Fate - First Reply Trapped in the Rain

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Soleil Verdane

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Soleil Verdane was trapped.

The young Dreadlord Initiate, as could be imagined, was having a bad day. This bad day had its seeds planted three days prior. A mission gone wrong, enemy forces of the elven Fellowship stronger than expected, many Anirian Guardsmen dead or routed. Dreadlords and Dreadlord Initiates alike, both of which had been present on the ill-fated mission, were scattered as well.

Soleil had been separated from what Anirian survivors there were. And with a vague sense of direction, she began the northwestern trek back toward Vel Anir through the Falwood.

All the while over those three days of slow journey, the sky thickened with clouds. Yet Soleil stumbled upon no sign of civilization, friendly or hostile. No constructed shelter of any kind.

Early on this fourth day, the smell of rain was in the air—a smell that Soleil feared and loathed. Her inherent magic had altered her body, and with this alteration came a particular weakness to water. Even drinking was painful, her thirst like a curse. To be drenched in rain? Pure agony.

Soleil ran, as if fleeing from the low rumble of thunder that seemed the herald of the gray clouds' portents. She ran and ran through the unfamiliar and unending expanse of trees, her shoes crunching leaves and snapping twigs loudly in her flight. A sort of panic was setting in. This was the one thing she feared above all others.

There.

Soleil wailed in a tentative relief when she spotted a small rocky outcropping thrusting out over the sharp slope of a small hill. It made a little cave of sorts, just big enough for her to sit inside and gain some measure of shelter from the coming rain. Indeed, it looked like some animal, a small one like a fox maybe, had made a den here before.

Soleil crawled inside, huddled tightly into a ball, her knees tucked under her chin and her arms wrapped around her bent legs. Only a minute later did the downpour begin.

The problem?

The cave floor was canted back ever so slightly. As the rainwater soaked the earth outside, the soil becoming gorged with moisture, gradually did rivulets begin to trickle inside. A tiny bead of rainwater slithered slowly toward Soleil's shoe and touched it and she moaned pitifully.

Desperate, Soleil had but one recourse.

"Help."

She began to cry out plaintively.

"Hellllp..."

Like a wounded animal.

"Helllllllllp..."
 
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Aelita

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The rain continued as Soleil Verdane cried for help.

Water continued to enter the cave.

Between the sounds of raindrops, some rocks outside shifted. Some tumbled into the mud with a soft thunk.

Thunder rolled through the air.

Thud.

Thud


Before Soleil, the rain parted – rolling down an unseen barrier.

Heavy breathing could be heard before her.

And the shape of diverted rain slowly became more like that of a person.

You’re…?” the air called out.

The air shimmered before Soleil for a second. The appearance of Aelita formed before Soleil – one that may have been familiar. Aelita took part in the failed venture to the Falwood. Her tattered cloak and dried blood made that apparent.

Once she seemed to just materialize from thin air, the light mage knelt before Soleil. Water dripped from her clothes.

What’s wrong? Are you wounded?” Aelita innocently asked as her damp hands approached Soleil.
 
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Soleil Verdane

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Soleil gasped when Aelita appeared. Bewilderment she also wore plainly on her expression, as if she couldn't believe that her crying out for help actually worked.

Aelita. One of the Initiates present for the catastrophe deeper in the Falwood. Familiar.

Soleil recoiled as much as could, her back and her head pressing into the concave shape of the earth and stone behind her. "No! Don't touch! Hands wet."

Aelita's fingers may as well have been little knives for all of the apprehension Soleil displayed in regarding them. Ringing around that apprehension in her eyes, a certain—almost feral—wildness, very much like that of a cornered animal. Proctors and fellow Initiates alike knew of Soleil's glaring weakness, and many of the latter often took advantage.

Aelita
 
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Aelita

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Aelita pulled back after Soleil’s response in alarm. Hydrophobia immediately came to mind. Though, even Soleil’s current state seemed too lucid and failed to demonstrate any other symptoms of the disease. And while Aelita and Soleil did not truly knew each other before this, rumors of an Initiate with an intense fear of water had spread in the Academy.

But she knew not if this was some merely mental fear or if water could truly bring harm to the fellow Initiate.

The light mage looked back to the small cave’s entrance – taking note of the slope coming down toward them.

Then, she checked her hands. And her cloak. She took her cloak off and set it aside. Then, she dried her hands off her shirt. Luckily, she managed to keep most of it from the rain.

With noticeably less damp hands, Aelita knelt down before Soleil again. She reached out again to examine her - looking for wounds or anything strange.

Are you hurt?” Aelita calmly asked, “What’s bad about the water?
 
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Soleil Verdane

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Soleil watched warily as Aelita dried her hands. Outside the small cave, another roll of thunder rumbled long and low. The patter of rain was a constant.

Some of that intense apprehension departed from Soleil's sunbathed eyes. Aelita's hands found her without any flinching resistance, and Soleil allowed for it. Her dress, her jacket, thin and wispy both, were dry. Untattered, even though Soleil had been struck multiple times by enemy arrows and blades during the failed mission deeper in the Falwood—such was the way for the clothes she adorned, taking on the aspect of her magic to break apart as sand and reform.

No wounds marred her body. And she said as much, "No. Not hurt." Right as she said it, a fissure, as if in defiance, opened up in the flesh of one cheek and glided down her jaw and down her neck and disappeared at her collarbone.

"Water? Painful."

Soleil pondered a way of putting it into perspective.

"Remember the Box? Stifling. Cramped. Others say. Not for me. Water? Like that, for me."

The Box might not have been effective on Soleil by itself, but Proctor Kilgore always half-filled it with water and stuffed Soleil in there as punishment. Proctor Kilgore did not return after the incident with the latest graduation, and the Box wasn't in use anymore, but just thinking about it was awful enough.

Soleil grew wary again after bringing up the Box, that relic of the old way. As if she had realized she made an error in telling Aelita outright about her weakness, even though it was not uncommon knowledge.

"You hurt me? I hurt you," she said defensively to the other Initiate.

Aelita
 
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Aelita

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Aelita’s hand recoiled after seeing Soleil’s skin unnaturally shift

Okay, not hurt. Good,” was all she could say in response.

Stepping up and back once more, Aelita looked back to the cave entrance. She listened to Soleil explain her aversion to water. It became clear to Aelita – water gave Soleil pain. Yet it remained unclear if this was a phobia or something that could bring permanent harm to the fellow Initiate.

After Soleil’s last words, Aelita turned her head back to the Initiate. With a weary smile, she promised Soleil, “I’d never hurt an ally.

Water continued to seep into the cave. Even for those of normal constitutions, staying there would be dangerous. Sleeping would be impossible, and the risk of flash floods hanged over their heads.

Bringing her head to Soleil’s eye level once more, Aelita asked, “Water'll soak the ground, soon. Is that fine? Or can you run through the rain?

The second question might become very relevant soon. Others may have heard Soleil’s cries as well…
 
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Soleil Verdane

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I'd never hurt an ally.

Soleil cocked her head in a curious avian fashion, scrutinizing Aelita, her brow in a perplexed tangle. Behind her studying eyes, a calculation as to whether Aelita was telling the truth or crafting a lie. The Academy (at least in the old way) did not foster such a sentiment. To hear it spoken aloud with seeming sincerity was baffling.

There wasn't much time to consider it.

Soleil shook her head fiercely at the question of running through the rain. "Cloak? Gone. Lost in battle. Stupid elves. Kill them. One day."

She rested her chin on her knees once again.

"Hate rain."

Simple: because the rain made her feel weak. And weakness was vulnerability. And vulnerability was death.

Aelita
 
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Aelita

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Those that knew of Aelita from the Academy might have heard rumors of her affable nature. But then again, words that she bore fangs behind a mask floated around.

Aelita gave no comment to Soleil’s voiced desire to massacre the elves. She picked up her own cloak and placed it on as dry of a patch next to Soleil as possible.

Take mine,” Aelita told her, “I’m fine if I get wet.

The cloak’s exterior remained wet, but it would provide more protection from the rain than nothing.

Then, Aelita leaned back against the cave’s wall. Her breathing appeared to be labored – as if recovering her stamina. She looked toward the water slowly trickling in. Small pools of water built up on the ground.

I can’t make a fire,” Aelita claimed, “Or maintain a barrier.

Looking to Soleil, “And who knows what may come. If we must leave, know that I’ll be beside you the whole way.

The sound of muddy gallops grew in the distance, though…
 
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Soleil Verdane

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Soleil once again was baffled. She held the cloak given to her by Aelita was if the other girl claimed it were a piece of Pneria, and she regarded the garment with the same fascination as if it truly was a fragment of the moon. Her brow flattened with determination, and she carefully (carefully, for parts of it were still wet) examined the cloak, looking intently for some kind of trick or trap.

Over the din of the rain, those gallops. Soleil made no outward sign of noticing them.

Instead, big eyes full of awe and bereft of understanding gazed at Aelita. And she said simply of the cloak: "Gift?"

Soleil had observed the act of giving a gift by people outside of the Academy. She watched the exchange between, say, a brother and a younger sibling, a husband to a wife, a friend to another old friend, and could never truly grasp why it was done. The gift-giver never gained any advantage. Soleil even adopted giving "gifts" (any miscellaneous item she could find, for she had yet to discern the significance of properly choosing a gift) to random Initiates. An imitation of what she had seen outside of the Academy. An attempt to learn.

She had never actually received a gift herself.

Aelita
 
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Aelita

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Examination of the cloak would reveal no traps or secrets. Likely the only things that Soleil might object to would be some holes torn from wear and dampness.

Huh?” was Aelita’s initial response to Soleil.

Then after a second, she replied with, “Yeah, sure. Keep it.

Anyone that survived to make it back to Vel Anil would likely get a new cloak anyway.

Then, Aelita’s head perked up. The galloping grew louder. Closer. The sound of multiple horses approached.

Ducking down with a hand stretched out toward Soleil, Aelita went, “Shhhh, somethings coming.

As Aelita said that, more water kept seeping into the cave. It touched Aelita’s feet, yet she cared nothing of it. But, some trickles raced down the slope toward Soleil as well...
 
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Soleil Verdane

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Soleil studied every little facet of Aelita in that moment: the little Huh? and moment of hesitation which followed; the expression on her face, all the minute movements of the muscles therein; the manner in which she so casually dispensed with ownership of the cloak. All of these she would remember.

Shhhh, something's coming.

Soleil held the cloak before her knees, almost like a statue offering some propitiation to a deity. She cocked her head and made little turns and adjustments, looking as though she were visibly listening to the sound of approaching horses. Distantly, voices could be heard over the rain, though it was indistinct as yet to whether these voices were speaking Common or some form of Elvish.

All the while, the trickles of water invaded Soleil's and Aelita's hiding hole. First it touched Soleil's shoes, and she did not feel it. Some trickles made it past. From the way in which she was sitting, the trickles of rainwater next touched her bottom, soaking easily through her thin dress.

Soleil bit her lip. Drew in a sharp breath through her nose. She squirmed uncomfortably, uncomfortably, increasingly so, as if she had a normal body and she was slowly being lowered onto a bed of nails. She pinched her eyes shut.

A small, shivering moan of pain escaped her lips, and a larger, louder cry was building in her throat.

Aelita
 
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Aelita

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Indistinct voices spoke to each other. The rain tapping against the rock and ground outside made it difficult to determine their allegiance. Aelita sat in wait. She took care as she breathed in and out to minimize noise. All the while, she remained as still as she could.

Water appeared to affect Soleil as she squirmed and groaned. Aelita turned toward the fellow Initiate – eyes wide open. Jaws clinched.

The horses’ footsteps approached. They grew louder with every second. The dim glow of some light – like one from a torch – built up at the cave entrance within view. Even if they were at the trail nearby, a cry from Soleil would likely be heard.

Swiftly, Aelita lunge forward toward Soleil. She attempted to cover her ally’s mouth with the palm of her hand – to hopefully stimy the sound of any whimpering or crying until the horses are long gone…
 
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Soleil Verdane

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Aelita's hand clapped over Soleil's mouth (a strange, perhaps unnerving feel; the feel of bone, flesh, lips, yes these, but...tiny movements, as if all of them were in a slow shuffling march) and into her palm came the muffled moan of pain.

Hooves. Above the slope of the hill and the rocky outcropping which formed their little cave.

Elvish being spoken. A dialect that was not taught at the Academy, for it had not been successfully translated. The dialect used by members of the Fellowship.

"Waer siil efel?"

"Feyondis ca camin! Ae tyl siil. Imae Dreadlords."

"Gierha nym. Retu siil, varu siil."

More water was trickling into the cave. Soleil tried to lift her bottom up from the ground, but the cave was small and cramped as it was, her back pressing into the rough back wall that hardly allowed her room to maneuver. Her heavy, pained breathing pushed into Aelita's palm like a prisoner railing against the bars of her cell.

The Fellowship scouts seemed to be idling above their hiding spot. Looking out over the forest. Considering their next move. Doing something unseen, that was all which was certain.

Aelita
 
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Aelita

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Aelita clearly heard the Fellowship elves’ voices above.

Too late for sudden movements to go unnoticed.

A wince formed on Aelita’s face as Soleil’s skin squirmed in an odd manner. And as more water seeped in, Soleil seemed to push back more against Aelita’s hand.

In response, Aelita began to use more force to try to muffle any sounds coming from her.

But that was a mistake. With the water having built up on the cave ground, pushing forward too much resulted in Aelita’s foot losing grip.

She slipped.

SPLASH!

Some water got kicked up as Aelita fell down.

On top of that, no hand would obstruct any sounds from Soleil’s mouth…
 
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Soleil Verdane

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Aelita's hand fell away. Water splashed up from her tumble and sprinkled over Soleil and seeped easily through her wispy dress.

Soleil did not feel fear—save in this one case. She faced the prospect of death before at the hands of Proctors, fellow Initiates, and foes alike, but there was no fear, only a sterile sense of self-preservation, an emerging matter-of-fact line of thought, conscious or unconscious, describing blandly what she must do to survive. Only when it came to water did she feel some spark of the emotion of fear.

She first saw the globules of water in the air, kicked up by Aelita's fall. Clear and glistening. She saw all the globules and droplets splash down onto her dress and the crescendo of fear began its dizzying assent. And when the water seeped through the breathable fabric of her clothes, when it flowed onto the flesh beneath, the pain, irresistible, began. The sensation of being both stabbed and crushed where the water touched flesh smothered her.

And Soleil did scream.

No words from the Fellowship elves. Only the sound of boots dismounting from horses and plopping down on the forest floor.

Nothing after that. Nothing, save the din of the constant rain, the creaking of old branches swayed by the rainstorm's breeze, and another ominous roll of thunder.

The elves never made themselves visible to the opening of the little cave, yet into the cave was tossed a clever device of Fellowship making: a Null grenade. Whether these devices were set to detonate by alchemical, magical, or mechanical means was not clear. What was clear were its effects: completely harmless to mundane people, a Null grenade nevertheless sapped the power of those with magic caught within its small zone of effect, disabling them from using magic for up to a few hours. An uncommon weapon, a costly weapon to make, but one employed in recent times as a response to the threat of Dreadlords.

And this Null grenade landed right in-between Soleil and Aelita, looking, as the name suggested, like a dark pomegranate. Any second it would explode and unleash its Nullifying effect.

Aelita
 
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Aelita

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Hiding no longer remained an option.

Pushing against the ground, Aelita felt mud and water had covered a good chunk of her torso and some of her face. She hard the Fellowship elves dismount and approach.

Aelita gritted her teeth. A quick check that her scepter remained at her back. She pushed herself up. She then looked to Soleil. A slight, soft frown followed as she saw the fellow Initiate in an apparent state of pain.

Following that, the sound of the Null grenade rolling on the ground rang into Aelita’s ears. She spotted it – however it was a device she never saw before. Immediate thoughts of an oil filled grenade or smoke bomb came to mind, though. Grenades filled with poison were also weapons seen in Arethil.

Faced with such possibilities from the unknown weapon and an apparently incapacitated ally, Aelita rushed toward the Null grenade. She then attempted to scoop it up and chunk it outside the mouth of the cave
 
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Soleil Verdane

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The Null grenade flew from Aelita's hand and not a moment too soon, for the weapon detonated—its outer skin falling off like a discarded snakeskin, a brief, barely visible flash of light red energy accompanied by a short-lived high-pitched buzz—outside the little cave. No physical matter was disturbed.

However the elves took the failure of their first attempt was not available to be seen. Indeed, none of the Fellowship elves made themselves visible to Aelita or Soleil in the small cave. They were determined, as these Fellowship elves were wont to be, but they were appropriately cautious—they knew what they were dealing with.

"Dreadlords," came one of their voices, speaking Common. "There is no escape. Submit peaceably."

"No!" Soleil called out, unable to keep some of the pain from the water afflicting her Sandform from entering into the word.

"You can submit and be ransomed, or resist and be slain here. It is your choice."

Soleil adjusted her footing, nearly slipping, as she in her hunched over stance pressed herself against the cave's back wall to keep from sitting in the slowly gathering water. She looked to Aelita. Her eyes were wide, yes, but she spoke now in an almost matter-of-fact tone.

"Rain. Me? Bad for fighting. Can't fight. You? What do?"

Aelita
 

Aelita

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Some memories before all this...

Why keep up this war? There’s plenty of chaos back home.

Man hunters? I doubt they’d kill us just because we’re human.

We outnumber them. Maybe they’d surrender if we just talked to them?

Or so thought the light mage with some camouflaging spell...



Aelita heard the Fellowship elves’ demand for surrender. Just after she watched whatever the elves had thrown explode.

Rain continued to pour. Despite it being midday, the clouds ahead greatly limited the sun’s light. Not ideal for Aelita’s light magic. Regardless...

Looking back to Soleil with a tired smile, Aelita told her, “Sit tight. Collect yourself.

Swiftly, Aelita drew her staff. She gave a twirl – deliberate, ritualistic movement. She finished it by pointing the scepter toward the exist of the cave. She covered her eyes with her off arm.

Burst!” she yelled.

An explosion of light immediately followed. It lasted for a split second. A simple intent: blind and disorient anything outside the cave. With no way to check for the efficacy of this spell, Aelita still dashed forward and out of the cave in order to engage the enemies.
 
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Soleil Verdane

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"Trying," Soleil said, her lips in a wrestling match between her will and her need to cry out again in pain. Her will was, at least, winning, for the droplets of water which had touched her were slowly drying out and thus the pain was on the decline.

Soleil watched with interest as Aelita spun her staff. She pointed it and called out an invocation and then Soleil's vision was stark white, no matter if she closed her eyes or had them open. She did not cry out in pain for this, but rather she half-sat there, blinking, more bemused than anything else over what just happened.

Outside the little cave, in their spread-out vantages overlooking the cave's entrance, the three Fellowship elves had bows with arrows drawn aimed and ready. The faintest slivers of their bodies peeked from around thick trees. Rainwater dripped off of their armor-piercing arrowheads.

The burst came. Two of the elves anticipated something amiss and took cover behind their trees. One, however, was not fast enough and was blinded. He yelped, letting his arrow fly wild, and fell back, clutching at his eyes.

The other two elves peeked out from cover again. Saw Aelita. They lined up their shots and loosed their arrows, these sailing through the storm from two different angles.

Aelita
 
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Aelita

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Aelita emerged from the cave. Rain fell upon her once more. Soleil managed to remain relatively quiet as Aelita requested.

Good,” Aelita muttered.

A yelp reached Aelita’s ears. An arrow flew across Aelita’s vision. With a quick spin, Aelita turned to take a glance at the source. No sight of another elf – odd considering a conversation occurred just earlier.

Taking a deep breath, Aelita lifted her staff in the air for a moment. A bit of moment appeared at the corner of her vision. Immediately, she slammed down the tip to the ground.

Prism!” she yelled

And a ball of light then enveloped Aelita. Two arrows struck the luminescent barrier and bounced away as if they struck rock.

With a twist of her staff, Aelita dispelled the barrier before it could consume too much mana.

Stretching out her arms, Aelita then bellowed, “Glory to Vel Anir!

Then, Aelita turned toward a direction where the arrows did not come from and began to run. As she did, she screamed like a maniac through the rain.
 
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Soleil Verdane

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Aelita's tactics were, at least, baffling to the Fellowship elves. She broke into a sprint, not coming toward any of them but in a direction tangential to them all. Similar thoughts occurred among the elves (those two who could see, anyway; the blinded one, his vision only slowly recovering, had but a vague idea of where Aelita was going based on the maniacal scream). Those thoughts, paraphrased: did she think one of them was in that direction? Had she been fooled, or merely rash?

Then, more alarmingly, this thought: Aelita could be a distraction. There was two of them. Even if she had not meant to be a distraction, the fact remained that now they effectively had a Dreadlord to either side of their positions; turn to fire at one, expose your back to the other.

In light of this, the elves retreated. One called out a single Elvish word to their blinded ally, and he too got the message. With elven agility did they rush away from their positions overlooking the cave, taking to the trees with deft jumps and skillful climbing, disappearing amongst the canopy.

They would be content to regroup and attempt to capture or kill the Dreadlords again later, when they had the advantage once more.

So it was that in this way Aelita's unorthodox tactic actually worked.

Soleil, meanwhile, was still in the small cave. She more so crouching now than sitting, and was hurriedly slipping on Aelita's cloak, anticipating that soon she would have to face the one and only thing she feared.

Aelita
 
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Aelita

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A few days prior...

Invisible eyes looked over the Fellowship camp.

They noted the elven numbers being far larger than predicted before.

The Dreadlords stood to be outnumbered instead. No obvious way to force a peace or elven retreat without a fight.

So the unseen girl turned away. Back toward where she came from.

But while her magic could hide her for others’ sight, it failed to hide her tracks from elven hunters...



Aelita continued screaming and running for several more seconds. She dove behind a large boulder for cover and stopped yelling. She only heard her own panting and raindrops. Those of any elven pursuers remained absent. The only noise from them were the elven words spoken to their blinded companion.

For a couple quick moments, Aelita peaked her head out. She looked toward where she saw the blinded elf, and then to where she thought she saw movement from before. No Fellowship elves could be spotted there. No noise from the cave.

Hiding behind the boulder once more, Aelita held her staff close to her heart. She gave a few gestures with her off hand.

Iridescence,” she whispered.

And disappeared.

SPLASH SPLASH SPLASH

The invisible Aelita rushed back toward the cave. She sounds of her sprint and splashing of water as her feet struck the ground could be witnessed. Her magic nearly diffracted the light away from her body – no more.

Making it back into the cave, Aelita saw the crouching form of Soliel. She dispelled her magic and became visible once more.

Aelita rushed toward Soleil. She knelt and reached toward the fellow Initiate. She stopped herself once she noticed water dripping from her hands.

Steel yourself,” Aelita told Soleil, “It’s time to run, or they’ll kill us.
 
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Soleil Verdane

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"Yes," Soleil agreed. "This cave? Not safe."

From both the rainwater and the Fellowship elves, as it so happened. But now Soleil had the cloak on, the hood up and her face hidden deep within. She carefully tied the front of the cloak together, keeping her slight winces contained whenever her fingers touched a damp part of the thick cloth. Her arms were bundled inside now, and it would only be the bottom half of her legs and her feet which could be exposed to the rain, and this only from the motion of running.

But she would have to endure it.

"You? If hurt? What do?"

The question was asked levelly, as a matter of contingency rather than concern—yet Dreadlord Initiates weren't exactly known for caring for the well-being of fellow Initiates. Soleil was keenly aware that she wouldn't be able to do anything for Aelita in that case, and objectively it would deprive her of an ally against more numerous enemies.

Aelita
 
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Aelita

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Aelita’s lips curled into a faint smile once she heard Soleil agree they should leave. She turned toward the cave entrance as Soleil bundled herself up inside of the cloak. The rain began to ease. Yet, Aelita could not see any indication on if this was the end or just a lull.

Upon hearing Soleil’s question, Aelita turned back. A somber look.

If nothing can be done, just run,” Aelita told her.

Just know as long as I can, I’ll be beside you the whole way,” Aelita echoed.

Turning back toward the cave exit, Aelita gestured for Soleil to follow. She brandished her staff – gently moving it in a deliberate, rhythmic motion.

As she would emerge from the cave, with Soleil hopefully following, Aelita would keep scanning the area for any signs of the Fellowship elves...
 
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Soleil Verdane

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"Okay."

Soleil followed to the precipice of the outside. Rainwater dribbled in a number of constant streams off from the overhanging rock which formed the ceiling of the cave, and Soleil eyed the water dubiously. She was incapable of understanding emotion in other people; she lacked the ability to even make the connection that this feeling she felt with the rain and water, fear, could be the same as what other people felt in a myriad of other situations.

Yet it was strong, this fear. Painful to endure. Like a bony claw constricting her imitation heart.

Soleil pushed past it regardless. She ran when Aelita ran, the sound of the rain pattering atop her hood terrifying. Her legs stung as if a dozen or so bees were hovering around and taking turns assailing her, this from the droplets of water kicked up or the unlucky bits of rain which landed on her dress and soaked through to her legs. But she had to push through. However far.

No sign of the Fellowship elves. No attacks, no arrows loosed. Yet. Perhaps this was more unnerving than if they had simply attacked outright.

"Maybe find others," Soleil said. Musing aloud as she ran. "Maybe find shelter."

Three whole days of travel before the rainstorm. Had they made it close to Anirian lands? Were they in Anirian lands now, on the far periphery? Only by finding a settlement, seeing who inhabited it, would the answer be known.

Aelita
 
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