The sun still hurt his eyes. Most of his memories were still a mess, and the more he tried to focus on certain things... the harder it became to make a clear image. It was like a word at the tip of the tongue. A glimpse of something out of the corner of the eye that was never really there. Everything was out of balance, and until he could find it again, everything would remain in the perpetual fog. It wasn't amnesia. It wasn't that he didn't remember people, or things. They were just unclear and fragmented. But first things first. He had to get on both feet again.
He stood with his good leg on the baking sands of his beach. The noon sun scorched from above, and the thin sheen of sweat was beginning to roll down his skin in lazily descending rivulets. His brace was discarded and nowhere in sight. He was going to do this, one way or another. His eyes drifted to a close and he took in a long breath in p reparation before he thrust his foot forward and into a combative stance. Pain shot from his knee through his thigh and his jaw clenched in the resulting agony. Damn. It was still too heavy. He withdrew his lame leg and lifted it from the sands once more, balancing with practiced care as the cooking hot sands baked at the sole of his other foot.
"Mrrooow," murmered the blue-eyed cat lounging on his favorite beach chair.
"Oh shut up, Cat... like you'd do any better."
"Nyan," the feline retorted, rolling over onto its side to face away from him before it began licking rather nonchalantly at itself.
His eyes rolled and he simply shook his head. He was arguing with a cat. Again. And losing. Again. He muttered under his breath and went back to the task at hand. In a gesture of frustration he unbuckled his harness and threw it a few paces aside. The clatter of metal broke the peaceful din as the veritable suite of weapons he always carried fell to the ground. His shoulders rolled back and forth a few times as he took in another deep breath. Yeah. That felt better. He lunged forward with his suspended foot again, burying it into the hot sand as his fists swang out and back before taking on a defensive stance. The pain was there, but it was not unmanageable. He shifted about in a quick pivot and brought his arms about in wide swings, testing his footing as he practiced a simple kata.
He nodded to himself as he relaxed and then simply stood upon the sands, slowly bringing his hands together to form a seal of interlocking fingers before him. In a sudden blur of motion he flailed out, quickly pivoting from foot to foot as he turned and twisted from attack to attack, and from form to form. He'd be lying if to himself if he felt any exhilaration. Fact of the matter was that prior to the ritual he'd be putting on a clinic in comparison to this current display, but, beggars cannot be choosers... and the current accomplishment was a good one. He'd take it.
Before he could begin to enjoy himself too much a sudden, crippling pain shot up from the sole of his foot. He yelped loudly and fell to his rear as he pulled his foot up towards his chest. The hell was that? Nothing hurts this bad. Blood slowly trickled from the calloused sole of his foot and he glowered rather disapprovingly.
"What the cack was that!?" he bellowed, squinting towards the sands to see the source of such an unwarranted offense. A glimmering shard of white caught the light of the sun, protruding upwards from the waveringly hot sands.
He leaned forward and snatched the object up. The glint of copper quickly offended his sensitive eyes with its brightness as the nicked chain was unearthed from the pristine white sands. What was this? No. It couldn't be. Slowly his fingers unfurled from the object to reveal a totem of ivory, his perpetually calm eyes growing impossibly wide as they took in the series of incisions marring the striated surface. Hunter, water, wind, sun, and moon. A sudden flood of fragmented memories and shattered emotions collided in perfect clarity in that single moment. It was his totem. The one he had given to...
Goddamn it was bright. He reflexively lifted his hand to his brow in a vain attempt to shield his eyes, squinting in frustrated annoyance as he gazed up to the sky in a baleful glare. Problem was that it was the night sky that he was trying to glare at. It was getting harder to just dismiss this current quandary as a mere symptom, or an inconvenient side effect of the ritual to remove the Shadows... and he had somehow managed to get most of his friends worried about him. A good problem to have if he took the time to be honest with himself, but he wasn't about to trouble them with his problems if he could help it.
The courtyard of the Keep wasn't nearly as peaceful or isolated as his beach, but the sands of the training ring were close enough to the real thing to help him try and calm his nerves and attempt to focus his thoughts. The sand at his feet always had that effect... and a nostalgic little smirk crooked at his lips as his thoughts wandered back to different times. It was in that impossibly brief moment where a forgotten memory is suddenly dislodged and brought into clarity that the light became impossibly bright in his eyes. All of his other senses became disoriented and he could feel himself reeling with the sensation that he was falling. He closed his eyes tightly and sifted his fingers through the sands to try and push himself back up, but there was going to be none of that.
Slowly his vision came back to, and he found himself laying down in a vaguely familiar tent. No... it wasn't the tent that was familiar, per se. His mind wasn't wrapping around it just yet. It was the sense of where he was. The smell. The heat. The very atmosphere. He sat up slowly and tried to look around, but, his gaze was locked on the exit as he rose to a stand and walked outside. What the hell was going on? He was in the middle of a Tehir camp. A big one. In fact, it looked like it was a large gathering for trade or some such. As he walked several passers by nodded respectfully towards him and offered words of greeting and of blessing. Okay, that was definitely not normal.
As he approached a particular tent an old man wearing a bleached veil of every manner of color and sewn bead greeted him with a reverent bow of his head, and then pulled the thick flap of the entrance aside to allow his entry. A group of shamans were gathered around a boy laying down upon the sands, and around him was a carefully arranged circle of incense, bone totems, and snakestones. He walked purposefully and knelt beside the boy. The shamans were already chanting softly in low, hushed notes that sought to beckon the spirits. The boy looked nervous, but stoic. His manner of dress was simple and his eyes were wrapped in a bandage of linen gauze. Wait. No. What was this?
His hand reached down and gently caressed an errant lock of black hair from the boy's brow, and the boy's expression instantly softened as he let out an assured breath. He felt as though he had done that reassuring and uncharacteristically affectionate gesture countless times before, and it was beginning to dawn on him. It wasn't his hand... it couldn't be. Because he knew who that boy was. It was him.
That meant what he was seeing was...
The unbearably bright light wiped the scene away and as his vision came back his hand was in the same place, but upon a different brow. The hand seemed notably younger now, but the man before him was not one that he had any memory of. The man bore a troubled expression but his eyes gazed calmly, reassuringly, as he turned to walk away. The man dressed as a Tehir, but, he was far from it in face and physique. He was Elven. Wait. Come back!
Jaired sat up suddenly, his fingers curling into the coarse sands of the Militia Keep's training ring. The light assaulting his eyes dimmed and he could make out the stone walls surrounding him once again. His grip unfurled and he brought his linen-wrapped hands to his face.
No. Definitely not a side effect.
It was getting worse. Every time he opened his eyes they were assaulted by the light, so it was easier to just keep them closed whenever he could. He wasn't blind, he didn't want people to think that. In fact, he didn't want anybody to think that anything was wrong at all. He fancied himself a good enough liar, but, the tinted goggles he was wearing to shield his eyes and the fancy new walking stick was a little bit of a give away. Most didn't know it, for it wasn't a story that he liked telling nor was it a memory he enjoyed remembering... but in his youth he was blind for a few years. He had seen too much, and in turn his eyes were taken at the end of a hot iron by an Imperial officer. Punishment served, and all of that. Re-adapting was easy, so he could go on faking it for now. He could see when he wanted to, anyway, it just hurt like hell.
Well, at least it distracted him a bit from the pain that plagued his leg. He chuckled to himself for a moment, reaching towards the arm of his chair to retrieve his glass of scotch. He really was a damn mess. A blind cripple for a Marshal. Maybe they'd finally let him retire. That wouldn't be so bad. Using his index finger with practiced ease he held the little paper umbrella aside as he took a long sip. It was hot out, and it was sunny... and he thought the little umbrellas were quaint, and a necessary part of island life. Cat was lounging out on the warm sand under his own umbrella, his paws only stretching out momentarily to kneed at the sand in the midst of his content slumber. Where the hell did Cat get that umbrella anyway? He certainly didn't put it there. He shook his head, setting the scotch back down upon the ring of sweat it had left behind.
"Hey Cat..." he muttered in a but of a slur. Yep. The scotch was doing its job nicely, "Caaaaat..."
"Let him sleep, his nights have been long."
His eyes snapped open as he rose to his feet in an awkward stumble, pivoting about to face the source of the voice. In the flurry the glass of scotch was knocked form the chair's arm and the golden liquid was quickly absorbed into the sand. Damn it. What a waste. He peeled the goggles up from his eyes, squinting painfully into the light to try and make out the figure before him. Then a shiver ran down his spine. That voice... that...
"As have yours, I see..." she continued. He could only make out her silhouette, but could sense that she was walking closer. Then he felt her hand upon his cheek, and his eyes closed as the familiar touch brushed an errant lock of his knotted hair from his face, "Far too long, my son."
Her words carried with them a double meaning. They always did.
"How?" was all he could manage to utter, struggling to make out more than just the silhouette of the figure before him.
"How is never important," she spoke gently, yet a hint of humor could be heard in her voice, "I taught you this, remember?"
This was one of those rare moments where his voice was caught in his throat. Considering the circumstances of what he was experiencing, he felt allowed. Damn that light. He wanted so bad to see her face again. His hand reached upwards slowly, almost hesitantly, to touch the hand that he could still feel upon the side of his face. Before he could do so, however, he felt the tinted goggles being peeled off from his brow. The light instantly seared into his eyes, and his hands quickly clutched at his face to cover them.
"It is not the light that burns at your eyes," she consoled, pressing her fingers against the back of his hands to try and ease them back down, "It is the truth."
"The truth?" he asked, keeping his eyes tightly shut as he allowed his hands to fall at the presence of her touch.
"You have my eyes... and they are finally starting to see," she continued as he felt the warmth of her hands leave his. He could hear the sand at her feet as she backed away a few steps. No. She couldn't go yet. He took a stumbled step forward and before he could take another she finished the sentence, "So open them."
He gathered himself and without another wasted moment he opened his eyes. This was impossible! It was too bright. It was like staring directly into the noon sun on a cloudless day, and it felt as though his eyes were going to be burned asunder. That was a pain he was all too familiar with. Suddenly the world felt like it was pulled from beneath him as he toppled to the sand of the beach, landing with a cringe as he sifted his fingers through the finely eroded grains. Then the light began to dim. He blinked a few times and pushed himself up as he struggled to look around. No, she was gone. Where did she go?
A sudden thirst throttled him next, and he felt every muscle and joint of his body scream out in agony. What was going on? He wasn't on the beach any longer. He was back in the desert, in the Sea of Fire. He was bleeding, too. He was bleeding bad. It was already starting to dry in the afternoon sun and bake into the sands. His breath was ragged and exhausted, and he couldn't seem to catch it no matter how hard he tried. He was fighting for his life. His eyes frantically darted from side to side. He was surrounded by corpses. They were fresh. Some of them still twitched and shifted about as their nerves continued to struggle... and they were all Elven. To be more exact. They were all Faendryl.
He rolled onto his stomach and tried to push himself back up, but his body just wasn't having it. The overwhelming thirst in his throat, and the crippling pain from the countless number of bleeding gashes and tears marring his body were slowly beginning to dull. He had a dizzy, almost weightless feeling as his limbs and chest conformed to the hot sand. This was it. He was dying. The air distorted just inches above the tawny grains of sand, and the sight of his own blood turning from a wet, bright red to a dull brown upon the baking earth seemed an almost fitting way to go.
Then he heard footsteps. The sound seemed muted, and he could even feel the sand shifting and crumbling beneath his fingertips as it grew closer. It was no man. It was far too heavy. He strained to turn his head to get a look, and he was suddenly aided as he felt something grasp at his shoulder and roll him over onto his back. His eyes squinted tightly shut as the light of the sun threatened to blind him again. He was starting to sense a trend. Then shade fell across his face as a man stood over him. He could only offer a painful wheeze in greeting.
The man spoke a few words, but he couldn't understand them or make them out. He tried to shake his head, and then the man crouched down lower beside him to get a closer look. His face was veiled and the only thing he could make out were the man's eyes. There was no doubting it, the man was Tehir. Also, something seemed oddly familiar about his eyes. He knew this man. But this was not a memory that he could recall. The man spoke again, reaching into the haversack at his side. Why couldn't he understand him? The man pulled free a bulging skin of water and quickly uncorked it, offering it to his lips as he did his best to try and drink it down. His throat wasn't responding, and he coughed and gagged a few times before he managed to swallow down a few desperate gulps.
"Just stay still," the man said, having switched to the common tongue. His accent was thick, and his voice was low, "I've been tracking you and watching you for several days now."
That voice. He knew it very well but something just wasn't right about it. A few more gulps of water were offered, and then the Tehir began tearing at his own burnoose's layered fabric to wrap makeshift bandages around his bleeding wounds. A nearby yierka snorted and scratched its claws into the ground. It seemed disappointed. If he he didn't know better he'd say the thing wanted to eat him. Wait a second. He did know better. It definitely wanted to eat him.
"I don't know who you are, but after seeing what you did to these men..." the Tehir said in slow words, looking around at the scene of carnage around them as he secured another bandage with a tightly bound knot, "I figured you deserved another chance. Why were they after you? Hm?
He coughed, choking on the very words he tried to speak. Honest answer was that he had no freakin' idea why they were after him... but he was still more curious as to why he couldn't figure out who this man was. Everything about him seemed unbearably familiar, yet not in just as many ways.
"My name is Rothel, and my people are camped not far from here," the man said evenly, his words taking on a serious tone. Rothel! Of course! He almost wanted to laugh, but such a reaction just wasn't in the cards. All he could do was lay there. He was so young, though, and that would mean that... "I am going to take you there. You're going to owe me answers, understand?"
He managed to choke out a few painful words in response, and the syllables that fell from his lips were just as foreign to himself as they were to Rothel, but there was one that he knew all too well, "Palestra."
The light seemed to come from somewhere behind the visage of his mentor while the man crouched beside him. His old teacher's veiled face and then eventually his entire silhouette were simply dissolved into the searing blindness that once again regained its hold over his eyes. Yet this time he did not force them closed. He was awestruck by his own words, and he could feel his breath returning normally to his lungs as the numbness and selfsame pain began to dissipate from his body. The sound of the ocean's lapping waves returned to his ears, and once again the light began to dim.
He was back on the beach, laying just as he was in the vision. Carefully, and in a testing manner he pulled himself up and into a seated position. His head turned quickly back and forth in the hope that his mother was still there, but, he already knew that she wouldn't be. The light in his eyes was almost all gone now, but, he could tell that some of it lingered still. He cradled his face in his hands, delicately brushing the tips of his fingers across the lids of his eyes. All he could do now was contemplate, and the thoughts in his mind were all twisted and jumbled. He still couldn't focus very well, and this wasn't making things any easier. At least he could see again.
He tilted his head and glanced aside as he caught a glimpse of Cat striding along the sand... except Cat wasn't there. Nothing was there. He squinted thoughtfully, and then in the very next moment Cat came striding along. Well that was weird. His shoulders shrugged as he leaned over to scratch between the feline's ears. Cat closed his eyes and purred in response, and then turned about to walk towards the indentation in the sand where he was just laying. The black feline plopped down on its haunches and then began licking at the back of one of his paws. His eyes followed the cat's movements and he caught sight of something in the sand nearby. Cautiously, he reached towards it and then pulled it out of the white sands. It was just his tinted goggles.
"So, a Palestra, huh?" he asked Cat in a rather sardonic tone, "I always thought I was too pretty to be a Faendryl..."
Cat was unimpressed, and just continued licking at the back of his paw. He shook his head and glowered as he turned to look at the waves creeping along the white sands of the beach. He reflected upon his mother's words. It wasn't the light that burned at his eyes, it was the truth... and he was finally starting to see. He idly unraveled the ahmdir blue wrap from around his face and ran the faded cloth through his fingertips from end to end. He studied it intently just as he had done so many times before, always looking for any clue that he may have missed within the woven threads. It was the only thing he had of his father, and it was kept from him for almost his entire life.
But now he had something else.
More than ever, he was seeking solace in things that distracted his thoughts. For the moment, he had taken up the pursuit of art. His hand swiftly glided over the page of parchment, a wedge of charcoal grasped lazily in hand as he tried to bring form to the image before him. The sea air filled his every breath, and his eyes squinted in an attempt to lock in the scene of the slowly rolling waves as they crept along the beach. Waves. They weren't much good at standing still. He'd have to improvise.
He winced suddenly, and dropped the sketchbook to lay flat upon his lap as he achingly stretched his fingers and then balled them into a tight fist. The crackle and pop of his knuckles was a rather unpleasant sound, but, the immediate relief was worth it. He watched for a long moment as the sun descended upon the sea before him, and the waves took on an almost pinkish hue. Ahh... red at night, sailor's delight. Miss Nixxi would be proud. But, he was starting to lose the light, and that did not bode well for the masterpiece at rest where a glass of scotch normally took purchase. Good thing he was already drunk.
The fact that he could take in the view at all took a bit of explaining in and of itself. His fingertips idly traced the smooth surface of the new stones that ascended the bridge of his nose. For the longest time the piercings were of the finest copper, an homage to his homeland and his heritage. Now they were deathstones, to match the stud he always wore within his brow. He had always had an affinity towards the stone, despite the history and the lore behind it, but he didn't care. For the longest time he just figured it was because he liked the way they looked, and the response they evoked. But now he understood.
Deathstones naturally absorbed the light. As long as they were exposed, the searing light that would seek to blind and plague him was lost. He could keep it at bay and at his own terms. For now, anyway.
For the briefest of instances he saw something move out of the corner of his eye. He quickly turned his head to observe only sand... but he waited. Squinting patiently and expectantly. In the next moment Cat strode through the sand and then plopped onto his haunches beside him. His eyes narrowed as he tucked the wedge of charcoal into the pocket of his sketchbook. He was catching on. He was about to get another 'visitor'.
"I see island life has made you soft..." came a graveled, but all-too-familiar old voice.
"How did I know you'd be next?" he replied in an unimpressed drone, turning his gaze as far as he could to avoid the trouble of having to stand and face his old teacher.
"Because its all in your head?" the aged, rough voice answered with more than a hint of cynicism.
"Good to see you too, Rothel," he spoke with a hint honesty in his words, but, pride could not simply leave it as such, so he added, "You look terrible..."
"We need to have a little talk."
Damn... he'd have had two too many wives to know that any conversation that began that way ever ended well.
The water was surprisingly still, the ebb and flow of the waves barely inching their way along the dimly lit sands. If only his thoughts would follow suite. Night had fallen and everything was still so damn fragmented, so out of place. He was starting to get used to the red cast of the Crimson moon to the point that it hardly even came across as ominous anymore. A long look was taken over his shoulder towards the breach chair that was previously occupied by the spirit of his first mentor. They had spoken for a long time on a great many things, but there was little that he could say that the old bastard didn't know. The dead have a lot of time on their hands, it would seem, and the old man had been watching him.
It was a little creepy.
--"We didn't tell you, to protect you. You know what the Faendryl do to their half-bloods."
He knew all too well, yet it was impossible not to feel a slight twinge of resent. Cat suddenly wound his way in a figure eight underfoot, rubbing the arch of his back against the coarse material of the selshis skin boots. The Hell was this? Did he look like he needed cheering up that badly? He shook his head and slowly knelt down to scratch his fingertips between Cat's ears, earning a satisfying purr from the feline.
"The moon finally get to you, too?" he asked in a sarcastic drone.
--"The ritual was just the beginning. Now you need to put the pieces back together and finish what was started."
He closed his eyes for a long moment. He wasn't exactly sure what the old man meant by that, but, he felt assured that he would understand in time. The visions would show him the way. All he had to do was trust in them, and follow the path they illuminated so clearly. There was just one problem. He gazed up, taking in the crimson moon above that stared down like an oppressive eye. A feeling of nostalgia took over for a moment, but he brushed it aside. He couldn't leave. His gaze dropped back to his hand only to find that Cat had vanished. With a slightly pained groan he pushed himself back to a stand, tightly gripping his hand around the source of the pain in his leg.
Suddenly he went still, his eyes narrowed thoughtfully as he tilted his head ever so slightly to the side. Strange. It was like the pressure suddenly dropped. Something changed. Then a pair of spires erupted from the previously still waters, hurtling forth a duo of darkly robed figures into the night that flipped gracefully through the air a few times before landing in a crouch on either side of him upon the beach. Several paces separated the three and he watched as the one to his left drew a pair of wickedly curved blades, followed by a vaguely metallic whistle as the one to his right clenched a kama in one hand and slowly spun a weighted length of chain in the other.
"The hell are you?" he asked in a rather apathetic tone as he slowly folded his hands behind his back.
A sibilant hiss was the only reaction they gave as their stances crouched forward in preparation to attack. Looked like they found his island. It was going to be a long night. They certainly wouldn't send only two.
"Try not to get any of your blood on the sand..."
Time to GoEdit
--"The shadows never really took anything from you."
The metallic whistle of the spinning chain was hypnotically rhythmic. He had never seen a weapon of that sort before, but, he already had a good idea on how to address it. That was threat number one. Threat number two was already starting to circle to an angle behind him off of his flank. It would happen fast.
--"They shattered as much as they could on the way out, that is all. You've already recovered more than you care to admit."
Now. He pivoted in the soft sands of the beach and leaned forward in a dead run towards the assailant wielding the curved blades. The whistle of the chain ceased but for the moment that was not the situation at hand. He'd never know how close the weighted end came to the back of his head. The one before him brandished his weapons in a menacing pose and then dashed forward to meet him. His hands were still folded behind his back and in a single, simple motion he swept his right forward and through the case strapped at his thigh. He didn't put much thought into the vial he selected as any one of them would do. In an easy, almost uncaring underhanded lob he sent the cylindrical glass vial forward.
--"You're no help to them as you are now."
The glass shattered in the assassin's face, each jagged shard glinting in the crimson light for mere moments before disappearing into the night. As expected, the impact stopped him dead in his tracks as he fell first to his knees and then in an uncontrolled tumble through the sand. The acid bubbled frantically as it seared and melted away at the would-be assassin's face as he writhed from side to side, trying hopelessly to clear it away with his fingertips. Yeah, that is only good for burning the hands, too. Wisdom for tomorrow... except he'd never get a chance to use it.
>"You don't want to leave them?"
The trio of jagged blades that comprised the spurs of his boots swiped cleanly across the first assassin's throat, silencing the desperate cries of agony in a sickening gurgle. A Tehir Neck Tie. How quaint. The second was already on the move, and none too happy with how their apparent ambush was turning out. The chain whistled wildly overhead as it sprinted forward. He knelt to a knee and pulled up one of the fallen assassin's curved blades, and watched as the weighted end of the chain whirled and was eventually hurled towards him. The blade was thrust aside to connect with it, only to become quickly entangled within the barbed links of chain.
--"Yet you've never really been here since that time."
What the hell did that old son of a wench mean by that, anyway? Damn, he was losing focus again. He was about to get killed. Right. Back to it, then. He watched the assassin's movements carefully, as this was going to take precise timing to pull off correctly. The assassin coiled the chain a few times about his forearm to establish tension before giving it a mighty pull. That was what he was waiting for. He tossed the entangled blade forward at that very moment to leave the assassin pulling at an unexpectedly limp length of chain. The assassin stumbled backwards a few steps to regain his footing, but the second blade had been recovered and was already on its way.
--"You have to do this."
The blade struck the assassin deep, but in a last ditch twist of movement it was able to take it in the shoulder rather than the center of its chest. Close enough. He casually gathered the length of chain as he walked towards the assassin, keeping it neatly coiled like a sailor would a length of rope. The thought did flutter through his mind to ask who had sent them, but... eh. He didn't care.
--"You have to finish what was started."
The assassin glared at him with an intense hatred as it placed a hand around the impaled blade in a tight grip. Surely the assassin wasn't going to attempt to pull the thing out all by himself, was he? Jaired really didn't appreciate that idea all too much, and he was going to let his relatively mild displeasure be known. That didn't mean he wasn't going to help, however. With a brisk tug he pulled the blade from the assassin and then thrust it directly through the heart. There. That was better. The body fell lifelessly forward into a demented fetal position, the crimson-lit blood spilling freely into a growing pool across the thirsty sands. Damn. Not even the rainy season would clean up this mess. His eyes slowly glanced from side to side. Surely there would be more. They wouldn't only send two. These were pawns.
Then he smelled the smoke...
--"You have to go."
This was the life he always wanted. Just as he had envisioned it for the past several years. A peaceful beach, a tropical breeze, rolling surf, and a drink in hand. Not a worry in the world. He could do without the crackling flames and the billows of smoke, however. An engulfed beam fell from the ceiling and crashed through the kitchen table. He lifted his kama before his face to ward off the splinters and glowing embers. Damn, that was close. A third assassin jumped over the wreckage and through the flames to take advantage of the chaos, but Jaired flung that aforementioned drink forward to douse the leaping figure. Suffice to say the alcohol was flammable. So are assassins.
The assassin did manage to take a swing as it tumbled past, but, it'd hit nothing but air before tumbling to the floor in a frantic fit, rolling side to side in the vain attempt to put out the flames. Three down. The fire was out of control and there would be no saving the villa, but, it could be rebuilt just like everything else lost to this nonsense. He had to go. They definitely thought things out. His outward thoughts were blocked, as was his ability to whisk himself from the island via magical means. In fact, none of his magic worked. The sensation was something he had felt before, and he was certain that they were employing shards of the Mandis Crystal. Clever bastards. He'd have to remember that tactic for the future.
And where the hell was Cat? Probably already waiting in the boat.
He quickly made his way through the living room, glancing about for short moment as it all burned down around him. A fitting end, really. His hand clenched thoughtlessly for a moment around the haft of the chained kama before rushing out through the front door and back into the crimson-lit night. That was too easy. He suspiciously glanced about before proceeding, but a deafeningly loud crack from something collapsing within the villa prompted his forward retreat. A few paces later another loud crash erupted that sent a blinding ball of flame high into the heavens, but he didn't turn to look back. What was done was done. The flames lit the path ahead, and he knew something wasn't right. They were there. They were waiting.
A sudden volley of arrows and bolts streaked towards him from the shadows in a chorus of high pitched whistles. The pain of his leg shot through him in agony as he lept to the side, slowing him significantly as several of the projectiles struck their target before he rolled evasively to the ground. Several of the shafts snapped and twisted about within his flesh as a result of this action, but, it would take more than that. He slowly regained his footing and gripped one of the wooden bolts protruding from his chest, tugging it free as a small fountain of blood spurted from the wound. He'd need it for later. They weren't showing themselves, but there were nine by his count, and they were no doubt readying the next volley.
He could use the shadows too. With a few quick steps he was embedded in the vegetation, the smell of a ripe papaya somehow reaching his sense through the wreak of the burning villa. He'd miss them. He kept his pace purposely slowed, silently moving from tree to tree, bush to bush. The longer he took, the more panicked and insecure they would get. His eyes narrowed to see through the night, the flickering light of the tall flames behind him serving only to accentuate the dizzying scene of chaos. A little too dizzying. Well, this was interesting. He was starting to feel surprisingly woozy, and then everything seemed to lurch suddenly to the side as he stumbled to catch his balance. The snap of a branch under his foot could have been heard in Ta'Ashrim. In that instant another arrow streaked through the air towards him. Poison bolts. Very clever.
The world tilted and spun wildly about as his body connected with the ground. He rapidly blinked his eyes in an attempt to regain his bearings, the bolt whizzing past with the familiar high-pitched whistle. Falling was faster than dodging, and undoubtedly easier as the poison continued to course through his veins. This was getting out of hand and if he didn't pull together he'd likely never hear the end of it. He could hear the erratic beating of his own heart in his ears, the sounds of his surroundings drowning out into a dull thrum as the poison began stealing at his senses. This was nothing, he had trained for this.
In a sudden, albeit clumsy burst of motion he rolled back to his feet and began stumbling towards the hidden assassin. Another bolt screeched towards him from the shadows. There. His shoulder slouched back just enough to let the bolt pass, and in an awkward backhand toss he threw his own bolt towards the source. He continued to lurch forward, his vision blurring and closing in around the edges. He didn't know if he hit his target or not, but, there was certainly some rustling up ahead in the vegetation. His grip tightened around the haft of the kama as momentum aided his approach, finally catching sight of a hooded assassin fumbling about with his crossbow. Blood was in its eyes, and it frantically swiped its palm across its brow in order to clear its vision. Forcing his momentum closer to the assailant, he swung the kama about in a wide arc as he quite literally tripped past, burying the blade deep into the assassin's chest before falling to the ground in a rather unceremonious heap.
He couldn't hear the assassin's body fall, but he felt the slight vibration of it in the earth. Rolling to his back he began coiling the chain affixed to the kama around his forearm until he felt the resistance, and then pulled it stiffly to retrieve it from the corpse. This thing was useful. The Crimson Moon glared down on him through the canopy of trees, but the red glow seemed to be dimming to a lifeless grey. It wasn't the moon, though, it was the poison. He glanced about groggily as all of the vibrant colors of the tropical brush and trees began to run into one another and erode to grays. There were at least eight more between him and the docks, and the ground was starting to get awful comfortable. His eyes fluttered to a close, and his breathing slowed as everything started to just go away. It was so black, so peaceful...
It was quiet now.
He could get used to this. There was no more pain. No more worries. Just a calm, surreal emptiness.
Then the light ruined it all. It started as just a flickering little pin point, and then in an instant it was an overwhelming flash that lurched him back up from the ground. He swiped at his eyes and squinted intensely as the blinding light again began to fade, revealing the scene before him. Three figures were rapidly approaching him through the brush... and they all had blades. Part of him was kind of wishing he could unsee it, but, such is life. He rolled to his side and brought himself up to one knee, swaying oddly while he began swinging the weighted end of the kama's chain in a tight circle over his head. As it was, the trees were too close together to really take advantage of the chain's range, but, it did give him an idea.
He threw the weight towards the papaya tree at about their knee's height just as the three dashed by it. The barbed chain quickly coiled around the bark and then with a forced lurch he threw the kama's blade into a tree nearer him and on the opposite side, creating a sudden and unavoidable trip-wire. The three were still in a dead run and had no time to react, and in a sickening topple the barbed chain nearly ripped each of their legs off at the knee. They grasped at their limbs and cried out, but he was already on the move past them. He didn't have time nor care to finish them off. Three more down.
At least it was starting to get easier to move. Either the poison was already starting to wear off, or he was just getting used to it. He carefully made his way through the vegetation as discreetly as he could manage, peering through until he finally caught sight of the docks. The pedal boats were still there. Good. He never thought he would ever think such, but, he had never been so happy to see one of the atrocities in his life. Yeah, it was a trap. He knew it. Anyone on their first day off of the turnip wagon knew it, but, if you can't do something right, do something stupid.
His very steps sought to provoke an attack, stumbling briskly towards the docks without so much as a glance over his shoulder. Wait. Damn! That was supposed to be the other way around. If you can't do something 'stupid', do something 'right'. He heard a sibilant hissing behind him and he slowly turned about to face it. At least he was getting his hearing back. Flames were still licking high into the night sky, providing an admittedly sinister backdrop as four robed figures stood before him, each of them aiming a crossbow his way. There should be a fifth. He heard movement behind him and glanced slowly over his shoulder, squinting to readjust to the dark. Ah. There he was. Pedaling off on the only pedal boat.
He gathered a long breath in his chest and reached into the case strapped to his thigh. Four shots cracked forth from the crossbows, as they certainly weren't going to take any chances with their target. With a quick pivot and a backward lean he easily sidestepped all four shots, simultaneously pulling forth the ahmdir blue length of his father's face-wrap. He pulled it around his face the appropriate number of times before tying it secure at the back of his head, covering the deathstones lining the bridge of his nose. The light wasn't far behind. The four before him recoiled as they watched, taking cautious, fearful steps backwards.
The Crimson light began to fade, normal shadows settling in across Coral Island as they danced and swayed in the light of the villa's flames. Then the four turned and began to run, disbanding their crossbows to the ground... but where were they going to go? A strange sound caught in his ear, rather, the lack of it did. Like the unsettling calm before the storm. He turned about and for the first time in many years his eyes went wide. It wasn't him they were running from. It wasn't his light that stopped the Crimson Glow of the moon. A wave approached. It towered impossibly high, eclipsing the moons and the stars above as it curled over Coral Island with a thunderous rush of immeasurable power. There was nowhere to go, so, he made no attempt to move from where he stood. The wave's wrath would be there shortly.
"Good times..." he uttered, but the sound of his words couldn't even reach his own ears.
Then it was quiet again.