21 Solace, 9:40
The garden was dwindling, a greed placed within each action to pluck the precious stone contained within its cage of ice and death that took faster than it could grow. Insistence had been ushered to the Keeper to still those forever unsatisfied hands as those they belonged to clamored for more. That is how it always was, desperate pleas for more even if it did not display itself outwardly and Illex was determined to let the growths flourish where others did not. The warrior was content to sit along the edges, adorned ears twitching gently at the low hum as the song wrapped its caressing fingers around his mind. It washes everything away, not a trouble to be felt should there ever be any to plague an already plagued mind. The comforting call was quiet, however, dulled beneath the weight of absence and it is this reason that Illex found himself trailing away from the Tirashan. Reassuring weight fell across his back, the harness holding in place the tools of which he would use sparingly for the task at hand for he intended to make quick work of the information he had been provided.
It was easy for his clan to keep their ears to the ground, plucking at their ties to the world outside of the forests where they resided in order to keep a relatively steady supply of the corrupted lyrium. It was no surprise that the garden would wane, as it often would be mined for whatever the clan desired, but this time was different. Some had taken just a little too much, and Illex would leave it to the Keeper to find those that indulged beyond what was necessary. Punishment would be enacted, and it was a small disappointment that the warrior would not be present to have a hand in dealing such reprimand. Sights were set on the trails laid out before him, carefully taken to avoid leaving one of his own as he weaved through the trees and crossed over the plains towards the expansive highway where many utilized it under the false safety it supposedly supplied the outsiders. Long, black hair had been braided back, brushing gently across the skin of his back not covered by the weapons he ached to use as he moved swiftly. A mount would have been simpler, cut the time in half, but he did not care to have another living creature to look after. Determination was set, and several days passed before he arrived at the edge of the crumbling stone.
Archways towered high, the walls difficult to scale and so Illex kept parallel to it, pointed ears shifting as his head turned to hear any telltale sounds of what he was looking for. Red lyrium had been noted as passing by the highway, though the elf did not mistake the majority of the Templars to be fool enough to use the paved roads so openly. Several steps were taken before a shout was heard behind him, up upon the highway and Illex lowered his body to duck behind a grouping of fallen debris. Hooves clattered against the stone, Illex relying on hearing more than sight as the riders began to pass. Wheels churned, snorts heard from the beasts of burden as something large was carted along. When it sounded directly behind him the elf twisted to peer over the crumbled stone only to see a dark caravan wobbling almost precariously before the driver corrected the horses. Pale gaze shifted down the way to where another could be seen as a blotch of color slowly, ever so slowly, growing in size with its approach. Lips twitched, muscles flexing as a palm slid over the rough edge of the broken masonry. The points of metal claws scraped delicately against the surface with the motion, the elf pining for an opening to set against what appeared to be humans.
No signs could be seen of any infection, nor could he hear the beautiful hum from within the caravan. Just as he was about to retract his attentions a foreign language was spat into the shuffling noises of the travelers, an arrow flying overhead and planting itself within one of the caravan guards’ skull. Illex’s stomach flipped, eyes widening and a grin splitting his lips as his head whipped around to find the source of the well-aimed arrow. The archer perched on a rock, a glance sent in the direction of the elf when he moved just enough to see over the edge and even from this distance the warrior could see the confusion. Another joined him, oddly shaped clothing wrapped about their figures and it took a moment for recognition to spark. Venatori. Excitement flooded through him then, and he pushed away from the rock as the bow was leveled towards him. The wood splintered upon impact, arrowhead clattering to the dirt and Illex reached behind him to free one of the stunted spears. An arm drew back, and returning to his previous spot he threw it with precision, delighting in the startled cry as the human was stricken in the chest. Such a satisfying thud, the elf already moving to retrieve the spear when another charged towards him with a sword swinging in a vigorous swipe.
Freeing the spear Illex dipped low, one leg extended to brace himself and the sword missed his head by mere inches. He could feel the breeze in its wake, hear the singing of the metal as it hissed through the air, and with a forceful thrust upwards the spear was embedded into his skull beneath his chin. Rising with the strike it drove the Venatori back, blood falling freely in a pleasurable wave of warmth down his hands and arms. A shudder pulled down his spine, sharpened teeth flashing as he yanked the weapon free in a spray of blood. A low groan erupted from his throat, eyes alight and his free hand lifted to glide across his chest and smear the liquid across his skin. He could feel the upraised flesh of his scars, eyes fluttering but he pulled himself away when commotion from the road drew his focus. The guards were clashing with other Venatori, not very many of them, and Illex replaced the spear in favor of drawing his glaive.
They did not expect him from either side, most of the shems doing the work for him as blood splattered the ground and pained shouts gurgled into silence. Bodies fell, curses yelled in that atrocious language and Illex pulled himself closer. The curved blade rested against the stone, scraping with his approach and turning the head of one of the caravan guards dressed in black armor. Silver flashed, and the other warrior charged towards him yet hesitation slowed his steps when he fully took in this unknown adversary. ”Please, come closer,” he murmured longingly, near breathless with the anticipation of what was to come. He did not know what the human said, nor did he care. All he cared about was the way his feet moved, the warrior clearly trained but Illex could not find a single shred of fear within himself. Indeed the shem moved closer, the elven warrior knocking the blade aside and allowing his own to slip through his grip until he grabbed it again, closer to the blade, and pushed it forward. Right into the softened core it dug, pushing past whatever useless armor he wore until it caught on bone. Illex yanked the man towards him, the other side of the blade hooked and catching further. The guard dropped his sword and the elf lifted a hand to his face, blood coughed from stained lips as the wounded balked.
Claw tips grazed softly, Illex tilting his head and taking in the way the human’s face contorted in agony before a crushing grip was placed against his face. Fingers curled, and a scream tore from the afflicted one’s throat as the metal dug into flesh and bone, puncturing an eye only to press further until the prey ceased its struggles and fell limp. With little consideration muscles coiled, Illex pulling the glaive free and gaze honing in on the remaining two that dueled on the other side of the caravan. He could hear their labored breaths and struggling, shifting to the corner of the structure as the horses began to panic. For a moment he simply watched, humored by the view of the Venatori and what he could only assume to be a Tevene pushing against one another in a poor attempt to gain leverage. ”So wrong, so graceless,” he chided, chin tipping as the Venatori gained the upper hand and with a guttural cry the guard fell beneath his blade. The stench of blood was pungent, a split tongue prodding at some that had dotted against his cheek.
Nostrils flared, and the Venatori lunged towards him. Space was limited, and so the elf used the long handle of the glaive to swipe the bloodstained sword and trap it against the side of the caravan. It lurched with the impact, clawed hand lifting quickly before the man could recover and counter the shove set against his throat. This one did not scream, voice seized with his very hand and Illex moved closer as the pinned hand began to tremble and the sword fell away with a resounding clang of metal against stone. Illex stood taller than the shem, crafted claws still dug into his throat even as his wrist rotated and fingers began to spread. Taking in a deep breath the elf removed his hand, satisfaction wrapping around him as he slid none too carefully until he leaned against the wheel clutching at the gaping wound in his throat. Air was expelled slowly, Illex planting his glaive against the stone after pulling it away. A side compartment began to fall open, and with a jolt of trepidation the elf scrambled to keep it closed lest the contents inside spill out.
How close it had come to doing just that until Illex secured the latch and placed a hand over his chest as if to still a rapidly beating heart. Gray eyes fell to the motionless Venatori, a small laugh given. ”This is not mine, not yet,” he explained to nobody in particular, a shake of his head accompanying the steps that brought the elf closer to the deceased. ”It would not do to break it.” Careful consideration was placed upon the lifeless corpse, Illex kneeling down beside him as his gaze narrowed. The braid fell across his shoulder as he turned his head to eye the wound that trickled with excess blood even if the heart had ceased its beating. Bloodied claws pulled at the mangled flesh, a grimace taking hold of the elf’s angled features. ”That does not look good,” he commented gravely, yet despite the concerned tone no regret could be found within his mind. Eyebrows lifted and Illex shrugged, standing with a quickened motion so that he could reach and find purchase against the metal holding the wood together and hoist himself up. A foot planted against the Venatori, giving him a boost to his desired perch. He heard the wet plop as the man fell over but Illex paid it no mind.
Sitting upon the top of the wagon as the horses shuffled nervously behind him the elf glanced down the highway to where the other vessel began to make itself know. A rider on a large, ebony horse surged forward ahead of the other, donned in black robes and with his approach Illex let out a disgruntled sigh. Not a single trace of red lyrium upon his body, the carnage around him all but forgotten as he laid his weapon down beside him and leaned forward against his crossed knees. ”You are not who I was hoping to see, you know,” he called down irritably as the horse and rider stopped a few feet away, a frown pulling at the corners of his mouth. Just another human, by the looks of it. A small hope had been placed in seeing the Venatori, for the elf had assumed that the Templars would have come in the place of the shems that seemed to surround him. How revolting.