Valania Proper - Ce'dareaux's Barony Crypts - Twilight Morning Hours
(Collaboration between GourmetItalia, Nevis, XianEvermor, and SkullsandSlippers)
(Collaboration between GourmetItalia, Nevis, XianEvermor, and SkullsandSlippers)
It was like being pulled out of the deepest sleep. Onatha's head moved slowly from side to side. She was confused. She didn't remember going to sleep, in fact the last thing she remembered was being pushed and falling. Her eyes, green and pupil-less opened wide and Ona gasped. Her body stiffened. Panic set in.
For his own part, the repeatedly battered and stunned Emperor who had still lacked enough time to even fully recover from Conqvist's imprisonment, let alone the ensuing escape, raid or aftermath that followed was once more met with a surge of magic doal power as he was dragged along like driftwood in the current no matter what his flesh demanded. Led forward by the unknown force, his stinging eyes slowly regained some of their sight from the assault that the pillar had assailed them with, unshielded as they had been for his grasped hands. The backs of his hands crackled as if imbued with lightning, the whole of his flesh and spirit tingling with the potency of the ancient marks that both empowered and shackled him. So cool and damp by comparison was the stone rim beneath his palms and fingers, gritty, solid, wholly naked and apparent to his touch-so unlike the tempting, dangerous light that now, for all that he had seen of power, of his father's crimes, of his own potential future as the tragic flame of retribution, now left him near to frightened to grasp it for fear of its seductive allure that burned what lied beneath.
Yet ephemeral was this, too, for the long-lost frightened, tender maiden so little known to him began to shift her head, her brow crease and lift up in fright and the pain of waking to a seemingly cold and hostile world. And indeed, the urging was not without some merit; responsibility, at minimum of that which he had incurred himself, not that which was thrust upon him, beckoned, at the least for which compassion if for naught else; and for it, the young man knelt forward, downward, as he slipped a hand gently into the sarcophagus-like structure as would a mother into her babe's crib, his mildly calloused hand soft upon the woman's cheek.
"It is alright," his whispered came on gently smiling lips down into the waking tomb. "Worry not; you are safe. Give yourself time and know that I will be right here."
As he brushed his hand down to entwine his hand in the Al-Mayrin's own, he lifted his head up from the slab of stone to cast his understanding yet firm glance to its defender. "You are only half-right, as all ever are when I play a role. I am friend to this woman, as dearly so was Lucius to me," he continued on as a twinge wrenched his brow upward seemingly despite his own conscious urges, his face marionette to his true emotions. "So much so that when last I saw him, I consigned myself to imprisonment and torture to ensure his freedom. I am Emperor of Sarife Algol Uriel, son of Anoush Aryanpur I... and once-Duchess Adelaide Delacroix," he said grimly, the fine features of each clearly present in his half-breed face to any familiar with that of either household, far too pale and north and western to be of pure Sarifen blood. "The last living Delacroix, or so I am told. Yet be that truth or false that I am last, it matters not; we are not only not your enemy, we are your friend," he said, squeezing the maiden's hand tightly, his raw expression pleading for her to understand as his other hand lifted upward, hand open in clear gesture for the Bozorgan to stay. "And I have come for my friend."
Where am I? Where am I? Onatha laid there scared and filled with panic. She could feel the stone under her, the chill that seemed to be in every part of her body. How long did I sleep? There was light and people. She couldn't see them at the moment from her position, not without turning her head to look around but fear kept her still. Who are they? Where am I? The questions were screaming in her mind as her heart began to race. She remembered the last time she felt this way. It did not give her comfort.
Her eyes caught movement. Ona moved her head and watched as Uriel appeared, his hand reaching out and touching her cheek. Was this a figment of her imagination? Dry lips parted and for a moment nothing came out. Fear filled her eyes as Uriel moved his hand and turned to speak to someone else. His hand found hers and Ona forced her hand to move, her fingers wrapping tightly into his. She would not let him go. He was her life line. He was speaking to someone and her mind struggled to understand what he was saying. Her breath was erratic through her nose and as Uriel squeezed her hand, stating he had come for her, Ona forced her body to move.
Slowly, carefully she began to sit up. Her body was stiff and rebelled as the motion. It wanted to lay back out on the stone, to rest but Ona's will and fear over ruled the protest. She saw others as she sat up but they didn't matter. She saw that she lay in a tomb of sorts. That did little to comfort her.
Ona freed her hand from Uriel's and wrapped her arms around him, hugging him tightly. Her body trembled. "I do not know where I am. I do not know how I got here." She whispered it into his neck. She had not shared such intimate contact with him before but in this moment she needed assurance that he was real.
The young man lay stunned in the maiden's grasp for a moment as she pulled him away from his determined gaze towards the armored champion. He held still as the fearful, desperate words brushed across his skin and clicked into place in his mind a moment later. With a gentle smile, he gathered her into him with a clumsy, unfamiliar embrace from one to whom touch had become near alien; yet the presence, the welcoming reassurance, was there, was real-was real. Tenderly, yet somewhat louder so as others might hear, he responded as he stroked her back, "You were enshrined in a tomb sanctified by the order of a Saint, a knightly order. As to how..." he said with a trailing glance to the Grandmistress, "... I do not know. Yet that can wait. Calm, wake, and then we can all hear the explanations. You are safe now."
He paused a moment more, then asked, "Need you anything? Food, water-a blanket?" he said as he wrapped more of himself around her even as his own flesh recoiled at the chill, delicately enshrouding the maiden cold as the decades of deathly sleep to wake only in such bitter frost.
"Enshrined?" Ona lifted her head to look around. Tomb? Am I dead then?" She shivered and then buried herself against Uriel once more. She was cold but more now she was trying to understand what was happening. How had she ended up in a tomb of all places?
"I am so happy to see you." It was whispered, just loud enough for Uriel to hear. She had her eyes closed and for a moment pretended she didn't just wake up in a strange tomb.
Once more she lifted her head. "Who is with you? Where are Lucius and the others?"
Algol-Uriel paused-or froze, rather, as he held her in place. He released a long, slow sigh.
"... Lucius-and the others-are gone. I was thrown a hundred years into the future and you were held here in stasis. We had to break the wards to wake you," he said bitterly, pressing her into him slightly in preparation for the levy that he knew was about to break.
Onatha heard the words but did not immediately understand them. "Gone? What do you mean gone? I was just-" She struggled a little as Uriel's hold on her tightened. She knew it was to brace her but somehow it meant that what he was saying was real and that frightened her. "Wards? Stasis?"
Ona began shaking her head. Tears started to fall from her eyes. "No. It isn't right. They can't be gone. I - you-" She collapsed against him and cried. Her shoulders shook and she held onto him once more. Her mind was reeling. Years had past. She somehow slept here, as she had in the library when Lucius found her. She was out of a time that she knew and cast, somehow into the future. She was like a leaf on a river just cast and carried as time saw fit.
Her fellow displaced comrade held her firmly through the storm, his own pains clearly far from passed by his expression. Yet crack before it he did not; an unyielding, stubborn stone that snagged the leaf and held it fast against the current, caught on it until it flipped over atop the patch of rough earth to at last find rest even amidst the flow. Hand upon her back, he inhaled deeply slowly, even if raggedly, and with a swallow he rested his head upon hers.
"You are here," he whispered upon her brow. "We are safe and free enough, for this moment; for now, trust that that is enough."
Onatha cried and let Uriel hold her. She needed the feeling of a person, there with her. In other circumstance she might be embarrassed or even reluctant to allow such a thing but there was no place for that right now. She cried until there were no more tears and the shaking of her shoulders slowed. Slowly she lifted her head to look at Uriel. "Where is here? How did I get in a tomb?" The last I remember I was going to -" She looked away for a moment as if trying to recall exactly how it had happened. "Lucius and you, the portal..."
Her memories felt jumbled now and she was clearly struggling. Ona shifted her body a little and even released a soft groan as her body protested every movement. "I would like to get out of this. I am not yet dead." There was a bit of uncertainty in the speaking of the last statement.
Uriel responded with a raw, tender smile and nodded. The man lifted his arms down into the stone case and beneath her legs as his other went to secure her back. With a huff, he heaved upwards and the leaf fluttered upon the rock now as much literal as figurative; yet his still-weak legs seemed to lack the strength to carry her further, or perhaps it was his intent to do as he did next. In either case, he sat down next to the platform, Onatha in his lap and wrapped himself around her, his face over her shoulder.
"... I was thrown a hundred years or thereabouts into the future," he said, voice uneven. "You and Lucius were not. You were warded to sleep here until... now," he said as he stroked her collar with his fingertips. "This is the remnants of a castle in Valania, in a hidden crypt." He smiled softly, his distant and forward gaze drawing back in to cast its attention to the woman beside him with a tender smile that neither stoically endured the pain they both felt yet neither ran or capitulated to it; it accepted it, or at least was beginning to. "And no; you are very much alive."
Ona didn't protest as Uriel lifted her out of the stone tomb. Under other circumstances she might have. Right now she didn't have it in her. He sat and Ona instinctively folded into him. They had not known each other long but they had a growing connection and now Uriel was all she had that was familiar. The shock of the situation when Lucius found her had been great. The realization that her tribe, her family were long dead and she had somehow lived, disconnected from time had been hard to come to terms with. She hadn't really come to a place of acceptance with it when she found herself with the others, with the portal. Now it had repeated itself. How and why were the foremost questions on her mind as she laid her head against Uriel. He too was thrown through time.
She lifted her head to look around, eyes stopping on each of the figures in the room. "Who put up the wards? How did you find me?"These were safe questions. Her eyes were still moving over the others in the room. Ona didn't know any of them and some, like the warrior, frightened her.
"I know little of the former; perhaps she can answer that," the young royal said with an uncertain glance to the Grandmistress, clearly still wary of further hostility. Even so, he continued to hold her as a parent might their child or a friend another, lacking some of the degree of Ona's awkward bashfulness-yet, too, noticeably lacking the same personal desperation, an almost impersonal compassion instead what enshrouded her through the blanket that was his arms. "As to the latter..." he sighed hesitantly. "... by accident. We happened to take shelter here and the floor broke out from under us. We landed in here and found you and so breached the wards to get you out."
Ona looked to Uriel for a moment. Her lips parted as if she were about to say something but she stopped herself and instead turned her attention to the woman. Everything about her showed she was ready for a battle and this made Ona very nervous. "Do you know who put me here? With the wards? I do not remember anything..."
Through the sound of metallic clanks that somehow resembled iron buckets clattering together, an unpleasant groan that resembled distressful pain fluttered across several generous paces where the Melitan Grand Mistress had collided into carved stone. The poor illumination offered through the burning ram and the corridor torches only proved effective enough to outline her slow moving form as she dazedly crept on fours towards the trio surrounding the tomb platform. Amidst the inexplicable, jaw-dropping events that illustrated an unmistakable display of supernatural activity from the divines, the Leader of the Order of St. Melitas tenderly nursed her head in an attempt to recover whatever senses still remained. Her initial instincts involved drawing upon the various shorter weapons lined along her belt, however, the inspiration soon passed as attentions soon fixated upon the two reunited companions.
Nothing could have further illustrated the manner, in which her brows creased amidst the quiet moment shared between both members. As time passed, her expressions only turned from rage to utter bewilderment and then to tears as her winces remained fixated upon the awakened Seer.
"Sarifen swine ... offering friendship after slaughtering so many innocents ... dubious piety ... uttered in the Divines' names ... miracles ... unfolded through the marks of our father and mother above ... and ..." the woman paused as she groaned before cowering in pain amidst attempts to fervently sooth her throbbing head. "...your return to our realm, Seer Onatha. The world ... aghhh ... has truly gone mad ..."
Another groan escaped her lips as she slowly unsheathed a dagger along her belt before laboriously pressing the tip upon the floors in an attempt to pry herself forwards. Through a sad, smile, the Grand Master's glance aimed upwards, "Our Lord and Lady above, Yadin-Hamon and Athirat, together; I suppose this would mark the beginnings of my repenting for the servitudes that will follow ..."
Her head turned to directly gaze upon the awoken Al-Mayrin amidst the glowering light that cast against her dirtied, Gothic Plated Armors. "Seer Onatha," she began, "All is not as it seems. In the bestowement of Revered Mother Thérèse, ... and as your spiritual protector graced through our father and mother, I swear it on my sins, we are in grave danger. The Sarifens have already breached the Sanctity of this Castle and my Sisters and the Baron Ce'dareaux's Men-at-Arms have given their lives to ..." her eyes winced in pain as tears began to shed down her cheeks. Shortly before seemingly swallowing a lump in her throat, the Grand Mistress' uneven tone took upon a more vengeful manner, "...to ensure our survival. We are now in the company of strangers who cannot be trusted whilst our condition to defend ourselves eludes our grasp."
Yet again, the woman's motions proved laborious as she venomously glanced towards the other two Vault visitors. After a time, a sigh escaped her lips as her resigned and defeated glances swept across the Vault and the smoldering, worn signets that surrounded the Tomb platform.
"My oath falls under Prince Lucius Delacroix's last commands to ensure that your safe-guarding would fall under the Order of St. Melitas," she defiantly affirmed, "I swore an oath to handle your Safe Keeping. As the Grand Master, it was therefore my responsibility to uphold my oath and to defend all persecuted under the Divines' graces. Those requiring aid and those in need also fall under those circumstances and as a last hope for salvation, I sanctified these Crypts while entrusting my faith and those of my sisters to enshrine ourselves from the Sarifens that have murdered our companions from above." With one hand nursing her forehead and another laboriously raised to where an upheld palm gestured towards the spent signets the Grand Mistress began, "These are not Wards crafted through the inept Inquisition's hands, but blessings bestowed through the Order of St. Melitas to ensure the Divines' salvation over those requiring safe keeping."
Reverting full attention back towards the Seer, the Grand Mistress smiled warmly as she hobbled closer towards the trio holding along the platform. It was upon reaching the out platform perimeter that she curled a wave of matted brunette hair behind one ear whilst propping heavily against the dagger. Her gaze turned towards the silent Bozorgan where suspicious eyes cast upon his cross-legged form.
"If your devotions are true," she fervently affirmed, "...you are free from judgment, however, if silver-tongued perversions below the waste line dictate your desires, you have only your crimes to answer upon entering the Divines' Kingdom above."
"When I return to the Divines' Kingdom above, there will be much to answer for, Grand Master," the Bozorgan gently began after a time, "...and the truth, has, is, and will be spoken as is demanded of the Divines' for which I swear it in their names." Smiling wryly, the man's eyes slowly cast across each individual before resting upon the Grand Mistress, "As for what is before our eyes, I can only deliver the truth as it has unfolded, not what is untrue. We ..."
In an attempt to speak the Bozorgan's mouth opened, only to shut as his gaze swept to the floors and an expression illustrating uncertainty and troubling thoughts seemingly traversed across his face. Following several moments where he became lost in thought, the Bozorgan's gaze elevated towards the Vaulted ceilings where the man began a series of nods to ascertain newly discovered truths, "Grand Master, I will be forward in that much has changed and there is still much that will not be ..." the Bozorgan paused as his face turned slightly pale upon seemingly understanding the careful delicacies required towards his next word choices, "...pleasant to swallow ... or I believe that in your severe circumstances ... witness."
His eyes narrowed and momentarily trailed again towards the Seer before slowly diverting back towards the Grand Mistress, "It would seem ... that you still believe the Barony is under attack against the Sarifens lead by Prince Bahramesh..."
"Go on ..." the Grand Mistress demanded after the momentary pause.
Through furled eyebrows, the Bozorgan's gaze swept to the floor as uncertainty and distressing expressions once again spread across his face, "What also seems most certain ... is your inability to accept our words for the truth and it is not my place to question your suspicions. If there ..." he paused again as his gaze redirected towards the awoken Seer before returning to the Grand Mistress' glacial stare, "...if your oaths involve the Safe - Keeping of the Seer ... then your devotion will be honored ..."
A moment of silence ensued as the Grand Mistress' glares fixated upon the Bozorgan with enough numbing frigidness to glaciate a lake, however, after a juncture that involved careful pondering, the Warrioress slowly pried herself into a defiant towering stance, "For those whose desires venture beyond their cocks, you have an unfortunate overindulgence of dignity ... however ... after watching my Sisters and those I loved die before my eyes, I fear my capacity as a woman to grant a lady's courtesies have long evaporated." Pausing, the Warrioress smirked as her barbed insults met the Bozorgan with desired intentions that served to gauge his tolerance. It only quickly reverted to a frown as a sad, disarming expression spread across his face.
"Nevertheless," she began again, "Though I am no stranger to deceit or the perversions that dictate a man's desires to satisfy their meat flaps ... I believe that for now ... it is clear your motives stray beyond our demise."
"This matter will remain unresolved unless you accept our words for the truth," the Bozorgan genuinely answered.
"I see no other alternative and ... as Grand Master Eugenia Domenica of the Order of St. Melitas, I demand an explanation to your presence, diplomatic immunity, and permission to speak to your first-in-command where we will discuss the rights afforded to a ceasefire as well as safe conduct to the surface!"
"Granted, Grand Master Eugenia," the Bozorgan firmly answered as he remained seated upon the cold Vault floors. "Though I must caution that nothing can prepare your eyes for what you will find. The man sitting before you is a friend to the Seer and ..." the Bozorgan once again paused as his gaze fell upon the Half-Breed before kneeling into a bow, "he is also the Last Free Emperor of Sarife ..."
"Perhaps my attempts for diplomacy and harboring reservations were mistaken," the Grand Mistress coldly affirmed before offering a hand in the Seer's vicinity, "Seer Onatha, you are under the Protection of the Order of St. Melitas and the Divine's graces. Do you, at all, recall any familiarity amongst these men?"
Onatha listened as the woman and another man talked. Perhaps it was her long sleep, perhaps the passage of time but she wasn't entirely sure that she understood anything that was being said between them. What was clear was the woman was supposed to protect her. She leaned against Uriel. Despite have just woken Ona felt exhausted. The sound of her name, the question put before her caused her to look up at the woman. "Familiarity? Uriel is my friend."
It was as she spoke the words that Ona realized she didn't know Uriel well but they had fought alongside each other, beside Lucius. She trusted him even if she did not have the experience of years to build that trust on. He was protecting her now and he was all she had. "If that is what you mean by familiarity. He and I fought alongside Lucius."
The large green orbs that were her eyes stared at the warrior woman. She had so much she wanted to ask her but given the conversation she didn't feel it was the right time. "I do not know the others but if they are here than Uriel must." She looked to Uriel. "Did I hear him correctly? Emperor?"
Uriel sighed behind her as the weight of the proverbial crown settled down upon his brow, washing away his bewilderment at the Mistress's baseless and perverted accusations. Glancing back and forth between Onatha and her would-be defender, he said, "Yes. You did. The rites of coronation have already recognized me just a day past." The young Emperor lifted up his hands, revealing their tattooed backs, inscribed with hieroglyphic symbols.
"As I said, I was friend to both Ona and Lucius in Lucius's own time. And I am now Emperor or Sarife even though I am an outcast and unwanted bastard because any other candidate is even less suitable or dead. Sarife is little more than a conquered ruin itself now in far worse state than Valania was when Sarife was its enemy. Since your enshrinement, a far more horrid interloper has broken and raped both nations. Journey yonder upstairs and see for yourself; only you have drawn a blade here yet and such shall continue to be the case unless you brandish it again. Ona may travel with you if she is willing and able, if needs be."
Onatha slowly rose, leaving the warmth of Uriel's arms. The chill of the room, the crypt hit her instantly. She took a brief moment to look down at her clothing. It seemed the wards protected that too, the material not appearing old or falling apart. A hand came to her neck, fingering the necklace as she considered the situation. The last time Lucius had found her in the remains of the library. Something had protected, preserved her then. This time she at least had an answer to the who and how. Now she needed to figure out why.
Ona looked around as if trying to take in every detail of their surroundings.She began to stare off, chin lifted as if she was looking at something near the ceiling. In truth she was trying to see beyond. She hadn't dared use her natural ability yet but as they spoke of upstairs, of ruins. Ona looked beyond the stone and to the upper levels. She could see the moss covering the stones and what was left of the building. Her brow furrowed. "I can see it. They speak the truth. Destruction. There is- nothing is as it once was. Surely a great deal of time has passed."
Onatha drew her eyes back down to the warrior woman. "Grand Mistress, again, I do not vouch for the others. I do not know them. Uriel, now Emperor of Sarife is my friend. I will leave it to him to speak to their loyalties. I know that Uriel and I stood at Lucius' side. I do not know why I was initially ripped from my time or why I am here now but clearly there is a new threat to all." Her eyes moved falling to the stone coffin. She shivered "May we retire to someplace that is possibly warmer and smells less like the dead?"
A gasp escaped the Grand Mistresses' lips as her eyes strayed towards the Bozorgan, the Half-Breed, and awoken Seer where immediate alarm had begun to spread across her face. The sound of metallic clattering that announced her dagger's release rang across the Vaulted walls as her fixated gaze slowly darted between Onatha and the Half-Breed. Shortly after fighting back tears and whispy breaths, the woman's gaze glanced to the surface as her expression delivered all the signs of a woman in mourning. For a time, the Warrioress's woeful stares did not leave the ceilings, however, it was after several shudders that the woman slowly retrieved and sheathed her knife before kneeled amongst the Half-Breed and awoken Al-Mayrin.
"Of course we may, Onatha," the Grand Mistress answered kindly with all the graces that involved motherly warmth and a tender, tear-laden smile. "I ..." a pause came again as she her watered gaze swept towards the Bozorgan and the torch laden corridor, "...We should breach the surface and determine what the Divines have prepared for us ... or for the sake of my affairs, my sins ..." A loud sniffle escaped her before she gently wrapped a hand around the Seer's shoulder and removed her black, insignia laden cloak. Upon draping, the cloak around the Seer's shivering form, the Warrioress rose and offering a silent Augurian prayer through closed eyes and gestures that pointed directly ceilings. The fires surrounding the burning ram had only began to subside, however, the sounds resembling pounding rains and thundering lightening echoed from above whilst announcing the storm's renewed fury upon their lodgings within Valania Proper.
Silently, the Bozorgan's eyes quickly darted towards the firmly lit corridors as concerned expressions began to creep across his face, "If you must tend to your bodily needs, now maybe the most convenient opportunity you will ever find before we reach the surface. I am afraid we will soon encounter this storm's most unpleasant, exacting punishments and I am not one to cast any, save perhaps the worst criminals, through the Divines' furies."
"I will hold you to your promises of safe passage, Sarifen," the Grand Mistress commandingly answered with a voice laden with a lesser degree of venom, "Betrayal will undoubtedly offend the Divines and serve as a poor choice of conduct for all parties. You have only your deeds to answer for your reputation and ..." her eyes suddenly watered again as she glanced towards the Seer with a smile "...those that the Divines have chosen to protect ..."
Through a respectable nod, the Bozorgan dramatically swept his arms into a gesture resembling a deep respecting Augurian worshiping stance. Following a moment of prayer, the man turned heel and beckoned the others in accompanying his stead. After inching several steps, his hand seized several pouches along his waistline and wrapped around the khilij scabbard before slowly lowering the finely decorated sheath to the ground while his other arm raised in an effort to offer another important address, "As a matter of honoring your trust and the wills of the Divines, you are free to confiscate my weapons, Grand Mistress. I believe they now belong to the Seer ..."
A large, monstrous shadow detached itself from the gloom some distance away, following the coarse whisper of Kisharan steel sliding back into it's home, and the solid *click* of a weapon being secured into its scabbard. The shadow seemed to shrink to a more human size as Raven's red eye flashed in the darkness and he stepped just barely into the light: enough to let his presence be known to the others. It may not have been obvious to the others, but from where he had been crouched, there was a clear and direct line between him and the Melitan warrioress, and if she thought he couldn't cover such a lengthy gap... well... Raven just leveled an even gaze at them, showing his empty hands now that the situation was reasonably disarmed and everyone was calming down. He had felt the energy pulse of the second tomb being opened through the arcane circle etched into his arm, and had returned to investigate and make sure the newly crowned emperor was safe... not just because he wasn't yet confident that Pontius was enough protection on his own. For a scant moment, his eyes narrowed at the markings on the Half-Breed emperor's hands, and he scratched at the arcane circle on his arm absently.
"There is a small fire at the camp, and some tea brewing," he informed, with all the warmth and cuddliness of a brick wall.
Another gasp escaped the Grand Mistress' lips as her fingers moved to retrieve her bastard sword through an instinctual answer towards the Slayer's arrival. In a manner of time in which the Warrioress' fingers tightened around her sword hilts, the Bozorgan had already halted and offered both an elevated hand and an extended palm towards the Slayer as a non-threatening gesture of faith.
"Grand Master, you need not be afraid," he began upon offering the Ancient Slayer a deep, respectable, and acknowledging nod, "I do not believe you have formerly acquainted yourself within Raven's company. He is one of ours and a member of our own party. On his own, he will bring no harm to our gathering and ..." a worshiping gesture formed as his hands formally pointed towards the Slayer's location, "I believe his preparations for overcoming the storm deserves many prayers of gratitude."
Through furrowed eyebrows, the Grand Mistress opened her mouth to speak, however, after deciding against such a decision, the woman simply offered the Slayer a nod before turning to sheath her bastard sword. Wincing, the woman offered another silent prayer and a string of phrases that resembled blessings before slowly inching towards the Bozorgan's weapons whilst eyeing both men with watchful suspicion. In short order, her efforts had delivered the khilij, munitions pouches, and pistol into the Seer's vicinity before willfully offering the possessions into her grasp.
"Onatha," she warmly addressed, "I believe these are yours?"
She was grateful for the warmth of the cloak. The voice that stated there was a fire at the camp chilled her in a way the cloak would not help. Her eyes turned to look at the shadows, towards the source of the sound. The warrior was already alert. Ona turned to Uriel looking for assurance that all was okay, that these people could be trusted. It was a tense moment then the Grand Mistress put her sword away.
Onatha looked down at the offered items then to the warrior, then to the man she had taken them from and finally, back to the items. She frowned a hand tentatively reaching out to touch one of the pouches. "Mine?" She shook her head and looked to Uriel for help. She had no memory of those things. She was realizing her memory of the days before the portal were fuzzy at best. "I do not recognize them. I do not remember them..."
"Nor would you; they are his own armaments surrendered unto you as a show of goodwill and faith," he exhaled as he stepped forward and gestured with a hand in the direction outwards that his companions had previously mentioned. "These two are indeed with me; the blonde one is the present Bozorgan and the one who dredged me out from drowning in Voltas' bay and explained this situation to me myself-and the one who performed the coronation rite. The other is... a bodyguard, for now," he said with a cursory glance at each of them. "I vouch for both of their loyalties. So, with that, may we return above to that aforementioned fire?"
Raven stood his ground, watching the display of faith. He made no offer to surrender his own weapons. He thought it would be foolish to do so with still so many unknowns, and the two women in the party didn't look strong enough to carry even half the lethal objects on his person. That is to say nothing of his body itself, which was fully capable of defending the Emperor with no weapons. He gave both women a quick sizing up: they were not all together unpleasant to look at, perhaps they would offer to carry him back to the camp, you know... as a sign of good faith since he was so dangerous.
"I'll go ahead and make sure the way is clear," he informed... to which he meant that he would skulk in the shadows and watch them from some unseen place until they got close enough from the camp for him to sprint ahead and arrive before them. With that he slowly stepped back into the darkness and appeared to vanish after a few moments of slow walking... and since his footfalls made nary a sound there was no real way to tell exactly where he was unless they lit up the whole crypt at once, or could see in the dark.
Through a raised eyebrow, the Grand Mistress stared in utmost curiosity as the man expertly returned to the shadows, "The courteous etiquette dictating proper manners may normally involve the term ladies first, however, I've always found the term rather perplexing given the attitudes and aggression men seem to always exhibit. Naturally, I believe we must follow a new custom in that it should be men in front ..."
Another quizzical glance towards the Crypt Corridors spoke of uncertainty, however, the Grand Mistress somehow upheld her towering composure whilst keeping a firm hand upon the bastard sword pommel. Shortly after offering the Half-Breed an acknowledging nod, "As much as it pains me to believe otherwise, Onatha, your ... friend does speak the truth. These weapons are now yours and for your sake, should only be drawn during moments of armed duress."
Onatha's head hurt. It was dull like when one had indulged too much in wine. She was confused and unsure but took the offered weapons. She looked at the warrior. "I-I have no intention of drawing them...are we in that much danger at the moment?"
She looked around at all the others. Her head looked to the shadows. "I feel as if at the moment we are well protected. Or rather, I have no need to fear for my immediate safety." Ona waited for the men, those that knew the way to lead. She closed her eyes and tried to will away the dull, constant thudding. She followed once everyone else began to move. Her legs protested having just gotten used to standing but like her head she willed the discomfort away. She was not a warrior, not a fighter the way the others were. That had never been her role. She felt the weight of the weapons and pouches on her person and longed to place them down, curl up in the cloak and sleep. The thought of sleep brought fear however. Ona shivered though this time it was not from chill. Now she wondered if she would ever be able to sleep peacefully again.
It was all too much. She just wanted the fire and maybe a drink of water. No more thinking, no more trying to figure things out. Just warmth and quiet. Her eyes moved over the others backs and she wondered if such a thing as quiet or peace would ever be possible again.
"We must prepare for the inevitable, Onatha," the Grand Mistress sighed through uneven, sorrowful tones, "...and should the Divines smile upon our plight; your friends will honor their offer towards safe passage and we shall see what the Divines will bring. I only hope the judgment that awaits us is just and merciful for I ... believe I have as much to answer for as do those that are no longer with us." Sighing, an expression of grave concern spread across her face as she gingerly nursed her forehead whilst watching the Seer shiver. Upon seizing a flaming torch off a nearby corridor brazier, her other hand raised to retrieve another before offering one in the Half-Breed's direction, "If your friendship towards Prince Lucius and Onatha is genuine, I trust you will honor your associations to offer safe conduct to the surface."
The Emperor took the burning light plainly. "And beyond," he replied simply to the Grandmistress. He gestured with an arm for them to walk. "Bozorgan, Shadow, if you will, lead, please." With an exhale, he held up the torch nearby to clearly chilled Onatha, basking her in what little warmth it offered.
"As for the immediate moment, no. Unless something about our awakening of you has alerted any of the invaders' sentries among the countryside, you are safe enough for the present moment. Your interests align with ours, nevermind the personal feelings also involved." He spared a moment to cast a brief, pensive glance at the Grandmistress before responding soberly. "As for your sins, I imagine that they will; if the Divines have any plan at all, they saw fit to set to this task my errant self. If I am so integral for some destined scheme for the salvation of this continent, then your own redemption is entirely possible."
"What you say may unfold into the truth," the Warrioress answered whilst keeping one hand firmly along her sword pommel, "...though that is assuming we, most notably I, live long enough to witness the chance for exacting redemption." the woman paused yet again as her unoccupied hand wrapped around the Seer's shoulder in a display of sympathy, "In a man's world, punishment for one misstep is as common it is cruel, however, it is the Divines' judgments that are even crueler in serving justice where it is deserved. If our survival is unchallenged, I believe a later discussion of unpleasant realities is warranted. Until then, you will forgive my skepticism and the instinctive decision to assume the worst and hope for the best ..."