This story is a sequel. I recommend to read the following first: Zikel's Pride.
All around her was nothing but snow. And ice. She felt cold. And fear. She couldn't see clearly, everything was blur. But in an instant the fear and cold disappeared. Her heart raced. Someone's lips touched hers.
She woke up.
At the first moment she couldn't recognize the place where she was sleeping.
„May, are you okay?" a silver-haired, dark-skinned woman asked her.
„Uh, I guess so," she replied.
„Did you have the bad dream again?"
„It was different this time," she paused to recollect the last moments of her dream. „Someone was there and he... kissed me," she blushed and cast her gaze to her blanket.
„Who was that?"
„I don't know, I felt... it was... I had a feeling I knew him, but I can't remember," May's face saddened.
„You will remember when the right time comes, don't worry," the woman smiled and sat on her bed.
„You don't understand it, Syll, do you? It's not like I got drunk and forgot what I've been doing! I don't even know who I am," she sobbed. „And I'm here for three months already and still nothing. Only those dreams filled with images and feelings. And no one misses me. I've either done something really bad or I just didn't exist!"
„Don't say that, you're such a kind person, you couldn't do anything bad," Syll tried to calm her down. „And what about that guy from your today's dream, hm? He doesn't miss you? What did you feel?"
„I... don't... I felt... warmth. Kindness. Passion. Yes, he could miss me. If he's still alive."
„Believe he is!" the silver-haired told her decisively. „He's out there somewhere and waiting for you."
„Not helping," May gloomed.
„At least I'm trying," Syll sighed. „Anyway, I'm here to tell you, we're going to Kyola, they have some trouble with their Fountain and Sirink wants you to fix it."
„Me? Like... me... me?"
„I don't see any other of you here."
„But... I don't know a thing about the Fountains!"
„I don't believe it," Syll rejected that thought. „I've seen what you've done to our Fountain. You might worked with them before or you are a prodigy. Either way, you can do it and Sirink requests you."
„Surely there must be someone better than me."
„Yes, there is, but lady Yustiel is busy. We're leaving after the breakfast."
~ x ~
Soon the two of them used the flight transporter to the Eltnen Observatory and then walked to the Kyola temple. Timewise it was the same as if they walked directly, but both the transporter and the canyon between Observatory and the temple provided some shelter from the burning sun. And the Eltnen desert wasn't nice place to walk through. Syll wouldn't mind, but she knew well that May, although being an Elyos, couldn't stay in direct sun for too long without feeling sick and having headache. It was much better now than three months ago, but she had to concentrate on the Fountain. So they agreed on using this way.
Syll carefully carried her bow with an arrow ready in case they met some desert predators or something worse, like Asmodians or Lepharists. But nothing crossed their path. She sighed in relief when they reached the Kyola guards.
When they entered the archaelogists' camp in front of the temple, Sirink was already waiting for them.
„Which one of you is May?" she asked impatiently.
„It's me," the brunette answered. „It's nice to meet you."
„You surely took your time. Come, we can't be without the Fountain too long," Sirink turned around and led them to the broken spring. It was as impressive object as the one near Golden Bough Garrison. The water container was made from the same green stone and from the center rose a column with top in shape of rosebud. That held the lifebead which should draw the underground water and pour it into the container. But now no water was flowing. May felt something was wrong even before she touched the Fountain.
„Show us, if you are that good as they say," the old archaelogist said sceptically.
„She's better," Syll replied.
„This... may take a while," May pondered and took of her shoes and put her staff aside. Then she entered the Fountain.
„What are you doing?" Sirink was shocked. „You can't just go inside the water!"
„Please, don't disturb her, it will be fine," the silver-haired ranger stopped her. „She fixed the other Fountain in similar way."
Inside the spring May stretched her hands, closed her eyes and begun examining the aether around her. Very slowly it gained shape in her mind. Once it did, it wasn't difficult to find the broken part. The lifebead was almost depleted, though according to what she knew about the springs, it was changed very recently by lady Yustiel herself and should last for at least a year. She opened her eyes and took the bead in her palms. There were cracks on its surface. She remembered the same cracks were on the stone in Golden Gough's Fountain. She thought they were caused by some desert animal back then, but now she wasn't so sure. The resemblance was too good to be just coincidence.
„Miss Sirink, when exactly did you found out the Fountain was broken?" she asked.
„During this night. I felt some disturbance in the camp's aether, so I went to check. Yesterday it was fine, how could that break in such a short time?"
„Someone or something did it on purpose," May said. „The bead in our Fountain looked the same, I suspect a curse or something like that. I can fix it, it is only matter of time, but if we can't find who's causing it, it will break again."
„Could it be that Asmodian?" a guard standing near them asked.
„What Asmodian?" Sirink frowned.
„I've heard from a messenger that in the desert scout's camp they captured Asmodian during the night. He told me only a while before you arrived," he looked at the two daevas.
„Is it work of Asmodians?" Sirink asked.
„It might be, but I'm not sure," May shrugged. „Let me finish the repair and then we'll go talk to him."
„Her," the guard said.
„I was told the captured Asmodian is a woman. Quite a hot..."
„Oh, then we have to hurry, before the guys in the camp do something stupid," May turned to the Fountain's center and gathered all the aether she could. Sirink gave Syll a disaprooving look, but the ranger just shrugged. She had no idea why is May concerned about some unknown Asmodian's safety. Her duty was to watch over the young cleric and be her bodyguard. After several minutes the aether around May stopped whirling and she wavered.
„Are you okay?" Syll asked.
„I'm fine," May put the lifebead into the stone rosebud and quickly left the fountain, as water started pouring again. „We can go now," she smiled and put on her shoes.
„You are as good as they say, after all," Sirink gave her credit. „Thank you for your help."
„Please, be on your guard, whoever did this will probably try again after they find it was repaired. Let Ariel's light guide you," May bowed. „Let's go, Syll."
They left the temple and Syll's unerring orientation sense led them though the desert to the scout camp. Few predators crossed their way, only to be immediately dealt with by the ranger's arrows. The way wasn't long, soon they stood face to face with the camp's current leader, Sandinas. He was a bald men around forty years old with blond beard and strict expression in his face.
„Greetings, sir Sandinas. Can we talk to the Asmodian you captured?" May asked directly.
„On who's orders?"
„No one's orders, but she might know something abo..."
„Then you're done here," Sandinas interrupted her. „I can't let just any random person to chat with a prisoner."
„I know, I am not important enough, sir," May was prepared for possible refusal. She lowered her voice so only he could hear. „But another life bead got broken. When I was fixing it, I found out that someone is damaging our Fountains on purpose. If she knows anything about it, I have to ask her how they do it, so I can devise a protection."
„So you are the one who can repair broken Fountains?" he looked impressed. She nodded. „And you say someone is doing it? Alright, you can question her. Come with me."
He led them to the other side of the camp where a person was bound to a wooden pole fixed in ground. She had long hair that used to be red, but sand and dust deprived it of any color. She was dressed in rugs that once were dress and had countless bruises on her naked skin. Syll wondered if anyone, even Asmodian deserved such a fate. May was horrified.
„How... how could you do such a thing?" she stared at the prisoner, eyes wide open.
„It's Asmodian, that's how we deal with them," Sandinas snorted in disgust. May looked at him and realized she can't find any mercy from him.
„And how is she supposed to answer my questions? She's barely conscious!" the cleric said bitterly and knelt beside the Asmodian. „At least give her water. And shelter her from the sun," she took her own waterskin and handkerchief and wetted her lips. The woman moaned and slowly opened her eyes.
„Alia? So I died?" she whispered and fell completely unconscious.
„Come on, sir Sandinas, I really need the answers," May looked at him with a pleading face. „Do it for the Fountains."
Sandinas gave the orders and soon the prisoner was moved to small tent and left in May's care. Syll had to admire her ability to convince everyone without using violence or deceits. She knew May only for the three months she'd been here, but she already got used to her pure heart and caring nature. And there were her healing abilities and work with aether. All her spells grew more potent with every day and she was almost as good healer as lady Yustiel was. She was a mystery.
„Shh, you'll be alright," May whispered to the Asmodian while healing her.
„Ouch... where... what..." she mumbled and opened her eyes. Then she realized she's still in the Elyos camp and her hands were still bound with an aether-blocking rope. But the burning sun was away as well as most of the pain. And she saw two blurred silhouettes near her. „So now it's the good Elyos, bad Elyos game?"
„I wish this was a game," a familiar voice said. Familiar? Here?
The Asmodian forced her eyes to focus on the person speaking. Her eyes widened in shock.
„Please, don't be afraid, I don't want to hurt you," May said. „I just need some answers from you."
The prisoner nodded.
„Okay," the cleric smiled. „Can you tell me your name?"
„Shienar. Am I dead?"
„No, of course not, though you were barely alive when I found you. I apologize for the others, no one deserves to..."
„But you are..." Shien looked carefully at May. „You are Elyos," she breathed out.
„Yes, I am Elyos, but that doesn't mean I'm happy to see anyone suffering. Miss Shienar, please, tell me, why are you here in Elysea?"
„I will tell you, but only you," she replied. That silver-haired woman with bow didn't need to know everything.
„Do you think I'll let her with you alone?" Syll bristled.
„Like I could do anything with this on my hands."
„Can you promise me you won't try to escape or attack me?" May asked.
„Sure why not. I won't try to escape or attack you," Shien smiled.
„I don't believe her," the ranger frowned.
„Syll, please, could you wait outside? I will call you if I'll need your help."
„Please, we need the answers."
Syll sighed and left the tent. This was the convincing ability. May knew how to speak with anyone and the others just decided to trust her. The Asmodian sorceress stared at her. The way she was speaking, her gestures, expressions... everything looked too familiar to be just a coincidence.
„Now, please tell me."
„I... I don't know where to start," for the first time in her life Shien was speechless.
„Then... who is Alia?" May asked. „Don't look at me like that. You called me Alia out there. I know you were barely conscious, but the way you're looking at me now... who is it?"
„She was my friend," Shien said and narrowed her eyes. „The only friend I've ever had. Three months ago she died. And you look exactly like her. You talk exactly like her. If you weren't damned Elyos, I would think she somehow survived!"
„Did Elyos kill her?"
„No, she was ill."
„So you are not here for vengeance?"
„I'm still mourning for her, but I'm not an idiot," Shien rolled her eyes. „Even if it were Elyos who killed her and not the illness, I wouldn't go here alone."
„Then why are you destroying our fountains?"
„Your what?" Shien didn't understand.
„So it wasn't you then," May smiled in relief. „I'm glad. I don't know why, but you seem like a nice person. Even though you're an Asmodian."
„Why do you have to sound like her?! It's not possible for two people be this... similar! It's you, right? Alia, you became Elyos, why?"
„I'm sorry, miss Shienar, but I'm not your friend," the cleric told her with sad face and tried to control the panic that was growing inside her. „I am May. I serve lady Yustiel to restore life in the Eracus desert. I am..."
„That's it!" the Asmodian said with hope. „Alia worked in a frozen city of Kurngalfberg to restore its life! She would..."
„That's enough!" May stopped her. „I am not an Asmodian. I am Elyos. So, please, stop saying this. I'm sorry for reminding you such sad memories. You won't see me again," she got up and turned to the exit.
„Wait. I've seen some people there."
„What people? Where?" May looked at her.
„I came here through a rift. It disappeared few seconds after I left it. I was in mountains above some temple of yours, or camp or something like that. Two people were leaving from that mountains. Your guards didn't see them, they tried to be stealthy, but in such a bright light I couldn't miss them," even if it was a night in the Elysea, it was brighter than a day in Asmodae. That was one of the main reasons why the lands weren't full of assassins of the other faction. Elysea provided too little shadows for Asmodians and Elyos could barely see in Asmodae. From what this prisoner was saying, she wasn't used to the sun. She didn't visit Elysea often. „They went the same way I wanted to go, so I had to take a detour. And when your bloody sun was just rising and blinded me, I ran into your patrol."
„Why are you telling me this?"
„You said something about destroying fountains, right? These people didn't look like supplies messengers."
May watched the Asmodian for a moment. She was a prisoner. And she experienced the manners of her captors. She had to know that the moment May leaves the camp, everything will return to what it was. Why would she help? Could she make these things up? And also there was the friend thing. Was she right? No, there might be an Asmodian named Alia, but as she said, Alia died. May was a different person. Definitely.
„Where did you want to go?" she asked.
„To your Elim called Lodas."
„I doubt they went there from the same reasosns I did."
„Did you want to hurt him? Will other Asmodians come?" May didn't like questioning her like this and Shien saw that.
„I went there to talk to him. I wanted to ask him for his essence so we can awaken one of our Elims," Shien gave up. Even though her interrogator was Elyos, she looked too much like Alia. And Shien could never resist her friend. All this situation was weird.
„I thought you have living Elims in Asmodae."
„We need more than one essence. And don't worry, that's not something we can take by force."
„I don't know why, but I believe you," May bowed politely and left.
Syll and Sandinas were growing impatient and when she emerged from the tent, they gave her questioning looks.
„It was about time, I just wanted to go in," Sandinas grunted.
„We heard her almost shouting, what happened?" Syll asked with concern.
„She doesn't know about the Fountains, I'm sure of it," May answered. „But she provided some useful information. I might return to question her again."
The camp leader scowled.
„I'm not asking you to treat her like one of us," she added quickly. „I know she's an enemy. But I will need her sane. Please, give me at least a week. Then I won't bother you again."
„Good then, I'll treat her as a valuable prisoner. For one week. No longer," he decided.
„Thank you," May smiled. „Now if you excuse us, I need to inform lady Yustiel about the Fountains. Let Ariel's light shine upon you."
„Walk in Ariel's light."
After they said their formal goodbyes the two women walked into the desert again. It was noon already and May felt a bit dizzy. The tent helped her, but she was too worried about the lifebeads and words of the Asmodian prisoner. Just who was Alia? Why did that name sound so familiar?
„What did she tell to you?" Syll asked when they were far enough from the camp.
„She saw someone. And told me where they were going. Now I need a map and lady Yustiel."
„Map should be in the garrison. And let's hope lady Yustiel will be there too."