Vastili was not originally built for trade, however. The tall walls were meant for more than just staring out at endless rolling hills near the end of the Elves' borders, where the land turned rough and strange and warped into ecosystems they detested. They were meant to watch the sky, both high and low, for the beat of wings that carried the Interlopers on the cusp of the wind. Great crossbows sat greased and ready for such a sight, aimed already as if eager to snuff so much as a bird unfortunate enough to seem so much as close enough to humanoid. This was not a ritual without foundation, of course, as if one took the time to scour the surrounding hills, they would inevitably find the rusted heads of expended missiles, some still lodged among the ribs of forgotten skeletons, fewer still lodged in skulls that housed sets of cankerous horns.
It had been years since an Interloper had been spotted anywhere near Vastili, decades since any had come from the sky, yet the great bows sat ready, if not to shoot down an approaching attacker, then to spear a fleeing spy.
This was why, of course, Vaeri's only hope was to escape to the lower rungs as fast as possible. He ran fast, pushing his way past crowds of elves who seemed to be caught unaware of the situation, yelling obscenities and curses after him as he slipped through small gaps and shoved his way between people at a breakneck pace. A horde followed him, one that was accompanied by the stiff sound of heavy boots clicking against stone, orderly yells to "Seize him!" and "Cut him off!" filled the air alongside less pleasant commands. He picked turns almost at random, the map in his head vanishing among the maze of strangely built houses and structures, products of architectural randomness more so than communal planning. He was deep in the city, a residential district separated from the outermost layer of the province by a medium wall, which then was separated by the trade rings by the bulwark. All he had to do was make it there, right?
His illusion had been disrupted, but it had not dissipated fully. As he ran he focused, and once more he appeared as an elf, though one much closer to his normal appearance than his original disguise. This simply hid his horns, while he typically did not display wings nor tail, he had a feeling that disguise alone would not help him here. They had disrupted it before, somehow, and if they truly sought his blood then they would simply do the same to any auspicious looking fellow they caught in their black-iron talons. He turned a corner, eyes wide as he saw the pale stone of the main street, and he saw the wall that separated districts, parted by a wide gate that shot directly down a simple pathway for several kilometers. It was busy, but oddly the area surrounding the gate itself had been cleared as-
He heard the roar of gears turning, the musical hum of magic burning hot as the gates pulsed from each side, slamming together in seconds with a force that would flatten even Mazda. The ground itself shuck, and it was followed by a series of dull, hollow clicks as countless locking mechanisms held in place. His heart dropped, and tears began to well in his eyes. He turned his gaze onward and continued to run, ignoring the pitch burn of his lungs as he picked a random residential street. His only hope now was to be lost, to be so far from where they expected him to go that he evaded capture. What better way than that to have no direction himself?
The street emptied quickly, though he still heard the distant drum of metal boots approaching. Tears welled as he ducked and weaved and turned among sparsely populated alleys and streets. His emotions burned, and his horns flickered into reality once more.
“Scream and I’ll choke you out with my breasts.” The other voice growled, a woman's voice, strong.
He felt her shift against him, pressing him back into the wall. Her hand planted next to his head and the glow of the eyes disappeared as she began to hum the elven magics. A soft, melodious song that drifted past his ears. She took a deep breath and hummed, louder, vibrating against him as the beating of boots and clanking of weapons and armor drew near.
“There he is! Get him!” Came the cry from the alleyway he had just been. The sounds of an angry mob rushed towards them, and then past them. Carried away with bloodlust and zeal, away down the streets and back into the throng of the city.
She gasped suddenly, hot breath spilled onto his face as she caught her breath, before she sighed with relief, her hand still over his face. She looked him in the eyes again, intensely.
“You’re going to tell me all there is to know about Yazata, alright?” She asked. It was not a question.
As he ran, his breath left his lung as he was jerked back with a sudden jolt, and he was convinced, for a brief moment, that he had been speared through some javelin. He did not fall back to the ground, instead, he was pulled through a doorway and slammed into a wall. If the grab did not vacate his lungs, the way he was crushed against the wall did. The door closed, and the fuzzy gaze of his surroundings faded to black, instead suffered unto inspection by the frighteningly azure eyes that pierced through to the back of his skull. An unusual threat uttered stopped his spiraling train of thought, but he wasn't sure if he was even capable of screaming. Though her hand clamped over his mouth, his breath rapidly came and went as his chest shuttered in an attempt to catch his breath. His throat was raw, and if he did try to yell, he was sure it would come out as little more than a whimper.
Still, he gave a brief nod, feeling the chill of adrenaline beginning to withdraw from his veins, his mouth running dry. His heart thrummed despite his attempts to calm it, and as he began to look around he felt something he wasn't expecting. The hum of magic flowing through the air, the soft sound of it reverberating into being from the elf before him. Not all Yazata could hear magic, but he knew many others who could detect it in other ways. Almost by osmosis, he drank in the excess as it flowed and formed, not affecting the end product of what the elf was creating, but still taking what wasn't being used. He felt a pang of small guilt in knowing she likely wouldn't approve of his slight benefit at her action, his veins feeling that additional touch of energy.
He listened, eyes cast towards the door as he heard the scramble of yells and shouts, followed by the steadfast tempo of soldiers running past with vigor and enthusiasm that seemed impossible for the weapons and armor they carried. He could feel the hum of magic accompany them, but it was too narrow, too focused to drink from. Shortly following the tempest of their passing, only silence carried on outside, until the only thing he heard was the pounding of his own heart in his ears and the breath of the elf who kept him against the wall. Slowly, he turned his gaze to her, having said nothing so far, deciding to see what she would do next, trying to ignore the wave of her breath lingering across his face.
Her question, or demand, still hit him like a punch. He felt the strength in his legs falter, and his turquoise eyes widened at the words. He could surmise, given how she had all but rescued him from the passing guard, that she likely did not stand, or act, within the authority of the city or those that ruled it. That did not make her any less of a potential threat. There were countless ways that the political factions at work could have split or divided or turned their influence into separate spaces of the city, and he would be a fool to expect her to simply be some independent actor who cared little of such politics or who did not believe them to some degree.
"I..." He sputtered, the exhaustion creeping on the edges of his brain, though his voice was still muffled by her hand. He should refuse, he knew, or give some limiting response in the name of defense or security. The look in her eyes told him she would accept no such answer, and he knew it would take substantially little for her to subdue him in his current state, or to simply kick him back outside to make do with the little space he had been given to run. "...I accept." He finally admitted in a defeated tone. His eyes had slowly adapted to the interior, and he began to look around slowly, trying to get some bearing on who the woman was, or what she might possibly want with this information.
Vaeri himself was peculiar. The dead give away were the horns that had manifested plainly upon his head, marking him as a Yazata. They were smooth things, that bent upward to fine points. Though she would likely have little idea of what it meant or how it was achieved, they looked healthy and sturdy, along with being finely adorned with little color-less carvings in the onyx material that depicted symbols and flowers merged and mixing in some delicate script. To him, at least, they clearly had some meaning beyond a simple appreciation for the beautiful. His hair, roughed by the desperate sprint and marked with sweat, was a similar shade to his horns, messy with a medium length. His body held a distinctly feminine shape to it, one that perhaps could be confused with a woman if he were dressed appropriately, though his conservatively dressed appearance was one of the more common styles of elven wraps and attire seen in the streets.
To put it bluntly, if she knew anything of the types, he was a textbook example of a Yazata Akai.
Her stark red hair curled down and framed the sun-bronzed skin of her face, a face peering at him curiously in its beauty. The slight opalescence of her elf eyes shimmered in the half-light as the fractal crystal prism from the floor above brought a dim glow back to the room. The flowers and vines, common elven embroidery, sprung chaotically across her otherwise plain robes in red and purple string. But there was no sign of a magistars badge, or an academy mark. Unusual for a mage, vain and swaggering as many were among the other classes.
Her eyes sized him down, then up. Her fiery eyebrow rose, and she tilted her head to look at him more clearly.
“You are a woman? No, one of the special ones, an Akai. I thought you would be taller, like the other men…” She trailed off as her eyes stared at his horns.
Her hand began to rise, a finger coming up to touch, but she caught herself and withdrew. She smiled at him just a little at her own foolishness. The eagerness in her face betrayed her excitement as she reached into her shoulder bag, the back of a thick tomb of knowledge visible to Vaeri for split second.
“It won’t be safe here long. They’ll begin searching more thoroughly. So, you can put these on, and I’ll let you hide at my place so we can start, more thoroughly.” She said, trailing off just a little at the end.
In her hand she held up a pair of slim silvery shackles, she had clearly come prepared for this.
“Only until I can check you for weapons. You Yazata are wily and dangerous.” She said, trying desperately to keep a straight face and not blush at the fact she was casually carrying handcuffs.
He stared at her, trying to discern her intent as he studied the disconcerting eagerness that lingered in her eyes. Perhaps it was just his own position in this situation, but it hardly seemed anything to be eager about. While his options to proceed had all but run out, hers only seemed to be growing all the more as she considered them. He eyed the handcuffs as they were presented, and slowly raised his hands. He would prefer to inspect them, he was no expert on the kind of sensory divination of detecting enchantments, but he would at least like to try. He had heard of some... Bizarre enchantments one could place on such things that would be inflicted on the wearer, and he would rather not willingly attach such malicious devices to himself if he could help it.
Still, he offered his hands forward, wrists close with a frankly unhappy expression. He was happy that he had stopped manifesting a tail, otherwise, it would likely be swishing in some dramatic flair to emphasize his disagreement with the predicament. "Wily and dangerous?" He scoffed as he glared at the suspicious restraints. "Do you just have those on you in case something like this happens?"