Alaric couldn't focus for two primary reasons.One: he was flying. Which meant being off the ground, putting his life into the hands- claws, really- of a dragon who seemed to want to make him as terrified as possible.
Two: Everlys and Feralith were right next to him and the dragon he was trusting his life with. And had somehow agreed to be his ally and search for Theirn Caius. Worry probed a tiny part of his mind, a fear that she might betray him and Seridian. But her overpowering then ending their lives wasn't likely, not when she looked so serene and calm.
Everlys looks like a completely different person when flying. That's one of the first thoughts that crossed through Alaric's mind. Everlys looked nothing like the person who had been pointing a knife to his face a few minutes prior.
The strays that danced around her face remind him of Eriene. Alaric didn't know why. Even the Sinistrain's blue eyes reminded him of his former classmate. And Everlys was just.. pretty.
"You knew her back in Forane, didn't you." Everlys said, and Alaric's eyes snapped to the blonde. She glanced over at him, a smile tugging at the corners of her lips. "Eriene." He was silent for a moment before giving her a nod. He would have to learn how to shield his mind from Telepaths; Everlys wasn't a threat, but others might be. He didn't want everyone knowing his secrets.
"Yeah. We went to the same school in Emran. I mean, it isn't exactly the biggest city, so there's only one primary school." Alaric paused, trying to find a way to describe his life before he being chosen.
"Most of the land's set aside for agriculture and farming- it's the same with the whole kingdom."
Everlys nodded, an sign that she was listening even though her eyes were ahead. Forests came into view as they broke through the clouds, a stark emerald contrast from the gray cliffs and winding rivers.
"We had this...rivalry, kind of." Alaric said with a quiet chuckle. "If you could call it that." The blonde looked over at him, her eyes carefully scanning his face.
"And you liked her." She commented with a knowing smirk, shaking her head as he didn't respond. "Come on, Emrys. I don't even have to be a Telepath to know that." A different look passed across her gaze for a moment, disappearing just as quickly as it had come.
Alaric refused to answer, but the scarlet faintly blossoming on his face gave away that she was right.
"And now there's another rivalry." Everlys couldn't help but smile. "Between you and-"
"Look." Alaric changed the subject before she could complete her sentence. "Down there."
From their viewpoint in the sky, they could just see the crumbled ruins of a place in the middle of the forest. Alaric couldn't make out anything besides vines and plants. He looked over at Everlys to see if she saw the same thing.
"It's shielded." she muttered as an answer to his silent question. "They're both there, but we can't see them." Alaric muffled a yelp as Seridian dove into the trees, Everlys and her dragon following. Feralith landed gracefully, tucking in her wings and letting out a small snort of amusement as he gasped for air. Everlys hopped off, glancing over at him before turning back in the direction of the ruins.
"This way." she murmured, reaching up and grabbing the pins out of her hair. They elongated into knives as she brought her arms down.
Alaric grumbled something about how much he hated flying before following her. Seridian and Feralith were surprisingly silent among the trees, despite their large sizes.
He followed as she crept towards the ruins, stiffening as he felt the greenery...change. it didn't feel as natural and alive as it had a few moments prior. He glanced back at the trees, then forward. He didn't see a difference, but there definitely was one.
"You okay?" Everlys asked as she noticed Alaric had stilled.
"Yeah." He responded. "It just feels...weird."
She gave a nod of understanding. Alaric knew that as a Telepath, she knew what he meant. Everlys held up a hand to signal for him to stop walking as they neared the ruins.
"Here's the shield." she said softly, extending one of her knives forward until it vanished. The image of trees in front of them rippled as if it was a reflection in a pond. Everlys had just thrown in the stone, and the transparent illusion had been shaken.
"Whoa." Alaric reached out to touch it, but Everlys pushed his arm away. She held out her knife, the metal now bubbling and steaming. It hissed as the Foranian carefully held the hilt. His eyes lit up in amazement, a childlike smile covering his face.
"'Woah' is right." Everlys muttered, though she couldn't help but return the expression. "Don't do anything stupid, Emrys." She gestured for him to move back after taking her knife out of his hands. He moved closer to Seridian, placing a comforting hand on the dragon's wing.
Everlys's knives glowed as she whispered foreign words under her breath. The barrier crumbled to black ash wherever her knives touched. Alaric's eyes widened in wonder, and Everlys whipped her head back to glance at him. "Hurry." she hissed, and he led Seridian forward. Feralith didn't seem fazed as she ducked through. The Sinistrian tugged one of her knives back, straining to keep the barrier open.
She stumbled through as Alaric grabbed her hand, pulling her towards him as the shield snapped back into place. Her face reddened as she realized how close they were, yanking her hand away and muttering for him to keep up. Alaric's face was expressionless for a moment before a small smirk spread across his face. Everlys had been... blushing. Everlys Deverell, the all-powerful Sinistrian, had been blushing.
They walked in silence for another few minutes before they reached the ruins. Alaric flinched as the same feeling from near the barrier crawled across his skin. The blonde looked over at him for a moment before pushing the hanging vines away. He froze; this was the one thing Alaric hated about being an Earth Elemental. He could feel the pain of every tree as forests got burned down to make way for new cities and fortresses.
He could feel every sharp tingle as someone cut a flower from it's vine. This time, however, was even worse than the fire an Elemental had accidentally set not far from Emran. The blaze had been put out soon after.
But this wasn't a forest fire.
This place was infused by Tenebris magic. He could feel the pain of the trees as they were forced to bend their natural magic to the will of the darkness, shielding whatever the supposed ruins hid. It was too intense for him to handle, though he managed to muster an "I'm fine" before she could ask any questions.
Everlys rolled her eyes, hesitating for a second before reaching out to take his hand. A warmth settled across him- or that could have just been the heat on his face from the blush. But he felt different, no longer bearing the agony of the trees and vines.
"Shielding. It's a Telepath thing."
"Yeah." Was all he could say, tightly holding on to her hand. For a moment, Eriene wasn't the person consuming his thoughts. Everlys gave him her smug smile-smirk before he remembered that she could read his thoughts.
Everything running through his head came to a sudden halt as the ruins came into view. Through the crumbling pillars, thickly wound strands of ivy and overgrown trees drooping under the pain, they could see two people and two dragons. The female was obviously in control of the situation, coils of black energy twisting around the hunched, trembling figure. Everlys drew in a sharp breath, and it took Alaric a moment to realize who it was. The person's head lifted, tears dripping down their face from two ice-blue eyes. It was Therin.
She let go of his hand, though her shielding remained around his mind. She tugged the other pin out of her hair, and it lengthened into a thin knife. Therin was their next potential ally. And whomever was fighting him- and very obviously winning- was automatically their enemy.
The person whipped around, the black stream lessening slightly.
"Oh." Karila said with a chuckle. "Hello." Her voice was surprisingly calm, though her eyes and smile said the exact opposite.
"What are you doing...?" The blonde whispered, voice so soft Alaric wasn't sure that Karila had even heard her.
"What needs to be done."
Memories tumbled through Alaric's mind, pulsing with a painful intensity. Everything was just splotches of color on white, at first, until the figures were outlined. He could see a woman with graying hair and a tablet, standing in front of someone. Medics clothed in white surrounded whomever they were. The image slowly became clearer, and Alaric could tell that this was a memory. Karila's memory. The woman turned to face her, and Karila dipped her head. When she looked up, the person's hazel-eyed face was in perfect, pristine focus.
"Altair." Her voice drifted out of the body Alaric was seeing her memory through. He muttered her name in reply.
"You see?" Karila whispered, the scene fading and swirling back to the present. "Even your brother doesn't care about you. He would rather save himself."
"He's dead." Alaric croaked, not able to process anything besides the brief scene Karila had just showed him. "He died last year." But he knew that her memory hadn't been from too long ago. Altair had looked older. Altair had...betrayed him.
She's... trying to mess with your head.
"You forget that Shifters can read minds, too." she hissed, turning back to Therin and strengthening the coils of black energy. "And can intercept when someone else Sends."
Everlys lunged, but Karila sent the blonde flying back with a small flick of her wrist. Her knives clattered to the stone ground, too far for her to reach. She instantly collapsed, letting out a sharp scream as she attempted to put weight on her right wrist.
"She looks just like you." Karila mused with a smile. Alaric didn't know what she meant. But the Sinistrian's eyes widened then narrowed to hide the tears that dared to drip down her face. Alaric tried to move. He tried to do something that could break the Shifter's concentration. But when he looked around, images of his brother flitted around the ruins.
Seridian and Feralith weren't having any better of a time. They strained to stand under whatever pain Karila was inflicting on to them.
They couldn't fight her. And as long as she had control of their thoughts and memories, nothing could be done.
They were completely defenseless.