Last Stand of the World
Chapter Six: A Test
A whirl of energy blew into the room; she was holding a piece of translucent fabric in her hands. “Now, you promised. You wouldn’t get mad, and I’m not trying to make fun of you. I really don’t have anything else; even my sheets are made from this stuff.”
His tip twitched, but he couldn’t be choosy; he just needed something to wear. It would be best if it were armor, but at this point, beggars can’t be choosers, and at least it wasn’t a goblins loin cloth. He sighed and motioned for her to bring it over.
The old snake lifted his tail to cover his mouth. That girl was way too crafty; where had she found male wedding attire at a time like this? Sure it looked gauzy and girly to a human eye, but the deep cobalt blues and shimmering gold flakes that glinted in the light wouldn’t have fooled a male Lamia from a mile away. Nor the royal consort embroidery that graced the banded belt.
He flicked his tongue…and sighed, gazing at the books that lined the walls. The girl must have spent her time well the last several months, not that she’d ever slipped in her studies, for all that she played the fool in front of the human.
She wasn’t stupid, though he didn’t doubt that she didn’t have much knowledge on the Nullers because the Mothers intentionally hid that from the inheritors until the deep sleep.
She would probably get glimpses of inherited memory; the more she touches that he thought of the stone that her mother had left her and that she would need in order to change her people.
He sighed; at least this clutch had a chance for survival. He couldn’t say the same for so many others out there.
He brought his attention back to his charge and the last few things that he could do for her, he knew that Davern meant well, and maybe he could hang on for a while, but he didn’t want to be a drain on their resources.
He flicked his tongue; there are so many things left undone, so many things he needed to teach her. He could only pass her some memories during the ceremony and hope that would be enough. So many things, he closed his eyes, there wasn’t much left of the energy Davern had passed, they needed to give him a mana potion and see what he would do, was it worth the gamble?
He flicked his tongue; something about this kid's magic brought back memories long forgotten, but he couldn’t remember just what. He flicked his tongue and fell asleep.
I’ll help you put it on, he noticed that her hands trembled, oddly for some reason, and she’d changed her clothing. They were more elaborate, deep cobalt with golden flecks, he could tell that the patterns on them probably meant something, but what exactly he didn’t have a clue, he heard her behind him murmuring words he could only faintly make out… “Well, Mother always said, and he was naked, and he did touch my tail.”
“Quite right, Asaa, in our customs, he’s already your mate. You’re formalizing it. You know how humans are. If it’s not locked in stone, they will try to wiggle out of it. He’s already Married you when he ran in here naked and grabbed ahold of your tail and started pulling you around.
Claiming you and stating his intent by overpowering you.
He looked at the man with a twinge of pity. He hadn’t hurt either of them even when she’d been attacking him, had tried to heal him, and he was in a hurry. He knew even if the boy did his best, he likely wouldn’t have long, and he looked back at Asaa, pain shooting through him. Her mother is gone now too.
Either kidnapped by the Nuller or killed, he didn’t know which. He was only doing what he could to help protect the girl and ensure her future, he shivered, he'd be damned if he let her repeat history. As her Elder this was the last thing he could do for her, he just hoped that they could both escape from the Nuller, he eyed the teleport runes engraved on the boy's arm tempted to activate it early, and sighed, flicking his tail. He'd have to let their destiny play out as it was intended, rotten rules.
There, all done, she’d finished wrapping the formal attire on him and then pulled a healing salve from her sleeve, and with gentle fingers, applied it to the wound; he hissed and fought the urge to grab her hand. Though his healing magic had been working on the wounds, it was slow because the venom was taking priority.
While she was running a comb through his hair, the trembling became more pronounced; he caught her fingers, “If it scares you, I can do it myself.”
“No, this is something I must do,'' she said and bit her lip, running her fingers through his white silken tresses, fixing a braid on either and pulling them back with a crown clip; he was even more confused by the jewelry. He was about to return it, but she shook her head; keep it, for now, it will keep your hair neat in the coming battles.
For whatever reason, once she’d seen Azer, and Davern had asked her if she had something he could wear, she’d come to her decision. I mean by their traditions, he was already her mate in the old way; there wasn’t much to fuss about.
If this was a few months ago, she could have used her status and just kicked him out and pretend it never happened. However, if it were a few months ago, he would have never come in the first place. She raised her hand and smoothed down an imaginary stray hair from his head, more for another person's comfort than anything else.
She coughed and drew away, but her station couldn’t protect her anymore; glancing at Azer, his once glowing Azure Scales, a dull sickly shade, as he lay limply against the pillow, she didn’t know if he’d make it through the hour, let alone the day.
She nodded to herself and drew closer to him again, and finished Davern’s preparations. Even when she’d beaten him, he’d not hurt her; perhaps this wasn’t the worst decision of her life.
She looked at Azer. “Do you have enough strength to place the bonds?”
“You’re using the bonds?”
“Yes, I will only Marry once.”
“Then let’s give him a healing and mana potion and see what he does first, see if he keeps his word, you know as well as I do that he is desperate to leave and save his brother will he keep his word to a wounded snake and a girl he doesn’t know, while his brother is in the clutches of the Nuller? The bonds are too Important to waste on an untrustworthy man.”
Asaa, swallowed and went to a cabinet on the far end of the study, taking a small gold key from the ring attached to a strap at her waist. She inserted it into the cabinet, her body trembled, and she began to breathe a little faster, her eyes widened, and you could see a glistening of tears in the corner of her eyes; she almost let go of the key but forced herself to turn it in the lock.
She was gambling on everything at this moment, the last of her family lay dying across the room, and the only person who could save him might just be a bastard.
She took out two high-grade potions and a recording orb, placing the two potions on the table with shaking hands. She went to the control panel for the study orb that sat at the top of the study and rewound it to when he fell into the room, then plugged the recording orb in the slot provided in the panel for them and hit the record function; it made a copy of everything up until the point they were at, it would keep recording until she stopped it.
She’d heard what humans did to her kind, and she would need some kind of protection in the future. She looked over her shoulder at the man and smiled slightly, especially when he found out.
She picked up the potions from where she’d placed them on the table and slowly moved towards him, “Azer said that if you had potions, you could do more for him.”
“Wow, this is so amazing; you have high-grade potions!”
She pulled away from him as if afraid he would lunge at her, “I have a request before I give you these. I know that you are in a hurry to save your brother, and I understand that, but I feel the same about my people. I have been here for almost a year with no news, and the News Azer brought isn’t good, so I request that if I give you these, please take me with you when you leave and help me save my people.”
Davern paused for a moment; the potions were useful to him, but he didn’t know what was happening in the tunnel. The old snake seemed to be urging him to take the offer. He sighed and stood up, the flowing skirts came to his knee, and the thick belt seemed to be made for a broader body, perfectly hugging his waist.
He squinted at her; no matter how he looked at her, he couldn’t picture her fitting into this skirt; though he did think that the two outfits were oddly complimentary each other as if each were two halves of a hole, and they both had the same weird designs on the belts, though the belt around her waist was a bit more frilly, it was as if they had been made as a set…he sighed.
Something niggled at the edge of his consciousness, but he just couldn’t put his finger on what. He wanted to run his fingers through his hair, but he resisted the urge; she’d just taken a lot of effort to make it look presentable and put medicine on his wound.
“Okay, I’ll help you in the tunnel and with Azer, but I’m also looking for my brother, the Nuller has him, and I know that as we speak, she's killing him, so I don't want to waste too much time.
These tunnels were once your home, you know the way, so things should go more quickly, not to mention if I have those potions plus help,” he looked at the girl with an eyebrow raised, “you can fight, can't you?”
“Well, I have trained to fight. I know the spells of my race, and I've sparred with my handmaidens often; every time my mother watched, she said I was quite good.”
“So, a rookie.”
She blew out her cheeks and huffed to him, “I've also got to go on hunting parties in the desert.”
“Okay, so not a complete noob, sorry, Your Highness.” He cracked a smile at her, and she whipped at him with her tail.
He dodged and thought of grabbing it and feeling the silken coils again, though. He did kind of want to see her blush; he didn't want to make her cry. “Okay, calm down. We don't have time.”
She calmed down, glaring, she flicked the tip of her tail at him, “fine, but you'd better not go back on your word.” Asaa said and handed over the bottles.
Davern, drink down the healing potion first. He sat down, drawing the ambient mana around him, running a cycle, the power seeped through his veins; every ache from the last endless hours vanished: the nausea cleared, and the head wounds closed, his mind clearing, he chased it with the Mana potion.
Davern began pulling in more power, casting an active spell for the first time. It worked with mixed effect; he ran the Guild beacon and began recording his body's response to the treatment and what he noted. Sighing, still not completely purged of the venom, but at least better than before, which was more than he could hope for moments before.
He released a putrid breath purging the decayed mana and other matter from his body and opened his eyes. “Give me a moment to collect my thoughts, then bring Azer here. Okay?”
She’d stood fidgeting beside him, and she finally released the tension she’d been holding when she heard those words. “Alright,” her fingers trailed down the hood scales of her elder as he dozed, too tired at the moment to respond to Davern or even her administrations.
He nodded back at her, then closed his eyes, again able to focus more clearly since the woman beside him tension seemed to have dissipated. He briefly wondered what had been bothering her then put it aside; he had a more important matter to attend to at the moment, resettling his mind.
Davern ran his Mana for a few more cycles, following their pathways through the body, exhaling as much decaying mana as he could from his energy reserve. He knew from observing Azer that he couldn't let the decaying mana infect his core. If it did, then there was a possibility that he would also be devoured from the inside out. He shivered.
Davern shook out his system for a moment and then opened his eyes. “Alright, bring Azer over, Asaa.”
Asaa, mindful of his condition, placed the old snake down in his lap and backed off to the side, worrying her tail between her fingers.
Davern placed both hands on the deep blue snake, and with slow precision, he began threading his healing Mana into Azer’s Core. Developing it, wrapping it in a safety net, and making a containment spell around The Nuller's devouring Mana, it wouldn't last long; just by the nature of the two things, one magic. The other anti-magic, which seemed to devour mana for its own purpose? But what? He didn’t know, but he would record what he could and pass it on to the people smarter than him.
He healed the Core’s interior, and then slowly, the spell widened and wound its way through the exterior and extended out, healing the damage to his other mana eroded cells. Why had the snake been affected so severely? Davern could only shake his head and continue the treatment; sweat beaded his forehead by the time he pulled his hands away, breathing hard.
“How is he?” The girl had moved closer, leaning over him and stroking the snake with the tips of her fingers.
“Give him a minute to adjust, he’s in a pretty bad way, and well, snakes have a pretty sluggish metabolism. I wouldn’t be surprised if he hibernates for a while; also, this is a stop-gap, not a fix. I don't know how to cure him. He’ll need to find someone who can continue his treatments.” The air began to vibrate around them, and Davern jumped up, preparing to defend himself.
The snake suspended in mid-air shimmered and contorted eventually. It disappeared, and an older man in stately Azure robes appeared.
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