Jarlaxle had also noticed the lack of living creatures as they had traveled towards the city. Did this war leave no survivors? It seemed unlikely, but this war was different from any other wars he had seen. "Perhaps they have left the city." He suggested.
Artemis didn't answer as he scanned the rubble. If there were no survivors it would be difficult to find food. He hoped that his dark elf companion had something useful in his bag of tricks. He halted his horse in front of one of the arched windows and looked towards Jarlaxle. "Take her."
The elf arched a white brow at the command, but complied. He dismounted and tethered his horse before reaching for Anna. His companion was remarkably careful as he passed the injured girl over. The drow wondered what had caused the change in the assassin's attitude towards her. It had to more than the fact that she was injured while trying to aid him. Though he was sure that his dour companion was not used to having someone worry enough about him to sustain an injury in his stead.
Artemis waited until the drow had a grip on Anna before swinging his leg over the saddle and dismounting. Looping the horse's reins around one of the stone blocks he tilted his head back to study the graceful arch of the window. Deep cracks ran through the entire structure. "The building may not be sound." He said, as he gripped the edge of the window and vaulted inside.
Jarlaxle lowered Anna to the ground. What was it about this small girl that affected people so? He brushed the chin length hair away from her face. Her skin was a sickly shade of gray. He pulled out a small crystal ball that had healing properties. Hairline cracks ran through the crystal. He turned it over in his hand, wondering when the damage had occurred and if he could fix it. He held it over her. He could feel it trying to heal her, but the magic was dramatically weakened. Her color improved a little and her eyes fluttered open.
"Anna." He called. Turning her face towards him she tried to focus on his face and then her eyes went wide with pain and she cried out. The color fled from her face again, leaving it looking even worse than it had before. He held the crystal ball above her. The healing energy leaked slowly into her, but it wasn't working quickly enough to dull the pain.
White hot agony burned through Anna's shoulder. Everything but the pain was pushed from her mind. Distantly she heard someone call her name. It didn't matter. The only thing that mattered was the fire consuming her. She heard a cry wracked with pain and wondered who it was. It was her. Unbelievably, the pain became more intense. She gritted her teeth against it. No good. Just when she thought she couldn't bear it any more everything went dark. She fell into blissful oblivion.
Jarlaxle continued to hold the crystal ball above her. It was healing her, but far slower than it should. It would be some time before she was whole again. Mercifully she had fallen unconscious. There wasn't anything he could do about the pain. He lifted the corner of the bandage on her shoulder. The flesh was severely blistered, but the wound looked as if it had closed. The healing energy of the crystal ball was quickly depleting. Knowing there wasn't anything further he could do for her at the moment he put the crystal ball back in his cloak.
The assassin gingerly set his foot on the cracked floor. When it didn't give way he gradually shifted his weight. Walking across the marble floor he took stock of his surroundings. Life sized statues of strangely dressed men looked down on him as he made his way across the room. Carved wooden doors dangled from their hinges, revealing a pile of chairs in the next room. A slight movement caught his attention. Melting into the shadows he crept silently forward, his hands resting on his weapons. Peering around the huge wooden doors he saw two soldiers going through the rubble. Their uniforms looked different from the soldiers that had assisted them earlier. The assassin drew his sword and dagger as he closed in on them. Coming in low he dragged his sword across the stomach of one while slicing open the neck of the other in one swift move. The men were dead before they hit the floor. Wiping his blades on one of the men's uniform the assassin worked his way through the building.
Jarlaxle looked up as the assassin leaped from the window and landed beside him. "It's sound enough." Artemis said shortly. "The third floor has the best defensive capabilities."
"You encountered survivors." The dark elf surmised.
"Looters." The assassin confirmed.
Jarlaxle's lips stretched into a smile as he picked up Anna. He had no doubt that the assassin had efficiently dispatched all threats. Using his innate abilities he levitated to the third story window and stepped into the building. His smile turned into a laugh when he found the assassin waiting for him. Setting Anna on a low table that sat against one wall, he turned to find Artemis standing beside him. "We will need to find water." From what Anna had told him all the creeks and rivers had been poisoned by the war.
The assassin scowled and stared out the window. "Why would she want to come back to this place?" He wondered.
"An excellent question." Jarlaxle said, as he walked around the room looking at the life sized sculptures that watched them out of empty eyes. "I wonder what this place was used for." The drow mused, studying one of the statues.
"Who cares." The assassin said, as he leaned his hands against the window sill and looked out over the remains of the city. "We need to get back."
The elf retrieved the puzzle box and bracelet. The assassin moved to his side as he picked up Anna's hand, placed the bracelet on her and then fitted it into the puzzle box. Nothing. The drow frowned and checked to make sure that the disk was fitted properly. Nothing. "Apparently our journey here has not come to an end yet." He said, placing the items back in his cloak.
"That's just perfect." The assassin growled. He glared at the drow. "What are you so happy about?" The dark elf was grinning.
"Come, Artemis! Where is your sense of adventure?" Jarlaxle laughed and was rewarded with another scowl from the assassin. Without a word Artemis walked out of the room, leaving the drow alone with Anna.
Picking up a chair from the pile the dark elf set it beside Anna's table. Dropping into the chair he propped his feet up on the end of the table and pondered their next move. The sound of voices interrupted the elf's thoughts. He moved silently to the side of the window and peered out. An old woman driving a cart was animatedly talking to a boy sitting beside her. They were the first people the drow had seen besides the soldiers. He leaned forward to get a better look and noticed the assassin crouched in the ruins directly across from him. The cart bounced as it rolled over some debris that littered the ground. Its wheel caught in a deep rut. The old woman clicked her tongue at the nag who was pulling the cart, urging it forward. It was no use. They were stuck.
"I told you we should have gone the other way." The boy griped, shoving a mop of shaggy blond hair out of his eyes. He jumped to the ground and walked around to the back. Leaning against the bed of the cart he dug his feet into the dirt and pushed.
"Stop your complaining, Bovier." The old woman chided, slapping the reins against the horse's back. The cart rocked back and forth as the boy strained against i. "It's no good. We're stuck." The boy grumbled, as he wiped his forehead.
"If you would quit complaining and start pushing we wouldn't be stuck." The old woman shot back. She looked back curiously when Bovier didn't reply. Few things stopped her grandson from talking. That's when she saw the man walking out from behind some rubble. "Bovier, get back into the cart." She hissed, nervously watching the newcomer. There was something about him that she did not like.
"Well met." The man greeted them as Bovier scrambled into the cart to sit beside her. The old woman's knuckles turned white as she tightly clutched the reins. It was a strange greeting. "Good afternoon." She responded. Beside her, Bovier stared in fascination. The boy's eyes widened as the sun glinted off the jeweled weapons strapped to the man's hip.
The man's cold eyes gave the old woman chills. Gripping her grandson's hand to let him know to remain silent, she said. "Please allow us to pass, good sir. We have no valuables, only some food."
The man moved closer, causing the old woman to swallow nervously. He was a handsome man with short raven hair and a neatly trimmed goatee, but that only made him look more dangerous. Though he hadn't made any threatening gestures the old woman couldn't shake the feeling of dread that had taken hold of her.
"You carry food?" The man asked, glancing to the baskets sitting in the back of the cart. The old woman nodded. "And some medical supplies for the boys at the hospital." She replied. The man's cold gaze moved back to her. "My friend is injured and could use your help." He told her.
"Take what you need." The old woman said. "We don't want any trouble." The boy opened his mouth to say something, but a sharp pinch from the old woman effectively silenced him.
"Aid my friend and I will see to your cart." The man replied. The old woman clenched the reins tightly. This man was dangerous. She could feel it in her bones. What should she do? She looked at him warily. "Where is your friend?" She finally asked. The man pointed to the church. "Bovier, you stay in the cart and don't you move." She told her grandson. Walking to the back of the cart she picked up the basket with the medical supplies and followed the man into what remained of the church. He led her to the third floor and indicated that she was to enter. Glancing up at him nervously she edged into the room and then gasped in shock.
Behind her Artemis met the red eyes of the drow. Jarlaxle grinned and moved to greet the old woman. Sweeping the huge hat from his head he swept her a deep bow. "Jarlaxle of Bregan D'aerthe, at your service." He said. The old woman's eyes nearly popped from her head as they traveled from his pointed ears, lined with golden hoops, to the unnatural blackness of his skin and then came to an abrupt halt at his gleaming red eyes. Her mouth opened and closed a few times before she fell into a dead faint.
"Couldn't you have waited?" The assassin asked sarcastically.
The drow shrugged and grinned as he crouched beside the old woman. Glancing towards the door, he said. "It would appear that we have a guest." At the sound of Jarlaxle's voice the boy who had been watching them from behind the door ducked out of sight. He started to creep backwards, only to find that the assassin was standing behind him. Grabbing the boy by the scruff of the neck Artemis dragged him into the room.
"What were you doing?" The assassin growled, giving the boy a shake. With a quick movement the boy slid out of his jacket and out of the man's grip. A sly smile lit his tanned face as he jumped to his feet and darted for the door. The sly smile abruptly disappeared as the man grabbed him by the nape of the neck and slammed him against the floor. "Ow!" The boy yelped, twisting around to look at the man. "Hey! Take it easy!" The man leaned close and bared his teeth. Bovier's eyes widened in alarm. "I'm just a kid, ya know."
"What's your name, boy." The drow asked. The boy looked away from the assassin to answer the other man. His mouth dropped open as his bright blue eyes rounded. The elf flashed a smile and tipped his hat.
"Bovier." The boy answered. His eyes darted from the elf's black pointed ears, to his huge purple hat, to his thigh-high leather boots and red cut-off vest. He couldn't figure out what to look at first. "What'd you do to my gram?" He asked, staring at the wide variety of jewelry adorning the drow.
"I do believe she was overcome." The elf said, looking at the old woman. He patted her cheek. "Come now, this won't do." The old woman stirred and blinked as she came to. Her faded gray eyes gradually focused on the elf bending over her.
"Gram! Are you alright?" Bovier called, pulling against the assassin's grip on his collar. The sound of the boy's voice brought the old woman to her senses.
"Please! Don't hurt Bovier! He's just a boy." The old woman cried. The assassin smiled hatefully and snarled. "If you want your grandson to remain unharmed then you will stop your wailing and tend to our companion." The old woman nodded and got shakily to her feet. Picking up the basket she walked over to where Anna lay on the table. Setting the supplies on the table she turned to her patient and gasped. "Anna?! What are you doing here?" She whispered, brushing the dark hair off the girl's forehead.
"Was there somewhere else we should have taken her?" The drow's musical voice coming from directly behind her caused the old woman to jump and spin around.
"What have you done to her?!" The old woman demanded, swallowing her fear. Jarlaxle gave her a wounded look. "My good woman, surely you don't think we are responsible?" She gave him a hard stare and asked. "Then what happened?"
The drow glanced at Anna. "I honestly don't know."
Turning her attention back to Anna the old woman lifted the bandage and then sucked in a startled breath. "She's been shot!" She turned to glare at the drow. Jarlaxle returned her glare with a helpless shrug. "I know not." He said.
"You poor child." The old woman shook her head and reached into the basket, pulling out some fresh bandages.
"You can let me go now." The boy glanced up at his captor and whispered. "Please?"
Author's Note: Hmmm…I have a few new characters. What do you think?
Sonra: Hehehe, I am a nerd and you are now at my nerdish mercy.
General Zargon: I will explain the burning tent soon, there is a reason for all I do. Okay, sometimes there is a reason for what I do, other times…I just can't help myself.
Sushi-san85: I was actually trying to figure out another word for trench, but when I was researching WW1 that was the only way they talked about it. Ugh…thankfully they are away from the trenches!
Yulandia: A drow in a church. I was wondering if that would make anyone laugh.
AbbieNormal1: Hey! I'm to hear from you! I'm glad you liked the last chapter I had so much fun writing it! I just love mayhem.