Private Tales Shadows of The Dark Shrine.

Discussion in 'The Chronicles' started by Luna Slateforge, Mar 7, 2019.

  1. Luna Slateforge

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    Luna Slateforge High Priestess Of Bastellen

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    The cold air greeted her like a friend as Luna opened the door to her small cabin while the moon rose. Her black leather armor and blacksteel sword hung by the small fire place. She only wore her white priestess robes and cloak with her rune covered, ceremonial, 4 inch, dagger. Her fingers brushed her bow and quiver hanging next to the door frame as she exited. The carcass of a wolf she had killed that morning was already on the stone alter on top of a hill about 80 to 90 yards to the right of her cabin. As she approached she could see the hundreds of runes carved into the alter and a foot in front of it a large sliver great sword sunk halfway into the solid stone slab the alter rested on, stood keeping a silent vigil over the alter and surrounding tundra.
    A single large sapphire was set in its handle and caught the moonlight reflecting it in small points of light blue light around the alter. She dug the knife into the wolfs stomach and sliced outwards towards its throat as the runes in the dagger began to glow a deep purple alongside the runes on the alter. as her knife hit the jugular causing a large amount of blood to spray out as the blood seemed to freeze in mid air and suck back towards the alter filling the runes until one by one each went dim finally Luna pulled out the heart and held out her black tome letting the book float out of her hand slightly and open on its own. She spoke a few words the whispers told her too as blood from the heart drained on to the pages fading to black dust as splashed upon them. finally Luna dropped the heart onto the open book causing it as well to fade to dust and be absorbed as the cold black leather tome closed and landed back in her hand gently.

    "Took you long enough.." she heard her masters voice cut through the usual mummers and whimpers she was used to hearing around her causing them to fade and fall silent. "Wolf...really? A wolf? i know it technically meets the requirements but its disgusting. you know my followers used to serve me virgins. I wasn't that picky and it could have just been anyone but the effort they took was really nice..you could learn a thing or two from them, go into town....get me some real blood.."
    "And get run out of town and tracked down and killed after they tear your shrine down and burn everything to cinders?" Luna interrupted softly as she felt an invisible icy hand close around her throat like a vice. "You will not interrupt who you serve. I wont tell you again you stupid half-ling." he said slowly in a tone that sounded like finger nails scraping steel. "Forgive me.." Luna gasped out slowly as she felt the hand shrink away letting her drop to her knees gasping for air.

    "Get up. i have a task for you wretch." he spat causing Luna to stand up slowly as her breath returned. There is an older temple of mine Ive been sensing for a long time now. An artifact some misguided paladin or warrior failed to destroy while they were burning my temple..." he said with an annoyed sigh. "Anyway...the point is i need you to go. Tomorrow. By morning." He said shortly before adding..
    "Oh and you may want to enlist a little help. Because bandits may or may not be infesting the place. But hey! that's not a problem for you...you...people person.." he said slowly winding down under Luna's slowly raising eyebrow. "Im a creepy, monotone priestess to a god that captures souls to do his bidding with a cursed book literally designed to repel people I-."

    "Ok, Ok, point made. pay them." he said as a black smog like circle opened up from the ground in front of Luna and a coin purse slowly formed out of it as the black substance dissipated. "Give them that, and let them take whatever the bandits got, loot, weapons, whatever. We only need the artifact. I'll tell you the location in the morning." He said curtly. Luna nodded "As you say." she said with a bow as she felt his presence leave and the whispers around her started up again softly.
    She rose from her bow and cleaned the alter. Afterwards she sat with her back resting on her favorite pine tree a few feet away from the shrine she sat and began to meditate as she allowed the whispers to carry her mind and soul into the dark abyss were she simply floated on its surface. Her form shrouded in the shadows of pine tree as the night grew longer.
     
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  2. Anima

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    Anima A Shadow

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    An act of mercy.

    He found her at sunrise. The shadow of the large stone covered her, while the sun peeked out from the east and bathed the rest of the tundra in its meager warmth. A hand on her shoulder. A distant voice. Enough to call her back from the brink.

    Anima opened her eyes. A bearded man, well-prepared for the vicious chill of Eretejvan, crouched before her. Hard eyes, with an earnest and weary edge. The contact of his hand, the sight of him, enough to break the lethargy that had settled stubbornly into her body. She sat up slowly, the aching of her muscles prodding a quiet laugh from her. Better a dull pain than nothing.

    "You're freezing," the man said. A statement of fact.

    "A noble thing you've done..." Anima said. A weak, croaking voice, hardly the same. The words were a struggle to form. Her mouth, dry from exertion and lack of water.

    Sensing this, the man reached behind himself and under his thick fur cloak. Produced a waterskin. Motioned it toward her. Tipped her head back and helped her drink. Said afterward, "My name is Rollo Ulfgarte. I am a hunter from Faarin. What's yours?"

    Anima reached up. Carefully pulled herself closer to him, the warmth of his body magnetic. Her cheek against his, ice to a flame, she said, "A voice whispers in your ear: Anima."

    She pulled back. Where normally she was met with confusion, Rollo regarded her with a steadfast consideration. And simply nodded.

    * * * * *​

    And they began the day and a half journey back to Faarin, huddled together for warmth, wrapped in a fur cloak meant for one between them, a torch in Rollo's right hand as he held his end of the cloak with his left. The grasses around them faded green, rustic brown and red. Little dips and crests in the undulating land. Stones, large and small and all exposed from the earth, stood sentinel for centuries. And mountains loomed, gray clouds adorning their peaks.

    "You were close," he said. "But this is a hard land. Fair, but unforgiving. Your pack is small. It can't hold all the supplies you would have needed. And you have no cloak of your own." He paused, pondering as they walked. Then said, "What brings you up this way? Why abandon the rich and fertile lands of the south?"

    The true answer came to mind immediately, like a caged animal drawn to its bars by a scrap of meat. The simple reason she fled all the way from Liadain in the west to the edge of Epressa in the east. A thing which time and distance could not kill. Instead of the truth, she said, "Futility."

    Rollo looked down at her. She up at him. His eyes narrowed somewhat. Small twitches of his brow. Pondering out loud again. "Where are you from, Anima?"

    "Nowhere."

    He grunted. A mere acknowledgement. He did that often, she noticed. "Everybody's from somewhere." A pause. Those hard eyes, having seen many a sunrise and sunset, softened. "I'm sure you have family who care about you back home."

    Anima smiled. "Years ago, you knew the face of your father, didn't you? But he is gone, faded away, and your mother has pushed you away by trying to keep you too close. And so you run. Run until you collapse in the cold grip of the east."

    A quiet moment. They walked along the path trampled out in the grass by man and beast alike.

    "I'm sorry," Rollo said. "We Nordenfiir are close to our kin. I venture south and west from time-to-time, hauling lumber to Faarin. I forget that...not all share the strong familial tradition we Norden have. Even if I wish it were so."

    And further they walked as the sun trekked across the sky. They breaked for a short meal, potatoes and a lemming that Rollo had expertly shot with his bow. A pitiful prize for a days-long hunt. And all the while, Anima could see it in him. Working up to tell her something. A flare of intrigue sparked in her mind. What could it be?

    An hour into their renewed march, he came out with it. "It's none of my business, but...advice from an old northerner. You have but one mother and father, and distance is the death of familiarity. Reconcile. Hold them close. Before you may no longer do so. Regret is a scar for life."

    Anima opened her mouth to speak. But she heard it. The flapping of wings, growing louder and overtaking the sound of the wind. Her eyes trailed upward, leaving the grass and stone of the tundra below and greeting the clouds and mountaintops above. A flock of them, seemingly from nowhere, circling overhead. A procession of black birds, silent but for the asynchronous beating of hundreds of wings. Holding vigil. An amorphous, shifting black mass. Watching with many eyes.

    Then, suddenly and as one, they formed a symbol in the sky. The Brooch of the Crow.

    A heady mix of terror and strange wonder bewitched Anima. And her free hand touched the brooch on her armor. "The Crow bears witness to the ruin of men." And feasts on their dark hearts.

    Rollo glanced over. Followed her eyes up to the sky. Squinted. "What is it?" And a moment later, confused. "What do you see?"

    Anima, her quivering sort of half-smile a poor mask, said to him, "You may already know."

    He grunted. Said something to himself.

    * * * * *​

    They reached Faarin by afternoon the following day. A man, brother or friend or hunting partner perhaps, awaited Rollo at the edge of town. His arms crossed as he eyed Anima. Rollo told her to wait a moment, then stepped forward to talk with him in a language that wasn't the Common Tongue. The man seemed adamant, and Rollo definitely frustrated. Rollo said something else to the man, prompting a look of a surprise, and then took off his cloak and walked back over to Anima.

    "You cannot stay," Rollo said. "We do not often welcome guests into our town, and today is no different." He sighed, then handed over his cloak. "Take this, and wait here. I will return with some salted meat and a waterskin. You may have the torch as well, along with the flint to start a fire. Gifts, but still, you must leave this place."

    Anima took the cloak. Put it on. Smiled. "You knew it from the beginning. You've run too far, and strayed. And you accept these gifts. But there are things to be done now, aren't there?"

    Rollo nodded and said, "I hope you find your way."

    * * * * *​

    A single torch in the night, walking across the tundra. Here and there, trees braved to go ever farther north, hinting at the return of the taiga.

    Rollo's big fur cloak kept Anima warm, but still, she shivered. Foolish, to have flown away on a flight of fear so far from civilization. She should have stayed in Alliria, or among the smaller towns and villages that surrounded the temperate lands around it. Distance might well be the death of familiarity but there wasn't enough of it in the world. The inescapable had to be embraced, one way or another.

    Deep in thought, she almost didn't see it: a cabin, not so far away, a glint of moonlight on a patch of snow on its roof only visible now at the perfect angle. She stopped. Squinted as she moved the torch away. Yes, indeed. A cabin. Alone. In a sparse wood. Distance and familiarity seemed to collapse in on her, and she grinned ear-to-ear and laughed out loud. Life circling back on itself, it would appear.

    But if her nearly ill-fated journey out into the cold and desolate northeast taught her anything, it was this: Loneliness was the worst fate she could suffer.

    And so she approached the cabin, her torch leading the way. Her eyes danced about the wood as she stopped in front of it. She stood there, considering. Hard to tell at this hour if the cabin was abandoned or not. Hope did exist to be plucked away. She began to circle the cabin, looking for signs of recent activity. Again, difficult, with only the moon and a torch.

    Another glinting. Anima turned from the cabin and saw a hill. A moment to think. Then, on impulse, she walked toward the hill. The cabin would still be there when she got back. And it would be even more interesting if it wasn't.

    A brisk walk and a small climb up.

    And her pace slowed to a near halt. A sense of unnerving dread dug under her skin. Brought on a chill the wind could never match. A sour, sickening taste in her mouth. Spoiled fruit. Unnatural.

    Some manner of shrine was before her. A wolf, laid upon it, cut open. A jeweled dagger, the beacon that brought her here. And she felt more exposed by the light of her torch than protected.

    "You tread, of course, toward that fateful hour everyday," she said. A hushed whisper. As if sound might beckon forth something from the darkness at the extent of the torch's light.

    But she was a fly caught in the spider's web. Save only, that she willingly walked across the strings.

    Her head cocked to one side, her boots crunching the stiff grass and dirt below, Anima approached the shrine. Eyes on the dagger.
     
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  3. Luna Slateforge

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    Luna Slateforge High Priestess Of Bastellen

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    " ......Your a curious one arent you..." came a came a low voice that seemed to cut through the murmurs and small moans she had been hearing. It was a jovial tone, calm and inviting. "...I've sensed one like yo-...." He seemed to catch himself as he paused for a moment before continuing. "Take the sword...if you would.."
    The voice said as its tone dropped from jovial and warm to sounding like a dagger being dug into a pane of glass. The area around her seemed to grow much colder as a sudden wind blew out her torch. The great sword sunk into the stone seemed to glow a warm orange. It was so cold...
    "I have answers....riches...power..and im willing to teach..." came the voice more clearly as the whispers and murmurs seemed to suddenly grow in volume urging her to take the sword.





    Luna's eyes snapped open as she fell forward catching her self with her right arm and looked up to see a figure in black approaching the alter.. "...fresh blood..." The whispers around her were chanting.
    The figure was approaching the sword..
    Luna cursed, as she rose in one graceful motion and ran for the alter. By approaching the alter without consent of the priestess she had broken one of Bastellens customs causing him to target her for the chance to get the human life energy he hungered for.

    Tendrils of smog were slowly surrounding the figure out of sight sticking to the shadows as Luna launched her self into the figure launching her and the intruder off of the alter and into the powdered snow. The wind stopped and the temperature returned back to a normal bone chilling cold and the whispers and thick, black ,smog like, tendrils faded as they landed in the soft if not quite cold powder like snow drift. Now to see if they were a thief, or a traveler in need of aid, innocently lured by her master.

    Luna had sheltered her fair share of travelers, and had also killed her fair share of thieves. Black smog like tendrils seemed to snake around her as Luna pulled the figure up out of the snow drift and pinned them to the tree with her right forearm to the persons neck and her left holding the ceremonial dagger to their stomach. Her voice was a soft and monotone barely louder than whisper but there was an edge under the softness that said she wasn't to be trifled with. "Do you have any idea how much danger you were just in. State your what your business is at my sh-" she stopped as her eyes fell on the crow broach glittering in the moonlight. "Who..who are you.." she asked slowly her eyes coming slightly out of focus like she was trying to remember something from very long ago but just couldn't. That part of her past had been stripped by her master. Her dagger trembled slightly in her hand.
     
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  4. Anima

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    Anima A Shadow

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    Anima stopped. A voice, clear amidst the wind and the desperate tricks her ears were playing on her. Something real against the wishful. And it was true. It spoke again. And though she could not see to whom the voice belonged, the mere sound of it a sweet melody, it brought her form. Made her feel whole again. A reflection needs a mirror.

    A snap of wind. Her gifted cloak whipped along with it, the flame of the torch carried away, and the night came crashing in. Blindness settled in that moment as her eyes, once braced against the harsh light, loosened to match the soft dark.

    "Where are you?" Anima said.

    As if in answer, she could see it then. The glow of the sword, as if the flame of the torch had not truly died, but found a new home. A promise in that single ember. The altar's beckoning.

    An offer. Answers, riches, power. None of which held any interest. But Anima had a simple request as she took step after careful step toward the altar. "You hear a voice among all the others. You step toward a singular light, and a thought is spoken. You wonder if a face may be seen."

    But that dread, that uncertainty, which first slithered about her skin and coiled around her spine when she crested the hill and neared the shrine, remained. A portent, louder to Anima than the strange chorus of whispers. Was this a mistake? Would desperation be her undoing? To run from doom, only to find it again. She--

    Fell down. Something hit her. Rammed into her. The world toppled over, her back smacking against the ground, eyes up to the stars. The blunt force of it all knocked the wind from her lungs. A figure there, on top of her, though she couldn't make out a face yet. And she smiled. Careful what you wish for.

    And off again on another ride. From the ground to a tree, the back of her skull ringing. An arm to her neck. Blunt pain was the cheap beer of pain, and there were finer wines to be had. Beggars and choosers. Enjoy what you had. The numbing cold of the north did have a way of elevating everything she did feel. As if a ceiling were made higher by making a floor lower.

    The figure towered over Anima. A whole head taller than her. A mismatch, like a monolith and its shrunken shadow cast by a midday sun.

    And the figure spoke. And cut herself off? A shift in tone. Demeanor.

    Her night vision slowly coming back, Anima could almost make out the face of the figure. An invigorating reveal. She grabbed hold of the arm pinning her neck, gently enough to convey a lack of violence. She turned her head and wriggled a portion of her neck free, enough to finally gulp in some precious air. A gasp and a pant.

    And a grin and a laugh.

    "You enjoy this, don't you? You've waited for this, this bittersweet embrace. You cherish this moment of moments, the warmth and the smell. And it is lovely, isn't it?"

    Her body tingled as the dull pain in her back, skull, and neck throbbing away. She let go of the woman's arm. Let her own arms fall back limply to her side. "You know this name. You've heard it before. It has always been with you, hasn't it? Anima..."
     
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  5. Luna Slateforge

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    Luna Slateforge High Priestess Of Bastellen

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    Luna didnt resist allowing her arm to be pushed for her to catch her breath though still in position. She laughed.

    "You enjoy this, don't you? You've waited for this, this bittersweet embrace. You cherish this moment of moments, the warmth and the smell. And it is lovely, isn't it?"
    Luna knew that voice her head pounded slightly as she tried to rememmber..

    "You know this name. You've heard it before. It has always been with you, hasn't it? Anima..."
    As she spoke it Luna flinching slightly "..Anima..." she said the name thoughtfully like it was a piece to a puzzle she couldnt place. "...you were younger when i saw you...." she muttered seemingly to herself as she seemed to take in every feature of Anima from her grey eyes to her black hair, as if trying to place her before she shrugged.
    "...Its only a dim reflection..nothing more.." Luna said softly regaining focus as she released Anima's neck and caught her right arm to steady her if her legs were unsteady at first. "You look tired and cold for someone who's grinning and laughing so much." she commented dryly.

    "Im Luna.The priestess here at this shrine. Now come inside. I can heal any aches i may have caused you, and offer my apologies, but few people in these lands trust strangers for good reason."
    She spoke as she rose and began walking towards the cabin after a few steps she stopped and turned to see if Anima was following or needed help walking.
    She had tackled her quite hard and been a bit rough but in her defense speed had been a priority. She could heal wounds, but she couldnt put souls back in bodies. She hadnt said anything about the shrine, and what had just happened. She could answer those questions after she got this shivering, laughing ghost from her past inside, out of these dreadful elements, and get a fire going. Besides....she had a few questions for this woman herself.
     
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  6. Anima

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    Anima A Shadow

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    #6 Anima, Mar 9, 2019
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2019
    A flinch in her brought out a flinch in Anima. And as her eyes relaxed and the night revealed more and more, the face of the woman seemed...something. A memory, perhaps, but bordered on both sides but seas of black. Some faint recognition that no further pondering or twitching of the brow could rouse from its eternal slumber.

    Mother brought them to their home in Elbion. Conversed with them in low voices. She saw some of them. Heard the rest through the door of her room. Coming and going, matching their memories.

    Anima found her footing once released. Took a moment to catch her breath, leaning into the steadying grip offered by the stranger. The world righted itself, like a spinning coin finally coming to rest on a table. She touched her own neck, fingers gliding from one side to the other, marking the spot the woman's arm had just been. "Savor what you can."

    And a name. Luna. A priestess, alone but for the stretching desolation of the tundra, the cold and the grass and the stones and the rare beast all poor neighbors. To whom would she speak? Rollo, adventurous as he was, retreated back into the company of kin in Faarin time and again, and his home was well placed there. The shrine itself, then? Were those voices, the clear one and the chorus alike, not the cries of longing ears slowly going mad?

    Anima took a tentative step, a more confident one, then followed. A wellspring of energy, having found another to bask in.

    "You need not heal anything," she said as she walked. "You still feel it, and you know all too well what seldom delights may be found here. The tundra stretches on for far too long, offering nothing. And you are lucky, aren't you? To have found this place."

    After a few more steps, she asked with a thread of astonishment, "Luna, your cabin...you live so far from everything. Would you not be better served by living among your congregation? You are a priestess, no?"
     
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  7. Luna Slateforge

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    Luna Slateforge High Priestess Of Bastellen

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    Once she saw Anima could walk on her own Luna waited and fell in step with her new found companion. She was obviously uncomfortable, but didnt seem put off by the company, just not used to it.

    " Luck was no such factor. I was guided here by my master. This is one of his oldest shrines built long ago by Ellyandra Blackwing The Dread Weaver before her soul and body were sealed away by some now long dead mage. "

    She said softly, her voice seeming to meld with the distant howls of the wolves and the wind. A voice that seemed as lonely as the tundra itself. They arrived at the cabins door as Luna shouldered open the heavy oaken door to reveal a medium sized, single room interior, at the center of the back wall a fire place sat with a small stack of cut wood and a set of black leather armor and short sword hanging next to it.
    Along the left side wall, a bench long enough for at least three beside a rough wooden table next to a smaller quite bloody table with a large skinning knife sticking point down in the right hand corner. Next to the table small wooden bucket full of what was obviously guts and claws.
    The right side wall had a bed pushed against it covered with a large bear pelt. It was large enough for two with a small indent on the side closest to the wall showing more use than the other with a large trunk sitting in front of it.
    The walls were covered in in mostly wolf pelts, though other creatures were mixed in here and there, to help insulate the walls against the cold. She stepped inside before beckoning for Anima to follow before continuing,

    " Not many agree with my master. Its distance was what saved it from the wrath of many who sought to destroy my master many ages ago. His temples and followers were hunted to nothing long ago but this still stands long forgotten. So I understand the distance..even if it means few visit..or stay.."

    She finished with a deep mournful glance at the bed. As if she was remembering someone. She noticed she was starring, lost in thought, and snapped back as she began to focus on lighting the wood already in the fire place. She struck flame her second try causing the fire to slowly crackle to life. Luna lit a candle with it handing it to Anima and nodded at the table with the bench, gesturing for her to place it there.

    "Are you hungry?"

    She asked as she rose from the now crackling fire and shrugged off her cloak to reveal quite form fitting white robes that clung to her frame showing off her slim figure as she laid her cloak in front of the fire place and sat warming her hands. though her robes fit "snugly.." She didnt seem one for vanity. She didnt seem one for much of any strong emotion for that matter, besides a general lingering feeling of mournful aloofness, like a grey cloud before a blizzard.
    Her hair fell around her face showing it was heavily braided into dreadlocks with the teeth of some beast larger than a wolf. The top of her hands were branded with a rune for life on her right and a rune for death on her left. half a brand showed past her sleeve on her left wrist. a slave brand only given to slaves on Cerak At Thul. Though the first two brands seemed fresh, the slave brand seemed faded and older. She stared into the fire quietly awaiting a response.
     
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  8. Anima

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    Anima A Shadow

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    Not so surprising. Only the company of long-dead wolves inside the cabin. It seemed the interior matched the exterior. A prison of solitude, yet one whose door always hung open. How odd, to live in such a way. A sudden thought. Luna alluded to having saved her back at the shrine. But was it Anima who had saved her from this fate, if only for a single night?

    She entered. Shut the door behind herself. A pitiful bulwark against the cold on its own, but the pack of wolves standing guard along the walls would serve as well. She dropped her cloak to the floor and set her traveling pack down on top of it. Hardy men and women like Rollo and Luna were suited to the cold, and though she did not count herself among that number, she could draw strength from their example.

    And Luna explained about her master. Her isolation.

    Then her eyes trailed off. Anima's followed. A bed for two, used by one. Some tragedies whispered with the sound of thunder. Such a small detail, easily missed, which swelled to the size of a mountain once gazed upon.

    As Luna went to work the fire, Anima squeezed her right hand with her left. Stared at the bed in the same way Luna had. A perfect copy on the outside, hollow within. A painting that yearned to be the soul it depicted.

    Light. And the fire was born. Anima blinked, replacing Luna's mournful glance with a smile. The mask donned.

    She accepted the candle from Luna. Went and sat at the table and placed the candle upon it. Her hands retreated to her lap, one on top of the other. Her back straight. Eyes attentive.

    Hungry? In both flesh and spirit.

    "Yes, you are. The tundra demands much. You might be so inclined to eat anything." A laugh and a grin. Her head tilted slightly. Playful. "You don't bite, do you?"

    And Luna took off her own cloak. There, on her hands and wrists. Markings. Unfamiliar design. A beckoning from them. The unasked question, a shared secret between Luna's skin and Anima's eyes. Ready for the words to give it form. A bridge to be built. A gate to be opened. The question was the stone and the key. And Luna awaited. Let her flood in.

    The unspoken truth of the bed had beckoned as well. But Anima knew which was more painful. The markings scarred only the body. And so she would ask about them. A tantalizing anticipation, waiting to hear of the forlorn half of the bed, but some secrets were made all the more enticing by their slow and willful reveal.

    Anima placed her elbows on the table. Bridged her fingers. Rested her chin upon them. "You've seen much, haven't you? And there was a time when your skin suffered no such scars. A time long past." She eyed her host for a moment. "May you say what happened?"
     
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  9. Luna Slateforge

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    Luna Slateforge High Priestess Of Bastellen

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    #9 Luna Slateforge, Mar 12, 2019
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2019
    "Your one for being forward..I'll give you that..." Luna said with an arched brow before the wisp of a smirk played across her lips "But if your one for the ramblings of a lonely priestess who am I not to oblige...but first things first. You need food and drink."

    She walked to the door and took a small kettle that hung under her bow and quiver and stepped outside returning with the kettle full of snow. She set it next to the fire allowing the snow to melt as she busied herself making tea. Once the kettle was bubbling merrily, Luna then opened a small cabinet producing a plate with two smoked rabbit legs and two biscuits. She placed it in front of Anima as she poured some tea into two tin cups and set them down as well.

    "And no I dont bite." Luna said softly as she set a water skin down on the table before finally sitting next to her guest herself and taking a sip from her own tin cup "Drink the tea while its warm. It will help you avoid sicknesses inflicted by the cold. Then eat and drink the water. You will feel much better my child." Luna said looking down at her hands and jerking her sleeve fully covering the older slave brand as if just noticing it was showing. "There was indeed a time I wasnt as marked to be sure...." She paused before continuing

    "These are the symbols of my servitude to my master. In life and in death." She said holding out her hands "and they are also what i channel his power through." she said softly as she withdrew her hands and took another sip of her tea enjoying the peppermint flavor and warmth. "So what of you? Your a long way from Elbion arent you?" Luna asked obviously trying to steer the conversation away from herself. She wasnt seeming hostile and possibly just needed more gentle prodding to pry open the truth.
     
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  10. Anima

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    Anima did as instructed. She held the cup of tea with both hands and tipped her head back and drank all its contents without so much as a pause for breath. She set the cup back down on the table and picked up a leg of rabbit. A small bite at first, gingerly taken. Then, as if the taste unleashed a ravenous hunger within, she devoured the rest and did the same with the other leg. As much flesh stripped from bone as possible, with little regard for table manners. She grabbed one of the biscuits and took a bite and slowed down immediately. She took her time to chew. Dainty little bites. Nibbles.

    A quick tug on her sleeve. References to Luna's missing master. An extraordinary man, by the sound of him, to have once had such a following, complete with temples and brands. Perhaps he escaped the aforementioned persecution? Or perhaps...did the ghost on the cold side of the bed belong to him? Once, or still now?

    But that was all to be said about the markings for now. Cagey. Anima liked cagey.

    The question once again highlighted the foolishness of her flight from the west, as Rollo's had. But she knew her folly now, embraced it, and would set out to correct her course. It would be empowering to put her thoughts and intent into words. To testify before another living soul. An affirmation of self, like a shadow confessing its existence to a woman who had never before looked behind herself.

    She put the half-eaten biscuit down. Said, "A desperation, you might say, to unknow what has been known. As if the feet could convince the eyes that they had not truly seen, if they only traveled far enough. But there is no expanse large enough, is there? No sufficient distance to save you. And if desperation has driven you from Elbion, then resignation will call you back to Alliria. You knew you would stay when you first passed through, didn't you? You needed only the cold loneliness of the edge of the world to reassure you. And so you say to yourself, 'There, at least, may be a life worth living.'"

    Anima picked up the waterskin. Took a short drink.

    Smiled.

    "Not yours, of course. But so many others." A moment of stillness. A longing at the edges of her eyes, a hidden hunger in the center. "So many others..."
     
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  11. Luna Slateforge

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    Luna Slateforge High Priestess Of Bastellen

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    " Often we try to forget the harshest truths.." Luna responded as she nodded knowingly.
    She paused as Anima began to tear into the food ravenously before slowing back down to a respectable speed as Luna continued

    "I have walked many miles and my eyes have seen much death and destruction, but I often find the things we most wish to forget are the things we should learn from the most. Forgetting them only leads us down a path to repeating the mistakes that led to it."

    Flashes pass through her memory. The chains.. the slave ships...the raiders...her parents... Lunas grip tightened around her tea cup without her noticing until the metal gave a small whine as it bent slightly, causing her to set it down quickly. "I apologize...lost in thought.." she said. Her soft monotone not matching the now cooling hatred that had been a crackling fire behind her eyes moments before even if her expression hadnt changed to show it. She related to this stranger.
    A shadow lost without someone to cast it. Poetic in its own rite. Luna finished her own tea and ate a biscuit in two bites. She still seemed mired in her own thoughts as she looked at Anima silently for a moment before speaking. "Did the Shrine call to you?" She asked suddenly.
    Her intense gaze boring holes into Animas eyes like she was trying to see her soul.
    Honesty seemed to be a very important thing right now with this question and Luna was hoping she would get an honest answer.
     
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  12. Anima

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    Her gaze followed the cup. From Luna's hand down to the table. The dent in the metal. What a long and arduous journey for it to be born. Its father a vein of metal in the earth and the skill of a blacksmith, its mother the rage in Luna's fingers and the unspoken past behind it. And here, in this moment, the two came together. A physical scar of emotion left upon the world. All Luna's own, yet Anima had shared in it. A tingling warmth trickled from the back of her head on down her neck from simply thinking about it.

    A satisfied, almost drunken, smile in the brief silence.

    And another question. Imperative in tone.

    Anima's brow furrowed. "Are you saying that the voice at the Shrine...wasn't you?"

    The bemused look gave way to a grin as it began to dawn on her. A clever ruse or a mischievous trick, she had originally thought, the remark about the danger being merely part of it. But there was another who had not shown their face yet. Three did make company.

    A lean toward Luna, as if they were co-conspirators. "Who was it? And why are they so shy?"
     
  13. Luna Slateforge

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    Luna Slateforge High Priestess Of Bastellen

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    "My master isnt one to show himself to non believers. He only hungers for them." She said flatly seeming taken aback by Animas sudden intrusion into her personal space. "But no that was not me.." She said trailing off yet again as she looked Anima up and down.
    "I had thought he was luring you to the shrine to take your soul...but...now i wonder...did he want you to do anything...did you feel compelled to do anything..." She said seemingly choosing her words quite carefully....this was important. maybe she had the help she was looking for right in front of her, and if her master had called out for a blood bargain....She may very well be looking at a first disciple as well...possibly, but it all hinged on her answer...Luna waited with baited breath..
     
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  14. Anima

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    #14 Anima, Mar 16, 2019
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2019
    "What a pervasive desire. Hunger."

    Anima retreated, though she found Luna's mild reaction to her lean endearing. She smiled in a drunken way. Propped her arm up on the table and rested her head in her hand. Carefully reached toward Luna with the other. Ran the back of her hand down Luna's dreadlocked hair as the same looked her up and down. She stopped at one of the bestial teeth and twirled the lock of hair it was attached to absentmindedly around her index finger.

    "Are you sure it wasn't you?" A grin. "Kidding, Luna. You like to have a laugh every now and again, don't you?"

    Anima listened. Luna was keen enough to hear it, oddly enough, so Anima would share it. She thought back. Put her memory into words. "An accusation of being curious. And guilty as charged, aren't you? Your shy master said that he 'sensed one like' and cut himself off. And then an invitation to take the sword. You know the one."

    She untwirled her finger from Luna's hair and batted at the tooth with it. A playful pendulum. "He mentioned 'answers, riches, power, and teachings' as well. Fleeting things. As life ticks away." The rhythmic sound of her fingernail against the tooth. Click. Click. Click. In step with the steady march of time. "Wouldn't you agree?"
     
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  15. Luna Slateforge

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    "Yes, but life seems to drag when not chasing fleeting things.." she said softly as she pondered.
    "The sword...I see...so he did want to make a deal.."
    She said again lost in thought as Anima reached for her hair.
    "Wha-.." she let out a sharp sigh of surprise. She was indifferent to a lot but human touch was something she missed more than anything and honestly she never thought she would get over it.
    "S..stop it.." She muttered softly, embarrassed slightly, and trying to bat away the hand. It was such a half hearted attempt it felt as if she hadn't even tried. As her new compainion to seemed to be enjoying playing with her emotions as she twirled the braid around her index finger.
    "I..I have a proposition for you. Im going on a journey for my master and I need help.." She said as she seemed to regain her composure.
    She felt the rhythm tapping on one of her teeth in her braids as she continued.

    "Bandits have made my masters temple a home. It holds an artifact of great importance to him,but theres too many for me to fight alone..."
    She placed the bag of gold on the table.
    "If your willing to help thats yours along with any other things you may fancy from the bandits." She said softly.
    "Take all the time you need to ponder. I will be leaving in the morning. Your welcome to stay here if you dont wish to follow."
    She spoke as she rose and disrobed further leaving her in only her underwear.
    Her body was a pale tapestry of scars telling tales of many slashes and old puncture wounds. Small tendrils of black almost liquid, like darkness seemed to randomly seep from her pores in places as she walked to the bed and laid in the more used looking part of the bed.
    "You can sleep in the bed if you wish. body heat is the only thing that will keep you warm when we sleep and the fire goes out."
    She said matter of factly, no sensual tones or longing in her eyes. It was simply a fact of life in the tundra.
     
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  16. Anima

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    Most people were very protective of their hair. Certainly at first. It intrigued her to no end. Some were never truly comfortable with it being touched. Like Mikos. Such a small thing, yet one of the many facets of a person to discover. And it was readily on offer, literally within arm's reach.

    She continued to tap on the tooth braided in Luna's hair, emboldened by the momentary touch, the brush of her hand. A welcoming and unwelcoming gesture, sure and unsure. Intoxicating in its own way. She must have succumbed to a kind of madness to flee so far from civilization, to miss out on delights such as these on account of simple fear. Both Rollo and Luna saved her body, and now, having seen the error of her way at last, they also saved her mind.

    Then a proposition was extended to her. "A journey, you say?"

    No more needed to be said; her decision had already been made. A journey back into the gaping maw of the west would have deterred Anima not. She didn't spare so much as a glance at the clinking bag of coin placed on the table. Such things meant nothing to her. Not compared to the true compensation. A reinvigoration of spirit, the harsh and callous tundra having eroded it away with frigid, hollow winds. To be complete in the presence of this stranger, this woman named Luna.

    Anima's hand retreated back to her side as Luna stood and undressed. Her eyes squarely locked on hers. Ah, to be seen again. She said, "You will not be alone. You've been looking forward to this for some time, hmm? And what a terrible fate, to allow this to slip through your fingers. You will not be alone, oh no." She stood as well. Stretched. "Morning, then."

    She reached back for the clasps on her armor. Paused. Admired, in that silent moment, the map of scars on Luna's body. Each an ever more clear demarcation of how a girl became the woman who now stood before her. Points in time, made tangible in the flesh, pinning down the fragments of innocence lost.

    When she snapped out of her mesmerized state, Luna was gone. Anima blinked. Glanced toward the bed. Oh, there she is. How much time had passed? Not much, it seemed, as Luna extended her invitation.

    "Of course."

    She undid the clasps on her leather cuirass and unpinned the shawl that covered her shoulders and took them both off. Same with her bracers and boots and thigh guards. Just a simple black shirt and pants under all her armor. She set her belongings next to her gifted cloak and traveling pack. Then walked toward the bed. The soft and steady pitter-patter of her bare feet on the floor.

    Anima lifted up the bear pelt, laid on her back on the bed, and covered herself. Hands on her chest, one over the other. Staring up at the ceiling. Enjoying a warmth the northern cold couldn't banish. A broad smile.

    The dancing orange light on the walls, writhing with the quiet crackling of flame in the fireplace.

    "You are appreciated, Luna."
     
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  17. Luna Slateforge

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    Luna Slateforge High Priestess Of Bastellen

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    Luna heard but had no reply as she pretended to be asleep. Honestly she found this new comer puzzling and a bit too comfortable for...well..her comfort....

    Soon the sun rose at the break of dawn and Luna rose with it. Rising from the bed as silent as a ghost she got dressed in her robes and heavy cloak before strapping on her hunting knife and grabbing her bow as she shouldered open the thick oak door against the pile of freshly fallen snow that had fallen overnight. She soon returned from checking her traps with two snow rabbits and a squirrel strung up and thrown over her shoulder. As she busied herself with rebuilding the fire that had burned to embers during the night, she addressed her guest.
    "Anima, would you please fill the kettle with snow and gather the herbs for tea while I get breakfast ready? Herbs are on the top shelf, jar on the right, it smells like mint....also no need to rush but Id like to leave after breakfast so make sure your packed if you would.."
    She said as she began cleaning the two rabbits on her cleaning table after stoking the now crackling fire. She poured the drained blood into 2 separate bowls cutting off the rabbits feet, and skinning the fur careful to leave the fur in harmed. "If these dry correctly you may be the proud owner of new snow rabbit fur gloves." she said softly as she selected one of the feet and threaded a piece of leather cord through it.
    "And take this for luck.."
    She said with a soft smirk playing across her features as she tossed the foot in Anima's direction.
     
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  18. Anima

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    In her lonesome journey through the tundra, sleep offered no respite. A black and formless thing. Curtains drawn on the world, only to be opened again in the harsh light of the dawn, banishing any pretense of escape. Often she would lie still, the sun and the sky and the stars all moving of their own accord around her, each an impassive witness to the slow and encroaching death that had stalked her. Colder than the tundra itself.

    Tonight, she slept deeply, her tossing and turning belying this, yet also speaking truth to a renewed vibrance of spirit. A look of peace and satisfaction as she dreamed again, as she had during her time with Rollo. Gifts bestowed on her from the mere company of her gracious hosts.

    She woke in an ungraceful sprawl. Lying on her stomach, mouth open, arms and legs splayed out chaotically. She opened her eyes. One of her arms rested on the indented side of the bed, grasping no one. She blinked. Closed her mouth. Ran her tongue over her parched lips, the price of the previous days' exertion.

    Where had Luna gone? Or were mirages not only a thing of the desert?

    As if the thought itself had summoned her, Luna reappeared through the door in the cabin, three fresh catches in hand. Anima dragged her head across the pillow and turned it to look at her. Smiled. Her left leg slipped from the bed. A dull thump as her bare foot hit the floor.

    "Good morning, Luna."

    Actually rested and feeling fulfilled, Anima pushed herself straight up with her hands, shifted her weight onto her left leg and spun up and out of bed and onto her feet. She stretched her arms, her back, her stomach. Craned her neck to one side and the other.

    And she did as she was asked. Took the kettle and leaned out the door of the cabin and bent down and scooped it full of clean snow and retreated back into the relative warmth of the inside. She set the kettle close to the fire, exactly as Luna did the previous night. Her eyes led her to the right shelf, and her nose told her she had grabbed the wrong jar first. There. The second smelled right. She grabbed it and set it down close to the kettle of melting snow.

    Said, "You make good tea."

    As Luna cleaned and prepared the rabbits, Anima went to her armor and dressed herself for the day to come. Boots and thigh guards first. Cuirass and shawl. Finally the bracers, wriggling her fingers some after they poked through the fingerless gloves of each.

    Which, now with Luna having mentioned actual gloves, seemed an awful oversight for her travels into the frigid north. She held up both her hands, darting a quick glance at each and wriggling her bare, exposed fingers again. A knowing smile. "Foolish, no?"

    Hands already prepared, she caught the rabbit's foot. Admired it for a long minute. She did so love gifts. Little remembrances of the gifter. An elevation of what would otherwise be only just a rabbit's foot into something more. Something grander. She put it around her neck.

    Anima sat down the table, in the same spot as she had before. Entwined her hands together and said, "Those bandits. At the temple." A pause. "One ought to be spared. If only for a time. It would be interesting to let one speak. And you would like to hear what he has to say, wouldn't you?"

    Her eyes drifted. Up and away. Chasing a slow-moving, ephemeral thing. "The story of a life, teetering on the precipice of ending. Years of hope and love and anger and hate and sadness and wanting, distilled into the briefest of moments." She closed her eyes. Drew in air through her nose.

    Held it.

    Held it.

    Let it escape from her parted lips.

    She opened her eyes and looked at Luna. "An exquisite delight. Wouldn't you agree?"
     
  19. Luna Slateforge

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    Luna Slateforge High Priestess Of Bastellen

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    She smiled slightly at the compliment with a blush. She could easily play it off on the cold to her relief as she set the same two cups from last night out on the table.
    "Gloves can be as easily made as they are forgotten, worry not." Luna said lightly.
    "And thank you..I grow my own herbs in the warm months...not many share it with me."
    She thought of the night. The way her hand had graced her cheek in the night.
    It hadnt been on purpose and Luna doubted she was even awake when she had.... but.... A fuller blush began to form as she quickly looked away from her companion and busied herself getting ready for the journey as well.
    "My master only wishes to have the artifact. Their lives mean nothing to me. Do as you wish and I will aid you." Her voice seemed different.

    When talking to Anima it seemed warmer by a degree you wouldnt even notice, but when she was talking business the cold returned with such strength it made the warmth being gone extremely obvious. She wasnt angry nor did Animas excitement at the torturous death for bandits.
    It was just business.
    There was no doubt that if Bastellen asked her to...Anima would be out on that alter getting gutted. Sweet and kind in her own way, and yet dangerous as well, should some one be the subject of her gods wrath there was no doubt the status of "human." was taken from them instantly in her eyes. She set out plates as well.
    The rabbits finished cooking as she plucked the spits from the fire and placed one on each plate.
    "I apologize for the sameness of our meals. deer are highly sought after by hunters so i usually kill deer towards the end of the hunting months so as not to tread on any toes."
    She said softly as she ate small bites from the steaming meat as the kettle began to boil. Her voice returning its small amount of warmth.
    "Any questions you may have before the journey I will gladly answer, and if you would i would like for you to accompany me to the alter before we depart.." She said as she waited
     
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  20. Anima

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    It happened before she had reached the Spine. Before she made that treacherous crossing, days and days and days ago. An encounter with a couple of bandits shortly after night had fallen. One older man, one younger. They demanded all of her belongings. Every piece of armor, every thread of cloth, every coin in her pack. They received nothing save a burst of bale fire. As they writhed in the dirt of the road in pain, she could have walked away. Could have made good time before they recovered.

    But she didn't. She couldn't. She had certain needs to be satisfied. Satiated.

    And so she did. The older man first. As the younger man could only watch.

    After, she asked the younger man why they were here. Why he and the older man were doing what they were doing. And the younger man said that he and his father had owned a farm, some ways up the road. That a company of soldiers either coming from or leaving Belgrath had "requisitioned" all their crops, and burned down their home after his father's insistent protests to the commander. That they had no choice now.

    Anima never did find the company or its commander. Too little, too late. But she enjoyed her time as the young man. Indulged in a quest for vengeance on his behalf. She never did find his lost mother either, who had been hiding in the house when it was put to the torch. Perhaps she survived, perhaps she did not. Anima's masquerade left her feeling somewhat unfulfilled at the end. Yearning for more.

    With Luna's blessing on her request, perhaps she would be fulfilled. Perhaps not. Sometimes a little taste was better than a whole meal.

    Anima took hold of the cooked rabbit. Looked at Luna. Said, in response to the remark about the sameness of food on offer, "You need not worry about that." A bite. And another. And another. Teeth tearing into muscle. As ravenous as the night before.

    A pervasive desire, indeed.

    Satisfied, she set the scant remainders of her breakfast back down on the plate. Laid her hands down in her lap. Straightened her back and returned her gaze back to Luna. Sat patiently and eagerly as she spoke.

    The altar. Exposed by the light of day this time. Oh, of course. Anima moved to stand--

    And stopped. Stared down at the floor. Down through it. Frozen in much the same way as she had been when she first saw Luna's scars. Time threatened to move on without her. Each second a warning to break from her stillness. Each warning unheeded.

    She stared. Her face unflinching. And stared. Solid, like a mask. And stared.

    The older man's name was Richard. The younger man's name was Soren.

    And, as suddenly as she had froze, she finished standing up, as if nothing at all had happened. She smiled at Luna.

    Any questions? Yes, she did have one.

    "Are you a good person?" she asked.
     
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  21. Luna Slateforge

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    Luna Slateforge High Priestess Of Bastellen

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    Luna paused with out even a flicker of emotion changing her expression.
    "I believe people need to be able to make decisions to be truly good or bad. I serve the will of my master. Whether his will is good or evil matters very little to me. I suppose that makes me bad." She said with a small shrug of her shoulders.
    A slight grimace.
    "Now if thats all I would ask you to accompany me to the shrine please.. We should be leaving soon."
    She said softly as with out a word or even a sound she turned to leave, but waited at the door for her new found companion.
     
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  22. Anima

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    Anima's eyes trailed down to Luna's feet, and back up to meet her own again. Examining her. Head tilting in a curious way.

    Did she lack agency? What manner of man was her nameless master, to go about creating thralls and temples in service to him? Did he think himself more than the mere sum of flesh and blood, laboring under the tyranny of time, as were all others? Quibbling thoughts. Though it was not her fault, her enthrallment to her master would by necessity open her heart to the darkness within his own. And so Luna had died, some time long ago, when she had lost herself to him.

    Or was she complicit? The willing slave, placing the shackles on her own wrists. Giving in, by giving up. Acting as the sinful hand of another's will. Drowning in that black sea with him. Casting off the burden of living by surrendering her heart and soul, becoming no more than a metastasizing growth on her master's own dark heart and soul. And still, Luna had died, some time long ago, when she had submitted herself to him.

    Once, there was a girl. Who lived in the shade of blissful ignorance. Who had not seen the darkness which hid behind all who stood before the light. But that girl had dared venture too close. And she had seen it. That which needed her gaze to give it life. And that was the day she was no more.

    "May you be remembered, Luna."

    Now, they were sisters. Fallen together. The innocent girls they once were buried in deep graves.

    Anima crouched down. Picked up her traveling pack and put it on and grabbed her heavy cloak and did the same. She stood. Nodded to Luna. Said, "Ready."

    Off to the shrine. Off to the temple. And not one pure heart to be found at either.
     
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  23. Luna Slateforge

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    Luna Slateforge High Priestess Of Bastellen

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    "Do not sympathize child. My shackles are not worn for my sake, But willingly worn for the sake of others."
    She said softly as they approached the shrine.
    The whispers could be heard becoming as they approached promising peace, warmth, power, and knowledge. Luna approached. "Your will master. Shall this one accompany me? Do you grant her access to our temples?" She asked softly.
    "She must prove her worth. And shed her blood her on the stone." Was the only reply that came. It was the voice she had heard last night, but as quick as it came it was gone.
    "He isnt on for mornings. His responses are usually quick in the light." She said as she slowly rose and drew her sword.
    "Alight. Prove yourself."
    She said with her usual deadpan as she launched herself at Anima with surprising speed, sweeping her leg from under her and jumping on top with the blade hovering over her neck. "Perhaps you are not as worthy as I hoped." Luna said softly.
    Anyone who didnt know her wouldnt realize she was just light heatedly teasing Anima.
     
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  24. Anima

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    Back across the span of distance from the cabin to the shrine. Boots crunching in the patchy blanket of snow. Shadow and light as broken and scattered clouds transited the morning sun. White trails of breath from her mouth. And cold fingers.

    Moments later and after cresting the familiar hill once more, the shrine. Same as it was in the night, wolf carcass and all. And again, those whispers. Faint, hiding under the wind and echoes of wind. Voices without faces. Some magician's trick. Perhaps the work of Luna's master himself. A ploy to drive away the curious. Or entice them. Hard to tell.

    Anima stopped. Let Luna approach the shrine. Stayed back a few steps.

    How odd, watching Luna talk to the shrine itself. Maybe her master stood there, cloaked from sight in some arcane manner. Maybe her master was far away, and the shrine sped her voice along the distance of the world to him. Still shy, in either case.

    One or the other was true, for a disembodied voice spoke in response to her.

    And Luna drew her sword. Prove yourself.

    Anima tilted her head.

    A heavy thud against her heels. Sky again. A smack to the back of the head. Her eyes clenched shut. The blow cushioned some by the snow. The dull pain marked the second time she had forcibly met with the ground, courtesy of Luna. She groaned a little as the world came to a halt and the dizziness settled. And she opened her eyes. The sword, hovering above her neck. She let her gaze wander up the blade and to the hand and to the arm and to Luna herself.

    And it would seem her fate was sealed.

    It was always going to come to this, in one form or another. And Luna was not the father and son bandit duo in the foothills of the Spine. She had not foolishly given Anima a chance to defend herself. A sense of pride, admiration, in being bested in such a manner. Luna, the patient hunter. The fly who ate the spider. Well done, sister.

    And what a sweet delight. To be killed by one you love. That they may have the honor of carrying on your spirit, your last moments. A mercy Anima could not affort Richard, for she had not known him, nor he her. A necessary regret, spurred on by the violence of the moment.

    But she could and did afford such mercy for Soren. And they become familiar in the short time of night. As she had come to love Rollo, and as she had come to love Luna, so too had she come to love Soren. His sorrow, anguish, desperation, willingly taken on, made her own. A piece of him, hers forever, even now in the face of her own death. And she had eased Soren's suffering. His fear of the inevitable. It was good, perhaps another mercy in and of itself, that he should die so young. Before he could witness the true expanse of darkness lurking in his heart. He already knew he was capable of robbery. What other deeds slumbered within him, awaiting his permission to awaken?

    And see, young Soren, how easy it is to let go. The tighter one's grip on life, the less one's grip on innocence.

    Let go. Save yourself from the horror of you.

    And be remembered.

    And so it was now. Anima arched her neck slowly. Bringing her skin that much closer to the blade. Eyes unblinking. Fixated on Luna's own.

    "You've a clean cut." She dragged her own finger across her neck. Left ear. Down under the jaw. Over the ridge of the throat. Back up to her right ear. "Take it, if you desire it."

    A trickle of blood on her finger, where it had slid between her throat and the sword, lightly graced by the very edge of the blade.
     

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