"The End of the Beginning."
The soft clicking of boots hit the marble floor as two black cloaked figures marched relentlessly through the hallways of the Crystal Palace. Slamming open a door, they found their unfortunate prey. Simultaneously, they drew their rifles and pointed them at their target. The target in question fiddled with his teacup casually. "Welcome gentlemen!" he beamed "Would you like some tea?"
With a sudden motion, one of the gunners flipped over the desk, spilling hot liquid all over the floor. "Teatime's over, Sasarai. Now where's our guildmaster?"
Shaking his head indolently, the young bishop bent down and started picking up pieces of the shattered blue china. "Now, if you didn't like tea, I could always send for some coffee…" he mused.
"Oh, don't play dumb with us Bishop." Hewitt shouted. "You know where Clive is, he was meeting you yesterday. You have to know something about his disappearance!"
Lena burst into the office, the door banging against the wall dramatically. "Away from the bishop, NOW!" she screamed, brandishing her rapier.
Even from underneath his hood, everyone else in the room could see Nigel's eyes darken. "Oh, this is just too much little lady. You'll pay for what you did to me last night." He snarled.
Before anyone else could do anything, Nigel fired his pistol at Lena. A flash of white light filled the roomy office and the gunner fell to the ground, clutching his leg. Lena and Sasarai's eyes turned towards Storm, which leaned against a bookshelf. The guildmaster's gun was surrounded by an aura of white light. "Did that 'gun' just save my life?" Lena mused, in shock.
"Storm is the holy relic of the Howling Voice Guild." Hewitt said panic-stricken, as he tried to lift Nigel off the rug. Blood seeped from the gunshot wound in his leg, but otherwise the gunner appeared to be alright. "It chooses who is worthy to be the leader of the guild."
"Well, apparently you're not making the cut." Lena sneered, still appearing a little shaken from the attempt on her life.
"Why you little…" Nigel gasped, reaching for his pistol again.
However, he shut up for Sasarai stood up from where he had been picking up the china shards. The bishop still appeared to be his usual nonchalant boyish self, with the exception of a subtle flash of menace in his green eyes. "I really think you should report your findings to your council of elders, gentlemen. Your holy relic seems to want to stay here for the time being." he stated quietly.
"Oh you know we can't go back to the guild without our holy gun, Storm, your Reverence." Hewitt said, slowly sliding his hand underneath his dark cloak. "Orders are orders."
"Well…." The bishop said, frowning slightly. "…orders may have to be unfilled this time around."
Before the gunner could even pull one of his pistols out, Sasarai thrust his right hand forward and a brown light seeped out from it. The light traveled rapidly across the room until it reached the two would be assassins lying on the wooden floor. In a flash, the floor boards moved up and flung both gunners outside the office door. Lena stared in awe, as two of the most feared people in Harmonia sprang up and ran as fast (or manage to run in the case of Nigel) as they could towards the palace exit. Then, regaining her composure, she folded her arms across her uniformed chest. "Nice one, Your Reverence." She said, with a triumph tone to her voice.
"Hmmm…" the bishop muttered in response.
The Temple Guard turned around to find Sasarai holding Storm in his hands. "So, Lena, where do you think I should hang this? Over my desk?" he inquired, almost mischievously.
She chuckled affectionally. "I really don't understand you sometimes, Bishop."
"Understand what?" Sasarai replied with seeming innocence. "Those gunners won't be coming back for Storm anytime soon, I can assure you. Do you think I was a fool for taking it?"
"No, no." Lena shook her head, her blue beret, threatening to fall off her blond locks. "Why did you help Clive? Was it the will of High Priest Hikussak..or your own will?"
"Oh, speaking of Clive." The bishop said, deliberately avoiding answering the question. "Are he and Georg safely out of the city?"
The Temple Guard nodded. "Yeah, they are…" she said reflectively.
Lena, Georg, and Clive stood outside the city gates, the sun threatening to break on the horizon. In her hand, the Temple Guard held two reins of a pair of frisky brown stallions. "Take these. His Reverence thinks that you can make it to the mountains in two nights time, if you hurry. Nash will meet you at the small fortress there and will tell you where to go from there." She said, handing the reins to Georg.
The knight grinned, "Thanks for everything Lena. Just want to let you know that last night you were a worthy adversary and ally!" he beamed.
"No problem." The Temple Guard responded, shaking his hand enthusiastically. "Your skills do live up to the stories I've heard."
She then turned towards Clive, who for most of the trip to the city gates, had been rather silent. "I just want to let you know…" he said suddenly. "…that my neck still hurts from where you tried to strangle me last night."
"Too bad." Lena said coolly. "I did it in the heat of battle you know."
"And you know that I really never liked you." The former gunner continued, looking at her strangely.
"Likewise." The Temple Guard retorted, wondering where Clive was going with all this.
Abruptly, Clive leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek. His face had brightened considerably, since their first meeting less than a day ago. "Thanks Lena." He chuckled, a grin spreading across his pale face. "Next time, I come to Crystal Valley, I'll make sure to bring you some cheesecake."
With that parting remark, he and Georg mounted their horses and rode away from the city. Lena stared after them for a moment in shock, watching the two riders dash across the plains.
Nash suddenly appeared beside her. "Am I interrupted a moment?" he asked slyly.
Lena proceeded to slug him as hard as she could with her shaking fist. On the ground, Nash shook his handsome head, gingerly touching his bruised cheek. "Last time I use teleportation around you, Auntie." He said wryly.
"Oh just SHUT up!" the Temple Guard shouted shrilly. "I'm so sick of you and your lying and half truths. Take me back to the Crystal Palace NOW."
The spy reached over and suddenly grabbed the edge of his aunt's cloak. Before Lena could react, both of them found themselves back in the familiar sparkling corridors of the palace. Nash stood up and backed away from Lena. "Well, I'm going to teleport to the fortress now. You take care of Bishop Sasarai until I come back." He said, eyeing her cautiously
"And when will that be?" the Temple Guard asked suspiciously. "Another ten months?"
The spy shrugged casually. "Perhaps, but in the meantime I'm going to go take care of Georg and Clive. That's my responsibility now."
"Since when did you know about responsibility?" Lena said snidely.
Nash cocked an eyebrow and smiled. "You know it's surprising that we still manage to love each other, despite the fact, that I'm an irresponsible nephew and you're an ill-tempered shrew."
At that moment, anger consumed Lena so that it took all her willpower not to slaughter her nephew on the spot. Nash laughed at her reaction. "Later, Auntie. And trust me I'll take real good care of Clive. You want to keep in one piece, you know for the honeymoon and all."
Grinning mischievously, Nash vanished in a glow of blue light, nearly missing Lena's fist as she attempted to slug him again. When the blue light had faded, the Temple Guard suddenly saw two very familiar looking black cloaked men heading directly for Bishop Sasarai's office…
"Lena, your cheeks are rather red." Sasarai noted shrewdly. "Do I need to open a window and let some air in here?"
She snapped back to reality. "Um, no." Lena gasped, embarrassed. "But anyway, why did you help Clive? Please tell me, sir."
The bishop tilted his head to the side, observing his bodyguard quietly. "You know, Lena. Perhaps you should take some time off...go to the lake or mountains or spend some time with Nash perhaps.I would think last night's excursions tired you greatly."
"But your Reverence…" the Temple Guard sputtered. "You need protection. What about the Falena hitmen?"
Sasarai waved his hand in the air, dismissing her protests. "Go, go, Lena." He said, smoothing down a lock of brown hair in the process. "I insist. Besides, I thinkthe Howling Voiceelders willinform the Queen's Assasins that they won't receive a very friendly reception here."
For a moment, Lena looked like she wanted to argue with him. However, she remembered from past experience that arguing with one of the most powerful men in Harmonia would be rather futile. "Fine…" she sighed.
She turned and walked through the office door, leaving the bishop, carefully placing Storm above his desk. "I will never understand that man." Lena muttered to herself, smiling though as she walked towards the Temple Guard headquarters, to pack for her vacation.
A small brook trickled through the dense forest. Only a few more acres remained until the border of the Grasslands. Georg and Clive sat by the brook, staring at the speckled rocks below. "So, how are ya feeling?" the knight asked the former Guildmaster.
Clive sighed and continued to stare at his rather ragged reflection for a bit. The morning light especially emphasized the purple bruises and jagged cuts that he had received the night before. "Strange." He finally replied. "I really don't know what to think anymore. I just want to know what's going to happen now. Everything that I grew up with is gone..."
The knight stood up, brushing some dirt off his cape. "Well no one knows everything about life, do they? You just have to live it, sometimes trusting your feelings, but even if they seem to mislead you, you have to remember that life is unpredictable. Just breathe the air, feel the wind against your cheeks and just live life! So, what do you think?" he said, tilting his head towards his friend.
Clive stood up and slowly walked to his stallion. "I think I'll be alright. I mean I'm a bit nervous about going through with all this. But I think I'll be okay. If some gunner finally catches up with me…then it'll be okay. Eliza forgave me.. so now I think I can forgive myself." he replied slowly, but with confidence in each word
Georg nodded, grinning with enthusiasm. "That's the spirit! Come on, I'll take you to a sweet store about ten miles west of here. That's where I stock up on cheesecake." He said, mounting his own horse.
Clive followed his friend's lead. "That sounds like a plan, but there's just one problem…" he said, rather slyly.
The knight cocked his head to the side and gazed at his friend strangely. "What's that?" he asked curiously.
"Wouldn't that be a bit…" Clive placed emphasis on the last word. "…unprofessional?"
Georg stared in shock at him, then suddenly burst out into laughter. "Good one, boy." He beamed, slapping the gunner on the back. "I think we're going to have a great time working together!. Let's go meet Nash and see where things go from there."
And with those words, Georg and Clive continued to ride through the lush forest. Not much is known about their lives after that point, except that from legends and myths filtered down from generation to generation. However, these two men changed their lives and many others around them through their heroic deeds and their acts of charity. For no longer were they haunted by the past; but both men knew that they were forgiven, especially Clive by Eliza. No longer would Clive's sins haunt him. He knew now that his soul was finally free to live life according to how Fate had in store for him and not by the dark shadows of the past.