Aurora pushed her sheaves of documents away, leaning back to stretch in her chair. I think this library is the best find I've made in some time, she thought, but I think that's enough research for today. She pushed the chair out and stood up, gathering the parchments, tomes, and scrolls spread before her with a wave of her hand and sending most of them flying to their home on the shelf. This left only a few books on the table which she gathered in her arms and walked to a back room where the oldest volumes were safely kept. She opened the door and...
Found herself falling headlong toward the ground over a marble fountain complete with cubby cherubs spouting water from vases and cornicopias. She sighed in resignation as she hit the water and came up soaked to the bone, her cream-colored dress shirt and dark jeans clinging to her frame, her golden curls plastered to her face in thick, dark brown cords. Why did I ever teach you about humor? A warm, slightly tingly presence brushed her mind, followed by another mind, this one laughing outright. "Alright, you two, enough fun at my expense for one day", she muttered.
My apologies, Samae, thought the laughing voice of her summon Valron. Don't say it if you don't mean it, she thought testily, though a smile quirked the corners of her mouth. The first presence brushed her mind again with something that at once felt like a warm blanket, and a puppy wagging its tail apologetically. Aurora chuckled softly, "You're forgiven".
The summoner put her small hands on the side of the fountain to hoist herself out. A hand reached out to help her, "Are you all right?".
"Fine. The Dome likes to play pranks on me once in a while," she said, taking the hand. "It thinks I've been gone too long, so it decided I literally needed to drop in..." She managed to haul herself out without further embarrassment and looked up (and up) at her rescuer. He was tall, though she'd grown accustomed to that as a fact of life when you yourself are only 5'4". She guessed that he easily topped 6ft with a lanky, yet graceful frame. His face, like the rest of him was long, slim and angular, but with a note of grace that made it all work for him. Being of a more rubinesque build herself, she preferred men of a sturdier build and more rugged visage, but she had to admit he wasn't hard on the eyes. "Thank you..."
"Adrien Krest." The tall man supplied, with a small smile. He had an open, peaceful kind of expression that immediately told her she was in the presence of a fellow old soul. "And, you are welcome."
She smiled in return, her eyes an amused electric blue. "I remember having seen you around. You're a teacher, aren't you?". He nodded. "It's nice to finally meet you, Adrien." She shook the hand that had helped her out of the water. "Though I prefer to make a better first impression," she added, looking down at herself, water still streaming from her clothes. With a laugh, she sat on the side of the fountain and proceeded to take off her boots and socks. "Nothing quite as unpleasant as squishy shoes..."
As Adrien stood, looking down at her, seeming about to say something, a small, cherubic-looking child trotted up and handed her a large, fluffy towel. "Thank you, little one," she said, smiling and taking it. The child grinned, hugged her around the neck, and scurried away. Aurora laughed, shaking her head, "The Domerii grow to be more every time I see them..." She proceeded to squeeze the water out of her shoulder length hair with the towel. She stood, draping the towel around her neck. "Thank you again, Adrien"
He smiled again. "You are welcome again...though I didn't catch your name..."
The woman laughed, "I am so sorry!" She shook herself, rather like a dog emerging from the water and the water flew off, suddenly leaving her clothes and hair perfectly dry, her hair falling in perfect gold ringlets to just past her shoulders. "I'm Aurora."
Adrien had seen and heard of her from afar. She was rather famous among the students and teachers. She was his senior as well, having been here before he arrived in the Dome, about eighteen years ago. This Aurora from afar with her strange blue eyes. He was sure they were always slightly different each time he saw them, for his memory was always perfect. He had never really spoken to her before though. Their paths hardly crossed despite living in the same place, but there was something about her that always brought his eyes to her figure which he only saw from afar. She had a lot of energy, a lot of positive energy that felt very pleasing to him. It was no wonder she always seemed to be surrounded by others. Such energy naturally attracted others to her.
He had never really thought much more about her though. She was just one of those things that would catch his attention every now and then when she was around, but soon he would return to whatever task was at hand. It wasn’t until one day when they passed each other in the halls. It was the closest he had ever been to her before.
He had a book in his hand, opened, and reading as he walked. It wasn’t a difficult task, seeing as he could read each page within a second and flip to the next one. He knew the halls so well, he hardly had to look up at all. He was also carrying scrolls and rolled up maps in his other arm. He felt her energy as they approached each other in the hall. He looked up momentarily and then smiled at her. She smiled back pleasantly, and then he looked back down at his book.
It happened when she passed by him. The air wafted over his face and her scent infiltrated his nose. He hadn’t been expecting it. It had caught him completely off guard. The smell of her made him stop dead in his tracks and the scrolls and maps fell right out of his arm. The book in his other hand almost did as well, except that he gripped it so hard his nails went straight through the cover and pages.
The smell of her instantly reminded him of a desert flower called datura. It was an extremely hallucinogenic plant when consumed, with a beautiful, typically, white flower of a trumpet shape. Not only did it cause hallucinations, but it was also known to be a rather deadly poison. It’s among those known as the “witch’s weeds”, like nightshade, henbane, and mandrake. It is said to be an essential ingredient to love potions and other witch’s brews.
It had an interesting smell, sweet but unique in away. It was an acquired taste of smell for those who enjoyed it. Adrien had never disliked it, nor had he ever been fond of it … until then.
Her scent forced a surge of salvia into his mouth. His salvia was an anesthetic, to numb the wound of any he bit. It was a natural instinct for his mouth to excrete more of it when around those of alluring scent. His throat burned for her blood, as if it were dried and cracked, fire scratching down his esophagus. His whole body tensed and he automatically stopped breathing. It was a good thing he didn’t really need to breathe. It was something he had taught himself back during his younger days whenever faced with the temptation. Don’t breathe. Then he didn’t have to smell them.
He also didn’t allow himself to move at all. His muscles were taunt, and ready to spring into the hunt. To move them might trigger a bad reaction. His pupils dilated much larger than usual, and the green in his eyes forced more of the blue and brown to the edges of his irises. He held very still. Just like stone, it was even a little strange for others to see a man hold so completely still and not breathe for so long. He swallowed, but his spit did little to help the burn. In fact, it only seemed to agitate it even more.
He had to admit to himself. For a moment he had been afraid, but then he allowed himself to exhale slowly and inhale again, her smell. It burned in just the same horrible way as before. The desire for her infecting every part of him that was left to desire, to yearn, to lust. The monster in him raged for it.
Let me out. Let me out. Let me have her. I want her. I want her. I need her. I want her.
He listened to it calmly, allowing the sensations to ripple through him, but then he smiled softly and his pupils regressed back to their usual size and the green receded back with the blue and brown. And then he relaxed and picked up his dropped scrolls and maps, and lamented his now slightly torn book. He imagined he looked rather much like a klutz at that moment. He continued on this way as if nothing had happened.
She always caught his eyes after that, the same as before that incident. Though, more curious thoughts drifted through his mind now. She must have a very concentrated field of energy around her to cause such temptation in him. That was all that really attracted a vampire, how much energy the being contained within their bodies, in their blood. Those with more made more appealing meals.
Adrien hadn’t accidentally murdered someone for their blood in a very long time. He didn’t even kill those he fed from anymore. Since he came to the Dome, he hadn’t needed to feed from anyone either. The Dome provided him with fresh blood every day. From where it came, he wasn’t sure, but he trusted it wasn’t from any vile means.
It seemed there was something also rather timeless about her blue eyes. And the strength and amount of her energy made him wonder if she was immortal as well, though certainly not anything like a vampire, like himself.
Aurora had left the Dome for sometime after that. He had never known why, just that he no longer saw or felt her energy around the Dome anymore. Until one day he was passing by a fountain in the gardens, which she fell straight out of the air and into. Adrien tipped his head to the side curiously, watching her splash down into it. An amused smile graced his features and his curiosity got the better of him. She was just about to climb out of the fountain herself when he extended his hand out to her.
“Are you alright?”
“Fine. The Dome likes to play pranks on me once in a while,” she said as he took his hand, still not having looked up at him yet. “It thinks I've been gone too long, so it decided I literally needed to drop in...”
His mouth quirked with another smile as she looked up at him, tilting her head farther and farther back, as she was, now that he was so close to her, rather short compared to himself. The water made her smell … interesting. His mouth watered in the same way as before. His throat ripped into flames. Ah, the burn.
“Thank you …” she said, and left him an opening to fill in.
“Adrien Krest,” he supplied, still smiling though a little less amused now. “And you’re welcome.”
She smiled back at him, her electric blue eyes amused. Yes, they definitely changed shades. “I remember having seen you around. You're a teacher, aren't you?”
He nodded for her.
“It's nice to finally meet you, Adrien.” And she shook the hand that had helped her out, not having let go yet. “Though I prefer to make a better first impression,” and she looked down at herself. She was still thoroughly soaked. She sat down on the edge of the fountain and continued to take off her shoes and socks. “Nothing quite as unpleasant as squishy shoes...”
I beg to differ, he thought to himself feeling his throat scorch the more he breathed in her smell. It was more of an amused thought than a bitter one, for a moment he had almost voiced it, but then one of the Domerii scampered up to her with a towel in hand.
“Thank you, little one,” she said, smiling and taking it. The child grinned, hugged her around the neck, and scurried away. Aurora laughed, shaking her head, “The Domerii grow to be more every time I see them...” She proceeded to squeeze the water out of her shoulder length hair with the towel. She stood, draping the towel around her neck. “Thank you again, Adrien.”
His mouth curved up in a smile again. “You are welcome again...though I didn't catch your name...” Though he already knew her name, it seemed more polite to ask for it.
She chuckled and said, “I am so sorry!”
She shook herself, rather like a dog emerging from the water and the water flew off, suddenly leaving her clothes and hair perfectly dry, her hair falling in perfect gold ringlets to just past her shoulders. Amusement infected his eyes and smile once more as he watched. She was just so interesting …
“Ah, of course. You were rather famous around here—still famous, since none have really forgotten you.” It was hard to forget the woman that made his throat burn so and his mouth water like this. “It’s an honor to meet with you at last. I saw you around before, but never really had a chance at introduction like this. You’re rather eye-catching, even when not falling out of the sky.”
His lips teased with more amusement to them.
“Though to me, you make more of a startling impression in just passing me by.”
OoC: I swear this won't be another Twilight, folks No sparklepires here (also known as angsty, glittery teenage vampires).
“Though to me, you make more of a startling impression just passing me by.”
She could feel his aura shifting beneath the surface as he spoke, something lurking there, like a leviathan in the deep... His power was old, she could feel it like the weight of looking at the sea. Whatever beast lurked within him was drawn to her. But his demon was far less interesting than the man's aura itself. It had the weight of lifetimes lived behind it, giving it a substance and depth that lingered on her tongue like a familiar taste... His energy was so intriguing...
The corners of her shapely mouth quirked. "It's hard to imagine something so simple being able to top falling from the sky, sir." She took the towel from around her neck, folding it neatly and setting it on the wall of the fountain. "To each his own, I suppose," she said with a hint of amusement, picking up her socks and wringing them out over the fountain. Then, she picked up her boots, pouring out the water in each. Setting the articles down with the towel, the summoner looked up at the sky. The woman smiled at the feel of grass beneath her feet, enjoying the physical contact with the energy of this familiar place, the only place that had ever felt like home to her. "Think I'll stay barefoot..." she muttered.
Seeming to greatly approve of this, Dome touched her thoughts once more, sending her an image of a familiar room. Yes she answered, you can have my things sent there.
"Well," she said, turning back to Adrien, "it looks as though I'll be staying awhile." She noted the very slightest change in his expression at her words.
The Domerii ran by again, taking off with the towel and her footwear. "The Dome is rarely forthcoming with its reasons," she added, watching the small figure disappear behind a hedgerow, "but it never calls me home for 'just a visit'". Her blue eyes grew darker for a moment in thought before lightening again as she smiled, their appearance contented and cerulean.. "No matter. All things become clear in time and no sense borrowing tomorrow's troubles." Aurora looked at the tall man beside her and winked, with just a momentary flash of electric blue in their depths. "We're both old enough to know that, aren't we?" It wasn't really a question.
The barest flicker of surprise passed over his features. The summoner closed her eyes briefly. "I don't think I've ever met a vampire as old as you in my travels." She looked at him again. "I actually didn't notice immediately." She smiled.
In travelling, Aurora had learned that not every world was immediately conducive to the type of chi channeling she normally used. Usually, the summoner would act more as a conduit, or valve, redirecting and concentrating the chi flowing around her. However, dropping into a new world sometimes caused a sort of "jet lag" when she needed time for her body to grow accustomed to the "flavor" of chi in a different place. Thus she had taken to carrying around a sort of "back-up" supply of chi, storing it like a battery to avoid feeling the affects of "chi lag".
The summoner was well aware of how tasty she must look to the vampire, whatever kind he might be. She had been toting around just such an excess power supply, so she could guess her aura was glowing like the northern lights. This undoubtedly made her look like a smorgasbord to anything that fed on life energy. She didn't need any such safeguard here in the Dome, so she gently and subtly released it into the ground under her feet. Like a slow exhale, her aura lessened to nearly that of a normal human. "I look forward to getting to know you during my stay, Adrien," she said with a smile as she did so.
The vampire immediately seemed to breathe just a little easier as her energy lessened, though she could still sense that tension he masked so well, just under the surface. He has such interesting eyes... she thought.
He smiled. "And I, you..."
The blonde looked around. "I think I'll take a walkabout...." She started to wander off. "There's some reason I've been brought back, I need only wait for that reason to present itself." She looked back over her shoulder at the man watching her, seeming almost studious in the intensity of his gaze. She smiled brightly at him. "Care to join me, Adrien?"
He was very familiar with the Dome itself. It did seem to have a mind of its own and also seemed to know when something or someone would be needed and where. The Dome never ceased to amuse and intrigue him. He liked to watch it play out its plans. He quite liked it here, feeling efficiently hidden from his sister and able to teach without having to worry for the lives and well-being of his students too.
“I don't think I've ever met a vampire as old as you in my travels.” She looked at him again. “I actually didn't notice immediately.” She smiled.
Ah, good, she knew then, and was still smiling pleasantly at him. Adrien wasn’t really surprised that this fact didn’t bother her. As she said, they were both old enough to know better. He also felt rather safe being around her. Not for his security, but her own. It was nice to be around another that he didn’t have to worry too much about accidentally killing if his instincts were to get the best of him. It had been a very long time since he felt he had to consider that possibility again. However, he was confident Aurora could defend herself against him just fine. Finding such a person was a very rare thing for him. The last person that could do that had been his friend, Nottuu, when he still had his soul, and that had been a thousand years ago.
He had come to relate others to soap bubbles: fragile, breakable, and temporary for the most part. Aurora’s age and her strength made her feel so much more solid to him. That was something he hadn’t felt in a person for just as long.
Seeming to be conscious of his attraction, Aurora’s aura lowered itself, defusing into the ground. The burn of his throat had calmed somewhat, and he was swallowing back less salvia now. Though, it was still there, just slightly less bothersome. There was still a build up of ancient and powerful blood within her body. It was still so tempting, but this did make it a little more comfortable to be near her.
And he wanted to be near her. He never missed out on a chance to learn from someone so intriguing to him. It was fun to watch her eyes change color as they did, varying shades of blue. It seemed it was based on her mood. Rather much like his own eyes. His become more blue if more emotional, more green if he was thirsty, and then a fine balance between all three colors when he was calm, which he was most of the time. However, he imagined his eyes were more green right now, in his reaction to her.
“I look forward to getting to know you during my stay, Adrien,” she said, still smiling, which he couldn’t help returning as well. Of course, he was told he always smiled a lot.
“And I, you …”
She looked around and then said, “I think I'll take a walkabout....” and started to wonder off. “There's some reason I've been brought back, I need only wait for that reason to present itself.” She looked over her shoulder and smiled brightly at him. “Care to join me, Adrien?”
He beamed back softly. “It would my pleasure, Aurora.”
And his long legs quickly caught up to her, and they continued to walk together through the Gardens. He kept his curious gaze upon her still, his eyes watching hers.
“You have very unique eyes. They change hues according to your mood, no?”
"You have very unique eyes. They change hues according to your mood, no?”
"Yes. I'm told they're rather striking. Honestly, I find it more burdensome." She smirked. "Makes for a terrible poker face."
She shrugged with a smile. "It is what it is." She looked around. "I love this place. It never changes. Not in big ways, at any rate." She looked across the lawn at two people sparring, obviously students from the way they wailed at each other with a total lack of finese, shouting out ridiculous names for flamboyant attacks. "People come and go... But this place..." She looked up at the sun, which wasn't really, and smiled, a curving of full lips completely at peace. "I'm home..."
She chuckled. "Sorry. I get overly introspective sometimes."
He looked at her. "No need to apologize. I feel very comfortable here myself."
She pushed some curls behind the ear closest to the man beside her. "Its just nice to know that there's someplace to come back to." She grinned. "Someplace that won't be totally different if you're gone for a hundred years or so."
"How long have you been teaching here?" she asked.
"About eighteen years. As the Dome counts anyway, so you never know."
She smirked. "I didn't realize I'd been gone for so long... Time flies when you're having fun, I suppose."
"Have you been many places in your travels?", the tall man asked curiously.
The short woman smiled. "Oh yes... More than I care to count."
"I sometimes wonder what became of the people I knew when I came here. The students I had to leave behind, my fellow teachers..." She laughed, "even my own teacher, gruff old lion that he was."
She nodded. "Oh, yes. I had just reached a new power threshold and was having trouble coping with it. I sought out the Dome in order to find a place I could come to grips with a new power plateau without endangering anyone, or the balance of my world, for that matter..."
He gave her a sidelong glance, like he wasn't sure if she was entirely serious..
She just chuckled in reply. "At any rate, I got dumped on a teacher when I got here, same as any other student, though I think he was a little miffed by the fact that the Dome had other plans for me. Not too long, and the Dome was dropping students on me. Sometimes literally." She shrugged, her eyes merry, "I think the place decided I'd hone my own skills better by teaching others."
Adrien looked thoughtful for a moment, "Why exactly did you leave when you did? It was a great mystery for awhile. Many people wondered, especially your students and the teachers who had to take them."
Her eyes shifted like rainclouds passing over a drab sky. "Things at home called me away for a time..." Her eyes went back to cerulean. "Then the Dome decided I needed to go travelling, and so I've done ever since.
"I've run into a few of my former students. Tokumaru, who's back to ruling his country, trying to avoid a war at the moment. Chetarren is out to maintain the universe's status quo, upon the whim of his dragon gods. The One only knows what mischief Zolf is into, or well meaning disasters Blitz has caused since I last saw them... I often wonder about Kisasian, though. And Ren, poor angst-ridden soul he is..." She sounded sympathetic, but said it with a smirk that looked back on the follies of youth.
The vampire seemed about to supply more information, but was cut off as the summoner exclaimed, looking around his shoulder, "Well, coincidences never cease around here! Please excuse me, Adrien, I have to catch someone." With that she darted off after a gleam of gold just disappearing around a corner.
Kisasian was always up earlier than the rest of the Pride. Ever since the Dome decided to dump him back on the Savannah, he'd made it a habit to rise before sunrise for some alone time. He moved quietly around his sleeping mates, pausing briefly to nuzzle one of the lionesses resting curled up around her young cubs. The Pride was growing, and he felt a faint tug at his heart when he looked down at the cubs, his children. At least, he was pretty sure they were his. He'd been gone for a while, but not for so long that his underlings would try undermining him.
Stepping out of the den, the large feline made his way across the plains, moving towards the rising sun. The burning circle was still only a thin line at the horizon, but he could tell it wouldn't take long before it would bathe the Savannah in its life giving rays. Coming across a large, flat boulder, Kisasian sank down for a bit of a rest and to watch the sun rise.
”You seem troubled, lad,” a soft voice spoke out in his consciousness.
“It is nothing.” the lion replied, not really startled by his mentor's intrusion. Ever since Shiru passed away so many years ago, he had made himself a home inside Kisasian's own mind. A spirit, really, but he did seem to have it as a hobby to invade his thoughts at the most inappropriate moments. It was enough to drive one insane, and sometimes the Pride leader really did fear for his own mind.
”I've done nothing that could possibly harm you, or your mind. Improved it, more likely,” the voice was more of a huff this time, which almost brought forth a smile on the great lion. Almost.
“I'm restless, Shiru.” Kisasian said. He shook his body, trying to get rid of the feeling of unease growing between his shoulder blades. “Something is about to happen.”
”How very ominous.”
“Fine, be that way.” It was tempting, oh so tempting, to stick his tongue out at the old shaman and his sarcastic comments, but Kisasian stopped himself in time. He was, after all, both adult and leader of his very own Pride. Some dignity had to be upheld. There was, however, nothing undignified in remembering some “special” time with his lionesses. Nothing at all. Kisasian couldn't help but chuckle as he heard his mentor's agonized cry. Alone in his own head, at last.
The sun was about to rise, painting the Savannah in burning reds and yellows. Kisasian got up from his rock and stretched. There was something in the air today, something that made his fur stand on end and his skin prickle. Tail lashing back and forth in agitation, Kisasian decided that the only way to get his mind off things would be to run until he was too tired to think.
He set off towards the rising sun, his powerful legs stretching out beneath him, the Savannah appearing to pass by in a blur. Up ahead a small trench appeared, and the lion gathered himself to get ready to jump. He took the leap...
And just as he was right above the trench, a silvery archway opened up before him. Kisasian only had time to identify it before he flew through, crashing into the stone wall on the other side.
”Looks like the Dome wants us again.” Shiru said, matter-of-factly.
It had shocked him to hear her mention Ren. For a moment he had to wonder if it was just a coincidence. Another could easily have the same name. So many passed through the Dome, it wasn’t impossible. He was about to ask her more about it, when she told him she has to catch someone. His eyes went to a streak of gold, but his eyes processed it more quickly. It seemed to be a lion, a bipedal lion anyway. Curious as always, Adrien sprang after her as well.
A boom went through the air when the lion hit straight into a wall at the edge of the Gardens. He came to a stop a few yards away and then called out, “Are you alright?”
It seemed the Dome was dropping a lot of people in today. He remembered Aurora words about it having a purpose and the dark color her blue eyes turned. It didn’t quite make him uneasy, though he was starting to wonder why it had chosen to drop Aurora in front of him, and why this lion-man was sent charging in before them as well.
What was his place in all of this that was soon to come?
Only that disquieted him somewhat. He had enemies. Powerful enemies. Part of why he had chosen to teach here, was to hide and wait for those that would come. Those who were chosen, and he was to teach them, guide them through their overwhelming task. That, he was certain, was his destiny. This was why he was made to live forever. This, he was certain.
Deep in the halls of the Dome exists a room. Of all the rooms in the ever-shifting Dome, this room is constant. An anchor in the abyss, the doorway to the void, this room contains all that is not. A room of darkness and the anti, it contains the empty, and the negative. Few have entered this room, for here you must not only stare into the abyss, but step into it, and fewer truly understand what it is to stare into the abyss, when the abyss can stare back at you. But who can imagine the possibilities if a little piece of that abyss followed you home...
"Are you alright?" Adrien asked as they ran up to the lion-man.
Aurora managed to suppress her mirth over the lion sprawled on the ground looking slightly dazed. Only the bright electric blue of her eyes gave her away ."Seems I'm not the only one making an unscheduled visit today. Welcome back, Kisasian." And, welcome back to you as well, Shiru, she thought.
The lion made a sort of growling reply as he rose. Greetings to you as well, young one, thought the ghost. Oh, it will be nice to have someone else to talk to for a change. And, such a polite young female, too... Unlike present company... The summoner laughed.
Don't insult me inside my own head, the man-lion thought grumpily as he stretched up to his full seven-feet-and-change stature.
Though unintimidated, Aurora had forgotten the striking size of her one-time teacher. He stood head and shoulders above the vampire, dwarfing the lanky man with his sheer muscular bulk. His coat gleamed like spun gold in the sunshine, sliding smoothly over rippling muscles. The lion was truly a joy to watch, a work of art wrought in flesh, by the cycle of life, over more time than even she had lived.
"I find it very interesting that the Dome has chosen to bring two of us back in the very same afternoon," she mused. "Judging by the observations I've made so far, I'd guess something big is about to go down. I was guessing it would be magical in nature, however, that doesn't really explain why it would bring back someone who isn't magically talented..." She looked up at the lion, debating whether to step back a pace to avoid bending her neck at such an angle, but deciding against it to put up a slightly more confident appearance toward the pride leader. It sometimes amused her that both the lion and his hitchhiker seemed unaware of the bulk of her years, but that only went so far. "Unless there has been a change in that area..." she added, smiling.
"No," he growled. Not for lack of effort on my part, the ghost added.
Aurora stifled a chuckle. "At any rate, the answer won't present itself while we stand here getting reacquainted. If you gentlemen don't mind, I think I'll continue my walkabout. Excuse me.." With an incline of her head, the blonde turned and walked away, strolling across the lawn toward the main gate of the garden.
As she emerged from the gardens into the labyrinthian corridors of the Dome, she noticed she still had a vampire in tow. "Wonder who we'll run into next," she mused.
"Earlier," the vampire began, "you mentioned a 'Ren'. I'm curious to know if you know much about him."
Aurora shook her head. "He was always a quiet kid, very closed off. I can only guess that he grew up pretty rough. He was tough on the outside, but all torn up underneath." She moved up against a wall as a student of incredible bulk made its way down the hall. A golem of some sort, by the look of it, though not resembling any sort of creature she'd ever seen, more like watching an avalanche come at you. She chuckled, then continued, leaning up against the wall. "Makes for one angry, angsty young man. Always a handful and always needing careful handling. Ren was a good kid, but he had a long way to go before he was ready to go after his revenge."
She nodded, "I know of nothing else to evoke such a drive and mix of negative emotions in a young man. I hope his girl can tame some of it."
"Did he mention her name?"
Aurora seemed to consider this a moment, then shook her head. "If he did, I can't remember it, I'm sorry."
Adrien shook his head, "You needn't apologize. I was just curious if you were familiar with a boy I know of the same name."
The woman nodded. "I understand, I just wish I cou..." Her face took on an odd look. She felt something brush up against her aura, disturbing and invasive, like an unwanted hand creeping up her leg. Suddenly, she yelped in pain and surprise, jumping away from the wall. "What the hell?!"
"What is it, Aurora?"
"Something bit me!" she exclaimed, spinning again to face the wall. "Something just took a bite out of my aura!"
He looked at the wall she had been leaning on a moment before as though the answer lie there, but saw nothing. Just the wall and a pillar standing a little away from it, casting a small patch of shadow on the floor behind where she had been leaning. "What? I see nothing there."
"If I knew what I wouldn't have called it 'something'," she retorted testily as she looked over her shoulder, as though trying to see if the "something" had taken a piece of her actual posterior as well. "It doesn't seem too serious..." she remarked finally. "Should heal up in a couple of hours if I get a little rest..." She looked behind the pillar and down to the floor, just as he had. Her eyes took in no more than his. She nearly growled in frustration, her hand resting on the upper curve of her buttocks, rubbing it slightly as though her actual tailbone were sore.
Adrien watched her. She felt like she should be unnerved by the way his eyes followed her, but strangely, she wasn't. Perhaps it was the air of peace about him, or the depth of his aura that told of the many centuries of his life. She had no doubt he was in control of his demon, and was largely unconcerned by the fact she seemed to be a flavor to its liking.
Finally, she turned to proceed again down the hall. "I need to visit my old chambers. There's too many creatures who would see a wound like this as a weakness."
He nodded. Aurora wasn't sure if he thought she was worried about attracting attention because of danger to herself, or the fact that she'd just rather avoid drawing such nasties into a public place. "I'm heading there now. If you want to finish our walkabout, why don't we meet back here in...three hours?"
He smiled. "I'll be waiting."
She smiled in return and left, making her way down the ever changing halls to a door she knew all too well. Her fingers brushed over nature scenes that actually moved under her touch as she grasped the wrought iron handle of the heavy oaken door and pushed it open. It swung soundlessly and smoothly on its hinges. She sighed in delight at the sight that greeted her.
Her room was nearly like she had left it. A fire burned merrily in the fireplace framed by two armchairs placed at the corners of a lush persian rug. The kitchen was spotless behind its granite bar, a kettle full of water on the stove. She moved into the bedroom where her four post bed sat piled with quilts and full bookshelves lined the walls. She looked from the bed to the door opened into the bathroom where an enourmous claw-footed bathtub stood briming with steaming water. "I love the Domerii..." she breathed as she shed her clothes and stepped into the bath.
She'd gotten used to the unobtrusive presence, and service, of the Domerii. They moved about, rarely seen, fulfilling needs, often before it was required, almost as though they were precognicent about the requirements of their guests. They were most often seen carrying messages around the Dome and running various errands for students and teachers alike. She was the only person she knew of who regularly saw the shapeshifting servants in their natural grey, slightly doughy form. Like the Dome itself, they seemed to be somehow fond of her and occasionally were seen by her, dropping off gifts in her room. Fresh flowers from the garden, a new book or quilt for the bed, or a new knick-knack for the mantlepiece. She was rather fond of them as well, sometimes she would tell them stories or answer some of their never-ending questions about the curiosities (being the students and teachers) they served here in the Dome. She never could tell them apart, as they were nearly identical in appearance and it seemed to make little difference as they possessed a group mind, in which all of them held all the same memories and information, which made trying to tell them apart entirely useless. They communicated with her in the same way they did each other, telepathically, though she was never certain if this was because they were incapable of speech or because they found it inefficient.
The summoner emerged from the bath, donning a soft, rich blue robe and walked out into the living room just as the kettle on the stove began to whistle. A domeri stood in the kitchen, just turning off the kettle, having set out the teapot and a cup on the counter. She almost didn't notice it immediately as they are only about 3ft tall in their natural form and its head was barely visible over the counter. It seemed strange to her, as she had never actually seen one of them performing a service task. They took it as a matter of pride being unseen in their service.
Aurora smiled at her visitor. "Hello there, little one." Her smile faded as it stepped fully into view. Its usual rich, warm grey color was mottled with a piqued, drab, whitish grey. Its flesh, usually reminding her more of modeling clay than anything, appeared waxy and seemed to be in the beggining stages of melting, like a candle not lit, but sitting a tad too close to the fireplace.
"What's wrong?" She hurried over, kneeling in front of it. The summoner put her hand against its face. The little servants were usually room temperature, this one was cool, even cold to the touch. "What's happening to you?"
The thoughts that invaded her mind at the touch were horrible. Pain, fear, confusion all jostled for preeminence in its mind. It didn't understand what was happening. None of them had ever been sick before. The little creatures were an extension of the Dome's power and as such were immortal.
The woman caught the little grey form as it collapsed, cradling it in her arms like a child. "I'm sorry..." She said, rocking it, soothing it as its mind cried in pain and confusion. "What can I do? What do I do? Tell me what's happening so I can help you."
Then, she felt something she thought she would never feel. The group mind of the Domerii and the Dome cut itself off from the one in her arms, like an iron door slamming shut. The little Domeri froze, in the shock of the experience.
Then it screamed. Aurora had never heard a Domeri make a sound before, and this was not a sound she would want to hear any time, let alone the first. It was a scream of utter agony, it filled her mind and her ears with the sound of a spirit, mind and body being ripped apart. She held the little form tight as it screamed. "You're not alone... You're not alone... You're not alone..." she repeated over and over. "I'm here... I'm here..."
The screaming suddenly stopped and the small creature went quiet in her arms. "No... No, no, no..." She looked down at it. "No, don't, please don't..." Tears began to roll down her face. "Please don't..."
The Domeri looked up at her, its black eyes still pained and confused. It raised one hand, touching trembling fingertips to a tear standing on the curve of her cheek. Then it smiled, the slightest movement of the corners of its lipless mouth before it went limp in her arms. "No... Nononononono..." She hugged the limp body tight against her. "Don't die on me, please don't die on me..." The body seemed to melt in her arms, wilting like potters clay against her before it started to evaporate. In a few seconds it was gone, no trace of what had been a Domeri remained.
Her dragon seemed slightly shaken by the experience as well, What is happening in this place, Samae...
Aurora knelt on the hardwood floor, robe disheveled, her hands clenched on her knees. "I don't know, dear one..." She drew in her composure, taking several deep breaths before rising, her face still stained with tears and stalking to the bedroom, like a predator beginning the hunt. "But I'm going to find out."
He was lying where he had fallen after crashing into the wall, feeling the cool surface of the rock beneath him. His body needed a second to adjust, to grow accustomed to the silent strumming of the Dome's energy. It saturated his entire being, flowing through his veins like liquid gold, filling him to the brim with its power. Such a sweet torture, feeling the magic almost within his grasp, yet still so far away. If he could only stretch out and grip it...
”Are you alright?”
A voice rang out, startling him from his thoughts. As he dazedly looked up, his golden brown gaze fell upon two humans, one of whom he knew all too well. While he had never quite mastered the art of reading human facial expressions, the look in her eyes was all to telling. Damn she-cub. The other human, a male by the looks of it, was unknown to him, but as he rarely hung around the furless primates that was hardly surprising. They all looked the same anyway, so why bother. He ignored the male and was about to get up when the she-cub found her tongue and spoke.
”Seems I'm not the only one making an unscheduled visit today. Welcome back, Kisasian.”
He gruffly acknowledge her presence with a nod and a low growl emanating from his chest, making his whole upper body vibrate slightly. Like it or not, the Dome had once put her in his care. That made her part of the Pride, in some twisted kind of way. He had no plans on bringing her back to the Savannah, and he damned well wouldn't mate with her, (the cubs would look awful) but she was still under his protection.
And, welcome back to you as well, Shiru.
Kisasian's eyes locked on Aurora as she addressed the spirit currently residing in his mind. She had no business in his head, and he expected Shiru to tell her such. He could've just as well expected him to put on a dance show, either were just as likely to happen.
“Do not insult me in my own head.” Kisasian grumbled, earning nothing but mirth from both his old mentor and the she-cub. He shook himself as he stretched to his full length, his mane cascading around his head in golden waves. Towering over the humans brought a smidgen of satisfaction to his mind, and he felt his muscles loosen up as he relaxed. He wasn't sure what the human male was thinking, nor did he want to find out. Didn't seem too confused over the silent conversation, but even if he was aware of it, at least he had the decency to keep out from places he didn't belong.
Admitting he still possessed no magical skill left a sour taste in his mouth, and he glared mentally at his old mentor. The questions raised were valid though, so he could put the mockery aside for later. Why was he here? Despite the hours of practise he had spent each day, magic still wouldn't come to him, and it was a thorn in his paw day and night. Yet here in the Dome... There was something calling him in the air. He had felt it back on the Savannah too, but then not more than a faint scent on the wind. Here, it enveloped him, insisting in its presence. He liked to think he new the Dome's scent inside out, but this was different. It was still there, yet there was something else too, just a hint of sweet in the rich smell that was the Dome.
Somewhat absent-mindedly, he watched the she-cub stroll away, the male soon to follow. They had barely disappeared around a corner before he turned the other way, padding off towards his old chambers. Inhaling deeply, he once more caught scent of the alluring smell. It teased him, called out to him, guiding his steps.
”What's gotten into you, lad? You barely said a word to the summoner, and now you're so distant I can barely reach your mind?”
“She has a name, why don't you use it?
“Closer, but you can do better.”
“Aurora...” Kisasian gritted his teeth, and scowled as he received a nod of approval from his old mentor. “I did not expect her to be here.”
“You didn't expect yourself to end up here either, did you now?”
“True. I do not know why I am here, or why she shows up at the same time. There is something odd going on, Shiru. Can you not feel it?” Kisasian eyed a couple of passer bys, frowning as he saw their confused looks. Students, most likely, and unaccustomed to people talking to themselves. He couldn't blame them, but he did not approve of their questioning gazes.
“Yes... there is a strange distortion to the Dome's regular energy. I'm surprised you could pick up on it. Perhaps the lessons have been of some use after all.”
Kisasian growled a reply at that, disgruntled at his mentor's condescending tone and because of worry about his words. Every hair on his body stood on end and a crawling sensation along his spine made him shudder. If Shiru too could feel it... and then the she-cub had brought it up as well. He did not like it one bit.
“We should find the little one. I believe she is correct. Something big is indeed about to 'go down' and whatever it is, we will need her help, and she might need ours. Do you still know your way to her chambers?
The large lion only nodded and turned down into the corridor that would take him to his destination.
He parted with Aurora, still thinking about the unknown “something” that had taken a bite out of her leg. He had been mostly joking when he said, “What? I see nothing.” He had partly felt when it had taken a bite out of her. Mostly because he was so aware of her energy, due to his demon that desired her blood so. It seemed he wasn’t the only one who wanted a bite.
The energetic bite wound had been strange. There was something about it that kept tingling his curiosity. Maybe it was the way the shadow of the pillar fell over where the leg had been bitten.
Nothing too serious, she had said. The Dome didn’t really allow anything too dangerous near those who could not handle it. This was a place of learning, not needless deaths. Though near-death experiences were often needed for learning, it was usually very careful. He had been pondering this when he suddenly fell through the floor.
It seemed a hole had suddenly opened up to consume him. He instinctively used some his chi in attempt to keep from falling through, but there was another flutter of magic in the air and something dispelled the energy he had gathered. When he tried to grab the edge, the hole suddenly widened, making him miss.
“Oh!” was all he managed as he fell down.
And he fell, not far though. Perhaps six feet, landing on his feet at least, somewhat crouched in landing. He looked up to see both his students: Kai and Leita in the hole with him. Leita was smiling in her usual shy way. Kai gazed with his usual deadpan expression and black stoic eyes. He heard foot steps approach and a dark figure stood above them at the edge of the hole. Kira smirked down at her teacher with victory.
“Lesson: catch teacher, completed!” she called down to him, holding up a victory sign with her fingers.
Adrien beamed up at her and laughed.
“Good work, you three. I assume it was Leita’s spell that masked your auras?” Leita nibbled her bottom lip with more shyness, which he took as a confirmation. “And I see you’ve been tunneling, Kai.”
“Honing the skill of gazing up the skirts of unsuspecting maidens, sir.” His reply though strange in word, was completely bland in tone, his face still unmoved from his serious expression. Adrien barked another laugh. Kai’s occasional deadpan humor was always a treat when it came around, albeit rarely.
Kai’s energy fluttered through the ground and they shot up from below, the ground once again becoming holeless and flat. They all stood at the same level now. Adrien turned to Kira. “And what was your part in this?”
“I made up the plan, utilizing my team member’s attributes. As a captain should.” She folded her arm across her chest with smugness.
“Good work, but I won’t be coming up with your next lesson for a while …”
“Why’s that, teach?” She quirked an eyebrow at him.
“Because I’m going to meet up with a lady acquaintance I met this afternoon. It seems there may be something big happening soon, so I may need your help later. Keep an eye out for strange things.”
Kira’s blue eyes got wide with surprise and then she narrowed them with a smirk of mischievousness. “A lady friend, Adrien? And I was starting to think you were asexual or something.”
Adrien smiled at Kira and then patted her head like a parent would a child. “Ah, so young and still preoccupied with material pleasures. When you live as long as I have such things are easily gone without, I haven’t even noticed it these past 18 years. Other things occupy the mind such as finding your friends, which I may have found a lead on from my ‘lady friend’.”
Kira’s smirk dropped at the mention of her other comrades. Serious and eager was what filled her blue eyes now.
“She taught a young man by the name of Ren, who was quiet and closed off. Tough on the outside, but all torn up underneath. One angry, angsty young man. Always a handful and always needing careful handling. In all, a good kid, but having a long way to go before he was ready to go after his revenge, which she could only assume was the source of such a mix of negative emotions in the child. She spoke of a girl she hoped would be able to help tame some of it for him.”
He listed this off, effortlessly recalling all that Aurora had said and blended it together. He watched Kira’s expression. She seemed to get more and more excited as he spoke, and when he finished and leapt over and grabbed his shoulders with enthusiasm.
“That’s him! Where is he now? Is he still here in the Dome?”
It was hard to say this next, what with all her excitement. “I’m afraid it seems he left when she left the Dome recently. Instead of taking on a new teacher.”
Kira let go of his shoulders, her brows instantly knitting together in her frustration, and her hands tightening at her sides. “But … but he had been so damn close! How the hell did we miss that?”
“Possibly because it was not yet time for you to rejoin with him. Have faith, Kira, and patience. You’ll find them when it is the right time to find them.”
Kira’s lips became thin as he said this. And she growled with annoyance, “I’ve had enough of your faith talk, Adrien. Right now is the right time! We need to be together to make it through all this crap! Do you know how easily Nottuu and Nelu could kill them? I don’t like them not being under my sight where I can see and protect them! They’re my knights, and I’ll be damned if I let anything happen to them!”
Adrien smiled softly. “You know what they say, ‘make plans and the gods laugh’. Fate has something else in store that you can simply not see yet. For whatever the reason, you are all separated now, and for whatever the reason it is for the best that you are. I understand your urgency, and your passion and loyalty is beautiful, Kira. I also understand your sense of responsibility for them, but just remember, if anything does happen to them …” His hand cupped her cheek as she stared at him with narrow and doubtful eyes. “It was not your fault. No one is perfect, and people die.”
Her eyes broke contact with his at that and she glared down. He had touched her wound. She had never recovered from losing her younger brother.
She smacked his hand away and retorted, “That’s easy for you to say! ‘People die’ and that’s that? I can’t … accept that! I will do everything in my power to get them back safely! I have to. I can’t …” and the pain showed clearly through her mask of anger. Her blue eyes watering and her breath coming up short. She had trouble breathing when she thought too much about he brother’s death. She never said it, but he had come to know it through observing her. “I can’t handle another death of my family.”
They were more to her than just her comrades.
“Yes,” he said softly, “but you need to acknowledge when these things are out of your power and in the hands of Elohim. I’m doing everything I can as well, but I am still at a loss. I can only trust … Now, please don’t worry your mind over it anymore today. I need you alert and focused in the now.”
Her scowl lessened some and she snorted. “Right, ‘an eye out for strange things’? Adrien,” her tone now exasperated. “The Dome is always strange.”
Adrien smiled whimsically. “Yes, so please try to utilize your intuition more. That will be your next lesson. Now, I’m going to look into this Ren a little more.”
With a nod he left the three in the hall and went to his room. Adrien's room was fairly large. To the left of the door there was a pillar, a book shelf pillar that went up into a hole in his ceiling that continued up for a good hundred or so feet. The walls near it are also bookshelves which stretched up into the same hole. There was a thin golden staircase that spiraled up and around the pillar. A grand piano also sat near the upper corner of this side of the room. On the right side of the door and filling most of the right wall was a large and long desk in disarray, books, maps, charts, diagrams covered it and the right wall—papers and notes and the like having been pinned in the wall. The wall in front had a large black and comfortable-looking satin couch against it and then a coffee table and cozy dark brown rug. Two other chairs surrounded it. But there was no bed anywhere and no chair at his desk either. No bed, seeing as he couldn’t sleep. Against the same wall as the door were chests, trunks, cabinets, and one singular dresser of a rich dark brown wood. The colors of his room were that of black and varying shades of brown, black, and gray.
Adrien went straight to his book shelf. He put a hand on a random book and pulled it off the shelf and flipped to a seemingly random page. As he expected, the Dome provided him with a list of students who had recently entered it. It was enough to fill the whole book. He flipped to just the right page. It read “Ren Aka Nevisu” at the heading of the page, and a picture of a 16-year-old boy, muscular in frame, with short white hair and a red glare that stared at Adrien with a less than amused and disdainful expression.
It was definitely their Ren, and the book notified him that he was, indeed, no longer inside the Dome and that it could not find his location. He already knew that the Dome could not locate any of the missing three. Even if they were dead, it would have taken him directly to their bodies. He knew though, that it was Lilith who was making it impossible for the Dome to locate them, especially if they were in Sekin. Sekin was officially her domain. She could work spells powerful enough to confuse the Dome, at least. Even though she could not locate the Dome either.
Even so, he still stared at the boy’s picture for a moment. Nottuu’s son. His friend’s child. Part of him felt like some kind of distant uncle to the boy. Nottuu had been a brother to him. He had known of the boy’s existence for a while. He had stolen information about Lilith’s arrangement with Rika Nevisu, an Elohim High Priestess of the highest caliber.
Of course, Lilith wanted nothing but the best for her little breeding experiment.
Rika Nevisu had been infertile and recently widowed, having lost her husband, Bran Nevisu, in a border brawl with the drow nation. Adrien suspected Lilith had arranged for her husband to die. It was her style. She liked to come to her victims when they were vulnerable and hurting, and then offer her solution for them. That was how she got Nottuu.
She came to Rika and offered to grant her fertility. In exchange she would mate with Nottuu twice, and raise the two until the youngest turned ten. And then she would collect them and they would start their training in the Drow Empire. Needless to say, Rika had agreed, and Ren was the younger of the two boys. Adrien wondered through, with a smile, if Rika had ever really planned to give up her children at all in the beginning. Despite that she would be able to have as many children as she wanted after they were taken … It seemed she only had eyes for her boys.
The boy were raised by her and her father, Kuza Nevisu. The night of Ren’s tenth birthday, Nottuu came and collected his sons as ordered. But she went after them, not long after. However, to break such a deal that was sworn by her power would cut her power down considerably, as was the law among magic users. She went for her boys anyway, and she died trying to get them back, taking out almost more than half of the settlement’s drow soldiers with her.
A strong and brave woman.
Definitely strong, it was not easy to birth one half-dragon let alone two. It was hard on the woman’s body. They were heavier than normal children were. Stronger. Kuza had said that little Ren had broken his mother’s ribs several times while still in the womb. Very active, even before birth. Kuza stated it with pride.
Nevisus always had pride. They were the descendents of the Nevisu clan of high elves, known well for their pride, honor, and their red eyes. It had taken some time for him to warm Ren’s grandfather up to him. A seasoned warrior with steel gray hair and red piercing eyes. He had known he was a vampire the moment he laid eyes on him. That was the real challenge—getting the Nevisu to trust him.
And he knew it would be even harder to get Ren’s acceptance. He seemed more receptive to women. Perhaps this had been part of Aurora’s success with him. The boy must have been very proud of his mother, respected her deeply. His father must have left a bad impression of men though, and thus his distrustful nature that Kira described.
He doubted the drow soldiers had been kind to him either.
Yes, tough but torn up inside described it well.
He was eager to meet the boy, despite how difficult he would be. Who else could tell him the man his father had been before he lost his soul? Who else could tell him that he had not always been an empty shell? Ren did not know the great man—no, the great dragon that Nottuu had been. He knew the boy probably did not want to hear such things …
He had been lost in thought when he felt the same thing as before, slither up his leg and bite into his energy. Adrien jumped and twisted to look around. There was nothing but the shadow of his piano. He furrowed his brows thoughtfully. How could it be a coincidence that they would both experience the same kind of “bite”? He put the book back and left his room at a normal brisk pace for a human. He marched on to Aurora’s room, not really knowing where it was, but holding the intent gently in his mind. The Dome would take him there. It brought him to a dead end with a single door.
Aurora dressed simply in blue jeans and a black dress shirt, not even bothering to tuck the shirt in, before coming back into the living room. She went to the kitchen, filling the teapot from the kettle and taking it and the teacup to kneel in the exact spot where she had knelt when the domeri died in her arms only minutes ago. She would respect the being who had just lost its life by honoring its last act of service, her tea.
The summoner sat formally, on her knees, back straight, her bare toes crossed and pointing toward the door. She poured the tea with the measured grace of a ceremony performed many times and lifted it in her fingers. She held it to her lips, breathing in the aroma of her favorite blend, a robust black. Her eyelids lowered, showing only a sliver of midnight blue as she centered her mind.
As she was about to take a sip, a heavy knock came at the door by someone who entered before even finishing his last knock. She ignored this intrusion. The man-lion had picked the wrong day for his arrogant, testosterone-driven posturing. She had no spare time to coddle his ego by letting him think her less than she was, or less than him.
She heard him make an odd noise, like he was about to use the term "cub" which was what he always called her, but stopped. Some days, it amused her to have someone think she was no one special. Not today.
Then, she heard her name. It was spoken grudgingly, but he had used it. He had called her Aurora for the first time. It was enough to at least warrant an acknowledgement. She spoke out of her meditation, her voice sounding a little flat and far away, even to her own ears as she spoke over the rim of the cup. "Something I can do for you Kisasian?"
The lion let out a low growl that reverberated in her ears as vibration more than sound. She nearly smiled. He must have thought her terribly impudent. If he only knew the reality of the situation... "Something is wrong in the Dome. The energy is wrong."
The summoner sipped her tea as he spoke. It didn't taste right. "A domeri died in my arms not half an hour ago." She set the cup down, finally looking up at him. "And, something snuck up and bit a chunk out of my aura some time before that."
The king looked at her in shock. "Domerii do not die," his tail lashed back and forth in agitation, "they just get a new body." He looked nervous. She was suddenly reminded that he was, above all, animal in nature and tended to think as one. Animals generally do not take surprise well. "Bit you? You do not smell of blood."
"The Dome is sick, Kisasian. Something like a cancer is eating away at its energy. The Dome refused the sick one in order to keep the infection at bay." The summoner looked down, refilled her teacup and picked it up again with the measured ease of repeated ceremony. "I have a feeling it's too late for such measures to be adequate." She sipped from her cup. "I don't know if the attack on me has anything to do with it, but it seems too coincidental to think otherwise."
"How can the Dome be sick?" The lion started pacing the room in agitation. "If there is a sickness, we should cut it out." He appeared to grow thoughtful in his restlessness. "Is this the cause of the smell?"
"I would guess that's the case. I don't sense magical energy by smell, but I know the taste of the Dome's aura, and even my own where I was bitten, has a bitterness to it that bothers me." Like the tea, she thought. "It's spreading, too. I'm not sure it can be cut out at this point without knowing the true nature of the infection. It may require a purging of the Dome's energy, like burning the infection out of its bloodstream..."
Kisasian continued to pace the room. His tufted tail lashed the air behind him, his face deep in the concentration of trying to piece everything together.
"Excuse me a moment, I have to heal this before we investigate further." She could wait for the wound to reseal, a few hours at most, or she could force the issue and be ready to go in less than half an hour. She was beginning to wonder exactly how much time she had on her hands. She closed her eyes, reaching down into herself, where the core of her power resided. Then, she let it out. Power ripped through her body, then into the rest of the room, just as there was yet another knock on the door.
It felt so good to let it out, she felt almost intoxicated by it. So she failed to even considered who it might be before saying, "Come in!"
He waited patiently for a moment. There was no immediate answer.
“Come in!” eventually was called out by Aurora’s voice through the door, slightly muffled.
So he turned the knob and walked in. He found himself blasted with Aurora’s smell unlike he had ever experienced it before. It was heavily concentrated in the room, like her power was water, filling everything thickly, making it impossible not to breathe it in. Her smell intoxicated him, filling his nose and his mind. He couldn’t have known. The Dome often made its walls and doors energetically insolated. He wasn’t thinking about that anymore, though.
No, he was drowning in her smell.
He was suddenly; very acutely aware of her heart beat from across the room. He had frozen due to a heavily practiced habit. His hand still locked on the door knob, still standing like a statue in the entrance of the room. The sounds of her heart hammered in his ears. He stared straight ahead, with a slightly shocked and yet vacant look in his eyes. His pupils dilated, the green darkened and pushed the blue and brown to the edges of his irises, leaving them in very thin lines.
He didn’t dare move or look at her. There was a need that tightened in his gut, not unlike sexual arousal. The thirst and hunger had always been an interesting mix of appetites: the empty need for food and energy, the sexual stirrings for completion, and the intoxicating high of drugs that stimulate the mind and body. That was why the thirst, the instinct … the blood … that was why it was so hard to resist, to control. Because the blood was all of these things to him at once.
The saliva surged into his mouth again and his throat ripped into violent flames, like a white hot coal had been shoved down it. That was another factor of the hunger. It put out the fire in his throat. She was right there. Kneeling on the ground in front of him. Full of the sweetest blood he had ever smelled. She was very powerful, but maybe she expected him to control himself. Perhaps if he had that element of surprise going for him it would be possible … and his demon told him that he could help. He could give him more power to dominate the woman with.
His mind went through several different ways to attack her as he stared forward, frozen. He had stopped breathing, but that first inhale had surged his system like the first hit of drugs. He vaguely heard the woman speaking. Her voice was broken by breathlessness, labored. He and the demon liked it. It made her sound more vulnerable, which was terribly tantalizing at the moment.
“God … Adrien … I’m sorry … I didn’t realize … who it was …”
He wasn’t entirely sure who Adrien was anymore.
He felt her energy shift, withdrawing, and channel sharply back down into the ground in a great burst, and she had slammed her connection to that energy shut with a big snap that was like a slap across his frozen face. The weight of all that he desired in her lifted so suddenly. It left him feeling rather light-headed. He closed his eyes, and inhaled deeply. Her smell was still there; still stronger than the first time he had passed her by in the halls, but there was less than when he first walked in. Compared to that, he could handle it.
He opened his eyes, which were no longer as dark of a green, though the green still took up the majority of his irises. The pupils were once again their regular size. He knew where he was again, who he was, and that Aurora was not just some woman, some random prey. The moment of temptation and insanity had passed. He blinked, still a little dazed, but his expression regained life and his personality again. He remembered that she had spoken to him.
“Nothing to apologize for; you’re the one I would have attacked.”
He wasn’t sure if she knew just how close he had been to doing just that. It had been so long since he was last so sorely tempted, so close to breaking the control it took to keep him from attacking others. It, perhaps, could have been frightening. To know it could make him think those kinds of thoughts. Thoughts of attacking Aurora. But he smiled vaguely, a smile for himself; because despite that he had still frozen and refused to breathe—he had rolled back on what he had trained himself to do in such times. He knew his will was stronger than the temptation; this moment was proof of that, and that was always encouraging to know.
He looked down at her, finally.
She was on her knees still. Her eyes were a flat denim blue hue with heavy eyelids, and she shook her had dazedly. It seemed he wasn’t the only one a little breathless. It must be difficult for her to keep all that power shut away, and thus to have had it all released like that and then to slam it all away at once … He was almost surprised that she hadn’t blacked out in the effort.
“Should've checked who it was... Dome wouldn't let in anyone dangerous... Maybe...” she muttered.
“I wasn’t dangerous until I stepped in … but I have been wondering about that.” He felt his mind clearing and pumping back into action.
It seemed Aurora was starting to focus again as well. She finally looked up at him, though her eyes were still somewhat heavy and dazed. “Whassat?” she slurred.
“Well, I got bit too.” He remembered the reason he had come in the first place. The strange bite.
Her eyes snapped back into focus almost immediately at his words, flashing to a steel gray color. He liked to watch her eyes. Always interesting. And there was a strange tension in him still. Something that had carried over from his sudden temptation. Or perhaps it had always been there from the start …
“Which is why I came so soon,” he continued.
“I see. How is it?” Her words were clear now.
“You were bit?” growled a deep voice from the back of the room. Adrien looked to its source and found Kisasian, the lion man from earlier. He had completely not noticed him until that moment. Aurora’s energy had blocked it out, and he was still so dazed and focused on her that he had not noticed anything else in the room.
The great lion’s stance was braced with unease and readiness to strike, and a tail that twitched with irritation. Adrien was sure he had sensed his demon’s sudden presence as well as his sudden entry to the room. The lion was a predator too, so it was not unusual for it to put him on edge. He politely stayed in the door entrance, never attempting to venture farther into the room. He did not want to make Kisasian feel threatened, such creatures were easily territorial. Especially when it came to other males.
He had also interjected roughly into the conversation, not seeming to enjoy being left out as if he were unimportant. So Adrien responded to him. “Yes, Aurora and I experienced the same kind of aura bite.”
Aurora took a deep, slightly shaky breath, and then she stood up, taking the teapot and cup that had been sitting in front of her back into the kitchen. “How bad was yours, Adrien?”
“Not too bad. Like me, it heals fast.”
She nodded and then said, “Which leads me to believe it took a little bit of our energy, not to necessarily feed, but for some other purpose.”
“Why attack without the intent of eating?” the bipedal lion questioned. “Will it attack again?”
Adrien could actually relate very well to what Kisasian asked at the moment. To him and his people, there normally would be no purpose in attacking another creature if not for meals or for protecting the pride. Any other purposes other than survival do not occur to them nor are important to their people. Besides maybe spirituality, most often based in nature.
“It may not have attacked for sustenance as we would think of it, but it gained something,” Aurora replied and then shrugged shortly after. “I would guess so, but I couldn't hazard a guess at a next target.” She then turned her blue eyes on him again. “Any guesses?”
He finally let go of the door knob to fold his arms across his chest, as he did, he cast a glance at it. He found he had turned it into a twisted and misshapen hunk of metal that fit the groves of his palm and fingers.
Oops. The Dome would have it fixed in no time though.
He folded his arms across his chest and looked to Kisasian and then arched a brow, slowly turning his gaze back to Aurora. “Strange that we would all meet today and two of us have already been bitten and the two of you were brought here by the Dome.”
“The Dome is fickle in its actions. I do not know why I was brought here. Perhaps to hunt this unknown entity?” suggested Kisasian. Adrien watched the fur on his muscular shoulders prickle, something still had him agitated.
Aurora nodded again. “I would've guessed the connection was extremely old and powerful magic users, which would make sense based on Adrien and myself.” She leaned on the counter, resting her elbows on the granite surface. “But that doesn't explain how Kisasian fits into the picture. About the only connections between the three of us is a long standing relationship with the Dome as teachers and perhaps magical ‘potential’ ...”
He believed time may reveal that to them, so he said, “I don't know if there is much to do about it right now, but wait and be alert. Or perhaps if we were to seek the source the Dome may bring us to it. Like Kisasian said, perhaps you are both here to find it and heal it.”
She turned around to rinse her dishes in the sink. “You never can tell with the Dome...”
That was true. The Dome didn’t always do what you expected it to.
Kisasian then shifted from the back, closer to the spot where Aurora had been kneeling. He sniffed it, brows furrowed with his puzzlement. “The scent is stronger here. It is ... wrong.”
Adrien quirked a brow. What scent? And he wasn’t sure how that spot had significance, but it seemed to mean something to both Kisasian and Aurora. So he stood back and waited.
“Have you smelled something like it before? Does it remind you of something?” questioned Aurora.
Kisasian rubbed the back of his neck, his eyes focused with his thought. “It is familiar, but I cannot recall from where. You cannot sense it?”
“I do, and it is not unfamiliar, I just have yet to place it. Adrien?” she asked suddenly.
He looked to both of them, and then very slowly stepped forward, as to not offend Kisasian. He still felt the tension in the lion, who did not move an inch when he approached. He squatted down, closer to the ground where finally he caught a lingering scent he had not noticed before. He inhaled deeply, closing his eyes to block out other senses.
Ah, of course he hadn’t noticed it. Aurora’s smell seemed to block out others for him, but also since this was similar in tone he had passed it over without thought. He smiled softly to himself, the opening of his eyes making it more of an ironic one.
“To me … it smells like blood.”
“Which to you, is equated with power, is it not?” Aurora inquired.
He stood up fully and looked to her, wondering when she would catch on. Soon, no doubt. She was an experienced and intelligent creature. He expected her to make the connection eventually. He might as well drop some hints. “Power, dark desires, a part of myself which I once loathed.”
“It is everywhere in the Dome. Not overpowering, but still present,” Kisasian added.
He hadn’t noticed anything really different lately, but if he was right about this—it made sense that he wouldn’t have.
Aurora came around the counter to the spot where he and Kisasian stood. She stood so close to him her shoulder nearly brushed his, which he was acutely aware of still. He could feel the heat of her body with sharp sensitivity, and the sound of her heart was even clearer at the close distance. His mouth watered again and his throat became raw.
He managed to ignore this enough to see the bright look of excitement on her face. She waved a hand over the spot, and then brought her fingers to her lips, licking them delicately, closing her eyes as she seemed to roll a taste in her mouth. He wondered for a moment what it tasted like for her.
“Oh my god...” Her eyes snapped open and she smacked a palm to her forehead. “Why didn't I pick up on that?!”
Adrien smiled and looked down at her, amused now that it seemed to finally have dawned on her. It was fairly obvious, but he hadn’t noticed it at all until just then himself. “What have you found?”
“It tastes like the Dark …” she said.
He nodded casually. “Being what I am, I am more aligned with such things. It is my nature. So it's no surprise I was able to place an association to it.” It probably smelled and tasted a little different to everyone there.
“The Dark?” Kisasian echoed Aurora, brows furrowed in confusion.
“The Dark represents not necessarily the evil,” she explained. “But the more negative side of one's nature. The ruthless, the selfish, the hunger to fill one's own desires. I'm guessing Adrien and I didn't notice it immediately because we are more in tune with our inner demons, and have accepted them as part of ourselves. We deal with them constantly and therefore tend to brush it aside.” She then looked up at him. “Would you agree?”
He was already looking down at her as she told this to Kisasian. His eyes were still very green, and she had not moved any farther away from him. He smiled, almost a smirk, as if it were an inside joke. “Most certainly.”
She smiled back at him, her blue eyes full of knowing, and he wondered how aware of his demon she was. It seemed as if she understood the joke. He also pondered the rest of her words. She spoke of her own inner demon. It did not entirely surprise him. It mostly fascinated him even more. There was much he wanted to ask her of … if it was not too personal.
“Or because your frail noses are incapable of picking up scents properly,” Kisasian growled suddenly. Adrien looked up at him, not entirely sure what he had done now. Such a sensitive creature Kisasian was, almost any interaction could be seen as an insult to his pride and dignity. It must be tiresome to take oneself so seriously all the time …
So he smiled pleasantly at the lion and said, “Actually, it's probably because it smells like blood to me, and since I am around people full of blood constantly, I would not make note of it.”
Aurora chuckled next to him. “Smelling it makes no difference if you can't translate it,” she added.
Kisasian bristled instantly at his words. Adrien watched, still smiling politely as the lion struggled with his natural instincts. He felt threatened and challenged. Under normal circumstances, the big feline would have challenged him to a fight. Adrien didn’t care so much about that. At times he simply preferred to embarrass and infuriate the arrogant and overly serious types. Perhaps one day he would come to know how much energy it wasted to be so self-important. Though he understood it was a hard habit to break for the bipedal lion. His people and his survival were based on such things. However, it was really rather unnecessary here.
Kisasian seemed to have controlled his instincts and said rather gruffly, “That may be ... Now that you can sense it, we should hunt it down. If it has attacked twice it will most likely strike again.”
It seemed Aurora had grown tired of Kisasian’s attitude as well. For she replied with a hardened irony in her voice, “So can you track it down then, ‘he of the mighty nose’?”
Adrien suppressed the chuckle this induced, pressing his lips together. However, he was sure it was no poker face. It was even more amusing to watch the stirrings of irritation in Kisasian, spite deep in his eyes, seeing as he went over all that he wanted to say, but instead relied only on a curt response of, “I could.”
With that Aurora strode off through another door, one he assumed led to her bedroom. She shortly returned wearing a pair of sturdy black, leather steel-toe boots. She went over to the door Adrien had left open and placed a hand on the knob, “Then lead the way.”
She bowed and waved, motioning for them to leave with her. “Lion King.”
It seemed then that she noticed the door handle she had placed her hand on was bent out of shape. Adrien rubbed the back of his neck with a sheepish smile.
OoC: Bah, could have been better. I lost steam about half away through.
Aurora held the door and watched, one golden brow arched as the man-lion shifted form to a true, if gigantic, lion and walked out with the stately stride of a king. She managed to keep any surprise she might have felt to a minimum, which she had no doubt chagrined her old teacher. Her fingers slipped into the grooves in the doorknob as she turned to Adrien. The vampire stood scratching the back of his neck and smiling in a slightly sheepish fashion. "Coming?" He nodded and started out the door.
The summoner smirked as he passed by her in the doorway. "I like my new doorknob." The woman let her fingertips caress over the grooves in it as she pulled the door closed behind them. "I might even leave it like that." She turned to watch Kisasian cast up and down the hall for a trail, his nose close to the ground.
??A smile streched across his face again, and he looked down at her. To Aurora, Adrien always seemed somehow relieved when she wasn't particularly bothered because he did something "vampire-ish". "Ah, I was going to apologize, but if you like it so much..."
??"I do." She gave him a wink. "I think it's a thoughtful memento of our meeting."
??He still smiled, but his eyes lingered on hers. They still looked very green, a weight in them she couldn't quite place. She wasn't entirely sure it was his demon that made him look at her so intently. "You're quite intriguing, did you know?"
She laughed, an abrubt, almost surprised sound at his statement. "Oh really?" Her eyes turned a shade more thoughtful and went back to following the huge lion, who seemed to have caught the trail momentarily, but then changed his mind. "Why do you say that?"
"You have beautiful eyes, and I don't just mean the colors they change."
She smirked at him. "Aren't you the sweet talker."
He smiled, but with a more nonchalant, playful air. "It's my favorite kind of talk."
Her attention shifted as Kisasian seemed to make up his mind. "Oh, I think he's got something now." She followed, the vampire strolling along beside her. She chuckled as her mind returned to the conversation. "So you think I have pretty eyes, huh?" She shrugged. "So do a lot of other girls. I doubt that makes me 'intriguing'."
"Hm, I suppose you don't get my meaning..." She almost chuckled as he sought an explaination for his compliment, which seemed to have fallen flat. "I'm sure you're familiar with the term that eyes are windows to the soul?"
Aurora laughed. "So you were really saying I have a pretty soul? One of the more interesting pick-up lines I've heard."
The vampire grinned. She highly doubted he meant it as a come-on, but humor made the statement slightly less awkward to her. "A unqiue, beautiful, and intriguing soul. Yes."
She looked sidelong at him, her eyes narrowing a little, although she's still smiling. "How can you say that when you've just met me?"
His tricolored eyes met hers again, calm through his usual, slightly amused, expression. "Should I not? When it is so plainly there in your eyes? Having only just met has nothing to do with what I can see right now. Though more time will certainly tell me in detail."
She was a little disconcerted by his observation, regardless of whether or not she felt there was any real truth in it. One of the things she liked about the Dome was most people knew little about her, aside from the fact she was a powerful majician and a popular teacher at one time. She enjoyed a certain anonymity here where few took time to actually notice her. Just another warrior in a place full of them. "Heh, I suppose that goes both ways."
"I suppose so."
They pause at an intersection, while the lion sniffs about, deciding which way to take. Not particularly fond of being the topic of conversation, the summoner decided to switch subjects. "Why were you so curious about Ren?"
"Ah." He nods, seeming to understand, and follows as she starts walking again. How did he seem to understand her so well? "It seems you taught someone I am looking for. I am here with the rest of his companions. He's in... quite a bit of trouble. I'm sure he seems the type to get into such predicaments, eh?"
"True enough. He's part of a group then?" She remembered the moody, obstinate boy she'd met years ago. A beautiful boy who tried so hard to chase everyone away, even while he yearned for love. "He never really mentioned anyone but the girl he's close to..."
"Well, he's more of the type to keep his troubles to himself, no?" She just nodded in affirmation. "Especially if he's confided in you already."
"I suppose so, though I can't say he particularly confided in me, so much as I deduced a lot from his behavior."
His smile took on a slightly ironic quirk. "Right, of course, he's a Nevisu. He'd probably have too much pride to say much."
"Nevisu? Ah, his family name?"
"Descendents of an old clan that is dying out. Known for their immense prides, unshakeable honor, and devotion to the Elohim god of fire, Faia."
"Elohim?" The summoners gaze was suddenly curious. The word struck a cord in her mind, one like she had heard before. "Is that the religion, or another god?"
"Both, or perhaps I should say it's both all the religion and the gods of it."
Aurora nodded in comprehension. "So its a word to describe your pantheon as a whole, rather than a particular entity?"
"Yes, Elohim is a pural, masculine, and feminine word."
"I see." She started after the lion who seemed to have settled on a course again. "Religions never cease to intrigue me. My world has no religion, per se, so I am always curious to know how other peoples see God.
He kept pace with her easily. Somehow they effortlessly found an easy stride together, despite the difference in their height. "Of course, my world has many religions, and I like to see how they all view Elohim and life."
A question suddenly struck her and she looked at him, her eyes curious, but the deeper midnight hue of thoughtfulness, as they locked onto his. "Do you believe in chance, Adrien?"
His ever steady eyes looked calmly into hers. "Chance? Or do you mean fate by that?"
Aurora shook her head, seeking to clarify. "Not that things are predetermined to happen in a certain way, but that there is no coincidence. That things do not happen without purpose."
"That's my definition of fate, in a way. Definitions kind of become blurred after a while... Words are so limiting."
The summoner nodded in agreement. "They do. So do you believe that all things happen to a purpose?" Her tone remained casual, but she had a feeling her eyes weren't as they stared into his. Somehow, it seemed an incredibly important question, but as soon as the words left her mouth, she knew what he'd answer.
Adrien's eyes became thoughtful and curious as he stared back at her. "... Yes."
She nodded with satisfaction, her eyes shifting back to Kisasian padding along before them. "I suppose it would be hard to live this long and not think so..."
Her eyes blinked slowly as she felt his eyes on her again. "You feel nearly as old as me... I can feel your years like a warm weight against my mind when I talk to you." The ancient summoner shook her head with a chuckle, more at herself than anything. "Its almost comforting in a way, because somehow I know I can say strange things like this, and you won't just think I'm a crazy old broad."
The vampire grinned. "Maybe it's just because I'm a crazy old man."
She laughed. "Maybe so." Then she grinned back at him. "If that's the case, I count myself in good company, sir."
"I do have to say... it's comforting to know someone like you as well. It's good that I have so much practice at controlling myself," Aurora suppressed a small shudder as she remembered him at the door, crushing the iron knob in his hand as he wrestled with his demon, though she couldn't say it was a worried shudder. "But it's still nice to know you could probably knock me around even if my instincts got the best of me."
She laughed again, then her eyes took on a darker look, a subtle shift in mood, still teasing, but in a different tone. "Maybe your demon is one of the things I like about you." Was she actually flirting with him?
He returned her laugh though it seemed a slightly more abrubt sound. "I suppose it is rather interesting... but he's not very pretty when he comes out. I'm the pretty one."
Though he wasn't her favorite idea of attractive, she couldn't argue the point. "Oh, you're pretty alright, but I don't like him because he's pretty. I like him because he's ugly, and cruel, and familiar...." and it was. She knew the darkness in him, because something like it lived in her as well.
That's why the taste of his energy fascinated her. The warmth, the sweetness of his character, tempered by the bitter darkness of his demon. As much as he wanted to devour her power, she wanted to wrap herself in his. He tasted like a dark chocolate, filled with fine, aged port. Sweet and rich, yet balanced by that slight bitterness, his aura seemed like something that would melt over the tongue, making you happy, then warm you from the inside out, giving strength. Standing this close to him, it was so hard not to close the distance between them, touch his aura with her own.
The vampire looked at her as she spoke. Curosity made his calm gaze more intense, his eyes seeming to turn a little dark in the green that still dominated most of his eyes. She began to associate the green in his eyes, particularly that dark forest color, with his inner darkness. "Hm, it did seem that you spoke from experience earlier."
She blew off his invitation to expound. "All of us carry a monster inside us, Adrien. It's only the young and the deluded who deny it. I'm just old enough to have accepted my impulses as a part of myself."
He nodded. "Of course." She wasn't totally sure he was agreeing with her statement, so much as understanding her motive behind it. "We all have darkness, but I do believe the dark ugly thing inside us is not always so... violent for some.
"For some, but the darkness is always willing to do anything to fulfill its desires."
He nodded. "Very true."
"But we need the darkness. The people who wish that part of themselves away, or lock it away, truly don't understand that sometimes that is the only strength left to us."
He smiled, though she thought it held a shade of irony. "What we see as a curse is often a blessing in disguise."
Her return smile reflected the irony. "Exactly. And we all go through our heartaches to learn that."
The vampire nodded again. "I can't say I was very smart about it. I struggled for about the first two thousand years before I understood."
"He is quite useful..." Adrien smiled. "I have a lot of people who want me dead."
"I know that feeling."
She walked along in silence beside him. After several moments she smiled a small, private smile. He's even good with amiable silences... Its almost frightening how 'right' this feels... She watched Kisasian turn another corner.
"I have a favor to ask of you," said Adrien as looked down to break the silence with her.
She continued to watch Kisasian ahead of them but answered, "What might that be?"
A smile teased the corners of his mouth, feeling a detachment from her at the mention of favors. Perhaps it was how she looked ahead, not meeting his eyes. He continued however.
"I was wondering if you would help out a student of mine."
"Hmmm ..." he paused to find the right words that came fairly soon. "The usual. Soul healing."
"A girl?" she inferred.
"My, such keen intuition, Aurora." He grinned, but she shrugged, still seeming to exude a cooler demeanor with him.
"Is there a better reason for asking me? Being female is one of the few areas I can definitely cover that you can't."
"Ah, yes," he conceeded with a chuckle. That was not the only one, however. This was a fairly unplanned direction he was exploring. It was mostly by intuition, but he also felt her as an equal. He was sure she had many life experiences that he hadn't, so she had much to offer and share. Insights he had not considered himself. Aurora was her own individual, thus full of her own unique perspective. He valued what she could have to show and teach him about the world. One never stops learning. The world was ever changing, ever evolving, ever growing. Thus one as must change, evolve, and grow with it.
"So, how do you expect my particular attributes to help?" Aurora asked.
Being on that train of thought, he answered, "Oh, I'm not really sure. I'm sure you'll do fine though."
"Then, why would you ask me to help? I assume you think there is a REASON this needs a woman's touch."
He laughed, realizing what she had meant by the question. "Oh, yes. That."
"I'm not in a habit of taking students anymore. I move about too much. I'd like to think this is not a whim on your part before I decide to extend my stay," she continued, not all that roughly, but there was a hint of firmness to her tone. Which was all well and good, though she seemed a little too quick to the defense. Did she fear being trapped by imaginary obilgation?
He responded with his usual, casual tone, "It might be a whim, but it doesn't take away from the seriousness of the girl's condition. Most of my better decisions have been whims. Things that sort of just come to me. Forgive me for my dimwitted moment. I do have those, obviously."
She finally chuckled more warmly. "I'd venture to say you're one of the less dimwitted individuals I've encountered in this place. However, maybe you should explain things to me a bit further why you believe the situation requires special attention."
Or perhaps she could have been a bit more open, patient, and less defensive, but Adrien digressed. He would have gotten to it if she had allowed without prickling at an imagined possibility of strings being attached to the favor. However, he did understand the need for vigilance against such things, so he nodded.
"... It's more of speculation, but I think I know. Her captain, Kira, told me she had been raped during the war in their kingdom, but she thinks it goes back farther. I agree."
"So she's been abused and you think I'll be able to make a breakthrough you can't purely on basis of gender," she assumed.
"Mostly," he allowed, but there was more to it. "She also holds me up too high. I think she is too ashamed to ever admit anything to me."
She nodded. "I can understand that."
Another quiet moment drifted over them. Adrien's eyes traced the halls for a moment, passing the lion for a moment as a thoughtful and light expression graced his features. There might be more that she could understand about Leita than he was fully aware. It wasn't hard to guess that Aurora very well could have known similar abuse. Who hadn't? Women were so often subjected to such things. Even in societies that revered and respected the feminine.
What did men see and feel when they saw a beautiful woman? The spirited light shining through her eyes. The power of their sexuality. The ability to connect with the universe in such a deep and intuitive way. That connection being to something vastly powerful, limitless. The womb itself is much like the universe. A place of creation and manifestation. Women had a built-in connection to it, by having a womb.
Men often desire sex for it. They want that power and most are not aware of that. They wished to plug-in, being unfamiliar with their own femininity if they have not developed that side of themselves. Everything they needed was already inside themselves. Man continually searches outside of himself. Taking the power of woman to fill that void. Whether it be by consent or not.
Taking him from his thoughts, Aurora asked, "What's her name?"
"Leita Serwen," he replied.
"I'll meet her. I make no promises, though."
He nodded, agreeing to that. He had a feeling that was all it would take. She would be in no way bound if she didn't want to be. It's not as if the help he requested meant much more than a few helpful words with the girl. Sometimes the simplest of things are the most powerful. If she wanted to invest more time with Leita, that was entirely up to her.
They both watched the lion disappear around a corner as she asked, "Is there anything else I should know about Leita?"
"Nothing that meeting her and asking her yourself can't tell you." That would take all the fun out of meeting the girl herself, which was getting to know her through her own words and sharing of her own will.
Aurora smirked, seeming to understand his thoughts. "There's always that."
They reached the corner and turned to go the same way as the lion had just a moment ago, only to be met with a solid wall.
"What the ..." began Aurora. "Kisasian?"
She placed her hands against the wall intently, looking for information which she seemed to get. "He isn't even on the other side."
Adrien stared at the wall, and the only thing that came to mind was the lame, "Hmmmm."
She closed her eyes for a moment. "He isn't here." She opened them. "The Dome says it didnt' send him home, but he isn't where he shoud be. The Dome isn't even sure why this wall is here."
A door popped into existance in the hall next to them. Kira came dashing through it, and then just as quickly slammed it shut. It disappeared leaving Kira panting in the hall, her hair sticking to her forehead from sweat. The half elf was not wearing her armor today. Just her sword on her back. She was looking at them. Her face was unsurprised by them, her eyes going to Adrien instantly.
Aurora looked from Kira to Adrien and asked, "One of yours?"
"Adrien," gasped Kira.
He nodded, stepping toward Kira. His eyes going directly to hers, his full attention on her. "What is it?"
Aurora smirked. "Answers that question."
"There's ... something ... in the gardens," the half elf continued to pant to Adrien. She paused a moment to catch more of her breath and then continued more evenly. " I don't know what it is. The trees just said to run. I told Leita, and I think she used insipid artifice. I couldn't see her. I don't know where she is."
Being half wood elf, Kira could hear the voices of trees and other animals. Leita's Insipid Artifice spell made her to be unable to be noticed. So effectively the spell was better than any invisiblity of cloaking magic. As it masked her aura, her direct smell, and many small sounds she could make such as breathing as well as hiding her from view visibly.
"Sounds like things are getting interesting again," stated Aurora.
Adrien nodded. "Indeed."
He called and his mind found her. Her thoughts were wordless with fear. He saw through her mind, through her eyes. He saw a tall but slightly crouched figure. The posture clearly that of something animalistic and predatorial. Its skin was pale and drawn tight to the bone of its frame, as if it had been starved for months. The nails on its hands were long and sharo, curved slightly like claws. Vivid green eyes with a large wide pupil stared out from a familiar gaunt face. He recognized that face, because it was clearly his own. It was his demon's face.
She didn't respond to his call. Her vision stayed focused on it with wordless terror. He tried again as gently and soothingly as usual.
Leita, dear. It can't see you. It can't sense you. You have your spell. You can move.
Kira stared at Adrien as he went silent. She knew what he was doing, mostly because that was his main way of contacting them when he needed.
"What's happening? Is she okay?" she asked low but urgently.
He felt Aurora's attention with his. She was picking up on at least some of what he was with his mind. She asked then, "What is stalking her?"
His face remained solemn but tranquil. "Me," he answered just as calmly.
Kira's brow furrowed with confusion as she stared at him with her deep blue eyes. No words found her yet. Aurora, of course, understood immediately and simply asked, "Where?"
He wasn't sure. He would have to get Leita to respond to him well enough to give him her location. So he tried again.
Leita, he called once more, but more of a pled to her tone. Her eyes were still focused on it. But after a moment, she did finally manage to think words back to him.
"A ... Adrien ..." Her thoughts distorted the words with her fear, as if she had only managed to half form them in her mind.
Leita, where are you? Where in the gardens?
Tears blurred her vision. "M-my ... my tree, my place ..."
He knew what that meant. Leita had a favorite place in the gardens. It was considered her place. It was a white willow tree by a tiny little creek surrounded by cherry trees that were always in bloom.
"Tell me, and I'll go get her. I think it may be safer than facing your own other half," said Aurora, seeming to sense he had managed to get an answer to her question.
He agreed, saying, "It'll be more likely to attack you than others." She could probably use that to her advantage. He sent her images of the place Leita dwelt.
"I know that. You think I smell good enough to eat. I don't plan to play with it, just get in and get her out. I can blend in, hopefully enough to keep it from pinpointing us."
He nodded. "Where do you think we should regroup?"
"Your place or mine?"
"Yours," he answered immediately. "I don't think places I normally roam would be a good idea."
The place was familiar to her. She herself sometimes sat there to collect her thoughts. Aurora nodded and summoned a door, then she supressed her aura as much as possible, opened the door and stepped into the garden.
She came into the garden perhaps a quarter mile from her destination, in the thick undergrowth of a densely wooded area. Luckily, she found herself downwind of her target as well. The summoner blended her own aura with the surrounding area, effectively disappearing as she ducked into the dense foliage. She crept to the edge of the woods until she could see the spot she expected the girl to occupy.
Though she couldn't see or sense the girl herself, she could sense a disturbance in the natural energy flow of the area, like water slipping around a pebble in a stream, sitting at the base of a tree. Adrien's demon stalked back and forth. It knew she hadn't disappeared, but it couldn't find her. Its hunger was tenacious however, and the gaunt form seemed disinclined to give up his search anytime soon.
Smart monster, she thought. Let's just hope his stomach is thinking louder than his head. She summoned a door, a good half mile from their location, then called up a small wind, bringing its course across her body to carry her scent in a wide arc and upwind of the beast. When the door opened, the beast seemed to be distracted by it and began to sniff the air. Her scent made its way back to them, and Adrien's hunger only had a moment's indecision before loping off in search of tastier prey. She plucked a few hairs from her head, balling them up and sending them away on the wind as well, making another, more distant source of her scent to coax the predator further away still.
Wasting no time, she crept to the base of the tree where she could sense the subtle ripple of energy. She spoke softly and in a whisper, in hopes of not alarming the girl more than she already was. "Leita?"
No answer came immediately, so she continued, still quiet. "Leita Serwen." Names are powerful things, and the ancient hoped that using the girl's full name would get her attention. "My name is Aurora. Adrien Krest sent me to help you." She extended a hand toward where she expected the girl to be. "Please take my hand. We have to hurry."
Aurora felt a small hand in hers as the girl blurred into focus, her spell broken by the touch. The summoner smiled as she quickly shielded their auras. "There's a brave girl." The girl looked back at her timidly with the barest of smiles, and Aurora turned to quickly lead them back the way she had come. The more distance she could put between them and the predator, the less likely they would be followed through the door.
As they made their way through the wood, Aurora pushed the girl as gently as she could to move quickly. Once on the move, Leita seemed to handle herself well enough, but the habit of freezing and hiding just screamed prey to any predator, no matter what kind. It would be problematic for the rest of her team. They broke through the treeline on the other side.
Then, the wind shifted. Aurora paused just long enough to hear a guttural howl of hunger and frustration tear through the evening air. "Dammit." She lifted a hand opening a door and pushing the girl through it as she heard something tearing through the undergrowth. She went quickly through the door herself, slamming it behind her, wiping the signature of her room location from it as quickly as possible while she leaned against it.
Leita had already rushed into the arms of her mentor, and the vampire was soothing her softly as he held her. Aurora smiled at him over the child's head before going to the kitchen as Adrien sat the still shaking girl in one of the armchairs. The taller girl had taken up post in the other.
She filled the kettle and placed it on the stove, then moved to the cupboard. "Well, that was an adventure! Who else wants some tea?"
Adrien and Kira were already there waiting. Both were standing. Kira because she was too worried to sit down and had been pacing the room. Adrien because he was just as comfortable standing for long periods as he was with sitting. They both looked up immediately.
Leita stood there, her hand still clutched tight around Aurora's, hardly seeming to believe she was already out of that nightmare. She looked up to Adrien. He stared back, his face soft with concern, his eyes wrapped gently over her like she always knew them to. He opened his arms to receive her as she let go of Aurora and rushed straight into them. They wrapped around her and she clutched to him. Her legs seemed to give out, and he held her up.
Soft sobs filled the air, and Kira sighed with relief. Other than Leita being in shock, she looked just fine. She took a seat quickly and waited while Adrien consoled her.
Sure enough, Adrien was speaking gently to Leita. "It's okay, dear."
Aurora was still bustling about her kitchen heating water and called out, "Anyone else want a cup beside Leita and I?"
Kira sighed in her seat and replied, "Sure." After a pause, she went on to speak to Adrien. "... Adrien ... you said it was you. I don't understand ..."
Aurora levitated two of the tea cups to the small table between the two armchairs as she leaned on the counter holding her own cup. "Enjoy. It'll make you feel better, Leita."
The girl clutched to Adrien still, not seeming to want to move. He smiled softly down her and stroked her hair. He then lightly touched her arms and moved her over to the chair and sat her down in it. He squatted down on his heels so that he could look on eye level with her. He took one of the cups and placed it in her hands.
Kira took a cup, but didn't drink yet. She stared at Adrien.
"Drink, Leita. It's going to be fine now," said Aurora. She then sipped her own and smiled. "I love chamomile. This is my own blend. Grew the chamomile and other herbs in it myself."
Kira smiled to herself. Smart woman, hoping to take Leita's mind off it with peaking her interest. Adrien stared patiently at Leita who was staring at him through watery eyes. She sniffed but then seemed to take the hint and drank her tea. He smiled, seeming satisfied at this now. He then turned his head over his shoulder slightly to nod to Kira.
"Yes ... it was me. Part of me at least."
Kira blew on her tea and frowned to herself, staring down at the brown liquid as she considered this.
"Don't frown," said Aurora. "We all have dark sides."
That wasn't really why she was frowning. She definitely knew all that already, but she didn't bother interrupting Aurora to correct her for the other woman continued talking about these dark sides. That was more important information.
"Adrien's just came out to play on its own today. I expect mine is milling about somewhere as well." Aurora smirked. "With luck they'll meet up and take each other out."
"I feel like an ant," Kira groaned.
Aurora chuckled. "Why's that?"
"All these giants tumbling about ... might get stepped on or something," said Kira simply, and then drank more of her tea. The thought of the dark sides of both these incredibly powerful persons wandering around the Dome made her very uneasy.
The other woman grinned. "Well, when you get to be several thousand years old, see if you aren't a giant too." Aurora winked then and added, "I promise to watch where I step very carefully. My name is Aurora, by the way."
Kira grinned back at her and replied, "Kira Greenthorne."
Aurora sipped her tea again and then continued. "So, now that we all know each other, it remains to decide what our next move is. How is the tea, Leita?"
"... It's--It's good," she whispered, still staring watery-eyed at her cup between sips.
Adrien reached up and dried her cheeks with his hands and the sleeves of his coat. "We've talked about this before, Leita. And you never understood or took it seriously. I have killed people. Many many people. Some just like you. That was what they last saw me as. This is why I am absolutely serious when I say that if you ever see me injured severely, you are not to run toward me. Do you understand?"
She stared at him now, more stricken by this statement now than when he had first told her this when they had gotten into that fight with the vampire slayers. "... N-no, I couldn't ... I couldn't do that--I couldn't leave you like--"
"You must. Or I might kill you should that happen. That itself would kill me inside all over again," said Adrien, staring directly in her eyes with his own earnest ones.
Leita shook her head frantically. "N-no, you wouldn't!" Her voice trembled with the tears that streamed down her face again but her tone remained adamant.
"Leita, I know it's hard to make the connection. What you just saw is inside me. We normally have a good understanding with each other, but it's not always so accommodating when on the verge of death. It wants to live. It will do whatever it must to find blood to do that." His voice remained just as firm as it was gentle.
Kira sighed. "Honestly, Adrien ... I forget you're a vampire most of the time. I ... have a hard time wrapping my head around it too."
"It's a hard thing to grasp until you've been it or seen it. Unfortunately, then it's too late. Trust him and with luck you won't have to learn how serious he is firsthand," said Aurora.
Leita continued to drink her tea as tears still continued to slid slowly down her face one at a time. Kira drank more of her tea in the silence, but soon broke it after a while.
Aurora brought her teacup to the living room to perch on the hearth. Tea might not be able to stop the cataclysm, but it still contained the cure for a multitude of ills, her favorite being the way the simple, somewhat mundane ritual of it could soothe the mind and clear one's thoughts.
"What to do ..." Adrien smiled over his shoulder at her. "I am a little curious as to what yours is like Aurora."
The summoner smirked. "She's a self-serving, ruthless, arrogant b****. One who lets the events of her life continue to control her." She took a sip of tea before redirecting the conversation. "My first inclination is to hunt down yours again and see if i can't get some information out of it, but i'm afraid your bloodlust isn't coherent enough for that."
The vampire chuckled. "Not really ... I wonder if he'll come out of it."
"In which case, if we want answers, we may have to find my own, or Kisasian's. I am curious to know if anyone else has been attacked."
He looked thoughtful for a moment. "Were you two bitten today at all?"
Kira shook her head. "Nope. I doubt my dark side would be very useful to whatever is doing this anyway." Leita simply echoed the other girl's shake of the head.
Then, Adrien asked the whereabouts of someone named Kai, which somehow caused Kira's tea to nearly slosh all over herself. Aurora smiled very faintly.
"Afraid of his dark side?" Her teacher asked.
"No, Sheikahs are very comfortable with their darkness. Just worried now. He's out there with all that ..."
"I would be afraid of his. Earth elementals can be terrifying." He answered matter-of-factly, to which Aurora nodded in consent. Two ancient and insanely powerful monsters was enough without adding young, half trained elementals to the mix.
"Adrien, are there any of the truly heavy hitters left in the Dome besides you and myself? Anyone we need to be truly concerned with?"
"At the moment, no."
"Well, there's a small blessing. At least we don't have to worry over meeting up with anyone who could pose a serious threat aside from our own others."
He chuckled. "Nothing to worry about other than ourselves?"
She smirked back at him. "Naught to fear but fear itself?"
He grinned. "Precisely."
"Well, no worries then." She shrugged with a chuckle.
Kira sighed. " Nice to see you're all calm about it."
Aurora smiled at the girl. "When you grow up to be a giant, you'll be surprised by the things you start to take in stride."
The youth laughed. "I doubt I'll ever be a giant." Adrien just smirked in a knowing sort of way.
Aurora smiled in return. "Just wait and see." To which, Kira shook her head, complete with a roll of her eyes.
Adrien grinned. "Faith, Kira."
"All things in their own time," the older woman said, looking over at the kitchen as the teapot hovered over to her. "Would you like another cup of tea, Leita?"
"Um ... yes, please." The small girl seemed to be calming down somewhat now. Sometimes the best medicine for a panic attack is to see other people taking things in stride.
"Sure, sure," she answered, holding out her cup.
Aurora set her cup on the hearth beside her, indicating the girls to set their cups on the table between them. They did, and the teapot floated over to refill their cups, then back to the fireplace to fill Aurora's. "See the things you already take in stride? There actually are people who would flip out seeing their drink hover to them on thin air."
Kira chuckled "I've seen magic do crazier things."
"Precisely my point. Once you've seen the crazy things, the little things seem mundane."
"... right, evenutally what once seemed crazy becomes mundane?"
The summoner smiled. "Something like that. Then, as you get accustomed to the crazy stuff, when things truly hit the fan, it doesn't phase you as much because you've either seen something similar, or you've postulated that such a thing COULD happen." She shrugged. "Eventually the word impossible just leaves your vocabulary."
Kira chuckled. "Yeah ... I can kinda see how that can happen."
"Besides, getting worked up doesn't help figure out what needs to be done. In fact, finding the absurdity in the situation and laughing at it often helps you fit the weird and wonderful into the big picture."
Kira smiled. "Right."
"So, that being said," Aurora said, sipping her tea, "are we going shadow hunting, or has Adrien come up with an alternate idea while I've been lecturing his students on crisis management?"
He chuckled. "I can't think of anything better."
"Motion passes." She grinned. "Next item on the agenda, applying method to the madness."
"I think perhaps they could make themselves useful by warning other students to be on their guard. No one should be wandering about alone, especially before we understand what's happening." Aurora stood, taking the tea set back to the kitchen. "I just hope we can find our counterparts separately."
"I thought you said Adrien's dark side wasn't coherent enough for talking," Kira said.
"It doesn't matter if it's smart. Just that it's powerful, and wily enough to be manipulated," the summoner answered, rinsing the cup and pot in the sink.
The gardens were still shrouded in darkness. The demon growled in the night, still angry that its prey had escaped.
She hunted the demon, her power shrouded by the ebb and flow of energy around her. She knew it was hungry. It was always hungy, just as she was. Power is power, whether it comes from politics, blood, or the earth, and it was all intoxicating, no matter its source. She found it, sniffing the air where its prey had vanished, clawing the air, seeking a way to follow. She stepped out behind it. "Poor hungry puppy..." She said teasingly.
The feral vampire turned on her, crouching, its body tensed to strike. Only the fact she surprised it, and appeared unafraid gave it a brief moment's pause.
She made a little kissing noise with her lips. "Here, boy..." It sprang at the woman with the dark gold hair, and she smirked. "Come to mommy, puppy."
"Yes, well," said Adrien, moving onto Kira and Leita. "Let us worry about that. Aurora's idea seems good to me. Go through the halls, stick close to Leita and use insipid artifice as much as possible and warn others. Try to find Kai if you can and tell him what's happened. He might already have felt something. Sheikah know quite a bit about the Dark themselves."
Kira nodded once, asking no more questions. She set her cup down on the table and looked to Leita, who stood as well as if this was a command. She, too, set her cup aside to leave with Kira. Her eyes were still red, but she was calm. If she was afraid to leave the room and possibly be faced with what she had seen in the gardens, Leita didn't seem to be thinking about it. Perhaps for her own peace of mind.
Her smell drove it mad as soon as she gave it time to react. Saliva and drool glisten down its pale and bony chin. When it moved, it was twice as fast as Adrien, and it moved more like a hunched predator. However, her blood drove it into an immediate frenzy. It was desperate for her blood. It had never wanted anything more. The pain in its throat was blistering. It ached a deep ache. It came more wildly at her than it ever had before.