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Essence 6
Essence 6
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Posts: 1072
Joined: 28 Jan 2006, 00:42
Title: Splinter of Mokrelus
Exalt: Elemental
Fighting Style: Spell-Fu
Artifact: The Crucible of Tarim
Location: Toronto

Twilight of the Second Age, Ch2, Sc8 - Mother's Loss

02 May 2006, 01:14

Table of Contents (Warning: Off-site)

The fire crackled in the dusk, sending sparks into the air. Kieran mumbled, twitching, and Elena brushed away sweat from his forehead, looking down at him.

“When will he wake up?” Nia spoke up from where she was sitting, as close to the fire as possible. Her eyes glittered in the firelight, worry and sadness mixing in them.

“I don’t know.” Khory leaned back against a rock, reaching up to rub at the poultice on his arm before stopping himself with visible effort. “If he were mortal, I’d say there wasn’t a chance in heaven he’d survive. But he’s lasted a day and a half, he’ll pull through. Imagine he’ll wake up in the next couple’a days.” He sighed, shaking his head, and looked out into the night. “Hope those Dynasts don’t recover faster. They follow us, we’re dead meat.”

“I’m sorry. I should have done more to help.” Nia shrank inwards, staring down at the ground, and Khory smiled faintly, reaching over to pat her back with a beefy hand.

“Don’t beat yerself up, kid. What were you gonna do against three Dynasts? It was more than good enough you got the cart outside’a town before anyone tried to lock it down, and stealing their horses to pull it faster, well... smacks of poetry, that does. We’d never have gotten this far this fast without it.”

Elena nodded. “Yeah, you’ve helped out a lot, Nia.”

For a few moments, the three fell silent. Khory fished for something to chew, settling on a piece of dried apple, and Nia lay back, looking up at the stars. Finally, Khory spoke up, around the food in his mouth. “Alright, Elena, what is it?”

“What is what?” Elena looked over at him defensively.

“You’ve been real quiet since we left Gremell’s Reach. I know that Dynast beatcha, but it’s not yer fault.” Khory smiled. “I just had a lucky shot; under any normal situation, he’d have wiped the floor with me.” He raised his injured arm for emphasis.

“It’s not that.” Elena paused, and looked down at Kieran, and then sighed, turning her attention to the fire. “At least… it’s not exactly that.” She reached down, brushing a strand of hair away from Kieran’s face, and spoke softly. “Six years. Sometimes it seems like my whole life. It’s funny, the way that someone can just slip in like that. You turn around one day, and you’ve built your life around them.” Light and shadow played across her face as she looked up, and she took a deep breath. “Other times, when I close my eyes, I can still see that little kid.”

“How’d you meet him?” Khory leaned forwards, and Nia followed his lead, listening intently.

“Used to be a caravan guard, down south.” She sighed, and then chuckled sadly. “At least, south from here. We ran trips from Sijan to Thorns, detouring through the Hundred Kingdoms. I was damned good, too. The caravan master said I was his best – got pretty famous for beating a hobgoblin in single combat, even if I was damned lucky at the time.”

“Anyway, Kieran’s dad signed up with us, and he brought his family along. He’d lived in Thorns, but he wanted to see the world; he’d sell his wares at our stop, and outfit the caravan in exchange for some extra money and the guarantee of protection. Our first trip out, he saved my life. I got cut up by an omen dog, and he patched me up with some alchemy or other.” She smiled, lost in memory. “We started chatting after that. Just friends, mind you. His wife was the sweetest thing, but try to haggle with her and she’d end up owning everything.” She chuckled, and then looked down at Kieran. “Even back then, he was a handful. Just learning his boundaries, thirteen years old. Some places, they’d have been looking for a wife for him, but his father just gave him space to find his way, and he travelled along with us.”

“Third trip, though, a little over a year after they’d signed on, we ran into trouble. I still don’t know exactly what caused it, but I have my suspicions. It doesn’t really matter what the causes were, though, not this far after the fact.” Her smile gone, Elena leaned forwards and stirred the fire, watching it as though it would summon up the distant past. “What matters is the results. Well-paid bandits attacked the caravan one evening. We fought them off, but they took wares with them, and they killed a lot of people. Kieran’s parents hadn’t been close by when the attack came, and…” She broke off, looking back down at him, and Khory nodded.

“Crap. It’s a hard world out there sometimes, ain’t it?”

“It sure is.” Elena sighed, leaning back. “Anyway, Kieran was still really a kid. Fourteen’s old, but not old enough, and his parents were my friends, so I took him in, taught him swordplay to go with the thaumaturgy he was picking up here and there. That caravan dissolved after that trip – too many dead, too much blame – and we started drifting from place to place. I always watched over him, and protected him.”

The silence that followed this stretched for a few moments, and Elena was surprised when Nia was the one who broke it, her voice, as usual, barely more than a whisper, with that hint of uncertainty. “And now you can’t.”

Elena nodded. “He’s Exalted now. On the mountain, he was fighting in a league that I’ll never be able to reach, and he didn’t stand a chance against that Dragon-Blood. He has enemies coming after him that are so far past me in skill that I might as well be a babe in the woods. And it’s only going to get worse. He’s just going to get stronger – as long as he survives – and I’m not going to be able to help him.” She sighed, looking up at the other two. “And I don’t know what to do.”

“Just be there for him.” Khory smiled, lying back and looking up at the sky. “You can still try to teach him what you know – I wager you’ve got a lot of knowledge over him yet – and maybe it’ll help him just to have someone around.”

Elena nodded slowly, but her expression didn’t change. She looked back down at the boy she knew, and wondered when she would have to let him go.
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