Lashrael Erlshade

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Lashrael Erlshade

Post by Nara-pyon on Fri Mar 06, 2015 7:10 pm

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Name: Lashrael Erlshade
Race: Earth Elf (pure)
Homeland: Illsbruic (Zeilos)
Gender: Female
Born: 28 550 (3050 3A)
Height: 5’9”
Weight: 58 lbs (most of it muscle)
Build: Solidly built, muscular, very fit
Predominant Features: Steely determination; left-handed
Abilities: Ground manipulation, sensing temperature
Appearance: Lashrael has short, dark brown hair, light brown skin, and hazel eyes – brown around the outer iris but gold around the pupils. She is short for her race, but don’t let that fool you: she trains so hard that her muscles are solid, and she is stronger than most. She dresses in leathers, though when on a mission or when she suspects she may see some action she wears her metal armour.
History: Lashrael Erlshade was born and raised in Zeilos, the largest village of Illsbruic. Her father wanted a son, but had only two daughters. Lashrael, the eldest, trained to become a soldier, while her younger sister became a huntress. Both became exceptional at their trade. At 21 years of age, her sister met a man from Nygard, a mountaintop village near a lake, one of the areas of Illsbruic with the most fertile land. Just before the family left their village to go to Nygard for the wedding, Lashrael was sent north on assignment. It was a short assignment, barely three days, after which she followed after her family. When she arrived, however, she was met with the unimaginable: everyone in the village, elf and animal, was dead. There were no signs of a struggle or resistance; it was as if everyone had simply fallen over dead, in the middle of whatever they had been doing. From what she could see, it looked as though whatever had taken place had happened the evening of her sister’s wedding: most of the village’s population was dressed to celebrate and gathered around the remains of bonfire, including her parents. She found her sister and her new husband in a hut, in bed, their arms around each other. Though she wanted to deal with the bodies immediately, she knew that she first had to find out what had happened to them, and that if she moved the bodies, she would obliterate any traces that might have been left behind. Though she has been searching for nearly 500 years, she has yet to uncover a single clue about what might have happened to them. She also protects the area from those who might, even unintentionally, disturb the scene or compromise her investigation. Since the incident, the area has been rumoured to be haunted and is now avoided by all of the population. Thus, the richest soil of the country remains unused and unsettled. Lashrael takes advantage of the legend to keep people away, and even does what she can to keep the legend alive.


Last edited by Nara-pyon on Sun Mar 08, 2015 2:42 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Re: Lashrael Erlshade

Post by Nara-pyon on Sat Mar 07, 2015 10:04 am

Location: Zeilos, Illsbruic, Arkandia
Date: Spring, 28 572

When Lashrael returned home after a two-month-long assignment, she was exhausted. She had traveled clear across the country, from the south to the north and back, and the temperature hadn’t fallen below 28 degrees except during the night. She was used to the heat and humidity, even with the weight of her armour and the leathers she wore beneath it, but it was oppressive when traveling such long distances, especially for Spring. Of course, it was easiest to travel while wearing all of it simply because it meant that she wouldn’t have to carry it, so even though she was off duty she still had it on.

She paused just outside of the house she still shared with her parents and sister and gazed at it, smiling warmly. It felt good to be home. Sighing contentedly, she hefted her bag on her back and stepped forward to open the door. She was looking forward to seeing her family again, only slightly more than she was looking forward to sleeping in a real bed and being able to take a hot bath.

Lashrael!

The volume of the exclamation made her wince as she stepped inside the door. Still, she grinned as she dropped her bag and her sister just about pounced on her, hugging her so tightly it almost hurt. She returned the embrace, careful not to squeeze too hard.

“Hello, Shalana,” she murmured. “I’m back.”

Her sister held her at arms’ length and looked her over, her eyes sparkling with excitement. “Oh, Lashrael, you look so tired!” she laughed. “Come, you rest awhile while I draw you a bath. Mother and Father are out at the moment, we didn’t know when you would be returning. There’s so much to catch up on!”

Lashrael chuckled softly and picked up her bag, slinging it over her shoulder again so that it lay against her back. Then she put her free arm around her sister’s shoulder and started forward with her. “Not much to tell on my end,” she informed her. “Assignment was a success and here I am. End of story. But clearly,” she added, her brow furrowing with curiosity, “something has happened with you.”

Shalana giggled girlishly. “Yes,” she beamed. “I’m getting married! Oh, Lashrael, you can’t believe how happy I am! Things have been so busy here, what with everything that’s happened – but we’re getting married this week Valenya in his village, up in Nygard! You’ve returned just in time – tell me you can make it, please, please, please tell me you can make it!”

“I’ve been given two weeks’ leave,” Lashrael replied automatically, though she was completely thrown off by the news. “But … married? How did this come about? And to whom? You’ve never mentioned anyone to me before!”

She felt a bit hurt. She was only a year older than Shalana, and the two of them had always been close. They had shared everything with each other, their deepest secrets, even things that they would never have dreamed of telling their parents. For Shalana to be getting married in less than a week and Lashrael not to have even heard about a man in her sister’s life was more than surprising – it was quite a shock.

Shalana was quite aware of this, and she was quick to reassure Lashrael.

“You do need to remember that you’ve been gone a lot,” she pointed out. “I mean, two whole months this time – twenty-one weeks! You can’t expect our lives to stop just because you’re not here.” Then her eyes lit up. “But two weeks’ leave – that’s fantastic! Then you can come with us to Nygard, to the wedding and the celebration and everything! Rhalyf will be so happy!”

Lashrael laughed. “So his name is Rhalyf, eh?” she grinned. “Well, let’s get that bath going and then you’re going to have to tell me all about him.”
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Re: Lashrael Erlshade

Post by Nara-pyon on Sat Mar 07, 2015 4:11 pm

Location: Zeilos, Illsbruic, Arkandia
Date: Spring, 28 572

Washed, rested, and with clean clothes, Lashrael really enjoyed her first full day home with the rest of her family. The four of them spent the entire day together, laughing and swapping stories, and she learned all about her sister’s husband-to-be. He was already at his village, preparing for the wedding, and the family would begin their journey there the following morning.

That evening, there came a knock at the door. Lashrael excused herself from the dinner table and answered the door herself.

“Lieutenant Erlshade,” said one of the soldiers who were at the door, his voice authoritative. She recognized him as Sergeant Aeson, one of the men in her unit. He held out a scroll. “New orders.”

Lashrael was stunned, but she reached out automatically to take the scroll from him. “But I was given two weeks’ leave,” she protested, her cheeks flushing slightly as her temper was aroused. “Why me?”

“The Commander has given his orders,” the sergeant replied. “I don’t ask questions, I just do as I’m told.”

With a sigh, Lashrael opened the wax seal of the scroll and opened it. Leaning against the doorway, she read the contents briefly. Her dark eyes flickered up at the sergeant, then back at her family who was still sitting at the table, and then back at the scroll.

“And it has to be done now,” she said flatly, though it was also a question. She looked at the sergeant again expectantly.

The man winced as if she had struck him. “I … I’m afraid so, ma’am. Commander’s orders.”

Lashrael cursed silently, and her shoulders slumped in defeat. “Very well,” she murmured. “Tell Commander Deldrach that I’ll report first thing in the morning.”

The sergeant and the men with him stood at attention and saluted her, and she straightened and returned the salute. They all turned to leave at the same time, and Lashrael closed the door quietly before moving to rejoin her family.

“Bad news?” asked her father as she resumed her place at the table.

Lashrael sighed and laid the scroll beside her plate. “So much for two weeks’ leave,” she muttered. “I’m being sent on assignment again. It seems the Gemians are forging into Illsbruic again and so all leaves are canceled, effective immediately. I have to pack immediately after dinner and leave tonight to make it to the base on time.”

Both her parents’ faces fell, and Shalana’s face took on a red hue.

“But – but you’ll miss my wedding!” she protested angrily. “That’s not fair!”

“The army isn’t fair.” Lashrael ran her fingers through her hair and sighed again. “Look, if it’s anything like last time, I can be in Nygard in two weeks. I’ll come see you when I can, all right? I want to be there for you, but it’s the best I can offer. I knew when I joined the army that my life would be like this.” She smiled and put one hand on her sister’s arm. “Just be glad you didn’t follow in my footsteps after all.”

Shalana’s face returned to its proper hue, and she nodded reluctantly. “I knew it wasn’t for me,” she agreed. “Too many rules.”

“You never were much good at following rules,” their mother smiled.

“Wait, I know!” Shalana beamed suddenly. “We can wait until Lashrael returns and have the wedding then!”

“No,” Lashrael countered her immediately. “It could be two months as easily as two weeks. You said your fiancé is already preparing his village for the wedding, and you can’t contact him until you arrive. That’s not fair to him. Just go through with it for his sake. I’ll come visit you on my way home.”

She smiled and hugged her sister with one arm, then, holding her tightly, reached over with her other hand and mussed up her hair. Shalana squealed and wriggled out of her grip and then, laughing, shoved Lashrael out of her chair.

“Girls,” their father chuckled, “come on. You’re both grown women now.”

“You know, Father,” Shalana laughed at him, “it’s your fault we’re like this. Mother wanted to raise us to be proper women but you treated us like sons!”

“And now I have two beautiful and strong daughters who can more than take care of themselves and of whom I am very proud,” their father smiled, “but that does not mean that you can’t be civilized at the dinner table.”

Lashrael giggled as she picked herself up off the floor. “Come on, Father, let us have our fun. I’m back on assignment tomorrow, and Shalana is soon to be a married woman. This may be the last chance we get!”

“They do have a point, dear,” their mother smiled at her husband. “Let them be.” She pushed her chair back and rose. “It’s a good thing I chose today to make a special dessert.”

“Chocolate cake?” Shalana asked eagerly.

“Lemon pie!” Lashrael guessed.

“Apple cinnamon crunch!”

“Ginger mead!”

“Vanilla coffee!”

Their mother laughed. “Just you wait and see.” With a wink, she headed off to the kitchen. In moments, she was back, a large platter in hand. On it was a thick lemon cake with a jug next to it. Both girls’ eyes grew wide.

“Guava sauce!” Lashrael exclaimed, identifying it from its aroma. Her mouth began to water.

Shalana cleared away the dirty dishes as quickly as she could. Lemon cake with guava sauce was a favourite of both girls, and she was as eager as Lashrael to have it.

“Now you stay calm, girls,” their father cautioned them, though he was smiling. “Let’s make this last so that Lashrael doesn’t leave so quickly.”

“Well, I do have to leave eventually,” Lashrael replied with a sad smile. “But I appreciate the thought, Father.”
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Re: Lashrael Erlshade

Post by Nara-pyon on Sat Mar 07, 2015 8:26 pm

Location: Unit Ai Base, Illsbruic, Arkandia
Date: Spring, 28 572

The sun was just coming over the horizon when Lashrael rode into the stable at her unit base, 60 miles south of Zeilos. She dismounted and left her horse in the stable boy’s capable hands, untied her pack and slung it over her shoulder, and headed towards the Command Centre. She would much rather have headed straight to the barracks to get rid of her gear, but there was protocol to be followed.

“Lieutenant Erlshade.”

As she was being announced to the base commander, she stepped into his office and stood at attention, letting her bag fall to the floor. There was nothing breakable in it, after all.

“Sir.”

The Commander rose from his seat and nodded at the sergeant who had brought Lashrael in, and the sergeant turned on his heel and left the room. Then the Commander turned his attention to Lashrael.

“Lieutenant, thank you for coming so quickly,” he said in opening. He nodded at her. “At ease.”

Lashrael relaxed her stance and clasped her hands behind her back, though she remained as attentive as she had been.

The Commander walked around the side of his desk. “Lieutenant, I know you were looking forward to your leave, but the Gemians are trying to take our land again.”

“Yes, sir, Commander,” Lashrael said crisply, as she had been trained to do. “That is what my orders read.”

“Unfortunately,” the Commander continued, “you and Lieutenant Jassin Oakwood are the only ones to have responded to the orders, so I’m afraid it will be just the two of you, plus Sergeant Aeson and Privates Ellisar and Kuskyn.”

Lashrael was startled. “Sir, will the five of us be enough?” she asked. “How many of us did you ask for?”

The Commander sighed and looked at her through lidded eyes. “All fifty of you. None of the others have come. Some hadn’t yet arrived home and so couldn’t receive their orders, and others had gone elsewhere with their families on short trips. And Lieutenant Katar is still recovering from his wounds from his last mission.”

Her eyes widened with surprise at how few of the unit had responded. “Then what is the assignment, sir? Our usual tactics won’t work with so few of us …”

“Stealth.” His answer was abrupt, and he moved back behind his desk. “Frighten them into going back home if you can, kill them if you can’t. We don’t have the manpower to do anything else.” He sat down again. “Get settled, Lieutenant. Find Lieutenant Oakwood, let him know that you’re here. Rest for today, work out what you need, get it. You leave at first light tomorrow.”

He picked up a pen and pulled a sheet of paper towards himself. “Dismissed.”

Lashrael bowed her head, picked up her bag, and turned to leave. Despite the seriousness of the situation, a smile flitted across her lips. She might have been offended that she hadn’t known about Rhalyf being in her sister’s life, but to be fair, she hadn’t told Shalana or her family about Lieutenant Jassin Oakwood, either. Of course, if anyone did find out, they would both face discipline, possibly even dismissal.

She brought her bag to her room and stowed it under her bunk, then removed her armour and leathers, placing them on the mannequin next to her bunk so that they would be in pristine condition when she put them on in the morning. She took a moment to freshen up – washed her face, brushed her hair, changed her clothes – and headed outside in search of Jassin.

The sun was in the sky now, and the temperature was rising. Dress code required Lashrael to wear high collars and long pants, but she wished that weren’t the case. She was already sweating: it was going to be a long, hot day, and it had already been a long, exhausting night. Still, she had orders, and even her need for a bath wasn’t going to keep her from following these particular orders.

When she found Jassin, he was also out of uniform, dressed in simple loose forest garb. He was at the top of the cliff behind the Command Centre, gazing south towards the area where they would have to go the following day. She smiled when she saw him. Standing with his hands comfortably behind his head, his shaggy hair ruffling in the breeze, he looked as if he were enjoying himself.

Wearing soft leather moccasins, her footfalls were silent as she approached him; yet when she murmured his name from directly behind him, he wasn’t startled. He simply lowered his arms and turned towards her, grinning widely. His brown eyes were soft as he looked at her, and she felt her heart flutter lightly and her face grew warm.

“Lieutenant Erlshade,” he greeted her formally, raising one hand in a salute.

She returned the salute, though she wished they were somewhere she could greet him more personally. Still, out here in the open, anyone could see them from any direction.

“Lieutenant Oakwood,” she replied, equally formally. They both lowered their hands, and Lashrael moved forward to join him.

“It’s too bad our leaves got cut short,” Jassin said conversationally as they started to walk together, each of them with their hands clasped behind their respective backs. Then he looked at her, his eyes bright. “That being said, it’s great to see you again, Lashrael.”

She grinned back at him. “And you, Jassin.” She cleared her throat and tried to clear her face of expression. “So, we have today to plan and prepare. You and I are the only ones of rank on this mission. That leaves us in charge.”

He arched one eyebrow, and one corner of his mouth pulled back in a knowing sort of smile. “Then we should make certain that we’re in proper shape before we go.”
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Re: Lashrael Erlshade

Post by Nara-pyon on Sat Mar 07, 2015 10:53 pm

Location: Unit Ai Base, Illsbruic, Arkandia
Date: Spring, 28 572

Her eyes closed, Lashrael inhaled slowly, savouring Jassin’s scent as she lay in his arms. She could feel his warmth against her back, but unlike the daytime heat, this warmth was welcome. She snuggled closer to him and put her hands over his, and a slow smile spread over her face as she felt Jassin’s lips moving along her bare shoulder, up to her neck. She turned to face him again and her lips found his.

“So much for starting the mission well-rested,” Jassin murmured against her lips before kissing her again.

Lashrael smiled and ran her fingers through his hair. “I think I’ll have more energy this way anyways,” she giggled softly. She wasn’t overly concerned that they would be overheard: the enlisted men’s quarters were in a separate area from the officers’, and the Commander had quarters all his own. There was no one to miss Lashrael in her quarters, either, as she was the only female who had reported for duty.

“You do realize,” Jassin murmured, smiling, “that we have only about three hours before we leave. You should get some rest, at least.”

She sighed and laid her cheek against his chest. “I know. And if I’m not up on time in the morning, Commander Deldrach will really let me have it.” For a moment, she just lay there; and then, with another sigh, she untangled herself from the sheets and slipped out of the bed. The night air was cool, and she dressed quickly. Once she had pulled her moccasins on, she leaned over the bed again and murmured softly, “Sleep well.”

Jassin smiled and tipped his face up to give her a slow, lingering kiss. “You, too,” he whispered, caressing her cheek with one hand. Lashrael pressed his hand to her cheek, then turned and left. Before going to sleep, she took a warm bath, the last one she knew she would get for a long time. Her own bed was cold, but she didn’t mind. Yes, she wished she could be with Jassin, but the coolness of her sheets would help her to sleep.

Sure enough, the moment her head hit the pillow, she was fast asleep.
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Re: Lashrael Erlshade

Post by Nara-pyon on Sat Mar 07, 2015 11:51 pm

Location: Southern Illsbruic, Arkandia
Date: Spring, 28 572

The path to where they needed to go was well known to all in the group, and as Jassin and Lashrael were the only officers in the group, and Jassin the senior officer, Jassin led the way while Lashrael brought up the rear. They made their way in single file through the forest, keeping a steady pace all through the day. By nightfall they were still miles from their destination, and they set up camp for the night. With no more protection than a blanket each, and each of them taking a turn keeping watch, Lashrael was more or less left on her own.

By noon of the second day, they had reached an army outpost, where they left their horses and continued on foot. The threat to the border was far less than they had been led to believe, and by nightfall they were back at the army post for a good night’s sleep. Another day and a half and they were back at the base to report in. As a reward for their work, they were promised four weeks’ undisturbed leave. They spent one last night at the base (which meant Lashrael spent one last night with Jassin) before leaving again, going their separate ways.

Zeilos was on the way to Nygard, and all Lashrael had with her were her work clothes, so she decided to stop at home and pick up some nicer clothes. It would only take half an hour or so, so it wouldn’t make any difference as to whether or not she arrived on time for the wedding. She hoped she would, but there were no guarantees.

It was night when she passed through the village, and she didn’t come across anyone either on the way in or out. She continued for half the night, and only when her horse started to stumble did she stop to rest. She was disappointed. She wasn’t going to make it to the wedding on time.

Well, at least she could be there for the morning after. Who knew, she mused as she drifted into sleep. There might even be some leftover food from the celebration for her.
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Re: Lashrael Erlshade

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Mar 08, 2015 3:06 am

Location: Nygard, Illsbruic, Arkandia
Date: Spring, 28 572

As Lashrael approached Nygard, her mind wandered back to the first time she had been there. It had been just the year before, and she remembered it clearly. It was a beautiful place, just beside a gorgeous lake, and the people there had boasted that they had the privilege of working the most fertile land in the country. She could understand why. She had traveled the whole country over the past two years – her time in the army – and she knew they were right.

Something as she came closer to the village bothered her. Despite it being mid-afternoon, the air was still and silent. The hairs on the back of her neck tickled. Something was wrong. The last time she had been here, the place had been bustling … and even if everyone had stayed up late the night before for the festivities, there was no way they would sleep this long.

Her feeling of unease grew stronger as she drew nearer, and she halted her horse and dismounted, pulling the reins over its head to drag on the ground so that it wouldn’t go anywhere. She pulled her sword from its sheath on her saddle and held it with both hands, stepping forward cautiously. She strained her senses, looking and listening for anything at all, but there was nothing. Nothing at all.

She came around a twist in the path and stopped short. On the ground, hidden until now by the thick growth, was a cow, lying flat, its legs splayed, eyes wide, unmoving. Lashrael froze, staring at it. It was dead, that much was obvious – but what had happened to it? Why hadn’t anyone moved it? Cleared it away? And since no one had, why were there no insects buzzing around it?

The feeling that something was wrong grew stronger still, and now her heart began to pound in her chest, a lump of fear growing in her throat. She continued forward, muscles tense, ready to attack or defend herself if necessary; but still there was neither movement nor sound from ahead of her.

The track straightened out after passing by a large boulder, leading straight into the village ahead, and once more Lashrael had to stop in shock, this time dropping her sword in surprise. There were more dead cattle lying everywhere, but more than that, the ground was also littered with elves. Dressed in bright celebratory clothes or forest garb, some on their backs and others on their faces, some with baskets or trays, others with half-eaten food in their hands or open flasks next to them on the ground, many of them had their eyes open, but they were all dull with death.

Her breath came in gasps as panic began to set in. She was shaking violently, and she shivered despite the heat of the day. What had happened here? What could possibly have done this?

Where were her parents, her sister?

Thoughts of her family blocked out all others, and she broke into a run. She passed bodies of cattle, of elves, of poultry, of dogs, of cats, of sheep and goats, of birds of the air, of lizards, even a few monkeys, each and every one of them as lifeless as those she had already seen. There were no marks on any of them, no signs of foul play. The pallor of the dead was natural, there were no indications of poisoning.

In the center of the village were the remains of an enormous bonfire, the wood still stacked four feet high in a ring of rocks nearly the size of a house. Food-laden tables circled the fire, and by the tables were more dead elves. Some were still on their chairs, their bodies slumped over the tables; others had fallen from their seats and were crumpled on the ground. Some had curled up on the ground as if making themselves comfortable for sleeping, and a few faces had frozen in expressions of amusement and joy.

A cold shiver ran down Lashrael’s back, and she had to swallow hard to force down the bile that rose in her throat.

She found her parents on the far side of the circle of tables. Her father was face-down on the table, one hand around a goblet of what smelled like the ginger mead that was his favourite drink, his mouth open as if he had died while speaking. Her mother had fallen sideways on her chair so that her upper body was resting on her husband’s. Her eyes were closed as if she had fallen asleep from late-night festivities, but the half-chewed food in her mouth indicated otherwise.

Lashrael had to bite her tongue to distract herself, to keep herself from crying, and she pushed herself to her feet and hurried on, searching for her sister. Shalana was nowhere around the tables, but there were several empty chairs, and despite herself, Lashrael began to feel the beginnings of hope rising in her chest.

“Hello!” she called out, cupping her hands around her mouth to make her voice carry further. She paused to listen for a response, then shouted again, “Is anyone here?”

The only sound she heard was her own voice echoing back off the distant mountains. Her eyes grew moist, and she bit her lip again, harder this time. She couldn’t be the only one alive here, could she? Surely someone must have survived whatever had happened!

“Hello!” she called again, louder this time. “Hello! Is there anyone else here? Anyone at all?”

She turned in a slow circle as she called out, projecting her voice in every direction; but there was no response at all. After a moment, she tried again.

“Shalana! Shalana! Where are you?”

She waited a full minute for a response this time, and when none came she fell to the ground, tears in her eyes, her breath catching in her throat. She tried holding her breath to hold back the tears, but soon she had to breathe, and a sob escaped with it.

“Shalana? Rhalyf?” she sniffled, struggling to see through her tears. She had never been as afraid as she felt now. She had never been in a situation like this before. She had no idea what had happened, or what was happening. All she knew was that everywhere around her, everything was dead. But she hadn’t seen her sister yet – perhaps she was hiding somewhere!

With that thought in mind, she pushed herself to her feet again. She would search for her sister, that’s what she would do!

A clear goal helped to clear her thoughts, and she rubbed the tears from her cheeks and looked around slowly. If the celebration had still been going on but the bride had not been there – and she assumed the groom also would not have been there, as the newlyweds would surely have been together, wherever they were – she assumed that whatever had happened had taken place late in the evening, when the guests were still enjoying themselves but the happy couple had gone off to their new home for their wedding night.

“Houses,” she muttered to herself, looking again. “Which one …”

She wished she were better at tracking. That had been Shalana’s specialty. Lashrael had always been interested in weaponry, and her father had encouraged her in that, which had led to her joining the army at twenty years of age; but Shalana had shown promise in forest skills, so she had learned the bow and become quite the successful huntress. But how then would she find her sister? The village was relatively small, to be sure, but there had to be at least a hundred houses that she would have to check – and that was working with the assumption that they were in a house!

“No time like the present,” she told herself firmly, feeling stronger. She started towards a house, then paused in her steps. She needed her sword. She had no idea what had happened here, but until she knew, she had to keep her weapons handy so that whatever had happened, she would not be caught by it the way all of these people had been. She had dropped it back by the entrance to the village, and she went back there now to fetch it.

Then she started to search through the houses methodically, one by one. Many of the houses were empty – she presumed the inhabitants were also around the bonfire – and where there were people, they were also dead, just as mysteriously as those she had already found. When she finished with a house, she left a mark on the door with her hunting knife so that she wouldn’t waste time searching the same houses over again.

House after house she searched and she found neither her sister nor any clues as to what had happened. It was beyond her comprehension. As part of her army training, she had learned the basics of medicine as well as how to recognize the results of certain types of attacks, but she had never seen anything like this before. With each house she cleared, her hopes of finding her sister alive grew.

At length, in the forty-third house she searched, her hopes were dashed completely. In a quaint little two-storey home, she found her sister on the second floor, in bed with her new husband, their arms wrapped around each other as if they had simply fallen asleep. They looked so peaceful with smiles on their faces that it almost felt like a betrayal of the horror that filled the village. For several moments Lashrael just stared at them. Her breathing stopped, her heartrate slowed, and she felt a wave of dizziness wash over her. She felt completely numb, paralyzed with horror. She felt weaker and weaker, and suddenly she collapsed to her knees, falling against the side of the bed. A whimper escaped her throat, then a tear from her eye, and then she broke down completely.  

She wept until, utterly exhausted, she fell to the floor and unconsciousness claimed her.


Last edited by Nara-pyon on Sun Mar 08, 2015 11:38 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Lashrael Erlshade

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Mar 08, 2015 11:37 am

Location: Nygard, Illsbruic, Arkandia
Date: Spring, 28 572

It was night again when Lashrael woke from where she had fallen to the floor. Her cheeks were sticky with dried tears, her eyes burning. She pushed herself slowly to her feet, pausing to let dizziness wash over her and pass again. She was still at the side of her sister’s wedding bed. She looked at Shalana’s face, so calm and peaceful, her expression forever frozen in a smile, and she had to swallow down another lump in her throat. She forced herself to slow her breathing and remain calm, but she felt a fire burning in her chest.

“I swear,” she murmured, looking down at her sister’s dead face, “I will find out what happened here.”

She took her hunting knife from its sheath and made a cut across her right palm. The pain made her wince, but she simply closed her hand into a fist and held it out in front of her. Blood dripped from between her fingers, falling to the bed where Shalana and her husband’s bodies lay, and Lashrael watched it fall, anger darkening her face.

“I swear, on my life,” she repeated in a harsh whisper, “I will find out what happened to you, and I will avenge it.”

Her decision and determination gave her new strength, and she turned away from her sister’s body. First, she reasoned, she would have to take care of herself – wash, eat, rest – and then she would do whatever she had to do to learn the truth.
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Re: Lashrael Erlshade

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Mar 08, 2015 4:00 pm

Location: Nygard, Illsbruic, Arkandia
Date: Spring, 28 572

Clean, rested, having eaten food from her own supplies – she refused to eat the food of those who had died, or the animals who had died, for two reasons: first, that if she did, she would be destroying evidence of what had taken place, and second, she had no idea if the food had anything to do with the deaths in the first place – and having taken care of her horse, leaving it up by the lake so that it could graze and drink as it needed, Lashrael began her investigation.

She knew it was going to take her a while, so she began by mentally dividing the village into a grid, numbering the sections so that she could investigate in a pattern and hopefully be less likely to overlook anything. She wasn’t entirely sure how she could test the food for poisons – she had not been trained in that sort of investigating, though Jassin had – but she would do what she could.

She did not have any writing materials with her, neither notebooks, nor paper nor pens, and that was something she would need. Since those were things that would have nothing to do with what had happened, she felt no guilt in taking them from homes. Besides, there was no one left who would need them.

When she entered a grid, the first thing she would do was measure and sketch out where everything was, how people were positioned, what was around them and how all those things were positioned. A body at a time, she would first examine them as she could see them, then strip them down and look for anything that either their clothes or bodies might tell her. She made notes of anything she felt was noteworthy, then re-dressed the people and put them back exactly as she had found them.

It was a slow and tedious operation, and after a week she had only finished three squares of the grid she had set up. Part of her wanted to work faster, but she knew that if she did, she would miss whatever clues there might be. But it was becoming more difficult: with the Spring heat accelerating the decomposition of the bodies, the stench in the air was getting worse by the hour. That did not deter Lashrael, though: if anything, it made her want to work harder.

After two weeks of working, she heard the light clip clop of a horse’s hooves on the road outside the village. Lashrael froze and blinked. People …

Her first thought was for the integrity of the evidence, and she grabbed her weapons and ran through the village towards the road. She had to make sure nothing was disturbed.

Just as she reached the houses on the outskirts of the village, the sounds stopped. She pressed herself against the side of the building and slowly peered around the corner. There was a rider paused on the road, just where it began to twist and turn, his face looking very much like Lashrael imagined hers must have looked when she first saw the litter of dead bodies. She wondered, though, whether he would press forward, as she had, or if he would turn away, and what she could do if he did try to approach the village. She didn’t know if this was his home, or if he had family here. If he did, how could she dissuade him from entering the village? If he didn’t, would he keep coming, or would he leave again?

She did have one trick in her arsenal.

The rider nudged his horse forward again, slowly, and Lashrael slid slowly to the ground and placed her hands flat against the dirt of the street. Watching the horse and rider, she let her magic trickle through her fingers into the ground. Suddenly the ground began to shake: slightly at first, then stronger. Small stones began to quiver, then bounce, and the horse stopped short and reared up, whinnying in terror. The rider fell to the ground, and Lashrael made the tremors cease as suddenly as they had come up.

The man stood up and reached for his horse’s reins. He was still staring at the dead animals that were strewn about the road. He took another step forward, and the ground began to shake again. The horse whinnied again, almost screaming, and reared up again, tearing its reins from the rider’s hands, then ran off in the opposite direction.

“Hey!” the man shouted after his horse. He looked at the village and took a few steps towards it, and Lashrael made the ground shake harder. The man backed away again, and she let the shaking lessen. The look of wonder on his face was exactly the result Lashrael had been hoping for, and she allowed herself a small smile. With a last, lingering look, the man turned away from the village and ran after his horse, and Lashrael stood again, stopping the tremors entirely, and watched him go.

When she was certain he had gone, she went back to her investigation.
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Re: Lashrael Erlshade

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Mar 08, 2015 9:29 pm

Location: Nygard, Illsbruic, Arkandia
Date: Spring, 28 572

Three days after the first rider had come and gone, he was back with eight others. Lashrael heard them coming, and this time, she was ready before they arrived. As before, she made the earth quake beneath their feet, and the closer they came the more violent the shaking became. It wasn’t long before they left.

The following day, a lone rider appeared, one who had not been with the group the day before. But this time, she knew who the rider was, long before he was even close enough for her to see his features.

Jassin.

No one else she knew rode the way he did, and she had teased him about it many times. But what was he doing here? He couldn’t have known she was here, she hadn’t told him about her sister or the wedding, and she certainly hadn’t told him that she was coming here.

Her heart raced as she watched him come closer to the village. She had to frighten him off, too, she knew: if she didn’t, either she would end up leaving with him or he would stay there with her, which, while she would love that, would mean that his career would be as over as hers was. But could she do it?

She hurried down to her usual spot and waited until Jassin passed through the twisted part of the path onto the straight road. Unlike the others who had come, he didn’t stop when he saw the dead bodies. Perhaps he was too used to death. Perhaps he was just determined. She wouldn’t put it past him. But whatever it was, she couldn’t let him enter the village.

She put her hand to the ground, and it began to tremble violently. She didn’t bother with the gentle beginning this time – there wasn’t time for that.

When the trembling began, Jassin pulled his horse to a stop and dismounted. Reins in hand, he pressed forward.

“So stubborn,” Lashrael frowned, intensifying the earth tremor.

Jassin dropped his horse’s reins and put one hand on its forehead, silently commanding it to wait. Once he made sure it was doing what it had been trained to do, he turned and headed into the village anyways. Keeping to a crouch, one hand on the ground, Lashrael kept the tremors going as she retreated further behind the building, out of sight.

“Lashrael!” Jassin shouted, stopping in the first intersection he came to. He looked around, showing no fear of the trembling around him or of the bodies that still surrounded him. “Come out! No one can shake the ground like this but you!”

Lashrael was well aware that true earth tremors didn’t last long, either, so she allowed it to stop. Keeping her back to the wall, she slid around the corner of the house, away from Jassin. If she let him see her …

“Come on, Lashrael, I didn’t ride a week straight to not see you,” Jassin called out again. “No one in your village saw you, but if your sister came here to get married, I can’t see you not trying to make it on time.”

Lashrael closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the wall of the house. He had come looking for her … on their leave, he had come for her rather than go back to his home. A tear slipped from the corner of her eye. Every instinct was telling her to rush to his welcoming arms, and it was hard to fight what she wanted so desperately.

“I know you’re not dead,” Jassin went on. She heard his footsteps as he moved around, but so far at least it didn’t seem as if he were coming in her direction. “Look, I understand that you’ll want to find out what happened here, and I don’t blame you for it! But you’ll need help. I can help you.”

She had to bite her lip to keep from calling back to him. A second tear slid down her cheek, and she sniffled as quietly as she could. Her throat was starting to hurt with the effort it was taking not to say anything.

“I have to admit,” Jassin kept talking loudly, “when I was halfway here and heard that something had happened to Nygard, my first thought was that you were dead, that I would never get to see you again, and I couldn’t bear that thought. Then I heard from someone else that every time anyone came near the village, the ground started to shake, and I knew then that you had to be alive. No one else can do what you can do. Trust me, I’ve been around for a long time, I know what abilities are out there.”

Lashrael slid to the ground, her back scraping against the wall as she did so, and she sniffled again. Why did he keep talking? Why couldn’t he just stop and make this easier for her?

“Oh, and I forgot to tell you the reason why I came after you,” he added, speaking a bit more loudly now – or maybe that was just her imagination. “You know we’ve been working together for two years now, and we’ve been together for several months. Maybe some people don’t consider that enough time, but for me it is. I have a message for you.”

She held her breath, waiting for the message that he claimed to have. But it seemed he wasn’t ready to give it right away, since he went silent. Actually, he was silent for so long that she actually came close to looking around the corner to see if he was still there. She even shuffled a bit closer to the edge, though she stopped before it, clenching her fists and burying her face against her knees.

The next time Jassin spoke, he was not shouting. His voice was soft, tender, and very close.

“I thought I could either find you,” he murmured, and Lashrael looked up to find him standing directly next to her; “or I could shout it out for the whole world to hear. I opted for the more personal approach.”

He smiled and crouched down next to her, his knees brushing against hers. He reached up and wiped the tears from her cheeks. She stared at him, still biting her lip, her heart pounding in her chest.

“What- what is it?” she asked in a whisper, half afraid to hear his answer.

He took her hands in his and pressed them to his lips. “Lashrael Erlshade,” he murmured, looking at her tenderly, “I love you. I thought I could keep going the way we have been, but … I can’t.”

A whimper rose in Lashrael’s throat, and fresh tears welled in her eyes. Why? Why now? She couldn’t let him stay with her, but she had to find out what had happened to her family!

Jassin stroked her hair softly. “I know the timing of this is awful, but I can’t keep it to myself. Lashrael, I’m nothing without you. You have to find out what happened here, I know, but when you do …”

He cupped her chin in his hand and tipped her face up so that he could look into her eyes. “Lashrael, when you find out what happened here, will you marry me?”

Lashrael burst into tears and threw her arms around Jassin’s neck. Almost immediately, she felt his arms around her as well, and then his lips found hers. The kiss was brief, and then Lashrael put her head on Jassin’s shoulder.

“Well?” Jassin murmured.

Lashrael nodded and had to swallow down a sob. “Yes,” she whispered. She looked into his face, and the joy on his face made her smile, feeling happy for the first time since she had arrived in the village. Suddenly she giggled, the change in emotion so vast that she felt lightheaded. She kissed him again and then said more strongly, “Yes, Jassin. I will marry you.”

And then another sob broke free, and she pressed her face against his chest. “But I have to find out what happened to my family.”

“Shh, yes,” he soothed her, pressing a kiss to the top of her head before stroking her hair tenderly. “But first you need to rest. Tomorrow we’ll keep looking. Tomorrow.”

She was too overwhelmed to argue, and when he stood and picked her up as if she were a child, she didn’t protest. When he asked her where she spent the nights, she pointed to the far side of the village, where the lake was situated. From there, she directed him up the slope to the top of the hills, where she had made a small shelter with soft grass for bedding.

For a while they simply rested, and then Lashrael told Jassin all that she’d found since her arrival here. The bodies, the inexplicable deaths, her search for clues and her complete lack thereof. She told him how she had found her parents and her sister, of her decision to keep everyone else away while she investigated, and how she was doing it – to which Jassin nodded knowingly.

“I should get my horse,” he murmured as the sun began to lower in the sky. “I don’t want anyone making off with it during the night.”

“Bring him up to join Bunker,” she told him, pointing a little higher up the slope to where her horse was staying. “Good grazing, no one can get up there without going past us.”

Jassin kissed her lightly. “I’ll be back shortly, then,” he promised. With a smile, he left her there, and she watched him until the darkness took him from her sight.
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Re: Lashrael Erlshade

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Mar 08, 2015 11:35 pm

Location: Nygard, Illsbruic, Arkandia
Date: Spring, 28 572

For the first time since coming to Nygard, Lashrael woke with the sun instead of before it. Jassin was still asleep, and she just lay there, watching him as he slept. She was going to miss him when he left … as she knew he must. For the moment, she just contented herself with memorizing his face. She was going to have a hard time convincing him to leave her alone here. Even if he agreed that he had to go, she was going to have to fight her own desires.

With a sigh, she rose and pulled on some clothes. She needed to clear her mind, and the best way to do that was to swim. Leaving Jassin alone under the blanket, she headed towards the lake.

It was a long way down, as she had chosen a spot near the top of the small mountain for her refuge, and the lake was located in a large crater. No one really knew what had caused the crater, but it was the largest water source in the country, not counting the ocean itself, which covered the entire eastern side of Illsbruic. Thankfully, there was also a rocky path that made it possible to climb up at the same place. She stood at the edge of the cliff and looked down. The water was clear and beautiful, and it looked inviting. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, moved forward until her toes were just over the edge of the rock, and raised her arms above her head. A quick bend of the knees, and she sprung forward.

The drop was far enough that before she hit the water, she could hear the wind whistling past her ears, and she closed her eyes and took a breath just before she plunged through the surface. The water was cool, but she knew that the day would be hot, just as the days before it had been.

When she broke the surface again and took a deep gulp of fresh air, she felt better already. She pulled her hair from her face and looked around before swimming over to the rock path that would take her back up to where she had begun.

Halfway up, she heard her name, and she looked up to see Jassin peering over the edge of the cliff. He was smiling widely, and she smiled back at him. When she made it to the top, he greeted her with a kiss and then brought her back to where he had now folded up the blanket and prepared some food for them.

“Breakfast,” he said, sitting across from her and passing her a wooden platter of fruit. “I presume this is what you’ve been eating lately.”

“Pretty much,” she admitted as she accepted the platter. “I haven’t been focused on hunting.”

“Somehow, that does not surprise me.” Jassin smiled at her. “You are, if nothing else, predictable. Which means that I also know what you are afraid to tell me.”

Lashrael blinked. How had he even known that she had wanted to speak with him? And about what? How could he possibly know?

“I see you doubt my judgment,” he chuckled, leaning against a tree trunk. “Allow me to present my guess. First, you have decided that you will not return to the army, at least not until you have discovered what became of this village.”

Her mouth full of pineapple, Lashrael nodded slowly.

“Second,” Jassin went on, “you want me to return to the army so that even if your name is dishonoured, mine will not be.”

She nodded again, and this time she felt her cheeks grow warm.

He only smiled at her. “And third, you think that I will argue with you about both of these.”

This time her cheeks grew quite hot, and she found herself unable to meet his gaze. She looked at the ground and nodded again.

Jassin reached forward and took her hands in his, caressing them with his thumbs. “Then allow me to present to you a proposal,” he murmured. He paused for a moment to make sure that she would listen, and then went on. “Allow me to stay with you until my leave is up. We can investigate more quickly that way, and two sets of eyes are better than one. We will also be able to spend as much time together as we wish until then, and perhaps you may learn to be happy again. Then I will return to my post, explain to Commander Deldrach what has happened and why you won’t return, and perhaps he will-”

“No,” Lashrael interrupted him, her eyes growing wide. “No, please … don’t tell the Commander where I am or what happened here. He’ll only send people after me, or send people to investigate. I can’t allow anyone to be here until I’ve found out what happened.”

“Even if he sends me?” Jassin asked hopefully.

Lashrael shook her head. “He would never send just one man. And if I have to be near you without being with you … it would be worse than being on my own. Please … please don’t tell him.”

She looked at him pleadingly, and though he was disappointed, he nodded. “As you wish,” he agreed. “Then I shall say nothing, though it will be difficult for me. But I will come back as often as I can to help you. Any leave that might be long enough, even if I can only be here a day … I will come.”

She crawled beside him and put her arms around him again, already feeling the pain of separation.

“How long can you stay?” she asked him quietly. She had lost track of the days here, and she had no idea how much of their four-week leave had already passed.

He kissed her forehead. “Two and a half weeks,” he murmured, stroking her hair. “Perhaps a day or so more, if I am willing to push my horse on the journey back, but no longer.”

Then he rose and tugged her to her feet. “But until then, we have much work to do. Come. Let’s see if we can find out what happened here.”

Taking the platter of fruit and pouring it into a bag, he slung it over his shoulder and reached for Lashrael’s hand, and the two of them started down towards the village once more.
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Re: Lashrael Erlshade

Post by Nara-pyon on Wed Mar 11, 2015 5:15 pm

Location: Nygard, Illsbruic, Arkandia
Date: Summer, 28 573

It was over a year before Jassin returned, and when he did, Lashrael was no closer to finding out what had happened to the people of Nygard. She used what Jassin had taught her about poisons to test the food that the people had been eating and drinking, but she found nothing amiss. Still, she recorded all of her findings, just in case Jassin would see something she had missed.

By this time, she had become quite accustomed to listening for approaching people, and she was in position to cause another earth tremor before Jassin had even come into sight; and when he did, and she made certain that he was alone, she smiled and wandered out into the middle of the street, in plain sight, to greet him.

Jassin grinned widely, his eyes sparkling brightly, and he dismounted from his horse and led it forward. He approached Lashrael at a casual pace, stopping just in front of her. For a moment, they just looked at each other, each one looking for changes in the other, and then simply looking for the sake of looking.

“Well,” Lashrael murmured softly, her voice cracking slightly from disuse, “if you aren’t a sight for sore eyes.”

Jassin chuckled softly. “And here I was expecting a reprimand for taking so long to manage to return,” he murmured back, stepping closer.

“Oh, trust me, you’ll get what’s coming to you,” she quipped, her eyes dancing. She also took a step closer to him, until her chest was nearly against his. She looked up into his eyes, re-familiarizing herself with them; and then she put her hands on his shoulders, pushed herself up on her tip-toes, and kissed him slowly. He slid his arms around her and pulled her close, and she felt a shock of thrill shoot through her body as she pressed against him. His fingers slid through her hair, and then he broke the kiss and held her in his arms.

“It’s been far too long,” he murmured, closing his eyes and laying his head against hers.

Lashrael smiled blissfully and leaned against his chest. She had always been short, but since meeting Jassin she had been quite content with her height.

“How long do I have you?” she asked him quietly, half afraid to hear the answer.

Jassin smiled wider and kissed the top of her head. “Three weeks. Three wonderful weeks.”

Lashrael brightened considerably. “Three weeks. That is good news. Come, let’s get you settled and then catch up for the rest of the day. Tomorrow I’ll show you what I’ve accomplished since you were last here.”

Jassin grinned and reached for his horse’s reins, then took Lashrael’s hand. The two of them started up towards Lashrael’s shelter.

“I have good news for you,” he told her as they walked through the streets of the village. “Your honour is still intact.”

Lashrael was startled. “My honour?” she repeated. They had been sleeping together for a long time now: her honour was far from intact.

Jassin chuckled. “Your military honour. Here.” He stopped for a moment and dug around in his saddlebag for a scroll. He held it out to Lashrael until she took it from him, then watched as she opened and read it.

Lashrael was shocked, and she stared at Jassin in awe. “You had them make this an official mission for me?” she breathed.

“Hm … well … sort of,” Jassin smiled innocently. “I had them believe that it’s an official mission for you, that you were chosen to investigate what had happened here because of your proximity when it had taken place, and that part of the requirement was that you investigate it on your own. That way you won’t be bothered, at least not by the military. Also,” he added, his eyes bright again, “somehow, of all the people who could have been chosen, I was put in charge of keeping Commander Deldrach up-to-date with your progress.”

Lashrael’s jaw fell open, and she stared at him. “What does that mean?” she asked him in a whisper, hardly daring to speak any louder.

Jassin looked at her warmly, then leaned over and kissed her softly. “It means,” he murmured, “that every year, I will be yours and only yours for a full three weeks – by order of High Commander Laos.”

Lashrael squealed with excitement and threw her arms around him, squeezing him tightly. “How did you manage that?” she asked him breathlessly. “Where did you see the High Commander?”

“I didn’t,” Jassin said simply. “But don’t forget, for my first few decades in the army, I worked for him, writing his dictations and sending out his orders.”

Lashrael’s eyes grew wide. “You forged it!”

“Masterfully, I might add,” he chuckled.

“And what happens when you’re found out?”

Jassin shrugged nonchalantly. “Dishonourable discharge, some lashes, maybe, and then we get to live our lives together, like we want. Or we could just run. Leave. Be alone together.”

“Even if we haven’t discovered what happened to my family?” There was pain in Lashrael’s voice, and she felt as though her chest were constricting.

Jassin sighed and squeezed her hand. “That is why I’ll do my best to keep us from being discovered,” he promised her. He leaned over and kissed her on the top of the head. “I promise.”
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Re: Lashrael Erlshade

Post by Nara-pyon on Thu Mar 12, 2015 11:54 pm

Location: Nygard, Illsbruic, Arkandia
Date: Stirring, 28 623

It was amazing how much people could get used to things, no matter how strange or horrible they might seem to others. After fifty years, there simply was no evidence left to collect or analyse, and no matter how much she and Jassin looked over everything, they could think of nothing else that they could do to find out what had happened in Nygard.

“Why don’t you come back?” Jassin asked her one night as they stargazed just outside the crude hut Lashrael had built for herself. “It’s been a long time and I’m not sure how much longer I can convince Commander Deldrach not to send a letter to the High Commander asking for your return. And if he does that, you know what will happen to both of us.”

Lashrael was silent as she gazed heavenward. It was a clear night, the moon full, and the weather was quite warm – all of which had contributed to their decision to sleep outside that night – but all of a sudden, she couldn’t see its beauty. All she could see was herself going back to the army and never finding out what had happened to her family and the others who had called Nygard their home.

She turned to face Jassin. It was difficult to distinguish his features in the darkness, but that didn’t stop her from reaching over to brush his hair away from his forehead. She left her fingers enmeshed in his hair and sighed softly.

“I can’t,” she murmured. She brushed her thumb across his cheek. “I’m sorry, I really am … but I have to find out what happened. I have to know. My entire family was killed, Jassin. And if I’d been on time for my sister’s wedding then I would have been killed, too.”

Jassin fell silent, looking at her. She could tell that he was thinking; she could feel the muscles of his jaw clench and unclench. He had to be thinking of how to respond. She was being stubborn, she knew, and the patience he showed her made her love him so much more. She could also tell that he was torn, probably between helping her as he had been so far and fear of what would happen if their lie was found out.

“Jassin?” she said softly, propping herself up on her elbows and looking at him anxiously.

Jassin inhaled deeply and let it out slowly. “Lashrael,” he began quietly, sitting up and rubbing his temples, “this isn’t going to work indefinitely. It’s been working so far – at least, I think it has – but we have to have a real plan for what happens when it stops working.”

He took her hands and helped her up into a sitting position, then kept her hands in his. He fell silent again and lowered his head to collect his thoughts. Lashrael waited for him to speak again. As stubborn as she was, she wasn’t going to dictate anyone’s actions, least of all those of the man she loved.

Out of the darkness, sounds rose from the forest: frogs, bats in flight, some night birds, even a roar from some jungle cat.

“Lashrael,” Jassin whispered, his voice barely audible, “what can I say to convince you?”

Lashrael took a deep breath. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “I mean … you’re right. You are completely right. I can’t keep putting you at risk.”

“That’s not what I-” Jassin protested in astonishment; but Lashrael cut him off by placing a finger against his lips.

“Tell them that I’ve vanished, or that I’m dead, or something along those lines,” she told him firmly. “I know people think this place is haunted. If they send people out to investigate, I can scare them off, too.”

“And then I wouldn’t be guaranteed to see you every year-”

“But that was what we had thought at the beginning anyways,” she interrupted him again. “You can still visit me on leaves.” She shifted and crossed her ankles and folded her hands in her lap. “This was why I asked you not to say anything in the first place. I know you meant well, but …”

Jassin sighed. “I’m sorry. I just … couldn’t be without you for that long. It’s not the same without you, Lashrael.”

“I’m sorry about that.” She was genuinely sorry. She knew what it was like to be alone, after all, and she knew how painful it was. “I do want to marry you and be with you, and I promise I will … but I have to find out what happened.”

Jassin drew her close and put his arms around her. “I won’t say it will be easy,” he murmured, “but I’ll do it. For our sake, I will do it.”
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Re: Lashrael Erlshade

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Mar 15, 2015 1:13 am

Location: Nygard, Illsbruic, Arkandia
Date: Summer, 28 846

Lashrael was tired. She was approaching the third century of trying to find out what had happened to the village of Nygard, and still she had learned very little. The village was nothing but ruins by now: the jungle had moved in and taken back its fertile land. The bodies were nothing but bare skeletons, the rest of them having been scavenged or rotted away. But even the revelation of their bones had yielded no clues: not a single body in the entire village had any damage to any bones, aside from the odd bite mark from the surrounding wildlife. But so many years of searching with so few results was discouraging, and she was beginning to despair of ever finding out the truth.

It had been a long time since she had seen Jassin, too: nearly a decade. The last time she had seen him, he had commented that there seemed to be the possibility of a border war beginning with Gemia, so she had been warned that it might be a while before she saw him again. Still, with each passing day, her fears that he might have been injured or killed in battle grew stronger.

Between the lack of results and the loneliness, there were times when Lashrael found it very difficult to continue on with her search. Sometimes she didn’t even bother going down into the village for days a time. She needed supplies, after all – food, clothes, things to care for her weapons or her hut – and so she would stay on her mountain and get what she needed.

It had been a few days since Lashrael had made it into the village, and while part of it was due to discouragement, part of it was also due to the weather. It had been a hot and humid Summer, more humid than most years, and between the frequent rains and the thick fog that cloaked the jungle below her almost every night, it just wasn’t worth the work. But today she had made the decision to go down again and see if there anything new would strike her, and so, as usual, she shoved some fruit into the latest leather bag she had made for herself – after so much time, everything had worn out on her – picked up her last notebook with any usable paper in it, and headed down the mountain.

As she walked through the dense jungle foliage, she heard monkeys rustling in the trees above her, and various birds called out to each other. Most she now recognized by the sounds they made. There were other sounds, too, but nothing alarming. She didn’t know if it was the altitude or what, but it seemed that most of the animals avoided the area. In her almost three hundred years here, she had never been attacked by a wild animal. Even her horse had remained unmolested until it had died of old age, about twenty years after she had come here. Despite this sense of safety, a feeling of unease spread through her as she approached the ruined village. Still, it was not until she actually reached Nygard that she discovered the reason for her uneasiness.

As she entered the village, she moved slowly, her senses heightened by her sense of unease. The slightest movement caught her attention, and she strained her ears to listen for anything that might be approaching her.

It wasn’t until she was nearly a full minute into the ruins that she realized that there were no sounds at all. The entire area had gone dead quiet.

Her heart pounded in her chest, and she had to force herself to breathe normally. What was going on here? Had something else happened? Were there more people here that had perhaps frightened the animals into silence?

She gasped and jumped as something fell on her shoulder, and when she looked, she saw a small gecko lizard, smaller than a finger. For a moment she just stared at it, and when it didn’t move, she frowned. What was going on? Why had it dropped on her, and why wasn’t it scurrying off? The animals here weren’t that acclimatized to her, were they?

She picked up the little lizard with two fingers and looked at it. Still it didn’t move, and with a start, she realized that it was dead. When she examined it, she couldn’t find anything wrong with it, but it was definitely dead.

She set it on the ground and continued forward, her heart beating more rapidly now. It was too similar to what had happened to her family. But it was possible, she knew, that it might have been ill and died because of that.

Only a moment later, however, she found a fossa lying on the ground, curled up as if asleep. When she deliberately made a noise, it didn’t move; and when she poked it cautiously with one foot, it fell onto its side.

Dead.

The blood drained from Lashrael’s face, and she had to kneel and catch her breath. She suddenly felt very dizzy. How was this possible? She hadn’t heard a thing! No one had been in the area, no large animals had been around – and even if there had been a large animal, it wasn’t responsible for the deaths of these animals! There wasn’t a mark on them!

Rising again, she pressed further into the ruins. She had to know for certain …

By the end of an hour, she knew that whatever had happened to the village of Nygard almost three hundred years previous had happened again within the past three days. Every animal she came across, whether bird, monkey, lizard, or wildcat, was dead, and none of them had a scratch on them. There were too many for it to be a sickness of any kind. There was no explanation at all.

But at least now she had something new to work with.

She set her jaw resolutely and looked up the mountainside to where her hut was. She would take the animals up there and perform some necropsies. Perhaps if she examined their insides before they rotted away, she might find some clue.
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Re: Lashrael Erlshade

Post by Nara-pyon on Tue Mar 17, 2015 1:11 am

Location: Nygard, Illsbruic, Arkandia
Date: Winter, 28 879

Winter was a slightly drier season than the rest of the year, and Lashrael was glad of her proximity to the lake. She never lacked water for drinking, cooking or washing. There was a drawback to it, however: since it was one of the few sources of water in the Winter, it attracted many animals who needed it to survive. The heat was only slightly less intense than in other seasons, after all. Despite that, however, she was kept relatively safe from animals invading her homes due to the altitude of her camp.

Things had once again become routine. She had not discovered anything from the necropsies she had performed thirty years previous, nor had there been any mysterious deaths since then. Still, she was loathe to take a break from visiting the village now because the last time she had gotten careless, she had missed the event.

Before heading down to the village today, she went for a swim and filled two flasks with water. Even in winter, it rarely reached below twenty degrees, and for her, that was more than warm enough to swim. So many fruit trees had grown in the village now that she had no need to bring food with her, but she did make sure to take her sword – dull though it had grown in the past several centuries. She brought it only as a precaution, really: she couldn’t use it to hack through the vines and jungle undergrowth because it would leave traces for people to see, so it was only good for prying stones apart when necessary, and frightening off animals who bothered her. It wasn’t sharp enough to cut much anymore.

It had been a while since she had checked out her sister’s house. There was nothing to find there, she knew, but she wanted to visit it anyways, just to be near Shalana again. Memories were important, too. She made her way there, her progress slow, hampered by the thick growth. It was a bit of a task, getting into the house: the door had rotted away a long time ago and the doorway had filled with vines. Still, but sucking in her gut and pressing against the stone of the frame, she managed to fit inside.

The squawk of birds, surprised by her appearance, met her as she moved up the stairs to the second floor of the house. She could feel the wind from their wingbeats as they took flight through the remains of the roof. When she glanced up, all she saw was a blur of bright colours vanishing into the sunlight.

Very little had changed in the house since the last time Lashrael had been there. The jungle growth was thicker, and a family of lemurs had moved in. They scattered, climbing out through the roof when she came too close to them. It reminded her of something that had happened when she and Shalana had been children: they had been picnicking with their parents in the forest near their home when a plucky lemur had pounced down on them from above and made off with Shalana’s dessert.

The thought made her smile, and she even giggled a little as she turned towards the skeletal remains of her sister and brother-in-law. “You were so furious at first,” she murmured wistfully. “And then every day for the next week, you brought food out to the jungle in hopes of catching a lemur as a pet.”

It made her wonder if she shouldn’t put some effort into making a companion of one of the animals around here. It had been so long since Jassin had come …

It was hours before she left the house again, and when she did she found herself humming a song she and Shalana had made up when they had been young. She couldn’t remember the words anymore, but the tune was unforgettable: for nearly a year, it had been the only song she and Shalana would sing.

She was so cheerful when she left the house that by the time she heard the low growl from behind her, it was too late for her to freeze or try to hide. She whirled around, drawing her sword in the same movement. Behind her, she saw a jaguar crouching, and instinct alone saved her from being killed in the very next second. As it was, she felt its breath as it pounced where she had been less than a moment before, and she turned her sword on it. The blade served only to irritate the creature, which yowled its displeasure at having missed its target, and almost before she could raise her sword again, it was running at her once more. She screamed and ducked in the tiny space between two trees before turning on her heels and running for her life.

The enormous cat roared after her, and she could hear its footsteps as it chased after her. Half-blinded by tears, she ran into a giant fern leaf. It whipped her backwards, and she fell to the ground. Instinctively, she curled up in a ball and covered her head with her arms; but rather than being set upon by the jaguar, everything suddenly fell still and silent.

Maybe it lost me, she thought to herself, not really believing it. She was trembling with fear. She knew she was waiting for the inevitable. It was just a matter of time.

She heard soft padding noises approaching, and a whimper of fear escaped her throat. It was coming, it was going to get her, any second now –

She cried out in alarm as she felt something on her shoulder, and she shrunk away from it. Almost immediately, she realized that had it been the jaguar, she would already be dead, and she opened her eyes hesitantly.

Jassin was kneeling next to her, his brow furrowed anxiously, his dark eyes filled with worry. Lashrael burst into tears of relief and threw her arms around him, clinging to him as if her very life depended on it.

Almost immediately, she felt his arms around her as well, and one hand stroking her hair softly.

“Shh,” he murmured soothingly, holding her against himself and rocking her gently. “It’s all right, I’m here now. I’ve got you.”

Those were the most beautiful words Lashrael had ever heard in her life.
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Re: Lashrael Erlshade

Post by Nara-pyon on Wed Mar 18, 2015 12:12 am

Location: Nygard, Illsbruic, Arkandia
Date: Winter, 28 879

It took a while for Jassin and Lashrael to bring the hundred-and-fifty-pound jaguar back to Lashrael’s hut, and the rest of the day to skin and clean it, and during that time they talked nonstop. Jassin told her about the war between Illsbruic and Gemia, which had been far worse than anyone would have imagined it could possibly be. Where the Gemians found their reinforcements, it was hard to say – but at last, after nearly four decades of fighting, it was over.

At least, they hoped.

Then it was Lashrael’s turn. She told him about the second incident of unexplained deaths, and her subsequent lack of clues, and then how worried she had been when he hadn’t visited in so long.

“Well, there’s good news on that note,” Jassin smiled at her after they had washed up for the night and were getting ready to go to bed. “Because it’s been so long since I’ve had a leave, I’ve been given two months. And even if something happens, no one will find me here. Even if it won’t make up for how long I was gone … it’ll be a good start.”

“I won’t argue with that,” Lashrael murmured, feeling much better than she had felt for the past several years.

“That being said,” Jassin said hesitantly; and then he paused.

Lashrael looked at him, holding her breath as she waited for what he was going to say.

Jassin shook his head. “No. Not now. Right now it’s just us.” He smiled and stepped closer to her. With one hand, he brushed her hair away from her face and let his fingers trail down her jaw to her chin. “Let’s not think of anything else tonight.”
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Re: Lashrael Erlshade

Post by Nara-pyon on Thu Mar 19, 2015 1:02 am

Location: Nygard, Illsbruic, Arkandia
Date: Winter, 28 879

By the time Lashrael woke the following day, it was well past noon. It was no surprise to her. Dawn had not been far away when she and Jassin had finally slept. Despite that, she felt remarkably refreshed: the stress, frustrations and loneliness of the past decades had all been washed away overnight, replaced with the peace she only felt when she was with Jassin.

“You look much better this morning,” Jassin’s voice came from across the hut.

Lashrael rolled onto her stomach and rested her chin atop the backs of her hands. Jassin was sitting directly in front of her, and she couldn’t help but smile at him. His hands were empty, but next to him on the floor was an entire breakfast: turtle eggs, strips of jaguar meat, taro roots, and several different fruits.

“Define better,” she quipped, pushing herself into a sitting position. Her hair was unbrushed and unkempt, she was certain she had morning breath, and after a night of so little sleep, she was also confident that her eyes were probably at least somewhat red.

Jassin only laughed at her. “Well,” he grinned without changing position, “let’s just say … you’re far more relaxed. Happy, even.”

Lashrael arched one eyebrow at him. “Considering that I’m not being chased by a jaguar today? That should come as no surprise.”

For a moment, each of them stared at the other, straight-faced, and it was Lashrael who caved first. She laughed and leaned forward to kiss him on the cheek. “I know that’s not what you meant,” she grinned at him. “And you’re right. I am more relaxed and happy today. And I’m quite certain you know why.”

Jassin smiled and let his eyes move slowly over her still-uncovered body. “For the same reason I am,” he murmured softly.

Lashrael giggled and reached for her clothes. “Don’t get any ideas. I have no intention of wasting that breakfast you’ve prepared. After that, of course,” she added with a wink, “anything goes.”

As it turned out, it was quite late in the afternoon when they went for a walk along the crest of the mountain. For a while, they spoke of anything they could think of that they hadn’t spoken of the day before – memories, the world at large, changes in the country aside from Nygard – and it was only when the sun was beginning to lower over the horizon and a blanket of fog had fallen over the area at the base of the mountain that they came around to serious topics once again.

“Yesterday,” Lashrael said quietly as they made their way through the trees, “you were about to say something but stopped yourself. What was it?”

She looked at Jassin, her dark eyes filled with curiosity. She could see that her question had broken the mood that had lasted all day, and that Jassin was once more deep in thought. Still, as patient as she always was with him, she waited without interrupting for him to speak.

“Lashrael,” he began finally, hesitantly, “I … what you told me yesterday about the event happening again – those animals you found, dead, without any hint as to what had happened to them – it scared me. You said yourself there was no hint that anything had happened – no sounds to indicate an attack, no behaviour to suggest that any of the animals had been sick. I think ...”

He sighed and lowered his gaze. “I think it’s time you started to consider … that you may never know what happed to your family. To Nygard. Whatever happened to them, it happened again, and if there’s no way to know what happened, then how can you predict when it might happen? You’re up here at night, I know, and I’m glad of that – but what if it happens again, this time when you’re down in the village, looking for clues? What if it gets you, too?”

He looked at her, and there was fear in his eyes. “If something were to happen to you, Lashrael, I don’t know what I would do. I know I couldn’t live without you. The only thing that kept me going these past forty years is the thought of seeing you again. Of being with you again. The hope that someday, we will find out what happened here, and that you will return with me and be my wife. That we could start a family – a family, Lashrael! Children! If I couldn’t have even that hope … I would have nothing else to live for.”

Lashrael bit her lip anxiously. She had a feeling she knew where Jassin was going with this, and she wasn’t sure she could do as she knew he was going to ask.

“I just don’t know,” he said in a choked voice, “if it’s worth all of this. If it’s worth the risk of going down into the village. It’s been more than three hundred years. If you’ve not found anything yet, I can’t help but doubt that you ever will. And more than that, if there’s a risk that what happened to your family could happen to you …”

He trailed off, letting the implication hang. Lashrael’s gaze fell. She didn’t know how to respond. She understood where he was coming from – the mysterious and unknown cause of so many deaths, the many dangers of the jungle, the jaguar that had attacked her the day before – there were so many things that could go wrong. The same went for him as well, of course: being in the military meant fighting, and fighting often meant death, but there was at least more predictability in the military than in the wild. But to give up now, after so much time …

“I wish I could just let it go,” she murmured at last, “but I can’t. If I give up now …” She shook her head. It would mean that the past three hundred years had been nothing but a waste of time. Three hundred years missing from the army. Three hundred years of seeing the man she loved so very seldom. Three hundred years that she could never get back again. To quit now was, to her, not an option.

Jassin sighed quietly, but didn’t press the matter. He knew how stubborn she could be.

“But you’re right,” Lashrael added suddenly.

Jassin looked at her and found her already looking at him.

With a nod, Lashrael continued. “It is dangerous. And I want the same things you do – a life with you, a family. I have been taking far too many risks.” She took a deep breath. “I think … I may have a way to continue my investigation while minimizing the danger.”

Jassin nodded for her to continue.

“If I spend most of my time up here,” she told him, her mind going over the details even as she explained, “and go down quickly once in the morning, and once in the evening, then I should manage to avoid most of the danger. If I see animals that have died mysteriously, I’ll take them up here to try find out what happened. If I don’t, I’ll leave for the day. Focus on staying safe for you. For us.”

She stopped and took both his hands in hers. “It’s the best I can think of,” she murmured.

Jassin smiled and nodded and squeezed her hands reassuringly. “And I think it’s a wonderful idea,” he replied softly. “Short of staying with you, or taking you with me, I do think it’s the best possible solution.” He tugged her closer to him and pressed a kiss to her brow. “Then we shall begin the pattern tomorrow, together.”

Then he held her at arms’ length again and winked at her. “But I warn you,” he chuckled. “If you keep this up, I shall myself quit the military and come stay with you.”

Lashrael giggled and started walking again. She knew he wouldn’t do that, not without first consulting her. He knew, after all, how much she wanted his reputation to remain intact.

“Well,” she grinned at him, “let’s first see how these first few months go. Then we’ll talk again.”

Jassin laughed. “Deal.”
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Re: Lashrael Erlshade

Post by Nara-pyon on Sat May 23, 2015 4:45 pm

Location: Nygard, Illsbruic, Arkandia
Date: Early Fading, 29 055

It was strange riding a dragon down to the jungle where the village of Nygard had once existed, but Lashrael’s thoughts were so jumbled that the fact went unheeded. She hadn’t even managed to react when the red and gold dragon had materialized out of the markings on Kyrie’s abdomen and grown from the length of her arm to being more than thirty feet long.

She directed it to the ruins of her sister’s house, and it landed just outside of it. Lashrael slipped off its back and squeezed between the vines that had taken over the doorway and most of the space inside. It was harder work every time, but she worked her way slowly upstairs to the bedroom. By this this time, all that was left of her sister and brother-in-law were two skeletons and a frame of a bed – at least, most of a frame.

She knelt next to the bed, folded her hands under her chin, and stared at the two intertwined skeletons. She didn’t know what she should do – what she could do – to sufficiently say goodbye. She had spent so many decades – centuries – finding out what had happened to them, searching for the cause of their deaths, vowing to avenge them … and now that she had found the truth, there was no way for her to do that. It left her feeling so empty.

Finally, she sighed. “Well, Shalana, Rhalyf, I don’t know if it will make you feel any better, but I found out what happened to you.”

She shuffled her feet awkwardly. “It’s not what I thought. There was no attack, no invasion … no intrusion. Only a volcano. And it’s not like it was an eruption, either – just gas coming up from under the lake.” She smiled faintly. “And here we thought we were prepared for anything life could throw at us. You and your archery, me and my blades …”

She sighed. “But now we know.” She leaned forward and ran her hand lightly over the skull that had once been her sister. “Rest in peace,” she murmured. “I’ll try to do the same.”
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Re: Lashrael Erlshade

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun May 31, 2015 1:00 am

Location: A mountaintop near Command Base Eth, Illsbruic, Arkandia
Date: Early Fading, 29 055

The hour was late when Lashrael and Jassin escaped to their room for the night. It had been late when Jassin had arrived, and then they’d had to wait for Lancaeriel to come so that Jassin’s blood could be added to the rune array on the tent, and only then had Lin brought them to their room. They hadn’t bothered doing anything with Jassin’s bag – not that there was really anywhere to put it, as Lashrael had neither clothing of her own nor furniture of any sort – aside from leaving it on the floor, and then Lashrael had taken Jassin into her bed where they had immediately begun to catch up on everything they had missed during the past century.

Lashrael was the first to tell her story, though there was little new to tell. She had checked the village regularly and though the strange phenomenon had occurred a few more times, she had been unable to determine the cause until the strangers had appeared – literally – out of nowhere and swept her out of harm’s way. Then she had learned the cause of the village’s demise and agreed to let them take her to find Jassin, and the rest he knew.

Jassin’s story was a bit longer.

“The war with Gemia lasted nearly twenty years,” he told her in a murmur as he held her in his arms, her head cradled against his chest. “I was wounded near the end of the war, and I had to wait another year before I was able to travel again. When I was discharged from the healing wing, I was given one week before I had to report for duty again. Of course I immediately rode for Nygard to find you again.”

He ran his fingertips lightly over her bare shoulder. “I looked for three days – longer than my leave allowed. I couldn’t find you anywhere.” He frowned. “The first night, I told myself you might be on a two-day foray, and that you would be back in the morning. I waited a while the next morning for you to return, but by afternoon I was out looking everywhere I could possibly think of. Your sister’s home. The place where the bonfire had been, where your parents died. The perimeter. The lake. Up the mountain, down the mountain, in the jungle … I looked for footprints, I looked for blood, for bones, for … anything that might have explained where you were. Nothing. That night, I couldn’t sleep. I just kept pacing. Wondering where you were, hoping you’d return. I knew I couldn’t stay a third night – I was already going to be back late from my leave. But the third day, I couldn’t find you anywhere, either. Not a sign. Even your hut looked as though it hadn’t been occupied in a long time.”

Lashrael frowned, her brow furrowing slightly. When had she been away from her hut for that long?

“I thought you were dead,” he went on quietly, holding her to himself again. “I was convinced of it. It tore me up inside, and by the time I made it back to the base, I was so ill they didn’t even question why I was late.”

Lashrael hugged him tightly, pressing her face into his chest. It was so wonderful to feel his strong arms around her again, but she wanted to weep for Jassin and what he had gone through on her behalf.

“The only thing I can think of is that it must have been when I broke my leg checking out a cave,” she murmured. “It took me days to get back up the mountain … I had to stay below for almost a week before I could even attempt the slope.”

Jassin smiled and pressed his lips to her brow. “Don’t worry about it,” he whispered against her skin. “We’re together now. That’s all that matters.”

Lashrael tilted her head upwards and caught his lips with hers, kissing him slowly, tenderly. “I love you, Jassin Oakwood,” she murmured before kissing him again.

He returned the kisses, then brushed Lashrael’s hair away from her face. “You’re sure that the others didn’t make a fuss when you told them we would be in the same room?” he asked her, slightly anxiously. “You said they know we’re not married …”

She smiled and kissed him again. “No reaction at all,” she assured him. “But considering that with all the couples in here, only two of them are between members of the same race, I really don’t think there’s much else that would make them blink.” She giggled softly and ran both her hands through his hair. “Besides,” she whispered, “we’ll be married soon enough, right?”

Instead of answering, Jassin just kissed her again.
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Re: Lashrael Erlshade

Post by Nara-pyon on Sun Jun 28, 2015 1:40 am

Location: Valdell, Gemia, Arkandia
Date: Mid-Fading, 29 055

Lashrael wasn’t convinced about the wisdom of it, but Jassin had suggested they go into town together and look around. It was their first look at civilization of any kind since leaving their homeland behind, and even if it was technically enemy territory, Jassin wanted to look around.

“We’re no longer in the army,” he assured her, “and even if we are Earth Elves and they are Humans, we no longer have a country. They are no longer our enemies, nor we theirs.”

“That doesn’t mean they know that,” Lashrael pointed out.

Jassin smiled and put his arm around her shoulders. “Then we explain,” he said simply. “We know their language now, after all.”

“And just hope they listen,” she sighed. But she had never been able to argue with him when she was this close to him, and this was no exception. When he pressed a kiss to the top of her head, she gave up completely.

The humans who were keeping watch over the group at the edge of the field watched them as they headed into the street, and Lashrael did her best to ignore them.

The town was very much like many of the settlements of Illsbruic. While there were streets and buildings in neat rows, there were plants growing everywhere: trees and ferns and long jungle grass, flowers and so much more. Overall it smelled like home to both of them, and Lashrael felt better about it very quickly.

“Hey!” a voice called out. “What are you doing here? Get out of here!”

The two of them stopped in their tracks and looked around. A young man, well dressed, was glaring at them angrily and marching towards them, fists clenched. There was a second young man behind him, also well dressed, but this man seemed more anxious than angry.

“Is something wrong?” Jassin asked, his voice calm, though his arm tightened slightly around Lashrael’s shoulders. He was rather taller than the two men, and he wasn’t really concerned by them, but Lashrael was about the same size as them and he didn’t want them to bother her at all.

“Of course there is!” the angry man spat. “What do you think? Your people spend centuries killing off ours, and then you waltz through here as if you own the place!”

“I told you this was a bad idea,” Lashrael gulped, the colour leaving her face.

Jassin refused to back down. “We are not acting as if we own the place,” he said calmly, putting both arms around Lashrael protectively. “We are simply taking a walk, which your council has allowed us to do.”

“They’re not infallible,” the man snapped. He stopped just in front of them and crossed his arms over his chest. “You’re nothing but murderers!”

“You’re one to talk,” Jassin sighed.

Lashrael bit her lip anxiously before asking, “I don’t suppose it would make a difference if you knew that we are here because we are deserters from our army, and therefore traitors to our country, would it?” She shifted so that she could put one arm around Jassin’s waist. “We could not be together in Illsbruic, so we left it all behind – including our animosity.”

“And how do I know that I can believe you?” the man challenged her.

Jassin was starting to get annoyed. “The fact that you are alive is proof enough,” he said, still outwardly calm.

The man bristled with anger. “Is that a threat?”

His companion tugged on his arm. “Come on, stop it,” he urged his friend. “You’re just causing problems where there are none.”

“None?” His eyes blazed. “They spend their lives killing our people, and you say there are no problems?”

“Look,” Jassin interrupted, “we could stand here and argue politics about whether our respective peoples’ killings of each other are justified, or we could simply accept that we come from two different places and go on our way peacefully.”

“Errol, let them be,” the man’s companion urged him again. “They’ve not done anything to anyone.”

“So we should give them the chance?” The man named Errol snorted at his friend. “Forget it. Better to call the constabulary right now and prevent anything from happening.”

Jassin and Lashrael were both stunned at the suggestion. “Are you serious?” Jassin asked incredulously. “Call the … when we’ve not done anything?” He turned to Lashrael. His brown eyes were bright with anger. “Come, Lashrael. Let’s have a talk with the council. I’m not sure they’re aware of the difference between their treatment of us and their peoples’ treatment of us.”

Lashrael’s heart was racing. She didn’t want all of this confrontation. She just wanted to look around a bit, and be left in peace.

“Errol,” the second man said firmly, gripping his friend by the arm, “that’s enough. They’re right. You know what will happen if they do go to the council.”

He pulled the man firmly by the arm, tugging him away from Jassin and Lashrael. Errol’s eyes glowed with fury, but finally he let himself be led away.

“Just watch yourselves,” he called over his shoulder as he was toted off. “I’ll be watching you, you can be sure of that.”

Lashrael was trembling when Jassin released her. She turned towards him and buried her face in his chest. Even his arms enveloping her couldn’t calm her.

“We should have stayed in the tent,” she whispered into his shirt.

Jassin stroked her hair softly. “The worst is past,” he murmured comfortingly. “We’ll be fine. Don’t worry.” He tipped her chin in his fingers and tipped her face up towards his so that she could see his smile. “And if anything does happen again, we know what to say. Appeal to the council. We have their permission to explore the town, and no one here has the right to stop us.”

Lashrael couldn’t help but feel comforted by his voice and his smile, and she nodded slowly. “All right,” she murmured. Stepping beside him, she slid her hand into his and laced her fingers with his. Squeezing lightly, she smiled at him and murmured, “But don’t leave my side.”

“As if that were possible,” he chuckled. He leaned down to kiss her again and, as usual, his kiss left her slightly heady and a little breathless. She laughed softly and squeezed his hand again, and they continued down the street.

They had visited only a few shops when, up the street, they once again saw the companion of the man who had confronted them earlier. Lashrael’s grip on Jassin’s hand tightened as her anxiety returned, but she tried not to let her emotions show. Jassin’s words were still in her mind, and she didn’t want to let him down.

“Wait!” the man called after them when Jassin moved to go around him. “Please- please wait.”

Jassin turned towards the young man and looked at him expectantly. Lashrael glanced up at her husband for reassurance before she also looked at the man.

There was a slight flush on the man’s cheeks, and he looked a bit distracted. He bowed low to the couple, his hands flat together above his head. “Please forgive my friend,” he pleaded with them. He lowered his hands and looked up at them anxiously. “I know the way he spoke to you and treated you was unforgivable, but please, don’t hold it against him.”

Lashrael was amazed at the request, and at the man’s actions; and when she looked up at Jassin, he also seemed startled by it.

“Then you-”

The man shook his head sharply. “Errol is not an example of a typical person in our town. Nor am I, I know, but please, don’t believe that we are all like him.” He looked up at the two of them. “My name is Tobias. Please, if there is anything that I can do to make up for Errol’s behaviour, let me know.”

Jassin looked down at Lashrael, who gazed evenly back at him; and then he turned back to Tobias and smiled softly.

“Well,” he murmured, “if you would be so kind as to show us around, perhaps answer some questions for us …”

Tobias smiled widely and bowed again. “With pleasure,” he agreed eagerly.
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