2. Unexpected Reunion
The chirping of birds was the first of what Jizabel heard. He felt the smooth, soft grass shifting underneath his sore body as he tried to move. He opened his eyes temporarily, only to close them because of the warm beams of light shining directly at his face. He tried to move again, let out a silent groan of pain, and rolled to one side before opening his eyes and slowly getting into a sitting position.
What had happened before he fell unconscious again?
Right. The avalanche. Before that? Fighting Cain.
Jizabel looked around, before his eyes rested on the still form of a black-haired teen with his armor bearing the symbols of the Eagletoren. Slowly, carefully, he crawled over to Cain and nudged his shoulder a little bit.
The younger brother stirred, blinking his eyes silently before his head turned towads Jizabel. "J-Jizabel?" he spoke tiredly. Jizabel nodded quietly in response. "Where are we?" he asked, temporarily closing his eyes and taking a deep breath.
"I don't know." Jizabel responded, helping Cain sit up. "The avalanche must have carried us all the way down here...somehow." the two looked around. "I don't think we're going to be seeing any other of the soldiers anytime soon."
"I doubt that as well." Cain responded, the two helping each other stand. It was only then that they realized something was wrong. "Our weapons! Shoot..." Cain let out a curse. "They must have gotten lost in the avalanche; we're unarmed!"
Jizabel took the opportunity to face-palm himself. "We have to find help...somewhere. Somehow. He looked down at his beaten up armor. "I don't think anyone is going to trust us, considering we have the whole uniform of both the Eagletoren and the Serpentine on."
Cain tore off the iron chestplate that he had been wearing. "At least we can use these as shields." he spoke up. "We're not completely unarmed; it's just that we can't fight."
"...Right." Jizabel sighed as Cain helped him remove his chestplate. "You have a point there. At the very least, we have some form of defense..." and he picked up a nearby branch. "And these are our swords." he joked. "Just like the old times...right?"
Cain nodded quietly, a small smile on his face. The two were thankful that they were alone; that they could just simply talk with each other like this. They hadn't talked like this ever since they were forced to choose sides, just over six months ago. Despite the war going on, they were still close and that was what mattered to them. Neither one of them wanted the other to die.
The quiet moment was cut off with a sudden snap of a branch. The two looked around, going back to back against each other as they searched for where the noise had came from. And then, without warning, a black blur leapt at them. Jizabel instinctively went in front of Cain, holding his makeshift shield high. The creature landed on the shield, somehow kicking it aside as it tackled Jizabel to the ground.
Jizabel closed his eyes in pain as he hit the grassy ground. He opened them to stare into a pair of dark amber eyes, accompanied by black fur and sharp, white teeth.
"Stay back!" Jizabel did his best to shout to Cain. "Stay back! I can...I can handle this..." he looked into the pair of dark amber eyes, feeling the wolf's hot breath on his face. He didn't say anything, and he slowly, carefully, moved his right arm, trying not to brush against the wolf's foreleg, before cautiously patting the wolf's head and stroking its fur. The wolf let out a whimper as Jizabel slowly got into a sitting position and continued petting it. Jizabel smiled a little. "We won't hurt you, it's alright..."
Cain grinned. Jizabel had always been good with the animals.
It's funny that you don't recognize me. Jizabel and Cain both froze when a deep voice suddenly echoed out of nowhere. Then again, I'm not even in my normal, human form, so of course you wouldn't, Jizabel. Forgive me for attacking you. The wolf backed up a few paces before it glowed quietly. The wolf slowly lost its tail, the face becoming more human-like as the fur dissapeared, and soon the two found themselves looking at a man, with dark brown hair that almost went to his shoulders. He wore a loose, light brown shirt with black trousers and shoes. Sunlight from above made the silver blade in his hand glimmer, and a bow and a pack of arrows hung from his shoulder.
"Cassandra Gladstone?" Cain asked, completely surprised. "How...what in the world..." he didn't know what to say.
"Where were you for the past eight months!?" Jizabel exclaimed. "You didn't return from your hunting trip...Cain and I thought that you were dead."
"Well..." Cassandra paused for a moment. "I suppose you could say that. I did techincally die eight months ago. A friend brought me back..." he smiled a little bit. "I'll explain later." Before anyone else could speak, a young boy leapt out of nowhere and tackled Cassandra to the ground. "Hey! That's not fair; I was talking with old acquaintances!" he protested, wrestling with the boy briefly before he let himself stop struggling. "Okay, okay you win! I'll let you and Maryweather up on the roof tonight so we can watch the stars from there, alright?"
The boy grinned before getting off the older man before helping him up. The boy had ash-blond hair and slightly tan skin. He wore a simple white shirt with brown trousers. "That's what you get for letting your guard down, Cassandra." he told the older man before looking towards some bushes. "Mary! I got Cassandra! We get to go on the roof tonight!"
"Yay! Victory is ours!" a girl's voice giggled from the bushes before she walked into the clearing. She had long, golden-blonde hair and light blue eyes. She wore a frilled, white dress and black shoes. She looked at Cain and Jizabel curiously. "Cassandra, who are these guys?"
"Maryweather, Leroy, these are some of my old accquaintances; Cain and Jizabel." Cassandra introduced. "Cain, Jizabel, these are my friends; Maryweather and Leroy."
"Nice to meet you, I guess." Leroy spoke up. He then looked at the makeshift shields. "You guys aren't...going to try to do any harm, are you?"
Jizabel and Cain were both confused, until they remembered they still had the armor with them. "No..." Jizabel trailed off, shaking his head. "We wouldn't do anything like that!"
"How did you two end up here, anyway?" Maryweather asked.
"Avalanche." Cain responded quickly. "The Serpentine and the Eagletoren were fighting up on the mountains when a dragon came by and an avalanche suddenly started. We didn't have enough time to flee..." he glanced at the mountain, miles away from them. "I hope Riff's alright..."
Cassian. Jizabel thought to himself. Did he make it out of the avalanche?
"You guys look exhausted." Cassandra remarked. "Perhaps it would be best if you two stayed over at Justice's mansion. I'm sure she wouldn't mind guests."
Jizabel nodded. "I think that would be a good idea. Thank you." he responded, before the five started heading out of the clearing...until Cassandra suddenly stopped in his tracks. Everyone else was confused. What was going on?
"Stay. Here." Cassandra rasped quietly, before changing back into his wolfish form and dashing off into the bushes.
"Don't tell me we're lost..." Cassian groaned as he and Riff looked around.
"Yes, we are." Riff repeated, the silver-haired man sheathing his sword as he spoke. "Look, if we're going to find Jizabel and Cain, we have to recover from that avalanche and the journey down the mountain first."
"And...where exactly are we going to recover? I doubt any of the villagers are going to take us in, considering what sides we're on. They're going to assume we've been trying to kill each other or something!" the raven-haired 'boy' ('boy' in quotation marks because during the journey down the mountain, Riff had discovered Cassian was actually thirty-five years of age despite his boyish appearance) responded. "How the heck are people going to try to help us with the symbols we bear?"
Before Riff could respond, the two heard a growl from the bushes. On instinct, both soldiers took out their swords, anticipating whatever could be trying to sneak up on them.
And then without warning, a wolf leapt at them, snapping its teeth and growling ferociously. The other two dove out of the way, before getting up. Cassian tried to pick up his sword, but the wolf then pinned him down, knocking the sword out of the way and baring its teeth. Riff got up, grabbing his sword and about to charge at the beast when-
"TAKE THIS YOU BEAST!" The wolf let out a howl of pain as it was knocked out of the way by a flurry of flames. Cassian scrambled to his feet, picking up his sword as a tall man with dark brown hair ran into the clearing. His black cloak obscured most of his body from the shoulders down, but the 'boy' noticed the scars on the man's face and arms. It was obvious that this person had fought in many battles before. "Get outta here!" he shouted as the wolf fled. "Go on, keep running!" he sighed quietly before he turned to the two. "It's not safe here. What are you both doing wandering about-" he stopped short when he saw the armor. He stared, confused. "Perhaps I shouldn't have saved you two." he muttered quietly.
"Sir, you see..." Riff paused for a moment before speaking again. "We're deserters. Cassian and I have left the Eagletoren and the Serpentine...we have to find some of our friends, sir."
The man eyed the two carefully. "Deserters." he repeated. "You're not the only ones who have deserted the armies. I myself deserted the Serpentine two nights after I was dragged to their headquarters. A deserter of the armies is welcome at my house." he paused for a moment before adding, "Although if you two do lie, I will not hesitate to kill you." he emphasized this by revealing a dagger hidden in his cloak. "Agreed?"
"Agreed." Cassian spoke. "And your name is?"
The man hesitated before he spoke. "They call me Grifford."
"Cassandra?" Maryweather asked as the wolf stumbled out of the bushes, before changing back to his normal human form. "Oh...gosh...what happened to you!?" she exclaimed, running over to him. "You've got a burn..."
"Ugh..." Cassandra cringed as he touched his left arm briefly, getting up. "I got hit with fire magic. I had no choice but to flee...the people I saw was a tall man with silvery hair and a shorter boy with dark hair. And then the guy that shot me with the fire magic wore a black cloak that obscured most of his body..."
Cassian? Jizabel thought to himself. Does that mean Cassian made it out? Is it him?
"Come on, we better get to Justice's place soon..." Leroy trailed off, pointing towards the east. "Follow me."