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deadcasketburied

Something of worth.

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Camila sat beneath a lovely maple tree, its wide all-encompassing branches perfectly protecting the girl’s small, slightly round face from the damaging rays of the high noon sun. Her wide-set brown eyes were half open, her mouth pulled back into a soft smile as she patiently listened to the many stories and complaints of the spirits that drifted all around her. Some of them, the more playful ones, used the passing wind to lift her wavy hair up and down, causing the girl to break out into fits of childish giggles. Her caretaker since birth, a shriveled up woman simply called Nana, did not react to the shifting hair and random giggles, as she was accustomed to the peculiarities that had accompanied her little girl since she had been a babe and knew them to be harmless. Their hosts, however, were horrified by the display of sorcery and dismayed to learn that indeed the rumors that painted the girl as a strange creature with some sort of occult power were all true. Nevertheless, they were obliged to obey Camila’s father, a powerful man with a terrible penchant for dispatching those who refused him in the most brutal of ways. So they left the young girl and her servant remain in their home, and provided for them as best they could, but they remained far away from them both and shared loudly with anyone that listened that they did not mingle with the youngest del Valle daughter.

Camila, oblivious to the stares and gossip that had surrounded her ever since she began exhibiting signs of possessing some sort of power, had lived a relatively happy life. Her father’s status had protected her from their society’s scorn, and her mother and siblings’ love had kept her heart light with joy. As the youngest, she was undeniably spoiled, spared punishments and permitted to avoid learning any sort of skill that would make her a suitable wife for a man of a similar status as her own. It would be impossible, her father had surmised, to find her a match in their home of Ashville, so there was no need to bother the girl, who was often lost in thought anyway, to learn anything beyond the basics of a formal education. Along the way, Camila picked up on the family’s traditional healing remedies, all contained in an old tome that had served as their ancestors’ claim to fame when their name was young and unpraised.

She was unnaturally gifted with her healing experiments, which gained fame with the destitute in Ashville, who soon flocked to the girl in hopes of being cured of their ailments. Camila’s success only spurred others to come, until it was impossible to receive them all out in the street. It had been then that Camila and her Nana had decided to receive them in the great hall of the del Valle’s home, where the girl cured hundreds of souls until her father, furious to learn that she received the poor and sick out in his backyard, forbade her from continuing and sent her off to stay with an acquaintance in Blairville, until all the commotion of his daughter’s increasingly strange abilities died down. The city of Blairville was full of magical nonsense, so perhaps it was a place better suited for her daughter’s eccentricities.

So now there she was, separated from the life she had known and all those she had loved, save for her beloved and loyal Nana. Still, she was quick to make friends with the spirits that inhabited this particular region, and learned so much about them and those they surrounded she soon felt at ease in her foster home. Still, the ban placed upon her abilities, enforced by her father’s friends, had left a gray spot in her heart, and had caused Camila to question her role in the world. Surely, she shared with her invisible friends, there was a purpose to her life, something she was meant to do? The spirits stirred all around her, practically mad with the need to share with her the very important thing that would fulfill all of her dreams.

“Wait, what?” Camila said out loud, seemingly to no one.

“Could it be?”

“Are you sure?”

Cami’s suddenly overly erratic behavior, even for her, caught the attention of her hosts, who happened to be watching her on this fine sunny day, alarmed them enough to cautiously approach her, for they fear the consequences of her father’s wrath if they did at least attempt to make sense of the girl’s problem.

“Camila, dear? Are you all right? You are speaking to no one?” The hostess began, looking around to confirm the presence of no one.

Caught off guard by the excitement of her friends’ tales, and unaccustomed to being approached by her temporary hosts, Camila shot up from her seat, causing the two others to fall back with a muffled shriek.

“Forgive me,” the young girl began as she darted pass them and out towards the gate of their home, “I must visit this man. I shall return soon!”

She took off into a sprint, before her hosts could react or her Nana could block her path. She was out in the city, physically alone, but accompanied by a thousand rustling spirits. Something of worth was nearby, they had told her, she just had to follow them.

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Ezekiel sat in the shadow of a large maple tree just beyond the city’s domain, enjoying a reprieve from the endless beating of the sun upon his back. Rising temperatures had made for a short, humid, and rainless spring in Blairville, while the summer promised to continue with the sweltering trend.  Roads and paths many times traveled felt longer and considerably more demanding, even for the seasoned wanderer. The rider had thought it wise to cut around the city of Blairville, as he’d done several times before, but as he sat there and took inventory of his unusually diminished supplies, it seemed more foolish than efficient.

“That’s not good.” It had been a rough season, with contracts yielding less and less coin, and that coin not going nearly as far as it had in previous weeks. Ezekiel couldn’t decide whether he was rationing, or starving himself. “I’ll have to see what I can manage.” No stranger to hard times, he remained relatively unconcerned.

“You’ll never find him if you die,” said a voice from his left hand.

Looking at the back of his dark skinned hand, Ezekiel watched as the tattoo—a Rosiderian Wolf Spider—peeled itself away from his skin, thickened with depth, and began slowly climbing over his fingers. “I’m not going to die.”

“Are you so certain?”

It seemed foolish to argue the point.

“Well, that depends. Is it your will?”

The spider rolled and curled its mandibles in thought, all eight of its eyes narrowing in focus. “No. Not yet, at least.”

“Then yes, I am certain.”

“If you were as good at managing your supplies as you are at being clever, young rider, you’d not be slumped under this tree now.”

Ezekiel shrugged and spread his fingers, challenging the spider’s slow walk across his hand. “I’m little more than a human, my uncanny friend, fragile and meek and troublesome. It is my inheritance to make mistakes. How else am I to improve?”

The spider curled its mandibles again, but did not speak. Instead, it moved itself back across the breadth of his hand and slowly sank into his flesh. Inch by inch, living chitin returned to ink, until a flawless tattoo was once again all that remained. Odd. The spider was not known for being so short, but instead preferred to entertain himself with a listing of all the rider’s shortcomings. Something else must have demanded his attention. Poor thing, whoever it was. Ezekiel may have walked the path of justice with an uncompromising demeanor of welded iron, but there was no denying that his patron was a difficult one.

Adjusting the sheathless longsword pressed against his shoulder, Ezekiel cast his glance further down the road, toward the mountain that rose up like a wall on the near horizon. A monolith of rock and snow, Blaurg Mountain’s highest points were hidden above a fearsome, roaring storm without end. Three weeks, the rider thought as he remembered when he first arrived. It’s been three weeks and still the storm hasn’t broken. The locals said it had been months; that Blaurg had been cast in shadow since the great flood that drowned the nearby marshes. Their stories, which he had originally figured to be tall tales, mere exaggerations, couldn’t have felt more real in that moment. No point in waiting any longer.

Ezekiel was slow to get to his feet, rising to his full measure just as a young girl emerged over the softly rolled crest of the hill opposite to him. She was an agreeable thing, full of youth and beauty, and an almost naïve happiness that reminded the rider of a time before all of this. The weight of the sword in his right hand, the sharp pang of hunger in his stomach, and the roughness of his parched mouth pulled him back to the present, reminding him of the hard, warrior’s life he’d chosen to walk. Starting down the hill of his own, the rider dipped his head in greeting, smiling as he reached the road.

Edited by King

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Camila had no concept of caution, and while most young girls would have shied away from the amber eyes and brief smile of a travel weary man, she did not hesitate to tilt her head slightly to the side and break her mouth open with a wide, generous smile. He made his way slowly down the same path she intended to follow, and without a hint of shyness, she fell into step beside him. She said nothing as she swept her honey-colored eyes over him, noted his disheveled appearance, and felt the threads of pity pulling her face down into a frown. She heard the faint rumble of hunger coming from his stomach, and adding that to his appearance, assumed he was a traveling man on his last leg, ready to collapse at a moment’s notice.

“Are you all right?” Her voice was soft and sweet, barely above a whisper, as she was accustomed to speaking in hush tones with her spirits.

Camila She was so much smaller than he, but his slow movements prevented her from having to hasten her steps to keep up with him. Sensitive to the suffering of the less fortunate, Camila sought to ease the man’s discomfort, and because she had grown up with everything presented to her in a silver platter, did not think to ask as she reached for a couple of pieces of fruit in a nearby stand, much to the surprise of the vendor standing behind it.

Uh, excuse me miss—

Camila turned to him, all innocence and smiles, and listened to one of her spirit friends reminding her of how the exchange of goods for coins was carried out in the real world.

“Oh yes,” she began as the man tried to dart after them, “my guardian will reimburse you for your goods, however much it was. Tell him you were gracious enough to help out his ward, Camila del Valle.” For good measure, she took a couple of more edible items from the stand, and the man let her, as he quickly realized who she was.

“Here.” She reached out to pull at one of his hands, placing the items she had taken into his palm. “You must be hungry.”

A gust of wind danced wildly around her, and just like that, Camila became distracted by the sudden invasion of unfamiliar spirits, and all but forgot she was even walking next to an unknown man.

Edited by deadcasketburied
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Ezekiel found he was hard-pressed not to feel unsettled by the girl’s company and (over)friendly mannerism. There were no shortages of travelers’ cautionary tales that began with concerned citizens or an agreeable young woman, none of which ended favorably for the recipient. But there was something gentle about her, and as he reached out with his sixth sense, its touch hidden in the breeze, he could feel her sincerity as surely as he felt the heat of the sun. Even so, pride almost saw him turn aside her kindness, until that same hunger pain stabbed into the side of his gut.

“Generous,” Ezekiel murmured as he glanced over the pair of fruit she’d purchased. “Such a rare trait amongst nobility.” She was an easy make. From the lavish dress she wore, down to every last well-kept detail of her person, it was clear she came from a home of considerable wealth and abundance. The girl was a stark contrast to the rider; light of skin where he was dark; short and thin of make, where he stood tall and broad; soft, supple, where he was hard and rigid. “I appreciate your concern, miss Del Valle. I will be sure to repay you.”

How, or when, he knew not.

Ezekiel pocketed the girl’s gifts, spare for a single pear. While Camila distracted herself with the company of unfamiliar spirits, the rider busied himself with the sweetness of his pear. It was one of the freshest he’d had in recent memory; I’ll have to remember this stand, for the next time I’m in the area. Making a mental note, his seventh sense hummed to the forefront of his thoughts, the sound deepest at the flank shared with Camila. There was something different about her, or rather, around her—a mass of supernatural that was impossible to ignore, but not in the slightest bit malevolent.

“Your friends,” he mentioned casually over another bite of pear. While communing with spirits and piercing the veil between this life and that life was not unheard of, Ezekiel couldn’t imagine her family had taken kindly to her gift. Such things were often seen as unsavory, viewed instead as a touch of madness, or worse, possession. “How long have they been around?"

Edited by King
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Camila blinked, startled by the unknown man’s proximity. Her features contorted with confusion and she stared at him, long and hard, with her big brown eyes. She had completely forgotten all about him the second she had handed him his food, much too preoccupied by the presence of the inhabitants of the supernatural world to remember she had initiated a conversation with him. Slowly, and through the aide of her friends who recounted the last minutes of her life to her, Camila remembered their exchange, and regained her smile. Her distraction from the world in general was nothing new for her; she had been born without a sense of time or space, always drifting here and there, one toe in reality and her whole body in another place of existence. For most of her life, her lack of self-awareness had been compensated by the presence of her Nana, who was used to her little girl’s cluelessness, and filled the gaps when needed.

“There is no need to repay me at all. I am glad that you are feeling better now, yes?” She breezed through his observation about her noble background, forgetting that not all had been born into the luxury that allowed the fine dress she wore, and thus she could not think why such a detail about her person would matter.

She kept her pace next to his, occasionally forgetting he was there as he munched on the (technically) stolen fruit and she chattered away in her mind with her inseparable companions since birth. When he questioned her about their presence, the girl took a whole step into reality, astonished. Aside from her beloved caretaker, who believed her little girl no matter what things she said, no one had ever mentioned the swirl of supernatural beings that always surrounded her. Forgetting all of her training as a lady of society, she entered his personal space and tilted her head as high as she could to stare intensely into his eyes.

“You can see them, sir?” The idea that another person shared her “ability”, as her family called it, delighted her. She let her head fall back with a laugh, high and strong, a drastic change from her usually soft voice. “Since before I was born,” she answered, her eyes alive with happiness. “I have always had them with me. They will always be with me.”

Edited by deadcasketburied
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Ezekiel came to a complete stop as Camila stepped almost inappropriately close to him, reaching up with her charming, earthy eyes to pull his amber gaze down. There was a strange intensity between them as they stared at each other, almost like a clashing of both era and persona. The life of a warrior against the plush, comfortable living of a noble; the seasoned mind of a wanderer against the pretty nativity of a young girl just scarcely a woman; a life already half emptied with loss pitted against one with all the world left to gain. But then she reared her head back and laughed, a delightful sound, he noted, only slightly preferred to her quiet politeness, and they were moving again.

The rider shook his head as he finished the pear, eating the core and all. “Not see,” he corrected her in as friendly a tone as his deep voice would allow. “Nor can I hear them, for that matter. But I can feel them, here and there.” Like most riders cut of Rosiderian cloth, Ezekiel had developed a keen ‘danger sense’ over the years—his sixth sense, as he called it—which gave him the uncanny nous of when things were not as they ought to be, for better or for worse. Over the years, he had learned to focus it, direct it (albeit briefly), which allowed him to confirm or deny his suspicions in most cases. “I feel different things, depending on the situation: something like an itch for traps and the like; more of a haze for illusions; a cold, icy tingle for explicit danger, like dangerous people… the list goes on.”

Letting Camila revel in her sudden jubilation, Ezekiel turned his eyes back to the mountain ahead, looming on the horizon like dark sentinel, all shadow, ice, and storm. He couldn’t help but wonder how her friendly companions might fair in a land harsh not only of body, but also the spirit? There had been a wealth of undead sightings near and about the mountain, grisly beasts of rotting flesh and sinew skulking along the flanks, patrolling the icy passageways, and reinforcing deep caverns with battlements of black steel. It was certainly no place for one so wet behind the ears, let alone a young girl of such blissful aimlessness. Not wanting to seem unkind or ungrateful, the rider decided it would be best to let her tag along for a bit longer—well beyond the borders of the city, but close enough that it was safe for her to return alone—before turning her back.

“I’m glad your companions all seem to be of a pleasant demeanor,” he added after a small stint of silence. “You’re rather lucky. Not all of the spirits in this world are as such. I’ve heard stories of people like you—mediums, I believe you lot are called—suffering from possession of more violent, hostile entities. They say it can be incredible painful.” It was curious that she had not come under such an attack, not that he could discern. There was certainly more than one spirit lurking in her shadow; something about the girl drew them to her. Surely, she would have caught the eye of a more malignant by now, at least once or twice. “I imagine your friends protect you, perhaps serving as a ward of some sort, or just hiding you from spirits they don’t trust.” Ezekiel nodded. “Mm, quite the lucky girl, indeed.”

The rider hoped that the conversation took a turn for the lighter when he asked, “What does your family think of your gift?"

Edited by King
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Due to her eccentricities, Camila had spent the majority of her time surrounded only by those that deeply cared for her, and often failed to note her behavior was undeniably inappropriate, particularly for a girl of her status. She had remained just as close to the stranger as before, her vibrant eyes fixated on his intense dark ones for what surely beyond what most would consider normal. Her youth and limited socializing had not curved her ability to detect attractive features, and she felt the flutter of a young girl’s heart as she studied his sharp nose, prominent jaw and thick (lolnigga) lips. Camila listened to Ezekiel describe how he was able to discern the presence of her friends, and was only slightly disappointed that he was not like her.

“Oh, so I see,” she said as she finally turned her eyes up to the road ahead, where the threatening mountain stood proud and tall, arrogantly waiting for the next fools to attempt their climb up its icy domain. “Then we are different, but even so, I am happy that somebody else can at least feel them.” She glanced up to him again, all purity and joy.

Camila continued along Ezekiel, seemingly unperturbed by their eventual destination. Accustomed to acting without a second thought to consequences, the young girl had exited the comfort and protection of her guardian’s home following the call of her friends, who assured her something magnificent awaited anyone brave enough to make it to the top of the monstrous mountain. At first, she had only meant to go take a look see, perhaps communicate with the spirits inhabiting the base of the mountain, who could inform her if this something of worth truly existed. It was, without a doubt, a foolish thing to do, but Camila had not even bothered to think about her actions or the aftermath of her doings, as most things in her life often resolved themselves without her doing much of anything about them. For now, she was more than happy to trot along next to Ezekiel, who continuously kept her occupied and mentally present by making comments and asking questions.

“A medium, you say?” Camila’s shoulders rose up a bit with a shrug, her mouth pushed out in a pensive pout. Her father had forbidden anyone in his household to investigate the nature of his daughter’s powers, not even to give them a proper name; he preferred to think they did not exist, and refused to let the matter be discussed. Ezekiel’s comments about the friendly nature of her spirits sent them all into a joyful flutter around the two of them, their playful antics causing Camila to let out a vivacious laugh. “They like you.”

The imposing mountain grew that much more menacing with each step, the end of the city just a couple of feet away. At the mention of her family, a beaming smile bloomed all over her pretty little mouth.  “They love me as I am,” she answered, though she did not quite realize she had not truly addressed his question. Before she could think of more to say, her friends wildly bristled all around her, causing her to abandon Ezekiel’s side and sprint up ahead.

“Oh! Look! Do you see?” She said as she glanced back and darted back towards him, “That is it! It is there, you know, my friends told me. Are you coming too?” Just as she had done before, forgetting all of her manners (that she truly never even learned), she breached his personal space and took his hand with both of her own, tugging his forward. “You are going for it, are you not?”

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It was impossible not to be swept up in the girl’s excitable charm, and when she took his hand and tugged him forward like a stiff breeze, Ezekiel was at the mercy of her vivid imagination and the encouraging words of her spritely friends. Blairville was shrinking behind them, crisp, shimmering details becoming little more than a collage of colors and blurs. So, it is there. The rider had never disliked following the trail of rumors or tall tales; it seemed most were founded on some manner of truth, anyway. Her friends have a far reach. Blaurg Mountain was still more than a day’s travel from the city limits. That they could sense the artifact at all was a testament to either their or its power—perhaps even both.

Ezekiel glanced down at his left hand, still captured in the young girl’s, and swore all eight of the spider’s eyes were gazing up at him, narrow with displeasure. It was reckless to entertain her like this, to continue any further with their joint adventure. It wouldn’t be long before the afternoon turned to dusk, and then sending her home would be impossible (even in the company of her spiritual companions). At the same time, it was impossible to deny Camila’s usefulness. She and her entourage could likely assist in the search. It isn’t like I can’t protect her, he reasoned with himself, hoping to justify his selfishness. Who am I to risk her life in such a manner? She’s someone’s daughter. But wasn’t she going to the mountain, anyway?

“It’s a lantern,” Ezekiel said. “Not an ordinary lantern, mind you, which is why I’m sure your friends can sense it.” That, or they’d always known of its presence. “It will help aid me in my future endeavors, so yes, I am going for it. Of course, there’s no guarantee that I will find it. And even if I do, there’s no guarantee that I will be able to make it down the mountain with the lantern. I’ve heard that Blaurg has become home to a rather unsavory host of monsters, demons, fiends, and all manners of nightmarish creatures. It’s a dangerous place,” he warned in a grim voice, hoping she would understand his meaning. “Moreso than it ever has been. Very few people dare travel its roads anymore.”

Camila continued pulling on his hand, the rider’s words seemingly lost on her. Ezekiel dug his heels into the ground and brought their gait to an abrupt halt. “It’s going to be dangerous, Camila,” he said bluntly, his expression stern. “Do you understand? Even with your friends, you could get hurt—or worse, killed. I’m no guardian, no protector. I cannot lie to you and promise your safe return, should you continue on this path.” The young noble owed him no respect or consideration, and she was certainly under no obligation to heed his words. Gently easing his hand from hers, the knight hoisted his sword up over his shoulders as he continued, dangling his hands over pommel and edge. “However, if you insist on coming, I wouldn’t feel right letting you go alone. Just make sure to keep up.”

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Camila blinked, surprised by the sudden end to their march and the serious tone adopted by Ezekiel to verbally paint a very dangerous picture that was sure to meet them up ahead. She exercised her ability to remain focused as she listened to every word, her dark eyes narrowed into pensive slits and her little mouth pushed out into a curious pout. Though she wavered here and there, she understood the scope of the situation, but was not the least bit concerned by the danger that resided within the steep and cold mountain. She was aware of the existence of monsters, knew of their wickedness and treachery, and was conscious enough to realize she would not be immune to their dark energy. Nevertheless, she was not truly afraid, partly due to three parts her naiveté, the warmth of her spirits, and Ezekiel’s massive presence.

“Is that what it is up there? They told me,” she said as she passed a hand over the air, touching an invisible force, “that this could help many people, if it can be brought back. I am….different,” she added after a moment, “But I can help others. My father thinks it is worthless, what I can do.” A sadness covered her little voice as she allowed Ezekiel to pull his hand away, both by the topic at hand at his actions. “I thought perhaps if I can show him—that what I can do is useful—he will relent and let me return home and help others, as I once did. It is silly, is it not? To go to such lengths…”

It was a rare thing for Camila to linger on the negative reaction her father had towards her abilities; rather, she often preferred to concentrate on the immensely grand love the del Valle patriarch felt for his youngest daughter. She was the apple of his eye, the true keeper of his heart, the only thing that he treasured above all else. But she had been born strange, Camila had once heard him say, and it was difficult for him to let the world see that his precious daughter was the carrier of some magical disease that made her different from everyone else. So he kept her away, surrounded only by love and comfort, where the whispers of others would not disturb her and ruin her happy demeanor. He prayed, fervently to all and any deity out there, to one day see his daughter outgrow her strange habits of talking to herds of spirits, moving small objects just with her thoughts, and living in another mental dimension. So far, all prayers had gone unanswered, and out of fear of social repercussion at her latest stunt, he’d stowed her away in another city, never once imagining he had potentially sent her to her doom.

Camila shook her head lightly, dispersing the memory of her family from her thoughts and regaining the easy smile she had acquired through a happy childhood. “I will follow you…uhm….” She titled her head to the side as she listened to a bit of information from one of her friends, her lips pushed out into that pout she often wore whenever she tried to keep her mind firmly planted on the earthly plane. “Ezekiel, is it? My name is Camila Alma Mariana Tuerva del Valle,” she introduced herself, completely forgetting he had used her name numerous times already. “I will keep up with you, be sure of it. And look! I can help too.”

To demonstrate she meant her words, she pointed at a small rock that resided near his feet, and with her eyes fixed on it, made it move up near his shoulder. It was not much, she admitted to herself, but it certainly proved she had many other (underdeveloped) skills.

Edited by deadcasketburied
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Ezekiel studied the rock with both apparent interest and more than a little surprise in his amber eyes. Camila was proving to be a greater asset than he could have ever imagined. I would never have imagined she was telekinetic. Perhaps that’s how she communes with them? The divide between the mind and soul was porous at best, two sides of the same coin with interchanging designs and imprints. An open mind could have also doubled as a crevice in the dam for her daunting spirit, as well. Reaching away from the pommel of his sword, the rider plucked the levitating stone from the sky, inspected its shape and edges for a moment, then pocketed it. “You’re right, that will be incredibly useful.”

Already, the rider’s mind wandered off to thoughts of their impending dinner. The hills, fields and thin forests surrounding Blairville were teeming with small and medium game. Months of contracting and questing had taught Ezekiel the best places to hunt and camp, a handful of which aligned with their intended path. Hunting was never an issue for the self-sufficient rider, but with a telekinetic in his pocket, it’d be like taking candy from a baby. “So, you’ve practiced moving things, but have you ever tried stopping them?” He glanced over his shoulder at her, eyes richly dark with curiosity. “For instance, if a rabbit was to scurry by us right now, could you focus on it another to stop it dead in its tracks?”

In spite of his elevated senses, Ezekiel was far from a psion. Still, he knew a thing or two from his time in the service. “They say that it is a matter of constitution, of will. Moving an inanimate object is far from difficult because they lack sentience, but an animal is not the same. While they may not possess the same intellect as you or me, they have spirit, will, and determination. If you can overpower that will with your own, then, they become a slave to you ministrations.” Looking ahead, his eyes settled on the mountain, looming like a shadow on the horizon. “If you cannot, they will break free and you’ll be left with the exhaustion of your wasted efforts.” The sweetness of the pear had passed, leaving his lips rough and arid. His tongue felt like sandpaper against the roof of his mouth, but he abstained from taking a drink—there was the girl to think of now, and the nearest fresh water stream was miles ahead.

Ezekiel cleared his throat and spat on the road. “Dinner will come to us easily if you can manage to keep the prey still, just long enough for me to put a blade in it.” Throwing knives had been a reliable substitute for his bow; I still need to get that replaced. “We’ll set up camp at sundown.” There was a brief pause before he said, “I’m sure your father will be proud of you when he sees what you were able to do.” I have no doubt you will return to him a changed young woman. “And I’m sure all of the people we will help with this lantern will be proud, and thankful, for you as well."

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Camila had never considered the possibility of using her skills on another being, regardless of that creature’s position in the scheme of life. She scarcely ever practiced her telekinetic powers, as the ability left her with a slight headache and parched tongue after its use. Besides, nearly everything in life had been handed to her on a silver platter, with a golden spoon attached to its side for decoration, so it never occurred to her to use her gifts for anything else other than some fun.

“Stop things, you say?” She looked out to the terrain before her, only mildly aware she was well beyond the safety of Blairville and the protection of her father’s stretched power. Ezekiel’s brief lesson about the potential in her abilities caused Camila to pause on the spot, her earthly needs suddenly bubbling up to the surface after all the excitement of her very first journey had died down. She could feel the churning of her empty stomach, heard the low grumble emitted from within her nutritionally-deprived body. The hours of distracted walking caught up to her, the soles of her feet aching and the built up of fatigue settling in her unconditioned muscles. She twisted her lips into a side pout, her big dark eyes scanning the fields out before her. Unlike other girls of her age and position, she had never held much love for animals, and felt little pity for the creature that needed to be sacrificed for their sustenance. “I can try…I am very hungry after all.”

Encouraged by the last bit about her father and the people she could save if they accomplished their task, Camila shot Ezekiel a smile as she inched closer to the open space before her. She hadn’t a clue at all how to even begin the process, and thus turned to her friends for help. She needn’t to worry about appearances in front of her mortal companion, and thus spoke freely to the wind: “Could you go out and see? Those tall bushes? Perhaps there.”

She remained where she stood, anxiously waiting for the opportunity to show Ezekiel her worth. She had meant to remain in place while her friends sought out a target, but her distracted nature caused her to wander off, just a bit further away from Ezekiel than either one would have liked. She was not truly prepared for what she was meant to do in a second, but her followers had completed their assignment and caused a small rodent-looking thing to shot out from its hiding spot, the animal sprinting forward in search of another hideaway.  

“Ah, there! Ezekiel!” Camila shot up towards where the animal was heading before she realized how futile her running was and stopped dead in her tracks. She focused on the running target, her soft features turning sharp and dark as she attempted to impose her will on another.

Stop, she commanded, stop. Stop.

Stop.

The strain of her untrained powers caused a heavy pounding to settle against her temple, but she refused to break away, as she normally would have were she in still living in the comfort of her grandiose home. Gradually, the animal began to slow down (but did not completely stop), enough for it to be caught.

“There…” She said as a line of sweat trickle down the side of her head, “Was that okay?”  

Edited by deadcasketburied
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Posted (edited)

Ezekiel watched the young noble work with a keen, leveled gaze and a steady hand. Even without his sixth sense probing the area, the rider could feel the spirits dancing away from them—the breeze strengthened, almost like a shove as their energy wove in and around and through it—as they rushed off to fulfill their patron’s desire. The brush rustled curiously before a large hare sprinted out from its shade, blurring across the open field in search of its new sanctuary.

Ah, there! Ezekiel!

The rider was already following the agile creature—with his eyes, not his legs—when the young noble started after it, running just as fast as her surprisingly toned legs could carry her. “I see it,” he called after her in an amused, friendly tone of thundering bass. She’s an impulsive thing he noted as she continued to fruitlessly chase after the hare, using her friends to keep it out in the open. There was a time when he would have been able to appreciate such liveliness, such spirit, and enthusiasm properly. Now, all he could think of was all the trouble it would bring them on their journey. I’ll need to talk to her about

Then she stopped, so abruptly he thought she might fall flat.

“Don’t worry, Camila,” Ezekiel said sympathetically, unaware of what she was doing. “We’ll try again…” The rider’s words trailed off as he followed her gaze, which was uncharacteristically focused, across a small stretch of the field to the heels of the sprinting hare. Not wanting to break her concentration, he fell silent, and instead busied himself with freeing a hefty throwing knife from his belt. The creature didn’t stop, not entirely, but it started dragging its feet; slowing down enough that catching it didn’t seem so impossible anymore.

Ezekiel surged forward with a quickness that might be surprising from one of such imposing size, light as a feather on his feet as he closed the distance. His right hand snapped forward like a cobra striking its prey, and the blade he’d been holding slid from his fingers in a glinting, brief shimmer of silver light. It hit the hare on the side, just above its forward shoulder, with such force it knocked it clean from its feet and threw it onto its side. The rider slowed down a second later, knowing the creature wouldn’t be getting up.

There… was that okay?

The rider laughed as he looked over his shoulder, casting his sights on her. “That wasn’t bad at all for it being your first time.” He glanced back at the slain creature before looking to her once more, amber eyes lighter, now, with approval. “You did just ensure we’ll have dinner tonight, after all.” Ezekiel hadn’t missed the bead of sweat making its way down the side of her beautiful face, and suspected something of a headache had accompanied it. We’ll need to take it slower from here on. I can’t have her brains turning to mush. “But, next time, let’s try it on something even smaller. The bigger the object, the harder it will be. I’m sure you know that. There are plenty of bugs around.”

Strolling over to the lifeless hare, the rider wrenched his knife free and smeared the blood on its blade across his thigh until it was clean. He secured a short length of rope around its neck a fastened the slack to his belt. “We’ve still got some ground to cover before nightfall.” Reaching into the satchel with his clean hand, he tossed Camila one of the fruits she’d bought. “That should hold you over until we make camp for the night.” Keeping up meant far more than just being able to match his stride – a lesson she was soon to learn. Rising to his full height, and plucking his sword from its temporary sheath in the earth, Ezekiel resumed his mild-paced trek toward the foreboding mountain on the horizon.

“You said that you used to help people?” he asked, remembering a comment from earlier. “Help them how? With your…” he wiggled his fingers in gesture. “…or can you do more then just commune with the spirits and move things with your mind?”

Edited by King
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Unprepared for the exhaustion that followed the use of her telekinetic powers, Camila was a moment away from collapsing before she heard the proud, boisterous sound of Ezekiel’s laughter and caught the proud look in his eyes. It was that look, she thought as her heart began to gallop in her still developing chest the more she held Ezekiel’s gaze, was the one she wanted to see on the faces of those she cared about once she returned. For her dreams to come about, she could not let her unconditioned state finish her where she stood, and thus Camila actively willed her body to remain standing and move towards where her encourager stood.

“So I am good then?” She asked as she reached his side, nodding along to his suggestion she did not exert herself and practice her skills on smaller creatures. “I wanted to prove that I could do it. I am aware it won’t be easy,” she continued as her eyes turned towards the dark mountain, “but I do not want to slow you down.” She meant it, but had truly no idea the sort of difficulties that test her resolve and toughened her mind.

She caught the sizable apple in her hands, completely delighted by the gift she had long forgotten she had acquired for him when they first met. “Oh, thank you, Ezekiel!” Left completely spent after her small display of power, she shoved as much of the pear in her mouth as she could fit, her cheeks puffed out as she attempted to mechanically break down the fruit into swallowing portions.

She fell into step next to him—or rather, trotting along to keep up with his long, wide strides—all the way happily munching and chatting in between mouthfuls of apple. “Oh, I can cure ailments,” she commented casually as a little bit of chewed up apple trickle down the side of her mouth. To the dismay of her family, she had never learned any manners, despite the extensive training she had undergone throughout all of her childhood. “They would come to me—or rather, Nana brought them to me and I cured them. First, I learned from my great-great-great-grandfather’s books, all sorts of curative methods, but then I just began to experiment on my own.”

With only the core of the apple left, Camila gingerly made a tiny hole on the ground, where she deposited the remains before running up to catch up with her warrior friend. She had been told that is how new plants grew, but whether true or not she had never bothered to find out. “Plants like me too,” she added after she caught up, “and animals, usually. My father did not like it though, and he put a stop to it.”

Tired of holding up her head to maintain eye contact, Camila lazily let her gaze roll down the grand size of his body, noting his strong muscles and caramel-toned skin. She had never seen a man quite like Ezekiel, and she was naïve enough not to realize her constant inspection of his size was more than mere curiosity. Still, there was something she was only truly curious about, and it resided on one of his hands, a drawing of sorts she could not quite make out. “What is that?” She stretched out her hand to point at the spider tattoo that decorated his skin, inches away from touching it.

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Telekinetic, medium, healer—it was an unusual pairing of abilities, one that Ezekiel would not soon forget. While his Rosiderian heritage made the last of her trifecta all but meaningless to him, the former pair provided a combination much too powerful to ignore. I wonder if her friends could help me find Raziel. The rider’s concern did not show on his face as he thought of his lost companion, wondering how he’d fared in the aftermath of that violent storm. I’ll be sure to ask her after all of this. He couldn’t afford to become distracted by his feelings for the mount; things were dangerous enough.

“What is that?

“Hm? Oh, this thing?” Ezekiel adjusted his hand over the shouldered sword’s handle, bringing the tattoo into better view. “It is a Rosinderian wolf spider,” he explained with an all too nonchalant shrug. “It is also one of many symbols of my patron deity—” In the blink of an eye, the tattoo had writhed and peeled a single mandible away from his flesh, swatting the girl’s curiously prodding finger. It slipped back into his skin a second later, though the spider’s eyes seemed to follow the young noble every which way you moved. “Pain, God of gods, life, death, and justice. He can be a bit touchy,” the rider teased, earning a sharp glare from two of the spider’s eyes, “but he is the only God I have ever known.”

Returning his attention to the mountain ahead, lightless and foreboding, Ezekiel’s good mood seemed to vanish in the endless blanket of clouds above it. You're reckless. What else would one call putting this young girl at risk? What happens if she can’t find Raz? Then he’d keep looking, this he knew. But what of the girl? What happens if she gets hurt, or worst, ends up dead? She’s someone’s daughter, Ezekiel. Though the rider walked the least traveled path of justice, balanced weight of life and death on the critical edge of his blade, and knew pain better than even the most seasoned and veteran of warriors, he was but a man; a man, vulnerable to all of the virtues and sins the world had to offer.

It’s her choice. A decision she had made explicitly clear. Whether it is in your company or alone, she’s determined to go. There was naught else the rider could do but respect Camila’s decision, and in doing so, do everything in his power to ensure she returned home safely.

--

They set up camp just before nightfall, using the last rays of sunlight to secure a small perimeter off the side of the road, deep enough in the woods to mask the direct light of their campfire. The rider sat across from Camila on one of several dead, rotted trunks they’d gathered; between them, the hare roasted wholesomely over the dancing flames and crackle of the kindle. The skin was dark with the addition of spices (even a down on his luck mercenary appreciates flavor), and the delicious aroma wafting about their camp suggested their meal was nearly finished.

Retrieving his curved throwing knife again, Ezekiel split the pear in his hand, cutting it clean in two. “Hey,” he called quickly, tossing one of the halves toward her. “We likely won’t be making camp again until we reach the foot of the mountain, which means this will be our last meal for a while. Make sure to eat your fill.” Collecting his waterskin from the satchel, he tossed it next. “Drink as much as you’d like.” There was a stream not too far from them; refill before you head out in the morning.

The rider leaned forward and carefully tore a leg from the hare, unable to keep his hunger at bay any longer. “Just dig in,” he said over a mouthful.

Self-proclaimed protector though he may have been, Ezekiel was no one’s server.

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Camila failed to negatively react to the spider’s nimble attack, the slight prick on her finger barely registering any pain. Unlike other girls her age and status, she had never acquired a fear of insects, their small size and innocuous nature hardly a threat for somebody many thousands of times their size. This thing—the Rosinderian wolf spider—was just another insect, even if it happened to melt in and out of Ezekiel’s skin. She could feel its beady eyes fixed upon her, but Camila remained aloof and calm against its steady stare. “I see…” She managed after a moment, still a bit miffed by its lingering gaze. That was the end of the conversation as Ezekiel lost all interest in communicating with her, his amber eyes turning dark and hard as he looked ahead to their journey’s ultimate destination.

Sensing his thoughts were as dark as his skin (cuz he a nigga), Camila let her ethereal friends distract her with tales of magical beasts, valiant warriors, beautiful princesses, and terrifying monsters. They knew her better than anyone, and were sure that if they kept her mind out of the material world she would not suffer the ailments of traveling the long distance that still separated them from the mountain. They did their best to physically help her along the way, slightly lifting her off her feet when she slowed down some, enough to keep her within the warrior’s protective space. The spirits had nearly ran out of stories to tell before Ezekiel selected an area for rest, where they could relax some and leave Camila’s constant need for attention at the hands of their traveling friend.

--

Camila let Ezekiel handle all the food preparations, having absolutely no experience with the process in any way, shape, or form. She may not act much like a lady of high society, but she sure had enjoyed all of the benefits that such a lifestyle offers, one of them including the luxury of never having to cook. She was entertained by the whole process, and bugged Ezekiel about every little thing he did as he prepared their meal. It smelled absolutely delicious, though she cared very little about the taste of most things; she ate them because they were brought to her, and would be just as happy eating oatmeal as she would a fine steak.

Ezekiel tossed her half a pear, which she somehow actually managed to catch, and quickly devoured it as her stomach growled in anticipation for the cooking meat. She reached out to catch the waterskin from him, suddenly aware of just how thirsty she’d been this whole time. Taking him at his word, Camila drank furiously and wildly, the liquid pouring down the sides of her mouth to trickle down her neck to wet the material that covered her ever-growing chest. It never occurred to her to do anything about her dampened and see-through clothing, instead she mimicked him and reached out to tear out the other leg and began to happily munch on it.

“Mmm! This is so good!” She said over mouthfuls of leg, the juices following the same pattern set by the water moments prior. She was a complete mess, but seemed oblivious to it all, much too busy enjoying the meal. “Ezekiel,” she called as she stood, half eaten leg and all, to settle down next to him, much closer than before. “Are you good?”

Edited by deadcasketburied
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