Dintin Jul 18th, 2015 (edited) 439 Never
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- It had been only a day since a strange Samjan Vatis by the name of Mikhael rescued Aylin from the jaws of a warped nightmare made flesh but already she was beginning to view him as a father figure of sorts. Perhaps it was merely the grief of losing her actual father to the predations of dragons, or gratitude that he'd saved her life, but for some reason he made her feel safe. As though there was nothing which could harm her so long as he was protecting her. The fact she'd watched him slaughter half a dozen terrors of the past, creatures which had made a mockery of her village's militia, may also have something to do with it.
- However, fond as she'd grown of him she knew that soon the time would come for them to part. Aylin would reunite with her mother and Mikhael would... well, go off to do whatever it is he does. Thus, she attempted to maintain a degree of aloofness from her savior lest she grow too attached. Whether or not she made a successful attempt was less clear, as she'd spent much of the last half hour clinging to his abdomen desperately while they navigated the busy streets of Licae. Gods above and below, she hated crowds. Vile things, they were. To be constantly surrounded by people, people who at any turn might put a knife in her back, that was her idea of eternal punishment.
- Mikhael pulled his guar to a stop in front of a armored man with a spear, a guard Aylin presumed, and spoke to him in Rhynian. She could barely hear over the din of the crowd and her blood pounding in her ears, but they seemed to be discussing her mother. Thus it was through force of will alone that she peeked out of the folds of Mikhael's voluminous cloak, eager to hear news of her mother.
- "...from Khmedi. They were wearing ragged clothes, slightly singed.” Mikhael was saying. His voice sounded so strange to her, almost as if he were singing every word he spoke.
- The guard seemed perplexed as he replied, his speech carrying a heavy accent which made it difficult to determine the meaning behind what he said. "Seen them I have, they run through last night. Not stop even for meal they did. To Anthus, I hear. Perhaps Chiron in the north. Say dragons come.”
- The news that the other villagers had already left Licae was discouraging, and Aylin once more buried her face into Mikhael's back. What if her mother had already left? What if her mother thought she was dead and didn't bother waiting for her? She felt tears forming in the corners of her eyes but blinked them back, taking a deep breath to calm herself. Crying would do no one any good. She needed to be strong, like her father. To accept life's challenges in stride. As her father had always told her, the Parcae weave hardship into the tapestry of life for without it life would be a very dull affair.
- Soon their party composed of Mikhael, a suspicious golem called Regulus, and Aylin herself reached a sprawling inn. The establishment was larger even than the Executioner's Champers in Khmedi before they were turned to rubble and ash, and seemed packed nearly to bursting with people. Men and women from all walks of life rushed past paying them barely any mind, as though their party were mere obstacles on the road to be avoided. Truth be known, it made Aylin feel incredibly apprehensive.
- Mikhael dismounted, as did Regulus. The golem took the reigns from Mikhael after what seemed a tense moment and then Mikhael grabbed her by the waist, pulling her out of the saddle like she weighed nothing at all. She found herself clinging to his arm almost unconsciously, the sheer press of humanity a cause of immense anxiety for the young girl as she was led into the inn. Almost as soon as she stepped through the door she found herself overwhelmed by the atmosphere. She was bombarded by hundred voices all shouting over one another, by the smells liquor, smoke, and cooking meat, and by the veritable circus that was the inn's patrons.
- She pressed herself closer to Mikhael, practically hiding herself behind his cloak. However a voice cut through the din of the bar, prompting her to peek out from behind her self-appointed protector. “YOU! I knew I'd see you again, you dirty camel-fucker!” Aylin hid herself once again behind Mikhael as the other man's chair clattered loudly to the floor “You have done me a disservice which must be corrected!”
- The speaker was a rather effeminate looking young man, probably no older than thirty. He was dressed in a comically flamboyant fashion, all leather and silk. It reminded her of the sort of outfit a foreign merchant visiting her village might wear. He was addressing Mikhael, but Mikhael obviously didn't recognize him. He just seemed vaguely confused. “I'm sorry, who are you again? I seem to make a lot of enemies and increasingly I find myself unable to keep track of their names.”
- A few of the inn patrons laugh but it doesn't seem genuine, and the effeminate man grows indignant that Mikhael apparently forgot about him. “Maximillien, scion of the House Klossner! One of the most powerful noblemen in the Northern Marches! You faced me to earn your Master's Robes when you were obviously overqualified and you ruined my reputation as a Vatis!”
- Mikhael shrugs and starts to speak, but Aylin was distracted by the other man. She felt something strange, like pins and needles prickling across the back of her neck. An overwhelming sense of foreboding only moments before a ball of fire shot forth from the man's outstretched hand. She watched, utterly mystified by sight of the flame soaring through the air towards them only to be batted away with a gesture by Mikhael.
- The display earned both Mikhael and this 'Maximillien' person the ire of the innkeeper, who shouts at them both to get out. Maximillien quickly assents, though Mikhael pays him no mind as he blathers on incessantly. This Maximillien had a talent for speaking often without saying much of anything, a habit she found personally infuriating.
- Instead Mikhael turned to face Aylin, crouching down so they were face to face and ruffling her hair affectionately. “Go outside and wait with Regulus. It shouldn't take me long to put an end to this guy, and then we can find your mother. Okay?” He said, clearly attempting to make his voice sound soothing. Though she hadn't realized it at the time, Aylin was shaking like a leaf in the breeze, her fingers knotted in the fabric of Mikhael's cloak. At his suggestion she simply nodded brusquely before making a dash for the door, eager to escape the claustrophobic interior of the inn.
- In the courtyard outside it took Aylin only a moment to spot Regulus with the guar, over by the stables. He was pouring a bag of grain into a trough for the guar to enjoy, the reigns of Mikhael's guar tied to a post while Regulus' guar was left to roam free. She set off at a run across the courtyard, dodging between carts and pedestrians on her way to the Rhynian construct. When finally she reached him she grabbed hold of his arm, tugging him forcefully towards the courtyard where Mikhael had begun stretching. "Come on! Mikhael is gonna get in a fight!"
- Regulus buzzed in annoyance, carefully setting down the bag of feed before letting Aylin drag him towards the open courtyard where Mikhael stood. They were practically to the fence by the time Regulus finally spoke. "Who is at fault? What is the cause of this conflict?"
- Aylin explained in brief while clutching to the constructs hand, even as Mikhael's effeminate opponent filed out of the inn along with a crowd of patrons. "As soon as we stepped into the inn that man-" She pointed to Maximillien "-shouted at Mikhael and threw fire at him. Apparently he was delivered a particularly devastating defeat at Mikhael's hands. So now they're going to fight, because he wants revenge." Adopting a haughty, self-important tone she continued. "Personally, I think he's just a sore loser. In my village, if you lost a fight it was no insult to your honor, it merely indicated that you needed to improve."
- The other inn patrons started to crowd around the fence to get a good view of the proceedings, though fortunately they gave Regulus a wide berth. Maximillien took up position on the opposite end of the courtyard, calling out to Mikhael. “How about some ground rules, yes? We fight until one of us is incapacitated or dead. All elements and effects are allowed. No weapons or armor of non-magical make.” When it became clear that Mikhael wasn't going to answer, he raised his voice again. “Any last words, camel fucker?”
- It was obvious to Aylin that Mikhael had grown annoyed with his opponent's constant yammering, and his reply reflected this. “Your mother is a whore and your father is a mule. Are we going to get started sometime today or just stand here chatting?” Many of the other spectators started laughing, but Aylin was too distracted by that painful prickling sensation at the back of her neck.
- Maximillien cast a spell, and three vaguely humanoid shapes formed themselves from the flames which leapt from his hands. Aylin craned her neck to watch the battle, but her view was blocked by the press of people in front of her. She could only catch brief glimpses of the action as it unfolded. In a fit of frustration Aylin tugged on Regulus' arm to get his attention before swallowing her pride and holding up her arms. "Lift me onto your shoulders, I can't see."
- Regulus obliged after a moment's hesitation, picking her up by the waist and raising her up above his head, seating her on his shoulders. It was embarrassing, but Aylin was willing to look immature if it meant she could watch the battle unfold. She clung to the construct's forehead with both arms, watching as Mikhael sent forth a massive wave of water to snuff out the three creatures of fire. He'd seemed to conjure it from thin air, with barely a thought. She could hardly believe that one day she too would be able to perform such seemingly impossible feats of magic.
- Steam filled the arena as the water engulfed Maximillien's golems. However, Maximillien himself slipped away using the mist as cover. Aylin found herself biting her lip, the prickling sensation returning as a small ball of fire started to form above Maximillien's hand. Mikhael cleared away the steam from one area, but found that his opponent is not where he once was. Aylin wanted to cry out, but feared she might simply distract Mikhael from the battle.
- All of a sudden Mikhael whipped his head around, staring directly at Maximillien despite the steam filling the arena. He cleared the air with a gesture, and just as he did so that prickling sensation returned. This time it was as Maximillien shaped the ball of fire in his hand into a long spear of flame, pulling back his arm as if to hurl a javelin even as Mikhael erected a shield of ice to defend himself.
- Maximillien hurled the spear of fire from his hand and it shot forth like a bolt of lightning from the court of Niki, God of Conquest. There was a flash of light as it made contact with Mikhael's barrier, and a horrible cracking noise. Shards of ice were blown in all directions, steam billowing from the point of contact. Mikhael was thrown spinning through the air, the entire right half of his body charred black.
- Aylin's heart leapt into her throat at the sight of the man to whom she owed her life lying in the dirt, half of his body turned to ash. What would she do if he died here? She was but a girl, too young to be alone in the world with neither friends nor family for support. If she knew how to heal, as he did, she could help him. Yet here she was, helpless and afraid. Panic began to set in as she contemplated her guardian's impending demise, but out of the corner of her eye she noticed something.
- Mikhael's charred flesh was slowly peeling away, flaking off to be replaced by new, undamaged flesh. Relief flooded her at the realization that she would not be left to fend for herself. That for now she was still safe. In a matter of seconds Mikhael's wounds were closed, his arm as good as new, and he returned to the fight. Maximillien, though unharmed, was clearly exhausted. He'd bent himself over double in an attempt to catch his breath after that last attack, and even upon realizing that the battle was not yet over he was slow to right himself.
- Then he started covering his eyes, scratching at his skin. It wasn't long before he was screaming for no apparent reason. Then his skin started to turn black and slough off in gelatinous chunks, as if some foul illness had gripped him. His screams grow more desperate as the bones of his face are exposed, his eyes little more than hollow sockets and his scalp rotting away to reveal his skull beneath. A woman next to you has to turn away from the sight, while a man spills his lunch into the grass. Others are laughing while Maximillien shouts for all to hear that he yields.
- Personally, Aylin found the sight inspiring. To think that with little more than a thought and a show of will she too might one day rot the flesh from someone's bones. Drive them to their knees and make them beg for mercy. She too hoped to wield such immense power one day, and preferably one day soon.
- Mikhael showed mercy, pressing his hands to Klossner's ruined face and willing his flesh to knit itself back together. Someone whistled loudly as Mikhael helped his opponent to his feet, and soon after other spectators started to applaud. Aylin joined in, trying her best to clap louder and longer than anyone else. Mikhael took a bow, and a disoriented Maximillien joined him a moment later.
- People started to disperse, Aylin briefly attempting to hold back a smile but ultimately allowing her stoic facade to crack, grinning from ear to ear as Mikhael crosses the courtyard to rejoin her and Regulus. That was the coolest thing she'd ever seen. Way better than watching her dad butcher a guar, or her mother sharpen a sword, or any number of the other mundane village scenes that had composed her life before her home was burnt to the ground.
- She swore to herself then that someday she'd become the best Vatis the world had ever seen. She'd wield the power to rot the flesh from bone. She'd throw fire from the tips of her fingers and shape the very Earth itself to her will. She would make herself invulnerable and, she would become the master of all that she surveyed. Then she would find whatever vile hive the monster which destroyed her village crawled out of and she would kill anything and anyone that dared to stand in her way. Her vengeance would be swift and brutal.
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