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The master mage looked down upon his self appointed ward. He noticed the immediate adverting of her gaze and this caused his brow to furrow. His hand still felt the delicate chin when he noticed the slight tint change on the fair complexion of Eilis. Perhaps it was a logical assumption he arrived at or perhaps another manifestation of their mind meld but he felt more than knew her thoughts.

He could feel that he somehow was at the root of an embarrassing feeling that seemed to be washing over Eilis. Through this connection, he could feel that the young woman regarded their closeness as a point of unease. Also, there was some convoluted images of what appeared to be heroic men and beautiful damsels with warm feelings.

Suddenly, a wave of pure heat pulsed through him and images of bodies intertwined, sweating and seeking. He gulped from the sudden pang of emotion and he retired his fingers from the young lady’s chin.

The connection was suddenly broken and his logical and control mind returned. There was a mixture of relief and sadness. Where those images about them two? The Master Mage often referred to as the Hellspawn, a man who inspired fear among ruffians and killers, was suddenly nervous.

Arn knew nothing of romantic exchanges though he had lived his young life in a whore house. He had heard the raunchy and often painfully descriptive depictions from the other boys or drunk gruff men. He himself had never wanted to participate in those conversations.

It could be perhaps because his own mother was forced to be an object of lust and carnal pleasure. However, despite his reservations and historical feelings, what made him more nervous and bordering on fear was that the idea was not really repulsive if it involved the girl before him.

His mood shifted to that of anger. Anger with himself for such thought and felt that he had violated her trust and her honor. He brought his hands close to him and crossed them across his chest. As if he was holding the offending members under guard.

"I'm sorry Arn...I wish I could be more helpful

Arn felt even more shameful at her soft comment. Here was a lady who risked injury to try and heal him and he was having thoughts best reserved for the gutter. He cleared his throat and told her in a more controlled voice than he had yet spoken to her other than when she had first woken up.

“Please, you have done more than you know. Besides, I must make sure of your well being. This is not the first time I have suffered wounds and I must assure you that I will not die from this.”

He noticed her embarrassment still lingered and reclined back into the chair next to the bed to give her even further room. He was not sure if his own thoughts had transferred to her as hers had into him. The battle mage hoped not.

"I'm not much of a mystery...just unlucky...safe for meeting you." She said.

He shook his head. Not because he disagreed with her claim but because he hated that Eilis and his own mother had been thrust into a cruel life. “If you consider yourself lucky to have met me then my only regret is that we did not do so sooner. I know that I will not be able to undo years of pain and tears but I hope that I may be able to eradicate those from your future.” He wanted to hold her again but he still had misgivings regarding the whole steamy images in his mind.

"Arn, where...where I am supposed to go?" She asked softly.

The question caught him unaware. For a second in time, nothing else had mattered but her. His mind had focused on her, her plight and the fact that he wanted to protect her. Despite his belief in possessing an analytical and problem-solving mind, Arn felt like a fool. There was a war in the horizon. Even with out that, where was he to take her?

As a member of the military and unmarried, he lived in the barracks. The spartan living suited him just fine and he possess very little in the ways of personal items. He could definitely not take her there. Not only was it unsuitable for a young lady, but Evander would also lose his ever loving mind.

Married members were able to inhabit small apartment style lodging on the major bases. Mages being a smaller portion of the population, enjoyed much more availability than the lowly foot soldiers. Even the Shooting Stars, made of mainly plebian recruits, had the opportunity to live in better housing than many had growing up.

The mage narrowed his eyes as his mind worked hard to try and solve the current issue. He could not simply propose marriage to take advantage of these types of lodgings. Suddenly, he remembered something that was actually at the fore front of regular people. Another benefit of being in active service was that, though small, the troops actually received a wage.

Having been in the service and due to his quick ascension in rank, Arn had amassed quite a bit of funds. He spent very little, mainly repairs or enhancement for his gear or other necessities. He ate the galley food and often got many of his operational gear from the battalion’s supply channels.

He looked at Eilis and slowly and a bit embarrassedly he said. “Um, normally refugees are housed in public housing. But those are cramped quarters and though they are better than living in the streets I would not like you living there.” He cleared his throat to suppress his embarrassment.

“Please forgive my forwardness but…um, if you don’t mind. I would be able to secure an apartment in the city…” He immediately added as he leaned quickly forward to assure her of his intentions. “It would be for you only as I live in the barracks you see.” He rushed through the words his own tanned face starting to feel a bit warm.

“If you have other plans I understand. But if you would allow me this honor, it would be extremely helpful in allowing me to keep my word to you to protect you and neve leave you alone. What do you think?” He asked, almost holding his breath as he waited for her response.
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He looked at Eilis and slowly and a bit embarrassedly he said. “Um, normally refugees are housed in public housing. But those are cramped quarters and though they are better than living in the streets I would not like you living there.” He cleared his throat to suppress his embarrassment.

“Please forgive my forwardness but…um, if you don’t mind. I would be able to secure an apartment in the city…” He immediately added as he leaned quickly forward to assure her of his intentions. “It would be for you only as I live in the barracks you see.” He rushed through the words his own tanned face starting to feel a bit warm.

“If you have other plans I understand. But if you would allow me this honor, it would be extremely helpful in allowing me to keep my word to you to protect you and neve leave you alone. What do you think?” He asked, almost holding his breath as he waited for her response.


Eilis looked up puzzled at him.
"But...I..." She looked a bit nervous at this proposal and felt silly for bringing this up, but she saw no other way around it. She would have to confess it.
"I'm not used to living alone...I don't exactly feel comfortable." She said now blushing out of embarassment. "I know its ridiculous, but we used to sleep with 4 people in a small room. I don't like being alone anymore. But I don't want you to think I'm ungrateful...just...I can only accept if you would be there too." She uttered as her fingers started fidgeting, before she forced them to stop by entwining them and twiddling with her thumbs instead.
"I know I'm more trouble than I am worth..." She said with a sigh, before a knock shook them both out of their conversation.

There stood the red armoured silverhaired knight, holding a tray with two plates as he entered.
"Forgive me for eavesdropping, but I might have a solution for that." Tyrhallan offered as he closed the door behind him.
"She could stay at the estate in the City. I know my mother would enjoy a new 'project'." he said with a smile. "She'll enjoy that, plus you can be assured that she will be well taken care of....She'd stay as a guest ofcourse." Tyrhallan stated as he stepped closer to the two setting the tray on one of the sidetables.

"Also, it would be my apology for taking you out of the Shooting Stars without discussing it with you first." He said turning to Arn seriously. "And I do apologise, but we both know Evander would have court martialled you. We both know he's the petty kind that wouldn't stop with your unhappiness, he'd make sure you'd be ruined. Which would be a waste. A waste we might not be able to afford, hence my acting without your knowledge or permission." He said looking sternly at Arn bracing himself for the possible anger that might follow his confession.

Eilis looked from Tyrhallan to Arn, wondering exactly what this might mean, but she assumed that if she waited a little longer she would come to understand what the two men were speaking off.

"Anyway grab a bite to eat, you both need your strength right now to recover." He said gesturing to the tray.
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Arn almost kicked himself at her uncomfortableness thinking his proposal to basically adopt her or have her be his dependent had made her feel so. It would be understandable. After all, they had not known each other for very long and despite the connection they felt and the tender moments they had shared, they were basically strangers.

The mage would have worked to change that. He had not been lying when he said that she was a mystery that he wanted to uncover. Even now, as she explained the reason for her uncomfortableness, the master mage could not help but want to know more.

Being a military member and living in the barracks, he could see her point of view regarding living by herself in a completely new land, with new people and the only person she knew being away from her. He had spent all his years since being brought to the Cauldron among people. It would be just as unnerving to him if he was to suddenly have to live on his own. Arn took a deep breath as no scenario he could think up was acceptable.

But I don't want you to think I'm ungrateful...just...I can only accept if you would be there too."

The words brought a reaction that not even he was expecting. A slight smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. The battle mage was glad she could not see for he worried she might think him too eager at her declaration. So then, why did such a comment bring a slight flutter to him then? Was it because another being, especially one as lovely and unique as Eilis was glad for his company?

To be sure, Tobi and other mages were often in his midst but he always felt detached from them. Like they were more of satellites to him. Eilis was different. He was the fire and she was the wind in the very same world. He knew that he would not want to be parted from her but had he started to depend on her proximity to that extent already?

The thought brought a slight fear into his chest. Not because he feared connection but because he feared that he would not have much to bring to the table. All his life, he had practiced being devoid of emotions. Yet, here was a girl who thrived on human connection. Would he be enough?

"I know I'm more trouble than I am worth..."

Arn shook his head and the remembering she could not see clearly he opened his mouth to speak only to have it silenced by a knock and sudden appearance of a silver haired figure he knew all too well. After all, it was hard to miss such an eye catching person as Tyrhallan Venray.

The mage was a bit embarrassed at first. How much of the conversation had the knight heard? The answer came shortly after as the lord proposed a solution to their current dilemma. Arn’s misgivings were realized when he could assume that the Knight Captain had heard enough to offer his estate and own mother as a ward.

Embarrassment started to give way to irritation. This was then followed by the ever growing build up of anger. If he understood correctly, the knight had asked for his dismissal from the Shooting Stars and reassignment under his command. Arn narrowed his eyes. He had very few times blown up against a superior but he had no qualms about doing so.

However, his logical mind was able to salvage the situation. Tyrhalland was correct of course. Arn had been trying to work out a solution in the back ground of his mind after Eilis declared her wish to inhabit the same house as he. He knew that the Shooting Star’s Captain would make it near impossible for him. Despite the fact that Arn was the same rank as Evander, command still carried weight and title, no matter how low in the chain, did as well. Having a sponsor such as the House of Venray would make things go smoothly.

Arn took a deep sigh and instead bowed his head towards the silver haired lord. “You have my thanks Knight Captain. The offer indeed would be the most suitable. You see, I have vowed myself to this lady as her champion and protector. The reason and circumstances I am honor bound to keep secret. I know that your honor would not force me to break my vow.”

He stopped to study the other man’s reaction before he continued. “However, now that I am in your service and you have solved this issue I pledge my loyalty to you. I am at your disposal save for any issue that would prevent me from keeping my word to the present Lady.”

The mage then turned to Eilis. “That is of course if you would accept the offer. Knight Captain Venray is a noble man with stead fast honor. I trust him with my life. However, I would not violate your free will.” He waited. Wondering what his self-appointed protegee would say.
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Tyrhallan nodded at Arn's words.
"I would not ask you to abandon her. Whatever your reasons for choosing to do so, I trust you have thought about this and will trust your judgement in this. My men always have this understanding with me and I hope I will be able to have it with you as well. You are your own man, I am not your babysitter. However, should you ever have need of my aid I am at your disposal and discretion is guaranteed. We are loyal to one another, in duty aswell a spirit. And as a Knight, I am all too familiar with vows."

Eilis was taken aback with the back and forth between the two men, she regarded their behaviour and wondered if this truly was how civil people acted. Or maybe it was simply something that happened amongst warriors. She tried to make out the Knight Captain, but all she really saw was a red and white blur.
As she squinted she perked up when Arn addressed her and stood a little straighter, turning back to her protector.
Apparently she was allowed to choose.
In a quick turn back to the red and white knightm she asked.
"Will Arn live there as well?"
She could hear the Knight Captain exhale through his nose, he was smiling? She thought puzzled.

"If Lord Arn chooses to do so then I am sure we can accomodate him." Tyrhallan answered as a smirk crept on his face. "I am quite certain mother shall be pleased with making your acquaintance Miss Eilis and I believe it would offer you a nice change of pace for a while so you may recuperate and make up your potential plans for the future." He said as he tapped with the point of his boot against the floor.
"So what say you Arn? Shall I have to inform Mother that we'll be having guests for dinner?" He asked as he turned to the Mage again.

Eilis nodded at Arn, imploring him to agree so she wouldn't be completely alone in unfamiliar territory.
Seeing Eilis nod Tyrhallan had trouble hiding his smile.
"Splendid. Well we'll be touching ground in about an hour and we best for the time being create an alias for Miss Eilis, making some unwanted questions disappear. We'd best say you are bethrothed, that way we still have a little wiggle room should my mother decide to do some detective work of her own."
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The understanding that the Knight Captain relayed and the fact that he was not pushing to know who the lady was and why Arn had pledge his life to her so quickly brought a sense of relief to the mage. In truth, he had worried that the other man would investigate the obvious mystery and sudden connection.

Arn had even gone as far as to plan out a way to retire from the service to alleviate any responsibilities to the Belesian King and representatives if it came to that. This new path, though more convenient and definitely with its benefits, still gave the master mage an uneasy feeling.

This was a path that had been thrust upon him and not knowing all the variables or players made the always prepared, always analytical man a bit nervous. However, he also knew that in this setup, Eilis would be better provided for and out of reach of people like Evander.

However, being amongst elites also came with its own set of scrutiny as nobles tended to have little else to do that gossip and speculate. Still, the arrangement was better than Arn could have hoped for so he was grateful. A feeling he was quick to express to the silver haired lord with a bow. “You have my thanks for understanding and willingness to take Lady Eilis in.”

"Will Arn live there as well?"

Her question made a warm feeling spread through his face. Was it because he was glad she had asked for him? Or was it because he caught the slight knowing smile of the Venray lord. The man seemed to have a knack for deciphering people and their inner most secrets or at the very least able to put pieces together and Arn did not like the look the other man shot in his direction. As if to drive the point home the other man diverted the question to the master mage.

"If Lord Arn chooses to do so then I am sure we can accommodate him."

The battle mage felt both of them staring at him waiting for him to answer. He had never had stage fright. He had always been sure of himself especially in maters of magic or military protocol. But this was nothing he was used to. If he answer yes, would Tyrhallan satisfy some inner bet? If he answered no, would Eilis feel he had betrayed her? Was it appropriate to live together even if it was as wards of a noble? Was the Knight Captain merely setting the stage for his mother’s enjoyment.

"So what say you Arn? Shall I have to inform Mother that we'll be having guests for dinner?"

The question brought Arn out of his dizzying thoughts. He looked at the smug lord. The mage’s eyes narrowed but when he caught sight of Eilis’s look he softened. She had such a look of eager longing and pleading that the stone hard mage could not help but agree.

He sighed and once again bowed his head. “I again, thank you for your benevolence and I would like to also make sure it is know that I swear my allegiance to you. I will serve under your banner and under your house. For you see, my enlistment expired long ago. The only reason I was allowed to stay in the Shooting Stars was an open ended contract that allowed me to remain in the outfit as a private but that allowed me to depart when released or upon my choosing. If you truly requested my transfer then that clause has been fulfilled.”

With a slight turn towards Eilis he answered with a slight defeated smile from someone who can not help but give in to a request. “That mean I will be able to accompany you” He placed a hand upon her head almost like a pat. He stiffened a little remembering Tyrhallan was there but decided that sooner or later the knight would see the close connection between them.

"We'd best say you are betrothed, that way we still have a little wiggle room should my mother decide to do some detective work of her own."

The comment made Arn’s head snap so fast towards Tyrhallan’s direction that he winced at the pain the still tender skin that Eilis had helped him heal strained under the movement. The mage’s eyes widened as he turned back to Eilis expecting her to be repelled by the proposal

Betrothed?

Despite their sudden closeness and the fact that Eilis wanted him close, the mage was sure that such an arrangement would be unappealing to the lass. Yet, despite his misgivings, he did not want to behave repulsed by the idea. Logically, the idea was sound. The title would most definitely prevent any unwanted attention from single nobles or any wild ideas which could inhabit the bored mind of an influential and rich lady.

In an almost shaky tone Arn managed to compose himself enough to say. “I would not dare make this decision alone.” He turned to Eilis. “Do you have any reservations to the proposed plan….Eilis?
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The wording of the Knight Captain caught Eilis by surprise before her cheeks flared up looking down at the ground thinking about it. That was before Arn shook her from her reverie, how long had she been silent?

"No..." Eilis replied softly, before a soft pink tinge returned to her cheeks. "No, I wouldn't mind at all." She uttered barely audible.

"Perfect then, I suggest you two rest, I will have to send word ahead of our coming. Not doing so would be dredfully impolite." Tyrhallan said with a smile as he turned around and exited the room, all while holding a knowing smile on his face.

An hour later they had touched ground and Tyrhallan had asked the two to follow him. He had send word out to the ‘Townhouse’ that he would be in need of the carriage and that he would be bringing guests to stay for a while.
This naturally had send the staff and Lady of the house in quite the uproar.
Clutching the telegram in hand that Tyrhallan had send out to them on such a short notice she immediately hurried down to her husband’s office with the head butler in tow, trying to stop her. In a final attempt on trying to keep the lady of the house away he threw himself infront of the door.
“Your Ladyship, My Lord asked not to be disturbed…he spoke of matters of importance.”
He was woven aside with a dismissive flick of the hand.
“Nonsense Taffle. If I know him he’s lounging about taking his afternoon nap at this hour. The oaf can sleep later! Our son is coming home.” She reasoned whilst she tried to get the headbutler to move away from the door and blocking her path.
“Taffle I am warning you. Either you knock or I will.” Was all her Ladyship needed to say, before the butler folded and stepped out of her way. Straightening his coat and scraping his throat he raised his hand to deftly knock.
They heard a loud thud, a soft swear or two before it was replaced by a bit of rummaging about, finally they heard his Lordship’s reply. “Enter.”
Instantenously the elderly lady grabbed the brass handle and thundered in as Taffle managed to call out.
“Her Ladyship for you my Lord.”
“Thank you Taffle, that will be all.” Lord Venray said with a kind nod letting the butler retreat and facing the onslaught of whatever had distressed his wife so alone.
“He’s coming home.” She said before thrusting the data rod containing the telegram in his hands.
“And he’s bringing guests…”
“I’m sure Tyr has a perfectly good explanation for all of it. He states here they are friends of his that have fallen on hard times…a young couple by the looks of it. Nothing unusual about that.” Lord Venray stated as he looked it over.
“Oh you old buffoon, the whole thing is unusual to start with!” She said as she rolled her eyes at her husband’s short-sightedness.
“If you had spent less time on your businesses and more time with your son then you would know he has never brought anyone here to stay for a while. He lives for his Knighthood and as far as I know he doesn’t really have friends. Associates, fellow knights and soldiers and the like and the tutors perhaps, but not ‘friends’. He as always dreaded social calls, I always had to make up excuses as to why he cannot visit those of our acquaintance. I wouldn’t bully him into going if he brought home a girl.” She sighed lamenting her son’s stubbornness.
“Well it seems that now he has.”
She sighed even harder.
“Darling you’re missing the point. There’s a war going on. Our son is a Knight Captain. They are supposed to be at the forefront of that. He was called into action, but now suddenly he is allowed to return home? Something’s amiss. Call it a Mother’s instinct, but I know my Tyr.” She said looking worried.
“Or paranoia.” Lord Venray mumbled believing his wife saw ghosts, it earned him a suspicious glare from his wife.
“My Tyr wouldn’t run from a fight, he carries this family’s motto with a too much zealousness I fear. Duty. Your brother should have reminded him that Family should be placed before Duty when he holds the future of this house in his hands.”
“Regardless my dear there’s not much you can change about that. He dismissed your ‘suitable candidates’ and told you he didn’t want to be pushed into some loveless union. A thing you as a mother should be completely understanding off…So really Leandra isn’t this more about the fact that Lady Derresciu is rather eager in showing off her grandchildren.” Lord Venray asked slyly seeing his wife turn up her nose haughtily being affronted with the mere idea of her being jealous.
He couldn’t help it despite his best efforts to hide it his smile broke through seeing his wife so perturbed.
“I don’t know what you mean, so you can stop smiling and prepare. We’ll be having guests soon.” She snarked before she left the office.
Lord Venray leaned back into his chair with a sigh as he looked at the data rod again.
His wife was right of course. It was suspicious. Something was amiss, but he knew his son would have had his reasons for doing so. Still it was better to be aware and prepared when things were to go south. He suspected they would soon be able to hear the truth from their son regarding the state of the war. He regarded his chessboard that stood off to the side. How much would they need to influence the outcome this time?

When the carriage finally arrived Tyrhallan exited first, before offering his hand in support of miss Eilis so she may have some support as her sight had not returned completely yet.
He lead the two to the large tall building that Tyrhallan had called ‘the Townhouse’. He had explained to Arn and Eilis that the Venray estate was actually outside of the City, this was merely their ‘town residence’. It served as his father’s work office and it was close enough to Court so they might travel back and forth and have his Uncle visit them from time to time between his duties to the Queen.
The Venray estate itself was their retreat for when City life would become too hectic and during ‘the Season’ whatever that meant.
“Now don’t be afraid we have quite some staff running this place and all under the strict reins of my Mother. She’s Lady of the House. My father may be Lord Venray, but trust me that title means nothing he’s allowed to hold the finances, but Mother is the one who spends it.” He said cheekily before he walked up the steps and the large wooden doors were opened before he reached it.
He smiled as he looked at the footman who had opened the door and was ready to take the young master’s coat.
“Welcome home Master Tyrhallan.” The footman said with a straight face, though the corners of his mouth had turned upwards at the sight of the Knight.
“Thank you Dannesh. Good to be back.” He stated before he walked further into the main hall.
Eilis who had followed behind Tyrhallan was gawking slightly at the impressionable size of it all. She was shaken from her reverie when the footman asked for her coat as well. She was almost tempted to refuse feeling how terribly obvious it had to be to everyone how poor she actually was.
She waited for Arn as they walked in together.
The mainhall ended into a wider rounded looking chamber holding a spiralling staircase towards the first level and several doors tucked away off to the side.

In front of the staircase however stood two figures along with some of the more important house hold staff.
A fair elderly lady smiling widely at the sight of her son as she threw her arms wide to embrace him and a tall formal looking man holding a pleasant countenance.
“Tyr, welcome home darling.” the lady said as she felt him embrace her gently before kissing her hands.
“Mother, Father. Forgive the suddenness of our arrival and the late warning of our coming. As stated before I have returned home with some guests." He said as he also aknowledged his father with a nod. Which his father replied by a clear smile and the slightest of nods back, remaining silent allowing his son to explain the unusual swift return.
"They are friends of mine who have fallen on particular hard times, this young lady is the Honourable Miss Eilis as I heard Eilis’s Estate went up in flames near Presper.”
He spoke smoothly fabricating a more sensible truth and explanation.
“She was lucky in the fact that her betrothed had been near, this is Master Mage Arn a fire mage of great renown amongst mage and knight alike. He managed to get to her in time before the front collapsed.” Tyrhallan stated as he watched the faces of his parents turn from something indiscernible to alarm and worry.
“I have offered them a place in our home for the time being so they may rest and try to rebuild what was lost. I trust you did not disapprove of me doing so.” Tyrhallan stated seeing his father shake his head thoughtfully before Tyr added.
“Besides Mother, I believed you would enjoy the company. You always said you would have liked another woman in the house.” He said slyly using his mother’s pestering against her for a change.
“There is no need for such underhanded tactics, Tyrhallan. As you well know, they are most welcome.” His mother spoke gently, though she send her son a look that spoke volumes.
The Knight merely brushed it off as he turned to his companions.
“Eilis, Arn, these are my parents. Lady Leandra Hendreshy Venray and Lord Pharlan Auregin Venray."
The look in her eyes changed to genuine kindness when she regarded Eilis and Arn. It seemed clear from whom Tyrhallan had inherited his every changing eyes from. As they lit up at the sight of Eilis who reminded her of some frightened little lamb in need of protection. The fact that she apparently was betrothed to the 'worn' looking mage did make her highly suspicious about her son's truthfulness, but the Venray's would never turn a desperate soul away and she wasn't about to start now.
“Don’t mind my son, he’s of the opinion that he is clever, whilst infact he is as predictable as can be. Now…how about we show you to the quarters we’ve prepared for you whilst you stay with us.” She said taking Eilis’s hands in her own and squeezing them for a moment in motherly fashion before inclining her head to Arn.
"And find you something more suitable to wear. How much I may approve of Knights, that armour cannot be particularly pleasant and comfortable when one's off duty." She stated. "I am certain Tyr will have something that may fit you." She said with a look towards her son. Who nodded before inclining his head in thanks.
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All Arn could do was remain silent and present as calm a face as possible even though inside he wanted to smile wide. He knew it was for appearances but somehow the idea of being betrothed to Eilis brough him a joy he did not know how to describe.

However, a dark voice whispered in his head that she had only accepted because it was convenient and safe. That the girl was only doing what she must because she was trying to survive. She had an order of powerful and sadistic people. She had managed to secure not only a powerful mage but also the aid of an influential knight.

The voice sounded far, as if spoken from a deep well. Arn shook the hold of the voice off. He wondered why he had such thoughts. It had been a long time since he has felt fear and sadness. Had the feelings Eilis awoken in him awoken something else? Or could it have something to do with the mind meld?

He was brought out of his musings by Tyrhallan. The mage took a deep breath unaware that he had held his breath. He shifted his attention from the concerning voice which seemed not his own. It was fortunate that he had to prepare to leave the room. He was just wondering how he would contact the nurse or somebody to request a discharge when he heard a knock at the door.

A middle age lady with a tired and annoyed look on her face entered the room. Thanks to the scrubs she was wearing and the name tag, Arn could identify her as a nurse. With an exasperated sigh she placed a bag on the bed the battle mage had been occupying.

“A boy dropped this at the nurse’s station said it was for you. I don’t know why people think we are their maids.” The lady said irritated. “Then the head nurse is all agitated saying how the order came a bit ago about releasing the pair of you. IF it was up to me I would keep you for more observation. Both of you came looking pretty bad. But they don’t care about my opinion, no sir. They just do what they want because they were born wealthy and with a damn spoon in the ass.”

She busied about the room as she talked to herself. Checking monitors, poking and prodding the pair as if they were nothing more that meat sacks. “I guess, you do seem fine but that is no excuse to be out of bed. You know what, whatever, maybe when you lot leave we can have some peace and quiet again.”

The nurse disconnected the leads from both patients and as she had come in she left still talking and complaining. Arn turned to look at Eilis and smiled shrugging. He walked over to the bag slowly. He recognized it as his sea bag. Inside, it was the few things he owned. His armor, Daisho, and Uniforms were in it.

No doubt Tobi had arranged for all of this. The boy had his redeeming qualities ever now and then. The mage’s eyes narrowed. However, if he knew the boy, Tobi most likely eavesdropped on their conversation. If he had heard about the whole betrothal, then half the Shootings Stars probably already knew too. The darn boy had no doubt brought his gear as an excuse. Everything was much too convenient to not have been planned out by the young mage.

Or had it been Tyrhallan? The man was too good at pushing his noble weight around. No doubt he had set everything into motion before he had even spoken to them regarding their living accommodations. It was almost as he was more than sure that the pair would agree. How he could know was beyond the senior mage’s ability to comprehend.

Arn let out an irritated grunt. He hated being influenced or have his life planned for him. Still, the arrangement would mean protection and conform for Eilis. He dug through is pack and suddenly realized that other than the robes they were currently wearing, the girl had nothing to wear.

His eyes fell on the silky under robe that was usually worn under the thicker dress robes. The material was soft and light weight. He also grabbed one of his ceremonial belts which were leather with an ornate buckle. He grabbed both items and approached his protegee.

“Um, I know its not much but if you want you can wear this. I think it would work.” He said almost embarrassedly that he could offer her more. The robe would fall to about mid-thigh and when the belt was worn it would hug her waist in a sort of sun dress.

Arn had given Eilis space to change. He had drawn the curtains between the beds and proceeded to change into his dress robes. The materials was thicker and a bit itchy without the bottom robe but he endured it. His chest was exposed by the low plunging gold embroidered V neck. Normally, this would be covered by the under robe.

The dress robes was something he had only worn once or twice. As a black ranked mage, he would normally be in command or some other important position. The robes reflected that. The front side would be embroidered with gold thread in intricate patterns and runes. The robes themselves were not magic imbued but they were meant to look like that.

They flowed past just past his knees. Under the robes, he wore some silk pants and shiny leather boots. He pulled his pony tail back tight and even shaved. He looked nothing like the battle hardened man they had pulled into the infirmary bloody and almost dead.

The master mage looked very much like the rank his power and prowess demanded. Yet, he was the one who said a silent wow when the curtains finally moved to the side and revealed Eilis. The simple modified robe suited her perfectly. A great contrast against her fair skin. Even the tattoos seemed to match the mystical theme.

Arn smiled down at her as he moved closer. He did not know what to say but thankfully he was saved by the blowing of the Auriel’s horn as it approached dock. Still smiling and using his knowledge of ships, the mage led the girl through the ship. People would move out of their way as the pair seemed to hold their own mystique.

Eventually they made their way to the top deck as the ship docked. The pier connected the ship to the boardwalk via different brows. The bottom brow was reserved for cargo and the refugees. A small army of government officials were already waiting for them in a hastily set up check point.

The middle brow was being utilized by the troops and medical personnel who were transferring to another ship to go help the Homeguard or the badly wounded to an actual hospital. Arn caught sight of what seemed to be a small contingent of mages. He wondered if it was the Shootings Stars heading off to regroup with the Second Mage Battalion.

A longing look crossed Arn’s face but he was tapped in the shoulder by Eilis letting him know Tyrhallan wanted them to follow him across the top brow that seemed to be reserved for high ranking officers and them. The lowly mage felt a bit uneasy under such treatment.

Eventually, they would make their way to the outside of the terminal and to an awaiting carriage. Though the master mage knew that Tyrhallan was a noble, he was slowly starting to appreciate what that meant.

The carriage was among one of the finest he had seen and he had attended a conference at the Academy once which had hosted a ball with important people.

The ride was comfortable. So much so that Eilis rested her head on his shoulders and fell asleep. A soft click and a clearing of a throat brought Arn awake. He embarrassedly apologized to Tyrhallan who still had that stupid smile.

Apparently they had arrived to what at first the Master Mage could guess was a small castle but which the silver haired noble simple mentioned was a “town house”. His eyes were as wide as Eilis as he took in the surroundings being led by a foot man, Dannesh. They passed a lavish hallway and entered a chamber where enough people to form an assault squad waited. At the head of the columns of male and female staff the lords of the place were hard to miss.

“Tyr, welcome home darling.”

The lady of the house, looking like a queen in her own right, approached Tyrhallan. The familiarity and love she had for the Knight Captain was palpable and Arn felt a slight pang of sadness at remembering his own mother. The Lord looked like he was breed for the title. He stood there in a manner that would put the mages standing at attention to shame.

“Eilis, Arn, these are my parents. Lady Leandra Hendreshy Venray and Lord Pharlan Auregin Venray."

The mage took a bow in the ceremonial fashion taught to all mages. He placed his hands together, palms up, elbows bet about 30 degrees, tucked to the sides and he bowed at the waist with his chin resting on his chest. “Master Mage Arn formerly of the Shooting Stars and now retainer of Knight Captain Venray at your service and disposal my Lady and Lord Venray”

Introductions and formalities completed, Arn obediently looked to his new master for guidance. He saw poor Eilis being taken away by Lady Venray and a host of maids. The girl shot a few confused and slightly concerned looks their way. The mage could only smile his encouragement and hope the still poor girl still affected by Dark Sight could see it.

He turned to Tyrhalland and asked half jokingly half not. “She will be ok, wont she?”
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It wasn't Tyrhallan who answered it was his father, Pharlan.
"In her hands? Well that depends on what Leandra is planning to do with her." He teased his face betraying him by the playful squinting of his eyes as he smiled, raising an easy gloved hand however he tried to ease Arn's worries.
"My wife has been pining for some young lady to Mother over. She is the sole reason Tyrhallan isn't allowed to cut his long hair. At least allow me the illusion, she would say. So I am quite certain she will shower your lovely intended with all the attention and care she currently might be in need of. Still, I suggest you take Master Arn and help him into something more...comfortable. We can't have it said we neglect the wellbeing of our guests." Pharlan noted before adding. "Also my brother will be visiting soon, he spoke of his desire to converse with you when he heard of your intending arrival. So I suggest you two change, I'll be waiting in the parlor."
Tyrhallan sighed turning to Arn slightly.
"Come on, I'll take you up and see if we can find you something of mine that might fit you." He suggested, feeling the pressure of his uncle coming. "Not that your dressrobes aren't good enough...but no matter how well you might alter the dress of Miss Eilis, it is clear it wasn't meant for her." He took a hold of the collar near Arn's chest. "Higher society frowns upon too much flashing of the chest and a dress that doesn't really fit, gets unwanted attention immediately." He said before he sighed. "I know it is a pain, but see it as a way of getting some extra clothing. Enjoy the luxuries while they last, war will call us again soon enough. Not that she didn't look good in your underrobes." He stated lightly.
As he guided Arn up towards the higher levels and into his own private chambers, maids and servants stepped aside getting out of their way.
"I am certain all this must overwhelm you. I suppose it strange to shift surroundings so suddenly..." He said as Dannesh hurried after them.
"Help me pick something out for Master Arn Dannesh. You always have better sense and taste than me." Tyr asked of his manservant who smiled and nodded eagerly.
"Of course Sir, allow me." He answered taking over from Tyrhallan who had opened the closet doors.
Dannesh pulled out a comfortable set of soft silvery dark greys and deep crimson reds, with finely patterned stitching.
"This might suit Master Arn, as the clothing are more flexible and comfortable especially considering the injuries Master Arn seems to have." He stated noticing the surprised looks.
"Begging your pardon sir, but it caught my eye as you had some difficulty ascending the stairs, I assumed with both of you coming from the front, you might have sustained injuries and Master Tyrhallan never really took to it, so he won't be missing it."
Tyrhallan regarded the suit and nodded. "You're right as always Dannesh, this would suit him better than it would me. Get him some extra shirts and pants, a couple of boots and...." Tyrhallan listed before he stopped and turned to Arn.
"What do you prefer, Capes, Mantles or Coats?" He asked as Dannesh handed him his own change of clothes and continued gathering clothing for Arn for the short term.
"No matter...We'd best allow a tailor to do the rest. These are just for now." Tyrhallan said with a smile before suggesting he'd look them over and pick his favourites, before Dannesh helped him change out of his old clothes and into the new. "Also I might have to take you down to see the library in the morning, but for now that too can wait." He said as he changed smoothly and quickly with the help of his servant, allowing him to help Arn afterwards.
"Right let us see if we can get ahold of something to drink before the ladies join us again, right this way. Thank you Dannesh, you may resume your other duties for now, we'll manage." Tyr spoke amiably as if there was no difference in station between the two of them.
With smooth strides he walked out of his chambers and took Arn on a small round around the house.
"...I know you might feel awkward at first, but I want to assure you that my family has never turned away a soul in need, so don't feel like you have to repay us or earn your stay here. If you even mention it to my parents my father will consider it an insult and my mother will think there is something wrong with her hospitality and have a fit. So please accept what we offer you if only to soothe their minds." Tyrhallan asked before he lead them to the parlor where his father was already waiting pouring a couple of drinks out of a curious looking bottle. No doubt strong liquor.
"Ah, there you two are. Good." He said as he handed out the glasses to the two of them, before he nodded satisfactory at the sight of the two. "Better. Now let's get a nip before Lady Venray catches us." He said with a boyish smile as he took a sip from his glas, allowing the alcohol to roll over his tongue.
"Mother doesn't really approve. Father used to smoke too, but when he married my mother he had to part ways with one of his vices. He chose smoking. Still doesn't make her approve of his taste for alcohol. This is a smooth deoch bhranda." Tyrhallan explained, before he raised his own glas and was about to take a sip when they heard a pair of approaching footfalls and the soft clicking of wood on marble.
As they turned a tall sharply dressed man entered the parlor wearing a tired expression as he looked up to the three of them.
"Uilles!" Lord Pharlan immediately exclaimed as he rushed over, before being waved away by his elder brother.
"Why didn't you wait for a manservant to help you..."
"Oh Hush Pharlan, I'm a cripple not an invalid. I don't need them to get accross a hallway and a couple of stairs or hang a coat, besides they have enough to do. So stop fretting and step aside so I may make my way over to that chair." He said gesturing towards one of the more comfortable seats near the fire place. "But if you must pester me, hand me an uisce beatha, before Leandra comes down." He said as the elder brother moved past lord Pharlan and sighed when he finally sat down.
He placed the long wooden cane in between his legs as Tyrhallan handed him a glass with the desired water of life.
He took a sip and leaned back as his brow furrowed before looking at the two young men in the room.
"So...will one of you tell me what the hell happened out there?" He asked, his weariness etched in his weatherbeaten face.
Tyrhallan nodded.
"I know I let you all down. Whilst we took take of the initial attack, we were blindsided and distracted, therefore we never saw the other force until it was far too late."
Uilles nodded. "Well you managed to get the palace in quite the uproar. I had to make sure the queen was secure first before leaving, but let's say that this has rattled them. The Spymaster nearly spit out the wine he had been drinking. Safe to say he is not easily caught unawares. This however...We never dreamed they would be able to get so close to the capital." Uilles said as he turned the glass and its contents in hand before taking another swallow.
"The Knight Commander was quite ready to strangle you though...best avoid him for a while."
Tyrhallan nodded.
"I've brought shame upon this house. I will restore our honour that I promise you Uncle." He vowed, before he saw his Uncle shake his head.
"This has nothing to do with shame. According to the rapports you send me you did what you were supposed to do. The enemy simply outsmarted our defenses. Not even the Bull will argue with that. Also they haven't won yet, the Hearth Guard will give these Vaimese invaders a warm welcome."
The elderly ex-Knight regarded Arn with sharp eyes, it was clear the man was watching him with interest, almost as if he was sizing him up, before another commotion drew their attention.
The ladies finally had finished changing.
Now Lady Venray walked in with her arm linked with Eilis, whom had gotten a transformation that had turned her into a proper young lady.
Her hair was brushed and done in a low updo, with only a lock or two deliberately escaping, whilst Leandra had handed her a velvet green dress with fine bead and needlework. Still somewhat unused to the train, Eilis had been keeping her eyes on her feet so she wouldn't step on it. The tips of soft leathery boots peaked out from underneath it as they moved closer towards the men."
Until they reached one of the more comfortable couches Leandra finally released her in order to greet Uilles.
"So glad you got here safely Uilles." She stated giving a the man a graceful courtesy that flowed up and down with the experience of years. With Eilis hurriedly following suit, clearly having been instructed, but not having the practice to pull it off gracefully yet. The man however made no remark upon it to her relief.
"I beg your pardon ladies, I would bow properly at the sight of you, but I fear this was all my old legs for now could muster. I beg your forgiveness and pray you will not think less of me." Uilles said smoothly before he received a playful swat on the shoulder from Leandra's fan.
"Oh hush you terrible man, you know perfectly well we would never hold it against you." She stated before letting the men get away with their drinking before smiling contently at Eilis and ordering tea for them.
"Young Miss Eilis is delightful, I am very happy you brought them here Tyrhallan, for I shall have difficulty parting with her again, but I dare say I am amazed that this old dress of mine still works its magic." She said with a satisfied smile seeing the men's attention to it.

Arn's:https://www.deviantart.com/virginiecarquin/art/Commission-Daishun-tei-438606390
Eilis:https://nl.pinterest.com/pin/35325178314264747/
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Arn had just enough experience with noble women who have very little to do to know still harbor a smidge of concern for Eilis even if the two Venray men claimed she was fine. From his connection with her, the mage knew the poor girl would be detesting being the center of attention that only a rich and indulgent woman could provide.

He gave the elderly gentleman a slight nod as he followed beside Tyrhallan. They traversed a hall filled with paintings of scenes and personages who could or could not be ancestors and memories that were central to the Venray House.

His head almost suffered whiplash as he bowed acknowledgement to the staff that seemed to materialize from nowhere and recede in the same manner as if the house itself was magical and the servants were always on call.

"I am certain all this must overwhelm you. I suppose it strange to shift surroundings so suddenly..."

The Knight Captain was not kidding. Arn was used to the spartan surroundings of the barracks. Much more so the barracks that housed the Shootings Stars. Being mainly made up of lower birth conscripts the barracks had the barest of necessities to live. Indeed, the main sleeping area could probably have fit in the first room they entered.

This house, a simple convenient location from what Tyrhalland had hinted at, was perhaps a dream castle for the majority of the lads. Indeed, maybe even the most imaginative would have a hard time conjuring up the things that filled the house.

It was unsettling how the one called Hellspanwn was the utterly helpless as the man servant quite easily presented Arn with new sets of clothes. The outfits seemed to magically appear on his hands person and then a whirlwind later, another outfit would appear. Few ki enhanced knights could compare to the speed and efficiency at which the man navigated the vast dressing wardrobe which was purely Tyrhallan’s.

Even more amazing was the accurate assessment that Dannesh gave regarding their condition and whereabouts. It occurred to the Battle mage that the man’s skill extended beyond opening doors and sorting out things to wear. A man such as Tyrhallan would no doubt surround himself with skilled people.

The realization brought a new light to the Knight Captain. The man had managed to survive not only the battle field but also the covert and underhanded world of nobility which can be just as deadly. The master mage knew that living under the Venray house would test him in ways he could not have imagined.

"What do you prefer, Capes, Mantles or Coats?"
All the poor mage could manage was a lost look to answer the question. The mage never knew who had actually dressed him. Arn dejectedly stood there, little more than a doll being dressed by the two other men. His very existence had been reduced to that of a doll. When the pair was finally satisfied with their creation, the battle mage followed them back via astounding corridors to another parlor merely nodding his understanding of what the Knight Captain was saying.

He graciously accepted the glass offered to him and looked down at the liquid. Arn had very rarely touched alcohol. Many of the younger mages frequented the pubs and ale houses but the Master Mage was often busy with study or training. Still looking down, he swirled the liquid finding it oddly appealing.

Arn brought the cup up to his lips and took a smallish sip of the caramel-colored beverage. The reaction was a bit surprising. The taste was rich but not overpowering. A slight warmth was left by the path of the liquor as it made its was past his tongue down to his stomach.

The mage smiled amiably as father and son went back and forth. He would take a sip of his drink every now and then.

Uilles!"

Something in the Master Mage’s mind made him look up. The man who entered the room was obviously not in the best shape of his life. However, an air about him made the mage give this new arrival his undivided attention. What Arn felt was not fear but rather the recognition of something deadly. It was not an evil sensation instead, it was more of a certainty. The same way one is awed at the deadly beauty of a sword or the destructive power of one of the big guns in the air ships.

The tone that Tyrhallan took signaled the mage that this person was an old campaigner. The brave Knight Captain sounded almost apologetic as he recounted the tale. Arn himself could not help but a little ashamed that he had not been of much use in the encounter. This made the mage swallow hard and he followed the distaste of failure with a sip of brandy.

When the elder Venray’s eyes settled on him, it was all Arn could do to not turn away. Expert eyes sized him up and the mage had no doubt that Uilles Venray was more than capable of utterly destroying him in battle. Even in his current state, the man held the air of skill that the mage could not help but respect. He inclined his head slightly towards the elder man in deference but his eyes never lost sight of the other as if transfixed.

The arrival of the women folk captured the attention of all in the room. As the lady of the house fussed over the wounded ex knight Arn’s eyes were otherwise drawn towards Eilis. His eyes widened as if trying to take in all of her visage. The sounds of the family exchanging pleasantries all but background noise. In that moment, only Eilis existed.

His body involuntarily took a few steps forward as eager eyes wanted to drink in more of the sight before him. A smile started to form on the mage’s face. His voice sounded far away and almost as if he spoke to the wind.

"Young Miss Eilis is delightful, I am very happy you brought them here Tyrhallan, for I shall have difficulty parting with her again, but I dare say I am amazed that this old dress of mine still works its magic."

“Yes, it is magical indeed” He said out loud before realizing it.

A second or two passed then reality started to settle in. Arn cleared his throat and turning towards the lady of the house he bowed his gratitude. “My Lady and Lord Venray, allow me to express my gratitude at your most benevolent and magnanimous grace you have bestowed upon us.”

The mage was scrambling hard to know what etiquette dictated in this sort of situations. For the remainder of the party, this was nothing more than a family reunion. Protective instinct made him take a few more steps closer to Eilis.
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Waelweold. The Tower of Tears.

Deep within the darkest dwellings of Waelweold two figures made their way even deeper into its depths.
Carrying a torch a man followed the barely illuminated stone path, walking behind a slow hunched form that not so much as walked as had to propel himself forwards forcing his feet to keep up with the clacking cane.
He was a miserable looking creature the man thought, though ‘the cripple’ bore a strange glint of delirious malice in his eyes making almost looking content with his lot in life.
Well rather the cripple than himself. He would not last long in these dark desolate depths in the under layers of the Tower.
God knew what the Tahjai actually did down here.
Rumours spoke of torture chambers and sacrificial tombs. Dark magic ancient and dangerous…
He chased his thoughts away as he regarded the man in front of him.
He had been half man, half…machine. Strange twisted bionic limbs mixed with wood and undoubtedly magic.
His bald head sported a few stray dark hairs that he had attempted to comb over whilst his broken jaw seemed to be held in place by nails and bolts and his artificial nose was strapped on with clasps.
“I know what you’re looking at Son of Avitus, but I have no need for your sorries. As far as I am concerned I am very well taken care of by the masters. ‘They see me’. Unlike you lot up there. True they did try some of their experiments out on me…but for my years of faithful service I was granted the ability to walk again. Something no other ‘healer’ would be able to give me. So I serve the Masters as is proper. As will all one day.” The man started as he stopped and turned around to face the young man. The smile grew ever more malicious and disturbing. Like a predator lying in wait.
“Can you tell me what happened to my father?” He asked as the two continued on the path again.
“Well, I wasn’t there personally, but I have it from those that went out there to ‘collect’ him that he was lucky to have had a quick death. They’ve brought him here…so sad really…Teryn Avitus was such a powerful Battle Mage. I remember his first steps amongst the Masters as if it were yesterday…anyway according to the Mardras their charge went ballistic, but that was to be expected with a Rhevendali. You should have seen what she had done with her…She’ll have to stay with the masters for a new pair of hands, I doubt she’ll be able to ever cast another proper spell again, but who knows…”
The man though relatively young bore scars that showed he was no stranger to battle. He had sparred against his father many times before and knew of his prowess, to be simply killed by some nobody…it was hard to believe.”
“I still can’t believe some pathetic little farm girl killed my father.” The man mumbled as they entered a large wide round room holding stone caskets, some were built into the wall, others were morbidly standing up. On the left side of the room stood a table upon which lay the man in question. The dead Teryn Balbeus Avitus. Master Battle Mage and one of the more prominent members of the Tahjai.
He had been instrumental in the discovery of Dark Fyure and its extraction. Such would be his legacy…he could have been the next Sorcerer King had it not been for that damnable girl.
As he watched his father’s face he felt nothing.
Maybe it was because they had never been close or maybe him being a disappointment in his father’s eyes always stopped him from seeking a further bond and connection. Now it was too late.
In a crude twist of fate this according to the reports small girl had been his father’s undoing. She succeeded where many a rival mage or enemy did not. It almost made him want to laugh at the whole ordeal cynically.
His obsession became his downfall.
“So they have no idea where she went?”
The hunched man shrugged. “Not really, but logic would suggest she would run to our enemy…after all the enemy of your enemy could be a potential friend and such like…if she’s clever she’ll jump borders during the invasion…” He eyed the young master carefully.
Would the young master avenge his father? Such was the norm amongst nobles wasn’t it?
“Belisio…” the young man frowned.
Obviously avenging his father was needed if he was to save face, after all if you allow your father’s murderer to escape and roam free you’re not worthy of the title of Nobleman.
“What will you do young Teryn?”
Upon the man’s lips slowly crept a murderous smile.
“I will find her of course and complete my father’s work. I will crush her soul and throw her broken body down as a feast for the crows. I will claim my vengeance first, before I set my eyes upon a bigger prize.”
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“Yes, it is magical indeed” He said out loud before realizing it.

Eilis glanced up to Arn, their eyes connecting for a moment before her cheeks flushed at his words averting her eyes down quickly.
She couldn’t help but feel warm, surely he was teasing her. Though from what she could discern he wore deftly robes too, making him undoubtedly appear like some powerful lord. She could tell they fitted him rather well. Allowing her eyes to glance back at him every so often to try focus on another thing in the hopes of seeing it better.

A second or two passed then reality started to settle in. Arn cleared his throat and turning towards the lady of the house he bowed his gratitude. “My Lady and Lord Venray, allow me to express my gratitude at your most benevolent and magnanimous grace you have bestowed upon us.”
The mage was scrambling hard to know what etiquette dictated in this sort of situations. For the remainder of the party, this was nothing more than a family reunion. Protective instinct made him take a few more steps closer to Eilis.

Lady Venray smiled warmly at Arn’s proper conduct.
“It is given with pleasure, but please Lord Arn, I will allow you to address me as Lady Leandra, considering you will be remaining here for some time and amongst family and friends we are rather informal.” Lord Venray scoffed.
“Don’t be absurd Leandra, if anyone is a stickler for societal norms and etiquette it is you are you suddenly having a change of heart?”
“Well, I don’t know what you mean and thus for the sake of our marriage I shall pretend I haven’t heard that.” She replied back as she stopped waving and shut her fan rather abruptly giving her husband a threatening glare.
“Now now you two don’t fight, what would our poor guests think of us?” Uilles cut in before taking another sip from his glass eyeing Eilis for a moment before his focus shifted to Arn, remaining on the man.
“Master Arn, may I ask you a rather impertinent question?”
“Why did you dismiss the offer of being the leader of the Shooting Stars? After all someone with your talent and skill would be put to better use in aiding and guiding those who are not quite so adept at Magic.”

Questioning eyes now turned to him and Eilis could only gaze at him in wonder, why Uilles particularly cared about Arn’s past.
The man's focus however remained fixed on Arn and Eilis couldn't help, but feel slightly unnerved as she noticed it.
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Arn found Eilis behavior strange. He caught her looking at him and then shyly away. Made him wonder if he looked strange in Tyrhallan’s clothes. After all, she could not really see….or could she? It had been enough time now and Dark Sight should be abating. Especially because the mage knew that the magical lady had skills that aided in quick recovery.

However, he was not to have the chance to ask her. He was immediately address by the regal hostess. The mage waited until the married couple finished their marital repartee before he bowed again

“Very well as you wish Lady Leandra” he said testing out the name. It still felt weird to him who had been educated at the Academy in the ways of court. The Academy was usually reserved for higher ranking mages that were either already nobles or who would perhaps one day work with nobles due to their prospective skills.

The Master Mage had also been required to some classes for about six months in order to be granted the title of master. It had been at this time that discussion for him taking over the Shootings Stars from the captain at the time. All their plans had derailed when the mage politely refused. Having no where to send him, they decided the best thing to do was allow him to continue his job as a deadly front line battle mage.

As if reading his thoughts, the ex Knight addressed him.
“Master Arn, may I ask you a rather impertinent question?”
“Why did you dismiss the offer of being the leader of the Shooting Stars? After all someone with your talent and skill would be put to better use in aiding and guiding those who are not quite so adept at Magic.”


The room turned silent. It would not be an exaggeration to say that some, especially the staff held their breathds. The question had been said politely. However, trained warriors such as Arn and Tyrhallan knew that it was the equivalent of a jab or feint. This was a battle of wills and thankfully, Arn had participated in his fair share.

The battle mage regarded Uilles and bowed his deference. “You are my retainers, Lord Venray. It is your right to ask anything you wish of me. It is my duty to obey.” He straightened up and maintained his voice respectful and clear.

“The answer is simple. I am coward.” He waited but figured that he should elaborate in anticipation of the next question. “I label myself thus because I did not want the burden of sending people to their death. Though I completely understand that this is a cross that must be carried by all leaders, I felt that my skills were of much better use in the front lines.”

He hesitated then seemed to resolve himself. “Also, my lord, I am not very good with people. Teachers hold a unique place in the world. There is an embedded skill that allows them to connect with people. To pass on knowledge that would be hindered by perception and attitude. I have no such skill.” He admitted almost a bit ashamed and sad.

“If I had, many of my fellow squad members would not have perished. In a selfish way I hoped that my skill in battle would be enough to shield them from death. Unfortunately, I was mistaken.” Unknown to many except for Tobi, Arn’s armor housed the dog tags of those who had fallen. They were interwoven with the plates of his armor. It was a way for the senior mage to honor the fallen and as fuel for his powerful displays of magic.

He grew silent then. Hoping that he had not spoke out of turn or that the noble family would not look with disfavor upon him. Tyrhallan had done them both a great service which hopefully had not been undone by his candid confession.

He turned to Eilis who as the actual person whose opinion he valued the most after his dissertation. The master mage hoped that she would still consider him a worthy protector. However, even if he was dismissed, the man would wait in the shadows and protect her in secret. Though he had not doubt that the Knight Captain was more than capable of performing the task.
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"That's not true!" Eilis's voice rang out in defiance.
"For if you are a coward then I am far worse at least you fight for those..." Her voice trailed off as she realized her own outburst. She fell silent once again turned her head down, knowing she already said far too much on the matter for it to be avoided. She was about to brace herself and face the truth, when Uilles cut in.

"And I agree. Cowardice you might call it, but knowing the very duty of shouldering the burden of leadership is daunting in and of itself. It seems like a wasteful thing though, regardless of your own position in battle, Death will claim his souls whether on the battlefield or off. You could at least have had a say in how they would die, instead of the fool who runs it now. Death will follow in his wake, glued to him like a lumbering shadow." He eyed Eilis this time.
"You wish to be a shield and it has allowed you to catch many a bullet. No doubt your body bears the marks of your devotion to your fellow men. I just believe they would have been better served in guiding them by a man whom would not mindlessly scatter them to the wind." Uilles said before Tyrhallan shook his head.
"That is not a fair comparison to make Uncle. For I have failed those in battle today as well. I should have died instead of them. It was my folly in underestimating my enemy and not persevering the moment I should have." He said drawing his Uncle's eyes on himself.
Uilles snorted as his eyes darkened and narrowed. His response was like the cracking of a whip.
"So I've heard, his blood will stain your pride for a good long while to come. I should have never have offered you up as my successor, is that what you long to hear? Your friend is dead safeguarding your life and you dare go 'oh woe is me it is all my fault? Grow a pair. Such is the cost of War! And if we're unlucky we'll lose a good deal more before the day is out." He thundered.
Lady Leandra glared at Uilles and Lord Pharlan winced at his brother's particular way of phrasing the truth.
Uilles took a deep breath before he said in a low and calmer tone.
"I need you three to understand. This..." He said gesturing around him. "This is all but temporary, Life is temporary. Live without regrets...for the Empire will throw a lot of shit our way."
"Uilles Language!" Leandra piped up only receiving a hint of a smile from the man.
"Arn, Tyr even you young Miss. Living your life filled with fear and regret will ultimately tarnish your very soul. Try to live and embrace the light aswell as the dark, if you fight it, it will in turn only be your own undoing."
Lord Pharlan broke the tension as one of the servants had just announced that dinner was ready.
"Well, with those wise words. Tyr escort your mother and lead our guests to the diningroom. I shall aid your Uncle."
As Tyrhallan offered his mother his arm Eilis expectantly looked at Arn, who offered her his own and as she took it she whispered softly.
"I meant what I said. You're no coward." She stated boldly looking up into his eyes this time before she gave his arm a soft squeeze.
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Arn moved briskly the small distance between him and Eilis. He placed soft but firm hand on her shoulder drawing her close with her back against his front. The mage squeezed her small shoulders in his hands reassuringly. He kept his eyes on the ex Knight as the man proceeded to cut him down with words.

Sharper and cutting deeper than any sword ever had, Uilles hit the mark beautifully. The man was right of course. Arn himself had often pondered the very same at times when he and Evander had come to a disagreement about troop deployment or training. The damnable lesser noble wanted nothing more than recognition and glory. He cared not that his rise to fame would be cemented upon the corpses of young mages.

The master mage grimaced evidently as he could find no fault in what the man said. Even now, Tobi and the other Shootings Stars could be on their way to assist the Heartguard. Having more than ten years of battlefield experience, the battle mage could have prepared and controlled the other Shooting Stars into as little expenditure of life as possible.

He moved protectively in front of Eilis as the man’s eyes rested on her. Say what he might about him but noble or not, Arn would not suffer any ill word to be said about his protegee. Thankfully or unfortunately, the new target was the man’s own nephew.

The battlemage wondered if the man’s skill with a sword was half of that as with his tonge, then he would have been a literaly god of death upon the battle field. He shuddered at the idea and a new perception lens shone on Tyrhallan. Shouldering the blanket of being the successor of such a man as Uilles was herculean.

Having some part in the blame of the lives lost in the skirmish, Arn lowered his head a bit in shame. If he had been in command of the Shooting Stars then the engagement would have been more successful. As it was, it had been foolish to go alone. He himself had almost died.

He looked at Eilis and he could not help but smile. At least some good had come of it.

"Arn, Tyr even you young Miss. Living your life filled with fear and regret will ultimately tarnish your very soul. Try to live and embrace the light as well as the dark, if you fight it, it will in turn only be your own undoing

The words resonated with him. Too long had he battled in the dark until the girl he was holding showed up. Too long had he tried to use his flames as a way to purify the evil in this world. He had embraced the Shooting Stars Motto of “Shine brightly for other to follow!”. Had the eldest Venray known that motto?

Seeing how informed he was regarding current military affairs, it would not be a stretch to assume that the man was well versed in all things martial. Wounded and cripple he might be but any less deadly he was not. The speech had made Arn that much more aware that he still needed more power to protect his charge.

"Well, with those wise words. Tyr escort your mother and lead our guests to the dining room. I shall aid your Uncle."

The stiffness of the atmosphere was broken by the announcement of dinner. No doubt, the staff was well trained in such matters. After all, generations of servants had been under the service of generations of Venrays.

Arn extended his left arm to his lady and placed his right hand protectively upon the back of her hand. He smiled down at her as she whispered her support and whispered back. “My dearest Eilis, it is customary for a knight to come to the maiden’s rescue not vice versa. However, thankfully for you, I am no knight. Like we agreed before, I need you as you need me.” He winked at her with a slight smile.

As they followed the Venray family to their respective seating arrangements, Arn considered the prophetic qualities of the speech Uilles had given. Not only the current war but the very possible visit of the people hunting Eilis was in the horizon. This was their calm before the storm. This was their time in the sun before the long knight.

The mage looked at the his lady and vowed to himself and to her silently that he would be dammed before he let her light be swallowed up by the darkness. He would burn brighter than the suns in the sky and incinerate all before him.

The Ex Knight had fanned a flame in him that had started to build since his meeting with Eilis. Warriors needed men like Uilles to push them to their limits. The Master Mage would seek the eyes of the older man. He looked at the Ex Knight Captain with eyes full of respect and deference. He would bow his head thanks towards the elder Venray as he took his seat.
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The evening itself moved along rather smoothly, easy conversation, good food and pleasant company.
To Eilis is was as if she had been blessed with a little part of heaven. Something she dared not dream she would ever get to experience.
Having retired early, the day had been rather exhausting after all she had thanked Lord and Lady Venray for the lovely meal and for allowing them to stay in their home before excusing herself.
She had also bowed to the mighty Uilles thanking him for his words of wisdom before Arn had offered to escort her to her room.
Whilst she intended to decline his offer, not wanting to pull him away from the conversation he seemed to be having with Lord Uilles. She knew he would not accept it and Uilles would otherwise scold him for not offering his service in the first place.
She chuckled as she thought about the many rules of etiquette that seemed so…unnecessary and restrictive.
As she turned her head as she glanced towards the window, its curtains half drawn so she could still gaze at the star filled sky.
She felt her eyelids grow heavier and the bed was ridiculously comfortable. It wouldn’t be long and she would slip away into dreamland. Here she had everything she had ever wanted. A small measure of peace.
She was somewhere safe, protected and watched over by her own knight, she thought with a smile.
He had looked quite handsome, she recalled with a soft smile as a blush tinted her cheeks.
Arn. Her burning flame.
Undoubtedly the men downstairs would be talking about the war, compare swords or something of the like, there would be enough for them to discuss and worry over.
Practically half asleep, she was dozing off further when all of a sudden a shadow crossed in front of her window.
It happened so quickly that Eilis had thought it had to have been some bird at first, before her mind and reasoning started nagging her about it and forced her up to go over to take a look.
As she stepped out of bed and away from the comfort of her sheets, she mentally chastised herself for being paranoid.
She had crossed many, many miles. Plus, she was far into Belisian territory, no one would presume to look for her in such a place as the Grand Estate of the Venrays.
Reaching the window she gazed outside and seeing nothing but an empty street she yawned satisfied.
“See…silly…there’s nothing there.” She told herself.
As she moved over to the other curtain to close it, suddenly a rock crashed through the window.
It flew right past her face freezing Eilis up. Not being able to do anything but stand and watch when mere seconds later another figure followed in its wake.
Crashing intentionally into Eilis and forcing her to the floor.
Sitting on top of her, holding her down, sat a dark haired woman bearing a most satisfied grin.
“Well hello there little Pumpkin. Play time is over. Time to come home.” She said as she pressed something against Eilis’s mouth.
Her eyes widened in fear when she realized what it was.
A gag.
More effective than the old sewing one’s mouth shut trick the woman had effectively silenced Eilis, making her unable to call out.
But that wasn’t what terrified Eilis, she now noticed that the long black hair seemed to have a mind of its own.
As the woman stood up, she felt it wrap around her and casually lift her up as if she weighed nothing.
“Oh don’t look at me like that, be glad I don’t drain you Pumpkin.” The woman spoke rather bored as she rolled her eyes at Eilis’s expressions.
“You had your little fun, seems like your little escape was worth it.” She said as she looked around appraisingly. “It won’t matter though, when the army advances this here will all be taken over.... or blasted to pieces. Let's just say I so hope for the second one…” She said sadistically.
"Oh I can't wait until we get home and I get to play around with you pumpkin. I will carve you up." She said as she smiled widely at Eilis, but the smile was hardly reassuring and more terrifying as it reminded Eilis of that of a hungry tiger.
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The Master Mage was thankful that he had endured the boring presentation and demonstrations regarding etiquette and formal dining. He had to help the poor Eilis with proper utilization of the silverware and how to eat the various courses that were presented. As expected, the food was quite delectable and of high quality. The hosts made small talk and the lady of the house fussed over everybody.

Yet, despite their place at the table, the mage still felt like an outcast amongst them. The family discussed and talked of things that the pair of outsiders could only experience from an external point of view.

Soon, the meal was over and had been ushered into a parlor to have after dinner wine or cigars. Eilis had wanted to retire and Arn had immediately offered to escort her. Not only was she his protegee and his honor would not allow him to leave her alone in a new environment, but the mage also wanted to have what little time he could with her.

They had traversed the house following the servant who had been sent to show them their accommodations. Arn had sighed in relief when the servant left them. This much etiquette and pageantry was more than he was used to. He smiled at her as she stood in the doorway of her room.

He gently lifted her hands to his lips and kissed them softly. “Well my Lady Eilis. I bid you good night. I hope that that magnificent looking bed allows you to rest better than the hospital ship gurneys.” He smiled teasing her. He looked into her eyes, his own dark ones seemed to reflect her image like a mirror. They were true in the fact that all they could retain was her.

The master mage had waited a few seconds after she closed the door being unable to move. Indeed, he could only go as far as the edge of the hall where a lounge chair sat no doubt a place that ladies shared secrets in confidence.

His mind was able to think logically about the day and their current circumstance. It all seemed to be so detached from reality. As Uilles had pointed out, a war was coming. The capital would soon become engulfed in fire and death. Yet, all he could think about was his lovely charge. He even wondered if distancing himself was better. She occupied so much of his thinking that his usually analytical mind had taken a back seat to his active appreciation of her.

Even as he thought about it, the idea did not appeal to him. Since his encounter with Eilis he had opened a new dimension to his magic. He had felt it more than seen it. When he was with her, he felt energized beyond the obvious experience of being dazzled by her. It was something deeper. Something that seemed to allow him to feel her presence even when she was not with him.

The master mage began to stand up. It would not do to have the Venray family believe that the “fiancés” were spending so much time alone. Arn shuddered at the images that might be going through the appalled mind of the lady of the house and the scolding he would get for being inappropriate.

A sudden surge went through his body and he was moving before the first crash of glass was heard. He felt more than heard it actually almost as if he has been in the room when it happened. No doubt a side effect of his mind meld and connection to his lady. The image had felt like an echo in his mind as if the distance between them had acted like a pond and her emotions were the ever expanding ripple.

His body tried to complain, the wounds still fresh but the man ignored them. Only one thought governed his current thinking and that was Eilis. He covered the distance quickly and was soon standing in front of the bedroom door. His eyes glowed and the air around him distorted as he tapped into the Aether.

Despite his urgency and the hair raising situation, Arn could not help but notice how much more in contact with the Aether threads he was. The flow of magic was easier. The magic itself was pure. Almost as if he had been drinking from a fountain all his life and how he was able to drink form a virgin spring.

One string in particular seemed to have strengthened. This connection with Eilis was even more highlighted when Arn was tapped into the Aether. The light was as pure as lightning. He could even see an outline of the girl through the wall. On the opposite side of the coin, he could see a shadow over her. The light clashed against this shadow like waves upon a rocky cliff.

The mage needed to act fast. Anybody with decent magical aptitude inside the room would feel the pull of magic as he gathered it in his hands and with an exhale, propelled a powerful blast of air forward. The thick wooden door exploded forward and would throw shrapnel at anything not lower than knee height. The sound would be loud enough to alert anybody within a few hundred yards.

Arn followed quickly, flames beginning to engulf his hands. His eyes traced flames too like eager tongues licking the air. The mage was truly a sight to behold as the magic distortion around him became enhanced by his fiery red aura.

His voice was deep and booming. “GET OFF OF HER!” The command was highlighted by a flare up of his fire covered hands. The heat was that of an oven as the broken window pulled the heat towards the attacker and out to the street.

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The man held the lifeless hand long past the last grips of life had signified the young girl’s passing. He sat there in the darkness. Blood wet on his trousers and shirt, hers. He rested his head on top of her still warm one. A tear streaking down his cheek to fall on the departed girls head.

It hurt, not only because she had been brave. Not only because they had been close. It hurt because nobody except the few that remained would remember. No one would know that she had died for a cause much higher than any living in this patched up world of Ith would probably hold.

Her sacrifice would go un sung. She would be even less of a faceless person that live and die living their own lives. What hurt the most is that he would not even be able to bury her body. As it was, he was risking the same fate taking those precious minutes that had allowed her to pass on gently into the flux.

He gave her one last kiss on the fore head and sobbing laid her down as gently as he could. The man picked up the crumpled parchment that had been the cause of her death and tucked it into a hidden pocket in his cloak. He turned northward and ran. His lungs burned as he rushed through he wilderness. He could feel more than see his pursuers.

He was thankful that they had those of magic capability with them or he would be as blind as any other person. However, thanks to his training and connection to Gia, his pursuers where also his helpers. All he had to do was keep ahead of them.

A few hundred yards in front of him, he could see the sun beginning to shine as it rose over the cliffs. The rendezvous point was near. Not slowing down, the man made for the edge of those same cliffs. The ground began to end quickly. Yet, he did not slow or faltered. Taking a running leap he hurled himself into the void and was suspended for a second before gravity attempted to take hold.

The man tapped into the Aether to deny gravity its prey. Death had already claimed one Watcher, it would not have the satisfaction of claiming another. Magic burst forth from his hands and feet and a powerful air jet stream propelled him forward. Normally, mages would only be able to go a short burst but the man managed to fly 800 meters upward and forward.

Out of the clouds a small fast ship suddenly appeared. It was littler more than schooner which accounted for the speed at which it appeared. The man skillfully guided himself towards the deck and despite a barrage of various types of magic, both man and ship were out of their range.

Once on the man was safely on deck, the ship sped off towards the deep sky. It would be gone before reinforcements could arrive or give chase. The man looked back at the disappearing land mass with sadness.

“Oy Jonathiel, where’s Clara?” The man turned towards the older gentleman who looked like an old salty man of the seas should look and shook his head as response to his question. The older man sighed and clapped the man comfortingly on he shoulder.

“ah, she was a good lass. We will miss her. But I promise ye, it was not in vain.” He looked at the young man with his one good eye. “that is if you managed to bring it.”

Jonathiel produced the old and worn parchment and handed over. “Yes Alessandrus, here is your damn note. It is more cryptic than anything. I would say hardly worth the life, let alone the years it took poor Clara living undercover in that damn Tahjai convent.” He pushed the parchment into the old man’s hands and stormed off.

The old man followed the young man until he disappeared down below and shook his head. “I wish this was not our lot in life but we cannot choose what destiny we prefer. We just have to follow the path laid out before us.” He looked down at the parchment. “You tried didn’t you my dear Estell but you could not.”
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The woman glared up at the blasting door and her hair quickly responded by turning into slicing razors and meeting the remnant of the door far enough before Eilis and herself that it casually flew past them.
“GET OFF OF HER.” The woman heard Arn say as she now raised herself up, displaying the true meaning of a terrifying femme fatale.
Large almond shaped eyes, high cheek bones and full deep red lips greeted Arn with interest and curiosity. A sinister smile formed on those lips at the display of his prowess and her eyebrows raised slightly in some kind of understanding.
The dark ebony tresses lifting Eilis up to her line of sight before she addressed her. It was almost comical were it not disturbing and terrifying as she placed a hand on her hip while the other hand grabbed Eilis's chin.
“So found yourself a man didn’t you? Was the master not good enough for you Pumpkin? Wasn’t he ‘hot’ enough?” She cackled and snorted at her own little pun, before Arn started radiating more and more heat making her cease and grimace.
"That's right you want to be a problem..."
Annoyed she rolled her eyes putting Eilis in front of her as a sort of shield, whilst the hairs squeezed tighter around her throat.
“Go ahead you walking oven. Cook our little pumpkin…we don’t need her to be pretty after all.” She snidely commented observing Arn a little closer.
“So you’re her dashing little knight? Protecting her? Bah, as always men only think with what they have down below." She remarked rather unimpressed. "Not that I blame you of course who doesn't love a good romp of pleasure, but she is a special case. If you had any sense you would have destroyed her when you met her.” The lady continued annoyed as she took a wider stance noticing a third party arriving.

Tyrhallan and the rest heard the commotion upstairs.
"What the devil?" Pharlan uttered, as Lady Venray eyed Uilles quickly in worry. Before she could say anything though Tyrhallan interrupted her.
"Father, Uncle, keep mother safe. I'll deal with this." He spoke receiving a nod from his Uncle before dashing out the door and up to the sleeping quarters.
There was no doubt in Tyrhallan's mind as to where to go especially not after hearing Arn’s voice. The mage's command was audible enough for Tyrhallan to grasp the situation as he reached the top of the staircase. Arn's only care was for Eilis’s safety. He was a fire mage. Him hesitating to attack meant that Eilis was in somehow being held.
Hurrying further he grabbed the swords from the wall, decoration and nowhere near the real thing, but the assailant needn’t know that. He hardly had the time to go back to his chambers and pick up a proper blade.
Thus he sprinted off to the guestroom and as he arrived he shielded himself for a moment from the heat that radiated off of Arn. It was enough of a blast in contrast to halt his advance for a moment. Looking underneath his arm he noticed the scene in front of him in horror.

“Well if there isn’t an annoying sidekick too…” She turned to Eilis again. “You have been busy, too bad they won’t last long…” She grinned as she looked over Tyrhallan with interest, looking past Arn.
“My, my aren’t you pretty, you would do nicely…I could do with a little invigoration.” She said touching her face tracing the skin near her eyes. “I am starting to get wrinkles.” She bemoaned with a sigh. “And I am sure I would be able to make use of your corpse…I could always use a good butler.”
Tyrhallan glared at the woman raising himself up with regal bearing and he spoke in an authoritative manner.
“You WILL release her.”
“Oh I will, will I?” She shot back holding his glare with humorous defiance. “Why don’t you come over here pretty boy?” As she said this some of her hair made a ‘seductive come hither’ gesture.

Eilis meanwhile tried desperately to free herself from the grip of the woman’s hair, to the point she tries to tear it and break free, much to the woman’s chagrin.
“Oh will you stop wriggling!” She snapped before the hair literally slammed Eilis into the floor rather forcefully. “Bad.Slam.Little.Slam.Pumpkin.Slam. Before lifting her up again, this time so dazed and lifeless that she resembled a hunter holding up a goose or pheasant.
“Well boys, not that you’ve not welcomed me with open arms, but I was expecting a little more…” She gestured with her hands searching for the word.
“…Hospitality from those fabled men of Belisio, so colour me seriously disappointed.”
“We do not seek to impress foul hags.” Tyrhallan shot back watching her grow livid.
“Foul HAG?! How dare you! I will skewer you for this Little Prince!!!” She shrieked and screamed, casting Eilis to the floor behind her as she went into a full rage.
As her full head of hair formed a cloud of javelins, some hairs twisting together to become slightly thicker.
They wirled and danced around like the tentacles of some weird octopus, before launching themselves at the men.
During this her hands came together forming a bowl and circle as her eyes grew dark and the shadows cast around her seemed to clump together forming two large wolf like creatures gaining solid form.
“Feast my pretties…Feast!"She screamed out in ecstasy as unleashed the shadow beasts.
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Arn could see why Eilis glow had been challenged by the dark aura that surrounded the woman on top of her. The mage was seasoned enough to note that the woman could handle herself and was confident in that skill.

He tensed when he saw the girl pick up his lady but there was not much he could do. At the current heat, his fire blast would incenerate both victim and attacker. All he could do was flare up and snarl at the woman as she toyed with Eilis.

The Master Mage took a step forward only to be challenged by the poor Eilis being used as a shield and bait. He felt the anger rising inside him. He barely noticed the arrival of Tyrhallan but was glad for the battle experience of the knight as he took a place to his right with enough space between them to not present easy targets.

The mage’s mind worked at hyper speed trying to figure out how best to free the tattooed beauty. It appeared that the woman was able to manipulate her hairs. Scientifically, this meant that by using the Aether as a catalyst, the woman was able to harden and manipulate her hair to grow and move as desired. Hair was naturally strong and this was even more apparent as it held Eilis captive and lifted above the ground.

Arn’s soul sank as the woman reacted to the Knight Captain’s demand and Eilis own attempt at escape. His hear jumped each time the poor girl hit the ground and his mind screamed in horror and anger. A deep rage bubbled from inside like the fiery vengeance of a volcano. His mind started to go blank as his eyes went full black and his fire extended from his hands to past his elbows.

Ironically, it was only when Eilis was tossed to the ground seemingly unconscious that Arn snapped out of his rage. His tactical mind took over and he sprang into action.

“Tyrhallan, take care of Eilis!” he shouted as his arms covered in blood red flames and he sent two pillars of flame towards the deadly woman and her summons. The fire would slam with force as if the flames were solid. The air itself hissed as the fire hungrily sucked in air to feed the inferno.

After a second or two, Arn would leap into the air using a burst of win from below his feet as a way to boost his jump. While in the air, he crossed his hands in front of him and then threw his hands to his sides rapidly. The motion sent two blade like gusts of air towards the target in a x pattern.

Using another burst of air he propelled himself towards the opposite side that Eilis lay to focus the attention of the woman on him. “You said you wanted to have some fun. Well here I am you bitch! Lets see if you are still laughing after I melt that smile off your face!”

He was angry. Not only because this woman had hurt Eilis. Not only because she was the embodiment of what Arn hated. Which was those with power abusing the weak. Not only the fact that she had dared to insinuate that Eilis had whored herself to him and Tyrhallan. But what burned the most in his mind was the image of this Master that was mentioned abusing Eilis or touching her without her consent.

The master mage had seen his own mother cry herself to sleep and scrub after her encounters until the skin was raw. No woman should ever have to face that but most definitely no woman whom Arn felt such a strong connection and sense of protection.

He would keep his promise to her and would kill the medusa in front of him even if it cost him his life.
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As the pillars of fire came towards her Scylla her nose wrinkled in annoyance and defiance. Raising her inky black fingers she carved her way through the air in some strange writing pattern. Scylla’s eyes glowed and a tattooed pattern flashed up on her face. Throwing her head back she opened her mouth and emitted a large scream, one that cut through the walls of the house in a highly unnatural manner and only grew louder. Almost instantly an invisible bubble formed around the woman shielding her from the blast of the pillars as her shadowy wolves dove into the floor to avoid it.
Her eyes focussed back on Arn as the shield shuddered under the gust of wind attacks that followed.
“My my such passion.” Her cold voice spoke as her body turned completely to face him again. “You believe you can save her?” The way she phrased it was strangely gentle, before the maniacal smirk returned. “My dear you will have to do better than that.”
With an almost magician like poof she disappeared leaving only a vapour of smoke and shadow behind where she stood only to appear behind him, her fingers taking hold of his shoulders as she leaned over to his right ear whispering.
“You can be so much more…besides…you need a real woman, not a girl…. One that isn’t going to be your undoing.” She immediately disappeared again, reappearing a few feet off to his side, her hair flowing with her shadows now.

Off to the side however Tyrhallan had attempted to get to Eilis only to be thwarted by the large shadow wolves that doubled teamed on him. He had to use his speed and flexibility to out manoeuvre the beasts, but he knew he would not be able to outrun them forever.
His swords however were not of particular use either. The beasts used their ability to disappear and reappear with surprising well effect that even despite Tyrhallan’s skill he had not been able to land a solid good blow to them that would injure them.
“Damn it all to hell!” He growled before he jumped back again as the second wolf had lunged forward at his throat. He managed to put the decorational blade in between the snapping teeth of the first wolf, making it eat literal steel.
He released it and dove past the wolf side stepping the second one and dissolving it with a powerful kick of his boot. The damn things were a nuisance that he couldn’t hit…he needed a new tactic and fast. As he approached the fire he noticed they stopped attacking as viciously. Of course…shadows could only exist when there was a enough of a devoid of light.
As he thought so however he noticed a small little moth flap in front of him. Sensing this momentary distraction in the man the wolves risked grabbed him by both legs yanking him down and dragging him again to the darkest part of the room and closer to Eilis and Scylla.

Eilis groaned as she slowly raised her head, not knowing what exactly was happening except for the fact that they were under attack saw a horror scene before her eyes. She watched the woman lean into Arn and noticed how Tyrhallan was dragged across the floor by two large wolves.
In her fear and anger her tattoo’s flashes, before she ripped off her gag. Trembling, she attempted to stand again.
She too noticed the small blue white moth that fluttered in front of her vision for a moment before her eyes were drawn to the shadow magic the woman was using.
‘Well…’she thought. ‘Two can play that game!’ Closing her eyes she focussed on her inner light, raising the flow of Aether within her, she immediately felt the tattoo’s protest, but she ignored the pain. As she concentrated she started glowing more brightly and despite the pain and suffering this inflicted upon her she started levitating slightly off the ground. Her expression changed however, almost as if she as drowning, perhaps it was the continuous torture of the binds, but something was terribly wrong...
Cracks formed again over her arms pouring out light as well and slowly bit by bit she lit up the room and brightened it considerably. So much in fact that the wolves yelped in pain as they stopped dragging Tyrhallan further.
Turning to Arn and Scylla now she brought her hands forward, forming a drawing motion of how one used a bow. Holding nothing but light and air her eyes suddenly opened displaying the darkest pair of eyes and an almost cold clinical face.
“Vashina’e!” A word spoken in a voice that seemed more unreal than even the maniacal cackling from Scylla earlier as she released the hand which had pretended to hold the invisible arrow.
Scylla’s eyes widened for a moment seeming to understand it and shrieked as she enveloped herself and Arn with a shield of her own hair for an odd twisted moment.
Not a moment too soon for upon impact the blast created a blinding flash purging the room in almost colourless white, save for Arn and a smoking Scylla.
A loud agonizing scream could be heard coming from Tyrhallan, before the room turned to a more useable level of light again. As the light dimmed Scylla’s hair-shield fell away and it was clearly smoking, with Tyrhallan crawling in pain over the floor holding his face in his hands attempting to cover his eyes the two wolves had been incinerated and blast into nothingness. Not even ashes remained and Scylla snarled in anger at Eilis’s handiwork.
“Cassacure!” Scylla shot back as her hairs now darted toward her, ready to impale her.
Eilis however stopped them before they reached and harmed her. Looking rather unimpressed she used her telekinetic powers to make them drop lifeless to the floor, almost all of them save three thicker bundles, holding them up to with her powers over Scylla’s, who looked positively horrified.
She raised her right hand and made a twirling motion of her index finger.
“Hy-zen-thlay…” Was the softest spoken, but most chilling combination that she uttered sending one bundle straight forward.
"AAARRRGGGH!" Straight into Tyrhallan’s chest, causing him to cry out in panic and pain.
The other two could only watch the deadly grace with which Eilis made the second one turn and shot towards Scylla. She attempted to vaporise at the last second, finding herself being followed by her bloody own hair. Screaming out a string of angry swear words as she dashed about the place trying to avoid a similar fate to Tyrhallan.
So now only one bundle of strands remained and Eilis dark eyes turned to Arn.
Cold and calculated, unbending and unyielding eyes stared at him as the indexfinger twirled once more.
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