Arrangements didn’t take long. The next night, a young dock worker named Johan was waiting for her at the door and walked all the way home with her. He was a nice enough young man, about her age, with dark hair and fiery blue eyes. Nice and muscular too. She immediately got the feeling he had been handpicked by Karina or Camron as not only a good body guard, but a good husband candidate as well. He seemed to have the same idea.
“So, I hear you’re new to the city” he said. Interested in a tour sometime? I’ve lived here all my life and could show you some really beautiful spots.”
“That’s really very nice of you,” Ariel said, ducking just out of reach as he tried to put his arm around her. He saved the gesture from looking stupid by going into his pouch with his hand as it came around, but that didn’t stop a couple passers-by from giving him a look and a chuckle. Ariel blushed, amazed at how unworldly city men could be. “I really don’t think I’ll have time. Camron is keeping me very busy.”
“Well that’s OK,” Johan said, “Uncle Camron will be more than happy if we went for a picnic sometime.”
“Uncle Camron?” Ariel said with a sinking feeling. She KNEW she’d been set up.
“Ya. He suggested I walk you home because I know where my sister Karina’s house is. So what about that picnic?” Johan asked.
Luckily the walk home wasn’t long and she was able to claim fatigue to get out of answering the question. She climbed the stairs, mildly cursing Karina for setting that one up. Her and her idea of getting Ariel “properly married”. Unfortunately, her thoughts were overrun by the ache in her legs from the previous night’s run. Opening her door, she was about to collapse on her bed, when she stopped, staring at the man sitting on the edge of her bed.
“Good evening, Ariel. Come in, close the door and sit down. We have quite a bit to discuss.” he said. He was an older man, not very out of the ordinary looking, but it didn’t matter. All she could see was the symbol of Haargon hanging about his neck.
“Like it?” he asked, holding up the pendent, “It took 7 long years of searching for the stone and weeks spent in the smithy and jewlers shops to make it. I made it myself, so that I would know it had been done right. Would you like to see it closer?”
Ariel couldn’t take her eyes off the pendent. She began to move forward toward it with a faltering step. There was a nagging in the back of her mind that said she should run away, but it was quickly fading away as she got closer to the amulet.
“Good. Come here, touch it if you like. You may hold it. It’s really the only way to examine the excellent workmanship of the amulet.” the old priest said, with a wonderful, friendly smile.
Ariel began to reach up for the medallion, to pick it up and look at it, when she caught sight of Stefan’s ring on her finger in the candle light. With a start, she came back to herself, out of the drug-like stupor she had been in and snapped upright, taking several steps backwards to the wall. “What are you doing here?” she asked, panic in her voice.
“I see you are a bit stronger then I thought. it takes quite a bit of power to break a mind lock. So be it.” he said, as he put his amulet back on and walked to the door.
“I just came to see for myself who you were and what you were like. I do so hate killing people who are no threat. So messy. But I see now that you are a viable concern. Therefore I will give you this warning and this offer. My god Haargon has commanded your death. he says you are a grave danger to myself and my followers. I give you 48 hours before I kill you to decide on one thing. You have the potential to be an extremely talented mage. I would rather not destroy that potential. So I ask you to join us. I will train you myself. You have 48 hours to decide. At the end of that time, I will return for your decision. Remember tho, that if your decision is wrong, you will die.” He walked out of the room and closed the door. Panicing for Karina and Marcus’ sake, she ran to the door and opened it, looking for him, to make sure he didn’t harm them. He was nowhere to be seen. It was as though he had disappeared.
Walking back into her room, she collapsed onto her bed in tears. She felt so powerless. What could she do against someone who had the power to disappear like that? She was so caught up in her tears that she jumped when Marcus knocked on the half open door, saying ” I thought I heard voices up here.” One look at her face tho, and he was immediately at her side, with an arm around her trembling shoulders saying “It’s OK now.” and smoothing her hair.
By the time she had calmed down, Karina had come up to see what was wrong. Karina sat with her, while Marcus went and made some tea. When he came back, he asked her the question she had known was coming but dreaded. “OK, Ariel.. We’d like the whole story now. All of it.” he said as he handed her the cup.
Taking a long slow drink, she began her explanation. By the time she had finished, the tea was cold in the pot, yet she continued to drink it.
“Why didn’t you tell us in the first place?” Karina asked.
“Several reasons. I hoped that it was over and I could settle back down to being a normal person again. I didn’t want to worry you. Most of all I was afraid you wouldn’t believe me.” Ariel said.
Karina came over and gave her a hug. “Well, I admit it is a bit out of the ordinary, but I don’t believe you to be a liar. We’ll help you.” Marcus nodded in agreement.
“No!” Ariel protested. “You’ve done too much already. And now, because of me, you’re in danger. I must leave. Maybe I could go to Baranur. Find a job there. Maybe they’ll leave me alone then.”
Marcus spoke up for the first time since he initially came into the room. “Ariel, you heard what the priest said. You’re special in some way. They won’t leave you alone…ever. You’re going to have to fight them, one way or another. At least let us give you what help we can. Camron might be able to get some information on this other cult. And we can go to one of the fortune tellers on the dock and see if they have any guidance for us. I hear Corambis recently returned. He’s the best they say.” He was in his fatherly tone. Caring, but firm. She knew better then to go against him. “And we’ll get that young man who walked you home to stay with you all the time. We’ll work this out.” He gave her a hug, saying “Now you go to bed. You’re exhausted. I’ll go talk to Camron first thing in the morning so he doesn’t worry and can get things moving.”
“OK,” she said, “you’re right. I do need some sleep.” She quickly crawled under the covers as Karina came over, gave her another hug and tucked her in. “Good Night” she said as they closed the door.
She waited until after she knew they were in bed and asleep before getting up. It took Ariel less then 5 minutes to pack her few belongings and quietly walk down the stairs. In the kitchen, she took a loaf of bread, some cheese, and a wine skin, and added it to her pack. Then she left a quick note on the table for them.
I’m sorry, but I can’t stay here. My presence puts you
in danger, and I care too much for you to do that. I am
going to find myself somewhere to live where I won’t be
hurting anyone. You can reach me at Camron’s, as I still
have to work for at least the next couple of days. Thank you
Folding the note and placing it where she knew it would be seen, she took one last fond glance around the kitchen before walking out into the night and off to find somewhere to stay.
Marcus shook his head as the door closed, swore under his breath, and followed her out the door into the night air.
He wasn’t the only one.