This chapter does not correspond with any from WTWFTD.
Characters appearing in this chapter:
Nadiko (elf) & Sai (wolf Guardian) ~ Wolfheart
Kanyk Scarletblade (angel) & Ethan/Darkscar (dragon Guardian) ~ Michael Moriarty
Kari (humanoid phoenix Guardian) ~ QuEeN GlACieR IcE PAn
The Guardian still had not spoken since they'd fled the prison, but as Darkscar's claws touched the grass of the clearing, she opened her lips.
"Thank you," she whispered, her pale eyes absorbing the world around them. Kanyk gripped her slender wrist to steady her as Darkscar knelt close to the ground, helping her clamber down from his back. Nadiko swung herself down, Sai - in his humanoid form - right behind her.
She observed the Guardian with interest.
Almost everything about her humanoid form seemed cold in colour - her pale blue skin, her silver-blue eyes, her snowy hair. Her crimson lips alone seemed full of life - that, and the concoction of joy and disbelief that leapt within her eyes.
"What's your name?" Kanyk asked softly.
"Kari," the Guardian girl replied. She paused, before asking, "And you?"
"Kanyk. The dragon is Darkscar, or Ethan, when he's in his humanoid form." She glanced pointedly at Nadiko and Sai.
"I'm Nadiko." It felt strange, talking to the Guardian after so many years of hatred. There was still something in the back of her head that told her she should be worried - very, very worried - but Sai's presence beside her fought it away. He was different, somehow.
"Sai," he introduced himself.
Kari took it all in, then a smile found its way to her crimson lips, small and frail at first, but quickly dancing outwards in radiant joy.
"Thank you," she said again, and this time her voice was louder. "The world is beautiful."
"Yes," Nadiko grinned. "I suppose it is. Why don't you sit down? You look tired. Rest a bit, then you can look around later."
Nodding, Kari followed them to the cluster of logs around the fire-pit, perching on the smallest as her eyes darted about in wonder. How long had she been there, trapped in the chains of experimental magic and darkness? How long had it been since she'd seen the light?
"How did you know where I was? Why did you help me?" Kari asked.
"We've known the prison was there for a while. We just needed backup to actually get in," Ethan said, and grinned as he nodded towards Nadiko and Sai. "Then they turned up."
Kari nodded, smiling her thanks. It was still strange, being thanked by her. "Do you do this often? Saving Guardians?"
Ethan nodded, apparently happy to take the conversation. "As often as we can. Mostly they're too well-guarded for only two of us. Even with four, it'd be difficult to get into most prisons."
"Five," Kari shot back. "With five of us."
Nadiko decided to go ahead and like her. "Good spirit," she grinned.
"I guess I'm not much of a fighter, but I can do hit and run," she offered. "That is... If you wanted another fighter."
Ethan grinned. "Definitely! We're going to need a lot of help - right, Kanyk?"
Nadiko glanced at the angel, whose lips hinted at a smile. "Of course. Welcome to the team, Kari."
Sleep refused to visit Nadiko, and after at least an hour of trying to fall into the arms of slumber, she gave up on it, stood, and crept from the tent to the glowing embers of the fire where Sai was standing guard.
A grin stretched across her lips as she waited to pounce on Sai, tensing herself as she prepared to leap. The second she launched herself forwards, he whirled around with impossibly fast reactions and shoved her away. Nadiko barely managed to catch her footing, but instead of retorting with another attack, she took the seat beside him, grinning.
"I can't believe we were trying to actually kill each other the other day," she mused. "We still have the scars to prove it."
Sai nodded. "You were the strongest opponent I ever faced."
"The same could be said to you," she laughed, punching him lightly. "As my shoulder knows all too well."
Sai raised an eyebrow in scepticism. "Oh? And my eye doesn't?"
Nadiko grinned. "Fair point," she said, before playfully adding, "It can stand as the witness to my position as the superior warrior."
"Doubtful," Sai retorted, before glancing at her and meeting her eyes. "Have you actually eaten anything lately? You look paler than usual. I'll get you some food."
Before Nadiko could argue, he stood and left her in search of food - probably the remnants of the previous meal. She smiled. If Guardians could be this considerate, then she'd been wrong her entire life. It had simply taken the kindness of a wolf Guardian to show her that.
She glanced at the embers. A few still danced through the darkness, leaping through the inky shadows that threatened to swallow them entirely, breaking free of the dying ashes beneath them as they leapt into the night. It was strangely inspiring to watch them as they spiralled upwards, lighting their own way into the blackness of the sky.
Sai sat back down, a bundle of nuts and berries in his hand. "I'm sorry," he said. "This was all there was left. I can-"
"That's fine," she smiled, taking the food gladly. Sai seemed to relax at her acceptance of the small meal.
"Thanks," she said, tossing one of the berries into her mouth and breaking the fragile skin between her teeth.
"No problem." A moment of silence. "I don't mean this in an offensive way... But you seem shorter than most elves."
"Most seem to be taller than me."
"Well, you're just a stupidly tall Guardian," she informed him irritably.
"That, or you're just small."
She shot Sai a glare. "You want to keep both your eyes, wolf?"
Sai looked amused. "Well, I wouldn't be able to see how much taller I was, then, so I guess it could make you feel taller than you actually are."
"Sai. I wasn't kidding."
He bowed his head mockingly. "Of course."
Nadiko rolled her eyes, but didn't take it any further. Why didn't people notice things like her prowess in battle? No - they only noticed her height. Or rather, lack of it.
"I'm surprised you ever managed to trust us," Sai said quietly, after a long moment of silence. "You've been raised to hate our kind."
Nadiko shrugged loosely. "I was raised to kill. I didn't even trust most elves." She turned to him, fixing him with a stare that she only hoped would tell him that she was opening up, that he should respect her words. "No elf ever saved my life. Nobody ever did before you. I suppose that made the difference."
Sai did not mock her, for which she was glad. "Well, you were the first to save mine, so I suppose we're alike in that sense."
"Who would have thought it?" Nadiko smiled. "A Guardian and an elf."
Sai nodded. "Odd," he agreed. "But strangely... warming."
"Yes," Nadiko said, "Yes, that's a good way to put it."