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RP:Seeking Asylum

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Summary: The woodland witch, Lanara, is rapidly deteriorating and wreaking havoc across the realm. One night, she's intercepted by a Backstreet Bard, and he does the honorable thing and takes the fall for her crimes, after having her committed into a mental institution. Lana's sister, Talyara, along with Krice, travel faraway to visit with the witch, and discover that after her final heartbreak, it caused her mind to fracture. Having mutiple personalities, without the chance of ever recovering or being released from the facility, it's a hard pill to swallow. Things will never be the same. (NPC's Nick and Janine were written by Lanara.)

Part of the Magic, Madness, and Mayhem Arc


Coming Undone…

Lanara hadn’t been sleeping, and it showed, as there were dark circles lining her eyes. The rare occasions where she did find sleep, had ended in nightmares, with her fists bunched in the sweat soaked sheets. She also hadn’t been eating, as her clothing hung on her form, whereas those that knew the witch knew she often wore things that clung to her curves. It seemed all she had done lately was wallow in self-pity, dwell on things from her past, and commit acts that would have most raising a brow. She was shop lifting, even though she had more than enough gold to fund anything she wished. Rarely, did she bother to show up at the sanctuary, and her own animal companions had been neglected for the past week. Toothpick, the butler, was at his wits end with the witch. He urged her to remain at the gated manor in Cenril, claiming that Elioyahazer would come to his senses and that their love would reignite, but Lana was no fool. She had packed her scant belongings, and taken to living at her brother’s home in Venturil. Scandal was attentive, and the help was friendly, though a few of the maids had gone missing and the witch was the last person to have seen them. Was she capable of murder? Surely, no one would accuse the sweet sister of their employer! Everyone was terrified of the woman, so the area she had claimed had been avoided at all costs. Lanara was reported in various parts of Venturil, at odd hours, doing unexplainable things, and claiming that she was someone else at the time of the incident. One evening she grabbed a city guard, in tears, and claimed that she was being chased by a purple elephant! The guard didn’t believe ‘Patricia’ at the time, and to get even, she had stabbed his horse in the flank and set the police station on fire. Knowing that she didn’t have long before they came to make her answer for her crimes, she fled Scandal’s home without a parting glance, leaving behind all of her belongings. However, she added a new accessory to her look… Bandages on both of her wrists, to clot the deep self-inflicted cuts.

Slowly Unraveling…

Lanara stands before the small barn, enveloped in darkness, save for the lone torch that she holds in her hand. The flickering light bounces off of her high cheekbones, illuminating the door before her, and she grips the handle tentatively, as though she was unsure if she was doing the right thing. “No. I –must- do this… They will grow up to know heartache and suffering. That’s all there is in this sick, cruel world.” Her footfalls are silent, and none of the guards at the sanctuary suspected anything was amiss, as no one would dare accuse the founder of the facility of any wrongdoing. Sure, a few guards had died and the caretaker had been assaulted by witch hunters a few weeks prior, but aside from that incident, this place was a safe haven for people as well as animals. The brunette walks up and down the aisle, saying goodbye to her favorite cow, a few chickens, the newly pregnant sheep, and of course the trio of rabbits in their small hutch. “You will be in a much better place! Wait for me at the rainbow bridge, darlings!” She’s energized now, feeling lighter than she has in months, as she drops the torch on a bale of hay and sprints towards the exit. Within moments, the entire barn is engulfed in flames, and as Venin, the guards, and a few volunteers come to help, they know it’s futile. Lanara, the animal empath, the founder of this sanctuary, had just burned a barn filled with those she rescued and swore to protect. All of their heads turn to peer at Lana, who is eerily watching the flames rise higher, with a wicked grin on her fair face. She’s hauntingly beautiful, and there’s a darkness in those chocolate hues that none had witnessed before, as she locks eyes with Venin and giggles, “What are you looking at?!”

Completely Unhinged…

Lanara picks the lock and slips through the door, being as silent as possible, and inspecting her surroundings. The orphans were sleeping at this hour, and the only light was from the glow of the full moon that filtered through the windows. She had come with a purpose, and she wouldn’t leave until this task had reached fruition. The ‘voices’ wouldn’t go away, but they promised her that they would give her a rest, once this deadly deed was done. The first door on the left is studied, and it’s one that she knows well, as she used to visit here every week with Largakh. She gave the orphans dance lessons, and one little girl had been her absolute favorite. Selina. “She should be the first…” A nod is given, as Lana agrees with her own line of thinking, and she enters the room. Moments later, she exits, a bloody dagger held in her hand, and a faint smile on her sangria stained lips. “One down… Eleven more orphans to die…” As the twelfth orphan is slaughtered in his bed, she ruffles his hair, and presses a chaste kiss to his forehead. “Sweet dreams. I saved you from a lifetime of pain.” Lana steps back into the hall, prepared to exit the orphanage, when a blood curdling scream pierces her tapered ears. Minnie, the woman that patrolled the halls each night and checked on little ones that may need a hug or drink of water, had stepped into one of the rooms and saw the massacre that the witch had left in her wake. She screams continuously, alerting the rest of those in the building to wake up and get the city guard. Lana inches back into the room of the boy she had just slaughtered, fear gripping her heart, as she opens the window that leads to a back alley in Gualon. She had to get away, or she’d be hung for her crimes. A pair of hands grips her by the wrist, and she’s pulled into Nick’s strong arms, where he cradles the woman as though she were a baby. Lanara looks up at the bard, grateful that he’d come to her rescue, before she dissolves into heart wrenching sobs. The male whisks his lady off into the night, saving her from the fate that she surely deserved.

Facing The Aftermath…

Nicolai Carter, the lead singer of the Backstreet Bards, enters the city of Frostmaw wearing nothing more than a scowl, and a fur-lined parka. He loathed this frozen wasteland, and preferred to be basking in the sun, drinking a margarita, and working on tanning his desirable body. However, he was a man that followed his heart, and it had led him threw a blizzard to an isolated cottage near a berry garden. Was Lanara correct? Could Talyara live all the way out here? He scratches his chin, already sprouting a five o’clock shadow, even though he shaved a couple of hours ago. No one ever truly complained about him being cursed with lycanthropy, as he rarely made any trouble, and the women were all captivated by his boyish good looks and singsong voice. The crooner clears his throat and knocks on the door, keeping an eye on his surroundings, as he knew the sister’s had just endured being captured and tortured by witch killers. Nick was always on high alert, at least ever since Lanara had entered the picture. Some would say he was infatuated with the woman’s beauty, others claimed he harbored a crush because of her animal empathy, but his fellow band members knew that he was head over heels in love with Lana. His feelings were true, as was his reason for being in this snowy city, as he couldn’t allow his beloved to suffer any longer. Piercing blue eyes lock on the form of the tiny witch that opens the door, and he feigns a small smile, “Morning, Taly. I need to speak with you… It’s regarding Lana. She’s in trouble and I don’t know who else to turn to, so I really need to talk to you, privately. I don’t mean you any harm, I’m just concerned…” He’s trembling, and it’s unknown if it’s from his worry of the elder sister, or his lack of protection from the cold. Whatever the reason, he shivers on Taly’s front porch, waiting to be invited inside so he can explain what happened two nights ago, and the fate that awaited Lanara.

///

Talyara needed to remain at the healing center after Lanara had been released. While the elder sister's leg injury was more severe than the ones Taly sustained, apparently Galath had used some magic behind his branding. Despite being stitched, wrapped, and magicked, the letters W-I-T-C-H carved in Taly's forearm would randomly reopen and seep through the bandaging. It had taken a while but the healers finally concocted a potion that was keeping the bleeding at bay and the little witch was finally released. Assuming Lana had gone to Cenril to be with Elioyahazer, the younger witch asked Krice to take her back to her small cottage in Frostmaw. She still barely resembled herself, with all the bruising and swelling in her face. Apparently, the final kick Galath had administered broke her nose, and the one before that had broken a few more ribs. Truthfully, Taly was terrified to go back there, it was the place she had been abducted and beaten into unconsciousness; however, the witch was determined to get back to some semblance of normalcy and she thought that if she tried to go back to her previous life as if nothing had happened, everything would go away and the nightmares would cease. Krice had barely left Taly's side since rescuing her and Lana from the witch hunter's encampment and it's to him that she turns to and clutches at when she hears the knock at the door. Almost no one came to visit her this far north (aside from the warrior) unless previously invited and her heart rate kicks up a notch. Immediately, she is taken back to that fateful night when a girl showed up at her house to deliver a message about trouble at the orphanage. Had that been real? Or was it something orchestrated by the witch hunters in an attempt to draw her out of the warded cottage? Taly hadn't thought about that until this very moment. She considers ignoring the knock or at the very least asking the enigmatic swordsman to do it for her; however, Taylor moves towards the front door, arches her back, and rubs against it. This seems to spur Taly into action for if the shapeshifting feline sensed danger she would be hissing or transforming, not rubbing against it affectionately. Talyara carefully creeps towards the door and opens just enough to peer out with a single emerald eye. She is beyond surprised to see Nick, the Backstreet Bard, standing outside of her home. She knew who he was, of course, but she knew the blond haired werewolf only had eyes for her sister. Talyara pulls the door open more completely and quickly invites him inside before snapping it shut and locking it back up again, sliding a newly added chain into place. "What's wrong?" she asks with a frown and without preamble. The normally generous hostess does not offer Nick a seat nor a warm drink. Instead, she unconsciously rubs her hand along the rune tattoo on the inside of her wrist as if that could give her some information. "Is she okay? Was she captured again? What happened?! Where is she?!" Talyara's voice continues to raise in octaves with each question and there is a hint of hysteria in her tone. Already she is moving about the room, tugging on boots and pulling an oversized sweater over her head, intent on running to Lanara's rescue wherever she might be.

///

Krice had dedicated his every waking moment to taking care of Talyara. From his constant vigil at her bedside in the Cenril clinic, to her return to the little cottage in Frostmaw, he kept her safe and supported and never stepped further than three meters from her side; he had been late to arrive to her kidnapping, and though at times in the battle he had come within three meters of her, being outnumbered twelve-to-one and being unable to combat magic cloaking ensured his failure to protect her. Never again. When she slept, he remained in the room and watched the world outside, keeping his ears and eyes attuned to their surroundings. Like this, he could protect the witch from further danger, poised in his usual attire - boots included - to react to any threats that so much as lurked at the perimeter.

He did everything he could to expedite Talyara's recovery, from the simplest task of changing the linens on her bed, to the tougher task of getting her to drink anything, to eat--one forkful for her, two for him; if she didn't eat, then he didn't. His mind drifted more than once to thoughts of her sister, touched by the want to check on Lanara and make sure that she was healing as well as she could, but he wanted less to leave Talyara for any reason, even for her sibling. Having no knowledge of Lanara's failed relationship with Elioyahazer, Krice ignorantly assumed that she would have supportive people around her and as such, she didn't need him. Talyara did need him, so with Talyara he stayed.

When a knock came at the door, his mind had already diverted to the front of the cottage, listening for signs of the 'something' that drew his gaze there mere moments earlier. Folding his left arm around Talyara's shoulders, Krice drew her against his strong frame to protect her when she curled into him, his focus locked on the door. Taylor's apparently affectionate greeting of the person on the other side, coupled with the witch's subsequent approach of the door, told the warrior that it was someone more trustworthy than witch hunters beyond the barrier. He stepped ahead of his companion to pull open the door once the lock was released, obscuring sight of her until he was certain it was safe to reveal her.


A Backstreet Brat greeted them. Though their music was annoying, they were inherently leaps and bounds safer than any hunter that could have knocked. As such, Krice shelved his predatory murder-mindset and let the other male inside upon Talyara's invitation, unmolested with all limbs intact. Nick stank as much as any other lycan the warrior had come across, but it was a fleeting, trivial thought that dissipated the moment he announced the reason for his visit.


A few conflicting thoughts passed through Krice's mind, but it was Talyara's distress for her sister that focused him anew. He followed the witch, leaving Nick somewhere near the door, and touched the space between her shoulder blades when she stooped to retrieve her boots - an attempt to soothe. "Move carefully," he reminded her, his voice low and gentle. She was still healing, herself. "We'll go together." He spoke quickly enough that the Backstreet canine would be able to answer the woman's concerns quickly without interruption.

///

Nick is relieved when he’s allowed entrance as the frigid climate was unwelcome in his bones. Sure, he had the blood of a wolf and could handle the cold with ease, though below zero temperatures in Frostmaw were a force to be reckoned with, and he avoided the northern region as much as possible. The fearfulness in Talyara’s expression has him frowning, as he assumes she’s recalling the moment when that wheelchair bound heathen had drugged them, and his band brother had left the two women on the side of the road, thinking they had died. It wasn’t one of his finest moments, and he hopes that this will make up for that terrible deed a year ago. The witch is moving around the cottage, pulling on boots and asking a million questions a minute and his blue gaze trails her every motion. Lanara had sleek locks, brown eyes, and was a few inches taller, whereas Taly had curly hair, vivid green eyes, and had a more childish figure. “Lana is safe… For now… But there is much that I must tell you, before we leave… Please, sit down.”


A warning glare is given to Krice, a male that he never had the pleasure of meeting, as Nick puffs out his chest and tries his best attempt at appearing macho. He has the physique, and in his wolf form he was rather menacing, but shivering in the doorway with snow dripping from his coat, he looks like a shy schoolboy curling his upper lip. Could this silver haired man be trusted? The information he has could very well mean death for Lana, and it would incriminate them all, as they’d be accomplices in this matter. Nick quirks a brow at Krice, not bothering to extend a hand in greeting, though his expression softens when he sees how caring the enigma is with Taly. Was he the man that had rescued the witches? Were Krice and Taly a couple? He forms a silent opinion on the matter and lowers himself onto a sofa, where his hand would gently pat Taylor atop her velvety head. “I need you both to understand the severity of my next words…” He pauses for effect, and to make sure they truly were on the same page. “Anything that is said in this room remains in this room, between the three of us, until the day we perish. If even a word is uttered to another, no matter how trustworthy you think they are… It will be instant death for Taly and Lana…” He locks eyes with Krice, not finishing his statement. Nick would hunt him down and kill him as well, if any harm came to his precious animal empath.


Once Talyara and Krice give their promise to keep silent on the matter, the bard sighs heavily, only now revealing how exhausted he was from a mixture of stress, physical exertion, and the lack of sleep. Keeping a watchful eye on Lana was a daunting task, though he’d offer no complaint. “Lanara is no longer… Lanara.” He glances at the floor, his fingers idly scratching Taylor behind her ears, “There are still pieces of Lana in there, but they rarely come out to play. You see… She’s sick. Very, very sick, and the doctors say there isn’t a cure. It’s an illness in the brain. She’s been committed to a psychiatric hospital far from the lands, and she’s receiving the best care. She will be safe there, for the rest of her life. It’s not safe for Lana to be on her own, or even in public. She’s a danger to herself and to others… A great danger. They say she has multiple personalities, that she is homicidal and suicidal, and that there aren’t any other options.” Nick lifts his head to gaze upon Taly, “After the kidnapping, the injuries that made it so she’ll never dance again, the trauma from her youth, daddy issues, and the break up with Eli… Lana’s brain went haywire and her sanity shattered beyond repair. She lived with Scandal for a few days, but things and people, began to go missing. A guard tried to question her, and she stabbed his horse and burned down the station. After that, she headed to the sanctuary and set fire to the barn, with the animals still inside. The staff witnessed her actions… Venin, the mean one, confided in me about all of this, and so I followed your sister… Lana ended up in Gualon, at the orphanage… She broke in, killed a dozen children in cold blood, and… -I- helped her escape.”


The room is so silent once could hear a pin drop, as Nick clears his throat, with tears welling in his eyes. “Lana broke down that night… Claimed the ‘voices’ made her do it, and I took her to my place. I watched over her as she slept, thinking about how to cover up all of the crimes… She woke up, claimed her name was Madigan, and tried to lure me into…” His cheeks flush. “Anyways… Once she snapped out of it, I coaxed her into running away with me. I led her to the Wellness Clinic in Corlonia, which is managed by my mother. She’s admitted under the name of Maddie Clermont, which happens to be one of her nine personalities… Just in case anyone goes looking for Lana.” The bard stops petting Taylor and folds his hands, glancing at both Krice and Taly, “If anyone finds out that Lanara is to blame for any of this, she will be hung or burned at the stake. With the way witches are treated these days, they will next hunt down Taly, followed by anyone that was connected to Lana.” The words would sting, and they’d realize that Lana couldn’t be on the lam for the rest of her days. “So… I have a plan… My younger brother, Alven, has been leading them off of the trail they were investigating. He’s leaving clues all over Venturil, Gualon, Sage, and heading towards Rynvale. He’s stealing, breaking into places, and causing bar fights. Minimal, compared to murdering animals and children, but, it will hopefully distract the guards and by me some time will Lana gets situated at the asylum. Until… I turn –myself- in… I know the city guards in all the realm. I’m a celebrity, and I have the gold to buy off anyone that can’t be swayed morally. If I’m lucky, I’ll only do a few weeks in prison, as it’s my first offense.” Nick was being noble, taking the heat for the damage that Lanara wrought all over Lithrydel. Not that she was in the right mindset, but still, the cities wouldn’t think twice before killing a witch, no matter how ill she may have been at the time of the crime. “So, the reason I’m here, is so that I can show you how to get to the place. So you can visit with Lana, while I’m away. I don’t want her to think she’s alone in this world.”

///

Talyara's swift movements in an attempt to ready herself for immediate departure are somewhat slowed by her still healing injuries. The quickness in which she had leaned down to grab her boots made the room spin, the haphazard way she pulled the sweater over her head caused a sharp pain in her ribs. Krice's gentle touch to her back and his quiet reminder to move slowly sobered her somewhat, although there was still evident anxiety in emerald eyes, which seemed darker than usual. Krice's vigilance over her was needed and just as he had predicted, getting her to eat and drink was a chore. Even with their "game" of one bite for her, two bites for him, it was lucky if Taly ate one meager meal a day.


Nick's comment about Lanara being safe, for now, is met with mixed emotions. The safe part was obviously comforting to the little witch; however, the 'for now' seemed foreboding and only added to her growing anxiety. As the Backstreet Bard invites her to sit in her own home, she obliges, taking a seat on the edge of the oversized armchair across from the werewolf and wringing her hangs nervously in her lap. Nick's insistence that this conversation remain between the three of them is met with a sideways glance to Krice. Talyara trusted him with her life (quite literally) and loved him with her whole heart--but she would understand if he wanted no part of this. He wasn't obligated to hold a secret for her sister. "I won't be mad," she says quietly, her voice cracking slightly. "If you'd prefer not to stay and listen..." Taly trails off, unable to complete her thought. Eventually, she turns her eyes back to Nick and gives a subtle dip of her chin, encouraging him to continue with what he has to say.


Whatever she was suspecting Nick to say, it wasn't this. She knew that her sister, on occasion, had questionable morals when it came to the lives of others, but often her malice was geared towards less than savory individuals. Attacking a guard and burning down a station, harming Scandal's staff, burning down the barn at the sanctuary with animals still inside, slaughtering children in the orphanage--none of these sounded like the beautiful witch. With each confession as to Lanara's crimes, Talyara pales, her chest barely moving with breath. Lana had experienced horrors in her past, more so than most people in their entire lifetimes. But this revelation about Elioyahazer and her splitting was news to her! Hadn't they recently picked out Lanara's wedding dress?! Had he abandoned her after their kidnapping? A surge of anger runs through Talyara and when she balls her hands into fists she realizes she's trembling.


As Nick explains further about where Lanara is, her complete psychosis, and the plan for him to take the blame for the heinous crimes, Taly wants to say something. She wants to tell the lycan that he doesn't need to do this, to take the blame. That they can figure out some other way. But he's right, being a witch in these troublesome times is difficult enough and the arson and slaughtering of innocents, while only committed under a mental break, would play directly into Cramer's ideologies and would put even more innocent people in harm's way. So the little witch simply sits there and stares at Nick for several minutes before eventually nodding and moving to stand. She walks around the cottage as if in a nightmare, clumsily attempting to lace up her boots, pulling on a cloak and doing up the buttons wrong, grabbing two different colored gloves. Still, she says nothing even as the trio leave the cottage, locking up behind them, and heading east out of the garden and south toward's Frostmaw's exit. Nick doesn't seem to push conversation on the witch and it isn't until they are halfway down the mountain that he begins telling them of a shortcut through the mountains that will get them to the facility much quicker, within a day instead of three.

///

Krice gave Nick - for all his peacocking - a deadpan stare that told of his complete lack of effectiveness; the warrior wasn't intimidated, or impressed, or remotely interested enough to even ask what the hell he was doing. Given his lack of animosity, the Backstreet Brat could assume that Krice knew nothing of his little incident with the sisters on the 'side of the road'; needless to say, he wouldn't be sitting comfortably in the warm cottage. Krice's attention drifted to follow the lycan as he moved through the home, watching him take a seat as he followed Talyara who did the same. The enigma stood at his companion's side, no space between himself and the furniture, and fixed his attention anew on Nick. " I'm with you always," he promised to the witch, his left hand relaxed between them but ready to take hold should she require his support.


'Sudden death for Taly and Lana'... That didn't sit well with the warrior, who bit back with a quiet but sharp, "No one will ever hurt her again." It was a promise by which he would die; if he had to, he'd slaughter the world to keep it.


Talyara's first experience with Krice had been on the edge of Kelay Way, a passing glance shared between the strangers before someone stepped in to assist the witch in a small mishap. She had known him to be stoic, at least toward strangers, emotionally disciplined as he was skilled in combat. Through the years, the strengthening of their friendship had allowed him to find a sense of ease in Talyara's company, and their journey as partners - though still new - had further enabled the warrior to share himself with the witch. Right now, however, he was back to that rigid, guarded man as Nick told the tale of Lanara's psychologically-fractured misdeeds.


It was a lot of information for anyone to digest, perhaps least likely a warrior who had seen and heard it all, and who had done his fair share of killing--granted, not innocents. But even -for- a warrior such as Krice, the details of Lanara's mental break and the consequences surrounding it were... difficult to grasp. The slightest furrow twitched the inside of his left brow down, adding a bit of depth to an otherwise unreadable expression. Talyara would be able to tell that his energy, though calm, was thick with tension and uncertainty. How was he supposed to feel about his partner's 'shining example' of a sister killing orphaned kids? Moreover, how was he supposed to accept that Lanara's mental break, whilst not her fault, could potentially put Talyara in even more danger than she already was as a witch?


While it was Talyara's desire to tell the lycan that his sense of responsibility was completely unnecessary and not actually -his- to feel, Krice harbored no such interest. Instead, his focus turned toward Talyara herself whilst she inevitably struggled - on a much more personal level - with the information of her sister's extreme suffering. Hadn't the girls been through enough? Krice tilted his head down to observe the green-eyed brunette, watching as she stood, and he moved from the chair to follow her carefully through the house. When she struggled to tie the laces of her boots, he reassured her with a touch and crouched to do them for her. When her coat sat awkwardly around her body, he quietly adjusted the buttons so they were looped correctly, letting the garment fall as it should. The gloves-at-odds weren't going to cause her discomfort so he left them colour-mismatched.


With his katana strapped to his back, against the fabric of his button-down, Krice moved no more than a meter from Talyara to exit the cabin, ever watchful as she trudged through the snow, and ever -helpful- if she began to struggle. A black cotton shirt and slacks - and boots - would have been entirely inadequate winter-attire for anyone else, but Krice ventured through the frost with barely a shiver. At any rate, Lanara's dark turn set a chill in his bones far more deeply than Frostmaw's western wilds ever did.

///

Nicolai rises from the sofa as Krice assists Talyara in dressing herself, his expression somber, as he diverts his gaze to afford them privacy. Most assumed that because he was a celebrity that he wasn’t the brightest of bards, yet he had attended the most prestigious academies and his parents were renowned physicians. Of course they disproved of his profession, but Nick had earned his fame and glory the hard way, without their consent or financial backing, and without the protection of his pack. “I assure you that I only want what’s best for Lanara… I love her with more than my heart. She’s a part of my soul… If she was a wolf, we’d imprint, I’m sure of it. And even if she’s not all there in her mind, if she spends the rest of her life in a padded room, I don’t care. Lana is it for me… I choose her as my mate for life. Even if we never share pleasures of the flesh, go on dates, or live a normal life. I’m not doing this out of sympathy, or obligation. I’m helping your sister because she’s a good person, I love her, and even though she committed horrible acts, it wasn’t really her doing. Her mind is tainted, that’s all. It doesn’t negate the Lana that we once knew…” He hopes his speech reaches those slightly tapered ears, as he doesn’t want the younger witch to fear her sister, or for Krice to judge Lana unfairly. Before she ‘broke’ she was an entirely different person, one that everyone admired and adored.


The journey would be hard for Talyara to recall, as there’s a lot on her mind, and they are making so many twists and turns, through mountain passes, across streams, and down back alleys, before they –finally- board a raft that brings them towards the isolated island. They travel in silence most of the way, though Nick assures them that he will ‘draw a map’ so they don’t get lost if they visit Lana in the future. Once the institution comes into view, they’d see that it’s state of the art, that no corners were cut in the construction, and that it’s rather welcoming to visitors. A garden sits to the front, and a fenced in area at the rear has various activity areas for the patients that are allowed visitors and time to themselves. As they approach the set of double doors, they are greeted by a pair of guards that briefly frisks them, holding onto any weapons for safe keeping. It wouldn’t do to bring any sharp objects near those that were all too eager to use them! The interior of the hospital is sterile, with a skilled staff that greets visitors with a warm smile, and there’s a map that shows the four floors, all with varying degrees of mental health. Nick motions to the map, “The first floor is for the elderly that suffer from forgetfulness and the pediatric unit for those that are beginning a life with some learning disabilities, the second floor is where all the therapy occurs… Be it physical for the body, mental for the mind, or occupational for those that will be released soon. It’s also where the dining area, gym, bathing units, staff lounge, and conference room reside. The third floor is divided… The left side are the patients that are in recovery or close to recovering, almost ready to be released, or those with minor to moderate mental issues. The right side is where the difficult patients are… Those that are ‘lifers’ or those that the doctors feel will be kept there for more than two years, with a small chance of being moved to the left side. The fourth floor… That’s where Lana is living, and there’s only two other patients on that floor… Each has their own room, heavily guarded on the interior and the exterior. They have their own bathing unit; take meals by themselves, and wear a tracking device at all times. It’s rare, but they can earn privileges with good behavior, and even a day pass, where all liability would be waived against the hospital, of course. They are to remain here for the rest of their life, and have little grasp on reality, and have committed acts that would normally cause them to be put to death or imprisoned for life. Lanara’s room had to be altered, as she can wield magic… So her room has a special padding on the rear wall which silences her magic, and whenever she’s moved to the bathing unit, she has to wear a special ward on her wrist. Their rooms don’t have any windows, if someone wishes to visit they must alert the staff forty-eight hours in advance so the patients can be somewhat sedated, and they can only hear little about the outside world. There’s a reason they are in isolation.” Nick lofts a brow as an attractive woman in a white jacket approaches the trio, and he uneasily shifts his weight, “This is my mother… Dr. Janine Carter. She’ll take you to Lana… I, sadly, have to be on my way… I already said my goodbyes to Lana, but she knows I’ll return, soon.”


Janine gives Nick a once over, clucking her tongue and shaking her head, exuding the behavior of a mama bear, as she sighs, heavily. “I take it this is Maddie’s sibling? Run along, Nick. Send Alven my love.” Clearly, she doesn’t approve of her son taking the fall for the murderous witch, but it was his choice to make. “He’s almost four hundred years old, and he’s –never- brought a woman home to meet his mother and father… Imagine my surprise when he brought home one that isn’t our kind, wanted for multiple homicides, and moves into my workplace.” Janine shakes her head again, and fixes a smile on her face as she extends a hand to both Taly and Krice, to make their acquaintance. “Call me Janine. I’m Maddie’s primary physician, and I oversee the patients on the fourth floor. Before I bring you to see your sister, there are a few things we must go over… We can talk along the way.” She shakes their hands and leads them to the stairwell, walking slowly as though she can sense Taly’s pain with movement, “Now that we’re out of earshot, I can speak more freely. You both know Maddie as Lanara, which is her given name. However… Lana has eight others living in her mind, and listing her on the database as ‘Lana’ would raise some red flags given her crimes. Maddie is the personality that she adopts most often… She’s a posh lady, with a sense for fashion, and she’s very opinionated, so we chose that name. There are others that will appear at any given time, though the only one you need to worry about is Trina… She is the ‘angry’ girl that tends to lash out and harm others… Also, Talyara, if you are visiting that is well and fine, however if you bring a guest, we will need to authorize it, beforehand. Any changes can send Maddie into overdrive, and she’s fearful of men, given her past. Today we will make an exception, of course, as you two have come all this way.” A pause is given, as they head up the final staircase, leading to the fourth floor, “Maddie has been diagnosed with multiple disorders… She’s a medical anomaly… She has several personalities, unusual tendencies, self-harm, murder, depression, compulsions, triggers, the list goes on. It will take us some time to even design a treatment plan that fits all of her needs, but there is one thing that I must make you understand…” They stand before two burly guards, as Janine readies the key to unlock the door to Lana’s room, “Your sister will live here for the rest of her days. She will –never- be cured. So, it’s imperative that you do –not- mention her getting better or leaving this facility. This is her home, now, and she needs to accept that. You also cannot make any promises… Do not say you will visit her next week. You have to carefully word things… Say, for instance, you will –try- to come and visit her as often as you can, something that alludes to that. You can’t always be sure which piece of Lana you are talking to, and the others inside tend to twist things or grow upset when a promise isn’t fulfilled. Avoid talking about anything deeply upsetting on the outside, do not mention the orphanage or the sanctuary, and although she’s tired from the medication, she’s very much awake. Neither of you should get too close… If you must touch her, maybe a brief pat on the hand. She’s already put three of my aides in the emergency room.” The key turns in the lock and Krice and Taly are ushered inside, while Janine closes the door behind them and peers through the small grate, “When you wish to leave, knock on the door and the guards will let you out.”


Lanara’s room is rather bare, with only a small bed, a tiny dresser, and a trio of sturdy chairs for visitors. The witch sits in the middle chair, shackled around the waist, so that she cannot rise or free herself from her seat. The aide that is attending the woman at this time wears a faint smile and greets them with a nod of her head, “You’re in luck. She’s ‘Lana’ right now… Maddie stepped out for a moment.” This was going to be confusing if the personalities could come and go as they pleased, and Lana looks exhausted, with dark circles rimming her eyes. They had cut her hair too, as she’s now sporting a sleek chin-length bob and some wispy bangs that brush against her eyebrows. She looks younger, thinner, and there’s a sweet sadness in her dark gaze that wasn’t there before. Lana cants her head to the side, locking eyes with Taly, her fingers scratching idly at the rune tattoo on her wrist as it begins to pulse. “Sister… I’m so sorry. I love you… I didn’t mean to do those bad things…” The words hang in the air, as tears sting her eyes, before she looks at Krice, “Look after her while I’m in here… Love her, cherish every moment you two-“ Suddenly, the voice shifts to one with an air of authority, the expression grows bored, and they’d now be in the room with another of Lana’s personalities. “I really wish they’d paint this place! It looks so drab, it lacks professionalism, and the atmosphere is filled with depression! Perhaps a lovely shade of lavender, or maybe a deep magenta? What say you, love?” Her gaze towards Taly is fleeting, before she points to Krice, “You there! Custodian! Where are your paint supplies? You’ll need a roller, a brush, a bucket of primer… Perhaps a ladder, though you are rather tall.” The aide explains, “Everyone… This is Maddie… When the ‘other’ gets too emotional, the business savvy one appears…” Lanara rolls her eyes, “Maid. Go and fetch me some tea with lemon. And some crumpets for my guests.” The request is denied, as Lana isn’t allowed hot beverages, or solid foods, just yet, as she’s prone to scalding the help and trying to deliberately choke on her meal. And so, ‘Pearl’ the infantile personality comes out, and she begins to thrash wildly and throw a temper tantrum. Her screams pierce the room, and Janine appears outside the grate, speaking hurriedly, “Talyara, please hurry along… Trina will be the next to surface, based on the pattern, and you do –not- want to be in there when she’s awake. You have five more minutes left in your visit. I’m sorry.” Next time, they’d be more prepared, and Lana would hopefully have a better handle on her mind.

///

Talyara wasn't sure why she didn't reach out to grasp Krice's hand for comfort when Nicolai recounted the tales of Lanara's misdeeds. She's sure it would have helped, made her feel less alone in her feelings, anchored her to the reality instead of the spiraling stories that were firing off in her mind. But for the moment, Taly's feelings were her own and she -wanted- to feel them, wanted to embrace the pain and guilt she felt at her older sister's suffering. She was sure there would be those kind enough to assure her she couldn't, shouldn't take the blame for something like this. But it couldn't be helped and for now she allows those feelings to fester inside her. Krice's touch as she struggles with her boots stills her trembling hands and she gives him a slight nod of thanks when he adjusts the buttons of her coat, but says nothing more.


It seems as if Talyara is intent on remaining silent for the entire duration of the journey. She is barely looking at the terrain as they walk, taking no mental notes of the path they are walking. Occasionally she has to reach out and grab hold of Krice when she loses her footing, but aside from that she is nearly as stoic as the warrior. Nick's words upon their departure of the cottage, echo around her brain, fighting for priority amongst her conflicting emotions. Suddenly, Talyara stops walking and turns to face the bard head on. "I appreciate what you're doing for my sister, Nicolai, and I will not even argue or doubt your feelings for her. But do not patronize me and act like you know what I'm feeling. Lanara is my -sister-. You have loved her for a mere -fraction- of the time I have. And no amount of sickness or misdeeds can make me love her any less. I do not -fear- her." With that said, Taly dismisses any further conversation by turning on her heel and pressing forward once more. No other words are spoken until they reach the asylum.


The witch is relieved to see that the facility is pristine, even though she didn't expect any less. If Nick loved Lana, and she had little doubt that he didn't, he would spare no expense towards her treatment. She is rather surprised, however, at how welcoming it seems to be for visitors. In truth, she was worried that it would remind her of the cell the sisters were chained up in upon their capture, and she is thankful that it is instead bright and patient centric. The little witch doesn't worry about being frisked, as she never really carries weapons on her person. She pads after Nick, her emerald eyes glancing over the map as he explains each section of the hospital and its purpose. The reality of Lanara's living situation makes her feel uncomfortable and with Krice's keen senses he might be able to feel her heartbeat begin to quicken along with her breathing. Taly's hands ball into fists and her nails press so hard into her palm that she causes little indents in her flesh. When Nick introduces his mother, Lana's doctor, before turning to take his leave, Talyara calls out to him. "Hey Nick? Thanks." Despite the bit of tension on the way through the mountains, she had to appreciate the great lengths he had gone to, to protect her sister.


Taly turns her attention back to Dr. Carter, a scowl tugging at the corners of her lips as she speaks of Lanara's crimes--something about her tone bothers the witch's intuition. She might be a great doctor, but Taly felt her words were rather unprofessional. She holds her tongue, however, not wanting to do anything to jeopardize Lanara's treatment, and when the doctor offers her hand to shake, Taly accepts it. She follows Janine up the stairs, nodding her head as the doctor explains all about Lanara's many personalities and the conditions she has. Taly is listening, even comprehending, but it's a lot for her to handle. Taly feels the tears well up in her eyes but she rapidly blinks them back, nearly tripping on the final step which leads them to the fourth floor. Talyara isn't comforted by the presence of the guards even if intellectually she knows it's in her sister's best interests. When Janine turns to face her before allowing her entrance into Lana's room, and speaks the harsh truth about her condition, Taly feels her heart drop in her chest. Nick had told her just as much in the cottage, but to hear it from the doctor made it all seem so much more real. How could they ask Talyara not to hope? To just shrug her shoulders and accept this as a reality? Of course, she wouldn't say it to Lana, if they felt it would be detrimental to her health, the little witch would oblige. But would she be able to accept that herself?


After nodding her assurance to Janine that she wouldn't give her sister false hope, Talyara reaches out to Krice for comfort for the first time since Nicolai appeared at her front door. She weaves the fingers of her left hand through his and he would feel her trembling. She grips at him tighter when those green eyes land on the girl chained to her seat, the shell of who her sister used to be. It takes every ounce of energy and willpower not to completely breakdown, and she somehow fixes a smile on her lips for Lanara's sake. "It's okay, Lana, I know you didn't mean to. I love you more," she assures. "And I like your hair..." When the voice suddenly shifts, Taly is struck by how sudden and aggressive the transition is. She had thought it might be a tapering of one personality to another, a gradual shift from one to the next. But Lanara was gone in an instant and who knew when Talyara would get to speak with her again? Those emerald eyes blink in confusion as Maddie begins to rattle off words before addressing her as ‘love’ and asking her opinion on paint colors. "Oh, um, personally I'm a fan of lavender," the witch says hesitantly. She cannot even find amusement in the fact that this personality seems to think that Krice is a custodian and is ordering him around to get supplies. Instead, she swallows thickly and attempts to appear calm despite the fact her entire body is now shaking. "It's a...pleasure to meet you, Maddie," Talyara says slowly. However, almost as soon as the words leave the tip of her tongue, the prim and proper personality is replaced by a thrashing, crying infantile girl named Pearl, brought on by the denial of tea and crumpets.


Janine's reappearance at the door, warning the pair that the violent Trina would be surfacing soon only adds to Taly's anxiety and she quickly turns back to Lanara. "Lana," she tries to speak soothingly. "I mean Maddie...I mean Pearl! I...I have to go now, I'm so sorry. I'm really, really sorry," she emphasizes, tears shining in her eyes. "But I'm going to try and come and visit you as often as I can." The little witch wants nothing more than to wrap her sister up in her arms but, remembering the doctor's warning, simply reaches out with her bandaged right arm and attempts to affectionately pat her head. "I love you," she whispers quietly and with Pearl's wailing she's unsure if it's even heard. It takes another minute for Talyara to turn away from Lanara and gently knock on the door to be let out. Hopefully, Krice is still hanging onto her because as the door closes behind them, separating the sisters once more, Taly feels her legs give out.

///

Whatever Nick had to say, Talyara could respond to it if she so wished; since his revelation of Lanara's misdeeds as a result of her mental fracturing, Krice had become more introverted than that which Taly had been used to in more recent weeks, and thus he was quiet for the majority of the trip. He had to process the information in his own way, for his own reasons. As they took the shortcut through various areas with which Krice may or may not have had any experience, he cast his gaze to their surroundings in a subconscious bid to mentally note their path. His attention never wavered too long from Talyara, however, as her occasional missteps - caused by her injuries - ensured that he needed to maintain focus on her. He remained close, extending an arm when it looked like she might trip or stumble. For the most part, his instincts were accurate and she reached out to steady herself, whilst other times he simply kept watch, his arm offered for her to grab at any time.


When Talyara turned to put Nick in his place, reaffirming her love for the sister in question, Krice had taken a couple of steps past his traveling companions but stopped there, pivoting to observe the conversing pair. His expression was one of reassurance and hopefully comfort when Talyara shifted to continue onward, his eyes meeting hers for but a moment. Soon enough, all three travelers were back on the road, resuming their trek to the asylum in which Lanara was held.


The other details of the trek flew through his mind in a blur of background noise. He wanted to help Talyara get to the psychiatric hospital as safely as her weakened condition would allow her. Before he could wander through the deeper corridors of his thoughts, they arrived at the pristine structure to the greeting of guards. Whilst he could kill or damage anyone with just his bare hands, Krice never did like to part with his weapons, for any reason or any length of time. It was after only a moment's hesitation that he slipped his katana from its place against his back, securing strap and all, and handed it over to the nearest guard. From beneath his shirt, he removed a dagger - still in its sheath - from its strap secured around his waist and deposited that into waiting hands as well. There would be no frisking; he wore thin attire that creased in all the expected places--beneath his arms, at the dips of his waist--to reveal very little else but a toned body beneath it all; they'd have to deal not laying a hand on the warrior.


Unarmed in the classical sense, Krice reached out to press his right palm against the small of Talyara's back, offering her a bit more of his calmness in the hope that he could help her maintain some composure. His eyes met those of the approaching doctor and he offered her a nod of greeting, nothing more. Nick's departure was a transient thing in the warrior's mind, who then focused on what the Backstreet Brat's mother had to say of Lanara's condition. Indeed, all that Nick had laid before them seemed accurate by the doctor's reasoning. Krice observed Talyara closely; he didn't want to see her hurting, physically or emotionally, and the tears that spilled through her lashes triggered sharp palpitations in his chest. She -was- suffering, for the loss of her sister, for her sister's own suffering, and it caused him more pain than he ever wanted to feel again. But still he watched his green-eyed companion, observing her, trying to -will- some of his own strength into her heart that she could deal with all of this.


Following Dr. Carter up the stairs, they drew ever closer to the room in which Lanara waited - consciously or not - for their visit. When Talyara had a misstep at the top, he reached out to slide his left forearm around her middle in a subtle bid to help her stabilize on her feet. He didn't hold her for long, just enough to ensure that she was steady once more--he was ever aware of the importance of not over-burdening her with a feeling of helplessness--before he took her extended left hand in his right one, squeezed gently, and stepped into Lanara's room.


His expression softened when the distressed witch bid her affection for her sister, and asked that he take care of her. It was the Lanara they all knew, compassionate and in particular loving of Talyara. Maybe she'd catch a glimpse of the silent promise in his gaze before her mind switched to another personality. This one he didn't like too much; she was self-entitled and bossy. Naturally he didn't move to fetch the paint and paint supplies as commanded, partly because that wasn't actually his job, and partly because he was stoically - at least externally - observing Lanara through the switches from one personality to another. Next was a tantrum-throwing brat and Krice's head tilted a fraction to the side, expression still guarded but harboring hints of intrigue. He could understand the stronger, commanding personality of Maddie showing up to protect Lanara's fragility, but what of the child? How did a frustrated, angry child help? These were a few of the -many- questions he harbored as a result of the visit.


When advised that Lanara's next personality to emerge would be the most dangerous one, Krice turned his focus to Talyara as she struggled to hurriedly end their interaction. His hand was still steadfast on hers and he gave it a squeeze, trying to keep his companion grounded in the -now-, focused on the reason for this visit, -calm- enough to properly conclude her time with her sister so that she left with no regrets. The warrior nodded to the surrounding helpers before stepping outside with Talyara. Once clear of the door, he drew her into his arms and hugged her tightly against his chest, cradling her head beside his own. A frown took his features in the shadows of her curls. By Talyara's ear, Krice hushed her quietly and whispered words of apology, but his words were brief as she worked through her grief enough that she'd be able to step away from him - with the ultimate goal of leaving this place, and leaving her sister.

///

The wailing continues as ‘Pearl’ lifts her head to accept the pat of comfort from Talyara, though her fingers are mistaken for a crumpet and at the last second, she bares her teeth. Thankfully, Taly is swift enough to move her digits out of harm’s way, and Lana’s figure is shackled to the chair, so her teeth gnash wildly at the air, chomping on the inside of her cheek in the process. The next transition wouldn’t be nearly as pretty, as ‘Trina’ is threatening to rear her ugly head, and it’s as this moment that Dr. Carter intervenes and tells the visitors to hurry up and depart.


A single word strikes a chord with the patient, and the wailing halts, abruptly. The voice that speaks to Krice and Taly’s back is that once more of the witch they had known all these years. She’s heartbroken, beyond belief, and there’s an uncertainty in her statement, “Goodbye?” Would they return? The warrior had promised to look after her sister, to guard her heart, and to keep her safe. And her little sister… Those emerald hues look back at her, both of their expressions haunted, both of their hearts shattered with this turn of events, both blinking back tears that would shed a little more with each passing day. Lanara is the one to break the eye contact, as she diverts her gaze and burst into tears, the sound of sobs reaching the ears of those down the hall. “Why does everyone leave me!? I’m only meant to be left… I-I…I belong here. Where everyone can just forget I exist!” The wailing returns, though it’s not the personality of Pearl, this time it’s –all- of Lana’s many faces, each one feeling the hellish sting of abandonment. “Please! Don’t leave me! Don’t –“


The doors are opened by the guards who quickly lock it in place, as Dr. Carter studies Lanara through the grate, her expression wary. “She’s shifting, again… This… Isn’t… Normal.” A notepad is procured as she scribbles furiously, not quite understanding how Lana’s mind could hop from one personality to the next, at any given moment. These are all hard truths that pointed to the fact that she was incapable of being repaired, and that she belonged behind these doors. It’s safer for Lanara, and for the rest of society, as she cannot be trusted.


As predicted, the next tone to exit those lush lips is harsher than the few they’ve witnessed, taking on a guttural tone, as she spits blood and tissue from her bitten cheek at the aide, “GO! GO! Go and –never- come back!!!” Lana’s eyes are narrowed on the door, glaring at those that scrutinize her through the metal bars, those that wish to keep her medicated and locked up for all eternity. The thrashing returns, much more violent than when she was beneath the spell of Pearl, as ‘Trina’ is the most violent of her personalities. She’s kicking, screaming, and clawing at her pale cheeks until her nails are embedded in the flesh, causing rivers of crimson to stain her hospital gown. Each time the aide approaches, she’s met with a foot to her shin, a head butt to her side, or the risk of getting bitten.


Janine flies into action as the guards unlock the door, and she appears with a syringe, studying that venomous gaze for a moment, before the needle is inserted in Lana’s bicep. The plunger is pressed in, and after several agonizing seconds, the witch falls silent and her head lolls to the side. She’d soon be fully unconscious, as a puddle of drool is already forming on her chin and her eyes have a glassy sheen to them. “Sarah, please unchain her and guide her over to the bed. Be sure to chain one of her wrists to the frame… When she wakes up from her nap in a few hours, please come and find me. I think I’ll have to adjust her medication and maybe work on a new form of therapy.” Lowering her voice, as she knows that Taly is crying in Krice’s arms just down the hall, “She’s getting worse.”


Slowly, Janine would exit the room and find the couple, her expression grim, though she forms a faint smile and escorts them down the several staircases and into the lobby. There, she turns to Taly and rests a caring hand atop her shoulder, “I want to assure you that what happened to Maddie, will not repeat in you. It’s not hereditary. We’ve not encountered anything quite like this, but I will do everything I can to keep her comfortable and safe… I also know of some specialists in other lands, and I will write to them for advice. Every single day there are advances in medical treatment, and I never used to believe in miracles… But, perhaps now, we could use one. Be well, and I’m sure I’ll be seeing you both, soon… Also, Talyara? I know this is very troubling… Should you ever need to talk to someone, after all that you’ve been through, please know that my services are available. As a doctor… And as a friend.”


Perhaps, in time, the woodland witch will heal and learn to control her emotions, her many personalities, but that day is not now, and surely not in the immediate future. The moon will still rise in the night’s sky, the stars will continue to shine from the heavens, and the Goddess will always keep a watchful eye on her children. Each day will begin anew, the seasons will change, hearts will go on beating, and the circle of life will be never ending. However, one thing will always remain the same… Love. It’s the strongest feeling one can have for another, be they a partner, friend, or family member. It teaches one to forgive when angry, to forget past hurts, to have hope that things will work out, to take risks beyond your wildest dreams, and to give yourself fully to another knowing that they can break you into a million pieces...


Lanara loved with all her heart, despite all the tragedies that had occurred in her life. She continuously sought that missing piece to her puzzle, she was fearless in her search, and she never gave up on an animal or friend in need. Matters of the heart always threatened to consume her, but she recklessly kept trying, and that was her undoing. If one never takes the time to heal, they aren’t truly ready to plow ahead and serve their heart on a silver platter, least of all to one that is unworthy. There is beauty in the breaking, and sadly, the remnants that remain are just now seeing that, and it’s far too late.


The scant moments when Lana has control of her psyche, when she really thinks back, she would find that she has zero regrets and she’d love just as freely, and she’d live through it all over again. Because when you love, and when you break, it’s that raw moment when everything makes sense, and you see your true self. Lanara’s true self is a daughter that worships the Goddess, an empath that adores animals, a friend that would risk her life to save another, an elf that enjoys adventure, a woman that always sees the silver lining in any situation, and a sister that is bonded to her siblings. She may not reside in the lands any longer, and she may never again have complete control over her mental status, but still, her memory will live on for all time.