162 Old Enemies
He was getting closer. How many weeks had he been making his way across the wasteland in search of his elusive destination? Two? Three? He had lost count by now in his near delirious state. In a small corner of his mind a voice was telling him that he was insane, that this could not turn out well, but he was ignoring it.
How was it that he had made it this far on his own? It was a miracle that he had survived this long without seeing a single beast. It was the wasteland after all, and he had expected to be eaten alive long before he made it this far.
The reason he was out here? Well, that was complicated. He could sense her presence, the woman that had caused his life to fall apart. She was the reason he was here, the reason he had lost everything. He had been tracking her scent like a bloodhound, his special talent, his only useful trait. What else could he do? He had to see her again, no matter the consequences. He had to see her face just one more time.
The image of her face flashed through his mind again. There was not a single person in this world that compared to her beauty. One glimpse was all he had been able to get, but that one glimpse had been enough to doom him to fall like the stars from the heavens.
He was under no illusions. The fantasy he had been living in had been shattered, destroyed. The lies and delusions that had been his reality were scattered like dust in the wind by the beauty of a single woman. Every moment of his life had been laid bare and scorched by the oracle that she had been to his existence.
He knew he was heading towards his probable death, but at this point he didn't care anymore. Death would be preferable to going back there. Soon he would find her, and if she killed him… then he would not begrudge his death. She had saved him, so it would be proper if she was the one to kill him in the end as well.
He was very close now, close enough that her aura filled the air and made him dizzy from the wondrous scent. He pulled his mount to a stop, looking ahead the the scenery that awaited. There was a sinkhole, a huge one directly ahead of him. He was only a few hundred meters away, but he could tell that it was huge, over five kilometers across. The sight should have impressed him, but him mind was occupied by a single thought; she was here!
Until now he had only been following a trail, like a compass pointing at the horizon, but now he could actually sense her presence!
Before he could fully get his muddled mind back under control, something came flying out of the sinkhole. A fresh wave of shock hit him as he witnessed huge shadowy wings spread wide and launch what he could only call a dragon high into the sky.
His mount panicked at the sight of the creature, rearing back in reaction and throwing him onto the parched ground of the wasteland. As it ran off, he knew that it was taking his supplies with it, but at the moment he really didn't care.
The reason for this was because high up in the sky on the back of the dragon, he could see a figure, hair and clothing blowing in the wind. Even though he couldn't make out the details from this distance, he knew it was her. His talent was reacting too strongly for it not to be her.
The next moment he saw the pair in the sky suddenly turn and plummet straight towards him. As he watched his doom approaching, he knew that he was about to die. But what could he do but sit there frozen on the ground as they grew larger in his vision.
But he didn't die. Before the diving dragon and the woman riding it reached the ground, the dragon spread its wings and stopped its dive. It landed between him and the crater, kicking up a storm of dust as it landed. He was momentarily blinded by the wind and dust that was kicked up, but after the mess settled he could finally open his eyes again.
What he saw was the creature he had thought was a dragon standing tall, wings spread wide as the sun gleamed on armored scales and dangerous spines along its backbone and tail. The beast's size and presence was magnificent, and it was giving off a subtle pressure that he could actually feel pressing down on him.
Standing just in front of the dragon creature was the woman that he had been searching for, her arms crossed over her chest as she watched him. She was different than the last time they met, stronger, more confident. It seemed while his life had been falling apart, hers had been improving. The night that he had last seen her was etched into his memory, the thunder and the rain drenching them, the sight of her muddy face just as she stepped back and fell from the cliff…
Now here she was again, her exotic beauty even more breathtaking than before. Her short, midnight-black hair was messy from the wind and gave her a fierce, untamed look that was accented by her clothing. Before she had been dressed in a way that completely concealed her form, but now he could see her pale skin, her slender neck, and a glimpse of her collarbone, and the sight was making it hard for him to breath.
But he knew that she was beyond his reach. He was dust on the ground and she a star in the heavens. From the moment he had cornered her in that alley in Colten she had been lost to him. He knew this, and had accepted it, but the longing in his heart would remain.
His desire in coming here had been to find her and see her again, but that was not the only reason. He was also here to warn her of the oncoming storm, the predator that stalked her even now. The only question was if she would believe him or not.
After Viridi landed in a very dramatic fashion, Zoey dismounted and stood with her friend at her back, striking a pose while Viridi provided the backdrop. This stranger better realize that they were not to be messed with.
Now that she could actually see the person before her, they seemed familiar somehow. It was a man, but his face was covered and she could not see any identifying pieces of clothing. But Zoey could see his eyes, and they were the red colored eyes of northern noble blood, and she couldn't shake the feeling of familiarity.
In the stranger's eyes Zoey could see a myriad of emotions; recognition, longing, anger, fear, acceptance. Whoever this person was, they seemed to know her.
Then the man pulled the cloth away from his face. Zoey instantly recognized the man as Markus Rellen, the noble who had chased her from Colten, and later from Nito's home to the crater where she had met Athena.
There was no denying that Zoey was shocked. This was not someone she had expected to meet out here in the middle of literally nowhere, but there he was. He looked like he had been through hell, appearing scruffy and filthy from extended travel, and gaunt from apparent lack of food.
That aside, he was Zoey's enemy, someone that had hunted her for her Heritage, desiring to imprison her and violate her body to gain power. Zoey had absolutely no patience for someone like him. In fact, she had reactively summoned her double barreled DAAC the instant she recognized him, pointing it directly at his face with her finger on the trigger. Behind her Viridi had crouched into attack mode with two Shadow Blades ready to fly in an instant if needed.
"Wait!" Markus choked out, his voice raspy and hoarse. "I'm not here for what you think."
Zoey raised an eyebrow in disbelief.
"I suppose you're here for tea then?" She asked sarcastically.
"I... I needed to see you... To warn you," Markus said, his eyes not leaving her face.
"Warn me about what?" Zoey asked, her aim still steady on him.
"My brother... He's coming for you. He has an armada, the strongest one seen in the last fifty years, and he's coming this way," Markus replied, pointing a thumb back towards Frenach and the Bulwark. "He won't stop until he has you in his hands."
Zoey raised her eyes to the horizon. They were far out in the wasteland, and the Bulwark was barely a smudge on the horizon from here. Was he telling the truth? Why would this noble fool risk his life to come here and warn her? She looked back to Markus, narrowing her eyes in speculation.
"Why did you come here to warn me?" she asked him, watching his expression carefully.
Markus only smiled a tired smile and shook his head as he closed his eyes. "I have my reasons... You can kill me now if you'd like, I'm a dead man either way."
How odd. It was almost as if... as if he truly was prepared to die. Zoey looked at his peaceful expression down the length of her weapon's barrels and pondered what he had said. She could deal with an armada, she had the Stella Tenebris now. The question was whether to kill Markus herself or if she just left him to die here in the wasteland.
Her eyes hardened as her finger slowly tightened on the trigger...