Private Tales Read between the lines

Zana

Second Level
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Vel Anir was unsurprisingly quiet on a day like today. A summer storm had swept its way in across the coast with high winds and heavy rain that lashed against the street. Anyone unfortunate enough to be out in it was wrapped up in thick leather gear in an attempt to keep themselves at least relatively dry. Zana glanced from the crumpled piece of paper in her hand up at the sign that hung above her. She had to squint a little bit against the heavy rain but there was no mistaking it was one and the same: a quill and a split bottle of ink. This was the shop she had seen in her vision. With a sigh she curled her fist around the piece of parchment once more and then shoved it into her pocket before heading inside.

The bell jingled pleasantly as she stepped inside and pulled the door shut with a little bit of effort against the raging storm outside. The shop keep looked up at her, obviously expecting to see some poor drenched rat and he was looking forward to giving her a dark look that said she was not to touch anything. Instead he flinched. Only a Dreadlord would be bone dry like Zana was now and so he nodded in respect and went back to his work. Zana pushed the hood back from her face and glanced around, rubbing her cold hands together to get some warmth back into them. She was very glad she had begun to perfect the energy shields the stolen soul had afforded her in time for the storm season: she hated getting soaked through as soon as she stepped outside.

Zana was dressed in her usual off duty clothing; waist high white riding breeches that hugged her curves, a white shirt, and her deep navy blue and silver leather military trench coat. She pushed the hood back from her face and then stepped into the aisles of the bookshop. It was pleasantly warm inside because of the roaring fire and small seating area where already a few patrons were curled up with their latest purchases. The book she had seen had been a red volume and it had been buried. That's all she knew. That and that it was vital to learning how to progress her magics.
 
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Talus

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Talus stood atop one of the taller buildings in the district, his cloak whipping back and forth in the wind as he peered down into the street Zana had just left. A dark expression sat on his face, lips thin and eyes dark as he peered down wonderingly.

The woman had had more than one soul.

He never would have caught it had he not been Phase-walking over the roof tops, but he was sure of what he'd seen.

She was a Dreadlord, that much he already knew, but he knew of no Dreadlord capable of such a feat save for himself. The Guard kept careful track of every Dreadlord and their abilities, none could manipulate the soul. His lips thinned for a moment, and a decision was made.

His body turned a translucent blue, and with one quick hop he jumped down onto the streets below.

The wind reached him there once more as he returned to reality, and he quickly made his way towards the shop door. As he moved Talus adjusted his sword and knife, knowing this may very well come to blows.

Dreadlords did not like their secrets questioned.
 
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Zana

Second Level
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Zana browsed the shelves quietly though she was becoming increasingly more agitated. Maybe she had jumped the gun and had come to early. Perhaps it was a book that wasn't going to end up here for another few days or weeks - months, even. But she hadn't been able to wait. Nobody knew about her abilities. Nobody had been able to give her tips and secrets on what she could do to control it. This book could be the key to that lock. The key to understanding why on some days a mere sound of a child crying could plunge her a year into the future, or why they hurt so much.

How could she get them to stop?

She just wanted to sleep through the night. Once. Without these visions plaguing her. Her search became a bit more frantic as she turned down another row of books and began her search again. Red. Leather. Battered. There had been an embossing of some sort of sigil on the front too. Perhaps a Griffin? She hadn't caught the detail well enough in the low lighting the vision had offered her.
 
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Talus

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Talus stepped into the book shop, receiving the same look from the owner that Zana had. This time though he made a slight gulp as he recognized the mark on his armor.

The Dreadlord placed a finger over his lips, and then motioned the man away.

For a second the shopkeeper seemed to stop, and then as if a decision had been made in his head he quickly pulled away and slipped into the back of his shop. Talus waited for him to be gone, and then slowly he moved through the empty shop.

It didn't take him long to locate the woman, the sound of his boots echoing on the wooden floor as he stepped into the same aisle as her.

"Rare to find a Dreadlord doing their own shopping." Particularly for books he thought.
 
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Zana

Second Level
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Zana heard the fall of boots behind her but paid them no mind; she had no quarrel with anyone else looking for a tome today unless of course they were searching for the same thing she would. Then there would be blood. She wasn't a quick one to rise to anger and give in to the way of the blade but for this book she wouldn't even blink.

Then, there.

At the same moment the person - a man - had decided to speak. She yearned to reach for it but she daren't. Instead she turned on her heel to face him and gave him a lazy smile instead, leaning her shoulder up against the shelves and switching her weight to one leg. It was a relaxed posture but of course, he would know as well as she that such a position meant nothing. Her eyes roved over him slowly as if deciding what to order off a menu from a list where everything sounded appealing before back to his face.

"It's my day off, what else do you do in weather such as this?"
 
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Talus

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"Train?" That was the answer most Dreadlords would have given, or at least the ones who couldn't see past their own nose.

Talus had learned quite a bit since he'd graduated from the Academy. Had learned even more after he'd joined the guard. Perhaps it was hubris, but he thought of himself as different than many other Dreadlords now living.

He clicked his tongue. "Though I suppose that isn't always appropriate."

For a brief second he simply stood there, and then his eyes seemed to shift for a second. An odd ethereal wisp pulled across them, a ghostly visage falling across his iris' as he stared at Zana.

There he saw it.

Not a single soul. Not even a singular whole one. It was two, or at least the half of one and a little less than another undivided. The wisp in his eyes went away as quickly as it had gone, a deep frown sitting on his face.
 
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Zana

Second Level
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There was a subtle shift in his gaze and Zana's eyes narrowed a fraction. It could have been a trick of the light. Or perhaps he was assessing her as she was him. She had noted the insignia on his uniform straight away; a rarity indeed for a Dreadlord to chose a broken crown than a house for power. It made him interesting at the very least. The idle chatter felt akin to a fight all in itself - weighing one another up. Probing for information. Those that knew of Zana probably wouldn't be surprised to find her in a bookstore - she had a quick mind and a brutal intelligence that had put her in command of more missions than those that ranked above her. Though her Second Level ascension wouldn't mean that was queried as much now.

"Luana encourage hobbies in their Dreadlords. It keeps us more human, more likeable for the general population," her arms crossed over her chest loosely. "Are you looking for a suggestion yourself or is there a reason you sought me out on my day off?" her eyebrow raised slowly. She very much doubted he was here for simple pleasantries but she had been wrong before. Dreadlords were human after all and had the same desires. Perhaps he was just a little bolder than the others.
 
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He smiled. "Do they now?"

So she was of Luana. He knew well of that House of course, every Dreadlord did. They claimed to be of the people, those who would see to the masses. Talus knew that to be a lie of course, one of the many the Great Houses told.

"No suggestion." Talus said with a frown. "Just a simple question."

This was where it got dangerous.

He could bandy about, he could play coy and move around why he was here for hours on end. Both of them would do their best to obfuscate the truth and reveal only what little was needed, but Talus didn't play that game. Not anymore. "What happened to your soul?"
 

Zana

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His smile brought out her own. Maybe this was a playful game. Another sweep of her gaze and she decided she wouldn't mind playing it with him at least for a little while, even if he was disturbing a pressing thing. If he wasn't here for the book but rather for her then she could still purchase it without it raising any suspicions. It would probably be more suspicious not to come into a book shop and buy something after all. She was about to retort with her own witty remark when he asked his question.

Her body stiffened. The smile wilted like a dying rose upon her lips and she looked at him with none of the friendliness she had before.

"Philosophy is a few aisles over," she pushed off from where she was lent and turned to the books once more. It was clearly a dismissal. Her thoughts ran back to that night in the sleepy town on the edge of Falwood. The scarred man who had gifted her with gifts that had been invaluable to her, that had heightened her own even. Had pushed her over into the Second Level category without taking into consideration her hidden foresight.
 
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Talus

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It was clear that she did not want to speak on the subject, but Talus didn't particularly care. "I've seen those who've added to their own."

That was a lie.

Talus had never seen anyone with a second soul attached to their own. Such a thing would be sacrement even in Vel Anir, even to Dreadlord. At least that was what he had thought before.

"However." He began to prod, stepping a bit closer to her. "Never have I seen someone give up a piece of their own."
 
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Zana

Second Level
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Zana was barely seeing the books in front of her. She was focusing on keeping her face devoid of emotions instead but there was the slightest tenseness in her jawline which betrayed how much the questions were bothering her. She had no idea of knowing exactly, one, how he was able to see her soul in the first place and two, if he was even telling the truth. Had she lost her soul? Had Kol double crossed her and taken some of her own soul when he had put in the other one?

Swallowing she finally settled on the red book she had came here for. She would buy it and then leave.

But as soon as her fingers closed around the leather binding a vision ripped through her in a fury. Her cry of pain was not something that could have been faked and she went to her knees, her hand still clamped to the book and her eyes screwing shut. It wasn't long before red welts of blood poured down her cheeks like tears.
 
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Talus

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The scream echoed throughout the bookstore. Talus immediately hopped back, half drawing his sword as he expected some sort of attack to come from the woman.

When no sword or magic fell on him The Dreadlord simply took half a step forward, not quite sure what he should do in the situation. There was a temptation to draw his blade and cut through her, to execute a Dreadlord of House Luana and have a threat be done.

His fingers tightened for a second, and then he noticed the blood.

"What the hell..." He whispered quietly, taking another step forward towards her to see what was going on.
 
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Zana

Second Level
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Zana hadn't experienced a vision this horrific for months. Not since before Vel Istra where she had watched people die over and over in different ways. In fact this one might have been even worse. She couldn't even get air into her lungs.

There was fire everywhere. The city bells were ringing. Screaming, so much screaming...

She couldn't see through all the smoke and the dust from the debris as walls came down around her. The heat was unbearable and seared her skin. A mother and a child lay curled in a doorway sheltering from the onslaught and as she reached out a hand to help them the arch collapsed on top of them.

Magic flew this way and that over her head. A battle raged.

A battle for Vel Anir.
 
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Talus

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Talus watched her for a time, fingers tightening as her scream echoed through the shop. His lips thinned, and he could hear the shopkeeper as he foolishly ran onto the floor and to the other end of the isle.

The man stared at him, and Talus stared back.

"Fuck it." The young Dreadlord spoke, his hand suddenly shifting into a translucent blue. His hand stretched out immediately, fingers slowly guiding and then suddenly grasping at Zana's form. He did not grasp at her soul, not yet, but instead attempted to pull her back from whatever the hell was happening.

He had no plan, no intent to harm her. All he did was act on instinct, grasping at whatever he could in order to snap the woman back into reality.
 
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Zana

Second Level
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The Law of Time was not something to be meddled with. Talus was about to discover that as his touch upon the magic pulled him under instead. The same pain and the same sights would shoot through him.

They were running down the street throwing up this shield here or moving this building out of the way as it collapsed nearly on top of her. They were trying to get out of the city. Empire soldiers marched through the street and they pulled back just in time to avoid a large ball of fire that had been launched in their direction. People screamed as a building went up in flame and they brought their arm up to shield their face from the heat of it. They were about to join the fray when other Dreadlords rush past them, orders being passed along to make their way to the walls in an attempt to stem the flow of the invasion.

Then there above it all a woman on fire and the sky suddenly went red.


Zana fell back onto the floor as the vision left them both. The book had fallen in between her legs and she leaned forward after casting Talus a wary look to rest her forehead upon her knees. Her whole body was shaking with the sudden loss of energy. It was the first time she had ever shared a vision and she was paying for the extra energy it had taken from her.
 
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Talus

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Talus breathed heavily, the vision that had passed through his mind more than clear.

His hand recoiled from her almost immediately, the ghostly appendage snapping back into reality as he took a step backwards and let out a heavy breath. "Ah."

The sound of realization escaped his lips almost involuntarily.

Interpreting what he had seen was easy, discerning the truth of it was not. The Empire was a threat, the Guard had told him that much, but whether or not this vision would come to pass...Talus had absolutely no idea.

"The Scheming of the Houses." He commented quietly. "That is what will bring us there."

Talus said the comment without thought, but he knew it to be true. Divided they would fall.
 
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Zana

Second Level
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More people were gathering at the ends of the aisle now to see what all the noise had been about. She had to get out of here. It would be easy to blame it on this other Dreadlord for now, that they had fought and she had been overpowered by him would damage her pride but it would keep her secret a while longer from public knowledge. She could barely raise her head at his words and instead made a muffled noise of dismissal. She didn't care particularly in that moment what had brought about those events.

"I need to go," she mumbled, her voice sluggish. She reached up a hand and placed it on a shelf then pushed herself to her feet. Her legs shook but she managed to keep them under her. She had slipped the book into her pocket and now she made her way to the door of the shop, drawing up her hood and pushing past the onlookers. Not that they needed pushing, they fled out of her path. Bleeding eyes could do that.
 

Talus

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Just as Zana would step out the door she would feel a hand on her shoulder.

His face was stern, lips turned down in a frown. "We will need to speak."

It was clear that this was not something he would be letting go. She could try to fight him, but from the way her knees shook and her eyes were sunken it was more than clear who would win the battle. Talus had no idea what else she could do, but that didn't matter now.

She was an Oracle, or something close to it.

Whether it was a future that could be stopped or one that would come to pass no matter what, Talus would now allow her to leave. Not until he understood more.
 
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Zana

Second Level
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As soon as she opened the door the wind howled and attempted to snatch it from her. She had to tighten her grip and work to keep it within her grasp or she feared it would rip entirely from its hinges. His hand coming down upon her shoulder made her flinch and she turned to cast him a dark and warning look. She might have been tired but she wouldn't be an easy meal.

"Let. Go," her gaze briefly flicked to over his shoulder where the crowd of people huddled. Unlike him she had no insignia upon her clothes to show which House she served so her identity would be harder to pick out, but she still didn't want the attention. If he didn't remove it himself she would reach up and cast his hand off with a firm shove at his wrist before turning and stepping out into the storm.

Like before the small shield came around her to shield her from the elements - at least, the worst of them. She was too tired to keep the rain entirely from her but it was a fine spray rather than a hammering. She shoved her hands into her pockets and walked.
 
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Talus

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Talus quickly fell into step behind her.

The rain clattered against his armor, wind whipping at him as he watched her step through the street. A small thin shield appeared above her, blocking some of the rain and shielding her from the weather. He frowned slightly, trying to run through his head just who she was.

It was standard practice for the Guard to keep files on every Dreadlord, a practice that started centuries ago when fears of a rebellion had been rampant. Talus had been surprised when General Ilyena had told him, but he'd ultimately realized why the practice was done.

The Guard was not foolish enough to blindly trust the mages of Vel Anir, especially given the fact that he was the first one to have ever joined their side.

Despite that though, Talus for the life of him could not remember the woman beyond brief flashes. The files numbered in the thousands, and it wasn't like he'd even read all of them. Something he was starting to regret now. "Neat trick."

He called to her as he was further soaked by the rain.
 
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Zana

Second Level
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Gods give me strength, she thought quietly to herself and half raised her eyes to the heavens as she heard him behind her. What had become such a simple spell to her now was draining her quicker than it should do. As the faint almost summery rain made its way through its shield it went some way to washing the smears of deep red blood from her cheeks. Much like him, Zana was trying to place him. There was only one Dreadlord she had ever heard of joining the ranks of the crown and the guards of Vel Anir but her mind was foggy. What was his name? Tyler?

"Thank you," she replied as if they were having a pleasant conversation. "You know, it's frowned upon for strange men to stalk women through the streets." It had been a mistake to divide her attention and she made an error with her footing. For a moment she thought she had tripped over a body. Vision overlaid with the presence. Conflicting feelings of the heat of flame warred with the reality of the storm. She stumbled hard. Thankfully there was a wall nearby she managed to reach out and put her bloody hand against to steady herself. The shield cracked like a glass bowl then shattered entirely.

Zana was drenched in seconds but she didn't care. Her legs gave out and she slid down the wall with her back against the bricks. This had been worse than Vel Istra.
 
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Talus

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Talus took half a step forward to catch her, then suddenly stopped.

What if it was a trick?

That was the problem when dealing with Dreadlords. Everything they did was suspect, every little thing that happened had to be questioned. Whatever was going on she could very well just be faking it in order to plant a knife in his ribs

Best to keep his distance, at least until he figured out what the hell was even going. "Is it also frowned upon for them to help?"

Talus asked, keeping his distance but clearly ready to aid her.
 
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Zana

Second Level
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Her head was swimming and when she tried to open her eyes to look at him there were four and then two of him so she shut them again. It was just making her feel sick. Her hearing wasn't impaired though and she almost laughed when he took a step forward then stopped himself. What a low point of affairs that a Dreadlord wouldn't help another Dreadlord when they were in trouble. Weren't they all meant to be on the same side? Her own thoughts made her give a low pained laugh.

"I think Dreadlords are the only ones broken enough to frown upon that," her words were slurred but there was a definite bitterness there. The rain lashed down harder against the floor now and the street was practically deserted. She wasn't too far from her house if she could just get there then she could rest. Sleep. Not that sleep was ever a comfort for her but it would be better than catching a cold sitting here in the elements. Did she want him to know where she lived though? He already knew her greatest two secrets.

"My house is not far," she ran a hand down her face. Gods. Well if he was going to kill her he would have done it already. She reached into her pocket and then held up a bronze key. "Descartes street, number 5. If you want answers you can help," a soft sigh. "If you are planning to kill me do it out here, it's unfair on the cleaners to make them get blood out of rugs."
 
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Talus

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He chuckled slightly.

They really were broken, a fact that he had accepted long ago. Lips thinned for a brief moment, and then he remembered what set him apart from the others. He was supposed to be more human, he was supposed to be getting better.

How could he not help her if he claimed that to be true. "Alright."

Talus said softly as he took a few steps forward and gently reached down to wrap his arms around her. With only a slight grunt he pulled her off the ground and up into his arms.

"But if you end up stabbing me I'm going to be very upset." Talus commented as he began to walk towards Descartes street.
 
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Zana

Second Level
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She had been expecting him to merely help her walk not to take her weight upon himself but she didn't protest. Her arms looped around his neck and she let out a soft sigh as her head came to rest against the crook of his neck. Her whole body was limp and there was a tremor running through her which was a mix of the cold rain penetrating her clothes and the tiredness. He seemed to know where he was going she allowed her eyes to drift closed.

"I'll try to resist the urge."

Zana slipped in and out of consciousness as she battled to stay semi aware whilst they walked. It wasn't a long trip, perhaps 10 minutes at most with Talus' quick pace. It was definitely one of the nicer streets lined with pretty town houses. Hers didn't stick out amongst them. Once he had walked up the well kept path to the door she stirred in his arms and motioned she wanted to get down.

"I hope you don't mind dogs," she laughed breathlessly as she unlocked and pushed open the door. The wolf puppy hurtled into her legs as soon as she opened the door, the smell of blood causing him to whine and turn his amber eyes to Talus with a growl. "No, Grey, move," her words were tired and bitten off as she nudged past the pup and ripped off her soaking jacket. The inside of the house was bright and the level of cleanliness only a soldier could achieve. There was a set of wooden stairs directly in front of the door that led up to a shadowy second floor but the ground floor was open plan. The kitchen was outfitted with the latest stoves and appliances technology of the time allowed and the living area consisted of a well stocked bookcase and a series of comfortable looking chairs set around a table facing the low burning fire.

Cleanliness and care was clearly out of her mind as she began to strip and stumble her way to one of those chairs. She was completely naked before she grabbed the thick woollen blanket that lay draped over the back of the couch she them promptly collapsed into. Grey gave the man one last distrusting look then bounded over to bury himself against his mistresses side. Zana said nothing more before she allowed sleep to claim her fully.
 
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