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Book 7, Chapter 5 - Idonea Argyris

 Idonea Argyris was livid.

Even to this day she couldn't understand why her family would arrange this ridiculous marriage. Some dandy noble from Byzantium, the third son no less? She'd rather they asked her to jump off a cliff!

This never would have happened if her father was here. He would have fought for her, but it'd been two months since he left to fight the rebel realm with no word. She didn't even know if he was alive or dead.

His disappearance had forced the family to seek out this political marriage in order to strengthen their position as leaders of the city. The Argyris family had to maintain their status in the Governor's mansion and it just so happened that Lance's brood - the Nilam family - was looking for a foothold in Fulmulta. Both sides saw an opportunity for mutual benefit, and Idonea became the bargaining chip.

Father would never have agreed to this if he were here!

When she thought about her father she felt a pang in her chest. He was the strongest man in the realm, now and throughout its history. She adored him and was convinced he had no equal.

But why had there been no word? He answered the call of the mighty Thunder God and left with other great warriors to defeat the heathens, a task which should have been easy for him. But it had been months of silence.

The disappearance of this pillar of their family was why they'd gone ahead with this farce of a marriage! News had started to spread across the realm that her father and the other three Masters had all died on foreign soil. A terrible, demon-like man had taken their lives.

Rumors claimed that this fiend was stronger than any other human in recorded history. Even the great Supremes were wary to face him. It was widely assumed, then, that the beloved Governor Bruno Argyrys had perished.

Idonea couldn't believe this, of course. Or perhaps she simply refused to.

Her vociferous objections were ignored by her family, so Bruno's daughter was left with no choice but to take drastic measures. She gathered a small group of loyal followers and endeavored to eliminate the Nilam family dandy as he slept at the inn.

When she first learned of the marriage proposal, Idonea had sent someone to Byzantium in order to learn about her betrothed. She learned that the Young Master was not anything like the sort of man she would like. He drank like a fish, ate like a pig and gambled like an addict. As far as she was concerned, men like him were a waste of air. Erasing this idiot from the realm was doing everyone a favor.

Bruno's rambunctious young daughter was in her seventeenth year. She was in her rebellious phase, where little thought was given to consequences. It didn't matter - if father were here, he would have supported her.

"We have our target. Do it right, do it quick," Idonea whispered to the group by her side. They nodded in understanding.

They were positioning themselves around the room when suddenly a fog appeared from nowhere, catching them unawares. It was so immediate and unexpected that they were left stunned.

"What's going on?"

The demonhunters, whose skills were average at best, looked around to discover that the room they'd entered was gone. Everything was gone - all the sights and sounds of the world vanished, as though erased by the fog.

One of the demonhunters voiced his concern. "Mistress, this is starting to feel like a trap. We should leave and reassess our plan."

Idonea was equally as confused. "Yes, let's fall back. We can form a new plan."

The would-be assassins fumbled back through the mist, traveling a couple hundred meters before realizing something was very wrong. It was all the same, like they hadn't moved at all.

Shit! It was a trap... but what kind of setup is this?

Panic started to creep in. Idonea had brought only average protectors with her, assuming her target was an easy one. Even this simple mental illusion was too much for them to see through, for though the illusion was simple the mind that commanded it was strong. They were caught.

"Split up!" She growled through gritted teeth. They scattered in all different directions. Idonea ran and ran but still didn't seem to be getting anywhere.

Idonea was starting to lose her composure. She shut her eyes tight and tried to listen for any sort of clue. Taking a deep breath she launched herself forward, thinking that if her senses were closed off it might dispel the illusion. Several more minutes passed until suddenly she crashed into someone.

Ah? Am I out?!

Her eyes popped open then widened in surprise. Wrapped in fog, she looked up to see the one she ran into. Attractive, golden hair. Deep blue eyes. A young man in his twenties.

**

A few minutes before Cloudhawk had been crouched by the window with a simple relic in his hands. He watched the black-clad figures fumble around then scatter. As they fled a smile touched his lips.

In order to preserve this new identity Cloudhawk had to limit what relics he used. It wasn't much of a restriction, of course. He had hundreds of different tools hidden away. He'd gathered quite the collection after numerous run-ins with Skycloud's army. Some he gave to members of the Alliance, some he kept for himself.

Most of these were lower-grade relics, but in his hands that didn't make much of a difference.

During the battle for Sanctuary, Arcturus had fought off the Khan and the drunk with nothing but an exorcist rod. Cluodhawk was now slightly stronger than the late Governor, so he was more than the average person could handle even if he only used the basest relics.

Indeed, even without these tools he could ravage a group with the power of his will alone. Releasing tongues of flame, spikes of ice and blades of wind, many were not his equal. Though he looked like an ordinary man, Cloudhawk was very nearly the pinnacle of human capability.

Playtime was over. Cloudhawk put the relic away and strode into his own illusion.

A fatigued young woman with silver hair was running in circles. Fear, anger and confusion danced in her eyes. Never in her life had this young noble encountered such a harrowing experience.

It was clear to her she'd fallen into a trap. It felt like she'd been caught in the mist for hours. Only once she shut her eyes did she encounter another soul.

"Ah! Y-... what are you?!"

Cloudhawk looked over the girl. She was a clever kid, maybe sixteen or seventeen years old, with a good figure. She was also immature and guarded. He was immune to womanly charms, of course, and had been for some time. For years the likes of Dawn, Selene, Hellflower and Autumn had been by his side.

Idonea tightened her grip on her own relic. "Who are you? Speak! Or I'll make you talk!"

"No need. I'm here to help you." Cloudhawk said once he was revealed. "With your abilities you can't escape this place on your own. You will die of exhaustion before finding your way back to the real world. Unless you follow me."

With that said, Cloudhawk turned and walked into the swirling mists. Idonea didn't know what was happening, but she had to trust him. Gritting her teeth, she and her co-conspirators followed.

Cloudhawk surreptitiously continued to control the relic while stringing Idonea along. She fumbled behind while he guided her from the inn and out into the city. They traversed the busy streets yet she had no clue, for the illusion made it seem as though she were still lost in fog. The only thing that existed in this world was the man with golden hair, tall and imposing.

With every step she grew more perturbed. She was not convinced this stranger was a friend. "Tell me your name so I can pay you back."

Cloudhawk glanced over his shoulder. "You were planning to kill Lance Nilam, weren't you?"

The accusation caught Idonea by surprise. She was suddenly vigilant, almost hostile. "Kill? Absolutely not."

Was this man one of the sissy boy's guards?

"Relax, I'm on your side."

"Oh, so you're also..." Was he also here to deal with the Byzantium noble? If that was the case then they were indeed allies.

Information passed slowly through the ruined world, so while Idonea knew of Lance she had few details to go by. For instance, what he looked like. Her assumption was that the gluttonous pig was a fat waste of space and so didn't suspect this new stranger of being her target.

They continued to talk as they made their way through the city. Gradually, the girl's wariness began to subside. Meanwhile he was gathering precious information.

Idonea was the daughter of Bruno Argyris - the very same master of spatial power he fought back home. He may have been defeated by Cloudhawk, but a man with his skills was a rare treasure all throughout the world. Quite the surprise that he should run into the man's daughter here.

The more she spoke with this strange man, the more evident it became that he was a mature and experienced figure. A man with a story. Women were empathetic and she could feel how life had left its scars on this youth. He was exactly the sort of fellow that attracted young girls like her.

He was also rather good looking.

When the conversation turned to Bruno, he shared something with her. "Don't worry, your father is fine. You'll see one another again someday."

She took his words as nothing more than an attempt to comfort her. However, there was something about the way he said it that calmed her heart and made her think it was true.

"We're out."

As soon as he said the words Idonea saw the mist before them part. A quiet residential area of Fulmulta surrounded by towering buildings was revealed.

"Oh... how did we get all the way out here?"

Idonea looked around and noted this area of the city was at least three districts away from the inn. They had to have been walking for several hours. A direct path back at a quick pace would have taken only half an hour or so.

Dawn's light was beginning to peek over the horizon.

"It's too late. Too late..." Disappointment marred her pretty features. With the sun, any chance to kill the Byzantium dandy was gone. By now her family was probably already looking for her.

Cloudhawk's tones were calm. "You're so against marrying this man?"

She bristled like a cat whose tail had been stepped on. "I would rather die!"

He nodded. "You're right, it's too late. Better get back. I'm sure a solution will present itself with time. I'll continue to help you."

"Sir, I still don't even know your name."

"You'll know the next time we meet." In almost theatrical fashion, Cloudhawk turned away. He waved over his shoulder, clasped his hands behind his back, and meandered back through the streets from whence they came.

"Well, if I can't get rid of him before marriage then there will be other chances. I won't even let him touch me." She made the promise while watching Cloudhawk wander off. She'd been lucky he had been there to save her from such a vicious trap.

But who was he?

1. Her last name, meaning 'silver' should sound familiar. Her first name means 'proper, upright, suitable'

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