The Red Temple was right where it was supposed to be, nestled at the base of a volcano. It was much hotter here from the heat of the lava from the top. The air smelled of ash and smoke, and it would have made the thief gag had it not been for the scarf wrapped around his mouth. He entered the temple, his footsteps echoing through the stone hall. "Hello? Is there anyone here?" he called out.
A kind looking priestess emerged from around the corner in moments. A warm smile spread across her face beneath her white mask. "Welcome to the Red Temple of Ula, traveler. Are you here seeking sanctuary?"
The thief looked so innocent, so kind. "Yes, please." he said. "Thank you for your kindness."
"Follow me." She beckoned him, and he followed down a hall. "I will show you to your room. I am Sister Amala. I will send Sister Sofia to you shortly to bring you some bread. You must be hungry."
"How many priestesses are here?"
"Four. Myself, Sister Sofia, Sister Alexandria, and Sister Melis."
"Okay. Thank you." The thief smiled kindly at the priestess, and she disappeared down the hall, her footsteps echoing behind her. This task would be too easy. Maybe he'd keep one for himself. He'd have earned her.
Sister Sofia entered several moments later with the bread, the visible features beneath her mask implying she was quite beautiful. That drove the thief wild. He grabbed her, and spent several minutes raping her. She was screaming the whole time, alerting the other three priestesses. Two entered to rescue their sister, and he paused long enough to grab one to slit her throat with a dagger he withdrew. The other fought to wrestle the dagger away from him, and somehow managed to succeed. In turn, he grabbed her neck and wrenched it, the snap killing her. He knocked out the girl he had taken, and took a bite of the bread she had brought. Now for the stone.
He ventured into the hall with his girl slung over his shoulder, looking around for the Red Stone. He found it in a special chamber, where he found Sister Amala praying to Ula for forgiveness, Inesa for protection, something, anything. She turned to face the thief with a determined glare. "You'll never take the stone."
"I won't? Try me." He smirked now, amused at the priestess' boldness.
In response, she lunged at the thief, and he jammed the dagger into her heart. Blood poured all over him, and she collapsed to the ground. He stepped over the corpse and picked up the Red Stone. "Job well done." He stuffed it into his bag with the bread, and exited the Red Temple with Sister Sofia still unconscious over his shoulder. He could cut her throat later before he reached the Orange Temple.
~The White Priestesses~
Word of the incident at the Red Temple came to the White Temple with a vision. One of the priestesses, Sister Katrina Lario, approached the head priestess respectfully, and knelt before her. "Your Holiness, I have had a grave vision. I believe you will be interested in it."
The head priestess was an elderly, kind looking woman. She approached the young woman and pulled her to her feet with wrinkled hands. "Tell me, child."
"The sisters at the Red Temple have been killed. Sister Sofia was kidnapped and raped. The Red Stone was stolen." Katrina answered.
The color drained from the head priestess' face. She knew of Katrina's visions, and knew that she had yet to be wrong. As much as she prayed she was wrong now, there was no chance to take precaution. "May Khaalida guide them safely, and may Ula judge them justly. Thank you for telling me this, Sister Katrina. We must retrieve the Red Stone at any cost, and I fear the safety of the other stones and the sisters. I have an idea about who the thief may work for. I will issue a call for assistance from anyone in the land willing to help. You must go with them, child. Guide them where they need to go."
"Yes, Your Holiness. Thank you for giving me such an important mission. I will not return until all stones are safe or returned." Katrina bowed to the older woman before exiting, and the head priestess issued the call for help. She only prayed that Inesa would guide them to the White Temple quickly before the thief struck again. The Red Temple had four White Priestesses, the Orange Temple eight. The rest had more and more depending on location. She hoped that the thief would not massacre any of these servants of the Gods.
One of the many things in life that Kakashi still had yet to understand was why he kept getting attacked by bandits. He had thought that they liked to attack weaker targets with lots of valuables...or women. Kakashi only had some food, his clothes, and his sword; the Shinryuken. Sure, the sword was worth a fortune, being made of Mithrial, but you couldn't tell that just from a glance. The sword was specifically designed to look plain. Kakashi allowed his mind to wander as he slit the throat of the...crap, how many of these guys had he killed again? It was had to keep track
"He killed Kenny!"
"You bastard!!!" One of them yelled as he charged wildly at him. Pulling his mask away, he blew fire on him, and used his finger to shoot lightning at the other. And just like that, his camp was filled with dead bodies......again. Kakashi sighed, it wasn't that the constant attacks worried him (if anything, they helped keep him on his toes), it was just annoying; he assumed that he looked intimidating, so why was he constantly attacked? Was their a hit on him or something? Ah well, it didn't matter, he was about 2 days away from the White Temple now. He'd probably get attacked less if he was in a group
The White Temple was a place of sanctity and holiness. Zhang Wu's Grand Temple Of Tian stood proud and undefiled ever since the Shao Lin took up residence to protect the stone. Even during the Long War, Tian Temple stood un-defiled, yet somehow, an enemy of the people and the gods managed to murder three Shao Lin warrior monks and take the Crystal. Zhang Wu was now what most people would consider an old man. He had reached seventy five years of age, although his steel body looked more as if it was a man between forty and fifty. His long, flowing beard accentuated his black eye brows, and he was extremely well muscled. Indeed his chi was strong, but he was not a Demi-god. Whatever had stolen so many of the God's chosen relics was far beyond him, and for the first time in his life, he had no faith in the Emperor's will. Zhang Wu looked around this foreign temple. It was a Temple of the gods, and indeed was good.
"Excuse me, sir. Did you lose something?"
"Me? No, I don't think so..."
"I'm quite sure you did. Didn't you have someone with you?"
"Just my daughter here."
Even as the merchant said it, the small girl standing next to him vanished. Before he had time to cry out, the young girl reappeared beside the fountain in the center of the crowded square.
The crowd shouted and cheered. Nina basked in the applause as she pulled the man along to join his daughter.
"I really think you should be more careful, sir. Your things are going to start running away from you if you're not careful."
The merchant's hat lifted from his head and floated away, landing on his daughter's head. The crowd laughed and cheered some more. Nina bowed, graciously accepting their applause.
"Thank you, everyone, but I do need to be on my way. It's time I went and prepared dinner. Why don't you all have some before I go?"
Several trays filled with food appeared around the square. At first nobody moved, but when the first person reached for the tray it shot up and exploded in a bright shower of sparks. The other trays followed suit, creating a colorful display in the air above them.
"Thanks again!" Nina cried. The crowd gave her one last round of applause, many of them tossing coins onto the red cloth she'd spread nearby before leaving. When the crowd had thinned again, Nina gathered up her earnings, put her small cape back on, and ran off into the city streets.
"Nina's back!" "It's Nina!" "Niiinaaaa!"
The small children rushed at Nina. She caught the first little girl to reach her--Laila, six years old and adorable beyond all reason--and lifted her from the ground. The other children swarmed around her as she made her way to the orphanage door. "Is Sister Margareth in?"
"She certainly is," came a much older voice from the doorway. Nina turned to look at the orphanage mother standing ahead of her. The woman's face showed many, many years, yet despite her age and the trials of caring for dozens of small children, the only wrinkles on her face were around her eyes as she smiled warmly at Nina.
"Sister Margareth!" Nina shouted happily. She set Laila down and ran to give the elderly woman a hug.
"It's good to see you, Nina. We didn't expect you to come back so soon."
"I wasn't planning to be here, but something came up. I'd like to stay the night here, but I really have to be moving on tomorrow."
"Is that so? Where are you off to in such a hurry?"
"The White Temple."
Sister Margareth's eyes widened. "You are going to answer the summons of the head priestess?"
"Yep. Don't look so worried. I'm invincible, you know." Nina grinned ear to ear.
"Nuh-uh!" one boy cried out.
Nina turned on him. "No? You don't think I'm invincible, Keith?"
"Nuh-uh!" he declared again. "Yaaaah!"
He jumped on her. Several more children followed suit. Nina went down under the swarm, shouting and laughing along with the other kids.
Nina helped Sister Margareth put all the kids to bed, then followed the elderly woman to her small room. Nina entered and closed the door as Sister Margareth sat down at her desk.
"You can't stop me. I'm going to the White Temple."
"Why? You're far too young to be involved in this! Several Priestesses have died already!"
"That's exactly why! Somebody is killing the Priestesses! And trying to destroy the Gods! I can't just sit back!"
"But you're too young! Leave it to fighters, to men and women who live by the sword."
"Mercenaries? What if they fail? What if whoever attacked the Priestesses buys them off!? What happens then? The Gods fall, the Priestesses die, the orphanages collapse, and all these kids are left with nothing. I won't let that happen."
"I told you, Sister Margareth. You can't stop me. I'm strong, and I know how to look after myself. Here." Nina placed all the coins she had been given at her show on the desk. "Look after this orphanage, just like you have been. I won't let anything happen to it."
"Nina..." she began. Then she stopped and let a helpless smile cover her face. "You're still a stubborn one, aren't you? Alright. Thank you, child, and may the gods protect you on your quest."
"Thank you, Sister. Goodnight."
Nina opened the door and walked out. She quietly entered the large bedroom for the girls and climbed into a bed. She started taking off her travel gear, but stopped when she heard the light footsteps of a small girl. She looked, trying to make out who was approaching in the dark.
"Are you really going?"
"Laila?" Nina whispered in surprise. "Yeah, I'm really going."
"But it's dangerous! Why can't you just stay here?"
Nina smiled at the girl's innocent question. Why not indeed? She grabbed the girl and sat her on her lap so they could see each other's faces in the darkness.
"I have to stop the bad people."
"I do. It's something only I can do, so I've got to go do it."
"Oh." Lailah frowned as she thought about it really hard. "Then, will you come back when you're done?"
Nina worked hard to suppress a laugh. "Alright. I'll come back when I'm all done. We still have to work on your magic, right? Have you been practicing?"
"Uh-huh! I'm getting really good!"
"Can you heat the bathtub?"
"Can you freeze it?"
"Can you do half-and-half?"
"Uh, um... no. The middle mixes up."
"That's alright. Just keep trying. When I come back, you'll be able to do it."
"Now, we'd better both get to bed. Before we wake somebody else."
"Can I sleep with you?"
Nina sighed. "Alright. Come on."
Nina finished pulling off her travelling clothes and climbed under the blanket. Laila latched onto her, and they drifted off to sleep.
Asphar joined the crowd, clapping and laughing at the antics of Nina the 'Performer', a well known face in the town as he had heard, though he had only been here for about a week. Travelling from the port city Saphron to Treycon had been a tiring five day slug and it would take about another few days by river to get to the white temple eastwards of the town. Hence the week wait, the river barge was due to arrive tomorrow.
Asphar felt his stomach squirm and he had to swallow down his nervousness, not for the first time since he decided to answer the call. When Nina had left the crowd dispersed to go back to their mundane daily routine, Asphar having little else to do just wandered around, seeing the sights of the river town, or what little of it there was.
As always there were numerous shrines dedicated to the many gods strewn about the town, put in places of meaning and significance. The shrine of Deion for example, a small stone pillar with a bowl on top, holes cut into hit, upon which sat a carving of a pudgy little man-child with a fat wine bottle hanging out of his hand was put in front of one of the towns' taverns, an indication that it was the best in the town. At least, for this season. Then there was the shrine of Xanthias by the riverbank, close to where the fishermen haul their spoils. Deion's father, by resemblance if nothing else, was represented as a fat man hauling a full fishing net. Offerings and candles were placed all around it and there were some few who were praying to it.
Then Asphar's eyes caught onto the shrine of Myuna. He paused, memories of those dreaded five days still haunting him. Slowly he made his way over to it. The shrine was a fountain this time, the carving of Myuna standing atop, elegant, beautiful.
Asphar placed a silver coin in the fountain and watched as it sunk to the base.
He stood there, looking at the image of the goddess for a moment, thinking his words. “Sea goddess” He began, his voice but a whisper “You know of my name and my deeds, you had seen fit to punish me for them.” He swallowed “Know now though that I seek redemption, I..heh, I really dont want to live knowing any time I go back out to sea I can be struck with your fury. Im on my way now to the White Temple, and while the job may not directly concern you I..really hope you see it as me mending my ways. And you know, you might not be so tempted to use me as target practice”
He glanced up at the clear blue sky “Anyway, thank you for not killing me yet, I do hope that stays”
Asphar left the shrine, wandering around the river and spending the rest of the day doing little else as he waited out the time till morning.
<< Collab between Mountain Dew & Konica >>
On the outskirts of the green forest, far to the east, small villages thrive off the land. The forest holds much fruits to be collected and game to be hunted. But no one dares take more than they need, or delve deeper into the forest. Legends says to disrespect the forest is to anger Okami, the wolf spirit. It is told that the spirit will steal children on full moons if it is angered. As illusory as the legend may seem, some villagers attest to seeing Okami with their own eyes. After all, every myth has some truth to it.
Deep in the forest, where no villager dare ventures, there was a young girl with long brown hair frolicking among the flowers. She wore simple clothes fashioned from leaves and scraps of cloth, it only covered her most private areas. Her name was Moro.
The forest held an eerie silence. Besides the occasional chirping squirrel and bird, all was quiet. Though another sound pervaded the peaceful forest, the sound of a horse's hooves. On top of the saddle Sat a cloaked figure. Geared up in a light gold metallic armor and covered by a dark purple cloak, the mysterious figure scanned the underbrush of the forest.
Lorean was concerned for only one thing, finding his elder sisters. Taken by the platoon of soldiers who raided and pillaged his village when Lorean was only 7 years old, Lorean hadn't seen them in 21 years. As for their possible whereabouts, Lorean would go off of the faintest whisper. Currently Lorean was heading to the White Temple. Home to the White Priestesses. Someone was stealing the sacred crystals from their resting place.
Lorean could not feel that he wasn't the only person lurking the forest. Reaching down the side of his saddle, Lorean felt the hilt of his steel longsword. I have a feeling I'm not the only soul in this forest. I have to be on my guard. Again, the only pervading sound echoing in the forest was hooves of Lorean's horse.
Moro wrapped herself in a tattered cloth cloak and slung her bow on her shoulder. She looked at the great white wolf before her and gave it a hug. The wolf was her mother, the one that raised her since she was an infant. As protective as the mother wolf was, she had to let Moro go. When the birds came with a dire message about a stolen crystal, Moro was chosen to take action on behalf of all forest creatures.
As she trekked through the forest at a brisk pace Moro’s steps were silent as a falling leaf, her form hidden in the brush. She moved like a predator, like a wolf. It wasn’t long before she heard and felt the thundering stomps of a horse mounted by a man. Her instincts told her there was something off about him. He was definitely human, but there was something else... She watched as he moved uncomfortably deep into the forest. No one goes this far. Staying hidden in the bush, she projected her voice out as deeply as she could:
“Leave! Or be cursed by Okami!”
The sudden loud voice echoing through the forest turned on Lorean's heightened senses into high alert. He was right in his instincts, he definitely was not alone in the forest. Being cautious, Lorean stopped his horse. Scanning the forest, Lorean tried to see any glimpse of movement, but to no avail.
Something urged him to be alert for projectiles. Thankfully due to the many experiments performed on Lorean's body during his training as a Nightblades, Lorean could sense the slightest shift in the wind. Sense the wind shift, Lorean could hear very faint footsteps. They weren't heavy at all, but very graceful and nimble. Judging by the sound of the footsteps and their impact on the ground, it appears my stalker is a woman. Hearing the very faint footsteps again, Lorean looked in the direction from where the sound originated from. Again, no movement.
Lorean relaxed and braced himself for what was to come...
Moro was surprised, the man appeared to have noticed her presence. Not many people are keen enough to do so. "Leave my forest or else I will eat you!" Moro threatened again, remembering how villagers seriously believed she ate people. But when he didn't do as she said, Moro decided to take more drastic measures. Carefully selecting a blunt arrow, she slowly pulled the string on the bow, and aimed for his head. The arrow was dull enough just to knock him out, Moro preferred not to kill when she didn't have to. Unnecessary death was a human trait. When her shot was lined up, the arrow flew out with a fwip and went straight for his noggin.
"Leave my forest or else I will eat you!" Again the echoing voice rang out again. Lorean still couldn't detect where the voice was coming from. Knowing that he might be attacked, Lorean took his feet out the stirrups on his saddle. Swinging his body around, Lorean gracefully slid down off the saddle onto the ground. Holding onto the horse's reigns, Lorean continued to scan the forest for the woman who was stalking him.
All of a sudden, Lorean thought he heard the sound of an arrow being released from a bowstring. He then heard a whistling sound. He quickly turned around to see a arrow heading straight for him. Unable to dodge the projectile, everything went dark for Lorean.
A direct hit! Cautiously, she approached the man who was now limp on the ground. He looked well equipped for a fight, a direct confrontation might have proven fatal for Moro. He was also concealing his face for some reason, which piqued Moro's curiosity. She removed his hood a took a peak at his face to find a normal looking human. At least, she thought he was normal looking. All humans looked the same to her.
Using vines from the trees around her, Moro bound his legs and hands. The horse was kind enough to assist Moro in hauling him away. Horses owned by humans were pushovers, they'll do practically anything a person asks. It was kind of sad, but also convenient. With some difficultly she placed the man on the horse so that he was lying on his stomach. She then mounted the horse herself and politely asked it to head towards the White Temple. When she was confident they were far enough from the forest, she planned drop the man off somewhere and continue on her way to the temple.
"You have become a strong man Lorean. I will always love you for you are my son and I am proud of you. "
"Mother I love you too..."
"Mother don't leave me, please don't go..." Lorean slowly regained consciousness. The dream of his mother almost seemed like a vision. Even to this day, he still misses his mother and father. Trying to move, Lorean realized that his hands and feet were bound with a type of vine. He then noticed that he was on his horse, but laying across the saddle on his stomach. Finally he realized his cowl was pulled down revealing his face.
Trying to look up the best he could from his awkward position, Lorean saw a beautiful woman riding, his horse. Not only that by her clothing that she wore were very revealing. Besides some fur covering her most private areas, this woman was nothing else. She must obviously live in the forest. Well first things first, I have to free myself from these binds. Easy.
Using his inhuman strength, Lorean easily broke free of the vines that bonded his hands and feet together. He then brought himself up quickly and in the blink of an eye, brought one of his throwing daggers to the woman's throat. Looking at the woman with his piercing violet and emerald eyes, Lorean said,"So you were the woman who was following me. What are you doing riding my horse? And why did you attack me? Answer me.
Moro gritted her teeth, almost snarling. Her brows furrowed at she glared into his peculiar eyes. Instinctively she slowly reached for her stone dagger, answering his questions at the same time so he wouldn't notice. "This horse's name is Sybil, and he is not "yours." I asked, and he was kind enough to give me a ride. And I didn't attack you, I was protecting my home. You were the one trespassing, trampling through it so loudly. Why, your scent alone was causing a ruckus. I have no quarrel with you now that we're at the edge of the forest. Leave and I won't kill you."
Lorean listened to the woman. She said she was some type of protector of the forest. Lorean still holding the dagger to the woman's throat, said,"First off it takes a lot to hide things from me", reaching behind the woman's lower back, Lorean grabbed a hold of a stone dagger that woman was concealing on her person. Throwing the dagger into the woods, Lorean continued,"Second, the horse is mine. I bought him at a stable, and his name is Yffre. Lastly, you're in no the position to be demanding anything, woman."
Sheathing his throwing dagger, Lorean pulled the hood from his head and revealed shoulder length black hair. Standing up on top of the saddle, Lorean position himself to where he sat behind the woman facing ahead, instead of sitting backwards and looking at her in the face.
"I can drop you off here since you were protecting your home. Or are you heading somewhere outside of the forest? Because if you are heading in the same direction I'm going, we can travel together for the time being until we get to a village or town and then I can drop you off and you can go your own way. Where are you heading? Just to let you know, I was heading to the White Temple."
Lorean was going to the horse still until she answered his questions. "By the way, what is your name?"
Tsk Moro pouted, annoyed by the sudden turn of events. "I'm no woman, I'm a wolf! And there's no way I'm going anywhere with you! After we drop you off, Sybil and I are going where ever we want! Right Sybil?" At that moment a horse let out a grouchy neighhhhh.
"What?! How can you say that! This human enslaved you!" Moro argued. "Ohh, fine. I'll tell him..." she then mumbled something inaudible about spineless horses. Reluctantly, she turned to the human and told him: "It seems both of us are answering the call of the White Temple. Sybil says he'll take both of us, but only if we stop bickering. My name is Moro by the way.... But d-don't get the wrong idea! I don't trust you or anything, I'm only going along with this because its for the good of the temple, got it? And back off, you're sitting too close to me!" Moro crossed her arms and was grumpy for the rest of the trip.
"You're a wolf huh? Then I'm a Dragon, haha. Anyway, let's go." Snapping the reigns and kicking the horse with his spurs, Lorean and Moro, headed to the White Temple. While riding the horse, Lorean was thinking about Moro and her odd personality. She said she's a wolf? And here I thought I had a skewed perception of reality. Though for some reason, I'm getting the feeling I know her. Maybe she has siblings. I'll have to ask her later. Despite her demeanor and weird personality, she is very beautiful and gorgeous. Man what type of situation have I gotten myself into?!
3 Days Later
Lorean and Moro finally arrived at the White Temple. Getting the horse Lorean and Moro walked towards the steps, when a jovial bard started singing a tune with his lute. Lorean chose to ignore the bard and wait for one of the White Priestesses to come out and greet them.
Ana was sat in the pub, hunched over the bar, deep in conversation with an old man. Really, the conversation was about everything and nothing, the pair discussing everything under the sun. They had met only a few hours ago, and yet he and she felt they knew each other better than anyone else they had ever met. Love, war, peace, heartache, drinking, religion, they had discussed it all. And the whole time the man drank, and drank, and drank, guzzling down ale after ale, beer after beer, easily besting anyone else in the tavern. Finally, they just sat there, enjoying the companionable silence that had ensued, the rest of the bar's inhabitants shouting, singing, and drinking merrily. They were an odd pair alright, her in her full suit of armor, sword strapped to her hip, shield resting against the stool, helmet on the counter, and him, and wizened old man in clothes that marked him as someone of little importance. Finally, she slapped down her share of money as he did his, and they both stood to leave. She was sad, and so was he, but they knew that this little party of theirs had to end. So, with a strong hug, they parted outside the tavern, her heading for the White Temple, him for, most likely, his home.
She'd only made it a few yards before she heard a cry, and the sounds of metal scraping as it was violently ripped from its sheath. The woman pulled on her helmet and turned, ripping her own blade free, and ran towards the sound. The cry was released again, but was quickly cut off. She turned down an alley, and inside stood three men, all dirty with ragged clothing, harassing the old man she'd been speaking to moments before, each of them holding a sword towards him. She could feel her rage rising, and she let out a savage bellow. The three turned, and their eyes widened as they stared at the black armor, gold skulls adorning the collar and pauldrons, the warrior looking like a knight from the pits of hell.
"Release him!" she shouted, slamming the pommel of her blade against her shield, challenging them to fight her. They were clearly shaken, obviously not expecting someone like her to enter into the equation. But the middle one, who she assumed was the leader, smiled viciously and shoved the old man away. He slammed into the wall, and slid down it, stunned. The three then charged her. Idiots. Against a civilian, they would have had a chance. But not against a trained, seasoned warrior like herself.
She readied herself as they charged her. The alley was just wide enough for them to go side by side, so that they could flank her. She didn't care, though. When they reached her, she took a step forward and swung her arm out, slamming her wide shield into the lead man. He flew back and slammed into the ground, the air knocked out of him, a few ribs likely cracked. The others rushed past her and turned around, just as she did. They stabbed at her, but another swat with her shield knocked their blades away. She swung her own blade up, and sliced clean through the right man's arm. He let out a scream as the severed limb fell to the ground, and he stumbled back, dropping the sword. He tried to staunch the bleeding with his hand. The other look horrified as he stared, and turned back to her just in time to see her blade coming before it pierced his throat. She wrenched the blade out, cutting left, then arced it back, severing the head completely.
Then she heard footsteps coming behind her. She attempted to step aside quickly, but wasn't fast enough. A sword slammed into her pauldron, and she felt it dent slightly. There was a harsh snap, and then the clatter of metal against stone. His junky, rusted blade had broken with the force he had used to hit her. She turned and brought her sword around, and sliced open his shirt as he quickly jumped back. Then he turned and ran. With her armor on, there was no way she would catch him. So she hefted her sword, holding it like a spear, and threw it. She hit her mark, the blade slamming through his back and digging in. He stumbled and fell. Behind her, the armless man was sobbing. She turned and stepped up to him. He looked up at her and begged for mercy. She didn't respond, and she raised a foot. He let out a single cry before she brought her foot down, slamming the metal boot into his face. She slammed it a few more times, making sure he was good and dead. Then she went and retrieved her sword. When she grabbed the hilt, she cleaved the blade through him, slicing his torso and head in half. Then she looked at where the old man had fallen, and noticed he had fled in the short time that had ensued. With a small sigh, she began to walk, again, towards the White Temple, her armor freshly bloodied.
I bet those priestesses will absolutely love that, Ana thought as she made her way through the streets.
The leaders of the nomad rogues had gathered around the camp's main fire, all of them watching the half-elf carefully with tired eyes. The small man was the one to bring word of the cruelty that had befallen the temple of Ula, and address their current plight. What he had proposed could mean their hardships would be over, but it would also mean they would loose one of their healers and only smith, possibly permanently. Obviously, they were wary of letting the useful man go. "Are you sure you wish to do this, Silthryk? This quest reeks of danger and death." One of the younger leaders said, brow furrowed as he leaned forward, resting his hands on his knees.
"I am, Denithas." Sil replied, voice firm as his cat-like eyes moved to lock with the leader's. "There is danger and death here as well if things continue as they are. It has been weeks since we have been able to forage enough to feed us all, and even longer since we have brought in a stag. We have prayed many times, even traveling to the temple of Tivon, but nothing has brought back our food, nor healed our sick. If the gods are truly at work here, I am positive this is what we need to do to appease them." He explained, forcing himself to sound more sure than he was. Though he honestly felt this was the best thing to do, he had his doubts and fear, like the rest of his family. They were all frightened, and why shouldn't they be? Between the creek drying, the food disappearing and the strange disease that struck and prevented them from finding a better camp, Many among the band of rogues were convinced they had brought divine wrath upon themselves somehow.
"Work of the Gods?" Sil immediately turned to face the gruff leader that spoke up, disdain clear in his voice. "The gods have no work here, and that is the problem! They have turned deaf and blind- why should we send one of our best men to help them when they refuse to help us?" He said bitterly, throwing a small green branch into the fire, causing it to hiss and smoke. "The seven 'holy' gods are selfish, turning on all who aid them. This we should know!" He scowled darkly. "Sil, you stay here, we need your medicinal knowledge more than we need the so called favour of the deities."
Silthryk's eyes narrowed as the other men muttered to themselves. After a short, silent match of wills, the half-blood spoke up, voice wavering slightly. "No. I am going take one more offering to Tivon's shrine, then I am heading for the white temple to aid in the safe return of Ula's stone. If no one will stand beside me, I will do it alone. This is right.... this is what we need to do." His hands trembled, but he held his head high, firm in his belief. Corbin, the sour man who had spoke against the gods, glared at him from under his heavy brow before standing and stalking off in anger. Denithas and the other men exchanged glances before all agreeing to let the stubborn Silthryk go, even if it meant losing a healer in such poor times.
A rough and long fortnight later, the small-statured rogue found himself camping out in the trees near the white temple, hesitantly watching the beautifully carved building. He had not approached the temple yet partially due to fear, and partially because he did not know how. He was no great warrior nor a potent sorcerer, and thought he had no real talent to offer. He could not just stride in, cape blowing and armor shining, bringing immediate comfort to the worried priestesses. He could not boldly assure them the fate of the crystal was in safe hands. What is more, he had to wonder if would they even accept the help of a thief, after all, a thief is what caused the problem.
Sighing, he ran his fingers over the fragrant sandalwood pendant that hung from his neck. "I have not come this far just to turn back. I will show them my merit if I have to." He said to himself, gripping the carved wood tightly before slipping it back under his tunic. Taking a breath, he forced his determination to come back and gave a confident smile to the sky that peeked through the canopy. "Right, I can do this!" He said louder, leaning on the trunk of the great oak as he stood. Giving himself an affirmative nod, he slung his haversack over his shoulders and leaned back, letting gravity pull him down. Flipping backward, he caught a lower branch, then swung himself to the ground, neatly landing on his feet before taking off in a brisk pace for the Temple. He was set to present himself- at least, he was until a minstrel's song reached his ears. Slowing down, he slipped into the undergrowth and cautiously crawled forward, hiding between the thin trunks of two aspens. He watched as the man did exactly what the petite half-elf had been wishing he could do- boldly enter the temple and surely comfort the women inside with his confidence. Looking past the brightly-clothed man, Sil also saw a well-armed man and rather scantily-clad woman beside a horse, simply standing there beside the temple.
Sil's ears drooped slightly as he sighed, his own confidence quickly leaving him. These men looked like they knew what they were doing, one fearlessly striding into the sacred building while the other stoically awaited orders. The half-elf suddenly felt more out of place than he ever had in the last two weeks and a new wave of doubt further replaced his normally carefree outlook. Maybe he should just wait to see if the priestesses even need his help. Maybe it would be better to- No! He came here to help the gods and his clan and by Tivon, that is just what he would do! Taking a deep breath, he straightened his shoulders, raised his chin and stepped out from the trees, forcing himself to relax as his short but quick strides carried him to the temple steps. He could do this.
"Hurry up, you stupid gelding, or I'll sell you to the next glue maker I see." Blue eyes flecked with green glared at the back of the horse's head as he merely twitched his ears, continuing the fast walk he was at. It was better than her walking though, and the horse had proven a good choice, able to go on endlessly, it seemed. The mage sighed, pushing her hair out of her face for the hundredth time today as she looked up. Blue sky was visible between the branches above her, the sun not yet so high up as to blind her.
Her eyes returned to the road before her as her mind wandered back to why she was even there. It had been longer, but it only felt like a few days since she had heard of the atrocity committed at the Red Temple of Ula. May the rest of the gods bless them in returning it. Her expression then slid from mildly sour to almost angry as she thought of what her last teacher might have said of her going. "It's not something one can merely ignore, though. I'm sure he did," she said, thinking aloud. He'd never been particularly religious, and had even tried to break her of it, though it didn't work as well as he may have wanted. So she was answering the call, because in her mind, the only way to be sure they got the help was if you went yourself. There was no guarantee that anyone else would go.
A flash of sunlight on white caught her eye, and she brought her mind back into the present, eyes searching the trees for it again. There. She wasn't too far from the temple, maybe half a day at the most, judging from how indistinct it looked. She smiled, and tried nudging the gelding faster again, to an annoyed snort and very bouncy trot. "Ow, okay, you win. Just walk!"
The White Temple, never before had he been this far from home, and further still the journey promised to take him before he could return to the sanctuary of his beloved forest. He silently watched the building that was so different from the temple he normally visited, and recalled the twist of fate that had brought him all this way.
It was a morning like any others, Belcarth had woken up maybe an hour before sunrise, and after making sure that everything was in order in his home, he equipped his quiver, slung his bow across his shoulder, and picked up the two large baskets that were waiting by the exit. The past days had been good, and aside from restocking his food storage to the brim, he had enough over to take with him to the temple. He hadn't been there for a while, and yesterday he had felt a sudden urge to go there. Since he rarely had any money lying around as he had very little need for it, his donations instead consisted of food, meat mostly as he was a skilled hunter, and other things they might have need of that he could gather or craft himself. This was his way of contributing to those that gave their lives to serve at the temple and take care of those who visited.
And so, just as the sun rose in the east, Belcarth began the walk towards the Green Temple of Tivon, with a basket in each hand and Jayde by his side as always. The baskets were filled with assorted kinds of meat of course, they always were. He also brought with him a decent collection of dried flowers, plants, seeds, and other ingredients needed for healing potions and poultices, neatly packed in homemade leather pouches. After a few hours walk, the two companions were approaching the temple, and as they made their way towards the entrance, a few people stepped aside or hurried elsewhere. Most of the regular visitors knew of Belcarth and his wolf, they were not all comfortable with her around, but over the years they had grown accustomed to her presence if nothing else. She had never been aggressive towards anyone, but they also knew she wasn't tamed in the traditional fashion, she was as wild as they come. As the two entered the temple, they instantly felt that something was wrong. The serene feeling that otherwise permeated the Temple was replaced with a sad and anxious mood. One of the sisters came to greet them, but before she could say anything Belcarth asked, "What is wrong? Has something happened?"
At first she seemed unable to speak, but after taking a moment to gather herself she finally said, "It's the red temple. All the sisters were killed, or worse." She paused as a look of disbelief flashed across Belcarth's face. "We got the news yesterday. And there is more, the Temple of Ula was desecrated, the red stone was taken by the killer."
At first, he couldn't believe what he was hearing. Who could do such a thing, who would want to commit such an atrocity to begin with.
"The White Temple has issued a summoning, a plea for help from anyone who can come." The Priestess continued.
"Then that is where I will go." Belcarth said, thinking of the curious coincidence that they had just happened to get word of this summon the same day he felt an urge to seek out the temple. Given his abilities, perhaps Tivon and Inessa wanted him to take on this task, or perhaps it was just mere coincidence, regardless, he was going. He helped the Priestess to carry the two baskets to the larder, and after a brief prayer for good weather, a safe trip and a promise to do what he could to help the White Temple in this time of need, he left the temple and hurried home.
Once home, he began packing a bag with provisions and whatever else he might need on the journey, as well as a small pouch of coins. Then he looked at the map the sisters at the temple had provided for him, and for the second time that day he left his home, this time towards the White Temple.
Deciding he had lingered outside for long enough, he began walking towards the entrance with Jayde at his side. A quick reading focused towards the temple showed that there were a number of people inside. Well, they will have to accept Jayde's presence if I am to help. Belcarth thought as he took a deep breath and went inside, not sure what to expect, and certainly not sure of where answering the call would take him.