B1C24 – Lost and Found
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The forest was thick as usual; they had been traveling for a couple of days with no signs of anything improving. The forest was dark, the fog had gone thick again, and visibility was abysmal. Izzar did not know where he was leading them; they needed to get back to the Citadel, and fast, time was running out. They have been walking towards the sunrise for a few days now, they did not rest once, and Tarium was growing wary of carrying Viha.

“My lord, we need to stop; I need rest.”

It was not the first time he requested iso; it won’t be the first time Izzar would reject his request. Izzar didn’t think Tarium understood the importance of returning to the citadel; if his grandfather was killed, he would be killed too. If he survives, he will be killed for taking too long to complete his mission.

They walked a few miles further, and finally, the fatigue caught up to Izzar as well; he couldn’t continue one step further; he was just too tired and collapsed to the ground. Tarium placed Viha gently on the floor; she had not been conscious since her battle with Nivshevus in her mind; for some reason, she was still fighting for her life. She had not so much as grunted, moved, or woken in all the days that had passed.

For about three hours, Izzar lay asleep, his body was recovering, and his mind was refreshed. He couldn’t stop thinking about his grandfather being at the citadel needing his help to defend their home; he looked up and saw Tarium resting; he was still sleeping. Viha was lying not too far from him. Deep down, he could feel that she was fighting a heated battle, not with the beast, nor with her father. But with herself. Her body seemed pale; her hands were going dark. Izzar saw nothing else to do but embrace her.

He closed his eyes, trying to concentrate as hard as possible, the same way he did before. However, nothing happened. He could not see anything, nor could he enter her mind. Finally, he gave her a kiss on her head, accepting defeat, he was hoping to form a stronger bond with her, but he has failed her, just as he failed his grandfather.

Lowering his head, he couldn’t help but think of the little things he grew fond of about her; the color of her eyes, her hair, the way she spoke, and the way she fought. The strange softness of her touch and the shape of her body. He had never seen anything like her before. He had never felt the same way towards anyone like he did to her.   He held back his tears; the sense of significant loss overwhelmed him. Not only will he never see his grandfather again, but he also won't see Viha alive again. Tarium might be the only person he has left in the world.

He closed his eyes, he accepted their fates. Giving himself up was the hardest thing he had ever done; he had nothing more to offer or take; he was alone. The only possessions he now had were his teachings and the clothes on his back; nothing would ever be the same. He opened his eyes once more, but he was no longer in the forest holding Viha; he was back in her mind. That familiar smell of her hair, the sense of determination with it, lingered thick. He quickly looked around him to see if he could spot her, it took a moment, but he found her. He was happy; joy filled his being from the tips of his toes to the last hair on his head.

“Viha!” He shouted as he approached.

Viha stood up from the ground and turned towards him, a great joy filled her heart, and she rushed towards him. They embraced each other like old friends; she was relieved, him too. Their lips reached out for each other connecting in a most profound way. Izzar had never kissed anyone before; it was a fantastic sensation. He could feel parts of his body responding to hers. It was indeed a special moment for him and her.

“I’ve never kissed a man before.” She finally said after their lips parted.

“Kissed? Is that what it is called?”

She nodded and smiled at him.

“How do we get out of here?” She asked sincerely; she had been in her own mind for a few days and could not understand why she couldn’t break free.

“You must be facing some kind of problem. What have you been battling?”

“Nothing…” she responds. “I was waiting for you to return.” His heart raced; these words were strangely sweet to him. But then, everything in her mind cleared, and she disappeared; she was no longer stuck there; she was free. Izzar concentrated hard.

He opened his eyes, and he was back; Viha was already up, speaking to Tarium.

“Welcome back, my lord.” He was the first one to notice him awake.

“We need to leave immediately.” Izzar was not prepared to lose any time. His grandfather was in trouble; somehow, he could feel it.

“I have a trekking device; it has mapped out the planet along our route. So we were heading in the right direction. But, unfortunately, we are two days out.”

Although Viha was more resourceful than he had hoped, they weren’t very far. None of them knew how many days they had lost during their episodes of mind control.

“I am glad to have you with me then.” Although his words seemed to make her uncomfortable, he didn’t let his confusion show.

“Any idea where Diggix went?”

The question had been asked countless times; his worry for a robot was unusual. It was strange to him that it was not with them at the colonies. The robot might have had a definitive way back to the Citadel.

“No, my lord,” Tarium answered. “He seemed to have disappeared when we got attacked before being taken to the colonies.”

There was no use for them to worry about that; Viha had a tracking device that mapped most of their route back to the citadel. Though it was unclear how far they still were. Izzar was still deep in thought when a thunderous sound came from above the tree line. He quickly rushed up one tree to see what was going on. Maybe a half a day’s hiking in the far distance, the Citadel towered over the canopy. He looked straight up and noticed hundreds of crafts in the atmosphere above them.

“The fleet is here.”

He tried desperately to contain himself; it was the end for them if he couldn’t reach the Citadel in time. Quickly he climbed down the tree again, meeting the confused Tarium and Viha.

“What is going on?” Viha asked before Tarium could.

“There is a fleet in orbit; they have come to attack the Citadel.” Izzar paused for a moment, pondering the possibilities.

“The Citadel is well protected; it will take more than a fleet to breach its defenses, besides who do you think is attacking?” Tarium was genuinely unaware of Iphis’s mutiny and the attack coordinated by her.

“Iphis has amassed a fleet in orbit to destroy Master Thanatos and me; we can’t fight against an entire army alone.”

His voice was shivering; he knew not what to do. If he returned to the Citadel, he would be discovered by Iphis and might be killed; however, he would have a chance to save Thanatos before it was too late. However, if he remained in the jungles, he would still be hunted down by Iphis and her people; they wouldn’t stop until he was found.

“This can’t be.” Tarium interrupted his thoughts; Tarium proceeded to climb the same tree as Izzar. He was finally alone with Viha.

“I am with you to the end.”

Her words were sweet; they meant something to her. Yet, though he was glad that she was still alive, he was saddened that everything he knew was being destroyed; Izzar longed to be back in the torturous dark rooms chained up and being in the presence of Thanatos or the other monks.

“Thank you.” He responded.

“I’ve never had anyone like you being by my side. It is something else. I would run into battle with you any day.”

Although she blushed, he turned his head. The sounds of crackling and the occasional explosion rocked both their cores. “The battle has begun.” Izzar looked at Viha with large eyes, his pupils were dilated, and his lips were shivering.

The sounds of war were not something he was used to; only a single shot here and there around the Citadel was heard, but nothing as loud or violent as those sounds in the distance. Yet, somehow he could feel Thanatos being overcome with fear.

Tarium jumped down from the tree, his eyes were wide, and he had his sword drawn.

“We need to hurry, master. My mandate requires me to protect the Citadel at all costs. So we need to go defend the Fortress and our Master.” Izzar did not argue; Tarium was right; they had to go to the Citadel and defend it to their last breaths. He gave Tarium a nod and looked at Viha in turn; she nodded back.

Ships rapidly approached the citadel from a distance, Izzar trembled in fear. He knew they were coming, but he wasn’t ready; he was warned and did everything he could to prepare. If they succeed in their attack, Izzar, the sole successor to the Order, would be stripped of his rightful place as heir. Sorath, his older brother, was seen as the legitimate heir to the Order; Iphis took it upon herself to reveal this to the rest of the Order and forced change before the change forced her to accept Izzar’s eventual rule over the order. For now, he was rushing as quickly as he could to the citadel; he saw Iphis’s ships enter orbit, the attack was imminent.

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