The trek back to the cabin was quiet. None of the four interacted much at all, except for a few glances shared between Emily and the Tracker. It was clear that she was just doing her job; she just wanted to track Emily and that was that. She didn’t have to get shot, did she? Then again... she would have ran away if she hadn’t been. Lucelle kept looking straight ahead and towards the ground while Caviere’s glances eyed the whole area to include the Tracker an unnecessary amount of times. Afraid she will get away? You shackled her at the legs, I doubt she would get far.
When they reached the cabin, Caviere had seemed to develop a new personality... again. He now spoke little to no words at all. The Tracker was placed in the center of the main room in a single, very uncomfortable chair. Her wrists were tied to the back of the chair and a dark purple necklace was placed around her neck. “Void’s Repellent,” Lucelle said. It’s purpose was to drain her magical abilities so she couldn’t do anything risky. It didn’t seem to make Lucelle to happy. Emily could tell that she wasn’t too fond of this new personality of Caviere’s.
The windows were covered to make it darker and Caviere spoke from behind the Tracker, “Name?”
“To identify, locate, and track those deemed a threat.”
Caviere took hold of her jaw and pointed her head to face Emily. “She is a threat?” His voice was low and angry. Emily felt uncomfortable just watching it unfold.
He let go of her jaw and smacked her face. Lucelle turned away, then disappeared from sight. Emily watched a while longer to see him eventually move on to slapping and punching her with occasional raps on the arms or legs. After she couldn’t watch anymore, Emily turned to go find Lucelle. She wasn’t anywhere in the cabin, so she slowly opened up the door and brought it to a close so as not to disturb what was going on inside. There, she saw Lucelle sitting down near a tree on the other side of the small area. She walked over to sit down in front of her, which seemed to be alright. Emily looked down at her crossed legs, then sighed.
“He’s not alright, is he?”
Lucelle shook her head.
“How long has... he been like this?”
“A few months now.” She was unusually quiet.
Emily moved a hand forward to rest on Lucelle’s knee. She smiled up at her, “I’m sure he will make it just fine. From what I’ve seen, he can get along just fine... Which one is the real him?”
Lucelle didn’t seem to react to the hand, but let it stay. “He was born a leader. The one last night and this morning was the real him, but he never stays like that for long.”
“Why is he like this?”
“Well... before, it wasn’t just us two. There were others with us that helped in the cause. We were a team together, but not always. I didn’t join the group for a while, so there are some members that I don’t even know about. However... many of them had a knack for either... eating the big one or, well, just disappearing.”
“Was it that bad...?”
“No, it was wonderful. We were the best; the Lockean Knights, they called us. We would fought for your mother and her parents until the bitter end.”
“My grandparents?” Emily seemed to perk up. “What about them?”
Lucelle turned her head up to eye Emily, then looked back down. “They had a tendency to not trust many around them. Most of those in their manor were... well, fake. They were masters of illusion and mainly the Dark Arts, so their creations were very strong and very believable. Us, though, we were the only group they actually trusted for when they needed some kind of force to go long distances. Every member had to be seen by the Lady Everlock, your grandmother, before being given admittance to the prestigious team. It was... oh, I am probably boring you, aren’t I?” She looked up at Emily, who was in a dazed look of wonder.
Lucelle smiled and looked back down, continuing, “It was amazing. Things just... happened as time went on. We all knew that every mission could be our last. For some, their first mission was their last. Like Ryken...”
Emily showed a bit of sorrow in her eyes for Lucelle’s sake. “What about him?” She asked.
“He was the newest recruit and was ready for anything. He was a marksman with a crossbow and never let anyone tell him he couldn’t do something. You could tell him that he could not cross a pit of snakes naked and the next thing you knew, his bare ass would be waist-deep in boas and garters. He... well, you know what he was like. You saw him earlier...”
Emily showed a look of confusion, then thought back to earlier in the day. Caviere seemed to lose some of his age with that crossbow. He was reckless and a bit on the edge, just like the boy Lucelle was describing. “I see,” she said.
“On his very first real mission, we were on a routine patrol around the town. It was usually dead at that time, but not that day. An ambush orchestrated by Akan hit us and we were pinned down deep. None of our magic was useful; if any part of our bodies peeked out, we would get shot by Void substance-tipped arrows or bolts. Thankfully, though, Ryken never believed in magic. ‘Too lame,’ he told me.
“In the midst of the fighting, we heard him call out to us,” Lucelle looked up a bit, now making hand signals to visualize the scene. “‘See you on the other side, boys!’ We looked over and he was gone running down a berm while firing at the enemy. There were maybe... twenty of them and five of us. I saw Ryken take a bolt to the chest, but he kept going.” Her voice had faltered a bit and cracked, but she continued, “It took the poor saps six shots in the chest to finally take him down. He gave us enough time to reposition and counter the assault. In the end, there were nine bodies with his bolts in them, each one hitting dead center on their hearts. We could still hear him chuckling at what he did after it all went quiet again.” Lucelle became a bit closed up, seeming to be reliving her memories.
“Sounds like a hero to me,” Emily said gently. She moved forward to hug Lucelle, which was well received. Emily whispered, “It’s alright to cry, you know.” She didn’t get a response, but that was alright with her. She’s plagued just as much as I am. We all have a bit of trouble, don’t we? Emily thought a bit during the embrace, and decided that this was the woman she wanted to keep close to her. Lucelle seemed to be a great person as well as an amazing friend.
“Lady Ev- er, uh, Emily... we should go make sure she’s alright in there.”
Emily nodded, then stood up to help Lucelle onto her feet. The two of them went back to the cabin and reentered it hesitantly. Inside, the Tracker was crying in the chair while still tied to it. Caviere was nearby writing on paper at a desk.
“Interrogation complete?” Lucelle asked with a bit of sass in her voice.
“Nearly,” Caviere’s voice was still the same. Emily could tell that he wasn’t ready for the two of them to come in yet. At least, he wasn’t ready to end what he started.
“Are we almost ready to take the fight to Akan?” Lucelle continued.
“Not by a long shot.” Caviere took a few moments to finish writing and then stood up. He turned around to face them where the two could now see bits of blood on his hands. Emily turned away while Lucelle slightly bowed her head. He pushed a finger into the Tracker’s shoulder, much to her dismay, and told her, “Break time. Close your ears now.” She dropped her head down and became silent, but still trembled.
Caviere went to the table with all of the little pieces on it like the one in the castle. He looked around, then wiped his hands off on a stray rag before going to point to various pieces of the board. “Tracker’s got no way of knowing exactly where Akan is. He has a special ring that has been enchanted by one of the court mages which is designed to negate any hunting spells. Imagine it like getting blinded when you are trying to look for a deer. We need to find the wizard, but we don’t know which one it is. Therefore, we must pay each of them a visit. Some will attempt to kill us on sight, she says, although some may be open to negotiation.”
Lucelle’s eyes seemed to pierce into Caviere, then he said, “I know we were going to do that, but can we do this on our own, especially with having to tote around a sobbing mess? I say we keep her.” Lucelle sighed, then crossed her arms. Emily felt a bit uncomfortable, but stayed quiet.
“Der’jak the Merciless, a fitting name for a mage who slew scores of men with his magic, isn’t more than a few days’ hike to the east. Tracker can-”
“Chelle,” Emily said from her side of the table.
“She should have a name.” Emily shrugged, “I’m going to call her Chelle.” The Tracker, in her chair, looked up a bit, but was certain to keep her vision low.
“Fine. Chelle can do the navigation and all we have to do is keep her and ourselves safe. Worst case scenario, we die in the unforgiving forests before reaching Der’jak. Best case scenario, we drink from crystal wine glasses by the end of the week. We set out tonight, make sure to rest and be ready before then.” With that, Caviere went to gather his papers from the desk before disappearing into the room he had slept in the night before.
Lucelle let out a heavy breath, then looked to Emily. “Sorry we can’t go see your mother.” Emily simply nodded, and Lucelle continued, “Time is important because Akan can’t be able to respond to all of our moves before the next one is made. We don’t have the time to sit around anymore.”
“Are you sure?”
“Mhm.” Emily smiled at her, then lost the smile as she walked over to the Tracker, now given the name ‘Chelle.’ Emily kneeled down to be a bit lower than eye level with her. “Are you in pain?” she asked. Chelle nodded, to which Emily asked, “Where?” She didn’t speak and was unable to point. “Do you promise not to run if I untie you?” Chelle slowly nodded.
As Emily began to untie the bindings around Chelle’s wrists, Lucelle pointed out that she probably felt weak from the necklace. “It is draining her and she might not be able to use much energy like that.” Emily finished untying the bindings and then wrapped an arm to go around her right shoulder before helping her up. She helped her to the room attached to the main room, the one Emily and Lucelle slept in the night before. Chelle walked slowly and jerked around like she was getting used to walking again. She nodded when Emily asked, “Did he hit your legs?”
Lucelle went into the room with them where Emily helped Chelle down onto the bed. “Clothes,” Emily said as she went to help disrobe her. She was slow, meticulous, and gentle. It was clear that Emily had no intention but to make Chelle feel comfortable where she was, and it seemed to work, at least a little bit. Chelle was no longer crying, and she showed a faint smile when Emily wiped her tears off. She acted completely different than when she had the mask on, especially when she was in the castle. She was submissive, calm, and very cooperative.
Emily looked around, then went to explore a closet-like door in the room. To her delight, it was a bathroom with a small tub, maybe fit for one less than average-sized person. Lucelle raised her eyebrows as Emily came back out to help Chelle up again. She’s going to bathe the woman who was going to assist in her kidnapping?
Soon enough, warm water was pouring down Chelle’s bare back. She was tense and twitched from Emily scrubbing her with a sponge, but she seemed to welcome it after getting used to it. She even spoke a few words in response to Emily making light-hearted conversation.
“Do you have a real name?”
“Chelle is nice.”
“Any brothers or sisters?”
“Mm mm,” she shook her head.
“...Did he hurt you too much?”
She shook her head again. The blood that had been seen on Caviere’s hands before came from the bolt wound in her thigh. He had been using it to get her to talk by pressing the head of a mallet into it.
“Is this alright?”
“It is nice.”
“Do you bathe often at the castle?”
Chelle’s thin brown hair was darker and thick when wet, but it still seemed to keep some gentle attributes. “Sometimes. Not this nice.”
“Do you like your job?”
“You chose a very different magic. Mother taught me about it.”
“The idea is to channel your mana into the thoughts of a specific person, right?”
“Yes, that is the idea.”
“Do you think you could show me some of your tricks sometime?”
Chelle glanced up at her with a “you’re kidding, right?” look on her face. Emily didn’t seem to be paying attention. “Eh... sure.”
Emily became giddy. “Oh, I can’t wait... Mother didn’t teach me too much about that one.”
“What did she teach you about?” Chelle was quieter, as if wanting to listen more than talk.
“Oh, you know... the Elementals, Alteration, the Dark Arts... Uhm, some others, I think.”
“You do not remember?”
“Bits of magic come and go every now and then.”
Chelle said under her breath, “Amazing...”
“Oh, uh...” She spoke up again. “I think I’m ready to get out now.”
“I’ll get your towel, then.” Emily stood from her sitting position by the bathtub and opened up cupboards and drawers until she found a large towel to give Chelle. She accepted it and dried off, then looked over at Emily, who was watching a bit nonchalantly.
Chelle played it off with a joking tone. “Like to watch women dress?”
Emily seemed to come back to herself as if her thoughts were elsewhere. “Huh? Oh, uh, I don’t mind it, I guess. Would you rather I left?”
“...No, you are fine.” Chelle didn’t seem too fazed by Emily standing there. It was clear she was a bit... naive. “What did your mother teach you about relationships?”
“Uh... what do you mean?”
“You know. Courting, sex, marriage. All of that.”
“Hm... She just taught me how to make it not hurt so much, really.”
“That is peculiar... ever heard of lubricant?”
“Some of the men or women prefered not to use that.” Emily’s tone was straight to the point, which made Chelle a bit uncomfortable.
“I do not understand. Why would you... why not make them use it?”
“Well, that...” It dawned on Emily. “Oh, well... it wasn’t really my choice.”
Chelle thought about it and what she knew about Emily. “You did not have any natural upbringing, did you?”