A soft breeze blew over the fire dancer as the sounds of her leather boots hit the dirt path that led her to the next town over. Her long chocolate locks swirled around her as her light teal eyes looked around. Something was up and Ai could sense it to the very core of her being. As she looked to the azure sky, she watched a space frigate’s rocky descent through the sky as a trail of smoke followed on after.
“It’s going to crash,” she realized as her eyes widened in surprise. Her eyes followed it until it disappeared into the green forest near her, with a large explosion to signify the horrible landing. She ran into the trees, in the direction of where the ship had fallen and crashed. A few minutes or so later, she found the burning crash site, pausing momentarily in her run as she scanned the area for any survivors. When she saw there was none, she made her way toward the ship until she came upon a figure that was crawling outward. She stopped shortly a few feet from him, her head tilting slightly to her right side as she seemed to be thinking about what she ought to do in this sort of situation. Was she to help this stranger or not?
Ai crouched down in front of him as his plea for assistance was heard. Her eyes examined the extent of his injuries before setting down her bag to the side of her. She walked forward to help the man up enough (who appeared to be the captain of the ship... maybe; she wasn’t even sure) to lean him against the burning ship. He groaned what might have been thanks as she gave another once-over of his injuries again and noted helplessly how she would not be able to help him. Deciding that he’d have to wait no matter how much Ai would like to try to help him, she stood up and went into the blazing ship to check for any remaining survivors. After a quick look-over of what remained of the ablaze ship, she quickly made her way to the exit as to avoid getting hurt and further risk injury to herself.
Adrian de Fawn did nothing without style: even when choosing to be invisible, he did so with great caution and delicate flair. The craft he chose could fit in his pocket at the touch of a button, looked to be made of wood, and could break the sound barrier seconds after being turned on. Also, it flew under the radar--every radar. In less than an hour, he completed a journey it had taken the prison frigate a month to make--give or take a few week long stops.
He hovered just within the atmosphere for a couple of minutes, absorbing the informative surface scans much as a plant absorbs life from the sun. “Well, we have at least one live one scampering about... seems a bit strong to be a prisoner. Native then. This should be fun,” he muttered with a signature smirk, bringing the unassuming space pod to ground.
As Ai left the wrecked ship, her eyes immediately focused onto the space pod that seemed to almost float to the ground, landing a bit of ways from the ship. She stopped moving, gripping her bag’s strap tightly as she became anxious about the newcomer. Who was this person? Why were they here? How did they know to come here? And what’s more, were they dangerous? She narrowed her eyes a touch and her guard rose, feeling wary of the space pod.
The pod was small and unassuming from the outside--almost like someone had convinced the wood to grow into a circle rather than a trunk; but, the man who penetrated the Arcanum air with an electric quality was clad in an impressive, flared suit with tails and a silk shirt. Perfectly groomed honey-auburn hair framed a chiseled face which time could not touch and vibrant, forest green eyes strode with great purpose toward and then past the young traveler, “Are you the captain of this frigate, sir?”
Wiltaem nodded, unable to form words around his coughs. With look of disgust, Adrian pulled a small spray-bottle out of his jacket and squirted an amber liquid into the other man’s mouth, “Why did you allow the prison frigate to crash, jeopardizing your mission and possibly thousands of innocent lives?”
“Prisoner 9-Sigma-2-5-Alpha escaped his cell and managed to rupture the shell before he could be shot down or seized,” the man cried out with pain as Adrian set his leg bones back into their proper places and began to stint it, “I tried to land in an unpopulated location before we could crash into a village, sir.”
“Well you did that well at least.” Turning his head back to Ai, he flashed a grin, “Sweetling, you’re a native, right? Could you get me some Tarantillian leaves, moss, and a bit of Roulley slime? I have a bowl here,” and turned back to the captain, one arm stretched behind him with a bowl in hand. “The Empress has ordered me to observe the death of every prisoner and crew member; have any prisoners escaped?” Wiltaem shook his head, forcing himself not to gulp. “Good. Do you care to give me reason to lie about your fate?”
“You’re trying to fix my leg... have you not already decided?”
“Fixing your leg now harms me none if I decide to be honest and helps me later if I decide to be merciful.”
Ai’s eyes narrowed slightly at the man’s commanding tone, added with the smile made her feel almost like he was talking down to her. Shoving whatever words she wanted to snap at him, Ai merely just sighed before turning on her heel to retrieve the natural ingredients that he requested. She quickly gathered the items before she returned to the strange man and the captain (which was now verified with the stranger’s question). Upon her return, she dropped the substances into the bowl as she took it from his hand. She set it down before her and began to mix them together to create the concoction that would help with the captain’s injuries. As she did so, she poured some water into the mix, imbuing it with magical properties that would help soothe and ease any injuries that the salve would be used on. She didn’t want to show anyone that she had the ability to completely heal an injury for the risk of getting caught and being sent to the colonies.
“Is that all?” she asked in a rather curt tone. “Sir?” At that, her eyes narrowed further still. She felt a little irritated that this man had ordered her around. Ai did not like to be ordered around, and least of all, from a complete stranger. But... It’ll help the captain...
Adrian raised an eyebrow, “Sir? Are you an envoy of the Empire to be calling me sir? Most people within the hierarchy of the Empire would sooner not acknowledge my presence much less deign to call me sir.” Only then did he take notice of the salve she was mixing for him, “Oh, fabulous. You have quite a talent. Not a healer, though, I think. Who are you, sweetling? Not many can impress or confound me.”
So, that meant he was not very well liked in the Empire. Did that mean he worked in the Empire? Or within it, as he put it? At his question, she merely rolled her eyes before she answered, “I’m not part of the Empire.” When asked for her name, a blank expression replaced her somewhat irritated one. While her occupation was not a healer, she did know how to heal people and sometimes, the urge to do so overwhelmed her. But danger, risk, and logic kept her from doing so.
The word “sweetling” made Ai stop her train of thought as her eyes narrowed again before an annoyed sigh, “Ai... Ai Lyrica. Yourself?” She decided it was best to be as brisk with her words as possible... for some reason, she was getting the feeling that she might not like this man very much.
The odd young man grinned, “Lyrica... that’s a beautiful family name, Ai; you must have quite a bit of grace in your family. Perhaps dance suits you more than healing?” Very gently and with great care, he took the bowl of salve and the few leaves she’d left out for sealing the wound.
The stranger’s comment about her family name caused a flicker of darkness to pass over Ai’s delicate features. Not bothering to comment on it, her eyes only darted back up toward him when he mentioned she was a dancer... Well, she wasn’t surprised but she wanted to know how he had managed to guess that she was one. After all, she didn’t wear her dancing clothes nor was she revealing any part of her that would tell a person that she was in fact one. Ah, well, perhaps he’d tell her sometime later should she choose to ask... if she stuck around, that is.
He was opening his mouth to speak again when the captain nearly fell over from the force of his coughs. Adrian swiftly caught him and sprayed the liquid from before in his mouth again. Throat passage seemingly cleared, the captain pleaded in an unfitting gruff voice, “I don’t know who you are, and I hope you answer the lady’s question before I die or lose consciousness from the pain... but I can guess from your countenance. If you’re the man I think, then there’s nothing I can say to change your whims.”
“And if I’m not the man you think?”
“Then to try and change them would only kill me more slowly. You act on direct order from Empress Shamir herself, I think. To disobey, or to ask you to disobey, is an act of treason.”
“I knew you as a boy, Wiltaem Starning. I never thought then that you’d amount to much or learn to think for yourself,” he began packing the open part of the wound, “but I was wrong. Rare is the person who can prove me wrong. ‘Twould be a shame for you to die when you’ve yet to reach your peak. Stay in this part of the world, Wil. Find a wife, make her happy, make some offspring, make them happy. You deserve peace.”
He... what? Knew him as a boy? The captain looked older than the stranger and yet... How? Strange, how this stranger seemed to be known rather well, and from the captain’s explanation of who this stranger was. Ai’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion. If he acted on the direct order of the Empress Shamir herself, then why did she not know who he was? Ah, that might be perhaps she had been so busy traveling that she simply did not receive or read enough of the news to really care for the Empire.
Peace... Peace was a word that Ai had not heard in quite a long time... or even felt even remotely close to it. The fact that this stranger seemed to have enough power to say something like that, made her even more curious as to who he was. But, another part of her told her that she wasn’t going to stick around the stranger much longer so why bother become curious.
A confused silence hovered in the air around them as he finished wrapping the man’s wound and popping his shoulder back into place. Once Wiltaem’s groans were finished, he sat back so he could face both his companions at once, “My name is Adrian de Fawn. I am not of the Empire and Illian Shamir knows she cannot truly control me... but I do work within it. I don’t fancy the idea of seeing either of you any more hurt so I would suggest you pop into my ship over there for a bit while I see to the frigate and its... unwanted baggage.” At first, his speech sounded amused... but somewhere in his voice was a seed of bitter sadness.
Her eyes followed him as he sat back, facing the two of them now. Now, Ai had a good view of his face and had to admit, he was very handsome in a way that she had rarely seen men of his stature. Perhaps, the reason that was so was because he did not stare at her like the men she often performed for. It was rather... refreshing. She continued to observe Adrian, noting the hint of sadness. Deciding not to comment on it, she stood up, dusting herself off as she asked, “So, I’m to help him into your...” she glanced over toward his space pod, “ship then? Or are you going to do that before you take care of the...” her head turned to face the blazing ship, “prison frigate?” The fire dancer placed her hands on her hips, looking rather expectantly at him. She wondered what prisoners had died aboard the ship and why they were being transported in the first place. Maybe it was the transport to the colonies. Well, she’d never know, now would she?
Adrian chortled, “What kind of gentleman would I be if I asked you to carry the poor man into my ship? He’s in horrid condition and, though I have no doubt you’re strong, we wouldn’t want to risk hurting your small frame, would we, sweet?” Rolling to his toes, he picked up the captain and rose smoothly. Slowly, so as not to jostle the already broken man, he took them into his ship, “Press that triangular green button, would you, dear? There’s a cot there for Mr. Starning.”
Ai followed after the tall male, watching as he easily carried him like he was a child. Part of her was almost jealous of his ease and strength of being able to do something like that while another part of her was almost appreciative of her small frame. At his request, Ai pressed the button and waited to see what happened.
The “cot,” as he called it, unfolded from the wall, revealing a silk hammock with a built-in pillow and an incredibly soft, fuzzy blue blanket that turned a royal purple in certain light resting in the nook where the hammock had been stowed. Adrian gingerly laid down his ward and covered him with the blanket. Without a word, he walked quickly out of the pod and pressed a button on his watch, causing the doors to close.
She hadn’t seen this kind of technology before so seeing it for the first time fascinated her. Ai had always been curious as to how people could stay in things like these and still be able to live in one. It was the first time she’d ever been in one too. Before she could even ask him anything else, he had walked out, leaving her behind. She wanted to know what he was going to do to the prison frigate and how he was going to get rid of it, as he had put it. She went to a window closest to the view of the burning ship and peered out to watch.
Outside, he closed his eyes and felt within his suit pocket until he found six small squares. Methodically and with great care, he threw the squares at the sides of the ship, where they stuck and expanded a few meters in diameter. Stepping back, he pressed another button on his watch and looked away as the frigate seemed at first warped by a massive heat wave and then to almost disappear before, within an instant, it melted. Outside the pod, you could hear the screams of those who still lived within... and then the smell of cooking meat. The squares he’d placed on the sides of the ship seemed to keep it contained within a forcefield, shrinking as it melted; at the end, there was only a two inch cube.
He sprayed a few things on the ground to stop the fires from the crash, heading back to the pod when he’d finished. “Right then. Sorry business... but those with magic and those who fail the Empress must die. I can’t save them all. She can’t damn them all. Ai, I think I’ve stalled you long enough. Need a ride to... wherever you’re travelling? This pod can expand for two if it’s very far.”
Ah, so that was what he was going to do. She could hear the screams, could smell the fire, and could even feel the fire and the immense amount of pain that some of the prisoners were feeling. Ai winced at the sensations, trying not to let it show that she could feel all of that... not wanting to give away the fact that she herself was a magic user. She was not going to be sent to the colonies.
But, she had begun to space out so she was not aware of Adrian coming back into the pod, her thoughts focused on trying not to feel it or even sense the things that she could feel from the outside that surrounded the pod. At the mention of her name, however, she turned to face him, “Huh? Ah, oh...” A ride? To the next town over? Perhaps that would be better than traveling alone. She wanted neither to risk losing her belongings nor to be attacked by the bandits that liked to roam the roads. “Yes... Just take me to the next town over. I’m expected there.”
Adrian directed a warm, sad smile in her direction and gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze before slipping back into his usual sardonic self, “Right then, sweetling. Feel free to take up residence in that chair and we’ll be off.”
At the request, Ai sat where he had gestured to. As she sat down, she couldn’t help but end up... The slight squeeze of a touch that he had given her made her hand rise back up to touch where he had, remembering the strange sensation he had given her. It was almost... electric and... in some way, delicious. But it was comforting, in spite of the strange sensations.