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Old Believing Is Only The Beginning

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  #811  
Old 02-14-2019, 06:29 AM
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Oh wow! That sounds like busy fun! Good luck with all that and see you around when you are less busy! No worries! I think we have all been more busy lately.
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  #812  
Old 02-15-2019, 03:29 AM
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That's so cool! Hope all of your shows go well, Alexa. Break a leg!

Don't worry about being inactive, we've all been really busy these last couple weeks. I've been buried in midterms, though spring break is in just a couple weeks - hooray!
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  #813  
Old 02-20-2019, 10:33 PM
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Hope everyone has been doing well! I've been very busy as well, but I have missed writing with you all.

Best of luck for all your shows, Alexa!
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  #814  
Old 06-12-2019, 08:42 AM
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Hello, all!

I'm getting close to finishing my post for this. I just have a question. Are the Dai Li Headquarters and the king's castle two different buildings and locations or does the castle also act as the hq?

I hope to post something in the next few days.
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  #815  
Old 06-12-2019, 08:35 PM
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Hmmm. Maybe they are attached? One wing if for HQ and the rest is the palace?

What do you all think?

I can’t wait to see your post!
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  #816  
Old 06-13-2019, 04:33 AM
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I can't wait to read your post, Alexa!

Yeah, I was imagining they'd be together! A part of the castle that's the fortified Dai Li base and maybe a central wing that houses the King's private palace.
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  #817  
Old 06-17-2019, 09:27 AM
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Tori


Once the sun had set and most of Telenoria’s folk either went to bed or headed to a local tavern for some food, drinks, and fun, I made my way to meet Galadriel at the stables. I had stayed at the inn, resting and recovering my strength. There was still a small part of me that felt like I might be making a mistake. I continued to try my best to ignore it.

'It’s too late to turn back now. I told Galadriel I would meet her and that is what I’m going to do.'

After I had gathered all my things and bought some food to take along for the journey, I headed out to the stables. I walked at a casual pace, trying to look as relaxed as possible. I’m sure a person dressed in dark shades while carrying a bow and arrow looks quite suspicious, so I tried to counter that with my body language. I made sure to smile and nod to some people, but I didn’t want to do that too much. I couldn’t have these people knowing my face too well, especially now that I seem to be joining the Dai Li.

When I finally arrived at the stables, I looked around for Captain Galadriel. At first, I didn’t see her. I didn’t see anyone, in fact. The only living beings around me were the horses. I had started to think Galadriel had either played a trick on me or this was some sort of trap.

'Why would it be a trap, though? It can’t be because I’m Gifted. Surely, she doesn’t know that. Surely a Dai Li Captain such as herself wouldn’t try to capture someone without reason.'

I was almost tempted to turn around and head back to the inn, when I heard a small “psst” coming from up ahead. When I turned to see who it was, I still saw no one. I was getting frustrated now.

'I have no time for silly games.'

I took an arrow out and readied my bow, keeping it pointed at the ground. “Show yourself.” I said, loud enough for the mysterious person to hear but not so loud as to draw any attention from wandering Telanorians. For several moments, I remained alone. I began to slowly walk towards the area where the sound came from. If they weren’t going to show themselves willingly, then I was going to make them. That was when a dark, hooded figure walked out from behind the stable and gestured to come to them before they disappeared back to the area from which they had come from. I still felt unsure of the situation but followed the mysterious person. I kept my bow and arrow ready just in case this took a sour turn.
Once I was behind the stable, I saw that there were two horses ready with their saddles standing next to the hooded figure who beckoned me over here. It looked like they were adjusting the saddle on one of the horses. I cleared my throat to get the person’s attention. They immediately stopped what they were doing but didn’t turn around. I gulped, feeling more and more tense with every second that passed. I took a few steps toward them. “Who are you?” I asked. The mysterious person took a few steps back away from their horse before turning around to face me. They walked toward me, taking their time with each step, before planting themselves a few feet from me.
That’s when they finally removed their hood to reveal themselves.
“Galadri- “I was cut off by Galadriel shushing me. “Do not say my name, ranger. We must remain anonymous when out in the open. We don’t know who or what could be listening to our conversations.”
“Of course. My apologies.” I responded.
“I was beginning to think you weren’t coming.” Galadriel said, turning back around and walking back to the horses. “I’m glad to see you didn’t get cold feet.”
“Of course not. Us rangers don’t scare easily.” I said, following Galadriel.
“That’s good to hear.” She replied, mounting her horse.
“You know, I’m glad to see you here too. I was starting to think this was a trap.” I told her with a chuckle as I got onto the other horse
“Well, I can assure you if this was a trap, you wouldn't be giggling." Galadriel said simply, making me stop in my tracks.
It was then that I finally realized how dangerous of a situation I was actually in. I didn't have enough time to ponder on that more, though, when Galadriel interrupted my thoughts with-
"Are you ready to go?"
"Oh, yes. Of course." I replied, hoping she didn't notice the sudden shakiness in my voice.

'I guess I'm ready as I'll ever be.'


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We rode fast on our horses to the Capitol. Galadriel made it perfectly clear before we left that she wanted to get there before sunrise. It was going to be difficult since it would usually take a day and a half to get from Telenoria to the Capitol on horseback. Galadriel assured me that if I followed her every move, we'd get there in time. I was in no position to question her. All I could do was trust her and do all that she said. As we rode on, I noticed we slowly started to drift away from the main road and deep into the wilderness. So deep, we eventually couldn't even see the beautiful night sky as it was shrouded by the tall trees that surrounded us. It was puzzling and downright unnerving for me, but I knew I had to continue to follow her. Being a Dai Li member herself, surely, she'd know the best way to get to the Capitol. She probably knew many shortcuts as well. This was most likely one of those shortcuts. Not a trap of some sort. Galadriel hasn't given any sort of indication that she knows who I really am. I should be perfectly safe.

We continued to ride through the forest, the chirping of crickets and cracking of leaves and sticks on the forest floor providing us with mildly relaxing ambience. Occasionally, we would hear a bird or two flies by, singing its song. Sometimes we would even hear a smaller animal scurrying into whatever hole or burrow they lived in. None of what we heard was threatening in any. Slowly, I began to feel more at ease with the situation I was in. For the first two to three hours of our trip, we only heard those sounds repeat themselves.

“Lovely night isn’t it?” I heard Galadriel's voice breaking through the forest noise. She did not appear to be the kind of person who would make small talk with someone, which is why her question surprised me.
"Y-yes, it is." I answered, feeling uneasiness beginning to well up in me once again. I couldn't think of anything better to say. The two of us then fell silent for a few moments. I did not know who would break the silence first. A part of me wanted to try and start up a conversation but I didn't want to risk accidentally revealing something to her about myself or the Clann. I did not have to worry for too long though, when Galadriel started to speak again.
"I imagine a ranger such as yourself spends a lot of time out in the wilderness."
I could feel my body tense up as she said that. I knew I had to choose my words carefully to avoid getting caught in a messy web of lies. I needed to pull any earlier knowledge I had about rangers out of subconscious to help me and hopefully continue to make Galadriel believe my little façade. "Yes, we rangers to spend a considerable amount of time outdoors. I imagine being a member of the Dai Li often keeps you active as well."
"We do what we must for the king and the future of Alagaesia." Galadriel answered simply, seeming to try to divert the topic of this conversation away from herself. I was not going to let her be the only one "casually" interrogating here, though. If she was going to try to get information out of me, I was going to get information out of her. "It must be nice getting to travel to so many places."
"It can be"
"Do you have a favorite place you've been to?" That was not the right question to ask if I wanted some juicy Dai Li info, but I was trying to start off nice and simple.
Galadriel did not answer at once. When I glanced over at her, I could not even tell if she was just ignoring me or considering answering the question.

'Well, I guess I ruined that. Never mind being some great interrog-'

"Filthiene" Galadriel finally responded, making me do a double take. "What?"
"I said 'Filthiene'."
"I've never heard of that place." I said
"It’s a gorgeous and quaint village in the Eastern woods of Van'liel. The Dai Li were sent there on a diplomatic mission. Filthiene had remained neutral for centuries, never getting involved in any kind of conflict and barely taking part in any of Alagaesia's politics. You could not even bribe them into getting involved with that stuff. They preferred to keep to themselves. Most people forget it even exists until a map reminds them. It was not until this war between the King Adonis and the scum Gifted started that the king decided Filthiene would need to finally break their neutrality for the good of Alagaesia. So, he sent a small group of Dai Li agents over there to discuss the neutrality terms with the town representative, Anton 'Silver-Ear' Thesh. You see, many people assume the Dai Li are only warriors. That all we know is how to fight but we are more than that. The Dai Li are keepers of the peace. Diplomats. Our goal is not to fight our way to freedom with swords and fists (though should the situation need more aggressive negotiating tactics, we are more than capable of handling that). We're just here bring Alagaesia to its full glory for the great King Adonis."

'Wow… that sounds like a completely different Dai Li than what the Clann always spoke of.'

"But back to Falthiene, when my fellow Dai Li agents and I were on our journey there, we had no idea what to expect. A lot of us assumed it would be an old, run-down community full of people who did not know where their next meal would come from, which might have explained why they had kept so quiet in years past. Perhaps their leader was too busy trying to keep the town and its people together to involve himself in any of the King's various hearings and such. We could not have been more wrong. Once we arrived in Falthiene, we could not believe our eyes. This small town was full of life. Children running around, people playing various musical instruments, sewing clothes, and weaving baskets. Around us, the trees grew tall and thick, strange, teal moss growing on the forest floor and on the trunks of the trees. Playful glowflies filled the air, giving this place a magical look and feel. At the center of the town, was a lake. A lake filled with luminescent plants and fish. Falthiene's homes surrounded this lake, including Anton Thesh's, which was much larger than the rest of the other homes. It was all unlike anything we had ever seen before. None of us believed a place this enchanting and almost other-worldly could even exist. Yet it did. Even after all these years, I have never forgotten that place. The look of the town and its people, the crisp smell of the trees, and that extraordinary lake. Anton told us it was sacred to them. He said it had physical, mental, and even spiritual healing properties. Once a week, the entire townspeople would gather together around the lake for a cleansing ritual, where they would chant and sing their sacred songs of old as each person takes a turn submerging themselves in the lake for thirty seconds. After the ritual, they have a large feast to celebrate the cleansing and renewal of their mind, body, and soul. I wish we had gotten to stay long enough to see that. It sounds like a fascinating experience." Galadriel said
"It sounds like a fascinating place, as well." I added "Do you ever hope to return to Falthiene?"
"Always" Galadriel sighed "But the King's mission always comes first. There is no rest for the Dai Li, not until we have contained every single Gifted and made Alagaesia safe once more."

Her words rang through my head and I felt conflicted. For so long, I have felt the same away about Gifted. I did not think that would ever change. Yet I am finding it difficult to agree with her now. Something inside me is making it feel… wrong, and I do not know why.

"I'm sure you're doing your job well." I said, unsure about how to continue the conversation. "How did the negotiations with Anton go?"
"He wasn't entirely agreeable at first, but we were able to talk some sense into him. Falthiene is now an ally of the King." Galadriel explained
"That's… good. That is very good."
"What about you, Ellia? I'm sure a ranger such as yourself has travelled far and wide. What is one of your favorite places that you have been to?
I gulped, not having expected Galadriel to turn my own question on me. I was going to have to produce an impromptu story that still has the sound and details of one like Galadriel's, which is no easy feat.
"Well, I doubt you want to hear about my travels. They are probably not as exciting as yours. I can't say I'm much of a good storyteller either." I said, stalling to by myself some time to produce a story.
"I asked, didn't I?

'Okay, that did not by me enough time like I thought it would.'

"That is true. Well, I suppose I could divulge a little bit. If I'm being honest, I do not like to pick favorites. Every town and city have something that makes them unique and enjoyable. Sometimes it can be a bit difficult to see that at a first glance but that is why you must stop and really look. You can see some genuinely wonderful things if you just take the time to look for and immerse yourself in all of the amazing things those places have to offer." I said
'I hope that did not sound too nonsensical'
"What a lovely sentiment." Galadriel replied. I breathed an internal sigh of relief, thinking I had successfully dodged her question.
"However, it seems like you’re trying to avoid the question, Ellia." Galadriel added. My heart stopped.

'I'm in trouble.'

"I don't know why you'd think that." I said
"You didn't answer my question. It's almost like you have something to hide."

'Not good, not good, not good!'

"Well, with all of your experience out in the world, I assumed you were already aware of just how secretive rangers are. We do not particularly enjoy opening up to people. We prefer to keep to ourselves. In fact, other ranger would've been shocked by how much I've already told you."
I was really hoping that was a convincing enough lie for Galadriel. Her delayed answer had me worried it was not, though.
"I suppose you're right." She answered simply

I felt relieved. The odds have been in my favor during the time I have been spending with Galadriel. I really hoped they would continue to stay in my favor for as long as I was with her.

"Did you hear that?" Galadriel said in a sharp whisper, stopping her horse. I followed in suit, staying quiet to try to whatever Galadriel had heard. I did not notice anything out of the ordinary. Just the same forest ambience that had been filling the air since we arrived here. "I didn't hear anything." I finally replied, "What did you-" "It sounded like several deer running away." Galadriel said, cutting me off.
"Running away?" I repeated "Running from what?"
"I hope to find out." Galadriel answered, her handing coming to the hilt of her sword. With one simple movement, she had her horse continuing down our path, albeit at a much slower pace. I had my horse do the same as I tried my best to stay alert and aware of my surroundings and their sounds. But with the sound of my heart pounding in my ears and my horse's hooves crunching sticks and leaves on the ground, it was proving to be quite difficult. I looked over at Galadriel, who had an intense expression, yet somehow continued to show little emotion. I could not read her at all. I could only assume that she would be concentrating on listening for anything unnatural, just like I was trying to do.
'But what if I should be doing something different? What if she expects me to be doing something… ranger-like? What if by copying her, I am blowing my cover?'
After a few minutes had past, my own worries had gotten the best of me. I just had to say something to her. I leaned over to her and opened my mouth to speak-
"So, what do you w-"

Suddenly, three wolves had jumped out of the brush in front of is growling madly and scaring our horses, forcing them to rear up in defense. I had almost fallen off mine before it came back down. The wolves began to run towards us at a speed I never thought a wolf could run at. "Come on!" Galadriel yelled at me. I looked to see her and her horse already galloping in another directing. I at once began to follow her, my steed just narrowly escaping a terrible wolf bite. We were now sprinting through the forest, completely abandoning the trail we had been steadily following. I hoped Galadriel knew where she was going, but I couldn't spend too much time pondering that. Not with our lives on the line.
The three wolves continued to chase us as Galadriel and I were dodging low-hanging tree branches while our horses ran through the thick trees and leapt over large rocks. With the wind blowing harshly in our faces and the occasional leaf or strand of hair making its way to my face, I found it difficult to see where I was going. I couldn't even tell if all three Wolves were still after us. The sound of their running and barking drowned out by our horse's gallop. That was until we heard one of the wolves howl into the night, piercing through noise of our panicked riding. In an instant, two more wolves appeared on either side of Galadriel and me. I looked behind us and saw that the three wolves from earlier had finally caught up to us, along with two more wolves. We now had a whole pack after us and it did not look like they were going to be letting up any time soon. The wolf to the right of me lunged at my horse, trying to bite it. I was able to move my horse out of the way in time, but just barely. I almost ran into Galadriel and her horse in the process. "Watch it!" She exclaimed. The wolf next her kept trying to bite at the horse's legs and was consistently unsuccessful, but still came too close each time. We had to find a way to get them off our tail and it seemed that way had just revealed itself.

Up ahead the "road" we were on branched off into two paths. Both paths looked the same, the right one being darker than the left (but it was difficult to tell when it was already almost pitch-black outside). I had no idea where each path led, but we had to break up the group somehow.
"Galadriel, do you-" "I see it," she interrupted "You go left, I'll go right. Be careful when you cross in front." I had many questions about her plan, none that I could ask right now. I just had to go with it, despite the all dangers this seemed to pose.
As we reached the fork in the road, I swiftly crossed in front of Galadriel, galloping down the left path. Looking behind myself, I noticed there was a bit of a gap between the wolves and I, as well as only three of the seven wolves chasing me now. I felt relief, 'This may actually work.'
I thought for sure that this would be what finally gets Galadriel and I to safety.

I was wrong

My feeling of security vanished when my horse did not make a jump over a large, twisting tree root which resulted in me flying off my horse into a nearby bush. I blacked out for a few seconds, which was long enough for my horse to appear to have run away. The sound of running, barking wolves still filled the air. I had to get to safety and fast. But I didn't know where to go. I looked all around me, but my vision was still mildly blurry from the force of my fall. My head was pounding, and my ears were ringing. I couldn't focus on anything, not even myself. The wolves were getting closer with every second that passed. I had to do something. But what?
I began to walk, clumsily, in the direction that I was originally riding in. I had to constantly hold on to any nearby trees for stability. No matter how hard I tried, I could not move fast enough. I knew there was going to have to be a confrontation between me in the wolves, but in the state I was in, I feared that I might lose.
'What to do, what to do?' I thought to myself as I continued to hobble along, 'I can't run, I can't climb, what can I do?!' I ended up slumping down against a tree in defeat. 'I'm stuck here'
I could not believe it. That couldn't be true. I could not lose, not like this. Not here, not now, there just had to be something I could do…
But I could not think of anything.

The wolves were finally upon me. They had stopped in the middle of the patch and began to sniff around the area where I sat. My heart continued to beat faster and faster. I could hear the beating in my ear, as loud as a drum that someone was playing right next to my face. My breathing was short and fast. I tried to control it, to quiet it to no avail.
'I think the only thing I can do now… is fight.'
It was the last thing I wanted to do. Not only did I not want to harm the animals despite their aggressive behavior towards me, but I knew that three wolves against just one me was not going to end in my favor. There was no way I could take on three wolves, especially in the tired, injured state I was in. But I had to do something. There were beginning to close in on my position. It was time for me to make my move.

As I tried to stand up, however, I found myself falling back to the ground. Something was happening to my body. It felt like everything was shifting inside of me. It was not painful, but it was certainly uncomfortable. I couldn't help but let a few groans escape my mouth, which I am sure the wolves heard.
I looked down at my hands and saw that had changed. They were no longer my normal, human hands. They had become-

'Wolf paws?!'

When the strange feeling that had come over me passed, I looked back at the rest of my body. I had changed into a wolf. I was beginning to freak out once again but as soon as I turned around, I was face-to-face with one of the wolves. It was just staring at me, as I stared back at it. I sat still as it began to sniff me. I couldn't tell if it was still feeling aggressive or not, but I did not want to find out. After it had sniffed me for several seconds, it ran off to join the other two wolves. They were about to run away when the sound of one of the other wolves howling rang out in the distance. The three wolves howled in response before running in the direction that it had come from.
'Galadriel'
I immediately ran after them, hoping to catch them before they reached Galadriel, or at least before any harm was done to her (assuming there had not been any already). I lost my balance several times, falling flat on my face. I was not used to running with wolf legs. It was going to take time getting used to. Unfortunately, I had no time.
Each time I fell, the three wolves would slip out of my sight. The first few times it happened, I was able to catch up to them with little difficulty, but the last time, I ran and ran and ran yet I still couldn't find them.
'Where could they have gone?'
I had to take a moment to see and listen to my surroundings. I could hear growling and barking in the distance. That could only mean one thing.
'I'm coming, Galadriel'

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Galadriel
[IMG=https://glittertextmaker.info/glitterv4'][IMG]'https://glittertextmaker.info/glitterv4/holdz/z5d075c0b27dbb.gif[/IMG]

"Get back, you little monsters!" I shouted at the four wolves that had surrounded me. I was now stuck on my horse in the middle of a lake, with four vicious and hungry wolves blocking all the ways out of here.

'These beasts are far too coordinated'

I began to wave my sword around in the air, gesturing towards each wolf with it. "Go on, get out of here!" I knew they couldn’t stay here forever, but neither could I. I could not wait this one out. No, I had to be the one that makes it out of here in one piece.

'And I will do that with or without Ellia'

Three more wolves appeared, coming from goodness knows where. They looked just as upset and hungry as the other four.
'I can't wait any longer now.'
I leaned down towards my horse and whispered, "You ready for this, buddy?" I knew it did not understand a word I just said and if it did, it wasn't going to answer me. But it brought me a sliver of comfort before I began to make my way towards land again. This was going to end with one of us getting hurt and it was not going to be me.

Suddenly, another wolf jumped out of a brush nearby and started attacking the other wolves and drawing their attention away from me. The seven wolves that were once focused on me were now chasing after this other wolf, giving me an opportunity to escape. I hastily made my way back to land, riding off in the opposite direction of the wolves once I made it there.
'I don't remember seeing an eight wolf originally. I wonder where it came from… and why it started attacking the others' I thought to myself. It is impossible for the animal to have sensed the danger I was in and consciously decide to save me.

Right?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Tori
[IMG]'https://glittertextmaker.info/glitterv4/holdz/z5d0757db1e5d6.gif[/IMG]

After successfully getting the wolves far away from Galadriel and then throwing them off my own trail, I made my way back towards the area where I had last seen Galadriel. She wasn't there.
'Perhaps she already left? Without me? She couldn't have.'
I had to find her. I started to sniff around, hoping to pick up on her horse's scent. I felt incredibly awkward doing so. It would have been more humiliating had I been in my human form but knowing that deep down I was still a person made this feel wrong. There was nothing else I could do in this form. I had no intention of changing back to be a human until I found Galadriel. Being a wolf was a faster and safer way for me to get through the forest unharmed.

I finally caught on to an odd scent, a scent that did not fit in with all the other forest smells. It belonged to an animal that was an outsider to this place, like Galadriel's horse. I decided to follow that scent, hoping it would not lead me deeper into the forest. While following the scent trail, I found my thoughts drifting towards my powers.
'Why is it that every time my powers activate, it's only when I'm in danger? How am I supposed to have any control over my shape-shifting? I'm lucky I'm able to control my invisibility well enough to get me out of some tricky situations but I can almost never shift into in animal at will. It feels like it is all closely tied to my emotions. Perhaps if I had stayed with the Clann…' I shook my head, 'No, Tori, you made the right decision. It was better for you to leave.’

The scent was getting stronger. I knew I was close to whatever, or whoever, I was following. As I continued, I noticed with each step I took my legs would gradually begin to give out from under me. My head was feeling fuzzy and I was panting. I hadn't a clue what was happening to me. The next thing I know, I'm sprawled out on the forest floor. My insides felt like they were expanding and contracting whilst moving all around. The heaviness in my head continued to grow until finally, it stopped suddenly along with everything else I was feeling. I opened my eyes and tried to stand up again. That is when I noticed something different about me. I was human again!

'Finally!' But then it dawned upon me, 'Wait. Without my wolf senses, how am I supposed to find Galadriel? The trail I was following is gone now!'
I could feel myself starting to panic. I took a few deep breaths to calm myself down. 'It's okay, Tori. You used to navigate the streets of your hometown simply fine and you did it without your 'wolf sense'. You can get out of here and find Galadriel too.'

With one final deep breath, I made my way forward in the direction that the scent had been coming from. I drew my bow and arrow just in case. I wasn't planning to turn into a wolf again any time soon though, it did not seem like I ever had much of a choice in that matter. Without being able to sniff my way to Galadriel, I had to rely more on my gut feeling. Trying to walk in a straight line through the dense trees and underbrush was proving to be difficult but it felt like the best way to get to Galadriel. It is so easy to get lost, though. There was no way to tell if I was still heading in the same direction that I started in.

'I really hope I don't run into another pack of wolves.' I said to myself 'That was enough 'adventure' for tonight.'

All the sudden, I heard a whinny up ahead.
'Could it be?'
I started to run towards the location of the sound, gaining speed with every second that passed. I heard another whinny. 'It has to be her.'
I then burst through the trees into this clearing, looking around hopefully for any sign of Galadriel and her horse… but I did not see anything.
'What? But… how could… how… how did I… what did… I-'
"Ellia?" I heard a familiar voice say. I turned around and there she was. Galadriel sitting atop her horse, and an even bigger surprise standing next to her was my horse! "You made it." I said, breathlessly
"Of course, I did." Galadriel replied, walking toward me "I thought for sure the wolves had gotten you."
"They almost did, but I was able to outsmart them."
"Really? Impressive. I got worried when I saw your horse without a rider, but it is good to know you can handle yourself on your own. That's what I'd expect of a ranger."
'Oh no, let's not get into ranger talk now.' "How did you make it out?"
"I was able to sneak away from the wolves when they started to get attacked by some other beast. I think it may have been another wolf." Galadriel said as I hopped back onto my horse. "It was odd. You would think the wolf would have just tried to attack me like the rest of them, but I guess not. Perhaps they were just fighting over who'd get to eat me first."
"Well, regardless of the reason, we both made it out of that forest alive. Now, I think we should focus on getting to the Capitol. We went completely off-road back there. Who knows how far away we are now?"
"Not too far, actually."
I did a double take "W-what?"

Galadriel began to move forward. I followed closely behind her. As we made our way out of the clearing, we found ourselves on a hilltop, overlooking the land. The sun had just barely started to come up. Looming in the distance was a large castle with what looked like a city laid out before it. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before.
"Is… is that-"
"Yes, it is. The Capitol. We're finally home."

Those words rung in my ears. It was hard to imagine calling this place home, but I suppose I would get used to it. It would just take time.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~

When we finally made into the Capitol, I was taken aback by the business of the city and by the amount of people walking around on the streets. Galadriel and I tried our best to get to the castle as quickly as possible without hurting anyone and without arousing any suspicion within the city folk. The people caused us little problems and moved out of the way upon hearing the tittup of our horses.
We soon reached the castle, which was larger than I could have ever imagined. Dark tan stones made up the magnificent structure. Three tall towers pointed their way into the sky, a single window on each one. Three flags hung from them, bearing the crest of the king. We were met by one of the squires who took our horses back to the stables. Galadriel walked at a brisk pace as we entered, brushing past any of the workers there. She made no eye contact with anyone and stayed silent all while we made our way to the section of the castle that was the Dai Li Headquarters. I lost count of the amount of steps and twists and turns we had to take to get there. Soon, we arrived before a large door. I could hear the restrained murmurs of a crowd behind it. I assumed it was all the Dai Li members King Adonis had. It was an intimidating thought, standing in front of all those people in one room that could easily see through my ruse.

I waited behind Galadriel as she grabbed the silver chain she had been wearing (that I had never noticed before) around her neck, taking it off. A bronze key hung from it. It was not exceedingly small and had a very ornate, floral design on it that was red in color. I did not know why they had to keep the door before us locked, which increased the anxiety I had already been feeling.
'Why would they lock this room so obviously filled with people behind it?'
As soon as the door had been unlocked, Galadriel pushed open the doors, revealing a large room, a mess hall, filled with children, various Dai Li members stationed at every corner of the room and by some of the tables.
"What is this? Why do you have so many kids in here?" I asked Galadriel as we walked through the room. I couldn't help but stare at the scene around me. So many children with solemn faces, sitting in silence. It looked like they were prisoners!
"This is our wonderful Gifted army. Almost every Gifted we've ever captured is here."
' "Almost every Gifted", what could she possibly mean…' I was too afraid to ask. It could not be anything good.
"This is the army we will use to destroy the Clann and restore Alagaesia to its former splendor."
"That's…" I struggled to find the right words to say, especially with being so focused on everyone else in the room. I didn't know what I was feeling being there. Contentment? Certainly not. Fear? Not exactly. I had to say something, though. "That's… fantastic." When I think of something "fantastic", I do not normally picture of room full of emotionless child soldiers. Perhaps that will change while being here.

Once we got to the other side of the room, Galadriel was approached by a man, presumably another Dai Li based on the way he was dressed.
"Glad to see you made it back in one piece, Captain." He said.
"Did you have any doubts, Ivan?" Galadriel retorted
"Of course not, sir." He- Ivan - replied "Just relieved we don't have to elect another Dai Li captain. It would be quite terrible for us to go through two captains in only the span of about a week."
"Has it just been a week?"
"Give or take."
I feel like a could see the faintest glimmer of a smile on Galadriel's face that disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. Ivan then gestured in my direction. "Who's this?"
"A new member." Galadriel answered
"Oh? Has the king approved of this?"
"He will. I was just going to show the girl to her room and give her a quick tour of the base before going to present her to Adonis."
Ivan nodded "What is her name?"
"Ellia. She's a ranger from the north."
"A ranger, now?" He said with surprise before turning to me "Well then, I'm sure you have quite an extensive and useful set of skills. We could use that here."
"I believe she will be immense help in our war against the Gifted." Galadriel said
"Speaking of," Ivan began "King Adonis is having a meeting tonight. He has requested that all of the Dai Li are present for it."
"I'll be there." Galadriel spoke short and monotonously "Ellia as well."
"That's good to hear." Ivan said
"I should get going now. I have much to show this one and I'm sure you have your own duties that you must attend to."
"Always, captain." Ivan answered, with a small salute before turning and walking away.

Galadriel and I walked through another set of doors leading to a long hallway. "I will be taking you to your room now. You must return to it every night by nine and wake up at six. From there, you will get dressed in your uniform and do whatever else you feel is necessary before coming to the mess hall at six-thirty."

Galadriel continued to explain my new schedule as a Dai Li member. As she did that, my mind began to wander.
'This strict regimen will take a while to get used to. ' I thought, trying to ignore the uneasiness in my heart.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I sat down on my bed with huff. I had just finished taking part in some of the ongoing Dai Li training for the first time after Galadriel gave me a tour of their headquarters. It was a long, vigorous experience. Nothing like Clann training. You never felt safe, not for a moment. With the Clann, you felt like everything was safe and controlled. With the Dai Li, it was like you were actually fighting the enemy. It was unpredictable and intense. You couldn’t let your guard down or else you might get hurt in the process. It was… exhilarating! I had never enjoyed training more. I would be lying if I said I was not slightly looking forward to training more tomorrow.

‘The Clann could afford to learn a thing or two from Dai Li about how to properly train people to fight.’

After I had refreshed myself, I slipped into my official Dai Li uniform. It was dark all over, like the inside of a cave, with traces of red. An intimidating color combination. On the shoulders was the symbol of the Dai Li, delicately stitched on with a dark grey string, making it just barely visible. The uniform was topped off with a long cloak which added a level of mystery to your appearance. I looked like a completely different person, like someone who knows exactly what they want and would do whatever it takes to get it. Someone you do not want to get on the bad side of. This is the type of intimidating I always strived to exude. I doubt I was ever successful. I probably came across more annoying and immature.
'If only I had someone in my life who could have guided me and helped me with how I presented myself to the world.'
I took a deep breath as I continued to stare at myself in the mirror. I couldn’t help but love being in these clothes. It felt right to wear them. I felt like… I belonged for the first time. A small part of me wanted to feel like this was wrong but I brushed that aside. I just chalked that up to lingering nervousness.

I suddenly heard a knock at my door, startling me out of my odd transfixion. I walked over to open the door, not sure who to expect to see behind it. It turned out to be a man I had not seen before. He had deep brown eyes and short, shaggy brown hair. He was a few inches taller than me and appeared to carry himself with confidence.
"Yes, what is it?" I questioned. I felt vulnerable without any weapons, but I tried not to let that show.
"The king's meeting is about to start. You should head over to the throne room now." The man said.
"Right now?" I repeated, not wanting to go anywhere unarmed
"Yes, now. Is that a problem?"
"No, of course not." I lied "I just… don't know the way."
"That's why I'm here. Captain Darklighter sent me to show you the way."
' "Captain Darklighter"?' "Oh, they did?" I said, trying to hide my surprise.
"Yes, she did." He said
"O-of course she did." I replied, emphasizing "she" just like he did
The man just stared at me for a few moments before speaking "You have no idea who I'm talking about."
"How dare you accuse me of that." I said, feigning offense
"Perhaps you only know her as 'Galadriel'?" He asked
My eyes widened, 'Oh… now it makes sense.'
"No, actually I knew she was also referred to as 'Darklighter'. I just thought you said… something else." 'I think my lies have gotten worse' I thought to myself.
"I see. Well, I will do my best to speak more clearly." The man said, over-articulating his words
"Thank you, um…" I trailed off, "You know, I never did get your name."
"Sergeant Nathan Praton or my codename 'Onyx'. Most people here call me 'Nate', though."
"Nice to meet you, Sarge." I said
"Captain Darklighter told me your name was 'Ellia'?"
"That is correct."
Nate nodded, "I heard you were a ranger."
"Yes, I was until… well, until today." I replied, gesturing to my new uniform.
"Well, the Dai Li are lucky to have someone like you in our ranks. Most of us were born right here in the Capitol. It's refreshing to have members from other parts of Alagaesia with unique skillsets, especially those of a ranger." Nate said
"Well, I am happy to be here." I said. 'Happy is a bit of a stretch right now. Tense is more accurate.' "Didn't you say something about a meeting?"
Nate's eyes widened. "Oh no!" he exclaimed, facepalming himself. It was the first time I had seen him act so distressed. "Oh, I'm so stupid." he muttered, "We need to get over to the throne room now. The meeting has probably already started! Come on!" He said running off
"Wait, I-" I sighed in frustration. It was pointless to call after him. I looked back into my room. I was tempted to go back and grab a dagger or something. 'No, I'll be fine. This is just a simple meeting. What could go wrong?'

I then ran off in the direction that I had seen Nate run in. He was already too far ahead for me to follow him. Thankfully, Galadriel showed me the-
'Wait.' I stopped in my tracks, 'She only showed me the layout of the Dai Li base. She never got a chance to show me the main part of the castle.'
I groaned, feeling annoyed but also worried. Who knew what the consequences would be if I missed this meeting. I really didn't want to find out.
'I suppose I'll just try to find my way to the throne room. It shouldn't be too difficult. I can get there if I just make it back to the mess hall.'

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It took me a while, but I eventually made it to the Dai Li mess hall and then back into the castle's golden grand hall. I looked all around, trying to figure out where to go next. There seemed to be many pathways in this place and I had no idea where any of them led. Eventually, I just chose a random one after I thought I heard someone talking coming from down the hallway.
I continued to look around and around, sometimes seeming to go in circles. I ended up back at the grand hall once again. I went ahead to try a different direction, hoping that this time I would be granted more luck than before. Unfortunately, I still was unable to find my way to the meeting.
'Well, this is just wonderful. I certainly hope Adonis is feeling merciful today.' I thought to myself, as I slowly wandered around the corridor I was in. 'I suppose it's futile to try and go to the meeting now. Perhaps now is the best time to try and familiarize myself with the twisted, weaving halls of this palace.' But as I came up on the corner ahead of me, I was greeted with-
"A dead end?!" I exclaimed, talking aloud for the first time in a while. "You've got to be joking."
I had nowhere else to go now. I was going to have retrace all my steps to at least get back to the grand hall.
At the end of this corridor, there was a large painting two people in a small boat on a lake, with large Weeping Willows surrounding them. I could not make out who the people were. Perhaps the Queen and King?
Standing before the painting against both walls were two shining, majestic suits of armor. I had never seen anything like that in person before. Only in storybooks. I gazed in awe over one of them, gently caressing the arm. It was cold to the touch, sending shivers down my spine. I began to feel the back of it when suddenly I felt something long and hard and just and as cold, if not colder, than the suit of armor itself. Whatever I was grabbing was thin enough to wrap my whole hand around, but I still had no idea what it was. I tried to move it from side to side.
Nothing.
I then tried moving it up.
Still nothing.
I finally tried to move it down.
And it did not budge.
"I wonder why that… thing is there." I said under my breath.

Suddenly, I heard the faint sound of yelling. 'What in the world could that be?'
I began to rush back the way I originally came. The shouting only seemed to grow and grow. Groups of the Royal King’s Guard occasionally ran past me at certain times, weapons at the ready. That assured me something terrible was surely happening.
I eventually came to an intersection in one of the many corridors. I hadn't clue where I was supposed to go.
'Great. Come on, Tori. Think!'
I looked back and forth at the two paths before me. Neither seemed familiar but I must have come from one of them. I just needed to figure out which one.
I soon heard an especially loud cry coming from eastern pathway. 'Guess I'll follow the noise.' I began to run down the corridor but was stopped in my tracks when I heard a familiar voice behind me call out "This way!"
'No… it… it couldn't be.'
I slowly turned around just as I heard several people's frantic footsteps came to an abrupt stop. That is when my eyes met-
"Ansell?"
"Tori?" He said, incredulously. Behind him stood Ezra, Hanna, and some other young girl I had never seen before. Ezra looked just as shocked as Ansell did, while Hanna had eyes filled with rage. The sound of the guards rushing around echoed through the halls.
"What are you doing here?" Ansell and I said in unison. I half expected Ansell to make some snarky joke, but I could tell this was not time for his signature humor. I opened my mouth to speak again when Hanna rushed towards me, attempting to interpose herself between Ansell and me.
"How could you?!" She exclaimed, Ezra and Ansell pulling her back. "How could you betray us, I-"
"Shush, Hanna, calm down!" Ezra uttered, trying to be as quiet and soothing as possible. Ansell gave a small nod to Ezra, to tell him to try and keep Hanna from doing something she may regret. It sounded like the guards had heard her yell too, for their gait was becoming increasingly louder. They would be upon us in no time.
Ansell took a few steps towards me. "Tori, I-" "Save it, Ansell. Now's not the time." I interrupted, meeting him halfway. "We need to get you all out of here."
Ansell look bewildered as I said that. "For once you're speechless. Never thought I'd see the day."
"You haven't exactly given me the opportunity to speak yet."
"Um, hey guys?" Ezra interjected loud enough for only us to hear.
"What is it, Ezra?" Ansell asked, not taking his eyes off me. I did not know why he did that. I could only assume he was just making sure I didn't try to harm himself or the others in any way. I doubted there could be any reason other than that.
"We should probably get going now." He said
Ansell sighed "He's right. Listen, I don't know what your plan is, Tori. But the four of us are leaving, no matter what."
"How will you get out of here?" I questioned "You can't just walk out the front doors. You'd never make it out before getting captured."
"I'm aware of that. We're trying to think of another way out."
"So, you don't even have a plan?"
"I had a plan!"
"Had?"
"Yes, 'had'. I-"
"Um, I have an idea." A small voice said
"Why do I keep getting interrupted?" Ansell groaned, before turning around. The shy, young girl that was with them had stepped forward. "What is it, Rhea?" Ansell asked kindly, but with obvious tension in his voice.
'Why do they even have this girl with them?'
"W-when I was in my cell, I overheard a couple guards mention rumors of a secret passageway that was only recently discovered. They said it was supposed to lead out of the castle and into the gardens. It's all the way at the south end of the castle, though."
"I suppose that's our best choice right now. A rumored exit." Ansell said, "All of the Dai Li tunnels are closed off and the main doors are off the table."
"It's better than staying here." I said
Suddenly, we heard a voice shout "Over here! I think I heard something!" The guards were finally here.
"We better get a move on now." I told them
"Hanna, Ezra, Rhea, let's go." Ansell said, beckoning them to come to him as we then ran off, just narrowly escaping the guards.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
It was difficult but eventually, we found the secret passageway that led out of the castle. We found ourselves in the royal gardens, like Rhea said. There was no one out here, which was lucky for us. All the guards and Dai Li must be inside the castle trying to find us. They would make their way outside soon enough. We could not linger here for too long.
We proceeded to stealthily make our way through the garden. Ansell mentioned that there were riding trails just past here that branched off into the wilderness, offering them a chance to escape. That is, if we didn't get caught by the Dai Li in the process, which almost happened back in the castle. Luckily, I was able to distract the two Dai Li members that almost got us, giving the others an opportunity to sneak past. I was worried I was going to have to use my powers on them, but I was thankfully able to talk my way out of that situation.

We finally made our way out the gardens without any complications. Things seemed to be looking up for us.
'They're going to make it out of here!'
"Get down!" Ansell hissed at us. We all instantly dropped down and hid behind a large bush. Up ahead was the horse stables and trail. Out in front by one of the stables stood the squire from earlier that had taken Galadriel and I's horses talking to some mysterious, cloaked figure. I couldn't make out who it was. From where we were, it just looked some silhouette of a person.
"We have to get past them somehow." Ansell said. I nodded in agreement.

I looked all around at our environment to try and come up with a plan.
'Trees, grass, flowers, horses, sticks-UGH! There is nothing we can do out here! Unless…' That is when I was struck with an idea!
I grabbed a rock that was next to my ankles and turned around. "Hey, Hanna."
"What?" She said sharply
"Catch." I said, tossing the rock over to her. She caught it with ease. "How good are you at throwing things?"
She seemed visibly confused by my question, "Uh, I think I'm fairly good. Why?"
"I want you to throw that rock as hard and as far as you can in that direction." I told her, gesturing towards the area of the forest just behind the two people speaking.
"Okay… and after that?" She asked, unsure
"Just follow my lead."

Hanna looked over at Ansell, wanting to see if my plan had his approval. Ansell looked from Hanna and Ezra to me. It seemed like he was searching my eyes, trying to figure out if I was secretly trying to sabotage this and get them all caught. After a few moments had passed, Ansell finally spoke. "Go ahead, Hanna."
Hanna gave him a firm nod before hurling the rock through the air. It landed with a loud thud behind the couple. The squire rushed over to the area where the rock had landed, the cloaked figure walking after him. This was our moment.
"Alright, follow me." I whispered, staying in a crouched position as I walked out from behind the bush and made my way towards the back of the stable. Everything was going smoothly. We were finally under the cover and protection of the trees and underbrush. We almost made it past the mystery man, when-

S N A P !

I looked back to see Rhea with a face full of fear and under her, a broken stick.

'Oh no'

The mysterious person had turned around and was looking straight in our direction. A wave of fear washed over me. The way this person stood was eerily too similar to him. I suddenly felt frozen and helpless.

'Maybe he'll brush that noise off as just a squirrel or something. Just please don’t come over here!'

But just as soon as I had thought that, he began taking slow steps towards. I knew I had to do something. After all, I was the only Gifted here.
'Let's hope I have enough control over my powers to get us out of this situation.'
"I can divert his attention long enough for you four to make your way into the forest." I whispered to Ansell
"Tori, you don't have to play hero." He said
"I know… but I have to do something with these powers. Besides, I owe you one after you helped me escape the Clann." The mysterious man was getting close. It was now or never. "Move out when I give the signal."
"Which will be…?"
"Trust me, it'll be obvious." I said
"Very well… good luck, Tori." Ansell said to me

I only gave him a small nod before I closed my eyes and began to try to transform into an animal. I could feel that it wasn't working at first.
'Come on, Tori. You can do this. Just remember… remember what the Clann taught you.'
I tried harder and harder to shapeshift, pushing out any doubt that was trying to creep into my mind. I knew I could do this.

Suddenly, the world around me seemed to grow and my insides had the same warping feeling that I had back in the forest. The next thing I knew, I shot up into the sky and I could feel the cool wind underneath my-

'Wings! Yes! It worked!'

Now a large and threatening hawk, I swooped down, heading straight towards the cloaked man and begin flying all around him and in his face. He constantly swiped at me, shouting "Get back!" a few times, but I did not let up. I knew I had to give Ansell, and the others enough time to get away from here.
The squire from before came back and once he saw me, he started trying to shoo me away. Unfortunately (but not really), he ended up hitting the mystery man (whom I was even more sure was him now just based on how pale his chin looked peeking out from the hood) in the face. The squire started to apologize profusely while the other man angrily shouted at the boy. It was then I decided it would be an appropriate time to fly away.

I flew back towards the castle. I noticed an open window on the third level of the castle. It was the perfect way to get back inside without being seen. I perched myself on the edge of the window, looking around the corridor to see if anyone was coming. Thankfully, no one was so I was able to fly in and shift back into my human form with ease.
I looked back out the window. I did not see the squire and the other man anymore.
'I wonder where they have gone?'
It was concerning for a moment, but I brushed it off. I then tried to see if Ansell, Ezra, Hanna, and Rhea were at all in sight.
They were not.
'I hope they're safe.'

I frowned, realizing what I had just thought. I didn't know why I suddenly felt so concerned for their wellbeing. It's not like I was close to any of them. Well, not Ezra or Hanna anyway. Definitely not this Rhea. And Ansell… well, he was different. Still, I never cared for them back when I was with the Clann. It didn't make sense to start caring for them now. Yet somehow… I did?
'I cannot believe I already committed treason against the King on my first day with the Dai Li.' I sighed 'I really hope no one finds out about this.'
I remembered then that the King's Guard and the Dai Li were searching around the castle still.

'I better go join the others before anyone gets suspicious.'



Author's Note: Finally



Sorry this post is so long. If I didn't handle anyone's character correctly, just let me know and I will fix it. As usual, I forgot how to get the glitter text to work, lol.

Night and/or Glory, feel free to write how everyone got to the secret door if you'd like. I skipped over it to try and shorten the post and get this out faster. Also, sorry I made Tori the hero at the end. I knew we decided she would help Ansell and the others escape so I needed her to do something. Otherwise, she would have been pretty useless, haha.
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Last edited by Alexa Diamondflower; 06-20-2019 at 07:37 AM.
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Old 06-18-2019, 12:47 AM
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Old 06-18-2019, 02:31 AM
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Old 06-18-2019, 03:08 AM
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Awesome post, Alexa! It's great to learn a little more about Galadriel as well as Tori. And don't worry, I think Tori's role in the escape was great.

By the way, I think you have to remove the quotation marks ( ' ) around your link to make the glitter text show.

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Old 06-19-2019, 01:10 AM
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Hi everyone! I'm so sorry that I went AWOL for so long! I just graduated university, so I was off travelling with my family for the last month or so. I'm glad to see you guys are still here!
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Old 06-20-2019, 07:35 AM
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Congrats on graduating university, Glory!

Thanks, Night!
I tried fixing the glitter text but it still didn't work. *shrug* It's alright though, I'll type the names in.
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Old 06-22-2019, 05:58 PM
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Congrats Glory!! That’s so exciting!

I might not be able to post until after next week, but I will try to post as soon as I can! Gotta get through this weekend and next week’s craziness haha.
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Old 06-25-2019, 07:41 AM
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That's okay, Liri! I hope this week doesn't get too crazy for you.
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Old 07-02-2019, 03:53 AM
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Whew. Last week was crazier than I could have imagined, but I made it haha.

Sorry this post is so long! I wanted to tie up some loose ends, and there were quite a few of them haha.


Talia (“yesterday”)

I was talking to Ava, my second in command, and she was updating me on how our weaponry fared after yesterday’s battle with the Dai Li.
“Good, update the other Clann members and see to it that our weapon stock gets refilled and we mend anything we can. Get Cadence to help you.” I said once she finished her report.
“Will do!” Ava replied, with a goofy little salute, and we both laughed.
“Please check in with Ansell too, see if he is missing anything he needs. He is planning to return to the Dai Li today or tomorrow I think.” I added, as the thought came into mind.
“Of course, I will go find him now.”
“Thanks Ava. I don’t know what I would do without you!”
“Probably go crazy,” She responded with a grin, and we both laughed again.
“Alright. I need to go check in on Finn and Ren. I will check in with you later today.”
“Sounds good. Give them a hug for me!” Ava replied, then she shook her head with a chuckle. “Who would have ever thought I would tell you to give Ren a hug?” She said, and we both thought in amazement about how much our once mortal enemy had changed.
“Who would have thought.” I agreed.

Then I heard a hesitant, "Talia?" come from behind me, and I turned to see Haven standing nervously, wringing her hands anxiously.
"Haven? Are you okay?" I asked, genuinely concerned for the girl who had captured my heart, but also a little hesitantly, unsure how she would react. She had been all over the place recently, with her emotions high strung, and between her yelling at me after the battle and what had happened with Finn… I didn’t know what to expect from the usually very sweet girl.

"Did... did you hear about what happened?" She responded, biting her lip and looking near tears.
I nodded, "Ansell let me know. I was about to head over to check on Finn, and..."
"I'm sorry!" Haven burst out, "I didn't - I didn't mean to hurt anyone. You gave me a home here, and a family. I never really told you how grateful I was for you saving me, and everything you've given me. And now I've hurt a member of that family. And I yelled at you, even though I knew it wasn't your fault. I understand if you can't trust me again after this, but - "
I quickly cut her off with a fierce embrace, holding her to me tightly. Haven buried her face in my shoulder and began to sob, and I stroked her midnight black hair.
"How could you be so kind to me?" She whispered, "You, and Ren, and Ansell... How could you still want me around, after what I did?"

Her voice caught at the end of that question, and I pulled back a bit and held her chin to force her to meet my eyes.
“Oh Haven, we will always want you around. We love you - I love you - and you are part of our family. Family sticks together, no matter what, always and forever. I will always be here for you, I promise, always and forever.”



Ren (“this morning”)

The sun had made its slow way over the horizon, bathing the infirmary in shades of red and gold. Ansell and I had stayed with Finn all night, watching over the little boy and taking turns resting. The sunlight shone on Finn’s pale face, and for a brief moment I saw Skyf’s blonde curls and small face instead, but then I shook my head and my gaze cleared again. I looked at the boy’s pale and bruised skin, and my heart hurt for the sweet little boy. I thought about Haven, and our conversation yesterday, and the promise I had made to her and to myself. I had torn apart so many families, but now I had vowed to try to help bring families back together, starting with Haven’s. Oh Skyf, I wish you were here still. I got so lost after you… but now I am going to try to make things right. I promise.

I was shaken out of my thoughts when Ansell reached over and gave me a tight hug.
"It's going to be alright," He whispered, and I looked at him gratefully.
"I know. Good luck," I replied, before returning to my vigil by Finn's bedside. "And be careful." I added, then Ansell left to get ready for his journey back to the Dai Li.

A few minutes later, the door opened and I looked up to see Nyna enter the room. She came over to stand beside Finn’s bed and put a hand on my shoulder.
“How was he overnight?” She asked softly.
“He didn’t stir, just slept.” I replied.
“And you? How are you? Did you sleep at all?”
“I’m ok, I will be better once I know he is alright. And yes, Ansell forced me to sleep some.”
“Good,” She chuckled, “I am glad he made you sleep.”

She then laid her hands on Finn’s temples and closed her eyes. I watched anxiously, my eyes darting back and forth between Finn and Nyna’s faces, trying to see anything that would let me know how he was doing.
After a moment she opened her eyes and stood up straight again. “His bones and organs are healing nicely,” She began, and I felt some of my tension ease.
“And his mind? Can you tell anything yet?” I asked.
“No, I won’t know until he wakes. I will come check again later today, and if he has healed enough by then, I might wake him from his coma tomorrow morning.” She answered. “I will have someone bring you something to eat.”
“Thank you Nyna.” Then the Clann leader left the room.

A while later, I heard a soft knock on the door. I stood to open it, and found Prince Nikko standing nervously in the doorway, with a tray of food.
“Nik, hello,” I said.
“Ren… I, I heard what happened and wanted to see how Finn was doing…” He stammered, seeming unsure if he had the right to ask to come in and see the boy.
“Of course, please, come in, Finn would be happy you came.” I replied, ushering the prince into the room. “He likes you,” I added with a smile, which Nikko returned shyly.
“I like him too. He is a sweet little boy.” He said. “How is he doing?”
“He hasn’t woken yet, but his injuries are healing - thanks to Nyna and the other Gifted healers.” I said, “We won’t know how his mind is until he wakes… but…”

The crown prince of Alagaesia set down the tray of food on a table, then went to the side of Finn’s bed and sat down. He held Finn’s small hand, the sunlight illuminating his wavy blonde hair. “He will be ok. He has to be. He is a strong little one.” Nikko stated, firmly as if to convince himself.
“Yes, he is. Stronger than we know.” I responded softly, sitting on Finn’s other side and taking his other hand.
“Please, Nyna said to make sure you eat something. Here,” the prince reached for the tray he had set down and passed it to me, “Eat.”
“Yes, your Highness,” I replied with a smirk, then began to eat. We sat in companionable silence, watching over the boy we both had come to love.


Talia (“this morning”)

The next morning, Nyna and the Elders met me in my office to talk about recent events. We first spoke about the incident with Haven, and Nyna updated us on how Finn was doing this morning. I had visited the boy the evening before, after my conversation with Haven, and had spoken some with Ren. I knew how much the boy meant to her, and I knew she was worried about him and planned to spend the night watching over him. I made sure to ask Cadence to have someone bring Ren some dinner after I left the infirmary, because I knew Ren wouldn’t be likely to leave Finn’s side until he was better. I updated the Elders and Nyna on how Haven was doing, and how sorry she was, and Nyna and I assured the Elders that we didn’t need to be worried about something like this happening again. Nyna promised to help Haven train more so she could control her emotions and her abilities better, and I promised that Haven was so horrified by what had happened that she would train hard and not let it happen again.

Suddenly, Ansell and Ezra burst through the doors and into my office, and Ezra shouted "Hanna is gone!!!"
"What?" Elder Solon was on his feet in a flash. "My niece is missing?"
"Where could she have gone?" Nyna exclaimed.
"Could... could she have gone after the Dai Li?" Ezra asked hesitantly.
"She did seem frustrated at the meeting," Ansell mused.
Solon had gone white with shock. "I just - I can't believe she would - "
"Maybe she was just out on patrol, and was ambushed," I quickly suggested. "I'll send out teams to search the nearby area, and ask around the surrounding villages."

"I'm going back to the Dai Li today anyway. If they've captured a Clann agent, I'm sure there will be talk," Ansell said grimly.
"I'll come with you," Ezra said determinedly. Ansell and I looked at him in surprise. "Hanna was a part of our team," he said fiercely. "Even if I can't protect everyone, I need to at least try."
Ansell put a comforting arm around his shoulder. "Thank you."

"Wait," a voice came from behind us. We turned to see Prince Nikko standing in my doorway, which had been left open by Ansell and Ezra when they had burst in.
For a moment, I wondered if he'd ask to join them on their mission, and I got prepared to decline his request - it was just too dangerous and too soon. He wasn’t ready.

Nikko hesitated, then handed Ansell a folded letter. "If you see my mother, could you please give her this?"
Ans took it and smiled, folding it into his cloak. Of course. He'd want her to know he was safe. "Sure."
"And good luck," Nikko added, though there was some trepidation in his expression. "Hanna was my friend too. I hope you bring her back safely." Then the prince left, heading in the direction of the infirmary with a tray of food, probably for Ren.

Just then, Cadence entered my office with a bag of supplies for Ansell, having heard from Ava that he would be leaving.
Nyna, Cadence, Ansell, Ezra, and I all held hands then, and Nyna linked our thoughts.
:Be careful, guys,: I thought to my friends, :The Dai Li will be on high alert after that disastrous battle with us.:
Ans nodded. :Keep an eye on Ren for me, she won’t leave Finn’s side and will forget to take care of herself. And… keep an eye on Haven for me too.:
:We will.:
Nyna, Cadence, and I all promised together. Then all five of us hugged, and the boys left.



Ren (“that evening”)

I was sitting by Finn’s bed, alone since Nikko had left before lunchtime to go to his training, when I suddenly heard a familiar voice in my mind.

:I wish you were close enough to hear me Lyren! I could really use some help over here!: Came the desperate cry.
:Ansell?!: I thought back in surprise.
:Lyren?! You can hear me? How?! I am still at the palace!: Came the stunned response from my friend, who was a day’s ride away.
:I… don’t know…. I have never heard anyone that far away before! I don’t know if even Nyna have hear from that far away!: I replied, amazed that I could hear Ansell’s thoughts.
:Well, we will have to figure this out later, we don’t have time now. Since you can hear me, come quick with help! My cover has been blown, and I have the entire Dai Li army after me...:
:What?! How did you manage that?!:
I thought, startled, :Never mind, you can explain later. I’ll get Talia and we will meet you with reinforcements. Keep heading this way as much as you can, and keep me updated about where you are. Did you find Hanna?:
:Yes, and Rhea too.:
:Rhea? You found her?!:
I exhaled with relief, :Ok, I am on my way. Be careful!:
:I will.:
He replied, then added, :Please hurry… I think I really managed to make them mad this time…: I felt his nervousness and urgency but also the wry humor in his thoughts, and I chuckled at that.
:More angry than you already make them on a daily basis? I’m impressed!:
:Oh shut up,:
He retorted humorously, then turned serious, :Hurry Lyren, the girl has been through enough already.:
:I’ll be there as soon as I can.:
I promised.

The whole exchange took less than two minutes, and I “called” out to Nyna and Talia even while I grabbed my pack and filled it with supplies. I filled them in on the situation - and asked for Nikko to be sent to stay with Finn - and within ten minutes, Talia and I galloped away on horseback with her elite team in tow, with Ansell leading me towards him through our constant mental “conversation.”

Talia and I met each other’s gaze, and I knew we were on the same page. We complimented each other perfectly, and our years of enmity had left us able to read each other flawlessly since we knew how the other thought so well. We both cared about Ansell, Ezra, and Hanna, and we both cared about Haven - and her sister because of her, though we had yet to meet the child.

We had to make sure the three Clann members and the little Rhea made it here safely.

I made a promise.



(Note: Hope you all don't mind that Ren could "hear" Ansell's thoughts from such a far distance! Night and I spoke about it, and I was thinking that Ren can only "hear" so far if it is Ansell, and she can only hear him since they are so close and have dropped the barriers between them so completely. Nyna can't since she has a little of all the Gifts rather than a couple strong ones - even though she is also quite close with Ansell. Telepathy is the weaker of Ren's two Gifts, but it is still stronger for her than Nyna's is. Nyna is quite competent in all of the Gifts, and is strong, but her strength is spread out between them all whereas Ren only has two and hers can both be stronger since her strength is only split between the two Gifts. Not trying to power play!)
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