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 The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia

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Amortentia

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PostSubject: The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia   Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:04 pm

Fic Title: The Gathering Storm
Author: Amortentia
Fandom: Original
Format: Novel
Genre: Action/Adventure/Gritty
Rating: PG-17
Total Word Count: 50,097
Warnings: Fantasy violence, suggestive themes, mature themes, occasional mild language
Characters: Lia, Ben, Anya, Richard, Darren, Brin, Nate, Lily
Status: Not Finished
Summary: When a young women finds herself at the center of a revolution plot as defined in their prophecies, she must choose between their cause, and what the King would have her believe...

Notes: This is my Nano novel, so I must apologize for the gaping plot holes, horrible word choice, blatant grammar mistakes and any other annoying things you might stumble upon. I'm currently trying to finish the novel before I go back and edit this to the best of my ability, but please comment/give advice/constructive criticism, as it's much appreciated. Thank you!


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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia   Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:05 pm

As dark grows high and magic corrupts,
seek out she of most ancient of bloods.
One for the singing, one for the breaking,
together become the key to salvation.
Ancient Gilderonian Prophecy

Prologue


“Come on, Ellithi,” the young woman whispered to her horse, “just a little more”. Looking nervously behind her she tries to listen to the sound of their pursuers but the sound of the two horses frantic gallops through the forest made it impossible.
“Lily! They’re coming!” The frenzied cry of the young girl cut through the night. Looking behind her, Lily could see the shining lights and hear the distance barks of the hunting dogs. Glancing at the two frightened girls on the other horse, one of which was almost slipping off from exhaustion and a near fatal injury, she tried to push her horse even further.

“Anya, we’re not far. We must reach the fortress. Lia must be taken to safety. Just a little longer.” The desperate tone in her voice only caused Anya to grow more fearful. Trying to get a better hold on Lia, who was sitting in front of her, to prevent her from falling she heard the barks of the dogs growing louder.
The horses, covered in sweat, pushed harder, fearful of the baying behind them. Lily looked desperately around them, searching for the secret entrance to the fortress in the dark, fearing the possibility of passing it.

Lily’s hair rustled as something zipped past and she heard a distinct thud as the arrow hit a nearby tree. Lily’s stomach dropped. If they were close enough to shoot arrows they would soon be overtaken.

Anya was finding it increasingly difficult to keep Lia, on the brink of unconsciousness, on the horse. “Lia, Lia, stay with me. We’ve come this far. Just a little longer.”
Suddenly, Anya’s horse buckled beneath her and both girls tumbled off, painfully crashing to the ground. Hearing the scream of shock from Anya, Lily looked behind her. Pulling sharply on her horse, she turned around and began racing back to the girls. Leaping off her horse, she helped a dazed Anya to stand up and then ran over to Lia who was lying on the ground, unconscious, bleeding from a new head wound by the dying horse.

“Anya. Listen closely to me. You must get Lia to the fortress. Do you understand? You must.” Lily quickly scooped up Anya and placed her on the bigger horse. The howling of the dogs was getting closer. Frantically, Lily placed the unconscious form of the girl in front of Anya.

“Go, Anya. You know the way. Be quick and may the Lights protect you.”
Anya’s eyes grew wide with fear. “But Lily…we cannot go alone. You have no horse! How will you outrun them?”

Lily spoke quickly, aware of the time that was being wasted. “Take Ellithi. He cannot carry all three of us. Go quickly, child.”

“I can’t leave you!”

“The Resistance is more important than one life. I will hold them off. Now go!”
Anya stood her ground. She could not leave Lily to the evils of the Nargarth.
Lily, knowing they had no more time to waste before the enemy would be upon them, gave the horse a pat and called, “Ïdomé, Ellithi, ïdomé!”

The horse sprang into a gallop and Anya was forced to clutch the reigns tightly to keep from falling off. Anya knew she would be unable to stop the horse now that it had been commanded in the Ancient Tongue. Her eyes blurred over with tears and she wiped them away, knowing she must stay concentrated to find the entrance. She could no longer hear the baying of the dogs. Fear for Lily rose within her.

The horse continued to gallop for a league and they suddenly broke out of the forest into a narrow canyon path overlooking a rapid river. Relief broke over Anya. They were almost there. The rounded a sharp corner and Anya was forced to let go of the reigns to keep Lia on the horse. Caves began to appear in the cliffs beside them and Anya frantically looked for the proper entrance to the fortress. Anya slowed the horse to a canter as she approached a small dip in the rock.

“Ayadíme lûkareeth por ÿale,” she cried, speaking the words of entrance. She gave her horse a kick and directed him into the wall. Passing through as though it was made of air, Anya briefly saw the dimly lit entrance to the fortress before exhaustion and relief overtook her and the two girls tipped off the horse as everything went black around her.




Lily watched the horse bearing the two girls gallop off through the forest. “May the Lights protect you both,” she whispered to herself watching them leave sight.
Taking a deep breath, Lily turns slowly around, withdrawing her sword from its scabbard and facing the approaching enemy.

They were almost upon her. Lily stood with her back straight as they approached. No matter what was to come, she intended on facing them like a true member of the Resistance—proud, defiant and fearless.

The black horses came into view, their riders wearing dark black cloaks. They slowed their horses and laughed as they looked at the young women standing before them. Dismounting their horses, they took slow steps towards her, not bothering to draw their own weapons.

Lily’s fear grew. These were no ordinary riders. She saw the men raised their arms and as they did so a sharp, shooting pain spread through her body. The blinding, white hot pain gave her no chance at fighting. The young women fell to her knees, dropping the sword on the ground in front of her, before falling unconscious at their feet.

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia   Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:05 pm

Lily

The officer watched the woman begin to stir. Her long dark hair fell over her face and the shackles that bound her arms and feet together clinked together. The officer motioned to the general.

“She’s waking, sir.”

“Bring her to the interrogation room immediately.”

“Yes, sir.”

He unlocked the door and stepped into the dimly lit, grimy room. Dirt, hay and human filth covered the floor of the tiny room. As he approached her limp floor on the group, her eyelids began to flutter. The man dragged her roughly to her feet and her dark brown eyes flew open in shock. As she took in her surroundings, her eyes widened in horror and she began to struggle feebly, too weak to do any real harm and prevented from screaming by the rag stuffed into her mouth. The officer struck her across the face and dragged her out of the room.

He led her through a labyrinth of stone passageways while other guards leered and spit on the women. He dragged her down a steep flight of stairs and threw her down the last few steps. The woman let out a cry of pain and crumpled at the bottom of the stairs. The man opened a door to the left of the stairs and dragged the woman into the room. Slamming the door behind him, he left her in pitch blackness.

Eyes staring wildly around the room, Lily tried to view anything in room. She brought her hand up to her eyes and was still unable to see it; the darkness was too complete. Lily tried to hear any movement from the room, but could hear nothing. Her wrists and ankles were beginning to ache from the tight shackles binding her. Lily rolled onto her side, biting her lip to hold back tears. She would need to be strong in order to withstand whatever they had planned for her.

The last thing Lily could remember was the blinding pain before becoming submissive at the feet of the Nargarth. Lily sat alone in the dark, unaware of how much time was passing. It could be minutes or days, nothing to comfort her but the possibility that Lia and Anya had reached safety. The hope of the Resistance rested with the young girl, though she didn’t know it yet, and if she was overcome by that wound, or captured by the Nargarth, the horrible reign of the Dark Powers would never end.

The overwhelming darkness kept Lily’s mind spinning in circles. She’d been a member of the resistance since she herself was a small child, and she knew what horrors those captured by the Nargarth faced. If they were lucky, a quick, public execution was all they need face. Others were shipped off to labor camps where they rarely lasted long in the harsh mining conditions and exhausting work hours with no rest or food. Lily had worked in several secret operations to free camps and seen the gaunt faces, thin bodies that didn’t even appear human anymore.

The most unlucky victims of the Nargarth were put through weeks and months of torture and harsh interrogations, beaten so unmercifully that by the end they could no longer remember their own names. Captured women were often subject to callous raping by guards. Lily had even heard stories of the most heavily guarded prisoners handed over to the Black Magicians where constant torment caused many to go crazy or were hoodwinked by powerful Dark Magic.

Lily thought back to the days before the quick departure with the girls. If only the Resistance had managed to spare a few extra leyia pills, packed with enough poison to kill the user in less than a minute, she would have been able to spare whatever humiliation was coming for her. But they had explained to her the risks. Told her they had no pills to spare, the latest shipment had been stopped by supporters of the Nargarth before they could reach the camp. That the only pills they had left must be saved for higher ranking officers with knowledge of rebel activity greater than hers.

Suddenly the door to the chamber flung open. Light flooded into the room, blinding Lily’s eyes that had become so accustomed to the dark. A tall figure strutted into the room. Lily struggled to make out any features, her eyes burning with the pain of light. She was dragged roughly to her feet out into the hallway but she stumbled, her numb legs were unable to support her. The man, not caring, dragged her down the hallways by her hair. Tears welled up in Lily’s eyes at the pain but she bit down hard on her lip. She could not show weakness in front of these men. The man stopped in front of a door. Hitting her hard over the head, she was once again plunged into unconsciousness.




Lily woke slowly, careful not to make a move in case someone was in the room with her just waiting for her to become conscious. Her head was throbbing where the man had hit her and the pain in her ankles and wrists were almost unbearable. Opening her eyes a crack, she only found darkness. Lily lay perfectly still, wondering why they had bothering moving her from one dark room to the next. She sat up slowly and heard a rustle, growing louder and louder. Was someone in the room with her?

“Hello?” she whispered into the darkness.

“Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello?” her voiced echoed back to her growing steadily louder and louder. Lily clapped her hands over her ears, trying to block out the desperate, loud cries of her voice. The echo grew louder and louder, the pain from her eardrums growing unbearable. Lily heard the sounds of a piercing scream, swelling loudly, and was so overcome with pain she didn’t even realize the pain was issuing from her own mouth.

When Lily woke, she had no idea how long she’d been unconscious, or how she’d managed to even drift off. Even after learning that she must remain completely still so there was nothing that could echo, she was too worried to fall asleep. And when she finally did, the slightest movement in her sleep would have her awake and screaming again until her voice was too hoarse to make any noise at all.

Lily tried to swallow her fear. Whatever they do to me will be worth it as long as Anya managed to get Lia to safety, she attempted to convince herself. And she wouldn’t let them get any information out of her, would not give them the satisfaction of breaking her. But she knew these were just brave words—anyone can say such things before they’ve actually been put through pain; once the pain starts, no one ever lasts long.

She sighed to herself, and immediately regretted it as the sound repeated over and over, louder and louder. Covering her ears with her hands, Lily curled up into a ball with her eyes squeezed tight, only thinking of the girls.

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia   Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:07 pm

Anya

Anya dabbed at the feverish girl’s forehead with a washcloth, brushing back the long, blond curls that had fallen into her face. The girl moaned in her sleep and moved restlessly. It was eight days since Anya had returned with Lia, and the girl had still not woken up, and though her condition had not worsened, it had not improved either.

The doctor, Richard, said they had arrived just in time, and had they been just a little later, he may not have had any chance of reviving her. After waking up in her room and getting over the initial confusion of where she was, she had jumped out of bed and rushed immediately to find out what had happened. Jon, her dear friend and one of the sentries, had wasted little time in catching her up on the events. He had been the one on duty and found the two girls unconscious by the horse. He and his fellow guards carried her and Lia to the doctor, where they feared Lia may not escape death; it had been a time close to despair for the members of the Resistance, on top of their worry for the disappearance of Lily. Anya couldn’t help the tears from falling as she explained her heroic end; there was to be a very special ceremony to acknowledge her sacrifice.

Since then, Anya hadn’t left Lia’s side. Richard had told her she did not have to stay, but Anya had stubbornly refused; she felt responsible for the outcome of the girl’s life, who had suffered so at the hands of the enemy. Anya was spared of thinking about the horrors of the rescue by the arrival of Robb, the leader of the Resistance. Tall, lean yet muscular, and a hard face, he was an intimidating figure—to those who did not know how quick he was to smile, laugh and forge friendships, that is.

Anya bowed respectfully before turning back to the injured girl.

“No change?” Robb asked, in his smooth, deep voice, brushing his brown locks out of his eyes.

“No, but Richard says he believes that if she could only break this fever, she would recover swiftly—the Elvish blood he says,” glancing curiously at the slightly pointed ears hidden by her hair.

“Alas, that we can only wait and hope. The fate of the world rests on her shoulders.” He grasped one of the sick girl’s hands in his own.

They sat in silence for a few minutes, Anya continuing her attempts at cooling the girl, while Robb stared in concern as she continued to moan in obvious pain.

“Can we not give her something for the pain?” he asked, pain in his voice.

“We’ve given her almost everything we have—Richard believes her battle is not just one of body, but spirit as well…she was badly broken in more ways than one…” she replied, thinking back to the conditions they had found her in.

Robb stood up, and squeezed her shoulder in sympathy.

“She will recover; she is in good hands,” he smiled kindly at her, “I must return to some other business. Send word at once if she awakes.”

“Of course, sir,” Anya replied, as she watched him leave the room, and returned to her own business.



Two days passed, and Lia’s condition seemed to worsen: the fever grew more intense and the girl had stopped making any noise at all, and the moral of the Resistance, boosted at the arrival of Lia, despite her condition, began to fade as her survival seemed unlikely. Anya was at work grinding up herbs for the poultice used on her wounds when she heard the girl stirring. She rushed over to the girl’s side, feeling her head; she gasped in surprise.

“Richard! Come quick!” she shouted at the man, working in the next room on other patients.

He ran into the room quickly, but was surprised to find a smile on Anya’s face.

“The fever, it broke!” she exclaimed. “I’ve never seen anything more miraculous, one second she was burning up and the next it’s practically gone.”

Richard felt her head and smiled in relief. “The Elvish blood must be strong in her, despite being half-blooded. I wouldn’t be surprised if she woke within the hour. Stay very close and be sure to watch her just in case, I must go find Robb.”

And with that he swept out of the room, relief etched on every line in his face. Anya could hardly keep herself from bursting into laughter after the stress of it all. After only ten minutes of waiting, Lia’s eyes fluttered open slowly, and her piercing violet eyes quickly took in her surroundings filled with confusion and fear.

Anya spoke up quietly from her chair beside the bed, “Lia? How are you feeling?”

The blond haired girls eyes snapped to Anya’s as she flinched away. Cautiously, so as not to startle the girl again, Anya leaned towards her.

“It’s me, Anya. You’re safe now, and have nothing to fear. Do you remember what happened?”

Lia shook her head slowly, and she was now staring at her with suspicion.
“Where am I?” Her voice was hoarse from lack of use and sickness, but it still held an enchanting quality.

“In Gilderon, the center of the Resistance. We managed to take you away from Marlorath…” she explained slowly, stopping as the girl flinched at the name.
Lia made to sit up, but Anya firmly yet carefully pushed the girl back down.

“You were gravely injured, please stay still, we don’t want the stitches to break apart and send you spiraling again. Are you in any pain?”

“No, no pain,” she said, glancing down at the bandages over her wounds. “How long have I been out?”

“Eleven days…we were all so frightened; we feared the fever would take you.”

Her face turned shocked. “That long? I had the most terrible dreams,” she shuddered and closed her eyes.

Anya reached out and held her hand, smiling reassuringly.

“The doctor will be back before long to check on you, and he’ll most likely be followed by Robb, our leader here, close in tow. Just a heads up, they can be quite inquisitive, so say the word if you want them kicked out so you can rest,” she said, winking at her. The Elvish girl smiled back at her and then grew serious.

“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to sound rude or ungrateful, but I honestly can’t remember anything that happened…just why was I so important for your people to risk capture for me?”

Anya looked away uncomfortably. “I think it might be best to leave that for Robb to explain…”

Lia looked at her curious, but seemed to decide it was better not to argue.

“Well, is there anything to eat around here? I’m starving.”

Anya jumped up immediately, embarrassed.

“I’m so sorry, of course. How inconsiderate of me, it just completely slipped my mind. I was just so excited to see you up. Let me go find you some bread and honey.”

As she walked towards the food supplies, her thoughts drifted towards Lily, and she was suddenly filled with an intense sense of shame that she had not been thinking about her this over the past week, nor had she been involved in the planning of the service. Lily had been like an older sister to her ever since she found her orphaned on the streets when she was only six, and now, at the age of eighteen, she owed her life in the Resistance to the kindness of Lily. So how was it she could so neglect her for one girl she doesn’t even know, regardless of how important she is.

After returning with the bread and honey, she found Robb sitting down next to Lia, deep in discussion. Not wanting to interrupt, she placed the bread on the side table, nodded at the two, and left the room, determined to find out what she could do in honor of Lily.

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia   Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:08 pm

Benjen

Ben woke up groggily and the morning bells rung. He sighed, leaned over to kiss his wife on the forehead, and rolled out of bed. He got dressed in his soldier’s garb, and placed his scabbard onto his hip, comforted by the familiar weight of security it gave him. Marlorath was a place to be very cautious in, full of traitors and those who’d turn you in for any step out of line, no matter how small.

Siaria came up behind him, wrapping her arms around him and kissing the back of his neck. He turned around and embraced her.

“Be careful, okay? Things are getting pretty dangerous out there, and the Sorcerer’s are arresting anyone who may have any connections with the escape of that Elvish girl, or anyone who seems suspicious, and they’ve been watching us in the dungeon guard more closely than others. They suspect inside help. So please keep the children in line, especially Nate; they won’t be tolerant of any rebellious activity, not even those of innocent childhood, and I can’t say I blame them, the way the Resistance has grown so bold.”

“You know we’re always careful, Ben. And despite Nate’s somewhat rebellious activity, you know he’d never do anything serious. He knows where to draw the line.”

Ben’s mouth tightened. “We can only hope so. The King and his Sorceror’s are the true and gracious rulers of this land, whatever their methods and Nate must see that. The Resistance is made of plotters and usurpers who would only take power for themselves, not for the betterment of the People as they’re always preaching.”

“I’ll keep my eye on him. Now, you should be off before you make yourself late.”

He gave her one last light kiss, before walking out the door into the early morning chill. He frowned to himself, contemplating his eldest son’s latest actions. Lately, the boy, now almost a man himself, had been taking actions against the King and his laws. Small as these actions were—giving bread to the poor or orphaned, stealing more food than rationed, staying out after curfew—they no doubt pointed to a more sinister change in his beliefs. Ever since he joined the guard himself, he had grown less and less content with his life, something that, though never perfect, he’d never seemed to mind before. But after a few weeks of life guarding the prisoners, he had grown moody and insolent, and, when Ben had finally deemed to ask him what the matter was, his son’s expressions of anger at the guard’s treatment of the prisoners, of whom he showed pity towards, both angered and scared his father. The guard was an honorable position, and one highly valued, and yet his son felt pity for those who would ruin the Kingdom. He could not hide his disgust from his son, something that had angered and estranged his son from him. Ben could only hope this was a phase, nothing more and that Nate would soon come back to his senses.

He arrived at his post in what felt like no time after all his brooding, and waiting in line with the others for his assignment. As the officer reached him, Nate saluted him, as was practice. The man checked his list and then gave a short, nasty laugh that was more of a bark.

“You’ve got the wench in the Echo Room. The one they caught helping the She-Elf escape. The Nargarth want her under the strictest watch and have the interrogations fitting those of the highest treason. Understood?”

“Yes, sir,” he said, surprised that he was getting such an important task as dealing with such an important prisoner. His time had come to show his, and his family’s, loyalty.

After receiving their assignments, the men all broke off in different directions, according to their tasks. Ben’s closest friend, Peter, came up to him.

“I’ve got the Echo Room girl, too. Exciting, huh?”

“Very much so. I’m honored to be granted such a task.”

“As am I. Did you hear how long she’s been in there?”

“Eight days and three days in the Dark Room, if the rumors are to be believed. I’d be surprised if she wasn’t cracked already.”

“I guess we’ll find out, won’t we?” Peter said, grinning at him slyly.

Upon reaching the door outside the Echo Room, they went up the staircases that led to the chamber directly above that of the cave the girl was lying in. In the middle of the room, there was a small trapdoor, and beside that a pitcher of water. Ben went to the trapdoor, pushed open a small hole, and put a funnel into the hole. Gesturing at Peter silently, he held the funnel steady while Peter slowly allowed a drop of water to pass through the funnel and fall into the room. Peter flashed a grin at Ben, as the distant sound of water dropping echoed louder and louder, yet muffled enough through the thick walls so as not to cause them pain. The sound of a whimper echoed through the room, soon followed by a piercing scream as drop after drop was pushed down into the room.

Throughout the day, the process continued at irregular intervals, catching the woman off guard whenever she thought the torture had finally stopped. And yet, she had yet to break down and be reduced to tears or begging for mercy, something that surprised Ben deeply. He had done this on a few other occasions and though the weak would break down immediately, and others would last a few hours, it was rare for anyone to hold out this long; but that only made it more enjoyable, Ben loved a challenge.

It wasn’t until after six hours of their task that they finally heard the sobs come. Sharing a look of approval, they let the crying continue for a time, as the pain from the echoes broke her further and further. After a while, the men put in the specially designed earplugs, made by the Nargarth themselves to keep the echoing from their own ears, they headed downstairs and barged their way into the room. Peter charged in first, holding out the torches for Ben, who followed to see.

The woman was lying curled up into a ball on the rocky floor, hands over her ears, eyes closed tightly, tears streaming down her face. Ben grabbed her roughly by the arm and jerked her to her feet; her eyes flew open wide in shock, and she flinched away from both the light and his rough touch.

He dragged her out of the room, letting her stumble and fall onto the hard rock. As they entered more heavily lit areas, Peter put out the torches and grabbed her by the other arm tightly. Together, they reached the first interrogation room and threw her onto the floor. Her head made a sharp cracking noise as it struck stone and she groaned, clearly on the verge of consciousness.

“Don’t let her go under,” Ben barked at Peter who tossed a bucket of freezing water on top of her. She gasped in pain, but it had the desired effect as her eyes stayed open and slowly focused on the two men in front of her.

Peter strolled over to the woman, full at ease, and grabbed her arm, digging into her arm and twisting it painfully behind her back until she cried out.

“You’re going to answer our questions, wench,” he growled, “you can choose to make this easy or hard on yourself, but either way, you’re going to answer them.”

He let her arm go and she gave a gasp of relief. “Got it?” he barked.

She didn’t answer, but just glared. Ben gave a low chuckle as he watched Peter’s face harden.

“When I ask a question, I expect it to be answered. Got it?” he growled again, emphasizing the last two words.

She spit into his face. Seemingly without emotion, Peter wiped the spit from his face, but Ben could see just how furious he really was. In one quick movement, so fast she didn’t even have time to flinch, Peter had given her one strong backhand and sent her sprawling on the ground.

“Get her up, and hold her,” Peter demanded with cold fury in his eyes. Ben happily complied, grabbing her by the hair and jerking her off the ground. He could see the outline of Peter’s hand on her face. He smirked at her as he grabbed her arms so she couldn’t move.

“You just made one big mistake, little lady,” he said, staring down at her in disgust.

She made no response, but suddenly leg came back and kicked him directly in the groin. With a grunt of pain, Ben doubled over, cursing repeatedly. He heard a thud and saw the girl again on the ground, and Peter’s fist in the air. Despite her obvious pain, she looked up and laughed in their faces.

Her arrogance will be her last mistake, Ben vowed to himself. He picked her up again, and held her in place again, this time much more carefully, giving her no room to move about. He would not be humiliated again by this worthless member of the Resistance.

“Soon you’ll realize just how big of a mistake you’ve really made. Go ahead Peter.”

And with that, Peter started in on her, landing blow after blow until she was limp in Ben’s arm. He let go of her in disgust and she dropped to the ground in a heap.

“We’ll start easy,” Ben said, standing over her and nudging her with his boot in the side, “what’s your name?”

She stared right at him defiantly.

“What’s your name?” Ben asked again, his fists tightening in anger.

Again, she said nothing.

“I don’t think she’s learned yet. Another round, Peter.”

Ben kicked her on the ground before picking her up and holding her steady for Peter once again. She would learn soon. Ben would make sure of it.

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia   Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:09 pm

Lia

Lia and Anya laughed as they watched the young boys practice their swordsmanship, swinging their wooden swords at each other as if they were really fighting the evil forces of the Nargarth.

Lia could feel herself returning to the way she was prior to her time in Marlorath. She gained back some of the weight that she’d lost, leaving her looking lean and healthy, rather than skeletal. Her long blonde hair had started to look smooth again, instead of tangled and rattled, and she could feel the shine coming back into her eyes. But most importantly was the way her personality was changing: she was no longer the timid, frightened, broken-spirit that she had been turned into in the dark dungeons, but was now happy, carefree and unworried again…well, almost.

She loved all the people who lived in Gilderon, and the valley itself. Everyone was so kind and respectful to her, and the valley was gorgeous and green, paradise itself it seemed. The only problem she had was their expectations of her. On the night when she had finally awakened, Robb had had a long, deep conversation with her, one of many, about her place among an ancient prophecy that they believed named her, and in this prophecy, she was supposed to overcome the dark forces that held her not so long ago and defeat them. While she found it absurd and ridiculous that people could be placing such forward Resistance based on such little fact, she had to admire their courage and determination so she’d accepted the role. How could she not? After all, these people had saved her from what surely would have been a long, slow, painful death.

Lia still had nightmares every night about her time in that dreadful place. In her dreams she was always back in the darkness of the dungeons, she could feel the blows of the guards, the knives of the Sorceror’s, the hands of the men. In her dreams, she was trapped there forever, never able to escape the certainty of death.

And she still couldn’t remember the night of the rescue, though Anya had filled her in with the details. An insider, one of the guards himself, had risked everything to sneak her out of the dungeon, and get her to the meeting point in one of the sewers of the city. Anya said they still hadn’t learned exactly how he managed the escape, as he had one more task to complete before he was to join them again, but however he accomplished it was a miracle, she insisted. Try as she might, Lia couldn’t even remember the face of the guard who was the reason she’s alive. Gravely wounded from her time in the dungeons, and close to death, he carried her out where Anya and Lily, who both knew the city very well, the reason for which they were chosen, were waiting. From there they were chased by the Nargarth, resulting in the death of Lily.

While Anya said she did not wish to talk about Lily, Lia could see just how much the woman meant to her, and it only made her feel worse that she’d not only caused her death, but couldn’t even remember her face. If she’d even died, which Lia had her doubts about. If she was as important as everyone was saying, and the Nargarth knew it too, surely anyone involved in her escape would be taken for questioning. She shuddered at the thought of what the woman would be subjected to if this were the case. She had expressed her fears to Robb, who had gone noticeably paler at the thought; it was obvious Lily was well cared for among the people of Gilderon. However, Lia had not brought up the possibility to Anya; believing she was dead was better than wondering if her fate was worse.

The sound of boots crunching against stones brought Lia out of her dark thoughts. She turned around and saw Robb, silhouetted against the sun.

“Lia, could I have a private word, please?” he asked quietly, gesturing towards his tent that lay in the middle of the camp.

“Of course,” Lia said, glancing over at Anya, who looked both curious and let down that she’d again be left out of one of their secret meetings. Lia smiled kindly at her, “I’ll catch up with you at dinner, okay?”

They walked together in silence over to his tent, where he graciously opened the flap for her to duck under. He pulled a chair up for her to sit on next to the huge table that served as his desk of operations. He looked her directly in the eyes, his dark brown eyes focused on her violet ones.

“You remember our discussion involving the possibility of the death or survival of Lily, the woman who helped rescue you?”

Lia felt her stomach drop. Surely this couldn’t be good news.

“Our contact within the dungeons believes there’s the possibility that she may have…been taken captured.” The pain was evident in his voice. “I…never wanted her to go, but she insisted and the others felt she was the perfect, most reliable person for the mission. I’m the one who sent her in the end though. I’m the one who…who led her to this.”

Lia reached out and took his hand. “Are you positive? Does he know for sure?”

“He hasn’t seen her, no…but he’s heard of a new top security prisoner, of particular interest to the Nargarth and who is someone related to your escape; he assumed it must be our lost Lily.” His voice cracked with emotion.

“Robb…was she your…were you intimate?”

Robb laughed then, unexpectedly loud, and Lia jumped, scared she might have upset or insulted him.

“No,” he chucked, “it wasn’t like that. She’s my cousin,” his voice turned somber, “I vowed to her father on his death bed that I’d keep her safe from harm; I obviously failed at that.”

The bitter tone of his voice was heart wrenching.

“You cannot blame yourself. If it’s anyone’s fault, it’s my own, as I’m the one who needed rescuing.”

“Oh, Lia, I didn’t mean it like that, or to make you feel guilty. Lily knew what she was getting into, she knew the consequences. If they do have her, she’s probably more concerned about whether Anya made it here with you than herself.”

“They were very close, weren’t they,” she stated, not as a question.

“Like sisters. Lily found Anya in the streets when she was very little, orphaned and alone. You know what happens to those girls: used as toys by older men, and discarded back onto the streets without food otherwise and eventually taken by the Sorceror’s and killed for crimes they didn’t commit. Lily took her here and ever since, they’ve been inseparable. Anya hasn’t taken her death very well. I can only imagine her reaction if she knew she might yet be alive.”

“She feels responsible. Because she didn’t turn back.” Lia stared down miserably at her hands tears welling up in her eyes.

Robb cupped her chin in his hand and raised her face to look into his.

“None of this is your own fault. If you are to blame anyone, blame the Nargarth. They are the ones who got us all into this situation, and they are the ones who are going to pay the price. Now, the only reason I told you, is because you’re the one who offered the possibility in the first place, and we may need any information we can get on your time in the dungeon—if it’s not too painful—so that, along with our source’s information, we may be able to rescue her as well. Not to blame yourself.”

“If you do rescue her, I want to come,” she said forcefully, ignoring the look of shock on his face. “I’m the one who got her into this mess, and I’d like to get her out of it.”

“Lia…you have a stout heart and good intentions, but if the plan were to go awry, we couldn’t have you caught again as well. I’ll…think about it if the time comes.”

Lia looked at him suspiciously, she knew he wasn’t actually considering it, but she decided she would choose her moment and press him some other time. She gave his hand one last reassuring squeeze, for sweeping out of the tent, putting a smile on her face so Anya would not suspect the subject of the conversation.

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia   Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:09 pm

Nate

Nate stared in disgust at the scene before him. Try as he might to conceal his feelings, knowing that they were essential not only to his survival, but to the missions of the Resistance, this was just too much. His suspicions that the woman, Lily, was being captive were now confirmed—he just wished they hadn’t been. She was lying crumpled on the ground, while kick after kick was landed on her already bruised and bleeding body from the guards, one of them his own father. They’d been at her for almost three days now and all they’d managed to get out of her was her name. And even that had taken them almost a day and a half; she had incredible strength. Peter and his father were starting to get nervous, wondering what the punishment would be if they don’t break her. Nate worried about what move they might perform next on her, but also what she could say: she knew the place of hiding for the Resistance, the top leaders, and his involvement in the Elvish girl’s escape.

It was almost the end of his shift, and he’d been given the task of guarding the woman while Ben and Peter took a break to eat and rest before coming back. Nate summoned up the energy to make it appear as though he were actually enjoying walking in on her torture, and threw open the door, loud enough to get their attention and momentarily pause their abuse.

“The Commander wishes you have a break before resuming. I’m to keep watch of it,” he said, throwing a sneer down at the woman.

“Good,” Peter said, “That means we’ll be nice and rested when we come back for you.” He spat on her before walking towards the door. “Oh, and Nate, if you get bored, I’m sure nobody will begrudge you some fun."

Nate’s father clapped him on the shoulder before following Peter out the door, leaving Nate feeling sick to his stomach, staring down at the frightened, injured woman, who, either did not recognize him from that night, or did not truly believe he was a member of the Resistance.

When Nate thought it had been long enough and both men were gone from the area, he crouched down and scooped her up into his arms. She began to struggle fiercely, but Nate only walked her over to a wall to lean her against.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” he said, looking straight into her eyes. “It’s me, Nate…from that night.”

Recognition flashed through her eyes, and she relaxed noticeably, though still tensed, and in intense pain.

“Did they make it?” she asked hoarsely. “Anya, Lia, are they safe?”

“Yes, they made it, thanks to you. And Lia made a full recovery and accepted her role in the prophecy.”

The woman burst into tears, sobbing uncontrollably out of relief. Nate’s heart ached for her, and the position she found herself in.

Nate took a piece of bread from his pocket and handed it to her.

“I know it’s not much,” he said apologetically, “but it’s the only thing small enough to fit into my pocket without causing suspicion.”

Lily took it gratefully and swallowed it down in seconds.

“I didn’t know whether they planned on kicking me to death or starving me to death,” she attempted to joke, but her eyes were haunted. Nate looked her up and down.

“Those are some nasty bruises,” he winced as he raised the lamp and threw them into better light. “I’m sorry…for everything.” She gave him a weak smile.

“It’s not you who did this. Nor you who put me into this position. But it’s you who gave the Resistance a reason to hope. And I will be forever grateful for that.”

They sat in silence for a moment.

“Nate…can I ask you two favors?”

“Of course, anything.”

“First, tell…tell Robb I love him. And that I’m so happy the planned worked, but sorry I made such a mess of it. Can you do that?”

“Yes, Lily, of course. What’s the second favor?”

“Hit me.”

“What?”

“Hit me. Hard.”

“Why?”

“So they don’t get suspicious. I’ve been as stubborn as I can with them, and if they come back and see you’ve helped me, or talked to me, they’ll start asking questions. It needs to seem like I’ve been insolent to you too.”

He hated to admit it, but it did make since, and yet he was reluctant to raise an arm against her, even for his own protection.

“Lily…”

“Come on, Nate, or I’ll have to punch myself.”

He sighed at her attempt at lightening the mood, scooped her up and brought her back to the middle of the room where she’d been prior to his arrival.

“Are you sure?”

“Oh, just do it, Nate. The waiting is making it worse and it’s not like I haven’t been hit before. Do it somewhere they’ll really notice.”

“Fine,” he grumbled, “but just remembered you asked for it.”

He cocked back his arm and hit her right across the face. She gasped in pain.

“Well, no one can say you don’t put effort into your charade,” she muttered, clutching her face, right as the door opened and Peter and Ben stepped back in.

The look of pride and satisfaction on his father’s face made Nate feel even sicker with himself.

“Well, son, looks like you have your father’s temper after all,” he chuckled to himself. “Why don’t you stay and join us for a bit?”

“Sorry, Father, I’ve been given a task guarding Level One prisoners as soon as you’re ready to go back to work.”

“Shame,” his father snorted, “Level One prisoners won’t give you anywhere near the satisfaction as she will.”

With that, Nate turned on his heel and left the room, steaming inside but trying not to let it show. Living in Marlorath was unpleasant for anyone, even those completely loyal to the King and his Sorcerer’s, the grime in the city, the constant hunger, the extreme taxes, and only the elite found happiness here. And yet, for some reason, Nate was the only one who seemed to be bothered by it all. His father was a proud guard in the dungeon, and was only too obvious about his callous enjoyment of his work; his mother, who worked with the rationing of the food, was only too happy to deny a family a meal because they weren’t up on their taxes, despite their low income and inability to afford to live; his younger brother, Troy, seemed to be taking after his father and couldn’t wait to join the guard, and his little sister, Brin, was too young to truly understand any of it.

Now that his shift was ending, Nate headed on his way home, stopping at the busiest food station, where he’d be able to sneak an extra bit of meat for the orphans near his street who depended on him. He snapped two strips of meat, the most he could afford to steal without being caught, and walked steadily home, avoiding any contact with anyone, as most people did in this godforsaken city. Always the same, it was dark, dreary, cloudy, and depressing, and nobody could escape it sane.

He turned down into the alley where the three orphans lived. Two girls and one boy, Nate knew the young boy constantly had to look out for the others, who would be used in any number of ways if they were found. He whistled three times, his code to show that it was him, and out they crawled. Covered in rags, the children were more skeletal than human, bones seeming to poke out through their skin. He gave them the three pieces of meat and watched them devour it.

Suddenly, an idea came to him and he couldn’t imagine why he’d never thought of it before. As he bade goodbye to him, he promised himself he’d ask Robb if it was possible they’d take in three children. Surely he wouldn’t mind gaining three new members, while saving them from the horrors that awaited them here. Though how he’d get them there he had no idea, seeing as how his own eventual escape was risky enough. He sighed to himself, opened the front door, and put on his masked face, as though he’d just enjoyed a hard day’s work as he greeted his mother at the door.

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia   Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:10 pm

Lily

Lily leaned over the table and vomited on the floor from the pain, as the room span around her and she begged herself to go unconscious. Whenever she went unconscious, they stopped for a time. There was a rotation of two set of guards, but she’d come to learn that those called Ben and Peter were the worst. They could go for the longest without stopping and keep her in the most pain without having her go unconscious as well as keep up an endless stream of threats that they almost always went through on.

She’d seen Nate two more times since his original visit, and each time he’d bring her some bread and give her comfort, if only for an hour. However, she hadn’t seen him since she’s been moved to the second interrogation room. She had no idea what sparked her move, whether it was a break down on her part or their frustration with not getting any answers that really mattered for her, but she did not like the move.

Since coming to the second room, she’d broken down into telling them where she grew up, which, though it seemed to be of little importance, put her family into bigger danger. But they’d begun to use little knives and daggers that broke the skin without doing any serious harm, therefore causing pain, but not death. Strapped down onto the table, she could do nothing to defend herself, besides the knowledge that they could do no real harm to her as they needed her information.

But lately, she wondered if that would be enough. They’re worry that they themselves would be punished soon were palpable, and that worried her. She did not want them to do something worse than what they were already doing, but she feared being questioned by the Nargarth more.

They waited for her to stop vomiting before Ben leaned over her again.

“Where are the members of the Resistance hiding?” he growled again, his voice low and angry.

She remained silent, tears streaming down her cheeks. She would not give in, could not. She thought of her little Anya, and what would happen to her if she was to reveal their secrets and her defiance grew. It must have been noticeable on her face because Ben’s face hardened and Peter marched towards her and tore her head up to look at him by her hair.

“Listen to me, and you listen to me close. If you don’t start giving us answers right now, we’re going to stop playing friendly. And you can bet you’re not gonna like us when we’re not friendly. I’ll take you right here and now, while you’re strapped onto the table, and when I’m done, I’ll let every other soldier in this building have you too. And when they’re done, we’ll spill even more of your blood, cause you can be assured they won’t be too gentle with something like you, and then we’ll see if you’re ready to talk. So which is?”

Lia stared into his face and knew he wasn’t bluffing. She was growing more terrified by the second. His breath was hot on his face as he stared down at her, fingernails digging into her arm painfully. She decided she had only one choice. She had to tell them something. Tears leaked out of her eyes.

“They’re hiding in Algoron. It was the only place it seemed safe enough,” she said, beginning to bawl helplessly. Peter looked up triumphantly.

“I knew she’d see reason soon enough,” his mood darkened abruptly, “but if you’re lying to us, everything I just described will seem like a walk in the park.”

Ben and Peter swept out of the room to report their latest discovery, leaving Lily crying hysterically, thankful that luck was on her side and they’d taken the lie. When they discovered she was lying, she knew she’d regret it, but she had earned herself a moment’s reprieve at the least. Now all she could do was hope Nate would show…and soon.

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia   Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:10 pm

Lia

Lia watched Robb staring at the letter in front of him, not listening to any of the words being passed around. The urgent message had just arrived from Marlorath and she knew what the contents must contain by the look on his face: confirmation that his cousin was in the dungeons. He had dreaded her death, and yet dreaded that she may be alive.

“Robb!” He looked up in confusion as he heard his name. The members of his council, in the middle of an important war meeting, were all staring at him.

“I’m sorry,” he said, rubbing his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. “I have a lot on my mind.”

They all looked at him expectantly.

“It’s Lily…she’s alive,” there were startled looks of happiness and relief on many of the face, “but the Nargarth have her.” The faces immediately dropped into looks of horror, and Lily pitied them and the fear they felt.

“Oh, dear Spirits,” Christopher exclaimed, making the sacred sign of protection, and turning pale as a ghost; it was a little known secret that he felt more than just friends with Lily.

“For how long has she been among them?”

“Are we safe? Do we need to change hiding spots?”

“When is the rescue mission setting out?”

The questions came from all sides at once, and Robb bristled noticeably at the accusations that his cousin would sell them out—though he knew he was being unreasonable, it would not be the first time one of their own was tortured into giving out confidential information.

“Captain,” Christopher said, rising from his chair, determination in his eyes “I would be most willing to lead a mission to bring her back to us.”

Several murmurs of agreement rose from the table, while others shook their heads.

One of the older men, Arthur, placed his hands on the table to help himself to his feet. “Lily was well loved among us all, but we cannot risk such a dangerous mission—it is folly. After the escape of their most important prisoner, she will be under even closer examination and torture than Lia was. It would be reckless to waste more lives in the attempt.”

Before Robb could respond, Christopher’s fist slammed down onto the table in undisguised fury.

“How could you say this of your own?” he demanded. “Lily has been an essential part of this Resistance and this family we’ve created. We cannot leave her to a fate worse than death.”

Lia stood up as well. “I agree with Christopher. She risked much so that I might escape, and I cannot let her be tortured at my own expense.”

Robb avoided her eyes as they stared forcefully at him, and instead he turned to his closest advisor, Darren, his eyes pleading for help.

“I’m afraid I have to agree with Arthur, Robb,” he said, looking away in pain. “I loved her like a sister, but the risk is too great and we don’t have the men to spare. I myself would go on the mission if it weren’t for the need for me elsewhere on raids and gathering of news. We cannot attempt it. I’m sorry, Robb.”

Christopher looked at Robb in dismay, and it was obvious by his expression that he was hoping Robb would insist against the wishes of his fellows.

Robb sank back into his chair, resigned to the only option before him; he could not betray the wishes of those who had served him so strongly.

“So be it. We will not attempt.” His eyes met briefly with those of Christopher’s and fury and hate was etched in every line of his face. He snorted in disgust.

“Perhaps none of you are the men I thought you were.” And with that, he strode out of the tent, without a backwards glance. Lia’s heart felt like bursting watching the pain on the men’s faces. Her own anger was too strong to remain in the room, and she could feel the tears welling up in her eyes at her own uselessness at even saving the life of the woman who had saved hers.

“Excuse me,” she said, pushing back her chair and departing the tent quickly, feeling the eyes of Robb following her out the tent.

She walked quickly to Christopher’s tent, knowing she would find him there. Just as she suspected, he was quickly tossing things into a bag, and he looked up in surprise when she barged her way into the tent. He quickly hid the bag beneath a chair.

“Can I do something for you?” he asked, voice tight, anger still in his eyes.

“I’m coming with you,” she said fiercely.

“What?” he asked, confusion momentarily overriding his anger.

“Lily saved my life. I, at least, will not leave her in the hands of the Nargarth, even if the others are not troubled by it. So I’m coming with you.”
“I’m…I’m not going anywhere.”

Lily threw him a look of disgust mixed with humor. “As if you were not just packing your bag to leave as soon as possible. I know how to fight; I’ve been in that evil city and dungeons before, while you haven’t. You’re going to need me.”
He gave her a suspicious look.

“Fine, I am going after her. But it would be improper for me to bring you. It’s too dangerous and the hopes of the Resistance lie to heavily on your shoulders. I would not feel right.”

“You either take me with you, or I follow behind you. Either way, I will end up helping the rescue attempt. It’s your choice.”

They stared at each other defiantly, his gray eyes boring into the piercing violet. After a few moments, resignation crossed his face.

“Fine, you can accompany me. But I’m warning you, it will be dangerous, and many will still be out looking for you. You can tell no one here that you’re leaving, and we must leave immediately, while it’s still dark and no one will suspect for quite a few hours if we wish to make a head start. Meet me in an hour at the front gate; I’ll get the supplies and horses ready. Be swift and silent.”
He strode out of the tent with his bag over his shoulder, leaving Lia by herself, smiling grimly. She would get to repay her life debt after all.



She watched him approach with the horses saddled and bagged from the corner, cloak pulled up tight around her face so she would not be recognized by anyone else. When he was almost even with her, she stepped out the shadows, and he jumped slightly, then chuckled to himself when he recognized her.

“A little too quiet, eh?” she whispered jokingly.

He gave her a boost up onto her horse and then saddled his own. He briefly eyed the Elvish sword at her hip, a little curiously.

“Keep the hood tight around your face. We’re just rangers heading out to scope out the area, and possibly get some information on the whereabouts of the enemy. We should be able to get through the guards easily enough, they’re looking for those coming in, not out. And let me do the talking.”

“Yes, sir,” she said, a little sarcastically, as she kicked her horse into motion.

As predicted, they made it easily past the guard, with the shadows caused by her cowl making her face dark and unreadable. And they were off, the cold breeze on their faces, and the full moon hovering above them; they remained silent as they bade their horses trot, putting distance between themselves and the camp before anyone would realize they had left for good. Lia hoped Robb would not come looking for her until morning at least, and by then it would be too late to send another party after them. Pulling her cloak, tighter around her, she gave her horse another little nudge to pick up the speed.

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia   Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:11 pm

Anya

Any rolled over in bed, blinking at the bright morning sun shining through her tent. Looking over at Lia’s bed she was surprised to find that the woman was not in bed. It was early yet, and Anya suspected that the meeting last night had lasted late, but didn’t recall hearing her return to her bed. She hoped she hadn’t missed anything too exciting.

Sighing to herself, and resolved that she must have headed to breakfast already, Anya quickly got dressed and walked out of the tent, heading towards the kitchen. She had only made it halfway there when Robb stopped her, looking more stressed and concerned than usual.

“Anya, is Lia still in bed?”

“No, I woke up and her bed was already made. I assume she’s at breakfast.”

He frowned. “I was just there, and she was not. Have you seen Christopher?”

“No, you’re the first person I’ve seen all morning.”

His frown deepened and he looked more concerned.

“Is something going on, Robb?” she asked suspiciously.

“No, of course not,” he replied, but just a little too late to be truthful. She decided she would beg it out of Lia instead of attempting to get anything out of the captain, so she shrugged, wished him a good day, shot him one last look of suspicion and continued on her way.



It was now midday, and Anya was starting to get worried. She’d checked everyone for Lia, the kitchens, the medical caves, her tent, her friends tents, the stables, the training grounds, everywhere—and there was still no Lia to be found.

After talking to some of the other girls while helping prepare lunch, she learned that Christopher too was missing. Warning bells were sounding in Anya’s head; something was afoot, she was sure, and both Lia and Christopher were involved—and whatever it was, surely it did not have the approval of Robb judging by the way his mood was growing darker and darker by the minute.



By nightfall, Robb had been informed of that two rangers from the night before had still not returned, unusual for the mission they’d described.

Anya, in the room when he got the message, knew immediately that this was the source of their disappearance, she just couldn’t figure out why.

Robb stormed out of the room furiously, raging that the guards had let someone through without checking to be sure they had an actual mission. Anya watched Darren follow him out of the room, talking to him in an urgent low voice. Curiosity sparked once again, Anya walked quickly but quietly after them, staying in the shadows so she could not be seen.

“They would have gotten quite a head start by now, may even be inside the city itself; they are lost to us, we can only hope that they return,” Arthur was saying.

“Have you forgotten that Lia is the very person we rescued from that dark place? We cannot let her simply walk back into their grasp so easily. We must go after her. We have no choice.”

“She’s in good hands, Christopher has always been careful.”

“Gods, Darren, it takes more then just being careful to make it and out of those dungeons alive,” he snapped. Anya watched in shock. Why would Lia be returning to the dungeons? And why would Christopher come with her?

“I know, Robb, but Lia knows what they’re up against. She feels it’s her fault, that’s why she left.” They stopped and leaned up against the wall.

Robb buried his face in his hands.

“I’m ashamed, Darren. It should have been me sticking up for her, not Christopher. And it should have been me going after her, not Lia. I have ruined everything.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. You did the right thing for your people. The Resistance needs you, you cannot simply wander off on what is sure to be a time consuming and difficult mission. We need you to plan, for raids, all the important meetings. You made the decision of a leader and the men respect you for that.”

Anya could hear that Robb had begun to sob, and she suddenly felt more uncomfortable, not just from knowing this was a conversation she was not to overhear, but because she had never seen such weakness from Robb—he’d always been so strong, unbreakable.

“She’s my cousin, Darren. And I left her at the hands of the Nargarth in the pits of that dungeon. The Spirits only know what she’s going through, my source won’t even grant me the knowledge because he deems it too fearful. The simple truth is I chose this fight over Lily, and I can never change that, but I might have lost our only true weapon, who’s now traveling to fight for the one I couldn’t.”

Anya let out a cry of despair, luckily covered by another of Robb’s sobs, as she slid down onto the floor in a cranny of the rock. Lily, captured by the Nargarth? They had told her she had died, could not have made it out alive. She felt her chest tightening and her throat closing, as she struggled to remain in control of her emotions. So that explain their disappearance. Lia, driven by her guilt of being responsible for the unimaginable fate, and Christopher, for his love of Lily he’d never been able to share. Anya buried her face in her hands and began to cry, and once she started, she could not stop.



Darren found her thirty minutes later, on his way back from taking Robb to his tent. Anya was still in hysterics and didn’t even notice his approach until she heard him call her name in concern and rush towards her.

“Anya, what’s wrong? Have you been injured?”

“They took her,” she muttered. “They took her, they took her, they took her.”

Comprehension slowly came to his face as he connected the “her” to how miserable and grief-stricken she was. His voice was gentle as he scooped her up in his arms as if she weighed nothing and began carrying her away.

“I’m sorry, Anya. We had our suspicions, but we didn’t want to tell you until we knew for sure. The news just came last night and…well, perhaps we should discuss this with Robb presents.

Sobs wracked her body as she clutched him tightly, the pain too much for her to control. When they reached Robb’s tent, the captain was sitting at his desk, scratching at the table with a small dagger absentmindedly, eyes pained and far off. He looked up when he heard the commotion of the two of them entering. Anya stared at him, eyes wide and pleading.

He took one look at her as Darren lay her gently onto the bed and backed into the corner and began to sob himself, going down on one knee before her.

“I’m sorry, Anya, I am so, so sorry. I’m sorry that I didn’t do more. I’m sorry that I couldn’t save her from this.”

“They went after her, didn’t they? Lia and Chris?”

Robb nodded, miserable. “They did what I could not.”

‘Why didn’t they tell me?” her voice cracked, and she knew she sounded young and immature. “Why didn’t they let me come, too. I’m the one who…who left her.” The tears started flowing again. Robb grabbed her hands and squeezed it.

“It was not you, Anya. You cannot blame yourself for my mistake. I sent her off knowing full well that she very well may not come alive. I put the Resistance before my cousin and now I’ve payed the price, I would not have you fault yourself for simply doing as commanded. It is better that you and Lia were safe, in her eyes, than all three of you captured.”

He embraced her in a hug full of warmth, hurt and confused emotions, the same as she herself felt, and there was something strangely comforting in knowing that there was someone else in this place who felt the blame was their own, and felt the same deep feelings for her adopted sister as she did.

Though she could hear Darren slip quietly out of the room, neither of the two moved; they shared together in the pain and hopeless they both felt, praying to the Spirits that Lia and Christopher would somehow be successful in a mission of such danger and made of pure chance.

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia   Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:11 pm

Nate

Nate paced nervously back and forth in his room. Every guard was being questioned by the Nargarth to determine just who the insider was. His worry over Lily’s condition, of whom he hadn’t seen in almost two weeks now, along with his worry about the mission he’d soon be expected to perform on top of this latest development, did not leave Nate feeling very positive or secure about hiding the turmoil he was going through; and the Nargarth missed nothing, nor were they prohibited from using magic to discover the truth.

So ever since hearing about the upcoming “interviews”, interrogations was more like it, Nate had been pacing his room, trying to think of a good cover story, and get it rooted so deeply into his brain that no amount of pressure from them could pry the real truth from him. As long as he acted just as arrogant, ruthless and callous as the other members of the guard, and clueless to anything that occurred, including ever seeing the woman, he felt he might be safe enough to avoid the tricks of the Nargarth, by not raising any suspicions at all.

It was past midnight, and though he knew he needed his rest, he couldn’t calm down enough to go to sleep. He ran his fingers through his hair, shaking it out and turning around again to continue his pacing. When the knock sounded on his door, he jumped, startled. The door slowly opened, and in walked Brin, a shy smile on her face.

“Couldn’t sleep?” she said slyly.

Her smiled back at her. “Was I being that loud?”

“No, I just couldn’t sleep either.” She sat down on his bed and looked up at him. “Are you okay? You look unwell.”

For a girl of only fourteen, she was much more perceptive than many people, mainly his parents, gave her credit for. Small, with long brown locks and honey brown eyes, she did appear more delicate, hiding the inner strength she had. Nate could always connect more with her then the rest of his family, she was the only one who seemed to have any part of her resembling compassion.

“I’m fine. Just a long day today, and I have a lot on my mind.”

“Anything you want to talk about?”

Nate smiled at her sadly. As much as he wished he could trust her enough to confess exactly what was going on, there was no one in this evil place that you could truly trust, and she was no exception. You could only trust those who proved themselves, and yet could never give anyone that chance. A truly viscous cycle.

“No, Brin, but thanks. What about you? What keeps you up this fine night?” His mouth twisted up ironically and her laugh rang quietly through the room.

“Just feeling anxious tonight. I don’t even know why. Have you noticed mother and father have been acting strange lately?” Her small smile had turned into a frown.

“I wouldn’t worry too much, sister. Father has a very important task in the guard right now and Mother just worries that he’s working himself too hard.”

Her frown deepened. “You mean the girl they found helping the Elf escape?”

He looked up, shocked. “How do you know about that?”

“I have my contacts,” she said slyly. “How else would anyone know anything in this city the way the Sorceror’s keep us all in the dark.”

Nate hid his shock. He didn’t expect her to know so much—members of the working class weren’t granted the same access to information as the higher ranking officials, and woman were especially removed from gaining anything that might give them equal power with men.

In order for women to be educated, it relied on the parents or a caring brother willing to risk the punishments for educating a woman—Nate, and his father in this case, were willing to teach Brin, but his Father did it to the minimum extent he could, while Nate had taught her everything he knew, perhaps the very reason she seemed closer to him than the rest of the family. Or maybe that’s just the way he saw it.

“Well, I’d be careful who you talk to that about. You never know who’s listening.” She gave him a look.

“Don’t you think that’s why I’m talking to you?” Nate tensed.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you wouldn’t exactly call yourself committed to their cause now would you?”

“Why would you say that?” he asked stiffly.

She rolled her eyes. “Please, Nate, ever since you went to those dungeons you’ve been stressed out all the time, feeding urchins on the street, breaking curfew, having secret meetings with—“

“What?” Nate’s voice cracked like a whip. Brin blushed but held her ground.

“I…might have followed you.”

Nate sank onto the bed, rubbing his eyes again.

“Why…why did you have to do that?”

“I was curious, Nate! You’d always been the friendliest with me and you started to withdraw, what was I supposed to do?”

Nate didn’t respond, still in disbelief.

“What did you hear?” he asked finally.

She looked down at her feet.

“Everything,” she admitted slowly. “And I want in.” Her eyes were blazing in determination.

He groaned and grabbed her hands.

“Why did you have to come? I never wanted you involved in any of this.”

“You should have known you could trust me. You practically raised me yourself, except I’ve learned to be much more cautious then you have. You know mother and father are suspicious of you.”

“That’s exactly why I don’t want you involved. You know as well as I do that father would turn me in at the drop of a hat if he knew exactly what was going on.”

“Well, you wouldn’t have been able to keep me in the dark forever. And now I can help you. I want to help you. Take me to the Resistance.” she pleaded.

He hushed her, looking around nervously.

“Don’t say that here,” he hissed. “You can never be sure you’re safe.”

“A lesson I hope you learned from me,” Brin noted.

They sat in silence for a few moments.

“Please, Nate…let me do something to help, anything.”

“I’d rather just send you to Gilderon. It would be safer and I would feel much more contented.”

“No,” she exclaimed, “I want to make a real difference, here, in Margarath.”

“You can make just as big of a difference in the Valley, perhaps more. The work here is too dangerous, and I don’t have time to contact their leader for a change in plan anyway,” he replied quietly. “Bringing you along would put everyone in danger.”

“Come on, Nate. You need the extra help in you’re going to—“

She broke off as the sound of footsteps down the hall came through the door. They held their breath as the floorboards creaked as their Father, home from his late shift, walked into the kitchen.

“We’ll discuss this another time, then. I’m not giving up.” Throwing her long hair over her shoulder, she stalked out of the room, heading towards the kitchen to greet her father.



Nate left early for work, taking the long way towards the dungeons, en route to meeting with the messenger from Robb. He knocked four times on a side door in the poorest part of town, and was let in quickly, door slamming behind him.

The messenger slipped him a candle and a note sealed with the secret symbol of the Resistance, two interlocking squares surrounded by a circle. He retreated into a backroom, so he could read the message in private.

Nate,
Bad news. Lia and Christopher have run off after Lily after discovering her fate. Most likely already in the city. Do not have resources to send help. Must stop them yourselves. They cannot be captured, especially Lia. Current mission on hold. This takes priority. Respond as quickly as able with any news.
Robb


Nate groaned, staring at the letter in dismay. All his sneaking, plotting and hard work had been for nothing. Not only had the Elvish girl returned to the city that had taken her so long to be rescued from, but he now had a desperate man in the city and still no way of freeing Lily himself.

Nate took a piece of parchment out and began to write.

Message received. Will have to bribe contacts again for any information on newcomers in the city. May have extra help from someone close to me who I believe we can trust. Have no fear, I’ll test her before I give her any real information. Will keep you informed.

He sighed, rolling up the letter and quickly sealing it. He handed it to the messenger who placed it in a secret pocket on his jacket before pulling his cloak up around him and stepping through the door continuing on his way to the dungeons as if nothing had happened. It looked like he might be needing Brin’s help after all.

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia   Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:12 pm

Benjen

Benjen watched as Brin and Nate walked out the door together, laughing. Not that he had any problem with that, but he wasn’t sure how comfortable he was with the amount of time Brin had been spending around Nate. She was an intelligent young woman, to a degree that almost made him uncomfortable, but she’d always known her place and treated Ben and the ways of the Nargarth with respect, knowing they were for the greater good of the city together.

But all this time with Nate couldn’t bode well. Nate had seemed to return to his normal self, but at times there were still expressions of discontent. Ben had half expected something to be flagged in the interrogation Nate went through, but he’d come out with no problems, to the great relief of Ben. Perhaps it was just his imagination that his son always seemed so displeased.

Ben shook his head; he had more important things to worry about than just the misdemeanors of his son. The Nargarth were coming to personally inspect the progress he and Peter were making on the Resistance girl, and after their latest setback from swallowing the lies she’d forced around them, they couldn’t afford any mistakes.

To be fair, she had payed greatly for her lies. After turning in the information they received, the Nargarth had laughed right in their faces, and both Peter and himself feared that their displeasure would be turned on them. How, they wondered, was the place of the Resistance somewhere in Algoron, when the Elvish girl and her other companion had disappeared along a small road in the opposite direction.

Humiliated at being fooled by a member of the Resistance, and a woman no less, she had learned just who she had crossed. She had not been given anything to eat or drink in days, Peter had broken three fingers attempting to get the real answer from her, and Ben had made sure she felt discomfort constantly, even when breathing, by cracking some ribs. Nate, on one of his assignments as guard while they rested, asked how she could answer questions in such pain, surely it must be distracting, and while Ben was originally angry at the suggestion, Peter assured him that the boy was only curious because he did not know: as long as the traitor could still talk, nobody cared what was done to them. What they were doing was a mercy compared to what the Nargarth had planned anyway. She was only hurting herself.

He finished getting his boots on and walked out the door, his mind still on the best possible to break the girl—and quickly; he was beginning to think she was more trouble than she was worth. Maybe she didn’t know anything and they were wasting their time.

He met up with Peter outside the dungeon gates and they walked down together, hoping that the Nargarth would not be here today to inspect; they just needed a little more time. When they arrived outside her cell, a small, round cave only big enough for one person to barely sit, causing great discomfort to the prisoner and little sleep, they were relieved to see that they were alone.

Opening the door to her cell, they yanked her out of the cell, ignoring her gasps of pain from her cramped muscles and broken bones. They brought her into the interrogation room, throwing her roughly on the floor.

“Here’s your last chance, girl,” Ben snarled. “The Nargarth are coming to personally inspect how this little interrogation is going, so whether you’d rather the Nargarth forced it out of you using their methods, which I guarantee will make ours look like a warm-up, I suggest you start spilling your guts now—before we spill them for you.”

“Go ahead. I wonder how your Masters will treat you when they find out you notonly failed but you killed me too,” she hissed. Lately she’d begun to talk back, a response that had become almost more obnoxious that no response at all.

Ben grabbed one of her already broken fingers and twisted it sharply. Her scream filled the room and echoed off the walls.

“You know…I bet the Nargarth are gonna walk right over you,” she breathed, tears streaming down her face from the pain. “When they find out you got nothing from me, their going to torture you to figure out how anyone could possibly be so inept; I just hope they give me the opportunity to watch.”

Ben snarled in anger and aimed a kick at her face; she grunted and reeled backwards, her lip now spurting blood.

“Take some advice,” Ben spat, “I wouldn’t use such insolence with the Nargarth; they won’t take it too kindly at all.”

“I’m not afraid of them,” she snapped, but the waver in her voice gave her away. Ben’s grin widened evilly.

“Well, I’ll tell them you think so. Maybe they’ll come at you harder from this little challenge you’re presenting them with.”

Her eyes narrowed at him, and he could see the fear bubbling beneath her as she struggled to keep it hidden. Ben nodded at Pete and they began their typical round of questions: who was the inside help? How did you get out of the city unseen? Who was the other accomplice? Where is the secret hiding place of the Resistance? Who is the leader of the Resistance? And as per usual, the girl stared defiantly back, taking blow after blow, kick after kick, and torture method after torture method with nothing more issuing out of her mouth than screams and cries of pain.



When Nate came in for their rest break, Pete and Ben left the room, washing blood off their hands.

“She can’t know anything,” Pete was exclaiming. “No one could last this long if they knew something.”

“Agreed. But she has to know at least the location of the Resistance. And the name of the girl accomplice. And the insider. How is she hiding it?”

Peter glanced around nervously.

“I don’t know, but if we don’t crack her soon, the Nargarth are going to skin us alive for wasting their time.”

“If they considered her that great of a threat, they would have taken over the interrogation from the start, instead of allowing us to try,” Ben replied reasonably. “It’s been almost two months now, if they needed the information urgently, it would have been taken long ago.”

“But it doesn’t make sense. Their top security prisoner gets stolen away from the high security dungeon cells, they personally go after the escapees on the chase, come back with a prisoner, and then seem to take no interest in it?”

Ben shrugged.

“It’s best not to question the Nargarth. They always have another plan at hand.”

“Well spoken, my friend,” Peter responded, clapping Ben on the back.

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia   Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:12 pm

Brin

Brin snuck quietly out of her bedroom window and dropped lightly to the ground below. After letting her eyes adjust to the lighting, it was the dark of night after all; she set off down the street, staying close to the side of the streets in the shadows, avoiding any light coming from windows or lamps.

Upon reaching the dungeons she nodded to the guard, who let her pass after checking her papers that showed she had barrack duty tonight. However, once she was in the dungeon, she headed down to the deepest parts of the dungeon, where the girl was being kept. Nate had given her very specific instructions on how to get to her cave.

She stopped quickly in a storage room, quickly changing into a soldier’s garb, pulling her hair up tight to her head and pulling the hood up, so she could walk through the halls unchecked.

She hurried down the last of the way until she came to the smallest, and most frightening, dungeon. Down under the lakes of the city, the walls dripped with wetness, and the floor was rough and rocky. Various instruments of which she had no curiosity to discover the purpose lined the walls, and secret windows and peep holes allowed guards to stare into the area. Luckily for her, the guards at the entrance to the high security section let her through without comment, perhaps thinking she was there to deliver food or water.

When she reached the cell, she found it tightly secured, as Nate had told her. With six locks, a wire set up to drop a pile of rocks in front of the cave if it was opening without being activated and various other booby traps lined the areas, and she carefully deactivated each one as quickly as possible.

After finally getting the door unlocked, Brin opened the door as quietly as possible, straining her ears for any sound that the guards found her actions suspicious. As of yet, they still hadn’t bothered her.

Brin peered into the gloomy cave, and was shocked to see that there was barely room for a child to fit in it, let alone a young woman, and could tell it would keep the victim both uncomfortable, in pain, and sleepless. Curled up into a small ball in the floor was the woman, back towards Brin so she couldn’t see her properly.

“Lily,” she whispered urgently, reaching in to the cave to brush her soldier.

Suddenly, and most unexpectedly, the woman had flipped over in the cave and lunged out at Brin, thrusting something at her as she landed on top of her pinning her down. Brin felt a sharp, stabbing pain in her shoulder and had to bite her tongue to keep from crying out for the guards to hear. She stared up into the dark brown eyes of the woman on top of her, and saw shock in her eyes as she realized it was not a soldier, but another woman that she was looking at.

“Lily,” Brin pleaded. “Lily, listen to me. Nate sent me. I’m here to help you.”

The woman stared down at her suspiciously. Regaining her composing, she got a better grip on Brin and pushed her down into the ground; rocks dug into her back as she tried to shift even a muscle.

“How do I know you’re telling me the truth?” she hissed.

“In my right pocket…there’s a letter. It explains everything,” she replied breathlessly, the weight of the woman making it hard to breathe properly.

Lily reached carefully into Brin’s pocket; Brin could hear the sound of her heart beating in her ears, and prayed to the sprits that the guards had not heard any of the commotion—though she supposed if they had, they would already have been upon them. She read the letter carefully, and looked up, her face still covered in suspicion. After reading the letter again, she slowly rolled off of Brin, in obvious pain as she did so.

Now that she could see the woman properly, Brin’s stomach twisted in disgust. What had obviously been a beautiful woman before being brought here had been twisted into something inhuman. Her eyes were sunken, her nose broken, cuts and scrapes covered her face and body; many of her fingers were twisted at odd angles, she limped as she staggered slowly to lean against a wall; the way she winced every time she took a breath pointed to broken ribs, and lack of nutrients had left her skin hanging from her bones. Pity filled Brin’s heart as she looked the woman over. Nate had described her situation, but nothing had prepared her for this.

The woman smiled apologetically at her.

“Sorry for the attack. That looks like a nasty wound on your shoulder,” she said in concern gesturing towards her. Brin looked down and saw a deep wound, blood seeping from it. “Sorry,” the girl said again, and she truly meant it.

“It’s my fault. I shouldn’t have startled you. I’m Brin, Nate’s sister,” she said, walking towards the woman and facing her. “He wasn’t sure when the next time he’d get to see you was, and I’ve snuck into the dungeons before, admittedly, never for such a bold reason, so I offered to carry the message for you. He doesn’t want me to tell you part of it, but I think you deserve to know.”

The woman nodded wearily. Brin quickly explained what had occurred in the Resistance, with the disappearance of Lia and Christopher and passed along the concerns Robb had about her safety and wellbeing. At the news of her could be rescuers, Lily began to cry.

“Oh, Chris. He’s always been too rash about these sorts of things. And Lia? After all we did to get her here? What of Anya?”

Brin regretted to tell her she had no information on the other girl, wondering if she was a sister or friend.

“Just as a heads up, I thought you should know in case the two of them attempt to do some insane rescue attempt. I’ve got all my contacts on the lookout for any newcomers to the city and hopefully we’ll be able to combine strength for a join plan to get you out of here.”

The women looked at her in surprise.

“You mean, you’re going to try to rescue me?”

Brin mimicked her surprised.

“You didn’t think we’d leave you here at the hands of these torturers and butcherers did you? Speaking of, some of those wounds look awful. They could be getting infected. Do you want me to look at them for you?”

The woman winced as she moved to look herself over.

“No, it would be too suspicious when the guards come back if I was healed. But thank you,” she whispered.

They both glanced around nervously at how much time was passing.

“I hate to ask you to do this,” Brin said apologetically, “but I can’t get you out quite yet and I really need to get out of here before someone notices I’m not where I’m supposed to be or another guard shows up.”

Lily’s face fell slightly.

“Of course, I understand. I was glad of the company.”

She started moving back to her cave, and Brin helped her towards in, apologizing for the conditions she was being put through.

“It is not you who’s responsible for this,” Lily said kindly. “Thank you for your help. You have my eternal thanks.” She smiled sadly as Brin pushed the door shut and reset the locks and traps. Feeling depressed and angered, Brin walked quickly past the guard and snuck her way out of the dungeons again; when she reached home, she curled up on her bed and cried.

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia   Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:13 pm

Robb

Snow was falling lightly around the soldiers as they geared up and saddled their horses. A group of six, Robb at the lead were heading out on a ranging mission, to gather more supplies and possibly give some of the Nargarth scouts some trouble along the way. The men’s morale had been very low since the departure of Lia, and many were angered that after vowing to help, she’d disappeared so quickly, especially in the direction that she was headed.

“Robb!” He turned around at the sound of his name, and sighed to himself when he saw Anya approaching, dressed in soldier’s grab and leading her horse.

“Anya, we discussed this. You’re not coming.”

She stuck her chin out stubbornly and fixed him with a ferocious look.

“You can’t stop me. I want to help, and you never know, having a woman along might just help you at some point. Come on, Robb. You sent me on the most important mission in the history of the Resistance and I can’t go out on a little ranging mission?”

She raised her eyebrows at and he saw her mouth twitch. The lines around his mouth hardened. She must suspect that the ranging mission wasn’t really what they were planning on doing. He cursed under his breath; he couldn’t refuse her after she’d pointed out such a damning point without making the whole camp suspicious about what was really going on.

“Fine, quickly now. We’ll talk on the way about how this is going to proceed.” He stared at her with a stern face and a frown, letting her know just how much he disapproved of her message.

She flashed him a triumphant smile.

“Excellent,” she said as she swung her leg up over her horse to mount it. “Let’s be on our way, then, gentlemen,” and kicked her horse into motion.

Robb rolled his eyes, set his horse off at a walk, and looked at Darren, ready to exchange an exasperated glance, but found his eyes alight with amusement, staring after Anya instead. Robb’s found deepened; it seemed that everyone in this camp was going crazy.



As they rode, Anya fell back, coming in line with Robb.

“So,” she asked plainly, “where is it we’re really going then?”

“The Watchtower of Ul-Mondir,” he replied quietly. She shot him a sideways glance, trying to remain calm, but he could see both fear and excitement in her eyes. He hoped the fear might over run her thirst for adventure and allow her to turn back.

“And why is it we’re heading to the living place of the Great Crow? He’s long since been aligned with the Nargarth.”

The Great Crow, a very rich, powerful and cruel man, was named for his likeness to crows, sharp nosed and beady eyed, he was said to possess powers no ordinary man could have. Feared by most except for the most elite members of the Nargarth, he ruled over his territory with an iron fist, allowing no rebellion or upheavals of any kind. The people in his land were left hopeless and poor, living on the land as best they could while trying to stay on top of the heavy load of taxes and laws that were constantly being passed. The Great Crow had quickly shown his loyalties to the Nargarth as they rose to power and became the ones truly in control, rather than the King, constantly sheltered away in his castle, more of a puppet head than anything.

“True, but his brother does not feel the same.”

“And why do we need the help of the Great Crow’s brother?”

“Because, dear one, he’s not only well versed in ancient prophecy, for which we have great need of, but is also one of the top warriors in the lands and a respected teacher by many. As a member of the Resistance, he could do much for our cause.”

“That still doesn’t explain why we need to rush out to Ul-Mondir,” Anya replied slowly. “Why can he not come himself?”

“You are quite inquisitive today,” Robb acknowledged. Anya shrugged.

“I like to know what’s happening.”

“His brother discovered his loyalties were not aligned with what he expected. He sold out his own brother to be rid of him, and the Nargarth are coming to collect their prize. We’re planning on catching his guards en route to their meeting with Nargarth and steal their prize from them.” He watched her eyes widen slightly in satisfaction.

“A bold move. Are you sure you have the men for such an attack?”

He flashed her a mischievous smile.

“You don’t think I’d give up all my secrets, would you?” he asked, laughing at her annoyed expression as he kicked his horse into a trot and rode towards the front of the group where Darren sat. Darren looked at him dryly.

“I hope you didn’t inform her of too much, or you might as well allow her to join the council,” he said sarcastically. Robb snorted.

“Don’t be dramatic, if she’s in on the mission, she needed to know sometime.”

“True enough. And she is clever enough to figure it out on her own anyway. The way she tricked you into allowing her to join us on the mission.” He guffawed, causing several birds nesting in the trees to take flight in fright.

“Yes, I noticed you found it amusing,” he said shortly.

Darren winked at him, still chuckling to himself.

“She certainly has guts, that one.”

Robb looked at him carefully. Perhaps he did feel more than just friends towards her. Darren noticed Robb’s stare and turned slightly red.

“We might want to consider stopping for the night, it’s getting dark and this is a good enough place to set up camp,” he said, attempting to cover his embarrassment. Robb sat in silence for a moment, distracted by what he’d just learned, before nodding, and pulling his horse off the road, a frown forming on his face again. Anya was alone now, after all, without Lily to take care of her, and it would be unfair for Darren to take advantage of her loneliness. Vowing to keep a careful eye on the two of them, he began to help set up camp.

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia   Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:13 pm

Christopher

They entered their room at the inn, a small, dark, uncomfortable place filled with bed bugs and mice—still, preferable to whatever dark hole Lily was being kept in. The room only had one bed, as Lia and Christopher were acting as husband and wife, something that had made for some uncomfortable moments their first night staying here. Christopher had graciously offered to sleep in his bag on the floor when he’d seen her looking at the bed nervously. She’d turned dark red and apologized, putting up a fight for the floor herself, but Christopher would hear none of it; he won out in the end, smiling at her with a crooked grin as he joked that there were less bugs on the floor, perhaps it was even true, he thought with a smile.

So far in their time in the city, they’d been taking it slow, testing out the situation to see exactly what they had to deal with. Certain sections in the city were still on high alert for finding her, and in order to avoid any possible confrontations, since she was easily recognizable with her blonde hair, after two days, Christopher had brought back some dark brown dye, and her hair had been cut to her shoulders, much shorter than she was used to; while she claimed she didn’t recognize herself anymore, Christopher thought that she’d never looked more beautiful.

She sunk onto the bed exhausted, flopping down onto her back. They’d been out all day walking around, trying to gather the latest rumors on the street, which, unfortunately, were masked by the people’s fear of the Nargarth. They hadn’t gotten anywhere close to the dungeon before they were turned away by a soldier, as their regular citizen garb did not allow them into the restricted area of the city. They’d been trying to lie low and find someplace to sneak through, but so far, security had been tight everywhere. Without knowing who the inside source was, and possibly securing their help, their chances of rescuing Lily were looking slimmer and slimmer.

“Ugh, I wish there was something decent to eat in this godforsaken place,” he groaned.

“Really, Christopher?” she joked, “here we are stuck in the middle of the enemy’s city, plotting to rescue a high security prisoner, and all you can think about is getting a decent meal?”

“Well, it would cheer me up, that’s for sure.”

She sighed and sat up next to him, propped up on one arm.

“Yes, we could use with a pick-me-up,” she took a deep breath, and looked down at her hands miserably.

“Hey,” he said, brushing a lock of hair that had fallen in front of her face behind her ear. “I know it’s looking pretty rough, but I promise, we’re not going to leave her behind—we’re going to rescue her, not matter what it takes.”

She sniffed, and looked up at him, tears glistening in her eyes. Her small smile seemed forced as she nodded in agreement.

“I know. But I guess we should hurry up and get you some food before you keel over and give up right now, hmm?” And the tension broke as they both laughed.

“You know me well,” he winked at her. She started towards the door.

“You coming or not?” she asked, when she saw him still sitting on the bed.

“I’ll be right down,” he assured him. “Why don’t you grab us a table and I’ll meet you down in a minute.”

“Sure thing,” she said, closing the door quietly behind her. He stared at the door, thoughts raging through this head in confusion. He’d come here to rescue Lily because of the way he’d felt about her, and while he still felt strongly for her and wouldn’t dream of giving up on his mission, he was starting to get confused about how he felt about Lia. After all, she was not only gorgeous, but complicated, intelligent, moving, kind, and over the past weeks together, had grown to be quite close. At the same time, it seemed disloyal to be feeling in such a way after all the time he’d spent chasing Lily, though, to be fair, she had spurned him on numerous occasions; and to add to it, he didn’t want to press Lia into doing anything she did not want to, alone as she was with him. With his worries over the mission, how Robb would react if they ever returned, and his split feelings between the two woman, Christopher only felt confusion. Sighing to himself, he followed her out the door to dinner, pasting a smile to his face.



After dinner, they returned to their room, joking with each other as they walked up the stairs. Christopher unlocked the door and pushed it open, throwing his jacket onto the bed as he entered and went to light a lamp. Instinctively, he tensed as he saw slight movement out of the corner of his eyes in the shadow, and he swung around, drawing his sword, putting himself between whoever was in the room and Lia, who had not yet noticed the disturbance; she gave out a surprised noise when he swept her aside.

“Show yourself!” Christopher snapped, staring into the shadows. “Lia, carefully fetch the lamp.”

Lily walked quickly over to the side of the bed, away from where Christopher was standing, and lit the lamp just as the figure moved out of the shadows an into the light. Christopher kept his grip on the sword tight, even as his body wanted to relax. A small, brown haired girl, who couldn’t be more than fourteen or fifteen, came into view. She held up her arms in front of her to show she had no weapons, and walked slowly towards him.

“Who are you?” Christopher snapped. “What business do you have here?”

The girl swallowed nervously, her eyes flashing to Lia in the corner.

“Answer me, girl,” he snarled, still tense.

“Chris,” Lia objected, “she’s just a girl, put the sword down.”

“Not until she tells me who she is.”

“My name is Brin,” the girl said, her voice softly and carefully, yet forcefully at the same time.

“And what business do you have here, Brin? Or did you stumble upon the wrong room in the dark?” His voice dripped with sarcasm and anger, his eyebrows furrowed. They grew closer when she laughed softly.

“Please, I’m only here to help. I’m Nate’s sister; he sent me here to find you. Put the sword down, please.”

His face tightened and he kept his sword raised to fight.

“Who’s Nate?” he growled. Her face sank a little in confusion.

“My brother, Nate. The one who helped her escape,” she said, gesturing towards Lia who still stood behind him.

“I don’t know who this Nate is. Nor do I know what you mean by she escaped. This is my wife and we are visiting the city—“

Lia sighed, annoyance apparent as she sidestepped Christopher and stood between him and the girl.

“Honestly, Christopher, if the girl wanted to attack us, she surely would have done so when we first entered the room, and with a weapon, not alone and weaponless when it would be two against one. I don’t know who this Nate is, but I’m assuming he’s the guard responsible for getting me out of my cell, and it’s no use pretending we’re not who we are when she obviously knows.”

Christopher let out a breath of frustration. He knew she was right, but the fact that anyone could find them, friend or foe, made him nervous. He lowered his sword slowly, placing it back in its scabbard but kept his hand on the pommel. Lia rolled her eyes at him as she watched his hand, but the girl gave a grateful look to Lia.

“Okay, Brin,” he said slowly. “What do you want, and how did you find us?”

Her eyes flickered to Lia, who nodded encouragingly.

“Like I said, my name’s Brin, and Nate’s my brother. He sent me to find the two of you after he received an urgent message from the Resistance—“

“So he’s the source here?” Lia interrupted curiously. Brin nodded.

“I don’t know for exactly how long, but at least over the past year. I finally convinced him he needed the use of a friend to help him along and joined up recently as well.”
“Then I have him to thank for my rescue. I hope he knows how much I appreciated it and hope to thank him one day.”

Before Brin could respond, Christopher interrupted, wondering why it was that the source would send his little sister on such a dangerous mission, that could easily have gone awry and why he wasn’t here to find them in person.

“Why is your brother is not here to tell us this himself?” he asked, suspiciously.

“He had other business to attend to,” she said coolly. His eyes narrowed. He couldn’t tell whether or not he should trust the girl. Obviously, she was keeping something from them, and who was to say she was who she says she was.

“Do you have a message for us then?” he asked, his voice icy in return.

“In fact I do. Your leader would like you to return at once to the fort and await his return from a mission.”

Christopher’s face hardened and he could see Lia’s face fall. A secret smile spread across Brin’s face.

“However, Nate and I would not be too happy if the both of you just left without rescuing Lily first. After all, with four of us, it should be much easier to accomplish.”

Lia’s face broke into a smile, but Christopher, still suspicious of the whole affair, was less certain.

“Why do you want to help us?”

Brin’s face fell and she sat down on the bed, staring at her hands.

“You don’t understand what it’s like here. To watch day after day the people you love starving around you, but knowing there are some worse off then you. To see your brother head off to work each morning, knowing that he can hardly live with the things he forced to do by the Nargarth. Watching your father enter the dungeons every day, but knowing full well that he enjoys every minute of you. This place sickens you. It makes you wither and die until you have nothing left. I have nothing left…but Nate. And the Resistance…it makes you feel…like you can do something for once. And having nothing to lose? It makes you that much more bold. The real question is, why wouldn’t I want to help you?”

The girl looked up at them, tears glistening in her eyes. Christopher suddenly felt guilty about how he had treated her, but was unaware of how to apologize properly. Before he could think of how to respond, the girl’s eyes hardened in anger.

“I saw what they’re doing to her…the one who saved you,” she looked Lia in the eyes. “There is no one except those of the cruelest nature who could not be moved by such an encounter.”

“You saw her?” Christopher said eagerly. “When? How?”

“Just two days ago. Nate asked me to deliver a message for him, but I think he really wanted to test me. See just how committed I actually was.” She shuddered.

Christopher saw the haunted look in her eyes, and was at once more afraid then he had been so far. Her state must be unbearable if a girl who had evidently gone through such pain was so troubled by it. He was too scared to voice the question he really wanted to know, but didn’t have to.

“What are they doing to her?” Lia’s quiet voice, filled with pain took him out of his thoughts. Brin shook her head, biting her lip.

“Please,” Lia begged, tears glistening in her own eyes, as she knelt down beside the girl. “I’m the one who is responsible for what they are doing to her. I was once in her position; I can understand better than most what must be happening to her. Please, I can’t stop imagining the worst of what they could be doing.”

Christopher’s heart ached for Lia, exposed so raw like this. The horrors of what she had gone through had only just begun to leave the shadows of her eyes, and the creases of her forehead, but now they were back, seemingly stronger than before.
Slowly, Brin began to describe what Nate had told her, what she had seen. When Lia heard the cave Lily was being kept in, she gave a cry of despair and collapsed to the ground, as memories of her own time there came back to her one after another.

Christopher gathered her up into his arms and lay her down on the bed, where she curled up and continued to cry. He turned and looked at Brin, who was staring at her hands again, tears streaming down her own cheeks. Christopher himself felt like breaking down, or throwing up—or both—after what he’d heard. Instead he knelt down beside Brin.

“Thank you,” he said sincerely. “Thank you for helping us. It means more than you could ever know. I think it’s best if you leave now, but meet us again tomorrow, at this same time, and bring your brother. We can discuss everything then. I think we all need some rest.” He glanced sadly over at Lia, sobbing on the bed. Brin nodded glumly as she wiped the tears away with the back of her hands.

“Do you need help getting home?” he asked, concerned for the girl’s well being. She shook her head.

“Thank you, but if people who aren’t used to seeing you notice you, they might ask questions of me at another time, and that’s the last thing we need. I’ll give Nate the message and return tomorrow.”

She walked over to the window and swung one leg out over the ledge. “I’m sorry,” she added, before disappearing out of sight, and whether she was apologizing for the news she brought, the reaction she’d caused or for her city, Christopher was grateful all the same.

He went quietly to the bed and lay down next to her, pulling her close. She buried her face in his chest and wept, clutching at his shirt as if she was sliding away from reality—and perhaps she was.

She finally quieted, her breathing evening out as she fell asleep, still clutching to Christopher like a life line. He kissed her on the forehead as he thought of all that had happened this day, before drifting off to sleep himself.

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia   Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:14 pm

Lily

Lily’s muscled ached from the tightness of her cell as she tried to shift her position to give some of them relief, resulting only in further pain as the rocks dug into her back. She still couldn’t decide if Brin’s mystery visit was a dream, a trick or the truth. Most of the time she was convinced it was a dream, and she often believed it had to be a trick, to raise her spirits and then crush them again with some false escape. She never let herself believe that it might be true. But she couldn’t understand how they would know about Christopher if Brin wasn’t a member of the Resistance. She wished Nate would show up to explain everything himself. Just the thought of Chris coming after her made her want to laugh with relief. And yet she was angry at him for allowing Lia to come, too. What payment would it be for either of them if they all wounded up in the dungeons together. And Chris would surely know a lot more than she did.

She tensed, muscles and sores aching in response, as she heard the all too familiar noise of the door being unlatched. She was dragged out roughly and dropped to the floor. Someone, Peter most likely, snorted in disgust and picked her off the ground.

“You’ll stand until we tell you otherwise,” he growled. Peter for sure. That could only mean Benjen was somewhere nearby too. Sure enough, the light was thrown harshly into her face, and Benjen stood there, fury in his eyes as usual.

“You’ve got two more days to start talking, before the Nargarth are getting involved,” he growled. Her mind began racing, at a whole new level of panic. She knew this day had to be coming soon, there was only so long they’d leave the torture up to their cronies who were so incompetent. Her knees gave out, from weakness or fear even she didn’t know, but Benjen grabbed her, holding her up. His face was suddenly right next to hers, his hot breath reeking of beer and wine, his eyes alight with fury.

“If you make us look a fool, you’ll have us to fear on top of them.”

They began dragging her down an unfamiliar hallway; she did not like the looks of this. She thought she’d experienced everything they had up their sleeves, but obviously she wrong. Her panic level grew stronger. After five minutes, they arrived at a row of cells, all empty. To her relief, they were all much more comfortably sized than her old one. The relief must have shown on her face because Benjen laughed harshly.

“Oh, I wouldn’t get too comfortable. See the water in the cell? It’s directly linked to the ocean: when the tide rises, so does the water in here and it can get quite high,” he laughed evilly. “You might have more trouble sleeping than you think.”

They shoved her in and locked the door. She could hear their laughs as they walked away. She buried her face in her hands and cried, not aware that she even had tears left in her.



She woke up cold and wet to find the water creeping upwards, still not putting her in any danger but enough to have soaked her clothes and gotten her hair wet; the water was freezing and the cell itself was cold. She feared she’d become ill on top of everything else. The Spirits only knew her body couldn’t take much more.

Over the next few hours the water continued to rise, until she was forced to climb up a tiny ledge on the side of the cell to stay above it; and it only continued to rise steadily. Soon she was clinging to the wall as best she could, despite the broken bones, with what little strength she had left in order to keep her nose above the water and able to breathe. The ledge was just large enough for her to lean back against the wall and support most of her strength, but not big enough for her to ever relax or release her death grip on the wall.

Several times throughout the night, the water began to beckon to her, as she contemplated letting go of the wall and ending it all. Surely there was nothing to be feared from death that she had not faced here. The idea was so warm, so inviting, but every time she almost gave in to letting go of the wall, Anya would spring into her thoughts. Giving up on the world would be giving up on Anya, who needed her to feel whole; she could only imagine what her “little sister” must be feeling right now. She couldn’t let go of her. And the thought of Chris, alone in the city but for Brin and Nate, attempting a rescue plan, and couldn’t bear the thought of them being caught only to find she’d killed herself.

When the water finally began to recede, many hours later, she sank to the ground, too exhausted to do anything but lay down on the rough rock and sleep. However, she couldn’t have slept more than thirty minutes, as the water was still present in the deeper edges of the cell, when the door opened and in pranced Benjen and Peter, spring in their step as they looked down at her, bedraggled, wet, and half-drowned as she was.

“Had a good night, I hope?” Benjen asked, smirk on his face. She didn’t respond but stared up at him blankly. She would not play his games.

“I myself have always fancied a midnight swim,” Peter joked cruelly. Soon bored with their snide comments, they began beating in on her again in the various ways she had almost become used to. She went off into the distance place in the back of her mind where they couldn’t reach her, dividing her body’s pain from her minds. Here she was back in the Valley. Here she was with Anya and Robb. Here she laughed with Anya as they went up their daily business. Here she was herself again.

They asked all the usual questions: why was she sent of all people? Who is the leader of the Resistance? Where is the headquarters for the Resistance? Where was Lia taken? Who was the source of help here in the dungeons?

While normally she would remain silent, expect for screams she couldn’t keep in, she was all but broken inside, and the ever approaching visit of the Nargarth hung over her like a fate worse than this—if it was even possible.

“I don’t know,” she screamed in pain and agony, breaking down hysterical sobs. “I sweat to the Spirits, I don’t know.”

“That’s a filthy lie. We know you met with the traitor who snuck the prisoner out of here. You know where the girl was taken.”

“I never learned his name,” she pleaded, hoping her distress, real as it was, would hide the lies. “I wasn’t told anything important. Please, I wasn’t even important enough to be given poison in case I was captured.”

The men exchanged a surprised look. This was the most she’d ever talked besides snide and mocking comments of their own.

“Please, just end it,” she begged, sincerely meaning it. “Just end it.”

“Well, it appears we might just be getting somewhere after all,” Peter said smugly.

And they started in on her again.

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia   Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:14 pm

Nate

Nate entered the dungeon as he did each morning, but this time, much more was at stake. Christopher was beside him, dressed in soldier’s garb from this own closet. He quickly explained that he was showing the new guard how everything work to the soldier at the gate, giving him the papers they’d forged. After being waved through, they walked briskly, as if going about their daily work, down the dungeon hallways. Nate kept having flashbacks to the night he had helped Lia escape, heart pounding, and blood rushing through his veins. He only could hope this night would end as well as the first escape had been.

They had waited until night covered the city, knowing that Benjen and Peter would return home for the night while Lia was forced through another night in the wet cells. Lia was going to distract any guards that they might come across on the way out. In fact, she’d probably already started the flirtatious act she’d practiced, and started giving guards the drugged drinks specially prepared for them. He was thankful Lia had forced Brin to wait outside the city with the horses ready for them, so she was far from any of the real danger that might occur while in the dungeons.

They reached the wet cells and Nate took out a key he’d stolen from his father’s uniform, unlocking the door, motioning for Christopher to get to the side of the door so any water that rushed out would not sweep them away. The door opened and water swept out; they heard a hoarse shriek of surprise from inside the cell and a small thud from where Lily had evidently lost her balance from the tiny ledge she had to stand on to breathe.

Christopher rushed into the room, Nate right behind him. The agonized cry that ripped through Christopher as he saw Lily crumpled on the ground, body broken and bruised, sounded almost inhuman. He cradled her in his arms and wept, his body shaking. Nate knew they must hurry, but did not want to interrupt this.

Lily’s eyes fluttered open.

“Chris?” she asked, voice hoarse and shocked. “You came for me. Am I dreaming?” her voice was filled with disbelief.

Christopher wracked with sobs.

“No, honey, you’re not dreaming. I’m here for you.”

Nate coughed softly.

“We need to go.”

Lily’s eyes were fluttering closed again from exhaustion.

“Is that Nate? I’m just…so tired.”

“It’s me, Lily. We’re going to get you out of here,” he said, his voice cracking.

“Go ahead and sleep. I’ll carry you,” Christopher said, scooping her up gently into his arms, her limp body draped in them, looking small and frail. “Let’s go.”

They walked quietly but quickly through the passageways. The lack of any guards at all began to make Nate feel uneasy. This was almost too easy for such a high security prisoner. Just as he thought that three guards turned down into the hallway, and stopped when they took in the two men holding the women.

“What’s going on here?” One asked, hand going to his sword.

“She’s changing cells. Stand down.” Nate replied, trying to stay calm.

“We received no news that she was going to be moved anytime soon. We’re going to ask to see some form of proof.”

“Of course,” Nate replied smoothly, walking over to them and reaching towards his pocket as if to retrieve papers. When he stood close enough, he drew his sword and knocked the first man over the head with it, knocking him unconscious. The other two men immediately drew their swords. One began to run off to get help, but suddenly Christopher was there, sword in hand, and the man went down. The last man yielded, throwing his sword to the ground. Nate dragged the three men into a cell in the hallway, locking the door. Christopher had bent down to pick Lily up from the ground where he’d placed her before joining the fight.

They headed off down the hallway, more cautiously this time. They heard voices ahead and Nate relaxed in relief as he realized one of them was Lia’s laughing at some joke a soldier was making, his voice growing more slurred as the effects of the drink drove him unconscious.

They turned the corner and found Lia leaning up against the wall. She jumped when she saw them.

“There you are! I was starting to wonder if these passages were longer than I remembered.”

“We ran into a little trouble of our own,” Nate explained as Lia looked Lily over in concern.

“She’s fading. She needs help. And fast. She needs the help of my own people.”
Christopher looked at her in confusion.

“I thought you were the last of your kind. What do you mean she needs the help of your people?”

“There are not many of us left, but there are a few living in a hidden ancient city north of here.”

While Christopher looked ready to ask more questions about these people, Nate cut them off.

“How far?”

“Not more than three days ride if we don’t stop at all. The road is difficult for those who don’t know the way, but we should have no problem with me.”

“Why have you never spoken of this before?”

“My land is not to be spoiled by the wars of others. We have the need to regenerate ourselves first. It is only of the utmost need that I would take you there. Shall we or no?” she demanded.

“Of course, no offense meant.” Nate quickly obliged.

She nodded once and began heading down the hallway. Nate took the lead, showing them the way to the sewers. As risky as they believed it was to escape the same way they did the last time, they could not think of any other way to do it. And besides, no one knew how they’d escaped; they hadn’t caught up with them until they were miles from the city.

As they entered the sewers, Nate began to relax. They had only a few miles to travel through the sewers and they would come out near the river. From there it was only another mile to walk to the meeting place with Brin. They walked in silence for most of the journey, except for whispered warnings about any drops or bumps in the walk, since they dared not risk a light.

Lily woke up only briefly once on their journey through the sewers, and seemed delirious, not knowing where she was. Nate was growing more concerned for her by the minute. Christopher could feel the fever raging in her, and none of them would be able to live with themselves if they had come to late.
As the light from the outside began to appear, they relaxed. The plan had worked, they were almost through, Nate kept telling himself. Soon they’d all be away, and Brin would be safe with him.

They climbed cautiously out of the sewers, seeing no one around or in sight, and began creeping in the shadows.

Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, dark figures began moving out of the shadows towards them. Fear overtook Nate’s mind as he stood shocked. This wasn’t supposed to happen. They were so close. How had they known where’d they be? He reached for his sword and could see Lia drawing a knife out of her pocket, ready to fight. Christopher gently placed Lily on the ground and drew his own sword.

The mocking laughter of the Nargarth rang through the night as they closed in the circle.

“Did you honestly believe you could fool the Nargarth twice?” one hissed, in a voice harsher than Death. “Nothing goes on in the dungeons that we do not know about.”
Nate shuddered in fear but Christopher yelled out in fury, charging at them. Lia shouted out for him to stop, but he kept going. The Nargarth simply raised his hand and they all froze in place, except for their eyes, all filled with panic.

“Foolish boy. As if your mortal weapons could wound one such as I. I must thank you, for returning our escaped guest to us,” he said, as he sidestepped Christopher, who’s eyes hardened in anger as the Nargarth walked towards Lia and brushed his gloved hand against her cheek. Her eyes flashed in disgust.

“Take them away,” he said, and strode out of the clearing. The only thought on Nate’s mind as he was hauled away roughly by the remaining Nargarth was a plea to the spirits that Brin wasn’t caught, and would be smart enough to stay away.

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia   Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:15 pm

Lia

Lia woke up slowly, some thought was pulling at the back of her mind but she couldn’t place what it was. She opened her eyes slowly, and saw a dark red canopy above her. She realized she was lying on a soft bed, with the perfect pillows and fancy, warm, coverings on top of her. She sat up in confusion. She couldn’t remember anything that happened since heading back to the city to save Lily. She looked around her.

She was in a huge room, painted in soft reds and orange with soft, gorgeous carpets lining the floor. She swung her feet out of bed and curled her toes in the soft fabric. She stood up and walked around the room. Paintings lined the walls and a roaring fire blazed in a huge marble fire place. Bookshelves lined the walls, and she swept her fingers across the titles as she looked at them in awe. A wooden door sat between two of the bookshelves and she slowly opened it. She gasped in shock. A large, marble floored bathroom containing a huge bath, fluffy towels and everything else that could be asked of a bathroom.

She returned to the bedroom and crossed the room to a wardrobe on the other side of the room. Two couches sat facing each other in front of the wardrobe. She noticed a gorgeous green dress lying on the back of the couch. She touched it with two fingers and was surprised at how soft it was. She hadn’t felt a dress so soft since she lived with her own people so long ago.

She sat back down on the bed, one leg crossed underneath her, and leaned back on her pillows. Where was she? She racked her brains, but nothing came back to her.

There was a soft knock on the door and it slowly opened.

A young girl entered, with gorgeous blonde curls cascading down her back and carrying a tray of food; she smiled when she saw Lia.

“Miss Lia, you’re awake. It’s about time.”

Lia smiled back uneasily.

“Um…where am I?

The girl’s smile fell out of place for just a second, but Lia didn’t miss it. “I think it’d be better for Richard to explain that to you himself.”

She placed the tray of food on the table between the couches and beckoned Lia over.

“Some warm eggs and bread for you,” she said, uncovering the tray. The delicious smell of hot food drifted up to her and her stomach growled.

“I’ll come back when you’re doing eating to help you get dressed,” and she left without another word, leaving Lia confused and alone with nothing left to do but eat. The eggs seemed to melt on her tongue and the bread was soft and delicious. It’d been a long time since she’d had a proper meal.

After eating, the girl returned and Lia realized she’d never asked her name.

“Emily,” the girl replied. “Now let’s get you in a bath. Richard’s expecting you in an hour.”

Emily helped Lia get out of her bedclothes and helped wash and brush out her hair, getting all the tangles out of her hair. She then helped her into the green dress and did her hair in a loose bun at the nape of her neck with one curl hanging down in front of her face.

“Perfect,” she said, admiring her handiwork and spraying some perfume on her body. “You’re ready.”

“Ready for what? Can’t you tell me anything?”

“No, it’d really be better coming from Richard himself. He can get a bit touchy when his orders aren’t followed,” she said, a little nervously in Lia’s opinion.

Lia frowned a little, wondering what about Richard frightened the girl.

“Just follow me and I’ll take you to him, okay?”

Lia nodded, deciding not to push the girl and followed her out into the hallway. The splendor of the hallway astonished her. She couldn’t imagine where she could be with such splendor. What was going on?

The walls were lined with flowers and paintings and door after door were on either side of the hallway, with hallways branching off from this one. Lia followed Emily down three flights of stairs and into a grand foyer, marble lining the walls, and a grand staircase was in the middle of the room. She knocked on a pair of double doors. A deep voice said “Come in.”

Emily pushed open the door and beckoned Lia into the room, who nervously stepped in. She looked behind her to see Emily smile once at her and shut the door behind her. She felt much more alone without the young girl with her. She turned around again to face the man sitting behind the big desk.

A dark haired man, with short hair and startling blue eyes, slim, with a pleasant smile on his face sat behind the desk. For some reason, Lia couldn’t shake the feeling that he was not all that he seemed.

“Hello, Lia. Welcome, I hope you find the accommodations to your liking. Why don’t you take a seat,” he said, gesturing at a comfortable looking seat in front of his desk.

“I don’t mean to sound rude but…who exactly are you?”

He laughed lightly.

“It’s not you who’s being rude, but I. Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Richard.” He held out his hand for her to shake and she took it. He kissed her hand gently.

“Can I offer you a drink?” he asked, holding up a bottle of red wine.

“Of course,” Lia smiled back. She might as well get comfortable while she sees where this is going.

She took the glass and took a sip.

“It’s delicious, thank you.”

“I hope you don’t mind me saying, but you’re dress looks quite flattering on you.”

Lia smiled, a little uncomfortable. She knew this man from somewhere, but she couldn’t place it.

“I’m sorry, I’m having trouble remembering how I got here…the last thing I remember was—“ She broke off, not knowing how much she could say.

“Sneaking into the dungeons to help a high security prisoner escape?” The man said lightly, but there seemed to be a dangerous undertone to his words. All of a sudden, her brain seemed to speed up as memories came flooding back. Drugging the soldiers, helping Lily out through the cities, falling into the trap of the Nargarth, being taken away from the forest, and then everything had gone black. She dropped the glass and it shattered on the floor with a crash, splattering wine everywhere. She stood up quickly in anger.

“Where are my friends?” she demanded.

“Now really,” Richard, who she now realized must be none other than King Richard himself, said with a smile playing on his lips. “Is this how you treat someone who’s been taking care of you?”

“The last I can remember,” she said through gritted teeth, “you captured me from my home town, dragged me to your dungeons for a reason you would not explain and have me tortured. What did you do with my friends?”

“Please sit back down. I can explain everything.”

She continued standing up, starting down at him, fury etched in every line of her face. He sighed and folded his hands.

“We couldn’t decide if you were who we were looking for without finding out if the Rebellion wanted you to. I think you’ll find that you were not as tortured as you think you were. I had my Sorceror’s place a protective charm on you that kept your body from the actual damage; only your mind and spirit were beaten down on, though I regret the pain, which I’m sure felt very real. But I do believe it has made you a stronger person. Surely you didn’t think that you recovered from supposed week of torture in only eleven days. The Nargarth knew an escape was being planned. They knew when and where it was taking place. They took after you in chase and put an enchantment that would put you into a sleep for a time while your body “healed”. It would need more than just your ancient blood to allow you to heal that quickly.”

Lia took a step back, stumbling into a table behind her and holding onto it to steady herself. She should have known her escape was too easy.

“How did you know I’d come back?”

“It was quite simply. The Nargarth came to know you during some of their lighter questioning, you probably don’t remember it as it was buried under other memories, but they came to know about your personality. You wouldn’t let someone who risked their life for you die in your place. Quite noble of you. And even better, you brought an official of the Resistance back with you and enable us to capture the traitor among us.” He smiled at her, but her stomach clenched; she thought she might be sick.

“Where are my friends?” she whispered, her voice little less than a whisper.

He sighed. “I see you will not be persuaded to another topic of conversation. I warn you, you will not like what I have to say.”

“Tell me,” she said, and couldn’t help tears from springing into her eyes. She brushed them away roughly, frustrated to show weakness.

“Nate and Christopher are being held in the dungeons together—“he ignored her dry sob, “they are after all traitor and spy. We’ve let Brin continue to believe that we don’t know she’s involved, giving her a second chance to turn her priorities around or at least lead us to the Resistance fort.”

Lia sank back into her chair.

“Please, she’s only fourteen. Just leave her alone. And Christopher doesn’t know anything, and I tricked Nate into helping us. He had no idea what he was really doing.”

Richard chuckled. “You don’t honestly expect me to believe that, do you? Christopher seemed more than a little infatuated with the young lady we were keeping in our dungeon, and we’ve had tabs on Nate for over a year now, we know he acted of his own accord.”

A moan of distress escaped through Lia’ lips.

“What of Lily? Please, may I see her?”

“Unfortunately, she happened to be the cousin of the very leader of the Resistance, and we truly hoped to get some information out of her. We underestimated the time it would take you to plan a rescue attempt, and the Nargarth had to put an enchantment on her to keep her with us for the last few weeks. She was never much help to us in terms of information on the Resistance…but she was essential to getting you back to us. However, she was very…damaged. You saw her last night. Even with the help of your own people, her survival was unlikely. She slipped away into the lands of the Spirit last night.”

It was her fault. All her fault. Her escape had been planned from the beginning. Lily was just another pawn for them, unknowingly. Images of her tortured, broken body and Christopher clutching her dying body swam in her brain. Lia bent over and heaved up the contents of her breakfast.

Richard looked at her in concern.

“Are you all right? Is there anything I can get you?”

She stared at him for a minute and then backhanded him straight across the face. Though he didn’t stagger, the imprint of her hand could be seen on his face. His eyes darkened.

“You torture my friends, use them as pawns, carry out some scam of torturing me, and for what? To satisfy your own self-centered desire to rule everything and everyone. You murdered not only my friend tonight, my best friend’s sister. You dare look me in the eye and act as if this is for my own good? You dare keep me here in these lavish surroundings while my friends are held in the bowels of your dungeons? You should be ashamed.”

Her hand swung back to slap him again but he caught her wrist tightly in his hand.

“I do not like my courtesies being thrown back in my face when I worked hard to ensure your comfort. Nor do I appreciate your conclusions without knowing the whole story. Please, take a seat.”

He dropped her wrist. She turned on her heel and stalked towards the door. When she went to turn the handle, she found the door locked.

“Let me out,” she demanded.

“No,” the man replied calmly, only further angering her.

“Let me out,” she growled.

“Not until you hear what I have to say.”

“I don’t want to hear anything you have to say. You’re a murderer.”

He sighed.

“You’re obviously unwell and confused. I’ll have Emily see you up to your room and ensure that you’re taken care of and given the proper rest.”

“I don’t need rest,” she spat. “I need to be put among my friends in the dungeon, since I was involved in their plots. Why should I be getting the special treatment?”

“I think you’ll find you are a very special person.” He looked at her speculatively, and she grew uncomfortable.

“You’ll dine with me for supper and discuss all these misunderstandings.”

“I do not wish to dine with you.”

“I think you misunderstood me. It was not a request, it was a command.” His tone was icy cold as he stared her down. He rang a bell by his desk and the door immediately opened. Emily stood, an obviously forced smile plastered to her face, as she looked between Lia standing angry at the door and Richard’s hard eyes behind his desk.

“I’m afraid our guest is still feeling unwell. Take her back to her rooms and see she receives the proper rest. I expect her for dinner. And send someone in here, we had an accident.” He gestured to the broken glass and sick on the floor.

“Of course, sir, at once,” she bobbed once in a curtsey. “This way Miss Lia.”

Lia strode out of the room, ignoring Emily’s frightened looks at her out of the corner of her eye. As soon as she reached her room, she slammed the door in Emily’s face and locked the door. After doing so, she felt mildly guilty. After all, it wasn’t Emily’s fault that she’d been captured by the most feared man in the kingdom, or removed from her friends.

Tears swelled up in her eyes. It wasn’t fair. Everyone kept calling her special, but she didn’t feel it. Not in the least. A woman had been tortured because of her, a young girl was now being watched, her fate on whether she would betray her brother her not. Christopher and Nate, stuck in the dungeons, probably being tortured themselves. It was all too much.

She picked up a small glass ornament of an owl sitting on the bedside table and flung it at the wall. It made a satisfying crash as glass sprayed everywhere, littering the floor like fallen teardrops. Once she started she couldn’t stop. Decorations were smashed, paintings smashed to the group, books ripped from their shelves and thrown unceremoniously onto the floor. By the time her anger had dissipated, debris littered the room; much of the furniture was ruined, and only then was she satisfied. Tears leaked down her face as she crumpled to the floor where she stand and began to sob. She sobbed for her friends, for Lily and even gave herself the time to feel sorry for herself.

She was awakened hours later by a soft knock on the door. Lia groaned as she sat up. He muscles were sore from how she had been sleeping, with books lying underneath her at odd angles. She ignored the knock.

It came again, more urgently. Again, she ignored it.

“Miss Lia?” Emily’s soft voice called.

“Go away, Emily,” Lia called back loudly.

“Miss Lia, you have dinner with Richard. We need to get you going.”

“I said go away, Emily.”

The young girl’s voice grew panicked.

“I have to get you ready, Miss Lia, or Richard will be angry with me. Please, let me in.”

Lia cursed the girl. Just one more person to be punished on her account. As angry as she was, she couldn’t allow that to happen. She pushed herself to her feet and strode to the door, unlocking it and throwing it open. Emily’s eyes grew wide as she looked past her into the destroyed.

“Dear spirits,” she stammered. “I’ll…I’ll got get someone to clear this up while we get you ready.”

Lia felt the surge of guilt again as she saw how uncomfortable the girl was not knowing if she would be punished for this too. She sighed.

“Thank you,” she responded curtly, and allowed Emily to usher her into the bathroom and strip off her now ruined dress and replace it with a red gown. She fixed her hair again in elegant curls.

“Much better,” she said softly. Lia didn’t respond.

They went back out into the bedroom to find servants clearing away the last of the glass and placing the books back up on their shelves. It both angered and shamed her to see them clearing away her tantrum. But what did she expect? Richard to be the one to clean it up? Hardly. They all stopped to bow to her before returning to their work. She looked down at the ground uncomfortably.

“Miss Lia, it’s time to go now.”

“Emily, please, just call me Lia,” she sighed, annoyed with the girls continued use of ‘Miss’.

The girl turned red.

“I’m sorry Miss Lia, but Richard insists we give you the proper respect.”

Lia gritted her teeth.

“Yes, well, it would appear that Richard insists on a lot of things.”

Emily flashed her a frightened look before taking her arm and leading her out of the room, down a different hallway then where they’d gone earlier. Lia couldn’t help thinking that this was an intentional way of confusing her into not knowing exactly where she was to prevent escapes. She began counting rights and lefts. She was determined to prove them wrong.

She was ushered into a surprisingly small dining room, with a table only big enough for four. Richard was already seated at the table, with that irritating, all knowing smile playing across his lips as he watched her eyes darken and fists clench when she was lead to her seat across from him.

Emily exited the room quickly and was replaced by two servers who placed bowls of soup in front of them. As hungry as she was, Lia refused to touch hers, and was content to simply glare at Richard. He chuckled.

“Well, you do have some spirit, that’s for sure. Destroying one of my finest rooms does take a fair bit of boldness, wouldn’t you agree?”

She continued to glare. His eyes flickered with annoyance.

“As willful as you may be, I’m still your King and I expect to be treated with the proper respect. You’ll answer me when spoken to or you, and your friends will face the consequences.”

She thought she might be sick again. He knew he had everything in place to get her to obey him. She would not allow any more of her friends to die for her.

“Let my friends go, and I’ll do whatever it is you ask of me.”

“You really do surprise me. I expected a little bit more of a fight before you began giving yourself up like this.”

“They were only doing what I made them do,” she lied smoothly. “They have no real part in this. Just let them go on their way, including Brin, and I will not give you any more trouble.”

He took a spoonful of his soup, not giving much care for the conversation.

“But you see, Lia, you really haven’t given me all that much trouble. More of a nice game to keep me amused while we waited to see if you were worth our trouble. Now that we know you are, we really have nothing to fear from you.”

Lia stiffened at the obvious insult.

“All this ‘trouble’ you supposedly gave us was our own plan, so it was really not trouble at all. And now that I have you here with us, and your friends in the dungeon, and you so willing to save them, I think you will continue to give us no trouble.”

“If you have me so well controlled, why do you feel the need to continue to hold the others?”

“For many reasons, first of which is to see that you remain in our control. With them so happily in our control, you cannot act out without them feeling the repercussions. Secondly, out of our own curiosity. Much the same as the woman, or perhaps more correctly, differently than the woman, these men are deep in the council of the Resistance. And their assistance to our cause will be invaluable.”

“That ‘woman’ had a name,” Lia hissed, eyes in slits from her anger. “And you murdered her.”

“It’s not murder if we’re in a war.”

“She didn’t know anything. You knew she didn’t know anything! And yet you had to break her mind, body and spirit.” Lia felt close to tears again but she would not show weakness in front of this cruel man.

“Think of it as a message, then, to her cousin to give up now.”

“That’s sick,” she whispered. “Her cousin was nothing but kind to me, and after all I’ve seen, I believe they have good enough cause to continue.”

“That man would use you as a pawn in his plots and sacrifice you for his own gains. Do not make him out to be a hero.”

“And are you not doing the same? Trapping me here, torturing my companions, killing them? You would use me for your devices.”

He smiled in a sickening predatorily way.

“Ah, but you see, at least I’ll admit it, whereas he would hide his true motives with soft words, manipulation and with an attempt to win your heart. An honest man is always better than a manipulator.”

She snorted in disbelief.

“Is the meal not to your liking?” he asked, looking at her untouched food.

“I fear I have no appetite,” she responded coldly.

That secret smile of his flashed across his face again.

“How tragic,” he smirked.

There was a brief moment of silence as they each stared each other down.

“I want to see my friends.”

“But of course.”

She looked at him startled.

“You mean to let me?’

“What good would refusing you do? At least then you’d stop bothering and bickering with me like a child over morals during wartime. Seeing them will appease you.”

“For the moment,” she hissed.

His eyes sparked mischievously in response.

“Upon the morrow I’ll take you there myself.”

She nodded curtly; she had hoped a servant would take her there, and then they could perhaps talk in secret, but of course the King would be smarter than to allow that to take place.

A messenger walked into the room and whispered something to the King, who frowned in what looked like annoyance. He muttered something in return, but as hard as Lia strained her ears, she could not hear what he said. He pushed back his chair.

“If you’ll excuse me, I have business to attend to elsewhere. Roger,” he gestured to the servant waiting in the corner of the room, “will take care of your meal. Perhaps you’ll find your appetite will return soon.”

She looked at him in silence. He turned towards Roger.

“Take her directly to her room when finished, and see that Emily has the room ready for bed. Please inform the girl that I will be taking our guest to see the prisoners in the morning and she should be ready.”

“Of course, sir,” he said, bowing low as the King exited the room swiftly.

“I will not be eating,” she said, pushing back her food and standing up. She would not gorge herself while her companions starved in the dungeons.

“As you wish, miss,” Roger said politely and led her up to her room.

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia   Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:16 pm

Brin

Brin was blindfolded, and had no idea where she was. The Resistance had found her wandering near the entrance of the Fort, and had captured her out of suspicion when she went back and forth, obviously looking for something. Nate had told her approximately where it was, but he expected to be with her when they entered, so hadn’t given her pass codes, exact locations or anything, really, to go on.

She had pleaded with the soldier who found her to take her to the captain right away, but apparently he was out on a mission and would not be returning for some time. Many of the people in the Fort had looked at her suspiciously: she knew no one there, and many suspected her of being a spy. Luckily, a man named David, one of Christopher’s close friends had believed what she had to say and convinced the others to let him go after Robb and Darren as long as she was kept blindfolded as if a prisoner to be sure she didn’t see anything.

They agreed, albeit reluctantly, and so here she was, riding on the front of a horse, with a stranger she didn’t know, blindfolded and completely at his will. They rode in silence for the majority of the time and only stopped twice a day to eat and take care of business. The lack of sight and rocking of the horse had Brin completely bored, and she often dozed lightly. Whenever she wasn’t sleeping, her mind was going in all directions, and there was no time when she was not worried sick for Nate and the others.

When they at first did not show up at the meeting spot, she assumed they were just running late, but after a while, she decided to go to the sewers and look for them. She had been horrified to find all her companions frozen in place, surrounded by Nargarth. She stayed hidden in the bushes, quieter than she’d ever been in her life and watched as they were all taken away, except for Lily, who was killed right on the spot, her broken body lying dead on the ground. After they left, leaving Lily’s body behind for the animals, Brin had been sick. She had slowly approached the dead woman, whose eyes were staring blankly, reflecting the light of the stars. She looked smaller in death than she had in life, and less than human, broken as she was. And yet, her eyes, blank as they were, almost looked relieved to be released from the pain of life. It had pained Brin to see her like that, wondering what she was like before she had gotten involved in all of this. She had moved the body herself and brought it to a small cave nearby, covering up the entrance with rocks so the animals couldn’t get to it, but marking it as different so the Resistance could come back and retrieve her body some day.

“Brin,” David said softly, startling her from her thoughts. “We’ll be reaching the first scouts soon. Just a heads up so they don’t startle you.”

Before she could thank him, a deep voice said “Halt! Who goes there?” and the sounds of bows being strung onto the string was audible. Brin tensed; she wished she could at least see what was going on.

“It’s David, I’ve got urgent news from the Dark City. We need to see Robb right away.”

The soldiers seemed to recognize David, because she could hear the bows being lowered, arrows put back into their packs, and some of the guards called out welcomes to him. No one said anything about the blindfolded girl on the horse; she couldn’t help but wondered just how many times they took prisoners if they were so relaxed about the situation. They followed the guard and soon heard the noise of a small camp, fires cracking, the laughter and talking of men.

“Would it be okay to take the blindfold off her? It was the only way to get the others to agree to take her here, but she’s one of us.”

The soldier must have nodded in consent, because David gently removed the blindfold. She blinked, eyes adjusting to the light coming from the fires and smiled up at him.

“Thank you,” she said gratefully. He smiled crookedly at her.

They reached a tent distinguishable from all the others only by its size, being twice that of any other, but it was made of the same rough material as the others. The guard signaled them to wait outside the tent, and he ducked under. He was only gone a minute before he returned, gesturing them inside.

Two men, both tall and dark haired were talking urgently, maps lay out in front of them. They cut off abruptly when she entered and looked her over. David stepped forward and introduced her, quickly explaining how she’d searched out the Resistance. Once they heard who she was, the taller of the two stepped forward, graciously holding out his hand for her to shake.

“Please to meet you, my lady,” he said in a soft voice, “I’m Robb, captain of the Resistance, and this here is Darren, my second in command. What could be so urgent that Nate would not send a message, or come himself?”

Her eyes welled up with tears, and Robb looked concerned, his light appearance changing immediately. He motioned to Darren who pulled up a chair for her to sit in.

“You look exhausted. Would you like to eat or rest before delivering the message?”

She shook her head urgently.

“No, it’s too important,” she said seriously.

The both returned to their seats, and looked at her, their full attention fixed on her.

“It’s Nate,” she breathed. “And Christopher and Lia. We tried to rescue Lily, we had a whole plan worked out; Nate and I had snuck in on Lily numerous times, delivering messages and news, keeping her company, helping her the best we could, and we thought we could pull off an escape.” She broke off, tears leaking out of her eyes. She wiped them away with the back of her hand.

“Go on,” Darren said gently, giving her hand a reassuring squeeze.

“They took them,” she moaned, and the two men took sharp intakes of breath. “I watched them from the bushes. There was nothing I could do. It was the whole Nargarth fleet and it was obvious they knew when and where the escape was taking place. I don’t know how, no one else knew but us, I’m positive. But they were there, and they too them all away and I don’t know where or what they’re doing.”

She broke down into sobs, burying her face in her hands. Robb’s face was twisted in confusion and sadness, and Darren looked angry.

“What of Lily?” Robb asked.

“They…they killed her,” she whispered, and winced at the noise that came from Robb’s throat, the pure agony. “I think it was a relief to her, they had not treated her kindly,” she said, trailing off, wondering how much she should say.

“I took her body to the caves near where they ambushed us to keep her from the animals. She deserved better.”

Robb had a far off, distance look on his face and Darren took once look at him, and his face hardened.

“You cannot blame yourself, Robb. We’ve gone over this, it was of their own choosing they went and knew that they most likely would not come back. It was foolish of them to go and attempt to rescue her. As for Lily, you warned her of the risks. You begged her to rethink her decision. She would not, and you know as well as I that she would gladly have given her life away so that the Resistance may flourish.”

Robb looked up in anger.

“What difference has it made? Lia is now captured with the others and my cousin is dead,” he snapped.

A gasp cut through the brief moment of silence that followed. All their heads whipped around, and Brin saw a girl who could only be a few older than herself collapsing to the floor in a faint.

Darren jumped up with a curse, and ran to her side, catching her before she could hurt herself and carrying her limp body to the bed in the corner of tent. Robb was staring at the girl, his eyes filled with a sadness that went beyond her own.

“Is that Anya?” Brin asked quietly, remembering the girl Lily had been so anxious to hear news about. Darren nodded curtly, brushing back hair from the girl’s face and calling her name softly, attempting to make her regain conscious.

Her eyes slowly fluttered open and her arms reached up to embrace Darren as she began to sob.

“Is it true?” she whispered, her voice dripping with emotion. Darren glanced quickly at Robb who nodded, resigned to her knowing.

“I’m sorry, Anya,” he whispered, holding her tightly as her body wracked with sobs. When she began to quiet, he scooped her up into his arms.

“I’m going to take her to my tent. She’s going to need someone to be around, and you can finish up the meeting.”

Robb looked after him, a slightly concerned look on his face, and Brin wondered if Darren and Anya were in some type of relationship. It sure looked like it to her. He turned to face her, taking a deep breath.

“Do you have any idea where they were taken?”

Brin shook her head.

“I can only guess, but I assume the dungeons. There haven’t been any public executions, which I’m sure they’d do with a member of the Resistance so I think they must still be alive at the least.” Her voice broke.

“I’m sorry,” Robb said tiredly, “I almost forgot that you lost someone too. Let me find you accommodations for the night and we can continue this conversation in the morning. Thank you for bringing us news, as awful as it is.”

She nodded and allowed herself to be led out of the tent and out into the nights. The stars winked at her, and she couldn’t get her mind off the dead look in Lily’s eyes, as the stars glistened in them.

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia   Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:16 pm

Christopher

Christopher sat wearily up against the wall. He had no idea how much time had passed since their capture, he and Nate had simply woken up to find themselves alone together in a small, rocky cell. No one had come to see them, not even to bring them food and water, or torture them and he wondered if they would be tortured long or simply sent off for public execution. Every time he drifted off to sleep, he dreamed of Lily’s broken body; he assumed she must be dead, she would not have lasted long without great medical help, and the Nargarth surely wouldn’t waste their efforts on one they tortured for so long.

Lia was his biggest concern. She was not in the cell with them, and they had tried shouting down the hallway to see if she might be in an adjoining cell with no luck. Images of Lia being beaten and broken to the state Lily was in kept flooding his brain, and he thought he may go insane if he didn’t find out where she was soon.

Nate kept quiet for the majority of the time, staring up and the walls. Christopher knew he was most worried about his sister, as they had no idea if she had been caught as well or had managed to elude capture and suspicion. He looked over at Nate, and found him staring blankly at the wall as he suspected. He sighed and began rolling a loose stone in his fingers, his mind drifting back to Lia, her golden curls, her violet eyes piercing his like they did so well.

The sound of footsteps coming down the hallway brought him back to his senses and he nudged Nate with his foot, bringing him back to reality and gesturing with his head down the hallway. Nate nodded once, showing he heard it too. They both stood up, waiting wearily for whatever was coming for them.

It came as a huge surprise when Lia herself rounded the corner, dressed in traveling clothes and looking thoroughly untouched, the last thing he had expected. When she saw them, she ran to their cell, reaching through the bars to clasp his hands in her own. It both shocked and pleased him when she reached up, put her hands on either side of her face and kissed him deeply through the bars, tears streaming down her cheeks.

She stopped abruptly when a man came into view, face expressionless but his eyes alight with amusement. Christopher knew this man could not be good news.

“Are you hurt?” she asked urgently, turning to Nate as well, eyes filled with concern.

“No, we’re fine, we’ve been completely ignored. Are you okay?” His eyes darted suspiciously at the man, who stood a few feet back from Lia, but watched them all intently.

“I’m unhurt as well,” she said, but something about the stiffness of her words made Christopher uneasy. Though she seemed not to be hurt physically he couldn’t understand what she was doing here, not as a prisoner, but accompanied by this strange man. Who was he? He turned to Nate, and found him staring at the man, his face chalk white and eyes wide with horror.

“Lia,” Christopher said quietly but forcefully, staring into her violet eyes. “Who is that man? How did you come here?”

“That would be the King,” Nate snarled, his eyes now alight with fury. He grabbed the cuff of Lia’s shirt through the bars and pulled her up against the bar. She gasped in surprise; Christopher could not move, too shocked with the proclamation that the man standing before him was the most powerful, cruel and feared man in the kingdom.

“Are you working for him?” Nate hissed. “Did you betray us?” He gave her a jerk, smashing her up against the bars again. Christopher was in the midst of protesting, anger flaring up in him at such an accusation when the King strode forward in two quick strokes.

“Release her,” he commanded, his voice tight with undisguised fury. Nate shoved her away in disgust and she fell to the floor, unbalanced. Christopher shoved Nate, sending him sprawling onto the ground as well. When he looked back at Lia, the King had his arm around hers to help her up.

“Don’t touch me,” she hissed, hatred in her eyes as she pushed herself off the ground. Christopher did not like the amused look in his eyes; he was treating her like a misguided child, silly and stupid in their beliefs. Nate was standing up against the wall, arms folded and glaring at the two visitors.

“What are you doing to her?” demanded Christopher, staring at the man, refusing to show just how frightened he was.

“I am not doing anything to her but showing her how misguided she has been. She is a guest in my house and will remain so. She insisted on seeing you and I consented. Her behavior will determine how the two of you are treated, and how much information she can give me will determine if it is necessary to take it from the two of you. Obviously, that would upset her, which we can’t have now, can we?”

His voice dripped with sarcasm and Christopher’s jaw clenched. Lia was strong willed and bold, but he had come to know her greatly in the las few weeks and knew she would not let others suffer for her. She would do whatever this man asked of her if it would mean saving them. It hurt him to see her, staring at the floor, shame apparent on her face.

“Lia,” he said sternly, and those violet eyes came up to meet his. “Don’t let him win, Lia. Don’t give yourself up to him in fear of what will be done to us. I have no doubt they will do it anyway. You cannot trust any promises made by this man.”

The King laughed, a loud sound that echoed in the caves.

“You have been given your time,” he said coldly, grabbing Lia’s arm and beginning to pull her away. “It’s time to return to the palace.”

Panic filled her eyes and Christopher felt the same panic flood through him. He could not lose her so soon.

“Please,” she begged, attempting to resist the brute force taking her away, “let me at least say goodbye.”

The man had that amused look again as he let go of her arm. Christopher was angered to see the marks left behind by the tightness of his grip. She staggered over to the bars and kissed Christopher again, deeper this time. Somehow, Christopher got the feeling this would be the last time he would kiss her, and also feared that the evil man would be able to use this against her somehow. Thinking of Nate, and the fear he had that was surely the reason he responded so harshly to Lia, leaned close to her.

“Brin?” he breathed, too soft for the King, who was halfway down the hall, to hear.

“Alive,” she breathed back, “but watched.”

Christopher nodded once and slowly released her hand.

“Stay strong,” he whispered.

She gave him a sad smile, before turning slowly on her heel and approaching the King, head held high as she walked right past him without acknowledging him at all. Christopher heard the low chuckle of the man before he started after her. Christopher sank to the ground, despair filling him at the thought of Lia in the hands of that man.


Christopher waited until they had turned the corner and were out of earshot before turning to Nate and giving him the news on Brin. Nate sunk to the floor in relief that she was okay.

“But you know she’s not going to stay hidden for long,” he groaned. “It wouldn’t’ surprise me if she’s already out looking for us.”

“She’s smart, she knows better.”

“She may be smart, but she’s also emotional. She won’t be able to just sit around and do nothing. I wonder if they have told my father yet that I’m the one who helped Lia escape.”

Christopher sat down next to him, not quite sure what to say. Nate sighed.

“I should have known the escape was too easy and called it off. There was no way a high security prisoner would not be more heavily guarded.”

“We all should have known. The Nargarth didn’t even chase after her when she was escaping when they could have easily caught her. We should have known from the start. It’s my fault for bringing her here. At least then she wouldn’t be back where she started.”

“No offense, Christopher, but I think we’re a little bit worse off then she is.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure. She’s in the lion’s den, we’re just in the back of their minds. Though she might be living in better conditions then us, I wouldn’t think for a minute that she’s having a good time. Not to mention she’s being blackmailed with our safety.”

Nate shrugged, but he looked a little appeased. Christopher knew he was only blaming Lia out of his worry for his own sister. They stared off on their own, neither really having anything worse saying. What was there to say? Not only had they failed themselves, but they failed their other companions, the Resistance and left Nate’s sister alone, watched by the Nargarth for any possible signs of rebellion where she’d be captured and whisked off to the dungeons with the rest of them. The Spirits only knew what was happening to Lia.

She looked healthy enough, no signs of injury at least, but there was a haunted look on her face that she could not completely shake even as she attempted to put on a brave face for them. And the King. Christopher shuddered just thinking about it. The fact that he was personally accompanying her on this visit made it only too clear that she was his personal project—that could not bode well, for anyone.

Nate elbowed him sharply in the ribs, and then Christopher heard it: the sound of footsteps approaching echoed through the hallway. They both peered around the bars, attempting to see who their next visitor was. Christopher prayed that it wouldn’t be the Nargarth here to question him.

Nate gave a sharp inhale and Christopher felt all the blood leave his face as they realized who it was: Richard. They both took a step back, putting as much distance between this evil man and themselves as they could. There was a hard, cold look in his eyes as he approached them, looking them up and down as if they were mere bugs upon his shoes. Anger boiled up inside of Christopher as he thought of those cold eyes following Lia around, always watching and trying to break her down.

“What are you doing with her?” he demanded, and was glad to see that he was so angered that his voice didn’t crack.

‘It is not for you to question me,” he said coldly. “I’ve come to tell you how this is going to work. Lia has agreed to do whatever it is I ask of her—“Nate cursed and kicked the wall, while Christopher’s heart sank, “in exchange for regular visits to the two of you unharmed,” he continued ignoring their previous outbursts. “Her behaviors determines your punishment, though I guarantee, physically harmed or not, you will be punished and will give us information.”

The hairs on the back of Christopher’s neck stood up and the dangerous tone in his voice.

“We won’t tell you anything,” Nate hissed.

“Ah, but you see, any resistance on your part will result in the capture and torture of your sister. We have tabs on her that are watching her every move.”

Nate’s face turned white and he said nothing, glaring at them man.

“As for you, Christopher, your resistance will result in the punishment of Lia, whether she realizes or not. You must understand, she’s a beautiful woman, and I can be very…convincing when I want to be.”

His mouth twisted up in what must have been meant as a smile but Christopher’s blood had turned to ice.

“If you touch her—“

“You’ll what?” the King said snidely. “I hardly think you’re in the position to make threats. Actions like that are the reason that she is going to be punished. And to show you I don’t make empty threats, she will be punished.”

Christopher ran at the King slamming up against the bars in anger and Nate pulled him back away from the amused stare of the man.

“Let it go,” he whispered quietly in his ears. “He’s just trying to get an excuse to do something awful to her.”

The man smiled. “You’re friend appears to be more intelligent than you are. Enjoy your night,” he mocked as he turned around and walked away.

Christopher punched the wall, not caring that his knuckles cracked open and bled from the rough stone. He punched the wall again, vowing that he would be the one to kill the King.

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia   Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:17 pm

Lia

Lia was in the middle of admiring a painting on the walls when Emily regretfully admitted that she had duties elsewhere and could no longer give her a tour. Disappointed, as she was using this time to memorize every turn in every hallway for
later, she made to head back to the room.

“Oh, no, Miss Lia. You aren’t a prisoner, here. Richard has given you full permission to explore and go wherever you will without restrictions so long as you stay in the palace itself. You may go wherever you wish.”

Slightly puzzled at why he would allow her to wander on her own. Admittedly, she probably wasn’t much of a threat to him, his guards or anyone else in the palace, but surely he should be a bit more concerned about where she’s heading and what she might find.

She sighed to herself, pondering where she would like to go. The best place to explore would most likely be the servants’ quarters and areas, since that’s where you could get away with going and coming unnoticed most easily, with all the hustle and bustle of servants running to and thro. Though she wanted to head off there straight away, she decided the best thing to do was to go back to her wardrobe and try to find something much more run down and servant like, in order for her to be less noticeable.

She began down towards her room, and only got mixed up twice along the way, a good sign, she thought. She peered through the wardrobe and couldn’t find anything that would remotely blend in with the servants. Frustrated, she began opening drawers at random around the room until she found the traveling clothes. Still much nice than a servant’s would be expected to be, it was much more conspicuous then one of the dresses, and she might be mistaken as just a messenger.

After changing, she made her way to the servant’s areas, still looking closely at every door and branching of the hallway. She opened the small door that Emily had said belonged to the servants and found herself in a dark hallway. There was a small staircase, no where near as fine as those in the other sections of the house, which she took down into the kitchen area. As she suspected, people barely gave her glance, too busy with the chores that needed to be done, and as dinner was approaching, the food to feed everyone in the palace was being prepared as quickly as possible.

Lia tried to stay as out of the way as possible so as not to not raise attention to herself so she wandered through the kitchen, keeping close to the edges. She opened one of the doors from the kitchen and found herself in the freezer. She quickly closed the door and tried the next one. Inside was the biggest pantry she’d ever seen.

Mouth hanging open, she walked inside, admiring the rows upon rows of food, uncountable. Everything from crackers to chocolate, nuts to fruits lined the walls in the huge room. She was admiring all the jars of spices when she heard the shuffle of a shoe behind her. She spun around and saw a tall, burly man, eyes fierce, standing behind her.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she apologized. “I was just looking.” She made to step around him, looking down at her feet in fear of the towering man, but he blocked her with his arms. She looked up at him, frightened and shocked.

“Excuse me, I’ll get out of your way now,” she said, a note of panic creeping into her voice.

The corners of his mouth turned up in a smile and she began to feel mildly sick inside. He kicked the door shut behind them with his foot and kicked a crate of food in front of the door, effectively barring it shut. Lia began backing up, scared out of her wits now. She tripped over a crate lying on the floor and fell onto her backside, sprawled out on the ground. The man stood directly over her.

“What’s a pretty lady like yourself doing down here by yourself? These clothes look much to fine for a mere servant.” He smiled that nasty smile.

“Please, just let me go.”

“Not until we’ve had a bit of fun.” She tried to back up, but was trapped at the end of the row. He pushed her down onto the ground and she kicked with all her might, connecting with his stomach. He grunted in pain and she took the opportunity to take in a deep breath and scream as loud as she could, praying to the Spirits that someone in the kitchens would hear; she doubted her chances with all the noise going on in the area. He pinned her arms down and sat on top of her, making it impossible for her to move her legs again. She screamed again and he let go of one of her arms and clamped it over her mouth. She rewarded him with a punch in the face and he reeled backwards.

With a growl, he held both of her hands with one of his, and with one swipe of his meaty hand, had yanked the buttons off of her blouse, and he stared down at her exposed chest. Tears streamed down Lia’s face as she struggled underneath him, terrified of what she knew was going to happen to her.

Suddenly, frantic knocking sounds at the door, and she can hear shouting from the kitchen. She thanked the Spirits; someone must have heard her scream. The big man looks away briefly at the door, angrier than ever and starts unbuttoning his pants, seemingly unconcerned about what will happen if the door is opened.

As he came back down on top of her and ripped the buttons open on her traveling pants, the door splintered as an axe came speeding through the door.
“Someone get the guards!” she heard a male’s voice shout.

The man realized he was about to be caught and quickly rolled off her, coming to his feet quickly and re-buttoning his pants. Tears of relief start streaming down Lia’s face but she’s frozen in place from shock. The door bursts open and the man immediately launches into a far-fetched story about how she came on to him and tried to seduce him. Seeing all the staring faces, Lia stands up, trying to put her shirt back on but it’s too ruined to cover herself. Shamed, she holds it against her chest and avoids looking at any of them. Suddenly, she hears the voice of the last person she wanted to find her here.

“What is going on here?” his deep, commanding voice says, filled with fury. He’s accompanied by three of his guards, all with swords drawn. His eyes sweep through the room and he sees her. She turns a darker shade of red and is even more aware of her half-naked body, and the tears she can’t stop streaming down her face. His eyes darken and every line on his face is etched in a fury so strong, many of those around him take a step back. Lia sees her attacker attempting to sneak slowly into the back of the crowd.

“What is the meaning of this?” Richard’s voice cracks like a whip. “Someone lend the girl a cloak!”

The young man who had broken the door down and called for helped quickly took off his own cloak and approached her slowly, averting his eyes from her in embarrassment while he handed her the cloak. She quickly wrapped it around her and brushed away the tears streaming down her cheeks. She must be strong, she told herself, willing herself to believe it.

“Well?” snapped Richard.

The young man approached him, giving a deep bow.

“Sir,” he said respectfully, “as we were preparing dinner in the kitchens I noticed this young lady enter the pantry,” he glanced briefly at her and then away again. “Soon after, Tyler entered as well,” he pointed at Tyler, who stopped his attempt at concealing himself abruptly and began to protest.

“Silence!” barked Richard. “Let him talk. Guards, take him into custody for now.”
His guards moved and grabbed Tyler by the arms tightly, so he couldn’t break away. His eyes kept darting towards the door.

“Continue,” Richard said, not unkindly to the boy, but his eyes were still alight with fury.

“Well, the door shut after a minute, sir, which I thought was mighty suspicious, since all the supplies we needed were out here and I’d never seen the girl before. I went to see what was happening when I heard a scream from inside the room. I tried to open the door but found it barred. That’s when I called for help. We heard the second scream as we were trying to find something to open the door with. I finally took an axe to the door in desperation. Tyler was on top of the young lady, sir, forcing her down. He rolled off real quick when he realized we had the door open but we all saw it.”

Many of the chefs in the room nodded, confirming his story, but Lia only feelt worse knowing how many of them must have seen her exposed.

Richard flung around to face the man, and he seemed to swell to twice his normal size in anger.

“She came on to me, my lord! I swear it—“

“Do not lie to me,” Richard hissed, seething in anger. “Take him to the dungeons.”

The guards nodded once, carrying the still protesting man off.

“You,” he demanded, anger still apparent in your voice as he turned back to her savior. “What’s your name?”

“Mark, sir.”

“I’ll see to it that you get the proper award. For now, you can have the rest of the day off. I thank you most gratefully.” Lia was surprised to find that he did not sound sarcastic or have that ironic tone he used when he was simply playing along. She brushed hair out of her face, still staring down at her feet, hugging the cloak to herself.

“Thank you, sir,” he said, and he sounded surprised.

“You all may go,” Richard declared waving them off. They all exited quickly, not wanting to face any of his leftover wrath. Richard walked towards her slowly, but she continued her dead stare at her feet. She did not want to look in those eyes, sure that they would be mocking her.

“Lia,” he said quietly, and with a gentleness that surprised her. “Are you hurt?”

She bit her lip and shook her head, still not looking up at him.

“Do you feel well enough to walk?”

She nodded again.

“Come on then,” he said, taking her arm—she shuddered briefly, a mix of hate for the man and dislike of being touched after what occurred—but he ignored it, gently helping her out of the room. Lia felt lightheaded and unsteady on her feet as he led her out of the kitchen, away from the staring eyes of the staff and servants and up to her room. He sat her down on the couch, and sat facing her.

“I am ashamed that this has happened,” he said softly. Lia tried to find something in his tone that would give him away for secretly enjoying her shame and having to be rescued by him, but he sounded genuine, making her feel even more shamed and confused. “He will be punished, and most severely,” he promised.

She hesitated for a moment, toying with her hate of the punishments that she has heard Richard performs, and her knowledge that her attacker would only do the same to other woman if remaining on the loose. She nodded again, staring at her hands.

“I’ll send for Emily right away to get you a bath and into better clothes. Dinner will be sent up for you, there’s no reason for you to sup with me, tonight. You need to rest.”
He stood up from the couch and crouched onto the ground, at eye level with her. He put one hand under her chin and lifted up so her eyes had no choice but meet his; they were deep with concern, and they seemed to be pulling her into their depths.

“Send word at once if you need anything,” he encouraged. Their eyes remained locked for a moment more before he stood, and headed towards the door, shattering the connection.

“Thank you,” Lia whispered softly right as he opened the door. He paused briefly, turned her way and nodded at her politely before exiting and closing the door softly behind him.

Moments later, Emily appeared, looking panicked and flustered.

“Oh, Miss Lia, I never should have left you to wander alone! I’m ever so sorry.”

“It was my fault, Emily, don’t blame yourself,” Lia muttered, not really wanting to say anything, but not wanting the young girl to feel any responsibility.
Emily seemed to understand that she didn’t want to talk because she gave her a pitying look before helping her into the bathroom. As she undressed, Emily winced, drawing in a breath. Dark bruises were already forming on Lia’s wrists from where she was held down and her ankle was swollen to twice its normal size from when she twisted it falling backwards.

After her bath, Lia found a meal waiting for her on the table in her room but she was too exhausted to go to bed. Emily helped her into bed, fluffing up the pillows and reminding her again and again that if she needed any help in the night to just ring the bell they placed beside her bed. When she finally left the room, Emily stared up at the ceiling in relief. Now she could finally stop pretending to be okay. Her body was still sore from her struggle with Tyler, but her mind was more confused than ever. Her captor had seemed genuinely concerned for her safety, and not just because she was his grand prize. She hated the man, and yet, she could only feel grateful for his protection at this moment. Her mind went around in circles between intense hate for being his prisoner and gratefulness that he had come to her aid and been most humble about it. When she finally fell asleep, she had uneasy dreams of hands grabbing her, only to be carried off to safety by the King himself.

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia   Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:17 pm

Nate

Nate kicked Christopher to get his attention.

“You’re doing it again,” he complained.

“Doing what?”

“Grinding your teeth. It’s driving me insane.”

“Sorry, I can’t help it,” he glared in the direction of the latest surprise that had been given to them. Two nights before three guards had dragged the man down and shoved him in with them. At first confused at why someone had been put in the same cell as them, there were after all, plenty of other available cells in this hallway, and it hadn’t taken long for them to figure out.

While at first warily polite, when Nate had finally worked up the courage to ask the man what he was in here for, he was not expecting the man to tell the story of getting caught attempting to “have some fun with a girl” as he put it. Nate had blanched in disgust when he had put it that way, and Christopher had grown angry just from hearing that. When the man went on to say she had the most fantastic violet eyes, Christopher had gone completely rigid; Nate too had whipped around to face him in shock.

“What?” he asked angrily in response to their looks.

Christopher had asked the man to respond the girl; it was Lia. Christopher had leaped at the man, trying to get his hands on any piece of the man that he could. Unfortunately for him, the man was twice his size and much stronger, and didn’t take well to be being attacked so. Nate had to pull the two of them off each other to avoid one of them killing each other and had separated them into separate areas of the cell, threatening to call the guards, who surely wouldn’t be pleased at being bothered. And there they sat, glaring at each other, Christopher with a black eye at the man with a bloody lip. Nate sat in the middle, ignoring both of their death stares, keeping the two of them apart.

“He did this,” Christopher had hissed furiously to Nate. “You know he did. This is her punishment for my behavior.”

Nate believed him to be right, but he disagreed profusely, attempting to appease Christopher, but he could tell it wasn’t working. Since then, Christopher had been staring at the man, switching between cracking his knuckles threateningly and grinding his teeth, both of which had become annoying fast.

None of the men moved as they heard footsteps approaching, all assuming it was the guard bringing them their food as usual; Nate usually got the worst of the torment, being a former guard gone rogue. Nate sighed and prepared himself for another round of abusive names and taunting. However, it was not a guard but Richard walking towards them. Nate groaned as he looked over at Christopher, whose face had hardened into a mask of fury and resentment. When the King reached the bars, Christopher sprang at the man.

“You sick bastard!” he cursed, spitting the words out. The King did not even flinch, but his mouth twisted into a smirk. When Christopher let out a couple more of his choice words, the King seemed to have enough of it.

“I’d watch your tongue; in case you don’t remember, I’m the one who has all the power here and it’d be dreadful for the lovely Lia to have another threatening run in like she just had.”

Christopher seemed to swell in anger and then shrink back down, letting out a puff of anger as he attempted to control his emotions.

‘See? Not so difficult now is it?”

Christopher’s eyes flashed but he remained silent. Nate silently thanked the Spirits.

“Nate,” the King said, turning to him, his ice turning cold under his stare. “It appears you have a visitor requesting your presence and I decided to grant him it. A guard will be along shortly to take you to him.”

Nate did not have a good feeling about who this visitor would be—while he had the faintest hope it would be Brin, and that she would remain under cover, he knew that it had to none other than his father himself. This would not be a pleasant encounter, he was sure.

“I just wanted to make sure you and I were on the same page or I wouldn’t have bothered to come,” he said to Christopher, turning away, glancing once at the would be rapists who had remained silent this whole encounter staring at the ground in front of him, before walking off down the hallway. Not long after, two guards walked down the hallway.

“The two of you against the wall,” they demanded, gesturing at Christopher and Tyler. They did as commanded, Christopher still fuming.

As soon as one guard opened the door, the other guard immediately grabbed Nate, holding his arms tightly to prohibit any attempts at escape—not that he’d get very far. He dreaded the moment when he’d be shown to his father: the look of disappointment, the anger, the betrayal he must feel. Nate knew he had done the right thing, but his father, cruel as he was, would not see it that way. And if they told him about Brin…the Spirits only knew how he was treating her.

They led Nate into one of the interrogation rooms, making Nate uncomfortable. He had no doubt his father would do whatever necessary to get any information out of Nate if asked. He could only hope the King was a man of his word, even if he was cruel and twisted, and would not be harming them without Lia’s misbehavior—but at the same type, he couldn’t help hoping for Lia to resist the man.

As he suspected, when he entered the room, he found his father, easily recognizable even with his back facing Nate. He stood up straight and put on a blank face; he would not back down from his father, no matter how hard he was pressed.

At the sound of the door closing, he turned around and the look of pure hatred in his eyes surprised him; he knew his father would be angry, but hateful? He had not suspected it; he thought there was at least a small amount of love left for him.

“You may leave us,” his father said to the guards. They nodded once, and after informing him they’d be watching from outside to be sure, they retreated through the door. His father turned his cold, dark eyes on him.

“Why, Nate?” was all he could choke out.

“It had to be done,” he replied, keeping the blank face, devoid of any emotion.

“I suspected it was you who helped the girl escape. Who else would be stupid, careless, disrespectful, honor-less enough to defy their King and their country?” He spat at Nate’s feet. Anger boiled up inside of Nate.

“You say I have no honor, father? You beat helpless men and women; you torture them into insanity so all they know of the world is pain, begging for death to release them. That woman you tortured, she had family and friends who cared enough for her to attempt a rescue they knew would most likely not succeed. Do not talk to me about having no honor or respect; you have none for life and valor. You should be ashamed and begging my forgiveness.”

“That woman that you so foolishly gave your life away for was no more than a rebellious wrench, unable to see the goodness of our Kingdom’s society and ways. She was a threat to the millions of people who inhabit this land, and we had to deal with it accordingly.”

“She didn’t know anything,” Nate exploded, fists clenching at his sides as he took a step towards Ben. “And you knew she didn’t! No one could withstand what you did to her body and spirit without honestly not knowing anything.”

“We we’re setting an example for others who may be more dangerous.”

“You sicken me, father.”

They stared each other, both angry at the other, inches from each other.

“Brin is missing,” his father hissed at Nate. “I assume that is also by your doing.”

Panic flared up in Nate. Missing? Was that of her own device, heading for the safety of the Rebellion or something much more sinister like a capture by the Nargarth?

“What do you mean, she’s missing? When?”

“Just a week ago, right after your betrayal. Tell me Nate, what stories did you fill her head with to make her turn against her people, her family? Where did you send her?”

“I sent her nowhere, nor did I fill her head with anything but the truth. And she saw it for herself, father. She visited Lily before committing herself. She knew the monster you really were, and she resented it.”

Ben growled, shoving Nate up against the wall by his shirt collar.

“I did my duty. We took vows, Nate, or have you so easily forgotten?”

“I vowed to protect the people of this Kingdom, and that’s what I did. What you did was torture and murder innocent civilians. You deserve to die the same death Lily did, broken and bleeding—I would beg to do it myself, but I am no kin slayer.”

Ben’s fist cocked back and came flying back, making contact with Nate’s face before he could even consider dodging. Years of beating other prisoners had left with him strong muscles that he could use effectively. Nate cursed as he clutched his face. Suddenly the guards were there pulling Ben away from him.

“You were warned not to harm him,” they snarled. “You may have to answer to that.”

“My deepest apologies,” he said, to the guards, not to his son. “I will, of course, accept any consequence my actions have caused. It was worth it.” He spat one last time at the feet of his son and then exited the dungeon, slamming the door behind him.

Blood streamed down Nate’s face from his nose, which he was almost positive, was broken. The guards walked him back to his cell, throwing him into the room, still bleeding, blood covering his face and shirt as he attempted to staunch the flow. Tyler remained in the corner of the room as he usually did, glancing over curiously, but Christopher leapt his feet.

“Dear Spirits, what happened?”

“Just a friendly reunion with my father,” he said, splitting out blood on the ground.

“Well, at least we’ll get one good thing out of this,” Christopher said, a sly smile crossing his face.

“And what’s that?” Nate asked dryly.

“The King has just broken the agreement; no harming us if Lia behaves. This means Lia can retaliate if she wishes.”

Nate smiled briefly but it quickly sunk away.

‘That is, if the King tells her at all.”

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia   Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:18 pm

Anya

Anya spied through the bushes, hidden along with Darren in large shrubs of bushes, watching the Tower of Ul-Mondir from afar. So far, it did not look promising. While it was called a watchtower, Anya thought it looked more like a fortress. Darren had told her that the singular tower, dark black with a spiked design, used to be the Dark Watchtower, but the Crow had used the work of slaves and magic, said some, to make the sprawling fortress complex that stood before them: a moat surrounded the area, with a single drawbridge visible, currently closed. The walls were tall and heavily manned, guards walking past on their rounds frequently, armed with bows and arrows. Though they couldn’t see much of the inside from where they were, they could see the rooftops of buildings, dark and dreary.

They’d been watching for hours now, waiting for anyone to approach or exit the Tower, to both monitor how the gate was opened as well as see just who is coming and going from the city. Far enough away from the city and roads to talk softly as long as they lay low to the ground out of the sight of the watchers, the job wasn’t half bad, as they occasionally spoke to each other, joking around with each other.

Anya glanced over at Darren, sprawled out on the ground staring intently at the fortress. She giggled and Darren looked over.

“What?” he asked.

“Nothing, you just look so serious all the time,” she joked. A smile flashed across his face.

“Oh, really?” he asked slyly, nudging her gently with his elbow. “Coming from you it doesn’t mean much; you’re all business and no fun.”

She snorted.

“Why would I be here if I didn’t want to have fun,” she winked at him. He smiled but his eyes had turned serious.

“I’m glad you’re here, Anya,” he said softly. She was suddenly aware of how close they were, shoulders touching, faces inches apart. She could see her reflection in his dark brown eyes, pulling her in. She could see every freckle and mark on his face, every hair that made up the stubble on his chin. He leaned in towards her, and their lips met, slow and careful at first, as if testing each other. Then their bodies reacted, their breathing became shallow, kissing deeply. Anya didn’t know how long they kissed before she broke it off, breathing still rough.

“Someone will see,” she said.

“Who cares?” he whispered into her ear.

“I meant one of the guards,” she scolded glancing up at the tower. “Or did you forget where we are?” she teased.

“Maybe I did,” he said softly. He took her shoulders gently and pushed her to the ground, then rolled gently over her, supporting his weight with his knees and hands so he hovered above her, face inches from her face.

“There,” he said, smugly. “Now no one up there can see. Better?”

“Much,” she breathed, mouth opening to meet his again. Suddenly he put his finger to his lips. She protested softly and jokingly.

“I wasn’t done with you,” she teased. He smiled crookedly.

“Well, we’re about to miss the whole reason we came here,” he said, lifting his chin towards the tower. She pushed him off her gently and rolled over to see the tower. Sure enough, a caravan was approaching the gate; the guards, unlike the two Resistance members, had seen the approaching vehicle and we’re watching silently, some with their bows drawn in that direction. When the caravan reached the moat, one of the guards called down.

“Who goes there? What is your business here?”

Two men stepped down from the front of the caravan, cloaked and hooded.

“Your master is expecting us,” he said, and Anya’s blood ran cold. The voice was cold and dark and deadly. It had a menacing tone that had her pulse racing, not even knowing who the man was.

“Who are you?” the guard said, “we were not told to be expecting visitors.”

“Some things are better now shouted out for all to here,” the man said threatening, glancing around at all the men on the walls and briefly to the wall of trees, eyes sweeping past the place where Anya and Darren were hidden. They both froze, briefly frightened that he knew they were there. “We have arrived earlier than expected, bearing important news from the King himself regarding his prisoners and your own. Unless you wish to explain directly to the King why we were not let through immediately, I would suggest you lower the gates at once,” he snarled.

The guard exchanged a fearful look with the man next to him.

“Of course, sir,” he said, respectfully as he could. “Lower the gates!” he shouted.

They could hear the message being passed down the road to what must have been the gatekeeper as not long after, the sounds of metal grinding together spilled through the air and the gate slowly began to lower. Darren nudged her, gesturing to her right and she nodded once, understanding what he wanted, as she quietly scooted to her right, so as to get a better glimpse of the inside of the fortress.

Guards lined the inner courtyard, all armed and at the ready, watching carefully as the two men crossed the moat. The area right inside of the courtyard was very wide, which would make it much more difficult for a small party such as their own to fight their way through; Anya and Darren took note of the position of the guards and their weapons to relay back to Robb. They would have to use stealth in order to gain access to the fortress, which she had been expecting, unless Robb’s secret force he kept hinting at was large enough to take on what was obviously a very military influenced and protected forces.

There were no regular citizens milling about in the square, while most fortresses would have a market or trading center easily reachable within the first blocks of the area. Anya frowned, pondering what it could mean. Either they were expecting some kind of fight and the people were all in the safety of their homes, unlikely judging by how the fortress did not look like it was manned for siege or anything like that, or the people were little more than prisoners themselves, most likely working like slaves for the benefit of the Great Crow and his cronies.

As the two men crossed the bridge, a very large, heavily armored and muscled man stepped forward from the ranks, most likely a chief commander. They could not hear the exchange of words, as the gate was raised as soon as they stepped of the gate, and the grinding noise drowned out anything else. They sighed as the inner part of the fortress was soon gone from sight and the guards began walking again on their rounds.

Anya looked over at Darren to see him frowning at the fortress, deep in thought. She remained quiet, allowing him to come to whatever conclusion he was attempting to reach. Finally, he looked over at her, and beckoned for her to follow him as he slowly crawled back into the forest and towards their camp. Once they reached the bigger trees, they were able to walk through the forest, much more comfortable then crawling against the small rocks and sharp twigs. It was getting dark and the sounds of night animals were beginning to appear; owls hooted loudly, predators softly stalked through the forest as the sky darkened and the moon began rising up above the trees.

“What do you think the caravan was for,” she asked him as they walked.

“I’m not sure, but I don’t think it bodes well. Why would messengers of the King bring a whole caravan with them simply to deliver a message? Something important is in there, and it must be big if they had to risk such a slow way to travel to carry it here. It could be a number of things, but unless we get into the city, there will be no way to tell. I’m thinking we might need to send someone in to try to spy out exactly what’s going on in the city before we plan anything major.”

“I thought we’re in contact with the Crow’s brother? Why can he not tell us what the situation is?”

“Because he’s now held prisoner, and though he may still be treated as the Crow’s brother, he no longer has the rights. We have not had contact with him for a few weeks now, and can only hope that he is still under house arrest, so we have no need to search the city for him. But staring at the gate is not going to give us any information we don’t already have.”

She nodded slowly, processing what he said.

“Who do you think Robb will send?”

Darren shrugged.

“He’ll want to do it himself, but the other members of the team won’t allow it. I’ll of course offer up my own services.”

“Then I’ll come too,” she smiled mischievously.

“No, I’d rather you stay safe inside the camp where you can’t get up to the usual trouble you’re in.”

She glared at him.

“If you honestly think you would be able to keep me behind, you just may be mentally ill. If I can worm my way onto this secret mission, the Spirits know I can find my way onto the mission team.”

Darren sighed, eyeing her wearily.

“Sometimes I think you’re too headstrong for your own good.”

She smiled brightly at him. They walked another half hour or so, talking occasionally, but about nothing of importance before reaching camp. They walked into Robb’s tent to find him deep in discussion with the city girl. Anya’s face fell slightly before she put her mask of indifference back on. While she knew she should have nothing against the girl, something about the way she had been able to waltz right into the camp and become involved so quickly in the important affairs irked her. It had taken her years to earn the trust of these highly regarded men, and it rubbed her the wrong way that she, a girl from the Dark City that they knew close to nothing about was let right in.

Anya also blamed the girl, though she knew it was completely unfair and unreasonable for her to do so, the death of Lily on the girl. She was the reason the little hope Anya had inside of her that said Christopher and Lia would rescue her was gone. She had stood by and watched as they murdered Lily, not doing anything to stop them though she would have had the element of surprise. She watched Christopher, Lia and her own brother get taken away and instead of staying behind to find out even where they had been taken, she ran away for the Resistance.

The two of them hadn’t said more than a word to each other, as Anya had spent most of the past week in Darren’s tent, under his watchful eye as she miserably stared into the fire and grieved over the death of Lily. Darren had been nothing but kind, sitting with her and holding her whenever he could, but not saying a word until she was ready. Though he had to leave the room at long lengths at a time to report for his duties, he always came in to check on her as often as he could, bringing her meals to keep her fed. When she had finished her silent grieving, he had sat and talked with her, listening respectfully to the tearful stories she told about Lily raising her, and had been there when she cried. As she began to feel well enough to leave the tent, she began to notice the city girl in the presence of Robb, consistently and often. When she asked Darren about it, he had shot her a measuring look before slowly explaining that as the sister of one of their most important sources and with her deep knowledge of the city, she was invaluable to their plans, and especially if they were ever to get the three prisoners released. When she inquired as to why she seemed to be so involved in the current mission then, he’d just shrugged and said she had a shrewd mind. Anya had bristled at that comment, but Darren had either not noticed, or decided to ignore it.

They both looked up as they entered, Brin brushing a long lock of hair behind her ear. Robb immediately straightened up.

“What news?”

Darren quickly gave an overview of their entire day, leaving out the more romantic side of the day, though he did shoot Anya a wink that caused her to blush slightly when he mentioned the caravan sneaking past them. Robb didn’t seem to notice but Brin had raised an eyebrow curiously at what passed between them and Anya had to work hard to keep her eyes from glaring at the girl. Robb sighed when the story was done.

“I was really hoping to be able to see more from the city,” he pondered. “But I trust your judgment and if you say we’re going to need to spy in the city before we attempt a rescue, which would be wisest regardless, I will of course see to that.”

“I’ll go,” Darren offered at once, “being the one to make the suggestion.”

“We really need you here, Darren, to help with the other plans that need to be made,” he said, giving him a look that said the girls were not to know. Both of them raised their eyebrows this time, but Robb just plowed on. “No, it will have to be someone else.”

“I’ll go,” Brin said, strongly stepping forward. Darren began shaking his head, and Anya almost laughed at loud at the girl’s offer; surely she knew Robb would never let someone so new to the Resistance do something this important, but when she looked over at Robb, amused, she found Robb actually considering the proposal.

“That just might work…” he said, softly. Anya’s mouth dropped open slightly in anger, and she could see Darren confused. He spoke up, quietly but with concern.

“Do you think that’s wise, Robb? There’s no doubting the girl’s courage and slyness,” Anya let out a puff of breath, which he ignored, “but she’s only just arrived here and it may be best to send someone who has more experience.”

“Yes, but she grew up in the Dark City, and she could easily take on the persona of a trader or visitor without raising too much suspicion from the guards.”

“You did not see the guards at the wall, they hardly let those men through, as menacing as they seemed, even when they said the Great Crow was expecting them. I highly doubt they’ll let the girl through.”

“Yes, but maybe the fact that I’m nothing but a small girl,” she interrupted, “will make them more apt to believe my story and allow me to pass.”

Darren still looked concerned but Robb was nodding along. Anya bristled again.

“If the city girl is going, I am too,” she demanded.

Darren turned to her wearily, eyes begging but she stared back defiantly. Robb looked at her, nodding slowly.

“Yes, I suppose that makes sense. I was going to send a man through as well to act as husband and wife, but I suppose sister and sister will be just as effective. Very well, plans will be made tomorrow for how we’ll accomplish this. For now, I think it’s best if we all get rest as it’s getting late. Brin, I believe you have no dined yet either, if you would like to accompany me.”

“Of course, sir,” she said, bowing her head, and accepting his offered arm as they walked from the room, Robb wishing Darren and herself a goodnight. Anya glared off in their direction and Darren grabbed her gently by the arms.

“I told you I would prefer if you didn’t go on this mission,” he beseeched her.

“I will not stay her while someone so unseasoned messes up what will be essential to the rescue efforts.”

He rolled his eyes but pulled her in close for an embrace. She breathed in deeply the smell of him, leather and peppermint and a slight trace of sweat as well.

“I don’t want to lose you,” he admitted softly.

She punched him lightly on the arm, pulling away from him.

“Do you honestly think I’d allow myself to get caught? It will be quick and easy, in and out. We’re just two orphaned girls trying to find work in the city, we’ll stay a night or two, and not finding anything, be forced to exit the city. It will be very simply, not even Brin could mess it up.”

His mouth twitched.

“You really have something against that girl, don’t you?”

“I don’t know what it is,” she admitted, almost embarrassed, “I just don’t trust her.”

He kissed her on the forehead.

“Neither do I; and I think you are right to worry.”

They walked out of the tent towards Darren’s own, Anya pondering what he said. She couldn’t help thinking it was a foreboding message, with both of them unable to trust the girl completely. Whatever Anya may believe about her, she knew trust was essential to two people working together undercover, so she must let go of these feelings before heading out on the mission, or something was bound to go wrong, an the Resistance could not afford another mishap.

_________________

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Amortentia

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Female Posts : 174
Join date : 2011-05-15
Age : 22

PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia   Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:18 pm

Lia

Lia sat in one of the outer gardens in the palace, admiring the landscaping and beautiful trees that filled the area. She could hear birds twittering and bees humming, and was grateful for the company; it was still early in the morning, she had woken up to come out and watch the sunset. It made her feel a little less lonely to watch the sun rise up, knowing that all around the world others were doing the same. For over the past two weeks, an overwhelming loneliness and sadness had rose up inside of her, constantly threatening to overcome her. She had not seen Richard since the day after that awful night; he’d explained that he had business to attend to elsewhere and was not sure when he’d be back, though it would be less than a month, and while it came as a relief to her to be away from him, she knew know one else besides the few routine servants and Emily, of whom she could speak to. And Emily was always too concerned with being polite to hold up a proper conversation. She had attempted to convince the girl to let her see Nate and Christopher in the dungeons, but the girl had been very blunt: Richard had personally ordered that she not leave the palace on any matters without first contacting him, and since he’d left no message regarding her visits, she had no choice but to refuse. Lia had personally watched Emily send the message through a courier to the King, after she would not stop bothering the girl about it, but that had been almost a week ago, and there still wasn’t any response. She prayed that Richard had kept his word and they had not been harmed; whenever her thoughts wandered to her she always felt the same overwhelming guilt that she was living in splendor, though felt no less of a prisoner, while they were trapped in the dungeons.

She traced the outline of the beautiful design on the bench she was sitting on as she stared up at the skies, blue and bright with the sun shining brightly, announcing it’s presence in the morning.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” came as soft voice behind her, and she jumped, head whipping around.

A young man who could not be much older than herself stood leaning up against one of the columns in the outer ridge of the garden. He had dark hair and dark eyes that watched her carefully, as if observing her every motion. She turned red, wondering how long he’d been there.

“Yes,” she answered, “very much so.”

He walked forwards, hands in his front pockets of his trousers.

“Do you mind?” he asked, gesturing towards the empty spot on the bench next to her.

“No at all,” she said, scooting over to give him more room. They sat in silence for a moment, both staring around at the gardens.

“I always loved coming here,” he said, smiling at her. “When I needed to get away, it was always the one quiet spot I knew I could rely on.”

She nodded understandingly.

“It’s very peaceful,” she murmured.

“You must be Lia,” he said, leaning back against the bench with a lazy smile on his face. She laughed quietly.

“Yes, I guess I must be,” she responded, “and you are?”

“Charlie,” he said, bowing his head. “Pleased to make your acquaintance. I trust your stay has been comfortable.”

She shrugged, staring at the ground; she would rather not discuss why she was here. She was surprised when he laughed.

“Of course, you wouldn’t be sitting where you are now, if you were happy, now, would you?” His eyes sparkled mischievously.

“No, I would not say being held prisoner is exactly my idea of being comfortable.”

The sparkle in his eye faded slowly and the corners of his mouth turned down in frown.

“Is that how you feel? As a prisoner?”

“That’s what I am,” she responded curtly. His eyebrows furrowed slightly. “They hide it well, with false courtesies and luxuries, and yet I’m confined to the palace, unable to see my friends, at the every will of the King to ensure their safety.” She could tell her voice was rising in anger but she couldn’t control it. “There is no mistake, I am a prisoner here.”

“Well, I would call you an esteemed guest over ‘prisoner’. The King holds you in very high respect and does not wish to see you harmed.”

She snorted.

“Oh, I’m sure,” she said sarcastically. Charlie frowned at her.

“It is true whether you believe it or not,” he replied quietly.

“The King is no more than a cruel man, unbelieving in the most basic of morals regarding human beings and life, willing to murder others on the way to his most sickening goals, ignoring the cries of the people in misery below him. He does not care for anyone but himself.”

For the first time, Charlie appeared angry rather than the respectful politeness he had shown before, and Lia was suddenly afraid she had crossed the line; after all, she had no idea who this man truly was.

“You should not speak of things you do not fully understand,” he said harshly, eyes boring into her own until she dropped them to stare at her hands. They sat in silence for a few minutes, Lia too angry but embarrassed to say anything. Charlie sighed, picking at a leaf with his hands.

“My apologies, I spoke more harshly than I meant, I only wished you would not think quite so strongly of our King without knowing everything.”

“It is his own fault if he cannot defend his beliefs well enough for others to support,” she said angrily, upset that she was being put at fault.

“Yes, well, I do not believe you will be kept in the dark much longer.”

She looked up at him curiously, but he said nothing more. A servant entered the gardens, striding quickly over to the two of them, bowing deeply in front of Charlie.

“My lord, your Uncle has returned. He wishes you join him immediately, sir.”

“Of course,” he said, rising to his feet. “May I ask on what business?”

He glanced over at Lia quickly and then back.

“The King did not say, my lord.”

Lia’s mouth dropped open in shock. Both men stared down at her.

“The King is your Uncle?” she hissed.

He laughed loudly at the look on her face.

“Of course, didn’t you wonder how I had access to the royal gardens? Oh, I see you were not informed that you were placed in the royal family’s living quarters,” he continued at the stricken look on her face.

“Don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me,” he said, winking at her before exiting the gardens with the servant at his heels, leaving her staring, horrified, after the young man.

Lia hurried back to her room, analyzing everything she had said and how much damage it might have done, and found Emily waiting for her in the room.

“Ah, there you are, miss. I was about to go searching—“

“Emily, why did you not tell me I was placed in the royal family’s living space?”

The girl look confused.

“Begging your pardon, Miss, I thought you were told. Is something the matter, miss?”

“No, it’s nothing,” she murmured, though she could tell Emily didn’t believe her. “You said you were waiting for me?” she encouraged.

“Yes, Miss, the King has returned—“

“So I’ve heard,” Lia muttered, getting another curious look from Emily who continued as if she hadn’t heard.

“—and he asks that you join him for lunch, today.”

“He asks or commands, Emily?” she snapped, and immediately felt guilty, watching the girl’s face fall in confusion and hurt.

“I’m sorry, Emily, I’ve had a rough morning,” she apologized.

“There’s no reason to apologize, Miss,” she said, sinking into a curtsey. Lia sighed. She still hadn’t been able to get Emily to call her by her first name, and she wished the girl would treat her on the same level; she hated being waited on hand and foot. But every time she asked the girl to treat her more personally, the girl would look uncomfortable and give the same response: the King would not like it, and Lia did not want Emily to get in any trouble with the King, so she bit back the retorts about Richard she would have liked to said, and allowed the girl to continue.

It was early yet, so Emily promised to come back in an hour to help her prepare. Lia nodded once, and sat down on the couch, watching the flames in the fireplace flicker and pop, her mind wandering to Chris and Nate, cold in the dungeons, and Lily, buried somewhere in the ground.


When Lia entered the dining room, she was surprised to find Charlie sitting at the table too, laughing loudly with the King about some joke. She felt mildly uncomfortable watching the King look so human, as she stood quietly in the corner of the room, unnoticed. Charlie looked up laughing, and when he saw her, his smile brightened and he stood up politely. The King looked up when Charlie stood, and got to his own feet.

“Ah, Lia,” he said, pulling back her chair for her to sit down. “So glad you could join us for lunch, Charlie tells me that you were acquainted this morning.”

Lia nodded once, wondering what else he’d heard, glancing over quickly at Charlie, but his eyes revealed nothing.

Before the King could say anything else she quickly broke in.

“Did you receive my letter?” she inquired.

The King and Charlie shared a glance, and Charlie chuckled slightly; she glared at the two of them, understanding that they were obviously laughing at her expense.
“Forgive me, my lady,” Richard said, seeing her anger. “We only wondere
d at exactly how long it would take for you to inquire; I’m afraid Charlie beat me out on just how quickly you’d bring it up.”

“Maybe if you’d responded,” she said through gritted teeth, “then I wouldn’t have to inquire at all.”

“I’m afraid your message reached us when we were already on our return, so a response would have returned no sooner than ourselves, though you have my deepest apologies for the wait.”

She looked at him expectantly.

“As I said before, you may of course visit your friends, I was not restricting you on purpose, but the dungeons are no safe place for a lady without the proper protection, so I felt safer being here when you do. Now that I’ve returned, I myself can take you there on this afternoon.”

“Actually, Uncle,” Charlie interrupted, “I was hoping to take her to see some of the sights in the city, by your leave, as she’s been stuck in the palace for weeks now, and we could stop along the dungeons on the way.”

“If Lia is willing, that is of course, fine by me, I do have many other areas of business to attend to,” the King smiled.

“I would be most grateful,” Lia said, not wanting to be rude at what was obviously a gesture to help her feel more welcome and less like a prisoner by Charlie, not that she believed it for a second, despite their kind treatment of her.

“As for the man who attacked you—“ the King continued, but Charlie looked up in shock and interrupted.

“You were attacked? Here?”

“It was my fault,” she began but Richard shook his head.

“One of the kitchen staff attempted to take advantage of our guest,” he said, his voice darkening, “but have no fear, as I was about to say, his execution is set to take place on the morrow. I wished you to be sure justice is taking place.”

“He’s being executed?” she asked, shocked.

“But of course, my lady. He attacked you, intending on committing the foulest of crimes—“

“But he did not!” she interrupted. “The boy, Mark, stopped anything from happening.”

“Regardless, he would have done you harm with no regrets if the boy had not been there, and just because he stopped it, does not mean the man should not be punished for what he intended. The sentence has already been passed, and will be seen through.”

“When you said he was punished, I assumed you meant normal punishments for rape, not those for murder,” she said angrily.

“It is not for you to question the decisions I make regarding the punishment of those in my dungeon. Guest though you may be, I am still King here, and I will not allow you to sit there and question me, after I attempted to make up for the incident by punishing him harshly in the first place.”

She made to retort angrily but Charlie broke in.

“Lia,” he said reasonably. “If he attempted to attack you in such a manner, think of all the other women who he has attacked who he was not caught with and were not brought forward. You could not be the first, and you certainly won’t be the last if he is let loose again. I stand behind the King and his decision.”

The anger slowly faded from her face and she bowed her head.

“I should not have questioned you, it was not my place,” she apologized, though she was not completely sure she believed herself, “you only had my best interests at heart.”

The King smiled warmly at her, though it did not quite reach his eyes.

The door banged open and a courier stepped into the room, breathing heavily. The King frowned, looking up as one of the servants ran in after him.

“I thought I told you that we were not to be disturbed,” he said coldly to the servant, who turned dark red and looked frightened.

“I’m sorry, sir, I told him as much, but he refused to listen. He said its urgent sir.”

Richard turned his cold eyes to the messenger, who did not look abashed, but bowed deeply.

“My deepest apologies, my lord, but the caravan has arrived, and I carry the response,” he said, glancing at Lia as he said it, and she knew that she was not to know the message.

“I see,” Richard murmured, all traces of anger gone. “I had hoped to discuss exactly why you interest our cause so, Lia, but I fear this is a matter I must attend to immediately. When you return from the city I will ensure that we have the proper time to have this discussion. If you’ll excuse me.”

Charlie bowed deeply in response.

“Of course, Uncle.”

After the King had left, Lia considered asking Charlie about what this mysterious caravan is, but common sense told her that even if he knew, he would not tell her, so she decided not to bring it up at all. They talked lightly about things that really didn’t matter, as neither wanted to upset the other since they were treading on such thin ice.

When they had finished, Charlie asked her if she would prefer to travel to the dungeons or see the city first, and was unsurprised when she quickly responded with the dungeons. He took her through the same underground passageways to the dungeon as Richard had, and though he said it was because the city was not always the safest place to travel, she wondered if it was because he didn’t want her to be reminded of the extreme poverty that lay outside the inner city, where the loyalists to the King lived, rich and in splendor.

“Why did you not tell me you were the King’s nephew?” she inquired as they walked through the passageways.

“Because I did not want you hating me from the start,” he said bluntly. She looked at him curiously, looking for that sparkle in his eyes that showed he was joking, but it was not there. “I thought it was the only way for us to have a proper conversation without hiding behind the false courtesies you spoke of.”

She nodded; it did make sense to her.

“Did you…tell the King what I said?”

The crooked smile that both he and Richard shared flashed across his face.

“I said your secret was safe with me, and I meant it. I’m sure he already knows anyway,” he said, winking at her. “You don’t make your feelings a secret.”

She shrugged, not knowing how to respond. When they reached the dungeon, she was surprised when they led her in a different direction then the last time.

“Have they been moved?” she asked, worried about where exactly they could be.

“My uncle had them set up in one of the visiting rooms, so you no longer have to talk to them through bars,” he informed her quietly. Her face lit up in a smile that she couldn’t hold back. Charlie smiled sadly back at her. When they reached the room, he respectfully held the door open for her, and said he would wait right outside, gesturing to a small window that looked in on the room. She nodded once quickly, and walked through the door. The room was big and open, and Nate and Christopher sat talking in low voices on the other side of the room, but looked up when she entered. Christopher looked up, relieved when she walked through the door, springing up from the ground and running to meet her. In hugged her hard, lifting her off the ground as he spun her around, and kissed her deeply, then setting her on the ground again.

“You seem in high spirits, today,” she said, smiling slightly.

“It’s not often that we’re allowed visitors quite as fine as you,” he replied, his eyes sparkling in happiness and relief.

She pushed him backwards gently.

“I don’t think you get many visitors at all.”

He laughed softly and pulled her in again, kissing her lightly on the lips.

“Only too true.”

Nate had gotten to his feet and walked over as they embraced. She turned to greet him, but her mouth dropped open and she gasped. The left side of his face was swollen and bruised, his eye barely able to open.

“Dear Spirits!” she exclaimed, reaching her hand out to touch the bruise, and Nate winced. She swelled in anger. “Who did this to you?” she exclaimed in anger.

“You mean the King didn’t tell you the truce had been broken?” Nate asked.

“No, it must have slipped his mind,” she growled, anger boiling up inside her. “What happened?”

“They let my father see me,” he said, and Lia stiffened. “You can imagine how well that went over.”

“When was this?”

“Sometime in the last week or so, it’s hard to keep track of the time down here.”

“And no one has come down to treat the wound?” she asked angrily. Christopher shook his head, disgust on his face.

“No one does anything down here but bring us food twice a day. Other than that, we hardly see any of the guards.”

“Have they harmed you in any other way?” she demanded.

“Not physically, no,” Nate muttered, glancing at Christopher, who shook his head.

“What is it, Christopher? What have they done to you?”

“Nothing,” he said, wrapping his arms around her and hugging her close, but she did not miss the glare he flashed at Nate, who shrugged apologetically.

The door opened, and they all turned to see Charlie walk in, face blank and unexpressive, but there was a look in his eyes that Lia couldn’t quite place.

“Is everything okay, Lia? We heard raised voices,” he said, and there was genuine concern in his voice, but that only further angered her.

“Did you know?” she snapped, and he looked further confused.

“The promise your uncle,” she ignored Christopher’s intake of breath, “made was broken, and I was not told.”

“What promise was this?” he asked quietly, ignoring her tone. “I was not told of any of the arrangements regarding your friends.”

“They were not to be harmed as long as I cooperated with the demands your King set down; as far as I know, I have not done anything to warrant the abuse of my friends,” she said, gesturing to Nate’s swollen face.

“I’m sure there’s an explanation for—“

“There’s always an explanation, I’m sure,” she snapped, shaking in anger, and Charlie looked hurt.

“I shall personally go inquire to the guards about what took place,” he said quietly. “You may have as much time with your friends as you would like,” he continued, his eyes following Christopher’s arms which were wrapping around her protectively from behind. He turned and walked quietly out, leaving the three of them alone again.

Christopher led her over to the wall, sitting down against it and dragging her into his lap. Nate sat down beside them.

“Did you say that man is the King’s nephew?” Christopher asked curiously. She nodded.

“Yes, I just met him this morning. He and the King seem to be in very close council.”

Nate nodded in agreement.

“I’ve heard stories,” he said. “Since his brother passed away, the King has taken a special interest in him, and he’s said to be unmatched with a blade and has a shrewd mind for battle plans and council. They say he’s like a son to the King. I would be wary of that one.”

Christopher pulled her closer.

“I hate not knowing what they’re doing to you every minute of every day. Have they injured you at all?”

“No, the King has not even been at the palace for the last two weeks. They leave me to myself; it’s been quite lonely. I can’t stand that that two of you are trapped here.” Her voice cracked.

“I’m sorry for the way I treated you the last time we met,” Nate said, “I was angry and upset and I treated you unfairly. I should have known that you were the one worse off, trapped in the lion’s den as you are.”

She smiled at him sadly. “There is no need to apologize, my friend,” she said, taking his hand in her own and squeezing it reassuringly.

“Any news of Brin?” he asked, concern creeping into his voice. “My father told me she has run away, but he has no idea where; she has not been caught, has she?”

“I’m sorry, Nate. I’ve been kept completely in the dark, and the King only just returned from some mission this morning; he promised I would learn everything tonight, but who knows what ‘everything’ is to that man.” She shuddered. “I’ll try to find out anything I can for you.”

“Thank you,” he whispered. “But don’t believe a word he says, only lies and filth can come from such a mouth.”

“I know,” her voice wavered. “He frightens me,” she said, burying her face in Christopher’s shirt, “and he knows it, as hard as I try to hide it. I don’t know what he has planned for me or you. I don’t know why he won’t just let you go,” she sobbed.

“Shhh,” Christopher whispered, stroking her hair and letting her cry, “don’t worry about us, we can take care of ourselves. Just look out for yourself.”

She tried to hold back her tears, brushing them away with the back of her hand. They sat in silence for a few minutes, Lia breathing in the scent of Christopher and clutching him tightly. She had not realized just how much she missed him until now, back in his presence. She wished they had spent more time together, so she was not left yearning him so now. There was a soft knock on the door, and she repositioned herself so that she could see who was entering. Charlie entered, with a medic at his heels.

“The King has been informed about his injury, and I assure you, he was not aware that it had occurred in the first place, having left for his trip, and the guards did not inform him on his return. He would have come down to explain this in person, but his still attending his…other business. Our finest doctor will see to it that Nate is brought back to proper shape.”

Christopher helped Lia to her feet.

“Thank you,” she said, “I appreciate your quickness to deal with the situation and I’ll be sure to discuss this tonight.” She heard Christopher chuckle at the tone of her voice, that, despite the words, carried a threat of their own. Charlie bowed his head politely regardless and asked how much more time she would require. This time, her thanks were generous.

“You’ve already given me more time than I expected, just give me time to say goodbye,” she said, and he nodded, stepping towards the door, though he did not leave completely. The doctor had already begun working on Nate’s face, placing a salve on the wound. He stepped aside when she approached. Nate was wincing from the sting when she threw her arms around him.

“I’ll try to get word about your sister,” she said sadly. “And I’ll get down to the bottom of this,” she said, touching his face lightly.

“Thank you,” he said, hugging her back gently. “Take care of yourself.”

“You know I do,” she said, her voice tightening up despite herself.

She turned and embraced Christopher tightly, kissing him passionately.

“Don’t let them wear you down,” he murmured softly, “we’ll find a way out of this. Keep your spirits high and don’t let them hurt you.”

“Remember the same for yourself,” she begged. “I’ll try to visit as often as I can to be sure that they are following through their end of the deal.”

He smiled at her, kissing her on the forehead and then on the lips.

“Be safe,” he said, finally letting her go. She walked towards Charlie, who waited, eyes still holding the blank look he had earlier; she looked back at Christopher and Nate as the door closed shut, watching their sad faces let her go.

“Thank you, Charlie, really,” she said. “I did not mean to snap at you, I know you played no part in his injury.”

He nodded once, but the look was still in his eyes, and she feared he was still upset with her. They walked in silence for a few minutes, Lia wanting to say something, but not sure what to say. However, she did not have to break the silence after all.

“I did not realize you were so close to the man,” he said, obviously referring to Christopher. She blushed and looked up at him, surprised.

“We have seen each other through much,” she said. “We grew very close.”

Charlie nodded, but he still seemed distant. She didn’t know what to say. She didn’t know why it seemed to bother him so; and why had the King not told him? After all, it was no secret they were together, though perhaps they should not have been so obvious the first time so Richard did not have extra leverage. And she had just met the man anyway, why should her relationships matter to him? They walked in silence for a few more minutes, and Lia was getting more and more comfortable when he suddenly turned and smiled at her, the blank look gone and replaced with his crooked smile.

“Will you still be wanting to see some of the city before dinner?” he asked.

She smiled, relieved at the change of conversation as the mood instantly lightened up.

“Why, of course, sir,” she said, making a mocking curtsey at him. When they reached the palace he left her alone in the lobby to fetch a carriage, and she couldn’t help but feel excited: this would be the first time she would not be stuck in the palace, and though she felt mildly guilty that her friends were most likely back into their cell, she thought the fresh air might do her some good.

_________________

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Amortentia

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm [Original - PG-17] - Amortentia   Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:19 pm

Anya

Anya lay on the small cot in the tent she was sharing with Darren, exhausted after a long day’s planning session with Brin, Robb and Darren. They were all set to go in the morning; they would be disguised as orphans looking for work, and were given enough money to keep them in the decent places in town, but not enough to arouse suspicion. Her stomach fluttered with the usual anticipation she felt before a mission, and she sat up, drawing her knees up to her stomach and wrapping her arms around them.

Darren entered the tent a few minutes later, drawing the tent closed so they would not be disturbed. He crawled behind her on the bed, allowing her to lean back against his chest. She sighed contentedly.

“Promise me you’ll be careful,” he muttered in her ear. “I won’t be able to stand not knowing what’s happening.”

She twisted around so she could see him.

“Do you honestly think I’m going to allow myself to get caught? I’ll be careful, I promise. I’ll be sure to come back with the information we need. You promise not to worry yourself to death.”

He kissed her, supporting her head, which was tilted up to meet his own, and she could feel her breathing speeding up.

“That I cannot promise,” he said, one hand sliding across her stomach. Her body shuddered in anticipation, and she turned around, sitting so her arms were wrapped around his neck, and her legs wrapped around his body. Their lips met again, more fiercely this time. She moaned softly as he kissed her neck and shoulders repeatedly. She clung to him.

She unwound her legs from behind him, pushing him down onto the bed underneath her and unbuttoning his shirt. She ran her hands over his stomach, muscles showing clearly through the bare skin. He rolled her over, so that he was now hovering over her and she began unfastening her shirt, and when she was done he kissed her again.

“You are so beautiful,” he said between kisses. The noise of someone attempting to open the closed tent stopped them in their tracks. She groaned, upset at the interruption.

“Ignore them,” she whispered, reaching up to kiss him again, but then they heard Robb’s voice through the tent.

“Darren, open up, there’s a messenger here that needs to see us.”

Darren cursed, gave her one last kiss and stood up, gesturing for her to button up her shirt again. She sighed, but did as he bid, rearranging her clothes to look less rumpled as Darren opened the tent flap, still shirtless. Robb raised his eyebrows as he looked from the shirtless Darren to the breathless Anya. She blushed slightly but stared back defiantly. He rolled his eyes.

“You’d best put a shirt on first,” he snapped, turning on his heel and striding from the tent. A small giggle escaped from Anya and Darren turned around, his look of mild concern turning to amusement himself.

“He’ll get over it, I’m sure,” Anya said.

“Eventually. Don’t wait up,” he said, kissing her once more on the forehead before striding out of the room, all business again.

She leaned back against the bed, taking a deep breath. After the night Anya had found out about the death of her sister, she had fallen asleep in his tent, and had never returned to her own since, which created quite a stir among many of the other members of the camp, but Anya could care less what they thought. When she was with him, she just felt better, and safe again, something she hadn’t felt since the disappearance of Lily. Though she could almost feel Robb’s disapproval every time they were in a room with her, she couldn’t figure out exactly what he felt was so wrong about it. She was a woman now, and could choose who to love.

Anya knew she should try to get some sleep, she was going to need her wits about her in the morning to get past the guards, but try as she could to get to sleep, her mind kept whirling around, making any thought of sleep impossible. She still grieved for Lily, she missed Christopher, who she had been close with, and she was worried about how this mission was going to end, no matter what she told Darren. She must have dozed off for a bit, because she groggily heard the tent opening and then felt the cot shift under Darren’s weight as he slid in next to her. Her eyes fluttered open, and she smiled up at him.

“You have your own cot over there, you know,” she mumbled.

He chuckled and brushed the hair out of her face.

“I can move over there if you want,” he said, and made to get out of the bed. She grabbed his hand, and pulled him back towards her.

“That’s what I thought,” he said smirking.

She rested her head on his chest, listening to the strong, steady sound of his heartbeat.

“What was the message about?” she asked curiously.

“Just some news about the King leaving the Dark City for a time,” he said. “We have to be careful to know exactly when he’s gone, so that we can plan a way to find Lia, Christopher and Nate.”

“If they’re still alive,” she muttered miserably.

“Don’t think like that, we’re going to get them out of there. Now you need to get some sleep before tomorrow, I thought I told you not to wait up for me.”

“Maybe if you hadn’t woken me up, I would have gotten some,” she joked back.

He wrapped his arms around her, and stroked her hair until she fell asleep, feeling safe and reassured in his arms. When she woke up in the morning, he was already up, watching her. She smiled slightly and whacked him with her pillow.

“It’s not polite to stare,” she mocked.

“Sorry, I can’t seem to help myself.” He threw her traveling clothes to put on and then embraced her tightly.

“Stop acting so worried, you’re going to start freaking me out,” she complained.

“Well, don’t give me reason to worry then,” he said, taking her hand and leading her out of the tent, ignoring the stares of the other members in the camp and heading towards Robb’s tent.

When they entered Brin was already there, yawning and rubbing her eyes, breakfast out on the table in front of her, as Robb went over the plan, again. He looked up when they entered, and though his eyes rested briefly on their interlocked hands, he didn’t comment.

“Going over the plan again, Robb? If we don’t have it down by now, we’re really not the best people to go,” she joked. Brin looked up and smiled appreciatively, but Robb frowned.

“This isn’t a joke, Anya, this is serious.”

“I’m just trying to lighten the mood.”

When they were all packed up and ready to go, Brin, Anya, Robb and Darren set out for the edge of the forest by the road, where the two girls would continue alone. As they left the tent, Robb grabbed Anya’s hand, beckoning for her to stay back.

“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” he asked, genuinely concerned. She sighed, annoyed.

“Robb, I’ve been on missions before, we’ll be fine, seriously.”

“Not about that. You and Darren.”

She frowned.

“What do you have against Darren? I thought he was one of your closest friends.”

“He is, but you’re like family to me, Anya. Since Lily brought you back from the city, you know I’ve considered you family. I just don’t want you to rush into anything because you’re grieving; think things through, take some time.”

“We’re not rushing into things.”

“It sure looked like it last night,” he said, and Anya turned red under his intense gaze.

“Nothing happened, okay? Don’t you want me to be happy?”

He kneeled on the ground and took her hands in his own.

“Of course, I do, that’s why I want to make sure that you’re really thinking this through. I don’t want you to get hurt. The Resistance is a dangerous place, and you never know what’s going to happen.”

“I know, Robb, really. Thank you for your concern, but I really think I should head out before Brin and Darren wonder where we are.”

She squeezed his hand to show that she wasn’t upset with him and then left the room, though she could feel his eyes staring after her as she walked out to meet Brin and Darren by the edge of camp. Darren raised his eyebrows questioningly, and Anya shook her head, shrugging.

They walked in silence to the edge of the forest and stopped a hundred yards or so away from the road to say their goodbyes. Anya hugged Robb, and he wished her the best of luck, giving her last minute warnings that she waved off. Darren stared deeply into her eyes, saying everything without saying anything at all. She stretched up on her toes and kissed him deeply.

“Be careful, okay? Don’t do anything too daring, stay cautious. I’m going to watch you enter from our hiding spot, okay?”

“I’ve got it under control. Don’t miss me too much,” she smiled.

He embraced her one last time, before letting go of her hand and giving her a little push towards the forest. She and Brin waved one last goodbye before stepping carefully out of the forest and onto the path, and began walking towards the fortress, hidden by the tall lines of trees. They walked for about an hour before they reached the edge of the forest, and could see the fortress, rising huge and threatening before them. Brin took a deep breath, and Anya smiled reassuringly at her as they continued down the path. She wondered if Darren was watching her right now through the trees; it made her feel much better to think so.

As they approached the gate, they could see the archers drawing their bows, all aiming directly at them. Anya and Brin put on the appropriate frightened faces—though they really didn’t have to work too hard—and slowly neared the gate.

“Who goes there? What business do you have here?” one of the guards barked.

“We’re travelers, sir,” Anya called up, allowing her voice to shake slightly to put the guards at ease. “We’re hoping to trade and perhaps earn some work and keep for a few nights.”

“There is no work to be done here, be gone!” the guard yelled, turning away from the wall.

“Please, sir! May we at least stay a night? We’ve been traveling for many days now with no food or rest,” she said, glancing at Brin, glad to find she had a very convincing pathetic look.

The guard hesitated for a moment.

“For the night then, but you must stay in the Lower District only, on pain of death,” he barked. Anya kept back her triumphant smile, and instead looked grateful.

“Thank you, sir, thank you!” she cried, as the gate began to lower. As they crossed the moat, the archers slowly lowered their bows and resumed their walks around the wall.

When they entered, the guard was waiting for them, two green passes in his hand that he gave to them to be shown to other officers if stopped while walking through the city.

“They’re good only for the Lower District,” he warned. “If caught anywhere else in the city, you will be arrested.”

“Of course, sir, we understand,” she said, bowing to him respectfully.

He stepped aside to allow them to walk through the main square and into the heart of the fortress. A cloud passed over the sun and the whole city seemed to darken further, as a cold wind swept through the city. Anya shivered as she took Brin’s hand and drew her down the alleyway, into the quiet streets, her sense of safety all but gone.

_________________

H U F F L E P U F F P R I D E


Last edited by Amortentia on Thu Jan 12, 2012 3:03 pm; edited 1 time in total
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