Bonds of Friendship

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Lanna Rose

She wasn’t supposed to be here and she knew it. Not that anyone would see her. She was small and really good at hiding. She just wanted to find the plant books again. The pictures and descriptions inside made her dream of an area where she could run and explore. The tunnels and caverns held no more mystery for her.

She snuck around a bookshelf and saw a young man sitting at a table with books piled in front of him. She ducked back and steadied her breath. No one was supposed to be here. If anyone found her she would be in so much trouble. She turned back and pulled a book from the shelf to look through. The man was a Null. She hadn’t really had much experience with them as her tribe didn’t really mingle much. She watched him as he sat there reading.

She watched him for a minute, he seemed so intent on what he was reading. Suddenly the man looked up, right at where she was hidden. Her heart leapt into her throat as she slid the book back in place. He was younger than she first thought. Maybe only three or five years older than she was. He tilted his head to the side and smiled.

“You shouldn't be in here you know.” His voice was soft and didn’t echo at all in the big library. She didn’t move at all, just continued to stare at him through the books. “It’s alright. I wont say anything. It would be nice to have someone to talk to.”

She blinked and slowly came out from behind the shelf. He waited there looking at her. She wasn’t sure but there was something about him that seemed different.
“How come you’re in here? The Collegium doesn't share their books with anyone. Trust me I’ve tried.” She walked to the table he was at and stood with it between them. He was much younger than she had thought. Maybe the same age as she was.

“I live here. I’ve never seen you in here before though.” He set his book down and looked at her. “Why are you in here, especially so late?”

“I like to read the books on plants. It’s the only time I can get to myself. My sister doesn’t leave me be. So I come here at night to read them.” She smiled wistfully thinking about what it would be like to actually see a tree.

“You’re from the Jade Pact right? Do you have your tattoo yet?” His voice was curious with a hint of excitement.

She blinked at him, her hand reaching down for her dagger. “What do you know about the Jade Pact?”

“Only what most people do. Your ancestors made a deal with the Primal Fey and your people serve them in a sense. Your tattoos are a sort of status within your tribe.” He knew more than most did. She pulled her hand away from the dagger.

“That’s true. No, I do not have my tattoos yet. I’m not old enough. I’m only fifteen right now.” She pulled out a chair and sat down. She reached into her bag and pulled out two cups, a waterskin, and a wrapped bundle. “Have you eaten? I have some snacks with me.”

He sat there quietly as she pulled everything from her bag. She poured a sweet smelling drink into the two cups that steamed slightly. “What is that?” He watched her curiously as if he had never seen someone pour tea before. There was no way that was possible. He couldn’t be younger than her.

She paused and looked at him. “It’s tea and cookies. Would you like some? I always have two cups because I keep breaking them while I’m out.” She pushed the cup towards him and unwrapped the cookies to offer him.

“Thank you. My name is Viltis. What is yours?” He took a sip of the tea and sighed softly. “Oh this is nice.”

She smirked. “My name is Kymisha. Try the cookies, they’re even better.”

All around her eyes burned. It had taken two hours for them to finalize the design. It had been one of the most painful experiences in her life. It was worth it though, she had finally proven herself to the elders. It was about 5 years later than most, but she finally did something to impress them. They had granted her a great honor, why she still wasn’t sure. They found her impulsiveness amusing, but that is what eventually had caused them to realize that she was more. More of what she wasn’t sure, they only told her she was more.

Now in the middle of the night she snuck again to visit her friend. These last handful of years she had done this two or three times a week. Viltis was always happy to see her. Even when she felt sorrowful or angry he had a way of calming her.

He was the only friend she really had right now. All of her tribe members her age kept away from her. She was always in some sort of trouble because of her sneaking around. It was so much fun to hide from everyone and surprise them. But never Viltis, not yet at least.

She knew something was wrong with how the Collegium treated Viltis, she just couldn’t figure it out yet. He was strangely silent on the topic and didn’t like to talk about it. Kymisha knew that the only way to figure it out would be to work her way into the Collegium. This had been her goal for the last two years. She was still only an entry level clerk, but it was a start.

She found her spot outside and worked her way through the tunnel. She would have to widen it slightly. She knew that she had outgrown it years ago, but she couldn’t spend the time working it like she had in the past. She would have to make a point of doing it soon though, the tight space made her lose time going in and out.

Finally she got through and wound through the bookshelves. She knew the route so well now that she didn’t really think about it any more. She let her mind focus on where people were while her body just knew which way to go. It had been about ten years since she met Viltis at this point.

She paused behind a bookshelf at the sound of voices. They were kept low but she was close enough to tell that one was Viltis and the other was one of the Collegium librarians. She slowly pulled a book to see the person. She blinked at what she saw. Viltis was now chained to the floor at his table. Anger hot and blinding filled her mind. This was just cruel. Her hand moved down to her dagger as she began to plot how to get him free of those damn chains.

Before she could move Viltis made eye contact with her and shook his head so slightly that only she could see it. She stayed and watched as the man spoke to Viltis and seemed to reprimand him. It was a Libram she hadn’t seen before. As she watched she saw the flash of the Collegium bracers. So he was part of the higher levels of the Collegium.

After a time the man left Viltis alone. She dare not move because she wasn’t sure if the Libram was still around waiting to see how Viltis reacted. Kymisha waited for what felt like an hour before Viltis looked over again and smiled. “He’s gone.”

Kymisha came around the bookshelf. “Why are you chained? What happe…”

“You got your tattoos! Wow they’re in a very open area. Isn’t that like a big deal?” He smiled widely at her.

Kymisha paused next to the table and looked down at his ankles. “Viltis this is a bigger deal than my tattoos.” She gestured to his ankles. “Why does it seem like you are a prisoner now?”

Viltis sighs. “I always have been Kymisha. They’re just taking stronger measures now.” He stood up and rested his hand on her shoulder. “Now. Tell me about your tattoos. Why were you chosen to have them around your eyes?”

Tears welled up in her eyes as she looked into his eyes. They were so sad and happy at the same time. This human was an enigma, how was it that he was always so cheerful? She wiped away the tears quickly and took a deep breath.

“Because I follow Haldine’s ways closely. Because I take what I see and react. Because I embody what it truly means to be part of the Tribe of Haldine. It is a great honor. But I don’t know that I can live up to the expectations of my people.” She reached into her bag and pulled out a waterskin of tea, two cups and a loaf of lemon bread.

“You’re a lot stronger willed then even you know. I like that about you. You tell me exactly what I need to hear, even if I don’t want to hear it.” Viltis sat back down and accepted the tea and slice of bread when it was handed to him.

“I'm actually here for two reasons. One I wanted to share my tattoos. Two..” Kymisha pauses and sips her tea. “I need to cut back how often I’m visiting, for a little while. Obviously I’m not leaving the Cairn. But I have to stay away from here for a bit so that I can complete some missions given to me by the Collegium.”

Viltis blinked at her. “Why do you want to be a part of the Collegium?” In his voice she heard hurt and a small amount of anger.

“To help you. I will visit when I can. I’m not going away forever. You’re my friend and I will not abandon you. I swear.” She felt tears well up in her eyes again. She dashed them away. “I need you to do something though. I’m trying to get to a point where I can visit you whenever I want to, not just sneaking in. So if you’re ever introduced to me…”

“Pretend you’re a new face. I got you. What do you mean to help me though Kymisha?” He sets the cup down and leans in close to her. “You’re starting down a dangerous path you know nothing about.”

“You’re locked in here. That’s not okay. Damn it, we are all locked in here! I want to see trees Viltis.” She sighs softly. “But for now I’ll come when I can. Check behind the books where you first saw me. I’ll try to leave snacks for you.” She smiled. “So, what’s the newest book you’ve found for me?”
She was so tired, all she wanted to do was go home. But there was something more important than that. Viltis’ birthday. They weren’t sure when it was exactly, but they worked together to choose a day for them to celebrate.

The mission she had finished had taken a lot out of her. Working her way though some of the lower levels of the Cairn to find old technology and magic. She never really found anything besides battle scrolls. But they kept sending her down because she was one of few that could get in and out quickly.

She crawled through the tunnel, glad she had spent that night long ago digging it out more. She could move quickly through it and into the library. She knew the best way to move through it wasn’t on hand and knees, but no one else would know that and she would have time to escape if she had to.

She worked her way through the bookshelves as usual. She knew the routes of the librarians so well. None of them were allowed to be near Viltis so they never got close. Hell they didn’t even go on the floor he was on. It took her now only about ten minutes to get to the floor he was on. When she first came though it had taken her over an hour to get there.

A man’s voice filtered through the bookshelves. She held her breath and waited at a bookshelf further away than she wished for it to be. There was no way for her to see who was talking. She heard what sounded like Viltis’ voice once or twice responding but she could never make out the words.

Kymisha heard the footsteps walk past the other side of the bookshelf she was behind. She sat there silently for quite some time before she felt like she could move on. She moved ever closer to the spot where Viltis read at night. She paused at the closest bookshelf and pulled a book out to make sure the coast was clear.

Viltis’ back was turned towards her. She felt a flutter of excitement as she placed the book back. She peeked around the corner and then began to move silently forward. Right behind him she stood up and placed her hands on his shoulders. “I go…”

She was pushed back so hard the wind was knocked out of her when she landed. She lay on the ground staring up at the ceiling as she tried to relearn to breath. What was that?!

“Kymisha, oh no…Kymisha I’m sorry. Are you okay.” He leaned down looking into her eyes as she gasped for breath. “Oh no…, no, no…”

“I’m okay…” She croaked out. “Just got the wind knocked out of me.” She coughed slightly and finally was able to breath normally again. “You’re a lot stronger than you look my friend.” She smiled up at him. Tears lined his eyes.

“I thought I really hurt you. Are you sure you’re okay?” She reached up to him silently asking for help. He grasped her hand and pulled her to her feet.

“That’s what I get for finally getting the drop on you.” She coughed again. “Remind me not to do that again.”

He laughed uneasily. “You sure you’re okay?” Kymisha nodded and smiled. “Come sit down. I wasn’t expecting you today. I thought you had a mission.”

Kymisha sat down and pulled her bag onto her lap. She rummaged through it as she answered. “Oh I did. I finished it.” She sighed in relief when she saw the bundle was not broken. She looked up at him with a smile. “Did you forget what today is Viltis?”

He looked puzzled for only a moment and then he barked out a laugh. “I did actually. Wow is it already my birthday again?”

“It happens every year Viltis. What is it now? Twenty years since I snuck in here and found you?” She pulled the small bundle out and held it out for him. “Happy birthday Viltis.”
“Now Kymisha, you’re being informed about this because your missions will be linked to it. We have something we wish to introduce you to. Do not be fooled by its appearance. It is more dangerous than you could ever imagine.” The Librahm, Silas, walked with her towards the library.

Her heart raced as he opened the doors and led her to a familiar location. There he was, sitting and reading as they walked up to him. He looked up and saw the Libram and then her. She noted the twinkle in his eyes as they walked towards him.

“Viltis, this is Kymisha. She will be checking in on you occasionally and leaving more things for you to read as she finds them.” The Librahm moved aside for her to fully see Viltis. He hadn’t changed very much since the last time they had spoken. He still looked like an adult human. As always she felt at ease around him.

“Hello Viltis. I’m sure it will be a pleasure to work with you.” She held her hand out to him. She noted that the chains around his ankles now included a pair on how wrists.

“Likewise Kymisha. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” He squeezed her hand slightly and winked at her.

“Now I apologize but we really must leave. Kymisha will return in a few days with some new reading materials for you.” The Librahm ushered her out of the library. “What you will be doing is locating and confiscating and ritual scrolls you come across. That thing in there will need them.”

“Excuse me sir, but why would a human need scrolls like that?” Kymisha glanced back at Viltis before leaving the library.

“Because it isn't human. It’s a dragon.” Kymisha stopped in her tracks at this revelation. Silas stopped as well and sighed. “Long ago this Cairn was trusted with an egg. We had to do a lot of convincing to the original keeper of the egg. But finally they understood that it would be safer with the Collegium than with them.” He straightened his coat.

“So how long has…the dragon been here? Why take the shape of a human?” She felt panic rising in her. The urge to run to Viltis and ask why he never told her.

“It hatched about six-hundred years ago. It only started taking the shape of a human about three-hundred years ago. It was originally aging very slowly. But suddenly about one-hundred years ago it aged to what you see now in the matter of two decades.” Silas motioned for them to continue.

Kymisha followed him silently. Silas’ voice came to her again. “The problem is that now that it took on this form it seems to have forgotten what it was. We tried a couple of times to tell it but the reaction was…less than ideal. It went into a rage of sorts.”

Viltis was a dragon…a real dragon? No wonder he didn’t age like a human. Things were a whole lot more complicated than she initially thought. “Viltis is a dragon.” she whispered to herself.
Kymisha was looking through the library, well away from where Viltis was kept. She needed to try to find some information about dragons. She had no clue what they could do other than the stories she had been told about the times before The Fall. But she also knew that through time stories were warped and changed to fit the narrative.

She had to find the oldest parts of the library. Which lead her to the area she was in now. Further down than she’d ever been within the library was where the oldest books were. Some weren’t in the best shape any longer, but she could make out most of what they said.

It was times like these that Kymisha wished she could include her sister for this type of thing. The girl had a memory like no one she’d ever met. Nessa could remember the smallest detail of something from years ago, but couldn’t remember what she had eaten for breakfast. Kymisha shook her head and focused on what she was trying to do again.

There was nothing here. She sighed wishing she could talk to someone about this. How could all of the information…They moved it to the restricted section. She couldn’t get in there, she’d tried many times. The security was just too high, guards were posted within eye shot of each other and there were no gaps that she could find.

She wandered through the shelves seeing if anything caught her eye to sneak to Viltis. She found an old cart that was covered in dust. Books were piled on top of it so she began to look at them. Inside one she saw illustrations that reminded her of the stories she’d heard as a child.

She sat down next to the cart and begin flipping through the pages. She couldn’t read this book. The symbols were ones she’d never seen before. She sighed and went to go put the book back, but then she paused. Viltis might enjoy this, he always loved learning new things.

She tucked the book away and opened a few more to find different symbols in two of the other books. The rest seemed to be in common. She picked up the last book in the pile and her heart skipped a beat. Dragons of the Lands this book could help her to help Viltis! Hopefully it would allow her to guide him to realizing what he was.

It hit her then, that was exactly what the Collegium wanted. Maybe she shouldn’t try to awaken him until she could get him away from this place. She tucked the book away in her bag and left the library. Maybe Nessa could read the book and explain the details to her. That way she’d actually be able to learn what it held instead of trying to piece it all together herself.
She had learned now why they kept Viltis locked away. Why they never referred to him as a person should be referred to as. They only saw a tool. A way to reclaim the surface. Something to be handled. She understood now why they were so intent on him complying.

The Cairn was slowly falling apart. That’s why so many lower levels were abandoned. She hadn’t realized how many were crumbling beneath them right now. She had lost count around two-hundred or so. That many levels held people at one point. That many areas to grow food. Now it seemed food was running low.

This mission was the third one she had lost a shard of her spirit with. Three times she had been brought back through the apparatus. Three times she wondered if she was about to leave the world. Three times she had seen Haldine and what she thought was the surface.

This news changed so many things in her mind. The Cairn was never supposed to last this long. At least that’s what she believed. Something caused the lower levels not to be functional. The real question wasn’t why, it was how long do we have?

She noticed then, a man following her. Damn she was careless today. She wasn’t able to tell anything other than it was most definitely a man. They had a cloak to hide all features. They obviously knew what they were doing.

The cup in front of her had sat forgotten as she had looked through the mirror in front of her. She made a show of stretching and finishing her tea. She stood from the bench and began to walk to her ambush spot. She was known to be a high ranked member of the Collegium now. That ment that groups that wished for it to fall would target her. Right now that actually worked in her favor.

She knew now she needed contact with someone from that group. Someone that could do the things she couldn’t. Someone that could take the information she knew and start something that could lead to the surface. She knew it was her calling to do so now. She’d seen it three times just before her death.

Kymisha turned the last corner and slipped into the shadows before her stalker could see. He walked into the ally and paused just in front of her confused. She slipped out behind him and wrapped her arms around his neck. Her dagger pressed against his neck.

“Who are you and why are you following me?” She hissed into his ear. “If you were trying to kill me you need to do better.”

She felt a blade press into her back then. She sighed and raised her arms dropping the dagger. The man she had held moved away and drew his blade. “You were saying?”

Kymisha felt her knees be kicked out from under her and she knelt on the ground. She kept her hand raised and laughed. “This is pretty advantageous for me. I need to get a message to someone.”

The man paused his slow walk forward. “Say again?” She wished she could see his face, or make out anything about him. He really knew what he was doing.

“I found out some information that I believe the people should learn about.” She took a deep breath. “You see I am from Haldine. You should know that means I will do everything in my power for the right reasons. So believe me when I tell you that this informations will kill us all if your people in charge don’t find out.” She felt herself trembling knowing they would either believe her or kill her.

“Spit it out then. We will see if the boss wants to know.” Something reflected a bit of light into his hood for just a moment. But she saw it then, his face. However, she knew there was no way from that chance sighting she’d ever remember it.

“The Cairn is dying and the Collegium is trying to hide it. They’re doing a damn good job at it too. But I know the secrets. I want to use those to get us to the surface.” She looked right into the eyes she had only glimpsed for a second.

Everything went dark then.
Kymisha worked her way down the alley. She’d been following her target for days. She lost him once or twice, damn he was good. He was just what she needed. Someone who knew the back allies of the Cairn. Through pure luck she’d woken up that night just fine in a tavern inn. That was about twenty years ago. The only information she’d ever been given was a note telling her to “Find the Harbinger.” Well she had, and she’d made sure to watch him work before she tried this.

She thought that he may have seen her. She couldn’t be sure though. He was the one chance she had to make sure her plan would work. She turned the corner and found a dead end. He was gone, again. She sighed and flipped the dagger in her hand.

She knew he’d come down here. She hadn’t been that far behind him. This damn elf was hard to pin down. All she wanted was to convince him to assist her. She needed to not only free Viltis, but she also wanted to get those who wished to the surface.

“You’re good, I almost didn’t notice you.” In an instant Kymisha spun around facing the voice. He stood there leaning against the wall. “Why are you following me?” The Harbinger looked as if he had not a care in the world.

“I need your skills.” She stood with her dagger in her hand waiting.

“Everyone needs them. Find me again and we will talk. For now…” He threw two pin spells at her and walked away. She waited for him to turn the corner so the spell would fade. Once it did she took off back down the alley to catch up to him. But he was gone.
She had him this time. She only had to wait for the right moment. He had gone to sleep only an hour ago. This would be when she was able to prove to him her abilities. He’d already noted her ability to follow a target. Now she had to prove she could snare one. Oh he had been vigilant the first week after they met. But she never ventured too close to him, only kept an eye on him. Now over a month later she would take her chance.

She moved to the building and checked the window for any traps. Knowing him he would have something like that in place. He was such a paranoid person she didn’t think he’d take any chances.She was surprised that nothing was there. Slowly she opened the window just in case she had missed something. Nothing happened and she sighed in relief.

She made her way into his bedroom through the window. She crept closer with her dagger out. The Harbinger was asleep on his back. This was her chance. She leapt onto his chest and held the dagger against his throat. His eyes snapped open and locked onto her.

“So I’ve found you, never lost you though. Will you listen to me or do I need to prove myself more to you?” She looked down at him. She noted a smirk form on his face as she waited for his answer.

“I told you to find me again. Though how you managed to locate my home is impressive.” He held his hands out to the side of his body. “Can you please get off my chest?”

Kymisha moved off his chest and removed the dagger from his throat. “As I said before. I need your skills.” She tucked the dagger away and leaned against the wall. “I have a friend that is being kept prisoner by the Collegium.”

He sat up and nodded. “As you were watching me I too watched you. I’ve seen you in the library leaving food and drink behind the books. That tunnel you made is really cramped. I stayed once. The human right?”

Kymisha chuckled and nodded. “Yeah. Though to be honest, which I think we need to be right now, he’s not human. I’ve known him for almost two-hundred years.” She watched the surprise cross his face. “They’re keeping him for a reason. I need someone on the outside that can do some work. I’m technically part of the Collegium ranks and can’t do a lot of things I want to.”

He nods. “Interesting. I’d love to get to the bottom of how your friend can live so long.” He sat there quietly for a moment. “I’m in. How do I fit into this?”

“In time I may tell you the answer to that. For now…” Kymisha pushed off the wall and held her hand out. “I’m Kymisha of Haldine.”

“You can call me T for now.” He stood and shook hands with her. “I think this might be some good fun we are about to start.”
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