I pushed myself up to sit while the roar of the crumbling cavern still echoed in my ears. Every part of me ached and the underside of my forearms burned from having landed on them. I had thrown myself onto the ground harder than I had realized but I was hardly keeping the integrity of my skin in mind when I did so. Sitting on the cold stone, I inspected my arms to find torn sleeves and tender skin underneath. Drops of red blood had started to bead up from the scrapes and blended in to the material of my crimson tunic. They were not serious and could be dealt with later.
Wrapping my injured arms around my stomach, I felt the anxiety take over. My palms grew sweaty, my hands started to shake, and I just wanted to be anywhere but here. The pounding of my heart echoed in my ears and as reality hit me like a raging Dolyak, my sorrow rose. I covered my mouth to try to hold back the sobs. I felt so empty. A cold and painful hollowness consumed me now that both Rhys and Sir Fendall had been ripped from my life. The only two persons in this world who had shared in my burden were gone.
I was alone again.
“I see you got my little gift,” an amused voice stirred me from my thoughts. It was smooth as honey but not without a sinister edge. Shades of blue, black, and silver came into my view, wafting gently as the tall figure emerged from around the hill’s side. “I do hope you enjoyed it.”
I recognized the ornate long coat immediately but the owner’s face did not match. Perplexed, I stumbled to my feet to face this new arrival on even ground. His short, dark hair was neatly kept and threaded with silver which accentuated his pale complexion. I could see a strange mix of delight and contempt in his violet eyes as he stared down his slender nose at me. There was also a familiarity I could not place. It was like a shadow covering his visage that I could not quite make out.
“Who are you?” I demanded, startled. “And why are you wearing that coat? It does not belong to you.”
“Oh, this?” He replied as he gracefully swept the material around him. I caught a glimpse of a bronze greatsword hilt sticking up from his back as he turned to the side. “You could say it’s a family heirloom.”
Every part of me froze.
“No, how did you–” I finally managed to utter. I clutched the hilts of my weapons until my knuckles turned white as my whole body grew cold and a shiver rushed my spine.
The man’s violet eyes widened in mock surprise. “Oh excuse me. I’ve been so rude,” he said, sweeping into an over exaggerated bow.”Alec Sable.”
I stared at him incredulously. I knew I recognized the shadow looming over his face, casting the family resemblance. I could feel my astonished visage harden as the realization sunk in. “You,” I hissed. “You did this!”
“Aye,” he admitted. “I wanted to do something extra special for you.” He flashed me a wicked grin which fueled my growing rage.
“How are you even here?” I demanded. “And why are the Lionguard not right behind you?”
An amused chuckle escaped Alec’s thin lips. “It’s amazing what you can do with a mute who has similar features and a glamour core. They don’t even know I’m gone and won’t for a long while. Just enough time to right some wrongs.” His dark eyebrows narrowed as he stared down at me again.
“You will pay for this,” I warned. My voice came out as a pained whisper as my whole body shook. As I reached for my axe and dagger, I realized Alec had already drawn his greatsword. The weapon was large and elaborate, with gilded scrolls enveloping the hilt as well as the blue-hued blade. It glowed with a soft, pulsating light.
Without warning, Alec swung the large weapon at me, unleashing a strong purple wave of energy. The force of the energy wave pushed my body back. My feet left the ground and I sailed backward until I hit the rocks that now blocked the hillside entrance. As my body was enveloped by pain, I cried out. My weapons fell from my grip and clattered to the ground with me as I fell to my hands and knees.
“No!” Alec shouted as he pointed a long finger at me. His amused expression had distorted into one of anger and disgust. “I’m not the one who has to pay and you know that.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” I started to say but Alec plunged his weapon into the ground before him and a great blade of energy rose from the ground beneath me, striking me with sharp energy. I tensed as the pain hit and clenched my jaw so tight, I worried I would crack my teeth. When the brief moment of searing agony was over, I relaxed and tried to push myself up but I my head was swimming and I lost my balance. Before I realized what was happening, Alec firmly grabbed the back of my collar and began dragging me away from the hillside. I struggled and reached for my axe as I felt him pull me away but the weapon slipped out of my hand as he jerked my body away.
“Come to think of it, neither do your friends,” Alec noted thoughtfully. He pulled me along harder as I struggled and clawed at his grip. “They were so kind enough to join us. Perhaps we should all sit down and you can enlighten us all of your past transgressions.”
Bloody Grenth. He had the others. My side stung where it scraped along the ground and I clenched my jaw tightly so as not to give him any more verbal satisfaction from my pain. As we rounded the hillside,
“Look, now we’re all here,” Alec announced, shoving me onto the ground ahead of him. I landed on
“Nienna?” De Koninck called to me, surprised.
I looked up to find the Norn bound and guarded by Alec’s men. Her dark hair had been disheveled and there were scratches on her cheek. The others, aside from one, were with her as well in the same confined state. There were at least a dozen of Alec’s men that I could see. He could have had more hidden along the perimeter on watch. It made sense since he struck me as a cautious man. Molson growled and grunted from where he lay on his side, restrained near Yunkle who was trying to dig at the rope around his neck with his tusks. Both animals struggled and cried out to their masters who in turn tried to keep a brave face to mask the anguish I knew they both felt from hearing their companions in distress.
“One got away. The tall, silver haired one,” a small Asura informed Alec as he waddled past me. From where I knelt, he was only a little taller than me, but he was still tall for an Asura. He glared at me with his large, green eyes and sneered. “Well hello again Lady Commander.”
“Torx,” I seethed. “I should have known we could not trust you.”
Alec looked aside at a broad shouldered man dressed all in black leathers. “Find him,” he ordered and the man took off into a sprint, disappearing behind a veil.
Tuborg struggled against his bonds to lean my way. “What’s going on, Nienna? Do you know these people?”
I looked around me and weighed my options. With the large number of men Alec had with him, my option at the moment to free the others and escape was very low. I decided on another option and stir the pot a little. It would not be pleasant but would give me a better chance at getting the upper hand.
“We hired him,” I replied, doing my best to remain level headed and calm, despite the rapid beating of my heart. “Rhys, Sir Fendall, and I.”
De Koninck shot me a confused glance. “Why?”
I swept my gaze across the group, their puzzled faces staring back at me, and then looked over my shoulder back at Alec. I knew I would have to give him what he wanted to hear to lull him into a false sense of security —
“To help us build one of our locations. Sir Fendall wanted to use Asura technology for this one,” I said, nodding back towards the hillside.
Torx chuckled and bared his sharp teeth with a wide grin. “It’s pleasantly ironic that it killed him.”
My body shook and I clenched my hands into tight fists as I bit back my anger. “It did not kill him. You did.” Without another word, I lunged for the Asura and grabbed his brown leather belt, pulling him down to the ground. He kicked me with his sturdy rounded foot and I let him go, watching as he scrambled to his feet. He glowered at me and let out a throaty growl as he straightened his attire.
I felt a strong hand clasp down hard on my shoulder and I buckled slightly under the weight forced upon me. Pulling my arms in to my stomach, I nonchalantly fiddled with my sleeve.
“Actually my dear,” Alec leaned down and spoke softly against my ear. “His death is on you, just like all the others and all the ones yet to come.”
My entire body tensed up and my eyes narrowed. I could not let him get to me. I could not let him break me. Looking over my shoulder at Alec, I prepared myself for the words I was about to utter. It was going to force me to confront a memory from my past that hurt more than any blade, but I needed to use it.
“Like your brother’s death?” I shot back as I flashed him a knowing smirk.