Private Tales Falling Snow..

Willa

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Four weeks had felt like forever on the road. There wasn't a muscle or bone that didn't ache and Willa longed for a hot bath and a decent meal. The trio had been silent for hours, and the woman's shrouded head was bowed as exhaustion threatened to drag her from her grey stallion's saddle.

"The crossing is only another day and a half's ride, My Lady. We'll set up camp soon." Rand, an older man with kind eyes rumbled assuringly at her. He was the most skilled warrior her family had ever known, and he'd been in their service since before Willa was born. He thought of her like a daughter though he'd never say so, but she knew. The younger man at her other side smiled and passed her a water skin and she managed a soft smile that she was too tired to hold onto for long.

Willa straightened up a little and they ambled along the dimpled road for a while longer, the sound of the Cairou river leading their way to Elbion. They found a clearing sheltered by a thick copse of trees and the two men helped her down from her saddle and set out her bedroll, blankets and a pillow which she gratefully settled into as they set up a small fire. She stayed awake long enough to eat a little of the dried venison she was quickly becoming sick of, but it was sustenance.

"When we get to Elbion.." Willa's words tumbled out in a sigh as she pulled her blanket around her shoulders that were forever cold. "First thing we're doing.. is finding a warm inn.. and getting three fat chickens..." she yawned... "With roasted potatoes.. " her words drifted.. "And.. carrots.." she sighed... "Gravy...." she slept, and the two men grinned at her and shared a skin of wine before falling asleep by the crackling fire.
 
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Rhist

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The night had always been his friend.

Even as a child, he had always fared the best at night. Many of the other boys had feared the dark, had thought the rats would come or the cold bastards would take them when there was no light. It had never been that way for Rhist.

He had thrived without the sun.

The dark was his ally. Greater than the knives resting on his thighs, greater than the magic that rested within his eyes. It was the abyss that clung to him even now.

Yet it was also his greatest foe.

Rhist tightened his fingers, watching from the branches as the two foolish guards drank themselves to sleep.

It did not take long for both men to pass out, and as soon as they toppled over Rhist quietly slipped from the tree branch and dropped to the floor with a muted thud. The soft leather of his boots made no sound as he crept towards the crackling fire.

His blade found soft flesh, drawing crimson as his hand pressed over the mouth of the first guard to silence him as he died.
 
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Willa

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The sleep that had fallen over Willa was one of such exhaustion that it was unlikely that even the sound of crashing thunder above wouldn't wake her. She was dead to the world, curled up under her blankets, peaceful and still as the night should have been.

She'd felt safe enough to sleep with her two guards nearby. They'd kept her safe thus far on the road, and Rand had been responsible for her safety since she was an infant. And now he was dying just a few feet away, his eyes wide with fear as he tried to make some sort of sound to alert Rob who snored softly beside him, but his last breath was drawn as his life spilled from his throat and his eyes closed.

The lack of a familiar sound seemed to spark some part of Rob's consciousness to life. He'd camped next to Rand countless times, and the man's rumbled snore was distinctive. Rob turned over groggily, his eyes blinking open with the intention of closing again straight away when they settled on the figure looming over his comrade.

It took him a moment, but as his gaze fell on the glistening blood and he noticed the stillness of Rand's body his eyes widened and he drew in a sharp gasp and reached for his blade.
 
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He hadn't expected the other man to wake, but it wasn't the end of the world.

The fool reached for his weapon, his head turning as he searched through the darkness for the sword. It was a mistake, and before he could turn back around Rhist jumped forward. The blade of his knife tore free from the first man's throat, and within the span of a step the Bandit fell upon the other guard.

"Shh." His foot crashed into the man's wrist, his hand clamping over his mouth and his knife flicking forward into his heart.

Rob squirmed, his mouth opening briefly to try and chomp down on Rhist's hand, yet the knife piercing through his chest drained all energy before he had a proper chance. A smile flickered behind the mask, yellow eyes peering down at the dying man.

There was a slight flicker, black flecks floating over Rhist's eyes. "Die quietly."

He told the man, and an odd look crossed Rob's features. A haze floated over his eyes, and his head slowly leaned back as though he were caught within a trance. For a moment more The Bandit lingered, and then drew the blade back out from the Guards chest.

Crimson dripped upon cold ground as he stepped towards the girl, his blade slick with red as he slowly leaned over her form. She would feel hot steel against her throat, the blade wet with blood pressing tight against her flesh as he woke her.
 
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Willa

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Willa's brow furrowed and she had difficulty opening her eyes. She could feel the blade on her throat, warm blood trickling across her skin, but for a moment there was only disorientation and confusion until she realised that what she felt was a blade, and she assumed that she was bleeding. Her eyes shot open, so icy blue and crystalline against her pale skin that they seemed to emit a faint glow as they widened in sudden alert at the stranger that loomed over her.

Her heart stumbled over itself and her body seized as she drew in a panicked breath. Reckless instinct took over any sense she had and she threw out her arms in attempt to push the masked man away from her with a yelp in fear as she called for her guard.

"RAND!!" The silver-haired woman pled as she thrashed in attempt to scramble away in panic.
 
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The knife pressed down in an instant.

As the girl threw up her arms in a struggle to push up against him and toss him to the side Rhist touched the blade harder against her throat. He leaned over her, his lips thinning beneath the cowl of his mask as bright yellow eyes peered down at her.

"Shh." The sound was quick, a burst from his lips as he urged her into silence, the gaze her gave her was one of ill-patience and even less amusement.

It would have been easier to take her while she was asleep, to bind her hands and make sure that she would not move before she was even conscious. Yet this was...more fun. There was hardly ever a chance for him to do things like this. Usually they wanted them dead.

"Shh." Her hand pressed against him, and her own blood would be added to what pooled upon the edge of the knife. "Quiet."

If she gazed into his eyes she would feel a pulse, a slight quickening of her heart, and then the world would become hazy and shrouded around her.
 
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Willa

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Willa let out a sharp hiss as the knife edge bit into her skin and she stilled. Her chest heaved with each trembled breath and her adrenaline surged that her heart felt it might burst free from her chest. Rand wasn't coming, nor was Rob.. Why?

No.

Realisation hit and a fresh wave of panic washed over her and she pushed against the blade that sliced into her throat a little further, she grimaced and cried out in pain but otherwise ignored the consequence.

"No! Rand! Please, Rob!" she begged for them to be alive, but the bandit's knife had been wet before he'd cut her and tears ran from her eyes. But why hadn't he killed her?

She had been about to scream at him, her arm reached to take hold of his wrist and her eyes glared dangerously, like twin glaciers in the moonlight. But as she looked into those yellow eyes of his, eyes that she was certain would haunt her if she escaped him with her life, she drew in a short breath and everything felt.. numb.

Willa eased back into her pillow as though her bones and muscles had no strength left. Her heart pounded in her ears as though she were submerged in water and everything around her blurred as her mind seemed to fall into nothingness.

In her mind, she was awake, and she continued to call out for her guards, her family. She continued to cry and plead and panic whilst her body done nothing.

With only a day's ride to safety, her luck had run out.
 
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The knife drew away from the woman's throat, some of the blood still staining her alabaster skin as her body flopped against the ground. A frown touched his lips, and an odd sense of disappointment filled him as he peered down her.

Rhist glanced up through the darkness, feeling his hackles raise slightly as his head shook from side to side and he stepped half-way back.

The next few moments were spent cleaning his knife, gathering some up some rope and tying the woman's hands behind her back. The act was extraordinarily mundane, and at that point most men would have judged him as little more than a common bandit.

Yet Willa would know the truth of it.

At least a sliver.

In the nightmare Rhist had put him in she would see terror. The death of her friends as they bled out in the dirt, the forest lurking around her, a thousand eyes watching her from within the trees. She would see Rhist looming just beyond her reach, standing there, slitting the throat of her companions over and over again in a callous display of torture.

The revolving horror would go on again and again until finally she could snap awake, finding herself draped over the saddle of a horse. Bound and gagged as Rhist lead the beast through a path deep within the Back Forest.
 
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Willa

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She couldn't move. She reached out in her mind in desperate plea as the masked man held the knife to Rand's throat. She could see the fear in the older man's glassy, brown eyes as he mouthed her name before the blood sputtered from his lips and poured from his throat, and he fell face first into the dirt. Her own screams echoed in her mind as the bandit moved swiftly to the sleeping Rob and yanked his head up to bestow the same fate to her best friend. His scream was cut short by the blade, and Willa collapsed to her knees and screamed enough for both of them.

"Willa..." Rand's voice spoke and she looked up with a gasp, relief on her tear streaked face. It had been a terrible dream.. "It's alright little Lady..I'm here." Rand smiled at her in reassurance and she reached a tremulous hand out to him. As he did the same, the bandit was there once more, and she could tell that he wore a sinister smile as he tore the blade across Rand's throat all over again..

She cried silently as her hands were being bound, entirely unaware of what was happening to her physical self, consumed with the terror that was playing out again and again in her mind. Whimpers and sleepy pleas were groaned from her lips, her chest heaved with each short, sharp breath and a cold sweat bloomed over her milky skin.

They'd both died a dozen times over before her eyes snapped open, aware that she was moving. A panicked scream was muffled behind the fabric he'd gagged her with and she growled between sobs, sucking breath in through a raw throat. Her head lifted her head to peer around into the darkness and she wriggled against her bindings, but her muscles felt like jellyfish and the struggle was hopeless.
 
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Rhist

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Rhist stopped in his tracks as he heard the girl wake.

An unreadable expression cast across his eyes, aided by the mask still covering the lower half of his face. A sigh escaped him, head shaking as he realized that the trance had likely worn off. It never lasted as long as he wanted, not unless he maintained it.

Fingers tightened for a moment and he reached up to touch just beneath his eye. He wondered often if it had been worth it, and the answer was always the same.

No.

"Be quiet, please." The way Rhist spoke was almost polite, though Willa would not be able to hear the source of the voice until he slowly stepped around the front of the horse and came into her field of vision.

The cowl still his most of his features, only the beady yellow eyes flickering through the dark.

"It's best that you learn now." He said, a bit more silently. "It will be easier."
 
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Willa

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Willa's head whipped around as she heard the voice and her icy eyes froze on him for a brief moment before she looked away, afraid that she might fall back into the nightmare she still trembled from...

It wasn't a nightmare..

She plummeted through waves of emotions, the fear was overriding, the hatred of the stranger burned in her chest, but the pain of her loss was crippling. She couldn't help but cry and sob, she couldn't quiet her screams even as he politely threatened her.

Her words were muffled but they were clearly angry, terrified, pleading as she continued to writhe so much that she started slipping from the horse's back.
 
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Rhist

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"Please stop." Rhist said, his voice containing a surprising amount of patience for a moment like this.

He had done this sort of work before, many times in fact. It wasn't what he preferred, but it usually paid better and provided opportunities for...side work. His gaze flickered back along the road to where the corpses still remained.

Rhist hadn't bothered to bury them.

"They wan't you alive." He stated simply. "But that doesn't meant I can't hurt you."

A hand reached out, grabbing her hair and jerking her head up so that she was forced to look into his eyes again. There was no magic this time, just a look of pure annoyance. "Don't make me put you back there."

It was tire him too much, but she didn't know that.
 
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Willa

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Willa's brow knit forward and she growled in pain as her hair was pulled, forcing her to look at him, quick, sharp breaths whimpered from her nose as she stared back into those nightmarish eyes that sent a shudder racing up her spine.

She took heed of the threat and closed her eyes and although she continued to cry, she did so silently and stopped writhing. He wouldn't kill her, but she assumed that the 'they' he referred to was her uncle, and he'd kill her anyway.
 
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Rhist let out a small sigh of relief. "Thank you."

There seemed to be an almost genuine relief on his face, as if he struggling would have been the greatest inconvenience to him. In truth, it probably would have been. Especially given what they would have to travel back through.

Easiest to set the precedent now.

"Stay silent until the next dusk." He told her. "And I'll make sure you have the same meal as I."

A bargain most did not accept, but Rhist hoped she would be more intelligent.
 

Willa

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Willa frowned at his thanks, she felt every muscle in her body tense with rage. A meal?! He’d just slaughtered the only two people she had left in this world and he thought she cared about her stomach?!

She set her eyes on him, and the colour faded from them until there was nothing left but milky white orbs. The air around them began to plummet and freeze, sending a thick frost spreading across the road and trees that surrounded them with a sound of churning ice, crystallising the moisture in the air to fine, swirling snow. The air was so cold it was painful to breathe, and the horse reared, sending her falling to the road, but she hardly seemed to register as her magic took hold.

She wanted to freeze the air in his lungs, she wanted his blood to solidify in his veins, she wanted him to hurt before he died.
 
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Rhist

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It didn't take a genius to figure out that this was the woman's doing. Rhist had fought mages before, even killed them, but it was never an easy battle.

A curse escaped him as the air suddenly dropped in temperature. The cold seemed to be almost instantaneous, driving I to his very soul as though at the tip of a pike. He shifted uncomfortably and took half a dozen steps back as if testing out if the woman could still reach him from afar.

When the horse bucked he realized it was not just him.

The girl clattered to the ground and ice began to form on his flesh. He could feel the numbness already in his toes and the pain on his skin as cole began to set into his body. Fingers tightened, and then he suddenly darted towards her.

Within a breath he was atop the girl, ice crystals already set in his clothes as his hand balled Into a fist and shot straight towards her face.
 
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Willa

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Willa’s bound body shivered. She was always cold, cursed to suffer it’s affects every day of her life and never die from it. Frost formed on her skin and she blew a slow breath that left her lips in a stream of white, freezing fog that if breathed, froze the lungs.

The tears that had been on her face solidified like glass, the blood on her neck shining like red rubies stuck to her skin. She faced him, she could hear him move toward her and her brow furrowed, but her spell left her blind and her bindings rendered her unable to move.

She could do nothing but hope he’d succumb before he reached her..

He didn’t, and the punch to the face sent her head smacking into the frozen ground with a spray of blood. The pain was one she would have to feel later, for now the blackness of unconsciousness was immediate, and her body stopped shivering and fell limp and silent.
 
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Rhist

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The next time she would wake Willa would find herself not just bound, but also blindfolded.

Her hands were pulled tight above her head, back against the trunk of a tree. The gag was still in her mouth too, though he already knew that wasn't as effective as he would have liked. Rhist had considered putting her under again, but doing that took more effort from him than he could expand. Especially out on the road.

There was never any telling what they would encounter on the road, and this trip was going to be a very long one.

For now he simply hoped that he could catch a night's rest without getting strangled by the cold. He hoped the blindfold would at least stop the girl from telling where he was. He figured if she didn't know she couldn't use her magic to kill him. Hopefully.

"No food tonight." He said as he tied the blindfold a bit more tightly. "But you'll be walking tomorrow."

He'd kept the horse for today, but it would be too conspicuous soon.
 
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Willa

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Willa jolted awake as he spoke, her heart seemed to suddenly kickstart and it skipped a few beats and fell over itself as it tried to rattle free of her chest. Her head pounded and she gave a quiet, groggy groan and grimaced at the growing pain that seemed to spread through her skull.

Short, sharp breaths huffed from her nose as she tried to look up toward her bound hands and back ahead of her, grumbling against the fabric as she tried to speak.

Her head shook in attempt to free her of the blindfold, a frustrated growl tearing at her throat and her muscles seized as she pulled at her bindings.

She let her head loll forward with a quiet whine that shook her shoulders. There was a hollow feeling of hopelessness that came with her inability to see, speak or move, of knowing how alone she was, that she’d never see Rand or Rob again, and knowing that she would inevitably die at the end of this journey, if not before.

Willa gave up struggling and fell silent, her tears soaking into the blindfold.
 
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Rhist

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Hours passed.

Willa would hear the crackling of a fire. The sounds of of bedrolls being shifted, and then the whinny of a horse as it was smacked on the rear and sent into a forest. Rhist moved quickly, quietly, but even his steps would echo in the dirt every now and again.

Eventually even that noise died, and all that she would hear were the quiet sounds of the forest at night.

It was when the light of dawn touched the clearing that she would once against hear something else. It was a quiet rustle, a sound so silent that she would struggle to hear it even as it lay clear beside her. The cold edge of a knife would press at her throat, the what of a breath behind her as Rhist spoke. "You need to see to walk, yes?"

His voice was soft, but an edge clung to it.

"I will take the blindfold, you will walk." The blade pressed against the wound he'd left the day before. "Try your freezing trick again and there will be more than a bruise."

They had not specified that she should be wholly intact upon arrival.

One could walk without a few fingers.
 
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Willa

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Willa drifted in and out of an uncomfortable sleep throughout the night, her mind plagued by the previous night's events, by the visions he'd planted in her mind that returned to haunt her causing her to groan and jump awake several times in panic.

By the time dawn arrived another dream was troubling her and she grimaced in her sleep, her body twitching and shivering as she mumbled incomprehensibly. Her eyes snapped open behind the blindfold, and she pulled in a ragged breath as the cold steel pressed against her throat, her body tense as he spoke.

She gave a careful nod at his question, and as he applied a little more pressure she winced as the blade stung at her wound. She let out a shuddered breath and nodded again, desperate to have her sight back. Perhaps if she complied she might have the gag removed and she could speak to him.. Perhaps even change his mind. She assumed he was taking her home, and that was a long way off.
 
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Finally some cooperation.

He had hoped that she would comply, mostly because eventually they would be traveling through small villages and down. By then he thought he might be able to bend her far enough not to try to escape, though of course...his magic would no doubt have to be used.

"Good." Rhist said as the knife slipped away from Willa's throat and was gently eased to his side. A second later she would feel the blindfold slip away from her face. He was behind her, so she would see naught but a cleaned campsite.

The bandit was still weary of whatever magic she had used earlier.

"We will walk." He reiterated as he cut down her hands. "That way."

A hand was pointed to the left of the clearing down a bare path.
 
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Willa

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Willa's pale blue eyes squinted against the light as they adjusted, the sudden change only making her head pound a little harder. She mumbled a quiet groan that sounded like a thank you, but her brow was furrowed as though the appreciation was begrudged.

Her arms felt weak as he cut down her hands and she pulled them in against her chest as he pointed the way. She stretched out her aching muscles, and began to walk. Willa glanced behind her to look at him now that she could see again, and a shudder ran the length of her spine to prickle at the back of her neck as she faced forward again.

She mumbled again, by the lilt in tone it sounded like a question, one she hoped he'd allow her to repeat without the restriction of a gag.
 
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Rhist

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The knife he had held earlier was slipped back I to his robes, tucked away so that anyone they might encounter wouldn't see it first. Of course he doubted that would be any time soon, but it paid to be prepared in his experience.

Most strangers would not interfere, too afraid for their own lives, but every once in a while one would stumble upon a hero.

Rhist had killed plenty of heroes.

As they walked he noticed the girl looking back at him, her eyes conveying a deep frown as the gag in her mouth shifted when she tried to speak. For a moment the Bandit considered keeping her silent. It was always easier when they did not speak, but...the gag would be a dead giveaway that she was a prisoner.

A sigh escaped him. "Do not scream, or I will have to hit you again."

Something he had no qualms about doing.

With a quick flick of his hands he untied the gag, slipping the knotted cloth into his pocket just in case he'd need it again.
 

Willa

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Willa gave another quick nod in agreement, but she scowled at him all the same, clearly not appreciating the threat. She pulled in a breath as the gag was removed and she huffed as she continued walking, her gaze downcast at the ropes that bound her wrists together.

She was silent for a while, trying not to push her luck right away, but after some time going over and over the disturbing images in her mind, her anger took hold and forced her to speak. "You didn't have to kill them." she muttered and stopped dead.

"You could've tied them up, hit them on the head and left them there. You didn't have to kill them." she repeated, her jaw clenching tightly. "Who are you?.. Aside a coward." she sneered, looking him over head to toe, her hatred of the man burning in her eyes.
 
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