Chapter 4:

Miana - The Water Maiden

Demon Unit Ovihile

As we moved past the unguarded walls of the Judeca, a wave of pure, clean air filled the space around me. Telarana certainly didn't have dirty air, by any measure, but the air here was simply perfect. It was as though there were a barrier between the air inside and the air outside.

A small, regal, stone fountain was shooting a thin stream of bubbling water into the air, where it separated, then slowly dropped back down in sparkling droplets. It's very existence filled my head with serene peace.

Lyra led me slowly through the garden-slash-courtyard hybrid, the smell of foreign flowers and strange fruits and berries filling my head. She giggled as she noted the effect it was having on me.

"Irretica." She said.

"What?" Was all that my scattered thoughts could muster.

"Irretica, it's a type of flower that produces a pollen that can muddle with the senses... Master Drake uses a compound in a mixture it to mentally isolate criminals when they're interrogated. It's actually pretty useful." She explained.

"Is there a way to get it to stop?" I asked. There was a desperate buzzing in my head now, one that made focusing nearly impossible.

"Once you've been tortured thoroughly by Master Drake... you won't even notice the stuff until you need it." She said.

I felt my body tense up at the mention of torture.

"You seem so... nonchalant about that... what was it like for you?" I asked, praying that I wasn't drudging up bad memories.

"Oh! It was horrible, the worst couple of hours I've ever been through... the worst bit of it is how long it FEELS like it takes! I could have sworn that a month had passed before Master Drake washed the drugs from my system... like I said though... it's only a couple of hours long... if you remember that, you'll be fine." She said.

"Has anyone failed the torture?" I asked.

She looked at me for a moment, then ushered me to the door of the building.

"The four of us, Miana, Kyra, Aedo, and myself... we're the only ones who have ever gone through it... well... Master Drake did too... but he gave himself MUCH higher doses of the drugs used in the trial... but everyone came out fine, I'm sure you will too." She said.

"He gave himself higher doses? Why would he do that?" I asked, taking a look at the large atrium of the Judeca.

Fortunately, Lyra decided to keep quiet for a moment to allow me to take in the sight of the enormous room, although there really wasn't much to take in. The room itself was rather barren, save for two large doors that seemed similar to the one that adorned the throne room of the Palace.

The only other structures in the room were two curved staircases that built into the walls of the room that lead to what seemed like two hallways that were just out of sight. The last piece of furniture was a small stone counter attached to the wall beside the entrance.

Lyra took a small piece of paper from the counter top, and scanned it before looking back at me and finally answering my question.

"I'm sure that you may have some preconceived notions about how a man as powerful as Master Drake may act... but know that he is one of the most selfless people you'll ever know... he didn't dose himself once, he did it ten times. All to ensure that we didn't have to suffer any more than we needed to in order to build drug tolerance." She explained.

"He was miserable for months afterwards, due to the excess of psycho-effective drugs that lingered in his system for quite some time. He was in constant pain, his body shuddered involuntarily, he was sickly and restless, and constantly depressed... I hated seeing him like that... knowing that he put himself through that for my benefit didn't make me feel any better."

"How did he survive that?" I asked.

"Well... I'm not exactly certain myself... maybe you can get him to tell you... but..." She said, flashing the sheet of paper in front of me. "I need to go take care of this... if you go up the right staircase and go down the hall, the last door on the left is Mistress Miana's room... she's Master Drake's younger sister, and is technically our second-in-command when Master Drake is away... she can help you get situated." She said.

With that, she turned to the door and exited the building. Part of me was interested in what she was attending to, but another, even larger part of me was FAR more interested in getting a glimpse of the family of my new superior.

Following Lyra's instructions, I made my way up the staircase on the right side of the wall. I could see down the hall connected to the opposite staircase. They looked identical, including the placement of the doors. Along each hallway, five doors lined both walls, with ten in total along each hall.

I made my way to the end of the hall, and, sure enough, the left door at the very end was slightly different, having an ornate M carved into the wood. I lifted my hand and knocked on the door softly.



"Come in!" Came a soft reply. It was almost inaudible, but somehow I knew I was being answered.

I opened the door slowly, a soft breeze from the room carrying the scent of fruit, similar to the Irretica, wafted up to my nose. It was a bit more gentle, however, and didn't bring any cloudy thoughts to my head. I pushed on, opening the door fully.


I shook my head, finding my thoughts focused entirely on the girl in front of me. Looking at her, gorgeous truly seemed the most apt word to describe her.

Floor length white hair and snow white skin gave her a very bright complexion, her face blessed with soft-looking off-pink lips and ruby red eyes that were just too similar to Mara's that I nearly convinced myself that she was Mara's twin then and there.

There were some significant differences between the two. Mara had a softer jawline, whereas this girl, likely Miana, had much sharper features. Mara was beautiful without a shadow of a doubt... but this girl... it was as though she commanded beauty itself.

As though she were... inhuman.

Her eyes seemed to be studying me as thoroughly as I was her, slowly tracing my figure with uninhibited interest. Her eyes locked onto mine after a moment, and I felt my body tense up, like a wild animal was stalking me just out of sight.

The look in her eyes slowly waned, becoming more tame and soft, she took the hem of her long, purple dress and gave a soft curtsy.

"Greetings, my name is Miana Amorta, younger sister of Lord Justicor Drake Amorta, and second-in-command of the Judeca Judgement Unit." She said. "I apologize for staring so intently before, your darker skin tone initially made me think that you were a Godkind." She said.

"Godkind?" I asked. The word sounded familiar, but I couldn't place exactly it.

"The dark-skinned people... well, we call them people, but they, like the Dragonkind, are just different enough that they can't really be considered people like the Elvish or Humans." She said.

"What do they look like?" I asked.

She gestured towards the door.

"They are large, easily measuring eight feet, with dark mahogany skin and empty eyes. Folklore says that they were born from their Goddess, and sent to subjugate the world, but were thwarted by the Dragonkind." She explained.

"Are they dangerous?" I asked.

"Sometimes... if they're alone... they tend to keep to themselves, preferring to be isolated from others who aren't of their kind. They use the solitude to practice magic, and can be aggressive and territorial." She said.

I stewed over her words for a moment, then felt a question plaguing my mind.

"ARE they people?" I asked.

"Well... there hasn't been much study on them... they're exceedingly hard to capture, and they really aren't willing to come in for experimentation." She said. "Brother's theory is that they might be a branch of what Humans and the Elvish could have become. Same with the Dragonkind." She said.

"Tell me about the Dragonkind." I said.

She nodded, then slowly moved forward towards me... until she was nearly chest to chest with me. Her face tilted down slightly, in order to stare straight into my eyes.

"Dragonkind... Pale, white hair... red eyes... and they ooze dominance over everything and everyone." She said. She punctuated the last bit of her description by licking her bottom lip in a rather exaggerated fashion.

Still... it was enough to make my heart race.

She giggled, before backing away and turning to the balcony just outside of her room.

"They're also heartless killing machines who happily mow down any "Unenlightened" that they come across." She said. "And before you ask, the Unenlightened are simply non-Dragonkind."

"Do they... really look... you know... like you?" She asked.

"Yep! Brother looks like them too, although... I believe he calls us "albino"... says that we're mutated humans or something... doesn't really matter! I don't care what I am, I'm happy." She said firmly. "But YOU though! You're a cutie! Are all the girls from Et' Al as beautiful as you?" She asked.

I attempted, fruitlessly, to form a response, only to have my words forced into the background. A loud, sharp squawk became the pinpoint of our focus, with Miana turning back to the balcony once more, where, through the window, a large hawk could be seen perched on the railing, waiting.

Miana opened the glass door to the balcony gesturing to the hawk, who swooped from the rail to her arm. A small rolled up slip of brown paper was tied around its leg.

"A messenger bird?" I asked.

"Indeed! I use them to communicate with the Elvish tribes in the more remote wilderness areas. They sometimes need my expertise." She said, most of her focus on the slip of paper.

As she unraveled it, another, tiny square of fabric fell onto the slate floor of the balcony. Reaching down and retrieving it, I could see that it was decorated with an even smaller black circle, along with a strange, foreign character front and center in the circle.

Miana took the circle from me, then waved it excitedly in my face.

"Speaking of needing me, I have to go help one of the tribes... you want to tag along?" She asked.

I considered her offer for a moment.

"Is... it going to be dangerous?" I asked.

"Shouldn't be... it hasn't ever been before. So? You in?" She asked.

"Umm... sure." I said.

She grabbed my hand, and with a flourish the piece of fabric burst into a bright flash that forced me to squeeze my eyes closed. I felt my body lurch forward, Miana's hand moving slightly down my arm.

By the time I felt my eyes adjust to the artificial light, we had seemingly moved. My irritated eyes took a moment to take in the blast of green from the trees around us.

"Where... where are we?" I asked.

"About... I'd say... sixty miles or so to the north of Telarana... in the Rendall Forest... the Dark Elvish requested my assistance with a matter pertaining to their water supply." She said, pointing to a cluster of trees in front of us.

Upon inspecting the trees, I realized that they seemed strange... gnarled and broken, like... something big had come through the area very recently.

She grabbed me by the hand and led me through the thick brush, the hem of her dress getting caught on branches and exposed roots with what seemed like every step. She either didn't notice, or didn't care, not so much as glancing down as the hem of dress tore away.

We walked for a while, my legs aching now due to the stress of having walked for hours on end. I felt a sudden yearning to have the feeling of Haste runes underneath my feet, then laughed.

"We're here." She said.

Pushing out of the treeline, we found ourselves in a small clearing, occupied by a single man with dark skin, who seemed to perk up quite a bit as we entered.

"Hail! It is relieving to be in your presence, Lady Miana!" He said, giving her a bow as we approached.

"Hail, Elder, let's hear your troubles on the way, so that we can save time." She said.

He looked to me for a moment, then nodded, leading us through the clearing.

"About a month ago, a creature appeared at the edge of the forest and began tearing through the land, crushing trees and eating animals... we left it alone, and it seemed to do the same to us. After it left, however, the earth began to shake under our feet, and the lake that we draw water from has turned black." He said.

"Has the water changed in any other way?" Miana asked.

"Yes, since then water changed, our children have been falling ill... we don't know what to do. If you can deal with the water, we will be thankful, but many are concerned that the beast that arrived may be the cause of the problem... if said problem persists... we would like Lord Drake to consider driving the beast away." The old man explained.

"Well... let's focus on your children and the water itself before we make any decisions, if you continue having the same problems after I'm finished, just send another hawk and we'll decide what steps need to be taken." She said.

"Of course! Please, the children are this way." He said.

He pulled us through into another small clearing, this one dotted with a number of small, wooden homes. As he had said, there was a small lake just past one house, the water in which was a murky black.

He brought us to one of the larger buildings, ushering us inside after him. Two dozen small beds were present, each occupied by a young child who seemed to be either sleeping, or taken by fits of coughing.

Miana knelt down next to one of the children, a young girl who was crying in pain from what sounded like to be incredibly rough coughing fits. Miana touched a finger to her forehead, shushing her softly before chanting a spell.

"Aquir Novih."

A blue glow emanated from her finger, washing over the girl's head. Slowly, her coughing fit seemed to die down, until she began peacefully sleeping. Miana repeated this process with each of the children. Eventually, all of the children were sound asleep, although whether this was due to exhaustion or Miana's magic, I wasn't sure.

Miana turned to me, motioning to the door.

"We should go outside and deal with the lake." She said.

Luckily, the lake was only a dozen or so feet from the building, and Miana hastily moved to the body of black water awaiting us. She submerged her finger beneath the surface and held it there for a moment.

"It is indeed dangerous to drink this... I can't pinpoint what this impurity is exactly, but I can rid the water of it." She said.

The Elder bowed his head, thanking her profusely until she asked him to distance himself from the lake. After he had taken a position far away from us, she lifted her hands and pointed them to the sky.

"Aquir Invitra!" She chanted.

A small whitish-blue ball slowly grew between her hands, expanding to about the size of my fist. She lowered the orb into the lake, where it burst, dissipating the black substance and leaving the water crystal clear.

The Elder rushed out excitedly, bowing to Miana and again showering her with thanks.

"It's fine, I assure you. Brother is the one who gave you this land, and I promised him I would help you if you needed me." She said.

He handed her a piece of fabric similar to the one that had likely brought us here, and she thanked him, turning to me.

"You ready to leave? I can't imagine that you have any business, right?" She said.

"What kind of magic was that?" I asked.

"Oh, it was magic from the Water School." She explained. "It's the only magic I'm any good with." She laughed.

She took my hand and flourished the fabric, only this time I managed to close my eyes before the flash. With another lurch, I was greeted with the familiar smell of Irretica, and I knew that I was back in Miana's room immediately.

All at once, the exhaustion from having so much occur in one day hit me, and my legs gave out beneath my own weight. Fortunately, Miana caught me, wrapping her arms around my waist, and slowly letter me drift onto her chest.

"Easy... I guess YOU don't really show when you're tired... that's fine, your room is close to mine anyway, so I don't have any qualms with carrying you there." She said. "Sleep my dear... oh... I never actually asked you what your name was... heh, that's okay. For tonight, I'll just have to deal with you being "the pretty girl from Et' Al", I suppose." She giggled.

She continued speaking, although my brain had more or less given up trying to understand her. Moments after her voice disappeared, I felt my back being greeted with the soft comfort of a bed beneath it, and the warmth of a blanket over my skin not long after. Part of me was unhappy that I was sleeping so early, but the part of me that actually wanted sleep had already won out over it.

I drifted off, my body slightly achy, and my mind somewhat overwhelmed with the days events.

I didn't even consider the possibility that tomorrow may be even more hectic than today.