Sanity is forbidden Circulation: 197,504,353 Issue: 966 | 12th day of Hiding, Y24
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Ghosts of the Past - Part 2


by fallingdaybreak

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The ride to Meri Acres Farm was surprisingly mundane.

     The path was long and winding, and each step the Darigan Unis made created dust clouds behind them. Fences separated the numerous farms that stretched across the land, while bundles of hay sat in the vibrant fields. To the south stood a large verdant forest, darkened by the sheer numbers of oak and birch trees.

     “Such a stark contrast from our wasteland home,” Gunnar commented as he turned back to his comrades. “Now remember, our mission is to capture the traitor and bring her back to the citadel. Alive, might I add.”

     “Alive, you say?” The Darigan Lupe, Iago, scoffed. “This means we can beat her within an inch of her life, then.”

     Gunnar’s eyes instantly furrowed in a deep glare, directed only at the Lupe.

     “Don’t try and deny it, Gunnar,” Iago hissed almost vehemently. “You want to see her punished as much as I do. Even if she didn’t pledge her loyalty to Kass or the Darigan Citadel, she swore to never abandon us, the comrades that mattered most to her. And now look how well she’s kept that oath. Or have you so easily forgotten?”

     “...I haven’t forgotten.” Gunnar’s voice was tense, clearly trying to control his irritation towards the violence-happy Lupe. “But I will not tolerate unnecessary violence in this meeting, understand? Or Sylvana won’t be the only one due to be punished once we return to the Citadel.”

     Iago finally fell silent, though he retained his annoyed glare as he muttered a silent curse under his breath. Behind him, Torvald was silent as he eyed the surroundings with his one eye. Gunnar, noticing the young Nimmo's silence, slowed his Uni down until he was next to him.

     “You’ve been quiet this entire ride.”

     For a moment, only silence answered Gunnar back. But after several more seconds, Torvald finally answered.

     “She’s not going to go with us peacefully. There will be a fight, I’m sure of it.” For what felt like the millionth time, he clenched his fangs, this time hard enough to draw the smallest bit of blood.

     “Control yourself, young one,” Gunnar chastised. “Remember our mission. We are to bring the traitor back alive, even if a fight ensues.”

     Torvald continued to clench his fangs, a tearing feeling surging through his lip. Though he wanted to argue back, Gunnar was the assigned leader of this mission, and it was Lord Darigan’s explicit orders to bring Sylvana back alive. Even though he was a much more experienced soldier than in the second Meridell-Darigan War, Torvald knew better than to argue back against orders that were set in stone.

     - - - - - - - -

     Before long, the trio stopped a short distance before a small farm, next to a rather quaint home. And in front of the home stood a pair of Neopets, an Ogrin, and of course, the trio’s target.

     “There,” Gunnar pointed out. “There she is.”

     Iago raised an eyebrow. “Sharing a hug, is she? She’s grown soft.”

     Gunnar spared a brief glance at Torvald, who said nothing, but whose glare had grown more intense by the second. Though he wanted to say something, the logical part of the Yurble told him not to. Choosing to follow logic, the Yurble dismounted from the Uni.

     “Be careful,” Iago warned as he dismounted as well. “This could be a trap. For all we know, she could be planning to attack the second she finds the opportunity.”

     Gunnar glanced back at Iago. “That may be true. But something tells me otherwise. Look.” He peered at the Darigan Kyrii.

     “Her axe isn’t anywhere on her person. If she truly was planning an attack of sorts, she wouldn’t be out here unarmed.”

     “That may be true,” Iago interjected. “Perhaps she destroyed it to forget the life she cast aside?”

     “No.” Gunnar shook his head. “That axe is far too valuable to be destroyed, not to mention powerful. It would take nothing short of the Faerie’s Ruin for that weapon to be completely shattered.”

     Iago, despite keeping his glare, remained silent, just like Torvald, who stood behind the Darigan Lupe. For a moment, nobody spoke a word as the trio made their way to the farmhouse’s entrance, where Sylvana stood just before the door. Though her arms were at her side, they were tense as they clenched themselves into fists.

     For another moment, silence filled the otherwise tense air. But finally, Gunnar spoke, breaking the all-consuming silence.

     “Sylvana. Or should I say, Captain.”

     “Gunnar.” Sylvana’s voice carried the slightest edge as she folded her arms, but Gunnar could tell that she carried no sense of rage. Instead, her voice was tinged with guilt, now having to face former comrades, ones that she had abandoned without a second thought. Sylvana’s eyes were locked onto the Yurble before she noticed the pair behind him.

     “Iago, Torvald…” The latter’s name she said quite tensely. “So you both survived.”

     “Indeed,” Torvald finally spoke, his voice a growl. “But we didn’t make it out completely intact.”

     With one hand, he reached for his helmet and pulled it off, and Sylvana gasped silently once she saw the Nimmo's face. What was supposed to be a right eye was now an unsightly burn mark, which extended down to his cheek and just barely touching his upper neck.

     “So you do remember us,” Iago interjected. “The comrades you swore you’d never abandon. You should have known this day was coming, do you?”

     Sylvana shook her head. “Eventually. So what do you want?”

     Gunnar stepped forward. “You knew all along, so you should already know why we’re here. Under Lord Darigan’s orders, you are to be brought back to the Darigan Citadel for desertion.”

     Sylvana’s breaths hitched at Gunnar’s words, something the Yurble noticed. Her fists were already tense at her sides, as if she were clenching an invisible weapon. But like he had stated before, the Kyrii did not appear to have that axe with her.

     Behind Gunnar, Iago reached for his dual longswords. “Are you going to fight us? Completely unarmed?”

     Sylvana’s body tensed, but curiously, the tenseness vanished as soon as it came. Not saying anything, Sylvana glanced past the Darigan trio, towards the tree near the fields. Gunnar, Iago, and Torvald then turned to where Sylvana was looking, noticing the small makeshift gravestone at the tree’s base.

     “No,” the Kyrii finally whispered. “Not here.”

     Silence once again filled the air as the trio scanned the gravestone and the offerings that lay before it. After a moment, Gunnar turned back to Sylvana, his voice uncharacteristically gentle.

     “Was that...your doing? What did you do?”

     “...Nothing.” In her mind, Sylvana recalled Elijah’s earlier words: you are not at fault. Her eyes went to the ground as she gripped her arm.

     “I did nothing wrong.” Despite her words, her voice sounded wracked with guilt.

     “So you are alone,” Iago remarked. “But who was that Ogrin?”

     Sylvana’s gaze did not lift from the ground, and all Iago could do was look at his comrades as only silence answered him. Gunnar and Torvald appeared the slightest bit curious and confused as well. Judging from the two’s embrace, the trio could only assume that the Ogrin was Sylvana’s father figure of sorts. Pushing the thought to the back of his mind, Iago glanced back to Sylvana.

     “So you choose to embrace these strangers and this new life of yours? What about your old one? Don’t you remember who you used to be?”

     “I am not that person anymore,” Sylvana answered, her voice still a whisper. “Not anymore.”

     Hearing Sylvana’s answer made Iago step forward threateningly, his lips pulled back to reveal a vicious snarl. Behind him, Torvald’s one eye lit up in a newfound rage as he took a step forward as well. But Gunnar, noticing his comrades’ anger, stepped in front of them, one arm cutting them off from Sylvana.

     “Control yourselves, you two.” His gaze turned back to Sylvana.

     “If you don’t wish to fight here, then...at the very least, give us an explanation. For doing what you did those years ago.” Gunnar clenched his fangs, and out of the corner of her downcast eyes, Sylvana could see that he was just as angry as Iago and Torvald.

     But unlike his comrades, he was much better at controlling it.

     “Make us understand why you left the people that mattered most to you.” His eyes hardened into a glare, and it was clear that he wasn’t giving Sylvana a choice in the matter.

     Though Sylvana’s gaze was still to the ground, for the briefest of moments, she looked up to face her former comrades. For a moment, she wished she could fool herself into thinking that they weren’t here to bring her back to the Darigan Citadel, or worse, rip her to utter pieces. She once called them comrades and friends, but now, they were nothing but parts of the past that tormented her, even now. Sylvana thought she could push them out of her mind, but it was clear that the ghosts of the past had caught up to her.

     The very least she could do was give them what they wanted.

     “...Very well.” She turned away from the door’s entrance, walking to behind the farm. A part of her wanted to invite the trio inside, but she didn’t want Elijah to see. It was better she kept her past demons to herself as much as she could. She had already dragged him and Arya into conflict at the trial four years ago, and Sylvana didn’t want to put Elijah through any more undue stress.

     Once a good distance away, she turned back to the trio. “This way, you three.”

     To be continued…

 
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Other Episodes


» Ghosts of the Past - Part 1
» Ghosts of the Past - Part 3
» Ghosts of the Past - Part 4



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