By nightfall, the group had made great strides from the tiny port town. They settled within the forest and set up camp within a small clearing of trees with Cedars and Firs towering around them, their piny smell mixing with the salty brine in the air. Once the wood had been collected and the fire was made, they all gathered closely, bracing themselves against the cold, ocean wind, and to block the weakening flames from being blown out.
It was Caraka who broke the silence. “So, Kytheran, Aaralynn, how do you two know Cipher?”
Kytheran eyed Cipher.
“We all met down in Tarthen. They were a couple of revolutionaries and I asked them if they wanted to do something bigger than preaching on the street corner. So, they joined me,” Cipher explained.
“You must be one hell of a charmer to convince two Atheriens from Tarthen to join you on little or no information,” said Caraka.
“Must be my good looks.” Cipher grinned.
“No,” said Kytheran. “We knew her ultimate goal was to rid the world of Tamesis, so we decided we would try to help.”
Caraka eyed him sideways. “Tamesis?” she asked coldly.
“We’ve had some minor disagreements with him,” said Aaralynn.
A twitch tugged at the corner of Caraka’s mouth. “Oh, you are not alone on that.”
Cipher rubbed her hands together. “So, we are all in for the same goal, correct?”
The other three grumbled.
“Wonderful! Makes my job easier.”
“What is your job?” asked Kytheran.
Her face darkened suddenly. “To collect like minded individuals and bring them to my friend.”
“That sounds very ominous,” Aaralynn said worriedly.
“Don’t worry, she’s good. She’s like me,” she said softly.
“Can you tell us anything?” asked Kytheran.
“No, she has to. She has to.” Cipher looked away, her face blank.
“Anyways, what can you do?” Kytheran asked Caraka, trying to change the subject.
“Excuse me?” She looked at him, suspicious.
Kytheran waved towards her swords. “Are you a warrior of some sort? You don’t see many women carrying around swords.”
“No, no. I’m not a warrior.” She bit her lip. “I’m a sorceress.”
Aaralynn’s eyes widened. “A sorceress?”
Caraka raised an eyebrow. “Do we have a problem?”
The elf narrowed her eyes. “Do we?”
“I’m not crazy,” said Caraka.
“You can’t prove that. Lots of sorceresses who have broken minds have days of clarity. Doesn’t change the fact that they are a danger to others and themselves,” said Aaralynn, pointing at the woman accusingly.
“Well, you went out on a limb with Cipher, who has strange eyes and heralds from the great mysterious south, yet you won’t do the same with me?” Caraka pointed out.
“Cipher didn’t kick my friend in the shin upon meeting,” said Aaralynn.
“I was defending myself,” Caraka said defensively.
“Because I gave you such reason too after saving you from those soldiers,” said Kytheran, glaring.
She snorted. “Wouldn’t be the first time a man saved a woman only to attack her later.”
“Wait,” said Cipher. She waved her hands. “Look, yes, Caraka is a sorceress. She does not have a broken mind though. I can assure you of that.”
“How do you know?” asked Aaralynn. “You haven’t seen her in five years. You admitted it yourself!”
“If she were to have her mind break, it would have happened long ago,” Cipher insisted.
Aaralynn still glared at Caraka, unconvinced, but unwilling to push it further.
“How about you two, then? Can the two of you fight?” Caraka eyed Kytheran’s bow and Aaralynn’s lance.
They looked at each other. “Like Cipher said, we are just a couple of revolutionaries who want to change society,” said Kytheran.
“And what, or who, are you trying to revolutionize?” asked Caraka.
“The Drecona Kingdom. We don’t believe in Tamesis’ mantra about the perfect world that he is feeding the royal family nor the war up in Alezarie,” said Aaralynn.
Caraka tilted her head. “Alezarie?”
“Yes,” said Kytheran. “You know the place?”
She shrugged and looked down. “You could say that.”
Cipher glanced at her. “I’m sure she’s past by on her travels. Did you ever go near the fighting?”
“Once in a while,” she said softly.
Kytheran moved closer to Caraka, staring at her swords. “Would I be able to look at them?”
She looked at him, confused.
“Your swords. Can I look at them?”
“Why?” she asked.
He shrugged. “I may be an archer, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate swords.”
She seemed hesitant, but reluctantly handed him one of them.
The entire sword was black, even the blade. The handle was wrapped in black dragon skin and a black crystal sat in a dragon’s claw for a pommel. When light hit the crystal, strangely, it gleamed silver.
Kytheran twisted the sword in the air. The blade too, when the light hit it, gleamed silver. He studied the strange metal, running his fingers down it. “Why does the sword--”
Suddenly, he felt something on his hand. It felt like something was crawling up it onto his wrist, then forearm. Only, he couldn’t see anything. He tried to move his hand away, but something kept it in place.
It was then he realized, everything went quiet. The smell of blood and gore filled his nostrils, and goose bumps crawled across his skin. His heart quickened and a sense of dread filled the pit of his stomach. His hand started to shake.
In his mind eye, he could see the silver eyes.
And the ticking of a clock.
Caraka yanked the sword out of his grasp and Aaralynn grabbed his arm, pushing his hair off of his face. He didn’t realize he had been sweating.
“What happened?” Aaralynn shrieked.
“I-I don’t know!” Caraka said defensively. “I’ve never seen someone have a reaction like that before! How was I suppose to know that would happen?”
Aaralynn’s lips curled into a snarl. “They are your weapons! You should know how people will react to them!”
“Are you insane? It would be impossible for me to predict something like that!” Caraka snapped.
“Cipher!” Aaralynn looked towards her. “What the hell happened to him?”
She put her hands up. “How am I suppose to know?”
Aaralynn looked over at Caraka. “I know what happened.”
Caraka snorted. “And what is that?”
“Those are Sorceresses’ blades!”
Caraka stared at her, shocked. “What? How dare you accuse me of carrying Sorceresses’ blades.”
“Aaralynn! Don’t make such an accusation! Sorceress blades are highly dangerous and Caraka would never have one. Those things possess people!” Cipher snarled.
“What do you think it tried to do now?” she snapped. The elf remained stiff and unbelieving.
Caraka’s eyes widened. “Tamal wouldn’t--”
“Ha!” Aaralynn pointed a finger at her. “So, it has a name.”
“Lots of people name their weapons. It’s not all that uncommon,” said Cipher.
“Not that,” said the elf. “Tamal wouldn’t what.”
Caraka stiffened. “I don’t have to explain myself to you.”
“Oh, yes you do. Look at what you did to my friend!” Aaralynn snapped.
“Ask him if it talked,” she said.
The elf looked at her, bewildered. “What?”
“Did it talk? The sword?” asked Caraka.
Aaralynn shook Kytheran slightly. “Ky? Ky? Tell me, did the sword talk to you?”
He shook his head and looked at her, still stunned. “What?”
“The sword, did it talk to you?” she asked.
“No…” he said, slowly shaking his head.
Caraka snorted. “See? Not a Sorceress blade. Everyone knows that Sorceress blades can talk, and will talk once they have a chance.”
Aaralynn glared at her. She fingered her lance nervously.
She glared back. “I wouldn’t have a weapon that could possess me. Do you think I’m stupid?”
“Not like you know you very well,” the elf said venomously.
“Look!” said Cipher, “It’s been a very long day. Maybe we should get some rest.”
“Someone should take watch,” said Caraka.
“Volunteering?” asked Cipher.
The shadow Atherien sighed. “Fine, but you’re next.”
“Sounds good.” Cipher grinned.
The group then prepared for bed. Caraka sat close to the fire as the others pulled out blankets and wrapped them around themselves, finally lying down to sleep.
“’Night everyone,” Cipher yawned.
“Hope you all have pleasant dreams,” Caraka muttered.
Kytheran shot her a dark look. “I’ll stay up too.”
Cipher looked at him, surprised. “Oh. Are you sure? Caraka is perfectly adept at watching us.”
“That’s not what I’m concerned about.” He glared at the shadow Atherien. “Just want to be extra sure nothing happens.”
Cipher and Aaralynn looked at each other and shrugged. “Fine by us.”
The two girls lay down, pulling their blankets tightly around themselves, and quickly fall asleep.
Caraka and Kytheran sat staring at the fire for awhile. She pulled her knees up to her chest and rested her head on them. Neither of them looked at each other and the air was tense between them. They both knew his reaction was odd, regardless of it being a possessed blade or not, but her stiff silence told him she must know something.
Kytheran shifted uncomfortably. He paused for a moment, considering his words.“Are you sure your swords are not Sorceress' Blades?”
She mockingly thought for a moment. “I’m fairly sure.” She tapped her chin. “Mmhmm, don’t think anyone switched them in the night.”
“You don’t have to be such a wench about it,” he said flatly.
She shrugged. “Well, you don’t see me questioning your weapon, do you?”
“I’m not stopping you.” He raised his eyebrows.
She tilted slightly, examining the bow on his back. “It’s too shiny.”
Kytheran stared at her, flabbergasted. “Honestly, that was the best you could come up with?”
Caraka examined her clawed fingers. “Archery was never my thing.”
He glared at her. “This was in my mother’s family for generations. It’s the only memento I have of her.”
Caraka’s eyes widened. “Oh, I’m so sorry.”
Kytheran shrugged. “What about those? I know those can’t be your run-of-the-mill swords.”
“How can you be so sure?” she asked.
“Because, when I touched the black sword, something grabbed me,” he said.
She blinked, and quickly looked away. “Is that it?”
“Oh, come on. Has that never happened before?” he asked.
She brushed away some leaves that covered the ground. “Honestly, no one really has asked to have a look at them. So, I never knew something like that would happen.”
Kytheran scratched the scruff on his cheek. “Well, I didn’t exactly see what grabbed me. I only felt something grab my wrist and when I tried to pull away, it wouldn’t let me. What did you say the name was?”
He nodded towards her. “And the other one?”
“Twyla. It’s exactly like Tamal only gold instead of black,” she said. She shifted uncomfortably, and glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. “What about your bow? Does it have a name?”
Kytheran pondered for a moment. “Leora, I believe.” He shrugged. “I never use the name, so I can’t be certain.”
“Pretty name ,” she said.
He smiled slightly. “Thanks, it’s my mother’s name.”
Caraka stiffened and felt the warmth come to her cheeks. “Were you close to your mother?”
He shrugged. “You could say that.”
Caraka looked out into the forest, sensing to stay away from that topic. She watched the red and silver light from the moons filter between the trees. Mist started to appear in between the plants and trees, dazzling brighter when it hit the light.
“You know, I’ve always like the mist. I use to watch it for hours when I was a kid when it would gather in the plains,” said Caraka.
“Does have a bit of a mysteriously beautiful quality to it, doesn’t it?” said Kytheran as he looked out towards the mist.
Caraka snickered. “I lived near a Magi Tower. Mist use to gather all hours of the day and night. My mother use to tell me that if I kept staring at it, I would start absorbing it.”
Kytheran scanned her hair and eyes. “I would say you did.”
She frowned. “What’s your excuse? I’ve never seen hair and eyes like that.”
He snorted. “My mother had golden hair and eyes.”
“And what did you inherit from your father?” She raised her eyebrows.
“My dashing good looks,” he said, grinning.
Caraka tilted her head and gave a snorting laugh. “I don’t know if dashing is the word I’d use.”
He glared at her. “I wouldn’t be so pompous, if I were you. Looks as though you haven’t seen the likes of a proper bath in months.”
“Excuse me, but I do bathe. Just not in the ultra fancy tub with all the exotic bathing salts that you apparently do.”
He snorted. “Don’t I wish.”
“Could have fooled me,” she said.
He furrowed his brow. “You said you lived near a Magi Tower? Did you train there?” he asked, switching the topic back.
“What is it to you?” she asked, suspicious.
He shrugged. “Curious.”
“No, I didn’t. My mother did. I was quite sheltered as a child,” Caraka explained.
“Could have fooled me,” he said.
She glared at him.
“Surely you got tested there, at least to see how your mind is,” he said.
“See how strong you are?”
“At least get registered in case you went bonkers?”
She shook her head.
Kytheran looked at her with disgust on his face. “And we are suppose to trust you? You aren’t even registered! You don’t know how strong you are!”
“Oh, I am well aware of how powerful I am,” she said, waving her hand flirtatiously
“And why wouldn’t your mother allow you to see the Magi if there were so close to you? Why would she put her own daughter in so much danger?” he asked.
“Because, my mother wasn’t a humanoid.”
Kytheran cocked an eyebrow. “What?”
“My mother was a dragon. She didn’t believe in the Magi Order. Thought they were too oppressive for me,” she said.
“So, how did you learn magic?” he asked.
“I was taught by my mum and my granny. Occasionally, my mum would ask for some help, especially with texts, from the Order, but otherwise, I guess you could say I was home schooled,” she explained.
“Oh, guess you can count higher than ten too?” he asked.
She glared at him and threw a pebble at him.
He snickered. “Just asking! I don’t know what they teach at the Magi schools, no less the Magi home schools.”
Caraka nodded towards the slumbering Aaralynn. “Isn’t she a magi?”
Kytheran glanced at his friend. “More of a healer. I think she knows rudimentary elemental magic.” He shrugged. To say he had a limited knowledge of magic was an understatement.
Caraka raised an eyebrow. “You think?”
He shrugged. “Magic isn’t really my forte.”
“Oh? Then what is?” she asked.
“Oh! So you are a soldier then? From Drecona, I presume?”
“I was,” he said sourly. “They don’t take too kindly to my people, no matter how good we are.”
Caraka tilted her head. “And how good were you?”
She was taken aback. “So, I guess you must have fought in Alezarie then?”
“Once or twice.” He looked at her suspiciously.
She put her hands up defensively. “Just curious.”
“Look, I was never a big fan of killing people for the sake of an ideal…or a rock. I was kind of forced into the family business, sort-to-speak. Sent to military school and everything,” he said.
Caraka raised her eyebrows. “Your family must be pretty wealthy.”
He shrugged. “Sure.”
Caraka wrapped her arms around her shins and closed her eyes. Her head began to pound, the pain emanating behind her eyes. She started to massage her temples with her fingers.
“Caraka? Are you all right?” asked Kytheran.
She nodded. “I’m fine, just a headache.”
“Do you get those often?”
“Sometimes.” She linked her fingers behind her neck.
“Must be from all that magic in you,” he said.
Her lip twitched. Her head began to pound even more. She gritted her teeth, and ran her fingers through her hair, grabbing and pulling at it. It felt as though her head was about to split in two…or melt.
“Caraka?” Kytheran’s voice sounded distant, ghost-like. She kept her eyes tightly shut. She knew if she opened them, her world would be spinning.
The pain rushed down her neck and into her shoulders, making them achy and sore. Even through her eyelids, the light of the fire made her eyes burn.
Then suddenly, in her minds eye, she could sense it. She could sense her.
Hello, my dear. Are you not going to introduce us? said the light womanly voice.
Go…away… Caraka thought weakly. You are…hurting me.
Tsk, shouldn’t you be use to this by now? If you had spent less time pushing me away…
Please…just, go back into your little hole, she begged. My head…it hurts.
Like I said, she said pompously, If you spend your time actually interacting with me, you wouldn’t be in this predicament.
I want nothing to do with you, you are a mad woman.
Mad? Me? Looks like someone needs to get out more.
Just go away. He’s probably staring at me.
Oh? Are we infatuated with someone?
Don’t try to go and read my emotions. I have enough to deal with without you babbling on about feelings I may or may not have.
Oh, you always take the fun out of everything
Is he attractive? Sure. Do I like him in that sort of way? No. Have fun with that, Caraka spat internally.
Someone a little touchy? Looks like you are in dire need of a nice hot spring. Maybe you should find one, the voice spat back.
Look, can you just go away? I need to get some rest.
A scowling sound reverberated in her head. Fine, go have your rest.
There was a swooshing sound and Caraka’s ears popped. She opened one eye to look at Kytheran’s concerned face.
“A-Are you all right?” he asked.
She waved him off. “I’m fine. I just think I should get some rest.”
“Are you really sure? I can just wake Aaralynn up. She can give you some energy, make you feel better,” he said.
“Honest, Kytheran, I don’t need any help. I think I’ll just go to sleep after all. Will you be all right?” she asked.
“Don’t worry about me,” he said, placing a hand on her shoulder. “I’ll just wake Cipher up in a couple of hours.”
She smiled softly. “Thanks.”
He smiled back.
“You know, Kytheran, I want to apologize for kicking you in the shin,” Caraka said, rubbing the back of her neck.
He grinned sheepishly. “I should be lucky it wasn’t somewhere worse. I’m sorry for dragging you off like a madman. I should have explained the situation a bit better. I just didn’t want people eavesdropping on us and all. I wanted to get you somewhere a bit more quiet before explaining.”
She hand waved him. “Don’t worry about it. At least we are both apologetic, right?” Caraka held out her hand. “Apology accepted?”
Kytheran looked at it, and then shook her hand. “Apology accepted.”
Caraka went to grab her blanket, some tiredness touching her eyes. She wrapped the blanket snugly around her shoulders and laid down, using her rucksack as a pillow. It wasn’t long before she was asleep.
Kytheran moved so he could lean against a tree. He stared at Caraka for several moments; she hadn’t taken off her belt which held her swords.
It seemed a bit overprotective for him, then again, she had been on her own for a long time. One never did know when someone, anything, would pounce.
Nonetheless, he thought back to earlier. He could still feel the immense fear in his heart, and his hands were still slightly clammy.
What he thought strange though, was why he saw the silver eyes in his mind’s eye and heard the clock. The sickening fear he understood; many people placed spells on their weapons to keep them from getting stolen. Many of which tried to scare people off, and what better way to do that than to make would-be thieves actually scared?
Still, he didn’t know how those other two things factored into it. Maybe he really did see a sorceress’s spirit that lived inside the blade. Yet, Caraka was adamant that her swords were normal, or at least somewhat normal. Even Cipher backed her up. Why would Cipher back her up if it wasn’t true? Why bother searching them out and begging them to help her if she was just to put them in danger like that?
He sighed softly. He would have to go with his gut, like he did before. He would have to trust that Cipher had something up her sleeve that was in their favor.
Yet, despite her apology, Kytheran didn’t feel like he could trust Caraka. When she went into that trance, she looked like she was in such pain. He worried that she was being controlled.
Kytheran leaned his head against the trunk of the tree. Not worth worrying about it now. Cipher will have to deal with her if anything goes wrong. He was wiping his and Aaralynn’s hands clean of Caraka; she was Cipher’s sole problem.
- 'Shadow's Dawn' - Ch. 2