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Healing Scars

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Runaan’s POV

It was quiet whenever the High Mage leaves to retrieve something else for his dark magic. But the somewhat peaceful silence was shattered when my ears picked up footsteps approaching the door to my cell; I opened my eyes to see him entering. The human closed the door partway before setting down the bowl he was carrying. “Enough brooding, elf. My patience wears thin.” He said before pulling the cloth aside to reveal a mirror, “Tell me what you know about this relic or I will seal your fate.” My eyes widen a bit as I recognize the runes inscribed on the mirror’s frame. “It couldn’t be…” My mind flashes back to the story that used to scare me as a child of an elven thief who tried to steal from the Dragon King and Queen– only to be sealed away within the mirror, never to be seen again. However, they say that anyone who provokes the spirit of the thief will get pulled into the accursed mirror. But that’s impossible; it was only a cautionary tale to make children behave– yet like the egg of the Dragon Prince, I’m seeing it with my own eyes.

“You have succeeded.” I said, “Oh, have I?” The High Mage asked me. “That mirror? You have found something worse than death.” I told him, “Then, tell me. What is it?” he questioned. I know better than to tell him, lest I provoked the thief’s spirit. “I will never help you.” I just hope this monster gets pulled into the mirror when he provokes the thief… “Then you are of no use to me.” the human then grab for his staff and adjusted its form. He began to mutter something before the jewel on his staff and his eyes began to glow, causing me to realize too late on what he is doing. I could feel the excruciating pain as my life force is being pulled away from me and toward his staff, only for the ritual to suddenly stop. I gasp for air when my life force quickly return before noticing the High Mage on the floor as the door opens, revealing a cloaked figure standing at the threshold…


 

Azura’s POV

“Thank goodness…” I breathed out my relief, if I hadn’t intervene when I did… I shook my head in order to focus on the situation at hand. I walked over to the unconscious High Mage before moving the staff away from him and searching his body, “You have some nerve touching the dead like that.” I turned my attention to the Moonshadow elf chained to the wall. He was shirtless with one of his horns broken and his turquoise eyes glaring back at me; not only with interest, but also with contempt. “First of all, he’s asleep. And second, you’re welcome for saving you from a fate worse than death.” I said, not taking any of his attitude– even though he is quite handsome… for an elf. I shook that thought out of my head when I found the keys, “But… to tell you the truth, that monster doesn’t even deserve to live.” I added with venom in my voice as I look back at the High Mage.

I carefully walked over to his right arm and unlock the shackle before giving him the keys, allowing the elf to free his other arm. I reached down to grab the staff when I notice from the corner of my eye, the elf struggling to stand before sitting back down and grimace in pain. “Must have been refusing the food. Figures…” I thought to myself before digging into my satchel for a small bottle, “Here, you should drink this.” he looked at me guardedly when I offer it to him. “It’s an elixir– created with medicinal herbs and charged with various crystals. It will help with your injuries and restore some of your strength.” I explained as I knelt down in front of him, only for the elf to smirk. “You must be more naïve than I thought… Just because you helped me doesn’t mean that I’d fall for your lies. As far as I’m concern, your ‘elixir’ could be poison.” I glared at him; and although I’m not having any of his ingratitude or him calling me ‘naïve’, he does have a rather good point– Trust is something that is earned and not given. Looks like I’ll have to convince this stubborn elf that I’m not a threat of any sort and telling the truth.


 

Runaan’s POV

I watched carefully as a human hand pull out a small dagger and use it to cut the other hand… Opening the bottle, the figure carefully poured some of its contents in the same hand before drinking it– causing the wound to mend itself in a comforting light. “Sorry to disappoint, but dealing with poison is never my specialty.” A female voice said, showing a healed hand. My eyes widen when I realized that a human proved me wrong… and I walked right into that. It was one thing for Rayla to defy me, but this… I grabbed the bottle from the woman and took a cautious sip, only to taste the refreshing liquid almost akin to the juice of a Xadian orange. I can feel my strength returning as I continue to drink the elixir. Once I’ve finished, I noticed from my reflection in the mirror that most of my injuries are completely healed, with the exceptions of a couple scars– though I can’t say the same for my horn or even my arm… Hearing something, I turned my head to see the woman dragging the High Mage to where I was chained.

“What are you doing?” I asked, “Making sure to buy us more time– and by ‘us’, I mean you– to escape.” The human explained as she pulled the High Mage up to the wall and shackling his wrists. She then leaned the staff against the opposite wall before exiting the room. I quickly covered the accursed mirror and was about to exit as well before my eyes fell onto the pouch– I have to show this to Rayla, now that I know our parents’ fates… Until now, Rayla and I thought that they ran after failing the Dragon King and Prince– with my sister referring to them as ‘cowards’. I grabbed the pouch before walking out of the cell, it was then that I notice the chamber filled with ingredient used for dark magic. I shudder with abhorrence before finding my belongings nearby.


 

Azura’s POV

“Tell General Amaya what transpired here.” I sternly told Gren, earning a solemn nod from him before taking his leave. With Viren chained up, I’ll have to find Callum and Ez now before… Hearing something, I turn around to see the elf gathering his belongings and putting them on before walking toward a door. “Where do you think you’re going? You’ll need my help getting out of here.” I quickly stopped him, “I can find my way out.” He said, crossing his arms. “Look, I get it that you hate humans. But it’s a labyrinth down here, and not many knows about it. Not even the royal family with one exception.” He opened his mouth to protest before closing it again, “I will get you out of here, but you need to trust–”

“How will I know that you’re not just saying it and betray me later on?” the elf questioned, still holding his ground. I let out a sigh before pulling out a ribbon made from the silk of an Archangel Lunaris and made him put his right hand on it, “Tivarui aem agil…” I said quietly to the ribbon before seeing it glow golden as it send off two astral projections; one to the Moonshadow elf’s upper arm, and another close to my wrist. The projections then wrapped itself tight on their respective position before becoming more physical as the golden glow dies down. “What kind of dark magic was that?” the elf asked defensively as he pulled his hand away like he touched hot metal, “It isn’t dark magic at all, it’s a truth binding. A tangible proof that I won’t go against my word, even if you want me to.” I told him as I demonstrated by pulling the keys out with the ‘intention’ of locking the elf, only for the binding to tighten enough for me to drop the keys. “Whenever someone tries to go against their promise, the binding will tighten. But only on the one who gave their word in the first place, so you won’t even get hurt. The only way for it to come off is if the promise has been fulfilled or my hand falls off. Very much like that ribbon of yours.” I explained before pointing to the tight, silvery white ribbon on his other arm as a comparison.


 

Normal POV

It was quiet, yet the slight tension still lingers between the Moonshadow elf and the cloaked human for a while before Runaan let out a sigh, “Lead the way, human. The sooner I’m out of this room, the better.” The figure nodded and ascend the stairs with the Moonshadow elf close behind. “You and me both on that thought.” The human agreed, “So, what is your name?” Runaan looked at the cloaked woman. “Is this an interrogation?” Runaan countered, “No, it’s called an introduction. I personally find it degrading to be called by what you are instead of  your name.” the woman reply, taking Runaan aback by her shrewd remark as he recall how the High Mage refers to him as ‘elf’…  The only time he stopped following the cloaked woman is when he found himself exiting from a painting of a girl holding a sheep, only to be discovered by a patrolling guard. He would have killed the guard had the cloaked figure not intervened, by removing the cloak and using it as a distraction before rendering the guard unconscious. With the cloak off, Runaan can see that the human helping him is indeed a woman close to his age with sun-kissed skin. She was shorter than him by a few inches and was wearing a white shirt that expose her shoulders, light-coloured pants with a satchel and the dagger attached to her belt, and black knee high boots. Her raven hair was kept in a single braid and her striking eyes shame a deep blue sapphire with little efforts.

“What were you thinking? I told you I’d get you out, but not if you’re captured again– or worse, killed.” The woman scolded as she knelt down beside the sleeping guard and place her hand on his head, “Suie rutacsivilbo...” There was a brief light where the woman’s hand touch the guard’s head before fading away. “In case you’re wondering, I made sure that the guard wouldn’t remember seeing you– lest he alert the others. Anyways, we need to head back into the passageway.” The woman said as she walked past Runaan and entered, waiting for the Moonshadow elf to follow before replacing the portrait. “So, what now, human?” he asked her.


 

Runaan’s POV

“This way.” The woman gestured as she walked past me again, only for her to pause a bit. “And it’s Azura.” I look at her in confusion before she look back at me over her shoulder, “My name, if you wish to know for future reference.” And with that, she continues her way as I realized that I referred to her twice as ‘human’. While I don’t trust humans as far as I can throw them, Azura has not once tried to stab me in the back– but then, it might be due to that little ‘truth binding’. She always prove me wrong whenever I accused her; and yet, there’s something about her that makes me wonder…

After about an hour or so of following Azura through the labyrinth-like passageway, I was greeted by the cool, evening air. I looked up at the moon and realize how many days have passed, “You know how to swim, right?” Hearing Azura’s voice, brought my attention back to her. “Of course, I can swim.” I was about to ask her why before I noticed she was looking over the edge of a cliff we’re on, “She’s not thinking of…” I thought to myself as I cautiously look over to see a rushing river below.  “It’s either that or going through the castle and alerting the soldiers of your escape.” She said, apparently reading my mind. As much as I hate to admit it, Azura has made a valid point– it was hard enough to get into the castle to assassinate King Harrow when Rayla showed mercy to the scout… Azura pointed a section of the river where there’s less rocks, “If we dive toward that area and emerge before the rocks, we’ll be fine.” And with that, she jumped off and landed in the water.


 

Normal POV

Runaan watched as Azura surfaced after a couple seconds before making her way to the shore. “That woman is either touched in the head or braver than I thought… Well, here goes nothing.” Realizing that there is no going back, he took a leap of faith. The Moonshadow assassin could feel the wind rush past him before plunging into the water, with the impact causing his arm to hurt due to the assassin’s binding. Ignoring the pain, Runaan swim toward the surface.


 

Azura’s POV

I scan the river for the Moonshadow elf when he didn’t came up. “Okay, maybe diving off a high cliff wasn’t really the best idea.” I was beginning to worry when I saw him break the surface, gasping for air. He made his way toward the shore, only for me to underestimate the current speed and the state of his arm. I wade in to help him out, barely catching his other arm as the current push him by. We both managed to reach dry land, only for the Moonshadow elf to notice the truth binding disintegrating from his upper arm. “There’s no need for the truth binding once the promise has been fulfilled.” I explained as mine disintegrates, as well. “So, what now?” I asked him.


 

Runaan’s POV

“I have to get back to Xadia.” I said curtly, “The Queen of the Dragons needs to be informed that the Dragon Prince is still alive.” As I was answering her, I reached for my bow and pulled an arrow from my quiver. “And I can’t let a human go. Someone else have made that mistake.” I took aim, but I really hate the fact that I’ll be making another unnecessary kill. Especially when Azura had helped me escaped, talk about being ungrateful… “You don’t need to waste an arrow on me. I’m not planning of going back, let alone telling anyone.” The woman said, taking a step closer to the arrow. To tell the truth, I was actually taken aback by her defiance– there is no trace of fear in her eyes, despite the fact that her life was being threatened.

I raised a brow as I lowered my bow a bit, not loosening my grip. “And why is that?” I asked Azura, causing her to falter a bit. “It’s because I need to find the two princes.” She replied, with reluctance in her voice. And I don’t blame her; after all, King Harrow was not the only target. “That human soldier I freed was originally assigned to find the two princes, but Viren imprisoned him and gave that role to his two children– only he instructed one to retrieve the egg, and the other to kill the princes.” While I was confused on why the High Mage would want to kill the princes, I have an idea on where they are… or rather, where they’re going.


 

Azura’s POV

The Moonshadow elf loosened his grip and replace the arrow back in his quiver. “You should come with me.” He said, causing me to look at him dubiously. What if it was a trap? “The princes you’re looking for are heading for Xadia to return the Dragon Prince. So it would make sense to travel together until we catch up to them.” He explained. “And you’re sure you’ll be fine travelling with a human?” I asked, something tells me that he wasn’t too pleased with that suggestion. “The sooner we find the princes, the better. We’ll go our separate ways afterward, but we should get going.” He said, but I’ve made sure Viren is chained up and that guard had the memory of seeing the Moonshadow elf erased.

“The guards will be suspicious when they saw the soldier you released.” Hearing him say that made me realize that he has a point. “Let’s get going.” I told the Moonshadow elf, earning a nod from him. “It’s Runaan.” He said, causing me to look at him in confusion. “You asked for my name earlier. And it’s only fair since you told me yours.” He explained before he begin walking ahead of me, I quietly repeated his name before catching up to him.

Chapter Text

Viren’s POV

I stirred awake, still groggy on what happened. The last thing I remember is grabbing my staff after failing to extract information from the assassin… Hearing the sound of chains, I became more alert in my surroundings. The mirror was covered, my staff is leaning against by the door, and I’m chained to the wall where the Moonshadow elf was. I pulled against the chains before seeing a centipede crawling out of a crack, “Not exactly an ingredient I would use, but I’ll have to make do.” I opened my hand closest to the centipede for it to crawl onto my hand.

The moment it is the palm, I closed my hand into a fist. “Dnibnu leets nirehtyls.” I chanted, hoping that it works. The shackles around my wrist morphed into snakes as I got myself up and left the cell with my staff before realizing that Commander Gren is also missing. Whoever freed him must have also freed the elf and chained me up in the latter’s place. I gathered a couple ingredients and a lit candle before crushing and mixing the ingredients and sprinkled it on the candle, turning the flame a pale turquoise.


 

Normal POV

“Deripsnart tahw laever.” The High Mage chanted before blowing the candle out, the smoke trailed off before an image of a cloaked figure appeared. The figure walked across the room and down the corridor, only to return a few minutes later with a hazy image of Runaan. The smoky assassin dissipated for a moment as the figure freed a hazy image of Commander Gren before the latter dissipated, with the former stopping the Moonshadow elf. They stood there for a moment before the figure lead the assassin toward the stairs where the smoke finally dissipates. Viren left the room, know without any doubt, that someone had freed both the assassin and Commander Gren.

Once Viren entered his chamber, he noticed a fabric lying on the ground. Picking it up, the High Mage realize that the fabric is a cloak– the very cloak worn by the figure who freed Commander Gren and the Moonshadow elf. A soldier was walking outside when Viren opened the door. “Send for the best hounds in Katolis. The elf has escaped.” He commanded, giving the soldier the cloak.


 

Runaan’s POV

It was quiet between Azura and myself as we ran some of it and walked briskly the other half of the time, making sure to get as far away from the castle as possible. Other than her stumbling once, Azura managed to keep up with me– which I, personally, find impressive. “We should be resting soon.” She said to me once we’ve slowed to a walking pace, “Especially you, considering the condition you’re in.” I looked back at the concern look on her face before continuing onward, “We can go a little longer.” I told her. Not only because having distance between us and the castle is vital, but also to hide the fact that the assassin’s binding becomes tighter on my arm the longer it takes. “Well, how long does it take to reach Xadia?” Azura questioned, concern still lingers in her voice.

“From where we are? About 5 days… if I was travelling alone and nonstop. But a week or so when resting and with others.” I answered, recalling how long it had been since the team of assassins I was assigned to lead have left Xadia. “In that case, we’ll be needing supplies.” Azura said, “But I guess we could travel light and stop at various stores…” I glared back at her. She raises both her hands up and said “I’m joking, but we will need supplies.”  Azura does have a point; it’s a long journey to Xadia, and I’ve been refusing to eat or drink anything while I was imprisoned. And that is when I noticed a familiar rock and remembered something– the camp. If nothing has been moved… “Before my team headed for the castle, we set up camp nearby.” I told her, “If it’s still there, we may be able to pick up a few supplies.” Azura nodded before saying “Lead the way.”


 

Normal POV

Runaan give a slight nod before leading Azura through the forest, retracing his steps until they’ve reached the camp. Content that it’s all still there, the assassin turn his attention to Azura. “The tents will be too big to carry, so we’ll leave them behind. But we can see if there’s anything useful here.” He said before walking away from the woman and toward the tents. Although he didn’t want to admit it, Runaan finds it difficult going through the camp, knowing that he and Rayla are the only survivors of their team; that is, if Rayla is still alive… before she defied him, Runaan made sure that the younger Moonshadow elf was out of the way after she had let the human scout go. He knew that her stunt would risk death for all of them, and he did a ‘cowardly’ move and took her off the mission.


 

Runaan’s POV

I decided to start with my tent and go from there… As I go through the other tents after Rayla, I thought about the other assassins who had fallen– making sure that their deaths would not be in vain. The only other female member of the team was Selene, who acted as the voice of reason. Then there was her younger brother, Tarik. Much like myself and Rayla, they have inherited a connection with the Moon Arcanum from their father– despite inheriting physical traits of a Sunfire elf from their mother. His death upsets me as much as it did his sister; besides Rayla, Tarik was the youngest of the group– as well as the fact that both Selene and Tarik have left behind a younger sister. The last two were Altair and Orion; “Five of us won’t be enough. We need all six.” Altair’s words echoed in my mind when I entered his tent. When it comes to medical treatments, Altair was more knowledgeable– all the more reason why I chose him as the team’s healer.

Walking out of the tents, I looked through the supplies I’ve managed to find, along with the rest of my arrows and a satchel to carry the supplies. There’s more than enough ration bars for the two of us, ropes, waterskins, bandages, vials of Altair’s healing salve, and a few cylinders containing relevium tablets that I can use to ease the pain in my arm, as well as my broken horn. I retreated into the tents and return with a little something from my fallen comrades– I know it isn’t much, but it would have to do in hopes that their souls can rest with peace; one of Tarik’s throwing knives, a medical tool for Altair, the whetstone Orion wouldn’t let anyone borrow, and a betrothal bracelet given to Selene by her fiancé before the mission. I was about to bury them when I realized that I’m the only one at the camp. “Where is she?” I thought as a worst-case scenario came into my head, only to notice a gentle light nearby.


 

Azura’s POV 

When Runaan walked off toward the tents, I realized that I don’t even know what help I’ll be– in fact, I couldn’t even see in this part of the forest. I can feel a sense of uneasiness as I dug through my crystal collection for the moonstone and the sunstone before placing the two stones in one hand and closing my fingers around it, “Atimes tnertsulli.” I chanted before opening my hand again, causing the stones to cast off a gentle glow bright enough for me to see. Taking in the familiarity of this section, I walked toward a clearing where I’ve spotted some medicinal herbs nearby. I have just finished gathering what I need while leaving the rest of the herbs to grow back, I could hear footsteps behind me. Putting the herbs in my satchel, I quietly drew my dagger and swung it around– only to stop short with the blade inches from the neck when I realize who it was.

I sheathed my dagger out of relief and annoyance, “I know you’re an assassin, but don’t sneak up on me like that.” I scolded Runaan. “Well, you were nowhere to be found at the camp. And I only followed that light.” He said, pointing to the glowing crystals in my hand. It was then I realize that Runaan must have thought I’ve left to warn the soldiers, “I’ve only left to find some medicinal herbs, since I don’t even know what to grab from the camp. You would do the same if I’ve lead you to an abandoned, human camp.” He opened his mouth before closing it again and looking away before noticing something. I followed his gaze to notice a patch of berries, but I don’t think I’ve came across them before…


 

Normal POV

“So, Rayla must have used these berries to stain her blades…” he thought to himself as he recognizes the berries before noticing Azura looking at them with curiosity and hesitation, “They’re moonberries. Most of them grow in Xadia and are full of nutrients.” Runaan told her as he casually picked one and popped it into his mouth. Azura cautiously did the same, and decided to trust his word and pull out an empty container for the picked berries. “At least, we’ll have a source of food for the journey.” She said, “Along with these ration bars.” Runaan added, showing Azura the rations he found. “About five days’ worth…” she muttered when she saw how many there are, “Actually, one bar is enough to keep you full for three days. Elven warriors often take these on their missions, especially long ones.” Runaan explained before hearing a baying sound in the distance.

“What was that?” he asked, looking over his shoulders. “Wolves usually hunt in the forest at this hour.” Azura replied before the sound came up again– only this time, a little closer. “Wait, those aren’t wolves. We need to move, now!” She said as she grabbed the moonstone in her other hand and separate it from the sunstone, dispelling the light. Runaan gathered the rations as the woman place the two crystals and container back in her satchel before they make a run for it. The Moonshadow elf quietly rebuked himself for letting his guard down, along with the fact that he already used ‘Mystica-Arbora’. Runaan looked around until he spotted a cluster of trees with one having the lowest branch about a few meters off the ground, “This way.” The assassin said as he grabbed Azura’s hand and led her to the tree.


 

Azura’s POV

“You know how to climb, right?” Runaan asked me as he linked his fingers together, causing me to realize what he’s planning. I’m capable of climbing trees, but I can’t let him give me a leg up out of fear that I would hurt his arm. I was about to tell him that when the sound of horses whinnying in the distance made me think otherwise, I place my hands on the trunk before I put my foot in his hands. Runaan then boosted me up high enough for me to grab the lowest branch and pull myself up. He jumped up and grab the branch as well, only to start slipping until I helped him before he grabbed his arm and grimace in pain.

“Your arm.” I said in alarm, only for Runaan to ignore it. “Never mind that. Keep climbing.” He told me before climbing higher up the tree. I followed him up until we’re out of sight, and not a moment too soon. About three dogs came barking right up the tree, signalling that we’re here. “What now?” I asked the Moonshadow assassin, only for him to carefully move from one branch to another. “Follow my lead.” He said before continuing his way, “You can’t be serious…” I muttered to myself. I looked out to the branches and then down to the ground– It’s not that I’m afraid of heights, it’s more like not wanting to break a bone or something. But if I’m caught… chances are that I’ll be branded as a ‘traitor’. I took a deep breath and began my way across.


 

Runaan’s POV

I looked back to see Azura slowly making her way across, almost losing her balance halfway. When she’s closer, I pulled her across. We continue the way until half a dozen soldiers riding horses caught up to the dogs when we are in the third tree, with one of them dismounting and approaching the tree where we are hiding. Despite the fact that neither of us dare to move or breathe, I was thankful that the leaves are thick enough to completely cover us, especially when we moved from one tree to another. “We should continue the search. The hounds must have picked up a squirrel.” A soldier, presumably the captain, called out. The one closest to the tree looked back, “They’re pretty persistent about the trees.” He stated.

“Lord Viren did say that Moonshadow elves are very deceptive by nature.” A female soldier stated before whistling the dogs to approach her, and that was then I noticing Azura bringing her hand to her forehead. I looked closely at what the soldier was pulling out and realized that it was the cloak Azura left behind, “Wait here.” I told her before focusing on the moon just beyond the leaves. I felt myself becoming one with its silvery light and my skin became more like the night. While it isn’t as strong as it was during a full moon, it will have to make do. I cautiously made my way down the tree and toward the soldier, but I couldn’t attack her; lest my cover be blown. As I thought of how to steal back the cloak, I noticed another soldier ride in. “Captain, you might want to come with me. I think I’ve found the assassins’ camp.” He said, causing my eyes to widen. The captain turn to the others, “Let’s search in that area. The elf couldn’t have gone far. Plus, there may be some things that will be of use to Lord Viren.” He ordered. By some miracle, I managed to grab the cloak before the soldiers ride off… only to be spotted by the three dogs.


 

Azura’s POV

Realizing that the hounds have spotted Runaan despite his stealth mode, I quickly pulled out the moonstone, an amethyst, and a clear quartz. Gathering them in one hand, I focus on the three dogs. “Sutinep munmos.” I chanted and waved my hand, causing the dogs to grow drowsy until they fell asleep. Runaan look up at me as I climb down, “I could have gotten away from them.” He told me as he became more visible. “Yeah, tell yourself that when they take a bite out of you.” I deadpanned as I grab the cloak, “And… thank you for retrieving this. At least they won’t have anything to remind them.” I added before I notice Runaan walking toward the tree. “The less tracks on the ground, the better.” The Moonshadow elf reasoned before he begins climbing. “Here we go again…” I sigh to myself before I began to climb the tree as well, carefully following him from branch to branch.


 

Normal POV

By the time they’ve stopped in another part of the forest, the moon was slowly sinking toward the horizon. “Looks like the soldiers have given up.” Azura said as Runaan climbed down first, looking among the trees– just in case. “We’ll rest here for the night and continue first thing in the morning.” The latter told the former as she carefully makes her way down. Azura slipped on the final branch and fell down to the ground, picking herself up a few second later. “And that’s including you?” she asked the Moonshadow elf, doing her best to stifle a growing yawn. Runaan could tell that Azura was growing tired– he could even feel exhaustion creeping up on him, all the more so due to his imprisonment.

“I’ll keep watch for a little while.” He told her, causing the woman to look at him doubtfully. “All right… but wake me when you’re ready to sleep. We could take turns keeping watch.” Azura said, holding her ground before adding. “Look, something tells me that you hate the idea of travelling with a human. But until we either find the princes, or cross over to Xadia, we’ll have to trust each other– whether you like it or not.” Runaan open his mouth before closing them again, “She certainly is stubborn for a human…” he thought to himself as a feeling that Azura’s hiding something crossed his mind.


 

Runaan’s POV

I sighed to myself, “All right… will you sleep if I say that I’ll rest soon?” I asked. Azura nodded before going to lie down on the ground with her back to a thick bush, making me realize that just because she is travelling with an elven assassin, doesn’t mean that she would let her guard down. "She's not foolish, I'll give her that." I thought to myself as I carefully watch Azura falling asleep, albeit slowly and reluctantly. Once I know for sure that she is asleep, I then remembered I still have the items for my fallen comrades. I walked toward a clearing bathed in moonlight nearby, and dug four holes in a row. As I place each item in the hole, I softly recited a prayer before pushing the dirt back into the hole and marking the makeshift graves with four, small stones I have found.

I stayed there for a few, silent minutes before heading back to where Azura is sleeping– only to find the woman with her cloak draped over her like a blanket. While she appears to sleeping peacefully, I know that this is far from the truth. With the urge to sleep growing stronger by the second, I fought against it as I look among the trees before sitting down. I looked around one more time before considering Azura’s offer to take turns. At least, until the urge to sleep was too much and completely overtook me, dragging me into the comforting, dark abyss.

Chapter Text

Azura’s POV

I stirred myself awake and looked around, realizing that the sun is already up. “I swear, if he didn’t slee–” I began to mutter to myself, only to stop short when my eyes fell on Runaan sleeping on his side. Despite being a battle-hardened assassin with a ribbon cutting off the circulation in his arm, he seem to have a more… peaceful look on his face. A slight morning breeze earn a shiver from him, causing me to grab my cloak upon realization that he has been sleeping all night without something to keep him warm. “He can rest a little longer.” I thought to myself as I cover Runaan with it, being careful not to wake the sleeping elf.

I strolled around, mostly taking in the scenery, but also making sure that no guards are patrolling nearby. From how they see it, the Moonshadow elf that murdered their king have escaped last night. I walked down to the river and was about to splash some water on my face when I realizes there is something familiar about the river. I looked at the surrounding forest, confirming my suspicion. And with that, I ran back to where Runaan is.


Runaan’s POV

The sound of a bird singing filled my ears, disrupting my slumber. I became more alert when I felt something, along with the fact that the morning light peeking through the trees is too strong for it to be early. “How long have I been asleep for?” I sat up to find Azura’s cloak draped over me, “Morning.” I turn to see the woman approaching me. “In case you’re thinking that I would rat you out, I noticed that you were sleeping, so I checked the surroundings and let you sleep a little longer.” She said, “So that explains it…” I thought to myself as I glared at her for being defensive, along with the fact that she chose not to wake me. Still, she is travelling with an elven assassin… “I thought you would have murdered me in my sleep, considering how I almost had a dagger to my neck last night.” I said half sarcastically, “Come on, Moonshine. Do you really think I could take on a fully trained warrior?” She asked with a slight chuckle. I glared at her for the nickname she gave me, but it did made me think back to that moment– had she follow through with the attack, I would have only receive a small scratch before disarming her. “…Point taken.”

She then continues, saying that we were close to this Banther Lodge. According to her, it has shelter, supplies, a place to rest, and it’s in the same direction as Xadia. While it is convenient, I was hesitant. What if it was a trap since the Banther Lodge is a human lodge. “The Banther Lodge acts as a winter home for the royal family. It’s pretty much empty most of the year, and a hideout would provide us a chance to properly take stock of what we have and you the chance to recover– even if it’s for a day or two. Besides, I have been there before, so I know the area. And unless they have any business going to the lodge, it’s completely isolated since it was built with no towns nearby.” She added.


Azura’s POV

“And you’re sure the lodge is empty this time of year?” Runaan asked skeptically, “I’m sure. But I can do another truth binding if you’d like.” I confirmed as I dig for the Archangel Lunaris silk ribbon. “That won’t be necessary. I’ll take your word for it.” He quickly stopped me, “If it makes you feel better, we can leave once there’s a sign of trouble.” I reassured him. Runaan thought long and hard, clearly weighing the pros and cons; and I wouldn’t blame him. We both know that it was possible for someone to come to the lodge while he’s hiding there, as well as the fact that there’s a chance of running into a soldier with his current state. “I guess we can lay low for a couple days. But when I’m no longer a liability, we’ll continue.” He told me, I nodded my head before showing him the way.

Upon arrival, it was clear that the Banther Lodge is exactly how I remembered it. A quaint and sturdy cabin nestled in a private clearing with the river flowing next to it. There is a shed, which stores the boats in the winter, and a stable for the horses. Inside, the lodge is very comfortable and large enough for a family and a few other people to live in, complete with many fireplaces for the coldest of evenings. The staircase leading to the second floor were directly across from the main entrance, with two suit of armours positioned on the landing where a second set of stairs go off toward the upper level in two separate directions.


Normal POV

“The bedrooms are on the second floor, down the hall after taking the stairs going to the right.” Azura informed Runaan before walking toward the kitchen to look for food, only to find a stale loaf of bread that is hard as a rock. “I don’t think I’ll be eating if that’s what humans eat.” A voice startled Azura, causing her to turn around and see Runaan standing there. “Neither of us will be eating it. The bread is so stale, that you can kill someone with it.” She said, banging the bread against the counter to prove her point. “Never knew that human food can be versatile. I mean, who wouldn’t love a club sandwich.” Azura added as she jokingly spin it around like a weapon, earning a small smirk from the Moonshadow elf. “I hate to disappoint, but I don’t play with my food.” He said before emptying his contents on the table, with Azura deciding to do the same– to show that she had nothing to hide.

“You clearly have a one-track mind, don’t you?” she asked, as she made sure that the contents from her satchel is separate from what Runaan laid out on the table. There, the Moonshadow assassin can see what the woman carries: a small cauldron, mortar and pestle, a small book with a pen and inkwell, flint and a fire starter, the ribbon Azura used when they first met, various plants and crystals, and bottles and containers; some of them full and others are empty. After looking at the combined inventory, Azura nodded and gathered the contents from her satchel. “Impressive.” The woman commented as she repack her satchel, “The only thing missing is a map of the continent– to know exactly where we are and how far we’ve gone from where we started. And I think there’s one in the library. I’ll go grab it, so feel free to look around if you’d like.” With that, she left the kitchen.


Runaan’s POV

I watched her go up the stairs and waited a few minutes before repacking the satchel and deciding to go toward the bedrooms, “Down the hall after taking the stairs going to the right.” I thought to myself as I followed the direction she told me. I looked into each bedroom; the one bedroom in particular made me realize that it must have been the king’s room. I stepped in and looked around, the sheets are both crimson and gold– the kingdom’s signature colours, and the shield displayed above the headboard bares a crest that resembles the castle’s uneven towers.

I notice a bird stand beside the window, seeing it reminded me of that night before shaking my head. It was then I noticed a picture frame set on the fireplace’s mantle. Picking it up, I realized that it was a portrait of the king and his family; seeing the portrait and thinking back to how I encountered the princes with the egg, I noticed that the family might have been blended since while the eldest resembles the queen, he bares no resemblance to the late king. “That would explain why Prince Ezran is the heir and not Prince Callum…” I then realized what I was doing, set the portrait back down exactly where it was and left the room, making sure to close the door behind myself. I mentally berated myself for going through the belongings of the dead, since it was disrespectful and I know better than that…


Azura’s POV

After finding the map in the library, I realized that I’m close to the game room where I remember my father telling me that there’s something hidden for me to have if anything were to happen to him. I entered the room, only to find it looking like a battle had gone through it. Two of the tables were destroyed; along with a wooden pillar, and on the wall and floor, there were a couple nicks that indicate that something was stuck there. I found the box empty with the keys inside it scattered, “What happened? Where is it?” I looked around, but to no avail; it was the only thing left of my father’s, and it was gone before I even had it. With a heavy heart, I left the ruined game room.

I was almost at the bottom of the stairs when a sound echoed from the other hall. I raced toward the source and found Runaan unconscious on the floor, causing me to rush toward him. From how he have collapsed, he was leaving the room that he chose. While the room isn’t big, it is well furnished. The bed has russet coloured sheet and is next to a window facing the river, toward the east. A mahogany nightstand was beside the bed while a matching desk is at the foot of the bed, the dresser with a washbasin is against the opposing wall, and next to the wall close to the door is a bookshelf. His coat and armour, his weapons, and the satchel he carried is set in the corner, “Good grief… It’s barely noon and he’s sleeping on the floor.” I entered to set the map down with his satchel and pull the sheet back before I heard a coughing sound and noticed how much pain he’s in.


Normal POV

Worried, Azura walked back to where Runaan is and pressed her hand against his forehead. Her concerns grew when she realize that the Moonshadow elf is burning up with a fever. Wasting no time, she got him into bed after some efforts, “His conditions are worse than I thought!” Azura left to grab a bowl of water and a washcloth, all the while making a mental note to add a blanket to the supplies for Runaan.

Upon retrieving the items including a blanket, Azura headed back to the Moonshadow elf– only to find him tossing and turning. “R-Rayla…” He murmured weakly before going into a coughing fit, causing Azura to set the blanket down with the map and the rest of the items down on the nightstand. She looked at Runaan with concern as she grab the chair away from the desk and next to the bed. Azura watches his face carefully when she dipped the cloth in the bowl, wringing out the excess water in the process.


Runaan’s POV

The last thing I remember was feeling light-headed when leaving the room I chose. When I slowly came to, I notice Azura dabbing my forehead with a cloth. I wanted to swat her hand away, but I couldn’t find the strength. “Oh, thank goodness.” I heard her say out of relief, “Did she lied about her elixir?” I thought to myself as I struggle to sit myself up. “You shouldn’t be moving too much.” Azura told me as she place her free hand on my shoulder, that look on her face was the same as the one when she asked me how long it takes to reach Xadia. “So your ‘elixir’ is poison, after all…” I muttered, only for Azura to hear it.

“I told you before. Dealing with poison is never my specialty.” She told me as she brought the cloth back to dip it in more water, “You were unconscious and burning with a fever. I wouldn’t be surprised if you came down with an illness while you were imprisoned, and sleeping in the cold last night didn’t help either.” I looked away toward the window, realizing that I was such an idiot with my accusation toward her– especially when I’ve already felt the healing effects of her elixir. Though her stubbornness and the concern look on her face reminded me of my best friend, Ethari. I wonder how he’s doing since I already destroyed the pendant he gave me to use after we succeeded with the mission– not before…


Azura’s POV

“I just hate feeling so useless…” I heard him muttered before noticing trying to get up again, “There’s so much to do–” I place my hand on his shoulder and gently push him back down. “I know how you feel, but you have to take it easy for now.” I told him as I use my other hand to check his temperature, “Your fever hasn’t broke through yet. So, you should stay in bed and rest until it has.” I place the cloth on his forehead to emphasize my point. “But–” Runaan begin to protest, “No buts.” I interjected as I dug out the amethyst, moonstone, and clear quartz. “You better not be planning to put me under that sleeping spell.” He said warningly, “I’m just putting them under your pillow, so they will help you relax better.” I told him as I put them in a little velvet pouch and did just that before something dawns on me. “Are you… trying to say that you’re this fearless elven warrior who stubbornly defy his captor, but scared of a little human magic?” He opened his mouth to deny what I said, but closed it. “Now, you get some rest. While I’ll prepare something for you to eat.” I told him, “And don’t worry. I won’t poison you.” I added before leaving the room.


Runaan’s POV

I waited for another minute before removing the cloth from my forehead, grateful that Azura left the bowl of water on the nightstand. I managed to get out of bed, only to feel unsteady for a moment. Thankfully, I grabbed one of the bedposts– otherwise, I would have fallen onto the floor; and I am not planning to have her worry over me, again. I walked over to where my coat is, and pull out the pouch from a hidden pocket before sitting back down on the bed. With the memory of that monster showing the coins to me still fresh in my mind, I hesitated for a moment before gathering my courage.

All of them have the expression of complete horror on their faces, and their eyes desperately pleading for help. One of them was a human male with his hair falling just below his jawline, but my eyes are on the two elves; a male Moonshadow elf with his long hair pulled back into a ponytail, and a female Oceanmist elf with her wavy hair cascading down to her upper back. Not sure if they could see or hear me, I decided to try my luck.


?’s POV

When the coins tumbled from the dark pouch again, there was a brief, blinding light before I looked out to see a scenery unlike that of the dungeon. “Noctis…” I sensed Marissa worrying about me, “I’m fine… But what about you? Are you all right?” I asked my dilecti before she reassured me that she’s as unharmed as possible right now; considering our conditions. I looked up to see a Moonshadow elf looking at us with uncertainty; I remember seeing him looking at us when the coins were shown to him in the dungeon, except his face was a little more bruised back then. With his left horn broken and the two markings across the bridge of his nose, I couldn’t stop feeling that there’s something familiar about the Moonshadow elf. “Could it be…?”

Then the Moonshadow elf moved one on his hand, *Mother? Father?* he signed while his lips are moving. My eyes widen as I recognize him, “Noctis… It’s him.” I sensed Marissa signing a response. *Runaan? Is that you?* I could see that his eyes were on the verge of welling up with tears, *What happened? They say that you failed the King of the Dragons and ran away.* He signed, with his hurt expression clear as day despite his attempt to hide it. I felt guilty for not telling him, and I can sense her feeling the same.


Runaan’s POV

*I’m sorry for not telling you, but it was to ensure both yours and your sister’s safety.* Father signed, *Your mother and I did ran, but only to retrieve the egg of the Dragon Prince after seeing a human take it. We would have returned to Xadia with the Dragon Prince, if their High Mage hadn’t caught up to us, stolen the egg, and trapped us with dark magic.* It started to make sense to me as I thought back to how Rayla wanted me to call off the mission. Had I known that the Dragon Prince is alive, I wouldn’t have bound ourselves. And now, my younger sister is paying the price because of me… *I saw the egg; Rayla did, too. In fact, she’s travelling back home with the human princes at this moment to return the Dragon Prince to his mother.* I signed to them, seeing their eyes lit up with a spark of something. Hope, perhaps… *That’s great to hear. But why are you not with her?* Mother signed, causing me to feel guilty.

*I haven’t seen her since we fought.* I reluctant signed, *Rayla and I… We were part of a team sent to assassinate the king of Katolis and his heir as vengeance. Before Rayla and I found out about the Dragon Prince, we bound ourselves.* I even showed them the assassin’s binding on my arm, causing Mother to bring her hands to her mouth in shock. *I continued with the mission and the king is dead, but I’m regretting it now; especially after being imprisoned for it.* I never once regretted my actions as an assassin until recently and was silent before Father signed, *Runaan… I also regret having you take on such a heavy burden… I should have told you and Rayla that I was an assassin before being chosen to join the Dragon Guard. I… I never wanted any of my children to go through what I did. I’m sorry.* I honestly didn’t know what to think; to make sure my sister and I wouldn’t become outcasts, I had to quickly learn to take a life and not feel any remorse.


?’s POV

Runaan was quiet as he took in what his father had said before signing, *Do you have any idea how to undo this?* Noctis and I realize that he was referring to our conditions. I shook my head warily, *I’m afraid your father and I do not know…* I signed, causing Runaan to look upset. *I’m heading for Xadia to inform the Queen of the Dragons that her son is alive. Maybe I’ll come across Rayla, I promise I’ll look after her and find a way to help you.* He signed with a resolved look on his face; I smiled at how Runaan takes after his father when it comes to his determination, though some would say that he takes after me. *If you see your sister, tell her that we’re proud of both of you and that we love you.* I sensed Noctis signed to Runaan, earning a nod from our son. *I will. And I love you, too.* He signed in response before turning his head for a second and quickly slipping the coins back into the dark pouch.


Azura’s POV

I walked up the stairs with two bowls in hand; in the bowls consisting of a stew made with wild vegetables growing nearby, pieces of preserved meat and the bread found earlier; both softened by the broth. Considering what I had to work with in the empty lodge, it’s a miracle that a decent and wholesome meal was created from almost nothing. I debated using fireplace to cook the stew; just because the lodge is isolated, doesn’t mean that someone would see the smoke coming from the chimney. I’m sure Runaan would agree that I can never be too careful… I shook my head when I approached the room he’s in, only to see him sitting up– but still in bed.

“May I come in?” I asked, earning a nod when Runaan gave permission. I walked over to the chair, gave him his, and sat down. “I figured you’d might enjoy some company, since I don’t like being in bed either.” I added, trying to make a conversation. But the Moonshadow elf ignored me, he just took a scoop of the stew, and after hesitating for a moment, put it in his mouth. “I have to admit, this is really good.” He commented before I pressed my hand on his forehead, but he doesn’t protest or tried to swat my hand away like before.


Runaan’s POV

“Oh, good. Your fever has broke and is slowly going down.” Azura said before removing her hand, allowing me to continue eating the stew she gave me. “I’m impressed that you would go out of your way to nurse an enemy back to health.” I said, “Just because we were on separate sides, doesn’t mean that we have to be enemies.” She told me. “My mother was a healer in the village where she grew up in; I’ve learn a few things from her, but it was my father who taught me everything I know.” I nodded, mostly due to understanding her point; even if they are either friend or foe, no one deserves to go through what I did in that dungeon. “So… who’s Rayla?” I nearly choked from Azura’s question, realizing that she must have heard me said my sister’s name… “She’s one of the assassins that I was leading to avenge the King of the Dragons.” I replied, wondering if Rayla is still alive or not.

“Avenge?” Azura asked, causing me to hesitate, since she would know that the princes would be in danger if I told her. “The only reason my team was here is because the humans attacked Xadia unprovoked and murdered the King of the Dragons.” She was silent before speaking up, “I’m afraid it was provoked.” Azura explained that nine years ago, the kingdoms of Duren and Katolis was plagued with a famine; and the humans only came into Xadia to search for an ingredient to a fertility spell that can save the kingdoms. The King of the Dragon killed the three queens in the process of retrieving the ingredient, and Katolis’ High Mage convinced King Harrow to avenge the queens years later; especially his wife, Queen Sarai.


Normal POV

Runaan was quiet as he took in what Azura told him, remembering the famine she mentioned; though in Xadia, the famine was less severe, thanks to the efforts of the Earthspirit elves. Though he realizes that the reason behind the Dragon King’s death is the same as the mission to assassinate King Harrow, just thinking of how the humans would capture elves or kill magical creature with no remorse for dark magic makes his blood boil. “Well, the humans should have thought about it before killing a magma titan for dark magic.” Azura looked at the Moonshadow elf, “I know… if they were humble enough to ask for help, this whole war wouldn’t have started. Humanity has been exiled because of dark magic, and this war’s only a cycle of vengeance that has gone on for too long.” She replied with a slight anger in her voice. Hearing her comment surprised Runaan. Here’s a human who agreed with a Xadian and spoke of dark magic as if she’s bitten into a rotten fruit. Yet, the Moonshadow elf could have sworn that there’s a regretful look in her eyes.


Azura’s POV

“I’m surprised that you don’t like dark magic.” Hearing Runaan’s comment, I look up. “And you believed that all humans support it?” I asked, causing him to falter a bit, looking for the right answer. “I’ll take that as a yes. Not all humans approved of dark magic; ever since Queen Sarai’s death, King Harrow sees it as a shortcut that only delays the blood price.” The Moonshadow elf was taken aback, “I apologize. I didn’t mean to…” he began before I cut him off. “It’s fine. I should have been more tactful.”

“When you used that truth binding, you said that it wasn’t dark magic.” Runaan said after an awkward silence. I look at him with surprise, hardly anyone would ask about light magic; they rather avoid it, and the ‘witches’ who practice them, like the plague. The only person I know who was curious about it was King Harrow when he learned that my father was a light mage, yet he honoured my father’s wish to keep it a secret; compared to the occasional elf, light mages have a more likely chance of being chased by a lynch mob. I hesitated for a moment, “That’s because it’s light magic.” I notice him slightly tilting his head with confusion. “Light magic?” he asked, “It was discovered about 500 years ago, by a couple of disillusioned dark mages. Unlike dark magic, which only takes, light magic also give back; depending on the strength of the spell, it may require a bit of the mage’s life force.” I explained before looking out the window and saw that the sun had set.


Runaan’s POV

“Well, I’m going to check the surroundings before calling it a night. And you should, too. I mean, call it a night.” Azura changed the topic as she got up and gathered the empty bowls, washcloth, and bowl of water. She begin to walk before I decided to speak up, “Thank you.” Azura stopped in her tracks and look back at me as if I have suddenly spoken a different language. “Even though I hate to admit it, I really appreciate you helping me. Not only in that dungeon, but also this moment.” It was quiet for a second before she replied, “You’re welcome… I may get killed for saying this, but I’m sure that you would have done the same.” I thought about what she said, and know that she was right. “Good night.” I nodded before she left the room; I decided to take her advice this time and lay down, facing the window so that I wouldn’t ruin the pillows with my horns. The moment my head is on the pillow, I could feel the crystals’ soothing energy taking effect. All the tensions melted away and I willingly let my eyes close as the soothing energy lull me to sleep.