RP:A Light In The Darkness
Part of the Do You Believe In Magic? Arc
Summary:Dominic returns to Xalious in hopes of some sort of clue to Khitti's disappearance and, for once, luck is on his side and he's gifted with help. Now he must decide to what to do with the information he was given.
It was a relatively normal day in Xalious' village. For once, the day had been mostly uneventful. It seemed as though whom or what had been stealing mages might've decided to pass up the little town for today. Despite the somewhat late hours of the evening, people were gathered in various groups, chatting amongst themselves, whether it be of every day things or the disappearances. It was calm and children were playing about around the well, taking care not to fall in, though not entirely -too- careful, of course. It seemed everyone was taking advantage in the lack of a new mage-napping, even celebrating somewhat. One would think that the majority cared more about their food and drink at the moment than aiding in the search for the missing magic-users, lest they too become taken.
Dominic approached the village at a languid pace, every step carrying the full weight of the last few days -- the anxiety, the sleeplessness, the burgeoning despair. He wouldn’t have noticed or cared that there hadn’t been a new mage-napping; good for them, sure, but what did it matter to him? The one person who was truly important to him was already gone, and none of his efforts to find her had borne any fruit. He was starting to lose hope, but he went back to Xalious for another sweep anyway -- it wasn’t like he could think of anything else better to do. Someone must have seen -something-, he kept telling himself. He just had to find that person. He just needed a lead. Any lead. And he was still holding out some smidgen of hope that he’d find one.
A little girl sat on the edge of the well, just a tiny thing, likely no older than seven or eight. She kicked her feet idly, admiring a piece of jewelry that hung loosely from her wrist. That sole thing that kept the child calm, collected, and happy as she hummed to herself was something that would be ever so familiar to Dominic. It just so happened to be the seashell bracelet he gave to Khitti. Nearby on the ground, a strange pile of crumpled up letters sat beneath the blonde child's ever swaying legs, blowing slightly in the breeze that passed by the village. The bracelet, alas, didn't fit the girl, and so after a pouty face and a 'hmph', she made do and fixed it to the ribbon on her long braid instead. The seashells sparkled in the dim light of the evening, a soft tinkling sound accompanying the breeze as the bracelet was allowed to hang from her hair, the girl immediately pleased with her idea.
Dominic caught that sparkle in his peripheral and ventured closer to the girl, warily, trying his damnedest not to spook her. Oh, he recognized that bracelet all right. How could he not? He’d spent what felt like forever and an age picking it out, finding the money for it, planning the right moment to gift it… and here it was on some tiny child who had no idea what any of it meant. Brand bust through the barrier of Dominic’s brain with an intrusive thought -- what easier way to get it back than to scare the girl into giving it up (preferably with fire)? But… no, Brand, you clearly don’t know how to handle children. Not that Dominic knew much better, but, well, he could try. He waved a nervous greeting to the girl and kneeled at her side so he could be on eye level with her. “P-pardon me, miss. Where did you find that…?” The papers were ignored for now -- they certainly couldn’t be as important as recovering that bracelet.
The little girl blinked up at Dominic, grinning from ear to ear happily, "I found it! Isn't it pretty? This lady was wearing it the other day and I found one just like it up the path! It might be hers, but if she wanted it so badly, she would've come back for it, right? These papers were there too, but I can't really read all that well, so I just drew on them instead." She sways dreamily as she thinks about the woman, clearly getting off onto a tangent as children often do, "The lady was very pretty too. Every time I see her here, though, she always looks so sad. Like she's missing something." The blonde muses quietly on it, albeit briefly, before returning to admire the bracelet, completely forgetting that Dominic was there at all as she talks to herself, "I wonder who gave it to her." A pause. "Oooh! Maybe it was her mommy...or...maybe her true love!"
Dominic winced at the child’s words and set to work picking up the papers while he gathered his thoughts. If they were Khitti’s… maybe he’d be able to find something useful off of them. For the time being, he simply gathered them into the neatest pile he could manage and set them in his lap as he took a seat next to the girl. “Do you… have a name?” he asked, quietly, afraid his voice would crack with emotion if he spoke any louder. “The lady you’re talking about… her name is Khitti. And yes, she’s very pretty.” He struggled through an affected smile, more for the child’s sake than for his own. “I gave it to her. Have you heard anything about the people who have gone missing here…?”
"Khitti?" She giggles and meows a few times, then gasps. "-You- gave it to her?! Are you her true love? Are you going to get married with lots of cake and live happily ever after like in the fairy tales?" That child-like innocence beams brightly as she thinks about her own wedding some day, but she soon grows somber when the missing mages are mentioned. "My friend Dierdre was taken. She's from up in the mountains, but she goes to school here. She makes it snow for me and always asks if I want to build a snowman." The little girl peers down at the bracelet, frowning as she finally takes it off her hair ribbon, and then holds it out to Dominic. "Is Khitti missing too? I guess that could be why she didn't come back for this and the papers." The papers themselves weren't very old, letters in fact that were addressed to Khitti from Pilar. Each one looked as if they'd been read a few different times, perhaps in the down time between search in Sage Forest, Frostmaw, and Xalious.
Well, that was easier than he’d been anticipating. He’d expected to have to steal the thing from the girl. At least -one- thing was going his way. The bracelet was pocketed for safekeeping, even as he stammered at her questions of love and marriage. “I, uh, I don’t know. M-maybe, yes. I hope so. I… don’t know. I-i-if we both survive that long, maybe.” He was blushing something fierce, and had to turn away and feign a series of coughs to give himself time to recover. “But… yes, she’s missing, like the others. I can only hope that she’s alive, that they’re all ali--” Dominic broke off mid-sentence and bit his lip while eyeing the girl. She was just a child, dammit. No need to go doom-and-glooming all over the place. “I mean, I’m sure they’re fine, somewhere, just… not here. But I have to find them. I have to find -her-.” He sighed. “I’ll look for your friend, too. Can you show me the spot where you found all this…? Maybe it will help.”
The little girl idly played with her braid, frowning down at it, "I hope you find them...I miss Dierdre." She sighs softly, then points in the westward direction, "On the path to Craughmoyle. I-I don't know if I can go, though...If Khitti is there, Momma said I can't be around her. She says that Khitti is crazy and talks on and on about dragons. Momma said that she even saw Khitti dancing and singing in the street on the way from the mage tower. There was even this creepy butterfly with her then." Pouting and feeling a little rebellious, she hops off the well's edge and brushes off the dirt. Clearly, she decided to stick it to 'the man' and help Dominic, "Come on. I'll show you. You -have- to save her. You have to rescue her from this dragon she was talking about and give her true love's kiss!" Yes. She was super serious now. Before she turns to head off, she lets out an 'oh!' and juts a tiny hand out towards Dominic in belated greeting, "I'm Lydia, by the way." Well, that's entirely odd. Well, maybe not -entirely- seeing as how the name can be quite common, but it would definitely be familiar to Dominic. Ooooh. ~Spooky~.
Dominic opened his mouth to, perhaps, say something about the closemindedness of the girl’s mother, but she kept talking long enough for him to think better of it. “True love’s kiss, huh?” She was gifted a more genuine smile now, if a weary one. “I don’t know how I’ll fare against a dragon, but I’ll certainly have to try now, won’t I?” He took the girl’s hand and shook it briefly before both hands went into his pockets. “Dominic. Lydia, hmm? That’s… that’s a pretty name.” He wouldn’t mention the familiarity or Khitti’s sister here, instead quietly following alongside his small guide.
Lydia retracted her hand and giggled at Dominic's musing of those kisses that ran rampant through fairy tales, as well as at his compliment. "You guys fought in the war, didn't you? I bet you two beat up those big mean frost giants!" She punches the air and does an odd sort of spin kick. She continued on as they made their way along the ever-darkening path out of the city. If Dominic had paid any sort of attention, he'd have noticed along the way that the crowds had dissipated and children called for to return home. And yet...Lydia was never called for. Lydia, on the other hand, paid no mind. The trees overhead shielded the moon and stars from view for a few moments, the girl calling out to Dominic, seeming to be farther away than she was, "Come on, Dominic! It's this way!" She'd come to a halt once the moonlight shone through again, the redheaded twelve-year-old standing in front of him, waving. Wait. Wasn't she blonde? And...a lot younger? She'd soon disappear again, headed in the direction of the meadow.
"Um, yeah.” Dominic was as sheepish as ever when someone was singing his praises. “W-well, uh, they beat -us- up some, too. But we made it out all right, in the end.” He followed her still, well out of the village, until she stopped and he got a glimpse of her again. He rubbed his eyes -- for a moment, she’d looked to be the spitting image of a younger Khitti. But no. He was seeing things, right? How long had it even been since he’d slept? Gods, he was so exhausted, his brain was probably just making things up.
"And you saved her...You and Brand...and she saved you. Both of you." The girl had disappeared again, darting along through the strip of moonlight that littered the path, giggling every so often. "And after it was all over, you even danced together. Once in the library and once at the fort. I don't think I've ever seen two people so happy." The disembodied voice was older yet again, one that he was intimately acquainted with. Lydia was nowhere to be seen, however, but a strong, ethereal glow came from the far side of the meadow. While otherworldly, it radiated true and was entirely comforting for the weary male.
“I… you… w-what?” Dominic’s poor brain was breaking. It must be. None of this made sense. And still, he trudged forward, towards the light. He couldn’t -not-; his feet carried him of their own accord. “H-how… do you know all of that? How…?” He reached out for the glow, dazed and overwhelmed by it.
Another laugh emits from the direction of the light. "You're about as articulate as she is." The glow dies away as he approaches, leaving nothing but a woman. Well, a woman that looked exactly like Khitti. "I can see why she loves you, though. She cares about both of you very much. Besides Pilar, you two are all she's got. And she needs you now. -Both- of you." With a wave of her hand, the rune stone that Dominic was so attached to lifts out of his right pants pocket and moves to float in front of him. "Come on. Do the thing. You know what I'm talking about. He may not be able to talk, but he can at least come out and look at me when I'm speaking instead of lurking around in that head of yours the entire time." The spitting image of Khitti stood there, arms crossing over her chest. "I don't have much time. Just like you with that rune stone, it takes up a lot of energy to do this, especially for this long." Much like spirits in stories, she was wearing a long flowing white dress, her red hair unimaginably long, but with the knowledge that she died at such a young age, it was likely something she decided on to pacify Dominic and help keep him calm in such a situation.
Recognition finally lit up Dominic’s face. “So… you really are… -that- Lydia?” He was dreaming. He must be, surely. It had been days -- he’d probably even passed out standing up or curled up along the side of the road or something. And it would explain how she knew things that no one but Khitti and him should know. But, well… people had had important things come to them in dreams, hadn’t they? So he’d go along with whatever this… dream-Lydia said. Maybe it would actually prove useful. He reached a hand forward and snatched the runed stone out of the air; Shadow Brand appeared but a moment later, clearly mildly skeptical but, thankfully, silent.
Khitti's mirror shifts her emerald gaze from Dominic to the newly formed Shadow Brand, "What's wrong, kiwi? You seem dubious." She tilts her head, drifting closer towards the older male. "Come now. Did you really think with all of the weird that goes on, especially around Khitti, that this wasn't something that would come to pass? Death finds its way to her more than she realizes. And she's much more like you than you think." A side glance towards Dominic. "She's a necromancer. Or something similar. We've never seen a necromancer with her abilities though, but she hates it. So much so that it created a block in her mind that even she's not able to get rid of, so her magic is very limited. It's a wonder she didn't create her own Brand. But, I guess that's what Amarrah's for." The tangent she was getting off onto was realized, and a wave of her hand given as if to cut herself off. "But, that's a discussion for another time should she ever figure out how to speak to me. And don't either of you go telling her that I've got the power to do this, albeit very little. I'm her...let's call it guardian angel. Sort of." Shaking her head, the spirit sighs as if she were real and takes a step back away from the two, the light that had shone from her, doing so again, bright enough to illuminate the ground beneath their feet. "She's alive." A glance between the both of them, letting that news sink in.
Dominic just… blinked, really. The words wrapped around him but he was having trouble taking them in. Necromancer? A mental block? Guardian angel? His gaze shifted to Brand, whose incredulous expression had only deepened. Gods, ghosts, angels -- they were all balderdash, the creations of desperate, pitiful minds that couldn’t cope with the meaninglessness of it all. But Dominic… he kept staring between the two, teetering on the edge of believing Lydia or remaining convinced he was dreaming. It was those two words at the end of her monolog that stirred him at last, and he gripped the runestone against his chest. “I know.” He didn’t know how he knew, or why -- but Hildegarde had been right. He had the unshakeable sense that he would -know- if Khitti were dead. He’d feel it in his bones. In his heart. In his… soul? He looked back at Brand again, who took the opportunity to roll his eyes.
Lydia looked towards Brand again, tilting her head, "You rolls your eyes, yet I know you must be worried too." She circles the shadow male, eyeing him up and down, "I've seen the way you look at my sister. It's likely because of him..." She motions towards Dominic with her head, her tone stern and serious, like Khitti when she's upset but with more conviction. "But it's there just the same. It doesn't matter how much you want to deny it. You fail to realize that I've always been here. I'm more observant than she is. It's all I have now really. I see those half thoughts of yours, see as they begin to creep out, and then they crawl right back in when you start to doubt yourself. Those moments when you just might, maybe, have some sort of emotion besides anger. Besides rage." She comes to a halt, standing in front of him again. "You're an enigma, Brand, and yet you're skeptical about -me-. Take Khitti to Vailkrin one day...get her to try to resurrect something. Even something so tiny as a mouse. You'll see more than just ghosts come to find her. You'll believe in me then and you'll wish it was me instead of them."
Brand’s jaw clenched and his posture stiffened as he looked to the side, away from Lydia. Even if he -could- speak, there was no good comeback to that, and he knew it. Disbelief or no, he’d stand by and observe -- though not without the typical surly pout that crossed his lips. Dominic watched on, meanwhile, regarding the pair with a sideways glance and the barest hint of amusement that glimmered through his fatigue. If this -wasn’t- a dream, this was proof enough that this spirit was truly related to Khitti -- only she could sass at Brand like that, cutting right into his core and shutting him down so completely. “Lydia,” he called, at last trying to divert their attention from the banter, “How… how do I find her? What do I need to do?”
Lydia could only grin as Brand made no move to overtake Dominic and argue with her. She bats her eyes at him, then shifts her attention back to Khitti's precious human. "I had to make a choice. I could either go with them or bind myself to that bracelet and hope that you find me so I could assist you in some way." A lithe hand reaches out, pointing in the direction of the mountains north of Xalious. "They went in that direction. It may not be the best, but it's better than running around aimlessly as I'm sure you have been." Finally, once her thoughts were back on track, she motions down below their feet. "She was right, also. The books were right. Raiez does wield lightning. I've given you the direction, but there's not much more I can do besides. It's up to you two to figure it out." A pitch black mark resides on the ground, a clear indication that lightning struck there. Even if Dominic didn't know what it was, it was likely that Brand would. "She would've gotten away, but the dragon blinded her and snatched her up in between its claws." A side glance to Brand, "Whereas you are harsh with Dominic, you may need to be so with her occasionally, if only to snap her out of her morose behavior. Even moreso now if you find her. She's never taken defeat well." Lydia frowns deeply, looking towards the ground, "She only ever wanted to do good. She may not have gone about things the right way, but her intentions were always pure of heart."
Dominic looked out into the distance, searching the mountains Lydia had pointed to as if he’d somehow be able to pinpoint Khitti’s location through intuition alone. “It really -was- Raiez…” He stepped forward to examine the charred ground, but it couldn’t tell him anything he didn’t already know. Kneeling, he reached his fingertips to the earth and ran them across the blackened spot. In a way, it was the closest he’d been to Khitti in days. But none of this solved anything, it just confirmed what he’d already known in his heart. As Hildegarde had already pointed out, he couldn’t try to find Raiez at her lair and kill her, because what if Khitti got hurt in the process? Being bait wouldn’t work, because what if they couldn’t find the lair after? And giving up and merely hoping for the best wasn’t an option, so… he saw only one course of action left to him. “I… I know what I must do,” Dominic murmured, his line of sight rising to meet Lydia once more. “It’s not a -good- idea, but it's the least -bad- one. If Raiez is keeping Khitti and the mages alive... I need to be one of them. I can't do anything to help from here.” The idea sounded all the more stupid the instant it left his mouth, but he rose to his feet once more and stood firm, defiant in the face of any backlash. “And even if -I- can’t do anything, I'm sure Brand could help somehow.” The older male shot the younger one a look that was partly scathing and partly grim resignation. Here was Dominic wanting to run recklessly into danger, yet again. Not that Brand truly had a problem with that, but dammit, he liked fights he could -win-.
"Use your head, Dominic. You're smarter than you think. Both of you are. Not everything must be about violence." The spirit wraps her ethereal arms around Dominic in a sisterly-like hug, though he wouldn't really be able to do so back as she was quite incorporeal. A strong feeling of love and comfort would wash over him, seeping through even to Brand in an effort to calm his mind as well. "You can do this. I believe in you." Another sigh. "I'm afraid I must go for now. It will be some time before I can ever do this again without help from the likes of someone like my sister." She takes a moment, contemplating on something before looking towards the mountains that she had directed Dominic towards. "If you do decide to tell her about this, can you do one thing for me?"
As Lydia wrapped around him, the tension in Dominic’s muscles eased somewhat. It wasn’t quite the same without actual physical touch, but... her presence felt oddly warm. It was soothing, but it couldn’t ease his fears entirely. “I -- but I still have so many questions. And… I don’t want to do this alone.” Biting a lip, he peered back over to Brand, who quirked an eyebrow. Pfft, as if Dominic ever did anything alone. C’mon, -really- now. The younger male turned back to Lydia. “What is it you’d have me do?”
Lydia released him, taking a step back, "You're not alone, though, are you?" Her gaze shifts between both of them, another head tilt given, "You two need to work together. You both need to stop being so stubborn." She lets out a faint laugh, "The two of you are like Khitti and I, years ago." A pause, the spirit reflecting on the past before she finally continued. "Tell her...tell my sister..." She seems reluctant about it, perhaps still thinking on whether or not she should actually say it. "Tell Khitti..." A warm smile comes to pass. "I heard every single time she played that song for me. She'll know what one." If Dominic dared to recall, there'd be that memory where he had caught glimpses of times come and gone in Khitti's mind: the music box, practicing the song in the forest, and the subsequent argument that took place the day before their home was turned into a village of the damned. "Whether it was on my violin or someone else's...I heard every note." The smile grows a bit more. "You should have her play it for you one day after all of this is over with." Crimson brows knit together, a side glance spared for the darkness behind her. She almost looked frightened, her familiar form starting to fade from view. What possibly could there be to frighten a ghost? "I must go." Another step back taken, "Don't lose the bracelet, Dominic. Don't lose hope."
Dominic stood at a loss for words, mouth held ajar. Lydia faded and still he stood there, staring at the spot she’d vacated, clenching that runed rock into a fist. Another glance was spared for Brand, who returned the look from the corners of his eyes. “You sure about this, kid?” asked the blonde’s expression (and the ever-present voice in Dominic’s head). “You’re gonna follow the guidance of some sleep-deprived hallucination?” The younger male only dropped the stone into his pocket and turned back for the path to the village; the illusion of Brand slowly dissipated as the distance grew.