By: Magenta Fox, the all-sexy goddess of your pants
Chapter 7: Retrieval
A/N: I'm so glad this story is getting so popular. Keep up the reviewing. I've been looking forward to this chapter for a while. I think it might be shorter than the others, but we'll see.
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"You want to what?" Ortena asked suddenly, halting her packing.
"I'm not saying you're weak or anything, I just don't like the fact that your entire party is Deimos, half-breeds or not," Jedrick explained, pacing back and forth.
"They're trusted allies. You have nothing to worry about." If Jedrick went along, too many things would be compromised.
"Well what about the fact that you left two months after we met, then I see you for two days and now you're leaving again? It's like you're tryin' to run from me or something…"
"You know that's not true, I just have a lot of stuff to deal with."
"Then why not let me deal with it with you?" he asked, grabbing both her hands between his when she went to try and pack again.
"It's…" she stumbled over a way to tell the truth without spilling too much. "It's really really complicated, Jedrick."
"And even if it wasn't the answer would still be no," another voice sounded from the open doorway. "I already have to watch my back enough on this trip as it is, I won't spend my nights worrying about backstabbing from him as well."
"Yer killin' the mood here, Miss Bitchy," Jedrick snapped back.
"I'm going to kill more than the mood if you come with us," Keyana promised, crossing her arms.
"Neither of you are going to lay a finger on the other-" she paused, took a deep breath, and hoped she wasn't dooming herself. "-for the rest of this trip."
Jedrick grinned as Keyana's jaw dropped.
"Oh no no no, he is not coming. No way, no how."
"Then would you like to stay here while we leave?" Ortena offered. "I'm sure the bandits need something to be dinner tonight."
"Takes one to know one."
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Fully bundled up in dark colored coats, the newly enlarged team watched as the doors to the Mount Fice bandit headquarters were pulled shut behind them. They silently trekked down the mountain, finding it much easier for a few reasons. First of all, they weren't fighting against gravity. Second, the weather was still cold, but the wind and snow had become much more mild. Lastly, Keyana was able to keep up for the most part. Whether this was due to rest or a need to not seem weak in the eyes of Jedrick, no one could tell. Most likely, it was a mix of both.
When the snow gave way to bronzed earth and the temperature began to rise, the group rid themselves of their heavy garments as Ortena and Jedrick became the only noise to break the silence.
"I didn't see Demetris there, is she still at the excavation site?"
"Yup. We can't get her to leave."
Ortena laughed, idly playing with her hair as she remember her mechanically-obsessed friend. "Sounds like she hasn't changed a bit."
"Well it's not like you were gone for five years or something," the bandit leader pointed out. He took her hand and smiled at her. "Just long enough for me to miss you."
"Oh be still my beating heart," Keyana mumbled sarcastically.
"Yes, some of us would like to keep our lunch down," Darc added.
"Hey, leave them alone," Kharg interjected. "If it bothers you then don't look."
"I bet his wife back home trained him to say things like that," Darc whispered to the Morkeeth walking beside him.
"For the last time, Paulette is not my-" And then he stopped, holding up his hand to motion that everyone else do the same. The bushes gave a slight rustle and he drew his sword. At the same time, Jedrick and Ortena were turning around to find they could feel something coming from the other directions as well. It seemed they were surrounded.
"Yollats," Keyana spoke up. "Be careful. They're not very strong but they're fast and they're poisonous."
Darc unsheathed his sword and Ortena unraveled her whip. Jedrick, on the other hand, pulled out what looked like a thick, metallic rods barely longer than his hand. With a flick of his wrist it extended to about the length of his arm, locking in place for the time being.
The rustling seemed to die down for a moment, leaving everyone on edge. Sensing something was wrong, Jedrick turned just in time to swing his right arm around and smack one of the furry black creatures back into the forest.
"If you can keep me from getting hurt I can wipe them out with one spell," Keyana told Darc, waiting for his agreement before she'd charge anything. Though powerful, her spells took a great deal of preparation and it left her vulnerable. One hit while she was in that intense state of concentration and she'd be KOed, making fighting solo next to impossible for her. Nodding, Darc stood in front of her and waited for something to come his way.
No one really expected an ambush like they received, streaks of black and spots of red eyes flew past them at blinding speeds, the grace of weapons completely forgot as they were swiftly and awkwardly swatted away.
"Taking your sweet time back there?" Darc asked, slicing what seemed like a flying black rat in half. Keyana had been silent and still for far too long, and he was beginning to question her usefulness in battle.
"May moonbeams light your path to damnation," Keyana finally chanted, what seemed like black thunder crackling through the air. "Hell's Gate!"
All at once the horde of speedy fur-balls burst into black dust as the fighters dropped their guard.
"Ortena!" Jedrick exclaimed, bringing the girl's arm up to inspect it. "You're bleeding."
"What? You idiot, how could you let one bite you?" Keyana yelled, shoving the much taller man aside in order to look at the wound herself. "Damn it, your blood's turning purple."
"Well, can't we cure it?" Kharg asked.
"Anyone have anything like that on them?" the Deimos woman responded, crimson eyes shifting from traveler to traveler. No one responded.
"Oh, this is peachy," Ortena spoke bitterly, wincing as the puncture began to sting.
"Which pack has the bandages in it?"
Without being asked, Darc began rummaging through the brown leather pack, pulling out the mess of sterile, white bandages that seemed to be stuck on something. After the ambush they had just received, he was ready to retaliate against the white creature that leapt onto his head. However, upon noting just what it was that had appeared from inside the bag (the bandages still wrapped around one of its hands), Darc reached up slowly and snatched the firble off of him.
"Fluffy?!" Ortena exclaimed, jumping up as if she'd never been wounded.
"You name them?" Jedrick wondered, arching an eyebrow. "And better yet, you named this one 'Fluffy?'"
"It was the fluffiest one. Oh, he must have snuck in when I went to say goodbye to all of them."
"Well I bet it'll make a smarter addition then Sir Dumbass," Keyana mentioned, motioning to the blue-clad bandit leader.
"I don't remember giving you permission to speak," he shot back, holding up his weapons threateningly.
"And I don't remember caring."
"So Ortena, how's your arm?" Kharg asked loudly.
"Bleeding like you wouldn't believe," she responded, her voice mockingly chipper.
"Then we better hurry up. We need to get into the next town."
From birth, Ortena was paler than most people, but not too pale as to denote that she was ill. Therefore, when the poison began inching its way through her system, her body broke into a cold sweat and paled to the point where she looked like the walking dead. As a matter of fact, the limping dead, considering she was half supported by one of Jedrick's arms.
"Sweetie, maybe you should rest," Jedrick suggested, looking down at the veil of blonde hair covering her ashen face.
"Out of the question," Keyana spoke defiantly, not turning around from her position which was, strangely enough, at the head of the group.
"Listen you Hell banshee, if you think for one second that I'm-"
"Do you want her to die? No? Then you will drag her to the next town. Resting only gives the poison more time to set in."
"Since when do the likes of you care about what happens to humans?"
Ortena's head shot up and her half lidded eyes commanded her half sister's full attention. Not a single word escaped her blue-tinted lips, yet she was understood completely.
"Since I agreed to travel with one. Now pick her up and move your feet."
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Unable to even limp alongside her beloved, Ortena was forced to resort to being carried like a lifeless rag doll, which, as she drifted in and out of consciousness, she was beginning to resemble more and more with each passing moment.
Keyana gritted her teeth nervously, viciously fighting back the onslaught of emotions crashing into her very being. It was already getting late, the setting sun casting a dull purple blanket over their surroundings and themselves, Ortena has slipping into her longest bout of unconsciousness yet.
"We'll stop here," she spoke up, illustrating her point by standing still as the group walked past her a few steps.
"What happened to 'resting only give the poison time to set in'?" Jedrick asked, mocking the Morkeeth in his impression.
"I'm going to heal her."
"Well shit, woman, why didn't you do that before?"
The pale bundle in his arms suddenly thrashed, hoarsely whispering "No," over and over.
"What's going on?" Darc asked, watching as Keyana's lips turned up into such a sneer that her fangs were bared.
"Don't listen to her," she ordered, ignoring the half Drakyr's question.
"N-n-not… no… I …" Ortena was breathing out erratically, futilely pushing against Jedrick's chest.
"We'll take shelter in that cave for the night, tomorrow we can get me treated."
"What do you mean 'get you treated'?" Kharg asked. However, he was ignored just as his brother had been.
The group followed her into a small cave up ahead of them. It actually seemed man-made, or at least not naturally formed with the way the light grey rocks were stacked on top of each other to form supporting pillars for the huge slabs that made a makeshift ceiling. All around them were walls of compacted dirt, which Darc soon used as a backrest when he allowed himself to fall into a sitting position against one of the sides.
"Lay her down and back away," Keyana commanded, taking a step toward the poisoned young woman. The bandit carrying her, however, obviously wasn't ready to trust her and he backed up a larger step then she took forward.
"Hold up there, missy. You're not gettin' near her unless I'm holding on," he told her outright, leaving no room for argument in his voice.
Keyana didn't care. She made room. "If you want her to live you will do as I say, you pathetic human!"
Realizing it was a matter of time before a massive fight erupted over how to treat Ortena, Kharg looked over to his brother, motioning his head silently toward Jedrick. Darc gave an affirming and not the two each grasped an arm and pulled their captive back.
"Damn it, you half-scum, get offa me!"
Ortena could tell from the look in Keyana's eye that her sister only had one way to calm the rash boy down, and that she was going to use it. Those her voice was failing her, she attempted to gasp out a few more pleas and found she could only mouth them. When the Morkeeth looked back to her she mustered every last bit of strength she had and shook her head once more.
It was then that Fluffy wormed its way out of her travel bag again, poking it's wet nose against her cold, paling skin. Her blank eyes shifted and brightened for a moment, wishing she had the strength to hold it in her arms during this trying moment. Sliding her eyes closed, she surrendered, giving a kind of choked gasp that would have been a sob, had she been able to.
"You will sit there and be quite," Keyana snapped once more. Jedrick stopped his struggling, staring defiantly into her fiery red eyes before asking a question he didn't know he was going to regret.
"Yeah? And why should I?"
"Because my sister needs my help or else she's going to die!"
Though he went to give some sort of sharp retort, Jedrick was stopped abruptly by to realization of just what had been said to him. "Scuse me?"
"You heard me. Don't pretend that you didn't," she growled, shifting her position so that she was sitting on her ankles with her knees pointed toward Ortena's chest. "Now I'm going to draw the poison out of her body and into mine. It'll run through my system much slower than it runs through hers, but it doesn't give us all that much time."
"What the fuck is wrong with you? She ain't your sister you lyin' sacka -"
"Shut up before I break your arm off," Darc threatened in a low growl, his eyes seeming to say he was very ready to do just that.
Pressing her palms together, Keyana closed her eyes and concentrated. As she slowly pulled her hands apart an orange aura began to envelope the ailing blonde's body, sending a shimmering wave of energy into the growing space between those clawed hands. Once they had become shoulder length apart, she stopped, and Ortena's skin was already gaining back it's normal color.
"By the blood that joins us as sisters I do hereby accept the disease which has overtaken this body into my own. Exchange!"
And with that, the mass of orange, swirling energy seemed to send itself into Keyana's body, her skin instantly paling considerably, though she didn't seem to lose much strength.
"I hate you," Ortena mumbled from the floor of the cave, tilting her head to the side to see her beloved staring at her with wide eyes. "Jedrick, I'm sorry I nev-
"So it's true? You're one of them?" Sensing how his once-struggling body suddenly dropped its weight into their arms, Darc and Kharg let go and stepped back. "This… this thing is your sister?"
"I didn't ask for any of it," she argued back, sitting up.
"You've been lying to be this whole time," he accused.
"I never once told you I was a full-blooded human and you never would have thought differently if Keyana hadn't opening her big, fat mouth."
"And how were you gonna hide those markings, huh?" Keyana asked, her voice weak but still annoyingly haughty. "Can't keep those things concealed forever."
"You've got markings?!" Jedrick screeched, sounding immature and almost feminine.
"Keyana shut the Hell up!"
"Geez, the thanks I get. Care to take this lovers' spat on the road before I kick the bucket?"
"No way, I'm going back to Fice. You're all a bunch of filthy-blooded mongrels to me," the bandit leader announced, quickly scrambling to his feet.
And before he could even take a single step to flee, the entrance to the cave was rained on by an avalanche of rocks, though there had been barely a tremble in the ground to trigger it. The cave was suddenly throwing into darkness.
"Wait just a minute there," a deep, yet feeble, voice spoke from behind the group. Ortena quickly scrambled to her feet.
"Oh no way," Keyana spoke up, her voice dripping with disbelief. "This isn't happening.
"I gettin' some light into this place," Jedrick decided, taking out his iron batons and striking them together. To everyone's surprise (with the exception of Ortena), they burst into flames and burned like torch, spreading light through the cave.
"I knew it," the Morkeeth immediately realized. "This is a Chronic cave."
"A what?" the rest of the group asked, staring at different times so that instead of a unified questions, it was a jumbled mess of words.
The figure before them looked strangely familiar to Darc and Kharg, the former especially. He had hair like Darc's, thinner due to his age but also very bright blonde in color. Its scales were blue and its horns were long, twists as they curved up and away from its face, which was a paler blue then the scales and wrinkled from time.
"You," the Deimos spoke, pointing at Darc. "You must be the boy I've been sensing all this time; Willowo's grandson."
"That's me," he admitted, trying to sound proud, "What of it?"
"Ah, that makes you my great grandson then."
"You mean we're not even just half breeds?" Kharg asked flatly.
"Wow, you must have really pissy human genetics that whooped some butt on every other type in you," Ortena realized.
"So must you then," Jedrick pointed out spitefully. Keyana resisted the urge to cast and 'Ashes to Ashes' spell and zombify him right then and there.
"What do you mean I'm your grandson?" Darc spat, sick and tired of people constantly weaseling their way into his life when he didn't want them too.
"Willowo was a good man who loved his people, but very much liked traveling." The old Chronic paced a bit as his spoke, his slow, unsteady gait showing his old age. "He found his way here once by accident, and the long trip by air had worn him out. He landed not far from what used to be our village, and we took him in until he got better. While he was here, he fell in love with my daughter, Howa, and had Windalf. They lived here happily for quite some time before Howa died during a Serifin raid not too long ago. How are your grandfather and father? I've been in this cave a number of years. Last I heard the terms were bad."
"They're dead, both of them," Darc spoke shortly. "Should you have been able to feel that, old man?"
"I can only feel what is on this island," the Chronic explained. "What about that human mother of yours?"
"She passed away as well," Kharg spoke up quickly. He didn't think he could handle hearing Darc disrespect his mother's death with that biting tone.
"Ah, you must have been that humanoid child." Jedrick began quietly pushing on the rocks obstructing the cave's exit. "And tell that boy I'll turn him back to the day he was born if he dare touch another rock."
He quickly backed away.
"Yes!" Keyana shouted. "You can turn back time, can't you? Reverse anything that's happened to the body with the exception of death."
"Well yes but-"
"I want my wings back," both she and Darc demanded in unison. Kharg felt oddly detached when he heard the order, as if something was pulling him away from the memories that should have flashed before him at the mentioning of wings.
"Well how long ago did you lose them?"
"About a two weeks ago," the Morkeeth answered before turning to Darc, who wouldn't make eye contact with her.
"About a year and a half ago."
"Never had wings," Ortena offered without being asked.
"It's sick that you even have to say that," Jedrick commented, leaning against the wall furthest from them. "Why don't you all just let me go and you can do your little sinful, homicidal activities without me?"
"Why don't you shove it up your ass and twist?" Keyana suggested.
"Just a year and a half?" the old Chronic laughed, slapping his knee and completely ignoring the verbal bashing going on before him. "You act as if you're worried, boy. But you need to know that this kind of magic effects everyone with Deimos blood. Does everyone in this room understand that they will be de-aged exactly one and one half of a year from this very point in time?"
"Well I've got nothing to worry about," Ortena spoke up. "Kharg?"
"Neither do I," he replied, fully believing himself to be right. He'd probably repressed that tragic day in Yewbell, and whether he'd once told Ortena of it or not, knowing what he was expected to say was enough to make him momentarily forget he'd ever sprouted wings. Also, Darc obviously lost his wings before Kharg did, and his ignorance to the effects of the spell meant he didn't understand that everything that the body undergoes is felt and kept over the shifting of time. Every scratch returns and stays, and its pain is felt again.
A sudden snapping of fingers brought everyone's attention back to the aged Deimos at the center of the cave. "Alright, it's done."
"Excuse me?" Keyana asked flatly.
"I don't feel any different," Ortena noticed, looking down at herself. "Exactly how long does it take for-" she was interrupted by a sharp slice of pain, and the wound on her hip reopened, staining her dress red.
Kharg fell to his knees, consumed by the rush of feelings suddenly coursing through him as a blinding pace. It wasn't just physical sensations, but emotional ones as well, flashing in quick bolts through his being before leaving, much unlike the physical aspects that remained part of him. It was then that realization struck him, and the pain began to shoot up his back like a stinging fire that pierced him brutally.
Keyana could feel the burning sensation as if she were experiencing the torment all over again. It passed quickly, but she had many physical and emotional pains left to endure. Ortena watched it all, fitting each wound into a timeline. Gigantic back wings shot out in clouds of ash, sores appeared on her wrists and ankles from the friction of the Serifins' chains and shackles, whip marks slashed across her wings, a punishment for keeping a secret from her father...
The cacophony of painful screams reverberated off the bare cave walls, making Jedrick wish he were deaf. He look at Ortena, observing how her skin was paling and she could no longer stand again as she shivered violently. He was almost sickened by his own feelings of regret and pangs of guilt, but he had to remind himself that she was the one who had lied to him, hiding her demonic blood. However, when he went to wipe his lips off at the thought of kissing her, he found himself touching them lightly, remember how nice it was as he watched her suffer. He didn't know what to think any more.
And then, without warning, it stopped.
Keyana noticed something else in addition to the comforting weight on her back. The poison creeping it way through her system was gone, and she stood up fully, testing her wings.
Kharg, on the other hand, looked paler than death, hunched over on his knees and hugging himself like some frightened child. Darc looked over in shock, wanting to ask something but he couldn't seem to figure out what.
"I didn't think it would happen to me," Kharg whispered, turning to the slightly wounded Ortena.
"Oh, Kharg," she spoke softly, kneeling down beside him. His bangs covered his face, casting an eerie sort of shadow; and no one expected him to snap the way he did.
The moment the sound of the stone blockade falling reached his ears, Kharg shoved the girl next to him roughly, knocking her back into the tall bandit leader before he sprinted out of the cave. The Chronic waved goodbye as the entire group followed him to a clearing with a path on one side and a cliff on the other.
He has his sword out, his body practically radiating with anger. "I cut them off once and I'll cut them off again," he professed, his voice so low and furious that even Darc recoiled a bit at the sound. The wings twitched as he grabbed hold of one, completely oblivious to his audience.
Darc was behind him in less than a second, kicking out his knees and gripping the tendon in his wrist that would make him release his hold on the sword. Taking the weapon in his own hand, Darc quickly set himself in front of his shaken brother, placing the tip of the well-crafted sword's blade just under that pale, slender neck.
"If you move I'll kill you," the Deimos hybrid stated flat out.
"I don't care," Kharg spat back, eyes seeming to gleam with shear anger. "I want them off."
"Why? So you can go back to the easy way of accepting what you are? I don't think so." Ortena took a step forward as Darc brought the sword up to a higher angle, but Keyana stopped her. "You're going to walk through every day for the rest of your life with people being able to tell you're a freak by looking at you. Maybe then you'll know what it's like."
"That's not your decision to make!" Ortena shouted.
"You don't understand," Kharg whispered darkly, though no one knew if it were to the female or male half-breed.
"You owe me this."
"I owe you nothing."
Pushing the sword forward, Darc nicked the soft flesh of his brother's neck, drawing a small droplet of blood. "You owe me a lifetime of suffering every day as a fugitive, a slave and a freak. You'll keep them." With that he threw the sword on the ground.
Breaking apart the uneasy tension that now saturated the air, Keyana suddenly ran forward and leapt off the edge of the cliff, gracefully curving back, away from anyone's field of vision before she soared into the sky. Her wings were a desperate contrast to the pale blues and faded whites above her; black, leathery and gigantic. They were enormous, nearly touching the ground when she stood and reaching to a little above her own head.
"That's your problem," Darc realized with a smug smirk, crossing his arms. "You don't understand what it's like to fly."
"I don't need to- h-HEY!" Kharg shouted as he was unexpectedly lifted off the ground and flown up above the canyon between the two cliffs. "Put me down, I'm in the mood for this right now."
"I frankly don't care," the other replied truthfully. "Now fly." And with that command, spoken as if merely issuing it would create the ability within Kharg, he let go of his hold and watched, waiting until he was sure that any lack of intervention would lead to certain death. Ignoring the livid shouts that met his ears, he repeated the process another two times, actually laughing at Kharg's reaction. Had he not been so infuriated, Kharg probably would have appreciated the rare sound.
Instead he was clumsily fumbling through the air, twisting and turning in an attempt to keep himself from becoming a large stain on the brown, dusty earth beneath him. It felt bizarre to have the additional muscles along his back, which he could feel all through himself. As much as he argued for Darc to stop, he still found himself being caught just as he was about to plummet to his doom.
"I'm not going to catch you this time," Darc warned him before dropping him again. He watched the retreating form of his brother, fairly confident that the fear should arouse something within Kharg. It was what their father had done, and it obviously worked. The seconds ticked by, however, and there was no sign of movement, save for Keyana, who couldn't seem to care any less as she flew off further in the distance. A pang of guilt and fear shot through him then, and he attempted to pear down into the darkness of the canyon.
A light, but still insistent tapping alerted him that someone was behind him. He didn't have time to register anything before Kharg brought his fist back and punched his brother across the face with all the strength in him, stumbling a bit in the air but keeping himself up all the same. "You could have killed me."
Despite the assault, Darc smiled. "But you're flying aren't you?"
Off in the distance, Keyana was simply keeping herself in place, high above the ground and close enough to the sun that she could feel its rays against her wings like a tight bandage of warmth. "I told you I'd let you see me fly," she told the sky, expression blank save for the slight glint of hope in her crimson eyes. "This is as close to you as I can get now, but I swear on my life that Hadrian will die for what he's done to us, and I do not care if it takes my own life to do so…"
(End Part 1)