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I'm almost one day ahead with this entry!

Karrah Chapter 12, chapter word count: 1590

"Do they know?"

"'Elen an' Ameila? Nah, they jus' know that Grace wos killed. I never told nobody else 'bout this befo'. Never thought it'd come up. I don' think they 'ave any idea wot 'appened out there. I dunno wot t'tell 'em."

None of the party could sleep that night. So much had happened that none of them could settle down. They spent the whole night awake, sitting in the girls' tent together talking. Helen and Ameila seemed rather dazed about Ryder's confession, but their shock wasn't as strong as Karrah's. They both listened quietly to his story, and all throughout they never once scorned him, and in the end they still cared, possibly even more now. When silence came over the tent Ryder and Karrah spent it looking at each other. Karrah said nothing the rest of the night, but slowly she seemed to make peace with the idea.

They were all exhausted come morning, especially Karrah from her emotional fit. It was a wonder they were able to walk for their last day of the journey. They continued their journey, at last leaving the Karanas and crossing the Commonlands, a valley of trees being a shocking difference from the plains. Their pace slowed a little for Ameila to savor being surrounded by trees again for the first time in a while. But in the end they finally made it. As they cleared the trees, at last the gates of Freeport shone before them, glowing orange in the setting sun.

The bardesses ran ahead of the party, giving Ryder and Karrah some privacy again. They stayed back a moment, at first only looking up at the city.

"Well..." Ryder smiled, "We're 'ere."

Karrah nodded, staring quietly.

"I'm not sure where to go first..."

"Woy not get ye 'and looked at?"

She shook her head. "It doesn't even hurt anymore...I want to find answers first."

Ryder scratched the back of his head at that.

"Guess I can' argue with that. 'Ow about ye come with us t'the bard guild? They moyt 'ave seen o' 'eard somethin'."

She silently agreed, and they hurried ahead to catch up with the girls.

There were some dark looks from the crowd outside the gates, namely the guards and a few dark elves that dwelled outside. Karrah felt uneasy seeing said dark elves, and turned her head to avoid eye contact as Ryder subtly put himself between them and her. Slowly, quietly, as a group the party stepped through the gates, and Karrah's eyes went wide as they stepped past the stone archway and into the city.

There was an obvious difference from Qeynos. It was huge. Before even exploring the city, everything was already larger than what she knew. Ryder smiled a little, putting an arm around her and guiding her while she looked around, taking everything in.

Ameila split from the group to restock their packs, while the rest stayed together, continuing the other way. As the initial shock and thrill wore off, Karrah noticed the people walking by. Most of them poor merchants. They stared as the party passed; she knew she was the one they were staring at. Self-conscious she combed her bangs over her scar and stayed as close to the other three as possible. Finally they approached a large building on the northern side of town. As they got closer she could see a sign swaying over the doorway. Marsheart's Chords. This must have been the bard guild. Even it was bigger than the one in Qeynos, which she occasionally passed when she was still training there.

"'ere we are." Ryder said, getting the door for the three girls first. They stepped in single file, Karrah last, and Ryder followed slowly, closing the door behind.

Music echoed through the single room inside, which was crowded with other bards, all talking and drinking and practicing, some harmonizing with each other, joking and laughing. Karrah looked around, and as the door behind her clicked shut, a few heads turned, and as they saw her suddenly they went silent. The hush swept over the guild, and one bardess across the room dropped her glass and came closer, staring Karrah in the eye. She spoke with a stammer, as though disbelieving.

"River?!"

Karrah blinked, looking back at Ryder, Ameila and Helen, who stepped back. They didn't know either but there was some sort of acknowledgement in their eyes. She looked around the guild hall, as though looking for someone else the woman might have been addressing, then looked back at her.

"Oh River it is you!"

Before she could try to answer the woman grabbed her in a tight hug, squeezing her with strong arms and lifting the smaller girl off of the floor.

"I thought I'd never see you again...I was worried sick! Oh where have you been?"

"Wh-who--" Karrah tried to choke out, the hug making it hard to breath. Finally she was set back on her feet. The woman looked at her, a concerned eyebrow raised.

"What's the matter? Don't you remember your own teacher?"

Teacher? Karrah shook her head, her eyes low, apologetic. The woman gave her face a motherly, worried stroke, and Karrah winced as her bangs were pushed aside. The woman gasped, a hand going to her mouth.

"Your head...oh my dear what did they do to you?"

Karrah opened her mouth to question again, but Ryder cut in.

"Miss, if I may..."

He put a hand on Karrah's shoulder, pulling her aside gently.

"'Elen, could ye take 'er to the inn fo' me?"

"Of course." the bardess answered.

"Thanks." he then looked to Karrah, squeezing her shoulder, "I'll 'andle this. I'll tell ye wot I foynd out later."

Karrah opened her mouth again, trying to protest, but Helen put her hand on the monk's shoulder.

"Come on, dear. Leave this to Ryder. He knows what to do."

***

At first, even as she protested, Karrah was grateful that Ryder took over. She didn't know what she could have possibly said to that woman, and the information being put upon her as though she already knew it made her head spin.

But now that the moment had settled with her, she felt a little angry. She still insisted that she could take care of herself and he didn't have to interfere. She sat on the inn bed angrily, staring at the wall. Helen sat on the other bed, occupying herself with her lute, tuning it and playing some experimental notes.

"It's going to be alright, dear." she tried to reassure, "He'll sort everything out. He may not seem it but he's good at that."

Karrah sighed, stretching out on the bed, still looking up at the ceiling.

"He's taking a long time."

"Give him some time. I don't know what's happening but if he had to cut in it was for a good reason."

Hearing that, Karrah felt a little better. She trusted Ryder with her story and now she saw that he kept it to himself. It was almost frightening how trustworthy the boy was. And how respectful the girls were of her space; never once did they ask her or even Ryder about her reasons for coming to Freeport, even now that they made it.

She turned to her side, tucking her arm under her head as she looked at Helen.

"You're very close with him, aren't you." she said, realizing that all this time she never really spoke on a personal level with them. She never cared before.

"Yes, we both are." Helen answered with a smile, "We've been traveling together for four years."

"How did you meet?"

"He had been staying in Kelethin, the wood elf city in the continent across the ocean, for a while. He and Ameila were good friends. I was visiting there to deliver some mail, and we met. We all took an immediate liking for each other and decided to travel together. Haven't regretted that decision to this day, not even after last night."

There was a moment of silence, in which Karrah turned to look at the ceiling again, trailing her eyes over an interesting crack. Then Helen continued.

"Ameila told me he was very different back then, before we met. Much quieter. He kept to himself and didn't smile too much for several months." she tilted her head at Karrah and smiled a little, "He was a lot like you, from what she's said. I think that's why he likes you."

"What?"

"Haven't you noticed?" Helen retorted, "You both have grown so happy since you joined us. I've seen you two together, it's as though you've known each other for years."

Karrah didn't answer, just staring at the ceiling again and keeping her head turned slightly to keep the burning in her cheeks out of sight. She couldn't deny what Helen had seen was true. But to confess it out loud...

Helen smiled to herself and continued to pluck away at her lute. Silence went over the room again, before Karrah sat up.

"This is taking too long. I don't want to sit still anymore." she stood, adjusting her robes and heading for the door.

"Where are you going?"

"I haven't seen the city yet. If I'm going to wait for Ryder I may as well see it."

Helen didn't object to that.

"Don't get lost. And I suppose I don't have to tell you to be careful."

"I'll be fine." she insisted, like a broken record, and exited the room to explore.

Karrah chapter 13, chapter word count: 791

It was very dark now. The sun was almost completely gone behind the walls, the sky glowing pink as the city itself was black as pitch. Slowly torches lit around the buildings, providing a warm light through the streets. Nobody else was on the road, save for some rats running at Karrah's feet as she walked.

Maybe Helen's warning not to get lost wasn't too gratuitous; the city still overpowered the young monk with its size. The paths were more vast than Qeynos, she often lost her sense of direction in the town, stopping to recall where she had come from, memorizing landmarks so she could backtrack when she was ready to go back to the inn.

Eventually she found herself by a long row of seats. She looked down the aisles of wooden benches, all facing downhill, and slowly she raised her gaze, following the seats to where they faced a huge wooden stage. Slowly she padded down the hill, glancing over the arena and the elevated wooden platform the seats gazed upon. Something was very familiar about it. An inexplicable feeling washed over her.

Slowly she reached the stage, creeping up the stairs to it. The wooden boards creaked under her bare feet as her weight shifted them. She ran her hand along the pillar by the stairs as she passed it, and tread softly around the space. The stage was old, worn from the rain and its use from the past, and yet a feeling followed that it hadn't been used in a long time as well. Still, the wood that created it was sturdy, and smooth, not a splinter pierced the soles of her feet.

She stood in the center of the stage, staring out at the seats--no, something in the back of her mind insisted to call it the audience. Even if nobody was truly there. Her eyes wandered around the surroundings, and very faintly, she thought she could hear music. She closed her eyes, listening to it though it came from nowhere but her own mind. A soft wind danced through her hair, her bangs brushing against her face, making it tickle. She liked that feeling, taking a breath of the cool air and letting the hair in her face do as it will. Slowly she reached up, and for the first time in four years she grasped the band that held her hair in its ponytail, sliding it free. It took a few smooth tugs but as the soft tie slipped free from the ends of her hair the entire mass fanned, a thin sheet of soft hair now spread behind her like a cape that reached the small of her back and a little beyond.

She tossed the band aside, opening her eyes slowly and staring into the "audience" again, listening to the faint music that suddenly seemed louder to her. Slowly she rose to the tips of her toes, bringing herself into a twirl, the first step of a dance. The steps came slowly at first, uncertain, then as she continued something in her mind exploded. She knew what this was, and yet she didn't. Her mind tried to cling to it, but her feet knew it better, leaping and bursting into her dance even faster. She closed her eyes, letting her feet carry her in the familiar steps, her hands following in perfect harmony and her hair accompanying, lightweight and free. She spun again, savoring the whirling feeling in her head and the brush of her hair winding around her and back. The music grew stronger and stronger, and at last she knew nothing else, the moment freezing in her mind.

Her smile returned, brighter than ever before, dancing faster and with more feeling, performing for the invisible audience she completely forgot wasn't there. She would swear the bards were there, playing the music that accompanied her, and the seats were flooded with the people that watched her, eyes wide and bright with joy.

Finally she slowed, her dancing winding down with a slow turn, her feet setting flat on the stage floor again. She stopped, taking a moment of silence and bowing low to the applause she swore she heard. She used to bow in the monk guild, a stiff sincere bow to honor her opponent and her master. But now her bow fanned dramatically and gracefully, one foot touching behind her and her arms spread, and her hair crowning her whole body, draping down her shoulders and embracing her.

The moment suddenly stopped short as a sharp pain shot through her shoulder. She gasped, too shocked from the sudden feeling to scream, and seconds later she suddenly realized what had happened as the dagger was pulled from her shoulder.

Karrah Chapter 14, chapter word count: 1022

Karrah hunched, trying to clutch the spot that now burned, and turned. Krii stood behind her, no longer in her mask, a triumphant smile on her face.

"Mission complete." she said smugly. As she did, the burning sensation in Karrah's arm intensified. Poison, she was sure of it. She clenched her teeth and tried not to shut her eyes from the pain.

"You were a difficult target, miss River." Krii continued, once again using that unfamiliar name, "But nobody escapes the Shadow Cats forever."

"You talk so big." Karrah spat, "If you haven't noticed, I'm not dead yet!"

She summoned enough strength to throw a punch, but the pain was too distracting and she only hit air. Krii sidestepped with a nonchalant smile, taking satisfaction in the agony ridden on Karrah's face. Desperate, the monk continued to attack her rogue opponent, but nothing struck. Her vision blurred, but she continued on survival instincts, swiping blindly.

Tiring of the chase, Krii raised her bloodstained knife, intending to finish the job faster. But Karrah was able to catch the hand holding the dagger. They pushed against each other, Karrah's hand shaking as it clung to Krii's wrist. Slowly she managed to twist Krii's hand, forcing the knife to point at its own master. Krii's eyes bulged and it was too late to stop Karrah from forcing the blade into the dark elf's stomach, just below the ribcage. A pained cry strangled on her own blood.

"Your people won't pursue me anymore." Karrah hissed, twisting the blade with a swift motion of her wrist, "You will be an example for all of them."

Krii choked, making strained sounds of pain, before slowly curling her lips into a smirk, laughing through labored breath.

"We won't have to chase you anymore. No matter what happens to me, you're already dead."

With that, she shoved Karrah away, and with the blade still jammed into her stomach she stumbled back, extracting a small vial from somewhere behind her. She held it with a shaking hand before it dropped from her fingers, shattering on the floor. A puff of pink smoke encircled her and she vanished.

Karrah watched the dying dark elf disappear, then she let out a struggling gasp of air and fell to her knees, clutching the burning, numbing wound on her shoulder. She couldn't even hear the alarmed voice behind her as she lost consciousness, falling forward onto the floor.

"Karrah...?"

Ryder had returned from the bard guild after a long talk, and had been looking for Karrah when Helen told him she had gone exploring. He followed an uncertain route to look for her, and finally came upon the stage just as the girl had collapsed.

"Bristlebane's mischief! Karrah!!!"

He broke into a sprint, scrambling up the stairs and to her side. He knelt with her, seeing the wound on her shoulder that was turning green around the edges.

"Karrah...?" he called her again, carefully taking her into his arms. Her skin was pale and going cold. She hardly breathed. He bit his lip, cradling her, not even noticing the blood trickling down his arm from her wound.

"Come on, wake up! Stay with me!"

Her head lolled on his arm, no response at all. He panicked, looking around as though there was the slightest chance a cleric was close by. He knew the city by heart, he could carry her to a guild house for help. But he knew it would be too late by the time he got there. There was no time at all. Tears brimmed his eyes, clinging desperately to the dying woman in his arms as though to warm her with his own body.

"Please no..." he nuzzled the crook of her neck, a tear falling on her shoulder. His hands went numb clenching fists around her bloodstained robe. Shaking, he slowly developed an idea, and started to do something he never liked to do, he never wanted to do.

He began to sing.

The words were low and whispered at first, as though merely spoken.

Daughter of Tarew, Quellious's friend,
Believer of love that conquers all evil,
Erollisi Marr, Goddess of Love,
I prayer is to thee in my hour of need


Slowly, shaking, his voice rose, the melody entering it as he continued, still clinging to Karrah. His heart raced; if he sang just one note incorrect, the incantation would fail and it would be too late for her. His voice threatened to break, the notes shaking on his throat and in no way appealing.

Lend me your strength, oh patron of lovers,
Lay down your hands upon mortal pain,
Erollisi Marr, Goddess of Love,
Send down your blessings and grant us your care

Cleanse us, purge our bodies of filth and of pain,
Mend our wounds and our ill, our skin and our bones,
Erollisi Marr, Goddess of Love,
Save us in your name, save us for your cause

Please, by Bristlebane,
he thought, his heart pounding in his ears as he rocked Karrah gently, rubbing her back as he began the last verse. Please let this work.

Daughter of Tarew, Quellious's friend,
Believer of love that conquers all evil,
Erollisi Marr, Goddess of Love,
I prayer is to thee in my hour of need


He bowed his head over her body, nuzzling her hair as he continued to rub her back. A warm blue glow surrounded them both, a faint hum in Ryder's ears. His breath caught in his throat. Did it work?

He felt the wound on her shoulder, startled to only find the tear in her robe and the blood that stained it. Karrah suddenly took a deep gasp of a breath, a flow of warmth returning to her skin.

It worked! It worked!!! Ryder released the breath that he didn't realize he had been holding. The glow slowly faded, and as he rested his head on Karrah's chest he found that she was breathing again, and her heart thumped softly against his ear.

Oh thank you, Erollisi...thank you...

He slowly took her into his arms, standing and taking her back to the inn.


Date: 2008-11-10 12:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dudeness86.livejournal.com
you can do it, sweetie! *dies from excitement*

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