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 Chapter Three: Trials Toward the Desert

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Alan_Dietrich

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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Three: Trials Toward the Desert   Wed Apr 25, 2018 3:49 pm

Sigurd stayed near the back as he allowed Ashwyn and then Cirro to take the lead. Even though he wasn't at the front of the pack his senses would still be much keener than the fairies in relation to sensing danger. Admiring the shafts of light peeking through the trees from the mid morning he smiled to himself and reveled in the momentary calm that their party was traveling in.

Irregular sounds caused his ears to twitch, he turned his head subtly to try and pinpoint their origin, without having his wolf ears on a swivel it was more noticeable. Turning to he could just see Lopiena out of the corner of his eye he examined her. Fidgeting, a distant look in her eyes, less than acceptable awareness given their mission. "Everything alright sprout?" he said softly if there was something wrong t was his job to know about it.
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Lopiena

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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Three: Trials Toward the Desert   Wed Apr 25, 2018 4:59 pm

Startled, Lopiena almost jumps at Sigurd's soft-spoken question. Blushing furiously, she looks down at the ground as though there was something fascinating with her feet and not the strong, kind, and handsome male addressing her...damn it Lo, cut it out!!
"What? No, I'm fine..." obvious lie, try again. "Uhm..." Barely daring to glance up, Lo spots Sigurd's hand axes attached to his back and instantly focus on them just to have something else to think about. Standing up a little straighter, she smiles vaguely over his shoulder. "I'm just looking for trees and herbs and stuff. I still need to replace the splints from my pack, and...well I was wondering if you'd be willing to let me borrow one of your axes if I find something? I mean...if that's ok..." Blushing again, Lo focuses on her feet again. That was NOT what she wanted to say, but anything else would have come out in some garbled nonsensical female stupidity. Humans. How do they survive their own internal issues?!
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Three: Trials Toward the Desert   Wed Apr 25, 2018 10:22 pm

watching his companion squirm under her own thoughts Sigurd found that he could read her like a children's book, but he wouldn't call her on it... not yet. Her scent was indicative of what she was feeling. When she mentioned borrowing one of his axes he nodded and slipped it out of the leather loop that held it. "Sure, take you're time with it." he walked over to her and held his hand out to her "be careful, it's extremely sharp... and heavy."
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Three: Trials Toward the Desert   Thu Apr 26, 2018 2:58 am

Visibly startled at his sudden proximity, Lopiena stares at him wide-eyed for a moment before registering that he is actually willing to entrust her with such a valuable item. "Thank you, Sigurd. This is...wow." Tucking her staff behind her shoulder, she takes the axe carefully and hefts it experimentally once or twice just to get a feel for its balance. It's very heavy, surprisingly so; though Lopiena has done her fair share of wood chopping to keep the hearth going, this simple hand axe is more than twice the weight of the tools she is accustomed to. Shaking her head in disbelief, she grins. "And to think I saw you throw this across the field. You...you're..." Suddenly clamping her mouth shut, Lo shakes her head at herself in disgust. Go on Lo, too much more and you'll sound like Zellie fawning all over Adan back home. Stop it now!  Refocusing herself, Lo holds the axe carefully against her shoulder and smiles shyly at Sigurd. "Thank you. Really." Looking away again, Lo scans the trees for suitable braches while desperately trying to think of something to say. Though her mind is reeling with questions, she just can't seem to find the right words...or any words other than innane monosyllables.
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Three: Trials Toward the Desert   Thu Apr 26, 2018 6:30 am

Sigurd smiled and ruffled her hair "I'm a lot bigger than you" he said finishing her sentence. "Don't wander too far from the group, and when you swing that thing make sure to grip it firmly with both hands. I don't want you wearing it." He said with a smirk.

It was amusing to see her so flustered, regardless of the reason. Humans were a strange lot. His people were much more simple, at least he thought so.
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Three: Trials Toward the Desert   Thu Apr 26, 2018 7:25 am

Ashwyn had been watching Cirro closly as they walked and hadn't noticed Lo and Sigurd slipping behind. When Cirro paused to get his barrings she realized Sigurd was not standing beside her.

She turned and looked back to see them talking and she couldn't help but smirk when Lo took hold of his axe. Seeing the small girl holding his very heavy axe made her chuckle.

As Lo turned and began looking at the trees, she walked up to Sigurd. "Do we need to stop for a bit?" She asked, loud enough so the others would hear.

Zane looked away from his own education of trees to watch Lo looking for branches.

Cirro also paused and turned back to see what was happening.
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Lopiena

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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Three: Trials Toward the Desert   Thu Apr 26, 2018 11:00 am

Grinning when Sigurd ruffles her hair and helpfully supplies words...much better than what her addled brain was thinking...Lopiena flushes again but at least isn't completely befuddled. That is until everyone turns to look at her. Suddenly aware of how ridiculous she must look, she blushes even deeper than before. Putting her staff and pack down, she resolutely walks into the trees and stops at a tall alder...the tree of courage, as well as representing the balance of male and female. Fitting. It'll have to do, she doesn’t want to hold up the group too much. Pausing a moment to place a hand on the tree to thank it for its sacrifice (and also to check for tree spirits), she backs up a step and assesses the thicket of shoots that are growing around the base. Felling a full grown alder is a crime akin to murder, but removing shoots would improve the overall health of the tree...and they're nice and straight. Keenly aware of everyone watching, she takes a deep breath and angles the heavy axe at the base of one of the shoots. Her first swing barely counts as one; the axe is even heavier in motion, and she nearly overbalances without getting close to her mark. Shaking her head and flushing with embarrassment, she tries again and this time bites the blade halfway through the shoot.

(Strength check 9 followed by 16)
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Three: Trials Toward the Desert   Thu Apr 26, 2018 12:56 pm

Sigurd snirked quietly. Motioning quietly to Ashwyn that a rest wasn't necessary. Lopiena was essentially an adult, but she handled the axe as a child would, he notes that she'd benefit from some training. Raising his hand to his waist he subtly cast mage hand, it was the cantrip he was born with and it had gotten him in more trouble than he cared to admit. Guiding the invisible hand to the shaft of the axe and gave it a little extra push on her next few swings, this hidden guidance would make her task much easier.
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Three: Trials Toward the Desert   Thu Apr 26, 2018 1:24 pm

With Sigurd's mage hand assistance, Lopeina was able to swing the axe easily and slice off clean peices of the tree.

Ashwyn smirked at Sigurd's assistance. She nudged him playfully before turning back and motioning to Cirro to continue looking for their direction.

Cirro glanced from Ashwyn to Lopiena and back again before nodded. He turned and began to walk slowly forward as he figured out where they needed to head.
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Lopiena

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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Three: Trials Toward the Desert   Thu Apr 26, 2018 2:36 pm

Taking yet another swing at the partially cut shoot, Lopiena is surprised at how much easier the axe is to handle all of the sudden. Oblivious to Sigurd's assistance, Lo simply continues her task. One down, one to go...and once the shoots are down, it's a simple task to trim the largest branches; smaller braches can be done later with a small knife. Gathering her materials, Lo returns to Sigurd and hands the axe back to him with flushed cheeks. "Thank you, Sigurd. That worked really well." She can only give him a shy smile before turning away...her brain still refuses to function at the moment.

Returning to her pack, Lo straps her staff and one of the shoots lengthwise across her back and places her pack over the ensemble. Taking her small knife and a satchel, she turns back to Sigurd with a smile. "Thank you for waiting. I...uhm...yeah." Shaking her head at herself once again (so many questions, can't think of one??), Lopiena quietly starts walking forward while carefully whittling away the small branches from the main stem. Strips of bark get stashed in the satchel; small branches are tied together with strips of bark; bundles of sticks are hung from a strap on her pack. Even the leaves are stashed away; nothing is wasted. As she carves, the underbark of the alder stains her hands orange-red and almost looks like its bleeding...
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Three: Trials Toward the Desert   Thu Apr 26, 2018 5:39 pm

Nodding, Sigurd used his invisible hand to stow the axe back on his belt and turned to continue their long walk. Lopiena's lack of focus was beginning to concern him, heading into danger as they were he felt his senses sharpening, however it seemed the further they went the more... Aloof she had seemed he sidled over to Ashwyn and spoke quietly "there's something off with her, you should talk to her about it, I don't feel like I'd get anywhere"
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Three: Trials Toward the Desert   Thu Apr 26, 2018 5:47 pm

Ashwyn turned to Sigurd as he approached and spoke to her. She glanced at Lo as she fiddled with the branches. She nodded to him. "Sure." she smiled up at him for a moment then glanced back at Cirro before leaning in to Sigurd. "Just.... Keep your eyes on him for me?" she asked softly before dropping back a bit to walk with Lo.

She looked down at her hands that now looked bloodied. "Are those going to serve your needs?" she asked, deciding to start the conversation slowly.
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Lopiena

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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Three: Trials Toward the Desert   Thu Apr 26, 2018 6:53 pm

Carving into braches while walking takes a bit more concentration than Lopiena has at the moment, but the exercise helps get her mind off basal desires at least. Glancing from the brach to the path and back again, Lo barely notices the shift from Sigurd to Ashwyn until there's a new voice in her ear. Jumping in surprise, her knife slips and a few drops of real blood join the discoloration of her hands. "Damn...sorry. Uhm, what?" Quickly putting the knife away, Lo looks at Ashwyn in confusion. "Oh! Right. Yes, it will take me a bit to carve the wood down since alder is harder than pine, but once it's done they'll be perfect." Smiling absently, Lo takes a scrap of the red inner bark and wraps it around her bleeding finger. "Plus alder has a lot of medcinal uses." Grinning, she raises her hand to show that the bleeding has already stopped. Lowering her hand again, the confused expression returns to her face. Glancing from Ashwyn to Sigurd and back again, she bites her lip worriedly. "Did I do something wrong? Sigurd said it was ok to borrow his axe, and I didn't hurt anyone this time...at least I don't think I did?"
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Three: Trials Toward the Desert   Thu Apr 26, 2018 7:15 pm

Ashwyn frowned when Lo hurt herself. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you." she apologized.

She smirked at the healing properties. "Hmm, well then maybe it'll come in handy."

At Lo's question she chuckled. "Don't worry so much. He wouldn't have lent it to you if he didn't trust you with it." she smiled. "I just thought we should talk. You seem like you have something on your mind." she glanced up towards Cirro and back to Lo. "Is it the ritual tonight?"
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Three: Trials Toward the Desert   Thu Apr 26, 2018 8:32 pm

Grinning ruefully, Lo glances at her hands and keeps the knife safely away. "It's ok, it'll heal soon enough. And...I'm not exactly known for my great skills with sharp pointy objects. I'm honestly surprised Sigurd was willing to...well he probably didn't realize."

At Ashwyn's observation of her...non-observation, Lo blushes and looks down. "Yeah...well...I realized something about myself and I don’t like it. So...I'm trying to think about something else."

At mention of the ceremony though...Lo blushes furiously. "Uhm no. I don't think...well..." Lowering her voice to the barest whisper, she glances meaningfully at Cirro. "I'm not sure if the entire thing...with traditions and all...is a good idea. All things considered."
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Three: Trials Toward the Desert   Thu Apr 26, 2018 9:42 pm

Ashwyn followed Lopiena's gaze to Cirro and nodded. She could understand why she was feeling nervous.

"I understand that." she said. She glanced at Lo as thry walked. "But let me ask you something.... Will this ritual help our mission? If the answer is anything except a hard no, then I think you owe it to all the people waiting for us to get it done."

She smirked a bit. "And if you have to be naked to do it, so be it." she shrugged. "And look at the bright side. We'll all be there with you. And if your worried about someone.... Taking advantage.... Well, none of us will allow that to happen." she said, her eyes flashing dangerously towards Cirro ahead of them.
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Lopiena

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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Three: Trials Toward the Desert   Fri Apr 27, 2018 1:33 am

Considering Ashwyn's words carefully, Lo pauses a moment to think about all of the rituals and ceremonies she's been a part of. "There’s not really a hard no, or a hard yes for that matter. A ritual just is. It helps focus the mind, body, and spirit, but it's not a physical change. That said, anything that helps focus will help the mission." Nodding to herself, she gives silent acquiescence to the idea of going through the ritual tonight. Even so..."I guess I'm just nervous because I've never led one, I am just a participant. I'm not going to get it quite right, but that's fine...the earth and moon are imperfect and carry no expectations. But...well..." Thinking about it more and more, Lo hesitates. She's definitely nervous, but can’t really explain why.

When Ashwyn mentions concern about 'taking advantage,' Lo almost laughs. Though they haven't really gotten to know Cirro just yet, so far he seems almost as awkward and shy as she is. "Can't imagine that happening, Sigurd would kill him first." Between Ashwyn and Sigurd, Lo feels more secure than she had since she was a very small child. Which is actually a very bad thing...comfort breeds complacency, and complacency is one step away from death. Will have to stop relying on them so much...after tonight. For now, being surrounded by friends is the only reason she feels confident enough to continue. "I think I can do this if you're there. But...Ashwyn...how do I explain..." Hesitating again, Lo sighs. No secrets. Lowering her voice as much as she can, Lo barely whispers. "The full moon...pulls at me. I...well...let's just say you might have to protect someone from me, not the other way around." There. She said it. Not quite closing her eyes, Lo flinches slightly. She's carefully avoided men her entire life; first as part of her upbringing, then part of her grandmother's multiplicity of rules, then as a way to avoid something she truly dreaded. Fighting her body is a habit, but it's never been this hard before.
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Three: Trials Toward the Desert   Fri Apr 27, 2018 9:01 am

Ashwyn listened silently as Lopiena spoke. When she mentioned the moon and her... reaction... to it, she smirked. She couldn't help it, she laughed.

"So you're not concerned about anyone else. Just yourself?" She smirked and shook her head.

"Well don't. First of all, it's not all up to you. Just because you do advance on someone, it doesn't mean they'll reciprocate. And second... well... Would it be so bad if something did happen?" She glanced at her.

"I'm not saying anything has to come of it. Or that you immediately should jump into bed with anyone. But maybe it would be better for you if you didn't worry so much about it. Just sort of... let things happen."

She glanced up to Cirro and back to Lo, lowering her voice so only Lo could hear, though she knew if Sigurd was trying to listen he could probably pick up on it. "Is it Cirro, specifically? I've seen the way you look at him."
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Three: Trials Toward the Desert   Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:37 am

Blushing even more, Lo flinches again. "I didn't mean it like that...I'm sure there's a lot of reasons to...I mean..." gah, words are so challenging sometimes! Taking a deep breath, Lo tries to figure out what she's trying to say. "Anything involving more than one person affects everyone involved, and sometimes even beyond that. I know I'm not the only one experiencing...things...but..." Flustered, Lo hesitates again but her eyes fly open in shock when Ashwyn mentions advancing on someone who doesn't reciprocate. "Oh! Oh no! I would never force someone...not ever, and especially not after what happened..." Visibly shaken, Lo is horrified at the thought of ever being the same class as Peanut. Shaking her head violently, she unconsciously tightens her grip on the alder pole. "Everything must be in balance, and that sort of thing is...so far off balance it destroys all the good...and...well you know. But if...someone...does reciprocate...I don't think..." Chewing on her lip nervously, Lopiena listens to Ashwyn's wisdom. Just let things happen...sounds so freeing, and glancing from her to Cirro at her valid question makes Lopiena blush and look at the ground. "I...I don't know. He's a complete stranger, and we don't know anything about him. He seems so nice, but I can't tell if it means anything or if it's just me or the moon or..." Looking up at Ashwyn, Lo can't hide the conflict in her face. "I know I worry about it too much, but all I've heard about is the pain...but you made it sound incredible...but it's just too soon, and I'm not ready and..." Realizing she's babbling, Lo stops talking but her eyes are begging Ashwyn to understand. How can she want what she doesn't want? How can she trust herself when her own body is yearning for the impossible, especially when the impossible is walking just a short distance ahead? And whether or not...someone...is willing, they've known him for less than a day. The very idea is ludicrous. The very idea is exactly what she wants. Thus the frustration and confusion.
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Three: Trials Toward the Desert   Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:45 am

Ashwyn chuckled. "Don't worry so much." She winked at her. "Honestly I don't see anything happening tonight. Well... not with you and Cirro anyway. I can't make any promises with me and Sigurd." She winked playfully.

"And I won't lie that there is never any pain. Especially the first time. And I can imagine that with how your grandmother made things happen that there was probably a lot of pain. I don't doubt that at all." She said, her expression becoming darker. "But if it's with someone you care about and who cares about you, then you won't even remember the pain once it's over." She shrugged.

"I suppose it's hard to explain." She looked over to Lo. "It's up to you if you want to do this ritual. But remember, you're free out here. Don't let your past restrict you. And if this ritual will help you in any way, I think you should do it. And Sigurd and I will do everything we can to help. I'm sure Zane will to."
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Three: Trials Toward the Desert   Fri Apr 27, 2018 11:41 am

Ashwyn's playful mention of her and Sigurd helps pull Lopiena out of her mental vortex of doom. If it's so great for them, maybe there's a chance for her...but later. Much later. Grinning sheepishly, Lo glances up the path again. "You're right. I do worry too much...I'm just afraid of what I'm going to do in such...proximity." Free or not, she has to maintain at least some semblance of self control. Sticking to the ceremony will help with that; the order and solemnity has no room for anything else. The very thing she hates about ceremonies might just save her dignity.

Listening to Ashwyn talk about the pain, Lo nods with slow understanding. So caring for someone makes the pain worth it, and taking love and care out of the equation only leaves pain. That explains a lot...though there must be more to it than that, the times she'd pleasured herself always led to a feeling of let down, as though her body wanted more than she could give. Well. All things in due time, tonight is not the night to discover that sort of thing.

Looking up at Ashwyn's mention of freedom, Lo smiles quietly. Freedom is still terrifying, but being with friends makes everything better. "Thank you, Ashwyn. I...still don't know my place in the world, but I think...the ritual will help. It's something I'm familiar with, joined with new friends, as a way to bring us together for this mission. Old and new bound under the moon. Balance. Fitting." Nodding to herself, Lo looks back down at the alder branch in her hand. Tree of courage, balance, and healing. She's going to need it in the next few days. Watching the path more carefully this time, Lo takes out her little knife and starts peeling the bark again.
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Three: Trials Toward the Desert   Fri Apr 27, 2018 9:08 pm

Sigurd tried not to eavesdrop too much, Ash had it handled. He surveyed the rest of their group. Zane was preoccupied with his studies and the odd fumble on terrain. Cirro though looked lost. Maybe it was because he still needed to get his bearings or maybe he actually had no idea what direction they were heading. Either way.... He approached the fairy man and clamped a firm hand on his shoulder "So! Do you know where we're going? or are you just feigning usefulness" he said with a subtle edge to his voice.
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Three: Trials Toward the Desert   Fri Apr 27, 2018 9:39 pm

Cirro audibly jumped when Sigurd's hand came forcefully down onto his shoulder. Audible in that he may havr let out a sort of squeek sound.... Perhaps.

He collected himself, well, as well as one can when a god of a man like Sigurd basically just called you useless. He straighted up and nodded. "Of course I know where we're going." he nodded. Then he looked around them again. "I'm sorry for the slow pace. Everything looks different when I'm small." after a moment he nodded again. "Yes, this is the way. The settlement should be only a couple more hours from here." he said, pointing to the north east.

---

Ashwyn smirked at Lo and shook her head. "We may not have chosen one another at the start of all this, but we're all out here for the same reason. We're a team. I'd even go as far as to say... Friends now." she smiled at her.

"Even the fairy has.... Well, he's not done anything stupid yet so we'll see." she shrugged.
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Three: Trials Toward the Desert   Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:36 pm

Looking up from carving the branch when Ashwyn speaks of how the team was formed and how far they've come, Lo smiles at her. "Friends...has a nice sound to it. Not something either of us are overly familiar with, I don't think...but definitely something I could get used to." When Ashwyn comments on 'the fairy,' Lopiena grins and speaks softly at her hands. "He definitely has some catching up to do, good or bad. I do want to trust him, and like you said we're all out here for the same reason and I'm glad we have another healer now...but..." Lo shakes her head. "Something about him still doesn't feel quite right. I'm not sure what, though...and well..." shrugging, she just shakes her head and stops talking about it.

Stripped of its bark and branches, the alder pole turns out to be a pale fine-grained wood. Lo starts carving away some of the wood in long pale curls, but after dropping one or two of the shavings Lo stops and picks them back up off the path. No sense broadcasting which way they went by leaving a trail of shavings. Taking off her pack, Lo shoves the pieces inside, straps the cleaned pole against her staff, and takes the other shoot. Readjusting her pack, staff, and cleaned pole on her back, Lo quickly catches back up to Ashwyn and starts stripping the second shoot. There’s not much space left in the satchel, but she determinedly stuffs all the bark and leaves in it anyway.


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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Three: Trials Toward the Desert   Sat Apr 28, 2018 12:18 am

Sigurd's patience was wearing thin, he didn't like excuses "If it makes you feel better you could always go back to being small, I would hate to have you be earthbound like the rest of us if it causes you distress, I would never force someone to do something they weren't comfortable with" He walked steadily, slightly behind Cirro almost as if he was walking him to the gallows. "Listen to me and listen to me well. I'm sure you know much about me, where I'm from and what I can do." his voice was curt and pointed. "So understand me when I say this, I don't care what qualities you bring to this party, I demand a certain level of competence and right now despite my overall distaste for your presence I have allowed you to lead but keep in mind that I will not tolerate any mistakes or delays so any decisions you make you had better be damn sure they're the right ones or you'll answer to me." his voice was darker than it had ever been and only a few of his own recruits ever witnessed it. If his words were blades, Cirro would be sliced thin.

He knew full well that Cirro wasn't responsible for the princesses actions, his anger over that had subsided, He actually felt a great deal of respect for their queen and a slight bit of remorse for how he stormed out of her courtroom. But this trip had gotten dull and messing with the fairy was entertaining for him.
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Chapter Three: Trials Toward the Desert
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