Private Tales In the memory of the fallen

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer
Demise watched them go before quietly leaving the same way in which they had arrived.

The first time she had stayed with Jamie at his great insistence she had refused to even set foot in a bedroom before laying down several nasty wards that would deter anyone with ill intent from entering. She walked the path back to the gate and crouched down to inspect the carefully made runes. Unless one knew what to look for they would not be seen. Of course, if members of the Radiant Church had been poking around...

"You're being paranoid, Demi," her sister chided as she floated along. Demi stopped at each post and scrutinised it closely.

"Perhaps that is why you are dead and I am not," the Bishop muttered in response. Prevail paused and then said softer.

"That wasn't nice."

Demise didn't bother to respond after that. Once she had checked that they were indeed safe she did not return to the house but instead clambered onto the roof to watch the town and think.
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The guest room Jamie led her to was nothing special. Still, it had all the necessities one could possibly need from a room of its size. A bed, a wash basin, and multiple means of egress. The window was shuttered and the door had no bolt. Closing the latter, Yarrow crossed to the window.

Clay waited patiently as she threw open the wooden slats. There was a gleam in his eyes that spoke louder than any words could. 'What?'

'You're worried about her,' he said. 'About Jamie. 'Don't believe he's everything he claims to be?' There was a pause as Yarrow put her pack down on the bed. She slipped the war-pick from her belt, laid it down next to it. 'What makes you think that?' she asked, catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror.

Mother have mercy, I look terrible!

'It's written on your face. You can hide it from them, but you can't hide it from me.'
Turning to look at her Shadowkin, Yarrow's lips turned downward. Ain't that the truth, she thought, hopping up onto the windowsill. Clay watched her go, disappointment writ plain 'pon his wolfish face.

'Goes both ways, that,' the she-orc said, before clambering up, onto the roof.

Root awaited her there. So did Demise. Neither sister looked happy to see her, but then when did they ever?

Lying down next to Demise, the hard slate pressing into her back, Yarrow gazed up at the stars whilst the Bishop busied herself with her own thoughts. If she wished to share them, well, that was up to her. Yarrow had asked enough questions for one day.
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"You should be in bed," Demise scowled at the young Sister. From the off tune whistling that floated up from the house it seemed Jamie was also intent on not going to bed until she had returned. She rolled her eyes towards the sky and wondered, again, why she had bothered to make a friend of the book keeper. A moment of weakness, that was what it had been. Weakness she would pay for. She turned her scowl onto the town that lay before them instead of the she orc. It wasn't Yarrow that she was truly mad at. The Radiant Church was who she was truly angry at, had been angry at for most of her adult life. She didn't know how to feel any other way.

"You're going to need your rest for when we kill that Priest," the title came out as more of a sneer. "The wards are in tact, you will be safe here tonight."
'I know.' Yarrow didn't have it in her to argue. The night was calm, the sky full of stars. It felt wrong to sully it with bitter words and venomous tongues. 'I'm glad to hear it,' she said, mind drifting to the strange wards and the magic surrounding them.

Why a bookkeeper would need such security was anyone's guess. Maybe he really was more than he cracked up to be.

'He seems a nice chap, Jamie,' Yarrow commented, letting slip the accent she had spent so long trying to get rid of. 'Not my type, of course, but to each their own.' Gazing up at the Bishop, she smiled teasingly. 'He must really mean something to you, huh?'
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Demises' head whipped towards Yarrow incredulously.

"You think he is my lover?" the face she pulled probably gave away more than she usually would have, but Yarrow had caught her by surprise. Disgusted was perhaps too harsh a word to describe the grimace, but it was definitely close. She shook her head and then turned her gaze back to the large sprawling town stretched out before them. As the hours grew later more lights winked out as residents turned in for the night.

"I have far fewer friends than I do lovers. That is why I care for him."
'A jest made in good faith, I assure you.' Yarrow had no intention of betraying Jamie's existence to anyone. Chuckling to herself, the she-orc went back to stargazing. 'Still, it is nice to know you care for someone outside the Order, and that they care for you in turn.'

Indeed, Yarrow had few enough people in her life she could call
friend. The School of Shadows had not exactly been the most pleasant of places to grow up. The chance to... mingle with the other students had been a rare occurrence, or at least it had been for her. Rivalries, on the other hand, were not.

Was that how Demise viewed her? As a potential rival? Perhaps.

Doesn't seem that way, though. Sitting up, Yarrow took a turn gazing out over the town. 'How long have you two known each other?' she asked, watching as the lights were snuffed out one by one.
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"Five years," a light wind picked up tendrils of her hair and played with them with invisible fingers. She brushed a strand behind her ear and for a brief moment her body seemed to shift translucent, as though her body enjoyed the alure of blending into the fabric of the night.

"I was still just a Sister at the time. I hadn't intended on coming through here but there was something about these lights that drew me in. I told myself I was just curious to find a safe place to stop at during my travels but,"
a lift of her shoulders and then she pursed her lips, letting silence fall once more across the rooftop.
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'But what?' She couldn't just stop there, surely? There was more tale to be told, and Yarrow was nothing if not a good listener. 'Not so good at guesswork though, are you?' Yarrow had not noticed Clay arrive. By all means, she had expected him to stay downstairs, out of sight and mind until she had discovered... whatever it was she was searching for.

Answers, perhaps? Or maybe just to understand?

A bit of both, I think. Demise was an enigma, and while it was probably safer for everyone that way, Yarrow couldn't help but long for some kind of "connection" to the woman. If anyone asks, I'll say my reasons for wanting to know more are strictly selfish. They would believe that, right? An assassin looking to get one up on their superior.

It wasn't true, obviously. Yarrow would never dream of doing such a thing. Would she?

'Hush you,' thought the she-orc, bristling at the Shadowkin's interruption. 'Let her speak.'
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Demise did not reply and as the minutes ticked by it seemed that she would not speak at all. She was content to merely sit and watch the lights of the city waver like the stars before the dawn.

"Do you not ever wonder at what it is like to not have the weight of our mission on your shoulders?" she asked at last so softly it seemed she were asking herself, or the scene before her, and not Yarrow herself. It was only because the Bishop turned towards her that it was clear she spoke in answer to the orcs question. "I did, when I was your age. I thought that it must be a horrible life outside of the Mothers embrace, that these people must suffer not knowing her Truth. A dark part of me wanted to see it and feel vindicated in the life I had just taken, but I found no such thing here. I found the opposite. Love, warmth..." Demise shook her head and turned her gaze back to the stars.

"I think I knew that is what I would find here and I believe that is why I really came."
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"When you were my age." There must have been a year's difference between them. Possibly two. 'Believe me when I say I've wondered. Oh, how I've wondered!' The life Yarrow had chosen to pursue had not been an easy one. Sometimes, she felt she had made a mistake in deciding to follow the Path of Shadows.

Sometimes, she felt like the wrong sister had survived The Proving.

And yet, she persisted.

Somehow she had resisted the urge to just roll over and die. She was a killer and a liar and worse things besides. But she had not given up on living, like some were wont to do when the darkness became too much. Clearly, Demise was of a similar mind. From the sounds of it, the only real difference between them was that the Bishop had managed to find some small measure of happiness in her life.

Yarrow hadn't, or at least she hadn't yet.

'How does it feel?' she asked. 'To love, I mean. To be loved.' Yarrow smiled, frowned. 'I can't recall the last time anyone made me feel warm and cosy inside. Well, apart from... No, never mind.'
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"Ask her! Ask her!" Prevail was practically hovering on the edge of her proverbial seat. Demise cut her a chastising look. If Yarrow wished to speak on it then she would have done so and who was she to push? She afforded the girl the same respect she asked others to give her in politely pretending the outburst had simply not happened. She instead thought over what Yarrow had asked and after a few minutes of pursed lip pondering she explained.

"It is... different. I believe my parents love me in the sense of the definition. My sisters too, though we may argue and play politics with one another. There is a bond there, not least because we are so few now - my kind. But here... with Jamie... He doesn't have to and I think that is what makes it special. Like... I was simply enough with no titles, no connection, no family... just me. I was enough."
'Tell 'em! Go on!' Root's grin was not a sight Yarrow enjoyed seeing. Her sister had been a cold, unforgiving bitch in life. Quick to torment others, vindictive, and violent as all get-out. Nothing like Yarrow had been, way back when. 'No, you were kind, and innocent, in your own way.' Clay's voice drew the she-orc's gaze to the roof opposite.

If not for the stars and the light shining from Yarrow's room, she would not have spotted him. He was, after all, a creature of shadow.

And now?' she asked. 'What do you think of me now?' From across the street, Yarrow saw Clay flash his teeth. A decidedly human thing to do, that. 'You know what I think,' he said. And it was true. She did know what he felt, oddly enough. Turning to Demise, her heart buoyed, Yarrow smiled appreciatively.

'I think I understand,' she said, before shaking her head. 'Actually, no, I really don't. But I'd like to, one day.' Feeling a yawn coming on, Yarrow clambered slowly to her feet. 'Right!' she barked. 'I'd better go and get some rest. You probably should too, y'know. Dawn will be on us before we know it.' They were hunting dangerous prey, after all. One slip could well spell their end, and after the day they'd had, Yarrow needed her beauty sleep.

Slip sliding her way down to the roof's edge, Yarrow paused. 'Thank you, by the way,' she said, keeping her back turned to the Vicar. 'It's been... nice, sitting, talking.' Yarrow contemplated the idea of saying more, but her thoughts were all jumbled up, her resolve waning. Nothing new there. Sighing, she cast a glance over her shoulder, noting as she did how Demise seemed to blend into the rooftop without any visible effort.

I need to learn how to do that, thought Yarrow, smiling to herself.

'Good night!'
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"It has been nice," Prevail sighed dreamily and for once Demise found herself not disagreeing with her sister.

"Goodnight Yarrow," The Vicar said softly and watched the girl return to her rooms

The next morning arrived with mist and dew. The clouds above gave the sun a watery look and cast a weary light across the town. People muttered about the coming winter and pulled their cloaks a little tighter as they hurried to and from their morning duties. Jamie had greeted the two with a breakfast fit for a King - eggs, bacon, sandwiches and odd little fried potatoes Demise had never been able to find anywhere else. He'd also send them off with a heartily packed lunch.

"He doesn't normally do this," Demise looked embarrassed as she held her paper bag in a way that one might a poisonous snake. He'd vanished back inside to get one last thing. "He usually has enough food in his house to feed an oversized rodent," which meant he had slipped out early that morning to fetch in a shop specially.

"I heard that!" Jamie exclaimed, returning from inside the house with two books. He passed one to Demise and one to Yarrow then nodded, content. "I never like to see someone without a book for a long journey! I was thinking hard on what would suit you both but I think I sussed it out," he waggled his brows.

Demise gave a long suffering sigh as she mounted her horse. The stormy grey almost blending into the morning mists.

"Be safe out there," the book keep said a little quieter.
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Yarrow was up before the dawn. A restless sleep had left her irritable, and on edge. The conversation from the night before seemed like a distant memory. 'You look... well.' Jamie had greeted her just after first light. The bookkeeper had seemed nervous. Of course, had Yarrow woken up to find an angry-looking she-orc sat in her kitchen reading a book, she probably would have felt the same.

'I'm just popping out to the shops.' He paused at the door. 'Want anything?'

'No, thank you.' With a hesitant nod, Jamie left. There was something about the way he was acting that had left Yarrow with an uneasy feeling in her belly. 'Clay,' she said. 'Be a good shadowkin and follow him, would you? I'd like to know who else does their shopping at this time of the morning.'

Appearing from beneath the table, the wolf padded silently from the room. Suffice to say, Jamie returned before he did.


'Thank you for letting us stay the night.' Yarrow smiled as she gave the bookkeeper's hand a shake. 'There aren't many men quite like you.' Grinning sheepishly, Jamie diverted his eyes, acted coy. Not a man used to compliments, this one. Mounting up, Yarrow watched him closely as he wished them safe travels.

'Likewise, Jamie. Don't do anything too crazy while we're away.' Her gaze turned to Demi. She nodded down the street. 'Let's go.'

They left town by a different road, and did not stop until they were well clear. 'An hour or two and we'll be at the portal stone.' Less, maybe. 'Once we're through, it'll be a straight run south to where our target is reported to be.' Apparently, there was a vote being held among the brethren of the Light Incarnate. One that required even high-ranking paladins like Luc to attend.

'Are you ready?' What she really meant was, 'Are you feeling okay?' But she couldn't just go and say that now, could she?
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The familiar mix of relief and grief at leaving Jamie dogged Demise's steps for the first two hours of their journey. It was not helped by the pressing weight of their mission now made to feel more urgent by the radicals they had met along the road. She could not shake the feeling that the attack was somehow connected to their mission and that made the situation they were walking into a dangerous unknown. Demise had never liked not knowing what she was walking into. Those above had often commented on how she seemed to take her time with each mission but none of them had been able to deny it produced results. Meticulous planning might as well have been her Church name, her younger sister had joked.

"Of course," Demise glanced sidelong to her companion as the great grey beneath her began to jog impatiently. "I apologise if I am not as... talkative as companions you are used to. I was contemplating how to go about discovering who sent those assassins whilst we are taking care of Luc," the Church would not be upset if they returned having killed more of the Light worshipping tyrants.
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A nod was all Yarrow gave in return. For what it was worth, she shared Demise's concerns. But had the Vicar not been the one to advise her to leave it until after the mission? Why the sudden change of heart? 'Jamie,' Root guessed. 'I'm telling you, friends are a weakness. A liability. She-'

'-is not concerned for Jamie's wellbeing anymore than you are, Root.'

'Clay has the right of it.' She cared deeply for the bookkeeper, that much was clear, but Yarrow liked to think she knew Demise well enough to know he was not the driving force behind her long silences. 'And? Think we've been infiltrated?' It was not too farfetched a possibility. The Church spent just as much time and effort slipping spies into the Radiant Order as they did The Church.

If they had managed to get someone inside, well, who was to say what information they could uncover.

'Would explain what happened to Cherish.' The man had been no slouch when it came to knife-work, and the trails they used to navigate the mountain ranges were not common knowledge. Someone could have given him up. Or else he really did just make a mistake. We all do, sooner or later.

Meeting Demise's gaze, Yarrow turned her attention to the road. Ride and rant?
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"Perhaps... but your suggestion to talk to the farmer had me thinking that we could use this meeting they are having to ask a few questions of our own whilst we get closer to Luc. If anybody marks us those questions might actually make us seem unconnected to Luc, making him easier to get to."

It was a circle her thoughts had been going around in for most of the night. She had a habit of focusing on the mission at hand and doing it well, positive traits for sure yes, but perhaps if she wanted to become Bishop she needed to show more too. Bringing Brother Cherish's murderers to justice would certainly be that.

"Infiltration makes the most logical sense," she continued to sound at her ideas. "First the Syphoning was interrupted by the vermin, and now they are seen to use our coveted pathways? It seems too much to be a simple coincidence and I do not see how else they could get that kind of information."
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'Was it luck, then? Between you and I, there are only a handful of people who know of our task, the routes we're to take. All are of equal or higher rank to you...' Except, of course, me. So far as she was aware, Yarrow was the only 'C-rank' assassin assigned to Demise. Brother Cherish -Mother guide him!- had been about his own task before the zealots had caught up to him.

The information they had been trusted with was filtered down with care. So, how had their assailants known what to expect?

'I-... I'd rather not think on it, right now.' The idea that their most hated enemy had gained access to The Church left Yarrow with an uneasy feeling in her belly. Looking over at Demise, the she-orc ground her teeth together as a dark thought washed over her. Wasn't it just yesterday she was talking to me of love and light and warmth? What if she-

No, no, that wasn't possible. Sister Demise was everything a child of Meness should be; faithful, capable, beholden to Mother and the principles they all followed. There was no way she would turn her back on them. Not in a million years. 'You never know.' Root, with the voice of reason. 'Nobody ever believed you could beat me, and yet here we are.'

She grimaced. It was the most genuine thing Yarrow had ever witnessed from her. It was enough to set her skin crawling.

'A child of light, slaying her own? I don't buy it.' It was too radical, even by their standards. 'Still, best if you kept an open mind,' Clay said. 'You know how much we hate surprises.'
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"Peace, Sister. I would not let harm come to you."

"If only you felt that confident," Nesiib yawned. The shadow fox had once again taken up residence on the cantal of her saddle and had been contently drowsing since their departure. Or at least, had acted like that. She did not deign to give the fox a look even though a muscle in her cheek feathered with her irritation. As a Vicar it was her place to make sure those beneath her were guided along the righteous path to the Mother and to protect them like any older Sister should. She might not have felt for Yarrow as she did for one of her own blood or Jamie, but Demise knew with certainty she would not hesitate to step in the way of harm for her.

It was what the Mother would want.

She thought of expanding more on some of her theories but Yarrow looked almost pale so she decided to keep her mouth shut.

"Don't just ignore her, Demi. Look at her. Being a good teacher is also knowing when to comfort," Prevail insisted. She floated nearby the she-orc with a concerned expression on her face. If she had been alive she would have pulled her horse over and offered the girl a hand squeeze or even - Mother forbid - a hug. Demise could never go that far but...

"A change of conversation then... Tell me, what do you enjoy doing outside of your religious studies?"
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'Running.' Her answer came a second behind Demise's question. 'Running until my legs give out and my lungs threaten mutiny.' Yarrow smiled. She wasn't sure why she'd told the Vicar that. Fear, perhaps? Her mind wasn't in the right place, and all this talk of treason had left her yearning for a change-up.

Usually, she only discussed personal stuff with Solitude, or Abandon, if she was around. Life kept them busy, alas. Business kept them apart.

'Helps to stay healthy in this line of work and, well, I enjoy it. Climbing, too.' Yarrow gestured casually at the landscape. 'Nothing but mountains and hills as far as they eye can see. Treacherous, yes, but it keeps you on your toes. I wouldn't have it any other way.' She paused. For a moment there, she could have sworn she saw a bit of Prevail shining through. Yarrow had almost taken a liking to the girl, once.

Before Demise had killed her.

'What about you?' she asked, worried that the conversation would peter out now that she had said her piece.
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"Please don't say praying."

Demise was thankful that they were riding their horses at a good pace of the colour on her cheeks might have been obvious for what it was in that moment. She shot a glare to where her sister floated but the ghost merely grinned then faded in the daylight. Her twin always found it harder to appear in the daylight hours, it tired her, but apparently Yarrow was exciting enough to make her try.

"I..." The truth was Demise did enjoy praying in her spare time. She also enjoyed reading the Book of the Mother from cover to cover when she had the time. After Yarrow's answer however she felt a little... ridiculous saying as such. "I like to paint," she said it in an almost hesitant tone, as though it were a secret she was not quite ready to tell the world and yet was surprised to find herself telling this relative stranger.

"The paintings in Jamie's house are mine."
Painting? Really? 'That's nice,' she said, unsure whether Demise would mistake her words for sarcasm. In all honesty, she had not been paying much attention to the décor during their stay at Jamie's. No, the man himself had been of much greater interest to the she-orc, or his relation to Demise had been, anyway.

Yarrow knew she would have to take a closer look next time they passed back through. If they passed back through.

'Strange. I can't imagine you holding a paintbrush. Blades, on the other hand...' Yarrow smiled. The garrotte was Demise's weapon of choice, according to the gossipmongers. Yarrow would have been impressed if she could paint with one of those. 'Do you do portraits? Only, it's Diaz's birthday coming up, and I can't think of anything he'd like to see more than his own face staring back at him.'

Of course, there were mirrors for that, but who would turn down the opportunity to become immortalised in art form?

Diaz, probably.
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Demise started to laugh.

She was not sure who was more surprised by the burst of mirth; her, her sister or her shadowkin. Both of them looked at her as though she had lost her mind but the image that came to mind of Diaz sitting in a room alone with her for hours whilst trying to look anything but afraid for a portrait, let alone one of hers. She would not have described her style as particularly... flattering.

"I do not think Brother Diaz would appreciate my... style of art," her lips still twitched but she managed to keep the laughter in check. "I prefer to paint things which are not... so obviously there. The things that lurk in the shadows of a persons eye, their inner demons and turmoil."
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'Huh.' Yarrow turned her attention back to the road. 'Well, I'd take painting over praying any day,' she said, sniffing the breeze. The last thing they wanted was a repeat of yestermorning, as much as they both enjoyed killing zealots. 'Do you, like, doodle at all?' Yarrow asked. 'I always found the little sketches Prevail used to draw in infiltration class kind of cute. Don't tell her I said that.'

Yarrow got enough grief from her own sister. Throwing another into the mix was just asking for trouble.

'Aww! I love you, too!' Root waved back to her from the mile-marker up ahead. Her grin was as vicious as any Yarrow had ever saw. So was the nasty wound in her throat. Shame I didn't cut out your tongue in the process, Yarrow thought, flipping her sister the bird as they rode on by.

The miles passed swiftly. Before they knew it, they were at the portal stone.

Clay had been strangely absent during the journey. Yarrow hoped he was okay. 'I'm fine,' Clay told her, slipping from between her horse's legs to pad softly along the wayside. 'I sense a presence on the trail behind us. Four or five men. You're too far from them for me to tell.'

Yarrow knew little of shadowkin and their abilities. The powers he had given her were enough to make her take his words seriously, though. 'Another ambush?' She asked, wordlessly. 'No,' he replied. 'Something more. Be careful.'
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Prevail gasped and covered her mouth with her hands. Demise rolled her eyes; she would be insufferable for days now. Their love and skill in art was probably one of the few things they had shared when she had been alive, though even then their styles and interests had differed. Prevail had liked to draw things such as animals or people lost in things they enjoyed.

"I do at times, yes," in her journal that currently sat at the bottom of one of her saddle bags lest it be accidentally discovered. "Though I do not believe you would call them cute, like Prevail's were," the latest one she had completed on the rooftop last night was of Brother Cherish's tortured face as she had imagined it had looked in the moments of his death.

They rounded a bend and suddenly the portal stone appeared before them. The large black obelisk jutted into the sky as though piercing the veils between worlds.

she took a deep breath. "It is time."
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