Tara almost lost her balance while recovering from the strenght of Vlad's swing, but caught herself back on time and countered quickly, slashing upward toward his chest. But Vlad was ready and just hit her sword downward, causing her to lose balance again, and this time to roll on her side after falling, ready to block his next attack, even though she knew he wouldn't hit her while she was down. "Hey you're getting better Tara. Wanna take a break?" Tara nodded and got to her feet, removing the breastplate of her armor and throwing it aside. She then released her long silky ash blond air she had tied for the training session and looked up at the sky, sword still in hand.
"She's getting prettier 'vryday, dontcha think Vlad?" Odiluke was sitting on a rock and observing the scene.
"Gotta admit, she grew up wonderfully. And she became much stronger than she was when I first met her." Vlad rubbed a bruise on his wrist and laughed.
"She managed to hit you? Wow Vlady, you're gettin' softer!"
"Nah, I had to hit her sword with the back o' my hand to block her hit."
"Haha, means you taught her well. You've changed lately, bro." Odiluke became serious all of a sudden.
"Hey, you changed as well Luke."
"No I mean... nah nevermind that."
"It's been two years since she's with us. Two years since my last army slaughter. So of course, things have changed."
"The war's still raging."
"Yeah, I doubt we still have long ta go before sumone calls on us again."
"And what do we do with the girl if..." Odiluke was interrupted by some very cold water Tara had thrown his way.
"I want to come if you ever go fighting again." She had her resolve face on, and that made Vlad giggle.
"Hey of course, you'll come along, I haven't forgotten the promise I made you, and that princess girl."
Willow, I wonder what she looks like now. It's two five whole years already. Already? No it felt like an eternity without you. Even if I saw you in my dreams... Do you still... No, you could never have loved me. It's something that hasn't started, who knows, maybe she never had feelings for me at all. It was just a random encounter. How would I manage to be with the princess anyway? I'm not of noble blood, and I'm the daughter of the kingdom's worse traitor ever...
"You never stop worrying, Tara?" Vlad was standing beside her and had put an hand on her shoulder. She had grown to appreciate him as an older brother, and he really treated her like one of his'. She had learned how to talk with him through telepathy, and at that right moment she wasn't sure if the words were spoken out loud, or if they were just in her head. "What if she forgot about me, Vlad?"
"Trust me, no one can forget you." Vlad smiled gently, and Tara answered him with a lopsided grin.
"Thanks for all you've done for me."
"Nah, I have to thank you. You've showed me a part of myself I had forgotten."
"What's this redemption thing you and Odi have been talking about?"
"What did your father do to be considered such a traitor?"
"Hmm... I-I'm sorry..."
The silence fell on them, the plains, the lake just beside them. It was a beautiful day, but something in the air, the atmosphere wasn't right. A slight noise of metal screeching was heard, and both Vlad and Tara turned toward Odiluke who had withdrawn his claws.
"It's not human, guys. And it's coming this way!"
Both Vlad and Tara gripped their swords and surveyed the area, but there was nothing in sight. The landscape was a still frame, no bird chirped, no rat raced through a bush with it's tiny legs, even the wind seemed to have stopped blowing. Vlad was shaking, and Tara could recognize excitement in his eyes. True, he hasn't fought for real in a while, can't say I'm a challenge... But then the excitement turned into some kind of fear, and the warrior shot a glance at his brother, to realize he wasn't the only one to have noticed the huge amount of power coming their way. Tara felt it too, and her knees threatened to let go under her any seconds, but she somehow managed to keep her composure.
"I think it's... stronger than us, Vlad." Odiluke had said that through telepathy, but Tara had intercepted the words and this time, fear made its way in her body, and she dropped her sword. Willow... I...
But Vlad didn't seem to care. He was building up his own power in a strange aura around himself, an orange, flamey aura that threatened to burst out of it's bonds any moments, because of how monstruous Vlad's strenght was. It seemed it was far beyond his capacity to control such power, but his face was calm, serene, and a smirk appeared on the corner of his mouth. Tara was looking at him, stupified by what she was seeing, unable to move or think properly.
As soon as he noticed his brother's stance, Odiluke dove on Tara and violently pushed her out of the way, and out of her reverie. "Okay bro, I rectify. That thing is stronger than our human restricted powers..." Vlad's eyes turned bright red, and he growled in satisfaction as the thing that was attacking them showed up.
"A d-dr-dragon?!?" Tara stumbled backwards, eyes stuck on the two menacing figures, mouth wide open, both scared and in awe in front of so much power. The dragon was a huge silver-white lizard, with a couple rows of teeth, and menacing claws. His scaled skin was sparkling in the day light, and he was ready to lauch a breath attack that no normal humans could whitstand, and Vlad was probably not an exception either. But he was out there, standing in front of the dragon, his sword driven into the ground by his side, apparently enjoying the challenge.
It all happened in a flash. Vlad leaped off the ground, the dragon spit it's freezing gas at him, and the warrior's aura immediately melted the ice that was forming around him, as he was about to dive down on the gargantuous beast with his... Clawed hand?!? in front of him. In just one swing, he sliced through the dragon's neck, and landed just before the beast's head on the other side of it's corpse. The cut was clean, and no blood was spilled. It was almsot as if nothing happened. But Vlad was still raging with his built up energy, and a maniacal laugh escaped from his lungs as he turned towards Tara and Odiluke, apparently thinking of satisfying his bloodlust by killing them too. The blood froze in Tara's veins, and she would have fell on her back if she hadn't been already sitting against a tree to watch the scene. The Vladawain she had grown to like as a big brother was about to leap at her and kill her, cold-heartedly...
"Reckless son of a bitch!" Odiluke dashed for Vlad's sword spitting the words, dug it out of the ground in a swift move and slashed at his brother's demonic right arm, all in a single movement. There was a burst of light, a loud scream, and next thing Tara could see was Odiluke's body flying into a tree, breaking the trunk in a loud thump and collapsing to the ground, unconscious. Tara shot a glance over at Vlad, who was slowly getting up, picking up his sword and shaking his head, his whole body trembling with untamed, wild power. She then ran over to Odiluke and knelt beside him. The man's skin was burned by the energy that had emanated from Vlad, and Tara began to heal him with the technique she had learned being around the two guys: She rested her palms over his chest, and began to concentrate her energy on him.
Willow heard, or felt, some kind of loud, powerful howl coming from the other side of the lake. She turned around just in time to see the last burst of power, and the guards that were escorting her all turned too late to see anything. "What's wrong my lady?" That power... felt familiar, somehow... "Huh?" She shook herself out of her thoughts and turned toward the knight that had adressed her and almost knocked her head into his armor. The man repeated his question. "Did you see something, princess?" Willow quickly shook her head no. "Must have been my imagination, sir!" If it's what I think, I'm better off not telling anyone, at all. The other guard turned towards her. "Why are we at the cursed lake anyway?" The other knight slapped him behind the head, and everyone stopped walking.
"Don't you dare talk about that in front of the princess!" The elder shouted.
"Talk about what?" Willow asked, frowning.
"Well I think the princess deserves to know how her mother was killed!" The younger man replied, vehemently almost.
"My... mother?" Willow's face grew pale, and she started looking around the lake desperately, not really knowing what she was searching for. The elder knight slapped the younger one again, and then put his hand on Willow's shoulder. "About ten years ago, there was this dragon that treatened to destroy the castle, and the villages around the lake. Your mother, along with..." The knight coughed, apparently reluctant to say the rest of the story. "The traitor's wife at the time, I think, and your mother, fought the dragon together, and pushed him to retreat. But they both died here. That's why we sometimes call it the cursed lake. 'Cause the two ladies were a blessing to the kingdom, and now they're gone."
Willow slowly registered the facts, her mother... and... Tara's mother? They had fought together? And the power she felt... definitely, it was Vladawain's. The mercenary. Is Tara so close? What caused such a burst of power? God I hope she's alright... What if... he lost control and killed her, and now she's as dead as her mother who was probably friend with my mother and so should be my friend, and we should've grown together, why didn't she come to the castle ever if they were friends? "Princess?" Willow shook herself out of her internal babble hearing someone call her, and realized she was completely out of breath. "Are you alright?" The guard looked concerned. Willow took a deep breath and nodded, her eyes slowly drifting towards the spot where she had seen the burst of energy earlier. There was nothing there now. But she made a mental note to go visit the place, alone, when she could. "And so, what are we doing here anyway?" The older man smiled. "It's time for Princess Willow to meet her mother's mentor."
"I'm... sorry!" Vlad's face was apologetic to the bone, but he had this kind of dumb smile that just made him look like a little kid that had just made a succesful prank. Tara sat against the tree and tried to focus on finding her own energy to stay awake, healing Odiluke had taken a lot more out of her than she had thought. She wasn't sure she could even say what she wanted to say and make sense at the moment. "T-The dra-dragon... It ki-killed my m-m-mother..." Vlad's face turned serious, and he sheated his sword slowly while making his way to where Tara was sitting. Tears were forming in her eyes, and her whole body was shaken by an emotion the warrior wasn't familiar with. He stood for a moment over her, both his arms hanging at his sides limply, and then knelt down and hugged the shattered form in front of him. "That kid's past must've been a real nightmare." The voice came from behind them, and Vlad immediately turned around and was ready to jump at whoever was behind them. The shadow didn't budge. "Oh Ho! Don't be so hasty sir Bagnale."