Content Warning: the following story contains scenes of Violence, Death, and even mild sexual content. if you find this type of thing disturbing please press the back button on your browser. As well this story follows a type of "mirror" universe and contains several confusing events to anyone familiar with the real storyline of my world.

Fate's Shadow

By Desert Mouse

The room where the infamous warlock was working wasn't anything like he expected. It was surprisingly well lit with evenly spaced candle stands, instead of miscellaneous potions bubbling or pots shimmering there was a lot of books and rolled up parchments stacked in what must have been the neatest mess he had ever seen.

"I don't like being disturbed. Who let you down here?" the aging warlock asked. It was obvious from looking at him that he wasn't as young as he used to be. But he wasn't ready for his deathbed just yet. The intruder would have placed him in the late forties, about the same age as he was.

"I need your help." The man spoke up.

"I'm not interested, please leave me to my work." Salem the warlock replied.

"This isn't going well." the man thought grimly, but he wasn't ready to give up.
"I want to recover an escaped slave." This caused Salem to look up and stare intensely at him.

"I don't do slave retrieval. If you want to chase after some girl then you should try heading to Vernheart. They have people there for that." Salem responded and turned back to his work, now he expected the stranger to leave.

"She is an unusual slave. That's why I believe that this is something a man of your talents would be interested in." Salem looked at the stranger again, noticing for the first time some of his more interesting features. The man's original black hair had mostly turned grey now and he had a large scar across his face that looked like he had been in a fight with a wild cat.

"Unusual in what way?" he asked.

"The slave is now owned by the warrior calling himself Winter Wind. I found her training to use a sword with him and has become far too powerful to retrieve by normal means."

"You are mistaken. Duncan does not own slaves." Salem calmly replied.

"Normally no however my research has uncovered that he has this one because you gave her to him." The man said. Salem raised his eyebrow in interest and the stranger knew that he was making progress.

"You are the one that owned and trained that Jiyu'rei?" Salem asked.

"That is correct. My name is Todd and a long time ago I trained a Jiyu'rei slave whom escaped and somehow ended up in your hands. I need your help to get her back because it will need more then brute force if Winter Wind is teaching her, and keeping her will be a completely different matter. Only someone like you can twist her mind backwards in time to before she ran away."

"This is indeed interesting. On one condition I will recover and retrain your slave. You will not be permitted to remove her from this castle until I have completed some investigations after the procedure." Salem said simply.

"I expected as much." Todd said with a grin.

"I hate this town." Schala thought with an inaudible growl. She was wandering around the city of Vernheart, the largest center for the slave trade on the continent. Her feline features were carefully hidden so she would pass as a human. Her tail was wrapped around her waist and covered by a large black robe. The matching hood concealed the larger feline ears that sat on her head. Dressed like this she was able to walk around this hated town without drawing a lot of attention to herself. The slave market wasn't exactly tucked shamefully into one of the corners of the city, it was almost the largest building in Vernheart. Dressed up to invite people to come in and buy a slave at low cost. Schala was walking around the market building reluctant to go inside. She knew that somewhere in that place a large number of innocent girls were being locked in a dark disgusting hole. She knew that the moment she entered her desire to save them all would be overpowering. She couldn't stand that they were being held captive against their will. However she didn't have any reliable ways to get that many girls safely out of the city. She had a plan to one day destroy the slave trade and she was going to do it slowly over a number of years. "I'm sorry girl's. To you nothing I am able to do today will make the slightest difference in your lives. It will take them a few days to recover but you will still get sold off." She thought grimly. Yet her act today would mark the beginning of her goal to seed fear into the disgusting trade. "You. Uncover your face." A strong voice called out. Schala turned to face the speaker, it was one of the soldiers wearing the green and purple of the Vernheart family. "Are you deaf? I said remove the hood." The man barked at her. She studied him through the hood she was wearing. "He's looking for someone. Then I haven't been discovered. He is just unmasking everyone to find his criminal." She realized looking into his determined eyes. "If he persists I'll have to kill him. Its too early to let anyone see my face." She considered. Later in her plan there would be room for her identity to become known but for now she needed the extra fear caused by an invisible assassin. "Until the time is right my face can not be seen unless I am wearing the purple dress." She knew so she shook her head at the solider that grumbled and reached for his sword. Schala acted swiftly drawing her blade and pressing it firmly against the hand guard of his sword to prevent him from drawing it fully. "What the hell." The solider asked surprised. She held him there steady hoping the slight show of who was a better fighter would make him realize he was outmatched and give up. "Too many people. If I have to kill him I'll have to try and move him." She thought glancing around. He let his sword fall back into its sheath and tried to punch her. She moved to block it but it wasn't her face he was aiming for. It was her hood and she realized it too late to stop him from pushing it upwards. "Your not her." he announced one he saw that she was a Jiyu'rei and walked away. She growled and put her hood back up before too many people saw her. she was aware of all the stares she had received from the people that had glimpsed her feline features. "What's a Jiyu'rei doing here?" they all thought. She moved quickly to get out of the area. She would have to circle back before going in. she was unaware that she had been the person that solider was looking for the whole time, and now he would be reporting back to his employer. It wasn't for another hour that Schala entered the slave market. She felt confident that enough time had passed for people in the area to lose interest in the strange idea that a Jiyu'rei was anywhere near the slaves. She already left the public areas of the market and was walking down towards the living and office space for the auctioneer himself. She heard the footsteps behind her and she ignored the male voice asking who she was. The voice sounded once more as something tapped her on the shoulder. "This area is off-limits to the public." It started to say, but it was cut off when her arm shot forward gripping his neck tightly. She calmly turned her head to look at her catch. He was a younger man, potentially well on his way to becoming a successful merchant. Except that he was now having trouble breathing. "This is not my target." She thought disappointed. "What right does he have to fill his belly like that when down below they starve those girls to save money." She wondered looking at his well-fed stomach. She squeezed tighter and extended the claws from her fingertips until they pierced his flesh. Blood trickled from the wounds and his eyes went wide. He was going to die by the hands of this silent figure. After a few moments his lifeless body fell to the floor and was left there while she continued on her way. She didn't have far to go now, the auctioneer's private rooms were just at the end of the hallway. She entered them disgusted by the over abundance of luxury displayed in the main chamber. "He doesn't deserve the mercy of a quick death for this display." She thought annoyed. She hunted through the living area until she located him sitting at a desk in one of the adjacent rooms. "What do you want Jackson. I didn't summon you." The man said irritated. He didn't even look up from his work until she failed to answer him. "I said… who in fires rage are you?" he demanded. Schala didn't respond directly to his question. She approached him and when he looked ready to call for help she had her sword drawn. "Gua…"he tried to call out. Her sword entered his mouth a short way, the blade cutting one side. The auctioneer quickly got the message that he was supposed to remain quiet. "…f…yo….wa…" the man tried to mumble through the sword gag. Schala simply didn't care what he had to say. She removed the sword and closed the gap between them before his mind could catch up to her movements. "You bitch." He barely had time to spit before her claws gripped his tongue and her sword cut it off. "Now you are mine." She thought punching him in the stomach. "Before he chokes on his blood I must put an end to his life." She thought gripping her sword. She cut deeply across his right arm to disable its movement before she stabbed him in the left shoulder joint and kicked him to the ground. "I give you a slave's mark of your own to bring to the afterlife." She thought behind her hood. On his forehead she used her sword to carve a large S and crossed it out. With one last clean sweep of her blade, Schala cut the man's throat and left him to die. Her task was now done, when he gets found later the seeds of fear will have been planted for all the slave merchants. The more of them she killed leaving that same symbol on their foreheads the more that fear would grow. It wasn't until after she had finished with the auctioneer that Schala sensed trouble. However this was a few hours after she had already left the market without being spotted. Before she could leave the city of Vernheart behind she felt the looming presence of someone following her. She made a couple of random detours to make sure before turning to face her pursuer with her hand on her swords hilt. "When I heard that you were in town Schala I had to come personally." The man standing in front of her said. "I can't move… Is he using one of his spells? Or am I still afraid of this man?" she wondered trying to draw her sword. She felt certain that if she could just get it free of its sheath his magic would no longer work on her. "Remove your hood Schala. It has been far too long since I saw you." He requested. Something that she hid deep inside of her started to stir and she felt compelled to grant his request. Slowly she uncovered her face for him. "You have changed since the last time I saw you. It seems that you have lost your innocence Schala, I can sense the stench of death coming from you." He said. Then the man smiled as if lost in a memory. "You the slave who couldn't even sleep unless someone tied a rope around your neck as a sign of permission. Have learned how to kill." Schala growled at his words. "Easy there. We are just having a friendly conversation. You don't have to get angry." "What is Salem doing?" she asked herself. She tried to move her arms but it was starting to feel like an invisible rope was being tied around them. "Oh please forgive my manners. All this time I haven't given you permission to speak. Have you been well?" "What are you doing here Anderson." Schala demanded now that his question had unlocked her voice. "That's no way to speak to an old friend. Didn't Duncan teach you better manners then that? I'm going to have to have a talk with him" he asked. "Father taught me more then you will ever know." She snapped back. "Interesting, so he's your father now? Is that because he refuses to be your master?" Salem asked with a sharp tone. In his words Schala found the strength to finally draw her sword but as she reached for it the invisible ropes that she felt earlier tightened. They pulled her hands together. "Don't be surprised. I used to own you Schala. I spent time studying you and I know you better then you will ever know yourself. You might be able to fool yourself into believing that you don't want that but I know the truth." He explained. He brought his spell to its conclusion and bound her hands together with his magic. Realizing that she was trapped. Schala closed her eyes and tried to escape the only way she knew was available. The ropes used to bind her were not physical so she had nothing to cut or break. "I can't let you do that right now. I don't want the extra trouble getting you back to the laboratory." He announced. He focused more energy and struck her mind. almost instantly she lost her thought as she became too tired to concentrate. "Come now Schala we have much to do." He told her. In an almost dead state he took her from the city of Vernheart. The last spell he cast prevented her from really being aware of the boat ride back to Salem's laboratory in the Black King's castle. She was taken to a portion of the dungeons that had long ago been converted for the warlocks use. "I'm sure that you remember this cell. It used to be yours up until three years ago." He offered leading her into the small cell she had spent ten years in after much of her use had dried up. He released the magic binding her hands first, followed by the spell that clouded her mind. "I have to prepare things for you so feel free to rest here." He told her taking the sword from her side. He quietly left the room and locked the door. The moment she was alone Schala fell to her knees in new defeat. She was already feeling the panic of her capture building inside of her. "How did he do that? His magic caught me so easily." She thought bitterly. "It won't buy me much time but maybe he's forgotten what I can do and will throw me away." She hoped fighting the panic just a little longer. She closed her eyes and started to imagine herself fading away. This was the trigger for a trick that she learned the last time she was in this cell. Her heart began to pump ice turning her skin as cold as death. Her system slowed to a crawl so there was barely a speck of life remaining in her. in this state her mind protected itself by retreating far into her and separating from the pain outside. Almost nothing could wake her from this deep sleep that she had come to call fading.
Almost four days later Todd burst into Salem's lab and shouted. "Why didn't you tell me you got back? I wanted to see her." he was angry because recently he learned that the warlock had been in the castle with his slave for the past few days and had not informed him. "There would have been no point to informing you of my return. She is not yet prepared for the procedure." Salem replied simply. Todd spotted the wall she had been chained to the previous day. Her black robes had been stripped away from her to be replaced with the course lifeless slaves dress. The durable but uncomfortable brown cloth came down only to her knees and did little to protect its wearer from the elements. It was commonly used as a cheap way to dress a slave and almost never washed. Todd approached her and became every angry with what he saw. "Fires rage. You brought her back dead? What good is she to us a corpse?" he swore. "Calm down or remove yourself from my lab. I have seen this before, she isn't dead but it's a trick she learned some time ago while she was in my service. I never bothered to discover exactly what she is doing but I suspect her mind is attempting to protect itself from the pain of her cage. This is the reason I have not contacted you as we can not proceed until she's awake." Salem announced. "Then wake her up." Todd demanded. "I can not. She will awaken on her own however I have yet to discover a way to force her from this sleep." He explained. "So are we supposed to just stand here waiting for her?" he asked annoyed. "That is exactly what we must do." Salem told him. "It won't be long, I have calculated the average lengths of these events and I suspect it will not be more then a few hours before this one ends." When Schala opened her eyes she found that she was no longer being confined to that old cell of hers. She was now chained to the wall inside Salem's laboratory. She had been here before however and knew from those experiences that she would have been better off in the cell. In the past she had been chained to this wall only when Salem had a particularly painful test that he wanted to perform on her and limiting her movements became essential. "Welcome back. I'm sure by now your wondering why I brought you here. Of course because you're a slave I don't really have to tell you anything but I have decided that it will not affect the outcome of my experiment." Salem greeted her. Schala's eyes set on the man standing with her old master. She ignored his words because as angry as they made her in her current position she could do nothing. "It can't be." She thought. "I would like to introduce you to a man you may remember. Todd here has asked me to help him recapture you. I brought you here because once more you are to become his slave." Salem announced calmly. Schala started to growl even though she was helpless. "I know that the moment your hands are freed you will kill him. You can relax because I don't intend to de-claw you Schala but its been decided that you will have to undergo a re-training procedure before he can have you back. That is why I have asked Robert Morwood from Vernheart to help me." Salem explained. Schala noticed for the first time that behind her old masters there was a timid looking man trying not to be seen. The look of discomfort at the situation was plain on his face but her two tormentors didn't seem to notice. Salem walked over to one of the tables across the room and picked two items up. he returned with them bundled into his fists so she couldn't see what he had. He opened his right hand and showed her a dark grey stone the size of a large coin. "Do you know what this is. No I don't suppose you do." He told her then he glanced briefly at Todd. "I hope your listening because this explanation isn't for her benefit." "There is some friction between those two. If I can exploit that I might be able to get out of this." She thought. Salem turned to look directly at her. "This is a small piece of skystone. It is part of the ore the Sword of Star's was crafted from." He opened his other hand to show her a collar with an open pouch the same size as the stone. It was open on both sides so the rock would be touching her skin, as well as decorating the collar. "You can't be serious. You're going to give something with the power of the Sword of Stars to that slave?" Todd couldn't believe it. "Please do not interrupt me with ignorance. It might interest you to know that I would be most curious to study the man that twisted her mind so many years ago. If you do insist on being a fool then I'll have the castle guards lock you in chains so I can perform my tests and keep her for myself." Salem said flatly. Schala's eyes locked on the collar and her building panic leapt. She struggled violently against the chains to look for a weakness that she knew didn't exist. "It would seem that your slave is more intelligent then you are." He commented. Todd looked angry enough to kill over the suggestion but Salem wasn't interested. "Your sudden reaction to the stone is quite interesting Schala. You know what will happen don't you." He asked her. This was the first window he had given her to speak since she woke up. "I have never drawn the Sword of Stars, but still I know what will happen when that thing touches me. I have witnessed the sword's effects enough to understand its curse. I ask that you slay me now rather then proceed with your test. If you grant me that mercy then you may earn father's forgiveness." Schala said. "She's really afraid of that thing. She would rather die now then have it attached to her collar. There must be something I am missing." Todd thought. "What are you talking about girl? Your father has been dead for a long time." "She means Duncan Forester." Salem answered for her. "Yes I remember now. That blonde woman friend of Duncan's was traveling with a feline last year. I heard something about those events." "Father please forgive me. Even with all the training you gave me I can do nothing to stop this." Schala thought frustrated. She was going to lose her freedom and unless this madman showed her mercy she was going to be subjected to the same power she watched consume her friend the previous year. "Calm down you fool. Think about this logically. It's only a small fragment of the swords material and the three wizards that helped craft the blade haven't enchanted it. Therefore it can't be nearly as powerful and may not even work as well as he hopes." Salem approached her after he put the stone into the collar and reached for her neck. At that moment her fear was reaching its peak and she tried in vain to twist away from his touch. Her head had nowhere to go so he didn't have any trouble tying the collar around her neck, choking away her freedom. He backed away to observe and record the immediate results. At first Schala felt almost nothing but the fear that rang through her ears. The nature that the stone was trying to bring out had been pushed so far inside of her that even it was having difficulty bringing it to the surface. "Morwood if you would please come here." Salem said starting to gather his energy for the next stage. The frightened looking wizard got closer and waited for further instruction. "Intertwine your energies with my spell. I'm going to focus it into the skystone collar and it will be your job to maintain the spell." Salem explained. "He's casting a spell too?" she thought horrified. Defeated she slumped over letting the chains support her. by now she had started to feel the twang of guilt as her hidden nature was coming forward. Then when the magic touched her new collar all that she had been burst from her." With Morwood now solely maintaining the spell that Salem had cast, he turned to Todd and indicated that they should leave now. "Its going to take several hours to completely set in but the magic at work will return her state of mind to the deepest training you gave her. I have to prepare you for the next part." He said heading for the door. "What about her memories?" "Its hard to say for certain. Her memories from before her training was broken will remain intact. But her memories after that point may become fractured. If its important I will consider adjusting what's left for better results." Salem said as the two left the room. Robert Morwood who was not maintaining Salem's spell on the skystone in her collar looked Schala right in the eyes. "I'm sorry." He said filling with guilt. He didn't want to be here and he certainly didn't have any reason to want to help that monster harm this girl. Schala simply nodded at him with understanding. "He said this feline is close to Winter Wind. I don't think my Earl knows what he's just done…what kind of enemy he just made." He thought scared. His eyes drifted to the sword Salem had taken from the girl. It was resting against the wall beside the only exit in the laboratory. "It could be my only hope to undo the earl's and my part in this." He realized.
Three days later Schala was kneeling in her cell. She still wore the collar Salem had cast his spell on, however without someone maintaining it the power of the spell was gone after completing its initial devastating effects. All that remained was the dull magic of the skystone itself, which was more then enough to prevent her old independence from manifesting. She was a changed woman now, fully aware of the terrible crimes that she had committed she now hoped that she would be punished for them and be accepted back by her masters. The experiences she had and the things that she learned after meeting Duncan Forester seemed to be nothing more then a distant memory. Almost like a dream that she might have had one night. Schala's ears twitched at the sounds of her room being unlocked. She risked a glance at the door from her position in the center of the bare cell to see who was coming to visit her. She was no longer afraid of being locked up like this. Now she felt safe and secure in the cell like when she was a child under master's control. The magic that burned away her unnatural desires to be free had eliminated that fear of captivity to return her to a state of bliss. Todd who was one of her original masters came into the room carrying what looked like a sword with its blade wrapped tightly in cloth. "To your feet girl." Todd ordered. Schala wasted no time standing up because she wanted desperately to please him. He studied her still dressed in the rags Salem had provided for her. She was standing exactly the same way he taught her years ago. With her head down, her eyes focused on her hands that she had cupped in front of her. He observed the way her tail continued to droop and how her ears sat almost flat on her head. "Remarkable work Salem. Less then a week ago she would have cut my throat if I even thought about ordering her around. Now she's perfectly submissive again." He thought shifting the sword to handle it with better force. He made another command that not long ago would have gotten him killed. "Disrobe slave." She obeyed quickly stepping out of the ragged dress. She let it lay by her feet and waited patiently while he looked her over closely. "Quite nice. You are a lot different since the last time I changed you. But tell me slave why should I keep you this time?" he asked knowing that Salem was observing this encounter. He was particularly interested in how she was going to answer that question and if any of her old personality was going to manifest itself during her punishment. "I'm sorry master I don't have an answer for you. My value to you depends completely on my worth as a servant but I have not yet proved myself." She answered carefully hiding the disappointment in her voice. This man taught her long ago that she wasn't allowed to have emotions unless he gave her permission. Usually that was as a reward when she was a good girl. "She's sharper then she used to be. I'm going to have to watch her carefully because the old her would have probably just told me to do whatever pleased me." He decided. "How do I know you won't turn on me again?" he calmly asked. "You do not master. A slave's actions speak for them because her words mean nothing. You can only trust in the training you so generously gave me." Was her quiet reply. "That isn't good enough slave. Where was that training when you killed Simon?" he asked swinging the bundled sword. it made contact just below her left breast and despite the pain she didn't cry out. She quickly regained her position. "Your training was never at fault master. There was magic in the endless forest that day causing me to commit such terrible crimes." She told him. "What are you talking about girl?" he demanded confused by what he was just told. "I learned that my actions had been caused by the Sword of Stars hiding in the forest. The sword is now in the hands of a warrior so it will not pass this slaves path again." She told him calmly. "so that's how she broke from her training and attacked us. It never made any sense to me because of how much she had been taught to depend on us." He thought. Todd positioned the bundled sword for another hit. "You must be punished, but afterwards I will keep you." He announced. "Thank you master." She thought to herself. He swung the bundle at the back of her left leg. She involuntarily fell to one knee and he followed with a painful blow to her face. She took the opportunity while he was repositioning the bundle to get back on her feet ready for the next one. "I deserve this for what I have done. No mater what master does I must push myself back to my feet for him so he can strike me again. I can't let him think even for a moment that I am asking for the mercy I don't deserve." She thought standing up. he beat her like this for the next hour until he got bored. Sometimes he would aim for a generic area to land blows on the same place multiple times and sometimes he would hit her in more sensitive areas. He got a grin on his face any time that he was able to get her to gasp. By the time that he finished her beating he left her lying on the cold floor barely able to breath. She was naked as the day she was born but she couldn't stand up at all anymore. Her only concern was that she not fall unconscious encase her master wanted to come back and punish her some more.
It had been almost two weeks since Robert Morwood left the Black King's castle. First he returned to Vernheart to report to his Earl about the task that Salem wanted help with. But then he had to prepare to leave again for his trip to the outskirts of the endless forest. He had been planning it for months but had not been very excited about going. No one in the castle noticed that his attitude had suddenly changed, he was eager to get started. Now he stood at the end of the forest. It was farther then he originally intended because his goal three months ago had been to come study the area the sword of stars left its magical mark. In the distance he saw the ruined town of Forest Lake where efforts were still in progress to restore the town. His new objective was out there somewhere, inside that scared land there was a female warrior with knowledge of where to find his final goal. "I hope they listen. I don't have much time." He thought walking towards the town. He looked around, she wasn't hard to spot because there was only one woman walking around with two swords. "That must be her. There's a very powerful magic coming from that sword on her back." He thought looking at her. He watched her talking to a small-framed teenaged girl wearing a strange ribbon around her neck. "A shame really that all the power in that sword is wasted on a girl like that." He thought grimly as he looked at the kind smile she was giving the teenager, and the soft green dress that she wore. He got the impression from her that the only strength she had was inside the sword of stars. "Well it doesn't matter that she's a weak little girl. I only need her to tell me how to find Winter Wind." He thought. He approached her carefully because with her lack of strength he figured that if he startled her she would call for some of the Windley guards to come help her. "Good afternoon ma'am." He announced. "Are you lost?" she asked him directly. When Ishara turned away from her young friend the smile dropped from her face instantly. She didn't know who this man was but he had been watching her for awhile and didn't look like he was here to help. "No I'm not lost. Actually its you that I am looking for." He said. "That's unlikely but what is it your after?" she asked. "Are you Ishara?" he questioned. "That is correct." "The girl should probably go play somewhere else for awhile." He suggested. Something flickered behind Ishara's eyes. "Tammy will remain right here unless she decides for herself that another matter needs her attention. You do not dictate what she is to do." She said coldly. "Sensitive woman." Robert thought. "My apologies Ma'am. I meant no offence to you or the young lady but the topic I have to discuss with you could potentially be sensitive to her innocent ears." He covered. "She's not a child and she can decide for herself what topics are too sensitive for her. State your business or leave." She demanded. "Where can I find Winter Wind?" he asked getting to the point. "I can't just give his location away to every would be Red Reaper or upstart young warrior trying to prove himself. Likewise not everyone that needs help requires the special hands of Winter Wind. Your going to have to be more specific before I can answer that." She explained. "Please this is a serious matter and there is not a lot of time. I am not trying to prove myself to anyone but there is an innocent girl's life in danger. If it becomes known that I am here looking for him then both our lives will be ended." Robert said almost panicked. "This stupid woman knows nothing about urgency. What right does she have to watch over even this ruin." He thought angry that this useless girl was his only lead to where Winter Wind was. "Fine I will tell you how to find him and let Duncan decide your story's worth. However a word of advise before I help you. If you intend to live though the encounter and not waste his time I suggest that you drop the attitude." Ishara warned. "It might be a trap but I am sure that Duncan can deal with this joker. Yet if he is telling the truth its probably worth the risk." She decided. At least he was persistent. "In Craik you will find a home that burnt down a long time ago. It is in the middle of being cleaned up so it can be rebuilt. If you can't find him around that home then try asking the village or going to the Flickering Candle. However don't ask for Winter Wind because the town knows him mostly as Duncan." She said at last. "Thank you." He said and turned away to leave. He was in a hurry to get away from this woman, and he couldn't afford to waste any time. Ishara waited for him to clear what used to be the edge of town before turning to her young friend. "I think I better follow him." She commented. Tammy gave her a silent confused look and the warrior smiled at her before explaining. "I don't like the look of it. The sword at his side seemed familiar and with the way he moved I don't think it was his." "he wasn't used to it?" Tammy guessed. "You catch on quick." Ishara grinned at the teenager. "You should stay here though and help with the rebuilding. It could be dangerous." "I'd like to come with you please." Tammy said quietly. Ishara looked at her considering the idea. The two of them had been traveling together for about a year now. She found the ribboned girl on the streets of Sutherland. "All right but if I think its too dangerous down the road you're going to be staying in Craik and I won't hear any protests." Ishara said protectively. Duncan Forester sat where he always went to avoid working on the house. Despite his many talents this project of restoring his childhood home had become something of a town wide joke. The progress moved exceptionally slowly because he allowed himself to get distracted by everything he could find. But he was still Duncan Forester and no matter how lax he had become fixing the house his senses did not dull. He didn't fail to see the skinny looking wizard that had entered the tavern. "Robert Morwood the Vernheart families pet Wizard. Or have they finally forced you to cross the line into becoming a warlock." "I believe that my recent errand would have broken my oath." Robert replied soberly "You have about two minutes to explain why you're here and leave before I end your life. Maybe less because I dislike Warlocks and tend to lose track." He warned simply. "I'll need longer then that Winter Wind. But please hear me out, this is important." He took a deep breath and removed the sword from his side. "I'm begging your forgiveness for my role in what happened. I didn't have a choice in the matter and my Earl didn't know what he was doing." He tried to make excuses. He put the sword on the table for Duncan to pick up. he pulled it half way out of the sheath to examine it. He stopped dead when he saw the small mouse symbol and the inscription that read. "The wind protects your back and leaves you free to cut your own path." "Where did you get this? You had better start talking and if I hear any mumbling it will be the last thing you ever do." Duncan said very coldly. "Salem had me help him with an experiment he was running on her. I took the sword from their castle claiming that my Earl collected such items so I could bring it to you. I'm sorry Winter Wind, I didn't want to do it but there was no choice." Robert spoke quickly. "Where is she." Duncan demanded to know. "She's in the hands of someone named Todd. From what I was able to find out she knew him from her childhood. The last thing I heard he was planning to take her to Vernheart after Salem finished some of his experiments on her. but if you go after them you should know that her mind has been…changed." "Changed how?" "I don't know exactly. But Salem pushed a spell into a collar around her neck that had a piece of the skystone. I think they turned her into a slave." Robert explained. Since he had placed the sword on the table he had been slowly backing up. every word that left his mouth felt like it was sealing his fate. "She needs your help Winter Wind. The man that has her right now is planning to hurt her and in the state Salem's magic left her in you're the only one that can save her." Robert begged. "What was your role in her situation?" "I was asked to maintain the spell Salem cast so he could prepare some other things for his experiment. I don't know exactly what the magic was but I think we were doing something to enhance the power of the stone." "If you have any other details including what Todd looks like and plans to do after they leave Vernheart. The time to spill them has come and you can leave here alive. But if I see you anywhere near that feline in the days to come you will die." Duncan said frankly. Robert was quick to tell him every last detail so he could get away from this town. Ishara had not been far behind the strange Warlock since they left Forest Lake. So when she entered the tavern with her young companion in tow she only missed a few lines of the conversation. He didn't notice her on the way out because he had been in a great hurry to get away from Winter Wind before he changed his mind about sparing him. "Your slipping Duncan, why didn't you take that man's life? He just admitted to hurting your kitten but you let him walk out of here." Ishara said approaching her friend. His eyes seemed focused on the sword in his hands. "He's not am evil person but he is a weakling. I'm giving him one chance to change because he came in here so that she could have a fighting chance." Duncan replied. He hid it well but Ishara could tell that he was in a lot of pain. "That's not going to last. As soon as he has those monsters in his grasp the Winter Wind will take over." "I want to come with you. If it wasn't for her I would have been consumed by my anger when I first held the Sword of Star's." she told him. "That's fine. I expected that since you're here and not in Forest Lake. But after hearing what Robert had to say about her situation I would rather Miss Tannis remained behind." Duncan said. "Agreed I don't want her exposed to those kinds of people yet. She can stay here and look after your rental house." Ishara replied. "A girl that kind would make a tempting target for some slaver to get his filthy hands on to train and sell." She thought looking over where Tammy seemed disappointed she wasn't coming to help. "Sorry Tammy what we are heading into is beyond dangerous. These types of people wouldn't kill a pretty young girl like you. They would sell you as property." She explained. "Whatever you think is best." Tammy said softly. She didn't want to stay behind but she trusted Ishara to know what was best for her. "You made the right choice Ishy. I can't imagine the terrible things they would do if she got caught. That tame attitude of hers would make her a very tempting target." Duncan thought getting up. Truthfully he hated going to the part of the world they were heading into. It always took much of his willpower not to draw his sword and cut down anyone keeping an innocent captive as a pet. "I'll grab Nezumi and we can get your young friend settled in before we go." Duncan said. He led the two girls out of the Craik tavern.
The moment he arrived in Vernheart after Salem finished the experiments on his slave. Todd arranged to rent this filthy home for a few weeks until he felt confident enough to drag her on the road. Back in the day when he and his long dead friend had first taken this slave. They had made a considerable amount of money by robbing homes and fencing what they found. Since Simon's death he had been mostly living off that nest egg and could continue to do so safely for some time yet. But now that he had his slave back he wanted more then that. Now maybe he could have a little fun by forcing her to help him take away the freedom of other girls. There had been a time when she was first being trained that she openly protested making others suffer her fate. Right now he had his recovered slave cleaning the home he had rented for them. It was so dirty that the job would take her at least a couple more days to make it seem livable. While she was cleaning he used the opportunity to reinforce what she was, and what she had by forcing her to do it naked. In fact for those reasons he had forbidden her to wear any type of clothing when she was inside these walls. A part of him thought it was a fitting gift for his deceased friend. When he was still alive Simon had been waiting since the day they kidnapped this slave for her to grow into a woman so he could make use of her in a sexual capacity. He had never gotten the chance and in his place Todd had only done it to her a couple of times to show her that he had that right. She certainly didn't seem to enjoy it but had made no moves that she was willing to try and stop him. She knew her place now. He watched her cleaning for several minutes. He watched the way her body moved, the gentle bounce of her exposed breasts and how easily she was able to ignore her nakedness. She had been taught when she was a child that she didn't have the right to be modest. Her masters could see anything they pleased, watch her do anything they wanted, or change her into what they saw fit. It seemed that when she became an adult, even dancing with freedom she had never developed any. Watching her work was a trap that he fell into a lot the past couple days. Every time that he saw her naked body the feelings of annoyance and anger burnt within him. This was exactly what Simon wanted to see, its what he waited for even to the fault of never touching her when she was a child. And now he was no longer here but she killed him and lived. So he grabbed the stick he found near the Black King's castle. It was a branch with enough flexibility to cause a lot of pain when he hit her with it, but not break anything because he no longer had access to a healer. Then he called her over to him. She obeyed quickly and when she saw the stick in his hands she had no illusions about what was going to happen. Her only wish was that he would tell her what she was doing wrong so she could make him happy again, or if he was only beating her for fun. Todd gripped her left breast tightly then pinched her nipple hard trying to cause her to react somehow. When she didn't move or make a sound he swung the stick to hit her in the inner thigh. He barely missed her genitals and could see a glimpse of pain in her eyes but she still refused to cry out. "Damn her. I'll make her feel so much pain that she will beg me for mercy." He thought becoming angrier. But Schala would not utter a sound unless he ordered her to cry, whisper, beg or scream. He wanted her to do it on her own, despite her training so he made no such order. He knew that it would take a lot of pain to make her go against her conditioning and he wanted her to feel it. He wanted her to suffer endlessly. With each blow the little warrior still buried deep inside of her cried out for her to defend herself against his punishment. It wanted her to fight back or at least do something that would stop the pain but its voice had been silenced by Salem's magic and could no longer reach her.
Duncan and Ishara arrived in Vernheart far later then he would have liked. In his heart Duncan knew that every minute they spent traveling his kitten was suffering in ways that he didn't want to think about. "Where do we start? I can't say that I have ever gone looking for a slave." Ishara admitted. "Id like to begin at the slave Market. I want to talk to the auctioneer and see if anyone's tried to sell them a Jiyu'rei lately." "You think he'd sell her?" "No but he might be curious what he could get for her if it doesn't work out. Or he could threaten to sell her as punishment for not behaving. Otherwise he may have seen her around town and could help us for a price." Duncan replied. Ishara nodded and the two of them headed to the center of the city where the large market building stood. Because it only sold one type of merchandise its sheer size sickened both of the warriors. "What's going on?" Duncan asked himself as they approached. Normally there were only a handful of guards covering the place. It was generally enough to keep customers in line or the slaves from escaping but they were too cheap to go beyond that. Now however there seemed to be guards crawling all over the place. The warrior didn't feel like it was going to be a problem getting in to see the auctioneer but he was curious about what was going on. They proceeded to the front gate and got stopped by the four guards at the entrance. "You can't take those in with you sir and madam." One of the men said oddly polite. "We have urgent business to discuss with the auctioneer. Please allow us passage." Duncan replied firmly. "I'm sorry but recently the rules have changed. You can't bring weapons inside so they will have to be left here." "Negative these weapons are worth a considerable sum." Duncan replied. "They are worth more then the lives of you or your friends." Ishara sneered. "What my companion means is that if something happened to them in your care. You would have to spend up to six Jiyu'rei lifetimes trying to make up the cost of just one of these swords." Duncan explained. "Now please we must speak with the current auctioneer." The solider looked at his friends. None of them seemed interested in the responsibility of watching the expensive weapons, "I'll have to come with you then. We had a disturbance recently." the guard said. "The fool doesn't know who he's talking to. If Winter Wind wants to cause problems not even the four of you could stop him." Ishara thought amused. "I suspect that it is the reason for the added expense on security. What was the disturbance?" Duncan asked. The solider considered if the news was supposed to be a secret or not but decided that he would just find out from the townspeople's talking anyway. "The auctioneer and his assistant have been murdered." "This may complicate matters, but not by much if the new auctioneer will honour old agreements." Duncan commented. "Time is wasting." Ishara gently reminded them. "It is at that, if you would please escort us. As my friend just stated we are rather short on time." Duncan said. He was grateful that Ishara was here because he really didn't want to delay here too long pretending he wanted to buy someone. He also didn't want to needlessly slaughter these men. The solider and one of his three friends led the warriors down a more direct path then Schala had taken a couple weeks ago. They entered the door right across from the old auctioneers living quarters. They had been locked up for the time being. Two guards waited patiently outside the new auctioneers office. "This one's really paranoid." Ishara thought amused. They entered and found one more guard standing behind a lightly frustrated little man. "Excuse me sir, this couple claims to have important business." Their escort announced. The auctioneer looked up from his desk and he wasn't pleased to be given more work to do before things had settled down after the frantic murder of his predecessor and the merchant. "My name is Adam, how can I help you?" he asked politely. The tone of his voice made Ishara feel sick. "This man sells people but he acts like he might as well be selling horse feed." She thought wanting to end his life right there. But Duncan still needed him so she had to hold her anger in check. "We wish to purchase a slave." Duncan said hating every word. "Look I'm very busy right now so if you want to look at the merchandise you can speak to the acting merchant. He can show you everything we have." Adam replied. "You don't quite understand. Your merchant can't help us because we want a very special girl. A Jiyu'rei actually." Duncan explained. The man raised his eyebrow. "Jiyu'rei are not something we can keep in stock. I'm sure your aware but they cannot be taken as adults and trained because of their mental powers. They can only be taken as children when someone finds one without its adults around. So they are very rare and expensive. I only know of one in circulation right now and she isn't child bearing age yet." Adam replied. "Poor thing." Duncan thought infuriated by the idea there was a Jiyu'rei child suffering that type of abuse. "I believe there is another one newly arrived in Vernheart and I am willing to compensate you for any information you can give me to find her owner." He said. Adam's face twisted "Just what kind of game are you playing? Who the hell are you?" he demanded. "Its just as well I was getting tired of pretending." Duncan decided. "I'm looking for a Jiyu'rei slave." He repeated. The emotion left his voice. "You will assist me by telling me everything you know about the comings and goings of this city's slaves for the past several weeks or the market will be losing another auctioneer." "I'm not going to tell you anything." Adam grumbled. He looked over at the soldiers standing beside the visitors. "Kill them." Ishara grinned widely. Her growing anger at this place had been waiting for this. "Winter Wind hurry up and finish them off. We have things to do." She said enjoying the immediate response from Adam and the solders. "Wait." Adam said quickly. He didn't need to say anything because the soldiers had all stopped in their tracks. They had to be careful because if this really was Winter Wind then how many of the people in the room could he take out before either of them had a sword drawn. "A wise idea. I do not want the lives of your men. However if any of their blades see the light of day you will find yourself quite alone and answering my questions with Nezumi in your throat." Duncan said in a business like tone. There was no sign of over confidence in his voice and it wasn't a threat. "All I know is rumors that's all. I've been too busy lately to check it out for myself." Adam said as calmly as he could. "What rumors?" Ishara questioned. "It was about a week ago that someone came into town with a Jiyu'rei in slave rags. But since then he has always been alone." He told them. There were too many suggestions about where the Jiyu'rei might have ended up for him to bother mentioning. But he did add in some advice "Visitors like that to the city usually spend a lot of time in the potent pig tavern to plan next moves and make contacts. However because of Meriks prices no one stays at the inn for more then a day. He may have rented a home from someone." "we said that you would be compensated for your information. If we find her you can keep your life." Ishara growled "Red Sword is correct. That will be your payment with a warning that if you don't find a new career path we will be back. What your doing irritates me. You destroy the lives of innocent people ad next time I am in Vernheart you won't be so lucky." When the warriors left Adam and the guards did nothing to try and stop them. They were all still deciding if they had just managed to escape a battle with the real Winter Wind. Ishara waited until they had cleared the slave Market before asking. "How do we go from here?" "I'm going to go visit the Potent Pig, Adams information wasn't without value but its not going to be easy to find her captor. If he hasn't been in the Market looking for a price then he's not going to be foolish enough to openly brag about his Jiyu'rei or where he keeps her." Duncan said "You're going to have to find a campsite to wait at. The potent Pig is no place for someone as delicate as you." He added. She tried to take a swing at him and missed. "I'll show you delicate." She growled. "I'm serious Ishara. You will draw too much attention and end up getting harasses until your anger got the better of you if you go in that tavern." Ishara glared at him like she wanted to hurt him. "Fine I'll look around the city." She said irritated. "Just try to take it easy Ish. We don't need you hurting anyone yet, it would complicate our search." Duncan commented separating from his friend. "I love her like a sister, but that anger of hers." He thought heading for the tavern. It was her biggest strength, but it was also her biggest weakness. "What does he think I am? I'm not a delicate little girl with a flower in my hair. And I'm not a timid street mouse like Tammy. I'm almost his equal with a sword." Ishara thought walking quickly through the city. But deep down she understood what Duncan was doing. With her bright dress and pretty blonde hair she would make a tempting target for most of the pigs that had a ale or two in a place like that. Then she would have responded in kind with bloodshed. "Still I have to do something. I owe that feline a lot more then she realizes." She thought wandering around. Briefly she thought about the first time she had really drawn the sword of stars. She felt her anger serge inside her and it almost seemed like the sword was trying to pull her somewhere. At the time she ended up at her birth village, and her anger had reached a blood rage that couldn't even be quenched by single handedly slaughtering the gang of bandits known as the Red Reapers. Ishara would have been lost in that rage long after she ran out of Reapers to kill had it not been for the sharp skills and quiet ear of Schala. "I wonder." Ishara thought thinking back to that day. She had drawn the sword a few times since then, each time her anger lurched forward but there was never the same feeling of being pulled. "I haven't had any driving desires since then." She realized. Ishara found a secluded spot in the Earls city. A place where she could pull the larger sword from her back and stand with the naked blade without being noticed. The anger that was never far from the surface started to boil within her turning the light glow the sword seemed to have into a reddish colour. She held the Sword of Stars in one hand and rested her other on the sword by her side. It was a gift from her mentor Thomas McAlpine and she used it to keep from losing herself. The blade had come with everything he gave her, the training, and the memories. "I can feel it." She smiled. It was very faint but growing alongside the fires inside of her. The sword didn't tug at her but she felt like she knew where she had to go. Quickly she re-sheathed the sword and took a deep breath. "It works, the sword can lead me to her. but what is the price? Can I hold my rage in check long enough to reach her or will I repeat what happened in my village?" she wondered. Could she save Schala when the smallest thing could have her trying to kill half the people in this city full of sin? "I have to try and I have to focus on my goal of saving her." she was determined now. Withdrawing the sword again Schala became her anchor on sanity once more. Meanwhile inside of the Tavern Duncan Forester had found his own lead. He didn't have the help of a magic sword but he had his training and advanced years of experience. Sitting alone in the Potent Pig he kept his ears open shifting through anything people whispered about that could help him. Then he had a lucky break. When a man came into the tavern for a quick drink and something to eat whispers started from one of the corners about how he had brought a Jiyu'rei with him to town and keeps her to himself. The target of those whispers was a midsized man walking with a slight limp. He had peculiar markings on his face like a wild cat had attacked him in his youth. Duncan waited until the stranger was half done his meal before leaving the Potent Pig. Outside he stood in the shadows until the man left the tavern and started on his own way home. The warrior followed him to a dirty little house. He was surprised to see that Ishara had already found the place and was waiting. When he looked at her face he saw that she was struggling with something. "I wonder if she had her sword drawn." "Who are you?" Todd demanded of the girl by his house. Before Ishara could answer him Duncan called out. "Those are some interesting scars on your face. Did you get into a fight with a Jiyu'rei?" the man turned around surprised he hadn't noticed he was being followed. "Impossible I should have been able to get her out of the city and into the endless forest before he noticed she was missing." Todd thought. He had to stall for time so he could come up with a plan to escape this. "I know who you are Winter Wind. But I don't know what you think you want with me." He said. "I've come to claim what you have stolen from me. Why don't we step into your house if you would like to die with some dignity." Duncan suggested. "What right do you have to enter my home and threaten my life? Tell me what justice you find in that." Todd demanded. "I do not need to justify anything. Your gong to die soon and the only thing you have the power to change is where." Duncan replied flatly. "If you want to die out here in the street like a pig then that's your choice. But I am going inside." Ishara finally growled. She turned ready to kick the door down until Todd spoke up. "Show some respect for other peoples property. That is a rental house. If your going to be that insistent then we will go inside." "As it stands they are going to kill me and take the girl. I know that I could never defend myself against Winter Wind so I'll have to sacrifice the life of my slave and hope I can escape in the confusion." He thought looking at his options. He brushed past the hotheaded woman so he could open the door. Inside Schala was waiting for her master's return. She had been badly beaten before he left, and was promised that she would be beaten again when he got home. Duncan and Ishara didn't see her until the door had been slammed shut and she crept into the entrance of the small homes kitchen. "Father…red sword, why are they with master?" she wondered. She knew who they were but it was a distant memory that she had trouble wrapping her head around. "You son of a bitch." Duncan said in a rare showing of anger. He was well known throughout the kingdom for his cold and distant justice. He looked at Schala trying to ignore that she wasn't wearing a stitch of clothing. He drew her sword from his side. "Ishara find her some clothing and get her dressed." He barked. "No." Ishara replied with a fire of her own in her eyes. "She's your kitten you get her dressed. I'm going to make this pig suffer in ways your justice would never allow." She added drawing the large sword from her back. The reddish glow of the blade seemed to burn brighter then usual but there was no change in her expression. She was in complete control here, the sword didn't have the power to make her any angrier then she already was. "Schala these people have come to take you away. Don't let them near you, if they try kill yourself." Todd commanded. Hopefully that would keep them busy long enough for him to escape, or kill her himself. "Ishara don't argue just take her into the other room and get her dressed." Duncan said calming his voice. He kept his eyes on Todd as he etched closer to Schala, clearly he was uncomfortable with her state of dress. He was also afraid that she would squirm away from him, that she would follow this man's orders and run away from her friends. But that's not what happened. She never heard her master's words, her eyes were locked on the sword in Ishara's hands and the feelings stirring inside of her. "What's wrong with you girl. I told you to run." Todd barked. But she didn't do anything except stare at the sword. The feelings of rage that the sword's magic fed her through the dormant Jiyu'rei abilities confused her, and frightened her. but they also comforted her somehow. "Why doesn't she move? All she's doing is staring at that…glowing sword." Todd thought until it hit him. "That's not the Sword of Stars is it? Great fire I never had a chance of escaping. Winter Wind was bad enough but that's the same magic she said caused her first rebellion." He thought horrified. He no longer saw the woman in the green dress as a possible weak point. He also knew that his slave would become violent soon much like she had twenty years ago. It finally sunk in that he was defeated, no matter what he did he was going to die. "If I give them time to think they won't let me die peacefully. The girl is still stunned by what she's feeling so if I attack her I have a chance to kill her, but most of all I'll anger them enough to earn a swift death." It was the only option open to him so unarmed he charged at the naked slave. Duncan and Ishara were both close enough that they could have cut him down before he reached her but they didn't. they held back only momentarily in the painful hope that she would still have enough left of her old personality to defend herself. To Schala the sudden movements of her arms frightened her. She couldn't deny the anger that had been building up since the woman she knew as Ishara drew the large sword. She had a faint memory of what these feelings were. She could almost touch that thought and see the first time she had tasted it. The memory was just barely out of her reach. However when her arms came upwards with her claws extended. Schala wanted to hide. Her body remembered how to act, it clumsily knocked her master to the side so he wouldn't kill her, yet her mind didn't remember how any of this was done. It couldn't grasp what she was doing yet so her actions were uncoordinated. "That's it Schala fight him." Duncan thought with a smile creeping up on his face. He watched her try to fight for a couple passes, he knew it wouldn't be easy to remind her who she was. But that she could still defend herself confirmed that she was still inside there somewhere. "Ishara put your sword away." Duncan said watching Schala's claws tear into Todd's face. He saw her tormenter become half blind when she ripped into his left eye. The warrior turned the blade in his hands towards Ishara hoping that she could see whose sword he drew. "Its only fitting that he should be cut down with her sword." he commented. Ishara nodded her head and put the Sword of Stars back in its sheath. She may have been willing to let Duncan end the man's life but she made no promises about getting involved. Before Schala could slow down because the source of her anger had been cut off, dulling her will to fight. Ishara stepped in to deliver a sharp, forceful kick to his genitals. He fell to his knees withering in pain and she sent one of hers to the underside of his chin. Cruelly she stepped back to admire his condition. Schala meanwhile became confused when the person she was defending herself against was suddenly on the floor unable to harm her. She stopped fighting and looked expectantly at Duncan. He didn't look back at first, he had to put an end to the problem. With a swift blow he imbedded Schala's sword in Todd's back puncturing a lung but purposely missing his heart. "Duncan a slow death? That's not like you." Ishara smirked. "Would you have done him any favors?" he countered and looked back towards his kitten. "Schala can you please show us what he had you wearing when you were in public?" Duncan asked. Schala nodded almost excitedly but Ishara gave him a confused look. "Even slaves have to be dressed in public. Whatever disgusting acts he was doing to her here he had to have something for her to wear to get her to Vernheart." He explained. Schala led them down the hall and into the bedroom. She pointed to the trunk her master had locked her slave rags in. she didn't seem to mind that her master was now laying on the floor dying. As confusing as it was there was something inside of her that screamed for her to trust and obey Duncan. It no longer mattered if she disappointed her master and got punished for it, she loved this man and wanted him to own her instead if he would have her. "How disgusting can that guy get? He locked her clothing up…" Duncan thought completely disgusted with the man he had just killed. Looking over at Ishara he could feel that she wasn't any happier. Because he didn't feel like trying to hunt down the key and he still had some angry frustrations to work out. Duncan broke the leg off a nearby chair and started to beat the chest violently until its locking mechanism gave out and snapped. Inside he found only a single slave rag. Picking it up he handed it to Schala wishing that they found something less humiliating for her to wear. "Please put this on." He asked. She complied without a word and almost seemed to silently thank him for letting her wear it. "How are we going to help her? Are you going to take her back to Craik like that?" Ishara asked. The anger torn out by her swords magic was being replaced with sadness for her friend. Duncan shook his head. "No I'm going to bring her to Sutherland to see Cynthia. Ishara I would like you to come with us. She needs all the friends she has right now." "You have a plan?" Ishara asked. "Sort of. I'd like to borrow your sword to reverse what was done to her. Robert told me that the collar on her neck contains part of the ore the Sword of Stars was crafted from. Using the real sword maybe Cynthia can undo the damage." Duncan said. Carefully he reached over to Schala's neck and removed the collar. She looked disappointed to be losing the gift she had been given by her former master Salem. He took the stone from it and threw the collar on the floor. "Of course I'll come. And you can keep the sword if you want." Ishara replied. "I'm still not going to take your sword. You have that blade for a reason." He told her sternly. She rolled her eyes at his continuing lecture. The sword might have come in handy today but she hated drawing it. She could never be sure that she had the strength to use it without losing herself in the process. "What about…" Ishara asked indicating the rags Schala was wearing. "We can't bring her to Sutherland wearing that." "I'll get her some materials before we leave Vernheart. If you wouldn't object to lending us your skills with a needle." Duncan suggested with a grin. He watched in amusement as Ishara sighed and reluctantly agreed.
The trip to Sutherland took almost two weeks though to the warriors it felt much longer. In that time Ishara had taken the purple cloth Duncan bought in Vernheart and turned it into a rather simplistic dress. It would not have been ideal to fight in like the design she usually wears or that Ishara had on but these days the feline didn't have much fight left inside of her. Schala had become miserable since they left the city of Vernheart. She had been happy when Duncan took her with him, but he was being too nice to her. he did everything for her, made sure that she was comfortable and didn't let her serve him. If something needed to be done that he was too busy to handle himself he always asked the free lady to do it. This upset Schala but it also confused her because something inside her, the tiny warrior that screamed at her when master Todd beat her told her that this is how its supposed to be. Duncan wasn't supposed to be her master he was more then that. The three of them walked up to the castle's main door to be greeted by the guards. Because this was the time of day that King Sutherland normally granted the public free audience. The guards would not have tried to stop them from entering. One of them was going to make sure they knew where to go when his p[partner recognized the warrior standing in front of them. "You may wish to see him later in the day Mr. Winter Wind. King Sutherland is still handling public audience." "Actually we aren't here to see him. We have urgent business with Cynthia." Duncan explained. "We haven't been informed that she's expecting anyone." The guard said confused. "She's not. This was unexpected but we must speak with her." "Thompson could you go find out if she's available to see these people?" he asked. After his friend was gone he turned a sympathetic look to Duncan. "I'd hate to send you down there to find out she's not seeing anyone." "Understandable. Normally she doesn't see anyone unless she summons them." Duncan commented. They only had to wait about fifteen minutes before Thompson returned top let them know that Cynthia was willing to see what the warriors wanted. As a matter of protocol Thompson led them to the King's audience chamber where the entrance to Cynthia's lab was located. They traveled through a door that almost seemed unintentionally hidden. They descended a long poorly lit spiral staircase before landing in Cynthia's lab. The sorceress's laboratory was a lot different then Salem's. Her research material was confined to one corner where it was hardly ever needed for her projects. Her area was a lot cleaner then her warlock counterparts. Since her lab wasn't a converted dungeon there were no cells attached or chains on the wall to hold unwilling participants in her spells. Cynthia was there to greet them before they had all cleared the stairs. Whatever words she intended to say became stuck in her throat. Instead she exclaimed when she saw Schala. "What happened to her?" "She became one of Salem's subjects. That's why we came here. Your magic is possibly the only thing strong enough to break a spell cast by him." Duncan explained, Cynthia sighed and offered them all a seat on the sitting area tucked across the eastern wall. Except for Thompson who already returned to his post. "I think you better tell me everything." "I don't know all the details but apparently Salem used this." Duncan started. He dug out the stone from his pocket. "It's a piece of the ore used to make the Sword of Star's." "I heard there were a few of those Skystone's floating around. But they are useless because they don't have much power." Cynthia replied. "Alone no but from what I understand Salem pushed his magic through the stone. My guess is that he boosted its power and suppressed part of the effects. The result was this." Duncan said indicating Schala. "She's been reverted to the original training she received when she was a child. I was hoping that your own magic and the Sword of Star's could be used to reverse the damage. "That's an interesting idea." Cynthia said. "Wait you can't do that." Ishara suddenly protested. Duncan and Cynthia both looked at her. Schala thought seemed to find something really interesting about the floor. "Neither of you have ever drawn this sword so you can't know. Its far too dangerous, if you make her draw the Sword of Star's in her condition you will destroy her forever." "I don't think…" Duncan started but was interrupted by Ishara. "Every time I draw this sword it threatens to consume me. Right now she doesn't have the ability to resist it." "Let me finish." Duncan snapped. "Of course it's going to be painful. But what's where Cynthia comes in. she is going to have to try and suppress the part of the swords magic that will harm her." "I think we should just try it. The longer we wait the weaker her original personality becomes." Cynthia suggested. "Why don't you use the Skystone instead? That's what Salem used isn't it?" Ishara asked. "It might not be strong enough. This has always been part of her. She never got rid of it, she was only able to hide it to build Schala the warrior." Duncan replied indicating the submissive feline. "I still don't like it." Ishara grumbled. She took the sword still sheathed from her back and tried to hand it to Schala. She looked fearfully at the sword then turned to Duncan for instructions. "Take the sword Schala, don't worry your not going to hurt anyone with it." Duncan assured her. "Why you?" Ishara asked. "Excuse me?" "Why does she look to you for her direction? Why did she latch on to you as her new master so easily?" "We have a bond, somewhere I think she still knows that. But this is the only way she has to understand it." Duncan replied. "I wish I could believe that's all it is. But no this is what she's wanted since I first rescued her from Salem's cell. If I have to play along with her too much longer though I'll never forgive myself." He thought. Schala took the sword like she had been asked. But she didn't dare remove it from the sheath. "Let me know when your ready." He said to Cynthia. The sorceress didn't respond right away. She was already concentrating hard on the sword now in Schala's hands. She tried to picture the sword in two different colours, red to represent its ability to draw out strength and blue to show her its abilities to draw out a person's weakness. "Do it." She said when she could imagine the separation clearly. "Ok Schala I only want you to do one thing with that sword. Draw it and don't let go no matter what." He instructed. Schala did what she was told and drew the sword from its sheath. The blade that had been a red glow for Ishara almost took on an innocent white aura for her. Instantly she felt like she was being torn apart from the inside. The sudden pain as the sword created turmoil inside of her was intense enough to cause her to cry out involuntarily. She refused to drop the sword though because she had been instructed to hold onto it. With the sword's magic the imprisoned warrior inside of Schala suddenly found the power to break free and she came out with a vengeance after so long of being beaten into submission. However the sword also gave the submissive nature she hated so much power and the two conflicting sides of her tore painfully into her heart. "There I can see it." Cynthia thought. She had momentarily lost the image she choose for her spell shortly after Schala had drawn the blade. The white glow coming from the sword had been distracting however now she was back on track and started to focus her energy into the Sword of Stars. She worked on reducing the blue she had chosen for Schala's weakness. The agony felt like it was forever but the pressure of the fight inside her calmed to a low vibe as the slave lost its power and the warrior was able to take control once more. The sword in her hands turned from its white glow of innocence to the light blue of her calculated version of justice. By her own will for the first time in months Schala threw the sword to the ground and shattered Cynthia's concentration. The sorceress fell to her knees out of breath. "Welcome back." She said slowly. She knew that this was the old Schala because Duncan had told her not to let the sword out of her grip. "Schala is that you?" Duncan asked a bit more cautiously. "It has to be. The sword changed colours" Ishara exclaimed. "That means the person holding it changed." Cynthia explained. "It has always been me father. Salem didn't change me he could only bring out what I was. What I fear." "I'm glad to see your ok." Duncan told her. "What are you going to do now? If you want to stay for a few days I'm sure Celeus would assign you some rooms." Cynthia asked getting back to her feet. She was a lot weaker after the spell but happy it worked. "Perhaps a couple days so Schala can rest. But then it would be best to return to Craik so she can take a break from her travels." Duncan decided. He didn't fail to notice the look of annoyance on Schala's face. "I'm sorry Schala I know how much you hate castles. But after what you have been through it might do you some good to be pampered for a couple days." He thought. "Actually I'm going to head back to Craik now and wait for you both. Schala has you to help her now so Tammy needs me more then she does." Ishara announced. All that remained now was for Cynthia to make the arrangements. Soon they would all meet back in Craik. Meanwhile Duncan vowed that it would only be a matter of time before he reached Salem Anderson and put an end to the man's sinister experiments.

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