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Arashi_Leonhart
October 26th, 2011, 02:03 AM
Okay. So, something different, yet the same.

I've written a lot in the world that the other original piece I have up here, Knight of the Princess, takes place in. I often write solely to understand the world better and figure out problems or issues with it as I go. This is one of those things, though I wrote in it enough that it is full story-length.

It takes place before the other original story, from the perspective of Alisia "Nighteye" Alinn. She's what's called an aeon in this world, sort of a spiritual entity like an angel or demon that has placed itself into a mortal life to influence the world like a mortal. The level of awareness the aeon side has is perhaps akin to Ryougi's third personality.

Anyway, she keeps a journal, and I kept up a livejournal from her perspective, and this was a full "arc" of a story that is alluded to in the other story; this includes Cyrus and Astra as major characters. I'll post it one entry at a time this time around, though entries vary in length from a single paragraph to a longass entry. It's a bit old, but, you can see me doing my first real lengthy first-person story.

...Also, if you need motivation, keep reading and there will be sex.



Notes:

Alisia is the captain of a group nicknamed the Midnight Eyes, for their shared eye shapes and colors (signs of aeons). They're somewhat analogous to Tolkien's Dunedain rangers plus a bit of information brokers and whatnot, though their influence is meant to be positive. Each wing or squad of the Eyes has a different specialty, and while "regular" members may be normal people, the "lieutenants" that maintain each group are almost invariably aeons as well.

Hethai Valis are the kind of knights Cyrus is in the other story.



Assassination

A day prior to completing the mission against the bandits at the cliff, the Queen of Aerowlyn was assassinated. I have heard that the knights are making retaliation plans led by their new Heithai Valis Captain. Although we have not been requested, I'm getting the feeling that I should probably head up there. Jaya will be meeting me at a nearby Rokamuran port and we'll head over there as fast as possible…

ItsaRandomUsername
October 26th, 2011, 02:24 AM
Oooooh~

Arashi_Leonhart
October 26th, 2011, 03:06 AM
And it is now 12:01 of the next day, so, I feel no shame just putting up the next bit, which is all just name-dropping anyway.


Notes: Jaya is one of the Eyes lieutenants.


Brief Briefing

Of course, we make it to port—Ringwaters Cove—and find that the next ship to Aerowlyn is dry-docked for another week, and no Aerowlyn-bound ships are due in for another three days after that. Jaya met up with me the evening I reached the cove, so we made our way to one of two major local inns.

A letter had come in however from Tylis, who was already in Aerowlyn awaiting my arrival. As the highest ranking of the Midnight Eyes at the location, he would already be gathering information and local rumors to brief me on. The letter however was merely basic information; the Queen's name and a bit of history, as well as the same kind of info about the rest of her family and the court we would be dealing with.

Stella Aerowlyn, 44 as of the time of her death, survived by King Virel Aerowlyn, 51, and two daughters, Astra, 17, and Luna, 15. Lady Aerowlyn was known to be a traveler and storyteller prior to taking the crown, having caught Lord Virel Aerowlyn's eye after a group of refugees and she were taken in by the country after a massacre to their village on the border between Aerowlyn and Cordelyn. Took queenship and sired Virel two daughters, of whom Astra is to be married and ceded the throne. Stella was assassinated by supposed mercenaries hiding in the northern mountains between Mount Aerowlyn capitol and Temptress Cliff. No motive known.

Lord Virel Aerowlyn is a capable political leader but has little knowledge or history with warfare—having a focus on diplomacy and country relations and leaving martial concerns to his generals and the nearby-stationed Twilight Knights.

I turned to the information about Aerowlyn as a martial country and acquainted myself with it, as for the immediate time upon reaching the country, which would be my primary focus.

General Kalmas Orlia, 58, retired. Formerly Aerowlyn's overseer of military forces and the Heithai Valis of Stone. Has since been retired of the title by the traditional next generation of Heithai Valis Knights, who are trained to prepare for Astra's ascendance to the throne. Now led by Cyrus Lighleir, 18, Heithai Valis of Dawn. Cyrus is son of Tyrest Lighleir, a Twilight Knight.

Lighleir's subordinates include Troyen Orlia, 21, the Stone Knight and son of General Kalmas Orlia; and Sildan Maliarn, 20, the Wind Knight, completing the Heithai Valis roster. Cyrus also commands the Mount Aerowlyn cavalry units, captained by Kal Valiousa, 23, Dalirad Sylosa, 21, and Avalish Mysa, 27.

I will have to wait for Tylis' briefing to find out anything more specific.

But even that is enough to have my complete interest…

Arashi_Leonhart
October 27th, 2011, 03:23 AM
Notes: The Twilight Knights are a kind of Knights Templar or Knights Hospitaler group that hail from no single nation.

Rokamura is a very Japanese-inspired nation that, at the time of this story, is suffering from civil war.



Fight, News, and Travel

I'm on the boat now, just leaving the harbor.

The stay at the inn was…eventful. Apparently, we happened upon the inn where a rather large faction of the Rokamuran rebellion was hiding and the local authority learned of their whereabouts. Four nights into our stay and two after the remainder of the team of rangers Jaya is bringing with her arrived, an all-out battle erupted within the inn and bled out into the city streets, both figuratively and literally. Some sixty-odd rebels were attacked by a force of over a hundred Rokamuran Knights. As the rebels withdrew, the local faction gave pursuit and many civilians ended up in the crossfire.

Jaya's rangers took positions to shield and escort civilians away from the nearby blocks while Jaya and I sought out the leader to the attacking force. He apparently somehow got it in his head that we meant to fight--I suppose he figured us a part of the rebel group since we exited the same inn—and proceeded to attempt a removal of my head from my shoulders.

He's now missing an eye for his lack of judgement.

The problem with many Rokamuran Knights—especially city warriors who have not experienced battle on an open field—is that they charge in with a blade and expect you to do the same. I just shot him in the left eye from ten paces.

Figuring we'd have no easier job of convincing the rebels to surrender, Jaya and I just went to secure more innocents and waited for the whole situation to blow over, which it did in another hour or two.

The next day, we secured passage on the next boat out and bought time to stay in ship quarters until the whole political mess passed on. The Rokamuran Knights will probably figure out who shot the leader by the flight and head of my arrow, but, hopefully then said Knights will figure out what the situation was--hopefully without drawing any more wrong conclusions. We thought it prudent to stay out of the way regardless and send a message later.

Cowardly? Maybe a little. But I really don't want to deal with their stupidity at the moment if they do decide to press an issue out of it.

A day before setting sail, a Twilight Knight had stopped by the boat. Asking for me directly, he relayed the latest information on the Aerowlyn situation.

Captain Tyrest Lighleir has been killed in a strike against the Lady Queen Aerowlyn's assassins. Most of the assassins were captured or killed, but no information has yet to have been learned from them.

He left after we thanked him for the news—the Twilight Knights probably being one of the greatest allies the Midnight Eyes have. While I have no doubt that Tylis would inform us of the situation when we arrived, I was very thankful to have this news.

I would be facing a grieving King and Princesses, and a grieving lead Knight.

Arashi_Leonhart
October 28th, 2011, 06:29 AM
Notes: "Marks" are something only an aeon like Alisia would notice. They're something that come from the kind of spirits that aeons are a form of; while an aeon is a spirit that has a sort of direct-connection to a higher power, a marked being, called an eloa, are indirectly connected. They're usually priests of a spirit (spirits, sometimes called "angels," "demons," and various other things depending on the culture, are mediums between the highgod deity and mortals. They're somewhat akin to a mix of angel/demon, asura, and Japanese kami.) that might be comparable to a saint; occasionally they're also either a paladin champion of a specific spirit, or a sort of paragon of what that spirit stands for.


By the Lifebringer's Eye

Coming across one marked twice is a rare thing indeed.

It took twelve days to sail from Ringwaters Cove to our designated port in Twinrivers, making it to land just by nightfall. The rangers were the first off the boat—and we were immediately set upon by attackers set up on dock. We managed to get back off the boarding ramp and take cover on the deck, covering the ramp for attackers to make sure we kept it at a stalemate while trading shots with one another.

It didn't take long before alcohol-fueled torches, flame-starting arrows, and a spell or two came shooting in towards the boat and us. The central mast quickly caught on fire and parts of the deck began to slowly burn. While the crew worked on setting the fires out, we began to hear more commotion coming from the dock and some of the attacking shots began to come less frequently. I glanced out over the ship's railing to see a group of mail-clad soldiers cutting the attackers up from behind, effectively pinning our enemy between us rangers and the Aerowlyn Knighthood.

I saw him.

While I only had a vague description of Cyrus Lighleir, I knew it to be him immediately upon seeing him. For those who know how to look, he had the Mark of Solamalisai upon his presence—a beautiful, if distant glow that can only be truly observed when there are things about it. He moved through enemies with a long blade, curving and weaving in and out of harm's way. Methodically, he and another half dozen soldiers cut up an equal amount of our attackers while some of my rangers began setting up for better shots.

The real striking thing about this Cyrus, however, was what seemed to be hiding underneath.

Another mark. One I'm sure he's completely unaware of.

Caught between steel-wielding knights and arrow-shooting rangers, many attackers became prey instead. Another half dozen down, and the remainder decided that risking the currents of the Southern Twinriver was an acceptable option.

With our would-be assassins dead or driven off, the rangers helped snuff out the last of the fires attacking our ship while I met up with Tylis, who had apparently been with the Aerowlyn Knights. He introduced me to Cyrus Lighleir and the knights accompanying him, then went along to see the captain of the ship about any compensation we could make with her.

It was striking to be in his presence. Although some might consider the presence of a Midnight Eyes lieutenant or captain to be a bit otherworldly, one who is marked is striking for something different altogether. While many might observe me to be detached from the world around me, ones who are marked are so immersed into a world that gravity seems to draw others in instead of push away. Cyrus was doubly so being doubly marked—although the second mark is obscured enough that I cannot know for sure what it is.

Which makes me all the more intrigued.

Cyrus himself was polite, though you could see the lingering hurt and frustration he must be feeling. He looked tired and drawn, yet his expression seemed to dare anyone to ask if he should stop. Although his height fell short of two meters by a couple dozen centimeters, his poise made him seem much taller. His hair was darker than mine by a couple of shades, though just shy of pitch black, cut to hang just above his shoulders. I couldn't quite make out the hue of his eyes in the lantern light, but his eyes were rather dark as well. Silvers, sable, and indigo made up his attire over chainmail and lamed steel armor.

"I suppose the attackers here were connected to Lady Aerowlyn's murder, as that is what I have come to help you investigate," I told him.

I halfway expected him to be irritated or frustrated with this—most Lords do not take well to independent groups sniffing around their territory—but he seemed genuinely touched. "I would like any help I can get. Knights are not that inquisitive by nature and I distrust spies."

"I should hope you do not consider us spies, my lord—"

He cut me off rather quickly. "Cyrus." His expression demanded no argument. "My father spoke well of the Midnight Eyes he worked with and once assured me that they are observers, not spies."

I smiled carefully. "I shall hope to not prove him wrong."

He didn't smile back, although I could see that may just have been because he was tired enough to not show much emotion at all. "You and your people are welcome to stay with us knights if you wish. I am charging the local port authority to investigate this...occurrence...but must return to Mount Aerowlyn myself. You are welcome to come with me or stay here to oversee your own investigation, it does not matter."

I glanced at Jaya, who had appeared a few meters back and she nodded. "If you have room for a dozen of us at Mount Aerowlyn, we would like to stay with your knighthood. We do not wish to appear to undermine your authority in this matter. The remainder of Jaya's team will stay to investigate this situation and Tylis' rangers will patrol in areas your own knighthood designates, if that would suit you."

He nodded. "Tonight we will stay with the local garrison tonight, then head back to Mount Aerowlyn in the morning. Tylis can speak with Commander Arvap about troop movements."

I bowed. "Thank you."

Arashi_Leonhart
October 29th, 2011, 03:10 AM
Notes: I ended up cutting the idea of his use of water magic, here. There was a long and involved reason behind his ability to use it, but I took that out eventually. I'm not removing it here, though, simply because I'm lazy.


Mourning and Morning


We stayed at the local barracks for the night. I've learned, however, to glean enough sleep and rest when I'm in-between missions and in transit that while working, I only need a few hours after a regular-length day. I woke hours before sunrise and ended up wandering around the city to familiarize myself with the area--as I had never been in Aerowlyn before. By the time the sky was starting to lighten and the predawn light filled the city, I headed back only to espy Cyrus already awake as well. He wandered toward the docks on the river and I followed silently.

He made his way to an unclaimed docking station and leaned against one of the pillars jutting out from the dock that held it safely in the riverbed. I stood just shy of the dock's base and could tell that the reason he came out here was to listen to the water running along the banks and crashing against the man-made structures that now lined it. Nature fighting against man's intrusion, and man fighting nature's power.

I briefly wondered what side he felt he was on.

Of course, it was a brief thought only because a moment later I had water splashing my face.

He wove a spell—some kind of water manipulation—that formed a nice fist-sized sphere of water that flew at me and exploded just before me, drenching my face, hair, and shoulders in riverwater. I could only imagine that if he willed the spell faster and with enough water volume, it could actually hurt quite a bit.

"If you are going to observe, you can at least give me the benefit of telling me," he said.

My shoulders gave an involuntary shudder. My face gave an involuntary blush. "Sorry," I said, a little meekly. Wonderfully powerful and commanding for a Midnight Eyes Captain. Yeah.

"I am sure you heard the news and you are wondering if someone so young is going to crack under the pressure and the hurt."

I brought a hand up to run through my doused hair. "I never thought that. I'm just concerned, is all. I can't exactly imagine what you must be feeling now."

"You would probably be surprised," he replied. His eyes finally turned toward me and while I could see hurt and frustration in them, it finally occurred to me that it was the same exact kind of feeling that I had read in him earlier. Despite his body posture and presence suggesting he had recovered energy through sleep and seemed at least fresh—if not completely enthusiastic—the presence in his eyes suggested something completely broken altogether.

It struck me there and then, what the other mark was. A mark of someone who had flash-burned their eyes, staring so hard at something that it imprinted itself onto their very tangible selves.

I thought he might see things. I think I'm wrong. I think he is aware of things, of people, and sees something else entirely.

"I'm not going to drown myself to begin with."

An eyebrow rose on my forehead before I could clamp down on reactions. "I never thought that."

He shrugged. "I know. Making a limping attempt at a jest."

I continued on, "I know we don't know each other that well, but you can talk to me if you need to."

Again, he shrugged, turning now toward the horizon where the sun would be rising. "Sometime perhaps. I would rather not talk about it, honestly. Just want to keep going."

Arashi_Leonhart
October 30th, 2011, 04:49 AM
The Mountain

Mount Aerowlyn is a beautiful city carved out of the side of a mountain. A river feed from beside the palace at the northernmost point in the city bisects the city, flowing into another major feed just outside of the city that makes up the Aero River. The city itself is made primarily of white stone and a mix of pine and cedar woods, clearly making it a city that evokes the romance of winter.

Cyrus and his men lead myself, Jaya, and some of Jaya's rangers into the city, which welcomed their knightly protector in kind waves or the smiles of children who followed us much of the way through the city. No formal greeting however—the city was still suffering a communal depression from the loss of their beloved queen.

I rode alongside the knight, who seemed unconcerned by my tactlessness—since visitors really should not assume to ride next to the clear ranking official in a country such as this. Along the way, we had sometimes conversed and while he avoided the subject of his father or the emotional response he has to the queen's death, he is generally quite welcoming to stray questions or thoughts. It hints to me that he was raised to merely tolerate the formalities of being a higher social class, not embrace them. Again, curious for the oldest country of humans—although I suppose if change and growth are to occur, one would need someone like Cyrus…

The palace itself was a perfect balance of magnificence and simple beauty, appearing both a bastion of strength and yet aesthetically pleasing to the eye. A wall separated the city from the palace, two towers protruding from the stone cliff the palace appeared to be cut from at either end. The structure was made up of four narrow towers—two on each side—and a fifth, shorter and stouter tower in the very center. It did not shine pristine in the sunlight; instead it looked lived in, alive to an extent.

Weary from the handful of days on the road, Cyrus led our company to the stables and allowed us to house the horses we would be using while in the country. He introduced us to Dalirad, one of the knight captains in his command that would show Jaya and her rangers to quarters while he took me to meet King Aerowlyn.

The actual meet with said King was rather uneventful. Lord Virel seemed very preoccupied—not that I could blame him—and while he gave me permission to help his knights investigate the situation, he seemed disinterested in the whole ordeal. Grief obviously made up more of his emotions than wrath in relation to his wife's death, which was both a blessing and rather disheartening at the same time. It was obvious that he loved his wife very much.

Cyrus led me from the throne room and briefly introduced me to Sildan and Troyen, the two knights that made up the rest of the Heithai Valis, before leading me to the eastern wing of the palace. A set of doorways and hallways and one set of ascending stairs found me in a cozy fireplace-warmed room that housed a table and chairs as well as furnishings for relaxation. "This is the common room that Sildan, Troyen, and I use. The rooms were made for as many possible Heithai Valis as there could be, so you and Jaya may stay here. Below us are the quarters your rangers have been given, shared with my unit captains."

I nodded. "If it would be alright, I would like to simply explore the palace for the evening and truly start the investigation tomorrow. I like to know my surroundings before beginning anything."

I was surprised that he agreed. He hardly knew us and was willing to let us poke around the royal palace? "That is fine. Tomorrow morning you may meet Lady Astra and Lady Luna as well. I would expect they are already in their rooms at the moment and unlikely to want visitors this late in the day." He motioned to a glyph on the wall nearest to the large table. "This is for inter-palace communication. Press your hand here and a porter will be alerted—and this glyph assumes it is for a dining reason. There is one in your room that will be for cleaning and they will have knowledge of the personal schedules for myself and the other knights, if you so need it."

I raised an eyebrow. "Not something I've heard any other palace use."

He shrugged. "Not many palaces built by ancients still in existence." He made for the door. "My room, along with Sildan's and Troyen's, are up the left staircase. You are through the middle staircase. If you will excuse me, I must now check in with Lady Astra."

I bowed. "Thank you for your hospitality."

Arashi_Leonhart
October 31st, 2011, 03:33 AM
Notes: "Knight of the Wind" and "Knight of the Stone" and whatnot are all pseudo-religious monikers that are attached to these royal guards. They derive from a cultural history where the royal family was protected by nine knight errant figures that could supposedly command different elements. The country then exists on a leyline of magic somewhat like the Fuyuki leyline and responds to the passed-down-through-generations weapons these royal guards are given, weapons that are somewhat like Mystic Codes that work within the boundaries of the leyline. (Again, I conceived this stuff all around 2002 or so...but the parallels to Nasuverse are sometimes striking.)


The Palace


I wandered around the peasant levels of the palace for a while, careful to avoid areas where the King or royal family might be. Although I'm guessing Cyrus trusts me and the other rangers enough to believe we won't cause harm, I would rather not alarm anyone by showing up in the throne room unescorted.

The palace was lived in--people moved about at regular frequency, never suggesting this was a cold, isolated place. The main halls had tapestries and banners that brought color to the stonework and various kinds of those communication glyphs could be seen in each room. Although quite different to the city outside of the walls of the palace, this place certainly felt vibrant and energetic.

There was, however, something slightly morose in the mood people projected while doing their chores. They were most certainly still upset by their queen's passing--conversations were held at a whisper's level and most seemed to be going through the motions of their duties rather than approaching it with the vitality of life one has when happy. Servants carried laundry or food looking down at their feet. Off-duty soldiers passed, hardly speaking, eyes forward instead of jesting or conversing like most soldiers would do under regular circumstances.

Sildan, the Knight of the Wind, was sitting in one of the main halls as I passed through. His eyes were glazed over, lost in thought, and while my first reaction was to go talk to him, I both don't know him well enough and can tell he doesn't really want to talk to anyone at the moment. At least, not me. He might confide in his fellow knights later--of which I'm guessing Cyrus has already heard but would listen to regardless.

I found myself wandering outdoors, first to check on the horses before eventually making my way to the gardens surrounding the palace. A waterfall cascades down the cliff the palace has been carved out of, fueling the river that cuts through the city. The waterfall sits to the east of the Star and Moon towers, giving the Princesses a beautiful view I would assume. Trees and bushes surround both banks of the river--which is just wide and deep enough to be a nice pool as well as not fast-moving enough to wash an occupant downriver. I ended up wandering past however and glance up to the towers.

The balcony of the northern tower--the Star Tower--was occupied. A beautiful young woman with hair a shade dimmer than gold sat looking out towards the city. Cyrus was behind her and was, of all things, brushing her hair.

I smiled at the odd scene. I knew already just by speaking with him that Cyrus was unlike the other soldiers here, but this certainly seemed very domestic of him. He looked like he knew what he was doing as well, suggesting that this was a regular practice for him. Such an odd thing. I quickly committed the image to memory and then hurried back inside--while it was just a quick observation anyone could have made, I felt like it was intruding on something private.

I eventually make my way back to my room. Equipment I brought on horse have been moved into it already as well as fresh blankets for the bed, towels for bathing, and even a set of clothing which I would assume is stylistically fitting for the area and my apparent status in this country. I'm rather unused to being this pampered.

Time for bed. Tomorrow I'll make the true start.

Arashi_Leonhart
November 3rd, 2011, 12:48 AM
Been so busy the past few days, haven't had much of a chance to do anything, and totally forgot to update this.



Morning and Mourning


The morning had me changing into a fresh set of clothes--the ones I had worn the previous few days were a little dirty and probably smelled of dirt roads and horses. I decided against the provided clothes as they would probably be more fitting for wandering around incognito in town.

I contemplated finding Cyrus and asking if it was appropriate that I stay armed, but decided to just do so anyway. I was armed when I was introduced to the King, so they must trust that Cyrus or the other knights can handle the situation. Carrying Eeylai was out of the question however, since really, wielding a longbow within a castle or even in the cramped conditions of the city would be difficult. I noticed that many of the soldiers here use small hand-crossbows, which make more sense.

Jaya was awake and sitting at the common room table, which had food already lain out atop it. Still warm food, even. I sat myself down and ate what I felt like.

"I'll be examining the room Lady Aerowlyn was poisoned in, as well as the room of the servant that poisoned her," Jaya said. "Also, this note was given to me by the porter that brought the food." She handed me the note.


Captain,

After you awake, you may find the Princesses and myself in the shrine beyond the northern garden. Our priest has been leading them in various services since Queen Aerowlyn's death. You may meet with them after they are finished.

Tonight is a ritualistic monthly gathering of the various barons and nobles of Aerowlyn's court to meet with the King, supply a report, debate over topics, and then dine together. Although stuffy and a bit absurd, you might glean information you cannot otherwise there. Because they are in mourning, Lady Astra and Lady Luna are not to attend and have decided to stay up in Lady Astra's room together for the evening. This leaves myself and Troyen Orlia free to bring a companion--so you and Lady Jaya may accompany us if you wish. We can discuss this later.

Feel free to impose upon the staff. They are aware that visitors are here to question them about the circumstances of Lady Aerowlyn's death. As well, you are allowed an arming weapon--and I would recommend carrying it in the open as a silent use of authority. Those that feel superior within the palace here are generally a little intimidated by armed soldiers and tend to bend backwards if confronted by one when they would normally lift their noses to it.

Cyrus Lighleir


I shook my head, smiling ruefully to myself. Answered every question I could have, ultimately. His mark sure includes a level of observance and anticipation I've never even had.

Relaying this information to Jaya, we finished our meal, then briefly met with the other rangers to assign duties.

I wandered out into the northern garden--which included an amusing hedge maze--and found myself before the clifface of Mount Aerowlyn. Buildings had been carved into the stone, making up an unofficial part of the palace that I knew housed a shrine and library. The shrine was simple enough--stone walls and wood flooring, breaking off into a handful of different forks in the hall that would house specific angelics revered by the Aerowlyn people. The central shrine area would house the Lifebringer's prayer area, which was where I found them.

Cyrus and Troyen stood just out of the room, eyes turned inwards. Three figures sat on cushions in the center of the room--the priest facing us, Lady Astra and Lady Luna's kneeling forms facing away. I bowed slightly as Cyrus and Troyen's eyes turned to acknowledge me.

"Silence shield keeps us from being heard by them or them being heard by us," Cyrus said. He bowed in return. "Good morning, Lady Alisia."

Troyen bowed as well, and I held up my hand. "If I call you Cyrus, you call me Alisia." I motioned inside the prayer room. "How long have they been in prayer?"

"Two hours. They are almost done." Cyrus turned his gaze back to his charges.

I nodded to myself. Grieving periods for royalty always did seem a bit extreme, although I suppose it was more important that royalty was completely healthy so they could rule their lands in the proper mindset. "About the dinner, I think that is a good idea. Will the King be there?"

Cyrus nodded. "He will be too busy to pay of any mind to much else than the nobles. He's been rather withdrawn lately."

"Would Jaya and I be able to enter incognito?"

Troyen looked rather surprised at the idea. "Why would you want to do that?"

I shrugged. "It makes some people nervous to know who I am or what order I come from. While intimidation may be fine on servants, barons and baronesses are less likely to see me as a threat if I am merely some kind of courtesan on the arm of a knight."

Troyen raised an eyebrow at that, but Cyrus nodded. "After you speak with Lady Astra and Lady Luna, we can go into town and find dresses for you and Jaya."

I raised an eyebrow at that. "A dress that fast?"

His lips seemed to fight amusement back. "I know a few people."

Arashi_Leonhart
November 4th, 2011, 03:30 AM
Astra and Luna


It was another quarter hour when Lady Astra and Lady Luna finished their prayers. The priest pressed the back of his hand to each of their foreheads, said a blessing, then bowed to them. As he turned to retreat further into the shrine, the princesses stood and said a few words to one another before turning and breaching the silence barrier.

Cyrus and Troyen gave a hardly perceptible bow. I bowed deeper. They nodded their heads in turn, though clearly their minds were elsewhere at the moment. A good thing, actually, since their thoughts would not be drawn away from the pleasant misguidings of everyday life by any questions I had.

"Lady Astra, Lady Luna, this is Captain Alisia Alinndilrai of the Midnight Eyes," Cyrus introduced.

Both nodded, and to my surprise, Luna outstretched her hand. Blinking, I obliged and shook it firmly. Her head crooked aside a tad and she smiled. Not an unscripted move--she wanted to shake my hand for a reason. When Luna and Astra exchanged a glance, I knew I was correct--and that Astra was in on it as well. Cyrus and Troyen may guard them, but they have their own defenses in addition...

We made our way out into the garden, where the knights were politely excused from the conversation. While they strayed over by the river on the eastern side of the grounds, I led the princesses into the center--at least, as far as I could determine as such--of the hedge maze.

I apologized for the intrusion, but they both clearly knew what the Midnight Eyes functioned as and were as forthright as I think they felt comfortable with in answering questions. Obviously, they carefully treaded on areas where wounds were still being healed and I assured them that I could wait until they were ready if I needed that information.

One thing did come up that piqued my interest.

"Did your mother say anything before she passed?"

They had glanced at one another to that and I could read the anxiety within their gazes. However, I could also tell the anxiety was not for a secret they shared.

"We were not present at her passing," Luna said. She could not hide the hurt in her voice at that statement, although I wondered if she could even determine if it was hurt at not being there or hurt by the fact that she probably felt relieved she didn't have to experience that as well. "Cyrus whisked her off to the healing house. She died on the way."

A mite of a frown probably passed on my face. I had not heard that bit of information before. But before I could say or ask anything, Luna continued, "She had last words, but he will not speak of them all to us."

Astra's expression hit me with a complete bull-rush of emotions that she clearly could not clamp down on--anger, frustration, sadness, regret. But most of all, hurt. Not because her mother's words were being kept from her--but clearly, because it was important to her that her knight should have disclosed this to her. And not just because he was her knight, but out of something more.

Very important, I think, to make the distinction.

"I don't want you to think Cyrus is untrustworthy," Luna was quick to add. "I just think there is more to it than his overprotectiveness."

"She said something to him that he wrestles with," Astra said. "He won't tell us...but I would like it if he could speak to you about it."

This time I was bull-rushed by my own surprise. I had thought earlier that by shaking my hand, they had been sizing up my threat level to them, but they had been sizing up my threat to Cyrus. My threat to his safety net. And who's interrogating whom, here?

"We want you to help find out anything more about our mother's murder, that is certain," Astra said. "But...we are truly more concerned by his—the knights' growing frustration. They are angry, and it concerns us."

I didn't miss the slip there, but I certainly didn't want to analyze it at this very moment. "I will," I said firmly, in answer to their unasked request.

Arashi_Leonhart
November 5th, 2011, 03:01 AM
Notes: Yes, I came up with eyefire in like 2004 or so, prior to any knowledge of Tsukihime. The similarities to Mystic Eyes is pretty damn freaky, that basically people are born with a well of magic behind their eyes that are constantly on. They cause Astra's visions in the other story.


Darcia and the Dress


Astra and Luna retired to their rooms after our talk. Part of their enclosure I'm sure is their father fearing for their safety and wanting them to roam around less and less unless necessary. I got the impression that neither of them are happy about it--Luna was rather fidgety while we spoke, implying her need to be mobile like an animal caged up too long. Astra seemed merely more depressed by the limitations--slowly wilting from underexposure to sunlight and freedom.

Cyrus made on his promise to take me into town after that, explaining the situation to me along the way. He mentioned how conservative King Virel was before and how this experience has expounded on this side of his personality. Cyrus spoke of how quickly Virel was to find Astra a husband--clearly mortality has reared its head in Virel's consciousness and he's becoming desperate to see life continue.

We ventured into town on foot--Cyrus said the place we would be going was not far from the palace, and keeping mobile would maintain our warmth as it was a chilly end-of-winter day. Children on the lunch hour of their schooling dared to venture out and attempt Cyrus' attention, of which he obliged and playfully kicked a football back at a few of the kids who sent it flying towards us. They called him by title and name, but clearly were more than just familiar with him because of his status--he probably passed by here often. He probably did it with Astra prior to her "imprisonment."

The shop was indeed only six or so blocks from the main gate of the palace, not even to the second-tier wall and towers where the local knights kept watch over the city. It was nondescript and had an undecorated white-stone exterior like many of the buildings this deep into the city. A simple sign outside of it read Sarana Shia. Ancient for Seen and Unseen.

Cyrus didn't hesitate upon entering, merely pushing on the door to have it give under his fingertips. The place was open and vast--hardly what one could tell from the exterior, although the monotony of seeing all white-stone buildings made depth perception from the outside impossible. One side of the place seemed entirely devoted to clothing articles of all kinds--dresses, hats, boots, robes, cloaks, and the like in both mens and womens. The other side looked devoted to a variety of odd-looking items. It almost seemed like a magewares shop, although things looked distinctly mundane in comparison to the usually exotic and somewhat gaudy devices mages tended to exhibit. No odd scents that usually accompanied a magewares place were to be found either.

A woman approached from the back of the room, dressed in clothing a little more reminiscent of Rokamuran style--oversized belts and sashes, criss-crossing one-piece dress, earthly tones of red and brown rather than the silvers, blues, and golds favored here. Her hair was a striking platinum grayish color however and although she looked no more than thirty, it was easy to tell she was older by many years.

Her eyes were specked with gold amidst a gray iris. "Lightseer," she greeted Cyrus. Odd. "And a visitor--my name is Darcia."

I introduced myself and Cyrus took over. "Alisia's investigating Lady Stella's death."

Darcia nodded and she followed as Cyrus moved toward the clothing. "There's a dinner tonight and we'd like to hide who she is."

I looked at them both quizzically. Darcia nodded again, moving past Cyrus and heading to where some dresses were suspended on the western wall of the establishment. "What kind of weapon do you carry, Nighteye?"

This time I had to pause to revisit my memory for any sign that Cyrus or I had referred to myself by that name. No such slip existed. "Excuse me?"

"Arming blade," Cyrus said helpfully. He wandered off to look at things across the room.

Darcia nodded and began sliding her hands along the rows of dresses--which finally made me notice. She was blind.

I will admit my expression was probably rather funny to witness. I'm not easily confounded by information, but this was certainly a moment. I approached Darcia as she stopped before a specific selection of dresses. "So, you're going to make me guess?"

A smirk played across her lips. "Just wanted to see if you would bring it up or keep quiet." She turned to look at me. "I was not born blind. I was, however, born with ancient blood that flared through my veins and, like our two princesses, manifested. All I can truly do is identify a person's true persona, but it is enough. Nobody I do not wish to come in here cannot see this place for what it is--items made specifically for eyefire abilities of the ancient-blooded."

I nodded, having guessed something along those lines. The abilities I do have are not exactly eyefire per se, but they manifest similarly. I do not have ancient blood in me--I have an ancient spirit within me.

Not that you can really distinguish between the two, mind.

She pulled a dress from the stand and held it out to me. It was pretty enough--a frosted blue color that falls somewhere between cobalt and gray. It was modestly cut in the front but had virtually no back to speak of, with the skirt coiling down to a few centimeters above the ankles. Matching sash and arm warmers in the Rokamuran style were included. "This will fit. Put a belt on over the dress with your weapon, then place the sash over your waist. It will conceal the blade from even you unless needed."

I nodded. Eyefire abilities manipulate what is or is not there in this realm of existence in an elegant way that arcane magics can only pray for. "Why are you being so helpful?"

Darcia shrugged. "I am the one Astra and Luna came to for knowledge about their abilities--indeed, they both own many items that I have made or found. I will help anyone who helps them."

I leaned in and lowered my voice after glancing to see Cyrus still looking at some things on the other side of the room. "You see Cyrus?" My voice fell to hardly a whisper, "Not just Lightseer, but Lightbearer?"

She nodded. A single word passed her lips. "Cyrevantai."

Smiling, I withdrew. "I've never seen him manifest before. Only done once before, I think."

"You are welcome to send your other Midnight Eyes here at any time. Nightroamer also needs a dress, correct?"

It took me a moment to realize Nightroamer was Jaya. "Yes. I will send her after I return to the palace."

"Good." Darcia said louder, "Time for you to pay up, Lightseer. You don't actually expect this young lady to scrounge for coin, do you?"

Cyrus made a show of mumbling under his breath and pulling a money pouch from his belt, handing Darcia a handful of coins. "You do realize that the truth is, nobody comes in here because the prices on your items are too high, right?" He rolled his eyes. "The not-seeing thing is make-believe."

I smiled and Darcia rolled her eyes back as we left the place, dress in tow.

Arashi_Leonhart
November 6th, 2011, 05:59 AM
Dressed to Kill


I spent the remainder of the afternoon speaking to some of the servants of the palace--ones that had no direct link to the assassination and had not yet been seen by Jaya or her team. Mainly, I wanted to build a feeling as to how news spread by word-of-mouth through the palace and how aware the typical servant was of the comings and goings of palace life.

Dusk began to approach and I returned to my bedroom to dress. It took all of ten minutes--the dress conceals and exploits using some kind of magical spell so I need little preparation otherwise. Put the dress on, coif my hair a bit, and I'm ready. I do as I was instructed with my blade, wrapping the belt around my waist, then wrapping the sash over the belt. When looking in the mirror, indeed, I can see no evidence of being armed whatsoever.

The dress did its magic; I looked perfectly fitting as a socialite arm-hanging of a knight. No trace of injury or work on my face or the exposed portions of my body. The major thing I noticed however was that my eyes appeared brown--their natural color when I was younger--instead of the snowflake-like blue and white they normally appear as now that I'm an adult. Very interesting and obviously helpful--although I wonder how many nobles of Aerowlyn's court would care to look deeply into anyone's eyes.

Jaya was waiting when I came out, dressed in a similarly frosted purple dress that hung shorter than mine--to the knees--but had a more conservative back. Her hair was down but in neat ringlet curls that I'm sure are impossible for her to manage in reality. No sign of a weapon on her, although she also wore a transparent white sash around her waist.

"Fine spellwork, this," she said.

Cyrus, Troyen, and Sildan came out momentarily, adorned in the silver, blue, and sable of the Aerowlyn Knights--wearing shinier ceremonial mail and lamed armor. The surcoats were much more ornate as well with intricate silver-threaded trim and the Mount Aerowlyn standard on their chests. The standard was made of a mountain's outline with a star standing at the very peak, while a river bisected the mountain with a snaking arc up and then splitting off into two different mouths. Cyrus' was adorned with a rayed sun peaking out behind the mountain instead of a star; Sildan's a tornado where the river was; and Troyen's with three triangular stones where the river was.

Sildan bowed to us, then made his way out already--his task to maintain close vigil over the King. Cyrus and Troyen also bowed, then held out their arms.

Jaya took Troyen's arm and were out next. I waited until they were gone, then took Cyrus and whispered, "So, ready to parade me around?"

He sighed. "I have a feeling you will not be so sarcastic by the end of the evening."

I shrugged, and we stepped out into the hall. "Probably. But I can try."

Arashi_Leonhart
November 8th, 2011, 04:18 PM
Arg, keep forgetting to update, so busy...


Nobility or Not


Nobility is such a frail word--at least when used in terms of the title "noble", compared to something like "commoner".

While the entire point of dressing myself up was to make me nonthreatening, it worked perhaps a little too easily. These nobles are completely self-important and barely restrain the contempt they feel towards any under their noses--figuratively and literally--which meant thinly veiled patronizing remarks directed my way the entire night. Not just me, however--but Cyrus as well, and by the look of things, it was not an uncommon occurrence.

The first half of the night I hung from Cyrus' arm, introduced as a trader's daughter from Rokamura that happened to catch Cyrus' eye. This quickly turned sour, as I had not quite expected the behind-the-back sneers the nobles threw Cyrus' way when he was not looking. I believe they thought a knight of his standing should be in the company of not only a local, but someone of higher standing--or if not a local, at least someone with some political card to play.

Thankfully, I was raised in Rokamura, where cards are unheard of. We play dice.

I listened in on the prompts Cyrus brought up with the nobles--or the ones they brought up to Cyrus--about Lady Stella's death, boredly twirling my hair or playing with a drink glass while we ate. I noticed a definite trend--those that brought it up on their own were either feeling guilty or worried about the future state of the country--and their standing--and were making veiled attempts to bring such up with Cyrus. Those Cyrus prompted seemed vaguely shaken by his topics and withdrew a bit further into themselves--something to hide. Whether or not directly related to the murder was unclear, but I made sure to remember the names of these nobles and send word for investigations by Jaya's team.

Despite the passive-aggressive hostility towards him, Cyrus seemed at ease with ignoring it. When we approached Troyen and Jaya perhaps an hour after dinner had been finished and the night was making way for dancing and entertainment, a noble--perhaps twice as old as Cyrus--was complaining rather loudly to Troyen.

"--superior is just sitting on the fence! No action, no investigation since the raid! He left to go meet traders in Twinrivers and seems unconcerned about the civil disruption this has caused, not once raising his voice to--"

I think Troyen raised his voice ever so slightly just to be smart. "Ah, Lord Cyrus, finished dining?"

The noble quickly halted and turned his attention to Cyrus and I, standing just outside probably what he considered "safe" aural range. Of course, I'm sure Cyrus heard--or at least saw the flickering of this noble's star and his clear disapproval. "Lord Cyrus, ah, we were just talking about you."

We made a beeline for Troyen and Jaya. "What a refreshing change. Usually you are cursing and yelling when I am the subject of discussion," Cyrus said, smiling easily. He motioned to Troyen. "I need my knight, for a while, if you will excuse us. Alisia," he said to me, "perhaps you and Jaya could entertain Lord Kayan here for a while, while we see to some of our duties."

Meaning this man and his entourage had information we could use. I smiled and bowed, then extended the bow to Kayan, giving as much of a vapid, mindless smile I could. "My Lord, would you care to dance?"

All for the job--which is sometimes questionable when a man thinks he can treat you like a piece of meat. Hand much too low on my waist. Of course, also easy enough to get him to be pompous enough to spill some info while seeming to be interested in men with power. However much you need to read between the lines...

"Not to say your Lord Cyrus is not a capable commander--he is. Just that as he is so young, he really understands nothing of our processes. With Lady Stella gone, we should provide a strong, united image for our country to stand behind, but he is being slow to align with the Lord of Aerowlyn..."

It begs the question as to whether or not some of the nobles wanted Lady Stella's death. I bet they were all aware of how Virel worshiped the ground she walked on and how much he adores his daughters--some probably wanted to break him out of his perfect world and make him take irrational actions. Which he did--immediately betrothing Astra to Nuit Cordel. I bet any of these nobles with sons would have given their left eyes to have their sons in that position. Or perhaps some who have eyes for the Cordelyn economy--

"...to deliver our country from this crisis. Perhaps you have met my son? He is here tonight. We were hoping Lady Astra or Lady Luna would be here..."

So the former.

"But enough about me; I was told you are the daughter of a trader?"

Well, enough of this. Actually, this might be a good opportunity not only to get a nice ribbing in on this man, but present Cyrus with a future opportunity to glean something from him...

"Actually," I said, smiling as shyly as possible, "that's a front. I don't like crowds that much and I try to avoid attention. My father is Cavirus Sorsolis, the trade minister of Rokamura. He knew Cyrus' father and I came to pay my respects."

I had to hide a real smile, watching the wheels turn behind Kayan's eyes. So Lighleir isn't as useless as I thought, I can hear him thinking, assuming he can even use this instead of completely ignoring it as is his wont.

"Cyrus and I have gotten along dearly. He's very nice...and that training of his gives him a lot of, well, endurance," I giggled, blushing for effect. This was at least fun to play with, despite being not a bit demeaning.

"I'm glad you are having such a good time then," Kayan said. He withdrew from dancing and glanced over to one of his entourage, who was speaking with Jaya. "If you will excuse me, I just remembered that I must speak with Lord Virel tonight before the festivities are over."

I held back a snort. Have to seem self-important even when distracted, hm? He made off with his underlings, leaving Jaya and I free to our own devices. I pulled her close.

"If you could retire, I need you to get word sent out to Cavirus Sorsolis in Rokamura."

She blinked. "What about him?"

"I'm calling in a favor he owes me--I just leaked to Kayan that I'm his daughter to get us into the position for some more information."

Jaya's eyes narrowed but a grin was threatening her lips. "Whatever happened to 'Rokamurans play dice'?"

"I always was terrible at that game." I motioned to where Kayan had left. "He does have a daughter named Alisia, so ask him to respond locally to inquiries that she is indeed in Aerowlyn with the Lord of the Heithai Valis to pay respects for his fallen father."

Jaya nodded. "Anything else, Lady Minister?"

I smirked. "No, you're dismissed for now."

I mingled for the rest of the night, letting slip pieces of the information I gave up to Kayan and continued to counterattack the remarks of the court directed towards Cyrus. Another hour passed and Cyrus eventually sought me out, politely cutting in on a dance I was suffering with a man old enough to be my grandfather with hands as wandering as any male my age. Not a moment too soon, as my concealed blade could've become unconcealed at the rate he was working his way southward.

"I have been hearing some interesting rumors," he started.

Giving him a coy smile, I asked, "What kind of rumors?"

He led me into a spin, then sighed. "I'm too tired to ask why, so just explain it to me tomorrow, alright?"

We retired shortly after that, Cyrus quickly bidding Virel goodnight, then leading me back to our quarters. He did look much more exhausted than when he left. "What is it?"

"I found the man who helped get the assassin inside the palace. He's hiding out in town."

We stopped in the commonroom and I gently touched his arm. "What are you going to do?"

"I've got one of my men watching him. I do not wish to bring him in just yet--I want to see if he makes any other bad moves first, see how deep in this he is. Then I'll bring him in."

Playing fair, even when his inclination is to run in and cut this man down. Difficult would be an understatement, I'm sure. "I'll bring in some of Tylis' patrollers to watch him as well."

He nodded, then took my hand and gave it a kiss. "Thank you. And not just for that, I mean."

Oh. Right. The counterattack on his name. I blushed, this time for real. "It gets annoying after a while. How you put up with it I really don't understand."

He turned, heading off for his room. "I prank them back is how." And disappeared up the stairs.

I smirked.

Arashi_Leonhart
November 10th, 2011, 02:21 AM
The Mole and the Route In


Cyrus spoke to me only once the next day, informing me the exact location of the mole that allowed the assassin within the walls of the palace. I sent word to Tylis on this note and a request to keep an eye on him.

The knights spent the day with their charges and seeing no need to speak with them again at the moment, I instead went about the day retracing the steps the assassin supposedly took to reach the Queen.

There were two secondary entrances to the palace besides the main gate and the back entrance to the gardens. Both were used by the servants who lived from without the castle and came to work their hours within the walls of the palace. I checked both out, finding one leading to the laundry services on the river's side of the palace, the other leading to a servant's quarter within the palace. I decided to look around the servant's area, eventually catching an off-duty worker to ask the name of the worker who was on leave and his position. Darman was his name, and he worked as laundry keeper for the King and Queen.

Which quickly led me right to the other entrance to the castle near the river, asking around the laundry-keeping servants about Darman's situation. Rumors already persisted though and even as I asked, one of the younger servants piped in, "Shaya, one of the cooks, thinks he helped kill Lady Aerowlyn, which is why he's supposed to be on leave."

Rumors, although always vague and generally twisted, sometimes provided necessary insight into a situation. "What makes Shaya think this?"

"She said Darman always had 'that look about him' and that she saw him leading someone suspicious into the kitchens the day before the murder."

I catalogued that away for future study. "Thank you."

Deciding to speak with this Shaya tomorrow, I spent the remainder of the day toying with the daytime bustle of the castle, deciphering how long a person could make it from the laundry exit to the kitchens or various other potential problem areas of the castle without running into anyone. I managed to do so twice--although my own skills at hiding were probably a bit beyond even many assassins. At least, I hoped as much.

Jaya was just setting in for dinner in the commonroom when I entered. I shook my head. "How is it you always seem to be here right before me?"

"My internal clock always has been five breaths ahead of yours," she replied easily, handing me an empty plate.

Arashi_Leonhart
November 12th, 2011, 05:19 AM
Stella's Library


Of course, when I spoke to her, I could tell that this Shaya had not seen another person. She was just a gossip who had heard the rumor of a rumor of a rumor and had embellished the fact that she had been present when this unknown person had been led into the kitchens.

I tried tracking down the sources she cited for these rumors, although keeping up was basically impossible. I ended up talking to the same person twice at one point, which had told two different accounts to the rumor, leading me in a complete circle.

Eventually, I caught up with Cyrus and asked if I could have access to the room Stella spent most of her time in. He said that was fine--that the King had avoided said room completely since her death and nobody was particularly in a hurry to venture in. After Cyrus checked with the King to make sure it was indeed completely fine for me to poke around and we received a positive reply, I headed strait for the room. It was a converted bedroom in the Tower of the Night, the southwestern tower of the palace, mirroring Luna's room in the Moon Tower.

The room had been changed from a bedroom to something of a study. Bookshelves took up the entire southeastern side of the room from the doorway to the south-facing window. A scroll shelf sat between the window and the doorway to the outside balcony. Artwork then hung on the eastern wall--canvases of Enchanting Dragons, a Soarkaran landscape, Ranadan ships in harbor, and even one of Twilight Knights...

I looked closer at the knight piece, realized that one of the figures looked rather similar to a longer-haired and older Cyrus wielding a glaive. Tyrest Lighleir was a Twilight Knight...either she painted this or had someone do it for her, I would expect.

Two musical instruments--a harp and a small bowsinger sat on a desk against the other side of the entry door. Another desk protruded from one of the bookshelves, this one with a more comfortable-looking chair and writing materials spread out on its surface.

A violet stain and broken glass lay on the floor near the desk.

I pulled out my knife and cut one of the thick carpet strands from the floor, took out a silk wrap and covered it before placing it in a pouch to give to Jaya. I then looked around for anything that seemed out of place.

No books stood out--many were beginning to retain a thin layer of dust. The scrolls had a thicker layer. The instruments looked used and worn. The artwork--besides the interesting inclusion of the Twilight Knights piece--seemed fittingly old and clearly inspirational pieces for a woman who once made a living as an entertainer.

No writing sat on the desk and I dared take a peek into the desk drawers to look for anything pertinent.

Nothing. Nothing. Then something.

A rolled parchment, sealed by what might have looked to be some insignificant interlace to the casual observer.

A rune for angel.

I blinked, then checked underneath it. Two other such parchments existed. I pulled all three out, set them on the desk.

The rune I knew--well acquainted with in fact, as it sealed messages between Midnight Eyes members so no unfriendly eyes could open them. I knew the counter-spell to open such a document, but clearly, these were not meant for me.

Taking a piece of parchment from the desk and using the quill that sat ready for use, I drew out a similar rune three times, blew on the paper to dry them. I then took the scrolls and placed them seal-down over each of the runes I had drawn.

Golden words scrawled across the bottom of the piece of parchment I had, beneath each scroll. Names. Luna. Astra. Cyrus.

I blinked. Not Virel?

Taking the scrolls, I continued to search for anything out of place. Nothing found, I made a mental note to return to the place again to look about it with fresh eyes next week and vacated the room, heading for the nearest of the princess' towers.

Arashi_Leonhart
November 15th, 2011, 05:20 AM
Letters


Lady Luna was closer and ultimately the person I wanted to take these to first. I think that Astra and Luna might be upset with me if I went to Cyrus first, and I felt that Luna was easier to approach.

She was in her room, door slightly ajar as she spoke with Troyen about something or another. I knocked and announced who I was and Troyen admitted me into the room. I mentioned I had found something for Lady Luna, handing her the three scrolls and telling her about the source spell I used to decipher their intended recipients. Luna excused Troyen, but asked that I stay.

"If it will help in any way," Luna said, "I want you to see it." And she drew the opening rune on the scroll addressed to her.

The scroll unfurled in Luna's hand and I could see words flash into existence on the surface. Luna read through it, and although she had let me stay, I refrained from reading over her shoulder--if she wanted me to read it, she would give it to me or speak to me about it.

Her eyes roamed over the message and she clearly began to fight against crying. Eventually she finished and just wordlessly handed the scroll over to me, turning away to clear her eyes and calm down.

Stella's handwriting was very akin to Cyrus'--neat and with flourishes on capital letters and names.

Luna, my little one, I pray that I am wrong about this, but if not, I want you to know that I love you and have always been very proud of you.

Times are quickly catching up to us. More like you than Astra, I feel the pushes and pulls of the world and feel the leylines of fate drawing me away from you. The actions I know you are starting to weave, as well as the ones Astra acts upon are furthering this isolation--and while I am sad at this fact, it is inevitable that children begin to distance themselves from their parents.

I expect that you or Cyrus will find these--knowing Astra, she will try and isolate herself further from the world. Please be supportive of your sister, as I'm sure you understand the stress she will be under from now on.

Luna, all I can tell you is to be exactly as you are. I've watched you more than you can imagine, and I know that you have your own best interests at heart. You have a brilliant insight into what must be done--for yourself, for others. I can already tell you that you will make a magnificent leader, Queen or not. You have the capacity for great things and I do expect you to fulfill what you are capable of and nothing less.

As such, I want to ask of you one thing. In my study, I have left my bowsinger and bow. I want you to take it to Cyrus and Astra's hideout when they are not present and play the C and A cords.

I know you. I know that if I am gone, I will have told Cyrus to take care of the both of you. I want you to know why. This will answer that question.

I love you, child of the crescent moon. Love your sister and father as I have loved you.

Rolling up the scroll, I looked carefully at Luna, who had by now composed herself. Although her expression certainly looked forlorn, she did not look pitiful. Simply sad--but a sadness that was not all consuming.

"So?" I asked.

She sighed. "We should go now, since giving Astra and Cyrus their messages will undoubtedly lead them to their hideout tonight. Rather do this now."

I blinked. "We?"

A shrug. "I know you are dying to see what this is all about."

I couldn't exactly deny that.

Luna turned to the balcony doors and opened them, beckoning me to follow. "Come on, then. If nothing else, it will let you know my mother more--give you a face to put with the name."

"Lead on, then," I said.

Arashi_Leonhart
November 17th, 2011, 05:35 AM
Secret Hideout


Really, it should have been obvious from the outside, but it was not.

Cyrus and Astra's "secret hideout" was nothing more than an area next to the balconies of the Star Tower and Moon Tower that could only be reached via those balconies. I'm sure there's a mirroring recess along the Day Tower and Night Tower. Since Astra and Luna had not been placed in the uppermost points of the tower, their balconies connected with the topmost portion of the palace that connected both towers to each other and connected the towers to the palace proper.

Luna led me off of her balcony over a slight jump where a wide ledge ran along the side of the palace. The ledge itself was just short of a meter across, leaving just enough room for a person to carefully walk along with a hand to the exterior palace wall. Then, as we approached the Star Tower, Luna slid her fingers along the wall and pushed--and the wall gave way.

It was not a wall at all--merely a white-painted sheet of wood. From the palace grounds looking up, it must have looked perfectly fine--and it did to my eye when I had examined the exterior upon arriving here.

The wood sheet gave in as a doorway into a recess-alcove-like area that spanned maybe six or seven meters each way. A bed mattress with sheets and pillows lay with the "head" facing out of the room next to our feet as we entered. Shelves with a few books, chairs, and another set of shelves with what appeared to be toys lined the walls. A dressing screen even sat in the very back of the room. A lantern hung from the low ceiling and Luna closed the "door" behind us, then muttered something to conjure fire into the lantern.

"Funny story as to how they found this place," Luna said, looking around. "Cyrus, I think maybe when he was five or six, was granted access to the archives here. He studied the history of Aerowlyn, among other things. In it, he read about the creation of the palace and glanced schematics on it--ones that did not have all of the palace secrets, mind--" she looked to me, as if to say that if I looked at the same schematics, I would not find any secret exits or the like, "--but he did find this unused portion of the palace. It was just structurally built like this--right beneath our feet is the hall between the towers--but because the connecting hall between the towers and the palace is high-vaulted ceilings, this area zigzags a bit, creating the alcove."

I nodded. "And it would not be a 'secret' in the schematics because it has no escape route, so therefore there's no tactical advantage to keeping it hidden. It wasn't even meant to be used like this."

Luna nodded. "They found it shortly after and moved stuff in. Sometimes, Cyrus and Astra would play into the night, but since it was not allowed for him to stay in her room after a certain hour--and the glyph wards would detect such an intrusion, they made this place, which exists outside of the wards. Cyrus' parents had a similar rune on a ring he wore to inform them if he was in trouble or lost--but since he never was, they grew accustomed to his absences I suppose." Luna gave a faint smile. "I would sometimes go to Astra's room since she was nowhere else in the palace, but she would not be there. I guess she was in here."

"How did you find out about it?" I asked.

She grinned. "I eventually put two and two together and figured it would have to be a place connected to the balcony. I caught them in here eventually and told them if I was not allowed to play along, I would tell on them. I was maybe eight at the time, they were just hitting double digits."

I looked about while listening, noticing that only the thinnest layer of dust existed on the furniture. "Do they still use it?"

"Yes, I am sure they do. I eventually became disinterested once I realized they mainly just talked up here. Nothing really mischievous--I missed the age when they were pranking the other kids a lot."

"Wouldn't they get into trouble if they were found out?"

She nodded. "Sharing a bed with the betrothed princess? Even though I know they do nothing sordid--my father would probably have Cyrus' head. When they were younger they might have gotten away with it, but..." Luna sighed. "I wonder how my mother knew about it. I thought we kept it well hidden."

I shrugged. "Not that she told anyone, it sounds like. Or sounded upset by it."

Luna moved to the door. "I will go and get her bowsinger. You can look around--my sister and Cyrus are supposed to be in the shrine for another few hours still."

Arashi_Leonhart
November 18th, 2011, 06:03 AM
The Miniature Nighteye


The books were mainly of mythological origin--enchanting dragons, dryads, kelpie--and some about the pantheon of the Lifebringer and the angels and nymphs that serve him. Many looked like simple children stories, while some looked like they might have been smuggled out of a historical archive.

I checked behind the dressing screen to indeed find a couple of simple dresses and one sleeping robe folded neatly next to a stool. One dress was fairly fairytale-esque with a flowing train and tresses and many transparent layers. They looked like a dress a little girl might wear to pretend to be a princess or an angel--just made to fit an adult body.

The figurines on the shelves were easily the most visually interesting. They mainly consisted of miniature knights on horseback--an occasional orcish warrior or dragon to oppose the knights. Some looked like pieces were broken from them; toys that were played with too roughly or too often. Some had paint chipped away. Some looked completely new.

One was of a female dark-haired ranger clothed in indigo drawing a bow. I blinked and looked real hard at it.

"That is why he trusts you," Luna's voice cut through the silence. "I think he believes it is some kind of omen."

I turned to find Luna having just stepped within the room again, bowstringer in hand. I glanced back to the figure, then met Luna's eyes. "It's not quite an omen. But I suppose more than a coincidence. Where did he get it?"

Luna motioned over to the shelves with books. "It was an image he found in the archives, telling of the histories of the world's oldest orders. It has an image of the Midnight Eyes captain--who is only cited as having the name Nighteye--participating in the war between Rokamura and Ranadan." She looked at me and her eyes narrowed slightly. "Cyrus theorizes that you were given the title in honor of her."

The left side of my lips twitched involuntarily. "And what do you think? That I'm some kind of immortal? Because you would be wrong."

Luna shrugged and broke eye contact. "No. Astra believes you are...something else entirely."

"Oh?"

The princess sat on the edge of the bed and placed the bowstringer on her knees. "She dreams, my sister. Sometimes when she is completely awake. Other times at night like a normal person. But when she has dreams she remembers, it is something of a vision. Not of the past or future or anything like that...but what is. She has dreamed of you before you came here."

Eyefire. I shook my head. Blood of the ancients passes unusual abilities to other species that are descended from them... "And what does she see?"

Luna shrugged again. "Ask her sometime." She put the bowstringer up to her shoulder and tested her fingers on the strings.

"Are you sure you want me to see this?" I asked.

"I trust you. To try and do your best, at the least." Her fingers ran over the C and A positions and she ran the bow over the instrument once.

Arashi_Leonhart
November 22nd, 2011, 05:35 AM
I need to remember to actually post to this regularly. Arg.


Memory in the Key of C


It is hard to describe the sensations felt after Luna played the bowstringer. I was present within the room, could move about like normal, feel and hear and see just as I would--but I had no body to speak of. Well, no, that's not quite right; I had a body, but it was sharing the space of the room, not the space of the memory.

Luna and I both moved further within the room to take the scene in fully. The bed was neatly arranged save the lump in the middle. Astra's silver-and-gold hair was all that could be seen--her body submerged by covers and her face down in the pillow. She breathed so evenly and deeply, it was clear that the girl was exhausted.

And girl she was--as the boy sitting on the edge of the bed could only have been eleven or twelve years old. Clearly Cyrus: same dark blue eyes, same coal black hair--though cut to hang just above his eyes. He was slight and clearly unathletic--wiry and rather pale of skin. In this stage of his life, I would not be surprised if Astra were bigger than he was.

He sat on the side of the bed, book in hand, using the light pouring in from the halfway ajar "door" to the hideout. Upon closer inspection, it appeared to be a book on battle tactics--the pages he had opened to were diagrams of movement, not words.

The thing I had to note, however, was Cyrus already had a mark upon him. The deeper mark that I have seen--not the mark of the Dawn Knight. Which is very interesting indeed, implying that he has already taken the path that will lead him towards potential greatness...or suffering, depending on his choices...

There is a sudden gasp and Cyrus shoots off of the bed when a figure blocks the door's light and steps inside.

Stella.

I can tell very quickly--because she looks a lot like the Astra that now exists. Just older. Her hair is gold and falls all the way to her knees, held back by the silver tiara on her head and a clasp just above the neck. Her gown is simple enough--again, not unlike the dresses Astra and Luna prefer now. She steps into the room and carefully closes the "door" behind her.

"Cyrus?" she asks.

The boy bows and stutters, hardly managing coherent words. "I'm...uh...that is...this...um--"

Stella placed her hand on Cyrus' shoulder and pushes him to sit back down, kneeling before him. "I have know about this room for a while, Cyrus. I am not upset."

Cyrus clearly wanted to say something--probably along the lines of "How?" but refrained from doing so. He instead glanced worriedly down to Astra. She continued her oblivious slumber.

"I just want to speak with you, Cyrus. You are not in any trouble." Stella got up, then circled the bed to sit up next to Astra. One hand began to stroke her daughter's hair and she briefly hummed what sounded like a lullaby. Eventually, she looked back up to the boy, who still appeared nervous. "Please, young one, I am not upset. Unless there is something I should know of?"

"No!" Cyrus blurted, realized he had shouted, and looked aghast. He looked down to Astra, but she did not stir, and he meekly returned eye contact with Stella. "Um, well, I mean, nothing. We have not done anything wrong...just..." He trailed off.

Stella nodded. "Then I am not worried." She resumed the humming for a moment, brushed Astra's hair aside to uncover a cheek, and pressed a kiss over it. She then continued to stroke through her daughter's hair as she spoke. "I heard from Synn that you have asked to join the Heithai Valis potentials."

"...Yes."

Her eyes never deviated from her daughter's sleeping form, probably in an attempt to give Cyrus enough comfort to think out his responses clearly. "Why this sudden decision? I thought your interest lie in the archives, or in the courts."

Despite not being under her gaze, Cyrus stared off--towards the back of the room and where Luna and I "stood". His jaw locked, his expression slowly shifting towards defiance. "They do. As a hobby. Not something I necessarily want to base my entire life around."

"What do your parents think?"

The boy sighed. "Father thinks it is a bad decision. For me, at least. He says the ways of a soldier are not going to make me happy, and will be difficult for me. Mother...mother thinks it may be a good decision....but neither of them are sure I should have waited this long to make it. I have no formal training..."

"It is true," Stella said. "You have no athletic experience and I do not believe a knight of the court or one of the barons or baronesses will be your sponsor."

Cyrus' gaze turned to where the miniature toys were shelved--a handful fewer than the number that I had seen when first stepping into the room. "I know. But I have to try."

Stella's voice grew a tad bit more insistent--obviously anxious now that he had revealed something she seemed to be searching for in this conversation. "Why?"

It was a rather astounding thing, in my opinion. Stella's voice did carry a kind of quality to it--a song-like quality even when she was speaking normally. I do not think there was any spellwork involved in getting the truth out of Cyrus. It was just his honest response to the call of this woman's voice. It may not have been a spell, but, it was clear that Stella possessed eyefire abilities that enhanced her already natural empathetic and comforting qualities.

"I dislike the courts. Hate them, even. Everyone speaks politely and lavish praise on one another--but nothing is done. Or, if something is done, it is merely an alliance or a betrayal. Everyone is in it for themselves." Cyrus was focusing in on one of the figurines in specific now--a knight on horseback. "And I love lore and history and all...but...how would I be any better than them by choosing that over anything else I could do?"

Stella's voice was careful--though still clearly digging for more. "But why the Heithai Valis? You could do plenty of other things--"

"I want to help people who deserve it," Cyrus said, even interrupting his Queen. "That's still....selfish. But I'm not sure if I'm ready to serve just anyone. I don't want to be some court knight that protects something that doesn't function anyway. And, well, serving my country...that's fine and good and all, but...."

"But...?" Stella pressed.

Cyrus' voice cut down so low and quiet that it was difficult to hear. "I want to serve Astra. She wants to serve everyone else--deserving or not. And I want to serve her when nobody else can or will. I want to be a part of that."

Stella actually looked disappointed. Her shoulders slumped a tiny bit and her eyes fell shut.

"And I can't ask her to marry me...can't be a part of her life in that way..."

Her eyes opened and she looked revitalized. "Really?"

Cyrus paused, then startled. His hand came up to his mouth, as if unsure whether or not he had just said something aloud. Color flooded his cheeks for a moment, then his expression dropped as well and tears began to form. "Oh god..."

I glanced to Luna at that and was startled to see the princess crying. She looked even more hurt at Cyrus' admission than Cyrus was. The "scene" must have stopped momentarily because I didn't hear anything more when I asked, "What?"

Luna took a breath, ignoring the tears falling down her cheeks. "I don't know....I think..." she paused and looked down. "I just wish things were different. Haven't you noticed how sad he looks sometimes? He hides it, but..."

Stella was suddenly next to Cyrus' side, her hands on his small shoulders. "Cyrus, don't cry...I'm not mad with you..."

He refused to turn though, eyes clenched shut. "Nobody's supposed to know. I'm just...I'm too little to think about marriage...and especially not with the future Queen..."

Yet I watched something happen at that moment--and I think Stella did too. He must have been hiding it...suppressing it somehow. But now that mark--the one I have a hard time seeing with his Dawn Mark over it--it flared. So hard that even Stella withdrew as if she were flash-burned.

Flash-burned...

Tears were falling steadily now, but he seemed to be holding back from sobbing. He turned to leave, head down. "Please, just please don't tell anyone...I don't...I know I could be killed for it...and I don't want to embarrass Astra."

He pulled at the "door" and took a step outside before Stella spoke up, stopping him. "Cyrus. I'm going to sponsor you."

Although his back was turned, I could easily tell his expression must have been one of utter confusion mixed with a bit of wretchedness. Sometimes I hate how the "lower-class" are somehow programmed with a measure of self-loathing.

"You may have no athletic training, but being a Heithai Valis is more than being a warrior. Even the training will reflect that."

There was a barely perceivable shake of Cyrus' head--unbelieving.

"I want you by Astra's side, Cyrus. I need to know that there will be people in her life that will love her unconditionally...after I'm gone."

Such a low, depressing thought that Cyrus clearly could not handle anymore. He closed the door on his way out...

And the memory faded away. More figurines were on the shelves. The bed no longer had anyone in it.

Luna still cried.

I remained quiet, processing all that I had just seen. Luna clearly was taking a moment to do so as well before she brushed the tears away, as if just realizing they were there.

"I thought," Luna said, fighting to keep her voice level, "I thought I had never seen Cyrus so wounded after mother's death. Not sad, not hurt--wounded. In a fight....once you're hurt..."

I followed the train of thought and finished it. "Once you're wounded, you're so much more aware that you cannot make further mistakes. Or you're dead."

"And then his father died," Luna continued, "and not only was he wounded, he was depressed." She wiped away more tears. "I'm sure....when he looks at us...at Astra...he's beginning to worry. If he makes any more mistakes, it's all over."

I nodded, looking back to the now-empty bed. "Not only can he not be with Astra the way he admitted to your mother...he'd be failing in the chance given to him by her...failing the only other thing he has left."

The tears had stopped, and Luna looked exhausted now. "I've known for a long time now how he feels about her....I always knew it was something like that...never knew my mother could see though. Never knew she had done this for him." She took a deep breath, then started for the door.

I followed, still thinking.

Flash-burned....

"Don't tell them about this," Luna said. "At least, don't tell Astra. I think..." Luna paused at the door, "I think you should hold back on this with Cyrus, at least. For a while. But I would like him to talk about it eventually....and you're not that threatening to him, so maybe he will talk to you about it."

When we were in Luna's room and I made for the door, a thought occurred to me. "Why couldn't Cyrus think of marriage? He's a noble, right?"

Luna sighed. "Not noble enough," she said, sarcasm biting.

"Not even as a divine knight? A hero to this country?"

"Subscribing to the Knight-in-Shining-Armor? My father's response to that would be: 'stop with the fairytale nonsense. Dreams are for children.'"

I shook my head. "And Cyrus still wanted to be Astra's Knight-in-Shining-Armor?"

Luna's expression was slowly morphing from sadness to frustration--having removed her tiara and glaring down at it in her hands. "Cyrus always was a dreamer."

Arashi_Leonhart
November 23rd, 2011, 06:44 AM
Days go by


I spent the next week as the conductor for a musical ensemble. Tylis had two of his people begin reporting in on the mole's movements. His name was Darman--and he was apparently wising up by staying in one spot and not trying to attract too much attention to himself.

Of course, smart was not necessarily good.

For another two days I didn't even see Cyrus or Astra. Both apparently had the tendency to seclude themselves when presented with things that were emotionally difficult for them as I could only assume Luna had given them their messages and they were not taking it easily. On the third day, Cyrus met with me and gave me a written record made by one of the transcribers in the palace of his report to the king about the Queen's death, as well as the one he made after his father had died while they assaulted the mercenaries responsible. He simply handed them over and shrugged, saying, "I forgot about them," before leaving for his duties. With other things on his mind, I simply went about the issues I could deal with myself and would only bother him once I absolutely needed his input.

I spent the next day reading over the report--as well as Sildan and Troyen and the captain of the cavalry unit Cyrus had taken with him to raid the mercenaries. I made note of one odd point and made a mental reminder to bring it up with Cyrus the next chance I had.

The fifth day was spent venturing into the city and looking in on Darman's whereabouts myself, just to put it into my consciousness. I spent the remainder of the day wandering about, simply acquainting myself with the local people and architecture and trying to put myself into the right frame of mind to take this all in correctly. Because the more and more I began to think about it, the more and more something felt odd about this entire plot.

Two more days were spent asking questions--one day with a group of city gate guards that had been on duty during the day Stella was killed, the next with the local herbologists that might know of the various poisons that could have been used and easily made. While the knighthood itself had determined the location of the mercenaries by the poisons they had used, I wanted to simply retrace some of their steps to try and figure out what was bothering me. Knights were well and good, but it seemed just a little too easy that simple soldiers with no investigative skills other than intimidation could have weaseled out the weasel so quickly.

The following day, a full week after I had seen the memory, I finally caught up with Cyrus again.

Arashi_Leonhart
December 1st, 2011, 01:38 AM
Urgh, a five day weekend and spending a lot of it out of town...totally forget about habits I hardly have anyway...


Tower of the Knight Crescent


It was so early in the morning that the sun had not even begun its trek even toward the horizon when I woke. The whispers in my heart urged me on, despite the meager three or four hours of sleep I had received. I completely geared up--because I felt the need to--and headed out.

Cyrus was in the stables, fully armored and armed. He was readying a horse.

Although I had entered completely noiselessly, he noticed. It really was a difficult thing to swallow, that an assassin could manage to penetrate the palace defenses when they had someone who just sensed your presence. Probably why he felt so terrible about it as well--how this sense had failed him. He simply motioned to one of the other horses and I wordlessly began to ready it for a ride.

We took to the streets slowly; without the sunlight it was difficult for the horses to see. Both of us trotted at a safe pace, though still outdoing the brisk walk of a bipedal creature. First down the main city street, then to the east, angling around a part of the cliffside the city had been partially carved out of. A grove existed between a deep recess in the cliff face with a walled off portion blocking the city from trespassing beyond into an area where the trees grew wild. The wall looked aged and unkempt, but sturdy, and the gate towered above us as we approached.

Cyrus drew his blade--still sheathed safely--and simply extended his arm and tapped the gate with the pommel of his weapon. As if made of paper, the gate gave way to his simple push. He dismounted and I followed suit.
"Spectres within," he said. "Only a holy touch will turn them."

He fully drew his blade and I pulled the bow from its hook on my quiver and nocked an arrow. We stepped into the grove and the gates closed behind us on their own accord.

It was only a dozen steps or so when Cyrus suddenly lashed out with his blade-arm, cutting through a barely visible ghost-like apparition of a knightly figure to his right. Not a meter away from us.

I blinked. I whipped up my bow and let the arrow fly.

Another apparition dissipated before it had a chance to strike at us from above. I had to bite back my annoyance at having completely missed the one right next to us. Cyrus started to up his pace, hopping over logs and various bushes as the ghosts of some twisted past began to make their presence known further.

Three more swipes of a blade and two arrows later, I caught myself before crashing headlong into Cyrus' back as he paused. I glanced over his shoulder to see a wall of eight or nine spectres before us, blocking the way. Despite the situation, I did take a moment to regard them carefully; all looked to be wearing Aerowlyn-styled armor.

Cyrus finally turned to actually take me in for the first time today. Despite the pain I saw there, I also saw an unwavering trust--which he somehow gave to me despite the fact that I had yet to do anything to earn it. "Every two cuts."

I nodded in understanding.

He turned back and faster than expected in chainmail armor, he darted into the barricade of enemies and struck. Then struck again.

I fired.

He fell prone as the apparition about to spoon itself around Cyrus’ body dissipated like fog in the wind before my arrow. Cyrus rolled up with a slash, another, then duplicated his fall as I shot again.

When none remained, he returned to his running and I followed.

Two more cuts and two arrows later, we found ourselves before a tower.

Although it clearly stood above the canopy of the trees, I had not seen it from the entrance to the grove and found it peculiar. Cyrus did not--and like the gate, tapped the entrance with the pommel of his blade and the door gave way.

Like the rock of the mountain, this tower was a powder-white and gray. The interior was additionally decorated with a glowing bluish and goldish stonework on the floor that wove an interlacing pattern around the main room. A staircase began at either side of the entry door--the left shallower than the right and leading to a set of doors directly before and above us. The right stairs wound continuously up the tower with a door punctuating each time it passed the eastmost and westmost points of the circle.

Cyrus sheathed his weapon and looked over his shoulder at me. "Nothing on the inside. You can relax."

I smirked at him, hopeful to lighten the mood. "But everything just seems to be so interesting with you. I can't wait for the next bit." I replaced my bow however on its hook and then removed my quiver and placed it at the foot of the right stairway. "Going up?"

He nodded and started up my correct guess--the right stairway. His hand touched the stonework on the wall and I saw a rune underneath his fingertips. It glowed faintly--blue and gold as well--and similar runes then began to glow along the staircase, illuminating our way.

Also as expected, he led me right up to the top of the tower--which must have stood at least fourteen levels high. Modest compared to many wizardry towers, but impressive to think of when comparing it to the three-to-five level high trees of the grove.

We exited at a door facing southward at the very top of the stairs and came to an observation balcony at the highest point of the tower before it simply rounded off as a ceiling above the central area. The sun was just now starting to warm the sky from indigo to the cool blue that always evoked the smell of morning dew and the soft chirping of birds to me. It was just enough to see the city by in a vague, blue-toned sort of way.

I looked to Cyrus and for just a fraction of a second he looked overwhelmed by the sight--a little boy lost amidst the responsibilities of a lord. I sighed.

He surprised me by asking, "What?"

Shaking my head, I just leaned forward against the railing and looked out over the city. "I sometimes forget that you're only eighteen. You sound, act, and appear older most of the time."

I felt his gaze on me. "I suppose the same could be said of you. Twenty-two, correct?"

"Yes."

Silence prevailed for a while and we both watched as the sky grew warmer and warmer, approaching the azure that would signify a new day. A cock began crooning off in the distance and he finally let pretenses fall and leaned on the railing next to me.

"She mentioned my father," he began, reluctant but clearly ready to get this off his chest. "Said that she was glad it did not work out between them. They once loved each other," he stated.

I tilted my head in acknowledgement. Not really important at the moment.

"She said that she was glad that...glad that I was there. Her last words were 'take care of my daughters.'"

I nodded. Astra and Luna had told me as much. He was still hiding something--which sounded a little disjointed...even for a dying woman. At least for a dying woman who seemed intent on leaving enchanted letters for her heirs.

"You saw her light die," I probed.

He finally turned to look at me carefully. "How do you know about that?"

I shook my head gently and gave him a wry look. "Cyrus, I come from the world's most ancient order. I recognize the signs."

Cyrus shook his head back at me. "I do not have any ancient lineage like that of the princesses."

"It might be old enough that records are lost or destroyed."

"This is one of the reasons I wanted to be a scholar," he muttered. "I do not think it is that. Neither does Astra or Luna. Darcia is one of the world's foremost minds on the topic and we've asked her of anything similar. She never heard of such a manifestation."

I shrugged. "Then something else. It doesn't really matter."

Sunlight was clearly beginning to peek out, although none reached us as the cliff of the mountain still shielded us and probably would continue to do so for another few hours. Cyrus looked down toward the treetops. "Yeah, I saw it flicker out."

And that was that. I knew he would not tell me yet about everything she said, but to admit that was probably hard enough. He probably had never said anything like that to anyone--just the thought was depressing enough, to see a soul actually leave the body.

I thought of the spectres and how he had seen them so clearly. It brought up the note I had made about his fight with the assassins.

"The mercenaries, in your report, you mentioned that they just lined up to fight you when you charged?"

He nodded immediately. His report dictated that upon the discovery of their base, the knights of Aerowlyn and the Twilight Knights had charged in on horseback. The mercenaries alerted to their presence had lined up to meet them in a counter-cavalry formation, despite having considerably fewer numbers. "It is one thing that has bothered me. For mercenaries, they seemed rather fanatical for their cause to be purely monetary. Not disciplined so much as...headstrong about it. From what I hear from other soldiers, mercenaries tend to cut and run at the sign of a situation that will not benefit them."

I thought about it. "And what did you see?"

He paused to think over his answer for a moment. "It...It's complicated. It was...well, okay, when you go outside at night, you can see all the stars clearly, correct? You see pinpoints of light that are clearly defined. Well, looking at them, it was more like looking at stars in a dream. When you dream about looking at the stars, you don't see the lights clearly defined; you feel the general status and existence of stars, but you do not actually recall identifying each one. I knew they were there. I knew what they were doing. But I never clearly saw them." He sighed. "I thought at the time it was just my inexperience with unknown quantities--first time leading a charge into enemies. And I...well, I was angry about her...her death."

Even I'm not exactly sure when my hand came out to take his--despite still being covered in a steel gauntlet. He seemed to appreciate the sentiment at least, his hand very carefully squeezing mine. "I'll make sure to look into their history." I squeezed back. "You can't blame yourself though. You had every reason to be angry."

He sighed again and stood up to full height. "I know. I'm not blaming myself, it's just that...." he thought over his words again, "I feel a bit disappointed. Frustrated, mostly."

I couldn't manage to clamp down on the snort that escaped me. "Welcome to adulthood. I maintain that people only develop the drive for intimacy at this age because they simply need to vent." Teasing, at this point, and his lip ends did quirk a bit at that, though clearly his mind was wrongly elsewhere than that of a normal young adult male. "Speaking of venting, do those things attack on the way back out?"

"Unfortunately, yes. They only just appeared this last age....I think it had to do with those lost to the war and then the sudden truce everything came upon....left the fallen uneasy." Explaining the Aerowlyn soldier garb.

"Fine then," I said. I started to rearm myself once we reached the foot of the stairs.

"I am surprised you have not asked about the tower," he said.

"I don't need any kind of explanation," I said. "It's the Tower of the Knight Crescent, the man who created the Heithai Valis."

He looked at me funny. "Most people do not even know its name."

I shrugged as we stepped out back into the grove. "Most people do not know the founder," I whispered, although he did not hear me over the sound of his blade being drawn and the banshee-like cry from an enemy spectre.

Arashi_Leonhart
December 2nd, 2011, 05:01 AM
Day Go By


Upon returning to the palace I left a note for Jaya to take a look at some of the gear recovered from the mercenaries that had been responsible for the assassination. I told her to give me any kind of lead she could.

The remainder of the day was spent with Cyrus as he recounted the battle, briefly touched his father's death, and his chase with the actual assassin who had poisoned the Queen. Although vague about specific details of the latter two, he was opening up and that was a good sign. He did admit that although the man was armed, Cyrus had played a bit with him before cutting him down, and that it weighed on him enough that he never intended to do it again. Maybe a little afraid to admit that, he looked at me warily for a reaction, but I had simply shrugged.

"What's done is done." I'd looked him strait in the eye at that point. "You believed you had failed the Queen. You had just lost your father. Nobody can blame you for feeling vindictive."

He moved on from that, clearly with the desire to find a new topic of discussion. He told me about Luna giving him and Astra the letters from Stella and how Astra had yet to leave her room since then. They had spent most of that time together and he only just now was out and about to simply give her space. "She will be fine," he said, "My guess is tomorrow she will be ready to face everything like normal."

I reported Darman's activities--or lack thereof--to Cyrus and he nodded in acknowledgement. "I will speak with him in the next few days...I just want to be sure I will be completely fine when I do. No more retribution."

Fine and good to wait, although ultimately, the decision was not left to him.