On the outskirts of town Raziel let Lillith down. He had already wounded her pride by drugging then carrying her all the way there, Raziel had no intention of destroying what pride she had left. He would support most of her weight as they entered town, but Lillith would be on her own two feet. A consideration Lillith was grateful for.
Lillith knew what Raziel had done as soon as she woke up and saw where they were. Even though Lillith had not liked that Raziel tricked her, she did understand why. Lillith never would have agreed to Raziel's plan had he offered, and that would have certainly cost Lillith her life. Which, she found, she was no longer so eager to lose. She wanted to live, and a life with a purpose is what Raziel was offering her
Once inside the town Raziel guided her through the buildings and over to the inn. Before they entered Raziel picked up six stones and, muttering to himself, placed them into his coin purse. Lillith thought she had seen a glint of yellow as Raziel did this, but decided that she had imagined it. As far as why Raziel had put the stones into a coin purse, she guessed he was going to attempt to trick someone into thinking there was more gold than he actually had.
"That's risky, you know. If they see you have deceived them, they will have your hand."
Raziel looked up at Lillith and said flatly "if they see I have deceived them, I have bigger problems to worry about than a mere hand being removed." With that, Raziel stood and opened the door of the inn and followed Lillith inside.
The inn keeper looked at the pair and sized them up uncertainly. Homunculi were not rare, but up in the reach they were not exactly common place either. Then there was the Shyft, which were hardly ever seen outside of the grasslands, and never seen in the Reach. The inn keeper was unsure what to make of them and was about to turn them away when the homunculus spoke up.
"We need one room, preferably two beds. We also need to know where to buy supplies." Raziel then tossed the coin purse at the inn keeper.
Raziel and Lillith watched as the man's eyes widened when he looked into the purse. The inn keeper began to speak frantically, "yes sir, a room with two beds sir? Right away sir…." The innkeeper turned his head to the side and yelled down the hallway. "Elise! Come here girl! These guests need to use the room in the back!"
A petite girl came walking briskly down the hallway. She was young, Raziel and Lillith both noticed, barely come off age. The girl bowed to them each in turn and beckoned them down the hallway. The inn keeper's frantic tone must have inspired something inside her because she was far more polite than needed. Lillith wondered how a sack of rocks could have elicited such a reaction from the two, but as long as it got her a place to rest, she did not care.
Elise opened the door to a large room and said quietly "you two must have come a long way and you must be tired. I can draw a bath for you or, if you would prefer, there is a public bath house through the doors behind me and down the hall. Also we can have food and any sup-" Elise was silenced by Raziel when he placed his hand on top of her head.
"Thank you Elise. A bath would be wonderful, though we will only need the basin, I can fill it and heat the water myself much faster. And dinner as well… we also need to know where to buy supplies. We are in need of some very particular medicines for my friend here," he gestured at Lillith who was now lying in the far bed. "She may not look it, but she was wounded badly. I did what I could; however, she needs to be ready to move soon."
Elise nodded and asked a little more calmly "very well. There is a general goods store just down the street, if you turn left at the door. The owner should have most of what you need. As far as medicines go… you should try the alchemist shop, though it is a bit of a walk. The people here don't like that kind of magic in the town so the owner set the shop up on the outskirts. You may have seen it on your way in. Now, for dinner… Is there anything specific you would like?"
Raziel shook his head. He didn't really care what she brought him as long as it was hot. With that Elise left the two in the room closing the door behind her. She walked swiftly back to the front desk and there on the counter were several perfectly round spheres, and each one was pure gold.
"Father... Are those what I think they are?" Elise's voice was shaking as she spoke. Any one of those spheres would have been enough to last them over a month. Elise's father, the inn keeper, nodded slowly.
"Alright Raziel, I admit it," Lillith said flatly as she stepped into the hot water of the bath. "You are a good trickster. Now tell me, how did you make them think that there was actually gold in that coin purse?"
Raziel smiled and spoke with a glimmer of amusement in his voice, "well that is simple. There was gold in the purse… quite a bit actually. I imagine it would be enough to last them quite a while too." Raziel smiled and Lillith looked at him blankly.
"Come on, I know you did something. You put six stones in that purse. And they seem to think it is gold. How did you trick them?"
Raziel was still smiling as he spoke, "technically I did not trick them as what I gave them is gold. Though I can understand how you would be unable to have seen it as such. I transmuted those six stones into gold as I placed them into my purse. So they did receive gold, it just isn't natural gold. Which is exactly why I told you I would have bigger problems if they figured out it wasn't originally gold."
Understanding crossed Lillith's face as Raziel explained this. He was obviously a very skilled alchemist and sorcerer, if nothing else. Alchemy of this sort was, Lillith knew, only something a master could do and one would need a degree of magical ability too. Lillith was not greatly surprised that Raziel was able to do this, or rather; she was less surprised than she had thought she would be. Whatever the case may be however, Raziel's little trick meant they would have no want of food, supplies, or money.
Lillith had completely submerged her body in the hot water as Raziel spoke softly; "stay here and rest, I'll get the supplies. When Elise comes back just have her place my food on the table," Raziel gestured to the small table against the wall. Raziel then stood and left the room closing the door behind him and leaving Lillith to brood over all that had happened in the past few days. It was hard for her to make sense of it all.
She had been exiled from for killing a warrior in her tribe. He had tried to take her by force before their time and, in defending herself, she had accidentally gone too far and taken his life. Her life on the open plains of Levantis was a thing of the past. She had been adrift in the world, wandering aimlessly for the past year without purpose. She did not know why she had come to The Northern Reach but she was here now.
"Raziel is an enigma. He had nearly killed me, then he saves me, and now he has taken me to this town to heal me… he said himself he has little time to waste, so why is he doing this?" As Lillith lay there she hugged her knees and pondered Raziel and his actions. He made little sense. He was not made the way homunculi are normally made. He lacked a soul gem. If she had not seen that herself, she would be less inclined to believe that Raziel was at least as old as she was. But when she thought back, there was something in his eye… something about that left eye that spoke of an ancient life. It did not make sense to her, but any further thoughts on the subject would prove fruitless.
Lillith could now smell the meat that Elise was bringing down the hall. Her sense of smell was a wondrous thing. When the knock finally came on the door Lillith had already gotten up and covered herself as she started to walk over to the door. Elise was standing there with a large tray. On the tray where two plates of roasted rabbit, some vegetables, two cups, and a pitcher full of what Lillith assumed to be mead.
Lillith took the tray from Elise and thanked her, then walked over to the small table in the room that Raziel had rented. Lillith sat and began eating her plate, as she did this; she began to consider what she would do after Raziel left. She could not stay here, that much was obvious as she had no coin to pay with. She didn't dare to let herself hope that Raziel would ask her to go with her. After all, they had just met and such a thing would be truly absurd, but she had nowhere to go, nor purpose to continue living.
Yet for some reason Lillith found herself wanting to live. Though living just for the sake of living was no different than dying. What, then, would she do? Lillith could think of nothing and so she forced those thoughts from her mind and continued eating the meal. It wasn't anything extravagant, rather meager compared to what Lillith had had among her people, but after so long without food she was not in the least bit picky and savored every morsel.
When Lillith had finished her food she slowly rose, her belly full for the first time in months, and walked over to the window. Lillith looked out and noticed the sun had fallen low in the sky and Raziel had yet to return. She wasn't sure if Raziel had just moved on, which would certainly be understandable, or if he had simply taken his time and was on his way back now.
Lillith decided that the answer would be made apparent soon enough. If Raziel had not returned by morning then he had simply moved on. If that was the case she would linger here and regain some strength before moving on herself, though moving on to what, she still had no idea. Lillith made her way back to the bed on the far side of the room after closing the curtains, and laid down to rest.
Lillith had only just fallen asleep when Raziel walked into the room carrying a few small bags. He promptly packed away their contents in his rucksack. He did so quietly however, as not to wake Lillith. After completing this, he too ate his plate of food. Raziel's body could easily go without food for weeks, however such things were far from pleasant and hunger had been gnawing at him for several days. After eating, Raziel walked over to Lillith and knelt by her bed. He raised one hand and, placing it over where he had injured her, muttered a few inaudible words.
Raziel's hand glowed faintly as his spell worked and healed what little damage was left. The spell would quicken the healing process and now that Lillith had eaten she would have enough energy for the spell to work. In a matter of only a few minutes the task was finished. Raziel decided he would meditate until morning, as he did not sleep and he honestly had nothing better to do until Lillith was well enough to move.
Raziel opened his eyes just before sunrise and walked over to the window where he pulled up a seat and planted himself before the rising sun. Raziel sat and watched as the faintest glimmer of the suns early rays raced across the ice covered plain where they had come from. Three days had passed since arriving at the inn. Lillith could have left the morning following their arrival, but Raziel wished to bring her with him and such a suggestion would be a little less odd if he had stayed together for a little while longer.
Since arriving in the town Lillith had caused quite an up roar, and many mixed feelings. Raziel smiled when he thought back to the day after their arrival. She had gone to the local tavern for a strong drink; Raziel accompanied her partly because he was thirsty, but mostly because he needed to plant the thoughts in Lillith's mind of traveling with him.
While in the tavern, the owner's son was so nervous around the pair of them that he accidently tripped and spilled ale over a few burly men seated at the next table. The men were so enraged by the poor boys clumsiness they began to shove him around. The commotion caused Lillith to turn in her seat so that she could tell the inconsiderate fools to settle down. Her voice then cause the nearest of the men to turn around as the boy stumbled passed him and caught his foot on the thick muscle of the man's ankle causing the boy to fall face first into Lillith's lap. This whole scene was so amusing Raziel would have laughed to the point of tears, except that his mind was still wrestling with how to ensure Lillith would come with him.
The boy, whose face was planted firmly in Lillith's lap was so disoriented and dizzied by having been pushed around that he didn't realize what had happened until Lillith reached down and picked him up by the collar of his shirt. Lillith stood and plopped the boy in her seat and leaped on the drunks that had started the scene. Raziel was in no hurry to break up the fight as he found it rather comical how the men would try to attack her, but she would dodge at the last minute and the blow meant for her would instead connect with someone else who was trying to catch her.
Raziel couldn't help but think that Iofiel and Lillith were indeed a lot alike, though Iofiel was not so eager for a fight as Lillith, Iofiel would also never directly harm anyone…. Instead she would jump, duck, dodge, dive, and weave through enemies allowing them to take each other out of the fight. Iofiel was also considerably more graceful, but Lillith was every bit as agile as Iofiel. A thought crossed Raziels mind then; perhaps Lillith was more attractive. This thought only solidified Raziel's hope to bring Lillith along.
As Raziel watched the sun rise at the room they had rented at the inn, he knew he was running out of time. He would have to ask Lillith soon or he would not complete his mission in time. As Raziel was thinking of a way to ask her to join him, Lillith opened her eyes. Raziel decided that a simple offer would suffice. Lillith was far from a necessity, but he was fond of the idea. He had been traveling alone for so long he wanted to spend some time with someone.
Lillith sat up in bed and stretched her arms above her head. Raziel did not turn to look as Lillith, for some reason, felt the need to sleep naked, and what's more felt no shame in her naked body. This didn't bother Raziel, as he had spent a short time with a small Shyft tribe. Raziel knew that they normally did not wear cloths, thought the may wear a few scraps when entering a strange tribe. Such was simply their custom, and arguing was pointless. The inn keeper, Verlus, on the other hand, had never heard of such a thing and when Lillith went to ask for some breakfast the day before he was so shocked that all he could do was stare at her naked body wide eyed and dumbfounded.
Raziel turned his head to the right as Lillith finished stretching. Lillith found this odd as his right eyes was covered by the leather strap and, in all likelihood; Raziel didn't have a right eye to see with. Lillith decided to keep this observation too herself as such things were pointless. Raziel spoke as Lillith stood to put on a shirt.
"Tell me Lillith, what will you do once I leave here?"
Lillith answered after a slight hesitation, "I don't know. It's not like I have anywhere to be."
Raziel smiled. He had already known what her answer was going to be to that question and what her likely answer was to his next question. "Would you like to come with me?"
Lillith looked up at him. Was he serious? She had not dared to allow herself to hope he would offer such a thing. But in all honesty, she had no reason to go with him, though she could think of no reason not to either. She didnt had any place she belonged to, so the only this that stopped her from answering outright was one question;
"Why? Wouldn't I just slow you down?"
Raziel nodded, "Probably, yes. However, any delays can easily be made up for, so my offer stands. I would like you to come with me."
Lillith was slightly concerned with this. He clearly had some reason for this, and what did he mean by "delays can be made up for?" she had a few ideas but they seemed a bit out of character for Raziel, even if she had only known him a few days.
"Why ask then?"
Raziel turned around to face Lillith and spoke flatly, "well im sure you know what its like to travel alone. It is not exactly something one enjoys, however, I have been alone since before you were born. I rather like the idea of having a traveling partner... and an extra set of hands during the wars to come would be a welcome thing. If that's still not enough reason, come with me and I can give you a reason to live, a purpose to your existence. I ask one final time; will you come with me?"
Lillith mouth opened and closed a few times in shock. Raziel had quelled every one of her worries with those few sentences. She now had a reason to go with him, and none to refuse him. Lillith nodded silently. "I will."
Raziel's eye gleamed as he smiled "Ultimately, we are headed for the Ley Line Convergence. However we must first go through the The Great Maw and the Crystal Palace. Once we get to the Crystal Palace, anything that I have not told you can easily be found in my library."
Lillith looked at him curiously. She knew of The Great Maw, for it was said that not a soul who entered could ever return alive, but the Crystal palace she had never heard of. And she voiced her ignorance of the place saying;
"Im sorry, I don't know where the Crystal Palace is… I've never even heard of it before, but there must be a better way to get there than The Great Maw. No one ever returns alive once they enter. That all aside, aren't Ley lines a myth from ancient times?"
Raziel blinked, unsure of how to respond. After a moment how spoke and answered her inquiry. "I will first address the The Great Maw... unfortunately there is no other way to get there. The Great Maw is basically the front, and only, entrance to the palace. And before you ask anything else, you should know I was born in the Crystal Palace, so it is not that none return alive, it is simply outsiders that are killed. My father created an army of golems who protect the place."
Raziel paused for a moment, then resumed speaking "I'm sure it's not exactly easy to believe, but you will simply have to trust me…"
Lillith cut him off by raising her hand, "its fine. I'll trust you. Besides, if you are lying, we will both die and it will be no different than if I go my own way. I'll wind up dying alone eventually anyway."
Raziel nodded and smiled, "Let us be off then. I have already packed enough supplies for the two of us. We can cover more ground if we leave now… one more thing though… will you be traveling as a cat or as a human?"
Lillith paused for a moment then spoke, "As a snow cat. I'll be a lot warmer that way." As she said this she began to remove the shirt she had put on earlier so she could morph into her animal form.
"I'll meet you out from when you are ready Lillith," Raziel Slung the full rucksack over his shoulders and walked out the door. He waved to the inn keeper as he passed by and told him that he should expect a large cat to walk by in a few moments; however, Raziel did not elaborate any further but continued walking out the front door where he would wait for Lillith.
A sudden yelp of surprise signaled Lillith's arrival as her animal form padded slowly passed the inn keeper. Raziel reached over and opened the door to allow Lillith to exit the inn where they had been staying the past few days. As Lillith proceeded outside she turned her head towards the inn keeper and bowed her head in thanks. Raziel then voiced their duel gratitude and closed the door.
"Off we go then, Lillith. We go north from here until we reach the Xenthracite Plateau. Then we turn east and simply follow that until we reach The Great Maw."
The snow cat that was Lillith nodded her large head and began walking north at Raziel's side. Lillith had decided that she would accompany the homunculus for as long has he would allow her to. After all, he offered her a place to which she could belong. No longer was she an exile. She was now part of something, even if she had little knowledge of the trials ahead of her, nor the pain she would endure because of this decision.