I am rubbish at updating!!!! _ I'm very sorry to anyone reading this… And I complain that the reviews of my stories have dried up? *Hypocrisy*

Anyway, thank you to anyone who is still reading thus far in my terribly fragmented story, I'm very grateful _'. Please feel free to leave a review. *sweet smile*

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Chapter 8: Progressive Digression

The echoes faded, and a numb silence enfolded the dank corridor. The sooty, guttering torches had burned lower, dancing humbly as they looked toward a freeze frame of victory.

Clive was panting, his teeth gritted, sweat trickling down his brow. Serina stood motionless; a marble carving of a shocked queen. Calintz was beside her, his head bowed and grey eyes closed in a gesture of reverence. Orha was deathly pale, his lips set in a grim line. Haren twisted and turned frantically, searching for some vestige of Tazma or his familiar, his scuffling shattering the dreamlike silence as he pivoted to and fro in anxiety. Oblivion to each other was apparent, for the moment, at least until they were all sure what had just happened.

Serina, surprisingly, was the first to recover as her new found maternal instincts took effect. She rushed over to Clive, a worried expression on her face.

'Clive! Are you alright...Oh. That looks bad…'

She paused, a faraway look in her eyes as she sensed out the atmosphere.

'Argh! There's no water or ice Chi in here. We'll have to get you outside before I can heal you…'

The ex-cleric nodded, his face very white, breath coming in sharp gasps.

'Come on.' Serina kindly helped him up, and placed his uninjured arm around her shoulders to support his shaking body.

Calintz had been roused by his wife's concerned shout. He watched vaguely through half opened eyes as Serina walked to Clive and attempted to heal him. Calintz knew he should help, at least open his mouth and unleash some comforting words, but his mouth wouldn't move, nor his legs.

It was only when Serina helped Clive up, supported his trembling body so tenderly, was he finally roused. He felt an irrational and inappropriate pang of jealousy; it was only because Clive was injured that Serina held him so closely. Of course it was. The pale haired man blinked and called after his wife:

'Hold on a minute!'

The words he was about to say fizzled out on the tip of his tongue, and instead he channelled some celestial Chi into the torches to cast some more light on the dim corridor.

'There. But we need Clive's keys to release the prisoners.'

'Right' Serina leant over and gingerly plucked the bunch of grimy keys fro Clive's belt, and tossed them to her husband.

'I'll meet you outside.'

Calintz nodded once, and glanced at his two remaining comrades. Orha had sheathed his daggers and was looking pensive. Haren was somehow managing to look both quizzical and embarrassed at the same time.

'Damn…I've done some stupid things in my time, but I think joining the Holy Order of Eryu was one of the stupidest.' He growled.

Orha muttered to himself, obviously completely impervious to Haren's statement:

'When a being's Vindi is destroyed, they lose control of all their Chi, and that includes familiars. How did Clive know that?'

Calintz frowned and broke the reverie by jingling the keys.

'We can think about that after we free these Yason.'

He pushed one of the keys into the cell door nearest to him and turned it. It unlocked with difficulty, letting out a grating screech as it swung open. A rancid stench made Calintz's stomach turn as he stepped inside, and he peered round the gloom, half fearing what he might find.

A Yason woman lay inside, with her back facing him. Her dirty blonde hair was tangled and matted with grime and dried blood, and her torn clothes were dyed black with unspeakable filth. She rolled over weakly to face him, a silent plea in her terrified, bloodshot eyes.

'It's alright' Calintz whispered. 'We're here to get you out.'

Her cracked lips moved slightly in an effort to speak, and she winced.

'Here.' Calintz extended a hand. The woman reached feebly up and took it, her own hands icy cold. He pulled her to her feet, holding her steady.

'Where are you from?' he asked, knowing the urgency of this information, yet not wanting her to answer; she seemed to have forgotten what it was like to speak. She opened her mouth experimentally, and gave a croak. Frowning, she tried again.

'Y-Yason-Roven. E-Ep-pentar.' She gasped. Calintz gave an encouraging smile.

'You'll be back there in no time.'

'Bu-but the w-war. You-You're a human.'

'The war is over.' He stared incredulously. 'How long have you been in here?'

The woman drew in a few breaths of fresh air as she struggled to remember.

'Queen Amila. The Forbidden Magic had just…She had used the Magna Carta to defend Yason-Roven not a week before I was captured.'

A grim inner intensity flowed across Calintz's face into his dark eyes that glittered with passion. 'At least two years then' He muttered quietly to himself, giving a nod.

'Haren. Orha. These people aren't going to have the strength to get back to Yason-Roven on their own. We'll need to take them to Amabat to get them treated by Mistress Ladrinne.'

A horrified gasp from behind made Calintz turn his head in alarm. Orha had entered the cell, his glowing eyes brimming with tears of rage.

'I had some expectation of what we would find,' he choked. 'But this- if I'd known, I would have killed Tazma myself!'

The Yason girl, overcome by all the attention, began to cry softly, small sobs racking her frail body. Orha stepped forward and gently took one of her hands, a strange look in his eyes.

'It's alright, Iola.' He whispered. 'You'll be safe now.'

They led her slowly out of the cell, her eyes still shining with tears. Orha, still holding Iola's hand, turned to Calintz.

'I'll take her outside. Perhaps Serina can heal her a little.'

The girl gave another strangled sob and followed the steward of Yason-Roven up the corridor.

'Hey.' Haren was peering through the bars of a cell. 'There seems to be a human in here.'

Calintz strode briskly over, alert with curiosity.

'Here are the keys. Let's take a look.'

Haren stuffed a key roughly in the lock and tried to turn it. After a minute or so of exaggerated grunting and struggling, he steeped back, sweat beading on his brow. Calintz watched coolly, his mouth twisted into an ironic smile.

'You do know that's the wrong one, don't you?'

Haren gaped as Calintz casually pulled the keys from the lock, selected an old, rusty one, pushed it into the lock and turned. It swung open relatively easily, and Calintz grinned when he saw the fuming expression on his friend's face.

'Well, come on.'

This cell was smaller than the ones that Calintz had previously seen, but with the unforgivable luxury of a small window near the roof. Damp straw was piled in one corner, and a wooden bench lay along the right hand wall. On this bench sat the inhabitant; a well-built man with a once-handsome face of around, Calintz guessed, fifty or so. He raised his hand as they entered, deep brown eyes glittering with life. He wasn't in as miserable a condition as Iola, though his greying hair contained streaks of pure white, and there were dark shadows under his eyes.

'Hey, get up.' Haren strode presumptuously over to the aging man, hands on hips. Calintz, however, hung back and gazed at the man with an expression of perplexity on his face. Where had he seen this person before?

'What's your name?' Haren interrogated.

The prisoner rose to his feet, fixing the ex-cleric with a level, pitying gaze.

'Anthony.' He croaked. 'Anthony Abel is what some call me, though I have been known by other names as well.'

'Raul?' Calintz gasped incredulously.

Anthony frowned as if deep in thought. 'Yes…That was the name I last went by, when I was with the Tears of Blood. Neikan put me in here after I tried to save its leader's life. Calintz, I think he was called…'

He trailed off, staring hard at the pale haired man standing before him.

'No…It can't be…' A slow smile illuminated his face. 'Calintz?'

'Good to see you again, Raul.' Calintz grinned. 'And thank you, by the way.'

'Where's Neikan?'

'Dead, hopefully.'

Raul gave a sigh of relief. 'Now I can rest in peace.'

Haren scowled. 'Don't talk like that, old man. You're not so old.'

The aging man gave a low rumble of laughter.

'Now, Haren. You have to remember the Celestial Shard kept me young. I'm nearly eighty!'

'That's not old.' Haren argued sulkily, trying to cover his embarrassment at having been so rude. Raul chuckled again.

'Come on, let's get out of here.' Calintz murmured. 'I'll explain everything later.'

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Well, well, well. The plot thickens! Tune in next time for an explanation of these befuddling events! (Yes, there are more chapters to come ). Pleasepleaseplease review! I haven't updated in ages, I know, but equally, I haven't obtained any reviews recently either. Even if it's just to tell me you enjoyed/didn't enjoy it. Thank you!!