Aeric Dalia/Vol 2 Chapter 5
The battered warriors returned to the large estate as the sun was beginning to dip in the sky. Not a word was spoken since their fight with the Blackguard. Aeric's mind was troubled, not only did he know where to find him, but his mission as well. There was something more sinister than he wanted to admit working behind the scenes. He pried his mind from those troubles, instead worrying on the drunken state of his companions. Voren was acting as if he had brought about the end of the world. Dalia's face was full of worry, she had barely gotten out of her first battle with her life, then to find out she was being hunted by her demon brethren. Hale and Jenis, the only two to miss out on the battle were the only ones with a look on their face that didn't appear to be utter devastation.
As they strode up to the grandiose doors, Aeric's fist once again pounded on the wooden frames sending an echo through the empty mansion. Alistar opened the door, half paying attention, with his face in one of his books. He caught of Glimpse of the bloody Paladins, and shut his boom with his mouth agape. "Good heavens! What happened?" He spoke barely getting the words out.
Aeric said nothing and walked past the old man, with companions in toe. Alistar stood speechless, the last he heard they just went out for a leisurely stroll. Aeric helped Voren to a room with a bed. Once the young Paladin was laying in the bed, Aeric lead Dalia to their room. The silence was painful, almost like it was cutting into the succubus. She wanted to say something to her adept, but the words wouldn't come to her. She wanted reassurance, to find a meaning in what she was dragged into. A battle was never meant to be a place for a succubus, especially her. The door to their room creaked open as it revealed the empty room to them. Aeric extended a hand across Dalia's back resting on her shoulder. He ushered her into the room gently.
"Get some rest and relax, I'll be up in an hour." His calm voice soothed her troubled mind. "Yes sir." She was trying to sound playful, she still hated using the term.
Aeric Made his way down the hallways, paying no heed to their excessive design, or the emptiness of the halls themselves. Alistar once again greeted Aeric, but was met with a wall of silence. The only thing he wanted to know is if Faline had improved since he last saw her. He trudged himself to the infirmary in the doctor's mansion, his footsteps landing heavy on the hard wood floors.
"As a guest in my house, I want to know what happens." Alistar spoke inquisitively "The City of Di is in revolt." He stopped and walked on.
The Paladin continued his march toward the room where his old companion was. His hand rested on the door; he took a breath before opening it. The door opened slowly. Aeric peered in to see a vacant room, and the door flew open the rest of the way. He was shocked and turned towards the old man, who's nose was still in a book. The old man eventually looked up at Aeric.
"Her condition improved, and she's been out and about. She in the courtyard right now." "Why didn't you say anything!" barked at the old man "You didn't ask." His tone was indignant
Aeric stormed from the room brushing past Alistar who grunted at Aeric's rudeness, but he had the sensibility to not anger a man covered in blood. After a few corrections from Alistar, Aeric found his way to the courtyard. It was a beautiful garden lush with vegetation of many flowers and exotic plants from other continents. It seemed as if Alistar spoiled himself when he built the garden, it was in stark contrast to the emptiness of the decadent halls. It was as well catered as his fields in the front of the manor. Alistar tried to explain all the plants and their medicinal purposes, but Aeric ignored the man as usual, only stopping in his tracts when his eyes found Faline.
She was lounged lengthwise on a very well crafted marble bench, her long blonde hair was hanging free, billowing in the soft breeze with the tips of her ears poking out. Instead of in the braids she preferred. She was in a long white gown that complimented her figure. She was lost in the book she was reading. For Aeric this was a surprise to him, she seemed so 'feminine'. Not at all like the brash and loud Faline he had grown to know and love, this was a softer, more fair side of her he had never really seen. He spoke her name and she shot away from her book.
He took slow steps towards the elf, almost as if he were afraid of her. When she greeted him in her usual boisterous manner he almost felt relived to see the lack of sophistication re turn to her. He stood next to the bench and Faline pulled her legs towards herself letting Aeric sit. When he did she plopped her legs onto his lap and continued to read. Aeric was still almost entranced, and if it wasn't for his helmet she could see his half opened jaw. Aeric secretly wondered if Faline had learned something from the succubus. He gathered his wits and almost slurred his sentence.
"Are you still in pain?" "Yeah... but it helps to get my mind off it." She looked Areic over. " You look like hell.. what happened?" "The boy caused a revolution." Aeric held contempt in his words. "Damn, he acts fast, his first revolution, they grow up so quick." She spoke facetiously going back to reading her book.
"We have a problem." His was voice strangely monotone. " When we were riding back from the city, we encountered a Blackguard looking for my acolyte."
Faline's heart stopped for a moment, and the feeling of pain started to resurge over her body. She slammed her book shut and stared into the narrow eyeslit in Aeric's Helmet. She had faced many of the type in her long career, and knew fully well what they were capable of. The fact that it concerned Aeric only made her even more nervous. She tried to sit up, pain shot up and down her body and she cringed in pain. Aeric's hands instinctively shot for her, but she waved him off. Aeric waited for her to recover from her stint of pain before he continued on and made her condition worse.
"He knows where we are heading, and....." He paused, almost ashamed to say the next part. " He's good, too. He bested all of us at once." He looked away from the elf. "We're fucked aren't we?" Faline tried to joke to reassure Aeric. "What worries me is why he's searching for my Acolyte." "Just say her damn name... Dalia, its not that hard." Her voice was annoyed. " Well why is he searching for her?" "I don't know..." He trailed off.
For a moment they sat in silence, both contemplating the events to come. What started out as a simple task was quickly turning into a real problem. Aeric wondered if the order had know all along, and that this was his actual punishment. He quickly pushed those thoughts from his mind. Instead he decided to lose himself in the strange appearance of his lover. He watched as her hair flowed in the constant cool breeze as the sun continued to dip in the sky. He was fighting his mind for a moment to rest and forget about his troubles. Faline tried to get up from the bench and winced in pain another time. Aeric shifted himself and wrapped and arm around her back to lift her up. She laughed as Aeric carried her back inside. She tried to reassure Aeric that the pains were just the medicine working, curing the poison that once coursed through her veins.
He laid her in her bed and sat by her side before she drifted off int that sleepless state that she could. He left her room quietly slowly closing the door behind him. He didn't feel like returning to his room and made his way to the study where Alistar spent most of his time. The old man was sitting at his finely crafted desk writing away into some journals about something Aeric would have had no understanding about. The Paladin walked over towards the wall of books and fingered through many different choices. He walked the whole wall and didn't make a choice.
"Troubled mind?" The old man said without looking up.
"Yes." "Why don't you tell me about them?"
"Do you know what a Blackguard is?" It was almost tough for Aeric to speak the word "Yes I do, they are the antithesis of your existence; you found one, I presume." Alistar looked over at the Paladin still thumbing through the spines of the old books. "He was just toying with me." Aeric voiced his frustration. "What is life without a challenge?"
Aeric paced back and forth searching for something to read. He was growing tired, but continued to fight it. Thinking that escaping in one of the books would somehow help him. Time passed and Aeric gave into his bodies demands for rest. His armor was aching on his shoulders and back, and the heat of being trapped inside the steel body was starting to wear on him. He forced his body up the flight of stairs, almost trudging his way to his room. His hand fell on the handle and began to open the door. Inside Dalia was undressed sitting with her arms folded over her legs that were pressed tightly against her. Her black and leathery wings were unfurled to cover her up. She didn't move as Aeric walked into the room. He began to remove his armor when his acolyte pulled her wings back.
"This world is crazy." She spoke into her knees.
Aeric removed the last piece of his armor and slowly sat next to the demon, placing an arm around her to comfort the demon. She leaned against him and rested her head on his shoulder. She closed her eyes, resting an hand on Aeric lap. He didn't move. She slowly extended a wing behind Aeric and tried to wrap it around the two of them. For a while they said nothing to each other, neither were complaining, instead enjoying each others company. Dalia opened her eyes and looked up at Aeric. He returned her glance.
"I though I was done for... I.." "You know you'll never leave my side." Aeric grunted.
Dalia leaned forward cocking her head back slightly. Aeric held her closer, almost anticipating her. The demon threw her arm around Aeric. She drew closer, closed her eyes, and kissed Aeric. He laid back as her hands clasped onto his shoulders. She drew back looming over the paladin. The look on her face lacked the visage of hunger and lust that she normally gave Aeric when she became agressive. This time her demeanor was soft; caring, it put Aeric off his guard. He didn't fight her any longer. She drew closer, her finger's dancing diligently on his chest. He pulled her the rest of the way.
Voren forced himself up against the door frame to the study where an undaunted Alistar was still working. The young man had acquired a bottle of wine and held it in the hand that wasn't proped against the door. He took a swig and stumbled into the room. The old man knew he entered but didn't pay any heed, still working away diligently. He watched the paladin stumble his way to a sofa and collapse upon it. He finished writing an entry in his journal before addressing Voren.
"Well young man, what troubles you?" He turned his head to look at the drunken man "What do you do when you realize you can't do shit right?" He took a swig. "I'd assume that you try to find out what you've been doing wrong. Why do you feel you've errored?" The old man pulled a chair next to the sofa to sit near Voren.
"No offense, but I don't need the advice from a mass murdering bastard." He slamed more wine down, much to Alistars dismay, it was his wine after all. "Yet you have found me, it wouldn't hurt to talk at a 'mass murdering bastard' now would it?" Alistar chuckled smugly.
Voren laid silent for a moment. Alistar had a way with people, a natural charisma, he could get people to open up to him. It was how his plan was so effective, he betrayed peoples trust for his own gain. Now he would use it to help people, yet another method the old man used to attempt to atone for his many sins. He hunched over and rested his head in his palms waiting patiently for the Paladin to talk. Voren took another swig and cleared his throat.
"Whats the point of it? I tried to help a man, and in turn I got hundreds killed, all because I thought I was following what I was taught was right!" he turned his red face towards the old man. " What good is there in anything I do? What good could come from 'that'? I killed... for the first time in my life I killed, and what makes it worse is I know I could have avoided it... Could have done something else to save them, but I didn't" He turned away.
"We all make mistakes, we all lose the path before us. Sometimes we get caught up in the moment and chose an option that is easier, for our own survival rather than what is right. It doesn't make you evil, just human."
"I can't keep going, not after what I've done.... I'm no better than Aeric. I slaughtered innocents, just in a different way. And you know what the bastard told me after this? 'Have faith'." Voren belted out a harsh laugh to spite Aeric's words. " What just god would view the wholesale destruction of civil order and innocent lives as a good thing?"
"Faith actually has little to do with worship, faith is trusting things beyond your power will sort themselves without your influence. It's no wonder that many religions have faith as a strong cornerstone." Alistar was calm for Vorens sake.
The young man was troubled and he hoped he was merely venting his anger, not his beliefs. He noticed a figure move in the corner of his eye. He glanced over and he saw the beautiful blonde elf walking into the room, with a pained look on her face as she took each step. Between her cringed steps her face was a hardened scowl. She was focused on Voren. Before Alistar could stand to assist the limping elf she started to bark at Voren, causing his to stumble from his position, dropping the bottle, spilling over the wood floors.
"You whinny drunken bastard! You caused a revolution and killed a man? Congratulation! Join the club, you want to know how many men I've killed in my almost three-hundred year career?" She hurled the words out faster than the pain could reach her.
Voren continued to stumble to an upright position as Faline continued to amble towards him with fire in her eyes. Alistar rushed to her aid, his old body not moving as fast as he'd like. She could move around on her own, but the doctor felt she shouldn't be so flustered. He was also wondering why she wasn't still resting. As he propped her up and aided her steps towards Voren, she cocked her hand across her body, and let it fly, slapping the side of his face with the back of her hand. Hurting her more than Voren in the process.
Voren sat confused for a moment as he felt himself begin to sober up. He almost didn't want to look her in the eye. Completely unable to think of what he had done to anger her he remembered her reputation as Drill Master of the order. She was a harsh instructor, one of the worst, and this was the person who crafted Aeric into the man he was. Though those days were long over for her, she had no problem snapping back to her old habits.
"You want to give up that easy? Yeah your faith in what you do gets shaken, drug through the mud and spit on, but you never give up. You press on because at the end of the day you know what you do will make a better world because of it!" She cringed and took a deep breath before continuing. " I've lost my path many times, but I never lost my faith. You'll be lost and forget why you fight, when you feel nothing can be done you find something... something so horrible that you know you must do something about, and you remember why you fight. Then its time to pick up your sword and get back to work."
"But look at you, one insignificant revolution and you become a coward! A drunken mess as well, you want to act like an initiate I'll treat you like one!" She snapped here fingers and pointed at the ground in front of her. "At attention!" Voren slowly stood up trying not to fall over. Faline growled at him and suddenly his training kicked in and he shot up. " Why do you fight Broken shield?" "To protect the defenseless." He mumbled.
Faline cocked her hand back and let it fly, striking Voren with a satisfying 'smack'. He lost his footing and stumbled around before recovering. She suppressed her cringe as Alistar helped her stand upright. Her breathing had become more heavy and her face has loosing her stern expression. Alistar knew she needed to return to bed soon. He tried tugging at her arm but she shook him off.
"Why do you fight?" Her voice was much quieter, but it hadn't lost its edge on Voren.
"To do what is right." Her hand struck him again. "Just more bullshit that was drilled into you mind, I remember my creed very well: I stand ready to defend the defenseless, to prevent the strong from praying on the weak. Undaunted in my faith, to pursue the uncatchable, to do the impossible; to stand where others will run. Not for reward or glory, but because it is right. By my god and my faith I cannot fall." she dropped her hands on Vorens shoulders. Her breathing was heavy and pained. " You know these words, but Tell me Voren, do you believe in them?"
Before He could reply, her eyes fluttered and she let out a quick gasp as she passed out. she was caught by both men. Voren feared the worst, but Alistar reassured him that she merely passed out, though if Voren continued to provoke her like that she could die. Voren took it upon himself to carry the person so recently scolding him to the infirmary. Alistar was right behind him. the Paladin didn't saw a word, his cheeks were red and his mind was a mess. He couldn't recall if Alistar was talking to him or not.
The words resonated with him, he pondered them deeply. 'I know them, but can I believe them?' His drunken euphoria had long left him and him and Alistar departed from Faline's room. All he could think of was finding a bed, failing that something soft to lay on. Without need for instruction Alistar lead the paladin back towards the sofa. Voren dropped himself on the cushions and waited for Alistars brow-beating to begin. It never came. The old man put out the fire in the fireplace and left quietly. Leaving Voren with the wort scolding possible, his own unhindered mind. It should have been relaxing for the young man, but the silence was driving him mad. He began to try and force his mind on something else.
"Why did this happen? Please tell me..." Silence. The paladin would toss on the sofa for many hours before his body shut down and forced him to sleep.
The night would pass much more quickly for the two enjoying each others embrace. For them they were disconnected from the world, in that room only they existed. Aeric didn't worry about the Blackguard, the people of Di, his past, nothing. His mind was focused on one thing, Dalia. The scratching in the back of his mind was still there, but that voice had long grown quiet. Aeric was trusting is companion far more than when he first encountered the demon. It was subtle but he could tell she changed as well. her actions, expressions, and even mannerisms seemed to change. 'Changed more to your liking' the back of his mind kept scratching. Whatever it could have done to persuade him to stop didn't matter now. 'I chose this.' He reaffirmed in his mind. His mind would continue a subconscious back and forth as Dalia worked hard to make him focus on her.
The Demon was also quite pleased with how the night turned out. For her it was different, much different. She was letting go of so much. She was more at peace than her partner, more focused, like a dog at play. All she cared about was what to do next. The images that continued to haunt her faded away in Aeric's arms. With him no harm could befall her, no one would take her but him. She knew how he reacted when she suffered a 'scratch', there would be no way he'd abandon her to a much worse fate, she reassured herself. Soon all thoughts melted away. The air in the room was thick and warm. It smelled an all to familiar scent to the succubus. She smiled at her lover.
They didn't speak, they just reveled in each other passionate embrace until the morning light began to creep through the covered windows. Many mornings he woke with Dalia resting on him, but this time it felt different. As if she was lighter somehow, or he felt less cautious of her. He rested him arm across her back musing how soft her skin was and how rough the black, leathery armacure of her wing was. He felt oddly at peace with her, his lax mentality gave way to his paranoia. 'What have I done?' The realization finally hitting him.
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