Celesto and Santana
The soft smell of the woods in this area were a thankful reprieve for her tired and burning lungs as she ran, the Varg’s bare feet tapping hard against the grass below as she panted trying to take in as much air as she could. This sweet and almost intoxicating fragrance meant many things, but above all else safety. She spared a glance at the tattered letter in her right hand, her latest orders, why’d she have to screw it up a week prior to her vacation?
The job was meant to be simple, at least, it was meant to be a job she had repeated many times before. Infiltrate the Ethereal Kingdom through a route that was both the safest and most dangerous, the Viera forest, completely devoid of enemy soldiers, but the Viera of the place were a murderous bunch. She was proud of her skill to navigate this place, and it was not it that failed her, it was care own carelessness. She planned on simply delivering the Dead Eye Shooter to the spot and returning, but then a heavy rain started. She knew that’d make slipping back easier, but she didn’t feel like wading through mud and was sure that she could give the slip to whoever chased, and that damned Ronso and Dwarf pair were ready to prove her wrong.
Eventually she came to a full halt. She had passed at least five kilometers past the borders of the Viera woods and was now in the ‘legal’ Material Kingdom, but it was actually a no-man’s-land still. Even then, the storm season was here and the Viera had most likely caught those two. At least that’s what she started thinking, but her thoughts were interrupted by a loud shout of “Thunder!” from her right and a “Lightshot!” from her left. Squeezed between the two spells she cried out in pain, stunned. She recovered in time to notice both almost upon her and slammed both hands on the ground, then uppercutted the air, sending a wave of force through the ground striking both incoming mages. Quickly scurrying back to her feet she started to run again, this couldn’t be happening…
That wasn’t the last she’d see of the mages neither was it her chance at escaping, she could only hear the dwarf shouting “Stop!” and then the next thing she saw was the clouds above her, the thin drizzle hitting against her eyes making it hard to see. She tried moving but her body was entirely paralyzed, her senses worked, her body didn’t. Her wits attributed it to the fact the Ronso, who was keeping her stasis start ongoing, was discussing with the Dwarf, distracting himself from keeping the stasis spell going.
“I’m telling you, Gimble, we just don’t earn enough” the pair were certainly not making a point of carrying her wherever they were gently, for sure “And I know a guy who, you know, could definitely give us a good Gil if we send her his way, instead of the prision”
“Sarjo, for Phoenix’s sake, do you know what you’re talking about? It’s a slaver you want to deal with”
“Yeah, whatever way you want to call it… But come on, it’s not like she’d be more than a mindless husk in the prison, they wouldn’t even let her move or whatnot”
“*groan* Alright, you win, Sarjo. It’s not like I hold any love for those beasts, anyway”
And with the Ronso’s grin as the last thing she was the spell returned full force, and she lost track of time and space again. Next she saw, she was sitting in a cage, devoid of all of her gear, wearing only rags hardly worthy of being called clothes and with a glowing crimson collar on her neck. She growled and tried to remove it but found the strength of her arms gone, she could barely raise them. She tried a gentler approach, to break the magic within it, but her mind was not clear enough for her to focus on such complex techniques. This collar had her completely tamed, for now, at least.
“A feisty one, aren’t we?” said a somehow absolutely disgusting looking Galka, displacedly lusty and demeaning tone in his words weren’t something she’d ever associate with such a race, making her sure this was a deliberate act “Don’t worry, you’re my prized possession, I’ll be sure to find you someone who’ll enjoy breaking you in”
There truly wasn’t much she could do, aside from waiting in her cage for a chance. She was sure she wasn’t in the Ethereal Kingdom yet, because far as she knew such practices were seen as horrible by the general populace even there. At some point in time her cage was covered with a tarp, and she would spend time trying to break free of the collar. It was a fruitless attempt, although she did come to the conclusion that the collar’s magic was temporary, and not permanent, so sometime it’d run out. She sighed, and laid back against the cage “What’d you get yourself in, Santana…”
She guessed a Pass or two had been gone by the time the tarp was removed and she was prodded outside to wait in a line, she was being showcased together with other slaves. It wasn’t a nice view, those slaves, they were often weak people, some children, all of them easy prey. In fact, she was the only actual warrior of the entire bunch. However despite her situation her acute senses couldn’t fail to notice one thing… As desperate as the slaves on display looked, the would-be buyers looked far more so. Something didn’t sit right with her at that sight, she expected all of those who’d come to such places to be horrible men of questionable ideals, but some of those had the looks of farmers, crafters, none of them wearing any sort of fancy clothing but wearing traces of heavy work instead (or as heavy work as it came for a mage, that is).
She was effectively helpless the whole auction, however when one particularly large Yeti wizard bought a young child that was standing next to her she couldn’t help but lash out at him as he came by to pick it up. The Yeti winced and seemed fully intent on receiving the full force of her kick, and that is exactly what threw her off enough for her to miss. He looked regretful, perhaps. And as the Galka who was leading the auction hissed lightly and prepared to punish her with a fiery spell, an Elvaan in the crowd intervened “Wait up!”
Everyone stopped and stared, there seemed to be a staring contest between the auctioner and buyer for a moment, and then the elvaan said “I’d be far less inclined to buy her if she’s hurt. Thirty thousand, in the state she is right now”
The Galka grinned a smug grin “A brave buyer, aren’t you? Celesto, the salvemaker, right? I hear you’re not faring well enough for such a large sum”
The Elvaan was clearly pissed off, but didn’t move a muscle of his face, simply tossed him a bag full of Gil. The Galka looked at the coins, then at the Varg “She’s yours, friend!” Celesto nonchalantly went up, forcibly grabbed her, and taking advantage of her diminished strength dragged her off. He did soften up a bit, instead of dragging her by her arm he picked up her hand and slowed down his pace, after he was a good distance away from the auction site. They remained silent for the remainder of the long voyage ahead, towards the fringes of the bigger cities of the Ethereal Kingdom. The travel took quite a few Passes, and Celesto wouldn’t let her out of his sight for a moment. He wasn’t particularly threatening, although she guessed it was just an act so that others would not catch on what was truly going on.
Eventually they reached their destination, it was a small house about a kilometer away from the walls of a large city she wasn’t sure the name. There was a considerable garden in the back, it was mostly dominated by thin-stemmed and thick leaved herbs, given what she had heard of who he was it made sense, he was a salve-maker after all. And once they made it inside, he gestured for her to sit on the only couch in the room. He just looked down at her for quite a while, and it was unnerving “Alright. I know you can speak, what’s your name”
“What does it interests you, master” she spitted out the last word
Celesto clearly winced, but maintained his posture “I’d rather call you by SOME name other than Slave. Also you’re most likely a soldier, so I thought I’d spare you at least some honor and call you your proper name”
Santana wasn’t sure what to think “Knight-Artificer Gadgeteer Class Santana Domingues” she said, with all the pride she had.
“Alright, miss Santana. You work for me now. And you’ll start with working the field. I’ll call you when it’s time to sleep and eat” he was stern, but something in his voice didn’t sit right with Santana, it sounded like those many times she’d swallow her deepest thoughts and just say what her superiors wanted to hear “Oh, right” specially those last two words, when something that he had forgotten surfaced in his mind, the soft tone they had when he wasn’t focused on being stern simultaneously amused and worried her.
Celesto came closer and put his hands over her collar, chanting and charging it with magic. For a moment she thought that he was going to recharge the wards keeping her weak, but that didn’t seem to be the case, whatever it was either he didn’t know about those wards or didn’t care. “In case anything happens to you. I’ve invested my last coins in you so you better be worth it” he said, turning to leave “It’s late now, however. I’ve set up a room for you there” he pointed to what was, essentially, a locker.
It was, in fact, pretty much a cramped storeroom, but it was full of smelling herbs that left a smooth fragrance in the air, making falling asleep after such a long voyage a pleasant experience. She dreamt of her home and of her past, all the good things that happened to her before this whole disaster… Pleasant dreams.
She woke up of her own volition, unsure how much time had passed. She laid still, thinking for a while, slow to awake and recollect everything that had happened. Furrowing her brows she tugged lightly at her collar once again, her strength was returning with time. Standing up and heading outside, she found Celesto laboring heavily over beakers and pots, pumping all of his magical energy on fire, ice and time, brewing potions that she could identify and those she couldn’t. It was clear he was using magic to speed up the crafting to produce more salves than would naturally be able.
“Ah, you’re awake…” he was certainly tired, and a certain flection in his voice told her trained ears that he was on the verge of absolute exhaustion of his magical reserves “Go on, get to the fields”
That was how most of her early days working for Celesto went on. He seemed to always be up before her, and go to bed after. He’d order her around all day, doing menial house chores and tending for the herbs, which was in fact an easy job, far easier than she suspected it’d be. At dinner and lunch, she’d be called back in and Celesto would eat in the same table as her. This intrigued her greatly, way too much for her to care that by now she could easily plot an escape. This man seemed like a person shunned by society for no reason other than being ‘a failure’. She did figure out why this man that seemed to hide such gentleness inside his heart had gone so low as rely on a slave, making potions was such a serious business in the Ethereal Kingdom that one had to invest all of their magic on that, to make so many in so little time, and that was the only thing he knew how to make a living with. But he was no accomplished alchemist, however, and held in fact fame of incompetent (why, she knew not) and without any assistance or student to alleviate his workload he was on the edge of turning homeless, or killing himself of overworking.
And with time she’d discover other things about him. He was haunted by restless sleep, as are mages to be when they far exceed their limits, and those sweet and fragrant herbs in the storeroom she called a bedroom were, in fact, originally in his bed to ease his sleep, yet he put those with her. She discovered what he did in her collar, it was in fact enchanting it with a fair few defensive enchantments, to keep her safe. Also all of the people of the fringe community had come to distrust his salves because he kept her, so every four Passes he’d go peddle his wares in the big city, only to return with at least a third of what he went with. He seemed to work day and night for raw survival, some unseen force making him keep moving. But that was not the last of his problems, there was also a type of mafia that had cropped up in this place, and they demanded terrible ‘protection’ wages off Celesto. Santana had come to a single conclusion: Celesto was hardly a bad man, he was simply a man driven to the edge of despair so that he’d sell his soul to the devil only to survive. And she did feel like helping him out.
It went on until the storm season came by again, and the heavy water in the air made everything colder. It made sleeping for Santana incredibly more difficult, here up north the weather was far colder than the south she came from. It was then that one day Celesto invited her to sleep in his bed “Two bodies are to warm eachother, plus, I’ve a magical heater in my room” was his explanation. He was definitely too kind for his own good.
No more than a Pass later, Santana heard rough knocks on the door all the way from the backyard, and her sharp battle senses, which
hadn’t dulled in the slightest, warned her that it meant bad news. She rushed to the front door, but not fast enough to open it before Celesto. It was a group of five magicians, clad in jet black robes.
“Celesto… You haven’t been a good payer of our insurance service, have you? Now, don’t you know that it’s dangerous around here, these days?” said a sleazy Creimire
Celesto was definitely scared at this point “L-look, I just don’t HAVE the money, y’know…” he wasn’t sure how to pacify the whole situation, but he DID know this was coming “But come on, you even bought yourself a slave, and a pretty rare one to boot”
Santana noticed Celesto’s right hand forming a fist, an undeniably natural reaction that even magicians had when angered “Look… I did so because I needed, that’s it, else not even the payments I did I’d be able to afford…”
The Creimire sighed “Ah, you know what, you’re so not worth my time. Boys, burn the place” he said, turning around and walking away. After a few steps, however, he looked over his shoulder “Oh, right… Flare” It was a blur of motion, before the surge of crimson energy could reach Celesto, Santana had already moved in and pushed him away, offering her back to the incoming spell. It was her training, it was in fact easier to take a direct fire spell like that with her back and face up. “What are you doing Santana!?” Celesto yelled.
Santana didn’t get a chance to answer, drawing strength from Phoenix knows where Celesto tossed Santana aside, extended a hand and with a shout of “Shell!” attempted to hold back the incoming salvo of fire spells. His magical barrier was not nearly enough, however, and he collapsed, still conscious but severely burned.
Santana stood up slowly, and stared at the offender mages “You’ve hurt my master…” she didn’t know why she used that word “It’s about high time I teach you respect for us warriors” she howled a long and deep howl that made the mages facing her whimper and step back. Then she stared at them and, assuming her usual combat stretching her right foot out, lowering his right fist almost touching it and left arm behind her back, burst into movement dashing straight among them. She jumped from target to target, literally, sending them scattering, and flipping midair landed on both of her feet, a ring of water surging from the ground as she did so. “Eternity Striker!” she shouted, as the ring of water expanded outwards, forming the faint outline of a clock, ticking to a halt together with the flow of time. She dashed with amazing speed from one mage to another, delivering a powerful sequence of punches and kicks finishing with an open palm strike, to apparently no effect, then she jumped to the center of the ring again and, as time flowed normally again all foes came flying in her direction as she finished with an uppercut, striking not only all of them at the same time but a powerful wave of white energy sending them flying.
Then she rushed back to Celesto, who was staring dizzily at her display “You’re… Pretty strong, Santana…” he tried to stand up, but was far too wounded. She shook her head lightly, using her nimble fingers to strike him at vital points, helping his body heal.
“There, that should help…” she said, helping him stand.
Celesto looked up at the clouds “Come on… We need to get the next batch ready before the next pass if we’re to have food for dinner tomorrow” he said, looking incredibly sad, and heading back inside.
Santana would notice that the way Celesto treated her changed from that day on, it became awkward but not in a bad way. Often, Celesto would offer some kindness, as if trying to get closer, but unsure whether he really should or not. And always, there’d be this one tiny thing that he kept hidden that made him be sad when he thought she wasn’t looking. She also started calling him by name ever since then, and he didn’t mind, and she also started to have some interest over the study of magic, she knew that being from the Material Kingdom she couldn’t use magic herself, but she could at least extend her help further because no matter how much her assistance with menial chores lessened the load of Celesto’s work, the biggest threat to him, the over-expenditure of his magical reserves wasn’t solvable by her.
This went on for over a cycle… But over that same Cycle Santana slowly started to understand magic a bit further, especially given Celesto’s helpful teachings, and came up with a minor trick… She noticed that regardless of her inability to use magic, she too had some reserves and if she could only share with him... That was when she came across the spells of those known as Seers, they were capable of recharging their own magic, but that was an incredibly complex skill, but if she could combine that with her restorative skill she could definitely help Celesto going for far longer.
Once, while looking up into that, she wondered if that sort of thing was what always was going on in Transcient Town.
Eventually, it was a terrible storm, the skies had darkened, when she thought her secret technique was ready, it was usable but still crude, specially the delivery method. Still, with the storm having damaged part of the herb garden and money issues getting worse and worse, Celesto was overworking himself nearly to the point of collapse every day, and she really had to help. Celesto was sweating beads keeping up his magic to accelerate the reactions upon his brews when she interrupted him lightly “Celesto… Can you spare a moment?”
Celesto turned to face her, slightly relieved for having a reason to break focus for a moment, but didn’t have a chance to actually tell her anything as she quickly grabbed him, brought him closer and put her open mouth over his. Celesto was even further surprised when he could feel the magical energy flowing from her through her mouth into his, making him feel far better. He was stunned, that was a terribly bold move, and certainly a skill he had never heard of before. “Wow… Thanks, Satana, really” he smiled “Nice delivery method, too” he was flustered.
Santana was blushing slightly, something in her felt too good about doing this, she had no idea why she was bashful right now “I-it’s what I could come up with”
“Well, I expect you to keep helping me like that from now on, then” why was it hard for Celesto to say it?
Somehow, however, this seemed to make life more difficult for both. There now appeared a sort of unseen tension, something that was slowly eating at both of their nerves, something incomplete, unfulfilled. And neither of them knew, or would accept, what was required to ease that tension. At a point, that tension became too much, and something had to be done, one way or another, and it’d be Santana to do it. The day was bright, the drizzle light, and for what it was worth their money issues were starting to ease up, with how many and cheap Celesto started producing his salves after she learned her little Mana Gift skill. The day was almost perfect, and Santana set out to make it fully.
She waited until as always, like clockwork, Celesto would call her for a recharge, he was pretty tired as always, he’d always use every last ounce of his own energy before asking for more. She did as she always did, except didn’t finish as always, looking slightly awkward, no. This time, when she was done transferring her mana to him she hugged him tightly, and turned that awkward almost-kiss in a passionate kiss, which he retributed with a bit of a physical awkwardness, still unused to her snout. They kept in this passionate embrace for a long time, before letting go “Just… Do it you silly mage”
Celesto didn’t regret it in the slightest, although he was definitely worried “I really had to have done that earlier… But still, Santana. You’re Varg, me an Elvaan, I’m a mage and you a warrior… I don’t care that it’s wrong, but it is”
Santana smiled at him, and went over to the table he was working on “This” she picked up a vial with a light violet liquid within “CS Miracle Cure… Our secret receipt we’ve been working on… When you ignore standard concepts and look at things for what they truly are, their basics, something incredible is discovered” she put it down gently, and turned to him “It’s the same, Celesto. I’m a woman, who sees in you a man worth of her affection. That’s all there is to it”
Celesto thought for a moment, and smiled back “You know you’re right… That IS all there is to it” he said, today he’d skip working, he could just this once.