The Guardians of London: Third Echelon CHAPTER THREE [6 Slots Open]

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Bastian took a stroll down to a local place that smelled of wine and spirits. He pushed the door open and everyone looked up at him, noted his lack of horns or pointed ears and then continued to stare at him. He sat down and asked the bartender for "Something sweet and local, good sir." and dropped two golden Athame marks on the table. Accepted as a common currency to many creatures, marks were pressed with the symbol of the Athame Common Exchange which meant it was equal throughout all species that took part, including the Fae from the old times. The bartender was confused though, having not seen the coins before and brought it over to an older gentleman at the end of the bar and said "Is this real?" and the old man looked at them, his horn cut to half length and looking worn. He examined the coin and said "Oh this is genuine. Witchknife coin hasn't been seen in a long time...not since I was wee." and here the old man chuckled while the bartender passed Bastian a bottle of stout cider with nutmeg and cinnamon. "One Cinderbrick Stout Ale."

~~~

Elsewhere in another place of spirits and not the ghostly kind, Anastasia and Pytor reminisced about their homeland while Anastasia prepared a special kind of absinthe for drinking, letting it run over the sugar cube she said "I miss my family the most...I'll never get them back..."
"Shot, chopped tp pieces and burned....not even a master necromancer can fix that..."
Here she finished preparing the absinthe and filled a small glass and said "To Czar and country." and she took the drink, it went down like swallowing needles. She coughed as it went to her head, making her dizzy. "Goodness." and she read the label "Stabsinth?" she asked to Pytor "Lives up to the name."

The cheers Anastasia had said was a sentiment Pyotr didn't share, that kind of patriotism was partially the reason he abandoned the military and joined The Guardians. But all the same, he threw back a shot of the Stabsinthe and winced as it went down harshly. "Syn suka! That's stronger than I had anticipated," he said as he poured himself another shot and tossed it back, same as the other. "DorogoĭBog...that will take getting used to. Not bad once you get past the searing pain. I will have to get a bottle of it to bring with me."

It was another few shots and Anastasia was already feeling loose lipped. "You remind me of my country before the reds made me flee. I haven't seen another russian in.....forever. Always foreigners to me. Chechen, Polish, Germans, Alsatians and a nice French couple that helped stow me to England and got their throats cut for the privilege. If...when I got back, they'll be there waiting for me. The Reds are everywhere, and they want me to disappear! For good! sdelatʹ ushel, mertvyĭ! They won't stop or rest, either! Like....like....bloody monsters!"
Here she started crying, heaving into her crossed arms on the table.
Pytor put a hand on her shoulder and she looked up eyes a little red and she poured herself more of the alcohol and said "To running away...it's all I do..." and she knocked it back and kept crying and drinking, a vicious cycle. The more she drank, the more she blubbered about her home and her family.

"Actually, now that you mention it Rena," Hadrian rubbed his belly. "I am pretty hungry. Let's grab a bite to eat first, then you can show me the cool places."

Rena nodded her head and happily led him to a nice restaurant that was fairly occupied, though there were still a few empty tables and booths for one to sit. Hurrying over to the table, she said. "Come on, it's a self seating restaurant! The waiter should be over here in a minute. I really recommend the stew! It's got veggies and meat in it all together!"

Hadrian took his seat, ignoring the many eyes that were staring at him. Arguing could be heard at the far end of the restaurant, causing Hadrian to turn his head toward that direction. A scrawny, young Fae boy was shoved out of what appeared to be the kitchen. He was dressed in something similar to a waiter's outfit, though it was primarily green, and the buttons appeared to be made of the husks of beetles.

He jerkily made his way to Rena and Hadrian's table, sweat dripping down his forehead and his eyes were shifting around nervously.

A forced, trembling smile was on his face when he spoke. "W-welcome to the... the umm... err..." He stuttered. "M-may I t-take y-your order?"

Rena couldn't help but giggle at the antics of the boy, and said with a mischievous grin. "What's the matter Touka? You're stuttering like you're having trouble confessing!" She looked bashful for a moment before saying. "I'm really flattered, but I'm going on a mission to defeat the Dark Skull. If you're this shy now, I can't imagine how you'll be around me when I'm a hero." She let that sink in for a moment before saying. "Oh, and I'll have the rabbit stew with extra carrots! Also some milk!"

Touka nodded nervously, and was about to take Hadrian's order, until Rena's words sunk in.
"YOU'RE WHAT?!" he shrieked hysterically, making Hadrian cringe. All the shyness in his voice was replaced with panic and concern. He grabbed Rena by the cheeks and pulled at them. "ARE YOU INSANE RENA? YOU'RE GOING TO GET YOURSELF KILLED! YOU KNOW WHAT SHE'S CAPABLE OF DOING!"

Rena squeaked a little bit when he yelled out the first time, but when he started to pull on her cheeks, she waved her arms around and said. "Iww be fiiie!" She finally manages to release her face before saying while rubbing her cheeks. "Owie..I'll be fine! The strangers are really strong! We definitely won't fail in our mission! Besides, We're on the good side, no way we can lose!" She nodded her head as if she were sure that would convince him.

"You were listening to Elder Velandril's rants again weren't you?" Touka pointed an accusing finger at Rena. "I KNEW IT!" He cried, not giving Rena a chance to reply. "Rena, there's a good reason why he doesn't get a say in the counsel anymore!"
Hadrian rested his head on his hand, eyes slightly narrowed, annoyed by the raving little Fae boy.

Rena blushed a little bit before saying with a cute pout. "It's because all the other elders have given up hope! We can definitely defeat the Dark Skull, and I believe that this time we'll really win! My intuition is telling me that so it has to be true! Soon the snows around us will clear and we'll be able to reclaim Faerie as our own!"

Bastian was prepared to down one more of the sweet hard cider when the shadow slithered in. It was a male fae with its horn's tip blunted down and wearing black. He had a bow strapped to his back and whispered to the bartender who passed him what seemed to be black coffee.
"Who's he?" Bastian asked to a fae seated next to him.
"That's a black ranger, they're wild folk that wander the borders. They keep to themselves and only pass through when something bad is going on out there. Best keep quiet and leave him be, they've got a hard life on the border."
Bastian nodded and soon many of the patrons had left, giving the black ranger a wide berth. All that was left was Bastian and the ranger.
"You're brave. Not many men would stay in ten feet of one of us." said the ranger.
"I'm no fae, and I am not afraid of anyone."
"Strong words coming from an outlander. You wouldn't last ten minutes in the wastes."
Bastian walked over and stood before him "Are you challenging my skill? Because I am no fool, I can handle magic and weapons as well as any man."
"I challenge no one. Tell me, outlander, why are you here?"
"I was tasked by the Illrian Shadow to slay the Dark Skull and to heal the homeland of the Fae, allowing them to return without fear."
"A grand task, and one we have forseen. The Illrian Shadow spoke to us, the black rangers, long ago. We stalk the wild lands, keeping the enemy at bay. We were once great heroes, living on our own in the wild and serving no kingdom. We were free as the beasts we hunted, and we sold what we could not use to those kingdoms which would have us. Then she came...out of that portal and brought with her some sort of disease that blighted the soil, she came upon us like a sickness and soon there were two choices. Brave the coming darkness or flee. Many chose to flee..."
"We know them, these ones who fled. They are well established in our world. The kingdoms of old rebuilt."
"I would have liked to see what became of those who left us. But, the matter is that we black rangers are few and we have struggled to make the smallest forays into the cold place she holds. You say you will kill her, but how can you when you can't reach her."
"We came here by magic means, we will reach her the same way."
"You would carve your way to her with magic? Then I wish you the best of luck, but her eyes will be drawn to you as you approach....but if she were distracted...."
"What do you propose?"
"An exchange. If you aid the black rangers by bringing myself and my most elite warriors, my other companions will draw her away from you. And another thing...deep in the cold is a haven protected by the last Avenger. You'll need her help if you want to defeat the Dark Skull."
Bastian nodded and said "Why trust me?"
"Because no one in Grand Moon has had the strength to oppose the Dark Skull in thirty years. Since the Avengers were defeated, there's been no hope."
Here the man finished the coffee and rose "Meet me at the main gate tomorrow as the sun rises if you are, as you say, determined to slay the Dark Skull."
Bastian nodded and again and said to him with a voice strong with commitment "We'll be there. All of us..."

"The last time we trusted your so-called "intuition", I ENDED UP GETTING WASHING DUTY FOR SEVERAL MONTHS! WITH NO EXTRA PAY!" Touka cried.
Their arguing went on for what seemed like hours, until finally Hadrian decided enough was enough and grabbed Touka by the back of the shirt.
"HEY! WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA?! LET GO OF ME YOU DAMN-"
"In case you didn't notice, whelp, you haven't taken our order yet." Hadrian growled.
He brought Touka closer. "I came here to have a decent meal, not to listen to an annoying little brat's rant."
He let go of is collar. "Now, I would like what Rena's having, but no extra carrots, and a glass of water, alright?" Touka just stood there, trembling.
Hadrian leaned forward and smiled, showing off his sharp teeth. "Get to it. Now."
Touka ran back to the kitchen as fast as he could, and shouted out their order in a high-pitched squeal.

Rena winced a little bit when he brought up that sore topic. How was she supposed to know the Elders would get angry at them for 'rearranging' some of the furniture in the Main Hall? In her defense, she thought that the new arrangements were more 'efficient' but the others didn't think so. Her uncle definitely made sure to drive that point home through her poor little bottom. Wiggling a little bit, she said to Hadrian after he shooed Touka away. "Please don't be mad at him, kay? He's like a big brother to me. An overprotective big brother, but still."

Elsewhere on Earth

Silas stood on the balcony overlooking the mountain steppes. His eye raking over the landscape, and he sighed. He was far from his home, his seat of power, learning from scratch. He itched the symbol on his arm which had become a spiderweb of black lines running up to his elbow. The symbols intermixed, he felt like some sort of blending. He was not human, not illrian, not a steward...he was some mixture of all of them and yet he felt hollow, not full. Something had been drained from him, some ultimate meaning somewhere out of reach he had only to discover to complete his transformation, what transformation that way.
He began to sing, a little under his breath and quietly to the wind that whipped around him.
"I have often dreamed of a far off place where a great warm welcome would be waiting for me...where the crowds will cheer when they see my face and a voice keeps saying 'this is where I'm meant to be'. I will find my way, I can go the distance...I'll be there some day, if I can be strong. I know every mile will be worth my while. I would go most anywhere to feel like I...belong..."
Here he turned and returned to the students below, to continue training and searching for himself. He worked himself until his body refused to work, hoping his exertion would give him some revelation. It had yet to occur.

~~~~

Months later, not knowing what the Guardians were doing or whether they had reached Faerie, Silas had worked hard. Sent on a journey to find a mysterious architect and gain his admittance to the Order of the Stewards. After recovering from his sickness he had begged to be trained, after Malachi reunited with him they began. He was silent at first but his voice returned, a low hum in his mind as he walked. Malachi's voice sung low in his ears, keeping him focused. He knew he would make it, and he would perhaps find what he had been searching for.

~~~

Back in Faerie

Inside Kin's mind, a shadow whispered "Kin..."
The shadow of Silas appeared, faded and barely there.
"Silas...Why are you..."
But he could not finish.
"My time is short but you must know...The Rhyle have accepted me...and I know what I am now..."
"What?"
"I am not just a shadow of an ancient order, I am its ruler. Illrian Shadow was the name given to the regent who would take its place, to await awakening. I am the Illrian Shadow, but I am much more than that...I am an Archon."
"Archon?" echoed Kin, trying to remember.
"I am a Saint blessed by the Light to lead. I am blessed in the Light itself as the Great Guardians are, a demigod. And yet, I feel like a man. I do not feel like a God..."
"You're a god?"
"In a way...I took an Illrian into me, the blackened one who once ruled as an angel of judgement and protection. Now returned to glory, I am something more. I have ascended, and I can see with clarity. I was meant to rule the Illrians, a shining beacon to the blackened and lost. Look to my coming at first light of the fifth day. At dawn, look to the east and I shall appear with the rising sun. I shall appear."
And here the shadow began to fade.
"No! Wait, Silas! What does this all mean?!" but Silas was gone.

Hadrian grunted in response and leaned back into his chair. The people in the restaurant were now glaring at him, and muttering, which Hadrian was capable of hearing clearly. Words like 'barbarian, 'asshole', and 'scumbag' were being thrown around. Hadrian found it odd that these people were saying these things when that obnoxious little Fae boy was screaming his lungs out and being much more of a nuisance than he was.
He chuckled hollowly. "Looks like I made a lousy first impression, huh Rena?"

[REDACTED]

Rena giggled happily at his question before saying. "Don't worry about it! You might not have made a good impression but we'll all be hailed as heroes once we defeat the Dark Skull!" She swung her little legs every now and then, since they didn't even reach the floor, and looked to the kitchen for any sign of their food.

Bastian walked out into the streets as night began to fall, the twilight sky a deep cascade of orange and red. Shadows crawled out from the cracks and in the low light things were hazy and insubstantial, something the Fae relied on. The surreal quality of their cities causing many to believe them only figments. It may have kept them safe on Earth for a time, but no longer.
Bastian had not been privy to the council between delegates of the Midnight Council but the result has spread quickly through the grapevine, the Fae wanted to go home. From the Demalions to the Sylvans they wanted their home back.

But now preparing to complete the quest he and his team had been sent to accomplish felt strange, imposing their will on the Fae for no reason other than to impose some kind of order.
"And that's the thing, isn't it?" Bastian said out loud as he walked.
"The Guardians of Light are just justicars upholding some arcane system of law and order. The Fae must go to their world because ours cannot be shared. Why cannot the Fae choose for themselves where to build their homes whether it be in Faerie or not. Human faces are not unknown in Faerie, but here we were always reviled for our clumsy ways and disrespect for everything they hold sacred the same way some of the most venerable and honorable houses of Vampire were wiped out wholesale because we were afraid. Afraid of letting precious humans come to harm..."
Here Bastian stopped talking to himself out loud and thought privately And that is why we fail to keep the peace. We are so blinded by our self-righteousness we cannot see we oppress what we sought to protect. Our one tiny stand has sent shockwaves through the whole world. The entire Midnight Council is watching us now and we are here, playing to the same foolishness we've played to so many times before. The savior
"I'm hungry..." said Bastian as his stomach made a low growl. He tapped the shoulder of a passing gentleman and inquired of a place for supper. "There's a place just two streets down that's still open."
"A thousand thanks, may the stars guide your path." and here Bastian dipped his head and began walking, and a thought racing in his mind.
I will find a way to free everyone here from the yoke of the Dark Skull. Not because the Guardians are trying to keep Fae and Human separate but because it is the right thing to do.

Touka came out of the kitchen with bowls and glasses. He came to the table and placed Rena's food right in front of her, while Hadrian's food got tossed into his general direction. The glass and bowl surprisingly managed stayed upright, though some of the contents splashed on the table. Hadrian pulled his bowl of stew close, and examined it.
The "stew" looked like a writhing ball of grey slime, with tiny bones and moldy vegetables rolling over the surface. It emitted a foul stench that made Hadrian gag. Inside the glass was a murky liquid, which he assumed was dish water. He looked in Rena's bowl, only to find that she wasn't served the sludge that he was given. It looked like your generic bowl of delicious stew, with little chunks of meat and vegetables.

Hadrian's eye twitched. He stared at the squirming thing in his bowl as he reached out to strangle the bratty half-pint, only to grasp empty air.
"Rena, I'm afraid that I am very mad at him right now," Hadrian stood up, carrying the bowl of 'stew'. "He must be punished."

Rena gasped a little bit before getting up and flying in front of him with her arms out wide. "P-please don't hurt him! I know he might be a little childish but it really was your fault for being so mean to him in the first place!" She looked at him with pleading eyes before saying. "B-besides, if anyone is to blame, it's me for getting him all riled up in the first place. If you''re going to punish anyone, please punish me in his place! I'm strong, so I can take it. Touka is a little baby, so he would break and I can't allow that for my big brother." She then said in a whisper. "Besides, do you wanna be thrown out of Grand Moon for causing trouble? I'm sure the guards would be called if you tried hurting him! A-at least you have my permission to punish me."

Bastian was stepping into the small, quaint restaurant when his communicator made another chime. He'd been ignoring it, but someone kept touching their communicator absentmindedly and was causing it to make a small noise, indicating someone wanted to talk. Bastian touched the top button of his shirt and heard Hadrian's voice saying something about something being punished.
Bastian scratched his head as he was seated by a young fae who curiously stared at his ears.
"How do you stand it?" she asked, showing him a table in the corner.
"Stand what?" asked Bastian, looking at her. She was small and cute, small nose and a stubby unicorn horn sticking out of her forehead.
"Your ears! They're so...round...may I?"
"Go ahead..." said Bastian she felt them.
"Weird...oh sorry, can I get you something to drink?"
"Just water for now, thank you." said Bastian with a smile.

Bastian tapped the communicator twice and said "Hadrian, do you need any help? You've been signaling us for about five minutes now."

Hadrian was snapped out of his anger at when Bastian's voice buzzed through the communicator. He brought the communicator to his mouth.
"No, no I don't need any help." He shut off his communicator with a sigh and sat down, placing the bowl back on the table and pushing it away from him.
He looked at Rena with a grin. "Sorry about that. I feel better now. Kind of," He scratched his chin. "I still think he deserved to have that 'stew' poured down his throat. But if you say so, I'll leave him alone."

Rena let out a sigh of relief before giving him a quick hug and saying. "I'll go and talk to him and get him to make a real stew okay? So just sit down and wait for it kay? It really is yummy!" She giggled before turning around, and as she turned, one might notice her eyes going from happy to a little angry. Hurrying into the kitchen, she quickly found Touka and gave him a good whack on the head. "You big dummy! That was really mean of you! You don't have to apologize since he was being mean too, but we're going to pay for our meals, so get to making a real stew for him or I'll turn you into stew!"

Bastian sat there in that corner table, eating a rack of lamb freshly made and basted. It was worth the hour of wait while he made small talk with the waitress, learning all he could glean about Grand Moon and its inhabitants. As he finished his dinner the entertainment emerged from a back room, three pretty Fae girls without horns. It took him a moment to realize their etherealness to understand these were Demalions, fickle Fae-folk given to a gypsy lifestyle and their colorful travelling bands were welcomed by all Fae courts. Seeing them as the greatest entertainment in Faerie. Here, in their home, they seemed more vibrant and as they began to sing and dance Bastian leaned back and listened.

As the dancer whirled and the song undulated from the rafters down to the floor, he listened. Rapt to silence he barely noticed the shadow creeping up near them, rising over them. It was swift and sudden, Bastian leaping up and throwing out a snap of orange fate lines crackling through the air and flashing before the shadow's eyes, blinding it and a second shadow reaching up to grab the other's arm to hold back a cruel dagger. His fate lines ran from his fingers and tangled the shadow up, holding it together like a kitten that had gotten tangled up in its yarn.
It was a Black Ranger holding the creature, a twisted creature with a crooked nose and weatherbeaten face. It had no eyes, only empty sockets that burned with purple faerie lights.
"What's a Hag's Morgh doing this far out of the Fen of Sorrow, hmm? Too chilly for your bones?" said the Ranger, holding the creature down with a boot.
It choked out something in a language Bastian did not speak or know and the Ranger said
"You have no loyalty do you?" and the Ranger spat on the creature.
"What is it?" asked Bastian.
"A Morgh, a servant of a Hag that's been warped by their magic. Thrown in with the Dark Skull, spying on us free folk and waiting for a chance to drive a thorn in our side. Thought you'd kill the last Demalions in Faerie, did you? Think again, cretin. You'll be strung up at the border so the Dark Skull can see what we do with the likes of you ungrateful specks of dirt." the Ranger finished with his face close to the creature's own before smiling and picking the beast up.
"My thanks for tying it..." said the Ranger before departing. The Demalions, upset and looking more see-through than ever slunk into the crowd of people and Bastian said "Good show..."

Hadrian had taken notice of the scuffle and had moved beside Bastian to watch the Morgh get dragged off.
"Indeed. Shame that their show ended so soon." Hadrian smirked. "When did you get here Bastian?"
----

In the kitchen, Touka was being forced to make a new stew by Rena, and it had to be up to her standards. Several times, he was caught trying to sneak something disgusting in to the food, like newt dung or a stink bug. Every time, he had to start over. At the moment, he was doing it over for the tenth time.
"Why don't you go check on your friend out there?" he snapped at Rena. "I'm sure it's better than watching me make your so-called 'perfect stew' again for the hundredth time."

Rena shook her head at Touka before saying with a pout. "And let you slip in a worm or something like before? Not a chance! I'll be watching you like a hawk until you finally make it right!" She crossed her arms and continued to vigilantly watch him make the stew. She wasn't worried about her stew, since it was still going to be warm when she got there and if it wasn't, she could just have Touka heat it up!

"A while ago." replied Bastian "I didn't even see you here, Hadrian. Having a nice meal?
he asked but Hadrian only bristled.
"I see...the locals staring too hard?" said Bastian scratching a quick itch. "Seems the little one is turning out to be quite the valuable ally." remarked Bastian.

~~~

Elsewhere in Grand Moon, Pytor was carrying an unconscious and drooling Anastasia on his shoulders and grumbling. "Little woman can't hold her drink....ehh what a shame."
The night wore on and soon all the Guardians would be sleeping, holed up in inns wherever they could find them. Bastian, Hadrian and Rena found a room in an inn after Rena jumped up on the counter and said hello to the innkeeper.

The next day would be travelling hard, and thinking fast. They needed a plan but more than ever they needed guidance.

Rena had happily put on her charm to the innkeeper and got Bastian and Hadrian a room together, while she had gotten a room room to herself. Once she was in her room, she quickly flopped on the bed and let out a small sigh before saying. "Touka can be so stubborn sometimes..Who woulda thought it would take him twenty retries before he finally stopped putting strange things in Hadrian's stew. Mine was cold by the time we were done! Ehehe~ At least Touka was 'happy' to warm it up again." She stretched her small body before snuggling under the covers and falling asleep.

Hadrian threw his bag at the foot of a bed and plopped down on the mattress.
"Damn, this is comfy!" He stretched out and rapped on the headboard. "Hmm, feels like tanglewood... Impressive."
He threw off his shoes and laid himself on the bed, feeling content. The delicious stew that rested in his stomach did wonders to his mood.
"G'night Bastian."

"Good night, Hadrian. Sleep well." said Bastian, flopping face down on the bed and without even getting under the covers he was asleep.

The next morning the Guardians reunited; most of them looking at least fed and awake with the exception of Anastasia who was rubbing her temples and grumbling about a hangover. They departed for the gate with Rena skipping ahead of them. Rena led them in what was apparently a northern route to the snowy border with the Dark Skull's domain. At the border, where the trees ended and a wide plain of rolling hills appeared there were five Black Rangers standing around a large wooden stake onto which the Morgh was impaled through the arse up through the throat, the spike protruding from its mouth a little. It had a glazed expression of agony and horror or its face, frost forming on its body. The Black Rangers turned and the one Bastian had met before came forward.
"You came."
"I made a promise." said Bastian.
"Shall we depart? The Dark Skull's fortress lies in the north but first we must go west." said the Ranger leader.
"West?" asked Bastian.
"We will find guidance there...and you may call me Vash'era, outlander."
"You may call me Bastian. These are my companions; Breaker, Hadrian, Lurker, Mohammed, Reuben, Jeffrey and Rena."
The Black Rangers nodded and Breaker called up the disc of solid snow to carry them and they all stepped onto it. With a small effort of will, Bastian made a barrier come down over them and they were off, whizzing west on a disc made of snow.

Kin looked about his conscious mind. He felt sort of empty...
IT was a strange feeling. He had, ever since being recovered, felt the presence of his long lost friend. Like a strange sort of feeling when you know you are being watched, yet this felt more reassuring than anything. He felt a sense of joy and the ranks of his brethren growing and even felt a sense of pride. Silas would make a fine Rhyle, but why was he gone now?

He didnt even try to figure out why. His knowledge of such had been exhausted. He drew blanks and nothing seemed to fit into place.

Rena was being her usual happy go lucky self all the way to the gate. She was definitely more than excited about going to battle with the Dark Skull, and she wanted to deal the final blow with her own hands for all of Fae-kind! Her hopes of getting that blow dropped dramatically though, when she saw the Black Rangers. An instinctive fear caused her to gulp, but she wasn't a child anymore. She was a future Avenger! Though she was now clinging onto Hadrian's leg while on the disc, she was looking at the Rangers as if she were trying to convince herself that she was just as strong as them.

The travel was not slow but it took half of the day before a tiny copse of trees appeared ahead, green instead of snow-covered. An oasis in the empty hills of cold. Vash'era pointed and said "There. We stop there for now."
Breaker brought the snow disc skidding slowly to a halt, throwing up snow as Bastian let the barrier melt away. He was tired and his hands were getting numb from being held over his head.

Within there was a small wooden cabin with smoke drifting lazing from the chimney. Outside, tending a small garden was an older woman with short blonde hair. She stood as the group approached and crossed her arms, the sun was behind her and it made looking in her direction painful and Bastian raised a hand over his face to block the light.
"What are a bunch of outlanders and wanderers doing in my grove?" asked the woman loudly, obviously a fae but who bore no horns.
"We seek knowledge, as many travelers do." shouted Vash'era.
As they approached she placed her trowl on the ground and wiped off the earth on her hands.
"Knowledge is not only what brought you here, nothing can account for crossing the wastes to my home. I won't raise my sword any longer, and I will not consent to train any of you." said the woman, glaring at all of them.
"We only wish to know why the attempt to slay Her failed." said Vash'era.
The woman frowned and said "A tale none have wished told, to remember it brings me great sorrow even now." here she paused and picked up her trowl, heading for the door "I cannot consent to reveal that, either."

"We did not trek hundreds of miles to be disappointed." said Bastian, stepping forward.
"Brave, aren't you. But bravery won't free Faerie. Life is an endless strong of disappointments and failures, outlander. The sooner you understand that, the sooner you can return home. I cannot help, nothing can. There is no power that can kill Her." she said, her eyes downcast and her voice defeated.
"No." said Mohammed, stepping forward. His eyes glowing as Zjar'q took control.
"Faith and conviction are alone powerful enough to slay a Shadow Lord. They were made abhorrent to the Light, the smite them in its name destroys them forever. I sense you know me from a far and distant time, when your world was made did the Light come to you?"
The woman looked Zjar'q in the eye and said "I've only heard stories, that we were not the only ones blessed by the Light. But that his grace came to us in the form of angels and even then, they were only fleeting. We swore to uphold old oaths to guard our world from evil, even when the Light's blessings went away and all we had was old stories."

Zjar'q nodded and said "It seems the ineptitude of humans led to the Light's focus being drawn upon us wholly. We were ignorant, and assumed we were the only ones. Your presence reveals otherwise, and as a servant of the Light I will not rest until all the pain and tears felt here are avenged and you are returned all you have lost."
The woman smiled and said "Kind, but fruitless. You may stay here for the night...but outside. I will decide tomorrow if it is worth telling you why we failed."

Rena was a little confused by the one that lived at the oasis on her own, but as the conversations continued, she came to a realization. This person was an Avenger! Her eyes grew wide and she looked upon the woman with a deep admiration in her eyes. She was actually looking upon one of her heroes! When the woman had allowed them to stay, Rena couldn't help but go over to her and ask. "E-excuse me ma'am? A-are you really an Avenger?" She was nervous, but her admiration was still beaming in her eyes.

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