“Roland sir, it seems that the traitor has allies.” The commander frowned, his eyes scanning the small clearing. The remains of a fire pit was still warm to touch, banked not an hour ago. The soft ground had given way to footsteps, how many he couldn’t tell. “Orders?”
“Get our best trackers on the trail. Itel is a risk to our clan. He knows far too many secrets and if the Liaru Clan finds out…..” Roland growled, his hands tightening on the reins of his horse. “The results will be disastrous.”
“You think the Loners have a hand in this, sir?” The soldier questioned quietly, his face pale as thought of the possible consequences. “You think Itel fell that far? The Loners consist of nothing but deserters and traitors!”
“No other clan would come out this far.” Roland snapped as one of his other unit members gestured in a direction. “Let’s end that traitor!”
“Its not like Siele to miss to be late.” A white haired young woman murmured softly, her sea-green eyes meeting mirror eyes. Her black cloak wrapped around her form, covering the black breaches and pale blue tunic that she wore. A bow was strapped to her back, a quiver of arrows hanging off her waist. The man nodded, his eyebrows furrowing as he stared blankly at the tree. “Do you think he ran into Isidore?”
“Its either that or he ran into trouble.” The man ran a hand through his short white locks. Dressed in a similar manner, his dark brown pants and light green tunic was covered by black cloak. A sword was strapped to his back and a dagger to his waist.
“Lets take the path that he took.” A golden eyed man declared softly, his hands brushing off his black breaches. A dark brown tunic made it hard to tell if the man was wearing a cloak yet, the black material fell to his boots as he mounted his horse. The hilt of a sword was visible at his waist and he subtly brushed its handle as his companions climbed onto their own mounts. “I have that odd feeling that he ran into both.”
It was several hours after they had started riding that the teen stirred, his lungs constricting as he erupted into hacking coughs that shook his entire frame. Isidore frowned as he saw the spray of blood that coated the pale hand. The weight of the teen leaned fully against him, gasping breaths leaving his quivering form. The Loner tugged on the reins, Phira coming to a stop as his companion pulled up next to him. “Siven, think we better stop for a bit.”
Several more weak coughs shook the teen’s frame as they carefully maneuvered him down, his body being leaned against a nearby tree. The two knelt, Isidore letting the boy slowly drink from his flask as his fellow Loner placed a hand on the boy’s forehead. “He’s getting worse.”
A quiet snap was their only warning as an arrow tore through the flask, water spraying the trio as the arrow slammed into the trunk of a nearby tree. Siven reacted first, Isidore not a second behind; their blades coming out with a shriek of steel. Another arrow shot out, giving away the position of the archer. Siven took advantage of it and jumped into the trees, forcing his opponent to step into plain view.
“What is your business?” Siven all but growled, stepping forward with the intent of forcing their attacker to talk.
“Our business is with the boy, Loner.” The voice was firm and Isidore found himself staring into sapphire eyes as the brown haired man stepped forward, the trio slowly being surrounded by the unit. Roland spat, his eyes narrowing at the duo. “Hand over Itel and the Blade of Sorrows and you may live to see tomorrow.”
Siven and Isidore exchanged a glance before Isidore stepped in front of Itel, the teen glancing up weakly in confusion. Siven grinned, his left leg slipping in front of him as his weight balanced itself on his back, the sword pointed at the Protector. “And if we say no?”
Roland waved, causing Siven to jump back as an arrow slammed into where he had been moments before. “Kill them both.” Two of his unit jumped forward, one clanging his sword against Siven’s as the other took the Loner from behind. Isidore growled before being forced into combat by two others.
Siven narrowly dodged the side slash, dropping his blade from the standstill before taking the legs from underneath the individual that had attacked from behind. He cringed as the steel of his original opponent slashed into his arm. Drawing an arm back, he slammed a fist into his face, giving the Loner time to gain some distance, keeping them both in his line of vision. He felt blood from the flesh wound soak his hand as he tightened his grip.
With a growl, Siven swung his blade in a deadly sideswipe, causing both his opponents to step back in an attempt to dodge. Moving faster than the two anticipated, the black haired man stepped forward, swiftly changing to a diagonal upward slash that sliced through one of the two Protectors who stumbled backwards, clutching at the gash as his companion growled in fury.
Isidore grunted as he caught the edge of his opponent’s blade on his own, twirling the weapon so that his sword skidded down the length of the opposing steel. With a flick of his wrist, Isidore drove the tip of his blade upwards, neatly slicing the man’s face to his eye. The Protector dropped his blade, a hand covering the gash while his brethren took the chance to attack.
The Loner swayed to the side, dodging the lunge from his second opponent before bringing his sword up for another attack. He found himself jumping backwards before he could move in, an arrow slamming into his thigh with a hiss of pain. The blond flung a dagger, the small weapon spinning handle over blade to slam into the trunk of a tree as the archer ducked, missing by mere centimeters.
Isidore swayed to the side as his opponent stepped forward, slicing downwards in his moment of distraction. Drawing his free hand back, the Loner slammed a fist into the Protector’s face, causing him to reel backwards. The blond arm raised swiftly and his sword leveled against the neck of his opponent.
A weak cry of pain drew the attention of the two Loners, drawing their attention to Itel as Roland slammed him against the trunk of the tree that he had been resting against. Siven’s opponent growled, running forward with punch to the Loner’s gut. Siven gasped as the air was driven out of his lungs and he crashed to the ground winded. A blade at his neck froze his movements as the Protector growled softly, determined to seek revenge for his wounded companion.
Isidore’s opponent raised his blade, knocking the sword away from his neck and out of the Loner’s hands. Isidore jolted in surprise, his eyes widening as a dagger drove into his upper arm pinning him to a tree. With a gasp of pain, a second dagger entered his other arm effectively keeping him immobilized against the tree. “You should know better than to take your eyes off your opponent boy.”
Roland spared a glance at his unit, growling as he spotted the one of his company possibly bleeding out with another half blinded. His eyes swung to glare at his apprentice, the young teen semi conscious with Roland’s palm against his chest the only thing keeping him on his feet. “How dare you go against everything I taught you? How dare you steal the Blade of Sorrows? And how could you kill your own twin?!” With a grunt, Roland tossed Itel, slamming him into another tree causing a soft cry of pain. “Do you have any clue as to what you have done?!” The teen remained silent and the Protector hissed, slamming the boy once more into the tree. “Answer me Itel!”
Emerald eyes stared weakly at his mentor, his vision blurring as pain clouded his thoughts. He blinked in an attempt to clear it before he felt his back slam against the unforgiving bark of the tree. Unwittingly, he cried out weakly in pain as his broken ribs took the brunt of the assault. His vision darkened, and moments before the numbing shadows dominated his vision, he thought he saw a streak of yellow.
Roland jerked in surprise, the bolt of lightning crashing into his arm as Itel slumped to the ground. He spun, meeting a golden eyed stare before leaping to the side to dodge another lightning bolt. A quick glance told him that his unit was being pushed back from their targets by a mix of ice and arrows. He growled in anger, his eyes narrowing as he called out the one order he never thought he would have to give. “Retreat to the rendezvous!” He dodged another golden streak before bolting into the cover of the foliage, knowing that the user of lightning wouldn’t try another attack in fear of setting the entire forest alight.
Isidore sighed in relief as he watched the remaining members of the clan dart into the foliage, leaving their weapons were they had been dropped. He cringed slightly as he twitched his arms, groaning as white haired man jogged over. “Can’t believe they caught you off guard Isidore.” The blond braced himself for the sharp pain as the daggers were removed.
“I’m never living this down am I, Siele?” Crystal blue-green eyes were filled with mirth and Isidore sighed. “Yup, I am never living this down.”
Siven waved off the worried look from a young female as he accepted her hand. “I’m fine Rhea. It s a mere flesh wound.”
“We started to worry when you didn’t return.” Rhea’s soft soprano declared quietly. “You’re never late so we assumed you ran into Isidore.” Siven nodded in understanding, as he covered his wounded arm with his hand. “Here, let me–“
“So, who’s the kid?” Siven paled and darted to where the golden eyed man knelt, Rhea not a step behind. Isidore started limping over and with Siele’s help made it Itel’s unmoving form. “Care to explain?”
“A traitor to the Protectors, Nilast.” Isidore provided as he let his long time friend take most of his weight, blood dripping from the arrow stuck in his leg. He watched as the lightning mage shifted the teen into a more comfortable position. “Rhea, can you tend to him?”
The white haired woman nodded, kneeling next to Itel before placing her palm against his chest. Her hand began glowing a soft pale white. “You might want to get those wounds bandaged. I don’t think I’ll be able to heal anyone else.”
Nilast stood, taking Isidore’s weight from Siele allowing him to move to his sister’s side. Laying a hand on her shoulder, he felt the tug on his magic and gently directed it into the boy’s body under the guidance of Rhea. He cringed as the broken ribs mended and the lung was repaired from where a stray rib had irritated and punctured it. He flinched as he helped his sister lessen the severity of the concussion that had helped steal the boy’s consciousness. When he felt his sister’s power weaken, he sent a gentle wave into the boy’s body, ensuring that nothing major was missed before the two withdrew their abilities.
“Will he survive?” Rhea slumped against her brother nodding.
“Thank you Siele.” She turned to the quartet, allowing a small smile to grace her features. “He will survive. I repaired his pierced lung and mended some of his broken ribs. The concussion was severe but we managed to soothe some of it.” She stood, letting her brother support some of her weight as she answered the unspoken question. “Yes, he can be moved without any serious repercussions.”
“Are you alright sir?” Roland nodded as he stared at his unit. One would require medical attention upon their return; another would be scarred along the face and the others had suffered scrapes and flesh wounds. He was lucky that he hadn’t lost anyone.
“Its nothing that won’t heal.” The eldest of the group murmured, his hand releasing his arm to reveal a black burn mark. “Lets go. Yequi needs medical attention and I need to report to the elders. It seems that the Liaru Clan does exist and our little traitor has joined them.”
“Does this mean war captain?”
Roland stared at the sunset, yearning for the time that he had taught the twins, acting as their uncle when their parents had traveled on clan missions. He missed the time when war wasn’t even thought possible and that the peace between clans would always be held. He sighed softly before he turned his gaze to his unit. “I wish I knew.”
It was the third day after they returned when Itel showed signs of waking up. He stirred softly that dawn, as the light struck his eyes. Rhea gently felt his forehead before nodding to her brother. The flaps were promptly shut as he left, casting the tent into shadows once more.
It didn’t take long for the ice mage to find his commander; he and the others of the expedition party three days ago were gathered in front of the tent.”Sir, Rhea thinks he’ll wake up later today.” Ewald nodded, his head resting on his hands as he pondered the events that had been reported to him. “What did you want to do with him?”
“Its not like we can avoid the issue. The Protectors, and most likely every other clan, believes that we had a hand in the destruction of a village for the Blade of Sorrows.” Siven stated softly, “And we don’t know the boy’s intentions.”
“He participated in the destruction of his own village, and stole the ancient relic.” Isidore summarized, a hand running through his blond locks. “Is he really worth the risk?”
Their commander sighed, raising hand causing the two to fall silent. Nilast glanced up from playing with his necklace as Siele let the ice he was forming melt. “Itel will remain here. We can’t let him run around without knowing what his intentions are.” Ewald’s eyes closed. “Keep your observations as subtle as possible though. He needs to come to trust us.”
“Ewald sir, he’s awake.” The men glanced up, their eyes meeting the cautious eyes of the clan’s youngest healer. “He’s wondering what’s going to happen to him.”
The commander closed his chocolate eyes before striding into the tent before Rhea let the flap shut. He met blank emerald eyes from where the teen had been propped, leaning against the pillows that he had been resting on. “Do you know where you are Itel?”
Itel jolted in surprise, flinching as his vision blurred. He was distantly aware of Rhea’s arm slipping around his shoulders for support. “How do you know me?”
“The Protectors told us when two members of this clan clashed against them protecting you.” Ewald growled causing the teen to flinch. He bit the hiss of pain as his ribs were jarred. “Now, do you know where you are?” The teen shook his head, his breathing quickening even as Rhea supported more of his weight. “You are in the Liaru clan grounds.”
“You mean its not just a rumor?” Itel questioned, his head snapping up before his good arm held his head in an attempt to stabilize his blurring vision.
“No.” Ewald stated, his eyes staring at the teen in concern. “However what you have heard of us is probably true. Our clan consists of deserters and traitors to their original clan. After being constantly on the run, they banned together to form this group.” The commander knelt, supporting the teen as Rhea shifted the blankets and pillows. “You are more than welcome to join us, given that you are no longer a Protector. They’ll be hunting you down as much as some of our other members if not more.”
Itel tried to focus on the commander as his body began to shut down. He was stunned at the offer, having accepted that he would probably be hunt till he was killed for his actions against the Protectors. He managed a slight nod, missing the small smile that graced Ewalds lips as he fell into the blissful darkness with one thought; he had someplace to call home…at least for now.
Author’s Note: This is the end of Entering a Rumor but the storyline will continue in Hidden Remains. Thanks for reading!