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Bedside Manners (Closed with ComicallyMacabre)

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1 Bedside Manners (Closed with ComicallyMacabre) on Thu Nov 12, 2015 10:17 pm

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Super Duper Angst Meme (Injury Edition)
Send me a ➴  and I will generate a number between 1 and 100 for what my muse will say to yours.
10. "Don't--You'll only hurt yourself more."

The good doctor wiped his brow with the back of his hand, felt the coolness of his sweat collect there. The night had been a long one, but as the dark ended with the coming dawn, so did his work. He glanced down at the woman lying upon the bed, his eyes tracing the severe lines that marred her face, then to the bandages that he'd carefully wrapped around her torso a few hours prior. She'd have a few more scars to add to her collection, it would seem. 

As the soft morning light reached out with gentle fingers to touch the slumbering figure, she had begun to stir. He watched her open her eyes and look around, like most previously unconscious patients had done in the past, and when she began to sit up, he reached out to stop her. His touch was gentle, but firm. "Don't--You'll only hurt yourself more."


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The world was a bright flash of white for a moment, and when that died, it was replaced by somewhere altogether different. Where there had been beautiful mansions, black iron gates, and pompous fellows grown fat on their own ego and too much feasting were blackened, crumbling stone structures that barely resembled the houses and shops that they once were, overgrown vegetation, and a family of deer scampering off in fear of their peace being so suddenly disturbed. It was a sad, beautiful picture, but they did not get to enjoy it for long.

Xiro howled again. Another blue flare of light, this time visibly cascading through his veins as he writhed violently in her grasp, his muscles no longer under his control. He gasped--a desperate, frightening sound--and his eyes rolled back in his skull as his body continued to writhe, twisting a tortured scream from him here and there. The ferocity of the seizure was enough to jar him from the Nightingale's grip and send him to the ground in a crumpled heap.


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It was all Lyra could do to stand in her disoriented, pained, and slightly nauseous state as the two emerged from the cullis gate. That had certainly been quite the. . experience; one the scholar wasn't keen on repeating any time soon, despite her initial excitement. It took no time at all for her to recover her senses, however, as Xiro thrashed in her arms and managed to wrench himself loose from her numbed grasp, toppling to the crumbled cobblestones beneath them.

"Xiro!" She gasped, quickly dropping herself to a knee beside him.

Her companion was in an absolutely frightful state, and her eyes widened as she witnessed his violent convulsions. All she could think of to do was to take his hand and hold it tightly as she looked around, desperately seeking a place-- any place-- to take him while he dealt with the intense pain wracking his body. "No, no, no, no-- Ngh!" The redhead bit back a curse, gasping as a hellish shock made its way up her arm. It was then that she spotted a building some distance away, its structure mostly intact compared to many of the surrounding ruins. She looked back down to Xiro, brows knitted in worry as she tried to gauge the distance between them and the dilapidated building. Breathing in deeply, preparing herself for what surely was to be quite unpleasant, she seemed to make up her mind and began to help him stand up somewhat and placed his arm over her shoulder with some difficulty. She began to rise herself then, keeping her knees bent as she placed her leg between his and bent forward, adjusting her grip on him as she strained to pull him up.

"Alright-- Come on, now," she grunted with a hiss of pain, "this isn't going to be much fun for either of us, but I need you to stay with me." Finally, she managed to hoist the much taller man up over her shoulder, wrapping an arm around his legs and gripping his arm in a soldier's carry. It was useful to have been raised in a military household at times. The Nightingale stood slowly, unable to contain a cry of agony as her muscles tensed, straining her injuries as she struggled to carry the weight of someone larger than herself-- with the added bonus of his writhing and howling all the while. She worked toward the building at an agonising speed, her face screwed up as she tried to focus on moving, sweat beading on her brow. There was a tearing sensation somewhere along the way and she choked back a second cry, biting her lip hard enough that it bled.

After what seemed an eternity, she managed to make her way into the cover of the ruined structure, kicking away some debris that blocked the entrance. She staggered, her breath coming out as a ragged wheeze, to a secluded corner of the room-- obscured by what appeared to have once been a tavern bar-- and fell to her knees. Carefully as she could, she slid Xiro off of her trembling shoulders and adjusted herself, barely registering the warmth of fresh blood staining her bandages and her clothing as she placed her companion's head in her lap and gripped his hand once more. It was all she could do to offer comfort as her head rolled back, resting against the wall of the blackened, ancient building as she waited for Xiro's attack to pass.

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It was several minutes before the convulsions died down to mere twitches, before the screams became whimpers. He huffed and puffed as he struggled to regain his senses. Like her, he could feel the blood from his reopened wounds stopping through bandage and cloth. Fever sweat beaded upon his brow, and he faded in and out of consciousness for gods knew how long before he finally came out of the stupor the ordeal had left him in.

Her face filled his vision, coming in and out of focus, and he realized her hand had captured his. He gave it a squeeze. "Lyra..." His voice was rough and little more than a rasp. "Are you alright...?"


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Time passed slowly for the fiery-haired woman as she lay back against the mossy and weatherworn ruin. It was all she could do to find things to occupy her attention, to ignore her pain as best she could while she held still, cradling Xiro's head in her lap. She watched the sky through the decayed bits of roof as the sunlight filtered down upon them, listened to the occasional birdsong that reached her ears, took in the smell of earth and ancient buildings. . In any other situation, this would have been positively idyllic for the withdrawn librarian, but it was hard to appreciate as she listened to her companion's cries and whimpers of pain. Occasionally she looked down, making sure he was still with her during his lapses of silence, and frowned when she saw the deep red stains blooming on his bandages again.

'Seems we're both getting out of this a bit worse for wear,' she thought. It had been some time since she'd felt this exhausted, and she looked forward to getting back to a nice, warm bed. Such was the skull-splitting headache she sported now that she honestly wasn't picky whose bed it was, at this point. There was a stirring then, and she sat up a little straighter, her gaze shifting down to look at the brown-haired man as he returned to consciousness. Her relief was palpable.

"Welcome back," she said softly, a warm ghost of a smile on her cracked lips as she felt his hand tighten around hers.

"Lyra... Are you alright...?"

The question surprised her; he'd been through all that, and yet the first thing he wanted to know was if she was alright? She laughed lightly, the sound coming out a bit wheezy. "Well, I suppose I could be worse, considering." She touched a hand to her chest, a brief grimace registering across her face as it came away red-- though, not as much as one would have expected of a woman in her condition. "You know, you're a lot heavier than someone as skinny as yourself ought to be."

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He tried to return the smile, but it fell quickly, for he was too tired to exert the effort of maintaining it. Instead, he pat her hand twice and closed his eyes. "Thank you," he sighed. "I'm sorry to... drag you into this mess of mine..." He took another breath, wincing as his chest spasmed. "We'll rest a while before moving on... I'd like to be able to stand on my own... I don't like to feel so burdensome."


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Lyra frowned down at her amber-eyed companion. "You're not a burden, Xiro." She replied, her eye meeting his. "Everything I've done today has been of my own choosing, and I know when to take responsibility for my own decisions." She sighed softly, her breath ragged, and relaxed against the wall again.

"But yes. ." She began with a nod, closing her eyes as she bathed in the subtle warmth of the sunlight that shone its rays down upon her through the crumbling ceiling. "I think a short break would do the both of us some good."

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He didn't manage to stay awake long enough to reply.

It was well past noon by the time his eyes opened again. He could have slept until the sun expanded and swallowed the world, had it not been for the nightmares that plagued him and forced him to wake with a start. There were several moments where he saw shadows painted on the walls of his cell before he realized that what he was looking at were the shadows of trees in blessedly unfamiliar corners. It took only seconds longer to remember where he was and why he'd come to be there.

He turned his gaze to the woman who was currently serving as his pillow. She looked about as tired as he felt, with deep, purple bags beneath her eyes to show for it. Gently, he touched her hand. 

"Lyra."


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"Mmnh. . ?"

The Nightingale shifted as she roused from sleep she couldn't even remember falling into, her eyes bleary and unfocused as they fluttered open. She briefly clung onto the fleeting memory of a dream she'd been having; it had been so familiar to her, and yet, she wasn't able to remember it. All she could recall even for the briefest moment was a bright, warm light and a feeling of serenity. And. . a voice? It was fuzzy to say the least, and she quickly dismissed the thoughts as nothing more than the influence of the sunlight that had moved to shine right in her face.

She shielded her good eye with her free hand, not noticing the butterfly that had been resting upon it as it flitted away, and looked down at the amber-eyed man responsible for her numb leg and a hand that was rather more warm than she was accustomed to. Despite her fatigue-filled eyes and the throbbing pain that quickly returned to her, the smile she gave him as he came into focus was genuine.

"Afternoon." She managed, her voice thick with sleep.

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"Did you sleep well?" he found himself asking, doing his best to lift himself from her lap so that he could sit up on his own. He had difficulties, but he was not easily deterred, and he soon sat beside her against the wall. "How are you feeling?"


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"Surprisingly, yes." Lyra said, stretching her legs out properly for the first time in several hours. Her eye followed her companion as he sat up; she was relieved to see him moving around after such an ordeal. She brushed back loose tresses of wild red hair with her fingers, tucking them back behind her ears, and straightened out her heavy plait as best she could.

"As for how I feel, well," she turned her head to look at the man now sitting beside her and met his eyes with her own. Once again, he was asking how she felt when he was the one being tortured by an unseen force. It was touching, but Lyra wasn't concerned with herself right now. Not after seeing him like that. "I think the better question to be asked is how you're feeling."

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The smile he gave in return was tight and tired. "I've been worse." And that was no lie. While the torture the runes inflicted was terrible, there were worse pains to suffer through, and he was familiar with all of them. "I'll be fine, especially after we find whatever it is we are looking for. Assuming I haven't been betrayed, I won't have to worry about my invisible shackles any longer. One step on the road to freedom, I suppose."


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"One step on the road to freedom, I suppose."

Lyra's lips quirked in a small smile as she looked over at Xiro, glad to hear something resembling positivity from the brown-haired scholar. "Indeed? Well then, let's get to it." She cleared her throat then and grabbed hold of the nearest thing she could as she stood herself up shakily, wincing at the stab of pain that shot through her breast before she offered him her hand.

"I'm keen to see you rid of those blasted things."

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He gripped her hand firmly and stood with a grunt, using the wall to support most of his weight so that he would not do her further harm. "I've been told that this is a more temporary solution to the problem. The only way to truly be rid of them is to kill the ones who made them. Which I most certainly will be doing." Assuming it was even possible. He'd certainly need help; this wasn't a one man job. Hell, he wasn't even confident that an entire army would be able to defeat his enemies. "...Hopefully."

With a sigh and a shake of the head, he turned and hobbled from their dilapidated shelter. "Come. We must get there before nightfall if we want to avoid trouble. Ruins attract deadly beasts of all sorts. 'Tis this way; follow me."


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The auburn-haired scholar followed the man's lead, careful not to trip over the remnants of the debris that she'd kicked away earlier, and shielded her face once more as they stepped out into the full sunlight. Her eye was drawn to all the crumbled stone structures now, no longer preoccupied by an incapacitated companion, and she couldn't help but look on in wonder at what was once a prosperous city hundreds of years ago. Ancient ruins were always such a heartbreaking thing to see. To think of once-strong buildings just lying there waiting for the earth to reclaim them while the rest of the world moved on was an awfully sad thought. Still, she loved the opportunities she got to see them and imagine what they must have been like during their prime.

"So," Lyra started, wishing to end a lull in conversation that had fallen over the two. "I don't suppose you'd be willing to tell me more about who-- or what-- hunts you?" Her fingers delicately brushed past mossy stones as she spoke, her strides becoming a little more even as they trudged on. "I'd like to have an idea of what to look out for, if you'd be willing to talk about it."

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Well, there was no harm in it, providing she didn't ask too many questions...

"I'm assuming you know of the Crawler, yes?" he asked, glancing back at her as he guided her through the remains of the city. "That was one of the Corruptor's Lieutenants, to give you an idea of what we're up against. There are several more and they are all working tirelessly to help their master gain entry into this world from the Void. The Corruptor himself is... infinitely more dangerous." He took a breath, running his hand through his hair again, brushing hanks of his curls from his face.

"You also must know of the old stories, about William Black and his role in taking down the Court of Blades and becoming Archon, about how he disappeared one day and never returned? There's more to the tale than just that. You see, the Sword of Aeons was--is--an evil thing, possessed by a force few can understand. If you remember, Black sold his soul to it in exchange for the power to slay the Court and take Albion for his own." He sounded sad, though there wasn't really a reason to be so. "The Sword kept its end of the bargain, and once that was done, slowly began to corrupt Black's soul until he began to change into a completely different person. Even his children were selfish and of a meaner nature. Aware of the changes that had been made to him, Black fled with the Sword, and he cleaved his soul in two. The corrupted portion was cast into the Void, while the weaker pure portion, withered and fragile, hid the Sword and took up a new name and hid himself in the snowy Wastes. That should have been the end of it, but nothing is ever so easy.

"The corrupted fragment gained sentience within the Void, and it grew in power. It believed itself to be the true William Black, Archon of Albion, and rightful ruler of the land. It--or perhaps he--felt as though he had been wrongfully imprisoned, and set about building himself an army. That is what I face today. That is my enemy, Albion's enemy. He won't stop until he gets what he wants, and he doesn't care who he hurts to get it."


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Lyra, quite honestly, hadn't expected Xiro to actually answer her question, but she was pleasantly proven wrong. Well, not pleasantly, per se.

The librarian listened intently to what he had to say and nodded along, voicing affirmatives to the bits of history she knew. Her mind reeled as she tried to recall all that she could of the Archon's history. It was strange to hear one so knowledgeable on the subject; there was, after all, little information regarding the Old Kingdom. The destruction of the Spire had been cataclysmic from what little was known of it, and had taken much of the Old Kingdom's history and civilization with it. Of course, he was a teacher. . .

"I must admit," She said softly, her brows furrowed as she pondered his words, "this is a lot to take in. The only knowledge I've ever been able to find regarding The Crawler spoke of the Three Heroes who trapped him originally, and that ended-- well, you know." She glanced over at her companion, clearly not needing to go on. "And you say that was only a lieutenant? To the corrupted part of William Black, no less?" She shook her head, worry lacing her expression. "It's hard to believe, I must admit, but. ." She trailed off, her voice becoming little more than a mutter to herself. "Perhaps this does do something to explain those awful storms. ."

She was quiet then, lost in thought. What did Xiro have to do with all this?

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Xiro nodded. "He attempted to breach the barrier through the Spire this last year, but was thwarted in his efforts and the breach was sealed. I don't know who was responsible for it, but they have my thanks. They've bought us all a little time. Unfortunately, his lieutenants are still here and very much active, trying to find another way to let him through. And since the explosion of the Spire, magic is rapidly returning to Albion's soil. I'm not sure what this means for us." He cast a wary glance towards the sky. It was sunny now, but he could see a storm brewing in the distance. "It could turn out to be a blessing or a curse. Only time will tell."

They passed through the remains of the city gates. The wood had rotted away long ago, leaving only the great walls behind, and even they were crumbling and filled with holes likely made when the city was raided some four hundred years prior. The path from there was wildly overgrown and hardly a path at all, and they had to step carefully over fallen logs and around thorny bushes. Eventually, there was a turn and a slope, and there, hauntingly sad and far from the glorious thing it had once been, stood the Heroes Guild. 

It had suffered greatly in the attack, and for many years afterwards. It had been torn apart by raiders and those angered by the Heroes of old alike, ransacked for whatever treasures that had lain within. No doubt the place was haunted and empty. Xiro only hoped that the Demon Door had been left undisturbed...

"Come," he directed, stepping through the space where the door had once been. "Be on your guard. There may be bandits or other particularly nasty creatures lurking within. We can't afford to tangle with them right now."

He crept through the place as though he knew it by heart, passing into what had once been the library, now devoid of books and blackened by fire, and through a passage, down a long set of stairs. It was too dark to see without light, and so with a sigh, he lit a small ball of flame in his palm. It sputtered and flickered, trying its best to remain alive, and he grimaced as the markings around his wrists gave a small pulse of light and pain in protest. "Damn...," he grunted, having to pause and lean against the wall to catch his breath, the fire still alive and flickering in his hand. It was only a few moments, though, before he was continuing on again. "Ah... Come on... We're almost there."

This way would eventually lead to the Chamber of Fate, but that was not his destination. Instead, he veered down a connecting corridor and into a small chamber. Nothing was in it, except for a mighty door with a face carved into its front. It seemed different than most Demon Doors: incredibly old, hewn from the very rock that made up the wall. Its face was different, too. While the others sported a dapper look, this one seemed... savage, in a way. Primitive, but powerful. Its eyes were closed, and a gentle breathing came from it as it slumbered.

Xiro stared at it a moment, his breath coming out in puffs of cold, stale air. "This is it..."


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Any further questions that Lyra had been prepared to ask of Xiro quickly died on her lips as her gaze fell upon the crumbled and blackened remains of the once-mighty Heroes' Guild. There was a small flutter of awe-struck excitement in her heart; she'd yearned to set her eyes on this place for so long, and to think it was finally happening was almost surreal. Even more so when taking her present company and everything she'd seen and learned today into consideration. "Avo. ." She breathed, placing her hand up against cold, weatherworn stone. It was hard to imagine that such a sad sight had once been filled to bursting with Heroes and apprentices seeking to hone their abilities, or that the great Hero of Oakvale himself had once stood here!

"Come." Xiro's voice brought Lyra back to reality and she hurried back to his side. "Be on your guard. There may be bandits or other particularly nasty creatures lurking within. We can't afford to tangle with them right now."

The redhead nodded. "I'd prefer to avoid any more trouble, if possible. Avo knows the both of us seem to have had our share." She found herself drawing closer to the amber-eyed gentleman as the walls and darkness closed in and was thankful for even the meager light source he was able to produce, though she did worry at the faint pulse of the runes on his wrists. Lyra could swear that she heard a faint whispering in her ears, the tell-tale tingle of magic in the air caressing her skin, but she shook the feeling off as she followed behind her companion. Soon enough, Xiro stopped, causing her to bump her nose against the back of his shoulder when she didn't follow his example quickly enough.

"This is it. ."

"What i-- oh!" The librarian gasped softly as her eye adjusted, catching sight of the great door before them. "Is that. . A Demon Door?" She asked softly, tilting her head as she strained to see in greater detail. "I've never seen one like it before." Not that she'd exactly seen many in her time. One or two, but they'd never opened for her.



Last edited by ComicallyMacabre on Wed Dec 16, 2015 6:34 am; edited 1 time in total

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"That it is," Xiro sighed, stepping forward to examine the door closer. "It's probably been asleep for centuries. It's older than most of the ones you'll see around today. Never been opened--Ah!"

Another pulse from his wrists, and he stumbled backwards and into Lyra, the shock of it snuffing the flame in his hand out like a candle and plunging them into darkness. Like lightning, his hand closed tightly around her forearm. She couldn't see it, but his eyes darted this way and that, wild with the fear that had seized him. His heart thundered in his ears, and though he knew it was his mind playing tricks, he swore he could hear whispers in the darkness.

"Nononono--!"

He shut his eyes tight, but there was no escaping the Darkness. Flashes of whips, cages, chains, and brilliant agony entered his mind, painful memories that haunted him in his most vulnerable moments. Panic had wrapped its fingers around him, its grip like ice-fire. He was trembling now, clinging to her as though she were the only thing anchoring him to reality. They're not there, the logical part of his mind told him, but the madness was screaming the opposite. He repeated the words to himself like a mantra, low and quiet, under his breath, lest they somehow hear him and prove him wrong. "They're not here, they're not here, they're not here..."


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"Xiro, wh--?" It all happened so quickly. One moment Xiro had been speaking and the next he'd stumbled backward into her, the small flame he'd conjured extinguished. The darkness pressed in upon the two of them and his hand clutched at her arm, wrapping around it in a vice-like grip that filled her body with chills. She could hear his breath become short, his heart hammering away at his chest as if attempting to escape.

Confusion fell upon the smaller woman, quickly followed by fear of her own as she looked around, the extent of how dark their surroundings really were setting in. Her mind flashed to her recurring nightmares, to the creatures of Darkness that had come to Albion all those years ago. She could remember the awful blackness, the sickening words that had penetrated her skull, the creature that had tried so hard to kill her and Aidan. . It was all she could do not to cry out as her memories flooded her thoughts, and she buried her face in Xiro's shoulder, the closest thing she could find.

"They're not here, they're not here, they're not here. . ."

Lyra wasn't sure whether it was directed to her or to himself, but she nonetheless latched onto her companion's words, trying to block out the awful memories. And then came a great rumbling and the sound of stone grinding against stone, followed by a long, exasperated sigh.

"Oh, for pity's sake, what is it now?"

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Xiro flinched when she clung to him and buried her face into his shoulder, but he did not move away from her. She was the only thing keeping him from going completely mad and losing himself to the horrors of his mind. A hundred years ago, he might have said that being afraid of the dark was a childish thing, would have said that the darkness was not inherently evil. But now, he knew for a fact that the children had it right. There was nothing more understandable, more wise, than being afraid of Darkness.

"Oh, for pity's sake, what is it now?"

He very nearly jumped out of his skin when the voice pierced the blackness, and it took everything he had just to peek open an eye. There the door stood, glaring heatedly at them with bright white eyes. They may have been twin suns with the way they lit the whole chamber. After glancing in all the corners, Xiro was able to ease his hold on Lyra's arm, though he did not yet let go of it. The fear was still present, even though now he knew well that it was unfounded.

He said nothing, still trying to regain his composure, still craning his head around to make sure that the shadows were not shifting somewhere behind him. The whispers hissed within his skull, though they were further away now, harder to hear, harder to understand. His wrists gave another pulse once, twice, three times, nearly driving him to his knees and pulling all the air from his lungs. The pain was enough to drive out the voices and replace them with a low buzz, which soon died and made room for rational thought.

Get a hold of yourself, fool!

Taking a few deep breaths, he straightened and looked the door dead in the eye. "I've--," he grimaced as the runes flashed again. Damn... This wasn't good. They needed to hurry. "I've come to claim what is mine. I believe you've been holding it safe for me all of these years...?"


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Lyra gasped, a small squeak of a noise as her head bolted upright at the booming voice, and squinted in the light of the door's eyes, not having expected them to be quite so bright. The redhead couldn't help but feel relief though as her fears subsided, feeling rather silly and embarrassed at herself; she hoped Xiro wouldn't remember her clinging to him like some sort of frightened schoolgirl.

"Oh, lovely," the door rumbled in its deep earthy voice, shaking its great head as if to reprimand two children that had disturbed its rest. "First those nasty little ruffians from before try to bust me open and now some. . Amorous couple comes along looking for a new, exciting place to steal away to?"  It sighed once again, looking down at the two of them with weariness bordering on contempt. "I suppose it's simply too much to ask that I be left in peace; honestly, no one ever shows respect for elders these days. . Shoo!"

"O-- Oh, no, we--" Lyra stammered, brows shooting up in shock at the notion, and she felt a heat burning up into her cheeks. She would have drawn away from Xiro then had he not been holding onto her still, and she could feel him tensing up, her eye drawn to the pulsing of the runes on his arm. "I've come to claim what is mine." She heard Xiro say, his voice barely keeping together, from the sound of it, "I believe you've been holding it safe for me all of these years...?"

"Eh?" The door grunted and narrowed its eyes, straining its head closer to the pair even as the thundering sound of ancient stone moving against itself reverberated throughout the chamber. "And who d'you think you are to-- Well!" The door blinked then, its face turning from lazy arrogance to recognition as if truly noticing him for the first time, and it bristled. "It's taken you bally well long enough, Jack! Do you realise how long I've been here?" It turned its attention to Lyra then, squinting further. "And what is it that you have with you there? Some oversized wisp? Tell it to tone down that ruddy light. I can barely see a thing."

Jack? Wisp?

The librarian looked up with quirked brows to her companion in confusion and alarm, silently seeking answers to the questions buzzing in her mind.

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Xiro froze.

Oh.

Oh, shit.

In his haste to remove the magical shackles that bound him and in the fog of the pain that they had caused him, it had not occurred to him that the Demon Door, who would most certainly recognize him, would likely not have the sense to keep its ancient, over-sized mouth bloody shut. It had given away not only his age, but also his true nature in one fell swoop, and he had to scramble to come up with a lie to explain it all away.

"--Something I used to go by, a moniker borne by many of my ancestors," he told Lyra after a few brief seconds of thought. "I have said that I wasn't always a teacher, aye? I'm not sure what it could mean about the light, though..." Both statements were true enough, though he was leaving out quite a few details regarding the first and had an inkling as to the second.

He then turned his attention back to the mighty Door, clearing his throat and speaking in a stronger, more authoritative tone, "Forgive me; I was... detained. As for my friend, I'm not sure why she aggravates you so. There is no light that I can see. Now, would you mind very much if we went inside? I am eager to collect."


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The Nightingale's puzzled expression didn't fade and she fixed her eye upon Xiro for a few moments before deciding to take his word for it-- for now. Her attention returned to the demon door, which seemed thoroughly irritated at how curtly the amber-eyed gentleman had spoken to it.

"Not even so much as a 'how do you do', eh? Well," the door harrumphed, "you always were an impatient little upstart. Go on, then," it conceded, a deep boom echoing throughout the ancient halls of the guild as it split open, each side receding into the wall. "Crack on through!"

Ancient Of Aeons

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He could feel her judgement crawling on his back as he stepped through the swirling light, not even bothering with uttering an apology to the door. Gods, how was he supposed to explain this? Clearly, she wasn't satisfied with the first. She was too smart for that. He'd have to come up with something better, lest she become too curious and figure it out too soon.

But for now, there were more important matters to attend. As the light of the door faded, they found themselves in an altogether different place. The sun shone brightly down upon them, birds with wings of blue and chests of white sang as they flit through the air, and the stone walls that surrounded them were covered in green ivy and a plant that bloomed small, white flowers. Bluebells and heather gathered at their feet, visited by butterflies of every color, and somewhere in the distance, the tinkling of little silver bells. And at the center of the garden was a tall, flowering elder tree, a pedestal at its foot. It contrasted greatly with the dreary darkness of the ruins: bright, peaceful, and charged with magic. Safe. 

He had to take a moment to breathe, to take it all in and bask in the profound sense of tranquility. This was the safest he'd felt in so very, very long, and all of the fear that had found him earlier quickly disappeared. He felt warm, like he'd just come home after being away for far too long. 

"No evil can find us here," he breathed, glancing back at her. "We're safe as long as he remain here." Not even the markings bothered him now, though they still pulsed with light, and the voices that hissed and whispered in his skull were silenced. He felt stronger, more alive than he'd felt in many years, and he found himself smiling. "I think I should like to linger here a while, even after I get what I came for. This place is... soothing.

"Now," he said, facing forward once more, "to the matter at hand..."

As he approached the tree, he felt his hands begin to tremble once more, though it was less caused by any sort of emotion and more of a involuntary vibration resonating from his wrist and traveling to the tips of his fingers and up his entire forearm. He glanced down at them, eyes widening when their gaze landed upon the markings, which were no longer pulsing, but a solid stream of blue light. They sparked wildly, but no pain came from them. And then, the light left them, drawn out from his very skin and into the air, where the ribbons of gleaming luminescence arched and dipped towards the pedestal, as though whatever it carried was claiming them for its own.

After several moments, the dazzling show subsided and the trembling of his hands ceased. He swallowed, turning them over and over again as he examined them closely. The markings were still there, of course. Raised, pink scars in the shapes of symbols carved out by a hot knife. He shuddered at the memory, but strangely, there was little fear in his breast. 

"It seems my source has proven to be a true friend after all," he muttered softly to himself as his fingers ghosted over one wrist, then the other. His feet carried him to the base of the tree, where he gently plucked the reason for his freedom from what had been its home for gods knew how long. It was a small, porcelain flute, round and portly, decorated lavishly with glowing blue markings much like the ones carved into his flesh, and it hung from a long leather cord looped around to form a necklace. After a brief moment of hesitation, he slipped it on over his head.

"I have to admit," he said finally, after a long stretch of silence, "this wasn't what I expected to find... Such a tiny thing, and yet it was able to negate magic that I could not..."


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