One shove and I was thrown to the ground with such force that the world spun before me.
I watched Molly’s eyes close, and the soldiers smile when they saw their entertainment for the day becoming a lifeless inanimate target. They headed towards me next of course. Far Realm isn’t as big as some think. I knew all of these men. Some even had children of their own! One, a dark haired fellow had a daughter my age. I had seen them once at a festival leaving as I came to sneak a few leftovers before the guard ushered us out.
I thought I was going to die that day as well, and I surely would have. I was about to lose consciousness when a man in brilliant, shining armor stopped and he ordered them to attention with so much authority. I had never heard a command like that followed so abruptly by the soldiers of the colony. Even from Commander Fritz. The men looked at him with such admiration. That always left an impression on me! I remember the man and his armor. The great tree of Cellinor. The red crimson sash.
“Crimson, did you say, young one?”
Yes, there was a sash, tied beneath the breastplate. I remember it for it was the first thing I saw as he stooped down and picked me up. The soldiers had gone and for some reason, although I had no reason left to think it, I knew this man in the shining armor could be trusted. ‘Your friend will become a part of the Flame now,’ he told me. ‘Do not despair, it is a place of warmth, of light, and safety. There you may find her, when the Light calls for you.” He covered her frail body with a cloth, and he placed his hands on my wounds. I remember they were large hands, but gentle. A warmth like I had never felt before flowed into me. He had cured my many wounds. The man took out a water skin and poured from it into my mouth. He wiped my face. I remember his teeth were a brilliant white. I felt safe when he smiled at me.
“You would have been quite the Hero,” he then said to me. I remember thinking how weird that was to call a street urchin something like that. Silly in fact. But nevertheless, I know it is what he said. “Heroes can take many forms. In fact, they can be anyone.”
“I have a friend who has been…misplaced by a member of my immediate team,” he told me, or perhaps it was something like that. And as he said this, he put his hand into a rucksack and brought it forth. Opening it, a small mouse sat, whiskers shaking. The mouse immediately jumped out and ran towards me leaping on top of my head. I futilely tried removing the audacious rodent from my person with no success! It had made its home on my shoulder. I could literally see it smile conivingly as it just made itself more comfortable. I jumped when I heard the shining soldier laugh at my frustration. ‘My friend would much desire for you to keep her in good company,’ he chuckled. “You should name him, it’s something she forgot to do.”
“Name him? This squeaking little monster, no way!” I replied.
The man laughed, and stood up. “Squeaks it is little hero, a good name if I daresay myself. Take care my little friend Squeaks and keep this young lady
out of trouble, you hear?” With that he rustled my hair and disappeared around the corner.
That’s how I ended up with Squeaks, you see. How I lost Molly as well.
“It must have been hard losing someone, that looked to you for protection.” The voice, although casual and nonchalant, for just a moment took on a slightly different quality. Areia thought it might have even been sympathy.
I will always be haunted by Molly’s face, how she looked so serene as though she was just sleeping and would wake up any moment. I’ll never forgive myself for not being able to protect her. She counted on me and and….. I, I failed. I promised myself then and there that I would be smarter,that I would be stronger, and never again would I allow someone I cared for to die in front of me.
“What happened then, is that how you ended up an assassin?”
After Molly died I knew I had to be stronger and learn to fight, I didn’t even know where to begin. It was just happenstance that one day I tried pickpocketing the wrong person. That’s when I met Dra’kr, or rather became enslaved by him. He was a real piece if work, instead of cutting off my hand as he had originally planned, he decided he could use a street rat for his more…menial jobs he didn’t want to dirty his hands with.
“So he took you under his wings?” The voice laughed this time, as if it couldn’t help it.
That would be sugarcoating it. But yes I was at least fed some scraps, learned how defend myself, got to learn every nook and corner of the city. But he was a cruel master, I hated him with every fiber of my being. Him and his kind were a bunch of sadistic bastards.
“Slaves will always rise up against their masters, assassin. What happened to this Dra’kr fellow?”
Ariea smirked and a slow smile crept onto her face. “I can definitely show you to him. Untie my wrists and give me my daggers and I’ll send you straight to him.” She spat.
“No…no…I am sorry my dear assassin, but there is simply no time for you to kill me. Besides, you must save your strength. There are many darkened things in the world. There will be many more as well, as you will surely see should you live to know it.”
Areia watched and listened carefully. Several of the men whom she had helped to rescue were starting to stir. She could now make out Thrak snoring away atop a pile of filth Basel had accumulated. She turned towards the direction of the speaker, sitting on the stool next to her. The figure stood then, and moved toward the secret door that led to the sewers. As it walked by her, it’s cloak dragged along on the floor and like the it’s footsteps there was not a sound.
She wanted desperately to stop it. But she simply had to watch as the mysterious speaker made it’s way to the secret door that led out to the sewer.
“WHO ARE YOU?!!!” she tried to demand, but the yell came out of her as nothing more than a faint whisper, barely audible even to herself. “Who in the darkness are you? Please,” she begged, “I have to know.”
The figure stopped then. It looked over it’s shoulder. Again, there was nothing to see in the folds of it’s cloak, the dark space within. “Goodbye child of the Light.” Turning back around it stepped into the doorway of Basel’s sliding entrance. Areia though had only needed a portion of that time, a second or two at most. While the figure had turned back to her, she had swung her feet around silently. She couldn’t pry them apart, nor her hands, but together they moved exactly where she wanted them to go. With one boot holding down the robe’s trim, the other pulled at the fabric in a twisting motion so that the cloak slid down from the hidden face. She looked up at just the right moment and saw through the black haze a woman’s face! Or rather, it was a girl’s. Almond eyes, silver hair, pointy ears, just like….Areia gasped.
The face was hers. Not who she was now. Whom she had been so many years ago. It was the face of the girl who had wanted desperately to save her friend Molly.
“Clever indeed little trickster,” came Areia’s own voice from her younger self.
“WHO ARE YOU?!!!”
The face smiled. It made Areia angry for some reason. “Who we are, all of us, Areia Nightshade, has never been as important as what we do. For my part. I seek. I am….a seeker.”
And just like that, the figure was through the doorway, and gone. The secret panel slid back into place effortlessly.
“Areia? Areia? I don’t know that she made it Sir Ian.” She vaguely remembered the voice of the Commander. Fritz. “Wait! Sir Ian! Our count holds. The rogue has survived. No major injuries to report. You’re one tough little urchin aren’t you?”
“Where, where is she?!” Areia stammered. She tried to stand up, but Fritz put a hand on her shoulder and cautioned her to take her time. Areia looked around at the ragtag troop of assembled colonists being awakened one at a time by Ian.
“She?” asked the Commander. “Of whom do you speak, rogue?”
“She…she…,” replied the rogue, “The Seeker.”
The commander did not answer. His intense blue eyes took in her face for a brief moment. “You’ve had a nightmare young one, nothing more,” he said. I should think as much after the things you’ve seen recently. Plenty more before we’re through.”
Areia rubbed her eyes, upset at herself for having lost her cool in front of others. There had been no watch, and that was a mistake she did not often make. She reached out to get her gear, using a small stool to lift herself back onto her feet.
She sat down upon the stool, and heard it creak slightly, just as it had in her dream.