Ah, her hair was brown again. Dark chocolate hair and small round ears again. Adrien thought it was a good disguise for her, her silver hair and ears making her identity all too obvious. She was less recognizable when she looked more human than elven. So Adrien had her take the potion again for their outing. It didn’t make much of a difference for Kira and Kai, so they didn’t have to.
They were headed out again. Out of the Dome, which had become a strange home to her now, even though she had only been there for a few months now, they were going out from this safe heaven to find them. The lost knights of their guard: her brother, Khaz; her lover, Rontu; and her friend, Ren. She was ready: dark forest green cloak fastened at the base of her neck, gray tunic, black leggings and boots, her black leather duffle bag slung over her shoulder and cross her chest, resting at the small of her back under her cloak, and staff in her left hand with her ring on her finger. Her bag was stocked and her mana pool was full to the brim. She was ready for anything.
They all met outside Adrien’s room, geared up and ready to go. He stepped out shortly, as tall as ever, only somewhat shorter standing next to Kai. His every movement lithe and smooth. He looked just the same as ever. He was not as heavily packed. Adrien hardly needed much. The only addition he had made was the silver rapier on his belt. A vampire as ancient as himself had an arsenal not always apparent to the naked eye. Adrien had always told her the rapier was not his most dangerous of weapons.
His tranquil hazel eyes drifted around them, almost as if taking inventory of all their faces. Leita had never seen eyes like his. Such a perfect balance of brown, green, and blue. The colors were not even the most astounding thing about them. It was something Leita had difficulty putting into words. His eyes made her calm, happy, and yet uncomfortable all at once. Looking into his eyes was like … having an ocean or a great big redwood tree staring back at you. These eyes absorbed everything around them. As if they were everything.
There were times when she was sure he knew everything. That was what made her dreadfully uncomfortable. It scared her in a way. As if Adrien’s eyes had been the sprouts and sapling of the desert garden she had kept in the Rebellion days, the dark and unyielding wood of the walls, ceiling, desk, and bookcases of her uncle’s suffocating office, the sheets ripped from her body in the dark. As if he had witnessed every tear she had muffled in her garden, every shame in Sori’s office, and the cries she had stifled in her bedroom.
Those eyes rested on her face now. He smiled in that bright glowing way that only he could smile. Dark thoughts dispelled instantly from her head and ease sank in. It was so easy to forget when he smiled like that. It was like a direct beam of sunlight. But then he frowned ever so softly, still tranquil, and more thoughtful than troubled by anything. Did anything trouble him?
“Leita, dear,” he said. “Why do you never wear the necklace and hairpin I gave you?”
His eyebrows furrowed into a sad puppy dog expression. Not really sad, almost playful, and yet irresistible anyway.
Leita blinked up at him. The gorgeous butterfly necklace with matching hairpin stayed on her nightstand like some kind of talisman to ward away the nightmares she knew would only be held at bay for so long. Made of precious emerald stone, white diamonds, and silver wrapping them together into the design of a butterfly. She could only stare at them on her nightstand in awe. They were so beautiful. Yet she could never bring herself to wear them again. Her regular clothes did not fit their elegant grandeur at all. The only clothes she had that came close were the ones Adrien had bought her the same day he gave her the jewelry.
She would stare at the fine clothes. They weren’t overly revealing or anything. They were tasteful and pretty. Yet she could never bring herself to do more than stare at them like she did the necklace. They were not shallow gifts. They were given out of love. Adrien’s love. He asked for nothing in return. Like a doting uncle and not just her teacher. If only all uncles were like Adrien …
Such sweet gifts of his love, and yet they sat there unused.
She supposed she just didn’t feel deserving. Despite the fact that the words Adrien had said were so near the mark that it hurt … There was no way he could know what she had done. Perhaps he would love her anyway, forgive her the shame. It seemed like something Adrien would do. She just could not … do the same.
“A butterfly is an open heart.” He had said to her that day as he had clipped the necklace’s silver chain around her throat.
Was her heart shut? It had seemed so from the words he had spoken to her that day. She had asked if he doted on all his students. His reply had been odd. “When it is needed.” As if doting was a necessity of life as vital as air and water.
But she loved, didn’t she? She loved her brother, her friends, her kingdom, and her Rontu. Could she have done that with a closed heart? Yet the ever creeping nightmares lingered at the edges of her mind. She knew they would draw near. Her talismans could not keep the restless nights at bay for long. It seemed a taunt at her lies, trying to convince herself there was nothing wrong with her heart as it was.
She gaped up at Adrien and stuttered, “I … I—they’re too beautiful f-for casual wear, Adrien-sensei.”
His puppy dog stare faded into a warm smile again, and she knew she was forgiven. “Don’t worry about that, Leita. Just wear them when you want to.”
She supposed he meant that in more ways than one.
Kira got impatient and said, “Yes, yes, come on. Let’s head out already.”
Adrien nodded to her and a door appeared behind her, standing on its own in thin air as was usual for them. Adrien was stepping through the door when it happened. It was like the floor disappeared right from under her. She never got to see if it was some kind of trap door the Dome suddenly placed under her feet or if it had just ripped open a hole in the floor. The air rushed past her for a moment. Her gut lurched with the unexpected feeling of fall. She didn’t even have enough time to worry about how far up she was being dropped. She thudded to a grassy floor, hard enough to make her backside sore.
“Ah!” she gasped when she hit. She jerked up head up quickly and only saw a blue sky through tree branches.
She stared around herself, remaining on the side of her thigh she had landed on. Her staff lay on the ground next to her. It almost looked like a forest, except that the trees were too evenly and perfectly spaced. It seemed more like an orchard. There was a random variety of trees though, too much so for a normal orchard. Some were fruit bearing, others not. She stood up and brushed herself off.
And she tried not to panic.
Where was she? She had a feeling it wasn’t Sekin. That made her feel a little better. Sekin was much more dangerous for her to be alone in right now. Adrien would find her wouldn’t he? Leita wasn’t as good at summoning doors like him. She tried for several minutes, but nothing happened. Should she stay in place? Wait for Adrien to come? She clutched her staff to her chest and worried.
OoC: :3 starting it, but honestly, I don’t know when I’ll be able to post next. I still need to finish the necromancer coven before we can get deep into it. I have a few ideas, so get an AIM soon so we can talk ^^
Ed had been hacking his way through thick jungle foliage for roughly a week. He'd never been in a jungle before, or even a forest for that matter. His few trips to Mars had been solely in the cities, not in the wild. He was never attacked by wild animals, if you didn't count mosquitoes... at least he hoped they were mosquitoes.
He was relieved to finally stumble across his first sign of sentient life: what appeared to be an old human road. With no better plan in mind, he followed it until he reached civilization. Thankfully, it wasn't too far away.
The town of Bellstrom. It amazed him to see other human beings wandering around, even though their technology all appeared to be quite archaic. Beforehand he'd assumed that their ship had some sort of dormant intergalactic travel subsystem and he'd crash landed on an uncharted world... but that was purely science fiction. With sign of human life, he was certainly not on an uncharted world. Wherever he really was, it couldn't have been the same universe. Ha... that sounded even more like science fiction.
Upon entering the city, the first thing he did was look for a place to sleep. He quickly discovered, however, that he didn't carry 'acceptable currency'. He was forced to sleep in a back alley, which was unfortunately where people liked to toss the contents of their toilet bowls. How he suddenly missed indoor plumbing!
Ed had just awoken from a long night's rest and decided it was best to clean himself off, he literally smelled like crap. He found a public fountain, perfect for removing the stench. It was strange how common water was in this world, but then... most life-bearing planets were supposed to sport a large amount of water. It unnerved him to a degree, though it also meant he'd rarely go thirsty. He reached the edge and carefully began splashing the water over his stinky clothes.
His mind had been sifting through what his next course of action should be. What was he going to do? He couldn't just settle down on this new planet, he had to find a way back home. There was a score he needed to settle and there was no way to settle it from here.
Styx was also missing. That son of a b**** certainly couldn't have been killed in the jungle, it just wouldn't make sense. Nothing short of a missile to the face could have stopped that behemoth in his tracks. Then again, he could have been underestimating the power of this planet's residents and wildlife, or overestimating Styx. Maybe both. It could be that he was dead, but that was a thought Ed didn't dwell on.
“Excuse me, young sir, but this water isn't for washing.” Ed looked up over his shoulder at an old man, tall and dressed in what was probably expensive attire for these people. “This is drinking water.”
Ed scooped one last handful of water and rubbed it through his hair. “Oops.” He shouldered past the elder as he pulled his beanie back over his head. What a prude.
Ed was starving. He'd eaten the last of his food back in the jungle. The only two ways he could see getting more without having to pay would be by begging or by stealing. If he were given the choice, he'd rather steal. Begging wasn't something he liked to do.
The rest of the townspeople went mostly unnoticed by Stone. He walked his hunched walk, eying the street corners like a vulture looking for a corpse to scavenge. It was early, not many people were up and about just yet so there were no fruit stands to casually pick off in the midst of a crowd. He'd have to get more creative than that.
Or perhaps he wouldn't. Around the corner of a rather stately looking building was a forest. Well, technically it wasn't a forest, but more like a large garden of trees that stretched a good distance in several directions. They were all in neat rows, many baring fruits of different sorts. It was much too large for an orchard belonging to simply one person. Maybe it was a collective orchard for several different owners? Either that or someone had a monopoly on the stuff. Surely whoever owned these plants wouldn't miss a fruit or two.
He took a few steps in, looking around for any sort of fruit that looked familiar to him. He quickly discovered that the trees were in no specific order, the different types strewn about randomly. Some of them also had nameplates at their base. This perplexed him for a moment, but if his idea of this being a orchard that belonged to several merchants was correct, it could simply label who each tree belonged to.
Finally, he spotted a tree that appeared to be baring apples. That would do nicely. He picked three of them off and cradled them in an arm. He took a bite and glanced around to be sure no one was paying him much heed. Instantly he spotted someone, and she spotted him. A young girl with brown hair, green eyes. She looked nervous or scared or something. She was kind of cute, but that was more of a reason to avoid her.
Leita looked up and saw a man. He looked strange, mostly by his clothing. He wore something akin to a cloak, but more like a coat with a hood on it. It was shorter too, stopping at his waist. It was held shut by a strange metallic pattern down his front. The pattern of the coat was a little strange too. Not something she was used to seeing. He wore a strange cap on his head with glasses on his nose. The lenses were yellow! He had a sword strapped to his back. That at least looked familiar. This all aside, he looked rather dirty and worn from travel and probably the lack of a home. He had orange hair and facial hair on his chin. He looked older than herself by a few years. He held apples in his arm and one in his other hand. His mouth seemed to be holding a bite.
Their eyes met at almost the same time. He was a couple yards away from her. His eyes were pale, but it was hard to see their exact color from that distance. She knew she needed to ask where she was. Her shyness rooted her feet into place, and she clutched her staff a little tighter.
Oh, come on, Leita. He’s not going to bite you.
“Um—Sir!” she called and started walking over. “Do you happen to know … um, where we are?”
Great. He'd held eye contact for too long. He turned away and pretended he hadn't seen her. He even started to casually walk away, but she'd already been set on conversation.
“Um—Sir!” she called and started walking over. “Do you happen to know … um, where we are?”
He stopped and turned back to her, eyebrow cocked. That was probably the weirdest thing she could have possibly said. Well... maybe not the weirdest, he could think of quite a few weirder things, but it was certainly a strange question to ask. Maybe she was taking a stroll and got lost? “We're in a garden. What does it look like, dumbass?” He took another bite of his apple. Delicious.
“What the devil do you think you're doing!?”
The voice caused Ed to jump. He coughed on a piece of apple stuck in his throat, nearly choking on it before swallowing. He spun around to see a six foot tall man peering down at him. He was lanky, but Ed could tell he had muscle.
“Well what the devil do you think you're doing?” Ed returned the question.
The stranger grabbed him by the wrist and twisted it up to his eye-level. “This is sacred fruit!”
Ed chuckled. Sacred fruit? He snapped his arm free from the man's grasp. “Well maybe I have a sacred hunger. Piss off.”
The overbearing newcomer let out what sounded like a growl, which was rather unexpected and intimidating, causing Ed to back up two steps. “These trees are buried on our dead loved ones. The fruit carries on their essence, it is not for eating! You have committed a travesty here. This is blasphemy!”
Wait, these trees were planted on top of dead bodies? He thought about this for a moment. His imagination began to run away with itself. Now he couldn't imagine the apples as anything less than dried up human hearts. He dropped the fruit on the ground, spitting what was left of it on the ground. “Disgusting.”
Through all this, the girl seemed to just stand and watch.
“We're in a garden. What does it look like, dumbass?”
Leita blinked, her brows furrowing. She was almost confused at his words. What had she said that was wrong? She bit her lip and looked down while blinking rapidly.
“What the devil do you think you're doing!?”
Leita jumped with Ed, looking up, blinking more but the shock had sent her hurt feelings fluttering. A tall man loomed near them with a scowl. Leita opened her mouth to say something. Apologize. Ask what it was that either of them had done. But the orange-haired man snapped back first,
“Well what the devil do you think you're doing?”
The new stranger then grabbed him by the wrist and twisted it up to his eye-level. “This is sacred fruit!”
Leita stared wide-eyed at the exchange between the two. Oh no. She opened her mouth to speak again, to explain that he must have not known that, but she was interrupted again. The orange-haired one chuckled and then snapped his arm free from the man's grasp with a quick and almost practiced motion. The way he moved seemed … familiar in a way. Was he trained?
“Well maybe I have a sacred hunger. Piss off,” the shorter one retorted.
The tree-keeper let out what sounded like a growl, which was rather unexpected and intimidating, causing the stranger to back up two steps. “These trees are buried on our dead loved ones. The fruit carries on their essence, it is not for eating! You have committed a travesty here. This is blasphemy!”
A disgusted grimace went across the orange-haired one’s face. He dropped the fruit on the ground then, spitting what was left of it on the ground.
The tall one glowered deeply at him. Then his eyes rounded on Leita. “Are you with this idiot?”
Leita blinked and stared up at him. He just looked so angry. She took a moment to unstick her throat now that she actually had a chance to speak. She swallowed. “Um … I don’t think he realized that these were sacred—”
“I didn’t ask you if he knew what the hell he was doing,” interrupted the tree-keeper curtly. “I asked if you were with him. But if you’re defending him, I guess that’s a yes.”
“W-well,” stuttered Leita, seeming to shrink down more by the second as she cringed farther and farther in on herself. Her shoulders started curving in and closer to her ears. “No, but—”
“Etulan!” called a voice, a woman stalked toward them quickly. She was tall and wispy, a few inches under six feet herself. Her hair was a violent shade of red and cropped short around her face like a boy’s. Her face followed the same thin structure as her body. Her eyes were a light brown and narrowed at the man in a frustrated manner. She was wrapped in leather, like a ranger of the forest, a long knife sheathed at her bony hip. She stomped to a stop by the man. She looked around her mid-thirties. She growled, “You are NOT the grave keeper, Etulan.”
“I know that,” he retorted and then pointed at the fruit on the ground. “Look what they’ve done! They picked the fruit!”
She rolled her eyes and folded her arms across her chest. “Yeah, you have no idea how often this happens. Travelers pass through and don’t realize what they are all the time. It can’t be helped. The dead will understand. Don’t act like you know what they would want. Now go. This is my graveyard, I’ll deal with it.”
Etulan seemed frustrated, but grunted and left. The woman turned toward Leita and her other stranger. She eyed him and seemed to understand the need for fruit picking. “Hungry? Follow me. My name is Utha, by the way.”
Ed sighed, partly of relief and partly of distress. That was rather close. Being imprisoned for eating an apple would have been ridiculous. Apparently it wasn't really that strict of a law that he broke, but being incarcerated for any reason wasn't something he looked forward to. Even though he was now in the clear, he didn't like having tall, bony women fight his battles for him. Regardless, he was too hungry to complain.
“Hungry?” The woman asked. “Follow me. My name is Utha, by the way.” Without waiting for any sort of response, she turned and began to walk.
Was that an offer for free food? There was no arguing with that. He followed the woman with little hesitation, the other younger girl doing the same. He kinda hoped she would have gone off and done her own thing, though the offer was obvious extended to her as well. Ed avoided looking at her as much as possible as they walked. Whatever.
Utha led them out of the graveyard and into a large hut nearby, built pretty nicely compared to many of the others in the area. Still, Ed wasn't quite used to their level of technology. He'd have to adjust.
Inside the front door lay a large table, already set with a few others already in the midst of eating. Bowls held various fruits and berries, a couple plates filled with breads and cheeses here and there, and plates of eggs. He could scarcely believe it. After all the processed space food he'd been eating the past few weeks, this was going to be like a feast. He felt like he was either dreaming, or had stepped into the story of Hansel and Gretel. As soon as they ate their fill, this woman was going to throw both the girl and himself into an oven and bake them into a pie.
“Eat your fill.” Utha suggested. “Consider it both as a formal greeting to Bellstrom and an apology for Etulan's brash introduction.”
Ed sat himself down without another word and began grabbing a little of each type of food. Bread, fruit, eggs, cheese, and everything. Even with this village's limited technology, he quickly discovered that their cooking certainly didn't suffer from it. He'd go so far as to say these were the best eggs he'd ever had. Then again, he was never sure if the eggs back home were ever real or not.
Leita followed, because she didn’t know what else to do. Plus, it seemed rude to reject the invitation. So she just went quietly along with the orange-haired and snappish one. His comments didn’t seem arrogant more than harsh. It was like he was just in a bad mood. Hungry men were often cranky. Was that it? Or was he just in a foul mood all the time? Had she offended him somehow? Even now he stared ahead almost stubbornly, and she had the feeling he wished she wasn’t there.
Leita sighed. Maybe she should have stayed and waited for Adrien. She wasn’t hungry at all. She had eaten before she left for the trip.
She looked around at all the little houses in the distance that looked more like huts. Even she was used to more advanced structures. Hyrule was a fairly wealthy even if reclusive kingdom, so they could afford better. They passed into a hut near the graveyard grounds. Inside was a large meal laid out for several people, who all gathered around it and talked. They hardly looked up when the two entered. Leita supposed it was normal for Utha to invite strangers in.
Utha welcomed them graciously and let her know that she was in a village called Bellstrom. Leita sat down at a long bench and table while the orange-haired man quickly filled up a plate and chomped heartily into it. She stared at the wooden table, feeling less like she belonged than the grouchy man at the table. At least he was hungry. Her eyes traced a pattern in the wooden grooves.
She looked up and saw Utha watching her with a calm and yet slightly curious look on her face. Leita grasped for something to say in the awkward moment.
“Um—so … why do you plant trees over your dead?”
She smiled after swallowing some fruit. “It’s to protect them. It roots them to the earth where they become part of the trees. Some of us believe that our dead actually become those trees now. Some people go there and talk to them, leave gifts, sit by them quietly … And also …” she looked around the table where others had started to listen. Some smiled knowingly, but it was quiet now as everyone listened. Utha looked back to Leita again. “Most of the reason is to protect them from necromancers.”
Leita shivered. Necromancy was forbidden in Hyrule. She had only ever read about it briefly during her studies in the Rebellion. She remembered the eager light in her uncle’s eyes when he lectured on the subject. She had heard the reverence and obsession in his voice. She felt her insides twist. These were things she preferred not to remember. His brown eyes and his soft quiet voice.
“You okay?” Utha asked, frowning now, seeming to notice the sudden illness in Leita’s expression. “You look a little green …”
A man chuckled from across the table. “You scared her too much with that kind of talk, Utha.”
Leita smiled weakly and said, “It’s okay … I’m fine. So … that makes sense. With the trees. The roots keep them from rising up again …”
Utha nodded gravely. “It’s our duty to make sure the dead remain undisturbed and protected here.”
Leita smiled to herself. They reminded her of the Sheikah in her home kingdom. Protectors and guardians of the dead and the Shadow Temple. The Sheikah were the ones who had up held the law of necromancy. Any caught practicing it were swiftly executed by them. A thought occurred to Leita, and she looked up at Utha to ask, “Um … is there any … particular reason you would need protection from necromancers here?”
The table went still, but Utha smirked and shrugged. “Hey, it’s just tradition and old stories.”
But her eyes didn’t meet Leita’s when she said this. Leita knew lies. Maybe not as well as the Sheikah or Kai did. But she knew them; because she always knew when her brother lied … well, not always. The master of lies, masks, and fake smiles. Khaz always seemed to know how to lie. He knew what others wanted to hear, and he gave them what they wanted and they thought no more of it. He could cover up his own emotions with a cheery mask that may as well have been his own skin for how perfect it was.
Why would Utha lie?
Then someone moved from the back. Through a doorway covered with a leather drape, an old woman came with a knobby cane … made of bleach white bones. A few wisps of gray hair flowed around her wrinkly face like threaded cobwebs. A leather cloth was cover over her left eye. Her right eye had a milky film over it. She was blind. She looked similar to Utha in build. Maybe they were related, but this woman had the more leathery look to her thin and wispy frame. She slouched over, leaning on her cane. The little staff in her left hand looked to be made out of two leg bones with ancient runes carved into it filled with silver and at the top sharp white fangs cupped a glassy black stone. It looked like the most expensive item on her or in the home. Only second to the strange beaded necklace wound around her right arm. The beads were made up of both black ebony and the glossy onyx, both in pearl and cylindrical shapes. Leita could make out tiny engravings, but their exact design was too fine for how far she was to study in detail. The main ornament seemed to be a large orb about the size of an apple. It seemed to be just a shriveled ball of black leather. It looked to have symbols imprinted in its surface as well.
Utha got up immediately and went to the old woman’s side, helping her move more steadily along.
“Hm, newcomers today, Utha?” the woman rasped.
“Yup, I found them in the graveyard,” said Utha, and then she looked to the orange-haired one and smirked. “Eating sacred fruit.”
“Hm, a sacred appetite surely,” the old woman mumbled. “Help me to them; I would like to see them.”
The others at the table perked up at this, looking at Leita and the other newcomer with more intrigue. Utha helped the woman hobble over the table, coming to Leita first.
“This is Alavama, our village elder and shaman,” Utha introduced.
Leita stood up and bowed. “It is an honor.”
Alavama chuckled. “Ah, yes, the butterfly girl.”
Leita’s heart jumped at those words. She stared, a little shocked at the old woman. She stared at that one white eye.
She smiled wrinkly back at her. “Ah, but she’s still in her cocoon … pity, pity.”
One of the men chuckled then.
“Is that her totem, Alavama?”
“Yes,” she replied and reached forward. Leita held very still for her. Her leathery and crinkled hand gently caught a lock of her brown hair. “With pixy ears and moon-silver hair.”
It was like her heart was being continually shocked.
“She's definitely pretty enough,” said another, a younger one of the men. He smiled hopefully at her, but Leita was still busy staring at Alavama and her white blind eye. She was blind … and yet how much did she really see?
Alavama turned her head to peer around her at the orange-haired one, who was paying more attention to his food than anything else around him. She cackled a little then and muttered, “The pirate who sailed the stars, earth-bound thief once more.”
Ed silently listened to the ongoing conversation as he inhaled the food before him. He had little care for what was going on or what was being said. It all sounded like a bunch of superstitious hocus pocus to him. Necromancy. Ha! Any sort of magic was always just some sort of explainable phenomena or cleverly concealed trick, but he wouldn't bother enlightening the locals. He knew that they wouldn't have any of it. Even as Utha denied believing the idea of necromancy, he could tell without looking up from his plate that she was lying through her teeth.
The eggs were his favorite. They added something to it that made it just... sublime. He couldn't put his finger on it, but there must have been some secret ingredient. Then again, maybe he was just really hungry. He filled his plate with another helping.
Everyone at the table stopped what they were doing and looked to the far side of the room. A very old looking lady stepped out from behind a leather drape. Ed studied her from head to toe. She was clearly a very well respected person. He could tell not only by the way she was dressed, but by how everyone in the room seemed to stop and revere her the moment she made herself known.
“Hm, newcomers today, Utha?” the woman rasped.
She seemed like a very perceptive woman. She was clearly blind in both eyes, but could recognize the unfamiliar presences. He'd heard it was common for blind people to do this, though where he came from very few people were blind. Most could afford surgery.
“Yup, I found them in the graveyard,” said Utha, and then she looked to the orange-haired one and smirked. “Eating sacred fruit.” Ed rolled his eyes.
“Hm, a sacred appetite surely,” the old woman mumbled. Ed smirked. Funny how she'd used a term similar to the one he'd used earlier. “Help me to them; I would like to see them.” Ed continued eating, still paying attention to the conversation being held. He couldn't help but feel put on the spot, however. Everyone at the table was now looking at him and this other girl.
“This is Alavama, our village elder and shaman,” Utha introduced.
Leita stood up and bowed. “It is an honor.”
Alavama chuckled. “Ah, yes, the butterfly girl.”
Ed looked over at the girl who'd come with him. She appeared visibly shocked by the old lady's words. He wasn't quite sure what the significance of this was, but he shrugged it off.
She smiled wrinkly back at her. “Ah, but she’s still in her cocoon … pity, pity.”
“Is that her totem, Alavama?”
Ed decided to just tune everything out now. Bunch of nonsense and useless chat. He wanted to enjoy his meal.
“The pirate who sailed the stars, earth-bound thief once more.”
Food sprayed out of the pirate's mouth, coating a stranger across the table. He shoved himself back from his plate and stood to his full height, however small it might have been. “What the hell did you just say?” How could she possibly know that about him? Had she been watching him? Was it just a lucky guess? Was it an old saying that just coincidentally lined up with him? Each of the possible explanations seemed unlikely.
The old lady was smiling. “You've seemed to have misplaced a friend.”
Styx? How could... wait... now it all made sense. Ed sighed with relief. He chuckled, relaxing his tense posture. How could he have fallen for that so easily? “Where is he? He's here, isn't he.” What a joke. “Styx, you bastard, get out here!”
The elder's smile faded. Her face now looked quite grim. “... a heavy weight is upon your shoulders.” Ed looked back at her, still convinced that at any moment his former partner in crime was going to pop out from the shadows with that stupid grin of his. He was going to shoot him in the leg. “Dark brown hair, chestnut eyes... submerged in water.”
Ed felt his heart stop, then begin beating rapidly. How? This was impossible. How could she possibly know? Not even Styx knew about what he'd done. Ed slowly raised a shaking finger, pointing it at the shaman as he tried to find the right words to say. A dark frown was nailed to his face. He glared at the blind woman from behind his glasses, breathing deeply through his nostrils. The only explanation that seemed possible was that she was somehow in league with Pandora. Was this whole thing just another test? The thoughts were baffling. How could they have possibly orchestrated this? It was ludicrous. “I don't know how you know this, woman, but keep it to yourself.”
The elder continued. “Everyone you ever knew...”
“... It's not your fault, you know.”
Ed slammed a fist on the table, causing the dishes to rattle. “I SAID SHUT THE F*** UP!”
The entire room fell silent. A tense feeling in the air kept their mouths shut as Ed's heavy breathing began to slow. His mind was reeling, but there was no logical explanation for how this woman could know so many things about him. He simply stood still... breathing heavily with a layer of sweat coating his brow. He dropped himself in his seat, staring down at his plate. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a cigarette, popping it in his mouth. He glanced up at the blind woman with a cold glare. “Don't ever bring that up again, or I swear I will make you regret it.” He pulled out his lighter and lit the cig, the familiar fragrance bringing a strange sort of calm to him. He wasn't hungry anymore.
Leita jumped when the stranger spewed food out his mouth. She had hardly been able to understand the meaning of what Alavama had just said. She was so intensely immersed in this woman that the sudden interruption set her heart pounding. She turned to look at him, and he was standing, not even bothering to apologize to the man he had just sprayed with his food. Her staff that was leaned against the table clattered to the floor.
“What the hell did you just say?” he demanded. Leita stared at him with wide-eyes. Had what she said insulted him somehow?
Alavama just kept smiling at him. Instead of answering, she simply said, “You've seemed to have misplaced a friend.”
Orange-haired one’s posture then relaxed, and he chuckled almost to himself.
“Where is he? He's here, isn't he,” the man said, smirking. Who? Then he called, “Styx, you bastard, get out here!”
Leita blinked, almost not following, but then she realized he didn’t believe Alavama could know that he was … a pirate? Somehow he expected it to be a prank. Something to do with someone called Styx. The shaman frowned then, a deep sense of forlorn in her eyes.
“.. A heavy weight is upon your shoulders.” The man looked back to her, but his expression was still expecting but relaxed. He wasn’t taking anything she said seriously. Until … “Dark brown hair, chestnut eyes... submerged in water.”
Leita didn’t know what that meant at all, but it was obvious within an instant that it meant something to him. His face seemed to pale instantly, his eyes widening. A cold hard glower set on his face quickly as he raised a finger at the woman. A finger that shook. Leita backed away from him. His reaction being more than anything she had ever expected. He seemed almost as nervous as he was angry.
“I don't know how you know this, woman, but keep it to yourself.”
But the medicine woman continued her voice soft with sadness and sympathy for him. “Everyone you ever knew...”
The tone of her voice seemed to pierce into Leita’s very heart. Her eyes stayed locked on the man though. He trembled very slightly. At first, she would have guessed anger was what made him tremble. But now she wondered if it was something else …
“Shut up,” he urged more harshly.
“... It's not your fault, you know.”
When he slammed a fist down on the table, sending the dishes rattling against each other and the wood, Leita jumped violently, stumbling back against the wall.
“I SAID SHUT THE F*** UP!”
His words weren’t even pointed at her and tears came to her eyes. She remained pressed against the hut wall. Little scared gasps of breath passing through her just barely parted lips. Though, she realized the tears weren’t really because of what he shouted, but why he shouted.
“Anger is a mask for pain.” Adrien’s voice came to her from a distant memory.
“... It's not your fault, you know.”
Suddenly she remembered all the times Nabooru, Faely, and Khaz had told her that what happened hadn’t been her fault. They said it over and over, like they could hear her thoughts through her eyes:
Yes, it is.
Yes, it was.
Leita’s shoulders curved in on herself again, her hands pressed against her chest, hair falling down to veil her face as her head bowed. She wasn’t even sure why she was crying. So why should anyone see it? All she knew was this wave of emotion rushing down on her so intensely. She heard him sit down. It was so quiet it seemed very loud. She peeked at him through her dark hair.
He was putting something that looked like a rolled piece of paper with herb in it in his mouth. He spoke again with the white stick between his lips, more calmly now. “Don't ever bring that up again, or I swear I will make you regret it.”
He pulled out a little box and flicked something on its end. A flame flickered to life on the top. Magic? He lit the end of his roll and inhaled. Ah, a smoking herb. The action vaguely reminded her of how Rontu would take a swing of his whiskey canteen. That was back when he drank every day.
Everything was dead quiet. Before anyone could get outraged by how he had just treated their elder—screams in the distance broke the silence, snapping it cleanly in two. Leita looked up, a little startled by the sound. It wasn’t close enough to make her jump like before.
Alavama looked grim but unsurprised. She whispered in the quiet with screams in the distance, “They are here.”
Utha glanced down at Alavama instantly. She clutched the old woman’s arm protectively and urgently. “Who is here?”
“The necromancers. They have come for it,” she answered gravely.
No one spoke for a moment. The screams grew louder outside. There were more screams, and they were getting closer. A few of the men jumped up instantly.
“Do not panic!” ordered Alavama, waving a hand. “Everyone, go to your families, bring them to our church.”
Instantly, they all dashed for the door, running for their homes. Hoping it was not their loved ones that were screaming or possibly dying now. After the wave of people leaving, someone rushed back in.
It was the man from the graveyard. Etulan.
“Elder,” he gasped urgently as he swept into the room. “Quickly, I will carry you. We must take refuge!”
Leita stayed frozen against the wall. What was happening? Necromancers? They have come for it? She had only ever studied necromancers. She had never faced any in combat before. But if their dead was rooted to their graves that meant … some people were already dead and more would join the more that died … the larger their small army would grow.
Alavama nodded and did not protest as Etulan scooped her up in his arms. She was so thin; she looked as if she weighed nothing in his arms. She looked to Leita and the man.
“Come with us quickly, if you do not want to die.”
He wasn't sure why he sat himself back down. He had no intention of eating anything else, and he could tell most of the people at the table didn't appreciate his presence. The only thing that kept him was his curiosity about the elderly woman's apparent ability to see into his past. Every possible explanation he could think of was either too far fetched to be likely, or was simply impossible. Perhaps the impossible was the only possibility here. Maybe the woman was really psychic. It was unlikely, but the only logical possibility seemed to be the illogical one. There was something mystical about her, yet Ed didn't believe in the supernatural.
Somewhere in the distance, several screams broke the tense silence. Ed glanced over his shoulder out the door behind him, his mind shifting its focus. He'd heard that sort of scream before, countless times back on earth: Someone was being attacked. Who was being assaulted and for what reasons he couldn't say, but he wasn't going to be so quick to dismiss such a cry for help. Someone could be in serious trouble.
“They are here.” The old woman stated. Ed placed his hand on the handle of the Padlock revolver at his side. Whatever that meant, it didn't sound good.
Answering the question on Ed's mind, Utha spoke. “Who is here?”
“The necromancers.” Oh boy. “They have come for it.” Ed didn't believe in necromancy, of course, but this woman did. Whoever was out there was a threat, and Ed wasn't going to shrug that fact off. The screams were now getting louder. Stone stood from the table, as did most of the other men. Concern was on all their faces, worried about their loved ones, or for themselves.
“Do not panic!” ordered Alavama, waving a hand. “Everyone, go to your families, bring them to our church.”
Ed pulled the revolver from its holster and was about to make his way to the door, but was pushed back by the rest of the taller men who were shoving past him. As soon as they were out the door, a familiar face appeared in the door frame. Not him again.
“Elder,” Etulan gasped urgently as he swept into the room. “Quickly, I will carry you. We must take refuge!”
Ed watched as the lanky villager scooped the frail lady into his arms. If that woman were to fall to the ground, Ed was certain she'd shatter into a million pieces. Fortunately, Etulan had a good grip, and she didn't seem to weigh much at all.
“Come with us quickly, if you do not want to die.”
There were only five people in the room now, including himself. None of the others appeared to be suitable fighters. Ed probably didn't appear to be much of a fighter to these people either, but he had no intention of cowering away as people were being slaughtered in the streets.
Ed's cigarette slid to the side of his mouth as he spoke. “Alright, save your skins. I, for one, refuse to sit back and do nothing.” He turned the safety off on his gun with the flick of a finger. Turning on his heel, he bolted out the door.
His eyes scanned the street. Everyone was running the same direction; panic in their movements, fear in their eyes. Such horror on their faces. They were desperate, they were scared. Whatever they were trying to escape from was much more than simply dangerous.
Ed took off running down the street, the source of the commotion. He was the only person moving against the crowd. He struggled not to get trampled, especially being so much shorter than most of those fleeing. He could see a group of people fighting down the road, though he couldn't quite tell from this distance who was on which side. By the time the street cleared enough for him to make out faces, he could clearly see who the threat was.
One of the attackers looked him in the eye, a freshly killed body at its feet. Ed had never before seen anything like this. This person's eyes were rapidly darting back and forth as if he were in rem sleep. Blood was pouring from a gaping wound in his neck, but he looked more alive than ever. He threw his arms to his side, neck hunched and teeth gnashing. The strange man's mouth peeled back with a deep, guttural roar.
Ed pointed his gun at the crazy man's head, but he didn't seem to react. Something wasn't right about this guy. A few of his friends were now looking at him as well, their eyes doing the same funky thing as his. They too had lethal wounds on their body, yet didn't seem to be hindered by them. “How about you just turn around and leave,” Ed chided, “and I might not shoot you.”
They didn't care for what he had to say, or perhaps they simply didn't understand him. Three of the crazies sprung toward him with inhuman speed. The sheer force and ferocity of their movements caught Ed off guard, but it was still not much of a problem. He squeezed his trigger three times in a row. Each bullet peeled through his targets' skulls, dropping them like flies. Normally he would have felt some sort of remorse, but these attackers didn't seem to have minds of their own. It was like they had been infected with some sort of illness that reverted them to an animal-like state. Violence was all that they were concerned with.
A small group of them further down the street started working their way toward him, slowly and cautiously after having witnessed his previous display of firepower. “You see what I did to your friends here? If you even think--”
He was interrupted by one of the mindless drones who let out a bone chilling howl. A chorus of growls and grunts responded in the distance, and in immediate vicinity. Numerous others chattering and yelling back in a language that seemed to have no structure. Suddenly, the patter of feet filled the streets. Ed's heart skipped a beat as dozens of the beasts poured out into the open. Even stranger, some of the people who'd appeared to be dead stood from the ground, blood seeping from claw and bite wounds, and one even from a bullet wound to the forehead, one of the ones he'd killed personally.
Ed's eyes widened at this sight. According to logic, these people should have been dead. But really, what did logic have to do with anything he'd seen today? Only one phrase seemed appropriate for the moment. “F*** this!”
Ed wheeled around 180 degrees and ran as fast as he possibly could. The hungry growls and patter of feet behind him were all the incentive he needed to keep moving. If he continued running like this for much longer, however, they were going to overtake him. Despite their gruesome wounds, they were far faster than he was. He fired his gun twice over his shoulder, taking out three more of the insane murderers, but six others moved in to take their place. He needed to formulate a solid plan. He'd have to find that church everyone was running to. It seemed like the only safe haven from these zombies.
Leita picked her staff back up from the ground. She stared after the orange-haired man as he left. What was he going to do? What could he do against necromancers? Leita left with Alavama and her helpers. They traveled quickly, Leita jogged to keep up. Her mind kept going back to the man from before. Would he be okay? They ran along the fringes of the village, avoiding most of the mass hysteria that had consumed it. Screams, people running chaotically about. Some who seemed to have some focus ran for the tallest and more durable looking structure in the area: a stone church.
They merged into the village more as they neared it. The people screamed, and Leita stared about. Was there something she could be doing that would save more people? Then she saw him. The orange-haired one. He was sprinting for the church. Oh, so he changed his mind … Oh wait …
Leita saw it.
The mob of the dead. The bloody. The zombies. They howled and ran after him as fast and perhaps faster than when they had been alive. They were no longer bound to their frail bodies in that way. They could not become physically exhausted for as long as their masters powered them.
She didn’t think. She just … moved. She acted.
First, a light pink and translucent bubble of energy encased the orange-haired one and any others she knew to still be alive and in the way. She could tell by the energy of each person. The dead ones felt greasy, empty, and cold with their dark lifeless energy. Then she pulled back a tiny fist that would otherwise be harmless.
“Kasai Din!” she called, and she pumped that fist forward, and a wave of fire erupted from it, charging down the mob front in a great wide sweep.
She had read that fire, light, and holy magic were the best weapons against the undead. Fire worked to consume their bodies until there was nothing that could move left. Fire roared around Ed as the wave passed over him. The shield protected him from the heat. It consumed the mob that came after him. They still kept charging for a few moments, unhindered by the fire, until it ate away their limbs and they collapsed.
It worked, but Leita cringed away from the sight. The bloody running corpses had been horrible enough, but now the smell of burning flesh drifted over her, and she did not want to watch their bodies roast anymore. She had never used this spell on living people. It seemed hard enough to have used it on dead bodies.
She dropped her shields once she was sure everyone was safe and channeled some of her mana into her staff. The big emerald at the top glowed a bright and luminous green. She raised it high above her so that the village people would see it. The plants nearby and under her feet grew a little more and they grew green and healthy.
“Everyone,” she tried to call out as loud as her little voice could. It shook, but it was louder at least. “Get into the church!”
She started running then, to those panicked villagers. When her light shined on them, they grew slightly calmer. Enough to listen and trust in her. She started herding people to the church. She eventually spotted Alavama with Utha and Etulan. She moved through the clusters of running people over to them.
Utha’s face suddenly grew pale and her eyes widened with fear. She pointed at something behind Leita. She swirled around immediately. High up in the air hovered a gaunt and skeletal figure. It was clothed, though the clothes seemed slightly moth-eaten and ragged and frayed at the edges. It looked … Leita had only seen illustrations of them.
It was a skeletal and almost mummified corpse. A lich. The sickening and greasy cold power that rolled off it almost winded her as she stared up at it. It swirled a dark scythe-like stave in its boney grasp and pointed it at them. The staff discharged a crackling ray of black energy.
It struck Alavama. The old woman tensed and arched in Etulan’s arms as the dark energy sank into her body. Then she fell as limp as a rag doll.
Automatically, Leita pointed a hand at the hovering necromancer. She aimed for the head, but hesitated. She fired a little orb of bright pink energy that struck it square in the chest instead. The blast knocked the lich out of the air. Its thin body flew back and down toward the ground. Leita fired again, her eyes following the line of its fall path. She pointed with her staff now, discharging two rounds. One of which struck again and setting the lich tumbling for the earth.
She then turned and motioned to the pale-faced Utha and Etulan. They ran for the church. Once they passed under the arches of the doors, Leita stood on the steps, waiting for everyone to get in. She gripped her staff and waited for anymore attacks as well.
Confusion racked Ed's mind even as he ran. The church was in sight, he was running full-force toward it, a horde of diseased freaks chased at his heels, and now his entire body was encased in a pink glow. That oddity was dwarfed by what he saw next. A familiar girl with brown hair chanted some phrase which was quickly followed by an orange burst of flame, sprouting freely from her hand. Ed instinctively threw himself to the ground, but the fire still washed over him and into the crowd of mindless attackers.
Ed patted at himself to put out the flames, but thankfully none of it seemed to burn him, much less actually catch his clothing on fire. Odd... he must have moved fast enough through it so it didn't have an effect. “Dammit, woman, watch where you shoot that thing!” He tried to shout, but his voice cracked and he probably wasn't heard. What was that anyway? Some sort of wrist mounted flame thrower? He'd seen such devices before, but she didn't have proper armor on her arms to use such a device... she also didn't seem to possess the right sort of technology. The zombies, or whatever they were, were all burning now. They all seemed to have died, though hundreds more could still be seen and heard in the distance.
Turning back to the girl who was responsible for killing the freaks, he now could see she was trying to usher everyone inside the church for safety. Her staff seemed to give off a subtle green light, but what was stranger was the fact the plants at her feet appeared to be growing... right before his eyes. Maybe he was just imagining it, but... no... they were definitely growing. Who the hell was this girl?
Dozens of people pushed past him, but he tried his best to reach her. It was probably not the time for questions, but he had to know what sort of technology was enabling her strange... abilities.... But no, it wasn't just her, it was everything. The crazy people who didn't seem to stay dead was one big thing on his mind he couldn't shake, but there was also that old woman's unexplainable ability to see into his past. He needed answers.
Most of the others had made their way inside the church by now, but the brunette was still outside, ensuring everyone else got in before her. Ed opened his mouth to call out to her, but a crack of thunder cut him short. A black bolt of lightning flew across his field of vision and struck someone, though he didn't catch who. Instead, he looked to the source of the phenomenon: A flying skeleton. Ed found himself frozen, mind reeling, skin tingling. Impossible things ran rampant on this planet, and that fact left him horrified.
He kept himself firm in place in a sort-of zoned out shock. He found his brain trying to comprehend what he was witnessing as the skeletal figure exchanged blows of magical energy with the brunette girl. He couldn't move, his brain felt like a dvd player that'd just been fed a VHS tape: He couldn't process.
By the time he snapped out of it, the skeleton was gone. He suddenly found himself gasping for breath as he'd been holding it for who knows how long. He put his hands on his knees as he caught his breath. He glanced around for any sign of danger, but his mind was still reeling, completely flabbergasted. He wanted to shout or curse at someone, but he had no reasonable context. He was just confused and befuddled. It was like something out of a fantasy book. Zombies, skeletons, wizards, and psychics. Impossible.
Ed was the last one to go inside, save for the brunette who was now motioning for him. He wanted to say something, but he was at a loss of words. He ran indoors without another thought. No doubt those crazies outside truly were zombies. What was fantasy was now logic. He would have to think more with the right side of his brain tonight, as the left didn't know what to do.
The orange-haired man from before was the last one to get inside. He stared at her before he did and as he passed. She stared back, almost expecting him to saying something. It felt like he wanted to, but he didn't. Huh. He was now close enough that she noted his eyes were a pale green. She followed him in after checking to make sure he was really the last one.
It was a small church, but it was also a small village. It was much smaller now that many had died. Leita didn't have time to stop and see all their horrified, broken, and tragic faces. She had to make sure they survived. So she had to get to work immediately.
She could put up a circle fairly quickly, as she had learned when she helped seal Caragon's curse back during that False Knight business. It was still not quick enough. She had seriously decimated the necromancers' army. They would either go to a nearby town to gather more victims or simply follow them into the church and kill them all. The latter was much quicker and more ideal for the dark mages. She had to make sure they couldn't get in, and she had to do it fast.
Normal procedure for creating a circle was to outline it with salt. It wasn't really necessary. Magic truly was all about intention. Things like salt and lines were tools to make envisioning the intention easier. She could still do it without that. However, there were some tools she still needed. She couldn't envision the ritual perfectly, but she could afford to sacrifice some things to get it done in time.
She immediately went to the center of the room, dropped to her knees, and started pulling items out of her bag. She was very glad she had been prepared for almost anything today.
She pulled out a leather bag of salt. She had already blessed it ahead of time. She set the bag of salt aside and went back to the bag. She pulled from it a bundle of sage with sweetgrass woven into it, a crystal chalice, a water bag, and a white candle set in holder of lava stone rock. First, she poured water into the chalice. She then held the chalice in her hand and her other hovered over the top as she prayed again, “I exorcise thee, ‘O creature of water, of all negativity both seen and unseen and bless thee in the name of the Three.”
For a moment the water glowed a soft white gold. Leita was then aware of a gasps and murmurs around her. She looked up and saw that they had all formed a circle around her. Utha came up to her with wide eyes.
"... You are a light-wielder ..." Then she seemed to nod to herself. "Tell us, is there anything we can do to help you with your magic?"
Leita nodded up at her. It would be faster with some help. "Just a moment and I will tell what you can do."
She took the salt again and added the last three pinches to the water. It was just enough. She stirred it three times with her finger, clockwise, and then held the chalice up to her face with both hands and prayed again, “I cleanse and consecrate this water in the name of Nayru. May this liquid enhance and purify all that it touches. So mote it be.”
She blew softly on the water’s surface. Her breath came out a soft white-blue color, and when it touched the water, the water glowed blue as well and stayed blue. The air hummed gently with this holy power. She then ointed herself with the holy water, touching her wet fingers to her forehead, were the third eye as said to be, and then on both shoulders. The places continued to glow softly on her.
As she ointed herself, she thought of the cool and soothing waters of Zora's Domain. She remembered the roar of its great waterfall and she let the sounds and images of water fill her head.
After a moment, she held the chalice out to Utha. "Set this in the left corner of this room."
Utha nodded and then called someone from the crowd, handing the chalice very carefully to them and repeating the order. They all handled the chalice with awe, holding it as if both afraid and enchanted by the object.
She grabbed a match from her bag and lit the candle at the top point with it. The candle and lava rock holder had been blessed before hand for such things. The wax came from honey seeking faeries and the wick was made of braided unicorn hairs. She lit the bundle of sage and sweetgrass from the flame of the candle. The bundle continued to smoke softly, silver wisps twirling into the air and harmonizing with the holy power that was starting to build in the room.
She then wafted the smoke over herself, and the places that had glowed a soft blue then glowed a soft green. Leita remembered Kokiri Forest. Enchanting and mysterious with glowing motes like tiny little spirits drifting through the air.
She then handed the bundle of sage and sweetgrass in a sea shell dish Utha, telling her to set them in the right corner of the room.
Leita then picked up the candle and held it near the places she had ointed, letting the heat touch her softly. She thought of the hot desert sun back in the Gerudo's Fortress and the warm sand beneath her feet. The places ointed now glowed a soft red, nearly pink.
She handed the candle and the leather bag of salt to to Utha, telling her to place them at the front of the room.
Leita then sat in the center, her legs folded and holding very still but relaxed. She breathed calmly for a moment. She had to stop the world for a moment. So she listened. She listened to the calm stillness that had settled in the room as she had started to work. She had built a sacred atmosphere. They all could feel it. They were all quiet, watching, and aware as herself. She listened to every soft breath, every readjusted footstep. No one dared to whisper. She also heard ragged and shallow breathing of someone in pain ...
Ahh, she could feel it now. The energy raised up softly inside her.
Leita stood up. She pictured a gold circle in the walls of the church and in this circle was a gold triangle. She stood in the center of the triangle. Her dark green eyes were glazed over, as if in trance. Her staff remained on the ground. She began her casting. Her voice was soft and yet oddly strong. The words danced from her like a poem. There was no tremble or stutter from her now.
“I conjure thee, by infinite power; a circle now around us stands. I trace the path between the words, a boundary line of gods and man. Once around I trace the path.”
She held out her left hand, index finger pointed at the tip of the triangle that touched circle boundary line. She turned on the spot. She traced in the air, following the circle’s line around the triangle. As she did, bright green ethereal vines and leaves sprouted from the line, following her finger as she went around. The triangle glowed bright green.
Outwardly, the walls of the church received the bright green and ghostly vines and leaves. The triangle in her mind appeared to the people around her, glowing in bright green lines on the floor. Some gasped and jumped out of the lines.
When she reached the top point again, she said:
“Twice it turns into a flame.”
She went around again, and this time the ghostly green vines and leaves erupted into gentle white-blue flames that followed the tracing of her finger. The triangle glowed white-blue. When she reached the top point a third time she said:
“Three times around, a wall of fire, within whose realm we will remain.”
The blue flames leapt into the air and turned bright red, the walls were wreathed in ghostly fire. The triangle glowed red. It died down when she reached the point a fourth time. She let her hand drop.
“This ground is sacred, consecrated by the power of earth and air. We conjure fire to cleanse our hearts and waters deep to guard us here. In the name of Farore who watches, in the name of Din who stands, this circle bright is bound around us while Nayru works Her mighty plan. As above, from crown of heaven, now below it is revealed. Magic circle, ‘O crystal fortress, by my words your power is sealed. Blessed be.”
The walls glowed that white gold from before. The triangle glowed the same, but the glow in the walls faded when the triangle did not. It stayed present, humming with a gentle but deep energy.
Leita's eyes were still glossed over, but she stared head to the flame of the candle that burned at the front of the church. She walked over to it, and the people parted for her to pass. She grasped the candle and held it high above her head, still facing the wall and the small altar of the church that the candle had been placed upon. The bag of salt stayed on it.
“Din, Cultivator of the Earth, bless this space with your infinite power over physical forms. Give these walls the strength to protect us from the evil without.”
All was quiet. There were no more glowing lights. Just a flame that burned steady, strong, and cleanly in its lava rock holder. She held it above her for a moment, and then set it back down on the altar. The Hylian girl then turned to look almost dreamily over her shoulder. Her eyes found the sage and sweetgrass still smoldering in the right corner of the room.
It seemed the village people quickly felt the pattern of the ritual. It had nothing to do with their culture or anything they previously knew about magic. They simply felt the brown-haired girl's intention and slowly moved out of the way for her to reach the sage and sweetgrass shell in a straight line. In fact, the glowing triangle matched up with these key points perfectly. Leita drifted down the side of the gold triangle's line. As she moved down it the line glowed red.
Upon reaching the bundle of herbs, she lifted it from the sea shell bowl and high above her head, silver wisps of smoke dancing in the air.
“Farore, Creator of Life, bless this space with your courage and strength. Let not the whispers of evil touch the air within. Give us the courage and strength to overcome the doubts in our hearts so that we may overcome the struggles without.”
The same as before. There was no flashes of light, but the air had continued to build with this calm and soothing energy. Leita set the smoking bundle down and once more turned her head to look to the chalice of water on the left side of the room.
She walked down the other sideline and it glowed green after her. Again, the people parted for her. She picked up the chalice and held it high above her. Her eyes stared up at it as they had with each one she had held.
“Nayru, Originator of Natural Law, bless this space with your wisdom and love. Seal the unnatural evil away from our minds and hearts; let not even time give it power over us.”
She set the chalice back down and, again, followed the sideline back to the front of the room where the candle sat on the altar. The line glowed blue. All three lines stayed the same colors and remained to glow. After reaching the point of the triangle, she turned and went back to the center of it. She stood facing the doors, her face smooth, relaxed, and somewhat blank.
“I bless thee in the name of the Three. So mote it be!” she cried in a suddenly stronger but not very loud voice. The lines of the triangle suddenly burst and their light and colors surged all over, into the walls, floor, and ceiling of the church within an instant.
It was quiet and there were no more glowing lights. The candle on the altar had gone out, the chalice was empty, and the sage and sweetgrass had stopped smoking. However, the sense of peace and safety had stayed. The stillness remained.
Leita sat down on the floor. She looked to Utha, her eyes no longer glazed over, but they were different. Her whole being seemed ... still, relaxed ... and with a confidence she had not yet displayed before. For once she seemed perfectly at ease with herself, the people around her, and the moment that they were all in together. Her green eyes were as gentle as ever and yet more powerful than ever. It was a gentle power, soft and soothing to those that looked upon her and her eyes.
"Bring me Alavama," she requested. Though it was not a question, it was not demanding like a command.
Right away Etulan emerged from the crowd that parted for him. His eyes were brimming with tears and his cheeks were already wet. The old woman hung limp in his arms, but her chest moved very slightly. She breathed, but it was shallow. He went to his knees before Leita and looked into her eyes, pleading with his own.
"You can save her?" he asked. "You are ... you are ... you must be ..."
He seemed unable to finish his words, and yet Leita felt she understood without him saying. There was great power in her still, after channeling the goddesses in the magic circle. This ritual always made her feel so ... everything was as it should be.
However, her eyes looked solemnly to Etulan. "I do not know ..." she then felt a sudden surge in her heart and she heard the words be spoken through her mouth and yet it felt as if it were another's and not her own. "If it is her time, there is nothing I can do. You must understand, yes?"
Her hand touched Etulan's face, feeling the wetness his tears had left there on his cheek. The girl's eyes were deep and timeless, but they tensed with compassion for the man and his pain. "You are a child of the shadow people. You must not fear death ..."
She wiped away his tears with her delicate and careful fingers as he stared, locked onto her eyes. He breathed, "Who are you?"
She smiled, but there was a deep sadness in the girl's eyes now. It almost made him cry again to see something so beautiful in such sorrow. "I do not yet know my name ..."
But then she held her hands out for Alavama. Etulan carefully placed the old shaman in her arms. The girl cradled the woman and stared down at her with the same tranquil expression, the pain now gone from her green eyes. Just being in her arms seemed to breathe life into the fragile body. She opened her clouded eye and stared up at her. She smiled weakly.
"My ... such a beautiful fairy girl ... or is this your butterfly, my dear?"
The girl smiled softly, a tenderness painting the canvas of her tranquil expression. There was such love in her eyes for everyone she placed them upon. Alavama turned her head away from her. Instead her blind gaze found Edward Stone instantly, even if he were masked behind another person. They stared through to him.
"Oh, pirate from the stars," she rasped. "Please, come forth to me."
After entering the safety of the sanctuary Ed threw himself against the church's wall, sighing deeply with relief. He pulled off his beanie cap and ran his fingers through his hair. He had a feeling that this building wouldn't hold the zombies off forever, he had to find a way to prepare these people for battle. Just by looking at them Ed could tell none of them were proficient warriors. If they were to break in, all of them would die. The fact that they were in a church probably meant there were no weapons. Just about the only thing he could do was break apart furniture and distribute it among the scared peasants to use as clubs. It was not much, actually it was basically nothing at all, but it was all he could come up with on the spot. At least after he finished doing that, he would have thought of a better plan.
Pulling his beanie cap back over his head, he went to work. He searched around the building for chairs and tables, breaking off their legs. Using the edge of his adamantium machete, he quickly carved the legs' ends to sharp points. When he was done, he began handing them to what looked like the strongest individuals in the building, though he was sure that they wouldn't kill many of the creatures before dying themselves. He could probably use the remainder of the furniture to better barricade the doors, but it would only delay the inevitable by a few seconds.
A few wondered what he was doing, or asked him not to disturb such a sacred place, but he ignored their concerns and continued doing what was best for them. Most of them let him do his thing as they were too frightened to worry about much more than their own safety.
As he moved amongst the people to distribute weapons, Ed noticed everyone had begun to calm down. They all seemed distracted. Their attention was collectively drawn to the center of the room. There, in the middle of everyone, was that same girl... that... wizard or witch or whatever she was, performing some sort of ritual.
Ed stopped for a moment and watched the ritual unfold with curiosity and amazement. He still couldn't believe it. It was amazing. Even so, watching the magic show made him feel so useless. In a world where the impossible seemed possible, but where he was still bound by “reality”, there was not much he could do. Where he came from people died by a bullet to the eye, but here there were monsters that could survive such an attack. Back home, you were a warrior if you had large muscles and years of combat experience, but here even a fragile looking girl could secretly be holding some sort of phenomenal power.
Ed then realized he hated magic. He couldn't tell whether it was because he was jealous or because it alienated him, but he would continue doing things his way. Huffing a breath through his nostrils, he turned and continued with his futile task. He at least felt important this way. But really, his own ego was on the bottom of his list at the moment. As long as these people survived, he succeeded.
But the ritual was hard to ignore. The performance ended in a climax with a bright light show. At last the spell seemed to be finished. The magician called for Alavama, the old woman from before. She was wounded when that... flying skeleton thing attacked. It was a shame; it didn't seem like she would make it. Ed knew next to nothing about medical science, there was little he could have done for her. Maybe the girl had one more magic spell up her sleeve.
After exchanging a few words, the elder turned her head toward him. “Oh, pirate from the stars,” she rasped. “Please, come forth to me.”
Ed looked around awkwardly for a moment, but complied without a word. He would contain his bewilderment for the sake of the dying woman. He pushed his way through the crowd, nearly every person there a full head taller than him or more. He finally reached her side; his expression cold and uncaring, but his heart compassionate.
She smiled a weak, wrinkly smile when Edward appeared before her. Leita gazed up at him as well with her clear, serene, and twinkling green eyes.
“It is time,” rasped Alavama, she paused to breathe. “Star Pirate, I now entrust it to you … You must keep it safe from the necromancers. With this Memory take my cane with you, I’m sure it will be helpful …”
She turned her head up to Leita again. “Please, help him. He needs your light, child. Protect him from the treacherous dark.”
Leita nodded to her, silently swearing an oath. The old woman seemed at peace with this, and with all watching but most not understanding what she spoke of, she stretched out her hand to Edward as if reaching for him. The hand she extend had the strange, dark amulet wrapped around her forearm. Leita felt the energy stir and change inside Alavama. She used the last of her life force to shape the negative energy the lich had corrupted her body with and it surged into the amulet. The tiny little markings and engravings suddenly glowed a bright scarlet red.
Then each bead upon it suddenly expanded out, detaching from each other, and yet floating together as if still connected by some flowing magical string. Then they started to spin together, rotating around her forearm, drifting down from it, getting faster and faster. Then they all suddenly shot straight at Edward. The beads and amulet swirled into place around his neck. Once there, they snapped instantly back together in a necklace. The amulet hung at his chest like a pendant. All the engravings continued to glow red, despite now being still and acting as any normal necklace should. The glow was no longer such a vibrant scarlet but a dark shade of blood.
Alavama’s arm fell limp to the floor, and Leita felt the life escape her body.
When the amulet latched itself around his neck, Ed stumbled back with a startled gasp. He grabbed the beaded bands and tried to pull them free, but to no avail. His struggle only lasted for a few seconds before the sound of crying interrupted his train of thought. He looked down at the old woman who'd been talking merely seconds earlier, but her body was now limp and lifeless.
Many of the villagers began to mourn her, tearing their clothes and sobbing. Clearly she was loved by them all. Ed shed no tears, however, as this woman meant nothing to him. He didn't know her, thus he had little sympathy. It was still a shame, but she appeared to be quite old and probably wouldn't have lived much longer even if she hadn't been wounded.
The pirate briefly pondered Alavama's last words as he turned away from her corpse. He wasn't sure what her intentions were, but she clearly wanted him to protect the necklace she'd wrapped around his neck. Trinkets were of no concern to him; only the lives of these people mattered.
He stared out at the masses, all of them weeping or cowering, sad and frightened. There was a time for mourning, but this wasn't it. They had far greater issues on hand.
“Pull it together, everyone.” Ed spoke up, but no one payed him any attention. He rolled his eyes. In one movement, he unsheathed his sword and stabbed it into the ground. “There is a time for mourning, but it is not now!” He shouted, much louder than before. Most eyes were now on him, albeit teary and despairing eyes. “Your elder is dead, yes, but now is not the time to sit on your asses and cry about it.” He plucked his machete from the wooden floor and sheathed it to his back once more. “Now... there is a host of monsters out there in your village, destroying everything you once held dear. They're just waiting to break in here and start killing again. Get up and prepare yourselves. If you're crying when they break in, they're not going to have sympathy on you, they will kill you. So cry later, and start preparing for battle.”
Without waiting for a response, he began moving again, tugging at the necklace he simply couldn't seem to remove. He' would begin barricading the doors and windows, then hopefully begin teaching them how to kill those zombie things.
Leita watched the man struggle with the necklace. He pulled and yanked, but the beads would not break apart from each other now. And though it was wide enough to slip over his head, every time he tried it seemed an invisible force kept the beads from moving past his chin. Leita laid Alavama down on the floor, closed her one eye, and folded her hands over her now still chest.
She remained kneeling on the floor, staring up at Edward as he scolded from the villagers for their pain. Then when he went off to start barricading the doors, she stood and followed. She placidly put a hand on his shoulder, no longer showing the shy or nervous behaviors as she had before. She looked at him steadily as she said,
“There is no need for that. The circle will hold until sunset, and then when day changes to night, disperse. The necromancers cannot get inside now. Not even with their undead minions.”
Utha walked forward as well, her face set gravely. She did not mourn like the other villagers did. For she had been the shaman’s apprentice. She knew her mentor had been old and that death would soon come for her anyway. It was not in the ways of her teacher to be sad about death. No, what was truly more sad were those that were alive but did not truly live. Alavama had always said so. Utha held her old mentor’s small staff in her hands as she approached Edward and Leita.
“Yes,” she said. “Besides that these people are not warriors, Star Pirate. They will be killed. There was a reason for coming to this church, and it had nothing to do with any magical protection. There is an entrance to a secret tunnel hidden inside here for just such an emergency as this one. Lilor Poe Kobaeth knew that it was possible that other necromancers might someday discover that its resting place was this village. Thus, we always bury our dead under trees, and he built a secret tunnel the leads out of the village, so that the people could escape somehow. It leads to a vast underground which is much like a maze. There is a way out, but it is known to only one now.”
Utha turned and then went up to the altar at the front of the church, she scooted it aside and tore down the tapestry that hung behind it. There was a dark engraving in the stone wall. Curvy but sharp inscription looped in a complete circle and more runes swirled in a spiral toward its center where there was a hole in the stone wall. It was dark and its depth was uncertain.
Utha held up the bone staff of Alavama. “This is the key to open the way. I’m unsure if it will disrupt the magic that the Light-wielder cast. So all that remains is to discuss when and if to try opening it so that we all can escape … I, however, will be the last to leave. We must be sure to destroy the keyhole and burn the church so that they cannot follow us down into the tunnels … and also so that they may not use Alavama’s body against us.”
Ed stopped when he felt the hand on his shoulder. He glanced over at the girl, whose face was not the same cowering one he'd seen before.
“There is no need for that. The circle will hold until sunset, and then when day changes to night, disperse. The necromancers cannot get inside now. Not even with their undead minions.”
So what did that mean? She'd set up some kind of barrier? He looked back to the church doors, already propped up by a set of chairs he'd placed. If it were anything like a force-field, it would explain why there was no longer a draft. The idea of an energy shield generated by a human being, in place of a generator, just wasn't logical... but he'd already begun getting used to such ideas.
“Yes,” Utha said, following up the other girl's words. “Besides that these people are not warriors, Star Pirate. They will be killed.”
Ed knew this. That was why he felt compelled to show them something, at least where to aim for a more effective strike. Just anything would be better than waiting for the inevitable. These people were helpless. If what the girl said was true, and her force-field dissipated at night, the monsters would still get in and they would all still die.
“There was a reason for coming to this church, and it had nothing to do with any magical protection.” Utha continued. “There is an entrance to a secret tunnel hidden inside here for just such an emergency as this one. Lilor Poe Kobaeth knew that it was possible that other necromancers might someday discover that its resting place was this village. Thus, we always bury our dead under trees, and he built a secret tunnel that leads out of the village, so that the people could escape somehow. It leads to a vast underground which is much like a maze. There is a way out, but it is known to only one now.”
Wait, there was secret passageway then? A wave of relief washed over him. The sense of impending doom was shattered by a ray of hope. This presented a whole new set of options. If the necromancers knew nothing of the passageway, they could lead everyone out and to safety without the bastards even knowing what happened. If there was another village nearby, they could take refuge there. If not, he might be able to lead them back to his old ship. The dilapidated Ward could no longer fly, but its defense turrets could probably do more than enough to defend against an onslaught of those beasts. It was stocked with food and weapons, more than enough to last them all another week or so. The problem would be getting there, however.
Ed was about to speak up, but the slender woman was already busy. She made her way to the altar and slid the altar to the side, tearing back a tapestry that revealed a strange symbol on the wall.
Utha held up the bone staff Alavama had been carrying. “This is the key to open the way. I’m unsure if it will disrupt the magic that the Light-wielder cast. So all that remains is to discuss when and if to try opening it so that we all can escape … I, however, will be the last to leave. We must be sure to destroy the keyhole and burn the church so that they cannot follow us down into the tunnels … and also so that they may not use Alavama’s body against us.”
“I honestly don't know what's keeping you.” Ed spoke up. He moved his way toward Utha, who was now locking eyes with him. “There has to be another village nearby that can offer protection. Even if there isn't, I know of a place you could take refuge... the only problem is that it's past the other side of the village, buried deep in the woods. Lots of zombies to sneak past.”
"So it's safer to move through the underground and escape that way if we can.” Utha responded. “There are other places we can take refuge without passing the necromancer's minions."
Ed nodded. It was probably for the best. If he got back to his ship, he could probably get the shield generator online, but then they would be back in the exact same position they were in now. He looked around at the cowering crowd, his eyes showing his impatience. “So we going to start moving then?”
Leita nodded. "I can open the circle temporarily."
Ed gave her a glance before turning back to Utha. “You mentioned only one now knows the layout of the maze.”
Utha glanced down at the amulet resting against Ed's chest. She nodded slowly. "You already have the map, Pirate."
Ed stared at her blankly for a few seconds before looking down at the amulet clenched around his throat. He shook his head, whether in bewilderment or annoyance he wasn't sure. “So this thing's magic, then.” He mumbled. He already assumed it was magical, as it seemed there was no possible way to remove it, but the fact it served as some sort of prehistoric GPS system annoyed him... if only because there was no way to take it off. “Typical.”
"You all should leave immediately. I will wait here until nightfall to burn down the church, so that they do not know we have already fled it ..." said Utha, though as she said it, she was not sure exactly how she would manage this.
Leita had already started going again. She glided in a fast and graceful way back to all her items she had set around the room. Now that the circle was cast, it seemed she was collecting them all again. She went back to her bag, but before putting all her magical tools back inside, she fished around in it once more. She pulled from it a strap of leather had contained several small pouches that contained several small little vials inside it. She stood up and walked back over to Utha.
"This is extract of bomb flower, a plant from my homeland," she explained as she held the strap out to the grave keeper along with some flint and gauze. "It is highly explosive and flammable. There are seven vials. That should be enough for you to make a bomb with."
Utha took them with a calm nod and then turned back to Edward as Leita busied herself with putting her ritual items away again. She held out the staff to him.
"You must open the way. Only you. Put this into the hole and the way will open. Head down the tunnel. Do not worry ... it should awaken soon after you open the way. Leave it in the hole, so that I may leave when I am done."
Leita stood up, bag over her shoulder and staff in her had once more. She walked back over to them holding out her cloak to Utha. "Keep this, I will not get cold."
Utha nodded with a vague smile and took it from her.
"Will they be able to sense us once we are in the tunnels?" asked Leita. Utha stared at her, not really understanding this question. "If they are magic users, surely they will feel the large mass of life energies leaving this circle. They will not feel us inside, yes, but once we leave ... Do you know if the tunnel will mask our presence?"
Utha sighed. "I am not sure ... Kobaeth...was a great mage. Perhaps he would have thought of the same thing ..."
"I can mask us either way," said Leita. "I was just wondering if you knew for sure ... I will need everyone to line up, all within contact with each other in some way."
Again, the grave-keeper gave the orders and all the villagers organized themselves in a coiled line that would fill down into the passage once it was open. They now turned to Edward, waiting for him to open the way out.
Ed had to blindly accept all the dialogue being tossed back between Utha and Leita. Taking anything they said at this point as a farce would have been foolish. Leita mentioned these enemies might be able to sense energies, and he had to accept that. He also had to accept Leita could mask their energy. What this energy was exactly seemed vague. He could only assume spirit energy, if there was such a thing. Again, there was no point in questioning it. He simply had to believe it all, or at least pretend to believe it.
Ed looked at the staff in his hand, the one Utha handed to him. It looked like nothing more than a walking staff, but Utha told him it worked as a key... thus he played along, forced to expect it to work as a key.
As Leita began gathering the villagers together, Ed placed the head of the staff where Utha instructed. The walking clicked into place, suddenly supporting itself inside the wall. Ed let go of the staff for a mere second, and within that second the key was sucked into the hole, gone from view. A steady rumble sounded in the wall, followed by the muted rattling of stone gears. A layer of dust shook itself free from the church wall and a barely visible hairline fracture turned into a doorway over the course of a few seconds.
Ed pulled his precious revolver from its holster with the slight possibility something evil awaited in the darkness of the tunnel ahead. He glanced over his shoulder at those behind him. Almost everyone was ready to move onward, most of them still in awe of the complex door that had opened.
Utha turned to Ed after finishing her business with Leita. “Take care, Star Pirate.” she said softly. “Do your best at seeing my people to safety.”
Ed puffed air through his nostrils, getting a little impatient. “Sure.”
He turned toward the doorway and took his first step into the tunnel. The others watched as he was enveloped by the blackness, then followed him in. Cold air and a musty stench greeted them as they steadily trickled into the darkness.