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About Outsane

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  • Birthday August 25

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  1. Rae was caught off-guard with Marishi's formality. Her jaw was left slack as the door closed behind Marishi, leaving her alone in the room. "What in the hells," she murmured, frowning finally and her brows furrowing. "It's not my fault he gets a little too friendly." She said to herself. Still, it was something that clearly bothered her wife. She should say something to Francmage. She would say something to Francmage. This man was not worth her wife's love. As she got herself ready for the tour, Rae rehearsed in her head what she'd tell Francmage. Perhaps she wouldn't even go on the tour. Putting herself alone with him was just asking for trouble. Before she could leave, a knock came at her door. Rae answered to find a small Elvaan boy holding a parcel. "Miss Rae?" He asked. His bright, cheerful eyes gazing up at her. Rae nodded and took the package the boy offered her, then he skipped off happily. A letter was on the package. Rae took it off and closed the door. 'Dearest Rae, Before I take you on this tour, you must clothe yourself with these garments. It is best if you look as close to one of the nobles as possible, as you will be going through their districts and I do not wish for any to gaze upon you with ire nor disdain. You deserve to be gazed upon as the flower in the desert you are. I hope it fits! You are a slimmer and shorter type than most, but the tailor who made your clothes is the best in all Vana'diel. I shall fetch for you in an hour! Sincerely, Francmage.' "That's definitely too friendly," she murmured to herself while placing the note down. Rae stared at the parcel, then unpacked the contents. It was a dress. A soft, light blue hue was used as the main part of the dress while the petticoat and trimmings were white. Around the collar and the swooping neckline was a white trim that was a lazy frill. The layers had a similar lazy frill that circled the skirt of the dress. Her sleeves where off the shoulder and made of the blue fabric as the rest of the dress. Along with the package came a pair of blue gloves and a pair of white dress heels and a hair clasp. Rae swallowed hard. It certainly looked expensive. Along the skirt of the dress were clusters of pearls in the middle of what appeared to be flowers made of the blue and white fabric. Guilt wracked Rae's mind and heart. She couldn't turn down the tour now. Not after all this effort and money had gone into this. She would have to confront him right off the bat. Quickly dawning the outfit, Rae heard a knock at the door and she sighed, preparing to speak to Francmage before they left. Once she opened the door, a stranger Elvaan stood before her, dressed in sharp clothing. Rae blinked at him a few times as he gawked at her, then he quickly stammered. "I-I am your coach-er. I am your chauffeur for tonight. Your coach and Ser Francmage is awaiting you downstairs. May I accompany you?" He asked, offering his arm to her. Rae smiled warmly to him, finding his slip-up adorable. "Of course, good ser," she replied, slipping her hand through his arm and walking downstairs with him. She walked with ease and confidence, although her dress proved to be a problem to her. She wore heels just fine, but the large, puffy dress was something she was not used to wearing. It was bulky and in the way, so she constantly had to have it held up in order for her to not step upon the petticoat that hung just barely above the floor. As she and the chauffeur walked down the stairs and into the main area, people stopped mid-sentence, heads turned, utensils dropped as did jaws. Rae noticed the stares and blushed, then tugged on the Elvaan's arm as she hurried out of the Inn. "Miss Rae," he gasped, picking up the pace to keep up with her. "Why do you run? Do you not love this attention?" "N-no," she answered honestly. Usually when people stared back on Hydaelyn it meant they knew you existed and attention like this was always bad. Once outside, Francmage was at a carriage speaking to the driver. As the other Elvaan stopped and stared at Rae, Francmage turned around and his eyes widened while his mouth remained open. Rae's cheeks continued to turn red. "Francmage, wait. Before we go, I need to say something." She said, her brows furrowed and a frown on her face. "I'm afraid we don't have much time, Miss Rae," interrupted the driver. "We're a tad behind schedule and we need to get to the courtyard in 15 minutes. You can say what you need in the carriage." With that, Rae was ushered into the carriage and seated, then Francmage followed and sat opposite of her, still gazing upon her. Once the carriage began moving, Rae sighed and looked back to Francmage. He certainly was handsome. Especially when he was dressed in his formal wear. She swallowed hard again and spoke up. "Francmage, I must ask that you stop speaking to me so... comfortably." She wasn't sure how to put this. Rae didn't wish to hurt his feelings, but she needed to get him to stop. "It's upsetting Marishi and I feel that it would be best-" "You wish for me to be uncomfortable around you?" He asked, slightly amused. A smile crossed his features and he leaned back, propping his elbow up on the side of the carriage and resting his hand upon his cheek. Rae's ears rose in alarm and she answered quickly. "No! No that's not what I want at all. I just think you speak to me too casually. In a way that only... lovers should speak." "My dear," Francmage replied, shock written across his face and filling his tone. "That certainly is not how I would speak to anyone but a dear friend! The women around San d'Oria are spoken to with softer words and tones. I only speak to you how I would speak to another young woman." Rae remained quiet, glancing away from him and frowning. That explanation somehow didn't make it any better. Francmage pressed the matter more. "Do you not like how I speak to you, Miss Rae?" A moment passed of her stunned by the question. "It... it's not that I don't like it, Francmage..." she answered at length. "I understand." He said in a low tone. He brought his hands to rest at his lap and he smiled to her warmly. "I shall refrain from stepping over my boundaries with what I say. I wouldn't want my words to hurt you, Miss Rae." The tension in the carriage seemed to melt away and Rae relaxed visibly. She smiled back to him, clearly relieved he was so understanding. "Now, while we're chatting, we're missing all the sights of the city! Look out the window and take it all in, Rae. You are getting the tour of a lifetime!" Francmage exclaimed happily, pointing outside and watching as she moved to the window and gazed outside, eyes bright and happy as she watched the buildings and people fly by them. As he watched her, he couldn't help but feel a pang of jealousy. The finest flower in all of San d'Oria and she wasn't even from this land. The most beautiful creature in all of Vana'diel and she wasn't even his. How lucky Marishi was. The carriage took them to the courtyard where they climbed out and walked about. Francmage held his arm out for Rae to take as he guided her around showing her where the garden was, which gazebo was the nobles' favourite to sit and gossip at, and where the men would smoke their cigars and speak of political matters. It was quite a scenic courtyard, but as he escorted her into the palace, it was far more lovely inside. The walls, ceiling, and floors were all spotless. The windows were clean and ushered in the bright light from the sun. As they walked, they were taken to a place where they could dine. Rae ate conservatively, being as polite as possible while others stared at her. She didn't wish to embarrass Francmage with her unrefined habits. Normally she would be gorging herself on such delicious foods, but she refrained. During their meal, they spoke with the other nobles. Each one getting to know Rae. She smiled and spoke happily to them, even though she could sense their detest for her. 'These must be the nobles that want us gone.' She thought to herself while faking a genuine smile as the two left. "Are you quite certain you aren't royalty back on your star?" Francmage asked, smiling brightly to her. "A queen? Duchess perhaps? Empress of some sort?" Rae could only burst out laughing at his question and promptly denied it. As they continued on, the Palace revealed certain areas that even the nobles could not enter, which Rae frowned. One part being the library. Despite hating school, she loved to learn and books was the best place to learn things. She could lose herself in reading of the world's history and their knowledge. Touring the rest of the palace took a few hours before they left to go to the next attraction. Rae had her face pressed against the window of the carriage in order to see the tops of some buildings, to which Francmage laughed at her. He sat on the same seat as her now, looking out the other side, then beckoned her to look at the house that the eighth king of San d'Oria was born. As Rae climbed over to look, Francmage froze, gazing down at her as she leaned over him. Her hair was pulled to the other side, exposing her neck all the way down to her chest. He had to turn away, squeezing his hands to avoid staring too much. Their tour brought them to the last nobles' estate - Francmage's family estate. He happily helped her out of the carriage and guided her around his mansion before taking her out to the garden. By then, the sun had set and the sky was illuminated by stars, but the garden they walked in had lamps to light the way. Rae had to ask to sit down, as the heels she wore were digging into the back of her feet. She took them off and rubbed her feet as best she could with the large petticoat and she sighed irritably. "Do your women really wear this when they go out?" She asked, dropping her foot down exasperatedly. There was no relief for this foot pain. Francmage frowned and thought a moment, before he beamed a smile and jumped up, holding out his hand to her. "Come with me! Take your petticoat off first, though." He averted his gaze while Rae reached up under the skirt and unlaced it and let it drop to the ground. Instantly she felt relief. When she reached for her shoes, Francmage shook his head. "No, don't bring those. You won't need them." He then kicked off his own shoes and brought her over to the small brook that ran through the estate and to the pond. Carefully, he helped her climb in and stand in the cool water. Its soothing flow working on the awful heat of her inflamed heels. She held the rest of her dress up, but it was a much easier task to do now that the layers were gone. "Ohhh this feels perfect. This is just what I needed." Rae sighed, smiling while closing her eyes and holding tightly onto Francmage so she didn't slip and fall. She hugged onto him, letting her muscles relax as he held her up with both his arms wrapped around her. It was then she could hear Francmage's heart pounding. Slowly, she opened her eyes and gazed up at him and saw him gazing down at her with a look she hated, but loved. Marishi looked at her that way. Or at least, she did a while ago. In fact, it had been so long. She felt the blood rush to her cheeks as she held his gaze and her ears dropped flat against her head. She wanted to look away, to push away, but she was reminded too much of Marishi. Her thoughts were so focused upon how she missed her wife gazing upon her like this that she didn't notice Francmage leaning in. Before she could stop him, his lips were pressed against hers. Gently, one hand slid up her back and cupped her cheek. She froze, eyelids drooping as she melted into the kiss. Her body leaned towards him and her hand let go of the dress, letting it fall to the water with a gently splash. Rae pressed her hand against his chest and fully closed her eyes. And for a brief moment, Rae enjoyed it.
  2. Rae piqued a brow as Marishi reacted to learning this Jakoh would be joining them. She started to ask why she was so resistant to her coming, but the door swung open, causing Rae to jump, startled. As Jakoh entered and threw her arms around Marishi, Rae blinked rapidly. Marishi briefly glazed over the details of this Jakoh woman, but never went into depth. Judging by Jakoh's response to seeing Marishi again, Rae figured their interaction was a little more than what warranted just a brief summary. "It's wonderful to meet you too, Jakoh," Rae finally said, a smile on her face. She'd question Marishi about it further later. For now, they had friends. "I hope you had a good voyage here! Marishi and I seem to always meet bad luck when it comes to airships." She giggled and turned to Marishi, smiling to her while reaching over the table and placing her hand on Marishi's. This gnawed at Jakoh. "Oh, it was a great trip," she responded cheerfully, smiling. "I gotta say, I was more than thrilled to be coming here to see you, all of you! When I heard that they were going to send Kagero to help Marishi, I told them that was a stupid idea. Kagero and Marishi barely spoke, while Marishi and I talked a lot! I'm more friends with Marishi than anyone back at Norg, so it made sense to send me." The Mithra wore a proud, happy smile as she explained that, then took a seat at the last chair at the table, pulling it out, subtly closer to Marishi. She sat with one foot tucked under her and her tail twitching behind her. Rae smiled and chuckled. Her enthusiasm and eccentric personality was endearing. There was something else there, though. She noticed how Jakoh moved the chair closer to Marishi and how she constantly looked over to her. There was something more. Something more indeed. "I'm glad you befriended her. Having some one like you at her side must have been comforting. Although, Marishi didn't say much about you. I'm afraid we haven't really had the chance to go into great detail." She explained, smiling apologetically. She was fishing now. Fishing for a reaction, for a response. For her suspicions confirmed. "Of course," Jakoh sighed, rolling her eyes. "Marishi isn't one to give great details about things, y'know. She's also not the greatest at goodbyes. Didn't even say it to me. Just slipped off in the wee hours of the morning. I'm an early riser, but Marishi wakes up before the Goddess does." Marishi didn't bid her farewell, but chose to leave early. It wasn't a rushed thing, that was planned. She was running away. Rae's smile flickered a moment. This girl was more than just a friend--or rather, she wished she were. Marishi wouldn't betray her like this. "Oh, you don't need to tell me about my wife," Rae said in a pleasant, soft voice. She smiled while leaning onto the table, her eyes focused on Jakoh. "I'm relieved you're so willing to help us, Jakoh. Being strangers in this strange land is quite a helpless feeling. I'm confident with your assistance that we'll be able to return home to Hydaelyn in no time. It'll be such a sad thing to say goodbye to this world and it's ever kind people." Rae wouldn't outright call her out on this, but she'd make sure Jakoh knew the situation through the power of suggestion. She didn't want to outright push the girl away, but she also didn't want her to be a problem for Marishi, and by indirect influence, her as well. The smile faded from Jakoh's face. "Oh, right. You guys are still trying to get home. Well, another person to help push you guys to your goal always helps! I'll assist you in any way I can!" She exclaimed happily, pounding her chest with her fist and puffing it out, the smile returning to her face. Rae had to admit, she was partially relieved Jakoh acted so childishly. Marishi would never tolerate that, but she also knew she wouldn't have to worry about that. Marishi has been faithful to the end. "What's the first plan of action, Francmage?" Jakoh asked, turning to look at him, but she leaned back so she could continue glancing back to Marishi, hoping to make eye contact. Rae, in the mean time, kept her hand on Marishi's, but politely turned to Francmage to listen to what their action would be now that the group was here.
  3. Rae's ears rose to attention at the mention of probing Marishi's mind again. She has had plenty of people within her head lately. She doesn't need another. Before she could object, Rae could see the discomfort on Marishi's face as he began searching through. She grabbed her hand in support for her. She wished she could do more to assist her wife, but this was the best she could offer now. Once it was done, Rae kept a hold of her wife's hand and listened intently to the boy. As he confessed his inability to help them, Rae's heart dropped into despair, but Marishi took it harder, much harder than she thought she would have. Rae dropped down with Marishi, wrapping an arm around her and holding her close. "It'll be alright, Marishi," Rae whispered. "There has to be a way back to Hydaelyn. We'll find a way. I know we will." Her hands squeezed Marishi's shoulder and arm as she held her. She felt the dismal weight of the situation, too. Part of her decried the futility of it, while the other half accepted it. It was then that the boy lowered down and gave them hope. A possible way to return home. Rae breathed a soft sigh of relief. There was hope still. She prepared to stand up, but stopped when the boy addressed her. Rae stared at him and blinked rapidly. She had hidden potential yet untapped? Maybe before. After her aether was severed from Bahamut's she felt anything but powerful with a hidden well of it somewhere within her. If she had it, she would have used it by now, surely. She wished to voice her disagreement, but she felt it was unnecessary. She bowed her head, thanking him for the insight, and stood up with Marishi. She watched as he formed a portal and stepped away, but her ears strained to hear his words, her brows furrowed. Before she could ask what he meant, he was gone. Next, Marishi and Rae began to disappear. The world that surrounded them grew dim and entirely vanished, only to be replaced by the dark sky above them and a cobblestone street with houses on either side of them. Rae had squeezed her eyes shut by that time, expecting that same nauseating sensation to wash over her as it had before, but this time it did not come. "Huh," she murmured, her eyes fluttering open. "Maybe we're yet getting used to this... interspace travel?" Her thoughts were disrupted by the sound of praying. Rae turned and spotted Francmage, bent over and whispering prayers for their souls. The situation caused Rae to laugh, but excitement filled her. They were back in a relatively familiar place. It was San d'Oria! "Francmage!" Rae exclaimed. As he sat up and stared, Rae ran to him, causing her hat to fall off, and threw her arms around him, hugging him and laughing happily. "Oh, Francmage! It's so good to see a familiar face again! Why are you praying for our souls?! We're here! We're alive! Marishi! It's Francmage! We're in San d'Oria! We're home again!" Rae's eyes widened as she said those words, then laughed again. "Well, home on Vana'diel, I guess." Rae chuckled and turned back to Francmage, letting him go. He was white as a ghost, but his cheeks were a bright pink. Somewhere along the street, a sleepy, but angry voice called out. "Can you keep it quiet out there?! Some of us intend to sleep while the night is still out!" Rae gasped and covered her mouth, but a smile was upon her countenance. Francmage suggested they take their discussion back to the inn they had stayed before, to which the two followed quickly along, filling him in along the way. Once they reached the inn, they found a table near the fire and continued on their story. Francmage was pleased with Marishi's experience. The friendships she forged would surely help in the future, and the skills she taught and learned would be a benefit to all. As Rae recounted her trials, Francmage's expression took a turn. His eyes darkened and his lips turned upside down to a frown. "To think my own kin would treat you so. They must have been envious of your clear superiority." He murmured solemnly. "What matters most if you both have returned unharmed. I am intrigued, however, by this boy you've met. This Selh’teus... I've heard that name before, but it was long ago. It dances on the tip of my memory, always out of my grasp. On the morrow, I shall investigate this name. For now, perhaps it is best if we shall retire. I've been awake since dawn fretting over the fate of you two, but now you are alive and well, I feel I can sleep finally," Francmage said, relief changing his features to a softer appearance. "I'll arrange a room for you two. I'm sure there's one left." With that, he stood up and started towards the counter, but paused and turned back to them both. "You know, I worried I sent you two to your deaths. I can't express how relieved I am to see you both again. There truly is something fantastical about you." He added, then smiled to them broadly and marched to the counter. Rae sighed and glanced to Marishi, her hand reaching over and grabbing hers. "I think we've had enough adventure to last us a while. But we're not yet done. We must get to La Thine Plateau. Maybe then we'll be able to find our way home..." She let the sentence fall off there. To talk about what would happen back where they came from was a topic she did not wish to address. Rae brought up Marishi's hand to her lips and she pressed her knuckles to her lips. Just then, Francmage returned with keys for them both. "I have secured a room for you both. I suggest you two get your sleep. I have a feeling you'll endure much more yet. Tomorrow, I shall brief you on what I have learned, but for now, sleep." With that, Francmage left them and returned home to his wife. Rae stood up and walked with Marishi to their room. She had barely taken off her clothes and changed into her sleepwear before she felt the heaviness of fatigue settle over her. She'd bathe tomorrow, but for tonight, she crawled into the bed and looked to Marishi, smiling and holding out her arms for her. "Come join me, my Midnight Moon," Rae purred, quite sleepily. "We shall sleep and be renewed for tomorrow." She bade her to come join her at her side and slip off into slumber.
  4. It didn't take long before Rae recovered from having Bahamut probe her mind. As the airship took off, she felt her mind clear finally. She stared out at the land flying past them with remarkable speed. With the amount of times they were on an airship in this world, one would think her awe and wonder of flying would die off. She felt as though the world were brighter somehow. Even before when they first arrived to this land. Rae gave Marishi's hand a squeeze and she turned to her, smiling happily. As they flew over the ocean, the winds began blowing in a strange pattern. It was like invisible hands pushed and pulled at the ship, fighting for possession for it. Rae stared at the flash of red light that shot up from the ocean and blinked rapidly. Marishi gave her little information, so she was left at a loss as to what it was. Perhaps Marishi didn't fully understand it, either. Rae turned to Marishi as she spoke and her brow arched curiously as she spoke. It was as if she thought they were going to die. As her wife kissed her, Rae returned the affection and caught her wife's wrist. "Of course I trust you, my Lune. Where do you think we are going?" She asked, but before an answer came, Marishi slipped out of Rae's grasp and darted for the port, then jumped off the edge. "MARISHI!" She called out, and watched her descend. Rae gulped and steeled her nerves. The captain was calling out to her as well, but she was set on the decision. She placed her hands on the handles of her rapiers and ran towards the edge of the ship and jumped off as well. As she jumped, her hat drifted off her head, so she reached up and grabbed it with her left hand and pushed it back onto her head while her other hand held tightly on to her new rapier. She watched as she fell towards the water. She knew how to survive jumping into water from great heights, but this might be just too high to survive. As she neared the water, Rae squeezed her eyes shut and called out to this land's goddess. "Altana guide us!" and immediately was submerged into the mysterious abyss that swallowed the two of them. She felt her body pass through a void not unlike what she and Marishi came through. Her body felt like lead. it dropped down faster and farther into the nothingness until suddenly there was a light. Rae opened her eyes as her boots touched water. She could hear waves lap against the shore and pillars that stuck out from the water. Rae fell backwards, but caught herself with her hands so she didn't completely submerge in the water. Her head was spinning it felt like. The world was revolving like on a merry-go-round. Beside her she heard a splash and saw Marishi collapse. Rae crawled towards her quickly and pulled her up and she gazed down beneath them. They should not be standing on this water, and yet it was supporting them. Rae stayed sitting and pulled Marishi close to her, resting her back against her chest so she wouldn't slip beneath the tide, if it were possible. Her mind still spun, so she pressed her forehead against Marishi's shoulder and closed her eyes until the spinning stopped. "Marishi," Rae cooed, finally opening her eyes and looking to her. "Marishi, wake up. We've made it, wherever that is." Rae said while glancing around. The land was mysterious and beautiful. Rae thought she would be afraid, but the calming appearance of it all soothed her soul. As Marishi stirred, Rae looked to her, smiling softly. "We made it." She stated simply, then got to her feet and helped Marishi to hers. They walked towards the bridge that connected the water they stood upon to land. The smooth, white stone looked as if it had been kept up with, so Rae assumed there was intelligent life teeming in this strange area. "Are we still on Vana'diel? Or did we get transported to another world?" Rae looked about with wonder as she spoke. It seemed like they were in a dream world than reality. Once on the stone pathway, Rae felt a little better about their footing. Splashes not far from where they were drew her attention. Strange, iridescent beings leapt up from the water and dove back in, but vanished from sight when they were submerged. Rae gulped at the sight, drawing the conclusion that they would be invisible predators to them if they were to be on the water for any period of time. "What are we doing here, Marishi?" Rae asked, then playfully slapped her wife's arm. "And thank you for telling me your brilliant plan to jump off the airship! You scared me half to death with that talk of finding me on the other side and then taking that leap of faith." She sounded stern, but a smile was on her face. She didn't seem too worried. With Marishi at her side, she felt as though they could do anything and get through anything. If not, then at least they'd be together.
  5. Rae stirred at the sensation of something brushing her cheek. They had given her sleeping aids to help with her ankle. She had dislocated it, but nothing was broken, they said. Setting it back in place was the worst of it, but with time it would heal and she'd be without a cast. As her eyes opened and focused, she saw Marishi hovering over her. A small, sleepy smile crossed her face as she gazed up to her wife. "You're awake before me again," she mused, then suddenly reached up, locking her hands behind Marishi's neck and pulling her down onto the bed with her. Rae's legs wrapped around Marishi as did her tail as she completely wrapped herself around her wife, burying her face into the crook of her neck. She clung onto her as if she feared letting go would cause her to slip away into nothing. Tears flowed freely as she embraced her wife, drinking in her scent and warmth. Oh, how she missed this! Rae gasped and sucked in her breath sharply a few times before she pulled away, looking into Marishi's eyes, her own red from her tears. "What happened to you? Why didn't you answer me when I tried talking to you? What have you learned? Oh, Marishi. I've missed you so much! I thought of you every minute of the day and dreamt of you every night! I slept under the moon and wept so many nights. I never want to be apart from you!" Rae blurted out her questions rapidly, not giving Marishi a chance to answer any of them before she hugged her tightly again and pressing her lips firmly onto hers, kissing her with all the passion she had pent up from spending so long apart. "Rae!" Peri cried out. Rae turned her head just as the small Tarutaru ran over to them both and jumped onto the bed, throwing her arms around them both as best she could. "Oh, Rae! You're awake! And your wife, too! I'm so glad. Ohh I'm so gla-ha-ha-ad!" Peri sobbed as she hugged the two of them, great tears streaming down her face as she hugged onto them both tightly. Rae couldn't help but smile and chuckle as her small friend cried harder than she had. "We're fine, we're fine, Peri, please, let go of our necks or we might not be so fine." Rae teased, to which the small Taru did immediately, gasping and dropping back down to the ground. "Marishi, this is my friend, Peri. Peri, this is my wife, Marishi." Peri stared in awe of Marishi, eyes wide and cheeks coloured red. "I've heard so much about you, Lady Marishi," Peri said, her voice reverent as she addressed Marishi. "I'm so glad I got to meet you! Rae spoke so highly of you, and she wasn't lying when she said you were the most beautiful woman she's ever seen." This caused Rae to laugh and wave to Peri. "Don't give away all my secrets, Peri!" She laughed, to which Peri chuckled as well and covered her mouth. Rae turned back to Marishi, gazing up at her with affection and tenderly caressing her cheek with her fingers before leaning up for another kiss before she unhooked her legs from around her's and let her tail relax against the bed, allowing Marishi to get up finally. She sat up and went to stand up, but grimaced at the pain from her ankle. Peri immediately darted off and fetched a crutch for Rae and handed it over to her, allowing her to get up. She kept her injured ankle off the ground and walked with the aid of the crutch. This would prove annoying to her, but necessary. She'd need it for about a week before she could walk on her ankle without fear of pain. "Everyone is talking about how amazing the fight was yesterday," Peri exclaimed once Rae was moving around. "They saw Marishi falling, and the dragon, and the airship! Oh! The captain is fine, too. Thankfully he was in the cargo and most of it was securely placed so he didn't endure too much damage. Pretty smart of him to hide there... But! They saw all of that and they were so excited they caused Bahamut to crash into the mountain and you! Rae! You flew!! You flew to save your wife! Are all Red Mages able to do-" Rae had to cover Peri's mouth as she laughed nervously, her cheeks blushing brightly. "It was nothing fantastic, Peri.. Please. You are so dramatic about everything." Rae said. Peri then laughed along with her and shook her head. "I'm starved. Let's go get something to eat. What time is it, Peri?" "1500 hours. Everyone is on break today because of yesterday so everyone's wandering around. The storm is over, too. You should go see everyone! They're waiting to see if you're doing better!" Peri explained excitedly. Rae only laughed and shook her head. "I think I want a while along with my wife. The rest of the school can learn of our recovery from you, Peri. If you wouldn't mind?" Rae asked, to which the Tarutaru nodded and quickly scampered off to inform the school while Rae took Marishi's hand and pulled her to follow along. It was difficult to walk together while holding hands, so she settled with just being beside Marishi. As they walked, the two began to catch up to pace with what happened in each other's life, but they were cut off when the headmaster approached them. Rae bowed her head to him and smiled, and he returned the smile in turn. "I am glad to see you up and about so quickly, both of you. Rae, how are you feeling? Is your ankle healing well?" She nodded her head in response to his question, and he let out a sigh of relief. "I am glad for this. Now, I've come here on official business. As headmaster, I had the opportunity to witness your growth. You came here uncertain, alone, timid. Slowly you blossomed into one of the strongest, most capable Red Mages I have ever seen. You endured much here. Much judgement, much ridicule, much unfair treatment. What's worse is you drew your weapon on a teacher within school grounds. You split the students and caused them to spite their teachers and some of their own. You've left quite an imprint on this school." Rae's ears drooped. She had been quite irrational with some of her decisions. She never meant to cause a revolution among the students towards Iphen and Fucie, but it happened, and it could not be undone. "I've received several requests from both teachers and some parents calling for your expulsion," he went on to say. Rae's ears raised slightly and she snorted, a lopsided smile on her face. "Of course, your actions in helping save the school from certain doom at the hands of the Elder Dragon Bahamut, as well as saving another person's life while putting your own at risk, are all admirable and worthy of earning a pardon from the headmaster of this academy. So, Miss Ten. I wish to condone your actions from yesterday and forgive you of them. You acted in the best interest of the school and those within it. You did nothing wrong in my opinion." A warm smile crossed Rae's features as the Tarutaru spoke, and he smiled to her as well. "Thank you, Headmaster." Rae said, bowing her head to him in deep gratitude. "But what of the parents? And Iphen and Fucie? Will they honour your decision?" Rae stood up straight and gazed down at him. "I received two resignation letters this afternoon on my desk as well as a notice that funding has been withdrawn," he answered her honestly. As Rae started to protest, he raised his hand to her. "I have also reached out to the surrounding towns and students have contacted their parents. We will be receiving supplies at the middle of next week thanks to the kind and generous donations of those who are able to spare anything. I have also already appointed two staff members to replace the two I have lost, so not much has been lost this day." Rae let out a laugh again and ran her fingers through her hair. She really did leave quite the imprint upon this school. "You have a week, Miss Rae, before you graduate." The headmaster added. "Miss Marishi, you are permitted to stay here. Typically only students my be within these halls, but an exception shall be made for you. Please try not to start fights with the students." He implored, then turned around and walked back to his office. Rae let out a sigh of relief, then turned to Marishi. "Well, it seems trouble always chases us, doesn't it? At least I'm not expelled. Perhaps I'll finally graduate from a school!" Rae then laughed. It was strange for a grown woman to be so concerned about being expelled, but knowing she was going to be rid of those irksome siblings and that terrible Rolev put an extra skip in her step. Or at least it seemed so. The following week continued on in a droll. The classes were finished as the students were to be tested only; however, given their exemplary skills during the fight with Bahamut, those who were present for the showdown were exempt from taking the final tests. Those who did not show up, however, were forced to take the tests under the new direction of their teachers, a Hume named Allaen and the Tarutaru named Perinana. They were stern teachers and let no stutter nor hesitation slide by without a strict lesson on how it would greatly impact them in the battlefield. On graduation day, the students lined up and were given their new robes. One by one, each student received a medal for their accomplishment and a set of magic-enhanced robes that would strengthen any spell they cast. Moreover, the clothing was made flexible and allowed the wearer to move freely. As a parting gift for Rae, she was given a rapier. The students applauded her as she was given the generous gift from them all. She had taught them so much from her world, and the least they could do was gift her with a rapier to allow her to properly put her new talents and skills to good use. Rolev, however, scowled the whole time. The Hume was reluctant to let go of his grudge, and now that he could no longer get away with anything he wanted, he spited Rae even more. "Our school is better off having granted you permission to be here, Rae. You as well, Marishi. Though you only stayed a short while with us, you have given us all a lasting impression that we shall not soon forget." The Headmaster said, winking to Marishi and smiling broadly to the whole student body. "Today, I look upon the new wave of Red Mages. Go forth and teach what you have learned. Practice what you teach. Fight for what's right!" Everyone raised their hands and cheered, joy filling the room as they finally finished their schooling and were now considered full-fledged Red Mages. The students returned to their rooms, packing their things while Marishi and Rae made their way outside, having packed their things already. She wished she could stay longer, but they needed to leave back to San d'Oria. An airship was ready to take them a small walk from the entrance to the Safehold. They had made their way towards the airship when Rae froze, her hair standing on end. She then spun around just in time for a large shadow to blot out the sky and a gust of wind to blast past them, knocking Rae off her feet. She scrambled to her feet just in time for Bahamut to land between them and their airship. Turning to run back to the school, they were blocked by Bahamut's tail striking down, crushing the plateau they were on. "Rrrrrrrraaaaaaaaeeeeeeee," he growled, lowering his head. His breath was hot and smelled of sulphur. Rae drew her rapiers, her Dreadwyrm rapier held before her while the other held behind her as she prepared to strike. A low rumble rose from his throat as she assumed fighting stance. "To think you were so near this whole time and I did not sense you. You do well to mask your aether, mortal. And you. You lead me straight to her, despite trying your best to save her from me. A pity indeed that now I have you both. It seems your efforts were for naught." Rae held her ground as he addressed Marishi. She would not strike until she learned what Bahamut's intentions were. "Why have you come here? What is it that you want?" Rae asked, her voice an authoritative bark. Both eyes were on her in that moment, and for a second, she felt her body stop, but she regained control. She wouldn't allow this Bahamut to frighten her. "Insolent," he growled to her. "I hold your life on a string and you have the audacity to ask me questions. You are in my domain. This realm of Tavnazia is mine. You have trespassed here and brought... that with you. I demand to know who you are and why you have come here." He snorted, sending hot air to burn her skin. Rae closed her eyes as he did, squeezing them shut and grimacing. She could sense him. Slowly, she opened her eyes again and glared back at him, keeping her weapons drawn. "I am Rae, as you know," she answered back. "I am here to learn how to dual-wield rapiers and to learn the magic of Red Mage from the land of Vana'diel so I may return to Hydaelyn and use my skills to defeat Pandemonium." Rae gripped her weapons tighter as Bahamut moved closer, sniffing the rapier she held before her. Another low rumble emanated from his belly and he curled his lips into a snarl. "I can smell it. This Dreadwyrm from your home. It smells of me, but it is not me. Who is this Bahamut from Hydaelyn?" Rae was stumped. How could she answer this question? It seemed too open-ended. "He's... he's an Elder Primal. He destroyed nearly all of Hydaelyn after being contained for countless years-" Bahamut growled louder and snapped his jaws, his eyes focusing hard on Rae, causing her to stop talking. "You interacted with him. I saw it in Marishi's memories. You've told her as such. I want to know what happened." "... I attuned to his aether and took a part of him unto myself." "So then he is only aether?" "Now he is. Before he was corporeal." "And why do I not sense this aether within you?" Rae paused a moment, which caused Bahamut to slam his tail down, urging her to speak. "Before I came here, some one I knew ripped it from me and a witch gave it a physical form." She explained hesitantly. Bahamut stared down at her, mulling over the information he was given. "I wish to see the moment you attuned to him." He said. Rae looked up at him, a brow piqued. Before she could react, she felt a presence pushing upon her mind. Rae cried out and clutched her head, falling to her knees as she did and her weapons clattered to the ground on either side o fher. "Stop fighting me or I will break your mind and leave you a husk of what you are!" He commanded, his voice adding more pressure to Rae's mind. She had to slowly force herself to allow him through, allowing her mind to not be overwhelmed. She could feel him drudge up her memories, she relieved each one. From her time on Eureka to her wedding to her meeting Marishi to her leaving the island. He dug deeper than necessary, finding her time on Sharlaya interesting before withdrawing until he found the memory he was searching for. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- She was alone. Her master had gone to secure them a place to sleep while they would assist with cleaning the battlefield and disposing of the soldiers that remained hiding. Rae felt a calling to her. She sat alone beside a destroyed Magitek Armour. There was none on the battlefield save herself and the dead, but she felt a pull on her aether, on her consciousness. Getting to her feet, she walked the direction the call came. She stepped over bodies, sometimes having to take entirely different routes to find a way to her destination. As she drew nearer, she felt herself lose control of her body. She no longer cared for the dead and stepped on them indiscriminately. There was a spire in the middle of the battlefield covered in orange aetheric crystals. Rae climbed the spire with confidence, not questioning where her foot stepped, not wondering where her hand reached. Soon, she was atop the spire. Electricity shot off the ends of the crystals, creating a dangerous atmosphere to all those who entered the encased flat of the spire. She could see practically everything. The whole battlefield was laid out before her, but all that mattered was in front of her. A purple wisp hovered amid the aether-charged crystals. It beckoned to her bidding her come nearer. As she did, the wisps began to flicker her way. Rae reached out to touch the faint tendrils. Once they connected, a flurry of emotions and sensations assaulted her. Rage. Sadness. Emptiness. Loneliness. Acceptance. Greeting. Pain. Sadness. Regret. Rage. Rage. RAGE! She grew dizzy and staggered backwards a bit, but caught herself. The aether wisp still remained, the tendrils reaching out to her desperately. She knew this was Bahamut now. She knew she had to get away, but the feel of the aether was... familiar to her, almost. She knew better than to try to attune to the aether of an Elder Primal, especially one that had just almost destroyed the world, but she couldn't help but feel as if she needed to do this. It was safe to do this, since Bahamut was calling to her himself... but why was it safe? Why should she feel comforted by the call of a Primal? Was she a thrall already now? Perhaps it was too late for her. She had already made contact. She should throw herself off the ledge and end it. But... why was she considering her options? Shouldn't thralls be simply obedient? Rae stared at the aether as it slowly drew back within itself. Sucking in deeply, Rae moved back and reached out to the aether once more, connecting her fingertips with the faint tendrils. She had to accept it as her own. She pushed her aether against it, then it pushed back and she pulled back. She continued the motion, their aether rocking back and forth. Her head spun and her body convulsed, but she focused on the aether's flow. Back and forth. Ebb and flow. Rae and Bahamut. Soon, the aether settled within her. It felt like it was too much, but after a moment, her body grew accustomed to the overbearing presence of Bahamut's aether. She laid there, still, staring at the sky. The crystals light changed from orange to blue, the electricity stopped. All was quiet. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- "So it is as Marishi saw," Bahamut stated, withdrawing his presesnce from Rae's mind. She gasped, releasing the breath she did not know she was holding, and dropped to the ground, pressing her face to the grass below her. "Your star's Bahamut was mindless, but there was emotion to him. I know you sensed it as well, Rae. Your world is different than this world. It is sad, marred with irreparable damage, but it is still beautiful. It would be a pity that it should be destroyed by that creature... Pandemonium. And that witch... It would be a greater pity should they come here and wreak their havoc. I cannot allow this to happen. You are to return home, but you shall take a part of me with you. While you cannot attune to my aether, I shall do the next best thing." With that, Bahamut reached out to Rae's weapons. His large claw touched her new rapier, gifted by the school. As he did, the weapon began to glow a faint purple light. Rae, who was still recovering from the interaction, was panting and staring at the sword as it took on the assisted aether from Vana'diel's Bahamut. Once it was done, Bahamut withdrew his claw. "Save your star from this Pandemonium. I will lend you my strength to do so." And with that, Bahamut pushed off the ground, his wings unfurled and carried him off over the mountains. The world was silent and still for a brief moment before Rae grabbed the swords and sat back, breathing deeply still and her eyes closed. "What the hells is wrong with Bahamut? Is there a world that exists where he isn't an arsehole?" She asked breathlessly, though as mile crossed her face as she said it.
  6. The breath escaped Rae's lips. Her eyes widened and her blood ran cold. The storm swooped in, the rain fell sideways as the gust of wind nearly knocked her back, causing Peri to stagger backwards, almost knocking her off her feet. Rae sensed something, something that terrified her. Something she hadn't sensed in nearly 10 years. It was different, though. While the presence was undoubtedly Bahamut, it had a different flavour to the aether. Rae stood there, positively soaked with the rain and Peri tugged on her pant leg. "Rae, we must go inside! We'll catch death if we stay out here!" She shrieked desperately. Rae snapped from her trance and looked down to the Tarutaru huddled against her leg, using it to brace herself against the unforgiving wind. Trees bowed at the force, the earth seemed to crumble, buckling under the sheer force of the storm. Rae picked up the Taru in her arms and darted back to the doors. The guards were inside, peeking out for the two of them. Once Rae approached, the opened the door for them. It took both guards to push it open against the wind, and when they did, water gushed into the hallway, soaking their boots and the floor beneath them. "There's something fearsome out there," Rae yelled over the sound of the pounding rain against the metal door. "It will attack the school, I fear, if we don't do anything about it." The two guards glanced to one another, then looked down the hallway. The whole school was there, it seemed. Iphen and Fucie included. They stared at Rae with shock. Rae turned to the students and teachers and knelt down, bowing her head. "Please, I need your help. There's something out there that is attacking the airship my wife is on, moreso, I fear it will strike out against the school. We must stop-" The air was pierced with an angered scream from Bahamut. The hair on Rae's neck and arms rose and she looked towards the door. All the students grew tense at the sound, then Iphen spoke up. "It would seem Bahamut has left his abode to stop that airship," he said casually, shrugging. "Whatever he wants, he will get. We should let him have it and be done with it." Rae lifted her gaze slowly and stared at Iphen with an impassive expression on her face, but the look in her eyes was what caused his heart to stop. "Leave it? That it is my wife. The one I vowed to love and protect until I draw my last breath. If you expect me to simply forget my duty to her, then you will find yourself quite shocked when I tell you I will do no such thing." "No one is going to risk their neck to save your wife whom you haven't spoken to in months," snapped Fucie, supporting her brother. "Who's to say she hadn't found another? Who's to say she wasn't just flying by to drop off the ring-" She could not finish the sentence. Rae's rapier was drawn and she was on Fucie in a matter of seconds, the sharp blade pressed against her neck hard enough to draw blood. Instantly, two blades were against Rae's neck from Iphen and Rolev, then, three blades on their necks from the students who supported Rae. "My wife would never do such a thing," Rae whispered, eyes narrowed and glaring at Fucie. "Just because you haven't felt the pure love of another, does not mean it does not exist. Just because you fear your own brother would put a knife in your back, does not mean that others would to their own." That last statement seemed to strike a cord with Fucie. Her eye twitched and her face contorted with rage. Outside, another angry roar was heard and the students glanced around, frightened. From behind Fucie, the headmaster spoke up. "There will be no blood spilled on these floors," he said. His voice echoed and instantly all withdrew their weapons. Some looking shame-faced, but Rae glared at Iphen and Fucie with equal rage towards them both. "Rae, you have some one to save. I will offer you whatever help I can muster, but to face Bahamut head-on would be a fool's challenge. I say we distract him enough to force him to a spot where he would injure himself. Use his hulking weight against him. There's plenty of mountains and sturdy trees. clipping his wings would cause him to lose his balance and send him careening into the mountain face." Rae nodded and darted to her room, but stopped when a voice spoke up. "I'll help! I want to help Rae," Peri exclaimed, stepping forward. Rae turned to face her and felt a lump form in her throat. Others stepped forward as well, offering their assistance to help them ward off Bahamut and save Rae's wife. There was a moment of silence as Iphen, Fucie, Rolev and his friends all remained still, refusing to offer their aid. The headmaster nodded and said. "Then get your cloaks, young men and women. We are going to battle an Elder Dragon." The school was live for the first time in years. Guards and students scrambled to get their gear equipped and fitted. Rae was the first ready and at the door, her rapier held at her side. "I think we shall try the spells you have taught the students," the headmaster mused, stroking his moustache. Rae smirked. "Lightening in a thunderstorm sounds reasonable, no?" Rae's tail swished behind her, excited to finally give her skills a try. The students all lined up, and once everyone was present, the guards swung the doors open and the students all rushed out, finding hiding spots in the cliffs to keep safe from Bahamut's attack. They worked silently, sending signals to one another by waving hands. All hands signalled they were in position and ready to strike. Bahamut was soaring about now, preparing to lash out against the airship. The headmaster gave his first signal, the first group prepared an attack, then sent several bolts of lightening shooting through the sky. Some had true aim, others narrowly missed striking the airship. Rae cursed under hear breath and sent a bolt of lighting herself, striking the tip of Bahamut's tail, causing it to whip around and Bahamut to lose balance momentarily before regaining it. "Do not strike him directly, Rae," cautioned the headmaster. "We are going to direct him, send the lightning in a way that will guide him farther from the airship. If we can get him to hit the trees, good. If he strikes a mountain, even better. But do not hit him. It's useless." Rae frowned, but nodded. The second volley of lightening shot out, the aim was horribly off this time, but at least none struck the airship. Rae felt sick as she saw chunks of the airship get torn off by Bahamut, but it flew on still. Whoever flew that thing was a master of it, surely. It was then that the airship stalled. Rae's heart slowed as she saw it descend. "MARISHI!" Rae screamed and jumped from her cover. The headmaster, in a panic, waved for the students to blast indiscriminately. They obeyed. Bolt after bolt flew from their rapiers' pommels, causing Bahamut to take another path, but unfortunately was too slow to stop the airship from falling. A few students darted out from their hiding spots to rush to Rae's aid as she sprinted across the plateau to the falling airship. A flash of bright light caught Rae's eye and she saw the form it came from. Marishi. She would have to salvage her from the wreckage. Another scream from Bahamut and the great shadow he cast flew over them, soon, a rumble that shook the earth was heard. Rae spotted Marishi thrown from the ship and her heart stopped, her breath leaving her body. She'd die if she hit the ground from that height. Without considering other options, Rae spun to her left and crouched down, then cast a spell of Veraero towards the ground. The resulting blast sent her skyward. Rae turned herself around in the sky just in time to meet Marishi, catching her in her arms and slamming into the opposite mountain side. She attempted to stop their fall, or at least slow it, by dragging her feet into the face of the mountain, but a burst of pain shot up from her foot and stunned her mind, causing them to free-fall together to the ground. Rae squeezed her eyes shut and hugged Marishi tightly, bracing for impact, but was cut short of the fall. Large, strong arms caught them both and Rae's eyes snapped open to see one of the students holding them both. The Galka beamed a smile at Rae and Marishi, and Rae laughed. "Thank the Twelve you were here!" She croaked. "That was AMAZING what you did!" He exclaimed, causing Rae to blush. Somewhere from above, another roar was heard and the Galka student began running back to the Safehold. They made it in time as the rest of the students and the doors were closed and sealed behind them. Rae checked over Marishi as best she could considering they were crushed against the Galka's broad chest, but he brought them both to the infirmary, where a few students prepared to treat the two of them. Rae's cloak was covered in blood. Was it her own? No, it was Marishi's. The Galka placed Rae down, who cried out as she put weight on her right ankle. Carefully, he helped her place Marishi on a bed and the students immediately began working their magic and medicine to help Marishi recover. As the Galka attempted to help Rae away to another bed, she shook his hand off her and knelt down at Marishi's side, holding her hand. "I don't want to leave her side. Let me stay here!" She begged. Peri was with them immediately and shooed the Galka away. "She'll be treated when she wants! Let her be with her wife! Come, Rae, let me take your cloak. You're soaked! You need to get warm. It won't do for you to let your wife see you sick!" The Tarutaru helped unclasp the cloak Rae wore and remove the coat as well, leaving her in her soaked tunic and pants and boots. All around them the students worked in a flurry to seal and patch up Marishi's wounds. When one tried to help Rae, she swiped at him. "Please! Help her first! I'll live. It's just a sprain." Meanwhile, her ankle was swelling and turning purple, but she paid it no mind. "Oh, Marishi, please. Please wake up. Please be alright. Oh, my Moonlight, my Lune, my Silver Sun." Rae closed her eyes and pressed her lips against Marishi's hand, then her forehead against it. Her hands trembled. The students began using their magic to heal Marishi again, this time, Rae helped. She learned their spells and began casting a cure over Marishi, helping to seal wounds that were bleeding to help with the mending of them, as well as clearing out infections and bacteria so she would not get sick from her injuries. It was then that Rae realized something. She had changed. Being stripped of Bahamut's aether caused her to feel empty, weakened. Now, she was using magic she had never before seen and able to wield two rapiers at the same time. She knew spells she thought only black mages could cast and was able to heal almost as well as any white mage she had met. A sense of calm washed over Rae. She was stronger than she gave herself credit for. She thought when Bahamut's aether was pulled from her own she would be nothing, but she was something even before he allowed her to attune to him. She was something long before then, and she would be something long after him as well. The thought comforted her. As she gazed down and looked over her wife's wounds that were sealing over, she relaxed and breathed a sigh of relief. Everything was going to be alright.
  7. The student were evenly split down the middle. On the one hand, there were some students who were in favour of Rae. She had shown a prowess in Red Mage that none others could match. Her abilities put her at the top of the class instantly. In her first duel, she dispatched her classmate with such ease, Iphen and Fucie had to admit she was talented. The headmaster, the solemn Tarutaru that greeted her that night, was also impressed. He insisted on another duel, to which another classmate was all-too eager to oblige. In terms of magic, Rae was second to none. Despite her impressive skill, however, she was still the runt of the group. Iphen and Fucie still favoured Rolev, and he still made every effort to get her punished. Rae spent more nights sleeping under the stars than she did sleeping in the bed she was assigned. Rolev, however, was not impressed with her. His bitter grudge he held kept him from approaching her and from learning the "dirty magic" she had. His friends, appeared disinterested, but quietly wished to practice in the skill that Rae had. As them month wore on, the headmaster encouraged all parties to learn of the strengths and weaknesses from one another's different Red Mage skills. Their lessons grew more and more about learning the differences from one another's magic than it was about imposing the magic upon the students. Those who admired Rae and were in awe of her skill would approach her during their two hour break and on weekends. She would quickly gain permission to show off her magic and would demonstrate, and the students would join in the practice. Rae was thrilled at the slow change. in demeanour from her peers and teachers. This was what she was expecting when she was asked to go to the school; however, she couldn't help but notice she missed the crucial lesson, the whole reason why she was there: dual-wielding. She put in a forma l request to the Headmaster, asking that he teach her what she wished to know. He was the focus on the physical aspect of being a Red Mage, so it only made sense that he would teach her how to dual-wield. It took two days before an answer came, but once it came, the students were excited, for it would mean a chance to witness Rae's skill with fencing.If she was half as good with wielding her rapier as she was with casting spells, then this would be a lesson to remember. The headmaster allowed the student body to spectate. They were lined up along the cliff watching as Rae and the headmaster duelled. He was wielding two rapiers while Rae held her one. Her crystal companion hovered beside her obediently. As the duel started, Rae was immediately overwhelmed. Blocking two rapiers was much more of a challenge than she thought it would be. More effort was put in to her dodging than blocking. The Tarutaru's smooth strides were almost hypnotic to the watchers. He commanded the battle field with just his movements. Rae was out of breath before the fight really started and he had his rapier pressed to her shoulder before she could stop him. The crowd applauded and Rae bowed her head in defeat. "You have the skill, Rae, but we must teach you the methods. Come, I will lend you a rapier that was once and old student's. He since left the school, but left his rapier as well. I shall allow you to use his and practice-" "I wish to duel her now," came a voice from the crowd. Rolev stepped forward, and Rae sighed. "If I win, you will teach me instead. If she wins, you can teach her!" The headmaster scoffed. "You think yourself at her level, boy? She would slice you into a thousand pieces. You need more practice. I've seen you wield your sword. You throw it around like a club. You have no contest here." "I demand you let me duel! Or I shall tell my father of your negligence to teach me properly! We all deserve a fair lesson just as she does, and I will demonstrate that I am just as capable as she!" Rolev retorted. His friends backed him up, nodding in agreement and quietly voicing their support. "Whatever you may think, I will not let you duel her. She just finished a duel and is tired-" Rae cut him off by raising her hand, a smile on her face and a fire in her eyes. "I'm ready to fight, Headmaster." Rae stated, drawing her rapier again. Eyeing her over once more, the headmaster stepped aside. Rolev drew his blade and the two squared off. He wielded just one blade as well, which Rae was relieved to see. Rae waited and watched. She was never the first to strike, as her Master taught her all those years ago. It was easier to strike after a parry than it was to dive in. These sentiments were not shared with her partner. Rolev lunged, thrusting the blade forward to pierce Rae's arm, but she blocked the blade, allowing it to ricochet off to the side and she spun, using her momentum to slice at him. Roleve jumped out of the way, however, landing to safety. Rae prowled around him, waiting again. Her duel partner grew impatient and lunged again, slicing downward, but Rae quickly feinted to the opposite side and swung her blade upward, to which she missed, then she skipped forward and swung diagonally, which was parried, then she swung from the side, clipping his shoulder and cutting his sleeve. The boy cried out and clutched his arm, grimacing at her. Rae only smiled and chuckled. She was lithe and well-balanced. Despite her loss at the hands of the headmaster, she was quite capable of dispatching this young man as he seemed only concerned with landing fatal blows, not whittling down his enemy's defences until he could strike the finishing blow. Rae struck as he was distracted with his minor cut. She wouldn't let him have a reprieve from her onslaught. She swung her blade down, then across, then up, then spun around and sliced sideways. Each strike was a threatening blow and he struggled to defend himself from her. Just as he was backed up against the wall, the students watched with wide eyes and opened mouths, he desperately tried to gain the upper hand. Whispering a spell, he cast a spell of fire, causing Rae to jump back to safety. Peri cried out. "He's cheating! He's using magic!!" and the other students cried foul as well, but the headmaster stayed his hand. Iphen and Fucie watched impassively, a smirk on their faces. Rae snarled and brought her hands to her chest, then summoned five blades of aether. The students gasped and pointed at the brilliant, purple and white spectacle until the blades flew at Rolev. Some screamed in horror as they pierced his clothes, and others remained silent, but looked away. Rolev cried out for mercy as he felt the blades graze across his skin, pinning him in place. "Cheater!" Spat Fucie, who stomped up to Rae and grabbed her by the collar of her coat. "You KNOW you may not use magic in a duel! That is against the rules and you have forfeit your win!" The students, upon realizing that Rolev was safe, but only pinned in place by the aether swords, all began to protest, but Iphen raised his hand, silencing them, except for Peri. "No! That's not fair! She fought fair and square and Rolev cheated first! He should be punished! He lost first! Rae won! She's stronger than him!" She cried out stomping her feet and tears rolling down her face. She had remained quiet of this for too long, now they had gone too far for her. "You would do well to hold your tongue, Perinana," scolded Iphen, who glared down to her. "Lest you suffer her same punishment." "I don't care! You're being unfair! Punish me as well, but I'll no longer keep my silence when I see you prostrating yourselves before the all-mighty coin! This is a school! Not a political playground!" Peri snapped back. Rae's eyes widened and everyone stared at her with shock, including the teachers. "Such insolence," Fucie muttered. "Both of you will sleep outside with the beastmen. For the rest of the week!" Rae simply shrugged, but Peri's face paled, though her expression did not change. Slowly, the students began to return to inside. Rolev's friends struggled to free him from the blades Rae had created. She glanced back to them, then willed the weapons away. Once she did, the group of them tumbled to the ground, then scrambled up and followed the rest of the students back inside. The gates closed, leaving the two students outside. "You should have just let it slide, Peri. You don't need to be punished with me." Rae said while walking towards her usual sleeping spot. She had been kicked out so many times by then that she had found the perfect spot to sleep that was out of view of everything else, but she could see everything. "I can't just sit by while you get punished for him, Rae," Peri said, following her and frowning. "It's just not fair. You deserve better treatment than what they're giving you." She laughed and held her hand out to Peri, then pulled her onto her back and made sure she was hanging on before she began to climb to the plateau. "I'm treated far worse back home. This is a courtesy they do for me. Here, we'll sleep here tonight. This is my bed. My true bed." She explained while laying down. Per glanced, the spot was little bigger than the both of them, but she didn't feel comfortable laying on it. Rae then patted her tummy, signalling she could lay on her, so Peri did, resting her head upon Rae's bosom. She stared up at the sky and sighed. There was no moon that night. And despite having some one next to her, she never felt so alone. ---------------------------------------------------------------- The months that followed were fast. They blended together for Rae. Her lessons were entirely focused on her learning to wield two rapiers at the same time. Her teacher, the Headmaster, was strict, but forgiving. She was a quick learner, thankfully, and before long, she was keeping up to his pace. She moved like she were dancing. She spun, waved her arms, skipped, leapt, and shuffled. Each movement was smooth and fluid. She spared no effort to little else. She was left alone by Rolev and his friends. Which she was grateful for. The rest of the students seemed to admire her even more now and frequently asked to see her magic and fencing skills. The teachers learned to turn a blind eye, as the headmaster finally stepped in and gave her the privileges she deserved. "Rae! Rae!" Cried Peri one morning, rushing to her during breakfast time. "Rae! I just overheard the headmaster talking! There's an airship coming here from Norg! It has your wife on it!" Rae's eyes widened and a bright, happy smile crossed her lips. The brightest, happiest smile anyone ever saw. She pushed back her chair and ran to her room, fetching her change of clothes. She wouldn't greet her wife in her students' clothes, but in her uniform that she earned. It had been four months. Four long, agonizing months of silence from her wife's end of the link pearl. She knew she was safe and alright, but it didn't stop her from agonizing and the pit of loneliness building up within her. Once changed into her uniform, Rae glanced at herself in the mirror, then darted outside. Rae scanned the skies eagerly, looking for a spec in the sky that would signify her wife. Everything was clear, not a cloud could be seen. Her heart thundered in her chest so loudly that she couldn't hear anyone run up behind her. Peri quickly rushed out, breathless, and handed her a telescope. "There! You can see farther with that!" She explained. Rae had jumped at the sudden appearance of Peri, but laughed and bowed to her. Thanking her, Rae used the scope to look through the endless blue again. Something drew her attention, however. Clouds. Where had they come from? She didn't see them moments before. Straining her eyes to see, she paid fine attention to detail to see if she could find anything. It was then that she spotted something far off. Something that looked to be an airship. Her heart leapt in her chest and she practically ran off the plateau to try and meet the airship. "Oh that I could fly like the dragons! My wife is there! I see her! I see the ship that brings her!" Her heart reached out. She never knew this connection existed before but knowing Marishi was so close, she felt her heart and soul searching for the familiar presence of Marishi. She ached for it, yearned it. "Marishiiiiii!" Rae cried out, even though she knew she probably couldn't hear her, but excitement built up within her. She would scream and yell until she heard her wife's voice again. It had been too long. It had been far, far too long, and soon, she would be whole again. As the ship neared, she noticed the clouds were more frightening than usual. This was no storm by chance. These clouds had a purpose, they obeyed a command. Rae furrowed her brows and gripped her rapier. There would be a battle.
  8. "Rise and shine, Miss Rae!" Sang the shrill voice of Perinana. Rae flinched and groggily opened her eyes. The day before was truly not a dream. For a moment, she thought she was back in Sharlaya. The smell of books and the sense of learning filled her mind. She glanced around and settled upon the small Tarutaru who beamed a smile at Rae. While most others seemed more interested in their studies than they were in the stranger from a strange land, this small onion-like lady was interested in Rae as a person. She made a point to ask questions of her whenever possible as she guided Rae through the Safehold, mindful to answer any questions that Rae had of their place. The school was illuminated solely with torches and candles. There were no windows and only one door that lead outside. While it was a safe idea, should they need to escape, it would be difficult with their enemies banging down their only door. It made Rae feel trapped, locked in. It was suffocating, but she would push down that feeling. There were several separate rooms that accommodated over three dozen students and two teachers and one headmaster. They ran a strict ship. Schedules were meticulously kept to for all the students. They were busy from 0800 until 1800 each day and afforded breaks every 6th and 7th day, but not much else. Rae was no exception to these rules. She was to attend every class on time. She was never late nor lost thanks to her roommate, Perinana--whom she had elected to call Peri--who walked her through the school. The classes were strictly for her to sit in on and listen, but never to participate. She had not earned that right yet. This bothered her. "Should I not be learning alongside you?" Rae asked. "Why invite me here if to only make me sit and waste my time?" Peri opened her mouth to reply, but a student interjected. "Waste your time? You should know that you are attending the most prestigious school for Red Mages for free. My family had to sell a portion of their land to afford sending me here to learn. If you feel it a waste of your time, you're more than welcome to leave. The door is right where it was when you arrived." The young man quipped. He looked insulted, but haughty. Rae stared at him a moment before shrugging, content to let him have his piece, but that would not do for him. "Why silence yourself now, outsider? You seemed to have plenty to say but moments ago." "I'd answer your eavesdropping to our conversation, but frankly, I don't feel it necessary to entertain a grown boy's desire to cause discourse," Rae retorted, a polite smile on her face. Peri had to purse her lips together and bit the inside of her cheek to keep herself from breaking a smile or chuckle. "If you wouldn't mind, now. The women are having a conversation and we would like to do so without interruption." With that, Rae turned to Peri, but the young man would not let it end there. "I'm of the same age as you, cat," he snarled back, quietly. "And I've been here longer than you, so you would do well to listen to me and what I have to say." Peri frowned, then leaned closer to Rae. "It's best if we leave it-" "You surely don't act your age, boy," Rae quipped, a playful smile on her face as she saw his turn red. "Perhaps your parents' money would have been better spent on lessons of manners before lessons in power, lest you abuse it." "Is there something you'd like to share?" Iphen asked pointedly, glaring at Rae. She blinked, then shook her head. "No, sir." She answered. "I would suggest you spend less time running your mouth and listening. You are a guest here and we will respect you if you respect us and our rules." Iphen reiterated the conditions that were laid out when she arrived. Rae nodded her head and spoke up as the Elvaan turned to leave. "I mean no disrespect, sir, but when my honour is pulled into question, I will-" "I don't recall wanting to hear your reasoning for interrupting the class, Miss Rae," Iphen interrupted. Rae stared at him with bewilderment. "You will keep quiet until the lesson is over, or unless you have a question if this magic is too advanced for you to understand." Rae remained silent while the boy in front of her snickered, his friends scattered throughout the classroom joining in with him. "His name is Rolev," Peri whispered as Rae's eyes pierced the back of his head with a sharp glare. "His family is actually quite rich and influential within the school. They own a large farm and supply us with the best of their farm. It's best to not pick fights with him, as the teachers will support his side." "Duly noted, Peri," Rae replied quietly. "But I will make no promise I won't take my jabs where I can." A gong rang throughout the halls, signalling it was time to switch classes. Rae sat behind Rolev again and glared at him, not breaking eye contact any time he dared sneak a glance behind him. The day ended and the students were given their free time before curfew. Some went outside while others went to practice their magic. Rae and Peri headed outside, chatting happily about Rae's life on Hydaelyn. It was warm outside, though cloudy. Rae breathed in deeply and sighed. Digging through her pocket, she produced the link pearl and listened. There was nothing. "Marishi? Are you there?" Rae called to it. "Marishi is your partner you said, right?" Peri asked, to which Rae nodded. "I must admit, I've never heard of two females loving each other and marrying, but she must be some wonderful woman if you fell in love with her." Rae chuckled and nodded, pocketing the link pearl. "She is, truly. No one else has made me feel this way. She's everything I need. She has wisdom, she has power, she has passion. Marishi is like a terrible force on the battlefield. She is like the god of Death haunting along the battle, plucking life from any body she deems fit. Her wisdom is endless. She is like an encyclopedia. Like a library of tomes that knows everything. And by the Twelve, her beauty! If her face does not capture you, then her eyes surely will! She's like a dream. A dream I never wish to wake from..." Rae sighed and smiled, flopping back onto the grass and staring at the sky. "She is my Moon. The stars that fill the sky. She's the light in the darkness of the world. Without her, the sea flees, the plants die, the sky is black..." Peri stared in quiet awe as Rae spoke, her mouth open slightly and her cheeks blushing. "Wow," she whispered. "She really is incredible, huh?" "She is and more," Rae mused, chuckling and sitting up. "I miss her more and more each hour." "If you miss her so, then leave and be at her side," snorted Rolev. A few of his friend snickered with him again and he glanced back at them, emboldened by their quiet support. Rae and Peri glanced at him, though Peri turned back around to ignore him, Rae smiled to him again. "Rolev! What a pleasure. You come looking for me, you must be in awe of me! Please, we can talk later when I'm not busy." Rolev scoffed and crossed his arms, leaning on one foot. "And what of you is there that I should I be in awe of?" "My power, of course. I can see you're quite an astute Red Mage--despite your stammer with spells and poor aim--and can sense strength when you see it! Don't you fret, though. With enough practice, you might cover a fraction of my power." Rae teased, Peri smiled, hiding her reaction from the group, though Rae saw it. "What power? All we've seen you do is sit around and annoy everyone with your presence," Rolev retorted bitterly, scowling at her. "If you have power, why not show it?" Rae reached down to her hip and produced her rapier and crystal and hopped to her feet, spinning around on her heel to face Rolev. "But of course! I would gladly show you how a Red Mage fights!" She exclaimed, a fire in her eyes as she stared at the Hume, who backed up and held his hands up a little. His friends followed suit. Rae opened her mouth to cast a spell, but a small hand tugging on her pant leg stopped her. "It's a trap, Rae, don't do it," Peri warned, eyes wide and worry stricken across her face. "If you cast a spell they'll kick you out!" Cursing herself, Rae began to sheath her weapon when Fucie appeared. "Put away your weapon, Miss Rae!" She commanded, her eyes ablaze with fury. "You may NOT draw weapons within the school! That is grounds for expulsion!" Rolev and his friends glanced to one another, smiles on their faces. "We are not within the school, ma'am," Rae answered, her rapier already replaced at her side. "Rolev and his friends wished to see my rapier, and I wished to show them." "She was going to cast a spell, Miss Fucie!" Cried Rolev. Fucie stared at him, then turned back to Rae and stepped closer to her. "You may not draw your weapon for any reason unless permission is given to you by Iphen or I. If I see your rapier again, I will drag you out myself." She hissed to her quietly. Rae became indignant, her brows furrowed and a frown on her face. "Why invite me to come here if you're going to have me sit in a corner and do nothing? I came here to learn and all that I have learned is this school is run by politics and your magic is weaker than the other classes of Black Mage and White Mage. I haven't seen spell nor fencing practice. I thought you wanted to learn of my magic as well?" Fucie glared down at Rae a moment while Peri covered her mouth with both hands. The sun was setting and cast a dark shadow across one side of Fucie's face as she glowered at Rae, who met her gaze and did not falter. "Make no mistake, Rae," she whispered, her voice bitterly cold. "You are here as per the request of Francmage, who happens to be a good friend of the headmaster. I have little belief that whatever skills you possess are as impressive as he has made them seem as it would take some one of great discipline to wield this power he claims you hold. I have seen nothing but immaturity and ingratitude from you. I think you've managed to charm sir Francmage, but you will not charm us here," Rae's face turned red as she bit her tongue. Her gaze never broke from Fucie's and the two stared a moment before Fucie spoke again. "You will sleep outside with the beastmen tonight." Before straightening up and turning around, waving a guard to her. Rae kept her words to herself, but turned to Peri, whose face was drained of all colour as she stared at Rae. "It'll be fine, my friend," Rae said with a smile, patting the Tarutaru's head. "I'll not be done in by a beastman nor his friends. Go inside, I'll find a place to sleep and see you in the morning." The group of students--who had all witnessed the event--returned to the safety of the Safehold while Rae climbed a tree to reach the small plateau of an outcrop of stones. She laid herself down and tucked her hands behind her head. It was just like when she and Marishi ventured out and slept under the stars. She closed her eyes and sighed, thinking of Marishi and wishing desperately that she were there. When she opened her eyes again, the moon was large and bright in the sky. Rae smiled a small, sad smile and reached up towards it. "There you are, my Moon. How I've missed you. I will sleep in your embrace and not be so lonely now." As she spoke, tears rolled down her cheeks and she turned to her side, curling into a ball and bringing her tail around her. She laid there until she fell asleep.
  9. Rae was reluctant to let her go. The embrace would be their last one in for so long. The link pearls would prove useful in those moments of unbearable loneliness, but without seeing Marishi's face, without hearing her heart, feeling her touch... "Awrigh', Lady Ten," the captain said. He was a tall brute indeed, but his eyes were soft and kind. He looked similar to a Roegadyn, but different. The stark difference was the tail he sported swishing behind him. It looked similar to a lizard's tail. The sight was off-putting for Rae. Once aboard the ship, Rae moved to the port beam and watched as the other ship began to take off. She waved to Marishi, seeing her looking at her. Rae smiled and called out to her. "I love you, Marishi Ten! Till we meet again and I dance again in your silver light, my Moon!" As the airship became smaller in the infinite blue sky, Rae felt the pain. It was not unlike the pain of her aether being stripped of her, but it struck deeper. I resonated within the pit of her being, like a wolf at night, howled into the emptiness that formed within her. Tears formed and fell off her face, disappearing into the sky as they flew forward. "Miss Ten," the captain spoke softly to her, noticing her tears. "Mayhap it'd do ye well if yeh came awff th'rail." He offered her his hand to help her down. She didn't realize she was leaning onto it so much, like it was instinct for her to pine closer to Marishi, despite her being so far away now. She couldn't even see the other airship now. They truly were going opposite directions. Sheepishly, Rae took the captains hand and climbed down off the port beam and towards the middle of the ship. It was clear that her bright demeanour was changed now. The captain gave her a sympathetic frown as he returned to the ship's helm. "Y'know, the toughest pahrt about leavin' the missus is not knowin' when ah'll see her agin," Rae glanced back to the captain solemnly. "But y'know? What makes it easier is rememberin' 'er face an' thinkin' about tha' reunion. Give me somethin' t'work fer." Rae's ears perked up at the thought. She blinked rapidly as she let her imagination run wild with the scenario. It set her heart at ease of thinking the burst of love and joy she'd feel when seeing Marishi again. Slowly, a small smile crept on her face and she wiped her eyes. "Thank you, Captain, you're very kind to say those things. I appreciate you cheering me up," Rae said to him, turning to face him and smiling a little brighter. "Do you have children, Captain?" The captain laughed heartily and shook his head "Naw, Miss Ten. We don' 'ave kiddos. We can' make 'em. Migh' adopt, though." He rubbed his bearded face as he looked up to the ceiling. Rae's ears drooped slightly and she frowned. "My apologies, I didn't meant to bring up a sad topic," Rae said while bowing her head. "I'm sorry she cannot bear children." The captain's rapturous laughter caused her to jump back, startled as he slapped his knee and shook his head, holding his side with his other hand. "Miss Ten," he said after regaining his composure. "Yeh truly don' know much about this place, do ye? Me wife can bear young'uns just fine! I can' make 'em! Don' got the tools!" Rae blinked rapidly and her ears perked up as her whole body went rigid. Her face was a bright red now, almost like her hair. "E-Eunuch?" Rae asked, horribly embarrassed at the topic, but she was morbidly curious now to back down. The captain laughed harder, staggering to the stern for support as tears rolled down his face. "Yer face! Oh Gods! No, Miss Ten! We ain' born with any! Galka reincarnate!" He then roared with laughter again as Rae's jaw dropped and her eyes widened. "Yer a glowin' tomahto, Miss Ten!" He said while laughing harder. Rae covered her cheeks, then allowed herself to smile slowly before she joined in the captain's laughter. A few of the crew members glanced their way and stopped their work and chuckled to themselves before resuming it. They wouldn't have long before they were to land. The rest of the flight went on rather peacefully. The crew and captain were polite and kind to Rae. Rae glanced over the ship's railing and gazed at the scenery below. They flew over the ocean, but to their east was land. She could see a bit of forested areas as well as many, many mountains. The longer she watched, the mountains and forests turned into a beach and desert. No landmarks stood out against the flat, golden grains that covered the desert. It reminded her of Thanalan in a sense, but at least Thanalan had towns and such across the area. No one inhabited this desert. "Thar's ye land," the captain shouted, pointing forward to another mountainous region. Rae walked towards the ship's bow and gripped the rail tightly while leaning forward slightly. The land was beautiful, but it held an ominous feeling about it. Something Rae could not shake. From behind her, a gentle hand was placed on her back between her shoulder blades. She glanced back to see one of the crew members, a female Hume, pointing off to the distance. "Do you see the mountain with a hole carved in? That's where you'll be going," she explained, Rae had to squint, but she could make out the mountain with a natural arch set over a village. "You should know. They've been in seclusion for so long. They might not be as welcoming and kind as we are." She warned Rae. Glancing back to her, Rae's brows furrowed, but she nodded. As they drew closer, Rae noticed the city in shambles. Her eyes widened and she turned to face the Hume who gazed upon the city. "Many years ago the city was attacked by an army and destroyed. Any living thing there was killed. Man, woman, child. It did not matter. The Beastmen slaughtered everyone within the city. We thought they were all killed; however they reached out to the world not too long ago and they've been trying to rebuild, but they mostly still live within their Stronghold. That'll be where you will be, as their school is set up there. The Red Mages live there until they've proven their skills and then return to the world and go out adventuring to help make money to rebuild their home." Rae glanced to the woman and nodded her head, thanking her for the information she had given her. As they pulled in, they flew to a plateau near the ruined city and docked there. A group of people was there to greet them. Two of them Taru and the other two were Elvaan. Rae climbed down the ship's side, as the gangplank was not equipped to reach to the ground, then bowed to the four that greeted her. One Taru wore a frown on his face as well as a curled mustache, the other, a female, was solemn. Both Elvaan bowed to Rae elegantly. Each of the group was clad in a similar red outfit. It was close to what Rae wore, but she had a feeling they wore the official uniform that accomplished Red Mages were given. "Welcome to Tavnazia," said the male Taru. His head looked more like an onion than an actual head. Rae smiled a small smile to him as he went on to explain the rules and regulations of being a student in the Tavnazia safehold. "By entering our Safehold, you are a guest to us. We will respect you if you respect us. No magic will be cast outside of training. Training is only during the daylight hours. A curfew is in effect and you will adhere to it. Curfew every night is 20:00 hours. Failure to obey curfew will result in you spending that night under the stars with the Beastmen and other foul beasts that haunt these hills. Any duels must be sanctioned and monitored by a teacher. Failure to do so will result in your ejection from the school permanently. Have I made myself clear?" Rae nodded. Though the rules seemed a bit unnecessary to her, she felt there was a good reason or two for why they were in place, but she would not question it. It was as he said. She was a guest in this place and she would respect whatever rules they had. "My name is Perinana. I am assigned to be your guide and roommate. I'll show you to where our room is once we get to the Safehold." Said the female Tarutaru. Rae bowed to her respectfully, to which the small Tarutaru returned the bow with a courtsey. "We are instructors at the Red Mage school," said the male Elvaan while bowing to Rae. "My name is Iphen and this is my sister, Fucie. My sister's forte is restorative and buffing skills while I am more specialized in the study of the black magic and physical aspect of our Job." Rae bowed to them as well, but they did not return her bow. The Galka captain clapped his hand on Rae's back and bade her a fond farewell. "If'n ye need anythin', lemme know, Miss Ten. Send word an' I'll be 'ere." And with that, he boarded his ship again and flew off. She turned back and faced the group, though they had already started back towards the entrance to their hidden home. Perinana, however, remained behind for Rae, to which Rae was quietly grateful for. As they walked, Rae checked the link pearl given to them and quietly spoke into it. "I've arrived, my Lune," she whispered. No answer came back, so she sighed and continued on. Perhaps she was still in the air and couldn't hear her speak. "It's... different. It reminds me of home, shall we say. Ha ha... I'm going into an underground area. I fear this might interfere with our link pearls. I'll come out at night and sit under the Moon and speak to you. Perhaps that will make me feel closer to you." "If you walk that slow we're going to close the gates on you!" Piped up Perinana while waving her hands for Rae to catch up, which she did quickly. The entrance was carved into the mountain. A large gateway big enough for a dragon to fit through. Guards were posted at the entrance on either side as the gate was held open for them. Once they entered, the doors closed behind them quickly and locked shut. It was dark within, but Rae's eyes quickly adjusted to the dim lighting. They walked deeper into the safehold. As they walked, the sounds of voices calling and spells being cast echoed through the stone corridors. She would see the flash of fire as it shot across a room and was diffused with a spell-absorption and the small, quiet claps of congratulations to the caster for a well-aimed spell. She would not like it here, Rae decided. It reminded her far too much of Sharlaya, the place she ran away from because of how stifling it was.
  10. Rae scowled at Francmage. He certainly was bold to be doing these things behind their back. No wonder Raminel was so interested in her. He was sent to her. Part of her felt betrayed, but she knew he had good intentions behind it. Perhaps it was her desire to feel like she was worth her salt even without the aether of Bahamut to strengthen her. At the suggestion that the two split up, Rae lifted her gaze and stared wide-eyed at Francmage. Leave Marishi's side? They hadn't been separated for so long. And to go so far apart, the whole continent... Rae gripped her napkin tightly and breathed steadily, despite the inner storm she was feeling. What if something should happen to them both? How will the other learn? What if it could have been avoided if they both were together? What if things go wrong while they're teaching the students at their respective schools? What if this was all a grand rouse and they were going to kill them? She had to force her thoughts to quell, not letting the panic set in. This wasn't a trap, and she knew it. Francmage has only ever wanted to help them, so she couldn't hold him in the same light she held others in from Hydaelyn. As Marishi bade him to allow them a moment alone, Rae turned to Marishi, tears in her eyes as well. They had to do this. They had to become stronger. This would be in their best interest. "Marishi," she whimpered before pushing her chair out and darting to the other side of the table so she could throw her arms around Marishi. She allowed the tears to flow freely, but she did not sob or wail. This was good for them. They needed to do this. "Oh, my Moonlight... I don't want to leave you. I don't. If only those schools were closer... but they are not. And this... this opportunity we cannot pass up," Rae pulled away, tears still rolling down her cheeks and dripping off her chin. "We can teach these people what we know, and they can teach us. It's... it's good repayment for what they've done for us so far." She was speaking more to convince herself than Marishi. Rae took her wife's hands in hers and she pressed her knuckles against her own forehead and closed her eyes while trying to stabilize herself. Once the tears stopped, Rae looked to Marishi and smiled, sniffing slightly. "It won't do to cry and mope our last day together. Come, my Lune. We will enjoy this day and give us fond memories to look back on when we feel lonely. Perhaps it will make the distance much smaller." Rae stood and pulled on her wife's hands, bringing her with her as they set out to the city. They spent the day together, hand in hand. Together they explored the city, drinking in the sights and scenery. The smells and sounds were a blissful medley to their day as they ventured out. Rae could not resist the call of a sweets stand selling candies she had seen before, but not in the fashion they were selling them. She bought a small bag to take with her to Tavnazia. People followed them and gazed upon the two, but never interrupted them as it was clear they did not wish to be stopped. Their hands held and fingers interlocked wherever they went. Though they were to be separated physically, their hearts and spirits would remain together. As the day began to wind down, a play began within the tavern that Marishi spotted earlier. The two entered the building and picked a seat and ordered food for their table and indulged in the spectacle. There were plays and performances on Hydaelyn, but nothing quite like this. The performers danced and a group played music nearby on the stage. The dance was in perfect unison and wonderfully choreographed. Rae couldn't help but laugh and clap her hands happily. She wished she could join them in dancing. It had been so long! Still, though, she remained in her seat, but she bobbed her head a bit and tapped her feet. Once the show ended and they walked back, Rae would steal kisses from her wife along the way to the inn. Once at their door, Rae was giggling and kissing her wife, making opening the door quite difficult for the both of them. As another guest came up the stairs, Marishi and Rae pulled away, cheeks red and hair slightly messy. The man gave the two a brief glance before smiling and shaking his head, then going into his own room while Marishi and Rae finally made their way into theirs. Once the door closed, Rae pounced, cupping Marishi's face and kissing her deeply. She stepped backwards, guided by Marishi until they were laying on the bed where they made their night to remember. The Moon's silver shine was the only light in their room, bathing the two in it's beautiful gleam. The next morning, Rae woke up before Marishi. They laid together, limbs tangled together. She stirred a bit, adjusting her arms and legs to a more comfortable spot before she buried her face into Marishi's neck and hummed happily, enjoying the feel of her wife's bare flesh against hers. "Mmm... good morning, my Moon. How did you sleep?" Yesterday was just what she needed. Though they were to be apart for so long, she didn't feel so bad about it. Their memories would keep them together in heart and mind, which was all she needed to help her. "Are you ready to go soon? If you aren't, I will tell Francmage to go away and we will stay together longer." Rae giggled and kissed Marishi's cheek. Behind her, her tail flicked and swished back and forth, showing her playful attitude.
  11. Rae watched with joy in her eyes as Marishi danced with the young man. She had no fear over her wife swooning for the man. Their bond was not to be tested by anything. Steel, time, disaster. Come what may, they'd stay together. She was, however, jealous. She longed to dance with her wife like that. How long had it been? They never shared a true dance in too many years. "Ah ha! A rapier," came a voice from beside her. Rae turned, a brow piqued as she faced the man who spoke to her. He was an Elezen as well, or, Elvaan as they were known in this realm. "M'lady, are you perchance a Red Mage?" A small, polite smile crossed her features. "I am, good ser." She answered him. He asked permission to take a seat before he sat beside her. "Do you practice the art as well?" He nodded proudly. "That I do, pretty miss! Many moons have I fought with a rapier and dagger in hand! I daresay I've gained power enough to best most black mages in this room, despite not knowing how to cast their stronger spells. Ha ha!" The Elvaan seemed quite eccentric. Rae's eyes lit up as he spoke, but her head tilted to the side. "Dagger?" She asked curiously. "Aye," the man responded, withdrawing his blade and placing it gently on the table. Rae gazed at it and furrowed her brows. "You look confused, miss. Do you not wield a dagger from where you hail?" Rae shook her head and glanced back to him. "No, ser. The art I learned would make daggers... rather unconventional. There's no chance to wield a dagger when you're trying to manage your magicite." Rae explained, chuckling. "Would you permit me to examine your rapier, miss?" He asked, holding his hand out. Rae hesitated a moment. Normally she would flat out refuse a stranger to hold her weapon for fear of them running off with it, but he seemed kind, friendly, even. He wanted only to help her it seemed. Swallowing, Rae retrieved her rapier from the loop at her waist and placed it and her magicite upon the table. The Elvaan's eyes widened as he stared at the weapon, then took it into his hands, holding it carefully, like it were a glass weapon. Rae shifted uneasily, thinking he was judging her based on her weapon. The fact that she did not wield a dagger must mean that she was incompetent. "M'lady, what origin is the material that makes this blade?" He asked in a whisper. "The scale of Bahamut," she answered hesitantly. "My master crafted it for me after I went back to the mainland" "Bahamut's scale?!" He exclaimed, causing a few heads to turn to them, though he lowered his head and voice quickly. "Bahamut from... your realm?" Rae nodded, lowering her head as well, though she knew not why. "Astounding... is the Bahamut from your realm as... unapproachable as ours is?" Rae smiled a weak smile before going on to tell him of the tale of Bahamut from Hydaelyn and the Calamity he caused. His eyes widened and his mouth dropped as she told the tale. He then reverently placed the rapier down on the table, examined the magicite, then placed that down as well. He seemed to be mulling over the tale she had told him. "Ser," Rae asked, fetching her rapier and crystal and returning them to her sides. "Would you teach me the art of dual-wielding weapons? I would like to use a dagger as well-" She was cut off when he raised his hand and shook his head. "No, m'lady. I fear that teaching you the art of wielding a dagger with your glorious rapier would be an insult to your potential. Your partner and you have access to any place in Quon, yes?" Rae nodded her head and he hummed, a deep rumble from his chest as his eyes darkened and he leaned forward onto the table, resting his chin on his intertwined fingers. "You should go to Tavnazia. There is a school of Red Mages there who can teach you. I would advise you learn to dual-wield another rapier. I feel that this might be a... sign of sorts. For you are blessed with a weapon from the Bahamut of your world while the Bahamut of our world resides near Tavnazia. What a strange coincidence..." Rae's ears raised suddenly. Bahamut existed in this world as well. Was he the same as theirs? No, surely not. He lived on the planet but did not wish to destroy it. Perhaps it was because of the Allagan tampering that the Bahamut she knew and had attuned to had made him so bloodthirsty? Rae sighed. There was no escaping him, even when her aether was split from his and they were on a different planet, he still found a way to return to her life. "Thank you for your information, good ser. I will do as you suggest and leave for Tavnazia. I do wish to learn more of this dual-wielding." The Elvaan smiled to her, proud with her decision. "I feel that you will be happy with what you learn. And do not limit it to just dual-wielding! Learn more from my kin about the art of Red Mage! Perhaps there is something we could teach you, and what you could teach us." He chuckled, then took his leave, bowing to Rae and thanking her for her time. It was then that Marishi had finished dancing. As Marishi returned to their table, Rae gave her wife a teasing glare, though her lips betrayed the look she tried to give. "Of course, my love," she responded, giggling softly while getting to her feet with Marishi's hand to help her. Her thoughts were swimming. She wanted to go to Tavnazia. She wished to learn to wield dual weapons. She wished to become stronger, and she believed doing this would help her get there. But how to express this to Marishi? This was an adventure she'd have to take if she wanted to feel strong again, however. Without her aether aspected with Bahamut's, Rae felt weak. She felt as though she could not defend herself, much less her wife. Bathed, dried, in a clean set of pyjamas, Rae climbed into the bed and snuggled up behind Marishi, her face nestled into her hair and she breathed in deeply while closing her eyes. She'd speak to her tomorrow of this, after she had some more time to think of it. The Sun rose, greeting them with the pleasant warmth that filled their room. It seemed brighter, more cheerful than the Sun from Hydaelyn. As Rae awoke, she slowly remembered all that had happened. The Primal, the woman, Matiseau's new-found power, the portal, her aether being ripped from her... Rae shivered as she remembered the sensation. Though she dreamt peacefully that night, there was so much behind them that was frightening. This new world... it was peaceful, serene. She turned her head, gazing out the window at the clear, blue sky. Marishi was still in her arms, so she slipped her arm from beneath her and silently walked across the floor and sat in front of the vanity, braiding part of her hair and pulling it up into a ponytail. Some of her hair was too short to be pulled into the braid and ponytail, so it hung around her face, framing it with her red locks. Once done, Rae stood up and rubbed the sleep from her eyes and walked to the other side of the room, pulling on the gear gifted to them that sat on the table. A red, gold-trimmed jacket and skirt with a plain leather tunic to go beneath. Pants, that hung loosely around her legs, letting them breathe, and a pair of armor-plated boots that rose mid-shin. A hat came with it, but Rae opted to not put it on. It looked too similar to a uniform. She didn't wish to seem rude to Francmage, however, so she tucked the hat under her arm to wear later. Maybe. Before she left, Rae walked back to the bed and tenderly brushed the back of her fingers across Marishi's cheek, then leaned down and kissed her forehead. Once done, she left their room. Rae walked outside and sucked in the fresh air. Everything about the world seemed brighter, cleaner, happier. Perhaps she could forget everything that happened back on Eureka if they spent some time here? "Hail! Good morning, Miss Rae!" Called out a familiar voice. Rae turned to see the man from last night. Rae flashed a pleasant smile to him as he approached her and bowed. Rae finally could see him in full gear. It was similar to hers in a way, but different. Fur trimmed his collar, his clothes were purple and gold, and he wore his gods-awful hat. She couldn't help but giggle at his appearance. "Rest assured, Miss Rae. The clothes I don are the finest a Red Mage could ask for! You'd do well to wear your hat, as it distinguishes you and allows others to know you take your calling quite seriously." He advised, seeming to know that Rae was laughing at his outfit. "Ahh," she replied, feigning being reprimanded. "Do clothes make the Red Mage, good ser?" Rae asked, resting her hand on her rapier. The Elvaan laughed as well and shook his head. "Nay, fair lady, but it does a Red Mage well to show others they are a force to be reckoned with. No one will bother a Red Mage in full uniform as they look imposing and well-practised. Come, Miss Rae. Humour me and place on your hat!" With a sigh, Rae pulled the hat on her head, her ears folding down to hide under the brim of the hat. The Elvaan laughed heartily at that. "Oh, take it off, take it off! You've proven your point, Miss Rae!" A few others around also chuckled, watching the spectacle. Rae's cheeks burned as she pulled the hat off and tucked it under her arm once more. "Here, to replace your hat." He delved into the satchel at his side and rummaged around a bit before procuring a single blue hair clip with what appeared to be a purple fairy on the tip. Rae took it gratefully and handed the older Elvaan her hat as she used both hands to put the hairpin in her hair, pulling back some of her bangs to pin them out of her face. "This is much better, thank you, ser." Rae said with relief, then bowed to him. He met her bow with a nod of his head. "Please, call me Raminel. Now, I did not haunt the doorstep of this inn hoping to give you a hair clip. I wished to see your skill as a Red Mage!" He proclaimed loudly, raising his harms out with exuberance. Rae's eyes blinked rapidly, clearly shocked. Display her powers? Others gathered around, suddenly intrigued by the possibility of witnessing the skill of a Red Mage, moreso, the powers of one from a world not of their own. Rae's cheeks flushed again and she suddenly grew timid. "I fear there is not much to show now," she answered quietly. She felt hollow. She recalled not remembering the spells and partially wondered if it was because of Bahamut's aether being torn from her that she forgot her skills as a Red Mage. "Besides, I wouldn't wish to simply send my powers about wildly. Unless you have a dummy or a fiend-" Raminel laughed again. He seemed much happier than any person Rae had ever met with how often he laughed. "Of course, of course. Come, there is a striking dummy specifically for the purpose of practising magic upon." He waved his hand and beckoned her to follow, to which she did. They did not venture far from the inn. Through an alleyway they were led to a secured area with a row of dummies line up, ready to be practised upon. As the group gathered, Rae swallowed and ran through her memories. She could recall the spells she knew, thankfully. Clearing her mind, she closed her eyes and began whispering her spells. She drew out her rapier and attached the crystal to its pommel and channelled aether through it, causing it to glow a bright, reddish-purple glow before she sent a red blast towards a dummy. It absorbed the damage easily, but with her spell cast successfully, she chained it with her Veraero, sending a blast of wind hurdling towards the dummy. From behind her, the crowed gasped and whistled in awe. Drawing the rapier to her again, she channelled aether through the crystal for another spell of Verstone, sending rocks summoned from her crystal flying to the dummy, she then chained it with a blast of electricity that rippled across the dummy's frame, blue sparks dancing over it until they were absorbed. The crowd behind Rae clapped and cheered, impressed with her spells that they hadn't seen before. The process repeated a few times as Rae grew more confident. She moved around this time while chaining her spells together until she felt her balance reach maximum. The crowd was in an uproar at how flawlessly she executed each spell. Her showmanship only made it all the greater. Rae prepared her finale. Raising her weapon-hand, she allowed her free hand to conjure a set of 6 aetherial swords, all different from the next. At her command, they flew to the dummy, riddling it with holes. Rae then jumped into the air, flipping, then summoned 6 more blades and sent them flying towards the dummy. Rae's next ability conjured fire that caused the dummy to burst into flames. She then sent another, large blast of red magic at the dummy, nearly destroying it. Her blade began to glow a bright red aura. Rae then sent a summoned whip flying at the dummy and she pulled herself towards it. As she flew in closer, the sensation reminded her of Matiseau countering her, pulling her closer to him to rip her aether from her. Rae's heart leapt in a panic and once she got to the dummy, she staggered backwards and fell onto her rear, her rapier clattering to the ground beside her as its light slowly faded. Her chest rose and fell rapidly as she stared at the burning dummy, her arms trembling. She couldn't hear the crowd cheering behind her anymore, only the pounding of her heart in her chest. Slowly, she began to climb to her feet, but a hand stretched out to give her aid. Raminel stood before her, smiling softly while offering to help her to her feet. She gladly accepted his hand and took her weapon from him as he had fetched it before he pulled her up. "You have such amazing skill, Miss Rae," he said to her, patting her shoulder. "That dummy is designed to absorb any kind of magic, and here you have destroyed it! Be proud of your skill. It's nothing to talk down of!" Rae could only smile to him. Her heart still thundered in her chest and her hands still shook, but she was slowly calming down. "You should break fast, however. Go back to the inn. You've caused quite the spectacle with your skill, and I suspect people will talk of it for quite some time!" Raminel exclaimed proudly to her. As they walked, the crowd parted and followed them out of the alleyway and dispersed, all expressing their awe and gratitude to Rae for showing them her skills. Some even asked her to show her how it was done, but she politely declined teaching them, as she needed to rest now. Making her way back to the inn, Rae sat at a table and heaved a sigh. The table was situated near the entrance, beside a window that overlooked the street. She stared outside at the passers by. Their clothes were so strange and their personalities so different than what she was used to. It was like everyone knew one another in this city and they were so kind and cordial. "Would you like the breakfast, ma'am?" Asked the waitress, a Hyur--or rather, a Hume. She was pretty with dark hair and eyes and a pleasant smile on her face. "Ah, yes, please," Rae answered, smiling back to her. "Uhm... did my partner come downstairs yet?" She asked urgently. The waitress was put off by her sudden question and she stammered a bit before finally answering. "I didn't see her. The other strange Mithra that you were with last night? I haven't seen her come downstairs. I'm sorry." With a smile, Rae waved her hand and bade her thank you and allowed her to fetch her breakfast. Only 20 minutes had passed, but she felt like it had been hours already. She would wait for Marishi, then tell her of what was said last night and what happened this morning.
  12. Everything felt a blur to her. Rae's mind was clouded, foggy. She was weak. So weak. She couldn't remember a time she felt like this. Rae opened her eyes slowly. She was curled into a ball now. She felt recovered from the agony that set in from having her aether stripped of her. Was she dead? Her bleary eyes scanned the canopy above them. These leaves were not familiar to her. The smells and sounds... this was not The Black Shroud where she grew up for a time. Nor was it Sharlaya where she spent most of her life. This land was completely different. Perhaps this was the land beyond The Great River. Rae turned and saw Marishi and her heart sunk. Had she died too? Did their mission cause them to end with misfortune? "Marishi, I-" She was cut off by remembering. She remembered the strange, purple figure that grabbed her by her collar and dragged her and Marishi. She remembered being flung someplace. That figure reminded her of herself, but the wings were that of Bahamut. Was that her aether? Is that what happened to her aether when she attuned to Bahamut's? She acutely heard Marishi speak to her, asking if she could stand. She nodded without thinking and began to do so. It took some effort and her cheeks were red after doing so, but she was able to stand. 'No, we couldn't be dead. I wouldn't feel this way if we had joined the Lifestream.' Rae thought bitterly to herself. Though she was relieved as well. Her wife hadn't died, and that was what was most important to her. She bade her follow, and Rae obeyed. They walked for a short time before coming upon Elezen. She stopped short of jumping in front of them. Their pikes and swords warned her that they would use them without hesitation if they sensed the two were of ill intent. Rae stayed back with Marishi and watched as they marched onward, though she jumped when Marishi lunged out and hailed the group. She stayed back, ready to attack if they harmed her or even made an attempt to. She'd die fighting for Marishi's life, even though she was so weak. As they encircled Marishi, Rae thought quickly of a spell to use, but none came to mind. She forgot. Her ears raised in alarm as she tried to delve through her memories. It was there! She could see the words printed plainly on the books and scrolls of her Master, why could she not remember them? They were on the tip of her tongue. She had grown so accustomed to saying them it was automation that she spoke them, but why now could she not remember them? A rough hand grabbed her collar and dragged her from the shrub she hid behind and she put up little fight to stop him. She walked with him to Marishi's side and she stood there. Her leg threatened to buckle and she collapse, but she remained determined. The item the man procured from his pouch caught Rae's attention. She stared at it with obvious intrigue. When the captain spoke again, she understood him that time. She blinked rapidly and her lips parted slightly in awe. What was this creation? It gave the bearer amazing power to speak and understand the language they spoke. It would surely come in handy while Marishi and Rae travelled. Before Rae could think more about it, she was hoisted onto the back of a horse's saddle with another soldier. She wrapped her arms around him and furrowed her brow while looking to Marishi. They would be riding close enough together. Rae kept quiet, however. She was lost in thought. Her aether was gone. She saw and felt it ripped from her. How was it that she still yet lived? They surely were alive still, despite this world being unlike their own. The Elezen who kept her glanced back to check on her. "Are you faring well, fair miss?" He called to her. Rae looked up to him and nodded, a frown still on her face. "Aye. Lost in thought, I presume. Rae your name is, hm? How long have you been on this side of Quon?" Rae blinked up at him and repeated the word he said. "Quon?" She asked. That was not a word she heard before, much less a place she knew of, and the scholars of Sharlaya ensured they kept meticulous detail of maps of the world. "Aye, Quon. It's the country you are in. Perhaps both of you struck your head quite hard?" The man answered with amusement. Rae's eyes darkened and she dropped her head. "Yes, perhaps we did..." She replied gravely. They were not on Hydaelyn any longer, that much she knew now. Rae's thoughts were a whirl as everything happened around them. She kept quiet and to herself as Marishi spoke and gained information about where they were. That portal her aether had ripped into the space teleported them here. Thanks to Marishi's efforts, they were able to get to the same place and in one piece. They travelled the Void. The Void! Rae's heart thundered in her chest. The place where beasts of unspeakable horror derived from. The place where Diabolos and his Queen resided and reigned. She was horrified. What would have happened should they have encountered them on their great Ark? She vowed silently to never traverse there again. And yet... she knew if they were to get back home, they would have to. Would she even want to go back home? The hospitality shown by this Captain of the Guard was second to none from what they received back on Hydaelyn. He did not assume they were whores. He did not dismiss them and ride away. He did not order his platoon to gut them both. While it seemed a bare minimum amount of respect, Rae felt extreme gratitude to him for this. Her thoughts snapped back to present time when he began to describe their world. She listened with utmost attention. She was intrigued. This world was unlike theirs, yet it bore some similarities. The people, first and foremost. These Mithra. They were like herself and Marishi, but unlike them as well. The Taru Taru. Galka. Hume. Rae's eyes were lit up as he delved into the history of their world, going in to detail of the Avatars that helped protect their land. These creatures were certainly a stark contrast from their Eikon counterparts on Hydaelyn. That they would be able to commune with the Eikons as these people did their Avatars. Would they have been able to dissuade Bahamut from bringing the Calamity? Would they convince the gods of the Beastmen to quell their childrens' anger and work together to bring peace to their land? Rae seemed much more lively by the time the captain had to leave. As he bade them farewell, Rae waved to him, thanking him for his information and time to help them. After a pause, Rae turned to Marishi. She gazed into her eyes a moment before her expression drooped. "I'm so sorry," she whispered. She reached out and grabbed Marishi's hand. "I'm so sorry I convinced you to join the quest. I'm so sorry I defended Matiseau's honour. I'm so sorry we argued. I'm so sorry I brought us here, so far from home. I don't even know if we can make it back. This is... This is far beyond what I could have imagined would happen. I wish I would have... Gods.... I wish I could have known. I should have left when you told us of the monsters on that island. I should have left when they first attacked us. We were in over our heads and now we're drowning at the bottom of the ocean." Rae's eyes couldn't form tears. She was worn from them, but her face and body seemed to exude sadness and remorse. "I suppose," she said finally. "That we must do what Fracmage and the Cardinal told us. Perhaps we shall yet learn of how to return home. Although, I would be lying if I said I wasn't interested in learning about this land... It's... beautiful. It has a welcome charm that I scarcely found back home." Rae glanced around the inn's tavern. The people were happy. They smiled and drank and spoke kindly together. There was no carnal gazes from the soldiers as the women walked passed them. There was no dark corner of the tavern where cloaked figures glowered at everyone from beneath their cowls. This place was at peace, it seemed. Rae turned back to Marishi and smiled a little. "I want to get home as soon as possible, but I worry. What will we be going home to? Our deaths? That monster, Pandemonium. It will render our world asunder. What if we stayed here for a time? At least then the Scions of the Seventh Dawn will have had a chance to stop that Primal--if it even is that." As the words came from her mouth, they tasted bitter to her. Foul. To cower in a world far from the danger that they put upon it. While it wasn't their direct actions that cause it, they let it lose by their inaction and indirect action. Guilt racked her body. She wanted to right the wrongs they were a part of.
  13. Rae breathed a jagged sigh of relief as Marishi pinned him. She felt her call to the Primal Alexander for aid, which he gave, clearly. Rae carefully walked closer to Matiseau, who's head hung low and his left shoulder raised while his right shoulder slumped over. It was too late for him to have a life after this. He already killed someone. Once he went back to Sharlaya, they'll put him in confinement for the rest of his life. Rae gripped his right hand and pulled the glove off, then yanked the opposite glove off. As a precautionary measure, she unfastened the helmet and took it off, then threw it across the room, shattering it. The gloves she took extra care to ensure they were useless by cutting a few cords with her rapier. He would no longer use that as a weapon against anyone. Once done, she stepped back from him and tucked her rapier under her arm and stood a safe distance. If he decided to lash out at Marishi, she would be the first to respond. She would support her wife indefinitely now. Matiseau has done the unthinkable. That man was innocent and he killed him with barely a thought and he was ready to kill her and Marishi. "Mercy," Matiseau croaked, lifting his head weakly and dropping it. He wasn't used to pain. Being a scholar, the worst would he'd endure would be a sprained back or paper cut. Being impaled by a sword was not within that scope of pain, so he was reacting quite heavily to it. Even being burned did little to raise his threshold of tolerance to pain. "Mercy?!" Rae scoffed incredulously. "You want mercy? Did you show mercy to that scholar? Were you to show us mercy if you got a hold of our aether?!" Rae's voice was elevated, as she spoke to him, a finger jabbing into his chest as she was close enough to do so. Matiseau grimaced as she did and reached up slowly with his good hand and rubbed his chest while she stepped back. "You will go back to Sharlaya. We will take you. You will face the Circle of Knowing and face accountability for your crimes here. Any further death on this island is blood on your hands. You have unleashed a Primal onto this place that will probably destroy the rest of the world unless the Scions of the Seventh Dawn intervene." Rumbling from above rattled the walls and sent rocks from the ceiling falling to the ground. Rae was tense as she examined the roof, but her gaze dropped down to Matiseau. How different he looked to her now. He wasn't the same as before. He was no longer her friend. He was a fiend. Rae pulled the sword from his shoulder by planting her foot on the wall beside him and yanking it out, allowing him to drop with a heavy thud! and a trail of blood to drip onto the floor where the blade was pulled from. There was a stain of blood on the wall that smeared down and a bit of blood on his clothes, but it did not spread. The smell of flesh burning filled the air and the sound of sizzling came from the hole. It took a moment for Rae to realize that the burns he suffered must be so hot they were instantly cauterizing his open wound. "Gods..." She murmured in repulsion while turning around and handing the Katana to Marishi. "I'll bind him. We'll take him to the docks and go to Sharlaya. They'll let us through once they hear of a primal traipsing around on their lost island." Rae explained, then walked to the opposite side of the room to rummage through a pile of equipment to find a rope. Matiseau sat there, slumped against the wall and staring at the floor. Anywhere he turned, there was death. Whether he died at the blade of Marishi or whether he died in confinement on Sharlaya, he would face a death no matter what path he took. He couldn't see the aether anymore. The beautiful, vibrant colours. He glanced to Rae where he recalled seeing the ominous purple swirling and then to Marishi where the aether flowed like gears in a clock. He wished he could see the world in such a way instead of this bleak, dark, unforgiving appearance. 'My dearest servant,' came a soothing voice. It was clearly feminine. Matiseau dropped his head in dismay. Now he was hearing things. Perhaps he was going insane. They warned him too much exposure to raw, overflowing aether would make his head sick. He ignored it, though, thinking himself stronger than that. 'Matiseau, lift your head, my cherished one. All is not failed yet, for I deliver unto you a gift. I see your hearts desire. You wish to see aether once again. You wish to control it. You wish to save this island. I can show you how, but you must do as I say.' Matiseau's eye widened while the other remained shut from the burns. He stared at his hands before him. One revealing how the rest of his body should appear while the other was almost a stump. His fingers melted together from the fire's intense heat. It was almost crab-like in appearance. The voice spoke to him, instructing him on how to gain the power once again to control aether. 'You can save this island, but you need her.' The voice cooed, encouraging him. He waited. When Marishi's attention was diverted, he lunged. Ignoring the pain in his shoulder as he slammed his hand onto a button on the panel in the middle of the room. Instantly an explosion sent a shock wave throughout the room, knocking Rae onto her back. She scrambled to her feet just in time to see crystals growing from the roof of the broken container. Matiseau reached up with his good hand and touched onto it. The green and yellow-speckled colour of the crystal was drained into his finger tips as he continued to keep connected to the aether-condensed crystal. Rae gasped and jumped to her feet. "Matiseau, no!" She screamed, but it was too late. The machine ceased its reversal of the aether stored and all excess aether the Primal had secreted was now absorbed into Matiseau's body. Rae couldn't see it, but she could feel it. He was different. He was far more powerful than her and Marishi combined. He had attuned to the cyrstal of the monster stomping around outside. He was like them, in a sense. Matiseau stared at his hands in awe, then took his right hand and passed over his left shoulder and arm. As he reached his hand, Rae could see what he was doing. The burns he sustained all those years ago were being reversed and healed. His hand ran across his face as if wiping off the burns, then his leg. Soon, Matiseau stood before Rae and Marishi not as a cripple, but whole. 'Now, take her aether.' The voice commanded, but Matiseau was so wrapped up in looking normal again, he paid the voice no mind. He touched his face and looked at his hand once again, then pulled up his pant leg to reveal a whole, healthy leg. Even his body was cured and the recent stab wound he received was gone. He was handsome, truly. A bright smile on his face and joy in his eyes, he turned to Rae and stepped closer, but she took a step back from him, her hand hovering close to her rapier. "Rae, look! The aether... it healed me! I'm whole again! It's like that damage you did never happened!" He exclaimed, laughing in his tone. He moved closer to Rae and she stepped back yet again, ears flat against her skull as she watched him warily. "We can continue where we left off. Maybe... maybe we can... maybe we can finally be lovers. I know you had feelings for me and you were turned off by the scars, but they're gone! And now I'm powerful! More powerful than Marishi. I can protect you better than she can and I won't leave you like she did!" He spoke excitedly and paid no attention to Rae's body language. Her hand was gripping her weapon tightly now and her eyes narrowed slightly. After a moment of silence, Rae finally spoke up. "You're wrong, Matiseau," she said cautiously. His smile faded slightly, but the ghost of it still remained on his face. "I never held a love for you as you held for me. You were a dear friend and nothing more. Now? Now we are nothing. You are a monster, a murderer, a man hungry for glory and fame and not for what's right and just. Marishi may not be strong enough to protect me, but together we are strong enough to face anything. That is what a bond is. A part, we can never hope to achieve what we can when we are together. I trust Marishi to always come back when she leaves. You? I cannot trust. You are no longer the Matiseau I knew and cared for. You are a monster." Slowly, the smile on his face dropped until he glared at her. She spoke without wavering, however, even when the look of murder burned in his eyes. She would accept whatever consequence came from her words, but she wouldn't allow him to think such disturbed thoughts. "I see," he muttered, his fists clenching. "Well. I suppose she was right. You're only good for your aether at this point. I'll just have to take it from you and save this island. And your wife's, too. No one can speak ill against me when I save this place!" With that, he charged at Rae. She jumped aside, parrying his grapple and rushed to Marishi and grabbed her hand, then fled with her out of the tunnels beneath the mountain. Matiseau was no longer a cripple, so as they ran, she could hear his footsteps not far behind. Anything she could throw in their way, Rae took it. Books, cords, anything. They darted quickly to the entrance to the cabin where she and Marishi pushed the shelf in front of the door, then ran outside. Marishi and her moved at the same pace as they ran southward. A glow caught her eye to the right of them and Rae snatched Marishi's hand and pulled her into a cave. It was filled with monsters. Right at the entrance where were enormous, terrifying ashkin whose skins were stapled together and faces appeared like sacks of flesh. Among them were ghouls. Rae recalled the tale Marishi told the group when she had fled for a night of a cave that held horrific monsters. These fit the same description as what she had seen, perhaps even more frightening. A thought came to her, then. They could use the monsters as a way to stop Matiseau. If they attacked him, they would keep him busy long enough for them to escape to the port. "We're going in, my Night Star," Rae insisted, fear was written across her expression, but this was their only way. Not too far behind, Rae spotted Matiseau charging after them towards the cave. "Hurry!" She shrieked and darted into the cave. Both being Miqo'te, they had incredible stealth. They slipped between the monsters without their realizing two beings had just walked by. Rae's breath caught in her throat as one monster turned to face them as if seeing them, but there were no eyes upon its face. Seeing the grotesque features made her want to scream and run back out of the cave, but the reminder that certain death was just behind them kept her moving forward. While the odds of surviving were slim to go forward, the odds of surviving were null behind them. Two-headed, green-scaled scalekins stomped around before them under the light of a hole in the cave ceiling. Was it morning or night out? It was impossible to tell now. The clouds that hung over the sky seemed to glow with constant lighting. The temperature was still low, the sound of howling monsters in the distance echoed and the bellows of the giant creature inside the city resounded within her chest. All things worked to send her into a panic and without thinking, she ran through the nest of scalekin. Before any of them could be alerted to their presence, the horrible, bone-rattling sound of the monster blasting through the three holes in its shoulder could be heard. Rae threw her hands over her ears and dropped to her knees while the monsters around them scattered in a hurry, frightened by the sound they had heard once before, and that was just before the island was nearly destroyed. The sound subsided much sooner than the first one and Rae slowly staggered to her feet and glanced behind them. Matiseau was clutching the first of one of the flesh monsters and she watched in horror as it fell to its knees, then dropped down, dead. He turned to look at Rae. His eyes no longer human, but glowing white. He was taking on too much aether, but how was he able to store so much within his mortal body? Rae didn't have time to question the reason as the monsters began hissing and rushing towards him. The first scalekin that met him was killed, its aeither absorbed into his and he readied to grab the next. Glancing around, Rae spotted a tunnel that was not pouring monsters that were rushing to attack Matiseau. Waving to Marishi, she bade her to follow as they rushed to the tunnel. The short tunnel opened up to a large cavern. It was empty. Along the walls and cut into the ceiling was raw veins of aether that glowed orange, illuminating the room they were in with its light. Rae was breathing heavily and glancing around for another tunnel to lead them out, but there was only one way, and that was the tunnel from where they came. "Oh no, no, no," Rae gasped, turning around. She spotted a shadow approaching and she backed up a few paces, but stopped when the shadow's owner turned the corner. A woman. She was young and pale, slender, wore a black dress with a collar of feathers that drooped low, revealing her bosom and a portion of her stomach before it connected in a V-shape just below her navel. Her eyes were cold and dark and her hair a platinum white and done up in a strange fashion that resembled two horns on a beast. Rae's brows furrowed. This woman clearly did not belong in the tunnels. "Ah, dearest Rae," she cooed. The voice sounded familiar to her. "We finally meet. I only caught glimpses of you through visions, but now, here we are." The woman cast a disdainful look towards Marishi, then focused on Rae again. She walked with an air of confidence. Each step was taken with purpose and her stature commanded attention. She moved forward, gracefully, like a leopard creeping towards its prey. Before she could get closer, her gaze darted to Marishi and she raised her hand. From the earth spouted flames, blocking Marishi and Rae off. Rae went to run to Marishi's side, but the flames would engulf her easily. Angrily, Rae turned to the woman and growled. "Who are you?" Rae asked. "And what do you want with us?" The woman smiled to her and shook her head. "Who I am is not relevant now, is it? What matters is you are here and the plan is almost complete. You've caused me a great deal of trouble just getting to this point, you know. You were so cooperative. Then your friend here had to go running off and causing problems, destroying my crystals, balking every step of the way. Goodness. It was everything I could do to not simply come down here myself and put a knife through her," she stopped short of being close enough to Rae for her to stroke out. Rae's grip tightened on her weapon and her lips moved, preparing a spell. Sadistic amusement flashed across the woman's eyes as she saw Rae preparing to attack and she laughed, her tone rich and echoed throughout the cavern. "If you think you can kill me, then by all means, finish that spell! I can promise you, however, whatever you send at me will be sent back to your girlfriend here seven-fold." With that, she held out her hands, one facing Rae and the other facing Marishi. As she did so, a circle appeared in her palms, each one revealing Rae and Marishi to each other, like a reverse mirror. This caused Rae to stop. "Wonderful." She said, then reached to her hip and sent a whip lashing out towards Rae. It hooked around her neck and cut into her skin, causing her to grimace and reach up with her right hand to try and pull herself free of its choking grip, but to no avail. The woman then yanked back on the whip, pulling Rae towards her. Before the two could collide, she stepped aside and allowed Rae to tumble into the arms of Matiseau. The woman laughed and waved at the flames, bidding them to leave. She wanted Marishi to watch this. His expression was blank as he stared down at her and she stared up to him. Her ears were flat against her had and her mouth opened in a silent scream, eyes wide as fear took over her completely. She couldn't move. Even if she wanted to, Matiseau's hands held onto her with such a tight grip it bruised her arms instantly. "Take it." The woman hissed. With that, Matiseau reached up and snatched at the invisible aether in front of Rae. The sensation was unlike anything she had felt before. It was like some one held onto her veins. One single thread on her chest caused her entire body to seize. As he pulled, her veins grew taut, resisting his force. The very blood of her existence was being extracted from her. The pain was beyond compare. Rae screamed as he continued pulling, relentless in his efforts. She felt herself leaving her body forcibly, but something clung to her, desperate to not be pulled free. Matiseau frowned and grunted, then placed a hand on Rae's chest and pushed on her while pulling back with his hand. As he did, she felt something within her snap and give way. Her aether severed from the rest of it and she was pushed backward, falling onto the floor. She clutched onto her chest and gasped, her body flailing and writing about wildly in a violent seizure from the sensation of having her very essence pulled out from within it. Some of it still remained, however. Almost as though it would not be yanked out with the rest of what Matiseau now held clenched in his fist. "Give it here," the woman barked, holding out her hands around Matiseau's fist. As she held her hands there, another hand began to materialize between them. Then an arm. Then a shoulder, then a neck, then a breast, then a stomach, then legs, then another arm, then a head, then two wings. Before them, a woman floated there a moment before dropping heavily to the floor. She had no facial features beyond the outline of eyes, she bore no real features besides an outline of her figure. She almost looked like Rae's silhouette, save it be the large, bat-like wings. Her aura was purple and shifted slowly like a cloud. Streaks of orange grew and vanished along her frame. She looked like a portal, a mirror to another world. "Yes! This is perfect! Now we just need Pandemonium and our plan will be complete!" "Ma...ri...shi..." Rae gasped. She was pale, almost white. She laid on the dirt and reached out to Marishi, her fingers trembling. The woman frowned and glared down at Rae with contempt, almost disgusted that she was still alive. "Kill her, take her aether, and come outside. We've got a Summon to assimilate." The woman ordered while walking towards the fallen form of Rae's aether. She grabbed its arm and pulled it onto its feet. As it moved, its hair glided as if it were underwater. For a moment, the aether stayed still, but then pushed away from the woman, who hissed angrily at it and attempted to snatch at its wing, but the aether raised its hand and cut downward, slicing a rift in the space. The rift slowly opened and the aether took one step towards it, turned to Marishi and Rae and stared, then jumped towards them, gliding a bit and picked them both up. The aether then flew towards the portal and threw them both inside it. Once that was done, the opening sealed up, leaving the three in the cavern. The woman screamed angrily and dove at the aether, but it took to the sky and flew out of the cavern with such speed it looked to be a flash of lighting ripping through the air. The woman had fallen face first into the dirt and she rose up, arms trembling as pure, unfiltered rage ripped through her body. "Why wasn't it docile?! Why does that aether have a mind of its own?!" She whispered, her voice shook as she contained herself from screaming yet again. The world was dark. Then it lit up again. Rae felt as though she were floating. Was this death? The world blackened again, then they were in a field. Then it blackened once more, then lit up as they were in a forest. The vision of the forest dimmed briefly before it returned, more solid and brighter than before. It smelled differently. Was this the afterlife? Did she die? Her eyes shut and she turned her head, her body growing limp from the loss of so much aether and having tolerated being thrown through the Void. She was exhausted, but not dead.
  14. Rae watched helplessly as Matiseau moved about, completely ignoring them, almost purposefully ignoring Marishi's questions. "It's no use, Marishi," Rae called out as he made his way up the stairs quickly. "He's beyond listening right now. He's completely enveloped in whatever task he has before him. I don't think he realizes he caused the barrier to weaken, but maybe we can stop him from doing it further." With that, Rae started up the stairs, but stopped when Marishi insisted she go first. Nodding, Rae followed behind. As they came to the next room, Rae's eyes widened and her mouth opened. Something horrible happened here. There wasn't death, but there certainly was a disturbance beyond just that of a physical nature. As Marishi attempted to implore to Matiseau, Rae looked towards the door. It had the same barrier as the one that surrounded the city. Had they traversed the mountain range below and come to the gates? Matiseau huffed and adjusted the helmet again and turned towards the door. "Matiseau, what are you doing?" Rae asked impatiently as Marishi drew her sword. "You all but destroyed the barrier around the city, you've locked me out of the cabin and forced us to sleep outside where you altered the weather! What is going on in this lab?" "I can't get the aether strands to unlock the door and drop the barrier." He explained flatly while walking towards the door and standing before it. It appeared as if they had attempted to fix it from within the barrier. Wood planks were nailed together and any hole was sealed with some sort of cement. Whatever had been below had made its way up through the door and into the city. "My friend wrote to me of what they were doing here, but only in partial words. Our letters were being read, that much we knew. She told me how they found a way to control aether physically instead of imposing suggestions through catalysts. This helmet... it allows me to see aether in finer detail. Where I can just... reach out and... grab it." As he spoke, he reached out toward the barrier and tightened his fist around it and yanked back. The barrier around the door distended, but did not break. "They were trying to stop something. She couldn't say what. Her last letter she sent after the catastrophe, which leads me to believe she was still alive. She told me where to find these tools and begged me to come help." He reached out again and tugged, this time, the barrier around the door gave way and disappeared, the particles rising to the sky. He watched in awe as it rose above the ceiling and vanished. "Gods... if everyone could see this..." He murmured while opening the door slowly. A bright, brilliant light spilled into the dimly-lit room. Rae had to shield her eyes from the powerful effects of the light. As the door opened, a roar was heard again. The door they exited from was fitted to the side of the wall that was connected to the mountain. Above them the sky was bright, artificially so. Before them was a path that lead directly to the center of the city where a few large statues stood, hands outstretched and varying insignias of the Twelve hovered before them. In the middle of the circle was something no one had ever seen before. It was large, but not taller than the walls around the city. It had no face, but a head with a yellow blotch across where the face would be. On either side of its head were smaller versions of the head with the yellow blotches. It looked humanoid, stood on two feet, had two arms, but the hands looked like enormous fins with claws tipping the end as fingers. On its posterior was a large orange sack. From the sack a purple, multi-patterned cord wound around the creature's abdomen and rose up over its right shoulder where three gaping holes revealed the inside of the cord to be pulsing. Its legs appeared to not be made of the same body. They were blue and green with yellow flecks across both legs. It was immediately clear the creature was the source of the roaring as it roared again, this time the ground trembled as it stomped its feet forcibly. "What the HELLS is that thing?!" Rae screamed. Her hands shook and her heart thundered in her chest. Everything about it screamed primal, but it was not one she had ever learned of. Matiseau stared with mouth opened and body petrified. "I-I-I don't know! The aether readings coming off it are... are phenomenal! I... She only alluded to it. She never told me it was... this powerful still." Immediately, the bright light that covered the whole city vanished. A gust of wind suddenly burst through the city causing roof tiles to rattle and fly off. They moved toward the center of the city and into the three gaping holes on the right shoulder of the monster. The statues moved, balking and bracing against the wind that pulled to the middle of their circle. Rae's eyes widened and she grabbed onto Marishi, then held onto the door knob behind them as the wind picked up more. The creature was beginning its attack. As the creature sucked in more air, the sack on its bag expanded in size until it was larger than it was. From the city center came a flock of scholars, fleeing frantically to get away from the impending attack. One Hyur stopped when they saw the three of them and he ran towards them, grabbing Matiseau and shoving them inside the door and slamming it behind him, then locking it tightly. "GET DOWN! GET FARTHER DOWN!" He yelled as a low rumble began to emit from behind the door. The three of them rushed down the stairs and deeper into the underground tunnel. "What is that!?" Rae yelled as the sound grew louder and the sound of debris banging against the door could be heard. Rae covered her ears as the bellowing grew louder and louder. It reverberated in the room causing the floor to shake and the walls to rumble. The sound was enough to feel throughout her body. It rattled the air out of her lungs, causing her to gasp and panic. After a few moments of it lasting, the sound died away and all was still. Rae finally could breathe, but there was a ringing in her ears that she couldn't shake. Everyone had collapsed under the immense sound. It took a moment before the ringing subsided enough that other sounds could be heard. "That," the other scholar said while breathing heavily. "Is Pandemonium. I suddenly appeared one day and we tried to contain it, but... it's unlike anything we've seen before." Matiseau shakily stood to his feet and clutched his chest, still panting and gasping for air. The scholar looked him over curiously before realization dawned upon him. "You... you're Matiseau," he said while standing to his feet and offering his hands to Rae and Marishi, which Rae took gratefully and stood up. "You're the one Aika was speaking to through letters. You finally came... just in time to destroy our barrier." His brows furrowed and he scowled at him. Matiseau turned to look at him and shook his head, raising his gloved hands. "Don't try to deny it! What kind of scholar are you? Coming here and tampering with things you don't know what they do? That barrier was up for a reason, you idiot! It was the only thing feeding power to our seals! Now we have nothing to keep that thing from rampaging and killing everything that breathes!" Matiseau stepped backwards, tripping over a stack of books and falling to the floor. Rae watched without intervening this time. Everything was falling together. It was all making sense now. He came here to play the hero, but he ended up ruining everything instead. "Aika told me-she said that-she told me about the gloves. They could stop it-" "She said WHAT?" The scholar roared, stepping closer to Matiseau and grabbing him by the collar and raising him to his feet. "Aika would never have said that! She's been busy trying to reverse the summoning of this thing!" "She told me to come here and use the gauntlets! She got a letter out to me before the barrier was erected!" Matiseau gasped, his gloved hands clinging to the scholar's wrists in a desperate attempt to get him to let go. The scholar dropped him, letting him crumple to the floor and he stepped back from him. "That's not possible. The barrier was put up instantly and she's been trapped inside ever since. Whoever sent you that last letter was not Aika. That barrier kept us all in there and no one could leave without shattering it... like you just did." There was pure malice in his voice and expression. He could kill Matiseau, and he knew it. "I-I-I'll fix it! I'll fix the barrier! Just tell me how to undo it. I'll put the aether bac-" "Nonsense," the scholar spat. "You would have to completely reconstruct the barrier with Aether, and to do that you'd need at least a Primal or two to draw the aether from." Matiseau, finally getting to his hands and knees, paused. He stared at the ground, deep in thought, then lifted his head to look at Rae, who stepped back from him and placed her hand on her weapon. "Rae, you attuned to Bahamut. You carry a swath of his aether. It might be enough... it looks like enough... We could amplify it-" "Don't be a fool," the scholar hissed, moving to block him from Rae. "If you draw her aether out, she'll die. You know that!" Matiseau stood to his feet and swayed a bit, staring at the scholar a moment. There was silence as Matiseau contemplated what he'd do next. He then stepped towards the scholar and reached out, grabbing onto something before him and yanking. The scholar staggered forward and fell into Matiseau's arm. He groaned and tried to push himself off him, but he was held fast. "I'm tired of you all treating me like an idiot. Like I don't know what I'm doing. I've studied aether for years. I know exactly what I'm doing." He then heaved the man off his arms, still clenching his fist. As the scholar fell backwards, he cried out briefly before it was cut off and he fell limply onto his back, light gone from his eyes and body not moving. Matiseau let go of his fist and turned to Rae and Marishi. "Two Primals. That should be just enough to seal that thing away again." He muttered and limped towards them. Rae was breathing frantically and she grabbed onto Marishi's hand and backed away. "Mati, no. Don't do this. You don't have to." She begged, hopping to implore to his sensible side. He only shook his head and stepped closer, raising his hand out. "I only need a strand. Just a wisp." He said, fixated on their auras. Without any hesitation, Rae turned around, tightening her hold on Marishi's hand, and fled the room, running as fast as she could back out the way they came.
  15. Rae was silent as Marishi asked the questions of Matiseau. She never really spoke of him because she knew it would raise needless worry within Marishi, but she supposed it was time to tell her the full truth. "I'm not truly Sharlayan," Rae answered after Marishi kicked in the door. She walked inside and examined the room. "I grew up in the Old World at the capital city where I was to be raised as a Scholar. I demonstrated miraculous powers, despite being a mere Miqo'te girl with a book. I was able to conjure spells of healing with my bare hands, sense familiars, speak with the Carbuncles and Fairies both Scholars and Summoners had conjured. They took a liking to me. I was set to be a Summoner; however, because I could heal, they took me to become a Scholar from Sharlaya. All of this happened after my father died. One night, I was taken away from my home and brought to Sharlaya. My mother wasn't aware of what happened. She thought I was kidnapped by the same people who murdered my father. I was a wild child in Sharlaya. They tried to teach me, they tried to make me listen, but I never did." Rae stopped when a strange appearance of the bookshelf caught her eye. It was off center. Approaching it, she felt a breeze come from behind it. "Here, Marishi. There's something here." She called out, then pushed her shoulder against the shelf's side, causing it to scrape across the wood floor and reveal a passage way behind it. Rae took a candle and held it out before her, illuminating the long pathway ahead. The hallway was paved with the typical white stone that the city of Sharlaya was built with. It was smooth, clean, and empty. "He must have gone down here. Let's find where this leads." She said while walking ahead of Marishi. "I was an outcast. Having been spirited here by scholars against my will, I had no love for the practice and balked at every turn when they attempted to teach me. Only one person was kind to me. Only one person did not wish to force me to sit in a desk and read about the destroyed city of Mhach. That was Matiseau. He knew I was adept with black magic as well as white magic. So while they attempted to teach me of the history of the broken city, he allowed me to explore other options. Under his guidance, we practised new spells. As time went on, I grew more docile, but still rebellious. It was around that time my Master came to me and took me away to become a Red Mage. He was visiting the isle and he sensed within me the contrasting alignments of magic. He couldn't convince the Circle of Knowing that I was better off learning to curb my powers of black magic. It was boiling up within me and it was threatening to burst. They had kept me learning strictly white magic for so long... That night, Matiseau found a book about Red Magic. We didn't know enough of it to know that we required a conduit for the spells. I spoke the spell for flames and from my mouth spewed fire. It tasted of ash and hurt my face, but it did not burn me. Magic will never counter its caster. So we were. The small tree, cramped, facing opposite of each other, and flames spewed from my mouth, burning my clothes and setting Matiseau aflame. I couldn't stop it. I knew not how. We both scrambled out of the tree and he fled to the dirt where he rolled to extinguish himself and I collapsed as my aether was slowly drained from my body and flames rolled out of my mouth like lava from a volcano. I blacked out, and when I awoke, I was in the hospital with my Master at my feet arguing with the headmaster and Matiseau so bandaged up I could barely realize it was him. If I did not hear his whimpers and sobs as the healers applied a salve to his leg, I would not have known it was him." Rae paused. There was a large room before them with a pedestal in the center of it. She moved closer slowly, expecting a trap of some sort, but nothing happened. The pedestal was empty. There was dust gathered upon the surface, but a single square on the surface was left devoid of it. "He was here. He took something. We must hurry." Rae said. She did not know why she must hurry, but urgency rose within her. "Those... burns on him. They were never cured. When I carried him, he still felt hot. Like a white hot iron pressed against my flesh. He must always feel that heat from that night. I wonder if he's used to it... he denied it was me, though. He said it was himself. He lit a match and caught fire. I passed out from dragging him to safety. Had they learned we unwisely were casting spells, we both would have been punished severely. They tolerate no kind of abuse of magic on that island. Though they knew it wasn't true, they could not prove otherwise. So we were separated. They sent me away with my Master to learn to control my black and white magic and he became the Cripple of Sharlaya. He was the only one on that island that ever showed consideration or kindness towards me. The other students it was contempt. The teachers it was disdain. He appreciated my rebelliousness. He appreciated my situation for having been taken from home all to become another Scholar to pass on knowledge to the next student." Ahead of them, there was scuffling. Rae went quiet and held her feet and breath and strained to hear the sounds of something being dragged across the floor. She blew out her candle and pressed her hand against the wall and began to walk forward. A blue, faint light could be seen up ahead. The narrow corridor opened up into another large room with machines lining the left side that all were illuminated with screens and buttons. On the opposite side of the machines were shelves upon shelves of books. Matiseau was in the middle of the room wearing a helm and strange gloves that were connected to the helmet by cords. Across the room was flight of stairs and a wooden door. Rae paused, watching Matiseau push a chair towards a bookcase as he strained to reach at something above it. "What is he doing?" She whispered, more to herself than to Marishi. After a moment, she walked closer. Once almost inside the room, a beeping was heard from the helmet and Matiseau spun around, almost losing his balance in the chair. "Wh-whoa! No! What... how... How did you...?" He stared a moment, then pulled off the goggles from his face and gasped. "Rae?! That's you? Incredible..." He replaced the goggles, then removed them again. "These see aether in so much more detail. Marishi? Is that you? Gods. What have you two been up to?!" He looked like a child in a candy shop. The unburned side of his face held a bright smile as he turned back around and reached above the shelf once again. "So... close... If I just could reach it..." Matiseau jumped off the chair and snatched at the air. He laughed triumphantly just in time to topple to the ground and the book shelf to fall on top of him. "Matiseau!" Rae gasped and darted into the room, running to the bookshelf and grabbing onto it by crouching down and pushing it up by straightening out her legs. Books and papers came out from beneath the book case, and Matiseau pulled himself out and laughed nervously, readjusting the helmet on his head. "Rae, thank you. You helped me again!" He said while getting to his feet. He held out his hands, palms faced up like he was holding something in them, but nothing was there. "I have the last strand to unlock the door." he said while walking towards the panel of lights. He placed whatever invisible thing he held in his hands onto a smooth surface with several straight lines carved into it and ports on either side of each line. Once done, the door at the top of the stairs clicked and opened slightly with a creak. Rae stared at the door and blinked rapidly before turning to Marishi, then looking to Matiseau. "Mati, what's happening? What are you doing? Where does that lead?" Rae asked, but he ignored her and walked towards the other panel and began pressing buttons on it.