Réllika looked over Rowen as the girl began to awake; she had had to be struck over the head in order to move her with little difficulty. Réllika herself was sitting in a position that was none to comfortable in appearance, but in fact quite a normal comfort for her. She sat straightly and stiffly, legs folded and neck straight. She leaned back slightly, observing Rowen with an indifferent expression.
Rowen tried to reach up to comfort the bump on her head, but she found her arms bound behind her back, and her bands were crossed as well, nullifying their firepower. Both the stone of the Natarinturnan and the Master Key were gone, but Rowen vaguely remembered one of them dropping off in the Vantranack, but she knew not which it was. Her shoulder bag that contained the flask of icy liquid was still around her, though Rowen did not know why it had not been taken. Things were still foggy; she could not recall now how many times she had been hit over her head, which was now throbbing.
Then Rowen set eyes on Réllika. Rowen’s glare was all at once hotter than her fiery nature and icier than the mountaintops. Réllika met her fury-filled eyes with an indifferent gaze. Rowen jumped up, forgetting that she was bound, and lunged at Réllika. Two feet away from her goal, Rowen caught the end of her line and snapped backwards, landing on her back. She paused, panting. Réllika’s icy voice filled the silent gap.
“Hold still, Rowen. You are hurting yourself more than necessary.”
“And you care?” Rowen shot back. “You want me to die.” She spat the latter phrase out vehemently, glaring from under her thick eyebrows. With the same aggravating indifference, Réllika replied to Rowen’s challenge with a single phrase, though not looking at her.
“Castamir doesn’t want you hurt.”
“And I suppose you always do everything Castamir tell you, huh?” Rowen shot again.
This time Réllika looked up somewhat startled, as if the question was absurd. Bewildered, all she could reply was “Yes, of course.”
This time Rowen looked up, staring oddly at Réllika. Réllika was extremely strong and intelligent; it was easy to tell. Yet she took orders blindly. Somehow the two didn’t make sense. Rowen softened her tone from its razor edge.
“Réllika, what is your life for? What do you live for, what do you hope to accomplish?”
What absurd questions, thought Réllika. Why ask for obvious answers?
“Why, to battle of course. I am elite. I am the best. I can kill better than any man here, in matters of swiftness or in long torture. I serve Castamir.” She beamed somewhat, in a way that showed through her placid face.
“But… what are your goals? What do you aim for? This cannot be your only life!”
“Do not question me! Of course this is my life! I was born this way, and I have exceeded expectations and I am the best.” Réllika was now aggravated with the ignorance of this savage. What else was there in life nobler in doing? Nothing.
In the uncomfortable silence, Rowen tried to relax and make herself comfortable. She blinked something red out of her eyes; her head was bleeding. It stung her eyes for she could not reach to wipe it away.
Suddenly something stiff touched her head – the leather of Réllika’s glove. Réllika had kneeled down beside her and poured a stinging liquid into Rowen’s hair, frothing around her cut head. Rowen was extremely befuddled by this act, and managed a rigid “thank you.”
“Do not thank me. I do this not out of kindness. I must keep you in top condition. You are my responsibility. However, I am given permission to kill you, if you so pose a good enough threat. Which you will not.” Réllika added, her back still stiffly straight even as she kneeled.
Rowen stayed as a prisoner of Réllika for a few days, no longer fighting but saving her spent energy for a final attack. She had to get Jack to of the Vantranack… if he was still alive. Once she got the courage to ask Réllika about it.
“Réllika, do you know if Jack still lives?” Her voice was barely above a whisper.
Réllika’s head snapped around, carefully eyeing Rowen. “I do not. No one can enter the Vantranack; the entrances caved in.” She continued inspecting Rowen’s face.
“You care for him?”
Rowen was startled by the unexpected question. After a pause, she replied. “He is a great friend to me, and has saved me many times.”
“But you care for him more than a friend. Am I not correct?”
Rowen was not startled to see the intrigue in Réllika’s normally expressionless eyes. She decided to just give a blunt answer and get the subject over with, to stop the painful flow of thought that he might already be dead. “…yes.”
But instead of being halted, Réllika continued. “He cares for you. The guards at times have heard him, calling your name. He says the same thing over and over. `I’m sorry Rowen, I’m sorry. Escape. I’m sorry. Rowen, please… Rowen, I’m sorry.’ Why is he sorry?”
The news startled Rowen. “Perhaps because he brought me into this, he went along with Sabor and tagged me along, though he never gave me real reason why.”
“Ah, Sabor. So young, so power-hungry. He was an idiot. Perhaps Jack brought you along because there was something about you he liked?”
Rowen changed the subject. “Why are you doing this to me? Holding me captive like this? What gain is it for you?”
Réllika looked dumbfounded. “Castamir told me to.”
There was no end to this circle. Rowen gave up trying to find a way around Réllika’s blind devotion.
Just then, fourteen sour-looking guards strode in, though a few wore a subtle smirk that just touched the corners of their mouths. The leader, an enormous Seerganash that towered over Réllika, stepped forward. Rather than bow to her, as he should have, being her subordinate, he held up his chin and relayed the message he had been sent with.
“Réllika, you are to report to Castamir’s office anteroom. He is not there, but rather you will find something else awaiting you. We will guard Rowen.”
It would be many hours until Réllika returned.
Upon her arrival, the guards dispersed and left the chamber. Rowen was stiff; she had not moved at all while the large brutes were watching her. With her ear against the stone, Rowen could hear the clang of Réllika’s boots, though they were not their usual deliberate, stiff step. They sounded weak and unsteady.
When she walked in the room, Rowen kept still as if asleep. She saw that Réllika was furnished with a new, longer whip, though her cocky character no longer haunted her green Seerganash eyes. Her normally neat braid was in disarray. Rowen got up slowly as Réllika sat down. Réllika took down her hair, seeming not to care she was in Rowen’s reach.
On closer inspection, Rowen saw blood running down the side of Réllika’s face, seeping from her hair. In her hand was a crumpled, dirty piece of parchment. It was the clue Réllika had discovered to find Rowen. She had not told others about it, but apparently someone knew she had been hiding it.
“..wha-” Rowen began, but did not finish. Andereth had done that to her.
“It was my mistake. Just like you are a mistake. But a mistake that will serve us. And then you can watch Jack die.”
Rowen, taken aback by the response, let forth a fury of anger. She managed to uncross her wrists, though still behind her back, and sent a column of flame towering to the ceiling. Dust and rocks showered down eagerly from the fireburst, hitting Rowen and Réllika both. Rowen did not care. But Réllika suddenly flew up from her seat, her thick black hair swiveling around, and with speed greater than they eye’s perception flipped out a blade from her belt. Before Rowen could even blink she felt something warm running down her arm. When she looked down she realized it was her own blood; a red knife lay stuck in the rock a few feet away.
Rowen merely looked at her arm, then sat down and stared indifferently. Réllika could take it no more.
“Fight back! Do something! Don’t just sit there you idiot. I can see your muscles. Come on, battle me. I’ll untie your wrists. I can take your fire. Try me.”
“And give you the excuse to kill me? I think not.”
“Then you will go kicking and screaming to a fiery end.” Réllika spat back.
“Kicking, not screaming.” Rowen corrected.
Amazingly, Réllika cooled. “I have never had a prison such as you Rowen. If I did not wish to kill, I may have liked you.” She hit Rowen’s stomach with the hilt of her sword, causing Rowen to double up. Wheezing, Rowen spoke lowly from her crouched position.
“Why do you do it, Réllika?”
“I am doing good. This is for the better. We will rise and make better this earth of divisions.”
Rowen was taken aback by the response, as well as greatly saddened by her new knowledge. Abruptly the door burst open and soldiers stormed in, grabbing Rowen around her arms. They were used to her manner, and would knock her out soon to make the journey easier.
Before Rowen was gruffly pushed out the door, she strained against her captors and yelled back to the silent Réllika, “Look at your name in the mirror, Réllika! Look! That is what you are, and what you will always be. Nothing more.”
So rang her words around the chamber as a sword hilt crashed down upon her head and her world disappeared into emptiness. They were taking her to Castamir – she was at last entering the domain of the alpha dragon.
Réllika paid no heed to this for a while. Until, that is, her missions carried her to the Cascadelunara.
She had been sent as the fastest rider to gather and return any troops that had journeyed there. She reached it in less than six hours – incredibly quick time. She stayed until the soldiers had cleared the area.
But before she left, she was intrigued to find out if the Cascadelunara was indeed frozen of not. No one had yet entered the high cavern itself. Silently, she slipped in.
Inside the sight made her gasp. The cavern glowed with a beautiful turquoise blue hue, dancing in water patterns over the walls. The 70-foot high, 20-foot wide wall of water was frozen to a smooth flawless glassy ice, yet living water still flowed underneath the ice. It was like looking at a waterfall through a curtain of glass. The icy surface threw rainbow-like patters across the walls, adding to the splendour of the place. Réllika walked out across the small frozen pond at the base of the waterfall. Evidently the water still flowing inside the ice went further down before crashing into fathomless fivers below. Réllika wondered how deep the water was under the ice that she walked on. It made her shiver, and not just because of the cold air.
As her breath drifted across the still air, Réllika walked up to her reflection in the glassy ice. She had never actually seen herself, and was shocked at the sight. She looked so … like death itself, beautified though a woman. Her green Seerganash eyes stood out in contrast from black lined lids and a pale face.
The chamber rang as Réllika drew her sword, the sword she had earned as an elite member of the Hunting Party. She held it up to admire how deadly she looked with it.
She almost walked away when something caught her eye. Her name was engraved on the hilt, a name given to her upon completing her training as a girl. She could not remember what her name had once been.
She caught her name’s reflection in the ice. Disturbed, she took out a piece of parchment and some charcoal and scribbled her name in the same order of letters, but made each of the letters face the wrong way. She held it up again to the mirror. The name that read across her eyes was like a knife to what she had thought about her job to the Seerganash.
The two words across the reflection were: