Private Tales Old Wounds, A Fateful Encounter

Uvogin

Captain of the Immortals
The Empire
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A reoccurring dream often stole sleep from the fearsome Captain of the Immortals. He'd woke up in a cold sweat because of it. It was late in the evening, at a time when nobody had any business being awake. Uvogin flopped in his bed many times in a vain attempt to fall back asleep, but never could. He decided to go for a walk in the dark, empty halls of the palace before trying to sleep again and ended up outside in the gardens, gazing up at the stars. The dream was neither a fantasy, nor was it a nightmare; naught was it an illusion conjured by his mind. It was a vivid memory from the eyes of a pitiful child of the Black Bay of Cerak At'Thul.


"'Vo," a young girl with straight brown hair tugged at the boy's sleeve which loosely hung off of skinny wrists. Dark, wavy locks fell over his eyes and freckled nose. "'Vo, come on! I a'nt missing out on this again because of you!"

"Wha'?" the boy groggily responded to the jostling that the girl gave him. Just when he had fallen to a peaceful slumber, she woke him up. Typical.

"Ships!" she beamed, "lots of 'em!"

Lots of ships were a good thing. Meant coin would pass from one hand to the other. Meant that everyone had a chance for some coin.

Even slaves.

Holey boots sunk into ashy-colored mud (how the dirt even got that color was a question the boy always asked himself) as the pair hurried to the bay. She was right. There were lots of ships. "Let's get closer, 'Vo." But before he could protest, she'd bounced off, and he lost her in the crowd.

And he never saw her again.



The strong, terrifying Immortal sat on a stone bench looking anything but strong or terrifying. The night was eerily silent, save for the sound of water running through a nearby fountain. Uvogin sat back into the bench, his legs outstretched, as he gazed up above at the stars, picking out one constellation after another.
 
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Kailyn

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Kailyn was standing, half-hidden by some hydrangea bushes. Feet were bare, toes curling into the soft, cool grass. She didn't think she'd ever get used to it. That it wouldn't be a novelty for her. Cerak At'Thul never had grass. And the rest of her life she'd spent in the burning deserts of this land. An easel was set-up in front of her and she happened to be facing the direction of the bench in the gardens. Parchment was tempered down and her fingers gripped a long stick of charcoal. The moon was full tonight, which made for enough lighting to draw. Yet not enough lighting to see who suddenly interrupted her view.

She couldn't sleep and didn't know there was another restless spirit about.

Amber eyes squinted in the semi-darkness. Gerra's guards still scared her. And she didn't want to be mistaken for an intruder in the gardens. What if that person on the bench was an intruder? Because who else would be about at this time of night and alone?

Lips pinched together nervously.

She might be able to stay quiet here - unseen. But she didn't want to take that risk. And if it was an intruder, she bet she could outrun him if she needed to. Yell for the guards that she still feared.

There was a gentle clearing of her throat.

"Excuse me. Sir? Would you mind moving to a different bench? I'm trying to finish my drawing."
 
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Uvogin

Captain of the Immortals
The Empire
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Uvogin frowned up at the stars. He knew every constellation in the night sky, but looking at them for too long picked at the scab that never quite healed right.

Why’d he go stargazing, especially after that dream? Stupid-

Somebody behind him and off to the side cleared their throat, which startled the captain. His shoulders visibly shook, and his head whipped around.

They were only about fifteen feet apart, so it confused Uvogin as to how he hadn’t noticed her earlier. Had he been that distracted by his thoughts?

He looked at the woman, who was impossibly beautiful under the moonlight, with his jaw hanging open. He couldn’t quite process what she’d said.

Well, who was up drawing at this hour?

“Drawing?” He flatly echoed.
 
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Kailyn

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Chin lifted as if this wasn't the strangest thing to be doing at this hour, in this place, alone.

"Yes," eyes darted to the path that lead back to her apartment. Should she be scared? Gerra had promised her safety. Even though she knew it was a promise he had no right to make. Safety was an illusion. It always had been - her entire life.

She'd only ever felt a modicum of it with one person for a very short time. But even that boy on the island of sharp and unforgiving rocks hadn't been able to stop her from being taken away. Taken in chains and iron aboard that ship that eventually found its way to this land of dunes and unforgiving sun.

A half step back in the cool grass. A pause. No, she didn't have to leave. Did she? She didn't have to meekly follow orders or her fear anymore.

Right?

Tongue darted across dry lips. She swallowed.

"I'm not looking for trouble. If you're an intruder I will call for Gerra's guards."
 
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Uvogin

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Uvogin turned in the bench to face her and blankly stared at her.

"I am the captain of his guards."

Even under the moonlight, he couldn't quite see her there. Uvogin stood, rounded the bench, and carefully approached the woman- not exercising caution because he thought she was a threat, but more so out of respect for her.

He was an imposing man. Or so he was told.

"You have the energy to draw this late?" Uvogin's eyes studied the easel for a moment before falling back to the woman. He immediately recognized her now.

"You're the slave from Salitra."
 
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Kailyn

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"Oh," she whispered, feeling foolish and thankful for the nigh to hide her blunder. Of course she threatened the Captain of the guards with his own guards. And he was an intimidating man. Broad-shouldered. Confident in his footsteps. That unwavering gaze and the intensity behind eyes that were moonlit.

There was something familiar in his voice. Those eyes. But she couldn't quite place it. Brow scrunched in thought for a moment, fingers coming up to idly tuck strands of brown behind one curved ear. He may see the trident tattoo of Cerak At'Thul on her wrist as she did that. Then again, he may not. It was dark between them.

"Yes," she willed herself not to step away from him as he approached. She wasn't sure but she wasn't tall either. Hand fell back to her side, fingers curling around her wrist to clasp in front of her.

"I do and I am. You're the one with the mask? The one that escorted me to Gerra's tent?" That mask and that armor. How different he looked without it. Still a formidable man. But perhaps more accessible now. More human.

"Sometimes it's easier to find the energy to draw at night than it is to succumb to images from the past I'd rather forget." It was a quiet confession. He wasn't wearing his armor or mask. She had to wonder...

"Were you making rounds?"
 

Uvogin

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He folded his arms behind his back and nodded, “That was me. I’m surprised to see you here.”

Uvogin could, very personally, understand wanting to escape a haunting past.

“No, no. Even I don’t work this late. You draw, but I merely wander to distract myself from the past.”

There was silence. Uvogin averted his gaze to look over the Annuaki cityscape for a moment, then turned his attention back to the woman.

“What are you drawing?”
 

Kailyn

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There was something familiar about the captain of the guard. Something in his voice. The glint of his eyes in the moonlight. But she couldn't place it.

"Oh, it's silly." Hand waved dismissively at the picture propped up by the easel. She stepped forward and snatched up the scroll, going to roll it up. She'd always been a little more shy with showing her work.

"Just a friend - a boy I used to know. A long time ago. I was just trying to imagine him here and what he'd look like in the gardens."

It was always better to picture him not stuck back there. On that island. Picture him still alive somewhere. Perhaps happier than she was.
 
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Uvogin

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"You put time and effort into it, no?" Uvogin folded his arms across his chest. The corners of his mouth rose in the faintest of smiles, the same smile that he would wear as a child when a gentle breeze blew in from the sea on humid summer days. "I don't think that's silly at all. Could I see this drawing of your friend from a long time ago?"
 
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Kailyn

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Honeyed-eyes narrowed on the man. Was he teasing her? No, he seemed to be sincere. She held the scroll between them.

Lips twitched slightly, betraying that her next question wasn't serious at all. "Would you arrest me if I said no?" Then her wrist tipped, raising the other edge of the rolled-up drawing toward the man, fingers loosening just slightly.
 
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Uvogin

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"Straight to the dungeons," there was a flash of white teeth behind his lips as the suppressed smile grew. Uvogin stepped closer, carefully pinched the parchment between his fingers, and unrolled it. He couldn't quite see from where he stood, so the captain moved to the woman's side, and the two held it at an angle where the moonlight perfectly illuminated the drawing.

"Was he this skinny as a child?"
 
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Kailyn

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Her arm brushed lightly against his as he shared her same space. That shaft of moonlight. As she shifted to tilt her head, gaze darting to read the expression on his face. The smile that seemed...familiar

Back to her drawing.

A small smile of her own. "Maybe skinnier. We...he didn't get to eat a lot." She remembered when they were lucky enough to catch a rat and how he'd offer her most of it. He'd always looked out for her. Her heart still ached at...not knowing.

A sideways glance at the captain.

"I didn't take you for someone who would be so interested in art."
 
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Uvogin

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“Well,” he shrugged and kept his gaze trained on the drawing. The man in the paper had a mop of unkempt dark hair. He was looking off to the side, as if studying something far off in the distance, something outside the edges of the scroll. “I am not, really. But I am interested in what could keep a young woman up at this time of the night.”

He looked at her now, and met her sideways glance. He must not have given much attention to how closely he’d stepped to her. He could see her face clearly now.

She was, well, breathtaking.

“It’s a wonderful drawing.”
 
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Kailyn

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She could see why there was so much gossip at court around this man. Kailyn would be lying if she denied that he was...attractive. But there were other rumors that followed him too. Who he bedded and how often.

Similar to the Emperor.

"Thank you," she said quickly at his compliment. "I still have things to finish on it." Was art ever really done? There were always details to refine. Smooth out.

Hand reached out to take the drawing back.

"Do you always concern yourself with the well-being of slaves and ex-slaves?" That same small twitch of her lips as her amber eyes looked into his own as if she could see past any fake veneer he tried to hide behind. Like he often hid behind the mask he wore when he was on-duty. And of course she was referring to when they'd first met. He'd stepped in to escort her to Gerra's tent, freeing her from being dragged.

Why?
 

Uvogin

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He let the ex-slave take the drawing back. “Sorry for interrupting you. I would like to see it after you finish it.” He politely smiled.

Uvogin contemplatively hummed, “I suppose I empathize with slaves. I was one, once. Years ago. But to answer you, no. Not always.”
 
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Kailyn

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"You?" Surprise and doubt flecked across her face in the moonlight. She turned back to the easel and began folding it up. The time to draw had passed. Perhaps tomorrow night she'd come here again. The scroll went carefully in a bag she had nestled on the grass of the gardens. Strap of the bag went across one shoulder as she faced the captain once more.

"No need to apologize. I suppose I should be grateful to have run into you than a ruffian or assassin." That small smile of hers again. "It's hard to believe you were ever a slave." Honeyed-gaze flickered to his shoulders and his posture then back to those dark eyes of his.

"Do you have a mark?" Kailyn was referring to the slaver's mark - like the one she had on her wrist from Cerak. And the one on her other wrist from the Robins.
 
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Uvogin

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Yes, me. Uvogin stoically nodded in response.

"It is not often that others 'run into me' and feel grateful for it," he dryly chuckled. The Captain pushed the sleeve of his shirt up his arm and turned his palm upwards, then presented his wrist to Kailyn. Somewhat faded, the blackish-blue ink permanently stained his fair skin in the shape of a jagged trident. He saw where her eyes wandered- over his imposing posture and broad shoulders. "Well, I was not always this tall. Or big." He wryly smiled.
 
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Kailyn

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She had also been scrawny with sallow cheeks. She'd been lucky, in a way, being sold to Salitra. Most families, even before the Robins, had taken better care of their slaves than the island ever had. She still remembered what it was like to see a plate of food. And knowing that at least one more would come that day just for her.

When the moonlight hit his wrist her eyes widened and her face paled significantly. She took a half-step back, amber circlets searching his face intently - his features. Hand fluttered to her mouth as her lips parted. Brows scrunched together.

"Vo?" Voice was strangled in her throat.

And then she began to faint.

Kailyn had never fainted in her life. But with the events of the past few days - fleeing a siege on a city, meeting with the Emperor, supposedly being freed, starting a new position, not sleeping...and Vo? Her body shut down.
 
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Uvogin

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Vo. Hadn't heard that for years.

Uvogin lept forward to catch the poor woman as she collapsed. Only one person had ever called him by that, and her reaction was proof enough. He couldn't believe she was still alive, let alone in his arms. A torrent of questions rushed through his mind.

Calmly, the Captain laid Kailyn down on the bench nearby and waited for her to stir.
 
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Kailyn

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It wasn't long. Eyes opened to the night sky above them. Heel of her hand went to her forehead and she stirred, the bench rough against her back. One hand braced herself on the bench as she slowly sat up, wild-eyes searching until they fell back on him.

It hadn't been a dream.

"Vo?" She repeated, this time in no danger of fainting. Fingers came out to lightly touch against his arm. As if proving to herself that he wasn't a specter. Eyes searched his own as her breath caught in her chest.

"It really is you. How did you...what happened..."
 
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Uvogin

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What happened.

It was the exact question he wanted to ask her.

"It is a long story," he meekly rubbed the back of his neck as her fingertips brushed his skin. "What about you? That day, you just... Disappeared. You got taken, didn't you?"

The Captain's expression soured. It wasn't uncommon for children to be taken off the streets, to disappear forever. It had happened to countless others before them. People they knew. Uvogin just never considered it would happen to her.

"I was taken to the Pits not long after," The Pits, where young boys were thrown in to weed out the weak. To produce potential fighters.

Uvogin, somehow, had survived the arduous trials and was bought off by some Kaliti warlord.

Now he was here, reunited with an old friend.

"I never thought I would see you again, Kailyn." He looked to be on the verge of tears.
 
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Kailyn

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As she sat up along the bench, she pulled the massive captain of the guard into herself, arms wrapping tightly around his broad and muscled shoulders. Fingers clung tightly, as if she couldn't believe that it was really him.

Her Vo.

"I can't believe it's really you!" No longer the bony and tall shoulders she remembered. He was filled out. Muscled. Hardened. Strong. She imagined she felt different to him as well. Nose pressed against his shoulder as her head dipped down, inhaling deeply as if she could get a whiff of that salty smell that had always lingered on his clothes. In his hair.

"Yes, they took me," voice slightly muffled and her grip finally loosened, just slightly as she pulled back so she could see his face. Gently touch his cheekbones.

"They packed me on a ship with others, bound in chains and iron." She shivered, remember how much the chains burned her skin. "It was horrible. I didn't even think I'd survive to see the sun again only to be brought out of the bowels of the ship into this land with endless and blinding light."

Thumb traced softly on his cheek.

"Oh Vo, the pits? I wish I could've done something. Been there."

For him. All for him. How many times had he kept her safe? Kept her fed. Kept the malicious boys away?
 
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Uvogin

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Every day that passed, Uvogin wondered about the fate of his oldest, dearest friend. Of course, he didn’t need to say that and he believed the same could be said of her.

He was glad to see her now. The light touch on his cheeks, the warmth of her breath against his chest proof of her wellbeing. His fingers loosely wrapped around her wrist.

“I can’t imagine how you felt,” his voice strained. He’d always blamed himself. If only he’d paid more attention, he wouldn’t have suffered years of wondering where she’d went.

Uvogin didn’t know if he could admit the only reason he survived the Pits was because the anger he felt from losing her drove him. Over the course of days, he’d seen many of their friends die. Some at his own hand.

“Rayleigh, Edmund, Ivan...” Boys around their age, the rare few that hadn’t tried stealing from or killing them. “Lyrissa, Quinn...” Young girls that, like Kailyn, had been abducted by slavers. “All gone.”

“Gods, Kailyn, I missed you.”
 
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Kailyn

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She hugged him again and just held him silently. As if he could be ripped away from her again. Or as if she'd be snatched away.

"I missed you too," she murmured against the man.

"Gods, you've really filled out." She laughed and slowly released him, facing him again. But a hand remained close - at his side. Again, as if she was scared all this was a dream. As if he'd disappear.

"I wish we could change that island so things that happened to us didn't happen to others." It was a larger dream that she had. She didn't know if it was realistic. But it revealed a big part of her character - wanting to make things better for others. Who she was.

"So the Emperor...you're the captain of the guard. The mysterious man in the mask. How did you end up employed by Gerra?" A small warmth in her cheeks at the name.
 
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