Private Tales The Sound of Steel

Kaius

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"It's not an order - it's called teamwork!" now he was barking at her. Good gods the girl would say no to breathing if someone told her to do it. He caught sight of a few arrows flying past, and he had the same 'oh fuck' moment as Riley just as one of their elves, Tir, had aimed an arrow at her.

"The girl is with us!!!" he bellowed at them, only just managing to deflect the arrow he'd fired. He glared at the elf, who threw him a look of confusion and apology.

Old man.... Kaius growled to himself as he nocked and fired at another guard, and then another.. "What?!" he answered reluctantly. He wasn't that old.

His ears picked up the commotion from the wagon and he turned to see Riley handling herself. He'd nocked an arrow and had been ready to shoot in the event of her needing help, but she seemed to be doing alright on her own and so he grinned at the sight of her beating at the men with her bare fists.

The lapse in attention cost him, he'd turned his back toward the enemy and a sudden, searing pain rushed through him.. "Gah FUCK!" he roared out and glanced down over his shoulder to see the shaft of a bolt protruding from the cheek of his arse. The arrow he'd been aiming was loosed instead into the throat of the man who'd just shot him.

"Perfect." he growled..
 
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Arwyl Minras

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"Try not to die until we get to you!" Arwyl shouted back.

There were only a few wagons between them. What was an easy sprint over open ground still had a lot of anirian wagon men scattered around.

It was slow going. The humans had realised they were sandwiched between two groups. Several followed the lost wagons and tried to climb or tumble to safety. Those that remained dug in to fight for every inch.

"Try not to get shot in the ass too!" Arwyl called out. He actually felt a rush of fear when he'd hear Kaius' voice. Fortunately the wound wasn't life threatening.

The humans before him didn't get any humour. They didn't get any quarter either. They destroyed everything in their path, had crushed several elven civilisations. Arwyl knew of no mercy for them.
 
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Riley

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Concern that surprised her flecked across her face as Kaius grunted in pain. She couldn't afford to look. She was trying to calm the runaway horses and carriage she was currently on down.

"Whoa, whoa," she eased, letting out a small telekinetic tug on the frantic beasts. She hoped it would make them feel like they were running through water. Gritting her teeth, her knuckles whitened. Trees whipped past the carriage, branches slapping across her face.

She winced against the stings, tasting blood.

But finally...finally, the horses slowed and stopped. She huffed and climbed down from the carriage. They'd just gone a few yards into the trees. She tensed, head swiveling around but there were no Anirians left around her. Moving to the front of the two horses, she took the leader and began guiding them and the wagon back out of the woods. She'd gotten a look inside.

Twigs and leaves stuck out of her hair and there were several long welts across her face. She knew she must've looked a bit wild because she got a few wary looks from an elf or two as she made her way back to the others.

Their small band.

Hazels fell to Arwyl first. "Think what you want is in here." Then went to Kaius. "Rat bastards. Do you make it a habit to get shot by arrows?"
 
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Kaius

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Kaius snorted at Arwyl's words as he picked off another two men in rapid succession, his jaw clenched as he tried to push the literal pain in his ass out of his mind. He was lucky the guard who'd hit him had been a terrible aim, and he mentally scolded himself for the lapse in attention.

"Funny!!… Little shit." he muttered to himself and forced the last few running back into the jaws of death, each stride he took reminding him of the arrow protruding from his flesh, his head shaking incredulously. He kept an eye, and made sure the grounded men were dead as he passed them, giving the one who'd shot him in the ass a good kick in the head as he blinked up at him, sputtering blood. His neck broke.

"Riley!" he cast a glance at the speeding wagon and growled to himself irritably.. "The fuck is she goin?.." he muttered as he shot another man and sheathed his bow, now out of arrows. He drew an axe and short sword, twisting them in his hands as a rather large soldier rushed at him.

The fight was short, he took a bloodied lip and a bruised cheek but the man took an Axe to the chest and crumpled as he yanked it back out of his flesh and bone.

He dragged blood and sweat across his brow with the back of his wrist and caught his breath in a crouch, his eyes wandering over the multitude of dead Anirians with a deep sigh before looking up at Riley as she spoke. There was no amusement on his face and he cast his eyes over Arwyl too before turning away and wandering back toward the tree line with a shake of his head.

Kaius never felt good after a battle. He was good at it, as was Arwyl, but where Arwyl seemed to take great delight in killing humans, Kaius didn't. Soldiers were told what to do. They were husbands, fathers and sons. Most of them were terrified when they looked death in the eye. It would never end, and Arwyl would know it was best to leave him be..
 
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Arwyl Minras

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"We're taking two wagons!" Arwyl called out to the group, pointing to the one Riley had saved from going over the edge.

"I want every piece of armor, any spare swords, belts and arrow heads loaded up in the front two."

Arwyl turned towards the humans who had surrendered. Two older men who must have been on the wagons, three men and one woman who had been guards. They had been lined up and driven to their knees.

Arwyl pulled a long blade of spirit glass out of the air.

"We have nothing worth torturing us for," the senior guard growled. "You may as well kill us quick."

Killing them quickly was exactly what Arwyl had been planning. Six slit throats and no more problems. He didn't want to now that they'd told him to do it.

"Humans. There's no need for any more dead. You tell them Arwyl Minras destroyed your column. My bounty hasn't been raised for a whole year now," he said. There was a soft chuckle from some of the closest elves.

"Bind them to trees back down the road. Someone should come across them before they starve."
 
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Riley

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One of the elves came over and took the offered reigns from Riley. At least she knew they weren't going to shoot her anymore. Her stomach twisted at Arwyl's words. A part of her was glad he spared them. A part of her was angry he did.

Kneeling down next to one of the bodies with an arrow in the chest, she plucked some weapons free. Two daggers and a small ax. Securing them to her belt, she stood, glad this human body wasn't one of the younger conscripts. Like the one they'd seen in the woods.

As the humans were lead away, the woman growled in Riley's direction in spit.

"Traitor."

Riley blinked and wiped her cheek free. Hazels panned to Kaius and she headed toward him, feeling his prickliness far before she got to him. Whelp, she felt that way too but decided to try and keep things light.

"Your ass. Can I see it? I think you need a healing rune." Hands fell to her hips, teeth gnawing on the inside of her cheek.
 

Kaius

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Kaius glanced over his shoulder as Riley followed after him and he paused as she so bluntly asked to see his ass, turning to look at her incredulously.. "What right n--" he frowned.. "Oh...". Kaius rubbed at the back of his neck and let out a huff as he looked at her, giving a brief nod in agreement as he turned to continue his path..

"Aye.. Just, let me get washed up first.." He was splattered with human blood, and it wasn't helping at all with his current mood. Ignoring the bolt in his buttock for now, he strode his way with toward the stream up ahead and lifted his shirt over his head which he threw down on the grassy bank with temper and waded in to stand against the current and submerge himself.

He hadn't realised they were no longer alone..

Sylmara
 

Sylmara

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The Falwood was her home.

It was where she had grown up, where she had spent her entire life. It was a part of her, more so than most elves. To her, the Falwood was like her very own heart. The life within it was her eyes, her ears, her very soul. She could see what happened within the wood, could feel the ebb and flow.

The spilling of blood was like a sirens song to her ears. She had heard it often enough over the years, knew when it ignore it and when to tell her father. This time she had done something else, this time she had moved through the vines and carried herself across the trees.

That was how she found herself standing on the bank of the river, her bright green eyes watching Kaius as he stood against the currents. "I'd have thought."

Her voice was loud, haughty as always.

"A warrior such as yourself could at least avoid an arrow." Sylmara clicked her tongue, bare-feet silently wading across rocks barely covered by swift waters.

As she moved her cloak dipped into the waters, yet strangely enough it did not seem to sweep away with the current like it should have.
 

Riley

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Riley followed him, shaking her head and deciding not to bring up where exactly his thoughts had been going when she'd asked the question. Squatting on the bank where he'd left his shirt, she lowered her hands into the water, scrubbing at her skin and working some of the dried blood off herself at least up to her wrists.

Riley assumed the she elf was part of their crew and didn't take any alarm.

"Oy, you Arwyl's sister?" She had hair like his. Same tone. And was giving out jabs to Kaius like him.

It was a sensible question in Riley's mind.
 

Kaius

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Kai surfaced from the rushing stream and rubbed the water from his face and the blood with it, but his mood was not so easily washed away. A voice hat wasn't Riley's caused his attention to snap to his left, about to give the female a few lashes of his tongue which was unlike him, but he disliked being caught off guard and it wasn't often it happened. His brow furrowed and lips parted to speak when he stopped himself as he recognised the woman and sighed as he calmed himself.

He had served Arwyl's family before Arwyl was even born, he'd become a Royal advisor, and he'd learned diplomacy and etiquette centuries ago. The woman was royalty, he hadn't seen her in many years, but elves rarely changed much and he had visited and received the family several times over the course of his life. Much had changed since then however, a fact the Princess would no doubt be aware of. Arwyl's home and family were gone, the Prince was a hunted man, and they were now considered rebels. Rebel or not, he composed himself and pressed a hand to his chest with a bow of his head.

"Forgive me, Princess.. I hope we haven't intruded.." he sighed with a small frown, his jaw clenching, still irate about the bolt in his ass but he tried to hold back his temper. "My attention was elsewhere." he huffed and dragged the back of his wrist across his brow, looking to Riley as she 'oy'd' the Princess. His throat cleared..

"Riley, this is Princess Sylmara of Saen.. Princess, this is Riley, of... Well she's with us." he nodded and waded from the water.

“It’s been some time, Princess. I hope you and your family are well.”
 

Sylmara

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Sylmara frowned at the little human that spoke, her wide green eyes sweeping over the girl with a clear distaste. She could practically smell the unwashed stink of her from where she was standing.

At least Kaius remembered his manners.

She had only the vaguest memories of him and his charge Arwyl. There had been a few meetings, she knew that much, but at the time it had not seemed all that important to pay the utmost attention. Now she knew such an attitude to be foolish.

She knew of the tragedy that had befallen their city. Remembered the rage that her father had endured when he'd heard of the news. The King of Saen had nearly razed an Anirian city in return, though Sylmara had been found hiding in the war room before she knew what truly became of it.

"Your presence is no intrusion." She pointedly ignored Riley.

The Princess knew Kaius and Arwyl had been declared rebels, but Fal'Addas did not often reach as far as it thought. Her father would be displeased if he learned, but he too was far away.

"My family is as ever. One brother ready to take the throne, another in exile, and my father has not left Saen in a century." A frown touched her features briefly.

"Where is your charge?" She asked. "I hope he at least did not catch an arrow."

As she spoke Sylmara made her way across the shallow rocks, stepping out onto the shore and standing far enough from the little human so she did not have to catch her retching scent.
 
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Arwyl Minras

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he'd learned diplomacy and etiquette centuries ago
And in decades of trying he had only conveyed a fraction of that to Arwyl. It wasn't that the Prince-of-nothing didn't know proper etiquette, it simply had little application in their current lives.

His mother had thought he would be able to rally all the exiles together and lead them to a new land. She might have thought more would escape Keivarn in its final days. Instead the youngest had been able to break free, as the older generations sold their lived to protect the way. His band had adapted to the rebel life.

"We're good to go!" Arwyl called out in the trade tongue as he marched back down the path. "Kaius didn't claim the bolt was poisoned to get you to kiss his arse did he because it definitely..."

He came to an abupt halt when he saw the new arrival. The easy smile he had been wearing narrowed.

"Who the fuck are you?" he demanded, switching to elvish. His gaze narrowed too. She seemed familiar.
 
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Riley

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At this point Riley didn't know Arwyl was royalty. A part of her still thought he and Kaius were a thing. She wasn't sure if she was impressed or not by being in the presence of elf royalty. And she certainly didn't miss the other woman's tone.

What an uppity little...

Fingers dipped into the stream and splashed some water on her face, rubbing the dirt out of the welts and cuts from the branches. A small quirk at the corner of her mouth at Arwyl's comment but then her own expression froze as she straightened, hearing and understanding Arwyl's words. Catching his rigid posture.

How did Kaius know her but not Arwyl?

Kaius' charge?

Fingers twitched on the hilt of a dagger on her belt as she looked between the three of them, spitfire hazels falling on the princess. It made her on edge that Arwyl was on edge.

"What in the nine levels of hell is going on?"
 
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Kaius

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Kaius inwardly groaned at Sylmara's response, that nuance in her tone as she emphasised that Riley's presence was unwanted. He glanced to Riley who seemed to have managed to ignore it, and he busied himself with combing his wet hair back with his fingers casually.. His throat cleared as she spoke of her family and he nodded mutely, his lips parting with the intention of explaining where Arwyl was when the Prince's own voice announced his approach..

Another inward groan, and a sharp huff at the elf's words, ones he'd have been scolded for had Sylmara not been in their company. He didn't get a chance to get a word out before Arwyl directed his question to the woman, and Kaius facepalmed, rubbing at his brow with an exasperated sigh as Riley added her own question.

"Prince Arwyl.." he growled out through gritted teeth with emphasis on the title in hopes that the elf would recall his fucking manners and that Riley's question would be answered..

"This is Princess Sylmara of Saen. Her family were friends to yours.." he frowned and looked back to the princess.

"I'm sure his apology is forthcoming...." he dipped his chin, his own apology written on his face as he rubbed at the tension in the back of his neck which was currently causing him more discomfort than the bolt protruding from his flesh.
 

Sylmara

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Sylmara pursed her lips. "The follies of youth."

She remembered Arwyl being younger than her, though by the standards of their people not much. A century or so if she recalled correctly. Lips pursed as her gaze flickered between the two Elves and the human, her eyes narrowing for just a moment.

Over the last few days she had watched them through the Wood, thought catching only small snippets. She could not often control what she saw unless it was something which drew the eyes of the Falwood itself. A battle was easier to see than three people.

She spoke only in Elvish of course, her voice a song song melody that could have melted gold.

"You may remember my brothers more. Arun and Haldir." She frowned at the mention of her errant sibling. Sylmara had not seen Arun in person for nearly a century, not since the end of the war when father had cast him from Saen. "I believe you spent more time with them."

Not that it particularly mattered.
 

Arwyl Minras

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"Prince of nothing still standing," Arwyl added. He took the revelation in his stride, but felt warmth born of both embarrassment and annoyance.

"Your highness," he apologised with a formal bow that almost had him kiss his own boots. He shit Kaius a glare that seemed to accuse him of not interrupting him, but there was no weight behind him.

"I'm afraid I have an anirian cargo train to continue ransacking," he apologised with a flourish of his right hand.

Having now identified two elves that probably had anirian bounties - Arwyl hoped that if that was true that his was higher - he was slightly more concerned about Riley than before. This hadn't been a trap at least.

"Arwyl," came a call from behind him. It was Galathay, one of the youngest elves in the group. "Wagons are ready but you need to see this."

Arwyl gave another bow to the princess to excuse himself and stepped away. Galathay held up his fist and opened it.

Gems sparkled in the midday light. A whole rainbow of colours.

"A whole case of them. Enough..."

"Enough to pay for a war. Shit." Arwyl cast a glance at Riley. She might have doomed them all. This wasn't just weapons and armour. This was payment for an entire war. Perhaps it was payment for the vassel state that had just laid siege to the town they had left.

They would be tracking this down. They were in more trouble than they could handle.
 

Riley

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"Prince?" Riley's mouth dropped open as she stared at Arwyl. She knew the Anirian culture was vastly different than most elven cultures. There was royalty but it was mostly for show. Everyone knew the great houses really controlled everything.

"Shitgoblins. Does elven royalty just grow on trees?"

The hell.

"Kaius. You gonna let me take a look at your wound or wait for infection?" Riley tapped her foot on the river bank. A glance over her shoulder as Arwyl and another of his band murmuring together. Catching the sparkle of gems in one of their hands, she frowned.
 

Kaius

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Kaius gave a brief nod as the Princess mentioned her brothers but remained tight lipped on the subject and his eyes shifted to Arwyl, half expecting him to refuse an apology simply because Kaius had told the woman to expect it. His gaze narrowed at the Prince in response to his glare, and his jaw clenched with a light shake of his head. Regardless of who the woman was, it was no way to greet a female, but Arwyl always had been a mouthy little shit, it was his own damn fault for his own embarrassment.

Prince of nothing still standing, he said.. "I'm sure the Princess will be devastated that there is no chance of her being betrothed to such a kind and well-mannered Prince." he commented as he stepped out of the stream with a grimace.

"Aye. Prince." he nodded to Riley and huffed in agreement.. "Thank you lass.." he gave her a tired smile and looked back to Sylmara..

"Forgive me your Highness, pressing matters.." he sighed, his eyes following Arwyl with a furrowing brow as he tried to listen to the conversation. Whatever it was, it wasn't good..
 
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Sylmara

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Sylmara waved a hand dismissively. "Tend to your wounds, and if you require someone more practiced at such arts I'll be with your Prince."

She did not, of course, ask for permission.

The young Princess was not accustomed to someone denying her, and it was a simple matter of fact that those here would not deny her what she wanted. With all the confidence in the world Sylmara strolled by Kaius and the...human girl, she couldn't quite remember her name.

The elf seemed to flow instead of walk, a grace clinging to her movements. She was like a spirit floating through the woods, her steps seeming to fall utterly silent as she came up behind Arwyl and peered into the jewel filled chest.

Had she no manners she might have whistled.

"It appears." She mused in Elvish. "You may have bitten off more than you can chew."

Her gaze briefly flickered to some of the others nearby, observing them for a brief second.
 

Arwyl Minras

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"I do appreciate your astute observation," Arwyl said. It was spoken far, far too politely for his usual mannerisms, but she didn't know that.

Arwyl cast a sidelong glance as the Princess. He did vaguely recall her now. Elven Royal families were not quite the same as humans. There was no belief in keeping the "blood pure" through marriage. They did however use Royal marriage to cement alliances. There were too few elven kingdoms left for much of that politicking any more.

"We take what we can carry!" Arwyl called out. "I need two volunteers to drive the wagons east and then abandon them and leave no tracks moving back to us."

Arwyl looked towards the small copse of trees where the prisoners had been tied. He had boldly announced his name to them, but it was different now. Those gems were payment for a war, perhaps even wars. His band were not ready for the fire that would be rained down to flush them out.

"Put the gems back in the wagon they were found in. We can't spend these anywhere. Maybe take a couple just in case."

With luck some common thieves would find the defenceless wagon train, steal the gems and leave tracks. When aniria sent someone to fetch them - and they would - then they could find them instead.

"And why are you here?" Arwyl asked Sylmara.
 
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Riley

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Hazels narrowed on the uppity elf as she wandered over to Arwyl. She didn't think she'd meet someone even more uppity than Arwyl until now. A touch at Kaius' elbow as she steered him toward a tree and turned him around.

"Might wanna hang onto that branch. This might sting a bit."

Or hurt like pulling a rotten tooth from an orc.

Riley place a hand on the small of his back. The other around the shaft of the arrow. "Here we go." Without counting down, she twisted and pulled quickly, wincing as flesh ripped and gave. Bloodied arrow fell from her hand and she quickly drew a healing rune in the air over his ass cheek. The bleeding would slow and stop, flesh would knit back together, and the wound would be cleansed.

She felt her energy drain.

She took a wobbly step back.

"Um, you might need a new pair of pants." Head turned hearing Arwyl's request. "I can volunteer for one." it was a dangerous job. She figured she might be able to get further looking human and if she could take both, she would.
 

Kaius

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His lips pressed thinly at Sylmara's obvious disdain for Riley and he cleared his throat, offering the Princess a quaint nod as she decided to busy herself with Arwyl's business instead. Good luck to her, he thought with a huff and moved with Riley to lean against the tree, wrapping his hands around a low hanging branch.

"Now don't go yanking it out and taking half of my a-ARSE!! SHITRILEY!.." the elf growled and pressed his forehead against the branch, teary eyes closing with a wince and jaw clenching to keep more profanities from spilling out in a rage. He pulled in a breath as he felt her magic knit the wound back together, meanwhile his fingers splayed out against the tree bark, a few quiet words muttered under his breath as he leeched a little life that sent a few shrivelled leaves fluttering down from the canopy above.

His attention returned to his company as Riley volunteered and he turned with a scowl to Arwyl, as though it were entirely his fault. "No you won't. You've done enough, he can sort it out." he waved a hand at the Prince dismissively. He looked the woman over from head to toe and shook his head.

"Sit down before you fall down, lass." he rumbled quietly, reaching to gently take her elbow as she wobbled.
 

Sylmara

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"Whatever do you mean?" Sylmara asked simply, her odd green eyes flicking to the Prince once more as she offered him a coy smile.

"This is my Forest." A bold claim if ever there was one. "I walk it's reaches as I please."

The truth was of course far more pedestrian.

While her father was away from Saen her brother ruled, and her sibling had a far more...suspicious outlook on the world than the King. He had wanted to use Sylmara's gifts to peer into the Falwood and see what was going on. She had done so at his request, and to her surprise had found this little band of rebels.

She'd not mentioned it of course, and instead chosen to slip out of the city and investigate it herself.

Sylmara had no fondness for humanity, as one could see whenever her eyes fell on Riley. Idle curiosity had brought her here. "Perhaps you've been too detached from proper society, Arwyl."

She pursed her lips.

"Saen'Althera is not far from here." Sylmara mused, it was a small outpost that Saen had maintained since the last war. "Perhaps you should accompany me back there for some rest."
 

Arwyl Minras

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"That is probably quite true," Arwyl admitted, but his tone was hard rather than apologetic. "I would have rolled out the red carpet for you, but I'm afraid it was probably used for fuel for the fires the anirians used to burn my people alive."

It was testament to his statement of mind that he couldn't even laugh at the sound of Kaius having the bolt crudely yanked out of his arse.

"Galathay, Mynnel, you're taking the two wagons," he called out. He stopped and turned to face the Princess, finding it hard to focus on those strange, green eyes.

"You didn't deserve me snapping at you. If you'll still take us in we'll come to Saen'Althera. I don't trust the human enough to send her off as decoy alone with the location of where we are really going, but she did fight with us. So if she wants to come with my band for now, I'll allow it."

There was a question without a question there. Would she allow Riley to come to the outpost?
 
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Riley

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Riley knew she was a bit out of her depth. Warring emotions rippled across her face. She was glad for the success with the carriages. Suspicious of the new elf, outnumbered with the current company but, surprisingly, felt more at ease than she ever had with her own people. And still. Her drive to change Vel Anir felt like climbing the hardest peak in the spine and they'd only made it a foot up.

And the touch from Kaius on her elbow. The way he looked at her.

She gulped.

No weaknesses. Jaw set as she looked to Kaius. "I'm okay," she insisted but allowed herself to lean against a tree. Eyes closed for a moment, arms crossed stiffly beneath her chest.
 
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