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Thread: [M] Anima Mundi IC (Namingtoohard and Headwrapper)

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    Default [M] Anima Mundi IC (Namingtoohard and Headwrapper)

    The wooden frame of the cot beneath Mec creaked as he adjusted to a new position. The sound echoed off the walls in the dark basement in which his cell resided. Through a narrow window barred with steel rods he could see that the stars above him, meaning he had nearly endured a full day of imprisonment. As the young man lay the painful memory of the events of that morning replayed in his mind, and an overwhelming weight began to crush at his heart.

    The day started like most of them do. Mec arrived at the family store at the crack of dawn to prepare for the day. The shop was inspected for any trespasses, the windows were cleaned, and the inventories were recounted. The shelves were neatly organized with various household goods: kitchen tools, bags of spices and sweets from distant lands, dried herbs from local farms, as well as scented soaps and candles. Trapdoors that lined the back walls covered shallow cellars that stored an assortment of ales, liquors, and wines to keep them cold. When his morning duties were completed, the youth sat in his usual spot behind the counter, resting his head on his hands as he watched the morning pass.

    The time passed quickly as Mec's mind was occupied by the thoughts of the dreams he had had most nights recently, and the events that would accompany those dreams. The setting of his dreams were always different, but there was always a constant: the calm voice of a man who identified himself simply as G. Every time Mec dreamed, G urged him to look deep in himself, to find some connection with the world around him. The young man never understood what G truly meant by this command, and it was unnerving that his dreams consistently were haunted by these visits. What was more disturbing was what he would find when he awoke. He would find flowers that have somehow grown through the floorboards, balls of flame that would roll off his bed and dissipate into smoke when he awoke, and most recently, sculptures of small animals made of ice that would move like their living counterparts. Every morning when Mec discovered these oddities he would destroy them in fear that his parents would return from their travels and see them.

    The young man's thoughts were occasionally interrupted as customers would visit the shop, some regular customers and some that he didn't see often or couldn't even recall meeting. Most of the time he remained on his seat at his stool behind the counter, but he would occasionally jump over the counter to help customers find or reach particular items, and then jump back over the counter to accept their payment and continue his daydreams.

    In the early afternoon, the store had a decent number of patrons wandering the shelves. The store was small enough that Mec was able to monitor the large amount of customers, but it took diligence. Although it was common to see youngsters at the store to buy sweets during their midday break from school, Mec was usually wary of them as they were prone to stealing. Usually the losses were petty, but he felt a sense of obligation to teach children the error of stealing. Most of the time he would scold them and let them have a piece of candy anyway, unless it was a repeat offender. He couldn't help but sigh as he watched a little boy hide a treat, neatly wrapped in paper, in the pocket of his pants. When the boy tried to walk out the door, Mec called to him, and immediately the boy ran for the door.

    "Hey! Stop!" Mec shouted, reaching his hand forward. His response was a creak beneath the floor boards, and suddenly large branches burst through the wooden floor, knocking over shelves and sending dust scattering throughout the shop. When the dust had settled, Mec couldn't help himself but gasp at what lay before him. A tree had suddenly grown in the middle of the shop, and the boy was trapped in it's branches, which had intertwined with his clothing as if to hold him there.

    When more of the shop's patrons have begun to comprehend the site before them, Mec began to feel his body temperature rise, as if the stares of the small crowd before him were roasting him alive. Some stared in horror, others just shock, and a few of contempt. "You!" barked a man about Mec's father's age. "I saw it! You used magic to make that tree grow! You're a sorcerer! This shop is run by a family of sorcerers!"

    Mec's mind and body betrayed him, unable to find the words or the actions to respond. The man's outburst confirmed what he had quietly denied for weeks: Mec was a mage. The young man remained silent and surrendered until he was taken away by the town's guards. The journey to the prison and into his basement cell was only a blur in his memory. All he recalled was that the authority that had arrested him said they would warn the public of the danger of his presence, and that he would be imprisoned underneath the jail until soldiers could arrive to properly execute him. The young man was placed in the cell, chains on his wrists and ankles that were long enough to allow him to walk a few paces on either side of the cot in the center of the cell, but not to either end of the cell. Alone in the darkness of the basement, Mec had fallen asleep.

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    True to their word, the guards of the city had indeed spread the news. All across the city, criers announced that another magician had been caught in their midst, and that the town guard had safely apprehended the criminal responsible. Posters with details concerning the date and location of his pending execution hung on every noticeboard, and on the outer walls of every second building. More than anything, though, the story spread by word of mouth, running through the city like wildfire. Many such stories were greatly exaggerated, telling of how the dangerous mage had attacked a young boy with vines and tendrils that ensnared him and all those present, threatening to choke the life out of him, and only how the quick action of those nearby had saved him. All seemed to agree on one thing, though - the name of the criminal, and the location of the offence.

    Such as it was that the news had come to reach the ears of Shallan. On the day in question, she had been spending the evening at home, sewing with her mother. With her father long since gone, her mother had taken up work as a seamstress when she had moved to the city, and the two of them often worked together. It was necessary to make a living, but Shallan did not mind. It was a pleasant enough way to pass the time, chatting with her family and creating garb that her mother would later resell for a profit. Her mother had told her of the occurrence with an oddly casual air, as if simply gossiping, but the news had struck Shallan like a bolt of lightning.

    Mec, her estranged childhood friend, a powerful and deadly mage? No, she wouldn't believe it - couldn't believe it. What fond memories she had of her old companion suggested that he would never be capable of such a thing. Even should he have such powers, he would not have lashed out at someone in the way such rumours described. There had to be a mistake, and now his life was forfeit because of it. At the time, she had acted as if nothing was wrong, refusing to let any of her inner thoughts show. Her mind had continued to dwell on the subject over the next few days, though, and before long, she had a plan.

    A stupid plan. A foolish, childish, flawed, unviable, dreamer's plan. But it was a plan nonetheless, and she was determined to try. For some irrational reason, one that she could not describe even to herself, Shallan could not simply wait and let Mec die when there was a chance she could do something to help. So, in secret, she had begun to work. Then, finally, she had been ready.

    With no reason to delay any longer, she had decided to act that night. As the sun set, and the vast majority of the city's guards had either left to start their night patrol or to go home for the evening, Shallan approached the guardhouse, a moderate-sized pack slung over one shoulder. Slipping inside, she found herself face to face with the night warden, who was seated in the antechamber. Doing her best to not let her nerves show, she approached the man slowly, head tilted downwards. When he questioned her as to why she was here, Shallan responded with the one thing she knew better than any other - an act.

    A short, emotion-filled tirade about how she wished to see her old friend, to know the truth of the stories. A performance that would have done her mother proud. That was what resulted. After several minutes of heated pleading and arguing, the warden seemed to believe her. He consented to escorting her downstairs for a brief visit, before bringing her back again. He would stay with her the whole time, though, and she would have no more than a few moments. It was not ideal, but it was as close as Shallan was going to get, it seemed. Even as he retrieved the keys to the basement and led her to the door, she could feel her heart rising in her throat.

    Easy part over. Now the real test began.

    During the short walk down into the great mysterious dark below the ground, Shallan reminded herself several times that it was not too late. She could act like this was a normal visit, leave without putting her plan into motion, and just act like nothing had ever happened. As the guard lit a torch and led her through the rows of cells, though, her resolve strengthened. Seeing the disgusting living conditions...there really was no other choice.

    "Wakes wakey, little mage. You've got yourself a visitor" the young guard would call as they walked, though he undoubtedly roused any other prisoners currently being held in the process. As they arrived outside Mec's cell, the guard stepped up to the bars, peering through them. Shallan's focus flickered back no forth briefly, between the cell's occupant and the guard's back, and for several moments, she stood there in silence, as if frozen. Perhaps the guard thought it was just nerves, stopping her from stepping forward to greet her old friend. In a sense, he was right.

    With her heart pounding loud in her ears, and a mouth so dry it felt like it had been stuffed with cotton, she slowly slipped her pack off her arm. The guard being with her now was a complication Shallan had not prepared for, and now, she had only one chance to deal with it. With all the strength she could muster, she swung her pack at the guard's head, just as the man grew impatient and turned to check up on her. The blow sent him reeling, but had not knocked him unconscious as she had wished. Her attack had been clumsy, and the pack ill-suited to the attempt. A cry rose in the man's throat - for help or for her to stop? She could not tell. It seemed like all other senses had left her.

    There was no hesitating now, though - she was thoroughly committed to the attempt. With the same sort of clumsy force, she threw her body at his stumbling form, knocking the man back into the bars of the cell, before they both crumpled to the ground together. A brief scuffle ensued as he tried to grab hold of her, but Shallan raged against his attempts. Fully aware that she would be overpowered quickly if he recovered from his shock and started using his strength against her, Shallan continued to flail, until she finally got her chance. She smacked his head against the bars of the cell twice in quick succession, until the man's body went limp and strength left his limbs. Slowly, she sat back, chest heaving as she tried to recover both her breath and from the shock of what she had just done.

    "I'm sorry...I'm so sorry. I didn't plan for this to happen. I didn't want anyone to get hurt" she whispered softly to the unconscious guard, tears welling up in her eyes, despite the knowledge that he would be unable to hear her. Shallan's wrists ached where he had tried to forcibly restrain her, and she had several other throbbing bruises from their scuffle, but she paid no mind to them. It took her several moments to regain her composure, at which point she quickly reached for the guard's waist, scrambling for the keys that lay hanging there. What a sight she must've seemed, all disheveled as she was.

    Somewhere in the back of her mind, she vaguely registered the fact that the man was still breathing - a relief, that. She also knew that he had seen her face now, and knew her to be guilty. When he eventually woke, she would be just as wanted as Mec. Indeed, there really was no going back now. Speaking of Mec, she had not acknowledged him directly just yet. The woman seemed too focused on searching the guard to pay him any real mind just yet, shocked though he may be. When she finally had the keys, she quickly tossed them through the cell bars towards him. She was vaguely aware that both of her hands were shaking, and did not trust herself to attempt it.

    "Get out of there, quickly. We have to go before someone else....before they find out I..." she stuttered a little. The need for haste was overpowering her shock and guilt, it seemed. For the time being, at least.

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    Mec's chains rattled in response to the guards call as he sat up in his bed, solemnly staring through the bars. It had been days since he had even been fed, let alone spoken to. Even G stopped visiting him in his dreams. His parents must have returned from their trip and heard the news. His mother would be distressed beyond reason, struggling to have him released despite her lack of power in the matter. Mec wasn't sure how his father would react though. Would he too wish to seek a way to save his son, or would he revoke his paternal relationship, furious of what has happened to his shop and what has become of his family name? What of his father's shop? It must have been looted and burned down by now, after what has happened in that place.

    Mec could feel the pressure in his chest build up as his mind feverishly explored other possibilities. What if his visitor was his executioner? Would he not see his family and apologize for what his fate will put them through before he left this world? This thought sent his body into shivers, a fit he had developed as a result of hours of self-pity and self hatred, as well as the realization of his ultimate punishment.

    The young man's eyes squinted as the guard's torch, placed on the sconce just outside of the gate, illuminated his cell. As his eyes adjusted he could start to make out the figure of the person behind the guard, a girl about his own age. His shivers intensified when he recognized Shallan, illuminated in the orange glow of the torch. "Sh-... Shal?"

    The physical altercation between Shallan and the guard erupted before Mec's shock could subside. His body jolted off the bed reactively when the two plummeted to the ground before his cell, but his chains halted his advancement. He struggled against the chains vainly, the links unyielding to their captive's efforts. A sigh of disbelief and respite escaped his lips when Shallan had risen victorious in the scuffle.

    The keys hit the floor of the cell and slid across the cement towards Mec. He stopped the sliding keys with the ball of his bare foot. Did he dare take them? His gaze slowly rose from the keys to the girl who had come to save him, his old friend Shal. It wasn't until he could truly look at her, the orange flames of the torch dancing across her face, that he realized his shivers had ceased. This revelation was enough for him to make his decision.

    Unable to reach the floor normally due to his confinements, Mec used his toes to grab the keys and raise them to his hands. He quickly unbound his wrists, and then his ankles, and quickly made his way to the cell door. His heart pounded in his chest as he tried to keep his hands steady while unbolting the lock. The first key did not seem to work, nor the second. His heart pounded faster. The third. The fourth. He could hear his breath tremble with a mixture of frustration and despair as he continued to fail to unlock the cell. When he inserted the last key into the lock, G's familiar voice resounded in his mind.

    Forge a new world for your kind, like we have forged this world for ourselves.

    The key began to glow within the lock. As the light began to fill the room, Mec could feel the courage to finally turn the key. His ears were greeted with the beautiful sound of the lock unbolting, and the glow instantly vanished. The iron yielded a soft screech as he slide the cell door open.

    The young man was finally face to face with his savior. "Why?" He shook his head. "Never mind, just, lead the way."

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    Even as Mec worked at freeing himself from the chains that bound him, his moment of indecision past, Shallan set about righting herself after her little scuffle with the guard. Ignoring the whining protests of her body from the sudden and unexpected violence, she would sit back for a moment, trying to compose herself and catch what she could of her breath. Raising her left hand, she would run it through her messy and disheveled hair for a moment, pushing it al back into place as best she could. It was a vain attempt, but there was some visible improvement by the time she was done. Afterwards, she would straighten up a little, before quickly regathering her pack and reaching for the torch that the guard had set aside just moments ago. They would need its light to lead their escape, after all.

    Such were her thoughts as Mec finished freeing himself from the manacles that bound hand and foot, before setting to work on the door of the cell itself. Shallan showed no sign that she had heard the strange and mysterious voice as it echoed throughout the dungeon, but the blazing light that accompanied it was something that even she could not ignore. Wincing slightly, she would raise her free hand to shield her eyes for a moment, turning her head away from the radiance of that supernatural, sourceless illumination. Only once the light had faded so that the torch's light was all that remained would she lower her arm again, mouth agape.

    "...so the rumours...they're true. You are a Mage" she muttered softly, voice barely audible even down here, where most sound seemed to carry or echo. There was no hint of accusation in her tone though, nor any sort of question. It was a simple statement, and one that brooked no argument and needed no reply. There was no other way to explain what she had just seen, after all. Still, she tilted her head a little as he questioned why she had done this. She opened her mouth to answer, before pausing as he decided that now was not the time. On that point she wholeheartedly agreed. They had a lot to do, and explanations could always wait until later. If they were caught now, they wouldn't so much as get the chance.

    "Put these on first. I'll wait out here" she responded simply, taking her pack and holding it out across the small distance between them, offering it to him. Should he look, Mec would find the pack filled with a pair of old and used boots, along with a travelling cloak and some other basic clothes. They were nothing special, really. Old hand-me-down clothes that her mother still had sitting around, or mediocre pieces that Shallan had sewed herself when she was still learning. She had needed to guess at his sizes, so there was a chance some articles might not fit properly, either. They were intended not so much as permanent clothing, but just a quick change to get him out of the ragged prisoner's clothes he was wearing, and make him less recognisable to any guards that they were unfortunate enough to pass. She had made sure the cloak had a hood too, for that exact reason.

    She lingered outside the door of the cell, back turned, as if keeping a lookout with torch in hand. The first and most obvious reason was modesty, but beyond that, more time to calm herself and think was greatly welcomed. Still, Shallan kept her gaze turned away from the fallen guard where he lay, as if physically unable to stand the sight of his form. Bile rose in her throat at the mere thought.

    Once Mec was ready and had joined her, she would start retracing her steps back towards the dungeon entrance. When they reached the door, she would pass the torch back to him, gesturing for him to wait. Slowly, she would force the door open and peer outside, checking to make sure that it was all clear. As soon as she was content that it was safe - well, as safe as they could get in this situation - she beckoned for him to follow her out into the main section of the guard's post. After that, it was straight to the front door, where she immediately planned to repeat the process. They wouldn't need the torch from here on out, either. For the next step, the dark would be their ally, not enemy.

    "We need to get you out of the city. With enough food and water to make it to the next town over at the very least, preferably" she would add simply. That was about the extent of her plan, really. She had honestly never expected to make it this far, but there was no stopping now, as she had already told herself multiple times already. "I packed you a few basics, but they're back at home, so we'll have to go and grab those before we head too far. Is there anything at your place that you need to get?" The question came simply, with a questioning glance. Owning a store, she had figured that there was some chance that he or his family had some sort of stockpile that could be of use to them.

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    The brisk night air flowed underneaths Mec's hood as they finally exited the prison. He took a brief moment to recall if it would be worth visiting his home or the shop before making the escape from town. "My travel pack is in the back of the store. It has some toll and tavern receipts that I might be able to make use of. I also want to see what is left of the store during my absence."

    With this he would lead the way back to the store, using the darkness of the night and the alleyways of the town as a veil. Mec remained silent as they traversed their course. His thoughts the questioned the reality of the events that led up to his arrest just days before. The recollection of what had happened seemed so hazy in his mind, as if from a distant past. Regardless, he would allow what he saw at the shop be the enough evidence to confirm his memories.

    Eventually his path lead them to the rear of the store building. The young man silently made his way to the front of the store, wary of the possibility of being watched. There, he found the evidence he required to prove his memories true. A large tree, much larger than what it had been a few days prior, had taken root at the front of the store. A large portion of the front wall had given away to the thick branches and trunk of the tree which had tried to grow out the front door and windows to reach for sunlight. Mec silently tiptoed his way through the entrance the damage had created, careful not to step on any broken glass or splintered wood.

    Inside the store, it was clear many of the goods that had sat on the shelves previously had gone missing, but the missing items were much fewer than Mec had anticipated. Wooden shelves that were near where the tree had taken root had fallen over, leaving their inventories scattered across the floor. The smell of dried herbs and spices seemed to have taken a grip of the cool air inside of the store, an odd mixture of sweets and spices and sours and bitters that assaulted then nostrils. Mec moved quickly behind the counter, as if to ignore the tree and the damage that came along with it, as well as avoid acknowledging any judgement his companion may have had of him after seeing his legacy firsthand. After moving away some particular floorboards he revealed a trap door, which he opened, and descended down to the basement of the shop. Moments later he resurfaced with a small leather pack, decorated with a few water skins. He was able to acquire some dried jerky that was stored in the cellar, but avoided packing much else in terms of nourishment as there were no perishable food items and the jars containing pickled items would be too heavy to travel with. He knew his water skins were empty, but filling them from a well would be too noisy an endeavor in the dead of night.

    It was then that he returned to his companion. "Let's go."

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    "Lead the way, then" the reply came simply, accompanied by a simple hand gesture for him to do just that. Shallan would wait for her new companion to take the lead, before immediately setting off after him, heading towards what remained of Mec's family store, and the supposed scene of his original condemning act.

    Part of her was worried abut what exactly they would find there, given the greatly exaggerated rumours of how exactly he had revealed himself, attacking a youngster in the process. Indeed, as they neared the store, Shallan slowed to a stop, eyes going wide as she looked up at the huge tree that had sprouted and grown practically overnight, taking a significant portion of the building with it. Eyes going wide, she suppressed a small gasp, moving towards the unnatural growth slowly and carefully. As Mec busied himself slipping inside and retrieving the things he needed, she advanced on the tree, reaching out with one hand as if to touch it, before thinking better of it and withdrawing.

    She had already seen evidence of Mec's sorcery with her own eyes, but this was on an entirely different level. It was a mystifying thing, filled with its own strange sort of beauty...and somewhat terrifying, in its own regard. Did this mean that the rest of the story was true, too? Was she mistaken in rescuing her old friend? Such thoughts crowded her mind as she waited for Mec to return, before she would push down such qualms and concerns as best she could. There was no time, and simply thinking ver the same concerns repeatedly would yield no more in the way of answers regardless.

    From there, it was on to her home - a small residence located more towards the outer fringes of the city. A small wooden building with only a single story, modest and otherwise unimpressive. It would have almost appeared derelict, but clearly somebody had made attempts to fix it up recently. This time, Shallan headed not towards the front entrance, but around the side of the building, towards a window with the shutters thrown back. She paused briefly outside, one hand resting on the windowsill, to glance back at her companion.

    "Just give me one second" she whispered softly, voice quiet. Naturally, she was afraid of accidentally alerting her mother to what's going on, who would be in the very next room over. As gracefully as she could manage, Shallan would clamber up and over the windowsill, dropping into her room beyond.

    Inside, she quickly retrieved her own bag, which was already packed with several necessities - a few changes of clothes, what little food she had been able to get a hold of, her merger savings, and so on. She hesitated briefly when it came time to leave, briefly considering going to say goodbye to her mother. Squashing down the sensation, she settled for leaving out a pre-written note that she had prepared earlier, just in case the worst had come to pass. So that her mother would know she cares, that she did not leave by choice, and so on.

    After that, she scrambled back out to join Mec once more, shouldering her pack and hoping that her conflicting emotions would be hidden by the night as well as it had hidden them from unwelcome eyes thus far.

    "Now we just need to put as much distance between you and this city before they realise what has happened. If we're lucky, we should have until daybreak. If not...well, let's just get moving"

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    Mec quietly followed his companion to her residence, consciously slowing his breath to make as little noise as possible as they crept through the town. He crouched against the wall of of the house, keeping watch as Shallan collected her items. His eyes flickered back and forth as he looked out into the night, moving his head slightly each time to compensate for the vision that was obstructed by his hood.

    After only a brief time of being alone with his own thoughts, Mec began to resent his moments of solitude. All that remained in his mind were confusing thoughts about his self perception, his past and current actions, and his fate. As his mind began to grow overwhelmed with these thoughts, his position against the wall began to devolve. His arms wrapped tightly around his knees while his face remained shrouded beneath his hood.

    When Shallan reemerged from the window, Mec quickly stood and dusted himself off with his hands. Had his friend's face revealed any signs of doubt, Mec, too preoccupied with his own struggle, failed to recognize the clues. The time to leave the town behind had come, and the sooner they could pick a direction to flee the further they could get from his captors. "Did you plan on where we were going to go after you freed me?" He began to rub his bruised wrists while thinking about the routes he's traveled when it was his turn to gather goods for the shop. "If not, I think we should head towards Avoorka, to the northwest. It's an easy walk and it would be easy to traverse through the woods rather than the main trail. The route is not very far from here either."

    The young man's gaze quickly flicked back towards the direction of the main area of the town. From a distance, he could see the orange glow of torches gathering. The dance of the flames grew wilder and wilder as more torches were lit, guided by the beat of the march of those carrying them. "It doesn't look like we can go back into the town anyway. I can take us to the wooded path."

    He turned his back to the golden glow of the town behind him took a few paces in the direction he knew the woods would be. After a pause, he turned his head, his brown eyes flickering between Shallan and the window she had climbed through earlier. "Would it not be best if you just went to bed and I left alone? I don't think anyone would believe a young girl single-handedly broke me out of prison... The guard would probably be too ashamed to admit it anyway. They'll chalk it up to a magician's trickery, and I'm sure your mother would vouch that you've been asleep all night. Worst case you can claim that I used magic to possess you for my own gain." His expression tightened, as if discussing his thoughts out loud reassured him he was correct. "You have done too much for me... And I don't know if I can ever repay this debt... but if you were to be found missing the same night of my escape you would be forfeiting your life."

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    A quick glance around was more than enough for Shallan to spot where her companion had slumped down against the wall, presumably just to wait for her while she grabbed her bag and tied up the one loose end that she had needed to sort out before they would be able to leave. After a few moments spent adjusting her bag, she glanced back across at him as he made ready to leave, before shaking her head in the way of a response to his question - partially because the less vocal they were the better, and partially because she didn't trust herself to speak just yet. After a few seconds though, as he outlined his own idea, she finally seemed to find her voice once more.

    "Frankly, I didn't expect us to get this far to begin with. Avoorka sounds like a good starting point, though it's probably best we avoid the path as much as possible. If we think it's a good choice, then they'll likely come to the same conclusion, and there's no way we can outrun them if they send any men on horseback" she responded simply, shuffling nervously on the spot as the two of them spoke. She glanced around quickly between sentences, too, as if she was brimming with energy - or, more accurately, the tension and mounting risk of being caught were starting to take their toll. Shallan could practically feel her adrenaline levels building again, and every moment that they stood there doing nothing only seemed to make it worse. Still, it seemed that her partner wasn't done just yet.

    Irritation flickered across her face at the extra delay, but only briefly, as he quickly suggested that she stay behind. Shallan winced slightly at the mere suggestion, as if physically wounded by it. Indeed, she wanted nothing more than to climb back through her window and under the covers of her bed. To run inside and seek comfort with the only family she knew, to rip up the letter of apology she had written and scatter its pieces to the winds. The woman had long since given up on the prospect of going back to her old life, though. It might have only been that evening she had come to such a decision, but it already felt like a very long time ago now, and she had spent every moment since preparing for this one inevitable junction.

    "What good would it do now? You've seen how paranoid people are about magic here...nay, you've experienced the depths of that paranoia. I doubt mere shame would save me from the guard, who knows both my face and name now. Besides, if I were so weak-willed that you could seize control of me at will, why would they just let me be? Why leave a potential threat, or a potential spy - whether I knew it or not - in their midst? No. Better to eliminate the risk entirely" she muttered softly, turning her face downwards. After a few moments, though, the woman straightened up again, turning and taking a few steps towards the city outskirts, before glancing back again.

    "In any case, if you must argue, can we at least do it as we walk? We have a long way to go" she answered simply, before starting off without so much as waiting for a response, in the rough direction she knew Avoorka to be. Still, as they moved, she found her gaze steadily drifting upwards, to glance at the night sky. It was a dark evening, by all accounts, with only dim moonlight and a few scattered stars visible to the naked eye. Perhaps for the first time, a small smile flickered across her features, seemingly genuine and filled with its own strange sort of joy, it's own excitement.

    "Mm...it's an interesting sky tonight. One that allows you just a glimpse of its beauty, without revealing the full depth of its mystery. Or is it showing me just enough of home to be familiar, while still shunning me enough to push me away? It's hard to tell, sometimes. Either way, tis' a fitting sky for a goodbye like this" she muttered softly to herself. She had always loved the stars, been entranced by them, and right now she spoke not for the sake of discussion. Rather, it was an idle observation - one made without any real expectation of a reply. One could say that she had just been thinking out loud, more than anything.

  9. #9
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    Mec allowed a long sigh to escape his lips as his companion began her march. At first, he followed a few paces behind the woman, silently mulling over his thoughts. Deep down he knew that his plan to leave her behind was flawed, merely loosely constructed excuses to justify leaving her behind. After a few solemn minutes of thought, Mec realized he had not wished to salvage the woman's future, but rather unburden himself of the consequence that her fate was compromised in order to redeem his own.

    The young man's fists clenched with anger as he walked. Since when was he so selfish? Has he always been selfish in this way, deep in his subconscious? He didn't allow himself to answer that question, and chose to dispel these thoughts for the time being. His mind free from the distractions he allowed to consume before, Mec sped his pace to walk alongside his old friend.

    His hands gripped the straps that secured his pack to his shoulders as the two walked silently through the starry night. Rather than choosing to look at the sky, his gaze simply traced the path in front of him, watching the green, dark grass roll beneath his feet as he continued his march. When Shallan spoke, his hooded head tilted slightly so that he could hear better. His eyes rose to observe the sky with which his companion had seen so much beauty and mystery in. To him it was the same old sky, and so he chose not to comment.

    Not long after the two had traveled outside of the town they arrived to the edge of a wood. Mec pointed towards a horse-trodden path barely visible in the moonlight, that was not much further than a stadion away. "That is where the main path lies. We should be able to follow its route from this distance, concealed by the foliage of the forest." With this he began to carefully step through the long brushes and into the ocean of trees and leaves.

    Once the two had truly entered the heart of the woods it had become clear that the moon and stars, blocked from view from the thick foliage above, would not be able to sufficiently guide the way. Mec would let out a frustrated hiss each time a hidden branch or brush nicked at his face or arms. All the while he made sure that he didn't lose view of the main path, occasionally catching subtle glimpses of it glowing in the moonlight through the thick trunks that surrounded them. Regularly the young man would turn his hooded head to make sure his companion was not lost to the darkness of the night.

    After hours of this blind march the forest around the two had begun to transform. The number of trees lessened and their numbers replaced by stumps, evidence of the work that had been done by lumberjacks in years past. The moon and starlight returned to them, just in time to share their last goodbyes before surrendering to the first signs of dawn. The wood had ended at the top of a hill from which Avoorka could be spotted, nearly half a league away.

    "The sun's rising soon," Mec observed. "Should we wait until the the city is flooded by the daily traffic before entering? We can scout what is known of my crimes in the city, veiled by the crowds. If we find that news has not traveled this far we may be able to charter some sort of transport."

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    Shallan continued to march in silence from that point onwards, her temporary bout of stargazing broken by Mec pointing out the path that they were supposed to take. She felt no real need to attempt any further conversation at that exact moment in time, content to trek onwards and simply dwell on her own thoughts for the time being. The girl followed with what was almost complete obedience, marching through the forest after her companion, doing her best to keep a cheery outlook. To begin with, he was the one who best knew this area, so she stuck close behind for most of the journey, content to let him lead the way through the forest, be it by tracking the path and walking parallel to it, or by memory.

    Shallan even went so far as to begin humming at one point, trying to keep a cheery outlook. Her melody was improvised, not originating from any actual song she had learned, chosen for a specific purpose or to tell a specific story. As their march through the forest continued, she almost started to feel as if it were the same as any nighttime hike. Here one could almost forget that they were both wanted people now, lost in the peaceful tranquility of their surroundings. Even the constant chittering of insects seemed to have no bearing on her mood...well, not at first.

    As the journey dragged on, and grew more difficult, the humming eventually stopped. Fatigue started to drag at Shallan's limbs - her earlier adrenaline rush having long since faded. Her breathing started to become a little more laboured, seemingly growing heavier with both the passage of time and the extensive distance they covered. Her smile faded, and her legs and chest both began to burn in protest of the forced march. She briefly wondered how Mec was coping so well, but perhaps he was just more physically robust than her. That, or there was another explanation. Perhaps his magic was aiding in a way she did not know, or it resulted from the one simple fact that he had possibly managed to get some sleep before the night's events began, unlike her.

    A soft sigh of relief escaped her when the forest finally began to thin, as the trees started to part and the sky once again became visible. Even as the first rays of sunlight began to creep up over the horizon, a small hint of a smile flickered across her features. They had survived their first night, and the city they had decided to aim for was no more than a stone's throw away. The suggestion to stop for a bit was welcome, and she nodded enthusiastically in agreement.

    "As much as I hate the idea of giving them a chance to catch up to us, two visitors arriving before sunrise would be sure to arouse some sort of suspicion. Besides, I could use a bite to eat, and some water" Shallan conceded finally. Slowly, she would head back to the treeline, picking out a spot that seemed clear enough to make for a comfortable seat, while still keeping them decently hidden from the city. Slowly, she would lower herself down to the ground, letting out a soft groan of relief as she was finally able to sit. There might have been more comfortable places than the hard ground with the trunk of a tree as a backrest, but for now it was enough.

    Slowly, Shallan began rummaging around in her pack for something to eat or drink. She withdrew a water skin of her own first, though she set it aside without taking a swig just yet. A few moments of rough scrounging and shuffling later, and she withdrew the object of her search - a ripe apple, which she had procured when planning her bust. It was a little known fact that Shallan had a weakness for apples, finding their unique texture, flavour and sweetness irresistible.

    "I could go for a nap too, but I don't think that anything short of the world ending would be able to wake me in time for us to slip in with the traders and travellers" she added, a wry grin flickering across her lips, before the girl would bite into her prize. A hearty crunch could be heard, alongside a soft groan of enjoyment as she savoured the simple yet addicting taste. She would help herself to several more, in quick succession, before growing a tad somber. Her enthusiasm fading, she would cast her eyes down a little, only throwing a very quick and sly glance in Mec's direction. She didn't offer to share, mostly because she assumed he had packed something of his own, and they could always try and procure something. more once they reached the town.

    "So..." she wild finally speak up agin, tone soft and quiet, eyes still averted, once she was several bites into her meal. "I hate to ask, but...I feel like I have to know. Is it true, everything they were saying about you? I've already seen enough evidence that you're a mage, but...did you really attack that boy?" The question came. Finally, as she uttered those last few words, she mustered the courage to look up. With her head tilted slightly, she waited in silence for his response, eyes full of something akin to hope or longing. Longing to hear that she hadnt jumped to conclusions, and that he really was innocent in all this. Innocent of what the rumours said about his actions. While she could believe he was a mage, she also needed to believe that she had done the right thing in freeing him, too.

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