Chapter 33: The Quest Begins

Chapter 33: The Quest Begins

A Chapter by Gosia

The Quest Begins

 

            May couldn’t sleep well that night, tortured by nightmares and constantly thinking of what was and what lied ahead of her. The situation, she got herself into, looked hopeless but hope got her going. Deep in her heart she knew that Eren was still alive, she was sure that if he died she’d somehow know. If the boy was among the living, it meant that the witch Lavena was probably alive too.

                May glanced at the edge of the mirror’s diamond frame which was nearly entirely buried under the rumble. The portal was useless for her now �" it wouldn’t open for another three centuries. Her only chance of getting home was Uaimth Dorchadais �" the magical gateway hidden somewhere in Bradan Mountains.

 Somehow now the problem of repeating her senior year of high school or convincing her parents she wasn’t dead didn’t worry May at all. Currently the most important issue at hand was opening the damn passageway between worlds again and getting back to Earth, preferably this time permanently and with Eren.

                May sighed, observing the sky lightening up in the east. She bit her lower lip, feeling as though she was drowning in doubt. She had managed to get that psychotic demon Aedain on her side, but it was painfully obvious that he was in no shape to fight and the girl had absolutely no plan. How were the two of them going to retrieve Eren and Lavena?

                “I guess, I’ll have to figure it out along the way,” May muttered to herself, pulling herself on her feet and beginning to gather her belongings; the day before she had managed to salvage some travelling equipment from the remnants of Lavena’s tower and prepare herself for the long journey.

                The dawn was nearing and so was the quest to save the abducted companions. May looked over her shoulder when she heard a sound. She saw Aedain waking up.

                The demon groaned, visibly displeased that the new day came so quickly. Slowly, trying not to reopen his wounds, Aedain stood up. His knees were buckling, barely surrounding his weight. He looked truly pitiful in such state, merely a shadow of the fearsome ruthless demon who had kidnapped May from the Thoen Stronghold. His previously smooth hair was now tangled, reeking of dried blood. His skin was pale like a corpse’s, the bruises and injuries still gracing it. Aedain’s left arm was hanging loosely by his side, still not healed. Panting heavily, the demon leaned on one of his sheathed swords and looked around, determination lighting his golden eyes once again.

                “Woman, where is my armor?” he demanded, without even a hint of politeness in his voice.

                May frowned, but kept all snappy remarks to herself. After all, she needed Aedain and she wanted him to be in a mood as good as possible, given his bad temper.

                “Your armor? It’s here and there,” she answered, pointing at the small shattered pieces lying all over the rummage. Those fragments were all that had remained from it. May grabbed a fairly heavy bad with supplies for the journey and prepared for the departure. “We’ll get you some new clothes once we leave Riada Swamp. I only need to change your bandages and I’m good to go.”

                Aedain muttered something, most probably some creatively offensive word describing his female companion, but held still while May was dressing his wounds with makeshift bandages. The girl noticed that the demon must have been overly optimistic regarding his injuries; most of his wounds  were still open and bleeding, especially the huge gush across of his chest. She tightened the bandages as much as she could, hoping that Aedain wouldn’t bleed out before he tracked Eren down.

                When May tried to take a look on the demon’s left hand, he whisked it away.

                “Hey, I need to check it too!” the girl protested, but Aedain flipped her off as he fastened his swords on his back.

                “It will heal in a day or two,” he hissed out. “Now do not waste anymore of my time, you useless human.”

                May’s eyes widened and she clenched her fists, holding her anger in.

Useless?! That’s how you call people who save your sorry a*s, jerk?! �" the girl thought, pissed off at the demon. She took a few calming breaths, barely refraining herself from giving Aedain a piece of her mind and followed him, dragging the heavy travelling bag on her back.

When May climbed out from the cellar of the collapsed Lavena’s tower, she felt a stab of sadness as she gazed at the remains of what used to be a lush inhabited land. In the pale light of the first sunrays the view was horrifying; the hills were black, the smoke still raising from the burned human settlements and fields. It was truly an apocalyptic scenery. However, what shocked May the most, was the silence. Eerie absolute silence, which seemed almost to devour all the sounds the girl and Aedain made.

“North, woman, start walking north,” the demon’s voice returned May to reality.

May began walking away in the direction, she believed to be right, when she felt a heavy hand falling on her shoulder and turning her in other direction.

 “North is that way,” Aedain told her with an dismayed look on his face and began walking in front of her.

 

The journey through the hostile Riada Swamp proved itself to be longer than May expected. On her way here fear and hope to get home helped her keep the pace; now the treacherous paths through the marsh seemed to be curvier and longer. May was walking after Aedain who followed some invisible trace only he could detect.

For some time she stared at the demon’s back. She made a mental note to buy him some clothes as soon as possible. Maybe if he wasn’t looking like a miserable white and purple meat pulp the sight of his almost naked body right in front of her eyes could be distracting. However, swollen and bandaged like a mummy even a man as attractive as he could only evoke the feeling of worry and pity in her. May narrowed her eyes, observing the man walking. She could tell that he was using all his strength and even more willpower to move forward. The girl could hear his heavy breathing, his movements betraying the fatigue.

“Are you sure they went this way?” May asked the demon after some time, tired of the uncomfortable silence.

“Yes,” Aedain responded quickly. He didn’t have to turn back to know that the girl wasn’t satisfied with the short answer, he could feel her questioning gaze boring into his back. He gritted his teeth. “The smell of Baltar’s blood is distinct.”

May sighed as she stepped over a root, readjusting the strap of her bag.

“How about Eren and Lavena?” she inquired.

“I am sure yet,” Aedain answered, impatience creeping into his voice. When he heard May taking a breath and about to ask more questions, he decided to prevent it from happening. “Say something more and I will make you regret it.”

May closer her mouth and glared daggers at the demon’s back.

“As you command, Your Highness,” she said sarcastically. Then something popped into her mind, something she was curious about since she heard it. “Say, Aedain, aren’t you a prince?”

The girl saw the demon stiffen at her question. Then he grunted, the sound could be interpreted as a muffled “yes”. May wrinkled her forehead, feeling that there could be something fishy about Aedain’s heritage. After all princes usually weren’t vagabonding like he did, were they?

“Your dad, the king, passed away,” May stated the fact, voicing her thoughts aloud. “Shouldn’t you be the king now?”

Aedain glared at the path in front of him, feeling the burning desire to twist the woman’s neck. Since her return from the dark pit she called home, she was bothersome and much more confident than he would like her to be. The demon preferred when she was absolutely terrified of him, at least she was not asking senseless questions about his personal life.

“So, you have an older brother, right?” Aedain scowled, hearing yet another question.

It was known among the Laismarans that the world beyond the Veil was inhabited by vile bloodthirsty creatures, twisted by nature. Many of his kind believed that after the death a Laismaran could ascend to take his place among the stars. This was however a privilege reserved only for the righteous ones. The Laismarans, who had committed inexplicable crimes during their lifetimes were said to be sent to the world beyond the Veil to endure endless torture in this cursed place. Aedain had never believed in those foolish tales, but perhaps he should revise his view. Maybe if he had been careful with killing too innocent people, the cursed otherworldly woman wouldn’t have been sent here.

“So are you going to pretend that I don’t exist or what?” May asked, confirming Aedain’s suspicion that she was the punishment sent from beyond the Veil with the sole purpose for making his life unbearable.

The demon could sense the next question coming and came to the conclusion that his policy of simply ignoring the woman’s existence failed.

“My father did not have any children besides me,” Aedain finally answered, genuinely surprising May.

The girl stared at the demon’s back.

“So why aren’t you…” she began, but the black-haired man interrupted her.

“A king?” Aedain asked bitterly, not looking at the girl. “One cannot be a king if there is no kingdom to rule anymore.”

The demon wrinkled his forehead as the memories of who he used to be invaded his mind once again, the sad reminder of good old days. His father, king Kaellach, was the ruler of the northern domain of Kal Laismarr. His lands covered the human dukedoms Dulheim and Karhadon, stretching far into the northern wasteland. Over a century ago he secured a peace treaty with the human dukes, it stated that the humans and Laismarans were not allowed to kill each other anymore under the threat of a trial.

However, father’s precious treaty was short-lived. Many vassals were opposed to the king’s human-friendly policy, seeing it as a sign of weakness, trampling over Laismaran pride. Doubts about his leadership grew over the decades when finally his friend Zhawn rebelled against Aedain’s father. It was a matter of days till half of the northern clans denounced their allegiance to their king. The reason of Zhawn’s rebellion was unknown to Aedain, his father never told him it.

Then the war came. The king  gathered the vassals who were still faithful to him and forged an alliance with humans of Dulgard. And in the end they killed him during the celebrations after the victory. Baltar barely got Aedain out of this one. After the king’s shameful death the rest of the vassals lost their faith in the strength of the Ruanaidh dynasty and decided to claim the northern domain for themselves, dividing the kingdom into tiny pieces.

“So what happened?” The woman’s nagging voice woke Aedain from his thoughts.

The demon shook his head, chasing the memories away. The black-haired man stopped and sat on an overturned trunk of a tree, exhausted by an hour-long trek through Riada Swamp. His legs were slightly shivering from over exhaustion, his breathing uneven. Aedain was staring in front of him, a hint of sadness flickering in his eyes.

May kept staring at Aedain, waiting for the demon to answer her question. Aedain glanced up at her and scowled after seeing the expectant look on the girl’s face.

“You will keep bothering me until I tell you, won’t you?” he muttered, irritated by her persistence.

                “I have been exiled after the coup,” the demon dryly summarized the events from eighty years ago, the distant look in his eyes. “I am a prince in name only since then.”

                Aedain checked if the blood wasn’t soaking through his bandages and stood up, his face unemotional like a stone sculpture.

                “I suppose it is more than enough conversation for today.” The demon hissed out and glared at May with his piercing golden eyes. He clenched his teeth, hiding a grimace of pain and began walking forward, fighting the soreness in his body.

 

                They traveled the rest of the day and nearly the entire night in silence, taking only a brief break for a nap. Aedain was moving with difficulty, his injuries still too severe to undertake such a journey, but he kept striving forward regardless of physical suffering. His desire for power fueled his meager strength, allowing his battered body withstand the effort which was far beyond its limits.

                The dawn was a couple of hours ago when May noticed the light of the day shining through the dense forest. She squinted her eyes and smiled to herself.

                “Great! We almost walked out of this swamp!” She exclaimed cheerfully, trying to be in high spirits despite sleep deprivation and aching legs. Happy that the stage one of the god-knows-how-long journey was almost behind her, new energy filled her. The girl began walking energetically, moving ahead of Aedain who was steadily limping forward.

                The demon glared at the loud woman. He muttered a curse, mentally berating her for making that much noise. Thinking of noise… Aedain stiffened, shifting his focus from tracking Baltar and the rest to the surroundings. Rustling of grass and dry leaves, footsteps, whispers, the foul smell of human males. His eyes widened when he recognized the threat when it was already too late.

                “Woman, get back here!” Aedain called to May.

                The girl looked at him over her shoulders, a surprised look on her face.

                “What? Why?” She asked, confused. She opened her mouth to say something more, but she got interrupted.

 “It looks like a catch of the day!” a raspy male voice merrily called from between the trees.

May yelped, startled and whirled around. From behind the bushes emerged a large group of men, the word “criminals” nearly painted across their roughly-carved faces. She counted eleven. All of them looked like criminals with a huge experience in murdering, plundering and raping. She and Aedain were completely surrounded. May stole an unsure glance at the demon. Normally dealing with the robbers would be a piece of cake for him, but currently he was barely able to stand by himself, not to mention fight. The girl began shaking, as panic began take over �" they stood no chance against so many opponents. Maybe if there were one or two, but eleven… they were done for. And to make the thing worse, the robbers weren’t leaving to imagination, what were they planning.

“The girl has a nice body,” one of the thugs stated scanning May up and down with a lecherous smile, his eyes lingering on the legs exposed by her short dress. “I can’t wait to get between those thighs.”

“That guy has a set of fancy looking swords. We’ll sure get a good price for them.” Another one said, readying his sword. “What’s the plan, boss?”

The one called boss smirked and looked at May with a sickening grin. Slowly, he licked his lips.

“We’re taking the woman,” he said pointing his disgusting finger at the girl. “Once I’m done, you can line up and get your share too, guys!”

The thugs roared with excitement, eagerly waiting for this. May nearly glued herself to Aedain’s side, scared out of her wits. To be raped by them… it would be the worst. Fear filled her mind as horrifying images of her fate glided through her head.

Aedain clenched his teeth, cursing in his mind. He knew he wasn’t in a shape to fight, but he had to. For the sake of his future power and his honor he had to make it out of here alive and save that wretched woman. After all the demon gave her his word, what meant that it was a matter of his pride to send her in one piece back to the hole she had crawled out of.

                “I am afraid you will have to fight me first,” he growled at the thugs, glaring at them furiously. The leader of the robbers grinned at him.

“If you want to die that badly, weakling,” he said indifferently. “Who kills him, takes the woman first!”

In that moment all ten underlings charged at Aedain, eager to get the promised reward. The demon forcefully pushed the girl aside, deftly avoided the sword of the first attacker and delivered a blow right on his nose. May heard a nauseating sound, as the bone cracked and the demon’s fist sent the loose fragments of it deep into the thug’s skull, till they were stuck in his brain. Before anyone saw, what was happening, Aedain grabbed May’s arm and pushed the girl through the gap in the enemy’s ranks. They didn’t manage to get away far, as behind the plants was a swamp, blocking the escape route. It made running away impossible, but also granted a faint advantage in fight �" now Aedain and May weren’t surrounded from all sides. The demon positioned himself in front of the girl, ready to defend her.

The thugs were slightly surprised by the quick maneuver, but managed to get over it already and were approaching the pair with the horribly content smiles.

“Now you won’t escape!” one of the robbers called. May took a step back, but foot landed in the slimy liquid from the swamp.

“There’re too many,” she whimpered, sure, that the end was near. Aedain would have at least quick death, but she… May was scared out of wits to even think about, what would happen to her soon.

“Quit whining,” Aedain hissed out, not being sure if he would be able to take on all of the opponents in his current state. Under the normal circumstances such fight would be nothing for him, but now everything was different �" he could not fully rely on his weakened body. He was as defenseless as a human, equally slow and weak. His body did not move according to his will. Every move caused pain shooting through his limbs, the odds were against him. Ten opponents could prove challenging for him.

“Now!” the robbers’ leader commanded and all thugs rushed at Aedain at once.

May opened her eyes wider, expecting the worst �" to see the demon getting killed in front of her eyes.

Aedain maintained his calm demeanor and was keenly observing the movements of the attacking opponents. He seemed, as though he gave up and was waiting to be cut down. The first enemy thought so and swung his sword, counting on the easy victory. His eyes widened in surprise, when Aedain quickly changed his position and grabbed his wrist, using his momentum against him. The demon twisted the thug’s hand and sent him flying towards the two other attackers, while drawing one of his swords, Dorreach.

“You b*****d!” one of the robbers yelled, swinging with an axe above his head. Aedain only smirked and jumped right in the middle of the enemies.

May gasped, scared for his life. The demon was the only one who stood between her and the thugs. Even though the Aedain much slower than usually, she wasn’t able to make out all of his movements nor could the thugs. The girl saw only a lot of blood and flying fragments of bodies. Another six opponents were down, before she discerned properly what was actually happening. Apparently May underestimated Aedain and didn’t take into consideration the fact, that he spent nearly a century doing nothing other than fighting. Surely even if he was as battered, no human could match that many years of experience and his skill.

There were four thugs remaining, including the one who looked like a giant �" the man was over two meters tall and seemed to be a walking mountain of muscles. The demon decided to eliminate the strongest one first and made a move to cut down the huge one.

Fortunately, intelligence wasn’t the thug’s strongest side and almost instantly he lifted the heavy blade, preparing to strike from above. Using the moment, when the robber’s arms were lifted, Aedain darted sideways and with deadly precision pierced the blade through the small gap in armor place in the place, where the armpit was. Once the tip of the sword was in, Aedain skillfully twisted the blade and directed it straight towards the heart. The giant coughed blood and fell limply to the ground. Unexpectedly he changed the direction of moving and fell straight at the demon, who didn’t manage to get out of the way without his demon speed. Aedain was knocked down and the heavy body immobilized one of his legs.

“Orn!” the thug’s leader yelled and with face distorted by the furious grimace rushed on the demon, followed by his two companions. Aedain pulled the sword, wanting to draw it, but the blade was stuck in the giant’s flesh and would not budge.

“Tch!” Aedain hissed and quickly looked around, searching for something he could use as a weapon. There was a shabby halberd laying nearby. If only he could reach…

The opponents were closing. Just before one of the thugs managed to stick the sword into the demon’s flesh, Aedain’s fingers snatched the wooden pole of halberd and with a swift move he pierced the thug’s chest. Unfortunately, the blade broke and remained in the dead body. The two other thugs already swung their swords at the nearly defenseless demon, who blocked them with the wooden pole, breaking it into pieces.

“What now, weakling?” the thug’s leader mocked Aedain, as he lifted his blade. The demon was out of his tricks and was certain, that this blow would be fatal for him.

WHACK!

The robbers’ leader froze in place, as his eyes rolled back into the skull. After a longer while he fell limply to the ground. Aedain looked up and saw May standing firmly, her teeth clenched, with the broken branch in her hand �" obviously she just hit the thug with it with all her strength. The last robber gawked at her with wide-opened eyes, apparently not believing, that this short woman just took down his boss. The girl shifted her fiery gaze to him and he shivered. Maybe she was small and looked harmless, but right now it felt like a demon was looking at him. Before he even had time to lift his weapon, she rushed at him.

“You b*****d!” she yelled and aimed at him with the sharp end of the broken branch. The thug tried to dodge, but it was already too late �" he felt pain, as the sharp pole pierced the flesh in the vicinity of the collarbone. May pushed it as deep as she could, but the robber was still standing and lifted his sword, about to cut her down.

In the last moment Aedain’s hand grabbed the back of her dress and pulled her back. She turned her head to look at him �" the demon managed to free himself in the middle of the commotion. He was holding Dorreach in his teeth. Once May was out of the thug’s attack range, he grabbed the handle of the blade and swiftly struck down the opponent. He turned around to check if the woman was fine. She stood firmly on her feet, panting.

“I was scared to death,” she said, looking around at the dead bodies, intestines and blood, that covered everything around.

The  demon walked towards her and laid his hand on her shoulder.

“You did well,” he said, setting his gaze on the trees somewhere left from May as he reluctantly praised her. “You should have been born a Laismaran.”

 May’s eyes widened at the strange words, but Aedain swiftly walked past her and looked down at the thugs’ leader, laying in the dirt.

“I killed him,” May said quietly, realizing what she just did �" killed another living being. She did that defending herself and the demon, but still…

Aedain kicked the limp body and a faint moan could be heard.

“This one is still alive,” he stated and looked drew his sword again. He grabbed it firmly and slashed swiftly, separating the thug’s head from the rest of the body. The demon smirked with satisfaction. “Not anymore.”

May winced and tried to control the nausea, she felt from looking at the scene of the massacre. She really didn’t want to do this, but… she glanced at Aedain who looked like a wraith dressed mostly in dirty, blood-soaked bandages. May didn’t look like a common citizen of the Callesmere Empire either �" with the T-shirt and shorts she would be labeled as a suspicious person for sure.

“We need change of clothes,” May said, her eyes set on the mutilated corpses. “It’s better not to raise any suspicion, it could get us into trouble.”

Aedain  frowned, not feeling enthusiastic about the idea. His eyes went cold like icebergs.

“I will not wear those rags,” he said shortly, straightening his back. “I will cut my way through if necessary.”

May had to take a deep breath, not to explode. Didn’t his stupidity have limits?!

                “You’re an optimist,” she hissed out and glared back at Aedain. “Let me spell it out for you. You’re injured, can’t use your left arm and you have me for a meager replacement of the reinforcements. We’re just going straight to the guys who beat you up nearly to death, you have basically no idea what you’ll be up against and you want to announce your presence by cutting your way through?! Are you an idiot?!”

                May accented her words by tightening the bandage on Aedain’s chest much tighter than necessary. The demon glared at the short girl from above, giving her his most malicious look which had no effect on her though.

                “Do not speak to me with such disrespect!” Aedain growled, clenching his fist and baring his long fangs at May. However, she responded with matching obstinacy as she grabbed his long tangled hair and gave it a pull.

                “You have to earn my respect first!” she snapped at the demon, genuinely surprising him. She tugged his hair again. “And you can start by listening to me. Whatever we do, we will use the element of surprise and sneak on those b******s who kidnapped Eren and the rest, is that clear?”

                After May’s tirade both she and Aedain were standing perfectly still, their eyes locked in a battle of wills. Neither of them wanted to yield, but the demon’s composed demeanor slowly crumbled. The girl smirked inwardly seeing the vein pulsing on his temple.

                “If not for this bloody debt, you would be dead right now,” Aedain hissed out through the clenched teeth.

                May smiled triumphantly, letting go off his hair.

                “I’m glad you’ve decided to be smart,” she said, pointing at the thugs’ corpses. “Now help me to take their clothes off.”

A little while later both of them were dressed in torn, dirty tunics, smelling of the robbers’ sweat. May wished she had rhinitis. Aedain was even more upset with the new costume �" May never saw him scowling like that before. Before departing the demon took something from one of the dead thugs. In his hand he was holding a knife in a sheath.

“Take this,” he said, handing May the blade.

 

 

The ruins of Lavena’s Tower, Riada Swamp

 

White frost covered the debris as a woman in white landed in the middle of what use to be the cellar under the tower. Her bare feet touched the granite tiles delicately like a feather and her ethereal thin gown whirled around the slender frame.

The woman’s pale eyes examined the empty place on the floor covered with dried blood. Two sets of footprints were visible all over the underground chamber �" someone accompanied the dragon prince, someone with small feet, like the girl who traveled with him.

“He is not dead,” the woman whispered to herself, her body dissolving and a cloud of snowflakes glided into the sky.



© 2013 Gosia


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Added on October 14, 2013
Last Updated on October 14, 2013


Author

Gosia
Gosia

Poland



About
Hello, my name is unpronounceable for most of humankind, but fortunately it can be shortened to Gosia. I’m an university student in my twenties, about to face the real life very soon. I’ve.. more..

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