The Guild S.2 E.4 "Cravings"



"Princess what are you doing, get away from that man!" Shouted Taljic at the top of his lungs.

A look of pure suprise appeared on Noretaku's face.

"W...why?" She took a step back and looked back and for between the two. "He is my friend."

"Friend?!" Taljic grew furious and drew his blade. "How could you befriend such a monster, he tortured us!"

"Tortured?" Noretaku glanced up at Pierce who had a look of mild anguish upon his face. "Pierce, what is he talking about?"

Pierce began to shake a little. He brought a hand up to his temple and turned away from the lot.

"Pierce?!" Noretaku called.

"Too afraid to admit what you've done?" Taljic snickered.

"I am sorry...I didn't...he made me..." Pierce tried to speak but he sounded as if he were in pain and now he was hunched over on the ground shaking more violently.

"Taljic, stop this." Noretaku began to cry and Chern rushed to her side, a dagger ready incase things got out of hand.

"No Princess..." Taljic spoke flatly. "He is going to get what's coming to him." He raised his blade and started toward the mage but stopped at the sound of a very angry

Vicaria's voice."

"You...are...stubborn...aren't you?" This was directed at Taljic who turned to see Noretaku hovering above the floor, arms crossed and skin black as the night.

"Keep out of this Vicaria!" Taljic snapped at the fallen. " You are blind to what he has done.

"I am not. I see what he has done, what he once was and what he has become." She drifted over to Pierce and dropped to the floor kneeling beside him and embracing

him softly. Noretaku spoke for a moment.

"Dearest Pierce...." She said before Vicaria took over again.

"Tis you who is blind...blinded by your own pain as I once was....yes this mage did hurt you, I have read it in your thoughts...I saw it when we spoke with Cerebrian...that

was originially the problem wasn't it?" She stood and walked to Taljic, touching his face. "But that isn't the problem now is it? No...you are searching for someone to

blame...for the loss of your dearest friend aren't you?"

"Shut up!" Taljic shouted raising his blad even higher. "You know nothing!"

"The mage apologized did he not, even when you would not allow him to explain himself? He has not tried to hurt you now even though he is so much more powerful

than you....even though you left him bleeding in that darkened corridor...." She turned her back to him and he slowly lowered his blade. "You say I am blind..but I know

more about everyone here than you'll ever know about yourself."

"I...you're right...I should have given him a chance to explain himself....but all I could think about is the pain he put us soliders through...if it wasn't for Hempnode I may

still be writhing in agony right now...." Taljic walked over to Pierce and offered him a hand. "After Hempnode...I 've been holding so much in...and seeing you..." He

helped Pierce up. "I found someone to vent on...I could have killed you here....I thought I already had....I pray your forgivness...."

Chern was watching all of this and feeling very confused so she stayed quiet.

"Please..." Pierce coughed. The purple splotches had appeared on his skin again but were now fading as if something had tried to come out of him but was now retreating.
"I can see why you would feel that way...I am a horrid man....I have done many horrid things."

Noretaku regained control of her self and spoke in a frightened tone.

"Are you alright...Pierce...Taljic?"

"We are fine my dearest Nore." Pierce held out his arms toward her, his strength slowly returning. She embraced him and then he motioned for them all to take a seat

around the table. "Let me explain myself to you so that we may all find some solace.

Pierce retold the story about his lost love Liz and about his encounter with the fallen inside of him. He then told about how the King had threatened him with death and

forced him to enchant the soliders with that awful enchantment. Taljic sat quietly, listening intently although he wished he could just go run into the forest and be alone for

awhile. Noretaku sat next to Pierce patting his hand and looking between he and Taljic nervous another conflict might spring up. Chern who was beginning to understand

more now was happy to hear a story although this one saddened her. When he was finished talking he grew silent and then burst into a coughing fit that went on for quite a

few minutes. Noretaku fetched some water from the kitchen to help.

"Thank you...." Pierce brushed his bangs out of the way and took a long sip, allowing the others to see just how pale he was. He had fierce dark circles under his eyes and

here the purple splotches remained.

"Pierce...are you....ill?" Noretaku asked feeling concerned for her friend.

"It comes and goes..I feel it fading now...here I'll show you. Follow me into the tower."

Noretaku, Taljic and Chern each followed the mage into the back of the house and through a narrow passage that lead into the tower. When they entered the lowest room

of the structure, they were amazed at what they saw. Piles upon piles of gigantic volumes strewn about or stacked half-hazardly ontop of eachother, alchemy supplies

dirtied and some still steaming at a station in the back, strange markings and letters written all over the walls. There was a strong smell of coffee and tobacco in the air.

"Wow..." Chern stood in awe. "What is all of this stuff?"

"My research...pardon the mess....it took me ages to collect what I needed from the castle without being seen...I havn't had time to both continue researching and get

orginized."

"Without being seen?" Asked Noretaku with an inquisitive look on her face. Chern called this her "brainy face."

"...In my present state i havn't exactly been keen for company though my companion here would tell you otherwise." He tapped his temple. "It's taken everything I have

just to keep her quiet...."

"I do not know this one..."Said Vicaria sounding suprised. "Tis an ancient one...one of the first born...her thoughts are too scrambled to read."

"That is partially my doing and partially her own decline." Said Pierce.

Noretaku shook her head and spoke.

"You have found a way to supress your fallen?"

"Accidentally yes..." Pierce rummaged around and picked up a dusty volume from the floor. "My research has been centered around seperation of fallen and

host...through much experimentation I managed to create a concoction that dulls her senses."

"What was it that you were trying to achieve?" Asked Taljic.

"I was hoping to concoct a substance that would eject a fallen from it's hosts body....especially now that I've experienced first hand what can happen to a host who'sfallen

is....unstable I suppose is what you would call it."

"You mean the wierd spots and shaking?" Asked Chern browsing through some of the smaller books in the room.

"Yes..and pain severe pain...blackouts...insomnia...sometimes I forget who I am and she takes over completley...draining me of everything...energy...memory...lucky for

me, you came along Nore and triggered my memory."

"Tis a happy coincidence." Said Noretaku hugging the mage.

"Yes...we were looking for an old scholar I knew once long ago...." Said Taljic. "A mage like yourself...very gifted in the ways of runework and last I remember he was

working on a study of the fallen."

"Was he tall....with a long beard...small brown eyes, always smoking an old, darkwood pipe?"

"Well....y...yes...exacatly." Taljic sounded suprised.

"That was Messere....you stand in his house."

Taljic looked around.

"We do....why don't I remember this house?"

"Liz and I fixed it up before we sold it and moved away....before she passed...."

"Does that mean...."

"Yes..he is dead...poor old fool died a long time ago."

"I'm sorry..." Said Taljic. "I should've recognized it all from your story.

"Tis alright...but tell me, Noretaku, will you stay here a while with me, I have missed you something awful."

"Well..."The Princess thought a moment. "I do not know where to head next....but then I would hate to part with these two." She motioned toward Chern and Taljic.

"Not at all, you could all stay here, there is plenty of room and perhaps you could help me with my research like you used to when you were younger, maybe we will find

some useful information?"

"Are you sure we wouldn't be a bother?" Asked Chern.

"Nonsense, stay, I'll cook us up a big dinner and then show you to your rooms." Chern's stomach growled and they all laughed.

Pierce smiled and led them back to the main room. The silver substance that had held Noretaku, Chern and Taljic had dissapeared. He waved his hands and orbs of warm

light lined the walls, giving the room a dim but comfortable feel. Lavish seats appeared around the fireplace and pretty decorations appeared. The three guests stared in

awe as thier host made the house up for them.

"Wow that's amazing magic!" Said Chern excitedly.

"It's beautiful!" Spoke Deliah which suprised Noretaku and Chern because they had not heard from Mania in quite a while but they shrugged it off.

"Please, take a seat, get comfortable I know exactly what to make." Said Pierce heading into the kitchen.

"You are sounding and looking much better already!" The Princess called after him.

"I am feeling much better!" He called back.

The three friends sat by the fire in large comfy chairs talking amongst themselves.

"I hope you aren't upset with me for saying we'd stay Taljic." Said Noretaku.

"No...no...I'm just still a little down....and a little worried...I left him to die Princess...over something so petty....I am suprised he has not tried to kill me in return....and how

are you not upset with me?"

"You have never wronged me Taljic...you are my friend, Pierce is my friend. I'd prefer to keep it that way. What about you Chern?...Lady Chern you are going to ruin your

appetite."

Chern was munching on some nuts and berries that Pierce had brought out to hold them until dinner.

"I wonder what he's making...we havn't had a decent meal in forever!" A puzzled look appeared on Chern's face. "I hope whatever he is making is clean...remember the

rabbit?"

Noretaku and Taljic exchanged a look of concern.

"I'll go and ask him about it." Said Taljic standing running a nervous hand through his hair. "It wll give us time to....connect I suppose?" He shuddered at this and walked

toward the kitchen before his nerves could get the best of him.

"Are you happy to see Pierce again?" Asked Chern.

The Princess rose and walked to stand near the fireplace which illuminated her face. The flames were dancing in her eyes.

"I do not know....I suppose it is good to see and old friend again...but in his present condition....I fear for him...."

Chern put down the bowl of nuts and berries and also moved toward the fire.

"You said it yourself, he is looking much better...and he says he feels better, who knows maybe you two will find away to seperate him from his fallen and he'll get well."

"I hope you are right..."

"That isn't all that is bothering you is it Nore?"

The Princess stayed quiet, staring into the flames. Chern tapped her on the shoulder.

"Nore?"

"I fear for Taljic....I fear for you.....I fear for my Kingdom and for my people and now....I even fear for the fallen."

"Why?"

"If people can become so angry over something so small like Taljic did....and if these fallen can do this sort of thing to someone...but then some of them only want to go

home to the Circle of makers....why does it never end Chern....why is there always so much hate...so much bloodshed....so much loss and conflict....so many

emotions...."

Chern put a hand on the Princess's shoulder and Noretaku looked at her with tears in her eyes.

"You are putting too much strain on yourself Nore, this is how the world is...but I know that you are going to mend it and Taljic and I and now Pierce, are here to help you.

You expect yourself to be strong enough to handle all of this and to do it on your own...you don't have to anymore, you have us."

Noretaku smiled.

"Yes...I have you to make me laugh and Ser Taljic to knock our heads together when we get off track." The girls laughed.

"Let's go spy on the boys." Chern suggested.

"Spy on them, why not just go in and see what they are doing?"

"Becaaaaauuuse it's more fun this way....I swear teaching you to act like a girl is proving to be a real challenge." Chern frowned jokingly but the Princess looked sad.

"I am sorry....I don't mean to be such a challenge...I'll try harder."

"I was only joking Princess."

"Oh." Noretaku blushed.

They quietly made thier way toward the kitchen where they each stood on opposite sides of the doorway listening and peeking at the boys every once in a while.

"Damn this vegetable!" Shouted Taljic clasping a Potatoe angrily in one hand and a knife in the other.

Pierce who was stirring something in a pot on the stove, laughed at him.

"Here, try it like this." He took the potatoe and knife from Taljic and began to peal it smoothly. "You have to be patient and take it slow."

"Patience isn't really my strong point." Grumbled Taljic. He was sitting on a stool looking like a grumpy child.

"Well...ah I know, how about you take this knife and chop up these carrots? You do like to hack at things don't you?"

Taljic laughed nervously and began cutting the carrots.

"Hello girls." Said Pierce who was still facing away from them.

"Darn he caught us" Laughed Chern, the girls walked into the Kitchen.

"Taljic expressed your mutal concern about the food, do not worry the animals in this small area are unaffected and any I hunt in the contaminated area, I have learned to

cleanse...."

"If you can cleanse the animals, why not yourself?" Asked Chern.

"It's just essence that I am cleansing...I tried the same method on myself but to no avail." He shrugged.

"Oh...I see." Said Noretaku sounding dissapointed. "Do you need any help preparing dinner?"

"Well certainly, why don't you take and Miss...Chern was it, go gather some more firewood and Nore can help me a while so we can catch up a bit?"

Chern and Taljic nodded and headed off to gather wood.

"I am glad you are still alive Pierce....I have to admit...after Hempnode and all of the bloodshed that day...I feared the worst."

"Do not fear, it'll take more than a few swings from a blade to keep me down."

"Speaking of which....I did not know that you and Taljic had fought...it saddens me...you both are better than that."

"I was only defending myself and Taljic...well....anger can make people do crazy things...."

"I am learning that.....love too right?"

"Yes...love too." Pierce coughed in a nervous kind of way. "Love can make people do unspeakable things.

"Oh, do you need some more water Pierce? I'd hate to see you go into another fit."

"No, no that's alright my dear....why don't you come over here and try these potatoes, maybe you'll have better luck peeling them than Taljic."

Noretaku giggled.

"Alright, oh but I should pull my hair up tighter so it doesn't get in the food!"

Noretaku backed into the doorway and let down her hair shaking it out. Pierce watched her intently but she didn't notice. She bent forward and gathered all her hair then

flipped it back and pulled it into a neat bun on the top of her head.

"There we are!" She said happily and began trying to peel the potatoes. She struggled a bit, the knife kept catching and slipping out of her hand.

"Here my dear." Said Pierce moving to stand behind her. "Let me show you how." He put his hands over hers and moved them to peel the potatoe. "You have to do it

softly and slowly otherwise, the knife catches and well, things get messy."

"Oh, I think I see." Said Noretaku.

"Alright, you try." Said Pierce letting go of her hands. She began peeling the potatoe with a lot less trouble this time. Suddenly she felt a soft heat.

"Pierce, you're breathing on my neck."

"Oh, I apologize." He grunted and backed away slowly.

"We're back..." Said Taljic in an unnecessarily loud voice as if trying to get thier attention.

"Oh hey Taljic!" Said Noretaku happily peeling away at a small stack of the lumpy brown tubers. "Wow that was really fast."

"Yes....there was a whole stack of firewood sitting...right next to the house."

"Was...there?" Asked Pierce. "Oh...I must have forgotten." He shifted his weight.

"Are you alright Pierce?" Noretaku thought he seemed nervous about something.

"I am fine...um...how about I finish up here, and I'll bring dinner out to you all in a few minutes?"

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, you know the old saying about too many cooks in the kitchen."

Noretaku joined her companions back in the main room. Once they were out of earshot from the kitchen Taljic stopped dead and turned to face the Princess. He stopped

so abrubtly that Noretaku almost ran into him. Chern now faced the Princess as well, standing with her arms crossed and her head tilted to the side.

"I knew we shouldn't have left you alone with him...he was all over you!" Huffed Taljic leaning to the side to make sure that Pierce was still in the kitchen.

"What do you mean, I don't understand." Noretaku was very confused.

"Oh Come on!" Chern slapped her forehead with her palm. "You can not be that nieve."

"What?" Noretaku looked up at Taljic for an answer who in turn looked at Chern.

"I can't...you tell her Tal." Said Chern.

"...Very well...." Taljic shrugged and scratched his head. "Princess...havn't you noticed how Pierce looks at you...how he tries so hard to be close to you? Holding you,

BREATHING ON YOUR NECK?" He emphasized this last part with a series of hand movements.

Noretaku thought a moment. Pierce had been awfully close to her.

"Well...Pierce had always been a little strange, it's alright, he loves me like a daughter, we've been friends a long time, nothing to worry about."

"Hmph...you obviously don't know a lot about men." Chern Scoffed.

"Princess...men have certain urges...some control them better than others..." Taljic's face was growing slightly red.

"Urges what ur-" The Princess was interrupted by Pierce who was walking in holding a large pot with mitted hands. Several bowls and utensils were floating behind him.

"Come friends, sit, dinner is served." He walked toward the small table in the center of the room which was rapidly expanding to make room for the four of them.

Noretaku walked towards the table pausing briefly as Taljic lightly grabbed her by the shoulder, leaned in and whispered in her ear.

"I'll be watching him."

They all sat around the table as it was set by some invisible force and watched as thier dinner served itself. The large pot Pierce had carried in floated to each of thier

places and filled thier bowls with hot, steaming wild boar stew.

"You look tired friend Pierce, are you alright?" Noretaku asked.

"Well...it takes an awful lot of energy...to move objects this size so carefully." He replied motioning toward the floating dishes.

"Oh...I thought it was spirits or woodland sprites or something." Chern said staring at the floating pot.

Pierce laughed.

"No, no it's all mental energy."

"Interesting." CHern reacheed up and poked the pot drawing back when it burned her finger. "Ouch!"

All went quiet once everyone was served as they were too busy enjoying the food to speak. The stew was nice and hot and full of flavor. It was thick and full of potatoes

and carrots and the most tender meat noretaku had ever tasted, suprising since it came froma wild boar. The aroma was just as good as the taste and it filled the room.

After a while, Pierce decided to break the silence.

"What do you think of the stew Miss Chern?" He asked.

"Oh it's divine!" She followed this with a long, happy slurp of stew. Pierce chuckled.

"What about you, Nore my dear, are you enjoying your supper?" She was staring through him and didn't answer so he tried again. "Nore, do you lik the stew?"

She blinked a few times and glanced at him and then down at her bowl.

"Oh yes, it's so very good, I kind of...got lost in it for a moment there." Taljic noticed the slight nervous tone in her voice and straightened in his chair, more alert.

"Ah, I am delighted to hear it...and you Ser Taljic?"

Taljic jumped slightly at the sound of his name.

"It tastes delicious." Taljic said flatly.

When they had eaten thier fill, Chern let out a loud yawn that quickly spread to noretaku and Taljic.

"Hm...I suppose having a warm, filling meal in your bellies is making you lot sleepy, it's still a bit early but I'll show you to your rooms if you wish to take a nap." Said

Pierce, rising from the table.

"Are you certain?" Asked the Princess yawning again and stretching. Chern reached over and pulled her shirt down so that her stomach wouldn't show.

"Absoloutley, when you wake, if you are up to it, perhaps we can begin our research together?"

Noretaku nodded and then glanced at Taljic as if to say, "It will be alright."

Pierce used his mental abilities to magic the dinner dishes back into the kitchen for a soak.

"Please, follow me to your rooms."

Noretaku, Taljic and Chern each rose slowly from the table, hands on thier full bellies. They followed the mage to the back of the house where there was a gorgeous

wooden staircase.

"This house seems a lot larger on the inside, is that more magic?" Asked a wide-eyed Chern.

"Oh, just a little." Pierce chuckled. "Chern, Nore, you two lovely ladies wouldn't mind sharing a room would you?"

"Not at all!" Squeeled the girls happily.

"Alright, in that case, Taljic, your room is the one at the far end of the hall there." He nodded towars a large, dark door with a golden handle. "Chern, Nore, you two willbe

staying in this room." He stopped in front of another large door adorned with carvings in a pretty, floral design.

"Thank you so much for letting us stay Pierce." Said Noretaku smiling at him.

He nodded. "You are welcome to stay as long as you like, as for me...." He pointed toward a room not far from the girls'. "That is my room but...I think i'll go to my study

and...read for a while."

"Alright, I'll come find you when I wake." Said Noretaku as Pierce turned and started down the stairs.

When he was gone, Chern opened the door to she and Noretaku's room and stepped inside.

"Wow, Nore, this room is great, come and see!" She called.

Noretaku turned to follow her but Taljic grabbed her hand.

"One moment Chern, I'd like a word alone with the Princess." Said Taljic letting go of the Princess's hand and walking toward his room.

"Mmmkay!" Called Chern.

Noretaku followed Taljic down the hall . They stopped just outside of his room. He leaned against the door, crossing his arms.

"Maybe...maybe I was wrong about Pierce...." He said looking into Noretaku's eyes. "Just be careful alright?"

"Of course I will Taljic, and If ever I feel I am in danger, you will be the first person I come to for help."

"Alright....thank you...it's just...I feel that I must protect you...keep you safe...for Hempnode and well...because...."

"What is it Tal?" She placed a hand on his shoulder.

"You have been such a good friend to me Noretaku...even when I feel I don't deserve it...which is most times...."

"Taljic...." Noretaku leaned forward and hugged him tightly. He raised his arms in suprise and looked down her. He felt strange...warm and kind of happy. He cautiously

moved his arms down and hugged her back resting his chin lightly on her shoulder.

"Taljic, you are just as deserving of my friendship as anyone else and I am happy to have you and Chern by my side. Hempnode was right to hold you so dear to his heart,

you are very special, you just need to learn to love yourself."

"Noretaku, come on!" Chern called again from inside the room.

"Alright, alright I'm coming!" Noretaku backed away from the embrace. "Get some rest Messere." She turned and walked into she and Chern's room.

Taljic stood motionlessly for a moment, then smiled and retired to his room.

Noretaku looked around the bedroom. The walls were a comforting, deep, brown color with pretty pink flowers painted on them. There was a large window with pretty,

white, lace certians overlooking the forest and another pond in the back of the house. Part of Pierce's tower could also be seen through the window. In fact, Noretaku

could see partway into the tower through a small, paneless window in it's wall.

On one side of the window was a very large, canopied bed adorned with several, large, fluffy pilllows. On the otherside of the window stood a large wardrobe which

Chern had already filled with thier belongings. Standing next to Noretaku was a large desk and Cher with a stack of Parchment, ink and a quill. The hardwood floor was

decorated with a large, fluffy white rug. There were two tiny tables eaach holding a vase full of white and pink roses and the room was lit by several, sweetly scented

candles and a small, dimmed lantern.

"Wow it really is quite gorgeous." Noretaku said yawning softly.

Chern had kicked off her boots and loosened her shirt. her jackets and boots were lying strewn about on the floor. Noretaku bent down to pick them up.

"Oh Nore just leave them, relax a little." Chern said. She was laying on the bed with her arm covering her face.

"How did you know I was going to pick them up?"

"Your need to be tidy has become pretty predictable." Chern giggled and sat up uncovering her face.

"Well, your need to make a mess has become pretty predictable as well." They both laughed.

Noretaku sat on the edge of the bed yawning.

"I'll sleep on the floor if you like." Said Chern picking up a couple of pillows.

"No, no that's alright, Chern you take the bed."

"No Princess...you take it."

"We could...just share it...it's large enough and I don't mind sleeping next to you."

"Really?" Chern asked. "Alright, i don't mind either but I call the side by the wall.

"Why?"

"I don't know...I've just always liked to sleep by a wall."

"Alright, I prefer to be able to look out the window anyway." The Princess yawned again. "Time for a rest." She unlaced her boots and slipped them off one at a time.

Then she lay down and closed her eyes. She lay still for a long time and soon began to drift off but then she felt someone poking her lightly on the forehead. She opened

her eyes to see chern sitting next to her, her hair was slightly messy but it looked nice. Noretaku drifted off again and Chern poked her in the head again waking her up.

"Mmmm...what is it Chern?" Said the Princess sleepily.

"C...can I brush your hair?"

"Wha...now?" The Princess rubbed her eyes.

"Pleeeeaaaase?" Chern begged. "I'm not tired anymore and you look so pretty sleeping there that I just want to brush your hair."

"Mmm...alright." Said Noretaku starting to sit up.

"No, no it's alright, I know you're tired, lay back down." Chern pushed lightly on Noretaku's shoulder. The Princess lay back down on the soft bed and reached up and let

her hair down. It fell softly onto her shoulders. She looked up at Chern.

"If Pierce and I...are able to were able to perfect his research so that we could fully seperate you from Abyssma and Mania without weakening them too much...would

you...like to reverse this?" She reached up and touched Chern's temple.

"Wow...that's...a really tough one Princess...I quite honestly don't know...I hadn't thought about it."

"It...would be nice to see more of you...just you...without thier influence."

"Shhhh...go to sleep silly Nore." Chern said taking her brush and running it softly through Noretaku's hair. It felt nice and soon the Princess fell back to sleep.

When Noretaku awoke she sat up and saw that Chern had fallen asleep on the edge of the bed. Her hand was haning off the side and her shirt was slipping off of her

shoulder. Noretaku grabbed a blanket and draped lightly across her. Noretaku sat on the edge of the bed and looked out the window while she put on and laced up her

boots. The sky was a deep orange color and she figured Pierce would still be awake in his study drinking coffee to keep going. He had once told her that he could go

weeks without sleeping but then would sleep just as long.

Noretaku rose from the bed and decided that she should probably go check in with Taljic before going off to join Pierce. She left the room and headed down the hall to

his. She knocked softly on his door but there was no reply. She knocked slightly harder and the door swung open a bit. He must of kept it cracked incase he needed to run

to she or Chern's aid. Nroetaku smiled at this thought. He was always so protective. Curiosity getting the best of her, she peeked in a moment and saw a small, dimly lit

lantern that shone upon a large bed. She could see the outline of Taljic laying on it and could hear his soft snoring and signature mumbling in his sleep. Having made sure

he was alright, she turned and started down the stairs.

The house was very quiet save for a few creaks and groans. Dark sillohuettes of tree branches danced in an orange glow on the walls. When she reached the bottom of the

stairs, Noretaku looked around and decided that Pierce was probably reffering to the messy room at the bottom of the tower when he said he would be in his "study."

Noretaku felt a mild chill in the air and as the shadows in the house grew with the setting sun, she could not help but feel a little frightened, even more so than when they

were in the dark forest.

She walked back to the narrow passageway that lead to the tower but found that it was pitch-black dark.

"Pierce?" She called into the darkness. "Pierce?" There was nothing but silence in the passage. She decided to go ahead and check anyway just to be sure. Just as she

was about to take a step forward, someone reached toward her and grabbed her by the shoulders. The passage way suddenly lit up revealing Pierce. Noretaku had nearly

screamed but now sighed with relief.

"Sorry if I frightened you Nore." Said Pierce in a soft, raspy voice. He let go of her shoulders. "I wasn't feeling very well so I thought I'd try and take a cat nap before you

came down here."

"Oh, I see well if you aren't feeling up to it Pierce, you could go an rest."

"No, no I want to do this, I havn't seen you in a long time Nore, it soothes my soul having you here and I feel a lot better just talking to you."

"Very well." noretaku smiled at her friend. He wrapped an arm around her waist and led her down the passageway and into the study which looked completley different

than it had before. Allof the books were placed neatly on shelves, the alchemy station had been cleaned and everything had been dusty. The floor was completley clear of

clutter and there was a large, lovely sofa sitting on one side of the room.

"I figured I had to make some room so I spent some time getting this room back together for us."

"It's lovely but you didn't have to trouble yourself."

"Tis no trouble Nore, have a seat and I'll show you all that I've found." Noretaku took a seat on the sofa which was extremely comfortable. He handed her a journal stuffed

with notes and scraps of paper. "Sorry, I know it's a lot to take in so I'll walk you through it and then tommorow we can start on the actual work.

"Sounds like a plan to me." She replied pouring over the notes. She began to feel hot and fidgeted a little tugging at her collar.

"Is it hot in here?" Asked Pierce. "I could open a window." He was sitting propped up against his desk with his arms crossed staring at her with an eyebrow raised.

"No...that's alright...I'll just take off my jacket." She wasn't really paying much attention to Pierce as she was very invested in his notes. She put them down next to her and

kept reading while she unbuttoned and shook off her jacket.

"What do you think?" Pierce asked sitting beside her and removing his cloak.

"What's this here about a fallen possibly surviving without a host? Does that have something to do with your concoction? I was wondering about that earlier." She pointed

to a passage in the journal.

"Hang on I can't see very well." He leaned in placing a hand gently on Noretaku's thigh and read the passage. "Ah yes." He leaned back and removed his hand flexing it

strangley. He stood and walked over to his desk leaning heavily against it, his back to the Princess. She had felt something strange when he touched her leg, something in

her belly that she didn't understand.

"That particular passage...." He spoke softly. "I've been trying to figure out if there are any substitutions for human hosts...because as it turns out and i'm sure you may be

aware, a fallen's personality can greatly influence that of it's host."

"Yes...it's like that with Chern...she shares many of the same beliefs as one of her fallen...the one that's occupying me right now."

"I have a name you know." Said Vicaria softly.

"Yes, Vicaria, Pierce, Pierce, Vicaria." Noretaku introduced the pair.

"Wait...did you say one of her fallen?"

"Well yes...Chern has two, Vicaria, and another whom we call Mania."

"Interesting...so a host can carry more than one fallen....does this weaken her signifigantly? How do they interact?" Pierce sounded very interested in this information and

he picked up another journal and began writing as Noretaku talked.

"Well...sometimes Chern's demeaner changes to that of someone very angry and dark, that's when Vicaria is in control, other times she is extremely jubilant and posh,

that's Mania's influence. I've also noticed....that sometimes Chern just looks very pale and her eyes glaze over as if she has no soul...it's eerie."

"Interesting very interesting...." He paced back and forth. "I've found that fallen can begin to deteriorate...lose there minds if you will if they are left without a host for too

long some dissapear completley. I've also found that not all fallen are humanoids...some look animal like, like your father's...or even appear like strange shapes."

"Taljic had a fallen...but it left us to join the one that was inside of father....the are gathering thier forces to fight against me...I should have killed him sooner...but...he was

my father..." Noretaku hung her head.

"Oh...I see...do not fret Nore...the Avan that was your father died long before you had to kill him...."

"I suppose you are right....but I feel like I have doomed us all...."

Pierce walked over to Noretaku and knelt infront of her. He took her face in his hands and brought it close to his.

"You have done nothing wrong." He said softly. "You fought for what was right and the people love you. I know that no matter what happens, you will be up to the

challange and with friends like yours, you will go far."

Noretaku touched his face happy to hear kind words from such a dear friend. She began to say "Thank you." When she felt his lips on hers. She tried to pull away but he

held her there. She could feel his tounge caressing her lips and she didn't know what to do. She tried pulling away again and punched him as hard as she could in the

stomach and he flew backwards onto the ground knocking against the desk and started coughing. She could see a purple glow shining through his bangs and he muttered

to himself for a moment before it faded. He stood and walked behind his desk sitting in a large wooden chair.

"I apologize...." He spoke. "I do not know what go into me...I just....perhaps we should wait to continue until the morning?"

"I agree." Noretaku left him sitting there and walked away into the main room where she slumped against the wall and touched her lips. She didn't understand why Pierce

had kissed her...she thought she was like a daughter to him....she thought she may have even liked it but then she thought of her past infatuations and shrugged that idea

away. Then she thought of Hempnode and that brought a flood of memories back to her of all that she'd been through in the last short while...her father...the soliders...the

kingdom....she felt confused and wanted to cry.

"Chern..." She thought to herself....Chern would let her cry on her shoulder and wouldn't ask any questions. Noretaku rose and started toward the stairs quietly. She was

so wrapped up in her thoughts that she didn't notice Taljic standing infront of her and bumped against his chest. She gasped.

"Oh...Taljic...I thought you were someone else."

"I heard something and came to check. You seem frightened...did he hurt you?" Taljic asked in a low whisper.

"N...no we just...decided not to research very much tonight...we'll start tommorrow." She noticed that Taljic's hand was sparking a bit with a strange electricity. "Taljic?"

He wasn't paying attention to her but was instead listening for signs of Pierce. She tugged at his sleeve and he looked down at her.

"What is it Noretaku? Promise me you're alright....?"

"I just....I have a lot on my mind...will you...will you please walk with me back upstairs to mine and....Chern's room?" She tugged at his sleeve again, she was trying not to

cry but it was proving difficult. She looked up at him and a singular tear slid down her cheek. He knew that something had happened but she seemed unharmed so he

didn't press the matter.

"Something is wrong Princess...I can see it in your eyes...we don't have to talk about it now if you wish....but don't worry, I'll keep you safe." he embraced her with one

arm and patted her head. She looked up at him again as he spoke."Just promise me you won't go anywhere alone at night...even in this house ever again, take me or Chern

with you."

"I promise...."

"Come on, let's get you back to bed. Chern woke up without you there and when we heard...whatever that crash was, she wanted to come check on you too but I told her

to wait."

He led her by the hand back upstairs and into she and Chern's room. Chern took one look at Noretaku's face and knew something was wrong.

"Oh Nore...come here girl." Noretaku rushed to her and began sobbing into her shoulder. Chern hugged her and looked up at Taljic. She made a motion an mouthed the

words "what's wrong." To which he shrugged his shoulders and held a finger to his lips, shaking his head. Chern nodded very subtly and walked Noretaku over to the bed.

"Neither of you go anywhere without the other and shut those curtains...if I were standing in that tower I could see straight into this room. I won't be sleeping tonight so if

either of you needs me, my door will be open. Try and get some rest." Taljic said before walking out of the room and closing the door behind him. There was a pause and

then they heard him walking to his room.

Chern looked at the Princess.

"There, there, let it out, you're doing good learning not to bottle up your emotions. Do you want to talk about it?" She patted Noretaku's head softly.

Noretaku shook her head and cried even harder.

"Alright, shhh, shhh." Chern lay The Princess down and patted her hair. "There, there....here, take these off and I'll find something comfortable for you to wear then

I'll...hm...oh I know, I'll do your hair and we can talk about something else okay?" Noretaku sniffled and nodded her head. She began taking off her clothes but then

hopped up and shut the curtains before continuing. Chern rumaged through the wardrobe and found a pink, silk, night gown for Noretaku to wear. She walked back over

to the bed to See a half-naked Princess laying on the bed crying into a pillow.

Chern sat on the edge of the bed, facing away blushing.

"I...I'm sorry...oh Makers...I must look so foolish..." Said Noretaku grabbing up the night gown and quickly putting it on.

"No...no...I've just never seen you quite so...without clothes...but I suppose after the water incident in the woods, this should come as no suprise." She laughed.

"No, I suppose not." Noretaku forced a laugh.

Chern turned towards her. "Look, I don't know what happened down there...but whatever it is, your safe now, I'll be by your side all night and Taljic is just down the hall

so don't worry."

Noretaku hugged her. "Alright...but....I feel a little strange wearing this in a man's house...." She looked down at herself.

"Well..."Said Chern. "I suppose I could always put one on...." Chern walked back over to the wardrobe and took out another night gown, this one was slightly transparent

and blue."

"Oh, I bet that will look good on you, put it on, put it on." Noretaku chanted.

"I don't know...I usually just sleep in my shirt."

"Oh please?" I want to see Chern act girly for once. They shared a laugh.

"Alright...if it will make you feel better Nore." She began to take off her shirt but then turned around quickly. "Hey, no peeking!"

"Whoops...sorry."

Chern began undressing again and Noretaku sat patiently but then curiosity began gnawing at her brain. She turned slightly but snapped her head back again before Chern

noticed. Then she turned again and this time she was caught.

"Hey, I said no peeking!" Chern yelled and threw her shirt ar the Princess.

"I..I'm sorry it's just....I've never really seen another girl....naked...I was curious."

"Never?"

"Never."

"Really?"

"Really, really."

"Huh..." Chern fell silent. A few minutes later Noretaku felt tiny hands on her shoulders. "Turn around." Said Chern. Noretaku turned expecting to see Chern in the pretty

blue night gown but instead found her staring at Chern's bare chest.

"Oh...oh my! I uh.....I'm sorry I thought you said turn around."

"I did." Chern sounded nervous.

"But...you're....naked...."

"Only halfway...look just turn around and take a quick look...get it over with...." Noretaku turned around again and stared at Chern's chest. She cocked her head to the

side.

"So...round...." She looked down at her own chest. "Do they all look like this?" She asked.

"Some are big, some are small...some are uneven...some look like they aren't even there at all." Chern wasn't looking at Noretaku but was instead staring at the far wall.

Suddenly she felt something prod her left breast and she smacked it. "Hey what are you doing?!" She yelled.

Noretaku had a look of shock on her face.

"So...squishy." She said.

"You can't just touch someone's breasts without permission Nore!"

"Oh...sorry...I was just curious."

Chern quickly put on the nightgown and then couldn't help but laughing because Noretaku was now squeezing her own chest to test it's squishiness. She looked so

childlike.

"What are you doing?" She asked.

"I've never had a chance to just...touch them...I didn't know what they felt like...I imagined it would be like holding a rubber ball but....so....squishy....."

Suddenly the door swung open and the girls saw Taljic standing in the doorway.

"I heard shouting is everything al-" his jaw dropped and he immediatley covered his face. "I erm...heard shouts but I guess everything...is...alright?"

"GET OUT YOU PERV!" Shouted Chern rushing over and punching Taljic in the jaw. She pushed him out and closed and locked the door.

"S...sorry...I...um....ow....I'll just...owch...go back to my room now....come to me if you need anything..ow that smarts." He muttered from behind the door.

Noretaku looked at the door and then at Chern.

"Why do men like these things anyway?" She looked back down at her chest.

"I have no idea...." Chern said shaking her head. "You really didn't get out much living in that castle did you?"

"Well....I'd been to the whorehouse with father but he always had me sit outside the room."

"That...is...just...awful...." Chern shook her head again and tackled the Princess playfully. "You're so silly sometimes...come one I'll get my brush I want to braid your

hair."

"Can I try brushing yours after?"

"Sure Nore, of course."

The girls spent the rest of the night doing eachothers hair and laughing. Noretaku had completley forgotten about the incident with Pierce and was having more fun than she

had in a long time. The girl's eventually fell asleep, Noretaku on one end of the bed and Chern on the other.

Taljic lay awake on his bed thinking about what had just happened. He probably should have knocked on the door first so he earned that punch. He couldn't help but

picture the two of them there and felt horrible about it. This was the second time something like this had happened...first in the woods and now here...."Ugh..." He thought

to himself. "Girls are so....so....just.....girls." He suddenly felt lonely so he searched his pack for a book and started reading to take his mind off of things.

Meanwhile, Pierce was still sitting at his desk. He was muttering to himself as if having some sort of internal argument.

"Yes...I do love her...but it shouldn't be this way....she isn't Liz." He said.

"But you want her...take her....ease your pain." Said another voice coming from his mouth.

"No...I won't." He shook his head. "She's my friend.

"You want her....." The voice repeated.

Pierce grabbed his head and hunched forward in pain.

"Stop...please stop!" He called.

"Take her...TAKE HER!" The voice chanted.

When Pierce straightened back into his chair he sat very stiff and a bright purple glow shone through his hair. A large and eerie grin appeared on his face and he laughed like a maniac.