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  1. In between sobs and sniffles, Valentina watched through teary eyes as Duncan healed his wounds, a small scar and some dried up blood the only signs of the injury’s previous existence. He dropped his arm around her shoulders, invited her to press her tear-soaked cheeks against his chest to comfort her. She leaned in heavily against him, tried her best to quell her emotions, of which they were a thousand. So much had happened, in such little time, it was almost impossible to truly comprehend how despite it all they were still alive and—because Duncan had healed himself—unharmed. Valentina managed to settle down just a bit after Duncan offered her reassurance, but she still did not move from his side. “We made it…but…” She could not glance at the two dead bodies, certain she’d heave at the ghastly sight left behind by their remains. At the mention of the moment they met, and his admittance that he had lied to her, Valentina was distracted enough to let him pull away from her. “You saw me? In a dream? You have visions of the future? I wonder if that has anything to do with you going all angel-like—ugh. Should we…move out of here? Do we call somebody? They were thieves but…” She refused to look at the corpses, and rather took his hand and quickly pulled him out of the alleyway, at least to put some distance. “I’m confused…why was I in your dream?”
  2. How pathetic. Battling children? Was that really the extent of their power? The Skeleton shook his head, sighed heavily as he watched the fight unfold before him. He had kept an eye on the whole situation from the very beginning, assessing the abilities of the potential candidates to determine their worth. His organization was well-built and respected, and anyone without the skills to maintain or improve their prestige was easily eliminated for even daring to approach The Dead. He’d seen the more agile bandit get tailed by the two kids from the very beginning, observed the old coward and his companion get spooked by a little bit of light and a gun, and witnessed as their squabbling left them open for a surprise attack—again by the same two greener-than-spring-grass kids. And though now they held the upper hand, it had been such a poor performance, the Skeleton had already decided to exterminate the vermin. Sorry guys, better luck when you’re dead. The Skeleton slipped out of Black’s shadow, swiftly reached for the hand that held the dagger against Valentina’s throat and forced it back into the low-life bandit’s neck, killing him in seconds. As Black’s lifeless body slumped down to the floor, the Skeleton was already at the back of the alley, reaching for Michel’s neck and snapping it sideways. The assassin reached into the pocket of the dead bandit, took out the gem they had worked so “hard” to obtain. He examined the gem, shook his head. The item alone wouldn’t do The Dead any favors, and from his slaughter of the other members of this subpar group, he knew they had not managed to obtain the documents that went along with gem. What a waste of time and effort, truly not worth the trip down to the Holy City. He glanced back to where the frightened boy and girl stood, likely too shellshock to even comprehend that their lives had been spared. He began to move pass the injured boy and bent down to hand over the gem to the girl, an incredibly bright smile on his lips. “Miss Nexula, I believe this belongs to you. We are likely to do business someday; stay well. You didn’t do so bad there, Mr. Hero. You’ll get better.” With that, he disappeared, leaving behind corpses and frightened children. -- Valentina remained on the ground, immobilized by the two deaths she witnessed. She had been so sure just moments before that her life—and that of Duncan’s—were over, snuffed out by her own stupidity. Instead, she was alive, saved by a man dressed like a skeleton, and Matilda’s power source back in her hands. She could not respond to his comment, did not even catch the use of her name. He was gone in an instant, leaving Valentina and Duncan behind, unharmed. “Oh!” Enough of her fear ebbed away for her to remember Duncan’s wound, and she rushed to her feet to check on him. “Duncan! Are you okay!? You’re hurt! I’m sorry for everything! It was my fault!!” She panicked, unsure of what to do as the tears began to swell up and spill out of her eyes. “What…did I do…”
  3. Valentina was impressed by Duncan’s bravado, imagined he would make a great holy warrior someday. All those lessons and readings were going to be of no use to him, she decided, because he was meant to be a warrior. Once it was all said and done, she was going to suggest he change his path, despite Adrien’s likely objections. She refocused her attention on the enemies up ahead, a step behind Duncan, as she provided long-range attack power. She mimicked his stance, tried her best to keep her face scrunched up in what she considered an intimidating look. “Just toss it over,” She commanded, knowing that even if they did not manage to catch it, the gem was resilient enough to sustain the fall damage. It was all about to be over soon, she was sure of it. -- Michel, like the coward he was, froze in place and did nothing. Irritated that he’d been snuck up on again, by two fucking little kids, Black refused to play nice. He was confident the boy was all talk, and though he held the sword with a decent grip, he was sure he’d never once used it on anyone. The girl could be a danger, but if she was as green as he’d hope, her attack would be easy to dodge. He had to take a chance; their contact would arrive at any moment, or shit, he could be watching. He had to prove his worth. Going for it, Black dashed forward and side-stepped to the left as he reached Duncan, slashing at his arm as he moved past him and went straight for Valentina. He saw the surprise in her eyes, knocked her wrists to dislodge the weapon she was not holding properly from her hands and wrapped his arm around her tiny little neck. He held the dagger right to her throat, threatened to slash her if she made a sound. “You idiot boy, drop your sword, unless you want your rich girlfriend to get it. Not so brave now, are you girlie? Bet you wish your daddy was here to save you.” -- It had all happened so fast; the thief had said nothing, and suddenly passed Duncan and reached her to grab her by the throat before she could even gasp. She felt the edge of the weapon on her throat, tried her best to keep from squirming around. She was petrified, much too scared about what was about to happen to even cry. Her eyes darted to where Duncan was, and she managed to squeeze out his name quietly, adding in at the end an apology. She should’ve never dragged him out of the Temple like that; if anything happened to him, it would be her fault.
  4. General information: True name: Unknown Given name: King Atticus Magnus Used name: Atticus Birthplace: Unknown, discovered in Elrux, Muhir Age: Impossible to determine Title(s): King, Protector, the Proud Loyalty: Joyeuse, Charmaine Magnus Nature: Stuffed lion brought to life through magic Purpose: Protect Her
  5. General information: Full Name: Charmaine Aurora Magnus Used name: Charmaine Magnus Nicknames: Charmae Birthplace: Elrux, Muhir Age: Twenty-four Title(s): Lady Magnus Profession: Traveler Loyalty: For Joyeuse Physical characteristics: Height: Five feet, five inches. Weight: Hundred and twenty (lbs) Hair: Brown curls, separated at the bottom in pigtails Eyes: Honey-brown Birthmarks: A multitude of freckles all over Skin shade: Golden tan Familial relations: Father: Charmelion Magnus Mother: Charmelion’s wife Sibiling(s): Charmen Magnus Companion(s): Atticus Magnus, Proud King. Attire/possessions: Head: Thick ruby-studded hair bracers Upper body: Long-sleeved body suit, specifically crafted for her body Lower body: Knee-high brown boots Jewelry: None Weapon: Joyeuse
  6. Michel waited impatiently for the contact to arrive, his eyes alert for any sign of those meddling kids (lol). They were pretty damn fast—or well, truth to be told, he was just rather slow. He was getting old, had stopped worrying about nimble and swift once he opened up shop, and always overindulged in ale. He really couldn’t go on much longer living in such a way, and here was his chance to leave it all behind. If that stupid fuck contact ever showed up, he fumed, his blotchy face turning bright red. There was a rustling from around the corner, and dreading it could be trouble, Michel tried his best to slip into a shadowy corner. He hoped it was just the contact, who if he remembered correctly, would be dressed in all black, with white stripes running down the length of the clothes, reminiscent of skeletons. Just in case though, Michel reached for the dagger he’d taken on his way out of the shop, prepared to use his old skills if it came down to it. He recognized the man that approached, but did not drop his guard. “Black,” he called out as he cautiously stepped out of the shadows, “you’re alive?! I was sure those kids did you in. How did you make it out? Looks like you ain’t hurt either!” Black scoffed at the sight of Michel, irritated to have actually been caught off guard by the old coward. He should’ve known this is where he’d run off to, likely trying to sneak away with the deal while he’d dealt with those shit kids. “Tch. Lotta help you were. Fucker. What are you doing here, huh? This ain’t part of your job.” Michel shrugged, stuffed his dagger back into the back of his belt. “Figured you were dead, what could I do? Somebody had to meet the contact. In any case, them kids dead? Even the rich girl?” Black shook his head, and neglected to turn his back to the front of the alley. “Nah. Little bitch pulled a gun on me. A fuckin’ gun. They probably ran back to the Temple, and we’ll be in trouble if we get caught. Look, let’s just get this shit done, alright? Get the contact, make the deal, leave our separate ways. Fuck everyone else—“ Stop right there! -- Taking initiative while the two men were distracted talking, Valentina appeared behind them, revolver held high. She’d commanded them to stop, her pretty face drawn into hard lines of concentration that gave the impression she was confident using the weapon. If she acted tough, just like before, they would have a chance to take back the gem and retreat without any further issues. “Give back what you stole and you can go! Gimme back the gem!” She pointed at the thief she’d once let go, hoped he remembered the fear he’d felt before at the prospect of being shot.
  7. Vass took Adrien’s hand, shook it with far more strength than one would expect from a man well into his late sixties. “Ah, she fixed something for you did she? May I examine the work? She’s young, still has much to learn.” With Adrien’s permission, Vass opened the drawer where the pendant rested, restored to its former unblemished glory. “Hm, mending work, I presume? Must have been a crack of sorts. Good. She has mastered that skill.” He returned the item to the same spot he found it, turned his attention back to the cleric. It did worry him, he admitted as he rubbed a hand on his scruffy white beard, that his daughter was nowhere in sight. What was more, it seemed that she was in the company of Adrien’s apprentice, that…what was his name again? D…Dunder…head? No, that wasn’t right. Oh well, he could ask again later. What was now important was to find his daughter, and for the first time in a long time, reprimand her for leaving the Temple grounds without permission. “Brother, do you think you could send out guards to the city to find them? I imagine they may be at the market. I apologize on behalf of my daughter for dragging your boy away. It’s been a while since we’ve been back, you see, and I imagine—well no matter. Can you arrange for some scouts?” -- Oblivious to her father’s concerns, Valentina watched Duncan demonstrate his limited magical skills. She could tell it bothered him, not knowing what had happened and what it had meant. She theorized whatever strange powers he’d almost displayed tied in with his atypical physical characteristics, but what it all meant she couldn’t say. She could only offer her sympathy, which she displayed by gently elbowing his side. “Hey, I’ll help you figure it out. Since you’re helping me now, once we get Matilda’s gem back, I’ll help you find out. It’s only fair you know? Since we are friends and all. But for now,” She looked ahead, saw all the different directions the vendor could’ve went. “We better just go! Straight ahead!” Valentina stuffed her weapon back in her bag, one hand securely wrapped around the revolver just in case they came across the thieving old guy. She ran around, questioned those that actually stopped long enough to answer, and was beyond frustrated to recognize how unlikely it was for them to find the vendor and retrieve the item. She was about to give up, just turn back and head to the Temple and let the professionals handle it, when she caught sight of a familiar face lurking around one of the alleyways. Moving fast, Valentina dashed towards where Duncan stood, poking around a corner. “Duncan, look!” She pushed him behind a couple of crates, forced him to squat down with her. “It’s that thief from before! I bet he’s meeting with the other one! Let’s follow him. If we get them both by surprise, we can get the gem back. Try not to faint this time ok?”
  8. Charmen Magnus had been born four years after his sister and had spent every moment of his life since in her shadow. The siblings had always been such lovely little creatures, with their matching crowns of brown curls and wide-set eyes that had earned them titles and nicknames that spoke of their cuteness. Despite their similar appearance and close relationship, the siblings differed in personality; while Charmaine was vibrant and charming, Charmen was serious and sullen. His status as the heir of the Magnus lineage left him with little time to socialize beyond what was necessary, though he had never minded much, as he preferred the quiet that came with endless lessons and studying. When he’d been forced to entertain longer than a few hours, Charmen had relied on his radiant sister to get through the night, her infectious laughter and ceaseless chatter always pulling the spotlight away from him, a welcome reprieved. She radiated with joy, and as a boy Charmen had never loved anyone more. When she’d taken off, disappeared willingly into the woods, forests, deserts, plains—everywhere she wanted—she’d taken the light with her, and their proud House had fallen into a cold silence. It had been years now, and though her infrequent letters informed them she still lived, Charmen never believed he’d see her again. “Charmaine, I can’t believe…” He wanted to reach out and touch her, but social norms kept his hands at his sides and his eyes dry. “This must be a dream! I never thought…” He glanced to her side briefly, caught off guard by the peculiar man standing so close by his sister. “You are?” Charmen examined Christian, his features somewhat familiar, though the noble could not imagine he could ever encounter such strange eyes and forget about them. Feeling uneasy about the man, Charmen turned his attention back to his sister. “I am beyond words at this moment, Charmaine…forgive me if I am a bit awkward.” Charmaine decided that she too was beyond words, and it was pointless to attempt to form any sentences at that moment. Instead, she released her grip on Christian’s arm and stretched out her arms to hold her brother’s hands, that brilliant smile he remembered from his childhood beaming on her lips. “You’ve really grown,” she managed as she broke protocol and leaned in for a tight hug. “My little brother!” She felt the tension disappear, and like that began to quickly talk, as she was prone to do when excited. There was so much to say, and so little time, Charmaine was forced to take a pause and remember she had companions she’d neglected to introduce. “Oh, I have such bad manners! Charmen, brother, this is Christian. He is…” How could she describe him? “…a very special friend. I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for him.” She eased out of Charmen’s space, bent down to scoop up Atticus and presented the magical lion to her brother. “And this is Atticus! Atticus, meet your older brother. He has been my faithful companion ever since I left. He too has protected me and kept me well. Be a good boy Atticus and say hello.” Atticus obeyed Charmaine, gave a soft whine of hello, and repeated his newly learned dance move by placing his cloth foot over his face. Laughing, she subconsciously stepped back to stand by Christian and leaned in against him. “I was not expecting—“ Charmaine did not get to finish her words, Charmen’s hand sneaking up to grab a hold of her arm, yanking her away from Christian. It was so unexpected, so uncharacteristic of the sweet boy she remembered, she was too stunned to protest. “Charmaine, I think you should come home this instant. And you, Christian was it? Thank you for bringing my sister home. I can make arrangements to accommodate you for the night. We will pay you in kind, of course, for returning Lady Magnus to her rightful place.”
  9. Vass finished his business much sooner than he expected, with the deal he wanted struck and signed. It hadn’t been so much about the money, there was plenty of that to go around, but the new models he’d developed were his best work yet and required all the specifications he had made. There were still many details to discuss, but he figured those could wait until tomorrow after he’d gotten some rest. Age was starting to catch up to him, he sighed as he massaged his right shoulder, and he ought to slow down…maybe a little. Of course, he was nowhere near retirement, but maybe it was time to let Valentina take on a few more responsibilities to go along with her studies. She was growing up fast, and more importantly, growing bright. She had inherited his natural skill, which he’d taken the time—in his own way—of honing. She still had a lot to learn, but he was confident in her ability to one day command the Nexula Empire. He searched for her now, expecting her to have completed a couple of tasks around the Temple and ready to go home. After about fifteen minutes of wandering and asking about his teenage daughter, Vass had only been able to learn she had been seen in the company of a peculiar boy, one under the care of Brother Adrien. He’d also heard the two had been seen outside of the Temple doors, and was only slightly concerned about the matter. Valentina hardly ever disobeyed his orders, and he doubted she’d step out without his knowing. He decided to visit Adrien’s quarters, finding the room easily and the door slightly ajar. Used to doing as he pleased, Vass stepped right in, without so much as a light tap on the door. “Ah, Brother Adrien, I presume? Have you seen my daughter, Valentina? She was seen with your boy…Dundun, I think is his name? Not sure. She is supposed to have helped around the Temple, but I can’t seem to find her anywhere. Do you know where she is?”
  10. Valentina studied Duncan as he tested the weight of the sword, the corners of her mouth lifting slightly at the sight. “You look good with a sword,” she mentioned, though she had not meant to say it out loud. Before he could react to the compliment (or heaven forbid, tease her for it), she was retracing the steps of the vendor, who had descended down dimly lit steps. “He went this way. Looks like there’s some light there, so we should be okay. Let’s hurry before the other one comes back!” Their plan was completely idiotic, she thought as she drew her weapon in hand and tried her best to be both stealthy and quick. They were both inexperienced fighters, no one knew where they were, and one of the enemies had run off the opposite way, sure bring back reinforcements. She thought to turn back, to relay the information they gathered and let the armed guards employed by her father deal with the situation. She was about to voice her concerns when Duncan asked her about his strange and failed display of power, her mind wandering off into the memory of the event. “Yeah, he saw you just…GLOW, you know?” She used her free hand to demonstrate how the light surrounded his head, and pushed her shoulder blades back to show him where she saw wings sprouting. “I wasn’t scared though. It felt…warm, you know? I dunno. But he just ran. Maybe he thought it was some weird Temple magic. Do you know anything about it though? Adrien say anything about it?” The steps ended, and they entered a small storage room with a side door left slightly ajar. She was alert, scanned the room, saw no other person present. “I think he ran away out of the shop! Ugh! The city is pretty big huh? He’s old though, probably slow.” She rushed to look outside, tried to determine which direction he might’ve taken off. “We better hurry, put a step on it!” -- Michel had slowed down considerably, his old heart beating a thousand beats per minute, threatening to give out. Damn his old body! He couldn’t afford to waste any time. He glanced back to where his shop stood, and damn it all if he didn’t spot the silver boy standing freak standing a couple of hundred feet away. He surmised maybe Black had died after the weirdo finished his light attack or whatever it had been, and imagined a similar fate was awaiting him if he did not make haste. But his legs hurt, so he could do nothing but try to blend in with some people and get some as far away as possible and reach the meeting spot.
  11. Valentina’s cheeks puffed out in irritation as Duncan refused to obey her suggestion, both of her hands shooting up to settle on her waist. “What kind of question is that! No! I don’t even know if it works! I haven’t really tried it…been kinda scared to. BUT! It wouldn’t cause that much damage—just worked out an electrical magical element. It’ll be like a shock, you know? Should be fairly weak, though….” She had done the calculations, but had delayed testing in fear of misfiring the weapon or her project being discovered. Nevertheless, the situation was dire and called for confidence and swift action; she could not question the consequences now. Nor could she waste any more time thinking about it, she decided, if they were to have a chance at recovering the stolen item. She wanted to argue, push him out the shop and force him to relay her message to the Temple guards and her father, but figured he was much too stubborn to listen and it would just waste more time. “Fine,” she relented and dropped her frown, secretly relieved she would not be left alone to deal with the unknown. “BUT if anything happens, you should run. I don’t think they’ll harm me; they want my dad’s money. That’s probably why they stole from us.” She glanced around a bit, trying to see if she could spot anything else that could be used for their advantage. “Oh hey, look though!” She pointed to one of the display cabinets, an unblemished short sword resting in one of the wooden panels. “Think you could swing that? Don’t they teach you how to fight in the Temple?” She momentarily stuffed her weapon back in her bag, crouched down to retrieve the sword that weighted far more than she had guessed. “Oh, this is weird to hold. Do you know how to use it?” She presented it to him with both hands on the tilt, awkwardly holding it out to him. “Either way, let’s move.” -- Michel had seen enough in his miserable life to know a glowing pair of wings could only mean trouble. He’d taken off, completely free of guilt, and left his partner there to die—if that was indeed what had gone down. At the end of it all, it really didn’t matter if Black died, so long as he still had the gem and made contact with the representatives of the organization known as The Dead. For such a powerful group to even be interested in the low lives that made up Michel’s accomplices, he imagined the small gem must be a great deal important. Fuck the rest of them, he thought as he opened up a secret passage that led to the back of town, which was far less populated and was rich with hidden alleys that function as seedy meeting spots. He would just go complete the deal on his own, get the shit done and over with. Fuck joining them too. Just ask for money and get the hell out of town for good, finally live a life worthy of him.
  12. Valentina furiously shook Duncan’s still body, whimpered out his name and sniffled out a plea for him to come back from his coma. Eventually, just as she was preparing to seek the aid of the Temple, he stirred and smiled at her, shooting off questions about the status of the bandits when he ought to be worried about himself. “You idiot! You could’ve been hurt! What did you even try to do? I had it under control, you know, I was going to save us. Look at you, you almost died!” She smacked her hand repeatedly against his shoulder, shook him one last time for good measure. “Don’t do that again. I got scared. But no, we didn’t get them really…” She explained the events that took place after he lost consciousness, showed him her pet project and sheepishly admitted her father had no knowledge of it. “I’m not supposed to do things like that yet. He’d be real mad if he found out.” When she was confident Duncan had rested long enough, she helped him to his feet, and rapidly began to agonize over their still on-going problem. “The vendor dude ran in the back room. I wonder if he is hiding? Maybe I can intimidate him too, get the gem back still. Here,” She handed to him a small vial, its contents bright green in color. “It’s actually an ointment for burns,” she admitted, poking at the bottle. “But I made a mistake somewhere so it looks more like how you’d expect something toxic. I think you should run back to the Temple, get some help. If that thief guy is hanging around, just threaten him with this. He’s a mega coward.” She readjusted the strap of her bag, checked to ensure the safety she’d placed in the revolver was set. “I’ll go see if the vendor guy is there but I’m worried now this might be more than some random theft. That guy knew I was Vass Nexula’s daughter.”
  13. Michel was old, but had enough vitality left in him to restrain some skinny, flat-chested girl who apparently was worth a mountain’s weight in gold. He would let Black handle the silver-skinned boy, just in case he had some training in self-defense, though from the panicked look in his eyes, Michel doubted it very much. “Tryin’ to play hero huh pretty girl? Don’t worry, pretty thing, we won’t hurt you, gotta get you back to your dear old dad. For a nice sum that is.” Michel was within reach of Valentina before the boy threw her behind himself, a foolish attempt to “protect” her. The old thief chuckled, decided to let Black finish the boy and then they could decide how to deal with the girl. -- Valentina’s fear caused her to have similar plans of escape as Duncan, but just as he quickly discovered, there appear to be no other exits that could release them of their predicament. With that venue of thought dead and gone, Valentina knew her only option left was to pull out her secret project and hoped it work well enough to save them. At the very least, she had to do something to protect Duncan, who she had dragged out of the safety of his home to follow her into a foolish mission; she would never forgive herself if he was seriously hurt because of her. Determined to be the hero of the story, Valentina reached into her bag, fumbled around for her weapon and was about to pull it out when she felt Duncan suddenly grab her and place her behind him, acting as a shield. Shocked, she mumbled his name, lost her concentration and her hold on the weapon within the bag. “Duncan! What are you…” She never finished her thought, her words swallowed back as she watched him suddenly begin to glow, a pair of what had briefly appeared to have been wings sprouting from his back before quickly disappearing without truly forming. The light completely faded, Duncan slumped forward, the seedy vendor panicked and ran, and the only two that remained standing and staring were Valentina and the guy with the dagger. “Duncan!!” Fearing the worst, Valentina took action and finally pulled out her weapon, a modified revolver that could shoot magical bullets. She was by no means proficient in the art of shooting, but she hoped that maybe he’d be intimidated enough to turn run away. “Hey you!! Don’t come closer or I will shoot you dead! You know who I am right!? My dad makes weapons, only the best! You won’t stand a chance against me!!” She aimed, waited, prayed. -- Black was a step away from ending it all, when the weird-looking kid suddenly began to sparkle like the sun. The thief had braced himself for some sort of attack, and had a moment to curse his confidence for thinking they were both just stupid kids. A second passed, then another, and one more—the light disappeared, the boy fell down, and before he had enough time to react, there was a gun pointing at his face. “Tch, little bitch…” He had already been surprised once, and though nothing had happened, he really wasn’t up for taking another gamble. He did as she asked and backed away, was halfway out the door when he yelled, “You’ll pay for this you stupid girl!” -- With both of the thieves gone, Valentina lowered her weapon and immediately bent down to shake Duncan, hoping he wasn’t dead. “Duncan! Duncan! Wake up! Please!”
  14. Camila readily welcomed Ezekiel’s continued embrace, her small and cold hands locked tight around his waist, preventing him from even thinking of separating himself from her. She knew that her reluctance to release him caused them to lose time on their climb, but he never complained or made any attempts to break away. To make up for her insatiable need to feel his touch, Camila matched his steps as best she could, determine to reduce the burden she placed on him. She looked up to stare at him every once in a while, smiled whenever he glanced down as he silently reassured her they would be fine. It was almost over, she hoped, and then they could return to Blairville, where she… Would have to return home, she realized suddenly, deeply dishearten by the thought. Once the lantern was in their possession, surely she’d have to go back to Blairville, and eventually Ashton. She had a terrible sense of time, and had no idea how many days had passed since she bolted out of her guardians’ home, but she imagined they were all worried sick and had already informed her overly protective father. He was likely combing the hills and plains at this very moment, pale with sadness and rage at the thought of finding the dead body of his little girl in a ditch somewhere (by a dumpster). She would have to reappear, assure them she lived, and likely be placed under heavy guard to prevent another incident such as this one to happen. She had never in her short life suffered any repercussions of her actions, and imagined that as far as “bad” things to do go, her running away and climbing a dangerous mountain with an unknown (nigga) man would certainly merit severe punishment. More than likely, she would be kept away from Ezekiel, who might even be branded as the responsible party for her disappearance and expected to pay for it. Don’t think about it, advised her spirits who could sense she was beginning to dip her toes into another reality as the possible negative outcomes of their journey took root in her head, now is not the time for that. Focus. Ezekiel is watching you. She took a deep breath—or as deep as she could, given the altitude—and vowed to keep her mind clear of the future until after they had secured the lantern and returned to the base of the mountain. Her mind was clear and calm, two attributes that soon would be necessary qualities as Ezekiel explained their situation and placed a weapon in her palm. The warrior used her armed hand to demonstrate two different striking blows, one to stab and one to decapitate, the latter more useful than the former given the nature of their enemies. He released her to take up his own sword, the long swords with faded words on one side, nearly bigger than she was. She noted the change of his stance, the calculated brutality that now dominated his every movement and feature. “Ezekiel…” She barely whispered the word, the loss his body against hers leaving her shivering and near whimpers. He trusted her to be true to her word and be useful in the upcoming battle, and though she feared what was about to happen, the girl stepped up as quietly as she could behind him, nodded. “I am ready.” We will help you, her spirits assured her as the loosen their hold on her, preparing themselves to act when necessary.