Fiction: A Lady's Prerogative Book I: The Yearning And The Learning Part III by Brian Joseph Johns

Continued from A Lady's Prerogative Book I: The Yearning And The Learning Part II

Warning: This story deals with some mature situations. Reader discretion is advised.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Part III

Midnight Dreams Felled

Yirfir lay quietly in Jasmer's arms, her head buried in his chest, their breaths synchronized as almost were the rhythm of their hearts. Her mind was deep in their past together, thinking about the collapse of the Sanctum and the following Wars Of The Night. Once the Sanctum had fallen, the organizational power of the Reign Of New was nigh. They could no longer rally the combined forces of Lyra and the independent orders against the Uxgard Norbids, who hunted those from the Sanctum as prizes for the ever magic hungry Power Lords.

The Uxgard Norbids themselves were an order that had formed up as overseers of the passage of art and knowledge throughout civilization millennia ago and had despised magic. Through time and their own hand in erasing art and knowledge while letting "approved" art and knowledge through, they had slowly fallen to their own ignorance and zeal. Ultimately this path lead to their subservience before the Power Lords and their current state of being: without the lust for life and the color of love. They had become the tools of the Power Lords and no longer comprehended the tragedy of their own loss, nor the loss they had caused.

Jasmer had in the last days of the Sanctum rallied a force that few could have countered, made up the most powerful the Sanctum had to offer. Yirfir was among them and she had fallen for him then a mature leader, determined and able to overcome any hurdle for the Sanctum. She had not known that he too like the Norbids themselves was being played by the Power Lords who despite their lack of wealth at that time, had magic enough to scry even the most powerful of foes.

During the battle that had lead to the collapse of the Sanctum Yirfir had stayed by Jasmer's side to the bitter end and many Norbids had fallen to her arcane craft. The losses of the Sanctum were devastating and many had perished during the battle which had scarred the earth where the Sanctum was located so badly, that even now nothing grew there in the empty and barren absence of its former magnificence. Not even the tears of rain fell there. The Sanctum had fallen and the world did not know nor was a tear shed for it beyond the survivors. The battlefield after the collapse of the Sanctum bore no evidence of the powerful magics nor the victims felled by it. A forgotten savior in a world still blinded by the theft of its yearning.

Yirfir had pleaded with Jasmer on the desolated battlefield not to leave. He ignored her joining a handful of arcane masters in pursuit of the Power Lords themselves. He insisted that he must go and that it was more important than his own life though inside he had already given to their side. The wound to her heart though not visible like the battlefield itself had never healed. It bore no signs of its pain. She had not seen him again until after it was common knowledge that he had shifted allegiances. When she did see him some fifteen years ago nearly twenty after the battle of the Sanctum they never spoke a word to each other.

"Why didn't you say so then?" she asked him, barely breaking her breath or their rhythm.

There was a pause, though the motion of their breath continued and her head riding his chest like the waves on a calm sea.

"I tried, but you were young. You wouldn't have understood." he said sincerely but unconvincingly.

"You didn't even try. You just left without telling me the truth. I was in love with you." she clung to him.

"I was in love with what had to be done, and you knew that." he rubbed her shoulder and pulled her against him.

"And what do you love now? The Power Lords?" she asked strategically but in honesty.

"I don't love anything. I only do what is necessary to push forward with the plan. It's more import..." he tried to finish.

"Damn you!" her head lifted from his chest, her eyes crested his chin like the moon in the night.

"Don't you see what they're doing! Look at what we've lost already!" she eyed him, waiting for his acknowledging gaze, but none came.

"This isn't the time or the place for this talk. I want to talk, but not now, and definitely not here! Be careful or you'll wake the night!" he looked to her firmly before he spoke hoping she got the message.

She pleaded to him with her eyes, and he answered without seething. There was love in him and she saw it.

Meanwhile back in the dark recesses of the estate a cloaked figure sat in contemplation on a perched throne in a finely crafted room of dark oak and walnut floors and paneling.

"Bring me the Magi Locks, and four of the elite Norbids of the beast scar. I think we have a traitor." a voice from inside the cloak ordered, and the walls rumbled in sympathy for the Norbids.

A moment later the door opened and six Norbids entered the room, two of which had the familiar cloaks but from which an ominous glow emanated. The other four were much larger and their presence more pronounced. One of them snorted out loud, while another hissed.

"Go to their room and apprehend them. Bring them to me." commanded the cloaked figure.

Estate In The Woods

Mila and Barris stayed close to one another, while Shaela and Nelony scouted ahead. Nelony had befriended a sparrow who had set about acting as a signal for trouble, and one of the bears had decided to act as their guide and protector and was far ahead keeping an eye our for trouble. A long moment of awkward silence grew between Mila and Barris. They had run out of superficial conversation while the tension built up before Barris made a move to break it.

"Why did you become an artist?" asked Barris of Mila, a bit more deliberate and quietly.

She paused for a moment and thought about it.

"I had always been doing something in that way from the earliest moments I can remember. I didn't become an artist as much as I am an artist." She started explaining to him while keeping her eyes aware of her surroundings before continuing.

"I enjoyed it from a very young age. A way to create worlds and to see them grow before my eyes and because of them. To make a piece of a world that didn't exist anywhere. Like a window that someone else could look through to see into my world. If that makes any sense." She paused for a moment noticing him looking at her as they walked together.

"My parents had struggled throughout their lives and often the backlash from those struggles found their way to our home. My art would often reflect that struggle in ways that my parents didn't notice, but it was there. We weren't wealthy and we had very little money when I was young. They used to ask me how I expected to make money, saying 'they won't call you a starving artist for nothing'." She continued while Barris listened quietly.

"When I was nineteen, one of my paintings caught the attention of an art curator from a popular gallery in the big city during a tour of our school. The school contacted us as the curator offered to show it at his gallery as part of a venue. A month after it went on display we were once again contacted and asked to approve several bids upon the painting. The lowest bid came in at just a little over a few million dollars. This is extremely rare or unheard of for an artist's first gallery showing to sell for this much, but it happened." She held a wavering smile, while her lower lip quivered slightly.

"My parents were killed during a vacation that I had purchased us in an airliner crash. That was it. It was over. They were gone. Nothing really mattered at that point and I canceled my schooling and took a year to think about life." She stopped speaking momentarily, her head down while she thought of her parents.

"My new found wealth covered the expenses of my deceased parent's house and left me in a situation where I'd not have to worry for money again but that didn't fill the emptiness. Nothing could, so I buried myself in my art and occasionally would venture out for a night on the town to keep from becoming isolated." She spoke without fear or regret.

"During one of my nights out, I met a man at a night club and we hit it off, becoming close friends though we didn't sleep together. I was always very stringent about such things. I always wanted it to matter and to mean something. After a month we had become lovers and another month after that, we were engaged." The wind picked up as they got closer to the mouth of the forest.

"There weren't many people at the marriage and most were my former class mates. Nelony, a close friend from my secondary school art class was my maid of honor and Shaela, another artist and her friend was a guest. My art teacher from the school gave me to the groom. The groom's parents were there and his best friend was his best man. None of our two clans really gelled but it was our night and we made it enjoyable." Mila looked at Barris with puzzlement.

"Do you want to hear more?" She asked him.

"I want to hear all of it." He said with confidence.

"Alright. He moved into my parent's house with me and I kept an office with studio so we could keep the house free of anything related to my art and my work. It was our home after all." She smiled slightly and then continued her story.

"We were very happy at first. I with my projects and he with his business. This joy lasted for four years until he started arriving home later and later at night. More often than not he'd smell of perfume and I knew at that point. We'd stopped making love and he didn't pay attention to me the same way that he used to and I'd spend more and more time with my art projects to hide from that fact." She moved a little bit closer to Barris and spoke more quietly.

"I blamed myself for my obsession with my art. It was when I really took a look at my project at that time that I had realized what we'd become. The piece was full of dark tones and sharp edges. Like knives rising up and out of the earth and down from the sky. There was only isolation and desolation within it. Like our marriage. I thought for a long time that I'd created that reality for us and our marriage was dead. I didn't paint for a long time after that." She looked down twisting the ring on her hand which was not a wedding band but it bothered her at that moment nonetheless.

"You can probably figure out the rest. I came home one evening and found him in bed with another woman. He stormed out of the house with her, both of them still half naked and we never saw each other face to face again from that point. It was always through lawyers or one of his family members. I settled financially with him and very generously though he tried to pry at my belongings but I didn't let him and eventually the court ruled in my favor and gave me the divorce. I gave him our home and fled to Alivale, a beautiful town that came recommended by the one who'd purchased my first painting. There I purchased the orchard and the home located on it. That became my home and studio, with enough room for both. It was silent and lonely at first but it grew on me." She slid the ring off of her finger, then put it back on.

"A few months after that Nelony and Shaela came to see me and stayed for a couple of weeks to retrieve me from my depression. They are good friends like that. In that time they had talked about the school they were attending and convinced me to come check out their program. It was two months on and one month off for three years solid and required the utmost commitment and no missed classes. I applied for the school and was accepted the following semester. I can't tell you how surprised and excited I was when I learned of the true nature of the school." Her eyes held her pain while her lips held her joy.

"And whatever do you mean by that?" Barris feigned naivety deepening her smile.

"Last night was our yearly party and this one was for our graduation. It's funny because Yirfir suggested the parties in the first place as a way to practice our abilities and restraint of course in real life. This is the first one that she herself attended." Mila's smile disappeared.

"Don't worry. You'll find her. We'll find her." Barris said, rubbing her shoulder affectionately.

"She's as much a mother to us as she is a teacher." Mila spoke, her mind on her memories.

"Aren't all mothers like teachers and all teachers like mothers?" Barris asked her rhetorically.

She gently accepted his him and they walked closely together to the edge the forest.

 They pressed on into the darkness in L'Arbres De Noire, carefully and quietly. He'd told her of his meandering life, and his meeting of Sato and the bonding of their friendship.

They talked about their favorite authors, their favorite theater and movies, their favorite music before Mila stopped, ultimately feeling guilty that they weren't concentrating on the task ahead which was rescuing their friend and mentor Yirfir.

Nelony and Shaela bickered with one another, but were mostly feeling left out in the midst of their friend Mila's interest in Barris. They abruptly stopped their antics when Mila joined them.

"Are you sure that he's good enough for you?" Nelony asked Mila.

"I heard that!" Barris stated matter of factly.

"You were supposed to nerd boy." Shaela said sarcastically.

"What do you think. Are we close to the first opening in the forest. I want to find this place and quick." Mila asked Nelony.

Nelony pursed her lips and began whistling, both musically and linguistically.

A moment later the little sparrow emerged from the forest canopy perching upon Nelony's index finger chirping quietly to her with consonance and staccato.

"Thank you my love." she replied to the sparrow.

"We are about twenty minutes from the first clearing. There have been no Norbids since the last we'd encountered. No activity from the house either though the sparrows don't go close enough to really know." Nelony responded.

"Was that your little bird friend again?" Barris asked brashly.

"Little bird? You're one to talk!" Shaela responded to him.

"You're right. I'm sorry." he responded, blushing slightly.

"Where do we need to go Nelony?" asked Mila.

"This way though we'll have to hike through some brush. Or we can walk about a mile and a half ahead and there's a path though it will take about twenty minutes longer." Nelony responded confidently.

"I guess we should be thankful its in a forest and not a desert." Barris spoke, trying to sound positive and looking at Nelony for approval.

"Well in a desert I'd just talk to the snakes, vultures and dung beetles and..." Nelony was interrupted.

"Yes. As I said, we should be thankful." Barris spoke again, making his point.

Nelony frowned at him and then giggled a bit. She found him to be cute.

Mila stopped and was looking at her map.

"We're right here then. We'd have a much longer route if we stick to the road. What's the verdict?" Mila asked her companions.

"I say we go for it." Shaela replied not thinking twice.

"I agree as well." Nelony responded.

"I'll try it, though you should know that I'm allergic to stinging nettle." Barris brought up candidly.

"Isn't everybody?" Mila said blushing slightly.

"There's more ways to get stung than by a nettle if you know what I mean." Shaela said winking at Barris.

"Yirfir! We must get to Yirfir." Nelony exclaimed.

"Well then. Lead on." Shaela said to Barris pointing the way.

"Oh because I'm the man you're making me go first?" Barris responded defensively to Shaela.

"No because we're playing Benny Hill." Nelony laughed.

"This is not funny." Barris said as he moved into the brush.

Shaela snickered quietly to herself and leaned over to Mila.

"He is cute. Do you like him?" she asked Mila quietly.

"Shhhh. I'm not telling you what I think." Mila replied.

"I can't see! It's too dark." Barris said stopping in his tracks.

Mila approached him from behind.

"Do you trust me?" she asked him.

"What? Of course I trust you." he replied the second part more quietly.

"Then walk." she asked of him touching the sides of his head softly and lovingly.

As he passed she whispered an ancient word colored with her artistic tones and sibilance.

Barris paused as he looked in amazement the forest revealing itself through painted droplets of mist before him as if a panoramic view of their path was etched into the mist itself changing as he stepped forward to match the terrain before him.

"This... is beautiful." he said.

"I'm glad you enjoy it." Mila smiled.

He turned and the image changed in accordance with his view through the night mist and he could see everything as clear as day.

"Its there! Its there!" he said excitedly, spying the outline of what appeared to be a human made structure.

"Let me see!" Mila said stepping up behind him and cupping her hands to his temples and pressing herself against him from behind drawing in his vision.

It slowly appeared to her through his eyes and she marveled at the sight.

"That's it!" Mila said in response as its fine lines and architecture revealed itself through the mists of the forest.

"All right you two. Enough of that. Let's find Yirfir!" Shaela broke their bond.

Although the path was treacherous in the night they made their way through the brush and arrived at the Estate along a long section of wall with no openings to be seen. It's exterior walls were lined with stone each one carved and shaped into its place. Mila admired the structure and its shape and its alluring aesthetic.

She scanned the surface of the exterior wall searching for something.

"Are you going to paint rectangle on the wall and turn it into a door?" asked Barris?

"No, I'm going to use the one that's already here." she replied to him a bit of playful sarcasm in her.

She turned a piece of the detail work, and it clicked. A section of the wall slid inwards and to the side exposing a corridor.

"Shall we?" Mila invited her friends.

"Don't mind if I do." Shaela accepted the invitation.

Shaela gather herself, drawing a tremendous breath, mouthing a string of syllables and consonants as she did. A ball of energy formed before her on the floor in the corridor and slowly grew into her shadowy cat beast. It growled at her admiringly, almost purring before trudging forward in the corridor.

"Razshae ik hierssss, Yirfir" Shaela spoke to the beast.

It growled in response, taking in a volume of air through its shadowy Jacobson organ before turning the other way down the corridor. Shaela followed the beast, Nelony, Mila and Barris behind them. Mila returned to the doorway and found another hidden panel which she pressed gently. The section of wall that had become the door slowly slid back into place resuming its function as a wall.

The corridors were dimly lit by lanterns within, their flames dancing quietly while the shadows swept the walls as the four followed the cat beast. The walls themselves looked like a photograph from the encyclopedic volume Mila had referenced to find the Manor and there were the tiled walls a mixture of walnut paneling and oak framing finely crafted and embossed with a pattern of ancient origin.

"Well it looks like we have the right place anyway." Nelony spoke quietly half asking Mila.

"I wonder if they ever call for takeout here?" Barris asked the others unsure if he was serious.

"We should call to take you out. Or away." Nelony responded bitingly.

The corridor turned sharply and stretched a distance before them. A door in the distance ahead of them closed the latch clanging throughout the corridor and breaking the silence momentarily. The foursome dodge into the shadows at the sides of the corridor, shrinking themselves as small as they could. The cat beast shrank to floor, hissing and bearing its' teeth, which despite its shadowy form still cut the darkness.

They all sat motionless as they spied the end of the corridor where a cloaked figure strode in their direction. It appeared like the Norbids they had encountered on the forest road though a bit smaller and less menacing. It would only take one of them to sound the alarm before the rest would come. The cat beast upon sensing the movement began creeping forward toward its prey which had awakened its hunger for pursuit.

Shaela quickly reached out with her hand grabbing for the cat beast's shadowy tail but in the time it had taken for her to reach out the beast had moved forward ten strides.

"Is that you Renoren?" asked the cloaked figure who had paused peering into the shadows ahead of him perhaps sensing his death stalking him.

Another moment and the cat beast was upon him. The Norbid was paralyzed with fear as he saw the beast in midair silent flight its eyes reflecting the candlelight. The whole moment took no more than six seconds and there was no noise as the Norbid fell. Barris felt shivers up his spine as he watched in glee and horror.

The four relaxed slightly as there was no recourse of action following the cat beast's silent removal of the Norbid from their path.

"I thought we were..." Barris hadn't time to finish his sentence before another door between them and the cat beast had opened. Another Norbid stepped out into the hall much larger than the first.

"Who's there!" it spoke with a deep husky groveling in its voice.

The cat beast had simultaneously turned around to meet the new challenge. The Norbid itself paused sniffing the air before a growl rose in its throat increasing in volume.

The Norbid's form grew in size adding two feet in height to it's six and a half foot height before their eyes. It lurched over more beast like than man like and charged at the cat beast.

Shaela spoke aloud, but quietly: "Lilenrith Sh'annrard!" and the cat beast immediately began hunting the Norbid beast. The two clashed in the corridor the cat beast's claws tearing into the left arm of the Norbid in an attempt to coax it to the ground. The Norbid stood and resisted throwing the cat beast back and onto the floor where it landed on its feet ready to pounce again. The noise echoed throughout the Estate as its claws tore into the floor all of them shrinking even further while the battle found pause (or paws as it were).

Meeting In The Halls

Yirfir awoke from her slumber on Jasmer's chest startled to life by a noise she'd heard beyond in the halls of the Manor. She had been dreaming of Shaela, Nelony and Mila, who had come to pay her a visit in the lounge where her and Jasmer had their drinks together. She leapt off the bed still in a night gown that Jasmer had provided her and ran towards the door.

"Yirfir!" Jasmer yelled after her, startled awake by her absence.

She didn't pause for him as she opened the door dashing out into the upstairs hall towards the sounds she'd heard.

The cat beast leapt again the Norbid sidestepping the attack and leaping off the wall behind and back onto its feet again hissing. Nelony stepped out of the shadows, pointing her three mid fingers on her right hand towards the Norbid. A cloud of tiny dark birds flew from her extended hand enveloping the Norbid obscuring its vision as the birds clawed at it. It stumbled backwards tripping over the body of the first fallen Norbid and landing on it's back with a thud.

"Cats and birds working together. Now there's something you don't often see!" Barris exclaimed, caught up in the battle.

The cat beast leapt onto the second fallen Norbid quickly finishing what the flock had started careful not to gorge any of the birds. The group stood from their places hidden against the wall before another Norbid stepped from the same room as the second its eyes glowing from behind the it's cloak.

"Krath'Tkit'Tuk" it mouthed as both its hands glowed intensely aiming them at Nelony.

A burst of clouded brimstone shot forth from its hands mixing mid flight with sparks and cinders streaking from it like the ejection from a volcano.

Mila shot forward simultaneously clasping a buckle on her skirt and gesturing with her other hand in the air in front of Nelony. A mold took shape in front Nelony catching the hot ejection to its interior and rapidly cooling before fading to nothingness leaving a perfect bronze statue likeness of Nelony standing before the real Nelony.

"Thanks for the materials." Mila said sarcastically to the Norbid whose rage seemed to grow more intense.

"You're welcome. There's more where that came from." the Norbid Magi responded beginning another incantation.

Barris felt the influence of Sato within him once again, as he stood and cartwheeled through the air towards the Norbid. The Norbid stepped back throwing its hands forward towards Barris, who dodged them effortlessly. Barris leaned back into the mid section of the Norbid forcing his balance off just as another three Norbid Magi stepped forward from the door and entered the fray running towards Nelony and Mila.

The Norbid Barris was dealing with struggled to regain its' balance firing another barrage of brimstone at Barris, who had been caught off guard as he leapt to defend Nelony and Mila. The brimstone slammed into his right shoulder spinning him around twice before he fell to the floor writhing in pain steam rising from his wound.

The cat beast had just finished with the Norbid that Nelony's birds had smothered when it turned to the first Magi. It fell flat to the floor and rolled back onto its feet unperturbed.

"That was too easy." it said arrogantly wiping its hands as the cat beast trounced it from behind.

"Yes. Too easy." Shaela said in response as she ran to Barris.

Nelony and Mila kept their distance behind the bronze statue circling it as the three tried to get at them. This went on long enough for the Norbids to figure out that they should each take a different side of the bronze statue leaving Nelony and Mila nowhere to run.

Nelony and Mila backed up as their pursuers closed in. Two of the Norbids advanced forward while the last summoned a haze that filled the area around Nelony and Mila.

Nelony tried to counter it with something of her own but found that she could not. It was as if the energy was not flowing.

"I can't come up with anything Mila. What have you got ready?" Nelony asked Mila as they both backed away.

Mila tried clasping at some material on her blouse but finding that she too was incapable.

"I can't either, Nelony." Mila responded still in shock at her helplessness.

They both backed carefully away as the two Norbids closed in while the third maintained the the anti-magic cloud around the ladies.

It stood confidently as the cloud kept their prey from casting any spells leaving the other two Norbids free to apprehend them and bring them to their master. The Norbid felt the ground shake like something heavy had fallen to the ground behind him.

"What in the blazes?..." it said before a bronze fist swung down upon its head rending it immediately unconscious.

"You girls don't mind if I step in?" Yirfir spoke from the behind the bronze likeness of Nelony which strode forward towards the remaining two Norbids.

"Shaela, get a portal ready. We have to leave quickly." Yirfir ordered Shaela turning her attention back to Nelony and Mila.

"Good to see you. Great party by the way! Would you like my dance partner?" Nelony asked excited to see Yirfir.

"How about mine? His tango is a little off." Mila seconded.

Mila too smiled and was delighted to see Yirfir.

"I was thinking that I'd like to dance with both." Yirfir said confidently.

The two Norbids turned toward Yirfir to see the bronze statue standing behind them a smirk on its face. Its arms reached out to them clasping each by the head smashing them together. Both collapsed unmoving to the floor.

Bolts and sparks began to fly from the point where Shaela had opened the portal in the center of the hall.

"We must leave quickly! Something is draining it!" Shaela said urgently as she turned back Barris.

She had tried soothing his wound with a small ice block she had produced though he still moaned in pain. Nelony and Shaela helped him to his feet. Mila met him before the portal and gave him a tender kiss on the lips.

"My hero. Thank you." She said to him brushing his face tenderly.

"We must go! Now!" Yirfir yelled.

"You won't be going anywhere tonight!" an ominous voice spoke and the walls shook as it emanated from the figure.

They all looked to the end of the hall as the first Power Lord they'd seen in their life strode forward, his cloak concealing his form but not the ominous rage surrounding him. The walls themselves seemed to shy away from him as he strode down the corridor towards them.

"Go! Now!" Yirfir turned to face it.

"I'll get her through. Now go and get him to safety and some help." Mila asked Nelony and Shaela.

Shaela and Nelony nodded taking Barris and entering the portal as a gulp of energy consumed them as they disappeared.

"I'm staying with you. We came too far to leave without you." Mila said to Yirfir.

"You're at the end of your road. Time to end this." the Power Lord spoke gutturally winding up and throwing a tiny ball of energy which grew in size as it flew towards them.

The shock wave of force slammed into the two of them throwing them past the dwindling portal and sliding down the hall before they came to a stop.

A cruel laughter filled the air as the figure continued forward towards them now only twenty feet away. Yirfir rose from the floor helping Mila up in time to see the Power Lord get tackled from behind by a another person. Who was left she thought?

"Go Yirfir! I will be with you again my love. You must survive!" Jasmer said boldly and with new confidence found and boldness firmed.

Another shock wave threw Jasmer into the corridor ceiling and then back to the floor. He got to his feet with an intense energy surrounding him.

"Is that all you've got? You've caused enough damage to the Sanctum and to the peace. This must be undone as must you!" Jasmer screamed in defiance.

Yirfir tried running to Jasmer for this was the man for whom she'd fallen. Returned once again to be by each other's side. His lost principles found within the conflict of battle and by her love for him.

"We must go!" Mila said at once understanding the importance of what Jasmer had said to them without knowing the whole story.

"How dare you betray me!" the Power Lord bellowed the Estate's foundations shaking and rumbling beneath their feet.

"I am going to put right what was once made wrong by you!" Jasmer charged at the Power Lord and clasped hands with the powerful being. He eyed Yirfir one last time.

Yirfir screamed and cried as Mila pulled her closer to the portal before they were both enveloped in energy, passing through the aether to the endpoint of Shaela's portal.


Mila materialized from the portal endpoint a moment after Yirfir about three feet above the ground falling and tumbling down beside her. Yirfir lay motionless on the pavement curled up in a fetal position a tear streaming down her cheek. The nightgown from her last night with Jasmer clung to her body. They were on a paved road somewhere on the outskirts of a small town.

"We must get ourselves together and figure out where we are. Where are the others?" Mila asked Yirfir, trying to rouse her from her angst.

While Mila waited for an answer from her mentor she scanned her surroundings carefully looking for her companions sure that she could recognize something about the place though she had never been to France. There was no sign of Shaela, Nelony or Barris and she wondered where Shaela had directed the exit point of the portal. Yirfir moaning broke her state of thought.

"We might be able to rescue him if we can rally ourselves." Mila suggested.

There was a moment of pause before Yirfir's voice broke the early morning air.

"A faithful student has become the teacher? I am fortunate that you found me." Yirfir asked Mila, giving her thanks in roundabout fashion.

Mila paused thoughtfully before speaking, unsure of how to take it. She'd never seen Yirfir in this state.

"You're right. What do you suggest Yirfir? I need your guidance. We all do." Mila asked her mentor.

"I am not your guide. If you need directions, find a map." Yirfir responded sarcastically.

Mila thought that was more like the Yirfir that she knew, though who was she to second guess Yirfir's nature. After all, Yirfir felt comfortable enough around Mila to expose a soft side of herself. A vulnerability that certainly meant trust, and here she was trouncing that trust by second guessing Yirfir's true nature, a common crime amongst the young against their elders though a crime of confidence rather than condescension.

Yirfir got onto her feet and turned to Mila, giving her sincere gaze in its fullest to her student.

"You have to understand that even your teachers are human. We have lives and emotions that affect us and direct us and often keep us in the right place despite how broken our hearts might be." Yirfir watched Mila for reaction.

Mila looked away and then back to Yirfir.

"I understand. I was thinking that we could get..." Yirfir put a finger over Mila's mouth.

"Jasmer's gone. I feel it. It's too late. You should be asking yourself why we're so close to home. Your home." Yirfir responded, removing her finger from Mila's.

Mila looked around trying to find a landmark, when she noticed a small watering station with a well nearby that she hadn't noticed before. Yirfir and Mila walked towards it, inspecting it. There was a tie post for horses with a water foundry for them to drink from. It was ingeniously crafted with a hand pump, which Mila reflexively pulled a few times. A short time later the basin slowly filled with water from the well through a pipe. The water took a moment to stop, the basin half full.

"Look at this." Yirfir had found an historical landmark plaque, which she began to read.

"Commending the founders of the fine township of Alivale circa 1796. May your horses never go thirsty nor your wells run dry." Yirfir stopped in amazement.

"We're in..." she spoke.

"Alivale." they finished together.


Barris sprawled out on the floor of the shop, Shaela had dropped him partway through the portal and tripped falling onto him. Nelony followed shortly thereafter her too losing her balance and falling onto Shaela. Barris groaned already in serious pain where the brimstone has eaten a hole through his shirt. His wound was visible to Nelony who rolled over onto the floor.

"Mr. Sato! Mr. Sato!" Nelony screamed aloud.

She had barely finished her second shout when Sato's familiar face was before her his hand extended to her. He lifted her from the floor followed by Shaela eyeing Barris' wound carefully.

"Where's Mila?..." Barris struggled under the pain.

Nelony looked at Shaela mouthing her words: *Not with us*.

"She's coming soon. Hang on Barris." Shaela conjured another small ice block to cool his wound though he needed the attention of a skilled healer.

The wounds were more than elemental. They were formed of some kind of magical infection that had began eating away at his insides just under the wound.

"We need to get him treatment and soon." Sato told the ladies who nodded in agreement.

"We could take him to the Order Of The Well." Nelony offered, looking at Shaela for approval.

Shaela already nodding before she spoke.

"They'd never allow it. It's supposed to be a safe house for those in the field." Shaela's response laying out the rules.

"Damn it Shaela he's going to die if we don't do something. He tried to save us. He prevented us from being hit by that magic." Nelony fought for Barris' right to treatment.

Shaela looked at his wound then at the block of ice. It quickly melted away under heat from her hands which had already begun channelling another portal.

"Let's go." She responded, looking at Nelony and Mr. Sato.

Sato grabbed Barris and hefted him onto his shoulder and followed Nelony and Shaela through the portal. Streams of electrical bolts arced to the ceiling and walls in the shop as it swallowed them.

An instant later they were in another room somewhere else in another plane though nobody could tell for sure.

The room itself had a bed which was almost like a gurney which they quickly hoisted Barris onto. He groaned once again though he was beginning to drift.

The rest of the room was equipped much like a Doctor's office though there were cabinets full of herbs more of an apothecary of sorts. Another cabinet contained a selection of crystals of all colours, shapes and sizes. A bookshelf filled with books, most in languages long extinct and some written in symbol-craft, a common script amongst those of the now Order Of The Sanctum. Each house of the Sanctum had learnt symbol-craft to communicate with one another in order to help life the world over against the forces which sought its demise which were often reflected in the actions of the Power Lords.

Sato stepped over to the side of the bed slapping Barris' cheeks.

"You must not fall asleep." Sato said to Barris hoping to spark some life into him.

"I could give him an ice block down his pants if you'd like." Shaela stated firmly Sato unsure if she was being coy.

"That will not be necessary. We don't want to damage his ego after all." Sato said firmly drawing a smirk from Barris despite his pain.

A door opened slowly revealing two ladies who stepped into the apothecary. The first one had eyes large enough that they took up a great deal of her beautiful face. Her face was accented by a compact nose and delicate pink lips through which her voice spoke to them. The second lady a bit taller and with long black hair though held in a tail.

"Were we expecting visitors today?" the first said eyeing Shaela, Nelony and Sato each in turn.

"What seems to be the..." asked the other as she saw Barris and his wound.

She immediately rushed over to the bedside moving Sato and Nelony aside before examining his wound.

"This is serious. Where on Earth did he get this?" she asked looking to each for an answer.

"A Norbid Magi. A vicious one. There were three. But we took care of them." Shaela said nonchalantly but obviously trying to impress.

"Yirfir took care of the..." Nelony interjected but did not get time to finish.

"Yirfir was with you? Alright I am going to need you to leave for a while. You can wait in the other room. Haether get me some of the aloe, the aqua crystal and a sprig of lavender essence." the lady turned to address her peer.

"I know where the aloe and the crystal are. Where'd you put the lavender Feylachar?" asked her peer Haether.

"In that cabinet Haether. Didn't I ask you to leave?" Feylachar responded Haether then reminding Barris' friends to clear the apothecary as she tended his wounds.

The three looked at each other before leaving the ladies to their efforts to heal Barris.

The healer closed the door behind them and began examining the wound closely.

"What's your name honey?" She asked him.

"...Barris. Where's Mila?" He turned with a great deal of effort to look at the healer.

His vision played tricks with him and he could see a great aura of light round her. Her very presence gave him enough energy to speak. The healer paused momentarily then spoke as her peer, Haether handed her the lavender.

"Mila's not here right now. I'm not going to lie to you. You have a very serious wound resulting from some powerful magic. I'm going to try my best to heal you but you have to make part of that effort yourself and I'll help you the rest of the way. Do you understand?" The healer asked Barris whom thought he was dead already and talking to an angel.

"Yes, I understand. I'll give it my best try but make it quick. I have to find Mila." He responded struggling once again to keep his consciousness but failing.

"This should help you to feel a bit better." Haether put a cool damp cloth on his forehead from the other side of the bed.

The healers began to work their magic patiently removing the impurities and toxic energy from the brimstone that had impacted Barris' shoulder. It had quickly spread throughout parts of his arm but the healer had isolated it in time and the effects were slowly being reversed. Barris though drained mustered all of the energy he could while in his semi-conscious state. In his clouded vision he swore he could see two figures through the auric veil of the healer.

Then as he passed into unconsciousness he saw Yirfir and Mila. They were together on a road in the middle of the brush somewhere. He mouthed to them trying to get their attention but they couldn’t hear him.

Continued in A Lady's Prerogative Book I: The Yearning And The Learning Book IV

Brian Joseph Johns

Copyright © 2012 Brian Joseph Johns