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Reprieve

 
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Natalya Bristol
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2014 11:43 am    Post subject: Reprieve Reply with quote

Rhys was getting used to these little trips to Avalon and even looking forward to them, though it seemed wherever he was, he missed the place where he wasn't and the people he cared for there. Avalon had become a place of refuge for both himself and Natalya - a place where they sought peace and contentment, if only for a little while. It was a special place, a secret place - a place Rhys never took for granted. He felt privileged to have been welcomed here and honored by the Lady's faith in him. Of all the friends and allies he'd come to know, the Lady of Avalon was by far the one he valued and trusted, and perhaps even loved, the most. It was hard to explain how he felt about the Lady. Rhys had never been particularly religious, but to him, she was someone to be revered, respected, and even worshiped.

He was not only her Champion, but perhaps her greatest disciple. It was with great joy that he traveled to Avalon, anxious to see her again, even as he missed his own Natalya. It was love but of a different kind, just as true and just as deep, though not romantic. He knew where to find her, as always, near the Chalice Well in the garden at the center of the Temple. No one stopped him or questioned him as he made his way there; rather, they greeted him with kindness and respect, as was his due.

He had first encountered Avalon in the summer, and it was truly in the summer that the Isle was at its most glorious. The beauty of the place fairly shone with warmth and serenity, basking in the crisp heat of the summer with joy all of its own. But it was here, at the very heart of the Temple, where that beauty was truly breath-taking. Nothing could compare with the garden in which the Chalice Well dwelt, nor with the woman who rarely left it. She was there now, golden-haired and tall, reveling in the sunshine. Sky-blue eyes closed, her ageless face was turned upward toward the light, seemingly oblivious to her surroundings. But she always knew when he was there. A small smile curved her lips as her Champion approached. "Welcome home, Rhys."

He hadn't had time to change before coming and was dressed in a simple white t-shirt and blue jeans, rather than the apparel that was more customary to Avalon, but in the end, clothes were just cloth made to provide protection from the elements and a certain amount of modesty. "My Lady," he greeted her with a cordial bow, going down on one knee and bowing his head in reverential respect.

She turned, opening her eyes to smile down at him where he knelt. One hand touched his hair in a soft benediction. "Rise, Champion of Avalon," she commanded in a soft voice, ritual words that never felt stilted or awkward from her. "You have been missed. And what have you done with my Priestess, hmm?" There was a fair amount of amusement in her voice as she asked this - Rhys was one of a very few people who enjoyed the privilege of being teased by the Lady of Avalon whenever she had the opportunity.

He felt something stir in his heart as she touched him, but was unsure what it was he was feeling exactly. Love, loyalty, devotion? They were only words without meaning compared to what he felt in his heart. He moved to his feet at her bidding. There was nothing he wouldn't do for her, if she asked it of him. He smiled at the mention of her Priestess - his wife. If what he felt for the Lady was love, then how could he begin to describe the depth of feeling he felt for his Natalya? "She did not accompany me this time, but I can assure you that both she and our daughter are safe and well."

"I am glad," the Lady nodded, offering a small nugget of information that he would no doubt be grateful and perhaps a little concerned to hear. "Travel between worlds can be unpleasant for a woman when she is with child. I do not believe Natalya would be in any danger, but I would not have her discomforted, purely to sate my wish to see her."

"I have been wondering if she should have the baby here or there," he pondered aloud, though this was not the reason for his trip to Avalon. It was a topic he had yet to discuss with Natalya, but that he had been considering. For some reason, he thought it might be better to have the baby here, but he wasn't sure if that was simply wishful thinking or not.

The Lady's smile was its usual, mystifying self as she answered his pondering. "Ana will be born here," she assured him gently. "At least, that is my impression of the future ahead of you. There is some darkness on the edge of my sight that may prompt you to move your wife here to keep her safe, though I cannot say for certain. It is certainly not so dangerous as to cause harm to either of you within my Sight."

Rhys arched a brow at the mention of danger. She had mentioned danger before, but in his line of work, there was always the chance of at least a little danger. Danger to Natalya, however, came as something of a surprise. There was nothing he wouldn't do to protect her, and though he'd often thought they would be safer here in Avalon, their home was in New York - and Glastonbury when they could get there. "What kind of darkness?" he asked curiously. She had mentioned darkness before, but thus far, they seemed to have averted it. It certainly wasn't Aurelia and the demons, was it? He felt his pulse quicken, wondering if he'd made a fatal mistake in leaving his wife with Aurelia, though he truly believed that Aurelia was once again in control of her darker side.

"I am uncertain," the Lady admitted, frustrated by the lack of detail she had to give, clearly. "It lingers on the edge of my Sight, but it watches you. You, not your wife. It is ... difficult to describe. It is darkness, yes, but I do not think it is danger, precisely. Without knowing more, I cannot See any further, and that does not help you, I know." She offered him an almost apologetic smile, gesturing for him to come and sit with her beside the pool.

He breathed a sigh of relief. Whatever the darkness was, it seemed from what the Lady was telling him that Natalya wasn't in any grave or immediate danger and that it wasn't Aurelia he had to worry about. "It could be anything or anyone," he admitted gravely, as he moved to join her near the pool. "I've made a lot of enemies," he added with a frown, though he had made as many allies, as well - perhaps more.

"And your allies are increasing with each year that passes," she reminded him quietly, folding her hands together in her lap. The last time they had spoken, she had performed magic that had left her weak and shaken, and though it had taken her many weeks to regain her strength, there was no sign of that weakness in her now. Indeed, she seemed entirely unchanged from the very first day he had met her. "Tell me about this witch I cannot See. I know of her, I understand she has a place with you, but I am uncertain why she is clouded."
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2014 11:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"You know about that?" he asked, wondering even as he asked the question why he should be surprised about that. She knew things, could see things before they happened or as they happened. He had no doubt that very little came as a surprise to her, though as far as he understood it, she saw things that might be, not necessarily that would be. There was a perfectly logical reason why the Lady couldn't see Aurelia clearly, but Rhys wasn't sure what she'd think when he told her what that reason was. "Her mother was a demon," he explained. "I met her on Rhy'Din a few years ago. She... she helped me with something."

The Lady's brow furrowed just a little, more in confusion than for any sense of anger or distrust. "I was not aware that demons could reproduce," she said, unsettled by this lack of knowledge. "Unless ... You say you knew her on Rhy'Din? Then perhaps she is not of an Earth that I know. Perhaps she is of a world where a demon is not a possessing spirit, but a physical manifestation."

"I don't think she's from Rhy'Din or my Earth. Another Earth, I think. But..." He seemed confused about something, as well. "Na'amah tried to seduce me. Something about trying to create a hybrid. Is that even possible? How could a demon possibly breed with an angel?"

"Theoretically it is possible," the Lady told him thoughtfully, "though it has never been done in practice. Angels and demons, as we know them, possess human forms; the human form is perfectly suited to reproduction with its own species. If there is a successful conception between an angel-possessed human and a demon-possessed human, the theory states that the child will be born with an even mix of angel, demon, and human within them. No one knows how that might translate into practical power; as I say, no attempt has ever been successful."

"She seemed sure it would work. She was pretty persistent," he told her with a grim expression on his face. Of all the demons he'd ever known, he had quite possibly hated Na'amah the most. She was certainly somewhere at the top of his Most Hated Enemies list, at least, before he'd finally killed her. "I've never had much power, I don't think. It doesn't seem right that they deposited me on Earth without an instruction manual." Though all of that was in the past, it still irked him and only made him take most angels with a grain of salt, even though he'd supposedly once been one himself.

"How could you possibly have kept your sanity, if you had known from the moment of your conception what you were and what your purpose was?" the Lady asked him gently. "It was something you had to come to gradually, and that, too, was something you agreed to before you were sent from Heaven. It does not help, in retrospect, I know, but perhaps you can see the logic behind the decision now you are no longer their pawn."

"It's like sending a child into battle," he argued, but he hadn't come here to talk about himself. Not directly, anyway. "Their pawn. That's a good word for it, even if I did agree to it. I've been wondering lately though..." He paused a moment to catch her gaze. "So much has happened, it seems there's been a greater force at work in my life. Maybe in Nat's, too. Something more powerful than angels. Something that's been steering my life right from the beginning. It's the old question of Free Will versus Fate. Are the choices you make in life really yours or not?"

Something in the way she looked at him made the point that some things were not left to chance. The fact that a child of his line would become the next Lady of Avalon was evidence of that. "It is my experience, Rhys, that our choices are our own," she said carefully. "But there are many influences upon our lives, some more powerful than others. Why do you think that mythology always makes mention of some being, some group, whose entire purpose is to guide and shape mortal lives? We feel their influence, even if we do not know it. The choices we make are our own, but I believe they are often informed by some power that likens itself to fate, or destiny."

He nodded his head in complete agreement, but she wasn't quite getting the point, and he thought maybe he had to be clearer. "Yes, but what if I told you I think I knew one of them? I mean, I know it sounds crazy, but I have no other explanation for it." He licked his lips a little excitedly. He'd been thinking about this a long time, and it was the only thing that made sense. "There was a time when I was... I was attacked by a horde of demons. You know what a horde is? I mean... the sky was black with them. There's no way I could have gotten out of that alive. And then, I wasn't there at all. I was somewhere else. There was this woman, and she wasn't an angel."

"Angels are not the only powerful beings in your world, Rhys," she pointed out, waiting patiently for him to come to the point. "There are far more beings out there than most know about. The world is not solely populated by monsters, angels, demons, and humanity."

"Yes, but..." He frowned, a hint of sadness in his eyes. "I haven't seen her in years, and I don't know what happened to her, but I keep feeling like... like she's out there somewhere still leading me, guiding me." He sighed, a little frustrated by his inability to explain. "It's not Lailah. I know she's there, too, but it's different."

"You believe one of the Fates has a hand in your life," the Lady said calmly, and something in her tone suggested that he was right to believe such a thing. "I am aware that you are often under scrutiny, Rhys, that someone is gently manipulating you away from danger, toward those events that give you most satisfaction, most achievement. Your first meeting with Natalya, for example. I had no hand in that first meeting, though I confess I did intercept you when you were returned from Heaven, to make certain you arrived close to Natalya in your newly mortal form."

"You didn't?" he echoed, looking surprised, even shocked, by that news. He'd always assumed it had been the Lady who had somehow guided him to Natalya. "Then she's not dead. Why'd she disappear? I haven't seen or heard from her since... since before the accident." And that was well before he'd met Nat; before he'd ended up in Rhy'Din, even.

"I would assume that this she you keep speaking of has some reason for keeping herself on the sidelines. Perhaps she has enemies of her own who will not allow her to exist as she is, or perhaps she simply wishes to live a quieter life. It is difficult to say without knowing her for myself."

"She called herself Nikki, but I'm sure that wasn't her real name. What kind of goddess calls themselves Nikki?" he asked, sounding just a little perplexed by the whole mystery. "She saved my life more than once, and I've never had a chance to say thank you."
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2014 11:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"You can be sure she knows of your gratitude," the Lady assured him softly. "Those of us who watch know, even if those we watch have no way of telling us. As for the name, well ... Perhaps she is the kind of goddess who does not want to be affiliated with those she was once a part of. This is all conjecture, Rhys. Until she shows herself, if she ever does, all you can do is wonder, and wondering never brought anyone any satisfaction."

"Is there any way I can find out if she's still..." He broke off at the word "alive", which didn't quite seem to fit. If Nikki was a goddess or immortal of one sort or another, was that even an appropriate word to describe her state of being? Was it even possible for someone like her to die? "She had a house in Denver. Or at least, that's where she told me we were when I was there." He wasn't so sure now if it had really been Denver at all. He wasn't so sure about anything where Nikki had been involved, and he wasn't even sure if it really mattered. What did matter? What was it he really wanted to know? "I guess I just want to know she's still out there somewhere. That she's safe. That she wasn't another casualty in the war between heaven and hell."

The Lady's smile turned mysterious as she considered this question, and it seemed she expected Rhys to follow his own line of thought to its logical conclusion. "Think on this, my friend," she suggested. "I had no hand in the return of your friend to you, nor would the angels have considered it worthy of their effort. Yet something drew you to your friend's cabin at a fortuitous time. Is that not proof enough?"

"Maybe," he replied thoughtfully. Despite everything he'd seen and done all his life involving the supernatural world, for some reason, he was still a little uncertain about whether or not a higher power had had a hand in his life, and yet, there was no denying that some things were too ironic to have been merely coincidence. "I guess I'll never know for sure, will I?" he asked with a small, disappointed frown.

"Not unless she chooses to tell you, no," the Lady confirmed for him, a gentle look in her eyes that promised that she understood the frustration and disappointment her answer conveyed to him. "But I do not think you came here for such an unsatisfying answer as that one. Aside from a wish to visit with your sister and her husband, what is it you would ask of me, Rhys?"

He blinked out of his thoughts, slightly distracted by his questions about Nikki. Why he was thinking about her now after all this time he wasn't quite sure, but he'd been visiting the past lately and trying to put old ghosts to rest. It was either that or he was just starting to realize the fact that there had been far too many coincidences in his life for him to ignore. Aurelia was just one case in point. Nat was another. "I..." He broke off again, as if needing to rearrange his thoughts before remembering the real reason for his visit. "It's about Aurelia," he said, circling back around to original topic of discussion before the conversation had wandered.

"Aurelia." The Lady tasted the name on her lips, seemingly committing it to her vast memory, glad to have a name to put to the sometimes clouded face that had been central to the lives of her Champion and Priestess over past days. "This is Aurelia, yes?" Her hand passed over the water beside them, and for a moment, an image wavered into view. It was Nat, talking earnestly with what seemed to be a car dealer - not a second-hand one, either - and Aurelia behind her, looking awkward and laughing.

Rhys leaned closer to gaze into the pool where the image of Natalya and Aurelia appeared, as clear as crystal. The Lady's pool was even better than a camera when it came to capturing an image, though he always felt a little like a peeping Tom watching people without their knowledge. From what he could tell, it looked like the two women were getting along just fine, which was something of a relief. "Yes, that's her," he confirmed. "Are they buying a car?" he asked, tilting his head to see better, the question more to himself than the lady.

Perhaps not quite as clear as crystal. Natalya's image was, naturally, as clear as crystal, but Aurelia's was clouded just a little, some strange filter over the image of her face that hinted at the demon inside her. The Lady couldn't answer his question, not truly understanding the modern technologies he was so familiar with himself. "They are buying something, I believe," she agreed with a small chuckle, releasing the image to allow it to waver and fade. "Your wife seems quite animated in the cause of spending money."

"You can't take it with you!" Rhys replied with a chuckle, leaning back as the image faded. "I couldn't see Aurelia very well. Is that because of her demon blood?" he asked, curiously. There was still a lot he didn't understand about Avalon and the Lady, but he was trying to learn.

"Now that I know the cause, her image is clearer, but yes," the Lady nodded to him. "Demons and angels cannot pass the mists, and thus seeing them clearly from here is not such an easy task. Your friend, Lailah, I cannot see her at all, for example. But this Aurelia ... she is more human than demon, I believe, which is why we can see her in the Well."

"She wasn't a demon when I met her. I mean, she had that side of her under control. Something happened, and she fell, she said, but she seems to have it under control again." It was a confusing situation, at best, and hard to explain. "The thing is, she helped me once when I needed her help, and I'd like to return the favor. Nat and I have decided to let her stay at the cabin as long as she wants. It's peaceful there. Quiet. No one will bother her, but I thought maybe we should have someone check in with her from time to time, at least, until she gets settled."

"You wish her to stay under the eye of someone you trust, until you are certain she will not fall again?" The Lady did have an unsettling way of simplifying words into a basic phrase that could be taken out of context only too easily. In this case, however, she was right - it wasn't that Rhys didn't trust Aurelia, he just didn't know if the magic they had worked was permanent or not. "Do you not have someone on your Earth who could do this, Rhys? Or have you come to ask for Avalon's help in this?"

"Yeah, that's pretty much it," he replied, as she got the gist of it fairly quickly, but her other questions seemed to cause him a little consternation. "Honestly?" he asked, though that went without saying. He could be nothing less than honest, especially with the Lady of Avalon, who would see right through him if he was being dishonest. "Not really. I've been over it and over it in my head, and no one comes to mind that I can really trust. I mean, I don't have that many friends." Not friends that could do what he needed them to do anyway.
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2014 11:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"I see." She smiled her mysterious, timeless smile once again. "You do not have anyone you trust not to judge your friend for the blood she carries. You have no one who will not kill her simply for being what she is." Again, it was unnerving to hear it said aloud, but it had to be said. "Would you trust a friend of Avalon to keep watch over her, Rhys? Even if you had never met them?"

"The only person I really trust is Adam, and he's got Gina and Joey to worry about now. The only other people I can think of are hunters, and I don't trust any of them enough not to let their preconceived prejudices get in the way," he explained further. "She had a whitelighter once. An angel, but I don't think he can follow her here." He frowned in concern. Whatever it was Aurelia meant to him, it was obvious he was concerned about her. "I trust you. I trust your judgement."

"There are a few names I could bring to your attention," the Lady mused thoughtfully. As she considered these names, their faces became momentarily visible on the surface of the pool, proof that she was not just thinking of them, but looking at them as well. "You require someone with an open mind, someone who can be trusted to act as asked and not to react without thinking should the issue become clouded. Someone who is capable, obviously, but does not reach for a weapon before considering other options. Tell me if I am wrong."

"No, you're right. That's exactly what I'm looking for. Someone who isn't going to judge her. Someone who can help her if she needs help. Someone with some knowledge of witchcraft might be helpful, too." Though he wasn't looking for a witch or a warlock, he didn't want someone who would be too weirded out by Aurelia's abilities or her mixed bloodline, but just who that person was? He wasn't sure. Not a hunter, not an angel, not a witch. Not a cop or an FBI agent. The list of those unsuitable seemed longer than those that might be suitable.

"Let me see ..." She concentrated, and four faces cleared in the pool. Each of them was engaged in some way - one with teaching, it seemed; another was reading; another appeared to be sketching something unseen; and the last was apparently beating the ever living crap out of a burning mattress. The Lady smiled at those faces, though there was no way they could know they were being watched. "Henry, Ian, Christian, Wyatt," she offered names to Rhys to go with the faces she showed him. "They are close by to the location you came from, close enough to do as you ask, yet they do not travel here to Avalon and they do not fight unless they have no other choice. I can give you the means to contact them, but the choice is yours, Rhys. This is your friend."

He gazed into the water again, taking in each face. How was he supposed to decide? It didn't escape his notice that all of them were men, and he suddenly felt like he was playing matchmaker, rather than trying to look out for a friend's safety. "Um..." He cleared his throat anxiously, wondering if he should ask for their resumes and subject them each to an interview. Eeny meany miney mo was no way to go about choosing. "What are their... qualifications, exactly?"

"Henry is a lecturer at the university close to where your friend will be living," the Lady explained, and as she spoke, that face took center stage, showing animation, amusement, and fervent passion for whatever it was he was lecturing about at that moment. "His subject, officially, is the Classics, but he has a deep knowledge of the supernatural practicalities that underpin your Ancient Greece and its poets."

Rhys watched the pool while the Lady explained, taking it all in. The first nominee - Henry - was a scholar. Interesting, but would he be capable of protecting her if the need arose? "Go on," he said, reserving judgement until he had learned about all of them.

"Ian." The second name brought a new face to the center of the pool, a face deep in concentration in what appeared to be a library. "A career academic, he came to Avalon by his own means. Through his studies, he discovered us, and he made an attempt to cross the mists that could have gone badly wrong had I not realized his intention was purely academic. There is little fear in him, and a great deal of practical curiosity, more inclined to ask questions than to shoot. He has, however, killed for Avalon in the past, and has never taken the action lightly."

"Hmm," Rhys murmured thoughtfully, wondering if he should have Adam pull up whatever information he could find on the foursome before he decided. Or maybe he should just let Aurelia pick one for herself. "I feel I'm playing matchmaker," he mused aloud.

The Lady laughed, shaking her head. "Such a match would be of their choosing, not yours," she pointed out, as the third of her options drew to the middle of the pool. This one was sketching something, as fiercely focused as anyone could be. "Christian. An archaeologist and engineer, who specializes in the recreation of ancient artifacts. He is the one who unearthed the Mirror - you see he is missing the two last fingers of his left hand? He brushed the Mirror's surface and lost them to the darkness beyond. We had to approach him to make sure the Mirror was donated to the Institute, and since then, he has been attached to us, rather than any other academic institution."

Rhys frowned a little when he noticed the loss of the man's fingers. That didn't really play much into his decision, though he felt a little sympathy for the man. "The recreation?" He asked. "What do you mean by that?"

"Your ancients were far more advanced than you seem to believe," the Lady chuckled softly. "They created machinery, a great deal of which has been lost to time. Christian studies the writings for clues as to how each piece would have worked, and builds it. If he should discover something that should not have been unearthed, those secrets come to Avalon."

"He rebuilds it? That's crazy. Would he be able to rebuild the... the Ark of the Covenant?" he asked, picking an artifact out of thin air, based on his late night TV viewing habits. "What about Excalibur? Can he recreate that? What about a-a flying carpet? A cloak of invisibility? Pandora's Box." He was wagging a finger at her now, as he listed every item that popped into his head. "The Holy Grail!"

"Machinery, Rhys," the Lady laughed at his enthusiasm. "That is his true passion. It is Wyatt who has the skills to recreate swords of old, magical artifacts." The last face came sharply into focus. "He is an alchemist of sorts, though he applies himself to the study of magic as it can be applied to creation. He has abilities that span everything from smithying to spell creation, to fighting - a little of everything, just enough to keep him working. Though, as you can see, not everything works seamlessly." This was true - Wyatt appeared to have set fire to his own bed.
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2014 11:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rhys winced at the vision of the man's bed going up in flames. "I hope he's got insurance," he muttered to himself. Okay, he had four men to choose from, each with his own strengths and weaknesses, but the real question was not which one might appeal to Aurelia, but which one would be most able to help and protect her, and that would take some thought. "How long do I have to decide?" he asked, knowing he should probably make a decision before he left Avalon.

"There is no limit but that which you give yourself," the Lady told him quietly. "This is your choice, a safety net for your friend. If you wish it, you may take with you the details to contact all of them, to do a little research on them yourself before you make that decision. I do not think you will leave Aurelia before you think she is in a position to fend for herself; surely that gives you a few days to decide, Rhys?"

"A few days, yes. I'll need more details. Full names, contact information." He paused in thought a moment. "What are they going to say when I call and tell them the Lady wants them to babysit a witch for her?" Or should he put it to them a different way? Not them. Him. One. He could only choose one. "I see there were no women on your list. Are you sure you're not trying to play matchmaker?"

"There are no women on the list because, should Aurelia be taken once again by her demonic self, a woman would be at a very clear disadvantage," he was informed pointedly. "The only women who might fit your needs in the area you require them are wed and mothers. A demon would not hesitate to destroy everything."

"Point taken," Rhys replied, as she dashed the theory that she was trying to set Aurelia up all to hell. "Okay, well, I'm gonna need a few days to look them up and decide. What should I tell them when I do?" he asked, curiously.

"That the Lady requires them," she told him simply. "Mention me, describe me if you have to, and tell them who you are. If they require further proof, you need only to show them your amulet. If you are asked for anything else, do not continue the conversation and report it to me."

He was tempted to ask her for more details with regard to the men, but thought he had already pushed his luck by asking as much as he had. If there really was a goddess of some sort guiding him, maybe it would be easier than he thought. There was one more small matter that was bothering him though, but he didn't want to seem ungrateful for her help or ask for too much. "There's something else..." he started. "Nat has the means to open a portal and come and go as she pleases, but... what if we're not together? What if we get separated? What if I want to ask you something and I'm not here? I can't exactly call you on my phone." Twice now he'd had to ask Nat to open a portal for him, and if Nat had not been there, he wasn't sure what might have transpired.

Again, there was that mysterious smile. "Touch your amulet, Rhys," the Lady told him. "Touch it, and think of me, and I will hear you. Touch it now, and I will show you."

He arched a brow, a little surprised by her statement, thinking, not for the first time, that maybe these items she gave him should come with an instruction manual of some sort. He eyed her suspiciously, noticing her smile, and pulled the amulet out from beneath the protective confines of his t-shirt. He touched a finger to the amulet itself, wondering what it was that would happen.

Can you feel me, Rhys? As soon as his finger touched the amulet with the intention to call on her, she was there - not simply sat with him, but really there, in his mind. He could hear her, he could feel her amusement at his suspicion. The beautiful, ageless face before his eyes creased into a warm smile. So long as you wear my symbol, you are never alone, my dear friend. I will always hear you.

He was alarmed at first at hearing her voice in his head, perhaps even more so because she was sitting right there. "Can you..." He broke off, deciding to try communicating with her in his head without speaking. Are you inside my head? Can you read my thoughts? Or only what I want you to know? he asked without making a sound.

Only what you wish me to see and hear, that soundless voice assured him. I would never wish to violate your mind in such a way, Rhys. What you hold within you is yours alone, yours to share only as you choose to.

So you won't know when I'm making love to my wife, then? he asked wordlessly, as if his only concern was that she didn't know when he was feeling desire for his wife. Should he take the amulet off when they were making love or leave it on? What if he touched it by accident? All of these worries went through his head needlessly. Rhys knew the Lady was only trying to reassure him and answer his question. He was her Champion, after all, and his well-being was of importance to her.

She laughed aloud, shaking her head. "No, Rhys," she promised him. "I will only hear you if you want me to hear you. So long as the amulet touches your skin, you do not even need to touch it with your hand. The link is there, but only you can open it. Even if I had the desire, I could not spy upon you."

"So," he started, choosing to use his voice again, willfully breaking the mental connection, "if something happens and I need to open a portal in a hurry, all I have to do is be wearing the amulet and open my mind to you and it will open?"

"Yes. Unlike Natalya, I do not need to open the mists to transport you to Avalon. I can pluck you from where you stand and have you here in less time than it takes for you to think the intention." Finally, the Lady swept her hand over the pool, and the four faces of her suggested watchers faded from view. As she turned her hand upward once again, a crackle of parchment declared itself as the contact details of those four appeared in her grasp. She handed the parchment to Rhys with a smile.

"Does Nat's amulet work the same way?" he asked, wondering if she could do the same thing. He hoped he'd never have to use the amulet to escape danger, and yet, it was handy to know he had the option. He watched as a piece of parchment appeared out of thin air, just like it might in a Harry Potter movie, and he took it from her, only giving it a cursory glance before laying it in his lap.
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Natalya Bristol
Old Wyrm
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2014 11:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Naturally. Though she can cross the mists whenever she chooses, I still need that link to her," the Lady smiled fondly. "Should she need me, I will hear her, just as I will hear you. I would have thought that you both would have deciphered that before now, and without my help."

"I guess I'm not as bright as you give me credit for," he replied with a frown, feeling a little stupid. He'd thought there was more to the amulets than mere adornment, but no one had ever thought to explain to him and he'd never thought to ask. "Maybe you should have picked someone else for your Champion."

"I chose you because you are my Champion," she told him firmly. "No other could perform these duties as you can, Rhys. I do not make mistakes."

"No, you don't, but I do," he replied with a sigh, though he got the point. "Sometimes I think things might be easier if I'd stayed an angel." But then, he wouldn't have Nat and he wouldn't be about to become a father. No, he'd made the right choice there. Earning a human soul was what his life struggle had been all about, after all. "Sorry, it's just frustrating being human sometimes." With all his human faults and flaws. He wondered momentarily how Zach was dealing with it.

She chuckled softly, laying her hand over his. "Try living as one for a few hundred years," she suggested, reminding him that, though she had great power and long life, she was still as mortal as he was. "I promise you, it grows no less frustrating. But it has its rewards, as you know better than I."

He frowned again, his compassion and fondness for her outweighing his own personal feelings of inadequacy. He found himself turning his hand so that he could curl his fingers around hers, a simple touch of human flesh to human flesh. "You're not alone either, you know. Not so long as I'm alive."

"I know," she smiled. "And though it may not seem so, I am very glad of it. I may be more excited to hold your daughter than you are - it will not be her, but one of her children, her grandchildren. My time can be counted in decades now, thanks to you. It is a gift I will forever be thankful for."

"I have you in part to thank for that. If it wasn't for Nat, I don't know where I'd be right now." Dead, most likely, though that thought drew his mind back to the question of whether there was a higher power steering his life. "I should be thanking you, not the other way around," he told her, his voice softening. There was no mistake that he loved her, thought not in the same way he loved Natalya or Rachel or even Aurelia. He sighed, wondering what else there was to say. If she could hear his thoughts, then she already knew how he felt about her. I love you, he told her wordlessly.

Her only reply was a gentle squeeze of his hand, understanding his feelings the way a mother or sister might, far better than a lover could. And yet she was all these things - mother, sister, aunt, lover, daughter - everything in one smile. Her heart, had it been hers to give, would have rested with another, but that was the sacrifice she had to make in order to fulfill her duty as the Lady of Avalon. "You and Natalya are everything I have hoped for over these long years," she told him softly. "I had thought, once, that Morgaine might take my place, but there was another fate awaiting her. You are my Champion, not just for your skill, your talent, your unique circumstance of birth, but for the friendship you have shown me. It has a value greater than you may ever know."

Greater than my wisdom and knowledge, he thought to himself, though he didn't say it out loud, the look on his face enough to hint at what he might be thinking. He could never be anything more to her than a friend, the grandfather or great-grandfather of her successor. He wondered if she had any idea how much she meant to him or how honored he was that she'd chosen him for her Champion. Words could not come close to expressing his feelings, though he hoped she knew already. "Morgaine?" he echoed. "The Arthurian Morgaine?" he asked, feeling ridiculously uneducated again. He had grown up learning how to kill demons and vampires and werewolves, not the legend and lore of Avalon.

"Yes, Arthur's sister," the Lady nodded, chuckling at his expression. "These are not facts known to many, Rhys. Arthur was Avalon's first Champion, your predecessor. Morgaine, his sister, was her first Priestess. Since they left us, there has been no Champion or Priestess, not until I gave you and your wife their places. Those places are yours by right and by honor."

"Right," he replied. "I remember Lionel telling me that." He chuckled a little, mostly at himself. "Sometimes I wonder how I remember anything!" He had been an amnesiac, after all, though his memories had returned when he'd crossed through the Nexus into Rhy'Din a few years ago. "It still kind of blows my mind that I'm following in Arthur's footsteps."

"He was a very special man," she said, though a seasoned Lady-watcher could tell that the warmth in her voice, the softness in her smile, was intended for the man who had already told her Champion about his lineage. "As are you. I have met no one worthier, in many, many years."

"Even though it took asking to figure out how to use the amulet?" he asked with a smile. He didn't want to make her sad, and he knew there was some sadness beneath that soft smile. "There is no one I would feel more honored to serve than you, my lady." Not even the angels in heaven seemed as worthy compared to her.

"The fact that you asked, rather than continue to stumble blindly, is part of what makes you worthy," she pointed out to him, her spirits rising even as he renewed his promise to serve her. "Rhys, you are a dear friend, before everything. I am honored that you choose to serve me."

He blinked a little in surprise when she named him friend, though he wasn't sure why. They were friends of a sort, he hoped, though he always thought of her as someone to be worshiped and respected and loved, more so than befriended. "Should we have a sleepover sometime?" he teased. "I'll bring the movies, and you can bring the popcorn." He nudged her good-naturedly with an elbow. "I bet you don't even know what popcorn is."

She laughed, shaking her head. "I will have you know that popping corn has been around far longer than you imagine, my incorrigible companion," she informed him cheerfully, glancing up as a single clear note sounded across the Chalice Well. A regretful smile touched her face. "Alas, our time here must come to an end. I am needed, and you must visit with your sister a while before you return to Earth."

The corners of his eyes crinkled as he smiled back at her, glad he had at least made her laugh. He picked up the parchment from his lap and moved off the bench to one knee before her, head bowed respectfully and reverently, knowing how lucky he was to be in her service, how fortunate he was to be the Champion of Avalon - only the second after none other than King Arthur, of all people. He wondered what Dylan would have made of that, and the thought of it brought some wetness to his eyes. "Thank you for everything, my Lady."

She caught his hand between hers, warm and soft, palm to palm for a long moment before she released him. "Be safe and well, my Champion," she told him, a last benediction before he had to go. "And do not worry so much. You have a friend out there who is guiding your path. I do not think she will lead you wrong."

He lifted his gaze to hers as she took his hand and moved to his feet, spontaneously leaning close to brush a kiss against her cheek, warm and affectionate and just a little bit bold. "Be well, Elaine, and remember that you are never alone," he whispered for her ears alone.

The kiss surprised her - no one had been so bold with her for many, many years, too many to count. The expression on her face was impossibly vulnerable for a long moment after he drew back, until she remembered herself. "Thank you."

He was reluctant to leave her, knowing how lonely a life it must be for her, and yet, he smiled a little, knowing she was really never alone, not so long as she had Sir Lionel and Natalya and himself to love and care for her. And when he was gone and his life was over, there would be others of his own bloodline to carry on and care for her in his stead, until the one was born who would free her from her servitude and allow her to find peace, at long last. He smiled back at her for a long moment, before turning away to leave her garden, not allowing her to see the tears that had gathered in his eyes, hinting at his own vulnerability.

She watched him go, a silent princess in her beautiful prison, unable to reach out to others as so many took for granted. She had love, yes, but a love she could not allow herself to enjoy; instead, she must make do with the friendship of a select few who were able to see beyond the Lady, to the woman who stood before them. The Lady of Avalon stood alone, a guardian over the secrets of the Isle, ever patient, waiting for that one day when she might, at last, be allowed to set her burden down and rest. But until that day came, she would always be there, watching and waiting, whenever he needed her.

((I love playing the Lady, always a pleasure. And, of course, massively humongalosa thanks to Rhys' player!))
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