I wrote this a long time ago, since I hadc so much trouble finding it I figured I'd toss it onto my Fanfic account before I couldn't find it again. It was originally meant to be five chapters, I've merged it into one and ran a massive spell check. Besides that though, it's muich the same as it was before. And don't worry, this isn't the "Kvar" chapters for shards, just some outdated notes that I might use for the chapters. As anyone reading shards can tell much of the chapters (primarily the Kratos Lloyd interaction, but also somewhat on the other characters…) is rather dated since they are closer in the current chapters of "Shards of Regeneration" than they are in "The Shadow of Kvar"
"You're going to stay very still Lloyd, you're a good boy after all." Kvar smiled, stroked the golden hair under his hands. "You always were, I remember you as a child even if you don't remember me. So sweet and loving, you loved your mother so very much." The dagger in the elderly looking Desian's hand slid under Colette's chin. He smiled at the Chosen's fear, and then tousled her hair. He then lifted his head, and his steel colored eyes glittered with malice. "Then you were bad Lloyd, you didn't tell me what I wanted, and I had to hurt you. You cried so much, and then I healed you and held you like you were my own son." Kvar mimed holding something to his breast, perhaps a small child. He rocked his arms back and forth for a moment, then stopped and looked straight into Lloyd's eyes. "I didn't mean to hurt you, only to punish. After all that's what a parent does for there child, they guild them, make them stronger. They never torture them." Colette began to cry, Lloyd's hand snapped on his swords hilt, but Kvar's eyes narrowed. He "tisk"ed, and shook his head. "I don't want to hurt you again Lloyd, only to help you. Now be a good boy, and take off your swords."
Only looking at Colette, Lloyd unhooked the swords at his belt. Then with a curse tossed them in the center of the room. Kvar smiled, and sheathed his dagger. The Desian still did not let Colette out of the magic circle though.
"Your mother knew someone very powerful, someone very dangerous, and all I wanted was to save her from this man. To save her I needed her ex-sphere, but she would not give it to me. She loved this dangerous man; this madman who was your father. So I had to punish her Lloyd, you see she was bad too. Lloyd, would you like to see your mother?"
"She's dead... She died..."
"Oh yes she did, a sad sad thing it was too. Your father killed her you know." At Lloyd's gasp Kvar sighed. "She was ill, insane, and to save you he killed her. I offered to heal her, to keep her alive, but she... refused my offer. She hurt me Lloyd, put this very same dagger in my side." The dagger seemed to appear in Kvar's hand like magic, he walked to Colette's side. "I almost died, but then my blood saved me, after all being half elven I better receive healing then say a human. I'll admit that my ex-sphere helped as well, but elvish blood is better attuned to healing then a humans." Kvar's silver and blue uniform rustled around his slender frame as he walked away from Colette. "Lloyd, do you know what a monitor is?"
Kvar waited while Lloyd pulled himself together. A cocky smile curled the elderly man's slit mouth and made those cracked lips nearly bleed.
"No, I don't know what a monitor is."
"It's a special piece of glass, it is embedded in a box, and juts out just a little. On it you can see pictures of the past."
Despite the horrible situation Lloyd was fascinated.
"Like the Kharlan war?"
"Not quite like that. I could say show you what is going on in my camp; from this one room I can see every room in my camp. I can show you what happened in every room of this camp today, last week, even fourteen years ago." Kvar smiled. "Your mother was here for a short time, I could show you some images of her. After all you've never seen her before, never heard the sound of her voice. Fate took that all away from you, for a while I can give that back."
"If that's all you want to do then free Colette."
"But there are two types of images I can show you Lloyd." Kvar's voice was little more then a silken whisper. "If really just want Colette you have to watch the bad ones. If you promise to make Kratos stop attacking my men I'll let you watch the good ones, and I'll free Colette."
"What's Kratos have to do with this?"
"Everything, nothing, I'll let him explain it to you someday. It's all rather, complicated and it's not my place to..."
The door nearly fell down on its hinges. Kratos stormed into the room, sword drawn, bloody murder on his face.
"Do it, Lloyd, now!" Kvar snarled.
Kratos stopped breathing, froze as he took in Colette's peril. Finally understanding what Kvar said he turned to Lloyd, confusion in his eyes. The mercenary didn't have the time to even block Lloyd's punch. He staggered back, but still retained his feet. Blood trickled down his split lip. With a wondering hand Kratos touched the small wound. A drop of blood fell onto his ex-shpere, another on his gloved hand. Shock -no not shock- grief filled the older man's eyes.
"Kvar, I really need my swords here!"
"Of course." There was the sound of a kick, and metal skittered across the room. "What a good child you are Lloyd, you picked rightly. Do you want some help?"
"No, I'll deal with this on my own." Lloyd bent down and drew his blades, he left the sheaths on the ground. "Kratos, there's another way, just leave. Leave Colette, leave me, don't ever look back. Do this and I wont have to fight you."
"I wont do that Lloyd, whatever lies Kvar has put in your mind that have made you turn on me... I wont abandon you, not here most of all."
"How interesting." Kvar sneered. "Loyalty in you Kratos, I never thought I'd live to see the day."
"You wont live for much longer Kvar!" Kratos took a step forward, then froze as a blade was pressed against his throat. He turned, and Lloyd looked at him with tears in his eyes. "Lloyd what the Hell are you doing!"
"Free Colette, do it while he's busy with me. Let her -and my other friends- get out of here alive. Then forget you ever saw them. You can take the ex-sphere from my corpse if I die, and if I don't... I'll give it to you before I leave."
"Fair enough." Kvar snapped his fingers and the magic circle around Colette disappeared. She ran from Kvar, ran to Lloyd and embraced him. With gentle arms Lloyd forced her away.
"Go on Colette, I'll be back in a bit." His eyes never left Kratos'. With a whimper Colette left the room, her eyes filled with tears as she looked at two of her friends ready to kill each other.
"Lloyd, consider what you are doing..."
"I have. I don't have a choice, at least with this everyone I love will be safe. That's all a guy can ask for, isn't it? I'm just sorry I couldn't save you too Kratos, but I tried." Lloyd lifted both his blades up. "You can run, I wont go after you. There are still traps, and Colette will need you to help her get by them."
"Kvar killed someone I love Lloyd, I can't let him get away with it."
"Kvar will kill everyone I love if I don't do what he told me to do, sucks doesn't it?"
"He does not have them, they are still free Lloyd, there is still hope."
"Yeah, hope..." Lloyds voice broke. "There isn't any hope damn you, none at all, this was all just a suicide mission from the beginning. The whole Chosen thing, it's just a gods damned suicide run for everyone but Colette! It doesn't solve anything, so you know what, I'm not going to let myself get caught up in it!" He took a deep breath, tears were pouring down his face. "A least, with how this is turning out.. I'll get to see Mom again, soon. At least I know... It's not going to hurt that bad." Lloyd took a step back, lifted his blades. "I'm sorry Kratos, I really am..."
"I wont kill you Lloyd."
"Then I guess I have to kill you then..." The boy sobbed, but he kept his blades up. Kratos looked at Lloyd unmoving, and then sheathed his sword. He crossed his arms in front of his chest, and looked unflinchingly into the eyes of the person who said who'd murder him. "Damn it draw your sword!"
"No. I swore an oath that you, Collete, nor anyone else would die, I'll keep my word."
"Damn you draw your sword!"
"Lloyd you'll never get another chance, do this and you'll have your mother back. I can bring her back Lloyd. I will gladly. Just kill him, that's all you have to do." Kvar smiled, he knew what Lloyd would do, he had the boy in the palm of his hand. "Slash his throat, it's the quickest way."
"Mom, I'm sorry..." Lloyd gulped. "If you can, forgive me."
He turned, and then with a wild cry threw himself on Kvar.
Lightning crossed the length of the room in less then a heart beat. Never had he felt such pain, his body spasomed, and he fell to the floor in a heap. Like a mad insect he flailed, unable to tell up from down. His world was a stinging field of white that scorched his eyes, and when he tried to will them closed the white followed and continued to burn him even there. Voices, they were whispers that scratched across his nerves. Vaguely familiar, haunting, but they made him heart, every heartbeat caused him pain. If there was a way out he would have taken it, but he was hanging in the light, unable to move, to scream out in pain. Then like a blessing there was a point of darkness in his world. A darkness that did not burn did not sting. One point became two, and he felt those points drag him away from the light. Eagerly he followed, having nothing else in him but hope that the pain and light would fade.
Slowly the light did fade or rather it changed. The light deepened, twisted, and became blurry colors. In front of him was a pillar of black, and as he watched a silver blue light swirled around the pillar and flowed into the air above him. The whole world was tinted that strange silver-blue, it was the color of sunset on sky, and as it flowed around him his pain disappeared and his sight became clear. The pillar in front of him became Kratos, the silver light flowed from a star in the Mercenary's upraised palm, cascaded down his arm, and seemed to drift into Lloyd. He moaned as his wits came back to him, as a dull throb in his left arm and burning agony in his chest fell on him with vengeance. He twitched as an echo of the lightning, perhaps Kvar's spell he wasn't too sure, pounded through his body. Two hands held in down, two slender cool hands.
"Kratos, he's coming around! Lloyd are you alright? The spell Kratos is using one you weakens pain... So you have to tell me if anything hurts, even if it only hurts a little."
"Co-Collete what are... what?"
"Shhh It's OK everything's going to be fine. Now does anything hurt?"
"Head funny... eyes... chest... arm... Co..Colette wha... you 're supos'd t' leave..."
"I'm not leaving you Lloyd Irving! Kvar...What that evil man did to you and Kratos... I was just barely able to get Kratos up in time... and you... Don't you ever do anything this stupid ever again!"
"You..you've been... with Sheena too long... She's rubbing off..."
"She might be Lloyd, I don't know, I shouldn't be yelling at you… I'm sorry."
"That's our Colette..." Lloyd's eyes closed. "Ap… apologizing when... even when... she's right..."
A dry chuckle came from the Mercenary, but even that rare sound wasn't going to make Lloyd open his eyes. He fell asleep, and with a sigh Kratos canceled the healing powers he had used on the boy. Colette went to him, held the powerful man up with a small grunt.
"You know, you're not in much better shape. You should rest too."
"I can not afford too, it's dangerous, we are not exactly in the safest place in Slyverant after all."
"Kratos, can I borrow your sword and a knife please?"
"What? Huh, go ahead, not like I can stop you."
Colette eased the limp mercenary to the carpeted floor, then tossed his packs to the ground. After a bit of rummaging she pulled out a silver dagger. She fumbled the same material sword out of its sheath, and almost dropped it due to it's weight. Kratos, from his not so glamorous position of lying on the carpet face down, managed to roll over. he chuckled at Colette's bad grip, then closed his eyes. He was asleep in less then a minute, worn out from the damage and extensive spell casting Colette guessed. She was now totally alone.
"I have to be brave, they can't fight, so I have to fight. They can't help me so I have to help myself." Her hands shook a pale reflection of the terror rising in her. "Alright Colette, come on Chosen, there was a room, a dining room, rooms like that have big tables. So get a table and make a fake door." Trying to fill herself with determination, just like Lloyd did she exited the room. Trying to remain calm voiced, just like Kratos, she approached the nearest occupied guard. "Excuse me, do you know where the dinning hall is, umm I'm new here?"
"Down the hall, first door to your left." the Desian didn't even look up from it's reading of paper work. "I thought lunch was ov- What the Hell, you're a human!"
"Yep!" She smiled, and whacked the guards helmet with the flat of Kratos' thick blade. She managed to hit the guard and he fell at her feet in a heap, the blade though went flying. She turned and watched in horror as a floating archer thing came around the corner, and was neatly impaled on the sword. "Opps, sorry!"
The Raybit only sank to the floor, hissing electricity.
"Eww, do I have to get it now?"
She imagined how all the oil and robot goop would get all over her. She then imagined Kratos' face if she told him that his sword was lost.
"This is why I don't like swords..." Colette muttered as she advanced on the Raybit. "They're messy, and nasty to use again and again..."
She worked the blade out, and tried to ignore the oil on her tunic.
"OK now the hard part... Time to see if I can get a table!"
There was a gnawing sound. A steady sigh of wood being worked. Not the whisper of say Lloyd whittling, but what sounded like a saw. Back and forth, he wanted it to stop so he could go back to sleep. He muttered something and a familiar voice apologized. Satisfied he rolled over and went back to bed, or tried to, the second he felt like he was drifting off the sound started again. He cracked an eye open, and cursed it all to bloody Hell he knew he was not going to go back to sleep. His nature denied that to him.
"Oh I'm sorry Kratos, go back to bed."
He growled something under his breath that Colette didn't catch.
"Are you hurt?"
"I'm fine," he reached for his sword, and his hand only grasped air. As his foggy mind came to Kratos became aware of the fact that the sawing sound was in fact Colette sawing the biggest hunk of wood he'd ever seen. She was using his knife cutting out something that looked like a door. For a moment he just stared, then after an inner struggle took a deep breath.
"Colette, you haven't been using my sword for this have you?"
"Nope!" She went back to sawing, and had a relieved look on her face. "Nope, not for a second."
"Good, I'd like my sword back then."
"Ah..." She went back to her sawing, sweat was breaking out on her brow. "It's err outside..."
"Outside? Colette, why would you leave my sword outside?" Nothing, she only worked on the piece of wood, she was, much to his wonder almost done cutting out a door-sized piece. "Alright, why are you cutting that huge slab of wood with my dagger?"
"To make a new door of course!"
"Chosen, why not merely prop the wood against the door? It would serve as a better shield whole then cut."
Kratos felt a familiar headache coming on. He rubbed at his temples, then counted to ten, and then ran through a breathing exercise. The headache didn't go away, but at least Colette stopped dulling his knife in a meaningless exercise.
"I'm going outside for a moment, prop the wood behind me, I'll knock twice when I'm ready to come back in."
"OK!" Colette smiled, and Kratos' headache only got worse. "You have to look up to find your sword." She advised him as she closed the "door" behind him. Baffled he did do so. His sword was embedded in the ceiling, almost to the hilt was it buried in steel. He muttered a oath, and merely stared at his sword wonder. For a minute he considered asking Colette, getting an answer. Oil dripped from his blade, fell on his upturned face, and the Mercenary grimaced.
"I'm not going to even ask."
"Was… was Kvar lying Kratos? About Dad killing Mom?"
"I can not answer that Lloyd, I do not know."
Lloyd sighed, and rubbed at the back of his head with trembling hands. He still was twitchy, but was able to stand a little. It had been a full day, and Kvar hadn't sent anything more then a patrol after them. Kratos had dealt with the patrol, had made molten steel of a hall and watched dispassionately as the Desians burned. It scared him sometimes how Kratos could do that sort of thing. They were in a different hidey hole, always moving, though not very far with each move. Once again Lloyd was slowing them down, he felt like a burden, even though Kratos and Colette assured him he wasn't.
Kratos, reassured him. Kratos offered support. Kratos had taken one look into his downcast eyes and told him that such an attitude was dishonoring his parent's memory. That he should not scumble to his inner pain. Somewhere between the lightning bolt and his hours long nap Kratos had picked up a rough compassion and was stumbling through reassurances and compliments aplenty. Lloyd's two friends were probably the only thing keeping him from totally faling into depression. The fact that Kratos had managed to tweak the cameras in the one room so that they could talk to Raine, Genis, and Sheena, and order them out of the ranch was the only thing that kept Lloyd from endlessly questioning the well far of his other friends. Now not having that to worry about was a blessing, but it left room for a different worry, a poisons one.
"How do you know Kvar... What did he..."
"I don't want to talk about that!" Lloyd backed up as much as the small room and his weakened condition would allow. Never had he seen Kratos' eyes so empty of rational thought. It was like there was a little crazy monster in him, and mere mention of Kvar's name could bring it out. But then Lloyd wasn't all that much different, he felt his hands ache to be around his swords every time he remembered that Desian.
"I'm sorry, you OK?"
"No, I'm not..." Kratos sighed, fought and restrained the monster in himself it seemed. "What he did to me... He made me hate this world, hate it with a passion. He took away the only people who could love me, and even now he mocks there names. Even now every time he draws breath, that very breath is a mockery to them... I meant to kill him, I tried... And failed..."
Colette muttered something, rolled over, and leaned on Lloyd. She was asleep in there hiding spot, which was in truth an empty closet. She had asked him to teach her how to fall asleep standing up, and Lloyd had had his first laugh in what felt like years. He had promised that she'd figure it out, and she had. Lloyd tried to smile, but the tears in his eyes made the gesture a mockery of what it once was. With a scar-covered hand he nudged Colette back, she fell a bit, then was leaning against the wall. Lloyd lifted his hand, stared at the pale one and his normal hand. Cooked away, his flesh had been cooked down to the bone. He still got chills thinking about it. As if sensing his thoughts Kratos also locked his gaze on his hands, though barely clipped by the spell the Mercenary was still nursing a few singe marks. A long silence stretched between them, punctuated by Colette's mutters of the word "puppy".
"Kratos, about what you said... I'm sorry about what Kvar did to you, but you aren't alone, you have us."
Kratos snapped his gaze on him. His normally emotionless eyes haunted. After a moment the Mercenary composed himself. The mask was back on, but there was a searing pain that Lloyd had glimpsed, a pain that would have broken anyone else.
"You… can not mean that Lloyd. I have no one, it is how I keep sane. Every time I reach out I bring death, I see those I care for die. Do not join there ranks by offering me your friendship."
"Phh that's what you think. Man, I'm sorry, but that's one of the most stupid things I ever heard." Kratos' eyes narrowed in deadly anger. Lloyd continued, uncaring. "We all die Kratos, that's how life is. You know what you may very well out live me, you may see me die sometime before this is all said and done. But so what? Death isn't the big thing; it's how you live that counts. A person who lives in fear of death isn't alive; they're just waiting to die. And for those who've died, if they died foully you avenge them, but you move on. You have to move on not because you'll die but you'll... what was your word? Disk-huner?" Kratos muttered the correction and Lloyd continued. "Yeah, whatever, I guess that works. You dishonor the person who died."
"Wisdom from you? I'm surprised Lloyd."
"I'm not wise, you, Genis, and the Professer are wise. Not me... I know this because of Mom, every day since I was old enough to really talk I'd go out and be with her. I'd sneak out, because Dad, my dwarf Dad, didn't like it. He said it was strange that I would tell a gravestone about my day, and ask it questions. 'You'll never get any answers Lloyd, so why go out there?' he used to say that to me all the time when I was little. Finally I made him come with me, and I talked to her just like any other day. Then when Dad looked like he wanted to say something a wind picked up. It wasn't normal, not a normal wind because it smelled like winter even though it was summer. That's how I knew, Mom'd let me know that she was listening, little things like that. Things so small most people wouldn't notice. I have to believe she's here Kratos, I have to believe she's with me, and that she approves of what I'm doing. I also have to believe that she's happy knowing that I'm trying to live my life out as happy as I can. I'll never forget her, what little bit I have, but I wont let it destroy me either. I hate Kvar, I hate what he did to Mom, Dad, what he did to you, and everyone else... but I can't live my whole life around that hate, cuz it would just be running away, it would be forgetting all the love she gave me."
Kratos said nothing only looked at the air above Lloyd's head.
"And I'm not going to let you make that mistake. Because whomever Kvar took from you, do you think they'd be happy having you live like this? Living for your hate and only for your hate?"
"You know nothing of..."
"This is the only time I've ever seen you act normal. Human. Before we started this journey, back in Iselia, you acted like a machine. You gave a little bit; you did what needs to be done, then nothing else. You just stopped, froze, and waited until another crisis comes up before springing into action. You were like that in Triet, though not as bad... I hate to think what you were like before the Regeneration Journey."
"The hopeless regeneration journey?"
Lloyd flinched at Kratos' bland tone. Then after a long moment nodded his head.
"Yeah, it just might be, I've been thinking about what you said... And I don't know anymore...Hopefully when I become an adult I'll figure it out."
The chuckle that came out of Kratos' mouth was so dry Lloyd licked his lips. So cynical was that gesture Lloyd flinched to hear it.
"You may just be coming a little closer to adulthood even now Lloyd. you're not there yet, you still have a ways to go, but at least you are showing signs of walking the path to it."
"I thought that everyone became an adult, I know that the eighteen thing.. you know how they say you turn eighteen and you suddenly become an adult.. how that isn't true. but I've never heard about people who never grew up, well at least not in real life. In stories about elves and other fairy tails I guess people don't have to grow up, but..."
"You are in the greatest legend, or fairy tale as you put it, in your life. And still you denounce it."
"What's that supposed to mean!"
Kratos glared, and Lloyd flinched. Colette muttered something about "kitty" then fell back asleep.
"Denounce isn't an insult Lloyd, it's a word that indicates an elevated level of..." Lloyd's eyes were glazing. "It means to reject, to not believe."
"Oh why didn't you just say that then?"
"God, no wonder Raine has gray hairs..."
"Umm don't you mean Goddess?"
"I meant what I said Lloyd. I'm a follower of the old ways, the very very old ways."
"Why don't you just say ancient?"
"Because I did not know if you knew what ancient means."
The Mercenary's lips twitched at the petty insult and Lloyd smiled.
"OK I'm really bad in class, I sleep and ditch and whatever... But don't think I'm stupid alright."
"I will try, but you must learn to be less sensitive about what others say. Try to listen every once in a while and I will tone down my sarcasm."
"I'd shake to seal that deal but I don't want to wake Colette."
The Chosen of Regeneration muttered something about "bunny" and fell on Kratos. Lloyd, for the first time in a while smiled, and it was one without tears. And for just one second he could have sworn he smelled a hint of winter. But then it was gone, he turned to Kratos to ask... But the Mercenary was busy trying to dislodge the limp Colette without hurting her.
"I hate this!" Lloyd snarled, kicking the Raybit remains across the room. Kratos didn't lift his head up until after he was done healing Colette. The Chosen One smiled at him, it was a simple smile of one who was grateful that he gave her what he could. After dragging Lloyd from death's door Kratos was still worn out, he could barely keep these two in one piece after a small fight. If they ran into Kvar they were doomed, not even Kratos' "special" mana as his wife once called it, could save them now.
"Lloyd, everything's going to be OK. Everyone else is safe, we don't need to worry."
"Colette we keep hiding, attacking these little things, and then what? Running from everything else because we can't take anything else on. We've been slinking around here for at least two days..."
"We know where Kvar is now, we have broken all the security cameras, he is trapped Lloyd, there is no rush."
"I still want to..."
"And you think I do not?"
"Lloyd, Kratos, please don't fight." The tears in Colette's eyes made Lloyd flush, look away. He was confused by how Colette could calm his rage, or steer it to the greater good. It could almost be called manipulation, what she was doing, if she had been aware that she was doing it. She wasn't though, and she never forced Lloyd to do something that he never wanted to. She only pointed out the gentler path on how to get there. A smile curled Kratos' lips, one that was not tinged with sarcasm, or bitterness, but one of gentle remembrance.
"Lloyd is right about one thing, we can not keep this course of caution forever. The others will eventually get worried and come after us despite our orders to the contrary."
"I'm lost..." Lloyd muttered to Colette. "What'd he say?"
"Umm I think he just said "I'm sorry" but I'm not sure..."
"Alright, so what are we going to do now?" Lloyd asked, trying to get past the awkward moment.
"We go and loot the supply sheds, then after taking many healing gels, and potions we go after Kvar."
"OK that I understand, lets go Colette! Uhh which way were we going?"
"That way." Kratos pointed down the hall. "I had better lead, since you both would get lost..."
"Yeah it is kind of tricky going through indoor mazes. Give me a forest any day and I wont get lost, but inside..."
Colette giggled, took Lloyd's hand, and they both walked a little behind Kratos as he lead the way deeper into Kvar's camp.
"I'm glad the others aren't here to see this." Lloyd whispered, his face was grim. A rare expression for the Chosen's best friend, but it had become common in this butchers hop of Kvar's. The expression was far too common for Kratos' taste. Even as those brown eyes gazed on the torture wrack and it's long deceased victim the face remained still, darkness hovered in the once innocent eyes. Colette looked ill, clung to Lloyd as if to a lifeline, her eyes shined with tears. She grieved what she was seeing; she grieved her fallen innocence as well as the person who had died long ago under Kvar's knife. Lloyd did not, he took it in, absorbed the horrid sights, and through force of will kept himself under control. Lloyd was encasing his soul in ice so not to feel, so not to break, so not to be a burden... A sick wrench ripped through the Mercenary's soul, if he could have he'd have probably vomited. This was no place for children, no place for Lloyd or the gentle Chosen. Damn a world that made such things come to pass, damn the Gods that children must have their innocence ripped from them by a madman's blade. This too was another of Kvar's sins, one of many that he would pay for.
"There is nothing in here, let us move on."
"Nothing!" Colette snapped. "What about this poor person..."
Kratos sighed, adverted his gaze from the mess of blood and guts that had once been a man. "Colette, there is nothing we can do for him, he is dead."
"You... don't you ever feel anything?"
"Colette, he's not the one your mad at. When we see Kvar, take it out on that... that monster. Not Kratos. Kratos didn't cause this to happen. That's what I keep telling myself." Lloyd's mask of calm shattered, and there was a tortured expression on his face. "Kvar'll pay for this Colette, but if we lose it... if we go nuts... we wont help in stopping this."
Colette looked ready to breakdown; Lloyd looked only a step behind her. If they broke, if they could not do this he could not leave them. He would not leave them. But now there was no sanctuaries left, no safe clean places, no way to avoid the torture rooms. They had looked everywhere else for Kvar, all save the heart of the camp. And what a twisted heart it was...
They had been walking in a series of black walled rooms for what felt like hours. Sometimes they were unoccupied, they looked as innocent as a doctors office. In these mockeries of a docter's office a long table lay in the rooms heart. There was always light in the ceiling, a large ever glowing magi-tech light that shone like a small sun. The light was unflinching; it did not waver, and bathed each black room in an alien white light, making the black ceiling appear a dull gray. By each of the tables there stood a steel tray, and on these trays lay an assortment of surgical knives and tools. In each room a strong scent of disinfectant hung in the air. That was trademark to all of the unoccupied rooms, the scent of a doctor's office. At the first room Lloyd had wrinkled his nose, and wandered around it in his normally bored manner. He had not understood, nor had Colette. They had asked why his eyes had widened. There were no monsters, no Desians. That was when they had been innocent, that we before they found the first body... Colette had broken, she had wept, and sank to her knees crying out in pain. Lloyd had trembled, vomited, and when he'd been able to stand that was when the first sliver of darkness had come into his eyes...
In some of the black rooms there was a small fire place, a quaint ancient accessory considering Desian technology... One that looked innocent, until you saw the hooks and metal poles that rested by it. Other rooms there were hints of victims, or sloppy clean ups. A smattering of blood, some strands of hair. Colette and Lloyd had not seen them, even after the first body, but Kratos had. He had started going ahead, leaving them in rooms where there was little to no evidence of Kvar's spot. Doing his best to keep them on a route that would not expose them to the horrors of Kvar's madness.
Now there were no more clean rooms.
It was almost as if the bastard wanted them to go through all of the rooms, as if he wanted to see his enemies come at him broken by the weight of there fellow men's suffering. If that was his intent it was working, a horrid numbness had descended on Lloyd, Colette was on the edge of her sanity her gentle soul was slowly breaking...
"Oh holy Goddess, how much more is there?" Colette whimpered as they left the latest torture chamber.
"Not much." Kratos hissed. "I think we are almost out of here."
"Martel, help us please..."
Lloyd flinched at the Colette's words. Kratos could see the fury in the boy's eyes, could almost hear him say there was no Martel. He could see the boy's lips move, he was going to put breath in the only words that could hurt Colette.
"Do not say it Lloyd." The Mercenary hissed. "Do not complete Kvar's strike for him."
Lloyd swallowed the hatred, and grimaced. To Colette's confused gaze Kratos said nothing. If he answered he too would be guilty in helping Kvar. He was guilty of much; guilty of so much, he would not add this to his burden.
"Kratos, there are weird runes on this door... I think it's angelic but I'm not sure."
Kratos looked up, he could read the sign as easily as Colette. He kept his peace though, and turned to the Chosen. She looked at him, there was no intelligence in her eyes, only grief. Her eyes that were once a clear crystal blue, were now streaked red, her face red and swollen from her tears.
"Colette," He kept his voice to the softest of whispers. "We need your help in reading the door."
"I..I'll try to read it." She whimpered. "Derris fa sith, iats nist il suuv. It.. It means 'angel of death whos heart I hold...'" Colette shook her head, baffled. "That doesn't make any sense. The last bit says... Derris fa sith iats nist il sith, unith ait fate, pisa ista damnation lu ait illi sagunie. U rist sith, U rist fate, uniths aits. 'Angel of death whos heart I kill, meet your fate, fall into damnation by your own blood. A crimson death, crimson fate, all yours."
"Well that tells us absolutely nothing." Lloyd snarled, he drew his swords. "But I'm guessing that Kvar's back there, right?"
"He is, there is no where else left." Kratos firmly caught Lloyd by the collar of his tunic. "He is mine, stay out of my way."
"No!" Lloyd's eyes burned with hate. "He killed Mom, I'm not sitting this one out!"
"Focus on keeping Colette safe, I will attack Kvar..." Kratos spoke around clenched teeth. "Just stay out of my way."
"Hell no, he's mine, you hear me!"
"If it gets bad I can not heal you. This fight will be the last. Kvar will hold nothing back. He was playing with you last time, he wont play this time."
"I know that, let's go."
"Stay here with Colette, he is too powerful for you Lloyd."
"No! I'm going in old man, nothing you can say will keep me out of this fight, nothing!"
"I'm not staying behind!" Colette snapped. "Lloyd, Me, we're both coming! If he's as tough as you think then you'll need our help!"
Kratos drew his sword, his face still, as still as a corpses'. For one moment he considered them, his sword drawn. He could deliver a crippling strike to them both, make them stay. For a long time he just stared at them, his gloved hands tapped against the hilt of his weapon.
Colette shook under his gaze, but held despite her obvious urge to flee...
Lloyd looked at him, his eyes mirroring the hate Kratos could feel burning in his own. Darkness, hatred, they were a horrid sight in those once innocent eyes.
What kind of monster will Kvar make us? Even if we get out of here alive we'll be scarred... No they will be scared, there innocence is already gone, and mine it feels as if mines been gone forever... Will Kvar truly twist them? Make them into monsters?
He's done it once before.
Never again, Kratos swore, never again.
Kratos shuddered, fought, and barely won against the hatred inside of him. No matter what happened he must not forget Anna. He must keep his... his companions safe and sane. Especially Lloyd. Lloyd most of all. Out of the three of them the boy was most vulnerable.
"I wont let him kill you. Niether of you will die by his hand, so long as I draw breath. Illusion, pain, lies, those are his weapons. So keep your guard up, and don't necessarily trust your eyes."
Colette nodded, drew her throwing rings from her belt.
Lloyd snarled, and looked like he wanted to kick the door down.
Kratos stood aside and gave Lloyd that opportunity. With a scream the boy threw himself at the door. A silver blue light shimmered around him, an aggressive twist on the guardian spell Kratos had taught him. Impressed Kratos stood back and watched as Lloyd threw himself at the door, at most it took five hits, then slivers of metal skittered out into a room. He firmly snagged Lloyd's tunic, gave it an expert twist, and then tossed the half strangled boy at Colette.
A bolt of lightning slashed through the air where Lloyd had just been.
"What did I just tell you? Keep your guard up!" Kratos snarled. Lloyd looked at him, and for the first time in a day looked almost sane. "Come on, why are you standing there, we have a Desian to kill."
The room was black, like all the others, unlike the others there were mirrors spaced at what appeared to be random intervals. No windows, no light was in the room save another of those horrid false suns. A crimson carpet lay across the floor, so soft and thick that there feet sank in a few inches. The room itself was devoid of human comforts; there were no paintings, no furniture, save once chair. Kvar sat across the room; a metal rod held in one hand, he was absently pointing the weapon at the door, yet he did not fire at them as they entered the room. He allowed them to look around, to take in the black walls, the chair embedded with rubies, and the twin doors that flanked the chair like guards. In front of the Desian was a small tray, much like the trays that were in the other rooms. There were no knives on this tray, only a cup, which Kvar lifted to them in a mock toast.
"Welcome, I must congratulate you for getting this far. The last person who went through those rooms was quite insane; he just opened the door and got fried. A disappointment really, I so wanted him to live, but he couldn't take the shock..." Kvar laughed, and then took a sip from his cup. "Ah well, the weakness of your specie I guess. Of course most humans wouldn't have lived through that, nor any of my attacks. I'm still very surprised that you are alive Mr. Irving. I had hoped that Kratos would have abandoned you and gone after me by himself. We could have settled our little dispute without dragging you youngsters into it." Kvar shrugged, then locked eyes with Lloyd. "As it is, try not to die. We have so very much to talk about when this is over you and I."
"Whatever sick fantasy that makes you think I want anything to do with you is wrong you Bastard!"
"Now, now, boy. Language, you mustn't swear, it's disrespectful. I have one last little offer to make to you then we'll get on with the unpleasant business of trying to kill each other. You can't see it from across the room but there is a small disk, about the size of your palm. On it is every memory of your Mothers, not just when she was in the camp, but before. I have two copies. One which holds all of her memories preceding her little visit here. The other one only has her little span here, in one of my torture chambers. Now before you can run across this room, before the Chosen can throw one of her deadly little rings at me, and before your mercenary friend can attempt to rip me in half with his bare hands, I can alow you to watch on of these disks. I just cast a little spell and the image will over lap the room. You have my oath that I will wait until the images are done playing and you have recovered before I attack. As a matter of fact I wish to watch a little bit of it. Your mother was rather beautiful after all, and I'm still young enough to appreciate that beauty for myself."
"You sick bastard I'll..!" Lloyd took a step forward, hate in his eyes. Kratos, there was something wrong with Kratos. Colette turned to the mercenary and saw the tortured expression on his face. It wasn't an insane look like Lloyd's had been, it wasn't the rage that Lloyd now nursed, there was a mix of hate and something else on the older man's eyes. A raw bleeding inner pain and a worried look.
"Or I can force you to experience it. There is some distance when it is only projected, you wont feel her pain, you wont taste her fear as if it were your own... Of course only one person will experience it, it will only work on one person at a time. And if we go this route I will attack I will kill whoever is effected by the images. As a matter of fact I may just make your friends experience it, that way I can kill them in front of you Mr. Irving." Kvar laughed, then set his small cup down. "That would break you, make you more palpable, more useful to me and my cause."
"I don't want to see any of it!" Lloyd hissed, only Colette picked up the slight strain in his voice that told her Lloyd was lying. "It's all just a pack of your lies, and I'm not listening to you! Dad didn't kill Mom, you did! I don't make deals with murderers." Lloyd took a cautious step deeper in the room.
"The irony of that statement boy." Kvar chuckled and for some reason looked at Kratos. Colette shuddered as those dead steel eyes flicked from the Mercenary to her. His smile made her blood freeze. Then Kvar stood, drew a needle thin sword from the air, and lifted the weapon to them in mock salute. Lightning crawled the length of the blade, writhed around the steel. "The irony, it's so sweat, like fresh blood on a blade... Tell me boy, do you know who you really travel with? Do you even understand what you do?"
"Shut up!" Kratos roared, blue light flickered across his sword, then with a sweep of his long sword sent that energy across the room. With a slight gesture the Desian made an aura of glowing green light swirl around himself. Kratos' attack slid off the shield, like water off the skin.
"My dear sir, I do what I please. After all this is my establishment." With a snarled word Kvar pointed the wand at one of the walls. Lighting flashed into existence, bounced off one of the mirrors, off another, Colette's eyes watered as the light in the room became unbearable, then she heard Lloyd cry out. "Taste the pain inferior beings, taste your first bit of Hell!"
"No!" Colette threw her chirkun into the light, in where she had last seen the Desian standing. "You wont hurt anyone ever again!"
"Hell, I'll give you Hell Desian..." Kratos began to mutter words under his breath, small red sparks hung around him. His voice rose and fell in an arcane chant, his fingers flickered with a red aura. Then with a gesture one commands a dog to attack he pointed to where Kvar had once been. Fire came into being, a swell of fire and molten steel. Insane laughter from the left of the swell told them all Kratos' spell had missed. But at least the white light had died down, and they could all see. Colette shrieked as Kvar pointed his wand at Lloyd. The Iselian swords man seeing the danger barely managed to run out of the way, but in doing so he increased the distance between himself and Kvar. Colette then had to dodge a bolt of power that leapt from the sword, and Kratos barely managed to wrench himself out of the path of a bolt of energy from the wand. Then Colette understood, she understood the tactics that the Desian used. It was a saying, a saying that she had heard Kratos use once not so long ago.
Divide and conquer
Kratos barely managed to wrench out of the way of the spell. It had been a very long time since he had fought against a wizard, much less one this good, and if he had been alone he might have actually taken some sport in the challenge that Kvar represented. He wasn't alone though, he had others to defend, and his hate killed all ability to take any pleasure in the fight. Colette squeaked, jumped out of the way of one bolt, a lucky trip saved her from another blast. Then Kvar turned on Lloyd, shot, and again Lloyd dodged the strike, but it ricochet off the mirror behind him and flew in Kratos' direction. Snarling an oath Kratos barley got his magic shield up in time. As the green-blue light faded and his sight returned he found himself in a dire situation. but wand and sword were pointed at him, both crackled with mana and were ready to be used. It seemed as if Kvar was going to take him out first.
"How many times have you gotten in my way Kratos? How many times have you foiled my plans? Ever since that wench of yours died you have always been there destroying my work, limiting my power. Even now you deny me, you protect the key to higher power, to greater status." Kvar's eyes flicked to Colette, then back to him. "Now I am in a situation where I can get even, I can stop your damned interference, I can take the last thing in this world you value."
The wand and sword turned to Colette. Lloyd threw himself in front of the girl, crossed his blades in front of him in a pathetic defense. With a chuckle Kvar hissed the words that would activate the wand and sword. Kratos froze, and Kvar laughed as lighting shot across the room. It was too powerful, even as he saw the familiar green light appear around Lloyd, he knew in his heart the boy would be obliterated.
Secrecy didn't matter anymore, if Lloyd died he would have no purpose, no soul. He drew on his power, called on the greater powers that had been forced inside of him. He recalled the death cold hands, the silver blue eyes, and the roaring agony of ice that had invaded his flesh. From that ice, that shard of death, he had found great power, he had found magic. Kratos snarled out a counter spell, and a sheet of rock rips through the carpeted floor. Thin slender, just a shard of rock really... Then another, and another, steel plating under the carpet creaks then goes flying as shard after shard of earth rip through the floor and make a shield in front of Lloyd.
Shrieking mad profanities Kvar wastes more bolts from his wand, desperate now to rip the wall down, for he can hear his own death coming.
"You shall kill no one Kvar!" Kratos didn't know who was speaking, all he can hear is the mad ponding in his skull, all he can see is through pulsing crimson haze is his enemy. "No one!"
"No Kratos, I shall kill you!" Kvar whipped around, pointed the wand at the mercenary. As if from far away Kratos heard someone, a girl cry out. It was nothing, the only sounds that Kratos could hear was Kvar's trembling heart, the only urge he had was to stop that sound. To hear the blessed silence, no longer punctured by a wheezing breath, by that tainted drum. The flickering light in Kvar's hand roused a sliver of worry, but he knew that there was no dodging, no avoiding the attack, he'd take it then and strike back. He'd avenge the dead, and the living the only way he knew how. He crossed the distance between them in a run, a wild run that cut through the room as fast as thought, then he swung. Kvar snapped his rapier around, was barley able to counter the strike. Bits of light licked at Kvar's sword, and hopped from the Desian's blade to the mercenary's. Pain crawled up Kratos' sword arm, pain and a horrid numbness. With a wicked laugh Kvar moved his free arm around, pointed the wand at Kratos' exposed belly. With his sword arm locked, and his shield tossed aside in the haste of spell casting the mercenary was helpless.
"Now you die alone, your allies dead, your blood spent!"
"No!" There was a flash of steel, then a sword flew between himself and Kvar, there was a crunch as it bite into the wand. Startled Kratos turned, Lloyd stood across the room, away from the small decimated sanctuary that Kratos had summoned with his spell. The boy's arm was extended wierdly, and it took a moment for the mercenary to understand... Lloyd had thrown one of his swords like a man might throw a javelin. And despite all the odds he had connected. There was a flickered of silver light, and Kratos looked back at his foe. Kvar still had his blade locked with Kratos and the small half elf man was trying to force the human's weapon down. He had been trying for a few moments now, the attempts were so pathetic Kratos hadn't even noticed them. With a snarl Kratos kicked out with a foot, slammed it into the smaller man's belly, and forced them out of the blade lock. Kvar, weak wretched Kvar, fell to his knees, the sword impaled wand still in his grasp. Ripping the boy's sword out of his primary weapon the Desian lifted the shattered wood and pointed it at the mercenary.
Power licked at the weapon, the seemed to shudder. Then the wand began to glow, glow with the heat of a lighting storm. The smell of cooking meat filled the room, smoke wafted from the Desian's hand. There was a flash of light, a scream. I was as if the air itself were being ripped open and tormented. Then the world went white, and he could see nothing, but he could feel. He could feel could feel bolts of power slide around him like some warped tide. Could feel the room shudder under the raw power that was unleashed, felt the mirrors shatter, as if they shattered onto his skin. He could hear Colette screaming in terror. Could feel her tears, he could feel Lloyd shaking, as it was him shaking, as if it was him crying... Perhaps it was, in the madness around him he was not sure of anything. Then color returned to the world, he snapped his gaze around the room searching.
Lloyd groaned, smoke wafted from his chest, his red tunic was scorched an ugly black, and the skin that was visible at the injury's heart was a bloody red. Not the red of an open wound, but the red of a nasty burn. Colette clung to him, crying softly, her wings wrapped around the Iselian swords-man like a cloak. The Chosen's wings glowed a brilliant pink, but bits of white light danced across them. She it seemed had shielded the boy from most of the damage by drawing on her angelic powers. With a moan Lloyd opened his eyes, reached for the wound as if to confirm it was there, then stopped himself. He tenderly patted Colette's hand, and then set his eyes to wander around the room. His eyes met Kratos'. He then forced Colette's arms off of him, made to find his feet. Stubbornly Colette held onto him, and then they both picked themselves up from the glass covered floor. Together. All of them did not look into the far side of the room, not yet. There would be time for that later. Kratos sighed, closed his eyes, it was over, Anna was avenged. His eyes snapped open at the sound of someone approaching him. His hand went to the hilt of his sword, he grasped nothing but air, his weapon was lost, somewhere it was mixed in with the shattered glass and ruin that was the once throne room of Kvar.
"Are you alright?"
Kratos opened his eyes. Lloyd was with him, standing, though swaying was more of an accurate term. The boy's legs wanted to buckle only raw stubbornness and concern kept Lloyd from falling to the floor with a whimper and passing out.
"Well enough, thanks."
"You look like Hell."
Kratos tried to glare at Lloyd, but couldn't put the heart into the gesture. He was so tired, all he wanted to do was rest. With a grimace Kratos managed to get off of his rear and onto his knees. With one hand he pushed against the floor, another he reached to use the wall as a prop. A sword calloused hand gripped his. Kratos' eyes, that had closed once again, snapped open. Lloyd ignored the mercenary's surprise, and with a grunt helped pull his elder to his feet.
"Wow if I look like you do, I really need to get to bed." Lloyd managed, his lips were curled in a wolfs teeth only smile. "It's over, isn't it?"
"I do no know."
"You're.. you're filled with chear, you know that?" Lloyd's swaying had gotten noticably worse.
Kratos didn't bother to reply, he looked where he did not have the courage to look before. He looked to the throne, to that slightly elevated expanse where that gaudy chair had been. Now all he saw was a pool of molten gold, and a black husk that had once been a man. Then to his horror that husk moved. It groaned, and crawled to it's feet. Black rags hung on to it's skin, no were scorched onto its skin. Rags that had once been the regal blue, silver, and black, vestments of the Desian Grand Cardinal. Kvar's face, it was a nightmare of oozing flesh and burn marks. In it, somehow untouched, were those steel eyes. A twisted bit of metal, the lightining sword, was leveled at Colette. It's cracked bloody lips moved. Seeing Kratos' look of horror Lloyd turned, and saw. Then he was sent sprawling onto the glass choaked floor, with a curse Lloyd tryed to get to his feet, he grasped for his sword wanting to use it as a prop to stand... It was gone, Kratos weilded his sword, covered the length of the room in a staggering run, he yelled a warning to Colette. Kvar snarled the last sylible of the spell, but the Chosen was able to flutter out of harms way. The desian screeched in frusteration, then yowled as Kratos slashed out with Lloyd's sword.
"Feel the pain..." Kratos brought the blade around, slammed out with the weapon's flat to roll Kvar over. Unable to even fight, the desian went with the hit. Kvar now lay on his back, whimpering, perhaps now nursing a broken bone, for even though it was with the flat of the weapon Kratos had held nothing back. Now Kratos stood over Kvar, stood over the man who had taken everything he loved from him, had threatened all that the mercenary had just recently received. Kvar met the human's eyes, and shrank back in fear. These were the eyes of a desperate man, of a man who would break any law, commit any sin, to protect those he loved. "Of the inferior beings..." The blade snapped out, whipped across Kvar's belly, cut from the base of the Desian's ribs at an angel, Kratos allowed the blade to cut along the desian's leg for a few inches, then withdrew Lloyd's weapon. He lifted it up, in a mock salute, red dripped along its length, a dull slug like substance that served as Kvar's blood. Then a horrid light crawled along the weapon; the blood smoked and no longer fell but drifted away in black whips. Lloyd's blade was on fire, a fire that crawled the length of the weapon, which wrapped around Kratos' hand, and was slowly consuming the sword. The mercenary stood still, did not seem in pain of the fire. A drop of molten steel fell rom the weapons' tip, the desian whimpered in pain, in terror. "As you burn in Hell!" The blade slammed into the Desian's open gut, fire exploded, consumed, devoured, the half elf from the inside out.
There was a whimper, a sob, Kratos looked up to see Colette regarding him in horror. That didn't matter, she would get over it. Kratos then turned to Lloyd, the boy had found his feet sometime during Kvar's last moments. He looked at the smoldering body, then nodded his head. He agreed, he understood. He accepted what Kratos had done, and viewed him not differently then before. Tears gleamed in the boy's eyes, gleamed and fell from his face, there was a bitter regret in his eyes. A sadness, and a horrible fear. Kratos picked his way over the carrion, walked to where the tray had been, and was surprised to see the two palm sized disks still intact. He picked them up from the molten remains of the tray, and then walked to Lloyd, he offered them to the boy, and waited...
If Lloyd watched Kvar's half truths and full truths would be reveled. If he watched either of these disks though, he would see his mother's face, he would remember her touch, her love. But on one he would see only a few moments of this Mother at peace, the rest would be a bloody torment, but one was safe... One would hold all the love, all the joy of his mother's life. He would remember his Mother, his Father; he would have what he never had before. He'd know who his family was, he'd have a family.
There was no telling which one was safe though.
Lloyd looked at them for a moment, as if he didn't dare reach out and touch them. Then he took them from the mercenary's hand, ran his bloody hands over the metallic surface. He then let them fall to the floor, and lacking a sword, brought a boot down on them both. Kratos flinched at the sound of them breaking, there was no way to salvage them now, no way to use them. Lloyd, seeing his flinch, grimaced. He then brought his foot down again, and again, then stopped. Looked at the older man who shared his brown eyes.
"She'd never forgive me if I watched either of those. The cost is too high Kratos, it came from Kvar's hand, she'd never forgive me..." Tears were falling from the boy's eyes. "I...I can't do that to her I can't believe... or take anything from that monster." Lloyd scuffed his boot across the ash covered floor. Tears were falling from his face, he shuddered. Colette started to come to Lloyd, was going to hold him, but stopped. Her eyes were still filled with the horror of the day, she herself needed someone strong to hold her. She too was on the verge of breaking.
Kratos didn't even think about it, he took the swordsman in his arms, and Lloyd bawled like a broken hearted child. Colette whimpered, and she too broke, cried, and drifted over to them with tears in her eyes. He found himself supporting both of them, holding them up so they wouldn't fall under the weight of there grief. Muttering soft words, words he himself didn't know, he drew them to him, held them. When they seemed strong enough, he gently steered them out of the room. Not back to the torture chambers, not back the way they came, but to those doors that Kvar had left closed. They were locked, but a spell knocked them down, and they entered the small and ordinary bedroom of the Grand Cardinal Desian. He sat on the bed, and they still clinging, sat besides him. They fell asleep after there spat of tears, totally worn by the day. He gently extracted their arms from him, eased them onto the bed, and dragged himself wearily to a nearby chair.
It felt strange to sit in this chair, in this room that belonged to the dead man outside. Yet they needed this, they all needed to rest. He smiled a little as Lloyd and Colette snuggled up by each other. He personally couldn't wait until they woke up to see there responses to finding that they were sleeping in the same bed. A little cruel, he admitted, but he was like that sometimes. For a long while, perhaps a hour and a half he sat and watched them sleep, sat and watched them hold each other in their sleep. Yes when they finally did wake up it would be quite a sight... Until then though, he had things to do. Drudging up the last of his energy Kratos forced himself to get up, and walk to the one bookshelf in the room. He scanned the titles, then finding what he was looking for pulled one of the books down. Quiet, as quiet as he could be, he walked across the room, found the small study table, and pulled out the chair. It was uncomfortable, it was built for the small scrawny man that Kvar had been. He managed, and with indifference Kratos tossed the paperwork that covered the table to the floor. Remembering that he was not alone Kratos froze, but the two children did not wake at the noise. Breathing a soft prayer of thanks to the higher powers Kratos placed the book on the now bare table. He opened it up, and scanned the table of contents. Monster though he was, Kvar was methodic, and it took the mercenary only two hours of reading to find everything that he wanted to know.
He awoke to a soft gasp and a giggle. Startled Kratos lifted his head from the desk, dazled by the nap he never intended to take. He turned to the source of the sound, to the bed. Lloyd and Colette were identical shades of red, and both had recoiled as far as the bed would allow them to. Kratos managed a bit of a laugh, more of a wheeze really, and they turned to him with accusation on there faces.
"Just be happy it wasn't all three of us there." Kratos snorted, he yawned, and rubbed at his smarting eyes. "You two were down to nothing, and there is no other pieces of furniture that will hold you." Lloyd's eyes scanned the room. took in the desk which the mercenary sat at, the book shelf, the small table, stove, and the one plush chair. Lloyd flushed, and pulled the covers up to hide his bear chest. Colette giggled, not as shy but still embarrassed by the situation none the less. Kratos would have had a long talk with Slyverant's Chosen had she not acted as she had just now. "Could one of you make breakfast? I'm not quite up to it." Kratos sighed lay his head on the book he had been reading. He closed his eyes, swallowed as the pain in his heart came back. The children's antics had been a nice escape, but after all that he had read... It would take a long time, a very long time until the pain and rage went away.
"I'll handle it." He heard the Chosen say, there was a small creek as she left the bed. He could smell her as she walked by, hear her mutter to herself as she went through Kvar's food stores. He didn't even open his eyes when Colette tripped, he just didn't feel up to it. Lloyd, with a groan, crawled out of the bed. He hissed as his wound brushed against the fabric, but slowly he too left the bed. When he was up to it Kratos would need to tend Lloyd's wound. After breakfast, he told himself, after breakfast I'll tend to Lloyd, and we'll see if we're up to leaving.
"Hey Kratos... You want to take the fluffy chair? I'll take the once your sitting in now."
"It's a deal, drag it over here and I'll see if I can get myself out of this thing."
Still Kratos did not open his eyes. He could feel Lloyd staring at him, could fell Colette's gaze on him as well. There was the sound of pans being rattled, of ingredients being handled. Then there was the familiar sound of a knife cutting through flesh, and the sound of fire. Soon he could smell meat cooking, he cracked an eye open, and was startled to see the Chosen making what looked like it was to turn out to be hash. Three slices of bread lay by the stove. A cough made him turn, Lloyd had come back and he gently put the chair down only a step or two away from the mercenary. He nodded, then with a few curses managed to worm out of the writing chair and limp over to the "fluffy" one.
"What are you reading?" Lloyd asked, his eyes a light with curiosity, and though no longer innocent, they were not filled with shadows. To that Kratos smiled, or rather tried to. It was good that Lloyd was going to get out of this more or less all right.
"Something, we will discuss it after we are done eating."
"OK," Lloyd sat down, grimaced, then decided that the chair was just to painful. He dragged himself to the bed, and sat on the edge. "I take it that from your grim tone of doom, I'm not going to like what you have to say. So I guess it can wait. I've just got one question..." Kratos waited while Lloyd struggled out the last part. "Is it... is it about Mom?"
"Yes, we will discuss it after we eat though."
"Alright." Lloyd closed his eyes. The smell of Colette's cooking filled the room, and the swordsman smiled a sad smile. "Smells good Colette, did Genis teach you the recipie?"
"How long do we have till chow's ready?"
"About another twelve minuets."
"Alright, do you want some toast Kratos? I can make that at least."
"Buttered?" Kratos grimaced. He did not favor buttered toast, and would pass if that was all they had to offer.
"Hey Colette is there any jelly?"
"That will work." Kratos sighed. "Ironically I like raspberries."
"Same here, grapes are just too sweet. Alright, well I'll get to work on that." With a sigh Lloyd got off of the bed, then joined Colette at the miniature kitchen. The Chosen was handling the magi-tech burners very well, and after a bit of fumbling Lloyd figured them out enough to make that toast. He put the jelly on it, then gave the mercenary his pre-breakfast snack, then stood by him and at his meal. "Look Kratos..." Lloyd brushed away the remains of his toast off of his face. "Thanks, me and Colette we owe you, you saved us back there, and after... I'm sorry about that I..."
"Do not apologize for that Lloyd, I would have been very worried if you had not broke at some point in all of this. Kvar, in all levels, was a torturer. Even with his words he strived to rip you from what you are. You see that would have been his ultimate victory, in doing that he would have destroyed Colette… and everyone else that you know and who care for you." Lloyd made as if to speak, Kratos lifted a trembling hand to stop him. "Enough let me finish. You were an innocent before all this began. You killed to defend those who needed to be defended, to defend yourself, but that is it. You have never seen, never imagined, what another being is capable of wrecking on one another, not like this. The only reason I was not in such bad shape as you is I am all too familiar with this. Add to the fact that that... devil... was the person who... who lead to the circumstance of your Mothers death. You were fighting a lot, and you were fighting not only with your sword, but with your heart. This trial, you never should have had to endure it, in a just world you would never had. But this world is not just, it is not fair, it just is. Fate was cruel to you Lloyd, circumstance brutal, in such events breaking every once in a while is all right."
"Thanks." Lloyd flushed, looked away. "Thanks for understanding Kratos, and for explaining it."
"No charge..." Kratos lay his head back on the pillows, but kept his eyes open and stared at the ceiling.
"I hope not, I'm totally broke right now."
Kratos smiled at the ceiling, a wicked glimmer coming into his eyes. "Not really Lloyd, some of what I read was a map of the premises. It looks like there is some sort of gald cache here. So we wont be leaving broke, none of us."
Lloyd chuckled, catching on.
Colette just looked at them baffled. She didn't understand. She was a total innocent, but that had come to be due to the training that she received from the priests. Part of him wondered how they had kept Colette so innocent, so carefree. She just shrugged at them both, dismissed their not-so-pure intents, and then went back to cooking. She began to hum a religious hymn, and in all probability dismissed that whole part of the conversation.
After breakfast Kratos shooed Colette out of the room. He had taken time to deal with the other room before he made her leave, he had tended to what remained of Kvar's corpse, had gone far enough to set a chair outside for her. Lloyd looked at this, saw all the preparation, and kept quiet.
Lloyd knew that this was going to be bad, he knew it from the nervous pacing that the mercenary did after Colette had left. The man was dead tired, he should be resting, he should be as drained as all of them, or even more so. And he was. And he was still pacing, wasting valuable energy in a show of nerves. Finally Kratos took up the book he had so jealously guarded over breakfast, and leafed through it for a moment. He came to a page that had been bent down, and turned it so that Lloyd could see. There was a woman, brown haired and had brown eyes. She stood sullenly, her face obviously swollen from a recent beating.
"Her name was Anna Lillith Ruain," Kratos sighed, "I tried to find another picture, a better one, but they only get worse after this."
"Who is this woman Kratos, why... Was this your wife?"
"You remembered that?" Kratos' face had a strange look to it, a great sadness, and something else. "No Lloyd, though my wifes name was also Anna... that is not her. My wife's name was Anna Samantha Sith, this is your Mother."
Lloyd trembled, then reached out and stroked the page. It was as if he could take the pain from that long ago woman with his hand. Kratos adverted his gaze, studied the wall, but when he heard the flipping of pages he whipped around and snatched the book from the boy's hand. Lloyd gritted his teeth, looked ready to protest.
"You will not look at the rest of this book! It was Hellish enough for me to read it, Kvar was very detailed with all of his "sport" that he took on his victims. Your mother's entries are as detailed as the others... As were they on my wife's..." Kratos lowered his head, took a deep shuddering breath. "I will burn this after we are done talking, and I will hear no complaints on the matter!"
"How do you know that that's my Mom?" Lloyd whispered, he wrapped his arms around his chest as if to ward away a chill. Though nearly an adult, his voice seemed like a child's. His eyes gleamed with tears, inner poison tears that he would not allow himself to weep. Kratos cursed himself, cursed himself and his decision to tell Lloyd of this.
"She mentioned you, she was questioned, and she mentioned she had a child. During... during the forced questioning they managed to get your name, and a rough physical description. She also mentioned your… your father... He was an enemy of the Desians, a man who openly challenged them, who fought against them. They wanted to know where he was, they wanted to have some hold on him."
Lloyd trembled, looked at Kratos with a thousand and one questions in his eyes.
"Dad fought them..." Lloyd whispered, a hope on his face that Kratos didn't understand. "Is he still..."
"I doubt it Lloyd, from what it says here he isn't. They don't know for sure, but they dubbed him as neutralized... Lloyd that normally means that they've killed someone, or done something worse to them then killing."
"Is there more?"
"Whoever your father was, he was very determined to save you both. He attacked and stormed this place, and from the records here he got both you and you mother out of here. But Kvar did something, I don't know what, he just noted that he did something to you and something to... to your Mother. He wrote that though you escaped that.. your family would be dead in a month."
"That's it then... At least I know now, I know that they loved me... Mom must have been tough to fight Kvar, and Dad must have been too... It's nice to know a little bit, but there has to be more..." Tears fell from the eyes, though a strange smile was on Lloyd's lips.
"Lloyd... there is nothing more."
"My Father… is his name..?"
"No, your Mother protected that information. Despite all of Kvar's attempts. He notes that she lied, that she tried to give him false names, all those are on record, but not the real one."
"How could you read this? It's in Angelic."
"Unlike you Lloyd, I pay attention to people when they teach, and this is not my first job for the church. Another client taught me the language. That was a long time ago, but I do study from time to time."
Lloyd managed a choked laugh, and Kratos tried to smile.
"Man, the way you keep doing stuff like this, I hate to see the bill when it comes." He turned away when Kratos muttered a few words and torched the book. Brushing the ashes from his hands the mercenary said nothing, and Lloyd turned, and saw... and saw, just for a breath, tears in the older man's brown eyes. Then the mask was back on, the mask of total control and calm.
"No charge, I do not charge my... friends. Not ever."
"I don't know if I deserve that..."
"You under sell yourself yet again. Part of me thinks that it is I who do not deserve your friendship, if that makes any sense."
"In a weird way, it does."
"Now, I have a favor to ask of you, one that might be impossible."
"OK, don't tell Genis I said this... But dwarven vow number sixty eight, your friends are your family and dwarven vow number sixty nine there are no impossible favors for friends."
"Understood," Kratos smiled, and it wasn't his normal arrogant, smug, expression, but a genuine smile. It was a smile that warmed his eyes, and Lloyd began to understand that there was a heck of a lot to the mercenary that he'd probably never get to know. "I want what happened here to remain between you and me. Colette, Raine, Sheena, Genis, not even Noishe, hear about this."
"Hear what?" Lloyd smiled. "Alright, it seems kind of weird, but if that's what you want then all right."
"Now then, just how skilled is the Mistress Raine in dealing with self destruct mechanisms?"
"Lloyd you really need to pay more attention in class!" Kratos sighed, rubbed at his temples, then grumbled. "Do you think she can blow this place up?"
"If she can't then we'll just burn it to the ground." Lloyd snarled. "I don't want this place used ever again!"
"Understood. Are you ready to move on? Colette seems up to it, but if you are not we can wait here a little while."
"No," Lloyd forced himself to stand, though his legs trembled just a little. "Let's get out of here."
Raine could do it, and she did. Lloyd stayed with her, guarded her while she set up what she called the "big one". The mercenary had seemed hesitant to let Lloyd out of his sight, hesitant to let Lloyd go back. He had pulled the Professor to the side, had had a quick adult talk with her. When Raine had come back from that talk she had been grim, and she had been very protective of Lloyd. It was strange having the professor hang around him like that. She practically breathed down his neck, and had firmly kept him from chasing some fleeing desians. The camp was empty of all it's captives, their purpose gone, and their leader dead; the Deisan solders had fallen into anarchy. They were all fighting amongst themselves for dominance. Lloyd was just glad he could keep the Professor safe. He had watched with rapt interest while she had pressed buttons and read the series of numbers and squiggles that flowed across the big monitor in the main security room. Had watched her sit down and type on a weird flat thing that had a thousand and one little buttons that she pressed in random order. Well it seemed random, she kept saying she knew what she was doing. He just had to take her word for it. Then she had said she was done, and that they had ten minuets to get out of the ranch.
They ran, a patrol of Raybits trailed after them. The small metal monsters had made a horrid bweeping sound, and had followed them out of the ranch and back to the forest. Once out of the Ranch Lloyd had started to turn, to take them down. The Professor had smacked him, told him that they weren't out of the blast range yet. They had ran, ran until the Professor was clutching at her side and gasping in pain. There was a roar behind them, Lloyd whipped around, and though the trees limited his vision he could see the fires, he could feel as the heat. The earth actually shook from the explosion.
"I...I think... we can stop... running now..." The elven woman had gasped, she slumped against a tree. Her eyes were closed, her breathing was sharp and ragged.
"All right Professor, let's take a break." He whispered, transfixed by the fires. He didn't say anything for the rest of the day, or that night either.
It was the two evenings later, two evenings preceded by two days of strained travel. Raine had demanded an explanation, and after badgering Lloyd and getting nothing she had turned to Kratos. The mercenary had only pointed the scholar to Colette, had said the experience was to raw in his mind for him to face it down. So Raine had gone to Colette, and the Chosen had promised to tell the story that night. So out on the road, headed towards Asguard, in one of the many patches of woods that dotted the region, they had set up a camp. It was by a small nameless lake, a quiet little place that seemed safe. There, after eating dinner Colette had begun to tell the story of the Ranch. Kratos had listened to Colette's explanation, had listened to and said nothing while Colette had told the whole story of what had happened in the Ranch. She had, by Kratos' request, toned down some his feats. She had been confused by this, had asked him why. He had muttered something that had sounded modest, and she had laughed, told him that his secret was safe.
The elf siblings had shuddered. Had been horrified by Kvar. Genis most of all had been shaken, and those wide tortured blue eyes made Kratos happy that the youngest of there party had not been in the final fight. Colette and Lloyd had come out hurt, they'd recover. Had it been Genis the mercenary knew that there would have been no recovery. Raine was sympathetic, had at the end of the story taken Colette for a walk so that they could talk. Genis had been too shook, too horrified, to offer any comfort to his best friend. He just sat moodily in front of the fire, his eyes lost in their own little world. Sheena had been sympathetic, had been shocked like the rest, but she had held back, hadn't felt comfortable going to anyone. She was just too new, and there had been echoes in her eyes, echoes of a lost family in her eyes. Her pain was too raw, she was too young to be able to deal with it to help anyone, not even herself. Noishe went to Lloyd, licked his master on the cheek and whimpered. Absently Lloyd scratched his dogs' ears, and then went back to staring at nothing.
"Lloyd." The boy lifted his head up, stared at the mercenary as if he'd never seen him before. Kratos was worried, the boys somewhat pale face was pasty, and his eyes were ringed in black. "I was thinking about sparing..."
Sheena lifted her head from her bowl of food. Genis whipped his head around in shock. He could read there faces, and there thoughts, for they mirrored his own. Lloyd never turned down a chance to spar, he was normally obsessed with trying to better himself by way of the blade. Something was wrong, very wrong.
"That's a shame." Kratos tried to sound disappointed. He absently toyed around with the hilt of his weapon. Whenever the boy heard that sound he'd would perk up a little. Normally that meant Kratos was going to "show off" as Colette once put it. No response, just a yawn. "I'm tired, I think I'll turn in for the night."
"Hmm, you are sharing watch with me. We decided to double up tonight just to be safe."
"Fine, wake me up when you need me."
Lloyd tossed his blankets to the dirt and lay down. Not bothering to even finish his meal, or make himself comfortable the swordsman closed his eyes. At Genis' meek "goodnight" Lloyd rolled over, turn his back to them, and curled up. He lay as far from the firelight as he could, as far from the warmth and from the others as he could manage and still be safe. Actually Lloyd had taken Kratos' spot, or rather the one that he had wanted to sleep in. Noishe whimpered, then trotted over to where Lloyd lay. Then much to Genis and Sheena's awe he picked up the blankets in his teeth and covered Lloyd's limp form, when Lloyd's dog moved to lay down the Iselian rolled away.
"Go 'way Noshy. Go."
With a hurt whine the dog padded off, went to Kratos and whimpered. Sheena shook her head, said something about joining Colette, and Genis went with her. Alone, well more or less, Noishe put his furry head down into Kratos' lap. Those liquid brown eyes were so sad, so hurt. They also had something in them, it was as if Noishe wanted to say something but couldn't. With a gloved hand Kratos scratched the dog's head, ruffled the silken fur.
"Do not worry my friend, I will get to the bottom of this. All we have to do is wait."
"Wake up!" Kratos gave the bundle of blankets a nudge with his booted foot, it grumbled and rolled over. "Lloyd Irving, wake up, now!"
"Is it time for watch?" Lloyd grumbled into his arm, his eyes were still closed. "It can't be.. not yet..." The boy squirmed away, or tried to. Annoyed with this Kratos firmly planted a boot on the boy's back, all movement stopped.
"It's close enough, now you either get up or do I have to come back with cold water?"
"Uh, when'd you turn nasty all of a sudden? I'm up I'm up geez..."
Lloyd yawned, opened his eyes. His mouth didn't close. They were alone, the others had left the second Lloyd was asleep and had moved to a different campsite. For a long moment Lloyd just looked around, confused, then his gaze snapped on Kratos. A gaze filled with accusation.
"Colette's idea, not mine."
"What? Colette, you honestly think I'm gunna believe..."
"I personally am still surprised by it, the others were not happy with the idea but she bullied all of us into going along with it."
"Colette bullied, her, like that would ever happen-"
"She cares for you, and she understands. Perhaps more then any of us give her credit for." Kratos turned from Lloyd, tossed some wood on the fire. A log broke, a fountain of sparks flew to the night sky, and were extinguished by the cool air. Kratos adjusted his sparrow tail cloak, then after a moment shrugged it off. He moved closer to the fire, kept his back to Lloyd, and waited. Shock had made the boy act more like himself, he crawled forward from his dark hiding place and joined the mercenary by the fire.
"What did she want to do with all this? She's putting the others in danger!"
"You sound a little better, a bit more like yourself. But consider how you have been acting, how you have carried yourself these last few days. Then ask that question."
"I...Damn it I don't need to talk to you or anyone else right now, I just need to be left alone, alright?"
"And we have been honoring your wishes, even though it goes against our own."
"What are you talking about? Ung forget this I'm going back to bed!"
Kratos sat, didn't move. He waited, and once Lloyd was back under the covers he left the clearing, a bucket in hand. He came back from the lake, then coolly dumped the contents of that bucket on Lloyd. The boy yelled, thrashed, and threatened to kill him. Lacking a sword, the Iselian's threats were hollow. He did try to get a punch in. The mercenary blocked the punch, then threw the boy to the flora covered earth. Lloyd looked up at him from the ground, picked himself up, wiped grass from his face and tried again to hit him. This time Kratos wasn't so gentle he wrenched the young man's hand behind him, and gave an expert twist. Lloyd yowled, cursed, and tried to break free. Lloyd was grossly over matched, and all he did was thrash in the mercenary's powerful grip. After a minute of two of this Kratos threw the Iselian to the ground, this time when Lloyd got up he didn't go after Kratos. Not with his fist anyways.
The no so perfect mask was in place, and if Lloyd had been as well as he claimed he would have seen the deep pain on the other swordsman's eyes.
"Have you had enough, or do you want more?"
The boy only continued to glare at the mercenary in mute hate.
"I honestly thought you might be maturing, that you might actually be growing up a little... It seems as if I was wrong. You are still weak Lloyd, you still have much to learn."
That made the boy flinch, but he still held onto his silence. His brown eyes filled with hate, a hate that was now mixing with pain.
"It seems as if you have forgotten your vows Lloyd. That you have forsaken both your fathers, abandoned your mother, and your friends, that you did let Kvar win after all. You still stand in his shadow, you wallow in his darkness, even after he's gone."
"What did you just say!" Lloyd jumped to his feet, another log snapped, bathing them both in the fire's blood red light. He looked ready to attack again, Kratos snorted, crossed his arms in front of his chest.
"You heard child. You heard me right. Perhaps you should go back to Iselia, you serve no purpose here."
"Wh...What! I can't go back you bastard! I was exiled, remember?"
"If you go back as you are now, no one will know. They wont recognize this beast that stands in your skin."
"You son of a..." Lloyd swung, and Kratos sidestepped the attack. He then caught the boy before he toppled into the fire. With a snarl Kratos threw the boy, and this time when Lloyd landed he did not get up.
"Are you all right?" Kratos crossed the distance between them, weary of another attack. His concern overruled his caution though. There was a quiet whimper of pain, and then Lloyd lifted a tear streaked face from the dirt.
"Just leave me alone! Haven't you done enough!" The boy gasped, clutched his left leg, then using a tree as a prop forced himself to stand. "You better consider yourself damned lucky I don't have a sword or a knife right now!"
"I am disappointed in you Lloyd. I expected better. Now if you promise not to strangle me when I get in reach I will heal your leg."
There was a moment of dead quiet, punctured only by Lloyd ragged breathing.
"I don't need your help."
"You will only slow us down when we start in the morning."
"We, oh no old man there is no we about this anymore. I don't need your help, your guidance, I'll be alright on my own."
"Do not delude yourself. You will be dead in less then an hour, the first wolf, the first rabbit, that came along could kill you with no effort."
"Whatever..." Lloyd snarled, limped to his soggy blankets, and forced himself to lie down. "Just don't be here in the morning when I wake up, I'll find Colette and the others on my own."
Kratos' eyes seemed to gleam, as if with tears... but Lloyd decided that it was just the fire light playing with his eyes. He firmly closed his eyes, and tried to sleep. He was aware of Kratos, aware of those brown eyes boring into his back. It seemed as if he wanted to say something, then with a snarl the mercenary stormed off. His normally calm, cool voice, was shaking as he walked into the night. He was cursing loudly in what sounded like the Angelic language.
The dream came again, it had only been coming since after the Ranch. It was a dark dream, one that felt familiar but distant. Intimate, yet ultimately remote. He was crying, he couldn't stop, he heard a voice, one so familiar, so loved. Daddy was talking, he sounded scared, and even though he kept his voice under control he could tell that daddy was scared. He was in Daddy's arms, he could smell the leather of his armor, of sweat, and steel, he could feel the slight trembles rack his Father. Daddy was scared. He was scared too. "Where's your mother Lloyd?" "I dunno." Tears, he couldn't stop crying. Daddy picked him up, held him and he could see something shiny over Daddy's shoulder. He tugged on it, it was so pretty, he wanted to hold it. His hands came back wet and sticky. They came back covered in red. "Daddy boo-boo." "I'm alright, it's not bad, now where is Mommy, you have to tell me Lloyd, please..." Daddy was shaking, there were tears in his dark eyes. "Monsta..." Lloyd shook in his fathers grasp. "Monsta ate Momma..." Lloyd was crying. He could still see it, see the claws rip out of his Mother's flesh, could see how her skin turned a horrd sick green. He screamed as she screamed, wailed as she writhed on the forest floor. Her face twisting, melting, becoming a monsters'. How she had cried out in that horrid wet voice to run.
"Dad, don't please! Mom, it's Mom! Don't hurt Mom, don't! She wasn't bad, I was, I was bad! I didn't do what He wanted, Dad please don't-"
Kratos couldn't take it, he abandoned the food he was cooking for breakfast. Lloyd sounded like he was being tortured, to those screams he could do nothing but respond. He ran to the boy, grabbed him, shook him so hard that his whole body jerked. Never had he seen a nightmare this bad. Never had he heard someone actually scream in there sleep before. Lloyd fell quiet, went limp, and wept through closed eyes. Then after a sob opened them, looked at Kratos for a long moment. It took a long moment for comprehension to come back into those eyes, for a level of understanding. At last recognition came, the boy rolled away from him. Or rather he tried, Kratos' primitive cast kept him from going far. The mercenary stood, and then took a step back. Lloyd whimpered, stared at the pre-dawn world with distant eyes.
"Dad, mom, I'm sorry." Lloyd closed his eyes, his nostrils flared and he cracked one eye open. "Your food..." Lloyd forced down a sob. "It's burning..."
Taking the hint Kratos backed off, gave the boy some privacy. It was a long time before Lloyd crawled out of his nest of blankets, no not his blankets he came to realize, but Kratos'. Sometime during the darkest hours the mercenary had eased Lloyd out of the wet blankets and set him up in the dry. He had also set the boy's leg in a cast, black fabric, remains of a shirt had been used. Only Kratos wore black, Colette claimed it was an unholy color, Raine said it was bad luck, Genis just loved blue, and Sheena wore her strange purple ninja clothes. With obvious pain in his expression, old tears marks running down his face, and red sleepless eyes Lloyd joined the mercenary. He took the shaved bark slab that had been left for him, and gingerly picked off what he hoped was rabbit slivers.
"You always have it this rough at night?" Kratos managed at last, he had wanted to talk before, but kept his peace while Lloyd ate the light breakfast. His dark eyes, or rather the one that he could see past the wild red-brown bangs, was worried. When Lloyd didn't respond, and only looked away and continued to remain silent for several minuets Kratos' face twisted in a horrible expression of anger. Never had Lloyd seen Kratos angry, well rather angry at him... Kratos' eyebrows snapped together, his eyes narrowed, and the normally still mouth curled back slightly in a mute snarl. "Damn it! I am trying to help you, grow up a little and stop dragging your God damned feet like a two year old when I ask you something personal. If you don't want my help be damned well man enough to say so!"
"I...I think Kvar did something to me..."
Concern covered the anger, Kratos sat. He kept his distance, the dieing fire was between them, but he was close enough that if Lloyd really needed him that he could be there. For a long moment the young swordsman looked into the fire, gathered his thoughts and strength.
"I..I remember a little now… about Mom and Dad... Mom was sick, Dad kept asking me where she was, but I couldn't tell him. I didn't know, except I did. Somehow she was a monster; she became this monster with horrible claws. She was holding me, and the claws; the claws came out and hurt me... She... she told me to run." Lloyd whipped his eyes, forced himself not to cry. "Then she started screaming, and this monster clawed it's way out of her." His face was trembling, he was trembling. "Ever since we left that... that place I've been having bits and pieces of that playing in my head. At first it was at night, it was just a nightmare, and I could kind of not think about it, you know? But... but the next day I couldn't stop thinking about it. I started seeing it in my head, like a picture. I couldn't stop seeing it, it's all I could think about..."
"Lloyd, why did you not tell us about..."
"I'm a burden Kratos, I'm weak, I shouldn't be here. You're right about that." Lloyd closed his eyes, shuddered. "I… I didn't want to be weak, I didn't want to slow everyone down, but in the end that's all I seem to do."
"That's not true." Startled Lloyd looked up, to see a raw agony in the mercenary's face. Normally guarded, shielded, so that none could read him, all that was gone. And for one moment Lloyd could see everything, every bit of remorse, grief, sin, it was on the man's face. A blanket of agony that gnawed at him. Stole his will to live. Shaken Lloyd drew back, and the mask snapped back on. The moment had passed, and there was nothing to read. "I spoke in haste last night, I was angry, I tried to provoke you in hopes of getting you to open up a little."
"The.. The way you were going I'm just happy we didn't have swords... Or I think I'd have been opened up..." He rubbed at his leg and Kratos grimaced.
"I healed it as much as I could.. but I am not very skilled in dealing with broken bones. Hopefully all it is now is a sprain, but I am not too sure."
"Yeah, well thanks... The professor always said I need someone to knock a little sense into me." Lloyd wiped at his face. "Just… try not to be so rough next time, alright?"
Kratos said nothing only looked away.
"Heh," Lloyd smirked, the opportunity was too golden. "Stop acting like a little kid Kratos, grow up and tell me what's bothering you."
Kratos looked at him then, and blinked at Lloyds teasing tone.
"You've forgiven me, just like that?"
"I don't hold grudges." Lloyd moved to get up; Kratos got up and helped him to his feet. "They waste time. Goddess, that hurts! Man Noishe isn't going to like this one bit! If he doesn't bite you I'll owe myself twenty gald..."
"I think I deserve to be bitten by your dog at the very least."
"You don't," Lloyd wrapped an arm around the mercenary, and using Kratos' as a prop managed to hobble across the clearing. "I started it because I was being stupid." They paused and Lloyd carried what little he could in his packs, Kratos shouldered the rest of it without a complaint. "I just want one tough... nah three tough favors out of you."
"Dwarven vow number sixty nine." Kratos muttered, absently kicking a sizable rock out of their path.
"No, not you too! Don't ever ever use those around me, it was bad enough having to recite them before dinner and bed every single night until I turned thirteen!"
"What do you need Lloyd, what are your favors?"
"Well first off I want to learn how you did that cool arm grab thing! And you so owe me a sparing mach when we get to Asgard!" Kratos turned his head and smiled a little bit, when he turned back to Lloyd and saw the wicked glimmer in the boys eyes Kratos' smile left him. "And if the Professor spanks you, or kicks you, after you tell her what happened last night, I get to watch!"
"Come on, we need to tell her anyways to stop... to make it stop. So she's gunna hear a little about it. You know her, she's gunna be mad. If you do it I'll say we are totally even for the leg thing. How's that for a trade?"
Gritting his teeth Kratos snarled an oath out in the Angelic language. Lloyd began to whine, to beg, and to those far too wide eyes Kratos gave in. When he did, for just a moment he thought he tasted a bit of winter in the air. But it was only for a breath, and Lloyd gasped out in pain as he accidentally hit his leg against a root. Concerned Kratos tended the boy, cast a spell to numb the pain, and when he thought to ask Lloyd if he had sensed anything too much time had passed. It just didn't feel right. So he kept his secret, this new strange one out of so many, and for the rest of the walk wondered.