind set, and judging by your grades and determination, I think you fit the bill.”
She immediately began scolding herself for not listening well the first time. She considered herself lucky that Darrius hadn't accused her of wasting his time. She quickly responded, "Thanks! I really do appreciate it. Trying to teach myself hasn't really gotten me very far. I haven't had anything to reference so I've just been making it up as I go."
"That's why you need a teacher. The most important thing is that you have the drive to master your skills." He looked at his empty glass. "We'll start tomorrow. It'd be best if you went home and got some rest first."
"Okay, I'll go do that." She started walking towards the door. "Thanks again. I'll see you tomorrow."
He called after her as she opened the door. "Get Aiden to walk you home."
She paused and looked over her shoulder and noticed Darrius making his way into the library. "Alright. Is that who walked me here?"
He had disappeared among the shelves. "Yeah."
"Okay." She stepped into the hallway and closed the door behind her. She took a deep breath. She didn't want to ask Aiden for anything. The risk of walking home alone was certainly worth not having to spend any more time with him. She made her way to the upper level, emerging into the storage room fully stocked with various alcohols. She rounded the corner into the bar, noticing Aiden and a few other men drinking. She made a quick exit, attempting to slip out unnoticed. Now outside, she first realized how late it was. The sun had already begun to set and evening birds were singing their final songs. She began walking home, remembering how Aiden had brought her there and retracing her steps. After reversing a few wrong turns, she made it to her apartment. By this time the sun had set and it was dark outside, the sidewalk only illuminated by the soft glow of houses. She felt the cool metal of her keys as she unlocked the door and stepped inside, listening to the click as she locked the door behind her. Stepping into her still unfamiliar home, she threw her keys on the counter and got a drink of water. She browsed through her food selection, deciding what to make for dinner. She picked out a few items and began preparing her meal, washing a couple potatoes and carving a raw chicken breast. She heard the faintest click of boots and spun around, wielding the knife. The blade struck flesh, but her victory was short lived. She hadn't fully turned around by the time a hand clamped around her wrist, twisting her arm behind her back and turning her away from her assailant. The immediate pain caused her to cry out and release the knife, sending it clattering to the floor. Another hand wrapped around her free arm, preventing her from pivoting and alleviating the tension in her twisted arm. "That's what you get for trying to get me killed. Now where is it?" It was Aiden's voice.
She responded through gritted teeth, "I don't even know what you're talking about!" She was jerked forward, the counter meeting her abdomen right under her ribs, knocking the wind out of her. She struggled for air, taking in shaky gasps.
He hissed, "I know you have it. I noticed it was gone an hour or so after your little temper tantrum, so hand it over before this gets ugly." She was still fighting for oxygen, giving her enough time to recall their conflict earlier that day. Between labored breaths and coughs she managed croak out a sentence, "You mean the necklace?" She noticed her glass of water on the counter which was still mostly full. She formed it into small suspended beads. Aiden pulled her away from the counter, positioning her for another blow to the gut.
"Where is it?" He spat. She responded by blindly pelting him with the formations of water. She felt his grip loosen as he staggered back and took the chance to turn around to face him. He lunged at her, but she clumsily ducked, slamming her knee into the corner of a cabinet and landing in a small puddle of water. Aiden had caught himself by putting his hands on the counter. Nova took the opportunity to once again summon the water and fling a beam at his wrist, pinning his hand to the counter. He tried to pull away, but Nova was holing it steady with as much strength as she could muster. She took advantaged of the break in the fight, "Why do you want that necklace so bad? It's just jewelry."
He motioned towards her extended left hand, "And so is that ring you're wearing."
She finally understood. "So that's your object."
He placed his free hand on the counter behind him, "Yeah, and I want it back." With that he threw a potato at her, catching her off guard and hitting her on the forehead. The water around his wrist fell to a puddle as her concentration broke. He sprung once again at her, this time pinning her to the ground. Her head hit the floor, dazing her slightly, and he made sure to cover her left hand, preventing her from using her magi. Finally understanding the situation she smiled and said, "You know, you could have just talked to me. I would have just given it back if I knew what it was. I may not like you, but I don't need your blood on my hands." He looked irritated. She quickly followed up with, "Let me go, I'll get it for you." He pushed off of her with unnecessary force. She sat up and reached into her pocket, presenting the dragon tooth necklace. As he reached for the necklace she noticed the blood soaking into his sleeve. That must be where she cut him with the knife. Before he could grab the jewelry, Nova closed her hand around it, preventing him from taking it. He looked at her with sheer annoyance, "Seriously?"
"I'm not going to give it back until you let me heal your arm," She said fully understanding that she was playing with fire.
He cocked an eyebrow. "Have you already forgotten how easily I can take that from you?"
"No," She began, "Just save yourself the trouble and let me heal your arm."
He let out a sigh of annoyance. "Fine. But only because I have better things to be doing than fighting over something stupid." He held out his bleeding arm, and she rested his wrist in her hand, steadying his muscular appendage. She summoned the scattered water with her left hand, washing it over the cut and allowing it to heal the wound. She washed the skin around it, purging it of the reddened clots to leave only clean skin.
"Thanks," She said as she handed him the dragon tooth necklace.
He took it and stood up, "I don't know why you're thanking me for beating the crap out of you. But I guess if you ever need someone to pummel you again, just let me know. I'm always up for an easy win."
Nova smiled, "I'll keep that in mind." She stood up, "And I'm just glad that I didn't get you killed."
He opened the door, "Yeah me too." He stepped out onto the dimly lit sidewalk and closed the door behind him. Nova turned her attention to the throbbing pain under her ribs. She lifted her shirt and saw the already forming bruise where she had hit the counter. She walked over to the sink and ran the water, taking some to heal the emerging contusions on her abdomen and the cut on her knee. However, the dull pain in her ribs and knee cap didn't subside with the bruising. She began cleaning up the mess from the fight; picking up the knife and the potato and raising the water off the floor and releasing it down the drain. She finished preparing her meal and sat down at the breakfast bar to eat. She realized how luck she was the Darrius hadn't discovered Aiden's missing necklace. She had caused the death of enough people.
She washed her dishes and took a shower, still feeling fairly tired from everything that had happened over the past few days. She slipped into some pajamas and tried to go to bed, but her mind began to race. She kept thinking about that night at the bar when she killed all those people. It bothered her that she had completely lost control of herself. She couldn't believe how angry she had been, and how far she went. But then she remembered her reasons; how they had murdered innocent people and they enjoyed it. They enjoyed it. It sickened her all over again. She felt her anger resurface. She hadn't killed anyone innocent. She had only washed the Earth clean of those scum bags. There was no reason for her to be fretting over her actions. She had killed people that deserved it. Yet, it still bothered her that she had lost all control of herself. She let her anger get the best of her and that greatly contributed to the situation she got herself into. She rolled over and looked at the clock. It had been two hours since she had gone to bed. She sighed and closed her eyes again. She knew her mind was stuck on this subject. She had to do something to distract her. She sat up and rubbed her eyes. She swung her feet over the side of the bed and stood up. She made her way to the kitchen and filled a bowl with water. She wanted to get a head start of her training. She began by practicing taking controlled amounts out of the bowl, putting them back in, and repeating. She seemed to have a fairly decent handle on that skill so she quickly switched to a new exercise; the one she had read about. She closed her eyes and began vaguely recalling what she remembered of the text. She suspended a bead of water and began distracting herself, trying to nearly forget that she was holding the water. As soon as she let her focus shift from the water to anything else, a splash would remind her that she couldn't maintain the form of the water without focusing on it. After an hour she was tired a frustrated and decided to try and sleep again. She dumped the water down the drain and climbed into bed once again, this time falling asleep fairly quickly.
She woke to the sound of birds and some low rays of sunlight shining on her face. She sat up in bed feeling the soreness from the night before fully settled in her bones. She climbed out of bed and sleepily shuffled to the living room, flopping down on a leather sofa and looking out the window. The rest of the world appeared to still be sleeping as the early sun threw brilliant colors across the sky. She remembered when she was very young she used to love waking up early. She enjoyed the utter stillness as everyone else slept. Closing her eyes, she drank in the stillness of everything. It had been awhile since she last enjoyed some peace and quiet. There always seemed to be some sort of conflict, but she guessed that's what she got for working in a major crime organization.
She stretched and opened her eyes, then pushed herself off the couch. She went and got dressed, slipping into a casual black t-shirt and realizing that the great majority of her wardrobe was black. It didn't surprise her considering a criminal had picked out her entire clothing selection.
She remembered that she was going to begin training with Darrius that day. Her stomach flipped and filled with nervous and excited butterflies. She wasn't sure how it was going to go. She knew that she wasn't very skilled and judging by the previous night's practice, she wasn't going to be impressing anyone anytime soon. She decided to skip breakfast and head out early. If Darrius had any work for her she wanted to get to it early so she would have more time to train. The streets were still vacant when she headed out. The slight chill of the morning raised goosebumps on her skin. She could see the gleam of dew on benches and grass, and when no one was looking she would push the dew off a surface as she walked by. She was so used to concealing her abilities since she was the only one at her school that had these powers.
She entered the bar and descended the stairs into the basement. There were a few white knights walking the halls, none of which paying any attention to her. She found Darrius' office, and knocked on the closed door. There was no answer, so she tried the handle. It twisted and she poked her head in, "Hello?" There was no answer. She entered, cautiously looking around. She tried again, "Hello?" Still no answer. She gingerly closed the door behind her and walked further into the room. She looked around to see if anyone was there and just wasn't answering, but no one was there. She assumed that Darrius must have stepped out for a quick errand and would be back soon considering that his door was unlocked. She sat down on a leather sofa and began to wait for Darrius to return. Out of boredom she started studying the room. She noticed a large collection of weapons displayed on the wall behind Darrius' desk. Among the many swords and throwing knives her eye was drawn to a strange silver tube. She stood up and walked over to the wall to get a better look. It appeared to just be a hallow handle. She looked over her shoulder the make sure that she was still alone. When she saw that she was, she carefully grasped the odd weapon and took it off the wall. Turning it over in her hand she thoroughly inspected it. She admired the detailed etchings, but was still puzzled by how it worked. She decided to put it back before she accidentally hurt herself, and turned her attention to the library in the back of the office.
She walked among the shelves, curious to see what kinds of books were hidden further back. She ran her fingers across the weathered leather spines as she made her way towards the back. She rounded the end of a shelf and was surprised to find a large area of wall exposed. The rest were shielded with bookshelves so the bare wall caught her eye. She got closer to it to see if there was an obvious reason to have a bare section of wall, but she didn't see any cause. She brushed the odd occurrence off and turned her attention back to the books, pulling one off the shelf at random. She flipped through the pages and with some luck, found one about water magi. Attempting to read the advanced skill, she shifted her weight towards the bare wall to take some weight off her feet. Instead of feeling the solid presence against her back, she found herself falling backwards, landing on her hand and hip in a different room. She looked down at her legs, disappearing through a wall. She pulled her legs towards her and stood up, brushing herself off and picking up the book. She reached towards the wall, her hand effortlessly pushing through it like it didn't exist. She stepped through, finding herself in the library once again. She returned the book to the shelf and walked through the wall, emerging at the top of a flight of stairs. She peered to the bottom, but didn't see anything. As quietly as she could she began ascending the stairs listening for any noises. She made it to the bottom, finding glaring down a long hallway with large archways on the right side. She looked through the daunting entryways and found that they led to yet another library. Not only did an illiterate man keep a decent sized library in his office, but he also had a gigantic library very well hidden in a secret basement. She slipped into the large library, staying close to the walls to avoid being seen. The library was quite the spectacle with grandiose tall ceilings and the shelves extending up far beyond the reach of any human being. She slipped among the shelves, feeling more out of sight. She glanced over the titles imprinted on some of the bindings of the books. She couldn't read most of them, they appeared to either be encrypted or in a different language.
The sound of voices sent an adrenaline rush through her body, and she quickly began making her way deeper into the library to try and avoid anyone's sight. She was sure that she wasn't supposed to be there considering that this secret basement was so well hidden. Even though the voices eventually faded she was still paranoid about being seen so she kept wandering deeper into the maze of shelves. She peeked around a corner but snapped her head back quickly when she saw someone sitting in a small reading room engrossed in a book. She decided that crossing their line of sight would be too dangerous so she decided to go in a different direction; one that didn't risk being seen by that person. When she felt she was a good distance away she pulled a book off a shelf and flipped through it. She was shocked to find it written about mind magi; the only forbidden magi in existence due to its ability to cause unimaginable evil. She flipped to an earlier section and read about people who are able to use all types of magi, not just one like most. She flipped the page and saw the same symbol that was etched into the skin on her left hand. She read about it being a rare symbol indicating the possession of all magi abilities. She didn't believe that she could use any magi other than water and thought that there must be a difference between the mark in the book and the one on her hand. She heard the distant sound of footsteps coming from the direction she was headed so she quickly backtracked, taking shelter behind a bookcase that seemed to not be on a path headed towards the exit. She rounded a corner and pressed her back into the shelf, doing her best to stay out of sight. Her heart raced as the footsteps grew louder, but she calmed as they faded into the distance. She realized that she must be towards the back of the library, so she was curious as to where that person came from. Despite knowing that she may be cornering herself, her interest in the back of the library grew. Darrius had already hidden a staircase to a secret basement behind one library, so it wouldn't surprise her if he hid something else in the back of this one too. She quietly began sneaking her way in the direction that person had come from, listening for even the slightest noise. All her senses were in overdrive. She knew she would probably be punished for going somewhere she shouldn't, but she was just dying to find out what else may be hidden. Luckily, there was only one path for her to follow, making it easy to discover a door at the end of a winding path of bookshelves. She pressed her ear to the door, listening for any sounds coming from the other side. She didn't hear anything so she carefully twisted the knob and slowly opened the door. She quickly returned the door to a mostly closed position when her eyes landed on a person laying down on a display. Her heart raced at the thought of being caught by someone, but then she realized how odd it was for someone to be on a display and not reacting to her. Taking a deep breath, she pushed the door open once again. She took a closer look at the person on display. It was a girl with blonde hair and blue eyes, a pink flower poised carefully in her hair. Nova closed the door and walked over to the girl. At first she appeared to be asleep, although it struck Nova as strange for someone to be napping in such an odd place. Then she realized that the girl wasn't breathing; that she was dead. Nova gasped and took a step back. Her mind was racing. Why would Darrius keep a dead body? It's creepy how well she's been preserved, and how well someone has been taking care of her. She diverted her gaze to the walls and objects around the room. She noticed girls' clothes neatly folded and stacked at one end of the room and a fancy gown hanging on the wall. Most of the clothes were black, leading Nova to come to the conclusion that this girl was part of The Underground. She turned her attention to another wall, this one displaying a sword. The case was etched with pink flowers, the same kind that decorated the girl's hair. She returned her gaze to the corpse in front of her, this time realizing how similar she looked to this girl. She picked a piece of hair off her shoulder to inspect it. It was the same color as the girl's She had a similar shaped face too. This new discovery began making Nova nervous. Is he going to do this to me? Has he only been so nice to be because I remind him of this person?
The door handle turned. She dove behind the display, her eyes wide as she was pumped full of adrenaline. Her skin prickled as a chill was sent over her body. The footsteps neared, then stopped. Her eyes darted around the room looking for possible escape routes or places to hide, but she didn't see any. Her body suddenly stiffened up on its own. She began to panic as she realized she no longer had control over her own body. She looked up as Darrius stepped around the display, his eyes burning with pure anger. Out of the corner of her eye she saw his hand twitch and was immediately dragged and pinned to the floor by an invisible force. "What the hell are you doing here?" He nearly whispered, his rage so intense that he couldn't even yell. Nova was too terrified to respond. Her mouth only slightly parted and her jaw trembled. If her body weren't being controlled, she would have been shaking uncontrollably. "Answer me!" He demanded, raising his voice. He clenched his fist and Nova felt an immense pressure on her chest, almost as if her ribs were bending inwards. She cried out in pain, but the force of the constriction only seemed to intensify. She managed to croak out, "It was an accident. I didn't know-" Her throat closed, and she gasped for air.
He started walking towards her. "You can't be left alone for three minutes without getting into something you shouldn't. Sneaking around my building and sticking your nose into other people's business; I can't believe you." He released her with that last comment. Her throat and body unclenched and she gasped for air, rolling onto her side. "What do you have to say for yourself, Novalin?"
She glanced around the room, desperately searching for water to use as a weapon, but there was none. He grabbed her face and tilted it towards his. "What's the matter? Not so big and brave when you have to deal with your actions, now, are you."
Before she could stop herself she began to speak her mind. "You only let me live because I reminded you of your little prize over here." He slapped her hard, not only hitting her on the cheek, but also slamming her suspended head into the hard, stone floor.
"Don't you ever call her my prize." He hissed through clenched teeth.
Accepting the fact that Darrius would most likely kill her, and almost enjoying the idea that what she was saying bothered him, she continued, "I see you have a type: blonde hair, short stature, round-faced. I fit your bill to a T." He grabbed her shoulder and punched her in the stomach with incredible power. The blow deflated her lungs and knocked the wind out of her. Her eyes watered and widened as she struggled for air. He filled her silence with his own words, "You don't know the first thing about me, so I recommend you keep your mouth shut." She managed to suck in a small breath, feeling the relief of oxygen flooding her lungs.
She retorted with a hoarse voice, "Obviously I don't because I agreed to work for a man that collects girls as a hobby." He swiftly picked her up and threw her against the wall. Her back and head met the hard surface and she landed on the floor on her side, hearing a snap and feeling a shooting pain come up her right leg. Her vision blurred from the impact and the injury. Darrius walked over to her, grabbed the collar of her shirt, and sat her upright against the wall. She was too dazed to support her own head, and he clutched her hair, turning her to face him. She could only make out his face as her head began to clear. She could see that he was enthralled in a rage, but underneath she could distinguish the torture of old wounds being reopened. She meekly reached up and wrapped her fingers around his wrists as he said, "You keep talking and you'll see where that gets you."
She pressed on anyway, determined to hurt him however she could before he killed her. "It doesn't matter what I do. Eventually I'm going to end up being part of your collection. You only let me live the first time because you like your subjects to come with sentimental value so you can hang it around the room and remember the life you took from them." He twisted his wrist, repositioning his hand around hers. In one quick motion he snapped the bones in her hand, maintaining his grip to worsen the pain. She yelped as the intense sting spread across her hand. Her eyes burned as tears poured out. Through gritted teeth and an uneven voice she continued, "Go ahead. Add me to your collection. I'm done working for you, and I know damn well you're not going to let me go. The faster you get this over with, the fewer injuries you're going to need to fix on my corpse to make it displayable." He squeezed her hand harder, and she felt as more bones gave away to the pressure. He released his grip and threw her hand to the ground. Standing up, he let go of her shirt and drove his foot into her ribs. She felt them break, and her screams only seemed to encourage him. He kicked her again, this time forcing liquid into her lungs. She was enthralled in a coughing fit, spitting up blood. She wrapped her arms around her abdomen and curled her legs inward as her muscles convulsed in an attempt to drain the fluid out of her lungs. She didn't notice as he removed the throwing knife from his belt, but felt the shooting pain as he drove the short blade into her side. He pulled the knife from her abdomen and she felt the warmth from her blood as it trickled over her skin. He sunk the dagger into her flesh again, this time on her thigh. She was too preoccupied to scream as her body kept trying to drain her lungs. She felt him remove the blade from her leg, and heard the clang as he threw it to the floor. She felt his hand begin searching the side of her neck, his fingers working at her skin until he found what he was looking for. She felt a channeled pressure as he dug his fingers into her neck, and then she felt her body relax as she slipped from reality.
There was a pressure on her wrist, one that was shifting. She began to try and pull her hand inward but the constriction tightened and tugged away from her. She groggily opened her eyes and saw Darrius readying a leather restraint to fasten her wrist with. The world was sideways indicating that she was laying down. She kept trying to free her hand from his grip, reaching over with her other hand and prying at his fingers, but she was far too weak to hardly even hinder his efforts. He pushed her hand away and leaned his body against her arm so she couldn't reach over again. Sighing he said, "You just had to wake up at the wrong time to make everything more difficult." She kept struggling, grabbing the back of his shirt and wiggling the arm he was clutching, but he was much stronger than her and all this resulted in was a reminder that her hand was broken and the prickle of held back tears.
"What are you doing?!" Her voice came out hoarse and scratchy, probably from clotted blood and screaming. The longer she was awake the more strength she gained as the sleepy haze wore off. She tried to kick at him, forgetting that her leg was broken, and instead of hurting him, she sent a searing pain across her body and causing the held back tears to start falling down her face. She clenched her teeth and kicked out with the other leg, firmly striking him on the hip.
It didn't seem to phase him. "I'm doing you a favor." He wrapped the leather flaps around her wrist and pulled the straps tight. He righted himself and began walking to her other side. She swung her legs over the side of the table, putting all her weight on her good leg. She grabbed at the straps to loosen them but her hand was ripped away. He held her arm to the table as he reached across her body, cupping his hand over her cut thigh and sliding her back onto the surface so her wrist would reach the restraint. She kept trying to pull away but his grip was strong.
She managed to get her tears under control and snap, "I don't understand why you need to do this. I haven't done anything to harm anyone or put them in danger."
Ignoring her, he wrapped the leather flaps over her wrist and forcefully pulled the straps tight, his temple flexing with annoyance. He moved to the other end of the table at her feet. She kicked out at him again with her good leg, but he caught her ankle and slammed it into the table, obviously irritated by her efforts to fight. He quickly fixed the restraint around her ankle, and moved on to her broken leg. He pulled it to meet the constraint, disregarding her wails as renewed pain surfaced. Tears once again began streaming from her eyes as she began to speak in the same hoarse and uneven voice, "I don't know what you have planned but I can't imagine it's very productive. I mean, if you don't want me, then kill me or let me go. But if you need me to do your paperwork, then let me do my job."
He quickly shot his hand up to waist height, spreading his fingers to show his palm, causing a force to snap her jaw shut. "You need to learn when to shut up." He took a step back from the table. "Now if you don't mind, I have some more important matters to deal with than babysitting." He swiftly exited the room, releasing her jaw as the door closed behind him. She looked up at the ceiling and let out a breath. She needed to figure out a plan. She was not going to sit and wait for Darrius to come back. Using her magi she peeled the tears from her face and positioned them at the height of the strap holding her arm down. She took a deep breath, counted to three, and with as much force as she could manage, hurled a stream of water at the cuff. A pain shot up through her arm as the liquid not only sliced through the leather, but her skin as well. She gritted her teeth as the blood began to trickle over her skin. She reached over to her other wrist, undoing the buckles. With both hands now free she sat up and unbound her ankles. Being mindful of her broken leg she carefully shifted to the edge of the table and inspected her cut wrist. She had poorly aimed the water, leaving a deep gouge parallel with her arm. She wrapped her hand around the bleeding wrist, applying pressure in hopes to stop the bleeding.
She needed to come up with a plan. If she just kept sitting there Darrius would come back in and probably strap her back to the table or beat her up again. She reluctantly stoop up on her good leg and painfully hobbled to the door. Pressing her ear to the heavy wooden panel, she listened for any noises coming from outside. She heard nothing, and after a few minutes of hesitation, cracked the door open and peeked into the hallway. She saw no one and slowly opened it the rest of the way. The hallway was empty. She limped out of the room, using the wall as support as she made her way down the corridor, doing her best to ignore the steady trickle of blood that ran down her hand. She turned a corner in hopes of finding a room to duck into, but instead was met by the gaze of a guard. Shit. She backed up around the corner but it was too late.
"HEY!" The guard called as he started running towards her. She turned around to try and escape but he had already caught up to her. He grabbed her by the shoulder to spin her around, but she quickly pivoted and punched him in the face. The guard staggered back as his hand reached up to the bridge of his nose to assess the damage. He was obviously surprised by her reaction. "Get back in the room, god damn it!" He lunged at her again, this time dodging her punch and sweeping her good leg out from under her. She fell to the floor, catching herself on her elbows and forearms. The impact caused the gash in her wrist to open further and intensify the bleeding. He knelt down beside her and took up the collar of her shirt in his fist, bringing her face closer to his. Through gritted teeth he spat in a low voice, "You piece of shit. You better march your ass back into that room before I kick it there."
She looked right at him, "I think I'll just take my chances with you." She jabbed her knee into his side. He retorted with a punch to her jaw, sending the back of her head into the floor, dazing her. He reached down and grabbed her leg where it was broken and squeezed. She screamed as pain coursed through her body.
"I told you I don't play nice." He smirked and squeezed harder, obviously amused by her pain. Suddenly, his hand was ripped away, leaving behind an intense throbbing. Her head cleared as she watched Darrius throw the guard to the ground beyond her feet. Darrius turned and looked down on her, a wave of anger washing over his face. He knelt down beside her, assessing her newly bruised face and the fresh splotches of blood from her wrist. "Motherf-"
She interrupted him by swinging her bleeding fist at his face. He powerfully swept her appendage aside, pinning her forearm against the wall and opening the gash even more. She clenched her teeth to prevent herself from crying out in pain. The blood now gushed from her wrist, dripping down her arm. He didn't seem to notice as he began to speak, "What the hell do you think you're doing?!" She didn't respond. Instead she drove her good knee into his side, just as she had done to the guard. "You little-" He didn't finish his thought as he swung his leg over her and used his weight to pin her legs to the floor. With her broken hand she lashed out at his face, but he was too quick and pushed on her chest with his arm fully extended so she couldn't reach. She continued to struggle even though she was helpless under his weight. She could feel as blood continued to pour out of her open wound and she became lightheaded. Without thinking she feebly struck his arm with her broken hand, only resulting in an intense pain. Looking down at her he said, "You are the biggest pain in my ass I've ever had."
By this time her head had begun to spin, the world turning into a blurry spiral. The throbbing had begun to grow distant, just like Darrius' voice as he took notice of her arm and said, "The hell have you done now." She could feel the muscles in her neck growing weak as her head began to tilt to one side. He rattled off a string of inaudible profanities before wrapping his hand around her wrist and turning it face up. He reached down and grabbed her jaw, turning her to face him, "Hey, don't you fall asleep on me. I know blood loss can make you tired but the last thing I need is you nodding off while I'm trying to help you." She struggled to remain facing upward as he let go, but gravity proved to be too powerful for her weakening muscles and soon enough her head had flopped back over to the side. She wanted to tell him to leave her alone and that she'd be fine, but all that she managed to do was vaguely mumble incomprehensible noises. To her surprise he answered, "You're nuts if you think you're fine." She couldn't keep her eyelids open as they gradually grew heavier and heavier as a cooling sensation passed over her arm. She felt Darrius slip one arm under her shoulders and the other under her knees as he picked her up off the floor. She could no longer resist the immense weight of exhaustion, and fell asleep to the rhythmic bounce of his step.
She found herself alone in the middle of a garden, surrounded by tall flowers of all colors. It was a pleasant day, with clear skies and a gentle breeze. Something white flashed in her peripheral vision. She turned her head just in time to see the tail end of a white dress disappearing behind some flowers. She walked over and peeked behind the plants, only to see another white flash disappear once again. She followed them, curious as to who was walking around the garden. She kept following her, only catching glimpses of her dress as he disappeared around corners. She eventually worked her way up to a running pace, trying to catch the girl. She hadn't noticed the skies dimming as dark red clouds rolled overhead until a loud crack rumbled over the landscape. She called after the girl, telling her to go inside, but she kept running away and Nova kept chasing her. She rounded a corner and immediately slowed. The girl had stopped a short distance in front of her. She had blonde hair and a flowing floor length dress. Nova walked towards her, now yelling over the nearing sound of rain, "We need to go! A storm is coming!" The girl started turning around as Nova approached, first showing the pink flower carefully pinned in her hair and then her face. Nova's heart sank. It was the girl in Darrius' basement. The girl shot her a confused expression, "We're not going anywhere." The rain had finally caught up to them, but it wasn't water; It was blood. It splattered the girl's white dress and clung to her hair. Nova turned around and saw Darrius approaching her. She turned around to run but the girl was in her way, a large red stain spreading across her abdomen. "You can't run. He'll always find you." A hand clamped around the back of Nova's neck, turning her around. She was now facing Darrius, a crazed smile plastered across his face. "Welcome home." He threw her to the ground, positioning himself over her. He connected a fist to her face, turning her head and allowing her to glimpse the girl again, now with a sword through her abdomen. He punched her again, burying her face further into the ground. She tried to defend herself but her efforts did nothing. He dug his fingers into her jaw, making her face him again, "I'm so glad I found you. You look just like my other one." She was covered in blood, and trying to fight back but she was too slow. He punched the other side of her face, and began laughing. The sound sickened her as it boomed in her ears. He grabbed her head and slammed it into the ground, cracking her skull and creating a sound like thunder. He flipped her over, pushing her into the red soaked ground. "Nova," He said, sounding less drowned out by rain. He said her name again, even clearer this time.
Suddenly her eyes flung open, gasping as she pushed into the ground, now much softer. However, the pressure remained on her back, holding her down. "Hey, take it easy." It was Darrius' voice, more present than it had been. She realized that she had been dreaming, and noticed that she was drenched in sweat and breathing heavy. She looked around the room, grounding herself. It was stone and dimly lit by torches, the nightstand next to her bed had a few colored glass bottles decorating its surface. She relaxed again, sinking back into the soft mattress and letting out a breath. He removed his hand from between her shoulders as he casually said, "Good morning."
She pushed herself into a sitting position and cast him a sideways glance, "The hell are you doing? Watching me sleep?"
"I just came in to check on you. You've been asleep for 14 hours so I had to make sure you weren't dead or anything. I heard you talking, but I knew no one else was in here, so I had to see if you had completely gone insane. I would have let you keep sleeping, but you were sweating and restless."
She faced him, "Oh. What was I saying?"
"Something about a storm and going inside. I couldn't really understand much since it was through a door. After that you were just kind of moaning. Do you remember what you were dreaming about?"
She lied, "Not really. I just remember I was outside and it was raining." She started running through the dream in her head, recalling everything in detail.
"That's weird. Normally people remember dreams that they wake up from. Whatever. It's not a big deal." He started heading for the door, "Since you're up you might as well get ready. I've got a couple of things planned for you." He left the room, leaving her alone.
She saw an door ajar on the other side of the room and walked towards it, pushing it the rest of the way open and seeing it was a bathroom. She walked inside, closing the door behind her. She ran the water, removing her bloodied cloths and noticing that he had wrapped her hand and put the binding symbol on it. She looked in the mirror, her once blonde hair and pale skin was now littered with rust colored clots, reminding her of the girl in her dream. She stepped into the shower. The water dirtied, turning the same red-rust color, and bringing the imagery of the puddles of blood to mind. After she was finally clean she turned the water off and stepped out, wrapping herself in a towel and going back into the bedroom. She walked over to the dresser, pulling out a familiar black t-shirt and jeans. She dressed, toweling her hair so it didn't soak her clothes.
She walked over to the door and hesitantly put her hand on the handle. She wasn't sure what Darrius had planned for her. She took a deep breath and pushed the door open. Darrius had a guard keeping watch over her room. He approached her, "Glad to see you up. Darrius wants me to bring you to him." She nodded and followed him down the hallway. After a few turns the guard walked up to a door and pushed it open, standing aside to let her enter. She stepped inside and the guard closed the door behind her. Darrius was standing on the other side of the room, and she saw a flash as he closed his fist, extinguishing the flame he was holding. He shot her a smile, "Let's get started."
Looking around the room littered with all sort of weapons, she responded, "What are we doing?"
He responded with a highly sarcastic and annoyed voice, "What do you think?"
"Obviously training," She snapped at him, "I meant the kind of training."
He walked over to a table, picking up a bowl of sand, "You're going to try something you haven't done before." He sat on the floor, dumping the sand in front of him. "Come here."
She started walking towards him, "What are you doing?" She sat on the floor across from him.
"It's not what I'm doing. It's what you're doing." A confused expression spread across her face so he continued, "Give me your hand." She cautiously held out her right hand. "No, the other one." She presented her left hand and he took it in his, wiping the symbol off the bandages and unwrapping her hand. "You're going to start learning to control your earth magi."
She furrowed her forehead in confusion, "But I don't have earth magi. I can only control water."
He breathed a sigh of annoyance, "Can you stop being an idiot for like five minutes?"
She was taken aback by his candid comment, "Excuse me?"
He continued, "Do you not realize that you have already used mind magi?"
"No, I don't 'cause I never have."
He pinched the bridge of his nose and took a deep breath, "Remember what I was saying about not being an idot? You could start right about now." He looked up at her, "Right before you fell asleep you wanted to tell me something, but you could only mumble. So instead, you reached out with your mind magi to tell me to leave you alone since you couldn't say it."
She narrowed her eyes in disbelief, "I doubt it. You probably just got an idea of what I was saying."
"No, I know that's not what it was. Here," He held out his left hand next to hers, "Compare those."
She inspected the symbols. They were identical. "They're the same."
"Exactly. It means you have the ability to control any magi. If I didn't have it then I wouldn't be able to do this." He overturned his palm, igniting a flame while moving a stream of sand onto his palm around the base of the flame. She didn't say anything since she knew anything that she'd say would sound idiotic. He put out the flame and turned his hand, returning the sand to the pile. "Try and move the sand without touching it."
She was still skeptical that she could do it, "Okay, but don't expect anything to happen." She focused on the sand and sat up a little straighter. She imagined it rising, but nothing happened. She tried pretending it was water, but still, nothing was happening.
"Sand isn't water. You can't just pretend it's the same thing." He broke the silence and her concentration. She heard a splash as water across the room hit the floor. She watched as he picked up her mess, returning the water to the bowl it came from. "Each magi requires a specific skill set. You have to just keep trying to move it as earth until you get it."
She concentrated on the sand once again, taking a deep breath and settling back into her position. She sat like this for a while until, finally, it began to shift, bringing in grains from the edges of the pile and dragging them towards the middle.
"Told you," He said, looking up at her. She held back a smile as she looked down and tried again, this time successfully raising a good section of the pile. "keep practicing. You'll be pretty good at it in no time." She levitated the rest of the pile, dropping a few grains and displaying her inexperience. After completely dropping the pile a few times, she was able to clumsily divide it and move it around. He stood up and walked towards the table again. "It's a good thing you're a fast learner since I don't have very much patience." He picked up a rock and walked back towards her, placing it on the floor. "Try moving this." At first she was only able to drag it across the floor, but soon enough, she was shakily picking it up. However, the longer she worked at it, the harder it was for her to focus. She started dropping it more frequently and picking it up more and more unsteadily. Darrius took notice, "You should take a break, or even a nap. I always forget how tiring it is for beginners to learn this."
"I'm fine," She said, not sure if she was trying to convince him or herself.
"Seriously," He held the rock down so she couldn't move it, "Go lay down for a few minutes. You've been training for nearly five hours. Most people don't even last two."
She repeated herself, "Don't worry, I'm fine."
"Your face begs to differ. You look beat."
"Maybe I just always look like this." Her willingness to challenge him indicated that she really was tired. Her snarky comment obviously angered him.
He walked to the door and held it open. "Come with me." He demanded. When she didn't move he threatened, "In three seconds I'm going to start breaking your bones." If she didn't think he was serious she wouldn't have moved, but she knew that he wasn't exaggerating so she rolled her eyes and followed him out of the room. As she tailed him down the hallway she heard him angrily whisper something about children under his breath. She almost made a comment about it, but stopped herself knowing that it would most likely push him over the edge. He walked her back to the room she had woken up in and leaned against the wall beside the door. "Go take a nap. You need one." She didn't respond but obeyed, pushing the door open and closing it behind her. She crossed the room and sat on the edge of the bed, resting her elbows on her knees and rubbing her face. She hated feeling so powerless against him; it reminded her of when she was living with Ellis and she hated the feeling. She decided she needed to do something about it, and after an hour of thinking, she finally had a plan. But first, she'd need someone who she didn't mind indirectly killing.
She waited until she had been in the room for a long enough time to be considered a nap and then quietly left, trying to avoid catching anyone's attention. Luckily Darrius didn't have a guard waiting for her in the hallway, and she was able to find the staircase that led to the bar. Alcohol always made people more willing to talk about things that they've done. As she passed though the kitchen she grabbed a knife when no one was looking and tucked it in the side of her bra so it wouldn't stab her and she could hide it. She entered the bar and looked around. She was surprised to see Aiden sitting alone at a table. He was obviously not on his first drink making him a perfect candidate. She sat down in a chair across from him.
He looked up at her, "Out of anyone who could sit across from me it had to be you."
"Nice to see you too." She replied sarcastically. "I was just thinking-"
He interrupted her, his speech fairly slurred, "We all know bad things happen when women think."
"Ha ha, very funny." She continued, "I realized how refined your fighting skills were so I just wanted to know what you've done to get that good."
"And why am I supposed to be obligated to answer that question?"
"Trust me, there's 150 other people I'd rather talk to, but you just seem like someone who has a lot of stories and experience to share. It's also not the easiest thing to ask someone for a favor if they can easily kick you ass."
"Fine, but only if you get me another drink first. You're presence is reason enough to drink."
"Deal." She watched as he downed the rest of his drink and handed her the glass.
He called after her as she walked towards the bar, "Whiskey, straight."
"Got it." She put the glass down on the bar, sliding it towards the bartender and telling him what she wanted. He poured the drink and slid it back to her. "Thanks," She said as she turned around and went back to the table. She handed the drink to Aiden, "There you go." He took it from her and took a swig.
"I'm not sure what you want for advice."
"Just any tips you have for people who haven't really fought before."
He thought for a minute. "Keep your arms close to your body. Leaving them out makes it easier for someone else to grab them." He took another sip.
"Alright, good start."
He shot her an annoyed glance and continued, a even more intoxicated now, "Aim for vital organs. Most experienced fighters have the most obvious weak points protected, but if you can land a punch or kick in the right place, you can cause internal bleeding and that can kill them even after the fight." He drank some more.
"Oh yeah? Sounds like you have a story to go with that."
He smiled a lopsided smile, "I was assigned to infiltrate this one business and work my way up the ranks to take out the boss since he was planning on stealing money from us. I was able to do this quickly, you know, 'cause I'm extremely personable." He laughed a little at that before continuing, "I made friends with the second in command and within a week I was able to speak with the boss. So I go in there, and before you know it, he tells me he wants to tustle a little to see if I'm fit for a higher position. So I tell him that I never turn down a friendly fight. He just comes at me, and of course I have to act a little surprised and pretend I'm not that good. So I throw this guy off me and give him a solid kick under the ribs. He stops the fight there, probably 'cuase he knows I'd beat the crap out of him, and promotes me on the spot. We shake hands and I go home. I go in to work the next day and everyone's all in a huff, and I know exactly why, but I've got to play it off as if I have no idea what happened. So they tell me that he died in his sleep. You know why?"
She answered, "No. Why?"
He finished his drink and laughed a little. "I ruptured that bastard's spleen. He bled to death in his sleep. And best of all, these guys that were working for him go into a frenzy trying to grab for power. After a few deaths they established a new ranking, but it was never stable. Everyone was always going out and killing all these people to try and prove that they were the toughest. The Guard eventually caught all of them, but by the time they did 67 random people had been killed. I could have just turned them all over to the authorities or killed them myself, but it was far too entertaining to watch them all try and grab for power." He started laughing at the memory, and Nova forced a smile to seem like she was entertained too. She heard someone come into the bar and she looked over he shoulder. It was Darrius. She quickly turned around so he wouldn't see her. She heard him walk towards the exit and push the door open.
She hastily stood up saying, "Thanks for the advice. I had a good time. We should do this again soon."
He smiled, "I'll always take a personal drink server."
It was night as she quickly left the bar, and jogged down the street until she was a good following distance behind Darrius. While tailing him she constantly scanned for places to duck behind so he wouldn't see her, but luckily he didn't turn around. He led her down streets she hadn't been on before, eventually stopping to unlock a door and enter a house. The house was pitch black inside until he walked in and lit all the torches without even raising his hand. She hid behind a bush under his window so she could see the glow from the flames and listen. She waited until he eventually extinguished all the torches before peeking inside. There didn't seem to be any other lights on, so now all she had to do was wait a while so he'd be asleep. After what seemed like an hour she slowly stood up, pulling the knife from under her shirt. she inserted it between the two panes of the window and unlocked the latch. She slowly opened the window so it didn't make any noise, and once it was open enough, she pulled herself through it, sliding into his kitchen. She stood up and closed the window as she looked around to figure out exactly what she was going to do. She needed to better understand him so she could get some leverage. Nothing in the kitchen seemed to catch her eye so she went deeper into the house, scanning for anything that seemed odd. She heard him stir in his sleep and froze. She knew this could easily turn into a suicide mission. He settled down again and she continued, thinking it best that she get out of plain sight. She quietly opened the first door in the hallway and realized it was a staircase to the basement. She stepped onto the first stair and silently closed the door behind her. The basement was a perfect place to look for dirt on him. He seemed to have a thing for hiding things in basements. A soft glow radiated from the bottom, and as she stepped off the last stair and looked around the corner, she realized her prediction was amazingly true.
The first thing she noticed was a giant pentagram carefully painted on the floor. She went to take a step into the room, but hesitated as an uneasy feeling washed over her. She looked down and noticed a tripwire tightly stretched across the entryway. She began to inspect the room from where she stood, noticing more tripwires and a few odd stones. Stepping over the tripwires and avoiding the strange stones she entered the room. She approached a table littered with gold and a few pieces of jewelry. She picked up a ring, but immediately regretted it. For some reason it seemed to emanate an aura that made her skin crawl and her entire body tingle. She quickly put it back down, deciding not to touch any of the other jewelry, feeling relief as the sensation subsided.
She looked behind her and noticed a painting of Darrius handing on the wall. Oddly enough, he had drawn arrows on it pointing to different parts of his body. Nova inspected them, seeing that they were pointing to his wrist, lower arm, chest, the right side of his neck, and his left eye. Next to the painting of Darrius there were three more, one was of the castle in flames, another of of Jerimiah, the war hero, which was covered in symbols draw in what appeared to be blood, and the third was a depiction of something that looked like a fire demon.
She redirected her attention to the corner of the room, seeing an elaborate set of armor displayed. Hanging on the wall beside it was a sword, the blade etched with symbols. Another table was covered in sheets of paper. She picked one up to read it, but it was written in a language she didn't recognize. She leafed through a few more pages, finding keys scattered throughout the piles. A large desk was covered in various blueprints. A few were already unrolled and were titled as being the castle. She unrolled a few more, curious to see what they would be detailing, but they were all of the castle. Towards the top of the desk a collection of orbs in all different sizes and colors were placed.
At the far end of the room a painting of the dead girl was hung on the wall, a few pieces of clothes and an old weathered book rested on a small table under it. She carefully walked over to the table and picked up the book. She opened the front cover, and read, "Emily Rosette" on the first page. She looked up at the painting, a whirlwind of thoughts going through her mind. She flipped to the next page and realized that it was her diary. She read the first entry, the handwriting was that of a child, "Today is my sixth birthday! Darrius gave me this diary. He said he found it but held onto it so he could give it to me. Although Dad found out and sent me to my room and now I can hear him yelling at Darrius. I think he wants him to sell this diary instead. Mom has given up trying to stick up for us since Dad will just hit her too. Sometimes after Dad gets mad at Darrius I don't see him for a few hours and I get worried. But he always comes back because he's tough. And I know that he'll be back before I go to bed. Every year on my birthday he shows me all the cool stuff he can do with water and fire and stuff. Then we talk about all the cool stuff we will do when we are older."
She was Darrius' sister. She flipped through a large section of it, landing somewhere in the middle. She began reading, "I can't wait until I'm older. Things will be so much better. I won't have to rely on other people and can decide what I do and when I do it. I feel so helpless right now, and I can't stand it. Dad's been beating mom more and there's nothing I can do about it. Darrius isn't around much anymore since he got sick of Dad telling him that he's the reason we don't have money, and now he's the only one keeping us off the street. I tried getting a job, but Darrius wouldn't let me. He said I was too young, but he was even younger than me when he started working. He's been bringing me home all sorts of things to read and learn from, but I can't help feeling like I'm bringing the family down. Although I guess Dad is really the biggest anchor. He just spends his money on drinks and doesn't even leave enough for buying food. He even started doing this with the money Darrius was earning, but Darrius figured out pretty quickly that he has to keep it hidden and buy food for us. If it's a nice day he'll let me come with him to the market, but he still only lets me carry the light bags."
Nova couldn't believe what she was reading. Not only was she completely shocked by Emily being Darrius' sister, but also by how much he cared for her, and how fast he had to grow up. This explained why he was keeping her around; Her stunning resemblance to Emily probably brought out the side of him that just wanted to take care of his sister. She now better understood why he was so sensitive to her finding Emily's body, and reacted the way he did when she insulted him.
Her concentration shattered as she heard noise from upstairs. She instantly froze, her heart pounding in her chest as she put the diary back and made her way closer to the staircase. She listened closer, realizing that it was someone yelling. She couldn't quite make out what they were saying, but she could tell from the repetitive fluctuation in his voice that it was the same thing over and over. She listened for a while before creeping up the stairs and pressing her ear to the door. She closed her eyes to better focus, now able to tell that it was Darrius' voice, and as she listened closer she could make out what he was saying. Emily. Assuming that he wasn't insane enough to be walking around the house yelling his dead sister's name and that he was just sleep talking, Nova quietly turned the handle and cracked the door. His voice became more clear as she stepped out into the kitchen. She opened the window again and climbed out, gingerly closing it behind her.
As she walked back to the bar, she began thinking of everything she saw: The armor, the pentagram, the paintings, the jewelry and gold, the orbs, and the blueprints. She couldn't seem to quite be able to piece together what he was doing, but she got the feeling that it wasn't something good. She assumed the goal was to attack the castle. That would explain the blueprints and painting of the castle, the painting of Jerimiah, the armor, and the sword. But it still didn't explain the strange jewelry, the gold, the orbs, or the painting of Darrius with all the arrows.
There was just a couple hours before sunrise as she entered the pub. Luckily there were few people there, and the ones that were were either too drunk to notice her or asleep. She returned the knife to the kitchen on her way through to the basement. She climbed the stairs and made her way towards the bedrooms. She had to make it seem as though she was there all night since Darrius hadn't given her the keys to her apartment back.
"Hey!" Someone called after her. She stopped and turned around, trying to act casual despite her rising anxiety. They continued, "What are you doing up?"
"Just went for a walk. Couldn't sleep."
"Alright. Sorry for bothering you."
"No problem." She turned around, so thankful that he hadn't realized she was lying. She quickly went into the room before anyone else could question her. She sat on the edge of the bed, resting her head in her hands. Her head was still spinning as she tried to piece together Darrius' plan, but no new ideas came to mind. She began to think about the consequences of her actions, knowing that if he found out what she had done he'd probably lock her up again.
As time passed a splitting migraine settled in her skull as she gradually became more and more exhausted. She flopped back onto the bed and closed her eyes, but instead of drifting off to sleep she laid there running through everything in her mind and trying to tolerate the headache for what seemed like a few hours.
Finally a knock on the door interrupting the endless cycle. "Come in," She groggily said, putting her hands on her face and rubbing her eyes.
"Darrius is here. He wants to see you in his office."
She responded with a muffled, "Okay." She sat up and stretched. The headache still hadn't subsided. She slowly stood up and made her way to the door, nervous about what may happen. She was escorted to his office by a white knight who closed the door behind her. Darrius was standing on the other side of the room looking irritated. She spoke first, "Good morning. What's up?"
He crossed his arms and leaned against the wall, "I'd day good morning back but it seems as though you won't be having a very good one. What were you up to last night?"
A wave of cold washed over her body as she became extremely nervous. "Trying to sleep, why?"
He grew even more agitated, "Don't bull shit me."
She nearly flinched at the poison laced in his voice. He clearly didn't want to play games. She let out a breath, trying to seem like she was coming clean, "I couldn't sleep so I went for a little walk. I ended up getting a drink with Aiden, but he left when you did. I assumed he had something to tell you since he left pretty suddenly. So I just finished my drink and went back to bed. You can ask the guard, he stopped me to see where I was going."
He pinched the bridge of his nose, "Okay." He motioned towards his desk with the other hand, "Take your paperwork and come back when you're done." She obediently listened, thankful that he believed her. She promptly exited the office and went to the work room. She put the stack on the desk and plopped down in a chair. She began absently shuffling the papers, thinking about what she had just done. She knew Aiden had only hours, maybe even minutes, to live, and it was all because she had blamed her actions on him. But she had planned this out before hand and was willing to make the sacrifice.
She started filing the papers, hoping that they'd distract her. But even though she was doing her best to focus on the work, she would periodically think about what Darrius was planning. Eventually she had filed and sorted her way through the pile. She stacked everything and picked it up, more than happy to try and find a different distraction. Darrius' door was closed, and when she knocked he didn't answer. She entered, gladly finding nobody there, and put the stack of papers down on his desk.
She left and walked to the training room. She needed to get out some of her anxious energy left over from her previous interactions with Darrius. She had grown fidgety sitting and doing paperwork. She grabbed three small rocks, resting them in her palm and then levitating them above her hand. She moved them around, periodically flinging one in the air and catching it before it hit the ground. She noticed targets at one end of the room, and after doubting her abilities for a few minutes, she looked around the room, double checking that she was alone, and then hurled one at it. She missed, but the rock hit the wall beyond the target and shattered. This boosted her confidence and she threw another, this one hitting the edge of the target. She threw the last one, this time hitting it even closer to the center. She turned back to the table and noticed a much larger rock. Confident in her skills she began to wonder if she could split the rock in half. Positioning it in front of her, she bore the side of her hand down on the rock, attempting to precisely channel her earth magi so the rock would split. A crack echoed through the room, but it wasn't the sound of the rock breaking but rather her hand. The pain radiated up her arm and she immediately clutched it in her other hand. She clenched her teeth as tears began to stream out of her eyes as her hand bled and throbbed. After a few minutes of thinking about how stupid she was, she walked over to the bowl of water and set her hand in it, repairing the cuts but not the bone. She cleaned the blood from her skin, and decided that it would be best if she tried to get some sleep.
She went to her room, avoiding anyone in the hallways, and crawled into bed. The weight of her exhaustion weighed on her, and she was soon asleep.
She was restless in her sleep, and each time she rolled over, the pain in her hand woke her up. When she grew tired of the endless cycle, she opened her eyes and inspected her hand. It was obviously broken with a large bump protruding from the side where it had come in contact with the rock. She rolled out of bed, making sure to avoid using her left hand. She got ready, taking a shower and getting dressed, wincing every time she went to use her broken hand. She decided that she needed to take a walk and get some fresh air, but she didn't want to disappear on Darrius and have a member of The Underground tackle her on the street and drag her back.
She left her room and walked to Darrius' office. The door was open and she entered. He was sitting behind his desk, leaning back in his chair. He had this fingers pressed together as he swiveled from side to side. He looked up at her and she began to speak, "Hey, is it okay if I go for a walk and get some fresh air?"
He shrugged, "On two conditions."
She tilted her head, "And what are those?"
"One," He held up his finger, "don't hurt yourself or get into trouble. And two," he raised another finger, "wear this." He leaned forward and grabbed a bundle of clothing and a pair of shoes. He handed them to her over the desk and she hung the shoes on two fingers of her left hand, sending more pain up her arm, and grabbed the bundle of clothing with her right.
She forced a smile to hide the pain, "Agreed." She turned around and left his office, quickly going back to her room to change. She unfolded the cloth. It was a navy blue and white dress with a red lining on the inside. She slipped it on, the floor length navy tail tapering in the front to show the shorter white underdress. The arms were wrapped with white ribbon, and a navy ribbon was woven between the two sides to cross over the white dress in the front. She pulled on the white stockings topped with a navy band followed by a pair of flats. She hadn't realized how long it had been since she dressed nice. Feeling a new wave of confidence, she left her room, went up the stairs and exited the bar. Taking a breath of the crisp air was refreshing and helped relax her. She turned and started aimlessly walking and going over everything in her mind. She decided that she needed to do something about Darrius' plan. If he was planning on destroying the castle and causing chaos everywhere, she had to try and stop him. But she first needed to find out more about his intentions. She didn't know anything about the crystals or the language that the papers were written in, and needed to learn more in order to better understand what she was up against. She assumed she'd be able to find something about them among the numerous books Darrius had. It was just a matter of having a chance to read about them without Darrius knowing. She would also need to train a lot if she wanted to even be able to put up a fight against Darrius in case it came to that. She started heading back to the bar feeling much more calm and collected. She had a plan, and she was determined to see it through.
She found Darrius in his office, pacing on the opposite side of the room. She knocked on the open door, "I'm back. Is there any paperwork you wanted me to do?"
He turned and looked at her, "No, but I'm curious to see where you are with your skills." He started walking towards her.
"Okay." She stepped aside and waited for him to pass, then followed him to the training room. He stopped in the middle of the room and she walked over to the table, picking up a palm-sized rock in her right hand. She did her best to cover her broken hand with her sleeve so Darrius wouldn't notice as she demonstrated her ability to steadily control the rock.
"What are you doing?" He sounded annoyed.
She returned the rock to her palm. "What do you mean?"
"I know that's not how you use your earth magi. You move your left hand more." He tilted his head downwards, "What are you hiding from me?"
She lied, "Nothing, I was just trying something new."
He didn't buy it, "I don't know when you're going to learn that lying to me doesn't work. Let me see it."
She timidly held up her broken hand, "It's nothing. Really."
He took a deep breath to calm himself after seeing the reddened lump bulging from the side of her hand, "When did you do this?"
She momentarily looked sideways to avoid his gaze, "Last night."
He held out his hand, "Give it to me." She put her hand in his upturned palm. He turned her hand to get a better look at it. "How did you manage this?"
"Training just went a little...wrong."
"I don't even know how you could have managed this. You know what, I'm not even going to ask. You Just need to stop breaking." He waved his hand over the injury and the constant throbbing subsided as she felt the bones painlessly slide back into place.
She took her hand back and inspected it, "Thanks."
"I'll be right back. Keep training."
"Okay," She called after him as he left the room. She suspended the rock again, this time realizing how much more natural it was for her to use her left hand. However, her concentration was soon broken when she heard a loud thump in the hallway. She decided it would be best to ignore it and returned to her training. Shortly after Darrius came back into the room appearing more relaxed.
"Alright, so we're going to try something new today." She caught the rock and continued listening as he took a stance in front of her. "Now that you have the very basics of earth magi down, we can move on to air. Air can be a little tricky since it's not the easiest to feel, and therefore control, but you should get the hang of it pretty soon. You first need to recognize the presence of air. This will probably take you some time, but you just need to be patient with it." She nodded and began trying to concentrate on feeling the air on her skin. Once she was able to acknowledge it, she began to be able to move tiny puffs of air.
"Good, now just keep at it. I can tell you will improve pretty fast." He started walking towards the door, "I've gotta go take care of a few things. Keep working on it." He left before she could respond. She distractedly turned back to her training, wondering what he was up to and if it was related to his plan. She settled on the idea that it probably wasn't since he had gone through the trouble to keep it secret from everyone, and working on it while being around other people may raise too much concern. She decided to take a break from training when she started to become fatigued and began losing control of the air.
Her mind once again wandered back to Darrius' plan as she left the room. It kept bothering her that there was so much that she didn't understand. Remembering the arsenal of books Darrius had in his office and secret library she began heading there. She figured that there would have to be information on everything she didn't understand among the thousands of books. The door to Darrius' door was open and she walked in. Darrius was sitting behind his desk and looked up at her when she walked in.
"Hey," She began, "Is it okay if I do some reading?" She motioned towards the books with her thumb.
He glanced behind her at his small library. "Yeah, sure." He looked back at her, "What are you looking for?"
She quickly came up with a lie. "Nothing in particular. I'm just curious what you have kicking around here. It's kind of a hobby of mine. I used to spend a lot of time at the library."
"Yeah, I know, " He said as he settled back in his chair. "Alright, have fun."
"Thanks," She said as she turned and began walking among the shelves. She ran her fingers across the spines of the books looking for anything that may be about crystals, languages, symbols, or magic jewelry. She found one titled The Modern Use of Crystals but was disappointed to find that it was only detailing the uses that she already understood such as creating light. She continued searching, but only found books about general knowledge. However, on the last shelf one book caught her eye. It was extremely old and worn, the title no longer legible. She pulled it off the shelf and opened it. Flipping through the pages she saw a drawing of a crystal that looked nearly identical to the ones she saw in Darrius' basement. She read the page, "Most tales that originate from the Grugan tribe are centered around this crystal; many of which claim it to hold the sleeping spirit of a demon. The crystal is kept in a sealed stone chamber and hasn't been seen in thousands of years, but the tribe's culture continues to be centered around protecting it. There are numerous rituals they perform to keep the spirit dormant, but there has never been evidence that the crystal truly does hold a dark energy."
She thumbed through the rest of the book hoping to find any more information, but it was just full of different legends from all over the world. She tucked the book under her arm and made her way to the front of the office. Thankfully, Darrius wasn't there to ask her any more questions and she was able to walk back to her temporary room without being interrupted. She sat on the edge of the bed and reread the passage about the Grugan tribe. She inspected the drawing, the shape becoming more and more familiar to her.
There was a knock at the door. She quickly closed the book and placed it on the bed beside her. "Come in." She said, trying to sound casual. Someone she had never seen stepped into the room. She was short with a petite stature, her dark hair loosely pulled back into a bun. A large bag was slung over her shoulder. "I heard you weren't able to sleep, or at least hadn't been, so I thought I would stop by. And from the looks of, what I hear is true." The girl closed the door behind her and took a few timid steps towards Nova. "Mind if I stay for a while?"
"Uh, yeah. Sure." Nova said as she placed the book on the floor and scooted over to make room for the girl. She was surprised and a little confused by the girl's visit. She watched as the girl removed the bag from her shoulder and walked over to the bed.
"My name is Riley, by the way." She sat beside Nova and placed the bag behind her. "You're Nova, right?"
"Yeah." Nova said, inspecting the bag. "What's the bag for?"
Riley's eyes lit up with excitement as she reached behind her and said, "It's a lot more fun if I just show you."
She pulled out a rolled up cloth, and as she spread it out, Nova was surprised to see that it was lined with small tubes filled with concoctions of all different colors. "These do all sorts of different things from making you temporarily blind to giving you a rash to putting you in a coma."
"That's, uh, interesting," Nova said, unsure if she should be worried. "So then, if you don't mind me asking, why are you here?"
"Oh yeah!" She said as she remembered her intentions, "I had heard that you went to school, which means that you might know a little bit about all this," She motioned towards the numerous mixtures, "And, you know, since there aren't a lot of people here that do this sort of thing, I'm kind of a....loner. But that's beside the point. I figured that you didn't know many people, so it might be good for you to get to know someone. Especially someone who isn't an asshole 80% of the time." Nova smiled at that last remark. Riley continued in the same half nervous half excited voice, "Oh! Aaaand I brought my world famous binge bars!" She reached into her bag and pulled out a platter of square desserts covered in chocolate. "So, what do you say? Girl's night in?"
Nova laughed at her enthusiasm, relieved to be around someone cheery for once. "Sure, sounds like fun." Riley smiled and handed Nova a bar, taking one for herself as well. She shoveled it in her mouth and Nova followed her lead and took a bite. She was surprised by the rich flavor. "Well?" Riley said through a mouthful, obviously curious to hear Nova's reaction.
"They're really good," Nova replied, taking another bite.
Riley began going off on a tangent about her potions. Nova found it very interesting since many of the ingredients were ones she was familiar with from her chemistry class. They continued for a good hour, discussing the many uses of different herbs and substances, and snacking on Riley's desserts. Nova suddenly grew unnaturally tired, and looked at Riley who was still talking about herbs. Nova interrupted, "Riley?"
Riley looked up at her, "What?"
Nova continued, "What did you put in those desserts?"
Riley's eyes lit up as she checked her watch, "Right on time!"
"Did you drug me?" Nova said in disbelief and feeling the effects even more now.
"Well, I may have. But just a little," Riley began, "You know, just enough to kind of help you sleep."
"And what made you think that was okay?"
"Well, I've seen you walking in the hallway a couple times, and each time you just kept looking more and more tired, and I wanted to introduce myself anyway after hearing that you might know about this stuff, and I figured that the best way would be with food, but then I also figured that since I'm a potion maker that I should give you something to help you sleep, but then I figured that since you didn't know me you might not drink it 'cause, you know what they say, 'don't drink potions from strangers'. Well anyway, so I just put it in some of the binge bars and made sure that you ate a few of those, and I just ate the normal ones, but I was expecting you to eat more of the normal ones, so you may be a little more tired that I had planned, but that may be a good thing. And you don't need to worry, I only used the ernel root recipe so it's pretty weak so you shouldn't have any side effects."
Nova couldn't keep her eyes open any more as Riley continued to ramble on about the different types of sleeping potions and their effects. It wasn't long before she had drifted off to sleep.
She wasn't sure how long she had been asleep, but for the first time in a long time, she woke feeling well rested. She stretched and sat up, feeling the blood rush from her head and momentarily blacken her vision. She rolled out of bed and got ready, finding that clothes had been added to her closet. They were much more formal than the usual jeans and black t-shirt. She slipped on one of the dresses and left the room, heading for Darrius' office to see what books she could find about the Grugan tribe. Once again his door was open and he wasn't there, so she went to the back of the library and slipped through the false wall. She cautiously made her way into the large library, doing her best to avoid anyone. She managed to slip in unnoticed, and began to relax a bit once she was among the maze of bookshelves. She made her way up and down the shelves scanning for anything on the Grugan tribe, until finally, she found one. She flipped through and found a section on the crystal.
"The Grugan society is based around the protection of the Yullet crystal. It has been believed by their society for many years that it holds the spirit of a powerful demon. As legend commonly goes, the demon attacked at sundown one day, and before the night was over, most of the tribe was dead. Just as the morning sun peaked over the horizon, the tribe's shaman handed a boy a magic instrument, enchanted with the power to send the demon into a deep sleep. The boy climbed the mountain just as the sun was rising and began playing. The demon heard and soon fell into a deep sleep. The tribe shaman then locked the powerful demon in a crystal. The tribe soon dedicated their lives to ensuring that the demon never woke up by locking it away deep in a cave, and at intervals throughout the year, they play music to soothe the demon. Throughout history there has been speculation that the most powerful of magic bearers can release the immense black energy from the crystal, but no one has been able to retrieve the stone since the alleged cave that holds the crystal is guarded with a very strong and ancient magic."
Nova was shocked that someone may be able to use the power of the demon inside the crystal. She realized that she needed to learn more about crystals in general and how their power can be used. She closed the book and returned it to the shelf. She took a step back, scanning the titles of the books to see if any were about crystals. When she didn't see any she turned around, but immediately froze, gasping when a tall, masked figure stood only a few feet away. They just silently stood there looking at her, the black eyes seemingly burrowing into her sanity.
In an attempt to seem less suspicious, she stepped to the side and said, "Sorry if I was in your way." She went to step around the masked being, first noticing a feeling of sudden and intense cold before they put their gloved hand out, blocking her way.
"Hey," Came a monotone masculine voice from behind the mask.
Nova took a step back to try and escape the chilling aura, but it only slightly faded. "Hey," She replied, the adrenaline setting is as she realized that she was boxed in. The man took a step forward, the aura following him. She tried to take a step back but she bumped into a bookcase. He took another step forward, now only a foot away from her. He was much taller than her, and bent down as he reached for her hand. She retracted as much as she could, feeling the need to get away. "Do not disobey me," His voice echoed through her skull as he held up his hand, splaying his fingers to expose his palm. An invisible force threw her back, firmly pressing her into the wall. He turned his attention back to her hand, taking it in his. His touch seemed to send a ripple through her arm, tensing all the muscles so she couldn't move it.
She wanted to scream, "Let me go!" But the invisible force was holding her jaw shut.
Surprisingly the man silently responded, "I don't take orders from those below me." He proceeded to trace his finger over the symbol on the back of her hand, leaving a burning sensation. A dull purple glow appeared to emanate from the tip of his finger. His voice began to echo through her skill again, "I see you're a first gen, your powers gifted to you by the gods. I heard that you had fought off a room of people, but I don't see how someone as weak as you could have."
She began to become aware of her mind magi, projecting her thoughts to the man. "I said, let me go!" She did her best to push back against the cold seeping into her skin, feeling it momentarily retract before chilling her once again, much stronger this time.
He sounded through her head again, "Do not disobey me." The force closed around her throat, sending her into a total panic. She once again used her mind magi, this time with more strength as fresh adrenaline rushed through her veins. The blow not only freed her throat but her whole body, unpinning her from the wall and sending her toppling to the ground. The man reacted quickly, wrapping his fingers around the wrist he was holding. A paralyzing chill ran up her arm, working its way to the base of her skull and down her spine before radiating through her entire body. He bent down beside her and pressed a finger to her forehead, an intense burning began to burrow into her skin as his presence started to overtake her mind. "You are too easy to defeat. Someone with your potential should at least be a challenge." Terrified by the thought of Darrius finding out what she knew, she fought back with all her strength. His presence began to recede, but she had to continually fight harder as his finger burrowed deeper into her skin. Finally, with a last push, she flung his hand away from her. She quickly fought off the deep chill in her body, regaining control just in time for the man to hold up a hand to her. She quickly shot hers up too, fighting the wave of frigid energy that he was pressing towards her. She began to get lightheaded as she continued to fight back with everything she had. She managed to match his strength for some time, but eventually he overpowered her. Knowing that she was losing her strength fast, she focused on barricading her mind from him with all her remaining strength as she slipped into unconsciousness to a new, intense burning of the symbol on the back of her hand.
Nova woke to a dull, pulsing pain throughout her body. She attempted to sit up, but an unbearable pain settled in every part of her body that she tried to use. She moaned as she tried to open her eyes, but they watered and even the dim light initiated a splitting headache.
"Shoot! You weren't supposed to wake up for a while. Don't move!" She recognized it at Riley's voice. She heard her start rustling through various items, "Now where did I put that darn syringe? Oh! Here it is!" She heard as Riley walked over to her. Nova tried to stop her, but when she went to put her hand up to block her, another renewed pain shot up her arm. "For heaven's sakes, don't move! You're more stubborn than the other guys that come through here. I had to inject you with teflik to rid you of the residual binding magic. It settles in all of your tissues and makes moving, and even not moving, painful." Nova felt a precise pain on the side of her neck, and the effects of the drugs immediately began to set in. Riley continued, "So instead of making you suffer through it, I'll put you to sleep. It's easier for the both of us. You'll be awake in a day or so, I made sure to give you the good stuff, unlike last time. I was even able to get the dose right..." The drugs overtook Nova, making Riley's words trail off.
She wasn't sure how long she had been asleep, but her vision was blurry and even the dimmest of light gave her a headache. She pressed her hand to her forehead and sat up. Her muscles felt sore and stiff. She slowly swung her legs over the side of the bed as Riley walked into the room holding a cup.
"Hey! You're going to want to take it easy for a while. I had to dose you more than once because the residual magic was stronger than I had thought." She handed Nova the cup. "Drink this. It's a special type of tea that will help with the side effects."
Nova took the tea, "Thanks. How long was I out for?" She sipped the citrus tasting tea.
Riley sat down on the bed next to hers, "Just a few days. You recovered fairly quick for that strength of magic. You should have seen the last guy I treated for this sort of thing. I gave him half the dose I gave you and he was out for almost three weeks! Although that's the longest I've ever seen. I had to keep checking to make sure he wasn't dead."
Nova became curious, "So you treat a lot of people here?"
"Oh yeah!" she said enthusiastically, "Most of the injuries these guys get are far too suspicious to be treated at a clinic. The Guard would need to be notified and it wouldn't take them long to figure out who is working for us. So nearly every member from any branch within reach of here comes to me for medical attention. I have quite a few frequent fliers since they say I'm the best doctor The Underground has, but it still makes me nervous when a big wig comes in."
"Like Vaati, who brought you here, and Darrius."
Nova's eyes widened in surprise. "Darrius has you take care of his injuries?!"
"Yeah, but only when they're really bad. He has to practically be dead to let me treat him. I don't think I've ever used anything except my most powerful and advanced potions on him. I've never seen anybody in as rough shape as him and live. And even after that he still recovers much quicker than anyone I've ever seen."
"Huh," Nova took a sip of the tea. "And who's Vaati?"
"Oh, Vaati is the tall masked guy. He's pretty hard to miss. He's one of my favorite people to treat since he never complains."
Nova couldn't believe that he had been the one to bring her in since he had attacked her. She wasn't sure why he would do that.
Riley continued, "Speaking of which, what happened to you? I asked Vaati but he only told me to make sure that you lived."
"I'm not really sure. I was in the library, and then I saw Vaati, and I think he attacked me. But then I don't know why he would bring me to you."
Riley looked concerned, "That's strange. Are you sure it was Vaati that attacked you? 'Cause from what I've heard, if Vaati wants something done he gets it done. He's a down to business kind of guy."
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure from the way you describe him. I had never seen him before. But I don't think I've ever seen anyone as tall as him, so I highly doubt that anyone could impersonate him."
"yeah, that's true. Then I guess he must have had a reason for it. I mean, I don't think Vaati ever does something without a reason. Whenever he comes in he hardly even says anything. He only answers the most important questions that I ask him, and other than that he's just silent."
Nova went quiet thinking of a reason for Vaati to attack her and then bring her to Riley so she'd live.
Riley interrupted her thoughts, "Well anyway, how are you feeling?"
Nova looked into her now empty cup. "A lot better. Thanks for the tea."
Riley took the cup from her and placed it on the table between the beds. "Benti root tea always seems to do the trick."
Nova stood up, feeling almost completely normal. "Thanks again for taking care of me, Riley." She began walking towards the door.
Riley called after her, "Feel free to stop by anytime! I can show you what I do. It's really cool! Oh! And we should also hand out again sometime. I promise I won't slip you anything!"
"Nova called over her shoulder, "Will do!" as she stepped into the hallway. She was glad to have Riley around since she wasn't easy to piss off and didn't just want to talk business. She would have stayed to chat longer if she didn't have to try and figure out Darrius' plans. She headed to his office, but found it guarded. She quickly came up with a plan as she approached the doors. She tried looking like she was headed there for business, but the guard still stopped her. "What do you think you're doing?"
She acted as though she was surprised that they would stop her, "I'm grabbing the paperwork that I always do for Darrius."
The guard looked unimpressed, "Then why haven't we seen you in the past few days?"
"I was a little busy with some side work. If this is going to be a problem you can tell Darrius yourself why the paperwork isn't done."
For a fleeting moment she saw fear cross the guard's face. He stepped aside and let her enter.
"That's what I thought," she said doing her best to sound as smug as most other TU members. Out of the corner of her eye she could see the guard scowl at her as she opened the door and closed it behind her. She walked over to Darrius' desk and found a stack of paperwork to go through. She pushed the top few pages to the ground so if anyone walked in she could pretend that she was just picking them up and not going through his desk. She pulled at the bottom drawer which was slightly open. It was filled with paper. She leafed through them, finding out that they were just general information about the pubs. However, there was a gap between the stacks, and when she lifted it, she found a worn, leather journal. Curious, she took it out and flipped to the first page. She was surprised to find it filled with writing, but it was just "I miss you" written over and over again. She flipped to pages throughout, but found that they were all the same.
She wanted to assume that the journal was not written by Darrius since he could neither read nor write, but the handwriting was unnatural, each stroke shaky as though it was written very slow and with a lot of effort. As she skimmed through the pages she noticed that the lines became more steady as though they were learning to write.
At first she assumed that he was writing about his sister, Emily, but where did he learn to write this?"
The door opened and she quickly closed the journal, her heart racing.
"It's taking you an awfully long time to grab some paper."
"Calm down," She began, trying to sound casually annoyed as she slipped the journal between the papers and silently closed the drawer. "I just dropped some." She picked up the pieces she had purposely knocked on the floor and stood up.
The guard was standing in the doorway, his arms crossed. "Don't need you spending too much time in here and getting me in trouble."
She picked up the stack of papers, "Alright, alright. Jeez, don't get your panties all in a bunch." She walked past the guard and he closed the door behind her. She made her way to the work space, setting the stack down on a desk in a closed off area. She spent hours going through the paperwork, periodically thinking of the strange journal in Darrius' desk. It didn't sit right with her. When she finished the paperwork hours later, she was exhausted, but she knew she needed to learn more about Darrius' plan if she wanted to know enough to stop him before it was too late.
She went back to his office which was still being guarded, but by different guards this time. She watched as the guards stood up a little straighter as she approached. "I'm sorry but we can't let you enter."
Nova pulled the same routine as she did before. She sighed and looked really annoyed, "I see the last guys didn't tell you that I'd be back."
They looked at each other with puzzled expressions.
Nova continued, "I need to put these back and do a little research for Darrius. So if you don't let me in, you can be the ones to explain to Darrius why this paperwork isn't on his desk and the research isn't done."
The guards had the same reaction. They stepped to the side and let her in. She made sure to close the door behind her before putting the stack of papers on Darrius' desk. She quickly made her way to the back of the library, walked through the false wall and snuck her way into the library unnoticed. This time she was more on edge, constantly looking over her shoulder for Vaati as she browsed the books looking for anything that might give her more information on Darrius' plans. She nervously browsed for hours before finally stumbling on a section full of records of people in The Underground. She began looking through all the names until she found an unmarked journal among the loose papers. It wasn't with a folder and Nova was disappointed to find that there wasn't a name inside. Although she was very surprised when she realized as she flipped through the pages that all that was written was "I miss you". However, this time it was in elven and the handwriting was neat, the letters narrow and curvy. She figured that Darrius hadn't been the one to write this since the book seemed more worn, but the handwriting was better and more natural. On the last page however, the final "I miss you" was written in English. She ruled out Emily as a possible author for the book since someone as young as her most likely didn't know how the elven language. Then who could have written it? Nova stared at the pages until she was so exhausted that she could hardly keep her eyes open or focus on the words. She closed the journal and put it back where it came from. She snuck back out of the library unnoticed. Luckily the same guards were there when she left Darrius' office so she didn't need to passively threaten someone. She went to the room she was staying in and fell asleep almost immediately.
For the next few days, she woke up, got ready, conned her way past the guards, and looked through the library until she was exhausted and went to bed. She wasn't able to find much of anything on the jewelry, and kept finding the same information about crystals. Still determined to figure out Darrius' plans, Nova followed her routine, eventually getting into the library. She tried browsing a different section, scanning the titles once again and skimming through anything that might be useful. She pulled out a book on jewelry, finding that it only briefly mentioned that it can be enchanted. She resumed browsing the books, but found nothing else of use. She decided to leave the library a little earlier this time so she could talk with Riley again. She started making her way out of the library until suddenly something warm wrapped around her upper arm. She whipped around to see Vaati standing behind her, his hand fixed on her arm and a purple glow radiating out from under his hand. Nova first tried to shake him off, but he was holding on too tight. She tried concentrating her mind magi on pushing his hand away, but he continued to stay put. She looked into the pure black slits of the mask and opened her mouth to say something, but Vaati thrust his other hand up, muting her. She now focused on using her mind magi to speak, "Vaati, stop!" He didn't respond, he just kept hanging on. She refocused back on his hand, prying at it with more force this time. Her arm was freed from his grasp, but he held up his hand again, this time pushing her back against a bookcase. She fought back, finding that she was much stronger this time. She dismissed the force pushing her back, landing on her feet and attempting to return the favor to Vaati. It didn't seem to do much though. His robes were pushed back but he stayed put. He held his hand out in front of him, but Nova countered the force. As they stood in a stalemate Nova began to speak, "Why are you attacking me?!"
He responded, "It's for the better, Novalin." He sent a new blast towards her, this one overcoming her powers and knocking her to the floor. As she began to push herself up Vaati took the opportunity to swipe her to the side with a simple wave his hand. Her back and head slammed into the bookcase and she momentarily lost her vision. She could sense Vaati pushing towards her and she fought back, regaining her vision to see that Vaati was sliding backwards. She stood up and maintained her power as she backed up towards the exit until she began to get out of range. She turned around to run but before she could even take a step Vaati had appeared behind her. He gently wrapped his hand around the side of her neck, placing his fingers along her spine. A cold sensation shot down her back and radiated throughout her body, freezing her in position. He reached out with his other hand and closed her eyelids with a sweeping motion that relaxed her body without returning her control to it. He quickly caught her limp body as she began to fall. She could feel him silently carry her out of the library and could hear him open and close a few doors before putting her down in something hard. She suddenly felt the trickle of water on her leg before she heard the sound of the door opening, closing, and locking.
The room was silent except for the sound of running water. She began to try to fight the limpness in her body but it was a very strong magic. She decided to wait for a while, hoping that Vaati had left her with Riley, but she soon noticed that the water was pooling around her, quickly inching its way up her body. She realized that Vaati had put her in a bathtub, turned the water on, and left her to drown. Her heart rate shot up and she could feel herself sweating as the intense anxiety and adrenaline kicked in. She began to fight against the strong spell again as the cold water rose above her elbows. Her efforts seemed useless as it continued to creep up her arms and past her shoulders. The water level met her chin, and she knew she didn't have much time left before she started drowning. She got her finger to twitch as the water met her lips, feeling both hope and pure fear as the ever rising level met her nose. She could no longer breathe as she was completely submerged. She got her leg to twitch, but her lungs were already burning from the lack of oxygen. Soon the water began to seep into her lungs as she became lightheaded and dizzy. She knew she'd be unconscious in a matter of seconds, so in a last ditch effort she mustered all the strength she could and fought against the spell. She shot upward, her face breaking the surface. Her body violently shook with the coughing fit that began forcing the water out of her lungs. She sat in the freezing bath, hunched over the side of the tub and coughing up water for a while before turning off the water. She was uncontrollably shaking as she continued to cough, and shivered from the icy water. She weakly stood up, turning off the water that had been overflowing onto the floor for a while. She took a shaky step onto the soaked tile and grabbed a towel from the closet. She began drying herself as she unlocked the door and stepped into the room she had been sleeping in. The water had flowed out from the bathroom and covered the floor in the room too, but that was the least of her concerns. She splashed her way over to the closet and pulled out a dry outfit. She changed, feeling the relief of dry clothes, but the chill still hadn't left her body. She walked over to the bed, gladly taking her feet out of the water and wrapping herself in the blankets to try and warm up. She lay there for a while shivering, her teeth chattering between coughing fits. She eventually began to feel the exhaustion overtake her as she fell asleep.
Her sleep was frequently interrupted with coughing fits that woke her up. Each time she noticed how cold she was and that it still felt like she had water in her lungs. She floated in and out of sleep for a while until she heard yelling in the hallway and then someone burst into her room. She immediately sat up and used her mind magi to push them back, expecting it to be Vaati. She heard them slam into the wall as she realized that it was just a guard. The guard reacted to the sudden attack, hurling a throwing knife at Nova. Using the water that still covered the floor, she threw up a wall, catching the knife.
Nova yelled in a hoarse voice, "Sorry, I didn't mean to attack you!" The guard didn't seem to hear as he began to charge towards her. Her yelling triggered another series of violent coughs, causing her to hunch over as he lunged forwards, grabbing her by the shoulders and pinning her to the bed. The coughing slightly subsided and she used her mind magi to fling him off of her and he landed on the floor. He began to get up but she controlled the water, wrapping it around his wrists and ankles as she started to encase his body with it, dragging him back down to the floor. She could feel him struggle as he continued to try and get up.
"Stop! I don't want to hurt you. It was just a mistake." Talking triggered another fit, and the water that was wrapped around the guard returned to the layer covering the floor. The guard sat up and looked around the room.
"What the hell happened?" He said, a mixture of curiosity and anger in his voice. As he waited for Nova to finish coughing he stood up, his soaked clothes dripping.
Nova took a shallow breath before speaking, "It's a long story."
He picked up his throwing knife from the floor, "Well, I'd recommend you start explaining. This isn't something you can just kind of ignore."
"Vaati just nearly drowned me." She said followed by more coughing.
"Well that would explain why you're hacking up a lung. So, what did you do to Vaati?"
One of the corners of his mouth raised slightly, "Sounds like Vaati to me." He inspected her and motioned towards the door, "Come with me. I'll get someone to clean this up."
Still shivering, she climbed out of the bed and followed the guard out of her room. Her teeth began to chatter and he shot a sideways glance at her. "You should probably go see Riley. You look like hell."
"I'm fine." She quickly replied.
He shrugged, "Suit yourself." He led her to a room that was very similar to the one she had been staying in. "Just don't make a mess of this one too." He closed the door, leaving her alone again. She immediately went to the bed and wrapped herself in the blankets. She was sweating even though she felt like she was freezing and was also still coughing. She fell into the same interrupted sleep, frequently waking up because she was coughing. When she couldn't stand lying in bed anymore she got up and went to Darrius' office. She got past the guards and grabbed the paperwork. She took it to the work room, noticing that she felt pretty weak, and began going through it as she normally did. It grew increasingly more difficult to focus as the coughing became more frequent and her shivers grew more intense. Her hands shook as she she tried to flip through the pages and pick them up.
She heard someone whisper, "Nova." She whipped her head around to see Vaati standing right behind her. She shot out of her chair and tried to force him back but he just disappeared. Her heart racing, she looked around the empty room while coughing before slowly making her way over to the door and peeking outside. Still empty. She walked into the main part of the room filled with desks. She reached the wall on the other side and turned around to go back to her work, but Vaati was standing in the middle of the room, staring at her with his pure black eyes. She charged at him, not willing to let him make the first move anymore. She pelted him with a barrage of water drops, but they seemed to just go through him as he didn't even move an inch. She coughed some more while he tilted his head, "Is something the matter, Novalin?" She was horrified, and tried to push him back with her mind magi, but that seemed to go right by him too, leaving him unscathed as the desks and chairs behind him toppled over and slid across the floor. He started walking towards her, "That wasn't very nice." She backed up as he came closer, but her back hit the wall and she was trapped. She tried pushing him back with her mind magi again, but he still wasn't affected. He now stood only a few inches away from her, radiating his cold arua and making her shiver even more. He began to speak, drawing his face closer to hers, "I would take care of you myself, but that would be too kind." He stepped aside, and she now saw Aiden standing on the other side of the room.
His gaze was poisonous as he began to speak, "Remember me? You know, the one you killed for your own good?" He began walking towards her, "It's time you paid the price for what you did." He rolled up his sleeves and drew a dagger off of his belt. He twirled it in his fingers as he kept coming closer. She lashed out using her mind magi and successfully flung the knife out of his hand. She noticed that it didn't make a metallic sound when it hit the ground, which was quite strange. He kept walking towards her and she pushed him back with air. He put up his hands, stopping the gust, and continued to close the distance between them. She tried to use her earth magi to dislodge the stones from the floor, but something was blocking her from doing so, like when her hand was wrapped. She used her water magi and began to pelt him with it, noticing that her water magi had been weakened as well. Aiden deflected most of the droplets, only getting a minor wound on his leg.
Her panic intensified as her powers faded and as he got closer and closer. Her quickened breathing caused another coughing fit that allowed him to reach her. He grabbed her by the upper arm as she collected herself again. He tried to pull her towards him, but she kicked backwards, striking him in the side of the knee. He fell and she ran past him so she could escape, but someone tackled her, pushing her to the ground and landing on top of her. She tried to push them off but they were pinning her to the ground by her shoulders. She brought her knee up and drove it into their abdomen, knocking the wind out of them. She easily pushed them off and sat up as they gasped for air. She began to stand up but Aiden had collected himself and pulled back on her shoulders, forcing her to the ground again. She began coughing, giving him and yet another person the chance to successfully pin her down.
Aiden began to speak, "Stop struggling. You're just making it worse." His voice sounded a bit off, but she soon brushed it aside when she saw Vaati walking towards her. She was desperate to get away and tried to push Aiden off again, this time with her mind magi. This had been weakened as well and Aiden was able to fight the force of without too much of a struggle. Aiden yelled, "Wrap her hand, god damn it!" The guard that she had winded came over and began wrapping a cloth around her left hand. She continued to struggle but it was no use with three men holding her down.
Vaati spoke, "You know you will always lose. And each time you do, I will be here to punish you."
"I won't let you take me again." She was so angry it was nearly a whisper.
"Who the hell is she talking to?" She heard a guard say.
She ignored him as Vaati continued, "Let's see how true that is."
"Let's." She mustered her remaining strength and tried to force Vaati back again, ignoring the guards on top of her. Everything behind him violently few back and the torches on that side of the room went out, but he still remained. She was nearly completely fatigued from the effort of her last attack and could no longer resist the guards. Between coughs her breathing was shallow and labored, and she realized that she was still shivering.
Vaati began to speak again, "Like I said, I always win."
Aiden began to speak in a demanding tone, "Flip her over and bind her hands." The men turned her face down and tied her hand behind her back. "Okay let's get her in the tank before she fights back again." They picked her up and began walking through the halls, but she wasn't paying attention to where she was going. She had her eyes locked on Vaati who would just stand still and stare at her until they rounded a corner and then appear somewhere new and repeat the process. They entered an empty room made of stone, the walls littered with various symbols that she had never seen before. They sat her down at the end of the room away from the door. When the left, they closed it, revealing Vaati standing in the corner behind it.
She backed up into the corner farthest from him. He just silently stared at her, and she stared back, almost too afraid to blink. She spoke, "I don't know what you want from me."
He didn't answer and just kept staring.
"I haven't done anything to you, and I don't know what you want from me."
He still didn't answer.
She shut her mouth and stared at him, coughing and shivering, for what seemed like hours. But the longer she sat there the more it felt like the black slits bore into her, making her skin crawl. She became extremely fidgety, trying to make the sensation stop, and it also didn't help that her hands were still tied behind her back adding to her anxiety. She knew trying to use any magi would be useless. She could feel that her powers had been suppressed even more than they had been in the office space.
There was a knock at the door, but Nova didn't say anything. She just kept staring at Vaati. After a few seconds the door cracked open and Riley poked her head in.
"Nova?" She said in a timid tone.
She didn't respond, her eyes locked on Vaati's. Riley slipped into the room and quietly closed the door behind her. She repeated herself, "Nova?" When she didn't respond again Riley slowly walked over to her, periodically glancing towards the corner she was staring at. She crouched down against the wall near Nova and took her bag off her shoulders as she continued to talk, "What are you staring at?"
She whispered back, "I don't know why you're asking. You know them."
She replied in the same tone, "I do, I just can't remember their name."
"I know you know it. You told me earlier." She responded, avoiding saying Vaati's name as though it would make him do something.
"Ah," She said with a tone of realization, "It's Vaati, isn't it?"
Nova just nodded her head.
There was a short silence before Riley spoke again, "You don't look like you're feeling too well." Nova heard as she rummaged through her things. She held out a small vial, "Drink this. I think it will help."
Nova didn't move or respond so Riley tried again, "Vaati hates this stuff. It will make him go away." Nova thought for a minute before slowly reaching for the vial.
She took it from Riley and brought it up to her lips, drinking it without taking her eyes off Vaati. Riley slowly took the glass tube back from Nova as she said, "Give him a few minutes to realize what you've done."
She sat there staring at Vaati, watching as he seemed to slowly melt into the wall. When he was gone she began to look around the room, paying more attention to the engravings in the stone. Riley took notice and asked, "Is he gone?"
"Yeah." She responded, feeling relieved. She also seemed to be shivering less.
Riley breathed a sigh of relief, "Good, that means the fever is going down."
Nova shot her a confused look, "What do you mean, 'fever'?"
Riley began putting her potions back in her bag and she spoke, "You have pneumonia. It took me a while to piece together what had happened. First some guards came in with some injuries, and when I asked what happened they said that some girl with all magi pools attacked them because she were on drugs, and you know, that peaked my interest because I have a lot of potions that can reverse the effects of most drugs. I asked if they knew who you were and one said that you were the one that had flooded their room at the end of the hall, and when they described you, I knew that it was you. So I put two and two together and figured that you must have gotten pneumonia, which can cause high fevers which in turn can cause hallucinations. And I don't know what you saw earlier, but you sure did a pretty good number on three of those guys by yourself. You not only beat them up, but you also terrified them. They said that you overcame a wrapped hand and magi wardings. And you should see the mess you made, I mean, that room is a total wreck."
Nova began trying to wrap her head around what had just happened. She must not have actually seen Vaati or Aiden, and thinking back to the fight it made sense. Vaati wouldn't have spoken so much, and Aiden's dagger would have made a metallic sound when it hit the ground. Aiden probably would have also killed her and not just tried to restrain her. But something still didn't make sense; Where had she gotten the water from? She remembered how her mind magi had affected everything but Vaati, so she knew that she hadn't just imagined the desks flying back, but when she used her water magi on Aiden, who was actually a guard, she was able to hit him. So the water must have been real, but she didn't remember any being readily available in the room.
Riley interrupted her thoughts, "Let's get you out of here." She stood up and slung the bag back over her shoulder. Nova followed her lead, shakily standing up as she felt the exhaustion settling in her body. "Need any help? You look a bit weak."
"I'm fine." Nova quickly responded.
Riley held the door open for her and replied in a nearly defensive tone, "Alight." Nova stepped out of the room and began to feel her powers return. Riley closed the door behind them and led Nova back to the recovery room where she had woken up after Vaati's first attack. When she first walked in she noticed that there were quite a few people recovering from various injuries, but most were asleep. Riley pointed to a bed as she walked by, "Take a seat. I'll be right back. I just need to get a few things ready."
Nova obeyed and sat on the edge of the bed and continued to inspect the room. It was quite organized with anything that each patient might need either neatly folded or carefully arranged on the bedside table.
Riley returned with a metal tray littered with various vials and syringes. She put it down on the nightstand and picked up a diluted red vial and a white one. She mixed them before turning around and handing it to Nova. "This will help keep the fever down. What I gave you before only lasts a short while and will start wearing off soon." Nova gave the cloudy red liquid one last glance before quickly swallowing it, leaving a bitter aftertaste in her mouth. She handed the vial back to Riley who put it back on tray and proceeded to mix many of the remaining concoctions. She picked up a syringe and took up the strange colored liquid. "This is going to suck, but the oral form of this doesn't react well with what I just gave you. And trust me, the other stuff is a lot worse intravenously. You probably want to lie down for this." Nova listened, swinging her legs onto the bed and laying down. Riley cleaned off the bend of her elbow before positioning the needle and puncturing the skin. At first it wasn't too bad with just the pain from where the needle penetrated her skin, but soon the liquid began to burn through her veins. She felt it start in her arm and radiate throughout her entire body, causing her to sweat. She then felt the adrenaline kick in, causing her breathing to quicken and her cough to worsen. The burning sensation reached her head, causing a headrush which blackened her vision. The heat seemed to dissipate as her vision returned, and she took a deep breath as the adrenaline wore off.
"It's a bit weird, isn't it?" Said Riley as she returned the now empty syringe to the tray.
"Yeah." Nova replied as she began to sit up. Riley put a hand on her shoulder and gently pushed down, "You probably shouldn't get up for a while. Sometimes the head rush happens more than once." Nova relaxed back onto the mattress and Riley carried the tray away. She laid on the bed coughing and staring at the ceiling until she fell into the same interrupted sleep, but the times between waking up quickly lengthened and she was soon in a deep sleep.
She opened her eyes to find that it was nearly pitch black in the room. She sat up and tried to look around but it was difficult to make anything out from the torchlight that only came from the opposite end of the room. She continued to peer into the darkness, revealing a white mask staring at her; Vaati. Her heart seemed to skip a beat when the familiar slits emptily locked on her.
He spoke first, his monotone voice seeming to softly echo through the room, "I see you have grown."
"What do you want from me?" She questioned, her voice quiet.
"Progress." His voice continued to softly echo through the room and seemingly fill her thoughts.
"Progress? In what?"
He was silent.
She tried again, "What do you mean?"
He finally spoke, "You need to go. They're calling you."
He didn't say anything as a thick black fog encased him and then washed over her. She couldn't see anything, but could now hear distant voices. They slowly grew louder, and she could begin to make out the distressed tones. She was first able to pick up on a man's, "...said that she needs to be fine."
A girl responded, "Well that's not normally a side effect, and she took to other drugs better than most."
He spoke again, "Well then that means that this is even stranger. You need to give that to her, or else I could be royally screwed. Stop just giving her saline and give her something with will wake her up."
Nova felt a pressure on her arm, and then a pin-point pain.
The girl continued, "We need to be patient. We don't know for sure yet."
"I'll put it this way: If you don't do it, I will."
"You have no idea how much more dangerous that is."
"Well then what the hell else am I supposed to do?"
"Just give her some time. Darrius shouldn't be back for at least a few days and that's plenty of time to figure out what's going on."
"And what if he comes back early?"
"You'll figure it out. It's not like you caused it. And trust me, it could be a lot worse if we give her more drugs. You know I'm on the line too. It's not just you."
Nova pried her eyes open just enough to see a guard standing at the foot of her bed. Her eyes felt heavy, and even the dim light seemed blinding. She tried to move her arm, but a hand quickly clamped around it and held it down.
"Hey," The girl said, keeping her hand pressed to Nova's arm, "Hold still." Nova shifted her gaze upwards and saw Riley sitting on a rolling stool beside her bed. She then looked at her arm. Riley was holding a large syringe filled with clear fluid, the needle in Nova's arm.
She kept talking, "Don't worry, it's just to keep you hydrated."
Nova held still and returned her gaze back to the guard who looked partially relieved and partially stressed. Nova questioned, "What are you guys all upset about?"
The guard looked at Riley who then spoke, "We were just worried that you were going into a coma. With the medicine I gave you, it is expected that you would sleep for a while, but it has been almost a day since you were supposed to wake up. Even though sleeping is normal, I still need to check for responsiveness to stimuli to make sure that you're sleeping and not in a coma, because that's a rare side effect. You were responding fine for the majority of the time, but when it got close to when you were supposed to wake up, you became unresponsive, which is a sign of a coma. But it hadn't been enough time to be certain that it was one. And if it was, I would have had to start using a counter drug, but that could cause a variety of major problems." An expression of recollection crossed Riley's face, "Which reminds me! Vaati came to see you. He asked about your recovery. I had to let him know since he's my boss, but I told him that I think it may be best for you if he's not around when you wake up since you had hallucinated and seen him which made you all paranoid. I just thought I'd let you know that he stopped by since, you know, the last two incidents didn't go so well for you."
"Huh, thanks." Nova said, wondering why Vaati had come to visit her. She also began to think that Vaati's visit in her dream wasn't just her imagination.
Riley pulled the empty syringe out of Nova's arm and put it on a metal tray. Nova pushed herself up into a sitting position and noticed how tight her body felt from not moving. She also noticed how open and clear her lungs felt, which was a nice contrast to the feeling that they were filled with fluid like they had earlier.
Riley spoke, "How are you feeling?"
"A lot better, thanks." Nova stretched and shook some of the stiffness from her body.
"Well, you sure do look a lot better too." Riley picked up the metal tray and walked over to the guard. "See? It's fine. Go do what you need to do and I'll take care of this like always." She walked past the guard who took a final look at Nova before taking a deep breath and walking out of the room.
Riley went out of sight and put the tray down before returning and sitting on the rolling stool again. "You just can't stay away, can you?"
Nova smiled, "You know this place is irresistible."
"You know you can visit without getting hurt, right?"
Nova laughed, "Yeah. I was actually on my way up here to say hi when all of this happened."
"Riley's brow furrowed, "Speaking of which, what happened?"
Nova swung her legs over the side of the bed to better face Riley. "Well, I was leaving the library to come up here, and Vaati attacked me again. I thought I was going to get away this time, but who knew he could teleport? So anyway, he somehow paralyzed me with what I think was mind magi, and then put me in a bathtub, turned the water on, and left the room. So that's how I almost drowned, but I somehow overcame whatever he did to me."
Riley looked quite interested, "And what about after that?"
"I couldn't really sleep so after I while I got out of bed and was just doing my work when Vaati, well, at least what I thought was Vaati, came in and threatened me. And then I think that's when the guard came in, but I saw him as Aiden, and I thought he was going to try and kill me, so that's why I fought the guards. And then you pretty much know the rest of it; They put me in that room and I saw Vaati standing in the corner just staring at me until you gave me that stuff. Thanks for that, by the way."
"No problem! But the next time you don't feel well, just come and see me. It would save us both a lot of trouble."
Nova smiled, "Will do." They sat in silence for a few seconds before Nova spoke again, "So I think I heard you mention something about Darrius coming back. I didn't know he left, but that sure does explain why I haven't seen him."
"Yeah, he slips out a lot and doesn't really tell anyone."
"Does he ever say where he's going or what he's doing?"
"Not really. Most of the time he just tells one or two people to take care of things while he's gone. It's almost a miracle if he even gives us a time frame."
Nova snickered, "That sure does sound like him."
Someone groaned and rolled over in a bed on the other side of the room. Riley looked towards the patient, "Well, I guess that's my cue to get back to work." She looked back at Nova and smiled, "Try and stay out of trouble for a while."
"I'll try, but I'm not making any promises." Nova replied as Riley walked over to the patient. Nova stretched and began to feel the stiffness subside a bit more. She stood up and began walking towards the library knowing that she may only have a few days before Darrius returned. Darrius' office was still guarded, but this time the guards looked a bit weary as she approached.
She spoke first, "Are you going to give me the same trouble as before, or are you just going to let me do what I'm supposed to?"
The guards looked at each other before silently stepping aside to let her in. Word of what she did had obviously spread. Nova entered the office and grabbed the very large stack of papers now almost toppling over on the edge of Darrius' desk. She needed to catch up on her work before she resumed her research since she knew Darrius would be quite angry if he found out that she wasn't sorting through all the paperwork. She left the office and headed for the workroom. She was curious about the condition it was in after she had certainly done some damage to it. When she entered she saw that much of the debris had been cleaned up, leaving a nearly empty room. However, the private work spaces hadn't been affected so she plopped the stack down on the desk and got to work. She spent hours sorting through the seemingly never-ending stack of bills and letters, but finally she completed the task and returned the neat stacks to Darrius' desk. She quickly glanced around before heading to the back of the library and disappeared through the false wall.
She crept among the shelves, keeping an ear out for anyone that might be around. She certainly didn't want to run into Vaati again. She only spent a couple hours flipping through books that didn't contain any useful information to her before she became exhausted. She crept back out of the library unnoticed and past the guards outside the office. The hallways were nearly empty except for the night guards pacing the hallways. None of them asked her what she was up to or where she was going. Instead they looked at the ground or the wall as she passed by. She pushed open the door to the room that she had been staying in and noticed that it had been emptied similar to the work room. The furniture had been removed and the layer of water had been mopped up.
A faint knock at the door caught her attention. A guard was nervously standing in the doorway. "I hope you don't mind, but we moved all your stuff to the next room over."
"Thanks," Nova replied. The guard silently turned around and disappeared out of sight. Nova took another look around the room remembering her encounter with Vaati in great detail before heading to the next room over and falling asleep.
She still felt stiff when she woke up so she decided to go for a walk. She made her way through the bar and out onto the street. The sun had just set, the horizon barely lined with the reddish glow of the disappearing sun. The streets were nearly empty causing the city to be eerily quiet. Lanterns dotted the sidewalk, casting a faint glow into the surrounding area. Nova paced the sidewalks feeling the tightness in her muscles begin to fade. The damp dusk air refreshed her lungs and helped clear her head. She was still nervous over the mystery of Darrius' plans. It was baffling how little information she was able to find in such an extensive library which probably meant that what he was doing would be quite radical. In fact, it terrified her. She knew that she couldn't expect to stop him unless she fully understood what she was getting into, especially while going up against someone as powerful as Darrius and maybe even Vaati as well. She wandered the streets until she had thoroughly run through all the information that she knew about Darrius' plans and had many more questions than answers. She decided to return to the library to hopefully find any information that could help explain more of Darrius' plans.
She entered the bar and descended the stairs, immediately noticing how unnervingly calm it was. Any other time she had seen at least one guard by the stairs, but this time there were none. She cautiously rounded the corner into the main hall and was horror-stricken by the sight. White Knight corpses littered the hallway, slumped against walls and each other, their bodies mangled and bending in inhuman ways. The thick stench of blood washed over her as the adrenaline began coursing through her veins. She stepped over the mutilated bodies and severed limbs as she neared the other end of the hallway. She turned another corner and was greeted by the same gruesome sight.
The sound of metal-on-metal caught her attention and she looked towards the source; Darrius' office. She shakily made her way over to the open door, noticing a slight pull on her powers as she neared. She took a deep breath to ready herself for what may come as she peered inside. She was astonished to see Jeremiah, the Royal Paladin and Vanquisher of Evil, standing nearly in the center of the room. Any furniture had been heavily damaged or reduced to just pieces and pushed towards the walls which were aglow with what Nova recognized as ancient Paladin symbols.
Suddenly streaks of purple bombarded Jeremiah. Nova quickly jumped back, tripping over a still-warm corpse and catching herself in a sitting position. She watched as a grim smirk spread across Jeremiah's face as his shoulder plates shattered and the purple missiles grazed his body. He, however, stood firm, his hand steadily holding his sword. Nova looked to the source of the assault and saw Vaati calmly standing as if he were in a casual conversation. His robes were slightly tattered with only a few cuts and tears.
Jeremiah's righteous voice echoed through the room, "Today The Underground meets its judgement."
The hearty boom was replaced by the eerily muffled and monotone laughter coming from behind Vaati's mask. It was chillingly devoid of any emotion.
Vaati quickly jumped into the air, his robe violently whipping around his body as strong wind encased him and a purple aura tailed his every move. Jeremiah readied himself for battle by moving his foot backwards and poising his sword. In a split second Vaati fired more missiles at Jeremiah and vanished. As Jeremiah waved them off Vaati appeared behind him. Vaati's actions were so quick they were blurred. As Nova concentrated she was able to make out Vaati's arm turning into a purple sword. He thrust it at Jeremiah, piercing his armor. Jeremiah immediately swung his body in a circular motion to shake Vaati off, but he had already disappeared.
Jeremiah coughed up blood as the walls began to crack. As the seals broke Nova could feel the tug on her powers disappear.
Vaati's chilling laugh rang through the room again.
"Where does The Underground find these people, " Jeremiah spoke in a barely audible tone as he tried to collect himself. He had a more serious expression now as he tried to focus on Vaati's movements.
Vaati appeared in front of him again and hissed, "It was a wrong move, Paladin. You're not grasping the power of Darrius and that will be your downfall. If you're struggling with me, Darrius has nothing to fear."
Jeremiah snickered, "I fear you underestimate the empire, masked man." He slammed his fist into the ground, sending white, glowing cracks throughout the room and into the hallway. Thousands of symbols replaced the damaged ones and this time Nova felt all her power drain from her as the symbols spread over the walls in the hallway as well. Vaati looked as calm as ever, his blank gaze falling in Jeremiah.
"This is where you die!" Jeremiah billowed as he dashed towards Vaati. Vaati didn't move. He remained where he was and waited for the blow. A loud clang echoed through the room as Jeremiah's sword met Vaati's finger and sparks erupted from the collision.
Jeremiah jumped back regaining his footing.
"If it's a magicless battle you want, It's what you'll get. You Gods can't save you, Paladin," Vaati's hollow voice filled the room.
"How dare you toy with me!" Jeremiah shouted as he swung his sword at Vaati's waist. Vaati quickly jumped up, landing on the sword and slamming it into the ground and out of Jeremiah's hands.
"This speed... What are you?" Said Jeremiah, an astonished look on his face. Although he was struggling, it seemed to Nova as if he wasn't trying his best.
"Does it really matter if you're dead?" Vaati said as he spun around sending multiple daggers flying in every direction. Some pierced Jeremiah armor and others collided with the wall, an immense force behind them. A few whizzed by Nova, burrowing through the lifeless bodies.
Vaati seemed to effortlessly levitate as he neared Jeremiah and punched him in the stomach.
Jeremiah collapsed to his knees. "Who are you?! I know this fighting pattern!"
Vaati kicked Jeremiah into the wall with what seemed like a very subtle movement. "That is very possible, Jeremiah Rowlen."
A trickle of blood snaked down the side of Jeremiah's face. He grunted, "...Why?" He then dipped his head, his voice changing as he began speaking the elven language. "Why are you doing this? After all we've been through..."
Vaati began speaking with the elven tongue as well, "Once again, does it matter if you're dead?" He glided towards Jeremiah once again, this time striking him in the head. Jeremiah fell to the floor, obviously unconscious.
Nova covered her mouth with her hand out of disbelief and to keep herself from making any noise. She watched as Vaati reached down and grabbed Jeremiah by the temple. He swung him over his shoulder and and began turning his body towards the door. Nova quickly scampered out of the entryway and laid face down on the floor next to the corpse of a guard that had been standing in front of Darrius' office. She didn't want to be caught by Vaati, especially after seeing what he could really do. She watched as Vaati silently exited the room with Jeremiah hanging over his shoulder. The only noise was the soft clang of Jeremiah's broken armor.
Vaati disappeared around the corner and Nova got up, her clothes now soaked in blood and her skin saturated in red. She was powerless with the symbols still sprawled on the walls so she couldn't control the water in the blood to peel it off her body.
She cautiously followed Vaati making sure not to make any noise as she avoided the numerous bodies. He went up through the bar and neared the door. Nova ducked behind some tables and chairs, watching as Vaati threw Jeremiah into the narrow alley beside the building without even leaving the doorway. He turned back around to face the pub and outstretched his hand, directing a purple beam into the bar. The thousands of symbols seemed to burn off the walls leaving trails of grey-purple smoke that rose and dissipated into the air. She felt her magi powers return to her, grateful for the comfort of having some sort of defence once again.
Vaati calmly made his way back into the basement and Nova continued to tail him. She watched in utter astonishment as he glided down the hallway, restoring life to the white knights. As the bloodied but no longer mangled white knights rose to their feet, they casually returned to their duties as if nothing had happened. Vaati disappeared around the corner but Nova didn't follow. She didn't want to be seen tailing Vaati especially after witnessing his power. She quickly went into the room she was staying in so she wouldn't be questioned by anyone. She showered and changed her clothes, now more determined than ever to learn about Darrius' plan and Vaati's powers.
She approached the office. Two guards were standing at the doorway as usual. She went through the same process that she did before, finding it unnervingly odd how everyone completely disregarded what had just happened. She was amazed to see that all the furniture had been repaired and that the room looked exactly as it had before the fight. She descended into the library keeping an eye out for Vaati. She hid among the bookshelves scanning for anything that may be of use and flipping through any books that might contain new information. She once again was unsuccessful after exhausting herself and went to bed.
The next morning she woke up, got ready, and went to Darrius' office. She dutifully took the stack of papers off the desk and spread them on the coffee table rather than going to the work room. She sat on the floor sorting through the stack periodically glancing up at Darrius' desk. She remember how she found that strange journal in one of the drawers and was beginning to get curious about what else he may have in there. She finished her work and brought the stack back over to his desk. After checking the room for other people she bent down and opened the bottom drawer. She sifted through the official documents finding the journal once again. She took it out but this time noticed that there was a lock at the bottom of the drawer. She removed the stack of papers and realized that there was a secret compartment in the bottom. She tried to pull it open but it was securely locked. She didn't know the first thing about lock picking but she knew that she needed to learn how to before Darrius got back. She carefully placed everything back into the drawer and closed it. She went into the library and skimmed the shelves until she found a lock picking book. She tucked it under her arm and snuck her way out of the library. She passed the guards and quickly walked to her room. She closed and locked the door behind her before double checking that no one else was in there.
She sat on the bed and opened the book. She read all the basics first to get a good idea as to how different locks work, but she didn't have the right tools. Instead she remembered how she was able to move furniture with her mind magi and decided to practice on the lock to the bathroom. She placed her hand around it trying to move the pins. At first nothing happened, but after a few tries she was able to slide a pin into place. She kept practicing until she was able to unlock the door almost with ease.
She decided to wait until the next day before going back in Darrius' office so she wouldn't raise any red flags. In the meantime she thought it would be a good idea to go out and get some fresh air so she changed into the outfit Darrius gave her. She walked through the bar and onto the streets and was surprised to see that it was almost midday. The streets were crowded and the city felt so much more alive than she was used to. It reminded her of the importance of figuring out Darrius' plan and gave her more motivation to keep looking even though she had spent countless hours flipping through useless information. She began to realize how tired she was and headed back to the bar. She didn't know what else Darrius might be keeping but she knew it wasn't going to be good.
The next day she went to the office and did the new paperwork. She then opened the bottom drawer once again and removed all the papers and the journal. Her hands began to shake as she took the lock into her fingers and had to take a deep breath to steady them. She could only imagine the trouble she would be in if Darrius had any idea of what she was doing. Nonetheless she knew that the stability of society was now resting on her shoulders so she continued. The cold metal was smooth on her warm skin as she gripped it tighter readying herself to feel every movement of the locking mechanisms. Luckily the lock was similar enough to the one on the bathroom door and she was able to unlock it without too much trouble. The tremble in her hands returned as she removed the lock and began prying the metal plate off. She slid it out of the drawer and silently placed it on the floor. She peered inside and saw more papers written in the same language as those in Darrius' basement. She rifled through them until she came to some kind of drawing at the bottom. She slipped it out from under the stack and saw that it was a sketch depicting a battle between two very powerful gods or demons. On the top was a quote that read "The light is false, but the flames are pure" and on the bottom was another quote that read "Those that oppose are those that aren't brainwashed". Towards the left it said "Death" and towards the right it said "Destruction". It was all written in the same handwriting as the letters she found in the library that said "I miss you" over and over again. Upon a closer inspection she noticed that it wasn't written in ink but rather a deep purple char as if it had been burned into the page with magic. The paper was even slightly warped displaying the innate property of paper to curl when it is burned. She ran her fingers over the charred words finding them surprisingly cold to the touch and when she pulled her hand away the cold sensation lingered. It reminded her of when Vaati touched her and how he had such a cold aura about him.
Then it dawned on her. Maybe those letters were written by Vaati. But how could they be? Vaati seemed completely incapable of showing emotion of any kind; and besides, she had never seen Darrius and Vaati together once. Yet again, how could she explain the match between the words written in such unique magic and the letters? She doubted many people could engrave paper with mind magi that left such a strong magic residue.
Realizing that someone could walk in the door at any second, she slipped the drawing back into its place along with the rest of the papers. She replaced the metal panel and refastened the lock with her mind magi. She then returned the remaining business papers to the drawer and closed it.
She stood up and went straight to the library. She needed to read more about "Death" and "Destruction" so she skimmed the titles of books until she came to one that said "Most Powerful Gods and Spirits of the Universe". She flipped it open to the table of contents and quickly located both "God of Death" and "God of Destruction". She first read about the God of Destruction.
"...recognized as one of the most powerful demons. It's power is seemingly limitless [...] The God of Destruction is accredited for most all major disasters the world has seen."
She then read about the God of Death.
"Being the most feared God, the God of Death's power is inconceivable great. His powers are rumored to be the strongest in the Universe."
Now Nova finally knew what Darius was planning on summoning with the crystals. But why would he want to summon the God of death? It made sense that he would want to summon the God of Destruction to demolish The Guard, but why would he want to summon the God of Death and have him fight the God of Destruction? It couldn't be to send one back to the underworld or wherever they came from because the other would still be around. And besides, Darrius would need to be able to control them if he wanted to strategically destroy The Guard. Yet again, why did Darrius even need to summon these gods if he just wanted to destroy The Guard? After seeing Vaati and Jeremiah's fight and hearing that Darrius was even stronger, there is no way he would need the help of any God to tear The Guard down. So if that is true, why does he want to summon not only gods, but arguably the two most powerful ones? There had to be more to his plan. But what else could he want?
She began to wonder. Maybe if I break back into Darrius’ house I’ll see something I didn’t notice before or at least be able to figure more out about his plan.
She slid the book back on the shelf and began walking out of the library and into Darrius’ office. She stepped past the guards and started walking down the hallway, but stopped and spun around.
“Have either of you seen Darrius?”
“No, we haven’t,” One responded.
She found her way to the infirmary where Riley would be. Since Darrius had even mentioned to her that he’d be leaving she may know if he’s back. Nova pushed open the door and stepped inside. She saw Riley sitting next to a bedridden member of The Underground and she looked up to see who came in. She smiled and Nova smiled back as she made her way over to her. Riley returned her attention back to cleaning and bandaging the wound as Nova neared.
“Hey, Nova! It’s so good to see you in one piece, not that you always lose fights or anything, but it’s nice to see that you’re not bleeding or going mental. Unless, of course, you’re here because you need me to heal a profusely bleeding wound that I can’t see or just accidentally drank poison or something, not that you would do that, but it happens to the best of us.”
Nova laughed. “It’s good to see you too! And I know it’s hard to believe, but I am in one piece this time.”
Riley smiled. “Well, that’s a relief! I’m sick of seeing you hurt all the time. I was beginning to think you went around looking for trouble.”
“Well, I am looking for Darrius.”
“So I guess you are looking for trouble.” Riley laughed. “I don’t think he’s back yet. I haven’t seen him or heard anything from anyone. Why? Is there something I can help you with?”
Nova thought fast. “Oh, no. It’s fine. I just wanted to ask if he’d give me back the keys to an apartment I was staying at earlier.”
“Yeah, I can’t do much about that. But if there’s anything else i can help you with, let me know! You always know where to find me!”
“Will do. Thanks!”
“No problem! I’ll see you around!”
“See ya!” Nova replied as she turned and left the room.
Luckily Darrius probably wasn’t back yet so she’d be able to break into his house again and not have to worry too much about him being home. She made her way into the bar so she could check the time of day. It was late at night with the bar’s rush hour already past and only a dozen or so people left remaining. Nova pushed open the doors and stepped unto the cool night. She began making her way to Darrius’ house avoiding as many people as possible and trying not to draw attention to herself. When she got there she was surprised to find that the window locks hadn’t been changed. She glanced around and didn't see anyone so she focused on the latch and unlocked it with her mind magi. She pushed it open and climbed inside, closing the window behind her. She cautiously walked over to the basement door and crept down the stairs while checking for any traps. At the bottom of the stairs she scoped out the room. There didn’t appear to be any new traps so she then turned her attention to the contents of the room. Almost all of it seemed unchanged. Desks were still littered with blueprints, gold, and crystals. The portraits of Darrius and Jeremiah still hung on the wall with the same red arrows and marks. She then turned her attention towards where Emily’s diary was kept and saw that there was a canvas angled away from her enough so that she couldn’t see it. She carefully crossed the room avoiding any traps.
At first glance it appeared to be a painting of Emily with only a strip of white fabric draped over her chest and hips. Tattoos in that foreign language were scrawled on her body. Just like in the portrait of Darrius, red arrows were pointing to her wrist, lower arm, right side of her neck, left eye, and chest. Nova thought that it was strange for Darrius to have a portrait like this of his sister. However, when Nova took a closer look she realized that the eyes were green, not blue, and there weren’t any pink flowers.
She then realized that the painting was of her. She was horrified. Her jaw dropped and she felt sick. Her hand shot up to her mouth as she tried to contain her shock. So she was now part of his plan. Before she thought that Darrius only kept her around because she reminded him on Emily, but now it made more sense why he hadn’t killed her. But how did she fit into his plan? She wasn’t particularly strong or brave. Her magi abilities were still weak so she wouldn’t prove very useful in combat. Besides, Darrius was strong enough to take on the whole castle by himself. So her part in this must have to do with the God of Destruction and the God of Death. Did he need to sacrifice someone with control over all five magies? But if he did, would he have taken such good care of her?
The unknown details of Darrius’ plan used to scare her, but now that she was involved they terrified her.
She didn't know how long she stood there frozen for, but she just couldn't seem to pry her eyes away from the painting. She knew she wouldn't be able to understand what the tattoos said or what the arrows meant, but she just kept staring at them as if they would suddenly make sense. She finally took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She needed to get a hold of herself and figure out how she was going to deal with this new information.
She opened her eyes and looked around the room, suddenly coming to a realization. She had suspected nearly everything in the room of being part of Darrius' plan from the portraits to the jewelry to the blueprints, but she hadn't thought of Emily as being part of the plan. But Darrius had put her belongings in his basement intentionally, just like everything else. Plus, it also explained why he might want to summon the God of Death-to either resurrect Emily or ask to be . Nova wasn't really sure how that would work, but it also explained why he would want the God of Destruction to fight the God of Death. But that still only left Nova with the idea that she must be a sacrifice for the gods, so all those tattoos must be some sort of mark, but that still didn't explain the arrows. They were identical to the ones on the painting of Darrius, so what could he be planning for both of them? Maybe they have something to do with making them more powerful? That way Darrius would have an easier time fighting the Guard and then Nova would seem more appealing to the gods.
She was satisfied with what she had found and knew that the longer she stayed the more she risked getting caught so she crossed the room once again making sure to watch her step, and went up the stairs. She opened the window, climbed out, and locked it behind her using mind magi. The sun hadn't risen yet, but the edges of the sky were just beginning to brighten and change from black to dark blue. The streets were still empty as she made her way back to the bar. The few people that had stayed late the night before had left by the time she got back. She passed through the kitchen and descended the stairs. She was exhausted and she knew she should sleep, but she felt like she was running out of time to figure out how to stop Darrius so instead she went into the library and began browsing the shelves looking for books on ancient languages, gods, or resurrection. She found a few language books and flipped through them, but found no match to the symbols she saw tattooed on her in the painting. By now her eyes had grown heavy and her blinks drew longer and longer. She knew she needed to sleep so she went back to the room she had been staying in, flopped on the bed, and immediately fell asleep.
She woke up feeling antsy and restless. She hadn't been successful with reading books for a long time, and she had finally reached a decent understanding of Darrius' plan. She decided that she would train that day to strengthen herself and possibly stand more of a chance at stopping Darrius so she rolled out of bed and went to the training room. The only one of her magies that she had yet to learn the basics in was fire, which she assumed would become very important to get a hold of if she were going to be involved in a fight between the God of Death and the God of Destruction. She walked up to a lit torch and began to try and control it. Soon enough she was seeing unnatural flickers and started trying to be able to hold a flame in her hand. At first she was only able to pull the fame towards her hand, and as the flame started reaching further and further she got more confident. Using a burst of energy she managed to pull it to her hand, but she lost control of it. The flame engulfed her hand burning her skin and sending a shooting pain throughout her arm. She quickly shook the flame out but the damage had already been done. Her skin was bright red and had already started to blister. Without thinking she quickly formed water around it and healed the affected skin. The cool sensation melted the pain away and she watched as the reddened skin returned to its normal color and the blisters healed. Looking around she realized that the water hadn't come from a source but instead she formed it out of thin air. I guess I am getting stronger.
She looked back at the torch, now more confident that she could get it right. She stretched out her hand and this time successfully detached a small flame and held it in her palm for a brief moment before it went out. She repeated this until she could hold it for more extended periods of time and then move it around and switch it from hand to hand.
She continued to train over the next few days, working until she was exhausted and starting as soon as she woke up. She noticed all of her abilities improve and after a few scratches and burns felt that she wasn't just a beginner anymore.
One time as she was just about to enter the training room, a loud crash suddenly echoed through the hallways. Startled, Nova instinctively whipped around to face where the sound was coming from, her heart hammering as she peered around the corner. All the guards lifted their heads and turned towards the sound as Nova's eyes fell upon the source: Darrius. Something was very off though. He was hunched over and leaning against the wall as if there were a force pulling him to the floor. As her eyes focused she started making out the red sheen on his skin and the darkened cuts littering his body. His clothes were awkwardly stiff with clotted blood and clung to his body. A look of utter shock was plastered across the faces of every guard. It was obvious they had never seen Darrius, their leader, in such bad shape. Darrius slowly tilted his head upwards as if the effort was almost too much for him to bear. His slitted eyes panned the halls.
"What?" He nearly spat as the poison in his voice sent chills through every soul within earshot. One by one the guards slowly lowered their heads and turned away from the spectacle. He wedged his hands between him and the wall and after a brief struggle, righted himself and stood. His composure was elderly, his spine curled and legs trembling under the burden of his body. A red smear remained on the wall and drops of blood marked his path as he meekly hobbled down the hallway.
A White knight ran to his side and began trying to wedge his body under Darrius' arm to help support him, but Darrius immediately shoved him to the side, almost losing his balance. "I don't need your help." He said, his words uncharacteristically more forceful than his actions.
His expression was bitter, but underneath loomed a deep sadness. He seemed...defeated. Like a man that had spent far too much time at war and lost much more than anyone could imagine. In his crumpled stature he struggled as he limped to his office. She followed him down the hallway, not as worried about being caught as she had in the past. His focus was intense as he entered his office and headed directly towards the small library. He supported himself once again with the bookshelf. With his free hand he ran an unsteady finger over the spines of the books, leaving small smears of blood.
"Where-where is it?" He wildly murmured to himself with an undertone of desperation. His legs gave out and he collapsed to his knees, an expression of pure exhaustion and loss enveloped him.
Riley barged into the room, her eyes widening out of shock at the sight of Darrius. She had obviously never seen him with such extensive and serious injuries.
"Sir," She said, completely taken aback as she looked him up and down. "What happened?"
"It's nothing to worry about, Riley." He replied. "How's Novalin doing?"
"Sh-she's fine, sir. We've taken good care of her." She whipped around and faced the door. "Vaati!" She yelled.
Vaati came gliding in, calm and emotionless as ever. From his intimidating height he looked down on Darrius.
Darrius chuckled. "You should speak."
"You got torn to bits. You're getting weak, Darrius. How can you lead us in a state like this?"
Darrius grew agitated. "And you took rather long with Jeremiah, didn't you?" He stumbled to his feet, his legs still unstable. "I'm fine, Vaati. I'm capable of leading The Underground."
Vaati shook his head. "It'd be best to kill you right now, Darrius. But I cannot." With that he turned around.
"Don't worry, Vaati." Darrius called after him as he left the room. Riley still stood there, utterly shocked until she snapped out of her trance and hastily left the room to retrieve her medical equipment. Darrius only stood for a moment longer, his eyes rolling back as he went completely limp and crumpled to the ground. Nova crept closer to his obviously unconscious body, finding it strange how vulnerable he was. She knelt down next to him. This could be my only chance to stop him. She gingerly placed her pointer and middle finger on the side of his thick muscular neck. His pulse was incredibly weak, but that meant that he was still alive. Why couldn't he just be dead. She was struggling to come to terms with what she was doing. Taking just this one life will save thousands. It's obviously the right thing to do. Taking a deep breath she formed beads of water over his body. She studied his skin, now glistening with red. As her eyes passed over his face she couldn't help but recall the anguish she had seen pinned all over it.
But as the seconds counted down, she knew her chance to prevent certain destruction was just a fleeting moment. A breath held in time that would soon be exhaled. She had to act. She squeezed her eyes shut and with that plunged the beads downward, turning them deadly. She felt a lone drop pierce the skin and burrow into the flesh. But she didn't have time to assess the damage. A pulse of energy seemed to deflect off of him pushing her back. She slammed into a bookshelf and lost her breath. As she lie on the floor gasping and struggling for air a soft chuckle emerged from Darrius' throat. He weakly rolled his head over to face her as his eyelids heavily fluttered halfway open.
"You've always been easy to sense." The weakest smile flashed in his cheeks.
Nova was shocked and at a complete loss for words. He was unconscious just a second ago. How is this possible?
Darrius weakly coughed, the blood gurgling in his lungs and throat before splattering on the floor. "Only you would be foolish enough to try and kill me. You're very good at overestimating your abilities and underestimating your enemies."
Nova was furious. Nothing with Darrius could ever be simple or go according to plan. As she tried to contain her flash of anger books flew off the shelves around her and came crashing to the floor.
Darrius clicked his tongue in disappointment. "Poor control." He wheezed sending more blood on the floor. "That's what got you here in the first place."
Nova couldn't hold back her rising anger any more. She lashed out trying to crush him with her mind magi. More books flew off the shelf and furniture jolted backwards, scraping across the floor. She was met once again with a burst of energy, this one much more intense as if it were her own reflecting off him. She slammed into the bookshelf again, her vision blurring and her lungs momentarily paralyzed. Dazed and winded, she couldn't believe she was losing this fight.
Another amused laugh filled her silence. "It's really just ironic. I teach you to use your skills and you use them to try and kill me." He paused and took a good look at Nova. "Your powers have no effect on me. I'd let you keep trying but I don't feel like cleaning your blood off my floor again."
Using the bookshelf Nova stood up and regained her posture a bit. She walked over to Darrius' side again and knelt down. She was still furious, but was able to contain it better this time. She heard Riley's frantic footsteps nearing and she slammed the door shut and locked her out. She was going to have to do this the hard way.
Darrius looked up at her, "I really don't have time for your games."
She swung a leg over his muscular body and placed her hands on his throat. She stretched her fingers around his neck for a better grip as he rested a hand on the side of her ribs.
"Don't be ignorant." He said, a hint of annoyance in his voice.
Ignoring his warning she pushed down anyway, but once again he seemed to channel her energy through his arm and throw her off of him. She landed in his blood, and slid across the floor for a bit leaving a red trail. Riley began pounding the door and yelling, "What's going on?! Nova! Open the door!" But Nova ignored her desperation.
"You leave me no choice." Darrius said. "Vaati's coming to get you. I recommend you run."
Nova glared back at him as she pushed herself into a sitting position. "You're bluffing. You just don't want to die here."
"When have I ever lied about you getting your ass handed to you?"
Nova stared at him in silence.
"I recommend you use your head start."
Nova tiredly stood up and took one last look at him before unlocking the door. Riley burst in and froze for a moment taking in the even bloodier scene.
"What the..." She looked from Darrius to Nova.
Nova headed for the door and pushed past her. She already lost a battle against a dying man and she certainly didn't want to get in a new one with Vaati.
She stormed down the hallways furious and panicked. She was pissed that Darrius wasn't dead, but was terrified of what Vaati could do to her.
A hand grabbed her upper arm and jolted her back, nearly knocking her over.
"Hey!" Came a voice from behind her. "Where do you think you're goi-"
Nova pushed them off with her mind magi knocking them to the ground. She tried to continue walking but three more guards swarmed her. She propelled a gust of wind outwards knocking one guard to the ground and momentarily stopping the other two. She then cracked a stone that one was standing on and jutted the rock under one of their feet upwards forcing them to lose their footing. She turned to the last and formed a band of water around their wrist and yanked them to the ground. She then quickly climbed the stairs and pushed her way out of the bar and onto the street.
The nighttime humidity hung in the air and the sun was just beginning to color the skyline. She looked down at herself and saw that her skin was marbled with Darrius' blood. She peeled off whatever hadn't dried then dampened her skin and rubbed the clots off. A few people roamed the street, but as the sky brightened more and more people flooded out of their homes. Nova soon realized how underdressed she was as people cast sideways glances at her casual black on black attire. As the streets became more crowded Nova began to feel more out of place and her anger soon faded and turned into embarrassment. It wasn't much longer before a soldier of The Guard approached her.
"Excuse me, miss, I'm going to have to ask you to step aside with me for a moment."
Nova shot her a puzzled look. "Okay."
The soldier escorted her to the side of a building where fewer people walking. People began to stare as they walked by, catching the attention of another soldier.
The first soldier continued, "May I ask you what you're doing here?"
"Oh, uhm. I'm just a little lost." Nova said in a fluctuating voice as she brushed some loose hair behind her ear. Her exhaustion was making it difficult for her to hide her nervousness.
Her hand caught the attention of the first soldier as the second one approached.
The second one interrupted, "What's going on?"
"It seems as though we have a code 5-2" The first one responded.
Nova watched as the second one's eyes quickly glanced down at her hand and then to the other soldier before turning to face Nova.
"Nova." She said, trying to make the conversation less awkward.
"We're going to need to escort you to our post for further questioning."
Nova furrowed her eyebrows, "May I ask for what reason?"
"Unauthorized entrance of this district." The second soldier responded almost unsure.
"I really don't mean to cause any trouble. I was just trying to find a way out. If you just point me to an exit it will save you the paperwork."
"I'm afraid we can't do that, Ms.Nova." The first one responded. "If you would just calmly come with us. We would prefer not to make a scene."
"Okay." Nova said trying to be cooperative as possible. She knew she could probably fight these guys but didn't want to take the chance of having The Royal Guard after her. Instead she hoped cooperation would allow her to slip through their fingers.
The two guards walked her down a few streets and led her to a building. As she entered she noticed that the interior matched the elegance of the city. One guard stopped her as the other kept walking.
"Follow me. She's just going to take care a few of the reporting things while I get you settled in to speed the process along."
Nova silently obeyed and followed the guard to a nearly empty room. The only furniture was a table with a chair on either side. The guard motioned to the chair.
"Have a seat."
Nova crossed the small room and sat in the wooden chair. She expected the guard to leave but he remained in the doorway.
"I don't think I caught your name earlier, sir." Nova said in attempt to break the awkward silence but maintain her respect.
"Guard Remmy." He replied almost distractedly. "And she's Guard Froen." He jolted his head to motion out of the room.
"Nice to meet you, Guard Remmy." She couldn't really think of anything to talk about so she just looked at her thumbs and picked at her nails until Guard Froen returned. As she entered the room Nova noticed something silver hidden in her hands. Guard Remmy also entered the room and closed the door behind him.
"It's nothing personal,' Guard Froen began, "But we're going to need to cuff you."
Nova became a little more nervous and shot her a worried expression. "But I don't think I've done anything to need those."
"Standard procedure. We've had a few mishaps in the past and intend to prevent them in the future."
Nova reluctantly complied, her adrenaline kicking in and initiating her need to resist the urge to fight the guards off. She tried to remain calm as her hands were guided behind her, but as the first cuff was fastened around her wrist she realized that the cuffs had been warded and put a drain on her powers. She swallowed to try and calm her nerves as the second cuff was secured around her wrist and the guard proceeded to press the palm of one hand into the back of the other and wrap them together with some kind of cloth further hindering her ability to use any magi.
Even though she knew she was on The Guards' side she knew they wouldn't view it that way if they found out that she worked for The Underground so she couldn't help but feel threatened without the use of her hands or powers.
Guard Froen sat down across from Nova while Guard Remmy remained standing and slowly paced the room.
"So," Guard Froen began, "What's your full name?"
"Nova Lindon." Nova said in hopes of concealing her identity. She didn't want to risk her name being on a list of missing people. She was sure that if she was found to be missing she would have to go back and live with her family which would put them in danger since Vaati was now after her.
"And what are you doing here in this district of Mallaston, Nova?"
"Like I said earlier, I was lost and was just trying to leave."
"Yes, but what brought you here?"
"I read about it in a book and wanted to see what it was like."
"So where are you from?"
"Another district of Mallaston."
"And how did you manage to get into this district? We have guards at every entrance and exit."
"I must have just gotten lucky. I didn't even see any guards. I didn't even know access to this district was restricted."
Guard Remmy chimed in, "The more you lie the longer you're gonna be here, kid. I recommend you just tell us the truth. It makes it easier for everyone."
Nova exhaled with false honesty. "Alright. I met a guy on the way here who lives here. He told the guards that my parents were out of town of a night so I had to stay with him."
"And what was this man's name?" Said Guard Froen.
"I don't know."
Guard Remmy slammed his fist on the table in front of Nova. "You better stop lying, you Brat!"
"I swear I don't know!" Nova said defensively. "Look, we both agreed not to tell each other our names in case either him or I got caught. I just called him Nate and he called me Carol. I have no idea what his real name is."
Guard Remmy slid his fist back to his side and resumed pacing the room.
Guard Froen spoke next, "I'm sorry, but I'm afraid we can't let you go."
"You don't need to do this! I just wanted to see the city. I didn't want to cause any trouble. I intended to leave before the sun came up but I couldn't remember how to get back and got lost. I promise I won't come back."
"I'm afraid I can't let you go. But your cooperation will certainly work in your favor. That is, if you keep cooperating." Guard Froen said passive aggressively.
Nova let out a breath. "Okay."
Guard Remmy took hold of her elbow and helped her to her feet. He then wrapped his fingers around her upper arm and escorted her out of the room and down the hall to a jail cell. Nova stepped inside and he closed the bars behind her without taking the handcuffs or cloth wrap off.
"Sorry." He looked at her apologetically, "But you're a special circumstance. We need to leave those on. We'll try to work fast." He turned around and walked to the door, quietly chatting with the guard and pointing to Nova before leaving.
Nova stood in silence for a while. Her shoulders were becoming stiff and uncomfortable. With nothing else to do she began intensely focusing on the handcuff locks. It took some time but she was eventually able to unlock them. She suspended them in the air while unwrapping her hands, finding it much easier without the wardings so close to her. Once the bandages were off she was waited until the guard wasn't looking to stretch her shoulders out. She then took the handcuffs and bandages in her hands and held them behind her back so it still appeared she was still bound by them. Every once in a while a guard would enter or exit the room, some briefly chatting with the one stationed by the door. Nova overheard some of their conversations, most of which about the weather or one of their kids. However, one guard was new and struck up a conversation about how he joined The Royal Guard. Nova overheard and got an idea as to how to get out of this situation. The new guard left and Nova saw her chance.
"You know, I was planning on joining The Guard."
"oh yeah?" He responded, sounding interested.
"I still do, but I guess I might need to reconsider that since it's nearly impossible to join once you have a criminal history."
"So what's your backup plan?"
"I'm not sure. The only thing I know how to do is fight. I've just always wanted to join The Guard."
"Then think of other things you can use that skill for."
"I guess I could join a gang. They're always looking for magi users. But I'd really prefer to fight criminals rather than be one."
The guard thought for a minute, then suddenly his eyes lit up. "I think I might be able to do something for you. Give me a minute." He left the room, a new guard holding his position while he was gone. Nova got bored and began locking and unlocking the cell door until he returned a while later looking fairly pleased. "You can thank me later. And just know I didn't do this for you, I did this in hopes of a promotion."
Nova looked at him puzzled. "What did you do?"
He smiled. "Welcome to The Guard." He walked over to her cell and began digging in his pockets. "First, let's get you out of there."
"Let me save you the trouble." Nova said. She pushed the cell door ajar and swung her arms to her sides, cuffs and wrap in hand.
The guard froze, a shocked expression plastered on his face. "Have you been able to walk out of here this whole time?"
Nova momentarily averted her gaze like a kid that had just been caught red handed. "Yeah." She looked back at him. "But like I said, I have respect for The Guard. My shoulders were just killing me."
He shook his head and cleared some of the shock off his face. "Uuh, alright. Follow me."
He led her through the main office where it was dead silent. Every guard looked at her with almost a somber face and almost pity.. She was relieved once they were out of the building and away from the eerie mood.
"I'm Guard Orpheas, by the way."
"So where are we headed to, Guard Orpheas?" Nova questioned. She had no idea where they were going or what she was getting into and the grave looks of the guards made her a bit paranoid.
Nova was surprised. "I didn't think that they recruited at the castle. I thought you had to go to a recruitment center."
Nova was confused. "Then why are we going to the castle?"
"There's a specific mission you fit the bill for, and it's fairly urgent."
"What's the mission?"
He was silent for a moment. "They'll brief you on it once you get there."
Feeling that her questions were becoming too prying she stopped asking them. They walked the rest of the way to the castle in silence, Nova growing more and more worried as they neared.
Once they arrived a group of soldiers stopped them at the gates. "Is she the candidate?" Once asked.
"She is." Guard Orpheas responded.
"We'll take her from here."
Guard Orpheas nodded and stepped to the side. "Good luck, Nova."
"Thanks for getting me into The Guard." She replied as six of the guards formed a circle around her and one walked ahead into the castle.
He silently watched as she began to be led away, a look of sorrow sprawling across his face.
Feeling uneasy she followed the guards, unsure as to what she had gotten into. They led her to a fairly large room that was lavishly decorated with high ceilings. It appeared to be some sort of sitting room with a couple of royal red couches. A brawley man in a decorated suit was sitting on the couches and stood as they entered the room. It was as though he was carved from stone. All his features were sharp and angled.
"Thank you, gentlemen. I will take it from here. Return to your posts." The sculpted man said, his voice surprisingly gentle for his appearance.
The guards left the room and closed the door behind them leaving Nova and the man alone.He extended his hand towards her, "Sergeant Pronius. And you must be Nova Lindon."
Nova shook his hand. "That's correct. Pleased to meet you."
"Likewise." He made a sweeping motion towards the couch opposite of him. "Please, have a seat." Nova walked over to the couch and took a seat as Sergeant Pronius sunk back into the couch. "So, I'm assuming that you don't know much about what's going on. Is that correct?"
"Well at first I thought I was just joining the army, but I'm guessing there's more to that since I'm here."
"Yes, that's correct. But before we discuss the details I need to ask a few personal questions."
"Okay." Nova said slightly drawing out the word as her suspicion grew.
"You were saying earlier that you have always wanted to join The Guard and had been training to fight. Is this correct?"
"So is it safe to assume that you are interested in fighting?"
"Yes." She said now regretting mentioning that she did earlier, but she knew she needed to be consistent if she didn't want them to look into her.
"So you are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for The Guard."
"Correct." Nova said, very uneasy with where this conversation was leading.
"And do you mind if I look at your left hand?"
"No, not at all." Nova replied as she leaned forward and extended her hand over the table. Sergeant Pronius also adjusted so he was able to take her hand in his. He rotated it under the light, inspecting it thoroughly.
"it's not every day that you meet someone like you. You're extremely lucky that it runs in the family and that you have all five magies instead of just one or two."
"Oh, it doesn't run in the family. I was just born with it."
Sergeant Pronius' eyes lit up with surprise. "Oh. Well then, that makes you even luckier." He paused for a moment. "Speaking of your parents, aren't they going to start getting worried about you?"
"Oh, no." Nova began, "I've lived on my own for a long time. We don't need to worry about them."
"I will say, you look very young."
"I just look young for my age."
"Ah, I see. Well, that takes care of the personal questions, and I believe you're a near perfect fit for this mission. The general gist is that we need you to make an exchange for us."
"Oh, well that's not too hard. Although I'm not sure why you need me for that."
"Well it's a bit more complicated." He took a breath. "We need you to make a deal with the God of Shadows."
Nova was puzzled. "But the God of Shadows is just something parents use as a scare tactic. He doesn't actually exist."
"That's where you are wrong, Nova. The God of Shadows is a very real being and one that is to be feared by everyone. To our knowledge he is the most powerful being humans have ever come across."
"So what kind of deal do you need to make with him?"
"We want some information on some of our enemies. As you probably know, we have a few ongoing battles right now with adjacent territories and any information could prove extraordinarily helpful."
"But can't anyone do the exchange? I'm really not experienced so I doubt I'm the best possible person to be doing this."
"Well, you have control over all five magies which we believe may earn you a little more respect from the God of Shadows, or at least be able to hold out in a fight against him."
"So do I need any training for this or are you guys just gonna send me on my way?"
"There is no training required. We just need to make you aware of the dangers and of your etiquette while you are visiting."
"So when do I start?" She said in hopes that she would have a chance to slip away and avoid the situation.
"You already have. We hope to send you out tonight."
"But don't you think I need more training than that? You only just found out about me a couple hours ago."
"No." He began, "The skills required for this mission are not adept, but we need someone like you with dedication and the ability to control all five magies. That is very hard to come by and is why we have such a rush on this mission. We've been looking for a while."
"Okay. So what do I need to know then?"
"First, you need to understand that this is an extremely dangerous mission. There is a good chance you will not be coming back so after this talk we will give you a chance to leave a letter behind. Unfortunately we cannot allow you to see anyone before leaving since we have a very strict time limit."
"Second, you need to know that the God of Shadows is to be treated with the utmost respect. Anything less and you will most likely not be coming back. And third, the God of Shadow's currency is souls. We have some prepared for you to bring to make the knowledge exchange. We need you to ask for their main camp location."
"Sounds simple enough."
"So tonight you will row to the island with the souls. If everything goes smooth you will be back by the morning and we will be here to bring you back and let you get some rest. After that we will let you join The Guard as you have always intended."
"Sounds simple enough."
"Saying is one thing and doing is another." He pushed the pen and paper that had been on the table towards her. "I'll give you some time alone to process this." He stood up and left the room, closing the door behind him.
Nova sat in silence thinking over the plan. She couldn't believe what she had just gotten into. At first she thought it was a suicide mission that would prevent her from stopping Darrous, but after a few moments of thought she realized that she could take advantage of the situation. The Guard would have no way of knowing how successful she was or what happened on the island so whatever she would say would have to be taken for truth. She'd be able to exchange the souls for information on Darrius' plan instead of the location of the other territory's camp. She stared at the paper for a while considering leaving a letter for her parents. She knew that by now they had probably accepted that she was either dead or living with Ellis. If she were to die she would want her parents to get a letter from her, but she was also afraid that The Guard might read it and figure out that she had lied to them. She eventually decided that despite her want to, she wouldn't write a letter. It was too important for her plans to go smoothly and not be interrupted by The Guard. And besides, her parents had probably already accepted that they may never hear from her again.
She sat in silence running through her plan in her mind until Sergeant Pronius returned quite a while later rolling a mannequin dressed in armor.
"All preparations have been made. We're ready for you. But first you need to put this on."
Nova walked over the the mannequin as Sergeant Pronius left the room. It was a gorgeous silver that shone different colors in the dancing light of the torches. Piece by piece she put the armor on, which she found to be surprisingly light. She then crossed the room and opened the door. Sergeant Pronius was waiting for her.
"Great. Follow me." He led her through the hallways and outside. The sun had already set and just a faint glow on the horizon remained. A group of four men on horses were waiting for them with two more horses without riders.
Sergeant Pronius walked over to the smaller horse. "Let me help you up." Nova approached and he linked his fingers together to form a step. She pushed herself onto the horse and waited as he mounted the other one.
"Let's go." He pressed his heels into the horse's sides and Nova mimicked him, her horse falling into step behind his and the soldiers following. They rode to an exit of the city where guards stopped them, but after seeing who they were let them pass. They traveled along a path until more and more forest was visible. They then took a sharp turn into the forest onto an extremely narrow path. The trees guarded the ground against any moonlight making the path eerily dark. However as they rode the sound of waves became more and more prominent and the smell of salt water dampened the air. They soon came to a beach where ten or so soldiers were standing around a campfire, their horses grazing on the tall wispy grass that lined the sandy beach. Sergeant Pronius slowed and Nova followed his lead. They swung off their horses and led them to the other group grazing on the grass. They then walked over to the group of soldiers around the fire which all saluted Segreant Pronius.
"At ease, gentlemen." He said and they all lowered their arms. "Has the boat been packed with the souls?"
"Yessir." One dutifully replied."
"Great." He turned to Nova. "Is there anything you need before you go?"
Nova thought for a moment. "I don't think so."
"Excellent. Now just remember, treat the God of Shadows with the most respect possible and don't make him angry. Exchange the souls for information on our enemy's camp location. Got it?"
"Got it." Nova echoed. She was extremely nervous, her palms like a swamp and on the verge of shaking.
"Right this way." Sergeant Pronius said and he led her to the small boat propped on the edge of the water and the sand. A soldier stood waiting for her and helped her climb inside. Sergeant Pronius walked to the side of the boat. "The oars have been enchanted to help you row. You will need all the energy you can get when you arrive. And just follow your compass directly East and you shouldn't have a problem finding it." He reached over and presented a sword. This may come in handy or at least give you peace of mind. She took it and placed it in the boat by her feet. He then extended his hand to her and she shook it as he said, "Best of luck to you. The Guard will see that you are properly recognized for your bravery." He let go and took a step back. The soldier pushed her off into the water and she watched as every soldier lined up on the beach and saluted her, almost like a funeral.
Following her compass, she rowed directly East. The enchanted oars certainly made rowing easier and she found that even after an hour or so of rowing she wasn't tired. Gradually a dense fog enveloped her, the condensation chillingly frigid and the moonlight making it look like liquid silver. A dark silhouette of an island eventually formed out of the metallic curtain and she rowed towards it, growing more and more nervous as she neared. By the time she run aground on the shores of the shrouded island her hands were unsteady and her legs unstable. She took a deep breath before hopping over the edge of the boat and sinking up to her knees in the oil-black water. She waded to shore and dragged the boat onto the silvery beach. She slung the sword around her shoulders and took the jars filled with souls in her hands. The sand was much whiter than normal and as she walked further up the beach she noticed it becoming more and more coarse until she was finally able to recognize it as bone. Her heart jumped into her throat and her hands began to truly shake. If the entire social structure wasn't being threatened she would have been more than happy to turn around and leave the island. Instead she pressed on, finding the ground to be completely lifeless and stained a reddish brown. The fog was so thick that she couldn't hardly even see the ground but could make out the severed limbs and forgotten weapons of many, many people. The smell of decaying flesh was as thick as the fog and felt as though it physically clung to her skin and lungs.
Eventually a great looming castle stood before her, the wooden doors patchily stained with red. A heavily decaying corpse was propped up next to the building, the scalp lopsided and the skin appearing to melt off the skeletal frame as if it were a burning candle. She swallowed hard and averted her gaze. She took a deep breath and lifted her arm, letting her knuckles silently rest on the rough door before pulling them back and knocking.
As her knuckles connected with the doors for the second time the door violently swung open revealing the grandiose yet eerie interior complete with a large staircase and many halls. A thick layer of dust plated everything, almost as if the castle itself were holding its breath in fear of shattering the paper thin calmness that held back an explosion of violence.
Nova stood frozen, arm raised and fist clenched. Her heart raced and her skin dampened with sweat. The castle was as cold as a corpse, sending a shiver down her spine. She slowly lowered her hand and swallowed. "Hello?" She reluctantly said in a small voice half hoping for a response and half hoping it truly was abandoned.
She immediately heard loud bangs coming from the pitch blackness upstairs almost as if she startled someone. After a few more echoing booms a few corpses tumbled down the stairs, some still wearing the uniform of The Guard and others completely skinned.
"Oh? I have a guest?" Came a chillingly horrifying voice from the darkness.
Nova jumped back, her breathing heightened and her eyes wide. She was desperately fighting her instinct to turn around and run which left her frozen and silent as the corpses came to a rest at the bottom of the stairs. She took a moment to pull herself together, reminding herself why she was there and of how she should behave. She gingerly took a couple steps inside the castle and knelt on one knee. She placed the jars of souls on the ground next to her and crossed her right arm over her chest, bowing her head. "It is a great honor to be considered a guest in the God of Shadow's castle." She humbly said, avoiding the vacant gazes of the corpses.
An icy laugh shot through the room as a large figure emerged from the darkness. As he strolled down the stairs it was almost as if a black ink were washing off of him as he gradually stepped further into the light.
"I can't believe this, A criminal wearing a royal guard uniform." Another quake of laughter shook the room. "On your feet Novalin." He said as he came to a stop on the final step.
Nova was completely dumbfounded. How does he already know all this about me? She took the souls in hand and got to her feet. "As you wish." She said, fighting to keep her voice steady and hide her surprise. "I hope I did not come at an inconvenient time. I certainly do not intend to interrupt any plans you may have."
The God of Shadows shook his head disapprovingly. "Stop the act Novalin. Do you take me for a fool? If you wish to address me, do so. Don't pretend to be a royal prude. I'll let you walk back just like your boss did if you don't." His gaze then fell upon the souls. "Those souls are useless to me." His head turned to face her. "They were taken by force from citizens and inmates." He crossed his arms contemptibly.
Miraculously, a wave of courage took hold of Nova and she didn't have to fight as hard to level her voice. "No, I don't take you for a fool; I'm just acting as I was told to do so." She glanced at the bottled souls. "I wanted to learn about Darrius' plan, but if these souls are no use to you, then I won't waste your time asking questions I can't get answers for." She didn't want to try her luck and press for questions that she may not be able to repay the God of Shadows for. She knew he was more than dangerous and that she'd be lucky to get off the island alive.
He cracked another chilling laugh. "Please, do come with me." He gracefully pivoted and started walking up the stairs, receding back into the darkness. She reluctantly followed him up the stairs leaving a few paces distance between them. She wasn't sure what he was planning, but she knew he understood the situation she was in which made her nervous about the type of repayment he would desire. He opened a door to a grand room with a large table in the center that displayed the entire world of Blessana. He crossed the room and sat down on a long couch, beckoning for her to sit down next to him. "Speak."
She complied with his offer to sit and seated herself beside him, finding it a little odd that someone of such great power would put himself beside such a low and weak being like Nova. She took in a breath. "I know Darrius is planning something that will destroy The Guard and therefore any social structure under its rule. I want to stop him, but he is much, much stronger than I am. But I don't know everything about his plan so it would probably be best to fully understand it before I try to figure out how to stop him."
The God of Shadows was suddenly gripped by another startling burst of laughter. He slammed a skeletal fist on the table and the map now focused on Darrius' office. He was laying on the floor just as Nova had left him. Nova could make out the marks she had made as she smeared Darrius' blood across the floor with her body. Riley was frantically hunched over his unmoving body sprinkling, rubbing, and wrapping as Vaati stood a few steps back and watched. "Does this man look like he's capable of anything?"
"No." Nova said, as she looked away from the map and to the floor, the intense heat of embarrassment spreading across her cheeks. "But even in a state like that he still beat me. I tried to kill him but he seemed to be able to redirect my energy back at me." She paused and swallowed before setting her gaze back on the God of Shadows. "I should have trained instead of wasting so much time researching, but I can't change the past. So that's why I'm here: to figure out how to stop him a different way."
"Why do you want to stop him?" He said as he turned to face her. "What is this obsession of yours to save the royal army, yet now you joined their ranks and betray them?" He raised a lone bony finger and rested it on his chin on his chin in amusement. "You're quite fascinating actually." He suddenly dropped his hand down the to the table, effectively initiating a change in the map and sending a hollow thud through the room. The map went out of focus and cleared to show the Royal Prison which was known for holding the most dangerous of criminals. It showed a man bearing the Magi mark on his left hand being followed by a few guards who were brutally ripping out his soul. "They're doing this to appeal to me. Then send people like you to get me on their side. It's sickening." He chuckled. "Not in one world i've seen such corrupt and horrifying people." He eyed her in interest, as if he were a scientist and she were an experiment.
She stared at the map unable to hide her absolute horror. "I didn't know about this." She had always been taught that The Guard was a kind, protecting figure. She was clueless of the true horrors that lie beneath the surface. But nonetheless, she needed to stick to her plan. The body count would be astronomically higher with a total destruction of The Guard. "I no longer respect The Guard, but it is still my responsibility to stop Darrius. The body count will be much higher if I let him destroy The Guard." She thought for a brief moment. "And besides, if I manage to stop Darrius then I may have the opportunity to stop The Guard from committing such disgusting crimes."
"So, your goal is to stop them and become a hero." He said flatly, as if any interest he had had before vanished. He got to his feet. "That's a shame. I showed you all this so i'm afraid i have to kill you now." His face set, washing away the lightheartedness it had earlier. He held up his hand which began to emanate a faint green aura.
Nova's eyes widened and she jumped up from the couch. "Wait! No!" She held her hands out and took a step back from the God of Shadows. "I don't want to be a hero! I just can't sit around and watch people die! If I wanted to be a hero I would have joined The Guard and spread the word of Darrius' plan to anyone. I wouldn't have betrayed them to ask about Darrius' plan instead of enemy positions. No one has any idea what I'm doing and hopefully no one ever will. I just want to be able to go home and live a good life."
He broke into a fit of laughter as if he couldn't contain it anymore. "You're too easy." The glowing intensified as a purple light now outlines the green. "I'm not going to kill you. Now, give me your right hand."
Nova stood frozen in the same position for a brief moment before reluctantly taking a couple steps forward and holding out her right hand. She knew he was either kidding about killing her or kidding about tricking her into thinking he was going to kill her. But she complied knowing that if she didn't she'd almost certainly be slaughtered for not listening.
He wrapped his cold bony fingers around her hand sending a chill through her entire body. "I'm willing to grant you something that might aid you. In return i however ask your soul. Not now, not tomorrow but one day." His intense gaze fell on her eyes making her feel nearly transparent. "Most likely once you're dead."
She closed her eyes a took a deep breath. To her, her own suffering was worth the prevention of thousands of others' suffering. She had no idea what he was planning on doing with her soul, but she was willing to be a martyr in this battle. Not to mention he was also kind enough to let her live out the rest of her life. "Deal."
A satisfied grin crept across his face as he quickly swung his hand down, slapping hers and gripping it tightly. An odd chill surged up her spine as he set his grasp. "It's a pleasure to do business with you, Novalin. I don't take forced out souls. But you, you're making a selfish sacrifice, That I can appreciate." He nodded in satisfaction.
Her body had grown gradually numb with cold, his hand seemingly sucking all the warmth from her body. His grip was iron, and if it wasn't for the extreme chill she was sure her hand would be throbbing. "Like I said," She began, "It's important to me that people remain unharmed if possible."
He smirked. "Now, brace yourself."
A sudden pain washed over her. It was as if her hand was being repeatedly stabbed by a blade. She immediately clenched her teeth and bowed her head. The pain was unbearable. Her eyes watered and then she squeezed them shut, a muffled scream escaping her closed mouth. She grew dizzy, her legs refusing to support her own weight. She involuntarily dropped to her knees, her hand still trapped inside the God of Shadow's bony grasp. After a few more seconds the pain faded and he let go. She was breathing heavy as she pulled her hand down to her level and brushed the sweat drenched hair out of her face. Her vision cleared and her legs regained strength as she inspected the new symbol that now marked her right hand with the God of Shadow's mask in the center. She had no idea what she was now capable of doing with it since she had never seen it before.
He let out a small chuckle, seemingly amused by her pain as he sat back down. "Anything else?"
"No, that is all." She tiredly got to her feet. "Thank you."
He snapped his fingers causing an avalanche of documents to fly onto the table, all in different strange languages. "Here's something to start you off."
At first she looked at all the foreign documents and only saw scribbles. She noticed that some were written in the same language as the documents that Darrius had. As she looked at them she realized that the lines began to crawl along the page, arranging themselves into something legible: 'I have agreed to give my soul to Bhake Blackrain.' was written on every document. "Where do I sign?" She asked ready to hold up her end of the bargain.
"You already did." He smirked. "Now before you throttle off, how about you give me a peek?" He nudged his head towards her chest. After a pause he burst into laughter.
"Uhm," She started unsure what to do. She hoped he was joking. She decided to meet humor with humor to keep him happy. "Better save that for later. We need to save some excitement for our meet up later, don't we?" She awkwardly laughed.
"You better return, Novalin. Don't be a stranger." He smirked. "Now here's one last thing." He held out his hand and a key on a chain with a green tint formed. "Hold this tightly and you'll return to my castle. Abuse this, come unwanted or even use this to escape battle and i will kill you myself. Do you understand?"
"I understand." She said as she reached out and took the greenish key. She slid it over her head and tucked it inside her armor for safe keeping.
"Now, please, leave. I have things to attend to." He waved her off with his hand and as she opened her eyes after blinking found herself standing in front of the royal castle, the bottled souls at her feet.