Fable - Ask Dark Night of the Soul

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Vyr Taethiras

Character Biography
Long ago, her tree had grown here, in this secluded valley where a stream ran clear and wild; where her laughter had mingled with the babbling waters and the afternoon sunshine. How many days they'd spent beneath that towering yew, bold and forever green, dreaming of their eternity together.

Kneeling on the blue-tinged moss, Vyr rested a hand on the cracked, hollow stump that still rose twice his standing height. Its core had rotted away a century ago, infected by the outbreak of blight that had started here - in the wake of the battle that had taken her life. Now there was no tree, no babbling brook. In his surreal re-creation, an impenetrable maze of blight-spawned thickets kept the world away from the stone memorial that bore her name.

"How many ways I tried to forget, Iuha'il - still you haunt me," he lamented softly. A light rain pattered on the bizarre garden around him, veiling the glow of stars behind a dreary sheet of clouds. The sounds of the rain were a reprieve from the constant silence that gnawed at what remained of him. All things touched by the blight were forever transformed, and he was no exception. Where once a mighty tree had stood, now only a grave marker remained. Where there once was light and life, now there was only darkness and death. In the indigo light of Vyr's twisted, bioluminescent plants, he was not a duanann - merely a broken man.

"But the forest will prevail, when all is said and done." He would have given everything for his Iuha'il, and this was a last promise he fully expected to die fulfilling. "And if my soul is forever cast in with the fomorians for what I've done, it will still be worth it."

I am a daughter of Tir Na Nog. The voice of his champion drifted across his mind like a fleeting song. Tearing himself from his melancholy, he turned his head to listen.

"Tir Na Nog..." Vastly inaccurate to the old tales of the land of the forever young, but a name he found fitting. The druidess was a foolish idealist, yet she proved surprisingly insightful at times.

He plucked a pearl-like flower from the edge of the moss, running a hand along its elegant stem tenderly before placing it on the memorial. Donning the mask he'd taken to wearing to further distance himself from who he used to be, he looked up into the rainy sky. A sky he had screamed into that day when he'd made the stream run red with the blood of Iuha'il's killers. Now there was nothing left, only a shadow of a memory.
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The trees of the Valen wilds blurred by in great clumps of brown and green as Taethiras stepped between them, hardly pausing to breathe or get his bearings in his haste.

Even with his ability to stride between the tree trunks, it had taken some time for him to return from the Ixchel Wilds - the domain of the fae. Another attempt to convince the Courts that the forests around the Eldyr Tree were worth devoting more resources to protecting. Those who knew Taethiras accused him of being still young and impulsive, his motives all too personal. He couldn't argue against them on the latter. After all, it had been Iuha'il who had led him to fall in love with this patch of paradise.

Even if it was a matter more of heart than wit, that made it no less valid. What of the lesser fae who lived in this forest, he argued, separated from the safety of the Ixchel Wilds by a jagged mountain range? Of the beasts kindred in spirit? Who would prevent them from being caught in the crossfire when the fragile peace between the mortals who'd decided to settle the Vale and the older, wiser creatures they called 'god-beasts' had finally broken?

He'd quickly abandoned his latest debate when word reached him that what he'd feared had come to pass. He did not know yet which side had ultimately begun the anticipated conflict - but he was sure of what side he stood on, regardless of his kin's ideals of neutrality in mortal affairs.

Where is Gwrhyr? the duanann thought worriedly as he galloped across a meadow cleared by recent logging, the elk form he favored for travel shining chestnut-gold in the sun. Seeing no living thing around him, he finally stopped to catch his breath in the swath of stumps. The pioneers had apparently started harvesting closer to the Tree; it was little wonder the inhabitants had become so agitated.

"Gwrhyr!" he called into the dense forest still thriving on the meadow's outskirts. The sound emerged from his throat as a sonorous bellow, but he was sure the great beast would hear him.

The only reply he received was the dry cackling of crows from the branches. Creatures only interested in the metallic odor that wafted on the wind.

Taethiras smelled it too... blood. Blood and something he didn't recognize.

He ran on until he came upon a dark-furred hillock smashed against a splintered tree.

"Gwrhyr!" Taethiras shed his animal form for his elven one, as easily as one might throw off a coat, and rushed over to his friend's side. The old bear rolled over with a pained grunt, his hide pierced by wooden shafts and sticky with blood.

"You.... have come," he growled, his breaths labored. "...of course... you would."

"What happened here?"

The bear tried to speak again, only to cough up a thin stream of blood.

"Save your strength. Show me," Taethiras implored, placing a hand gently on the bear's brow. He tensed as Gwrhyr's mind opened to him, first as a flood of pain, then as a series of visions unveiling his recent memories:

The forest in Taethiras's mind's eye erupted with the sounds of running feet, shouts and the ring of weapons cutting through underbrush - the elements still sharp in Gwrhyr's mind. The bear was standing at his full height, growling threateningly at the intruders. An entire army, by the sounds of it. Other snarls and growls from various guardians of the wood filtered through the canopy amidst outbreaks of violence.

"They are almost upon us. You must go!" he commanded, turning to look at the host of distraught forest denizens - leprechaun, fawn and beasts of many shapes and sizes - that huddled behind him. Taethiras immediately recognized Iuha'il among them, trying to comfort the young ones. Her delicate face was resolute despite the obvious terror in her eyes. She had ranged far from her tree, but a dryad could not live long out of reach of their shared lifeforce's tether. She had no choice but to return to her yew, and Gwrhyr was aware of it.

"Guide them there, Iuha'il! I will hold them off!" the bear called, stomping back down on his front paws.

The dryad's face crumpled, but she nodded her understanding and motioned the others to follow her, quickly disappearing into the dip of a creekbed with a last mournful glance at Gwrhyr.

The memories blurred into images of human and other mortal kith's faces as Gwrhyr rushed through the woods. The bear managed to hold some of them off with his sheer size and ferocity, but they had the advantage of numbers, and some ran on. The duanann's thoughts were overwhelmed with glimpses of screaming, growling, claws, weapons and pain.

Taethiras pulled his mind away.

"Thank you, my friend. Rest now, and regain your strength." Taethiras knew few beasts more dire and tough than Gwrhyr. Though he was worried for his friend, he had faith that the guardian would survive this, too - he just needed time to rest and mend himself. The memory of Gwrhyr's attackers rushing up the same trail Iuha'il and the others had taken gave him a more pressing concern.

He didn't hesistate. Back in his wapiti form, he raced with renewed urgency through the wilderness, toward the hidden valley that he prayed would remain veiled from mortal sight.

Some wounds are beyond time's ability to heal. Some fester and rot down to the very spirit. Though the memories had grown dimmer over the centuries of his life, the emotions more muted, Vyr felt more of himself slip away each time he remembered the sight of her lifeless body splayed across the soil beneath her tree.
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The steady drizzle continued on into the next morning.

"You must have been lingering at her grave again," the creature that now called herself Seed Mother commented as the shadow-clad elk stepped into the fungal glade that served as her lair. She reached out with one wooden claw and shook some of the collected water from a flat mushroom cap the size of a buckler. "All this rain is sure to drown my children."

Vyr transformed back into his native form, casting a glance at her but not deigning to respond. Báirseach - the name the former hag had gone by before her transformation - had been the first fae he'd afflicted with his blighting dagger Falthedyn. Unlike the other sentient victims of his experiment, she'd agreed to the process in return for a patch of his new court to call her own. Her kind had always disgusted him, but he couldn't deny that she'd proven a useful pawn.

"What progress have you made with the druids?" he asked instead, wholly uninterested in her attitude towards the weather or his business.

Her shoulders rose stiffly in the approximation of a shrug. "They take to your blight slowly - the small folk faster, the elves slower. Some have succumbed to the madness... but they have been more resilient than the others. Not one of them shows the... talents of your pet."

Vyr shot the pitiful creature a warning glare. She'd already had the audacity to think she could control his most successful experiment, and in a moment of arrogance threatened the careful balance he'd created to preserve Elinyra's mind while her transformation progressed. So far she'd been the only afflicted mortal to display powers similar to his own, and that made him curious as to the potential of his variant of blight.

Seed Mother shrank back a bit from him, pretending to turn her attention back to the ceaseless care of her garden. She'd already witnessed the destructive power of his pet reaper's diluted powers; she had no interest in seeing how easily a greater fae could ruin the carefully-tended fruits of her diligence and care.

"As promised, I have not spoken to her since the incident. Whatever your 'champion' is doing, I have no hand in it," she said to ease the temper of the tempestuous - and she thought oddly protective - duanann. He'd made his point very clear when he explained that he would not tolerate her maternal interferences... the tiny shrub that had been the regrowth of her minion Grasping Roots was now nothing more than debris. A shame: now she was down to but one daughter, and she hadn't heard from Vengeful Thorns since she'd gone off to entertain herself in the mortal realm.

She looked back up at Vyr, only to note that his attention was no longer on her; rather he was fixated on a lone elven figure off in the trees. He stood still for a few moments, watching Elinyra's progress as she followed his tracks. The girl glanced back despite the glamour that should have kept him from her sight, although she still seemed confused as to what she was seeing.

"You are persistent," he muttered and started to walk away into the surrounding fungal trees.

Being a creature of habit still, Seed Mother couldn't help herself. "This mortal is not her, you know that?" she asked casually. She knew she had pushed him too far when he spun around and a shadowed scythe appeared in his hands, the blade very close to her throat.

"I have tolerated this arrangement because you have been of use to me. But your usefulness wanes," he hissed, eyes narrowed at her in fury. "If you so much as mention her to me again, I will show you just how easy you are to replace."

With that, the duanann left Seed Mother to contemplate their partnership. She took the threats in stride - these were the simply the rules of the political dance. What bothered her was how much the immortal had weathered from their first meeting, when she'd convinced him to start a new court of blight and decay. She had grown tired of her lowly post in the Winter Court then, and she thought it might be an opportunity to position herself in a place of power. It wouldn't help her to lose her current patron.

But it seemed that she might. Slowly but surely, Vyr was losing himself in mind and body to his own font of power.
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