Fate - First Reply Another Test

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Noel

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It made sense. At least to her.

"Robbed sounds good. We were outnumbered and robbed," she shook her head in the affirmative, "we need horses and food as we have a vital message to deliver."

She cut a look towards her traveling companion, "it'll work."

Noel was good at being confident. Particularly when the circumstances begged one to be anything but confident. And, while she was certain that between the two of them there wasn't any actual danger the thought of slaughtering these men when it could be avoided made her nervous. The thought of what Edric had said earlier about his powers did nothing to help settle those nerves.

As they approached the trio of guards who huddled around a scant campfire one of them stood and raise an arm. "Hail!"

The Dreadlord initiate returned his gesture and raised her own arm in greeting. "Holy Crusader Aquila," she gestured to herself before tilting her head towards Edric, "and this is High Inquisitor Quintus." She truly had no idea if those were real or made up titles but they sounded very impressive in her head. Plus, these looked like foot soldiers who were as devoted to the Radiant Church as they were to a paycheck that got them out of whatever hovel they'd grown up in.

"We have vital intel for the Arch Bishop as it relates to the siege of Sene," her nose formed wrinkles and she put on that same face she used when she wanted one of the lower classmen to clear a sparring room. "You will provide us with horses. And rations."

She'd let Edric inquire about the map and weave the tale of how they'd been robbed.
 
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Edric

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Edric raised an eyebrow as Noel launched into a spiel about who they were, titles and all.

Like her he had absolutely no idea if either a Holy Crusader or High Inquisitor even existed in the Radiant Church. For all he knew she had just given them away within the first five seconds of this conversation.

Luckily, the three soldiers seemed almost stumped by the sheer confidence that his companion displayed.

The one who had stood first and ordered the duo to halt seemed to blubber something. His mouth opened as if to speak, but Noel’s railroading seemed to have snapped something within the depths of his mind. A frown touched his face and then finally he managed to glue some words together.

“I uhhh…Sir…ma’am. Why are you delivering the messages, that’s our jo-”​

Before he could finish speaking Edric broke in. His voice was stern, not a yell, but cutting. ”You?! Do you really think you could be trusted with something like this?!”

Edric demanded, trying to emulate some of the Proctors at home.

“I-err-I-”​

”SILENCE!” This time he really did yell, his voice ringing through the air. ”Fetch those horses immediately! And get us a map! GO!”

It seemed that his yell was enough to startle the men into action. All three of them seemed to jump into action, moving quickly through the supplies and beginning to gather what had been demanded.

Edric only stood there, somewhat internally bewildered, looking to Noel with an expression of slight disbelief.
 
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Noel

Iron Maiden
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Perhaps Vel Anir had made a mistake when they'd inducted Edric and Noel into the Dreadlords. Not that they weren't both killing machines but this venture had proven that they would've made for exceptional Anirian Spies. Or perhaps they'd just gotten very lucky so far.

Noel caught her comrade's look and returned it with a sly smile and a quick wink.

"Umm, right," one of the three said as he handed a map to Edric and a satchel of food to Noel, "here you are, sorry for the confusion your holinesses."

"No trouble," she waved a dismissive hand before her features went stern again, "but in the future remember not to waste your superiors time with stumbling questions." He paled slightly but nodded and backed away as the other two men approached carrying a painted steed and a horse the color of pinecones.

The slender trainee mounted the painted equine, letting Edric take the brown one. She chose not to exchange any further words with the trio and instead rallied her horse forwards at a slow pace to ensure the other initiate could keep up. They could consult the map once they were out of eyesight from the men at the runner's post.

The instant they were both on their way Noel leaned over and said, "was that an impression of Proctor Renou or Proctor Amoto back there?"

She hadn't realized that he was good at impressions until that moment.
 
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Edric

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Edric swung himself into the saddle, letting Noel do the final admonishments of the soldiers.

He only stared at them, adopting the silent disapproval that so many Proctors seemed to dole out on a whim. It was not a difficult look to mimic, he had seen it for most of his life, and had even offered it to some of his peers.

As the two of them departed the small outpost Edric only shook his head, as if the disappointment he felt was simply too much.

"Amoto." Edric answered when they were finally out of earshot, glancing over to her with a smirk. "He has a tendency to yell. Renou is a bit colder, doesn't raise her voice as much."

Which somehow just made her more terrifying. "I think that went well."

He said with a smile.

Of course, what Edric didn't see what the tree runners slowly huddling together. They spoke, discussed what had just happened...and then realized that the titles Noel had given did not exist in the Radiant Church. All three of them wore looks of panic, but none went chasing after the two Initiates.

Instead they sent one of their number in the opposite direction; back towards Sene.
 
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Noel

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Noel smiled at his quip. "Yeah, I suppose it was much closer to the tone of Amoto." He'd inherited so much from Proctor Renou that it was sometimes difficult to separate his voice from hers.

They continued to ride on, Noel just as oblivious as Edric about the huddled meeting of the soldiers they'd left behind, until she added to this statement. "I know! It went really well. If Dreadlord doesn't suit us as an occupation we should consider Anirian espionage or something."

From their limited experience it was obvious that both of them possessed a deep level of understanding when it came to the human psyche. Or, more likely, they were both incredibly lucky. But that thought never crossed the mind of Noel Schwarz.

"What is the first thing," she huffed as they both drove their horses to run at their optimum speed, "that you plan on doing once we're back at the academy?"

For her the answer was obvious. She'd retreat to her room, collapse, and sleep on her familiar bed. But she'd learned from spending time with Chasmine that some of the students had more eclectic hobbies. Such as drinking tea with the kitchen staff.
 
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Edric

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Edric didn't have those hobbies. "I'm going to sleep."

Unlike some of the more useless students at the Academy, Edric had never branched out far beyond the standard curriculum. Most of his free time was spent trying to find someone to spar with, or somehow bettering himself in other ways.

The closest thing he had to a hobby was trying to hone his magic into being more exact. A skill that he had not even come close to mastering.

In fact, part of him was still surprised that Noel had not been swept up in what had happened at the prison.

"I never sleep well on missions." He admitted with a slight frown. Even back in Sene when their beds had been made with goose feathers and blankets crafted with fine silk. The level of comfort had been leagues above what it was at the Academy, but he'd hardly slept. "It's like my brain won't shut off."

It was as though home was the only place he felt safe, ironically considering all they had endured there.
 
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Noel

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Ah, so they were both of the same mind. "Sleep was my answer too."

It was difficult to put into words just tiring the past days had been. She struggled to sleep on boats, the constant rocking didn't agree with Noel's stomach. She likely would've slept fine in Sene, the beds were truly something else, but after the panic of believing her career was ended before it had begun and the whole affiar with Edric she couldn't get herself into a deep sleep.

"I try to think about," she'd nearly let a truth slip out. Instead of giving an honest answer she hummed and hawed for a moment before pressing on, "I think about a repetitive training exercise." An innocent enough lie. "The monotony of it can usually lull me into sleep."

Noel had to be more careful, she didn't want to get too comfortable with Edric.

Sure, they'd bonded on this job more than she ever thought they would but he was still a rival. Still someone she had to regard with caution. Especially after seeing what he could do. "I do sleep better at home though. The academy, I mean. I sleep better there."
 
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Edric

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This was the most he'd learned about Noel in...ever.

He was pretty sure that this was also the longest conversation the two of them had. The Academy wasn't generally the place for bonding exercises, and despite himself Edric found that he was quite enjoying seeing another side of his peer.

That being said, the idea of doing the same with some of the others was...ludicrous. Noel and he were top candidates. It made sense that they could talk like this. "Familiarity."

He mused, missing the beat of Noel's unspoken confession.

"Do you think the others made it out fine?" Edric asked. They still had no idea just how long they'd been in that prison, and their journey home would be a hell of a lot longer than the others.

He didn't so much care about Fermin, or the Ambassador for that much, but Talea was another matter.
 

Noel

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”Yes, familiarity.” Being able to sleep in the same bed, eat the same food, drink the same water, see the same sights. It was a simple comfort, to be sure, but it was one of the only comforts the initiates had at the academy.

His question was like a buzz in her ears.

Was he just making small talk or was he genuinely concerned about them? It could’ve just been a worry that they’d failed in their mission, if the ambassador was killed or captured that is. Or maybe he genuinely was worried about Talea and Fermin’s safety.

Before last night Noel would have been worried about Fermin too. It wasn’t that she hoped he’d come to any harm, it was more like seeing an image of someone in your mind and then having it destroyed. The wound was still too fresh to process it properly.

”Fermin and Talea are two of the best. They’re probably sailing back to Vel Anir as we speak,” at least she hoped that was true.

But the more she thought about it the more it itched in her brain. Talea and Edric had always seemed quite close. Perhaps he viewed Talea the way Noel had viewed Fermin. ”Are you worried about her?”
 
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Edric

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He hoped that what Noel said was true. That the Ambassador and their two peers had managed to make it back to the Coast.

All of them had taken an Anirian ship to Cortos, meaning that there was no blocking them from boarding or the like. Even the Radiant Church would not go as far as stopping an Anirian Ambassador. Not if they knew he was there anyway.

That knowledge eased his mind a bit, though not by much. "I am."

He admitted quietly.

"I know a lot of you hate her." Edric had never experienced Talea's magic, he couldn't, but it was well known that her touch was almost as despised Meredith's. Perhaps more by some. "But she's not..."

Edric shook his head. "I just want everyone to get home."

He said with just a quick glance over to Noel.
 
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Noel

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"It's not her fault that she's disliked." Talea was nice enough and it's not like she would still be alive today if she defied the orders of Proctors or if she refused to use her magic. "Hard to look at someone the same after they've been in your head and used your body."

It really was a jarring experience. The victim of her magic was fully aware of what was happening but entirely incapable of stopping it. Limbs would move against your will, words spoken in contrast to your thoughts. You'd try to scream or call for help, you'd try to run, but your body ignored you.

Terrifying.

His desire to see them all back was probably the first time she could view Edric in a somewhat endearing light. He'd always been a rival. It was hard to see him as anything other than a threat in the old world. A competitor in the new one.

And she couldn't help but share some of what she assumed was his sentiment. "We'll get home and they'll be there waiting for us," she smiled back at Edric, "if they aren't already mounting up a rescue operation."

There wouldn't actually be a rescue but it was fun to pretend. Just like it was fun to pretend they were family and the academy was their loving family home.
 
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Edric

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Edric let out a bark of a laugh. "Yeah, I'm sure."

His head shook, a slight chuckle still escaping his throat.

"I'm sure Archon Silvain is coming running herself." It was a nice little dream, that one of the most powerful people in the new order of things would come to rescue them. Edric was sure that there were nations out there where such a dream was a reality.

Vel Anir was not one of them.

Not even after the Revolution.

The truth of it was that Noel and Edric simply weren't worth such a mission. They were strong, sure, but a dozen other classes still existed back at the Academy. Not to mention all of their peers too. No. The truth was they were on their own.

Both of them knew that. "But jokes on her. Cause we don't need it."

Edric lulled his head towards her.

"We'll be back before anyone can even get out here." He tried to pull back some of his confidence. The swagger he kept at the Academy. "Even if we take the scenic route."
 
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Noel

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"You're right, Silvain would just slow us down anyway," Noel commented returning his bravado.

This was the Edric she knew. The one they all knew from back home.

They continued to ride at the fastest pace they could muster, taking only a short break to eat some of the rations the outpost provided before continuing on down the road. Based on the map they'd obtained it looked as if they wouldn't reach the docks until after nightfall.

Which caused another wrinkle to present itself to her. "Once we get to the docks how are we going to secure passage back to Vel Anir?" They didn't have any real amount of coin their person and with the chaos in Sene she wasn't positive if the Radiant Church might have even locked down the docks.

Declared a martial law of sorts.

Without the ambassador with them they wouldn't have any of the diplomatic credentials to find their way back. Maybe they could resort to simple burglary to charter a ship unless Edric knew of some other way.
 
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Edric

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In truth, he hadn't really given much thought to the question that Noel posed. A part of his mind had just...assumed that they would find a ship and go home from there. Yet as soon as she pointed it out he realized how stupid that was.

"I..." Edric hesitated for a moment. "I'm not sure."

He admitted quietly.

Edric frowned slightly, pulling his horse into a slow trot so that he could reach back and once again pull out the map that they had been given. The parchment unfurled, and he glanced down at the route they had chosen.

It hadn't taken either of them long to figure out that they needed to head to Veren. It was the Coastal city that they'd arrived at, but if the Ambassador had already left...well they had neither coin nor authority to buy passage back. "We could always stow away."

Though he'd heard that never worked out well.

"Or steal the coin..." An option that didn't appeal to him. "Or..."

He frowned, glancing at Noel. "Go overland."

Which would mean a thousand miles and a month of travel. If not more.
 
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Noel

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Noel frowned as the pair's horses slowed to a crawl.

"Stow away?" her lips continued to scrunch as he listed the other two options.

Going by land was out of the question. They'd lose too much time for it to be a realistic alternative. If they showed up months later the academy might not even take them back.

There was something that felt... wrong about stealing. Which was an ironic feeling considering they'd been forced to, and expected to, kill other people. However, in most cases those were prisoners or captives condemned to die. It was how she justified it in her head.

Aimlessly robbing from civilians seemed crueler.

Her frown faded slightly and she offered, "stow away it is. Or we get lucky and find the others in Veren."

A long shot to be sure but Noel was fairly confident that, if they did stow away on a ship bound for Vel Anir, they'd be just fine if caught. It was unlikely sailors could stand up to the might of two Dreadlords.
 
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Edric

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Right. Stowing away. That didn't seem too bad of an option. Worse case scenario they would have to threaten a Captain or maybe shove their way around some Sailors. That would be more than doable for the two of them. Especially if Noel's magic came back fully.

His own abilities were still there, but...well there was no real way to be flashy about them other than killing. "Right."

Edric said with a nod towards Noel.

"Let's do that." It seems the most reasonable path at least, something they both agreed on and was at least morally justifiable. Though in truth, if it came down to it, Edric knew that once again he would do whatever it took to get Noel home.

His gaze swept towards her for one second more, and then he rode on.

By the time the two Initiates came to a stop the sun had fallen far across the horizon. Darkness was beginning to set upon the day, and the horses were starting to tire. He could feel his own mount growing weary, it's steps faltering, it's will failing. "We need to stop."

He called to Noel. "Otherwise we won't be making it far tomorrow."

They had scant supplies, but they could afford a night of rest at least.
 
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Noel

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Noel had hoped, perhaps foolishly, that they'd reach Veren before nightfall. And, as the inevitably of night began to fall onto their day she had hoped they'd be just a few moments out from Veren. Even an hour of riding in the dark was acceptable.

But as disappointed as she was she had to admit that Edric was correct. They weren't close enough to Veren to make it there anytime soon. They needed to rest which meant camping.

"I hate camping," she muttered. The Proctors had forced them to sleep in the forbidden woods more times than once and Noel had never gotten used to sleeping under the stars. She preferred a bed, no matter the quality of the sheets, to resting outdoors.

Still, there was no denial that Edric was correct. It was beginning to get too difficult to see.

She guided her horse off one of the passages and into a small section of brush near the road. "Perhaps here?" It was an area near the road but secluded enough by the trees and bushes to hopefully conceal their location from highwaymen and bandits. "We just need a shelter now."

In a hurry she gathered up some of the brush she could find and used her magic to construct a semi-stable structure that while not water proof would likely keep them warm and dry enough to survive the night. It's a tight fit." She stated before burrowing herself into the area of the shelter that seemed the most comfortable.
 
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Edric

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"Better camping than prison." Edric contended, deciding not to think about the fact that they were likely going to end up in some dank cargo hold by days end tomorrow.

While Noel went about creating a shelter, Edric quickly watered the horses and took off their saddles. He would have liked to hide them further somehow, but he figured as long as no one was looking the beasts would go unnoticed.

At least hopefully.

By the time he was done Noel had finished the little hut. He glanced down just in time to see her scurrying beneath the bent branches. For a brief moment he considered making a fire, but instantly ruled it out. Any smoke or light would just give them away.

"Alright, move over then." Edric said as he scurried onto the ground and began to squeeze himself into the shelter.

His torso pressed slightly against Noel as he shifted, doing his best not to bring down the whole thing on top of them as he moved.
 
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Noel

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"Debatable," at least in prison they'd have a roof over their heads. Maybe even a sheet of some sort.

Once Edric entered the shelter she was certain that it was entirely too small. The occasional touch of one another was unavoidable is such a cramped space and it was going to make sleeping here even more difficult than she'd imagined. "You don't snore do you?"

Her tone was flat. Noel was more than prepared to elbow the student if he kept her up all night with his breathing struggles. Or kick him out of the shelter altogether if it came to it. He probably wouldn't die sleeping on the cold earth, his magic would kick in and he'd sap some of her warmth.

That was a far better alternative, in her mind, to being kept awake all night by the other initiate bumping her or snoring like a wild boar.

She rolled onto her side and faced away from her comrade. Arms and legs curled into her as she tried to get as warm and comfortable as possible before trying to doze off. They had a long day ahead of them in the morning, that much was certain.
 
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Edric

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Edric shrugged, or rather, he tried to shrug in the tiny space. All he ended up doing was rubbing slightly against Noel. "Uh. No I don't think so."

He commented, but how the fuck was he supposed to know?

No one had ever told him whether or not he snored, mostly because no one had actually had the opportunity to. Maybe Ralene from one of their missions, but the girl herself slept like a log that had fallen deep in the woods.

Even if he did, there was nothing he could do about it.

Edric shook his head, grumbling some complaint under his breath as Noel shuffled herself and turned away from him. He tried to do the same, moving ever so slightly but finding that the space was simply too cramped to move much.

A sigh escaped him, and finally he simply decided to give up. Hand cupping under his head as a makeshift pillow, Edric closed his eyes and did his best to go to sleep.
 
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Noel

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It was hard to know if Edric was a snorer or not. Noel had fallen asleep fast enough and, likely due to how exhausted she was, remained asleep for the entire night. Normally it was harder for her to rest in the outdoors but the exhaustion of the past forty-eight hours had apparently caught up to her.

An arm stretched skyward as she leaned forwards and yawned. Daylight had just broken yet the chill of the night still lingered in the air. Noel shivered and stood from their makeshift shelter, hip brushing against Edric's side as she fully sat up.

"It's cold." She huddled in place with her arms and noticed that she could see her breath upon exhale.

Strange. It shouldn't have gotten so cold in such a short time? Maybe if she crowded around the horses their body heat could warm her up a bit. Only that presented another problem... the horses were gone.

Her throat got tight and she called out, "did you not tie down the horses?"

Off in the distance she heard a whinnying from one of them and she stood, moving in the direction of the sound. "Hopefully they didn't get off too far!" Her arms crossed and she continued to shiver as she hoped for warmth. The temperature kept dropping though, colder and colder.

And then Noel found herself struck by a cloud of frost, wincing in pain from the sudden breeze, and doubling over.

A man dressed in the armaments of the Radiant Church stood over her, their horses behind him. Clearly, a mage had been sent to capture or kill the two escaped Dreadlords.
 
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Edric

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Edric woke as he felt Noel's hip brushing against his. A tired weariness pulled at his mind, the power suffused beneath his skin having kept him from falling into any sort of deep sleep.

For most of the night he had dreamed. Stoke by the lives he had taken, he'd seen horrors that would have made even a few Proctors balk. Some of the images still floated in his mind, the echoing screams ringing in his ear as though they were right besides him. A frown tugged at his lips as he tried to push it all away, tried to focus on the day ahead.

Then he heard Noel call out.

"Of course I tied them up! I'm not an id-" Eyes immediately snapped open.

In a whirl of movement Edric darted out of the shelter and I to the small clearing. His head immediately turned on a swivel, searching through the forest until he caught sight of the bright red robe Noel had been wearing. He saw here, half sprawled on the ground as a man in the regalia of the Radiant Church stood over her.

A curse echoed from his lips, and he quickly darted forward.

He pulled the magic within him into his muscles. His body strengthening as he rushed through the clearing. Within seconds Edric reached Noel, and with a roar leaped into the air to tackle the enemies mage.

The man turned his head, bright vibrant blue eyes set into olive skin. He caught sight of Edric and then as the Initiate reached to strike him...suddenly exploded in a cloud of freezing mist. Edric's palm swiped through it, frost immediately casting over his flesh and digging into his skin. The cloud itself seemed to flicker, and then drew back.

Mere moments later the mage snapped back into being, a laugh cackling from his throat.
 
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Noel

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It was too cold. The sudden temperature drop from the frost cloud prickled at her skin like a thousand tiny cuts. Her teeth chattered involuntarily almost immediately while the extremities of her limbs started to go numb. Whatever the frost mage had just done to her wasn't sustainable for long. If he kept coming with such a drop in the ambient air frostbite would surely set in.

Ignoring the pain she rose to her feet, legs wobbly, eyes burning with rage.

"You-u c-c-fucking-g c-c-," an extraordinarily cold hand grasped at Edric's shoulder as she steadied herself, "c-c-I'mmm g-g-going c-c-t-t-to k-kill."

Her words were interrupted by a loud and continuous guffaw that crescendoed into a booming, scratchy, voice. "I only have to bring one of you back alive," he placed a hand on his hip and his piercing azure eyes seemed to stare straight through the duo of Dreadlord initiates, "or I could take you both back, just let me break your legs and neither of you have to die."

As he prattled on Noel continued to steady herself, warmth slowly returning to her joints, her mind focusing in on the scant few pieces of platinum she had. Their attacker began to speak again and almost immediately she flung all of the metal she had available to her directly towards his chest.

If it connected she'd impale his heart, end this freak right here and now.

There was no connection though, instead another puff of white crystalline fog appeared and her metal sailed through it. Ice encompassed the shards of platinum and they fell to the forest floor. The mist sailed upwards into a tree branch and then...

Suddenly, without warning, spikes of ice came rushing towards the pair of students.
 
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Edric

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There wasn't any thought to it, any hesitation.

The air itself seemed to shimmer, shift, dozens upon dozens of spikes of ice forming in the air and suddenly hurled forward towards the two Imitates. Edric seemed to move in a blur, a single beat of the heart passing as he stepped in front of Noel.

His arm half wrapped around her, pushing her back as the spikes jutted forward.

The sickening sound of torn flesh echoed out in the clearing. Dozens of shards of glass like ice embedding themselves within Edric's flesh. They pierced through his skin and dug into his muscles, blood welling from the wounds.

A cough echoed from his throat, blood spilling down Edric's chin.

He collapsed to his knees, eyes staring into the distance.
 
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Noel

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Noel felt Edric grab and twist her, the whole thing happened so quickly she could hardly resist it. Then she felt the impact of icy stakes punching holes into his back. He fell to his knees and, oh god, there was blood everywhere.

This wasn't happening. Couldn't be happening.

Her chin quivered, a mixture of the cold she still felt in her bones, concern for Edric, and that primal fear that one only felt when they were in a life-or-death moment. "E-e-edric-cc-c?"

A white fog floated and formed the shape of a man, slowly materializing back into a solid shape.

He kept laughing, kept that awful and grating laughter echoing through the trees. All while taking deliberate steps closer and closer towards them. Edric was in no position to fight, she truly didn't even know if he was even still alive... there was just so much blood. It was up to her now, she had to stand against this threat and end him. For her own life and for Ed's.

"That's one down, now let's make this easy. I snap a leg, break a wrist, haul you off. Easy." More laughter, he kept coming closer.

Noel drew the iron shortblade she'd carried since Sene. Still shaking, still cold, she'd fight him off until her dying breath if that's what it took.

He was right on top of them now and Noel thrust the blade forwards, it was met with a chunk of ice and another blast from his frosty mist. She felt the pain sear over her flesh, the deep cold that was so draining, and she bent over again. Trying desperately to keep herself warm.

A gloved hand reached down and grabbed a clump of black hair, pulling her upwards to meet his gaze.

The terrified initiate stared into this man's vivid blue eyes. Then, a last minute gamble, one last hope to survive this. Her platinum-lined hairband surged off of her skull and sliced their pursuer's throat as deeply as she could manage until he faded into his white mist-form again. A split second later he returned to his human form, blood rushing down his chest, terror in his eyes for a change.

Noel and the ice mage collapsed one after the other. She laid on the ground, shivering and recoiling in pain.

"C-c-c-Edric-c," he still wasn't responding.
 
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