Private Tales Halls of the Dead

Discussion in 'The Chronicles' started by Seska the Dragonslayer, May 24, 2019.

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  1. Seska the Dragonslayer

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    She scowled at the man that sat across the table from her, glass of red wine in hand. Her mood was not improved by the fact that she could barely see over the top of the table, and had to crane her neck to look the fellow in they eyes.

    "You do not understand," the man began for the sixth time. Her scowl deepened as she motioned him into silence with the wine, eyes like polished chips of pale, purple ice. How she longed to be able to lean over the table with a proper degree of gravity. That was not really possible, not in a place designed to cater to elfin and human patrons. Being fair to the owners, it wasn't as if her kind were particularly prevalent. Still.

    "I hired you to perform a job. You said you knew where there was a structure like I described," she said in frosty tones. "You said you would lead me there for a price." A cold eyed stare. "Instead, you tried to rob me."

    They were seated in the common room of an inn in some flyspeck village out in the middle of nowhere. The tree-carpeted ridges made of it and idyllic little place along the major trade route to Alliria and points east. Currently, they were the only ones there, barring members of a caravan that were stopping fir the night here. A casual glance at the newcomers, and then that auguring stare was back in the skinny fellow.

    "Sorry, mistress, I'm so sorry. Please-"

    She cut him off with a gesture, and he obediently went silent. She continued in her high pitched, almost childish voice. "Save your apologies," she replied coldly. "Get out of my sight."

    She took a sip of her wine as he left, watching him over the rim of her goblet. He wouldn't soon forget the lesson she gave him for his failed attempt. Many would have killed him, but she didnt see the point. Regardless, whether he had liked it or not, he had played the part of her shield until they got here.

    She tsked to herself, vexed. The forest here was risky, and she had need to travel it. Worse, there was an old place she wished to visit, that of an old friend who may or may not even still be alive.

    But the millenia had changed the land beyond recognition, which was always a problem for her. Most people never really traveled the world in truth, but she had. It might he several hundred years between visits to one place or another. Or more.

    Things changed.

    She waved to one of the serving girls imperiously, and when one arrived, she gestured to the notice board. "Put it back up. Eventually some sdventurous....person will earn those crowns." It wasn't like she was in a hurry. Nor was it like she had a shortage of time.

    Tuilinn
     
  2. Pyxidus

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    Pyx reached into the air and caught the small purse tossed to him by the wagon master—his payment for brokering the sale of the caravan’s goods, in addition to several wagonloads of new cargo to be carried back to Elbion. Pyx assessed the purse’s weight and, satisfied, transferred it to an interior pocket.

    The wagon master cleared his throat. “You won’t reconsider returning with us? You made a good profit with this trade, and I think Eamon will be pleased. He could use a man like you on the payroll. I’m sure there’s more exciting opportunities than this little backwater village, if you’re looking for adventure.”

    Pyx looked around at the small forest village, and smiled. He was fairly certain that, had he been riding through it and sneezed about three times, he’d have missed the village entirely. It was lovely. Having spent his entire life in the city, he was eager to explore new places and meet new people. And he preferred to have the freedom to do so on his own, rather than at the beck and call of his uncle Eamon, or some other merchant. He slung his bag over his shoulder. “I’ll be fine here, thanks,” he replied.

    While the rest of the caravan headed to the town’s inn, Pyx took his time, walking the little village from end to end. Most of the town’s occupants were in the midst of the day’s work, but several were happy to strike up a conversation with a visitor. He learned that tree squirrels would nest in attics and raid backyard gardens, that the roads to the south were in need of repair, and that a skilled woodcutter could climb a 70-foot tall pine in a minute using spikes strapped to his feet and a leather strap. Pyx was content, more so than he had felt in years, finally free to sate his thirst for things new and different.

    As the daylight grew dim and the air cooled, Pyx made his way to the inn. He removed his hat as he passed through the doorway and flagged down the innkeeper to pay for a hot meal and a bed, stating that he might stay a few days until he found a new employer.

    While he waited for his meal, his eyes fell upon the room’s notice board. Someone at the inn was searching for a place in the forest, and was willing to pay a substantial fee to whomever could guide them there. He waved to the inn’s serving girl as she walked by and inquired about the notice. The girl, her hands full of dirty dishes, gestured in the direction of a nearby table, where a petite woman sat alone, drinking a glass of wine.

    Pyx turned towards the woman. He had noted her briefly upon entering the inn, for her bright silver hair had drawn his eyes, but now he considered her more closely. She had the height of a child, but her stature, frame, dress, and facial features were an adult’s. She also looked incredibly... irked, and a fierce glow to her eyes belied that she may be more than she seemed. Pyx was largely ignorant of the non-human races, thanks largely to Elbion’s policies, and he had no knowledge of what the irkling might be. Of course, as a result, he liked her immediately.

    He made his way to her table somewhat uneasily, for not only were his good clothes travel-worn and dusty but he was so much taller than the woman as to make direct conversation difficult. Feeling that kneeling might be condescending, he stopped a few feet away so as not to tower above her, and greeted her with a polite bow, that he might lower his head somewhat.

    “M’lady,” he began, “I beg your pardon, but I was told you posted the notice by the counter? I happen to have some skill locating places with magic, and I might be able to assist with the task you require. Would you consider granting me an interview for the position?”
     
  3. Seska the Dragonslayer

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    Hooded eyes regarded the common room,wi e glistening a rich ruby red. Truth to tell, she could sit here all night, until sleep called her away, and never feel the pangs of boredom. Thank the Gods for their wonders that it was so.

    She found herself wondering if Lia was still hete,in this world. It had been three thousand years since she had spoken to the reclusive fay, and something had to have changed in that time.

    Ah, something new.

    She looked at the newcomer over the rim of her glass, eyes inscrutable. The faint light in them seemed to dance, a pale iridescence that belied some hidden nature of this woman. She wordlessly gestured for him to take a seat.

    "It has been...so long. So very long since someone referred to me by the title of 'Lady'," the ancient woman replied. She shifted her seat so she could keep her newfound acquaintance in front of her. The ghost of a smile. "Yes, I have need of someone with that skill. And to he my shield for me, should it come to it."

    She gestured at the door. "Abd, hopefully, you won't make the same mistake the last one did."
     
  4. Pyxidus

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    Pyx raised a wary eyebrow at the woman’s words, but quickly resumed his calm demeanor. He sat in the chair opposite her, curious what plans she had for this journey... and potentially for the fate of her guide. “I am no warrior, madam,” he said, spreading his hands to show the uncalloused palms of a merchant. “I have neither sword nor shield, nor the skill to use either. Only a strange ability to find lost things. And the magic is not simple, for I cannot easily find a place I do not know. Tell me, what is the service that you would ask of me? And might you have anything associated with the place you seek, or perhaps a detailed description? If the cost of failure is high, I would provide you with some assurance that I can find the location before agreeing to the position.”
     
  5. Seska the Dragonslayer

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    At least that rules out this child being another of those that would try to rob me, or worse.

    "The cost of failure is not high. The cost of failure just means I will be spending more time here, more or less, looking for it. Time I have in abundance." She eyed the you up and down, and felt that there was something rather forthright and honest about this one. A good gamble, then.

    "I am searching for the Spire of Lia Moonflower," the Sidhe woman stated. "Its been...well, a very long time since the last time I visited with her. There are so very few of us on this world, and we mostly keep to ourselves." Some of us more than others. "I thought that perhaps she might have found a way to escape this dreary prison, but I'd have to find her first."

    The diminutive woman sat back. "Which would be easier to find? The place or the person?"
     
  6. Pyxidus

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    The woman’s irritability softened, and Pyx began to think that she had merely been the victim of several substandard employees. He relaxed, no longer feeling that she might wring his neck or feed him to bears if he couldn’t find the place that she was seeking.

    Pyx considered her question for several moments. “Do you happen to have an object with you that belongs to the person or place you seek? I can often follow strong connections between objects and people, or places. Otherwise, I think the place may be easier to find, but I would not guarantee that I can find it, and the process would not be... straightforward.”

    He paused, “If I may ask, m’lady, I have only recently left my home for the first time, and I have not bee fortunate enough to encounter one of your race before. You say there are few of you left on this world... of what race are you?”
     
  7. Seska the Dragonslayer

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    She closed her eyes, transported to a different time by the casual use of a title she'd not had in...well, in more years than could be reasonably counted. The Lost Knights are attacking us, my Lady! Memories, buried deep along with all the horror they engendered, brought bubbling to the surface like marsh gas when the muck is disturbed too vigorously. She took a very deep breath.

    "Sidhe," she replied. "We are not natives to this world. We arrived here - and other places - after the Gods fell, and Mo'pri was rent stone from stone, until naught was left but a void." Her eyes were still closed, remembering that ancient world, long dead. The pristine forests, the rivers, lakes, and the oceans. Cities, great and small....all consumed in the fires of hell itself, consumed and turned to ashes, floating in the uncaring night.

    "We persist," she continued, and whether there was sadness or despair, or simple numbness in the statement was anyone's. "You shorter lived people always vie to live as long as you can. You pack so much living into your short existence. So short sighted, so fleeting. But we, the few that yet live, persist. On. And on." She opened her eyes, but she wasn't looking at the youth. Rather, she was looking through him, to some point on the horizon, impossibly distant. "After all we have wrought is dust. After most of those we love and care for have been fed to the worms. As history turns its great wheel, and grinds everything to ashes under the wheel of time itself. And yet...."

    She focused on him. "Here we are. Still." She shook her head, visibly dispelling the melancholy feeling away, focusing on the here, and the now. "I'm sorry. Few people ask, and we don't exactly advertise. Some people have funny ideas about what we are, or what we entail. For the precious few that even know we exist."
     
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  8. Pyxidus

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    Pyx listened quietly, feeling as if the woman’s answer was a fragile gem, rarely spoken, and that a weight of some importance had been entrusted to him to carry. He considered her words, feeling suddenly inconsequential in comparison to this great and ancient being, and wondered how a simple human such as himself could be worthy of this burden of knowledge, or possibly have anything to offer her in return. Questions, sometimes, beget consequences as powerful as the Laws of Magic, if one was not careful.

    Feeling that he was beholden to fill the void between them, he touched his shoulder in a gesture of honor, and offered only what he knew. “It seems that the long-lived beings of this world carry great knowledge and strength, but remain unchanged across the ages. For someone such as yourself, the idea of adjusting to a new world when one’s entire existence is based in an old one seems impossible. Yet I think one of the strengths of the short-lived races is our ability to adapt as the world changes around us. Madam, are your kind able to have children?”

    Recognizing that this was perhaps a more serious question than he should ask someone he only just met, Pyx smiled softly to break any sense of expectation between them, and waved down the serving-maid to order two fresh glasses of wine for the table. As the glasses arrived, he segued delicately back to discussing the task at hand.

    “If you’ve no objects with you from the place you seek, I have another idea for how my magic might find it. Perchance do you know of another place in this forest, ideally about a similar distance from the village as the place you want to find, that you can guide me to? Not a town or place along a road, but someplace in the woods… a place of historical or sentimental meaning?”
     
  9. Seska the Dragonslayer

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    The Sidhe sighed audibly, and shook her head. "Great knowledge, perhaps, but one can only remember so much. Parts of my past are completely eroded, eaten away by the beast of time. Eventually, I will forget you, and this world...and continue to exist, unless some foe manages to kill me at long last." She shook her head. "But great strength? Perhaps only that with which we are born, and the wisdom of a long life allows us to ply that power, whatever it may be, with greater efficiency."

    His last question was shockingly blunt, but the Sidhe was not one easily offended. Usually. In this case, there was no offense to be had unless the boy was suggesting that he help her have a child. She didn't want to admit it, but she did desperately wish to have a child of her own, some day. Probably some biological imperative, but no less real for all of that.

    "I have had no children," she replied, a touch sadly. "We can bear them, of course. Its just...difficult. You humans reproduce so quickly, but it might be hundreds of years between births for my people. And a year or more of pregnancy, and decades of rearing besides. or so I am told," she added, a touch bitterly.

    After a long moment, the ancient woman drew out a stave, its length covered in climbing roses, the surface polished so well that it cast a reflection of any who looked at it. "I might have been a bit less than forthright as far as artifacts are concerned. This...." She paused, eyes closed in recollection. "This was crafted by the pair of us, a long, long time ago. It has some of the essence of both of us in it. Would this work with your magic?"
     
  10. Pyxidus

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    Pyx reached out to grasp the wooden stave, his fingers closing around the carved spiral-vine that climbed its length. Distracted by its elegance, he nearly knocked over one of the glasses of wine on the table as he drew it towards himself. Grinning sheepishly, he took the stave in both hands and set it gently on his lap, closing his eyes.

    Most objects in this world carry few memories of people and places. Ordinary things made by men, elves, dwarves, and the other races of Arethil did not withstand the elements of time for more than a single lifespan, if as long. Some few items may be passed down for generations, but it was atypical that those items would move about from place to place. Uncommonly, works of metal, typically made by dwarves or elves, might travel long distances and be passed from warrior to warrior or mage to mage. But on the scale of time and place, even relics such as these had some limit to their history.

    It was thus that Pyx had never before encountered an object such as the staff he now held in his hands. As he opened his senses, he was at once overwhelmed by a torrent of memory and associations. He felt its connection to the silver-haired Sidhe across the table most strongly, for she was a constant in its existence, but beyond the staff’s gravity towards its owner he felt perhaps a thousand forces across time and space pulling on the staff, such significance had its power wielded across the ages. The strongest of these evoked flashes of fire, conflict, and death, with at least a hundred unknown faces that resembled more closely the woman across the table than any he had seen in his lifetime. He struggled to sort through them, looking for the staff’s co-creator, but his mind was not accustomed to such a flood of information, and he quickly became exhausted. It was as though he was trying to sift through tomes of ancient history without an index.

    He opened his eyes and realized he was dizzy, his eyes watering and sweat beading off of his brow. He listed a little in his seat as a wave of nausea swept over him, but he got his bearings and caught himself quickly. The nausea lingered, but he maintained his composure for the most part, or so he thought.

    “Ah, that was... is... very... old.” he said, passing the staff back to her. His hands shook a little, and he tried to quiet them, hoping she wouldn’t notice. Gradually catching his breath, When did I lose my breath? he considered her request. He would need more to go by, and some time and practice, before he could hope to guide her. Could she give him the compass he needed, and did he have the strength to wield it if she did?

    “This is-” he started, his voice cracking, “It is more difficult, more difficult to find, than I’ve found before.” He knew by now that he was visibly exhausted, but he was too fatigued and nauseous to care very much. He thought longingly of his bed upstairs. “I need more... familiarity, with what I seek, more from you, that is, to find it. Might also need to be closer. But willing to try, m’lady, if you are. Perhaps, though, we might depart... morning?”
     
  11. Seska the Dragonslayer

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    She looked upon the boy with a kind smile, and then opened herself to the source. It was always there, a power forever contained within her flesh and blood. Tapping that immense source was something of divine beauty, and she closed her eyes for a moment as it suffused her flesh, her senses. She was only really alive while she wielded this power, playing her Art as a master sculptor worked stone or a whore would service her client. Not so very different from either, really.

    She leaned forward,and played a hand upon the youth's arm, and allowed that arcane energy to flow into him, weaving itself through his flesh in a complex pattern. The overall effect was to wash away the fatigue, to refresh the load as though he had slept. It was a temporary thing, though, and when its effects wore off he might very well be even more tired than he would have been otherwise.

    "There is no need to retire so soon, boy," she said softly, withdrawing her hand. She could faintly feel the strain the magic brought with it, but what she had done was among the least of her abilities. The cost was small for the company it bought. With a regretful sigh, she released the source, felt it drain away. With it went the dual intoxicants of life and power.

    Adjusting her seating in the oversized chair, she indicated the seat opposite hers on the table. "Please, sit. Order something to eat or drink, as it suits you." She flagged down one of the serving staff with a hand.

    "There is no reason why this must be all business. You may call me Seska. And you...?"

    She wasn't about to admit that her life could be exceptionally lonely at times. Even more, really,than many could understand. We immortals are the so-called gods and goddesses of world, she thought to herself, looking at his youthful, earnest face. The gods are all lies, though. And life everlasting is life spent alone, with none to understand what that is like...

    Pyxidus
     
  12. Pyxidus

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    The woman reached across the table to touch his arm, but Pyx was so tired he hardly noticed. A warm tickle of magic suddenly coursed into his body, enlivening his exhausted limbs and reviving him with a jolt of energy. He awoke in a punch-drunk daze, his eyes wide and his head abuzz with activity. The instant food was mentioned he was hungry, and he eagerly ordered a hot meal.

    “Thank you,” he said hesitantly, not entirely sure what the woman had done, but grateful that he was no longer reduced to an exhausted lump of humanity.

    "There is no reason why this must be all business,” the woman said. “You may call me Seska. And you...?"

    Pyxidus, m’lady,” he replied, switching to a closer seat as she requested. “But most call me Pyx.”

    The food arrived, and Pyx began eating, his manners barely containing his enthusiasm and failing utterly to conceal the vast capacity of his stomach. He realized that Seska’s mood had lightened considerably since their conversation had started, and found himself glad. He rather liked the woman, for she packed quite the sharp temper in a small package, but seemed to have a kind, generous heart underneath. “Tell me,” he said eagerly, “as you have walked this world much longer than I, what places have you traveled to? Have you seen all of Arethil, or are there still lands you’ve not explored?”
     
  13. Seska the Dragonslayer

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    The sorceress sighed at the question, suddenly feeling very tired herself. "How to answer that question?" She paused, a finger to her lips as she tried to figure out the best and easiest way to make it understandable.

    "I do not know," she said, finally, simply. "I have probably been over most of this world, but its not an easy thing to ascertain. The world is not static, not by any means. Especially once you humans were born to it." And that was the honest truth. Humanity seemed to be forever in a headlong rush to build greater and greater civilizations and empires, to increase and expand their influence across the world. She could remember so many of them...

    But not all. "When you come to this place, and then leave," she began, by way of explanation, "it might be Falwood. Or it might be Falloran. Or it might be another place altogether else. It might be a forest, or a desert, or it might be a mountain range. I realize some of that is mutually exclusive but...the world changes. It is as much alive as you or I are."

    She took a deep breath, and sighed. "And then there is me. I cannot remember everything. There is just too much to recall, and only so much space in my head. Terribly important things stand out, but other things eventually fade with time."

    She gestured to the common room, to the door, to the world outside with a sad look on her face. "I cannot remember the land of my birth. I can only dimly remember the face of my mother and my father. I...I fear that one day I will not be able to remember them, either. Them, and others that I..."

    She trailed off into silence. Forget Aria. Shayanna. Eisheth. Maybe even forget Maledict, and the great Arcangel. Decae. So many faces imprinted in her mind, the images fuzzy and fading, the names vanishing one by one. It was almost terrifying to think that, one day, no one would remember them, or their world. Or her. She was biologically immortal, after all...but that did not mean she would live forever.

    "Some days I wonder what it would be like not to have to worry about such things. To be content with the life before me, with raising a family and exploring a world that will be much the same on your deathbed as it was when you were born. Life everlasting is not a boon. It is a curse."
     
  14. Pyxidus

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    Pyx sympathized with Seska’s plight (in between large bites of food) and recognized that he, who had nothing but future before him, could not possibly imagine what it was like to walk in this woman’s shoes or carry the burden of an eternal past. But the optimist in him was determined to cheer her up, and he persevered, drawing from what coming-of-age lessons he had learned in his young life.

    “Well, what is death, really?” he considered out loud. “By human standards you may be long-lived, but it almost seems as though the older part of you is passing out of your memory to make room for something new. How would you grow otherwise, if you held all of your memories? Maybe you are supposed to die, in a way, and become something new?”

    He finished his meal, wiping his face and hands with a napkin and pushing his plate aside. “If the loss of everything you were grieves you so much that you cannot move on,” he continued, “why not find a way to preserve it, keep it safe? Maybe... I don’t know, create a kind of library? You can journal and sketch the parts of your life you don’t want to forget, and use a preservation spell to keep the pages from decaying.” He shrugged sheepishly, not sure that was a feasible suggestion. “Well, maybe that wouldn’t work, but I’m sure you could think of something.” He endeavored to meet her eyes to give her some encouragement.

    “You must know, when you say the world changes so much that it does not look the same when you visit a place twice, this sounds a gift to me. To be able to explore the world over and over again and never tire of seeing new things? Why not choose to see these losses as gifts instead of burdens? Make a plan for the future, and let life tear it to pieces - we mortals are fantastic examples of how to do that. Find some things you haven’t learned or done before, or that you can’t recall learning or doing, and try them. Maybe have a family... or if that’s too big a step, start with a cat? It can keep mice out of your library.” He grinned charmingly.
     
  15. Seska the Dragonslayer

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    She shook her head solemnly at the thoughts expressed by this youth. "I would raise a family, if I could find someone who would not tear my heart in half when they inevitably passed from the world after a hundred years or so. And have children of my own, if they would not also pass before I did as well." The very notion made her want to wail in despair, to curl up in a ball and weep for that which she had never even had to lose.

    The truth was that there were so very few Sidge in this world - hundreds, maybe thousands, but certainly not even as many as ten thousand. She seldom found them because they often did not wish to be found. That left the younger peoples of this world, and all of them she had ever met would leave her crushed, heartbroken, and alone. One hundred years or a thousand, or two thousand, it made no difference. In the end, she wound suffet.

    Is it not better to live and have loved than to live without purpose? Some scholarly philosophers within her own people had postulated that it was, a long time ago. Their scorched bones were likely still back on Tonan, or in other realms.

    Forgotten.

    "Always exploring, and never settling," she began in a weary tone, "sounds grand. At first. But there has been no great driving force in my life, or that of many of my people, for thousands of years." She closed her eyes, looking at an inner world. "No empires, no great causes. No faith, no gods. We eschewed it all when our greatest triumph turned to great sorrow, when the blood of the innocent soaked our righteous hands. We turned our back on the world long ago as a collective, and have never looked back. Each seeking our own hedonistic purpose until we have all but faded from the world."

    She paused. "I am sorry if this sounds bleak to you," she finally added, gaze averted out of some strange embarrassment.
     
  16. Pyxidus

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    Pyx smiled softly. “You need not apologize,” he said, at a loss for words. He spread his hands sadly, his practicalities and youthful advice wrung dry. Endeavoring to console Seska seemed as impossible as trying to saturate a dry sponge with air. “My lady, I’m afraid I have no answers for you, mortal that I am. But I am happy to continue to listen, and keep you company this evening, and even order another round of wine, should you wish it.”
     

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