Better Days – Yaladra, the Whitecloak.
“We’ll need to make an entrance here.” Yaladra hurriedly summoned the power of her Inner Fire. “The guards will be back any moment. Help me.” The white-cloaked mystic waved her father close to the tall grey wall of a seedy warehouse somewhere on the coast of Jonin. There was a strong scent of fish this close to the docks, and danger was in the air. “Hurry, father.”
“Yes, yes, I’m coming.” Drayle came jogging over as he pushed back his glasses and adjusted his simple waistcoat. He grabbed his daughter’s hand, closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
“You don’t have to hold my hand.” She glared at him sideways.
“Ah, yes. Sorry. Just caught up in the moment.” Drayle rubbed his hands together and gestured to the broad wall before them. “Shall we?”
Yaladra nodded. She touched the wall, sensing its dimensions and properties with ethereal energies. “Ready. You know the words.” The two mystics prepared themselves. A convergence of two Fires met in the space across that simple wall. Reality fought against the mystical. With two masters of the Strength of Words, reality quickly gave way.
“There is a door here…” they said in unison. Yaladra’s brown eyes flashed an impressive violet, while Drayle’s emanated a deep forest green. The plain warehouse facade twisted and turned into a simple paneled door with black-iron hinges.
“This way,” said Yaladra as she dashed inside. Drayle followed in silence. Once in, they released the incantation, and the door morphed back to a plain grey wall. The book Fossvalor’s cousin gifted them had proven invaluable so far. It led them straight to part of Tiberiak’s coastal operation, where at least three mystics were enslaved. And this is just the start, she thought. There are so many more yet to help. Knowing there were mystics in pain out there made her thoughts grind, but the current day’s opportunity would have to do for the moment.
The two made quiet paces down a long hallway towards the rear of the building. The book told that there was a small onsite apartment for people of certain special abilities here at the warehouse. As they reached a turn in the hall, Yaladra pressed them both back. “Someone’s there,” she whispered, barely audible.
“We watched the guards leave minutes ago,” Drayle replied as quiet as possible.
Yaladra’s brow furrowed; she shook her head. “The others will be back soon. We have no choice.”
“No choice but to what?” Drayle asked as his daughter dashed away around the corner.
As luck would have it, the man on patrol had his back turned. Yaladra rushed him at a full sprint. She jumped and kicked the man square in the shoulders, knocking him flat. She jammed one of his arms behind his back, held it in place with her knee, and made three quick blows to the head. A quiet groan was the man’s only counter before he passed out.
“I do wish you wouldn’t be so rough.” Drayle came around the corner with a worried look.
“Time was short. This was effective.” She pulled her hood back over her head. “Let’s keep going.”
A dozen steps away was a wide metal door. It was a solid industrial looking thing, not a trace of light came around its narrow frame. Drayle put his hands on it and pulled. He winced, saying, “It’s locked.”
Yaladra glanced left and right down the hall, keeping her ears strained for any sound. “Can you open it?”
Drayle breathed deep, a burst of green coming from his eyes. “Locks… release.” The mystical scholar’s voice echoed faintly in the hall, resonating and rewriting reality itself. Three metallic shifts sounded from inside the door, which loosened from its frame. Drayle exhaled. “There. Let’s look inside, shall we?” Drayle stepped aside and pushed the door open.
Yaladra stood at the ready, bent at the knees, hands primed for whatever they might encounter. She peered into a dark, musty room. Not catching eye of any movement, she went inside, eyes already glowing violet. “My cloak, bright as the moon.” Her cloak shone like the full moon, filling the room with an eerie, magical light. They examined the place. It was definitely a crude living quarters, though barely more than a jail cell. A few cots lined the moldy walls; muddy beach sand covered the floors; there was no natural light at all. A simple oil lantern hung from the middle of the ceiling, though it was currently doused. “Damn…”
“The good news is, we do seem to be in the right place. But if they’re not here, where could they be?”
Yaladra took little heart in her father’s positivity. Something in her gut sunk. She’d been hoping for an easy-in easy-out scenario. Things just got complicated. And the only person in the building who might know where the mystic slaves were was now unconscious just outside the room. “We’ll have to keep searching the building.” She stormed out of the room. Not hearing sign of any other guards, she continued down the hall.
Drayle came in behind. “Could they still be at sea?”
“Not according to the ledger. Wait—” She heard something, but it didn’t seem to be coming from inside the warehouse.
“I hear it too…” Drayle craned his neck, listening. “Something outside?”
The duo completed the circuit of the hallway which led to an exterior door nearest the sea. As they approached the door, they confirmed the sound was outside. Raised voices… Yaladra turned to her father and motioned for him to stay low and quiet. He did just so and followed in behind, though with a worried crease in his brow. They reached the door. Through a crack in the loose-fitting frame, they could see three people wearing weather-beaten rags on their knees. Three men and one woman, stern in face and posture, stood around them. They seemed to berate the three waifs with many questions.
“Who’s coming for you? Huh?! I heard you muttering. Who would possibly come to save you!?”
Yaladra turned from the door wearing a confused look. “How could they have known we were coming?”
An epiphany dawned on Drayle. “Mind Mystics… The ledger said these were low-powered Mind Mystics. Usually only capable of minor influence on animals. But maybe one of them has greater telepathic ability. They could have heard our thoughts earlier while we planned our ingress.”
Yaladra tensed and looked back outside. “Certainly complicates things…” The two sat in quiet for a long moment while the interrogation outside escalated.
“I have an idea.” Drayle stood up and straightened out his clothing, adjusted his specs and ran a few fingers through his salt and pepper hair. “I’m going to distract them for a bit. I know the lingo of the Tiberiak operation, that should give you enough time to get into place, in case I can’t just talk them down entirely.”
“Get into place? For what?”
“For…” Drayle winced and made a grasping gesture. “For whatever it takes to make sure those three escape tonight.”
Yaladra’s eyes narrowed. “I thought you didn’t want me to be so rough?”
“Time and a place, dear one.” He winked, sounding almost playful. “Time and a place. Don’t be long, though. Those four out there seem pretty agitated as it is.” His eyes went wide; he took a quick breath to settle himself, then walked straight out the door, head held high.
Yaladra hid out of sight as the door opened and closed. Her father, fearless at all the right times, had put himself in harm’s way. Which left her alone to figure out the second half of the plan and only a few minutes to see it done. She looked around the filthy, fish-smelling hallway. The only thing of use was a rusty pry bar with a foot broken off at one end. It was a simple, blunt instrument. I can think of a few uses for this. She grabbed it and made for the roof.
It took her a full minute to find a rotting wooden ladder that led topside. She dashed across the roof to the far end to get eyes on her father. Sure enough… She shook her head for a moment, surprised at how well he had kept four revved up, miscreants distracted. Then she played out the steps of her plan mentally. It would require a few spells spoken in succession. Or else total failure and Tiberiak would gain two more mystic lives at his disposal. She pulled up her hood and set to work.
First, she closed her eyes. The first spell was the most uncertain. She focused on one mystic on the ground. “Hear me… hear my thoughts. Please, hear me.” She fought against reality, hoping a Mind Mystic below would be receptive. The response came clearly. Perhaps this mystic was more advanced than anyone knew.
It’s you, isn’t it? You’ve come to free us?
Yes, Yaladra replied. That’s my father there, creating a distraction. We’re going to get you out of here, but we need help.
Through the ethereal mind-connection, Yaladra felt feelings of joy, relief, but also danger. It was a strange sensation. She was not truly a Mind Mystic at all, but the Strength of Words afforded her some ability in almost any other mystic art. She shook off the mental fog that threatened to distract.
What can we do? The voice replied.
Count to five, point up here to the roof. Scream. Then close your eyes. Tight. And tell my father to do the same. Quietly. Can you do it?
The other mystic voice delayed a moment. Long enough to make Yaladra worry.
I’ve already told the others. We are ready.
Yaladra stood up on the edge of the warehouse roof. Her right arm extended wide out to the side holding a simple pry bar. She called upon her Inner Fire, ready to tax herself to whatever limit necessary and beyond. Down below there came a scream. Her four targets looked up at her and shouted. The white-cloaked mystic jumped off the roof. “Metal… bright as the sun!” She shouted as a stream of mystical energy reverberated out from her voice. The simple rod in her hand became a second sun. Cosmic light streamed out in all directions, lighting up the dusky sky anew. Falling with rapid speed, Yaladra kept one hand holding her hood closed so that she wouldn’t get blinded herself. Next, with only a dozen feet left to the ground, she shouted again. “Light as a feather!” A burst of violet shone in her eyes. Just in time, she landed on the ground with a light touch. She let both spells lapse. Dusk fell over the warehouse and nearby docks again. Her four assailants were staggering. Thankfully, it looked like the others had avoided the worst of the brightness.
Time to go to work…
She quickly dispatched the first two, using the pry bar with wide swipes across their heads. Two of Tiberiak’s men slumped to the ground in a heap.
Meanwhile, Drayle called out to the other three mystics and herded them away to safety down a nearby alley. “Come on, now! All three of you, let’s go!”
The assailing woman, holding one hand near her eyes, pulled out a gun. It was a Thunderclap pistol, though it lacked the shine and lacquer of other models she’d seen. Being now overly familiar with that firearm, it was even easier for Yaladra to assert her magics over it. “Your gun jams!”
Yaladra’s attacker clicked the pistol, once, twice, then rapidly to no avail. She stopped again to rub at her eyes with both hands.
The last enemy had made use of the commotion and was already twenty paces off. Yaladra wasn’t about to let him get away. She swung the pry bar wide while speaking, “Fly back to me…” The words seemed to reverberate from the object itself as it flew end over end. The metal tool found its mark careening off the back of the head of the would-be escapee, then flying just as fast back to Yaladra’s hand.
The woman attacker had shaken off the sun-blindness and attempted to pistol whip Yaladra across the brow. The mystic stepped back to dodge, then knocked the gun from her attacker’s hand with the pry bar. In a fluid motion, she returned the bar across for a strike to the temple. It almost missed, but still grazed. The woman fell backward. Not wasting a second, Yaladra stormed down atop her prey. She tightened her grip around the makeshift weapon.
“Those three mystics no longer belong to you, or Tiberiak. If I ever catch you trying to take them again…” With a mighty strike, she jammed the pry bar into the ground, inches from her target’s ear. Yaladra stared the other woman down with a look that could stop a mowgul in its tracks.
Breathing erratically, the terrified woman nodded just slightly, chin bobbing up and down.
Without another word, Yaladra followed her father’s path into the alley. She found them just at the edge of the salty-smelling warehouse district.
“I was just about to go back and look for you.” Drayle’s face was alert; it looked like his heart was still racing.
“No need,” said Yaladra. She turned to the three freed mystics. “Ready for a trip?”
The three huddled together. Now able to get better eyes on them, they appeared to be a mother and two near-adult children. They all had similar thin, black hair and a light tan complexion. “Thank you,” said the mother, a desperate relief in her eyes. “But we have nowhere to go. If there’s anything else you can do…”
“I know just the place,” said Drayle. He produced five air whale carrier tickets from his pocket. “There’s a safe place for mystics, up north and hidden away. You’ll be safe there. Although, first… we’ll need to head through the market and buy you all a change of clothes. And new cloaks! It gets cold during the air travel, even in summer.”
The mother and her two children smiled, tears filling their eyes. “Thank you…” Was all they could say. It was more than enough.
Many hours later, Yaladra and Drayle sat on their cots in a small, private room on the air whale carrier. Yaladra was still rubbing her sore knuckles from the day’s pugilistic efforts.
Drayle must have noticed. “That must hurt… though you did good work today, daughter. Very good. Those three are free because of you.”
“Because of us. You did more than your share.”
He nodded three times. “I try… I try.” He sighed and looked out the porthole window into the dark. “There are a lot of names in that book. Are you sure you’re up for the challenge? It could take… months, maybe years.”
“Will you still help me?” A softer tone entered Yaladra’s voice with the thought. For a moment, she remembered what it was like being a young girl. How she looked up to her doting father as they traveled together for his mystical research. So much had happened since then. Perhaps now things were not so different. Besides the sore hands from vigorous fighting.
“Me?” Drayle pointed to himself. “Yes, of course. There isn’t another thing on this entire planet I’d rather be doing. I just thought you might want to invest in some gloves. Or those gauntlets that Maej used to wear. I can’t imagine what that does to your poor hands.”
Yaladra smirked and covered her face with one hand. Perhaps her father was not getting as sentimental as she thought. She considered the suggestion with levity. “Gauntlets, huh?”
“I’m sure we could ask Maej where he got his. Somewhere in Sedenza, I imagine. I bet we could even find them in white.”
Though Drayle was being completely sincere, Yaladra couldn’t help but laugh. This wasn’t at all the life she imagined. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.