Wooo! Another chapter in a week!
To MysticGalaxia who I couldn't PM
I am a bit comma crazy. Grammar, I hate it. But I'm learning. Thanks for pointing out my run on sentences; I probably wouldn't have noticed them. Hopefully this is less awkward sounding!
I always wondered why those of us in-between have always been referred to as branded or even parentless. Maybe because out of all the races we are the most selfish. My brother took the skies away from our father and I took our mother's life.
When I was much younger, my father could barely look at me and I was never allowed to leave the keep. On rare occasions I was allowed out into the gardens but I had to have no less than three guards. My brother was allowed to go off to train while I was to look at the world from behind glass.
Back then I use to spy on daddy in his study through the keyhole, I was a fairly good at hiding. But in one case when I was five I was caught.
"Leila, what are you doing?" A soft, yet firm, voice came from behind.
I spun around from the door I was looking through and probably had the look of a child who had just stolen from the cookie jar. I relaxed a little when I saw it was my caretakers, but only a little.
The one that had spoken my name was called Anna. She was a young wolf laguz with long, gray hair. Her piercing yellow eyes used to scare me; for they reminded me of a hunter stalking it's pray. But they were the eyes that I always looked to for comfort.
Hanging on her arm was her younger sister Tala. Her hair was pure white and her eyes were losing their color. Though she never sees anything she always seems to know where I was.
"Honestly, you know better than to pry your eyes in things you shouldn't be in," Ana sighed, this wasn't the first time she had told me this.
I frowned a little bit, "I don't get to see daddy very often, so I decided I would watch him."
The white wolf released her sister's arm to allow her to kneel in front of me. She pushed the bangs away from the mark on my forehead and told me, "You are just the mere image of your mother. Soon your father will no longer be haunted by her shadow and will begin to see who you are."
"You forgot to mention that she acts just like her mother as well sis," Tala added.
"How could I forget?" The gray wolf clasped my hand and stood up. "Come; let the three of us be gone before he notices us."
As they hurried away Tala said, "Perhaps the little lady shall stop her spying."
"Oh Tala, you know she will only find a new hiding place."
"Surely not, dear sister. Not our little angle," Tala said while giving a teasing smile toward me.
I tried hard not the let out a giggle but I failed miserably. Tala joined me which just caused Ana to roll her eyes as she led us to another part of the keep, muttering, "Why does it feel like I'm taking care of two small younglings?"
She was awaken from her memory with a jolt and looked up at an unfamiliar ceiling. She was beginning to wonder how she got in this room when she slowly began to feel all the pain she was in. Her head, left check, and right arm were all bandaged up and she felt terribly sore. Panic wailed up inside her chest but relaxed when she found no blood on her.
Now she was wondering how she ended up like this.
So she set up and looked out the window and began to read all the energies around her.
The Greil Mercenaries had stopped at Port Toha in order for the girl to recover. Although they still didn't know what they were going to do with her when she woke up. Regardless, they needed to start making their way to Melior. Taking care of those bandits and saving that girl had set them back a few days.
They were asked by Queen Elincia to help watch over a ceremony in less than two weeks, Crimea was still shorthanded on soldiers. They were going to need all the help they could get, especially since Gallia is involved. They didn't quite know what it was about but what they did know was that a few laguz were going to be present.
Relations between the two countries were getting better, but there were still people who would do something stupid.
Ike, Titania, and Soren were planning their route in the inn while the others were lounging around when suddenly Mist burst in the room. "Ike!" She cried, "That girl, she's gone!"
"Gone? What do you mean she's gone?"
"Just as I said!" She shouted at her brother. "I went to check on her only she wasn't in bed and the window was open!"
"Surely she didn't climb out. We're on the second floor!" Oscar stated.
Gatrie gave a sad sigh and said, "The poor lass. She must be scarred out of her mind."
"Ike, this isn't good! She has lost a lot of blood. She could collapse on the road or worse! " Rhys worried.
"I know, so everyone split up and search for her," Ike ordered. Some of them already began heading out.
"It's not our fault the little brat ran off," Shinon argued.
Ike just ran his fingers in his hair in frustration, "Look, those guys had that girl for a reason and I for one want to find out why."
Everyone divided and began their search. Ike and Soren took the docks and while they looked they were discussing about the bandits. Why would they have a branded child and then give her to a bunch of strangers to heal?
"What do you make of those bandits?" Ike asked the young tactician for his perspective. After all Soren always did seem to catch little details that everyone else miss.
"I honestly don't think those guys were bandits, but what, I don't know."
Ike nodded. "None of them did listen to the bandit leader and that one guy had a weird dialect, I wonder where he was from?"
"They obviously wanted her alive, but why would they just hand her to us?" Soren said out loud. "They could have forced us to heal her; they looked at us as if they could take us all on. Then why…" But then he shook his head of his idea, "Regardless, we need to keep our guard up. They could come back for her at any moment and the fact we know nothing on how they fight makes it even more dangerous."
Ike looked around the dock to see sailors prepping ships to sail; he hopped that the girl didn't stow away on one, it would be a big hassle to search. "All the more reason for us to find her as soon as possible."
"Find who as soon as possible?" A small child like voice said behind them.
Soren had that annoyed look on his face and Ike knew that he was going to turn around and tell the person to mind their own business. But when he did he didn't say anything. Ike turned around to see what could have silenced his young friend but when he did his mouth dropped.
Before them was the girl they were looking for!
The girl barely came past Ike's stomach. Her hair was chin length and over her white robes was a wide red sash.
As the girl eyed them she came close to them and seemed to be sniffing them. "Hmm. The same energies," she murmured to herself. Ike backed away nervously while Soren just looked a little more annoyed.
She quickly jumped back and said energetically, "Since you guys were in the same building that I woke up in, do you know what happened to me?" She held up her bandaged arm.
How did she know we were in the same building? Ike wondered but then he realized something. "You don't remember?"
The girl just tilted her head as she gave him a helpless look.
"It seemed like you were being held captive by a group who appeared to be bandits," Soren explained. "They had traded you for their escape, other than that we know nothing else."
She spun on her heels and sighed, "That doesn't make any sense. I mean, I don't have anything of value if they were bandits."
Ike was a little disappointed that they were back at square one. But there was still one more question he had. "You don't seem to be running away but why did you sneak out?"
The girl looked out into the sea. "I felt the ocean." But then she saw the weird looks they gave her so she explained. "I've never seen the ocean before; I was in such a rush I wasn't thinking straight."
Her face was becoming pale and she began to sway a little. Out of fear that she would collapse he grabbed her shoulder to steady her. "You've just woken up and lost a lot of blood. We better get you back so you can rest."
She rubbed her bandage arm and said, "I am feeling a little dizzy. Perhaps climbing down that window was not such a good idea."
She climbed out the window! He thought with disbelief as he looked at her. She was so scrawny it didn't seem like she could lift up a sword much less herself.
They began to take her back to the inn, Ike holding on to her, when she abruptly stopped looking like she made a great discovery. "What's wrong?" Soren asked.
"I just realized something; I don't know either of your names. Nor do you know mine." She gave a slight bow, "I'm Leila."
Leila's condition had greatly improved over night, so next day they left for Melior. It was decided that Leila would come along with them. When Ike had asked her if she wanted come with them she jumped with excitement about seeing a big city.
Before they left, they learned a little bit about Leila. She came from a very small village that none of them have ever heard of called Lynn. Apparently she became tired of seeing the same landscape so she decided to run away; although she didn't use that term. She worded it as "leaving without permission".
Leila was certainly…an interesting person. She was just fascinated by everything; from the flowers in bloom to a fox on the side of the road. And she always had a smile on. If Ike had to describe her in one word it would probably be happy. Although Soren would argue that she was just an air head.
In two days they had reached Caldea by evening. Even though it was a small farming village it was still a good place as any to rest and stock up on supplies. Sadly they arrived when the weather turned ugly. It had been raining hard for the last few days in Caldea and to make matters worse the nearby river was flooding!
All of the able body villagers were stacking sand bags to prevent their homes and crops from being destroyed, but the downpour and mud wasn't helping. The bags would simply sink. The mercenaries did what they could to help, but Mother Nature was winning.
When a small section of the sand bags fell in the water began to rush in causing the rest of the wall to collapse. The elder shouted at all of them to get to higher ground.
Ike was half-way up the hill when he stopped to make sure everyone was either at the top or making their way up.
He spotted everyone but one.
"Where's Leila?" He shouted over the wind to Titania.
She quickly scanned the area and then pointed at the bottom. Ike followed to where she was pointing and found Leila; she was walking straight for the flood water!
He shouted at her but his voice didn't carry. He cursed and ran down the hill toward her. The cold droplets hit his face as he quickly, but carefully, ran down the hill. If he placed his foot the wrong way he would be sent sliding down.
Leila staggered a little as the force of the water hit her but she pressed on. When she was a good five feet away from the sand bags and the water was all the way to her thighs Ike saw that she spread her arms out like she was going to stop the waters herself. Then without any warning she slammed both of her palms into the water and began to glow.
Ike had reached the water's edge when he felt the ground beneath his feet vibrate. Then he had to shield his eyes when a bright column of light originated from Leila's small body.
His eye's adjusted quickly to the bright light but then he saw something he never thought was possible; the ground in front of her was rising!
The swordsmen watched as the ground rose as a sort of barrier against the flood water. It blocked all across and was about two feet thick. The higher the wall rose, the weaker the light Leila was giving off.
After what felt like forever, but was probably only five minutes, the ground stopped rising after twenty feet. The river thrashed violently against the barrier while the water on the other side had receded, leaving only mud.
Ike and Titania were the first to reach Leila who was slumped in the mud. The water had left Leila's clothes covered in brown swirls. Her leggings were and sleeves covered in mud. Titania knelt down and gently placed her hand on Leila's back. Ike noticed that she was breathing hard. Could this be why those guys had her? Ike wondered and then he looked back at the wall that was keeping the water back. This is some amazing power she has.
"Mother Nature can be a handful, ya know?" Ike heard her mutter. She then looked up to see that most of the villagers had made their way to them. Her head dropped as she turned to face Ike. "Did I do something wrong?" Her voice was shaky.
He was wondering what she could possibly be talking about until he saw the looks the villagers gave her; fear. Their eyes were questioning and they kept their demoralizing gazes on her form. One of the younger villagers pushed his way to the front. "What are you, some kind of monster? There's no magic that can do this!" He gestured to the earth wall.
Others began murmuring about the same thing. "I've never seen anyone normal do something like that," or "No little girl should be able to do that."
Ike looked back at Leila to see that her face was hidden behind her bangs, this wasn't the first time she was told this he realized. He was about to tell all of them that Leila just saved everyone's homes but someone beat him to it.
The elder hit the teen across the chest with his cane. "Has the flood washed your manners away?" He asked the teen but it was aimed at all the villagers. "This young lady just risked her safety to protect our village." They all looked away in shame at the elder's words. He turned to her and bowed, "You have our gratitude young lady."
The others began to nod in approval as others clapped and cheered. Of course there were a few villagers that just left. Not wanting to praise someone so different, Ike assumed.
Regardless, Leila's face brightened as she stood up to return the elder's bow, "It was my pleasure to help."
"The goddess has truly blessed us with a spirit charmer to pass by our humble village in our time of need. How can we ever repay you for what you done for us?" The elder asked her.
"Spirit charmer?" Leila repeated. She looked really confused. But her expression changed which Ike figured that she just realized what he meant. "Oh no sir, I'm no spirit charmer I'm a-"
Soren cut her off by covering her mouth. "Yes, truly lucky," he said. "Perhaps you can repay us by giving us a dry place for the night."
The elder was more than willing to give them some rooms at the inn for the night. Everyone was grateful to be out of their soaked clothes but they had to barrow some from the innkeeper's daughter since Leila didn't have any extra and Mist didn't have any other clothes to spare. The innkeeper was kind enough to let Leila keep them since the ones she was wearing were ruined with mud. Leila was thankful for them regardless if they were two sizes too big for her, although Ike feared for the girl's safety since the skirt was far too long as it dragged across the wooden floor. She didn't seem clumsy but it wouldn't surprise him if she were to fall down the stairs.
None of them retired to bed once they changed into dry clothes. Instead, all of them were gathered into one room waiting for Leila to explain what just happened. Ike, Soren, and Oscar stayed on their feet while the others sat on the beds and chairs. Leila fidgeted in her chair as everyone watched her.
"What was that you just did to the ground?" Ike asked her calmly so not to spook the small girl.
Leila looked down at her folded hands in her lap but then her eyes would dart from one person to the next. Ike could tell she was a little scared; she probably was treated differently in her home village. Not because of her brand but because of her powers. "Come on Leila, you can trust us," Ike reassured her.
She shook her head. "It's not that, I just don't know what to tell you. For as far back as I can remember I have always been able to do things like that. The best way I can explain it is that I can feel the energies around me. With that I can manipulate those energies." Her attention turned to the fireplace. Her emerald green eyes began to glow as a spark jumped out and landed in her hand. Within seconds the spark turned into a small flame. Just a small sliver of space kept the flame from touching her palm. "See?"
Everyone started at the wonder with mix feeling. Some stared in fascination, others in alarm.
"Oh, why didn't you tell us you could something like that?" Mist exclaimed clearly charmed by Leila's power. Leila seemed a little taken aback by her outburst but she smiled.
"And don't say "because you didn't ask" alright," Shinon told her. Leila didn't say anything, she just stared at him. "What?"
"But you didn't ask," she replied innocently.
Shinon rubbed his head as if he had a head ache.
"So could you like control lightning, that would be so cool to be able to manipulate a storm," said Rolf. "Think about it, if a bad storm comes you could just send it somewhere else!"
"It certainly would Rolf," Rhys agreed.
"Lightning holds tremendous amounts of energy, I'm too afraid that I won't be able to control. And if that happens I could hurt my daddy and everyone else," Leila told them.
She has a father? Ike wondered. He had heard that branded were also called parentless because often they were. Maybe her father was some big figure, could that be why those guys had her. It would certainly explain why they wanted her alive but then so would wanting her for her powers. Ugh! This is all just so confusing!
"Alright everyone, we're leaving early in the morning so let's call it a night," Ike told them.
One by one everyone left which just left Ike, Soren, Titania, and Leila.
"Look," Soren said as soon as the door closed, "to keep wondering eyes off of us it would be best if you didn't use your power."
The flame in Leila's hand died down as she muttered, "I understand."
Ike and the rest of the mercenaries were up early the next morning preparing for their departure. He had sent most of them out to get some of the supplies they need like food and such.
He and Mist were about to thank the innkeeper and the elder for all they had done for them when they saw Leila knelt in front of a washing tub scrubbing her red sash against the washboard. She held it out of the water and examined it; there were still some stains on the red fabric. Leila let out a heavy sigh, "I guess this is as good as it's going to get." She wrung it out and then tied the damp cloth around her waist.
"Leila, if you wanted another sash you could have asked," Mist told her. "There's no need for you to wear a soggy one."
Noticing them for the first time Leila said, "Oh no it's nothing like that, this sash is just important to me." She looked down at her sash and she looked a lot like how Mist looked when she lost their mother's medallion.
"Oh, well, it's a very pretty color," she complimented in order to cheer her up.
"Thanks!" Leila said with a wide smile but then it dropped. "I think."
"You think?" Ike repeated.
"I don't know, are you supposed to take complements on grieving clothes?" She asked. Neither Ike nor Mist didn't know how to answer that so Leila went on to explain. "See in Lynn, when someone close to you dies you take a white sash and dye it a certain color. Like if your father dies you dye it black, if it's your mother you dye it red."
"So…your red sash means you lost your mother…right?" Ike asked sympathetically.
"Yes," she answered almost too happily. It was good that the very thought didn't send her to tears but this was a little much. But Ike just reminded himself that it was Leila he was talking to. "She died shortly after I was born. But everyone says I look and act just like her, so that makes me happy."
Both Ike and Mist weren't sure what to think of that, the thought that there could be another person like Leila was a bit scary.
"These criminals have been found guilty of supporting the Deain army when they invaded us over a year ago," a man by the name of Djam announced from the platform to the crowd around him. Nearly everyone in Melior had come to witness the death of these traitors.
There were five men and one woman who were chained together in a line as they waited for their turn at the rope. Djam called the first name from the paper as the guards began removing the shackles off the man in the front of the line and lead him up the steps to his death. Cheers and cries in protest echoed all around the city square.
Queen Elincia sat on a balcony just above the platform to watch the death of the traitors, she didn't like it but as queen she had to be present. She also didn't believe any of them would do the things they were accused of; in fact two of them had been part of her escort when she fled the capital when Deain attacked. But the evidence was against every one of them.
As they began to tie the noose around the man's neck she looked at Lucia and Bastian who watched solemnly. Oh how she wished Geoffrey were here, but that couldn't be helped since he and a few of the knights headed to for Tarreftnom after hearing about a murder of a tax collector.
The crowd grew silent as Djam threw back the lever causing the trapdoor gave way beneath the prisoner's feet, snapping his neck instantly. Elincia shut her eyes to keep from seeing the dead body sway slightly.
A hand gently touched her shoulder. Startled, she looked up to her to see it was her adviser, Mailliw. "Do not mourn for these traitors, your highness," he told her.
She wanted to protest, to tell him these people were innocent. But it would have only fallen on deaf ears. She may have been queen but she still couldn't help her people.
Some of the guards began to remove the traitor's body and reset it for the next one. Would this horror ever end!
Then the next prisoner began walking up the steps but there was something strange about him. This man was clade in all black and had a hood covering his face. He wasn't shackled and the guards weren't escorting him.
Apparently Elincia wasn't the only one to think that because the two guards at the steps were about to stop the hooded man but he merely pushed them aside. Both of them fell and ceased to move.
They were dead! She shot up from her seat and grabbed Lucia's arm. Seeing her face, Lucia followed Elincia's gaze and soon spotted the man. She signaled to some of the guards down below and immediately the hooded man made a dash for Djam. The man jumped into the air and Elincia saw something reflect the sun light from underneath his sleeve. He landed on Djam and slammed his palm against his neck. Even from this distance she could see the crimson liquid cover the whole stage.
The knights were beginning to come for this assassin but the he leaped off the stage into the crowd of hysterical people and was heading for the balcony Elincia was in. Two knives appeared in his hands as he threw them at the two nearest guards. The blades pierced their windpipes and they died before they ever hit the ground.
Just before Lucia pulled her back Elincia was able to see the man scaling the wall right toward her. It was unsettling to see him move at such unnatural speed that he seemed to be possessed. One of her guards stood at the ready, sword held up high, where the assassin would come up. Lucia and Bastian stood in front of ready to defend her should the assassin come for her. That's when it hit her; was this man coming for her blood? On the outside Elincia looked calm and ready but on the inside she was a small child that wanted to run away.
It all happened so fast she wasn't sure what happened herself. The assassin climbed up and blood splattered all over the place; only it wasn't the hooded man's, it was the guards. The guard fell backwards and the assassin had already scaled higher up the building. Soon he vanished over the roof and he was gone.
"All of you follow after that assassin!" Lucia ordered.
Elincia fell back into her seat; she didn't realize she had been holding her breath. "Are you okay your highness?" Bastian asked.
"Yes, I'm fine," she told him. She was just glad that man was gone. But would he be back? This worried her deeply.
"Bastian! You need to look at this!" Lucia shouted as she knelt next to the dead soldier.
Bastian walked over and Elincia peered over his shoulder. What she saw made her cry out. "Is that…" she began.
"…Fang marks," Lucia nodded.
The corpse's neck was ripped open and the man's eyes were still open, he never knew what happened. There was so much blood you almost couldn't see the marks, but one knew just by looking at it that no human being could do something like that. It looked more like a wild animal did it. But that was a man who did it, wasn't it. She didn't want to think about the other possibility.
Bastian unclasped his cloak and threw it over the dead body. "Get him out of here and don't let anyone see him."
Yes, there would be a nation crises if people began to suspect that all of this was the work of a laguz.
"Hurry, he couldn't have gotten far!" A knight shouted as he ran past Ralik.
You've no idea, he thought to himself.
He chuckled silently as more guards ran right past him. They just got out of a war and they couldn't even catch a murderer who was sitting on a bench right in front of them. You'd think they would be more alert.
Then again, Ralik was a professional. They probably weren't used to dealing with someone of his skill.
Everything was settling down as people must have given up on looking for him. Figuring that it was safe for him to walk around he stood up and made for the meeting place. Under his mask he licked his lips that were still fresh with the beorc soldier's blood.
Now that Ralik has pulled his little stunt we'll have to move quicker before the enemy has a chance to know we're on to them.
As a fellow branded don't you hate being mistaken as spirit charmer as well?
I'm not sure what's wrong with them. Our healers say they're fine but for whatever reason they can't seem to move.