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Old 01-16-2011, 06:38 PM   #214

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Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 796

Chapter 34: A Step Back in Time



Red flashes of memory, blood splattering the walls around her. Tortured faces caught in a rictus of pain screamed silently in her head. Claws scrabbled in the dark, scraping across the floor. She tried to crowd herself into a corner, but the room was round. There was no escape, and as she frantically searched for a way out, a wide-grinning mouth appeared out of the darkness baring rows of blood-covered, needle-sharp teeth at her. The face moved suddenly at her, maw opening wide, as if it meant to bite her head from her shoulders.

She screamed, and abruptly grunted, as she rolled, thrashing, off the bed and face first onto the floor. She lay there, curled up on her side, blood dripping from her nose, a massive headache building behind her eyes. The marble floor cooled her body rapidly, and she came to her hands and knees, bruised and shivering. She looked over her shoulder, past the small bed and out the window. It was still pitch black outside. She'd managed less than a few hours of sleep, and felt the lack.

Standing wearily, she brushed her nightgown off, though her room here was kept spotless, and there would be no dust to wipe away. She stepped to her wash stand and grabbed a small rag to hold to her nose as she tilted her head back, waiting for the nosebleed to stop.

Tears of fear still ran down her cheeks, but these soon became tears of anger, as cold rage ran through her. She was frustrated, it had been years. She was so tired of waking up every other damned night to these nightmares. She looked down, moved the rag, and the blood had stopped. She met her gaze in the mirror. Eyes the color of richest sapphire gazed back, and pain showed around them, both from falling on her face, and from living in constant fear.

She was almost seventeen years old, nearly ready to begin her mastery studies as a mage, and she still woke up screaming like that twelve year old that had sat there in the dark in Cazic-Thule, getting mutililated. She looked away from the mirror, disgusted, and lay back down.

Outside, a peaceful quiet permeated the city of Qeynos, it was a city at sleep, for the most part. Crickets chirped and frogs croaked from the banks of the small lake surrounding the Mage Tower. In the distance, she could hear the steady clop-clopping and smooth bumping of a horse-drawn carriage driving along the cobblestone road a ways distant from the tower.

She lay there for a long while, staring up at the ceiling, listening the the peaceful sounds of the night, trying to calm her still-racing heart. She looked to her left, out the window. The moon was full, and she sat up, staring at the way it reflected on the water below. With most of the torches along the roads damped for the night, and being far enough away from any taverns to not have the night hazed out by light, she could look up and see the endless number of stars, and the shattered remains of Luclin spread out across the sky. She lost herself in the serenity of the moment, her tiredness forgotten for a while.

She emptied her mind as her masters had taught her over the years, and didn't so much reach out as she just stopped holding back her will to keep the flows of mana around her out. She could see the thousands of weaves of magic permeating the stones of the tower, and where Earth mages had used their powers ages ago to help lay the stones and foundations of the city itself.

She could see currents of Air, weavings that permanently moved the air around the city away and moved new air in, keeping the city smelling as fresh as possible, keeping disease vapors from settling over the populace in times of sickness or plague.

Water controlled as it came into the various aqueducts feeding prodigious amounts of water to the city's populace. The power used at the far distant sources to call the life-giving fluid to the surface still showed to someone with enough skill to read old tell-tale signs of magic.

Fire was used to heat homes, guild halls, public buildings, and to provide light for night travel and to cook food.

All around her, power swirled, and she let her mind free to float upon the currents of power, reveling in not being attached to her fleshly body, not being weighed down by her broken past. She gleefully soared across the city, drifting from element to element, when something made her stop. On the currents of air she was riding, she could sense a child weeping.

She shifted her concentration in increments, zeroing in on the source of the sound, jumping from air current to wall to fireplace to candle light, until she found the child. A small boy huddled in a corner, behind the dead body of an adult male human. The mage jumped a final time out of the candle into the very air of the room, her awareness taking in all that was happening at once.

A dark elf female, short and clothed entirely in black leather, was drawing a knife from the man's body and turning to a woman that had just came running down the stairs, a wood axe in hand and blood and intenstines falling from her vivisected stomach,. The assassin contemptuously flicked a hand in the woman's direction, and a dagger sprouted from her eye. The assassin turned back to the child, smiling evilly, and Loriana plane-shifted her body to the room.

She arrived in the midst of a violently buffeting wind that threw the assassin back on her heels, directly between the dark elf and the screaming, weeping child. She turned cold eyes on the assassin, and threw a hand up as she detected the slightest movement from the dark elf. The air between them solidified, and halfway to her throat was a small crossbow bolt. Before she could do anything else, the dark elf had turned and sprinted back up the stairs the woman had came charging down.

“Are you the only other person in the house?” Loriana screamed at the child.

“Yes,” came the watery reply.

“Good,” she said, and raised a hand toward the stairs. A sheet of flame raced out to immolate the stairway, and the stones in the house screamed their death agonies in her elemental-attuned hearing as the heat melted the rock of the stairwell. She charged behind the wall of fire, protected from her own work, but cursed loudly when she realized the assassin had teleported a short distance away as soon as she turned the corner. A few hundred yards away, she felt a teleportation spell build to its peak, then vanish. The assassin had escaped.

She ran back down the stairs to see what could be done to help the man, but when she turned him over, his sightless eyes stared up at the ceiling, and she knew he was gone. The child she left huddled in the corner during this, not knowing what to do for him regardless. When she was sure the two adults were done, she turned to the child and asked him quietly, “Do you have someone you can stay with? Other family in Qeynos?”

He nodded his head.

“Okay. Come with me then, we can't stay here, she might come back for you,” she said coldly.

The child walked to her, tears running down his face, and she grabbed his hand and teleported them to the nearest City-Guard outpost.

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