"I'll come with you." Ninaste offered as she moved to stand at Kelt's side. It made her uneasy, knowing that Kelt would be in the woods alone with her darker half, at least she could be by his side if something were to happen. "I'll be no good to slay being unarmed but I could at least scare something out of the brush for you." She smiled softly, though in her mind she knew they forgot something that could easily have been solved in Exult. She was unarmed and with the Berserker resting comfortably in Estanin's grasp there was not much to done about it at this time. Still, she supposed, that if danger came upon them again that Kelt's katana would do, so long as he himself didn't need it. She stole away with her secret husband into the surrounding wild.
Estanin, her arms filled with thick logs, returned to the campsite with a huff, all but dropping the logs into the magically lit fire with an unceremonious thud. Sparks and ash rose into the air, the brief flash of fed fire lighting her crimson stare to blood red. She was restless, and angry at the way she was being treated as nothing more than a mere servant. She wanted to fight, wanted to bring forth blood to spill on the ground, and her thoughts turned back to the drow warlord that she fought against, the sight of him in her mind forcing her tongue to wet her lips. "Anything else?" She hissed at Demetri, walking to join him near the shadows. As much as she hated it he was, for the most part, pulling the strings; that didn't mean she had to socialize with anyone else.
Vondearan nodded, "Of course, perhaps we can hunt something as well. I'm sure they probably have their own meal but, with the addition of our group, it might not be enough. Caeliam, Azmyth, why don't you go ahead and see if our new friends are hospitable at least. If not then we can make camp further along the road."
"Aye lad, aye, and a fine idea that be." "I agree." Caeliam nodded, placing his hand upon the back of his dwarf's friend's shoulder. "You three go ahead and find something to bring as an offering, we'll come to you first if things look inhospitable."
Vondearan nodded again as his fingers took up refuge against Naya's side, leading her on into the wooded part of the forest. They could leave now, set off into the night and leave these too unusually friendly companions behind. But perhaps he was thinking more into it than needed, or perhaps not. "A convenient thing, is it not?" He whispered as Aahz's katars gleamed in the dim light of the moons, waiting for some kind of prey to come forth. "Stumbling upon such a large group of adventures. We seem to be meeting here and there like wild. Did you think, perhaps, our new friends have been leading us into a trap?"
Azmyth sighed as Vondearan, Naya, and Aahz disappeared into the woods, their forms being swallowed by the darkness. "Ah, lad, what do ye say? Are we really gonna up and leave em without findin' Ninaste first?"
"Patience, my friend." Caeliam said softly as he began the walk towards the camp. "If our paths part then it will just be a race of time as to who finds her first."
"Ye think we should be truthful with em?"
"No." Azmyth huffed as his hand grabbed his beard, his fingers pulling through it nervously. "Ah don't like it, not one bit."
"We do what we must to ensure the success of this quest." Caeliam silenced his words as he entered through the cluster of trees into the clearing and his eyes immediately fell upon Kellis, leaned delicately over the roaring fire. "Ah, what a pleasure to stumble upon you again."
"Don't worry about the weapon," Kelt reassured her, placing a calloused but gentle hand on her back. "Sometimes you are brought a weapon. Other times, the weapon finds you. You'll get something at arms soon. In the mean time, you can keep this. My father made it for me, years ago. But you and I are similar in strength and you're just a little shorter. So it should fit you well." He leaned into her, kissing her temple, and put his daggers back in hand. "What are we hungry for tonight, my love?"
Demetri looked coldly, disinterestedly, up at Estanin, not at all surprised by her anger. In fact, he smiled, enjoying that he was annoying her. "Come now, such impatience. I designed you better than that. Now, put that single mindedness to use and start obsessing over how you intend to put your former failure of a master to permanent rest. If you plan it well, then perhaps you can enjoy the floating of the black void as well." He really had no intention of letting her live through this anyway. Demetri always expected that she would be destroyed somehow. After all, she was already showing her flaws. What did he want with her?
Naya almost laughed at the thought. A trap? Seriously. Who could set up a trap for them, for two masters and a greatly talented student, for the former lead guard of Morier's elite? "Ha, trap. We wouldn't miss a set up. We... well..." Naya had to pause, realizing that a lot had happened that she hadn't foreseen. A trap might be possible. And that thought made her shiver, even in Vondearan's grip. "Aahz. What did you tell them, last night? What stories did you share with them?"
Kellis stood leaned over the fire, reaching through the flames, with the use of magic to protect her hand and arm, to move the logs that Estanin so haphazardly tossed into her flames, nearly snuffing it. However, she stood slowly from her lean as she looked through the encroaching darkness, tilting her head slightly. "Oh, from the bathing house," she acknowledge him in a painfully informal way. "I didn't expect we'd be leaving on the same day." The fire roared up behind her, like it was angered at the way she pulled away from it in its delicate moment. "Oh... you didn't have a dwarf with you last night." She turned her eyes down, watching him through the white silk of her eyelashes. "Where is the child, the little boy that was with you?" Demetri said nothing from his dark seat, watching with no enjoyment or amusement. "Funny that we are on the same trail."
"Yes, funny indeed." Caeliam agreed as he and Azmyth stepped forward to come closer to the fire. "Allow me to introduce my friend and I. This is Azmyth-"
"E'llo." He nodded, but made no other motion, the dwarf somewhat set on edge.
Caeliam laid a hand upon his chest, his head bowing slightly, "And I am Caeliam. We're adventuring with some others and wish to know if we can join you at your fire this evening. Our other friends are off right now gathering some food to bring to the fire as an offer of friendship."
Estanin narrowed her eyes as the two figures stepped forward from the woods, her body bristling as their features came forward into the light. "What do you make of this?" she hissed towards to Demetri as her back bowed, slinking more into the darkness beside him.
Aahz swallowed hard as Naya voiced her concern, his shoulders dropping slightly at her obvious disappointment. "I…I'm sorry! We just got to talking and Caeliam was just really interested and before long I just told him pretty much…everything."
"Foolish Child!" Vondearan hissed, causing Aahz to scurry away from him like a frightened rabbit, coming to hide behind Naya. "Did that blow somehow manage to damage your mind? Did you even stop to consider that Morier may be behind these strangers coming upon us?"
"But-but, Vondearan, if he was, why would Caeliam want to know about everything? If he already knew then what's the point of finding out?" Vondearan paused, his mouth opened to speak, though silenced by the young boy's words. "Really." Aahz continued, looking up at Naya as he spoke, "If Morier had sent Azmyth and Caeliam don't you think they wouldn't be so interested in finding out stuff? But they were! They listened very closely! I really think they just want to help. Oh!" Aahz beamed suddenly and thrust out his arm, his katar soaring through the air into the dark. A high pitched squeal pierced the night and Aahz bound forward to pluck up the large rabbit he struck. "Eh, it's not much, but with Naya's stuff and Azmyth's cooking we should have a good stew."
Vondearan sighed, and looked towards Naya for help, too tired, himself, to deal with his student at the moment. He had much more to think of as it was. "Come. Let's rest tonight and deal with this in the morning."
Caeliam took a seat at the fire while Azmyth stood posed behind him. Caeliam noticed that the dwarf had been put on edge, for some reason, and though Caeliam's expression did not betray his own thoughts he too seemed a little wary of the group. "Ah, there yer are lad!" Azmyth bellowed with relief as Aahz bound forward, his vibrant, green eyes shining brightly in the fire.
He grinned widely as he held up his kill, the small animal still twitching in his hold. "Look. Dinner!"
Caeliam's chuckle followed his dwarven friend's rolling laughter, his vibrant eyes spotting Naya and Vondearan as they followed their young student's steps into the clearing. "I'd like to introduce our friends. This is Naya, Vondearan, and this youthful ball of spirit is, as you know, Aahz."
"Hi!" Aahz giggled, waving excitedly.
Demetri reached out a boney hand, wrapping it around Estanin's bared arm, ignoring whatever flex or flinch came with having a lich touch someone. However, there was no burning or scarring, he even forsook his cold touch, the reach meant for one thing and one thing only, silent communication. I think we watch, and wait, and make a grand entrance when the time comes. Until then, stay. Do not move, do not incite any scuffle that might come. Wait until my command. He thought nothing more to her, but he kept his hand on her arm, the boney fingers curved creepily inward, nearly clamped shut around her upper muscles.
Kelt fell silent for several steps, walking through the darkening woods until a cawing cry caught his ears. A quick figure in flight fluttered from a higher branch, heading for a lower one. But it never made it as Kelt's smallest dagger bullied it off flight, bringing it heavily down. He turned his jovial blue eyes back to Ninaste, grinning as he shrugged his shoulders. "Who needs a bow and arrow?" The back of his fingers came to her cheek, sliding down her smooth face to slip down the side of her neck. He'd love to steal some time from her, here in the dark. But if he waited too long, some other woodland predator would make off with his kill, and one of his father's daggers.
He found the bird with the effortless sight of his father's race and held it up for Ninaste to see. "One of the birds of the night," he announced as he held up a falcon. "Fairly big. Considering I'm really the only one who eats any meat, this should do well enough for myself and those who might want to snack. He cleaned his dagger off on the grass, a temporary way about it for now, and started back to camp with a hand resting comfortably on Ninaste's hip, his fingers curling around the flexing muscle.
Naya, at Vondearan's visual request, took the reigns against which Aahz so restlessly fought. "It doesn't matter if they were sent by Morier or not. The may have been sent by any one of his enemies, in which part you put us in danger again because you pretty much made it clear that you and Vondearan were a part of his guard. And if they are hunting down Morier's men, they won't care much that you've changed your direction. I'm sure your heads bring a high price on the bounty hunter ring."
She placed her hand on her head, her fingers spread out over her forehead and down the sides of her face, trying to catch her thoughts. "Well- it doesn't matter. No bounty hunter is going to be better than us. Besides, things clear up with time and we see the picture clearly. I vote with Vondearan that we just get some decent rest tonight."
Aahz bound forward, probably excited at the thought of spending another night around company that found him so interesting. She and Vondearan entered behind, finding a single female, of dark elvin build, standing near the fire, Caeliam and Azmyth before her. Naya almost froze as he spoke their real names. She had hoped, in joining a group, that they could revert to their false names. Indeed, she planned it. The young womyn waved excitedly, probably catching the energy Aahz exuded, and Naya nodded her hello before heading to Caeliam's side.
She spoke through her teeth at him, her eyes narrowed as a warning. "Has all your age given you nothing for wisdom? You may know everything, much against our desires and our trust. And you may not find much more than entertainment in the stories Aahz told you. But we would rather not have our identities blathered to all of Mirro. If you know so much, then you should well know that this is not a popularity march, it's a damn stealth mission."
Kellis didn't really hear what Naya was saying, instead just reaching into the fire again, rearranging more of the logs. "My brother and his friend are hunting too. So there should be plenty of meat then, considering he's the only one who eats much of it. They will be back soon."
She fell silent and Naya turned her attention to the girl, wondering how she made it out here alone, why her brother and travel companion would leave such a waif of a womyn alone in the forest, where warg and orc and amorous satyr often made their homes. It stood to reason that, despite the girl's innocent words and delicate appearance, she had some power about her. "And you are?"
She looked up from the fire, though she still really didn't look directly at Naya, and gave a fluttering smile. "My name is Kellis." That was all she gave, as if not catching on to introduce those who were not here yet, and Naya glanced at Vondearan.
"Aahz, give the rabbit to Azmyth. And here are the wild mushrooms and asparagus. We're sure you can do wonders with that pot of yours and these fresh, extra ingredients."
Caeliam could do nothing more than smile as Naya hissed at him, a light, flurry of a chuckle falling from his lips. "Peace and ease." He whispered in return, as Aahz talked lively to Kellis about everything they had seen on the way, and how funny it was seeing her again; a lovely distraction, he thought. "I'm sure, if their people meant you any harm, you could easily evade or dispose of the problem. Sit and rest."
Azmyth took up the rabbit from Aahz's flailing hands as he moved them in story, speaking to Kellis. "
'Er 'er lad, don't strangle the meat." And, before long, the dwarf had out his pot, tossing the ingredients in to simmer as he skinned and cleaned the hare.
Vondearan, meanwhile, lurked within the dimly lit shadows behind Naya, his expression twisted into that of pure rage within the swallowing darkness of his cowl. How dare Caeliam release their identities so easily, as if he were speaking to nothing more than old friends? The idea of a trap being sprung once again invaded his thoughts and the drow couldn't rest knowing that there might be a hint of foul play within the air.
Aahz giggled with excitement as he spun around, facing the dwarf that knelt over the pot. "That smells great, I'm soooo hungry!"
"Aye, ye worked up the appetite today, didn't ye lad?" Azmyth chuckled and grunted as he rose up to his full small stature, adjusting his belt with a swivel of his hips. "It'll be ready soon, huh?" Aahz nodded eagerly, his eyes wide as he stared into the steaming pot. "Aye, I'll get to cookin' as soon as I drain mah snake. Had a couple o' good drinks in me last night."
Aahz giggled and fluttered in behind the dwarf's steps as he headed off towards the woods. "I'll come with, I gotta go too."
Ninaste and Kelt made their way back to the glow of the campfire. She hadn't realized how far they had walked into the woods for their hunt until it was time for them to return, but she supposed time lost all meaning whenever it was just she and Kelt. She laughed softly into his embracing hand, pushing her hip against his side as they walked the unsettled earth, sometimes causing him to shudder in his balance, their kill waving with its wings outstretched in death.
"Do you think they have any idea?" She giggled softly as her arm snaked around his muscled back, her fingers playing against his opposite side. "It just seems to have flown together so smoothly." Branches cracked beneath their feet until the ground smoothed out just on the outskirts of their campsite and Ninaste saw, quickly, that they were no longer alone. Kellis talked lightly with an elderly human who, beside him, sat another of a much younger age. Ninaste couldn't tell if they were related, or perhaps there was something more intimate about, but her eyes didn't linger long upon the two.
Even in the shadows Ninaste eyesight could make out the cloaked form lurking behind the woman and it caused her body to stiffen, her breathing to stop. There was something altogether familiar, too familiar about the shade at the woman's shoulders, and Kellis barely introduced them before her lips moved, speaking in time the name Kellis spoke.
Every fiber of her being told her to run, to flee, to take Kelt by the hand and race into the woods for some type of hope in escaping the fearful drow of her nightmares. But a more powerful emotion surged through her then, one of rage, anger, and hate and she lunged through the fire, nearly knocking over the boiling pot, to collide with him. Her anger empowered her as she forced him up against a tree, swinging a hard hook punch.
"BASTARD!" Her voice cried, laced with the shaking hate that usually brought forth tears.
Vondearan's breath hitched in his chest as he was all but thrown to the ground, his focus, so intent on watching Caeliam, failing him when the woman attacked. A trap! He was right; it had been a trap all along! He grimaced and struggled to gain his control back. But the lack of rest had taken such a toll on his body and he could only do so much to keep her from hitting him again.
Ninaste pinned him beneath her, her hand reaching for the cowl about his head to tear it away, to reveal the man she knew was beneath it. White hair spilled forth to rain down upon Vondearan's dark, smooth face, and seeing it only fueled the fire raging within her. "Why?! WHY?!" Ninaste's voice wept as she tried to strike him again and again, anything to bring to him the harm he brought upon her.
In the pleasant surrounds of the forests, Kelt chuckled. "We're talking about Kellis. She's pretty oblivious. Or she might already have accepted you as a sister and won't think much of the announcement. The others... have their own problems. I highly doubt Estanin could even remotely imagine what we feel for one another. And I get the feeling Demetri would be appalled. Mina might catch on, and she'd probably be happy for us- in the way that, maybe... she can't be married and in love, so she's glad someone is. It's too bad, say, Azmyth is no longer around. Though... he does seem clever enough to have survived, I think. Anyway, Azmyth would certainly be happy for you. Though... I'd expect some kind of test from him. Dwarves who attach to people are very protective. It seems he adopted you as much, though informally, as Uncle Blunt and Aunt Ivory adopted us."
He fell silent seconds before they could see into camp. And his own shoulders stiffened as he watched Kellis speak with an older man. It really wasn't anything to get too upset about. Adventuring groups ran together all the time, usually joining for some part of the travel to find more safety in numbers and perhaps a few allies as well. Still, it didn't sit well with him that Kellis had been left alone, despite the three other companions, to entertain anyone by herself.
"Kelt." Kellis smiled as they entered camp. "We have some companions for camp tonight. "I met Caeliam last night. That is Naya, Vondearan..." She looked up with Ninaste's voice echoed the name with her, as if she knew already. And Kellis merely folded her hands in front of her hips as Ninaste flew through her carefully placed fire, nimbly jumping the kettle, to outright attack the dark flowing figure behind Naya. Shadowed figures meant nothing to her. She saw them all the time. Kellis couldn't begin to know the alarm her brother felt, and had no idea why Ninaste would attack. But it really didn't perk her interests either, her reaction to merely bring a finger to her mouth, biting on the nail.
Naya just about reached to backhand Caeliam, which would have been followed by some of the degradation that she practiced on so many men in the past. How dare he not take her more seriously, her wishes for secrecy. However, that thought was never finished when a womyn came flying out of the forest, throwing herself at Vondearan. To be honest, Naya was already startled before it happened, at the mention of a name that often brought fear to those who knew better. Kelt, as in Warlord Kelt? But the man that stood in front of them was young and thin and, though he had a chocolate complexion, like his sister, it was nothing like the black drow that Naya had come to know, very intimately, these last few weeks.
She reached for the womyn, only to find her grab impeded by long, dark fingers at the wrist. For being so young, the boy had strength. And he nearly tossed her away, causing Naya to spin on her toes. His voice, a concerned cry, called out a name. A pretty one. "Ninaste."
Then Naya had her footing back and she snatched him up by his unbraided hair, yanking him back away from Vondearan. She saw the flash of daggers, resting long against his forearms, and Naya snapped into her stance, throwing away his hard attacks with soft blocks, putting him off balance in the hard thrusts of his own punches. Anger. It could truly rattle you and make one lose control.