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Neptune

Location: Rosayia Forest, along with Ildran River

At her question, he looked up at her and saw a skeptical look in her eyes. He gave her a rather relaxed grin as he nodded, “If you know how to use them, yes.” He replied, reaching out further with his hand now that she had shifted closer. He took hold of the shackle, peering closely at it for a moment to assess its condition now that he was closer. It was in reasonably good condition, which meant that the locking mechanism would no doubt be perfectly intact which would make it easier to deal with. If the lock had been rusted, it would have been harder for him to pick. He inserted the lockpick into the hole of the lock that was on the left shackle, his ears twitching and focusing entirely on the shackles as he twitched the small tool around as he searched for the right spots to push the pins up and lock them in place. With his extremely sensitive hearing, he was able to hear the very faint click when a pin was locked. Finally, the lock itself clicked loudly to indicate that it had been unlocked. He opened the shackle, before giving her another grin,

“See.” He said, before he moved onto the right shackle and repeated the process until her right hand was free as well. He gathered up the chains, putting them aside as he said, “Those sores should heal relatively soon. They aren’t too bad, all things considered. Here.” He then handed her the rest of the loaf of bread that he had been eating. He then turned his attention to the collar and frowned. He didn’t touch it, he simply observed from where he was but even then he could tell that it wasn’t something he could deal with. Daedrin, a talented blacksmith he knew might be able to deal with it but he wasn’t heading back to Selil right now. He was heading North, and he rather doubted this young lady knew the way. Not to mention it would be dangerous to walk there on her own, especially as there was a slavers market near the city meaning there was quite the population of slavers which would eye her up.

“I… I have never seen a collar like that before. I have a blacksmith friend who might be able to do something about it, but he’s in Selil and I’m not going that way at the moment.” Rowan said, his frown deepening, “Sorry I can’t help you with that. I don’t even see a lock to try and pick on it.” He said. It was unlike anything he had seen before, and that made him wary, as he wondered if it was some kind of magical artefact. If that was the case then he definitely wasn’t qualified to play around with it. Not only would he be worried about hurting himself, but also her. There was no telling what anti-tampering spells surrounded it. It could kill her, or both of them, and that was one thing he wasn’t willing to risk.

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Aura

Location: Rosayia Forest, along with Ildran River

Natia felt a wave of relief as the heavy shackle fell away from her delicate wrist. Although the dark red mark that remained on her wrist concerned her without her ability to heal it instantly, Rowan's assurance that it would heal naturally. She could vaguely recall her father teaching her about how wounds naturally heal over time due to nature's tendency to keep the elements in very specific balances. Foreign elements get ejected and missing elements get replaced over various lengths of time. She nodded in agreement as Rowan handed her what remained of the small loaf. She wasn't quite sure if she should eat the bread at all. She didn't want to be too much of a burden to this man, especially if he really was as friendly as he seemed to be. As she stared at the bread, she heard Rowan comment on her collar and she reached up with one hand to touch the gem in the front.

"I think... this is the lock..." she started. "Every time I try to use my magic, it counters it immediately... If I could just get home, surely my father could help me to remove it, but... well..." She frowned as she scanned the horizon in all directions, but as far as her eyes could see, there were only trees that extended for miles. Normally, if she ever got lost, she would simply climb a nearby tree and peak over the horizon, using nearby landmarks to guide her way back to the camp, but any landmarks near here were completely foreign to her. "Where... am I?" The small girl had never felt so lost and hopeless. This Selil place Rowan mentioned didn't ring any bells. Had she really been taken that far away from her tribe? Her father had her study up on the local cultures wherever they traveled in order to understand their customs and any potential dangers to her and her tribe, but not once had she gone over any place called Selil in her studies, meaning she must have been quite a long way away from where she had been abducted. She had no idea how long she was unconscious, either. For all she knew, she could have been cursed to remain asleep for days, weeks, months, maybe even years... That thought alone made her heart begin to sink again. She continued staring down at the loaf of bread in her hands, tears beginning to well up in her eyes as she turned the loaf over. She was hungry, yet she also felt like she would throw up with nerves if she even tried to take a bite. 

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Neptune

Location: Rosayia Forest, along with Ildran River

When Natia indicated the crystal and told him that she thought it was the lock, Rowan’s frown deepened because she had confirmed what he had thought. It was a magical lock, far beyond his capability to deal with. But he did gleam the useful knowledge that she was a magic user, which would explain why the slavers would use such a collar on her. They wouldn’t want to risk her using magic and harming not only them but the people they intended to sell her to. He let out a sigh through his nose, wishing he could do something for her but feeling powerless to do so. He observed her closely for a few moments, and wondered how old she was. She didn’t look that old. She looked almost childlike, as if she had yet to reach full maturity. If she was indeed a child, then it would not have surprised Rowan in the slightest. Slavers didn’t care what gender, race or age you were. If they could sell you, they would and it was clear it was those kinds of slavers she had encountered. There were some slavers Rowan didn’t mind so much, but they dealt only with consenting slaves. Slaves that wanted to serve others. 

At her question, Rowan once again focused on her face and noticed the expression on her face, and the tears welling in her eyes. He reached out and put a comforting hand on her shoulder before he said in a soft and compassionate voice, “I’ll try and help you the best I can. If we aren’t able to find your father, I do know someone that might be able to help with that collar but unfortunately you’re going to need to wait for when we return to Selil. Right now, I’m travelling up North, on my own father’s request. He wanted me to look into something for him, and I can’t turn back. But I will at least, try and keep you safe.” He then removed his hand and turned to his bag to pull out a rather worn looking map which he unrolled for her to see. He looked around for a few moments before he pointed along a river that was hidden deep in the forest in the South West section of the map,

“We’re in the Rosayia Forest, by the river Ildran. I’m heading up here, near the Terarr Mountains.” Rowan said, moving his finger to tap on a town that was labelled as “Dragons Eye”. He then paused before smiling, “Actually that might work out for you, too.” He tapped on another location nearby the town, marked down as ‘Vorserend’ which was hidden deep within the mountains. To that he said, “Vorserend; The Eldyrannth have a fair number of magical users. They might be able to do something about that collar. They’re a rather skittish people, but I think we could get them to help. I’ve been there before. They are nice people, as long as you don’t anger them but generally they’re quite peaceful.” He then looked back up at her and asked, “But are there any of these landmarks familiar to you? Especially when you were separated from your family?”

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Aura

Location: Rosayia Forest, along with Ildran River

 

As Rowan explained the situation to her, Natia nodded slowly in understanding. "Okay... thank you very much for helping me." she sniffled. Of course, she would have preferred being able to go straight to this friend of Rowan's, but clearly he had priorities that couldn't be altered. She still didn't want to be a burden to him, so she would simply have to understand and accept his conditions. Besides, he didn't have to help her at all, so she was more than grateful that he was even offering. Rowan soon rolled out a map and held it out so that she could see as he pointed to a few landmarks to explain where he was headed and where she might want to go. It looked like quite a long trip. While the two of them were currently near the southern border, this Dragon's Eye place seemed to be almost at the north-eastern corner of the entire nation! With how exhausted she had been just travelling along this river, she could tell it was going to be a very exhausting trek. Would she even be able to handle something like this? What was worse was that this Verserend place he was suggesting seemed to be even further away. Perhaps she would be better off just trying to travel to Selil on her own...  yet the thought of remaining alone sent a chill through her body. Although she would have more understanding of where she was, she would still be scared and helpless... 

Rowan then asked her if anything seemed familiar to her. She took a few moments to scan the map, but she only frowned and shook her head.  "No, no... nothing looks familiar at all, and my tribe studies up on the surrounding areas while we travel, so surely I would be able to recognize something..." She could only feel the despair welling up inside of her as she stared blankly at the map. Just how far away from her home had she been taken? She looked around again. "When I was captured, I was in a forest, but there were different types of trees than this. The plant life was a lot more vibrant and colorful. Looking at this map, I can only guess the caravan I was locked up in was traveling along this river to reach Selil when it was attacked by some monster, so I would assume that I was brought here from the eastern border, perhaps? Even still, I was unconscious for most of the trip, so I have no idea how far I've been taken..." She swallowed hard before glancing back to the horizon with a defeated sigh. "Maybe if I can get this collar off, I'll be more capable of finding my way home. You said the people at this Verserend place might be capable of helping me? But that seems so far away, surely you have plans to get there other than simply walking, right? I mean, you don't seem to have a wagon or even a horse! Is there a faster way to these mountains?"

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Neptune

Location: Rosayia Forest, along with Ildran River

“Vorserend.” Rowan corrected her pronunciation absently as he frowned down at the map, pronouncing it as ‘Vore-Sea-rend’. The only other significant forest on the mainland was the Ildgara forest. It was far more friendly than this one, filled with many different plants and usually the worst thing you would encounter there is an angry bear so it was less dangerous than this forest. He then said, “You must have been unconscious for a long time. It can take weeks to travel from the Northest most part to the Southernmost part. So it’s possible that you were out for a week or so? Slavers like to keep their victims asleep like that… it makes them far less trouble and helps prevent escape. But, of course, this land has a mind of its own like always.” Rowan smiled slightly, before his ear twitched as he heard a distant howl in the forest. He glanced in its direction, wondering if he could convince the girl that they should move soon, especially if that howling came any closer to them. He turned back to the girl before breathing through his nose,

“It’s very possible to buy horses at Ryn’tur which will allow for faster travel. I don’t have a horse or wagon because… I don’t need them. Not when I’m travelling alone. I have a much faster method of travelling, but I can’t use it with you unfortunately…” He trailed off as he studied her, wondering. She was quite small, so it made him wonder if she could actually ride on his back. It would be quicker than walking but he wouldn’t be able to move as quickly as he normally did. But it would still be much faster, and it would save him money on horses. Then of course, he didn’t show off his ability to anyone. Not even his father knew about it. He would have to trust this stranger to keep quiet about something he didn’t want nosed about since he used his ability to his advantage whenever possible. It was a fantastic way of gathering information because his targets had no idea he was listening to them, even if he was sitting right beside them. But for this purpose, he could just turn himself into a horse, but that would cause more trouble than it was worth. Horses were natural prey to many animals and monsters. He didn’t fancy having to run away from them because they thought he would make a fantastic dinner. A wolf, on the other hand, was often avoided by most predators except the meanest.

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Aura

Location: Rosayia Forest, along with Ildran River

Natia blushed slightly with embarrassment as Rowan corrected her pronunciation. "Well, I can't say for sure if I came from the northeast. It looks like that area is mostly bordered by sea, desert and mountains, none of which I recall from where I was captured... and if they could travel by sea and their goal was to bring me to Selil, surely it would have been easier to take me there directly by sea, unless maybe I had already been..." She froze up at just the thought of being sold and potentially used as some product all while completely unconscious and unaware, but she quickly shook her head. She didn't want to focus on that possibility. Besides, right now, where she came from was a pointless question. Her first priority should be to figure out how she could get this collar removed so she could actually be of help to herself and Rowan if needed. What was more troubling was Rowan's suggestion that it could take weeks to travel from the north to the south, which likewise meant it could take an equally long time to travel in the opposite direction. Could she really be stuck with this horrible collar for that long? Would she even be able to survive that long?

It was then that Rowan suggested he had a more efficient way of travelling that he couldn't do with her. That certainly didn't help her fear of being a burden to him. She bit her lip and nodded.  "I-I see..." she looked back down at the map.  "Well then, if I'm only going to slow you down, maybe I should just go to see your friend in Selil? It doesn't look nearly as far, and hopefully, I'll be able to have this collar removed much faster. If he can't help, then surely I can find someone who could..." She trailed off again, knowing she really wasn't comfortable at all continuing to travel on her own, especially knowing now that these slavers were so commonplace in this area. With how high-demand her people were for slavery, she could be grabbed the moment she turned her face up near that city. Not only that, but the monster that attacked her slavers seemed quite fearsome. No doubt, there would likely be others nearby. She wasn't particularly concerned about wolves, like the one whose howl completely went over her head, or other familiar animals, but there was nothing more dangerous than dealing with a beast one knew nothing about. She was quite hesitant to walk away from Rowan. She knew she wanted his protection, his care... not unlike a lost child, she was scared to take a single step on her own. She hated feeling so helpless and needy, but the truth was she didn't have even the slightest bit of confidence that she could handle her own under the circumstances. Still, the last thing she wanted was to make this man's journey unnecessarily difficult. She bowed to him.

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Neptune

Location: Rosayia Forest, along with Ildran River

Rowan had opened his mouth to say something when she had bowed to him, causing him to pause as he felt a small involuntary flash of irritation, although he kept his face well masked. The irritation wasn’t directed towards the young girl, more the bow itself since that was one of the things that he hated about his position back at home. It was why he was eager to make himself as un-eligible for his father’s throne as possible. The last thing he wanted was to become King. He shook those thoughts from his mind, before saying, “I would not recommend you going on your own. The slavers that had captured you, were taking you to the Selil Slave Market. It’s where the richest people live in Craethiel… So it’s the very centre of the slave trade. If you go wandering around there on your own, you can guarantee that you will be captured again. And the closer you get to Selil, outside of this forest, the less chance you will have of escaping.” He once again looked carefully at her very exposed body, before saying, “If it puts your mind at any ease, I don’t think you’ve been violated in any way. You don’t have any of the signs.” 

He rolled up the map again, still thinking about their current problem. He noticed that she hadn’t eaten the bread he had given her, but then he figured she was highly stressed from her situation. He couldn’t blame her, honestly. He reached into his bag, pulling out a tunic which he held out to her, “Here. It would be quite big on you, but at least it would cover you up. It would just be like a dress on you. We can get you some proper clothes later. I think it might be possible-” He started to say but stopped when there was another howl, this time a little closer. Rowan’s Keza ear twitched towards the source of the sound, and he looked over in its direction. He knew for a fact that wolves were very rare in this forest, as their preferred habitat was the Ildgara forest, further up North. He was worried that it was a Hound, coming straight for them. If it was, they were both in very serious trouble. He looked back at the girl with a serious look,

“Okay; if you’re not going to eat the bread, put it into my bag for now and eat it later, then put on your tunic. I don’t think that’s a wolf. They’re rare in this forest and if it is what I think it is, we need to move before they find our trail. As I was saying, I think it might be possible to carry you without too much of a slow down. It depends on how well you can keep your balance. But I’m going to have to trust you with something I’ve never shown anyone else before. Do you understand?” He asked, as another howl drifted towards him. To his dismay, he heard a second one responding to the first howl, and they did not sound like wolves.

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Aura

Location: Rosayia Forest, along with Ildran River

Natia nodded in response as Rowan confirmed or concerns about traveling to Selil. It would seem that traveling with Rowan was her only option. She would just have to find some way to be of use to him at some point down the road, but until then, she would just have to rely on his friendliness and hope he wasn't merely taking advantage of her. She was somewhat relieved that Rowan suggested she likely hadn't been violated, although it still didn't ease her tensions completely. She accepted the tunic the man offered her with a smile and looked at it up and down. Obviously, it was far from the type of clothes she had ever worn before, but she was most certainly in no position to complain. Her smile soon faded, though, when she noticed Rowan curtly stop talking. It was then that she finally took notice of the howling. Unfamiliar with the local wildlife, to her it just sounded like a typical wolf so she hadn't thought much of it before, but once Rowan suggested otherwise, she began to grow nervous. It was clear this must have been some other monster. Considering how fearsome that previous beast was and the tone of Rowan's voice, this was likely another creature that was probably just as dangerous, perhaps even of the same kind for all she knew. Without hesitation, she nodded and stuffed the bread back into Rowan's bag. 

"B-balance?" She blinked for a few seconds in response to Rowan's last few statements. She couldn't quite put two and two together just yet, but she nodded again. "Y-yeah, I can balance, I used to climb trees all the time, although I did always have my magic as a safety net, but I'm sure I could balance." She hadn't the faintest idea just what secret Rowan felt the need to hide from the world, but it was clear whatever it was would be quite helpful under the circumstances. "I understand, I give you my word that I will tell no one. It's the least I could do for all you've done to help me." As she spoke she fit the tunic on. As expected, it came down to about halfway between her knees and feet and hung very loosely off of her shoulders and arms. She was ready to go anytime Rowan was, although she wasn't quite sure if she would be capable of running on her own.

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Neptune

Location: Rosayia Forest, along with Ildran River

“Good.” Rowan said, both in response to her answer about balance and her word that she would keep what he showed her to herself. There was another howl that drifted through the trees, sounding even closer this time, causing Rowan to think that they were most certainly heading towards the two of them. He watched as the girl pulled on her tunic, which made the corner of his lip twitch slightly in a smile. She was small beforehand. Being dressed in his tunic made her look even tinier. He couldn’t help but to think of how adorable she looked. He reached into his bag, pulling out a piece of rope, sliding out a dagger that was hidden on his waist before using the knife to cut the rope down the size. He put the dagger away, before saying to quickly explain as he didn’t have time to reassure her that he didn’t bring out the dagger or rope to harm her, “It’s a belt. It should help keep the tunic from riding up too much.” He reached forwards, winding the rope around her waist before tying it at the front so that the material hugged her form a little closer. He nodded, satisfied with his work before he put his hands on her shoulders and looked her dead in the eye,

“Listen. Once we get started, we won’t be able to talk. I will be able to understand you, but you aren’t going to be able to understand me. I’m going to change my appearance, and when I do, you need to climb onto my back and hold on to me-” His voice was cut by the sound of several howls, each raising the hair on the back of his neck. Ignoring it for now, to help prevent the young girl from panicking as he knew she was looking towards him for guidance, he continued in the same firm, authoritative voice that showed no hint of panic or worry, “-as tightly as you can. Don’t worry about hurting me. As long as you stay on, it will be fine. I’m going to take us across the river, to try and lose their trail.”

He then let go of her shoulders and picked up his bag, pulling the string to close it back up before throwing it back onto his shoulders. He then straightened so that he was standing tall again and closed his eyes as he filled his mind with the shape that he wanted to assume, before he began to pour his being into it. As always, it was a strange sensation, as if he was melting into the shape. It almost felt as if his entire body had turned to liquid, before it poured into the mould that he had outlined. To the young girls perspective, his body seemed to blur and waver for several moments before Rowan disappeared only to be replaced by a large black wolf, with distinctive lighter fur on the tips of his ears and tail, much like what Rowan had on his Keza ears and tail. The wolf lay down on the ground, before looking at the girl with an expectant look.

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Aura

Location: Rosayia Forest, along with Ildran River

The site of the rope and dagger that Rowan pulled out quite understandably made her nervous. While she had been abducted by slavers who used chains, she knew that some preferred rope. She drew back slightly even after Rowan explained his intentions. Hearing the howling, though, she was reminded that she wasn't quite in the position to resist. At this point, all she could hope was that Rowan was being truthful with her, even though he clearly lied already about having no weapons... She blushed slightly in embarrassment as Rowan tied the rope around her waist, although the embarrassment was more so due to the fact that she had to trust this stranger to protect her than the size of her clothes. To her, clothing was normally more of an accessory than a means to cover her body. However, without her magic, she likely would need some form of clothing to keep warm.

Shortly after he finished tying the rope around her waist, she felt his hands on her shoulders. It wasn't hard enough to hurt or intimidate her, but it was enough to demonstrate just how important his next words would be as he looked into her soft purple eyes. Somehow, she found this position to be quite reassuring. It didn't feel like he was trying to control her, she had enough freedom to try to run at any point, but it was also firm enough to convince her that she should trust him. It almost reminded her of the way her father would calm her in stressful situations. When the howling began to grow in number and volume, she began to panic for just a moment before Rowan continued talking, allowing her to focus once again on staring into his warm, golden eyes. She nodded quickly, trying to shake away her blush as well.

Soon, she watched as Rowan suddenly began to blur. Natia's eyes widened in shock as she watched the man transform into a wolf right before her eyes! She hadn't expected Rowan to be a magic user at all, much less one so advanced to be capable of shapeshifting! Considering she had only grown up knowing the system of magic that the Aequu used and wasn't quite familiar with other forms of magic, merely assuming they all functioned identically, this was particularly shocking to her. Transfiguration was a forbidden ability that required manipulation of the forbidden element of space. Considering he explained that he would be unable to understand her, it must affect the element of mind as well! Could this man be against Cera? Suddenly, she found herself questioning whether or not she should trust this man, or beast, but as the howling only drew closer, she was forced into a decision. She quickly hopped onto the wolf. Perhaps she could get an explanation later when they reach somewhere more peaceful.

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Neptune

Location: Rosayia Forest, along with Ildran River

Rowan waited until the girl was firmly on his back before he slowly stood up. He paused, making sure that she was still holding onto him before he began to move, walking over to the edge of the river. His ears swivelled forwards as the black tip of his nose twitched repeatedly before he glanced over his shoulders at her again before he slowly began to ease into the cool water. He moved forwards until he could no longer touch the bottom with his paws and he was forced to swim forwards and against the current which was trying to pull him down river into the Ageon river. But he was a large and strong wolf, able to easily swim against it. He made sure that his back was well above water, made easy by the fact that the girl barely had any weight. There were more howls behind them, getting closer with each one.

When they reached the otherside of the river, Rowan pulled them up onto the shore, giving himself a little shake to make sure excess water was not clinging to him. He then trotted away from the riverside, slinking into some bushes. There, he paused, peering through a gap in the bushes as he could hear movement on the otherside. He was relieved that he had convinced the girl to come with him, because after a moment a huge Hound emerged from the foliage, looking around as it sniffed the air. It looked roughly the size of a small horse and its fur was a dirty black in colour. Its fur was darker, shorter and coarser, with patches that made it looked scabbed and diseased. As it looked out across the river, they could almost feel the malice and hatred in its blood red eyes. It was no doubt, in Rowan’s mind, hunting the two of them down. It wanted to kill them, and not simply because they might make a tasty meal. It wanted to kill them because it hated them. Another Hound joined the first, growling in a deep, menacing fashion before it moved forwards with its head down as it sniffed at the ground.

Knowing it was only a matter of time before they realised that they had crossed the river, Rowan turned and moved off. At first he started at a slow walk so that the girl would keep her grip before he sped up to a trot as he easily weaved between the trees. He kept all of his senses alert, because of the risk of running into some kind of monster. If he was on his own, he wouldn’t have been so worried, but with the girl with him he needed to be extra vigilant. He was also worried that there could be more Hounds on this side of the river already that would be attracted by the howling of the other pack. He moved as quickly as he could without risking the young girl from falling off. The howling behind them seemed confused for a few moments before there was a triumphant one. Clearly they had found their trail, or at least the girls, and would now start trailing them. Rowan angled closer to the Ageon River, where they were less likely to encounter monsters that would slow them down. If they were unlucky, then this pack was going to track them for weeks. He hoped that either they would grow bored, or get interrupted by something a lot more interesting.

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Aura

Location: Rosayia Forest, along with Ildran River

Natia clung tightly to Rowan's fur as he began to cross the river. She could feel the waters splashing onto her arms and the sides of the tunic she had been given were dipping slightly into the river as well, but Rowan had managed to keep her mostly dry. As the two reached the other side and hid in the bushes, Natia had foolishly hoped that would be the end of their escape, but Rowan seemed far less convinced. Rowan peered through the bushes while she waited nervously. Due to her position, she wasn't quite capable of looking through the bushes herself, but with how quickly Rowan decided it was time to leave, it was clear that this was something they both had reason to fear. If she could summon the strength, she might could push away some of the leaves so she could see more clearly, but even then, that would probably be a bad idea as it might make unnecessary noise that could catch an animal's attention.

She could assume that the creatures were canine due to their howling, so they likely required a scent to track the two of them effectively. Second to that, their hearing would probably be their best bet. A canine's eyesight was typically quite limited. So, if Rowan could get enough distance and the two of them could find some way to cover their scent, perhaps with mud, flowers, or even urine if they got really desperate; and remained quiet, they could potentially evade these creatures. Considering these canines were more interested in hunting, perhaps the scent of fruit or honey could help, too. Unfortunately, she couldn't convey these ideas to Rowan who clearly knew more about the creatures than her. She would probably just have to keep her eyes open for anything that could potentially cover her scent. With that in mind, she would likely be best to avoid the idea of flowers since any local plant may be deathly poisonous for all she knew. Fruit or honey might attract the attention of other dangerous animals... Mud would probably be her best bet. Although she would hate to ruin Rowan's tunic, it would most certainly be worth it if it could save their lives. 

She continued to cling as tightly to Rowan's fur as she could, knowing if those creatures were hot on their trail, that her falling could mean the difference between life and death for the both of them!

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Neptune

Location: Rosayia Forest, along with Ageon River, heading Northbound

Rowan moved as quickly as he could, however he was all too aware of the fact that they were being trailed. He could hear the howling behind him, but unlike before it was spread out a little as if they were attempting the flank the two much like an army would. To catch them in a pincer grip of which there would be no escape. It meant that the Hounds were very firm on their trail and it made him worry as to whether or not the two of them were going to make it out of this alive. With how firm the girls grip on him was, Rowan risked moving quicker at a fast trot that was just short of a run. Despite his evasiveness, he knew that their speed was a disadvantage to them, as the Hounds could outright run. But they needed to try and cover some distance before they could stop and try more sneaky attempts to evade their pursuers.

They had been moving for what seemed like a few hours when Rowan came to a sudden stop, his paw raised in the air as a sound before them startled him. He focused his hearing in front of them as he tried to identify it. It sounded like the growling of a huge creature. The forest then went completely silent which made him feel very uneasy. Slowly, he moved forwards, placing his paws very carefully on the ground as he moved completely silently. He got closer to where he heard the sound, before peering out around to tree only to be greeted with the sight of a Wyvern curled up on the ground, fast asleep. His eyes widened a little and he was about to turn back but paused at that thought. An idea came to him, one that would hopefully solve their current problem. If they were silent, they could sneak their way past the sleeping beast. The Hounds, because they were so noisy, would possibly wake it up while following their trail. The enraged beast would likely turn around and attack the Hounds. He turned his head, giving the girls leg a light lick that he hoped would express to her to keep calm and to trust him, before he looked back towards the Wyvern again.

Very slowly, and with steps like smoke, Rowan emerged from the tree and slowly moved past the sleeping beast. He paused when it took in a deep breath, before letting it out in a long growl that caused the ground to tremble slightly. When the sound died down, Rowan continued moving around the beast until they were past it and they moved back into the forest. At first, he kept up at a slow walk, but gradually sped up again to move off. They had barely started moving when they heard a startled bark behind them, following by an enraged roar, followed by more howls and pained canine sounds. Rowan paused, looking over his shoulder before letting out a loud snort through his nose to express his amusement before he turned forwards and continued just in case some of them circumvented the beast and continued the hunt. 

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Aura

Location: Rosayia Forest, along with Ildran River

Natia, too, began to grow increasingly worried as the beasts seemed to be attempting to surround the two of them. They were certainly far more intelligent than any wolves she had ever heard of before. She then noticed that Rowan seemed to be walking slowly to make sure she didn't fall off, even after he began to speed up. If this man ended up dying because of her, she would never forgive herself. She griped Rowan's fur tighter and clung harder to him.  "D-don't worry about me too much... If it gets too dangerous, just leave me!" She knew Rowan couldn't understand her words, but it just didn't seem right to simply allow him to risk so much for her sake when she could offer so little in return.

She was startled even more when Rowan suddenly came to a complete stop. She was unable to hear the growling as her ears weren't nearly as sensitive as his. Her heart began to race almost in a panic as she knew the beasts were rapidly gaining on them, but she could only hope Rowan had noticed something that could potentially save the two of them. As Rowan slowly creeped up to the source of the sound, however, she began to pick up on the sound of a wyvern snoring and growling. Immediately, she began to grow even more worried, as dragons were known to be quite violent and unpredictable. She could soon see the massive creature which was thankfully asleep at the moment. Her whole body began to tremble at just the idea of this monster waking up with event he slightest of noise, but she then felt Rowan's warm tongue gently flick along her leg. She couldn't help but feel somewhat calm after that. Rowan clearly knew what he was doing. She just continued clinging tightly to him, careful not to make even the slightest of noise. She had never encountered a dragon herself, so she really had no idea how likely they were to accidentally wake it up. She certainly wasn't going to take any chances, though. 

After several minutes, Rowan had managed to smuggle her past the sleeping giant and only seconds later, she heard the commotion behind them. It was quite disturbing to hear the pained wails of the creatures and she couldn't help but feel sorry for them, but she most certainly had no plans of becoming food for the wilderness any time soon. Relieved, she loosened her grip on Rowan and instead gently wrapped her arms around his neck, pressing her face into the back of his head.  "Thank you for everything you've done for me already..." Again, she knew he couldn't understand her words, but at the very least, he would recognize her hug. Never in a million years would she have expected herself to hug an outsider, yet she couldn't really think of any other way to express her gratitude. This man just saved her life twice!

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Neptune

(OOC: Rowan can understand Natia, but she can’t understand him while in this form. I think she might have misheard him lol That’s fine; she was in a bit of a panic after all)

Location: Rosayia Forest, along with Ageon River, heading Northbound

Rowan felt the girls arms wrap around his neck before he felt something press against the back of his head, before she thanked him for what he had done for her thus far. He wished he could respond to her, but speech was impossible in this form. Instead he let out a low, friendly growl as his tail wagged, to let her know that he heard her and he appreciated her thanks. Really, he would have been in trouble regardless with how quickly those Hounds had found them. If neither of them had met one another, they would have gone for either one. Or split up and stalked both. Granted, she would have been the main target but the Hounds were a nasty piece of work that hated anything living. He felt it was better for them to stick together plus she didn’t seem like the kind of person that wanted to hurt or harm others. He wouldn’t have felt right about leaving her to die in the forest. There were few enough of those people in the world. Even Rowan had hurt people. He knew he wasn’t entirely a good person, and while he lived by a code of Honour, he wasn’t entirely morally virtuous and would never claim to be.

As he continued moving through the forest, a new scent came to him. The smell of damp air, which caused him to look up to see dark clouds gathering which indicated that it might rain later. This pleased him immensely, as it would wash out their trail if some of the Hounds had escaped the Wyvern. From the intensity of the dark colour, it looked to be some kind of storm meaning it would be advisable for him to find them some shelter, as the rain was going to be very heavy and while that would be good for their scent trail, it was not good for them. The young girl was barely dressed, not to mention weakened and thus she was vulnerable to the elements right now. He picked up his pace, keeping his senses alert for anything that they could use for shelter. 

The two of them hit lucky, as after they had continued for a while Rowan paused as he spied something in front of them. He moved forwards at a brisk walk as every sense was alert for anything unusual but all it appeared to be was a small cave within a rocky outcropping. It would be suitable shelter from the rain although to Rowan it still felt a little exposed. But if that rain starts up soon, then they wouldn’t need to worry. His ear twitched as he heard a distant rumble of thunder, suggesting that the rain was going to come sooner than later. He needed to get some firewood so that they would at least be warm. He walked into the small cave, his ears and nose twitching in his caution but there was nothing within, much to his relief. He then lay down on the floor before turning his head back and nudging her leg with his cold, wet nose to silently tell her that she can get off.

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Aura

(OoC: Y-yeah... that's the explanation I'll go with...)

Location: Rosayia Forest, along with Ildran River

As time went on, Natia grew more and more weary. Her grip on Rowan's fur started to loosen and she almost slid off his back a few times before being shaken back to reality and quickly readjusting her balance. As a result, she was relieved when Rowan had decided to take shelter inside a nearby cave. She slowly rolled off of his back and onto the ground with a sigh. "Are we safe here?" she asked, unsure if she would have a chance to relax and help herself to recover. She was also still quite hungry. No doubt her stomach had been rumbling the entire trip. She definitely felt that she should have eaten when she had the chance, but she just wasn't sure if she would have been able to keep it down in the moment. Perhaps now that she felt a bit more trusting of Rowan, she would be a bit less tense and her body wouldn't immediately reject whatever food she swallowed. 

Natia reached down to gently scratch behind Rowan's ear. She hadn't cared much for predators in her life, so she didn't know much about wolves beyond how to avoid them, but it seemed like something they enjoyed and perhaps Rowan would enjoy it, too, in this wolf form. Although she still had a number of questions that she would have liked to have answered, but those questions would probably have to wait until he transformed back into his more humanoid form. "I truly appreciate everything you've done for me so far, and with so little reason to do so. If it wasn't for you, I'm sure those monsters would have gotten to me... I-I've never been so scared in my life..."

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Neptune

(Aye. It's good, we can work this in! xD)

Location: Rosayia Forest, along with Ageon River, heading Northbound

Rowan felt the girl roll off of his back, and he turned his head to watch her to make sure that she was fine. His ear twitched when he heard a distinct stomach rumble, which made him feel a little amused. But he wasn’t surprised considering that they had been travelling for several hours and she did not eat when she had the chance to. When she scratched behind his ears, his tail wagged from side to side as there was a tingle of pleasure from where she scratched him. He snorted softly at what she said, nudging her gently with his nose before, in an action born of mischievousness, he raised his muzzle before giving her a long lick on her face from her chin up to her temple. He then pulled away from her as he started to blur slightly as he changed back into his Keza form with a slight grin,

“Sorry; the longer I spend in that form the more wolf-like I become and they’re quite mischievous.” He told her as he shrugged his bag off of his shoulder and onto the cave floor. He opened it up and pulled out the bread from earlier which he handed to the girl, “I need to go and get firewood before it starts raining. There’s a storm brewing that, while uncomfortable, will work to our advantage as it will eliminate our scent from the forest. So even if they escaped that Wyvern, they won’t have a great time at tracking us down. I hope I didn’t scare you too much with that little stunt.” Still kneeling in front of her, he put his hand on the top of her head, “And you’re welcome. I couldn’t in good conscious leave you there in this forest. It’s a very dangerous place to be, especially on one's own. Now. Stay here. I will be back soon, alright? If you get cold, there’s a blanket in my bag. Help yourself to it.” He said, using a tone he often used with his young brothers and sisters to help stop them from panicking or being scared when he had to leave them on their own. He didn’t want the girl using up more energy by moving around picking up wood for a fire. She was weak as it was, and he wanted her to rest.

Getting up, but still hunching down to avoid scraping his head against the ceiling, Rowan left the outcropping. Once outside, he straightened before he glanced around to see what was immediately available to him. Thankfully there seemed to be a lot of sticks and other woodfall around, so he wouldn’t have to stray too far. He moved around the trees, picking up as many sticks as he could get his hands on, garnering a rather large pile in his arms. Once he could no longer pick any up he returned to the cave and ducked inside before putting the wood up against the wall of the cave where it would be accessible but out of the way. He sat himself down with a soft grunt, before looking outside as he heard a rather sullen rumble of thunder before he started to hear the soft pattering as the rain started. He had come back just in time.

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Aura

Location: Rosayia Forest, along with Ildran River

Natia couldn't help but giggle softly as Rowan licked her face. Her people were never particularly concerned about hygiene considering how easily all of such problems could be solved with their abilities, so she didn't really think twice about the trail of saliva that lingered on her face until the stickiness bothered her enough to wipe it off with her hand. She blushed softly when Rowan transformed back into his more humanoid form. She had already gotten so used to the wolf that she had nearly forgotten about this form. 

"I-I don't mind." She spoke in a soft tone in response to Rowan's apology. "I thought it was cute." She continued, her lips curving into a subtle smile. 

She nodded as Rowan explained his plan, he really sounded a lot like her father. He seemed to know a lot about the monsters and hazards of the land. Perhaps that was why she found herself being able to trust him despite the suspicions she still had. Either way, his tone only helped her to relax and he's done nothing but help her this whole time. "You didn't scare me too much, in fact, I thought it was quite clever. I was thinking more along the lines of using something like mud to cover our scent, but I suppose it was Cera's guidance that we happened to stumble across a dragon to fend them off for us!" She almost sounded excited in a way, although the more she thought about it, the more concerned she felt for the beasts. However, she didn't want to bother Rowan with concerns such as those at the moment. She probably shouldn't keep him too long before he could go collect firewood.

As Rowan left the cave, Natia began to eat the bread. Being used to foods such as berries and fruit, the bread was unexpectedly dry to her. Yet it also had a light and fluffy texture to it. For a moment, she even found herself questioning if it was even food at all, it almost felt like some sort of fabric, but she knew that bread was quite a common food among most species. Besides, Rowan generously offered it to her when she had nothing else to eat, so she was more than grateful enough to finish the small loaf. 

By the time Rowan returned, Natia had dug out the blanket that he had told her about and was curled up in it, fast asleep. She hadn't rested at all since passing out from pure exhaustion before, so it hadn't taken long at all for the small girl to fall asleep.

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Neptune

Location: Rosayia Forest, along with Ageon River, heading Northbound

Rowan spend several minutes watching the rain, before he noticed that the girl had not said a thing since he had returned. He turned his head to look at her, only to see that she was fast asleep. He blinked before he smiled slightly. He couldn’t blame her; she had, had a very exciting day and she had been exhausted when he had first stumbled across her. So he decided to leave her to her rest because she needed it. Instead he began picking up the sticks and, as quietly as he could, snap them down into smaller sizes as he placed them in a small but neat pile near one side of the cave. He picked up several stones and ringed them around the sticks so that the sticks, nor the coal when it had burnt down, could get kicked easily around the cave and hurt them. Once everything was in place, he pulled out a flint and steel from his pocket as well as a box of tinder. 

He pulled some of the tinder out, placing it on the ground in front of him, stowing the rest away, before striking the flint against the steel to produce sparks that descended onto the tinger. After a couple of tries, the tinder started to smoke and Rowan put the flint and steel aside before gently picking up the smoking tinder and gently blowing on it to make the fire start. Once it was going merrily, he moved it over to the small campfire he had made and place it among the sticks, shifting them so that they caught alight. He tended it for several moments until they had a good fire going, the smoke rising and coiling around the ceiling before leaving the cave. He had deliberately picked up the driest sticks he could find to create the least amount of smoke as possible. The fact that it was raining would help as well, since it would dampen the smoke and not let others see it either which will prevent anyone from figuring that there were people here. But the most important thing about it, was that it was going to help keep them warm while waiting for either the rain to stop, or the next morning.

Rowan sat back against the cave wall, crossing his legs as he turned his gaze outwards. Despite the fact that he had not slept since he had left Selil, he wasn’t going to let his guard down. Not after they had just so narrowing escaped the Hounds, something that they were extremely lucky to do. He was glad that he didn’t frighten the girl too much with the Wyvern, but unfortunately the Hounds were too clever for the usual tricks to avoid detection from predators. Their human-like intellect made them extremely hard to escape from if one was not properly armed to deal with them. And even then the chances of survival dropped dramatically the more of them there were in a pack. Thankfully, the girl had remained calm despite the bizarre situation she found herself in… Rowan paused in his thoughts, glancing at the sleeping girl as he realised that he didn’t even know her name. He couldn’t simply keep calling her ‘that girl’. Surely she had a name… he would ask her when she woke up, providing she was willing to hand over that piece of information. 

He knew little about her, or her culture. He certainly wasn’t familiar with this ‘Cera’ that she had referred to. Perhaps some deity that she worshipped, but it was of no religion he knew about. Her culture might be of the opinion that names held great power. It certainly wouldn’t be a new concept. He turned his head and stared at the girl, wondering exactly who she was. She appeared to be some kind of elemental, perhaps. Like how his people had elementals among them… But he had never heard of human elementals. But then again, elementals had never been widely accepted and were often targeted. It was why he kept his ability to himself, because it would strike many as too close to that of an elemental, which would likely make him hunted. He knew his father wouldn’t, and wouldn’t stand for it either. His father was quite a fair man, and was well known for taking a shining to eccentrics. Despite her youth, she also had white hair which was very unusual for humans. Either she was human-like and not human at all, or she was a very rare human. Either way, sitting here thinking about it wasn’t going to provide answers for his questions. He would wait until she woke up later. He turned his eyes back to the rain outside, which was now like a solid curtain of water, as he stood guard over her.

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After a few hours, Natia slowly awoke to the warmth of the campfire enveloping her body along with the already-quite-warm blanket she had snuggled so comfortably into. In the moment, she didn't think much of the fire, although a man made fire was quite an anomaly for her. She had no idea how one would even go about starting a fire without the use of magic and, had she been awake, she probably would have been interested in watching the process. The small girl slowly sat up with a soft yawn, stretching her arms before she noticed Rowan sitting against the wall across from her. She rubbed her eyes. "O-oh, I'm sorry, I must have dozed off at some point..." she spoke with another warm blush across her face already. Although she didn't seem to have been disturbed at all during her sleep, not that she would expect Rowan to take advantage of her at this point. It just went to further reassure her that this man truly had no intention to harm her. 

She wanted to ask him about the magic he demonstrated to her, but she also figured opening up with such a question would be quite rude of her. "Thank you very much for the bread." She gave another bow. "I hope I can find some way to be of use to you. I regret that I've been such a hindrance already..." she touched her hand to her collar once again with a frown. "If it wasn't for this... I'm sure I could have protected us from whatever threat we would have faced back there..." She still didn't quite understand what the two of them had been fleeing from, and perhaps she was a bit too overconfident in her abilities, but she had fended off quite a number of animals and other attackers in her time. It was often very easy to scare them away with contained explosions if all attempts to calm the creature end in failure. She had never been in such a position that she would have killed or injured an animal in the wild. She didn't like the idea, but she supposed that in such a situation as this, she may find herself in a life or death encounter in which she'll have to make such a decision. It was a very difficult burden considering life was such a precious and delicate balance of elements. Just like a perfectly bloomed flower, it is always tragic to see a creature, no matter how dangerous, lose its life. "I hope those wolves weren't hurt too badly by that Wyvern..." She glanced back at the entrance of the cave. She knew whatever the monsters were, they weren't just wolves, but she was partially hoping that she would get a correction so that she could have a better understanding of what was going on.

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Neptune

Location: Rosayia Forest, along with Ageon River, heading Northbound

During those few hours that the girl had been asleep, Rowan had not moved from his spot. The only times he had stirred was to tend the fire to prevent it from going out, and to eat a strip of dried meat from his bag when his stomach had grumbled at him, annoyed with being neglected. When he started to hear the shifting of the blanket, he turned his head from looking outside of the cave, to look at the young girl. At her apology, he smiled at her and said, “Don’t apologise. You needed the rest quite badly. I was more than happy to let you sleep.” He shifted slightly, stretching his long legs in front of him to stretch the muscles before he re-crossed them which helped stir him. He picked up a couple of sticks, throwing them into the fire and making it snap and crackle.

His ear twitched towards her, and he looked at her again when she thanked him for the bread, to which he simply nodded at her to show he accepted her thanks. His eyebrows then twitched up a little when she said that she wished that she could be of some use to him. His brain, being what it was, immediately leapt to the thought of sucking his cock but he pushed that aside. He highly doubted this young girl was the type to fuck a stranger, besides this was not exactly an appropriate time for things like that. Sometimes being the kind of Keza he was, was annoying at times especially when he was supposed to be on an important mission, and things like sex really were secondary concerns. His eyes were drawn back to her collar when she had reached up to touch it. He privately doubted her word, unless she was a lot stronger in her magic than she appeared to be. There wasn’t much that would deter those monsters from their path once they started on it.

At her next comment, his eyebrows rose even further, and the corner of his lip twitched, “Okay; I’ll forgive your ignorance in this case. But those things were not wolves.” From his tone, it was clear that he felt quite insulted by the comparison. But he didn’t dwell on it and said, “They’re called Hounds. They’re not only dangerous, but they’re malicious. Unlike a wolf who would only hunt you if their other food is scarce, Hounds will hunt you down simply because you exist. They hate anything living, and kill simply for the pleasure it gives them.” He ran a finger over his lips for a moment before pulling his hand away from his face and saying, “The legends say that they started off their lives as humans, but were forced into the shape they inhabit now by an evil God that resided with Rosayia Forest… at a place called Ashaba. He used them to guard his home, where he and his devout followers could sacrifice people to their leisure…” His lip twisted slightly in disgust as he continued, “The sacrifice involved bending the victim over a sacrificial stone, before their heart is cut out while they are alive, before the heart was given to the God in offering. Luckily this God seems to have gone now… brought down by a Daedra of all things. But the Hounds have remained, and they roam throughout the forest killing anything and everything they can. I wouldn’t advise feeling sorry for them. They would tear out your throat the moment you show them mercy. They feel no compassion, love or empathy. All that drives them in a mindless hate and desire to destroy. The fact that they keep their human-like intelligence makes them even more dangerous, since you cannot lose them the same way you would lose a wolf. And they’re not so easily dissuaded.”

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Location: Rosayia Forest, along with Ildran River

"Hounds..." she repeated. She had never heard of such a terrifying creature before, but after her previous experience, perhaps she should take his word for it and hope she never comes into contact with these hounds again. The story behind their creation only saddened her more. "I can't believe there would exist such a cruel god out there in such a beautiful world that would turn something as perfect as human life and turn them into such horrible monsters. I'm glad to hear that at least that god has been stopped..." she turned her attention back to the crackling fire, which she had now begun to realize was quite different than the type of fire she was typically used to seeing. "You're... burning sticks just to maintain a fire? You're a magic user, aren't you? There's no need to hide it anymore, you've already revealed it to me when you transformed..." non-magic users had very inconvenient ways of maintaining their fire. There was a reason it always burned out on its own over time. Once the fire runs out of material to burn, it disperses back into its normal state as heat, leaving behind the broken down bits of earth and smoke left by whatever was fueling it. Any magic user wouldn't even need such a raging fire for any purpose other than self defense. If they were cold, they would just have to gather whatever traces of heat were nearby. She wasn't sure if Rowan was just being extra careful not to use his magic or if perhaps there was some reason he couldn't manipulate the natural elements. He certainly didn't look like an Aequu. Could Cera's gift have gone to races outside of her own? She had never heard of such an occurrence, but she supposed it could perhaps be possible if there was another race as perfectly balanced in the elements as the Aequu. Alternatively, if there were other gods, then perhaps there were also other sources of magic? Maybe even with different sets of rules and limitations...

"Can you not control the elements?" She found herself asking. "Fire, water, earth, air, aether... can you not manipulate those at all?"

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Posted (edited)

Location: Rosayia Forest, along with Ageon River, heading Northbound

Her response to his explanation caused the corner of his lip to twitch slightly, before he shook his head slightly, “I would hardly call these people perfect. The ones that were turned, were all this God’s worshippers. They volunteered to be turned into the Hounds, because it was one way to show their devotion to their God. They revelled as much in death and misery as their God did.” He told her, to make it clear that her sympathy was wasted on them. They were as evil as humans went, who delighted in the death of others and had a towering arrogance and an ego bigger than the city of Selil. Rowan despised people like that, and if those Hounds had died at the Wyvern’s hand, then he did not regret their deaths. 

He turned his attention back to her when she spoke again, frowning a little when she assumed that he was some kind of magical user, before asking if he could manipulate elements. He shook his head yet again before he then chuckled, “No, little lady. I cannot. I can understand your confusion though. I’m not an Elemental, as my people call them. No, my shape-change is an ability that I have. It allows me to change my form into whatever I wish. It seems like magic, but I don’t think it is. At least not that I am aware of. Elementals can perform magic and manipulate elements but as far as I am aware, I’ve not heard about my particular ability cropping up. My people have ancestral links to the Eldyrannth, which is where I think it comes from and for them it’s one of their natural abilities like my hearing is to me. It’s just something that everyone can do, except not as broad as mine.” He told her, to dispel any theory that he was a magic user. He doubted he could cast the simplest of spells.

He looked back outside to the pouring rain which still wasn’t letting up despite how long she had been asleep. He then looked back at her and said, “I can’t keep calling you ‘girl’ or ‘little’ lady. Do you have a name that I could call you? In our rushed introduction, you never let me know your name. You don’t have to tell me your real name. I just don’t want to keep calling you ‘girl’. I find it very rude.” He then gave her a warm smile, to help coax her into giving him a name.

Edited by Neptune
Mistake fixing.
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Location: Rosayia Forest, along with Ildran River

Natia could understand Rowan's hatred of the people as he described them, however, even after his explanation, she still couldn't find it in her heart to hold any particular grudges against them. Violent solutions were never an option in her mind. She had always been raised to resolve conflict peacefully and better the lives of all parties involved. In the event that a conflict grows violent, she was raised to escape rather than fight back. It was all part of her tribes' method of avoiding contact with those who would seek to take advantage of their abilities, as fighting would lead to antagonizing, which would lead to generalization, then tension, then war when the fear on both sides reaches its peak. With the mindset Rowan had against these Hounds, it would seem that fear was already rapidly approaching its peak and that fight was not something that would need to stop. However, she decided to remain quiet on these thoughts at the moment. She didn't want to make it seem like she was trying to boss him around, it would probably come off as quite rude.

She nodded as he explained how his transformation worked. It was bizarre to her to think of such an ability as any sort of natural ability such as walking and breathing. It certainly seemed like magic to her, but he seemed insistent that he wasn't an 'elemental.' "Well, I'm not sure how much you know about us 'elementals,' but transfiguration might theoretically be possible with the manipulation of certain forbidden elements... You see, there's the basic, natural elements of earth, fire, water, air, and aether. Those are considered the white elements and they are all reliant on the laws of reality to exist. Everything that exists is made up of some combination of those elements. But there are also the forbidden, black elements of Time, Space, Mind, and Spirit. Only deities are normally permitted to manipulate those elements. In order for something like transfiguration to work, the space your body takes up would have to be manipulated. But even the greatest minds of the Aequu would never even begin to fathom how that would even begin to work, although some theorize that the black elements are manipulated through extremely advanced techniques regarding the element of aether..." she shrugged, realizing that she had just been talking a lot with no real direction to her words. "I don't know, I just thought maybe you might be capable of some form of magic that you didn't even know about. When you really get down to it, I suppose my magic isn't much different. It's only possible because my people, the Aequu, were created by Goddess Cera with a perfect balance of the elements. I don't fully understand it myself, but that perfect balance allows us to manipulate the elements around us by adjusting the levels and puppeteering them. I suppose if I were to compare it to something more natural, it would be magnetism. We can control the elements by attracting or repelling them from the environment around us. We can control which elements we are attracting or repelling, too, allowing us to break down objects into their basic elements as well. For example, if I could use my magic at the moment, I would probably be able to break that stack of firewood into a pile of earth and a small amount of water. I would also be able to repair all of the burned firewood to its original condition and create warm air around us by manipulating the natural heat from the sun and bringing it into this cave. But, unfortunately, I'm still relatively inexperienced when it comes to this kind of thing. The most complicated thing I can do is create fruit and flowers from earth, water, and aether. Some of the Aequu can do incredible things, though, depending on what fields they've devoted their lives to. Some can manipulate the weather, for example."

Again, she had caught herself rambling, so she stopped talking and found herself staring out at the rain, which she had always found oddly calming, although she did always have the concern that some helpless creature might be stranded out there. It was then that Rowan asked for her name. She responded with a nod. She had already decided that she could trust Rowan, so she saw no problem with volunteering her name. "My name is Natia. I'm sorry, I should have introduced myself earlier." she bowed her head slightly once again as she apologized.

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Neptune

Location: Rosayia Forest, along with Ageon River, heading Northbound

Rowan sat and listened closely to her rambles, but some of it made little sense to him. He wasn’t sure what she meant by ‘magnetism’ as it wasn’t a concept he had encountered before. It sounded like something his father’s scientists would babble on about, and he had little time for that kind of thing. Rowan was someone who was more physically active than studious. What he did gleam from it, was that she called herself an ‘Aequu’ which was a species, or group of humans he had never heard of before. He gathered from what she was saying, that it was more likely a different species, like how he was different from a Neko. She had also confirmed that this ‘Cera’ was some kind of deity to her as he had thought, and he felt pleased that he had correctly assumed. From the way she was rambling, she clearly had a passion for this kind of thing. Either that or she felt so lost and lonely without her people that rambling like that was one way of offsetting it. Either, or both, could be correct. When she told him her name, he smiled at her,

“Natia… that’s a lovely name.” He complimented, opening up his bag and pulling out the wineskin that his servant Charles had put in there for him, before taking a swing of it to help keep him awake. He then put the wineskin down next to his bag before saying, “Honestly, I have little idea as to what you were chatting about. I’m unfamiliar with that school of magic. But I don’t think it works like that for my people. I’m, er, not a Neko. I’m a Keza’maraki-” He had pronounced the word as ‘Keh-zeh-mah-rar-kee’ “- and we have elementals among us. But they’re few in number and…” He frowned, clearly looking displeased, “... not well received by the majority. People are scared of those that can manipulate magic. It’s why I usually keep my ability to myself, because it smacks too much of magic like you assumed. Things would get… awkward if people found out about it. Personally, I’m not bothered by magic users. As long as they’re not using their magic to hurt people, I don’t care what they do with their lives. I don’t know how Keza Elementals work, either because I’ve never had the chance to meet one and ask them about it. But I doubt it’s the same way. I highly doubt they worship this ‘Goddess Cera’ either.” He closed his mouth on that, since he was about to ask if she was actually sure of this ‘Cera’s’ existence and he didn’t want to seem rude by implying that she was lying. He himself wasn’t particularly religious. He never had the time to devote to that, and he was never sure which Gods were the real ones. Everyone had a different opinion on that and everyone was so sure of their belief. So who could be trust to be right? He couldn’t. Not unless their Gods came to stand right before him and it wasn’t some kind of hallucinogenic trick.

Rowan let out a breath through his nose to still his thoughts, before he looked out at the rain, “I don’t think that’s going to let up anytime soon. I think we might be here all night long.” He looked back at her, “Luckily I have food on me that I can share. I have more than enough money to buy more supplies when we reach Ryn’tur along with horses. I have some dry meats, fruit, dried vegetables… oats, too for porridge in the morning. So if you get hungry, let me know. I also have a waterskin… and some wine.” He said, smiling to let her know that he was more than happy to share. He would have had to buy more supplies at the village either way, so it mattered not if he shared or made her get her own food. Not that she could in this heavy rain which made it difficult to see more than a metre in front of you.

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      "Yeah, I know. Why do you say that every day? It's kind of annoying," Zero replied before he started walking towards the shed. Christa reached out for him as he walked away while she looked down at the ground.
       
      "Because we don't want you to go back to how you used to be," Christa whispered to herself.
       
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      "It's been five years since I started my training. I wonder when I'll finally get powers like mom and Jared," Zero questioned himself while he lied down on the bed, looking up at the ceiling.
       
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      "And that's generally where things stand right now. It's been a mess over there since the first incident two years ago. The police say it's due to unknown causes, but that's a load of crap. Check these out," the man said, opening up a folder and tossing a number of pictures onto the coffee table between the three adults. Jared picked up one of the images, but all he could see was a blurry black figure with golden eyes surrounded by red.
       
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      "How about I just give you two some time to think things over?" Bruce asked while he slowly started gathering up the pictures and his folder.
       
      "There's nothing to think about, Bruce. We're not going to-"
       
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      "You two should seriously consider this offer. I came here to you as a friend. This is a well paying mission just to deal with some monsters, and I'd hate to see you pass it up. After all, this whole thing may be more than it looks like on paper. Keep that in mind when you're making your decision," Bruce said, his tone suddenly becoming serious. Once he said his piece, he opened up the door and walked outside. Jared and Christa were left alone to consider Bruce's offer and the information he had given them.
       
      "What do you think, Christa? If what Bruce said is right, this job should be simple enough for the two of us to take on," Jared said, but Christa shook her head.
       
      "I think we should focus more on Zero's training. After all, it was because we were busy with that mercenary work that he ended up..." Christa answered, stopping herself before she finished her sentence.
       
      "You may be right. Even though that power has shown no signs of surfacing, we can't leave Zero here by himself," Jared said.
       
      "Then it's agreed. When Bruce comes back later for dinner, we'll decline his offer. After all, it's important that we monitor Zero's condition, especially considering that mad scientist is out there somewhere," Christa said while she stood up and grabbed Bruce's leftover cup from off the table. She glanced over to the door for a moment, considering what Bruce had said before he left. After a moment, she shook her head and started walking into the kitchen.
       
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      'Monsters in Star City, huh? I know there used to be talk on the news about strange things going on around there, but those reports suddenly stopped a few months ago? That Bruce guy said it was an easy job. Maybe it's something even I could do, but...' Zero thought to himself, clenching his fists when he remembered what Christa had said.
       
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      "How long will that be, though? Until they're old and grey?  I might not have any powers yet, but I know I have what it takes to fight off a few monsters by myself," Zero said while he put on his shoes and walked out of his room.  As he made his way down the stairs, he could hear Christa barking orders to Jared, who was in the middle of cleaning up the backyard. Without bothering to check up on when dinner would be done, Zero walked out the front door and began walking away from the house.
       
      Zero and his family lived in a small, two story house surrounded by trees.  They lived away from any neighbors to avoid noise complaints during Zero's training sessions.  Black curtains covered the windows to make it seem like nobody was home. At the same time, however, Zero felt like it was another way his parents tried to seclude him from anyone his age living in the small town.  As he walked away, a figure in a gray cloak watched him, then turned towards the house. The thick black chains wrapped around his arms rattled a bit when he moved.
       
      "The target has been found," the man said quietly to himself.
       
       
      'It must be nice...to live however you want,' Zero thought to himself, sitting on a swing while he watched a couple of kids running around, playing tag.  After he left the house, he made his way to the local elementary school's playground in order to get away from home for a bit. The kids were too busy with their game to really notice Zero.  He let out a sigh, looking towards the slowly setting sun.
       
      "Why am I stuck in this town?  Why do they watch me and keep me contained like I'm some prisoner or something? " Zero wondered, looking back down at the kids.  As he watched them running and laughing without a care in the world, an image of a young, black haired girl flashed through his mind.  Zero slowly closed his eyes, turning away from the kids.
       
      "One day, I won't just be an outsider. I'll explore the world and help people.  I'll be more like normal people. Maybe I'll even awaken my power," Zero said to himself, smiling a bit.  He slowly opened his eyes when he heard a faint growling coming from close by. A part of him was glad that nobody else was around to hear his stomach growl.
       
      "Looks like it's about that time.  Dinner should be done by now. Mom will kill me if I'm not there soon," Zero added, standing up and walking away from the swingset.  As he started walking away, a single thought came to his mind.
       
      'Who was that girl?  Why did she seem so familiar?' Zero thought to himself.  He shook his head when no details about the girl and who she might've been came to mind.
       
      "I must just be tired.  Jared hasn't been holding back in training the past few days.  I think the old man is getting paranoid or something with all that talk about assassins.  Even if I asked about it, they probably wouldn't tell me anything," Zero said, stopping when he realized he was already on the path back to his house.  While he knew the school wasn't too far away, he had not expected to get back so quickly. Zero looked towards the house and let out a sigh.
       
      As Zero made his way back to his house, he would take occasional glances towards the trees in case his dad was planning on surprising him and scolding him for going out before dinnertime.  Luckily for him, he managed to reach the front door of the house without incident. He took one final glance around before he opened up the door.
       
      "I'm back," Zero tried to say, but when he opened up the door, his nose was hit by a strong, metallic scent.  Zero took a few careful steps back as the door slowly opened up. None of the lights in the house were on, but thanks to the light of the sunset, Zero was able to spot something near the bottom of the stairs.  From where Zero was standing, he could see a familiar piece of light blue cloth with several dark red splotches on it. Zero slowly stepped into the house when he saw the cloth, trying to endure the strong smell that would assault his nose when he stepped inside.
       
      'This looks a lot like the dress mom was wearing.  Did she get into a fight with Jared or something?' Zero wondered, quickly shaking his head and dismissing the thought from his mind.
       
      'No, that's impossible.  Jared may be a bit of a meathead and a dirty fighter, but he wouldn't lay a hand on mom.  If anything, she'd be the one hurting him,' he added, walking towards the living room. Using the sunlight to guide him, Zero walked along the wall towards the nearest light switch in order to brighten up the room.  When he saw the state of the living room, a part of him wanted to just turn off the lights and pretend the whole thing was a dream. The room was in shambles. The two large couches had been thrown around, both of them full of holes.  The coffee table that was once in the middle of the room was broken into pieces while pieces of the broken table were lodged into the wall along with several knives that were likely from the kitchen. The TV had been thrown in a random direction, and like the couches, was filled with holes.  Other than the knives, there were large cuts and streaks of blood on the walls.
       
      "What the hell...?" Zero finally said after getting a good look at the scene.  His eyes followed the trail of chaos towards the hall leading to the dining room and kitchen.  Zero took a deep breath, ignoring the strong smell all around him and started walking towards the kitchen.  On his way, he tried to listen for any noises or sounds of fighting, but he heard nothing except his own footsteps as he walked across the wooden floor.
       
      'What is going on here?  Where's mom and Jared?' Zero wondered, stopping in front of a closet door in the hall on the way to the kitchen.  When he opened up the door, he found a series of swords, hand axes and knives shoved inside. Zero quickly grabbed a sword and closed the closet door, turning back towards the kitchen.  He continued moving down the hall, keeping the sword close to him just in case. Like the living room, the lights in the kitchen weren't on, but the smell of blood was much stronger compared to the living room.  The overwhelming smell made Zero stop walking. He slowly inched forward towards the dark kitchen, unaware that his arms were shaking as he moved.
       
      Stepping into the dark kitchen, Zero slowly reached for the closest switch on the wall to turn the kitchen lights on.  Like the living rooms, there were clear signs of a struggle. In the dining room, the table had been broken in half while broken pieces of glass bowls littered the floor.  Food had been left laying on the floor. More holes and bloodstains littered the walls and the three chairs that were once at the table were nothing but broken piles of wood.  When Zero looked towards the kitchen, he noticed a single, large pool of blood in front of the oven along with a drag mark leading to the backyard.
       
      Seeing no other options, Zero followed the trail of blood to the backyard, but the moment he stepped outside and looked towards where the trail of blood ended, his eyes widened.  Two pale figures were hung up from the tree by their necks with black chains. Their bodies were covered in deep cuts and their clothes stained with blood. At the base of the tree was a greataxe and a rapier.  Standing at the base of the tree was a single man with short grey hair and a grey cloak covered in blood. Thick black chains were wrapped around his arms and made a faint rattling noise whenever he moved. The man slowly turned towards Zero, meeting his gaze with deep purple eyes.
       
      "You're too late."
    • KentuckyEevee
      By KentuckyEevee
      For information on this character, please view the other OC named Kayla.
    • KentuckyEevee
      By KentuckyEevee
      Age: 18 Gender: Female Sexuality: Bisexual Height: 5’ 8” Breast size: 42DD Hair color: Brunette Eye color: Blue-green Relationship status: (Unknown) Occupation: (Varies)
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