Chapter 109: Fire Regained

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But that day was also the day that the Eight learned something, along with everyone else. All mortals learned that their boogeymen were real, and coming to destroy them. They learned that their myths were true, and that they were in for the struggle of their lives. 

But that day, the Eight learned there was something to fear in these mortals.

***

9 Years Ago

***

She awoke to quiet. 

Skaria could hear Karik'ar snore next to her. They shared a room, and lately, Karik'ar would pull up a chair and sit next to her, talking to her well into the dark hours of the night. Well, he more of talked at her. For most of the time, Skaria hadn't spoken back. 

Now, he was half-laying on her bed, long strip of hair hanging off the bed. He had fallen asleep while sitting in the chair. He was a good friend, better than she deserved. 

She stared up at the rafters. Really, that was all she felt she could do. Sit, lay sedentary. All the strength had drained from her limbs, as if she was a doll emptied of stuffing. Aches greeted her, but the worst part about it wasn't the lethargy, or the pain. 

The worst was the numbness and the weight. 

It crept over her soul, like hoarfrost encrusting her mind. She had once taken joy in the simple things, like a fight, a bright and sunny morning, the smell of sharpening oil on her blade, and fixing her armor. Now, she didn't even know what that joy felt like. That feeling had long been forgotten, had faded away into the grey mix of emotions that had floated like an oil stain on the surface of her memory. 

The weight came with it, a hopelessness that seemed to grow and swallow everything. It's presence polluted every thought in her mind, tainting them with the numbing despair. That was the worst of it. Everything was horrible to her eyes. Everything was hopeless and she didn't care. 

Karik'ar started, and sat up. "I fell asleep again" he said. "I'm going to freshen up. You should do the same. And then some training." He gently squeezed her shoulder. 

The weight lifted slightly, and the aches became a little less pronounced. He was doing some sort of magic to her, no doubt, and was messing with her head. Honestly, it made her feel better. He cared for her, in his own way.

She managed, despite the soul-crushing weariness, to drag herself out of bed, sponge herself off with a pail of warm water, and throw on some warmer clothes. 

She stepped back into their room. Karik'ar was busy rebraiding the long train of hair that hung down to the middle of his broad back. "You want me to tie up your hair?" he asked. Skaria shrugged. 

He tugged gently at her hair, and pulled it into three clumps. With each clump, he let the other two hang, and split the one segment into three strands, which he wove together. Soon, Skaria had three braids hanging down her back. Karik'ar put them in a loose knot, and turned to face Skaria. "Come on. You need to do some exercise." 

That was something Karik'ar insisted on. Exercise. Her muscles couldn't atrophy on her, and reduce her ability to fight. So, Karik'ar had to practically drag her outside half the time, but he did. 

The Vesperati watched. It started with the littlest one, staring in pure curiosity. Then the rest of them joined in on observing Skaria exercise. 

It wasn't that exciting. They stretched, and then they began to fight. 

It wasn't really a fight. It was more of Skaria pushing against Karik'ar, and the Kai'Draen providing resistance. She'd push against him, whether it was with her arm or with her leg, and usually he'd just stand there. 

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