Flashback The Price of Peace III

What paths brought Anja to where he is now? The trail leads to Zeltiva. Bonds are reaffirmed.

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Center of scholarly knowledge and shipwrighting, Zeltiva is a port city unlike any other in Mizahar. [Lore]

The Price of Peace III

Postby Anja Nightwatcher on June 14th, 2019, 9:44 pm

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Winter 78, 515
Mirahil Pass, Zeltiva
15th Bell

The weather had only become more frigid the further south Anja and Logan traveled down the Kabrin road. With time, the endless forests have given way to rolling hills followed by gargantuan looming mountains. Anja had never seen mountains before. The massive stone giants that slowly grew around them caught the Drykas' breath in his chest and his eyes stared at the snow caps with reverent awe. It was an honor to walk in the shadow of such ancient monoliths, and the opportunity made Anja feel humble.

In the weeks that had followed the burial of Anja's son, a strange tranquility had overcome the man. From where it can come he was not certain. Anja was no less motivated to seek out the Nuit; the desire to end the monster's life still thrummed fiercely inside of him. But the heat, the hatred, the mindless gnawing obsession had gently cooled, leaving Anja with a clear mind. Perhaps there was a certain degree of closure with the knowledge that a monster no longer wore his son's skin. Or perhaps there was the realization that they were closing in on him, and the Nuit's time was rapidly running out.

"How does Zeltiva treat the undead?" Anja asked Logan mildly. The pair road side by side in the pass as the mountains loomed on either side of them, the thud of hoofbeats echoing against the frozen ground alongside the quieter tap of dog paws. The Drykas was aware the city was drawing closer the further they travelled, and his mind was naturally considering the progression of events that would follow them entering the city.

Logan glanced at Anja through one eye, his fingers weaving through Vanguard's reins thoughtfully. "It's my understanding that he will probably be allowed inside. Especially considering the fact that at the moment he is not too rotten."

Anja frowned and opened his mouth to protest, but before he could speak, Logan held up a hand to stop his words. "That said, the moment we mention the murders on the road I expect they will aid us in finding him immediately." Logan's lightly brushed the hilt of his sword.

Over the course of their travel, Anja had learned that the Syliran Knights were well respected in this country. But more than that, the Drykas had come to know why personally. In Logan, he had come to know a man of immeasurable patience, kindness, loyalty, and strength, not just of the flesh but also of the heart. Although Logan's skills and assets had led him here, Anja knew that if it weren't for the man's strength of character and reassuring presence, he would be equally lost. Logan had Anja's loyalty entirely. If Logan asked him for any favor, Anja would do it in a heartbeat. This loyalty that they inspired through action and deed rather than word was what made these men and women so highly respected.

"So once we track down the Nuit, what happens then?" Anja asked. There was little to do during their ride aside from talk, and the closer they drew to the city the more Anja's nerves began to heighten. He needed to distract himself. His fingers drummed against Maisa's shoulder as he spoke, and the strider flattened her ears at him reproachfully. Stop that, she scolded him through gesture, halting his fingertips.

(Words 558, Total 558)
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Anja Nightwatcher
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The Price of Peace III

Postby Anja Nightwatcher on June 14th, 2019, 9:47 pm

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"Well, assuming he's not so foolish as to try to go out in a blaze of glory - and knowing him so far I'm not ruling that out - he should be arrested by Zeltiva police force. They're called the Waveguard. From there they'll investigate, but you and I are witnesses to what he has done. Considering the terrible things he's do e, I expect he'll be executed in time."

Anja started to drum his fingers against Maisa's yvas, but stopped as the strider hitched her step to throw him off balance. "That all sounds very...civil," Anja said carefully.

"Yes, Anja, I'm very sorry that civilization is inconvenient to your revenge," the Knight replied dryly. "Death may not find him by your hands, but your goddess shouldn't see a difference in who ends him, should she?"

"I suppose not," Anja said finally. Six months ago it would have rattled him that he wouldn't be the one putting his father's sword through the monster's throat but now, for a reason that Anja couldn't yet identify, the cause of death didn't seem to matter. Only that the monster's farce of life was finally brought to a climactic close.

Abruptly, the thin pass opened wide to reveal the sprawling city of Zeltiva ahead of them. For a moment, Anja could only stare. Then he leaned forward and kicked Maisa into a gallop. The Strider sprang forward eagerly, and her hooves quickly carried her past the two trackers who balked with alarm as Anja shot past them. Anja heard Logan laugh behind him, and in a moment he was galloping at Anja's heels. Vanguard's dark form was like an antithesis to Maisa's white. Anja's breaths came deep as he rode. The smell of salt and sea rose in his nose and clung to the back of his throat. His eyes took in the ancient architecture, the likes of which had not been seen on Mizahar since the Valterrian. It was a bustling city, full of life. And, somewhere, a single grotesque, monstrous unlife called to him.

"Whoa there, traveler! Where's the fire?"

Anja eased Maisa into a canter, then a trot and heard Logan do the same behind him. The dogs and ponies, meanwhile, were struggling to catch up with a Strider's speed. Anja slowed Maisa to a stop, and found the voice of the one who had called out to him. A pair of women in a strange black uniform decorated in gold buttons and buckles had taken up position at the edge of the city. They looked towards Anja, amused smiles flitting across their faces, chuckling to themselves as if sharing a private joke.

Logan skidded to a stop beside Anja, and Vanguard tossed his head, snorted, and scraped the dirt underneath his hooves. The two women's gazes fell on Logan and their smiles slowly fell.

"I am Logan Emerich, of the Syliran Knights," Logan said. The two women glanced at each other. They definitely weren't smiling now, and their expression were now pensive. "My companion and I are here chasing after a murderer who came down the Kabrin Road. A Nuit. I know they don't often pass through, did you see him?"

(Words 530, Total 1088)
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Anja Nightwatcher
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The Price of Peace III

Postby Anja Nightwatcher on June 14th, 2019, 9:48 pm

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One of the women sighed heavily. "I'll go get the Captain," she said grimly, and turned and headed down the road. The other woman shook her head and looked at Logan severely. "You know you Knights don't have authority here," she said.

"I'll be happy to abide by Zeltiva's judgement," Logan replied. The man's expression was stoic and completely neutral.

Anja studied Logan's face closely, but the Knight would not meet his gaze. The irritable looks on the women's faces told him that they were not happy a Syliran Knight was here. Why? Perhaps the Syliran Knights weren't as universally regarded as Anja had been lead to believe? The Drykas could feel a mixture of anxiety and impatience gnawing at him. He couldn't stand to wait any longer. They were right there. Anja could all but taste the monster's unnatural song.

"May we enter the city?" Anja asked. He couldn't keep the edge of impatience from his voice, and the woman answered him with a sharp look.

"Look," the woman said, voice roiling with irritation. "I know that you Knights have full reign in Syliras, but in Zeltiva we do things a little bit differently, got it? We need to get permission from the Captain first, then we need to go and arrest him, and then take your testimony..."

Anja clenched his teeth and narrowed his eyes. It was as though their appearance and pursuit of the murderer were an inconvenience to these people.

"Then after we take your testimony, a portion of time will be set aside to…"

"He murdered my entire family," Anja said flatly, interrupting her words. A flash of surprise flickered across the woman's face, and Anja felt a kick of gratification at the expression.

For a moment the woman was completely speechless and she struggled to string words together. "I'm erm, very sorry," the woman said, faltering. Anja could see the uncertainty in the woman as searched for her composure. "But in Zeltiva…"

"Don't bother Anja," Logan said. His voice was as dry and cold as a midwinter night. "We'll go find him ourselves. Your law enforcement can catch up with us." Without waiting for a reply, Logan spoke a command to the dogs and they surged towards the city with Vanguard a few steps behind them. Anja wordlessly nudged Maisa into a trot after his friend without comment.

"Wait!" the woman replied. When neither of them stopped, she cursed and began jogging at their heels. "This isn't how it's done here!"

The woman's complaints faded from Anja'a ears as the cry of sea birds and the scent of stone and wood overwhelmed his senses. Syliras' cramped walls had felt claustrophobic to a man born and raised under a bright open sky. Zeltiva, at least, was more open than Syliras had been. Anja could taste some of nature here; the salt of the sea lingered in the air and flavored everything with a fishy twang. Anja knew more of the sea then he did cramped cities, and he found his gaze falling on the waves lapping against the piers. Syla had spoken of the ocean often, with a bittersweet sort of fondness, like one might feel for a former lover. He had heard often of her tempestuous relationship with the sea and the Svefra way of life. He had known she missed it, even as she resented it. Anja's eyes roamed the undulating waves. It was strange to be in the presence of something that Syla had loved and hated in turn. There would be a sort of poetry to the Nuit meeting its end here.

(Words 603, Total 1691)
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Anja Nightwatcher
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The Price of Peace III

Postby Anja Nightwatcher on June 14th, 2019, 9:49 pm

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Meanwhile the dogs had led them through the cobbled streets and wound them towards the docks. A press of people flowed around them, and Anja saw Maisa's ears flatten with annoyance. She wasn't one for tight spaces either. Anja rubbed her shoulder to reassure her and heard air leave her nose in a sigh. "At least it's better than Syliras," Anja told her. Anja saw a smile flicker across Logan's face, though it was quickly gone. The focus on the Knight's face was absolute. He was as ready for this to end as Anja was.

But despite the proximity of the Sea and the fact that they were drawing inevitably closer to their quarry with each step they took, Anja could feel a strange anxiety growing inside him. Was it because everything was about to end? There was a kind of bittersweetness to that, but Anja couldn't shake the feeling that this was something else. It was like he was forgetting something important...or that he was missing something. As the horses wound their way towards the docks, Anja's brow furrowed further.

"What's wrong?" Logan was, as always, perceptive. The Knight stared at Anja intently, his focus breaking for a moment to concern himself with his travelling companion.

The Drykas opened his mouth to speak, then faltered. "I...there's…" Anja paused, frowned and thought. What was it? What was wrong? Nothing should be wrong. Everything was as it should be. It was... The realization hit Anja with the force of a horse's kick. "It's quiet," he whispered.

The Wave Guard, who had been babbling insistently the whole time they had been travelling towards the docks stopped and gave Anja a confused look. But Logan's eyes went wide and his cheeks had gone pale. Both Anja and Logan's eyes flashed at the pair of dogs. The pair had halted at one of the docks and were packing up and down the length of it anxiously, whining insistently. The bustle of dock workers parted around them as if they were insects too meager to bother noticing.

"Focus Anja," Logan said intently, voice low. "Which way? Where did he go?" Anja sucked in a breath and closed his eyes in concentration. The discordant, unnatural noise...where had it gone? Where was it? For a moment he despaired but...

There. Faint, but at the edges of his perception...he toned out the sound of people rushing around him, the girl's voice peppering them with questions and honed in on that single, discordant note. There...right there. Anja found the direction with the tip of his finger and opened his eyes.

The hand was gesturing out over the water. In the distance, a large ship was gliding over the waves and out of the Bay, towards the deep ocean beyond. And for a moment, even that confused Waveguard had gone quiet.

Knight and Eiyon dismounted and stood at the edge of the dock. Both stared at the water in a dead silence. Novels were being spoken in that quiet, and somehow neither of them could form a single word.

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Anja Nightwatcher
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The Price of Peace III

Postby Anja Nightwatcher on June 14th, 2019, 9:50 pm

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"I don't understand," the Waveguard said weakly, breaking the silence. "It should have taken him longer to charter a ship…Far longer. Even if he had been a human. How...how did he leave so quickly?"

"Yes," Logan agreed. "Funny, that." The sharpness of his voice could cut stone, and the girl looked at him with such a guilty expression that the Drykas almost felt sorry for her. But not quite.

"I'll go question those dock workers!" the girl said, rushing towards a group of annoyed sailors, but Anja couldn't bring himself to care.

The Eiyon was suddenly very tired. He felt like he could sleep for ten years. He had thought the road was ending, but it has only just started. "Where is it going?" Anja asked. It felt like a futile question...where could be anywhere...but Logan's brow furrowed like he knew. A sigh parted his lips. "If I had to guess? He could be going to Sunberth but… I expect if he does then Sahova will be shortly after."

"Sahvoa?" Anja asked. The name was unfamiliar to the man, but there was something about it that made him feel uneasy.

"The island of the undead," Logan replied grimly. A shiver shot through Anja's core. There was an island of nuits? Anja froze for a long moment, trying to bolster his resolve. If there was an island of the dead then..

"No Anja," Logan said, as if reading the Drykas' mind. "We can't follow him there. He'll have allies and resources and we don't have the strength to match him."

"So is this just it then?" Anja asked. "We lose?" He felt like he had suffered too much to feel any more grief. Right now he just felt...empty. Hollow.

But the look on Logan's face was not anger, or sorrow. The look of resolve Anja had come to know with Logan did not falter even now. "He can't stay there forever," the Knight said with a faint smile.
"While he's gathering his strength, we can gather ours."

"But he could live forever. If he has allies and resources then why would he ever leave?"

Logan laughed. "You have a lot to learn about creatures who crave power," Logan told Anja. "We scared him. He'll probably hang tight for a while and lick his wounds. But a Nuit with the guts to leech in the Sea of Grass? You think he won't get bored on an island? He'll be back Anja, and we'll be waiting for him."

"He'll have a new face by then," Anja said quietly.

"Yes," Logan agreed. "But trust me: he'll remember you. When you look at a Nuit, wait for that reaction. You'll know it's him. I promise."

Anja could feel a hope building up inside him. it had been built up and broken so many times, but somehow it was still there. Logan chuckled and glanced at Anja sidelong, a smile tugging at his lips. "You're not ready to give up yet, are you?" It was like he could see straight through him.

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Anja Nightwatcher
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The Price of Peace III

Postby Anja Nightwatcher on June 14th, 2019, 9:51 pm

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"No," Anja replied, his eyes tracing the countours of the distant ship as if to memorize it. His words lacked passion, but he was beginning to move forward. What was next? If he couldn't pursue that Nuit, then what was there left for him? His eyes fell from the ship and towards his hand. He turn his hand and stared at the dark scythe tracing the contours of his palm. That discordant sound was fading, but a different melody now resonated. Sweet, sad, desperate. Cries for hope, for release.

"I had almost forgotten, in all this rush for revenge," Anja said softly. "I'm a Spiritist. Ghosts are what I live for. If I can't finish that Nuit, then I'll help them." He looked to Logan, and saw a nod of approval.

"What will you do?" Anja asked Logan.

"Hmm... well…" Logan ran a hand through his hair. "The Nuit's escape...I don't like it Anja. It's too clean. That girl is right. He shouldn't have slipped out of the city so quickly." Logan sighed. "The Waveguard doesn't want me here, but I can make myself useful to them. In the meantime, I'll investigate."

"I'm glad to hear that," Anja replied. Warmth radiated from his voice. After all that they had been through, Anja wasn't ready to part with him yet. Logan looked at Anja and chuckled. "It's too late to get rid of me now. I told you; your mission is mine. Remember?"

"I haven't forgotten," Anja replied.

"I'll find answers," Logan said. "And when I do, we'll investigate. Together." The man leaned forward, and without thinking Anja brought up his hand to clasp Logan's. In the distance, light played across the frothing water. Logan turned and a looked towards a group of very annoyed Waveguard walking towards them and his lips twitched in a smile. "Now then, I suppose we should cooperate eh? If we're going to stay here, might as well start it out right."

Anja nodded, and the pair stiffened their shoulders and prepared to meet the trial before them as one.

(Words 345, Total 3060)
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Anja Nightwatcher
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