Private Tales The Vicar of Suffering

Discussion in 'The Chronicles' started by Anima, Apr 3, 2019.

  1. Anima

    Member
    Anima A Shadow

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2019
    Messages:
    112
    Character Biography:
    Bio
    "Put your hands on the back of your head." And, louder, the woman said, "Do it!"

    Night. Stars blotted out by clouds. An ancient dark blanketing Arethil. As it had been before there were beating hearts. As it would be after every heart was dust once more.

    Anima stood on the dirt path leading to the farmhouse's front door. Walter, some ten paces before her, stood next to the dark-skinned woman, holding his torch. A pure and orange dread flickering in its flame. Four bowmen standing at the edge of its terrible light. Another in the second floor window of the farmhouse. Their arrows nocked. Their bows drawn. Arms quivering against the tension. The bowstring's pull, its siren call of death. Insects, near and far, chirping with delight. Awaiting a feast, should one come.

    "Walter," Anima said, "are you a good person?"

    He nodded. "I serve my kin. And all mankind."

    And Anima smiled. Said, "So be it."

    She slowly raised her hands. Entwined them. Slid them down onto the back of her head. As the dark-skinned woman came forward and pulled Anima's blackened shortsword from its sheath and tossed it to the ground and patted her down and found her other three weapons hidden in her boots and left bracer, Anima never took her eyes off Walter. Stared at him without blinking. Without breaking her smile.

    She had met him many days ago. A small town, Pine Crossing, on the edge of Falwood and the Aberresai Savannah, west of Alliria. Inhabited by humans and elves in roughly equal measure. He was a charming man. Talkative. Friendly. Boisterous. He bought her some wine at the local tavern. Drunk himself into a sloppy, smiling stupor. Got mad at another patron and accidentally punched the wrong man. Started a brawl. They stood back-to-back, fending off all comers. He ended up with a bloodied nose and a blackened eye. And he leaned heavily on Anima on their way back to his room at the inn. Thanked her as she nursed his wounds that night. Laughed, said it tickled, as Anima licked the blood from his face. And she fell asleep on his chest. Her head rising and falling with it. The warmth and closeness of his body soothing her. Bringing her dreams again.

    "Anything else? Huh?" the dark-skinned woman said.

    Anima awoke that morning before Walter. Shifted her head just so to look at his face. Stared at him until the sun peeked in through the window of the room. Until he opened his eyes and saw her smile. Mornin' sunshine. Good morning, Walter. I feel like I made some bad decisions last night. And as she brushed his cheek with the back of her hand she said, Not all of them.

    "Bring the rope," the dark-skinned woman said. Motioning to one of the bowmen.

    He was a courier and a gambler. One honest job, one dishonest job, he said often. And he knew a few tricks. Some sleight of hand with cards and ways to rig dice games. Some inside men on horse-racing and cock-fighting rings. It didn't bother him much. He would grin, push his hat up with a finger, and explain with confidence that if you weren't cheating, you weren't trying. And, besides, he would add, he only did it to assholes.

    "Don't try anything and we won't hurt you," the dark-skinned woman said.

    He had a delivery to make. In another town, Lansing, to the northwest. On the Cairou River. And the Savannah was a long and boring ride, even on horseback. Say, she was a fun woman, why not come along and keep him company if she had nothing better to do? The only bad part about his honest job was having a mountain of stories and no one to tell them to most of the time. Anima needed no more than a passing moment to decide. His bravado was more intoxicating than the wine could ever be. A fragile thing, precious and sacred to his very being, a glass that teetered on the edge of a table. And if it fell? Would it shatter? What manner of man was hidden inside the glass?

    "Put your hands down. Nice and slow. There you go, there you go. Now, cross your wrists behind your back," the dark-skinned woman said.

    And they rode north and west. And he told her his stories, and she leaned her head against his shoulder, and he showed her some of his gambling tricks, and she ran her fingers through his hair, and he held her close when the rains drenched the land, and she dragged her nails down his back, and he started the fires at night, and she basked in his presence and breathed in his air.

    "Good," the dark-skinned woman said, nodding to the bowman behind Anima. The bronze clock she wore as a pendant around her neck ticking. The word Ruth'ti etched into the metal.

    And as the cloth bag dropped down over Anima's head, she saw it. In the last instant of vision. Walter, dropping his gaze. Down and away. The harsh light of the torch laying out his guilt. Naked and damning. Behind his bravado, his swagger, his certainty that he had conquered all the world had to challenge him, hid the shame of his betrayal. The glass had fallen and broken. Deep within him, the crack in his soul. He had not the courage of his own conviction. He had believed his cause, and this ambush that served it, righteous. And in that moment, as he witnessed the bindings being tightened and the bag cinched shut, he saw an evil that he could not run from.

    For it had been inside him all along. Patient. Awaiting his gaze.

    Once seen, never banished. And you are watched forevermore.

    And Anima smiled. Said, "You will be remembered, Walter."

    Remembered. For this was the day he died. Now, he was like her. Witness to the darkness of which Mother had spoken and exalted. And it would consume him too. They could be kindred spirits in the maw of the infinite and callous. Anima and Walter. Holding one another's hands as they were gnashed.

    "Quiet," the dark-skinned woman said. "Let's go. Walk."

    The woman grabbed one of her arms. A man grabbed the other. Moving her forward. And she knew the man was Walter.

    She could feel him shaking.

    * * * * *

    Khadija Han paced in the ground floor living room of the farmhouse. A different farmhouse. Half a day's travel from the ambush spot. One actually owned by a Luminari loyalist this time, and one on the outskirts of Lansing proper. A trade town of some ten thousand inhabitants, just south of the three isles in the Cairou delta. Where the sparse trees of the Savannah gave way to thicker forests near to the coast.

    Yesterday night's gray clouds still hung low in the sky. Some distant thunder every now and again, but no rain or lightning yet. Good, good. She hated lightning. Feared it, even. A bad portent. It always brought misfortune. Think about it. Did anything good ever happen when lightning was tearing up the sky outside? No, of course not. Why would it, huh? Riddle me that. That's right. You can't. No one could. So of course she was right.

    A rolling thunder, miles away.

    She held the bronze clock in her hand. Wound it back to full tension. Listened to its melody. Tick, tock, tick, tock. And she let her eyes close as she shivered with delight, from her head to her arms to her hips to her legs. It was time to buy a new clock too. Another clock, of course. It had been a good month for the Luminari. The legitimate businesses owned by loyalists in Elbion and elsewhere had turned quite the profit, and the supply raids against non-human caravans had produced many spoils for the cause. As one of Trajan's favored, one of the truest of true believers, her share was plentiful. Such were the rewards for the faithful.

    And the money and spoils weren't the only thing going well this month. The Luminari's plans, missions, and tasks in service to the cause, operaris as they were called, were all succeeding brilliantly. Each bringing the Luminari one tiny, incremental step closer to the fulfillment of its sacred and secret promise to all mankind. And Khadija's own operari was well underway now. Threat of lightning outside and its nasty portents be damned. She could not--would not!--allow it to put a damper on the Luminari's success.

    Thanks to Walter Steadman, one of their newest recruits, they had captured one of the potentials on the list for her operari. Anima Contra. Half-breed mutt. In some manner of trouble with Elbion. Not one of Elbion's most wanted, but certainly unwelcome if recognized by the right people. And the Luminari had leverage over her. Something to coerce her into serving the cause.

    Everyone on the list fit that description. And now Khadija had one, safely tucked away in the farmhouse's basement and awaiting Trajan's arrival for a little chat. This operari was a go.

    Khadija's forearms shook with giddiness, and she held her clenched fists close to her mouth, standing up on the tips of her toes, unable to stop the spreading grin on her face.

    This was really happening! They were going to steal a powerful ritual catalyst, straight out of the heart of Elbion! And the traitorous College would be none the wiser to its theft, or even its very existence.

    A knock at the front door.

    Khadija composed herself. Put the clock pendant back around her neck and straightened out her tunic. Ran her hands through her hair. Wiped the grin off of her face. Good enough. She crossed the living room, stood behind the loyalist farmer who owned the house, enough to be out of view when he opened the door, and nodded.

    The farmer cracked the door. Enough to poke his head out. Then he stepped back and opened it all the way.

    Walter, along with two of the bowmen, entered the house. He looked sullen ever since last night. As if his faith had been shaken. Doubt was always the enemy of belief. Like a tiny crack in the cornerstone of a grand cathedral. Think about it. A little flaw like that could bring a whole building down. She would need to talk to him. Reaffirm his faith.

    "What news?" she said.

    Walter nodded. The faintest hint of defeat in his motions. "Word from the other team. They're bringing in another one from the list."

    And Khadija grinned. Strummed her fingers with excitement on the clock pendant around her neck.

    What a lucky, lucky day.
     
    Nayella and Luc like this.
  2. Luc

    Member
    Luc The Unlucky

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2019
    Messages:
    62
    Character Biography:
    Bio
    His mind had been a jumbled mess, jagged images of past events assaulting him in a twisted collage of what experiences he lived through in his short life. He couldn't make sense of any of it as it appeared out of order, a twisted timeline that didn't flow forward or back but instead looped in on itself. He was with Nayella in some and in others his first master, Lady Eneer. Glimpse of his time in the College mixed with his years spent as an orphan before his escape into the wilds bled into the visions. Everything appeared out of order, forming together to create a grainy image of not what truly happened but what he believed to happen in each event he viewed. The entire effect had an smoke like quality to it, as if the memories were displayed upon a delicate cloud that broke apart as he concentrated on them. It was as if he were a guest watching his own life and the moment he focused on the memories, he was denied them.

    Luc was keenly aware that he was floating. He moved but had not the will to power his legs. Instead, he floated by under the grasp of others. Every rational thought he attempted competed with one of utter nonsense. Had he been taken when he went to gather herbs for Nayella? Or was it the time they went into town? Or was it when he finally parted ways from the Blight Witch? Had there always been a brightly colored chicken that followed him? Where did the talking stag come from? Had he always four arms?

    With his strength gathered, he tried his best to open his eyes and failed. Such a simple act was now a daunting task and he lacked the power to do so. His mind was a sea of molasses, thick and sticky and it was now he finally realized what happened to him, the thought dragging itself for the crazed display his mind offered him. As he was dragged towards the barn, limp feet cutting deep contrails into the ground, Luc finally had a thought that made sense.

    He had been drugged... Worse yet, the half elf who had been on the run avoiding one thing and one thing only... Had been captured.
     
    Nayella and Anima like this.
  3. Nayella

    Member
    Nayella Blight Witch

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2019
    Messages:
    74
    Character Biography:
    Bio
    There was something wrong.

    She did not know what, but the crown did. The living metal embedded within her skull seemed to pulse with an odd sort of energy. It drove thoughts into her head often, but now...now it signaled for nothing but pain. She sat within the small cave and clutched her head, rocking back and forth slowly as she tried to decipher the incomprehensible suggestions of the crown.

    Could it not just use words?

    The pain was unbearable, unending. A voice had been forced against her skull, a pressure that could not be relieved no matter what she tried.

    Yet she did not know why.

    Was it the boy? Had he done something before he'd left? No. It was the crown trying to tell her something, trying to urge her forward. She had felt this before, a sensation of pain, a pressure. Her fingers tightened, a scream ripped from her lips as she forced herself to her feet. "WHAT?! WHAT DO YOU WANT?!"

    Her voice echoed in the cavern, but of course there was no answer.

    The Crown rarely spoke inside of her mind, rarely gave itself a voice. She did not know why, she did not know so many things. Yet as she gathered herself to her feet the pressure seemed to ease.

    A fleeting breath filled her lungs, tears welled in her eyes, and then her head slowly shook from side to side. Her feet shuffled forward, and again the pressure began to ease. The Crown pulsed against her skull, the metal cooling within her skin as she began to leave the cave.

    It urged her forward, always.
     
    Anima likes this.
  4. Anima

    Member
    Anima A Shadow

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2019
    Messages:
    112
    Character Biography:
    Bio
    #4 Anima, Apr 9, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2019
    A couple hours passed. A light rain was falling, the edge of the storm. And the other team arrived with their capture.

    The loyalist farmer opened the door again. And in came four men, two with bows slung across their backs and each with an arm of their half-elven quarry draped over their shoulders, holding him up. Then the leader of the team, Clarissa Mejeure, coming in and closing the door. She had been instrumental in Kha's operari. Fair and vibrant skin, long dark hair, striking eyes, she wasn't afraid to use her sexuality and charm as a weapon. I don't need magic to cast a spell, as she would say.

    Kha stepped toward her, and Clarissa opened her arms wide. They embraced, patting each other on the back. Whispered greetings.

    "Claire, you are my sister."

    "Kha, you are my sister."

    Louder, together: "And we are kin."

    They pulled back, and Kha nodded toward their capture. "Who have you got?"

    Claire smirked. Casually brushed her hair aside. Oh, no big ordeal. A luxurious hmmm. And she said, "He's Luc. Last name, the Unlucky, as far anyone can tell. Seems fitting."

    "I'll say," one of the men holding him up said. Chuckles from the rest.

    "He had a travelling companion," she said. "Didn't do him much good to part from her." A glance at her fingernails. "He is nice enough, for what it's worth. Almost a gentleman."

    Kha walked up to their capture, her hands behind her back. She grabbed the cloth bag and uncinched it and lifted it from his head and tossed it aside. Peered closely at him. Unconscious, dazed, or drugged--hard to tell. The Unlucky, huh? Hopefully that wasn't infectious. Risk of lightning was bad enough. But he was on the list. Big gossip about him from the Luminari's ears at the College. Kha had catalogued him in her mind as "The Thief". Seems fitting, as Claire might say, for a shifty elf, even if he were only half.

    As she got a better look at him though, and much to her surprise, Kha felt a little warmth in her cheeks and under her tunic. Luc was actually--dare she even think it? Dare she? He was...well...he was. Alright. Say it. Just say it. Nobody's going to know. Right. Nobody's going to know. Just a little secret. Think about it. Everybody had guilty little secrets. Of course they did.

    He was cute. Luc was cute. Nuzzle face into the cradle of his neck and cuddle for hours cute. Okay? There. Done and done.

    Kha glanced back at Claire. She had three fingers over her mouth. Eyes narrowed slyly. Quiet, conspiratorial giggling. Damn it, she knew!

    "Take him down to the basement," Kha said, putting on her best big girl voice to cover it all up. And the four men obeyed.

    When they had disappeared to the basement and the loyalist farmer had gone into the adjacent room, Claire sauntered over to Kha, her arms stretched out behind her back and a smirk on her face. "You've a bit of red on you, love."

    "Hush."

    "I don't judge."

    "Sure you do."

    Claire rolled her eyes around in an 'Oh-I-Don't-Know' way. Still smirking. "Oh, I suppose. Perhaps a tiny smidge."

    And they awaited Trajan's imminent arrival.

    * * * * *​

    Anima sat on a wooden chair, the bag off of her head but her wrists still bound. A lantern hung overhead. Two more on a table and a barrel. And a pair of bowmen stood behind her, bows in hand but no nocked arrows.

    A common basement; it could have belonged to any homeowner. Sacks of grain, crates and barrels for storage, an old wooden bathtub, a laundry bucket and washboard, some broken wagon wheels in one corner, a few other old chairs like hers.

    And the door at the top of the stairs opened, gray storm-light spilling in. Two men entered and came down the stairs. Then two more, carefully carrying a young--man? elf?--down. One of the other men grabbed a chair and set it right next to Anima's own. Another came up behind her, quickly untying the rope and freeing her hands. Surprising, but she made no sudden moves, other than to rub her sore wrists.

    The two men carrying the young one set him down in the chair. And the man behind her who had untied her said, "Hold him up."

    And, indeed, as soon as the two carrying men let go, the half-elf--she could see that now--started teetering forward, like a man sat up and left while in a deep sleep. She clapped her hands to his back and chest, easing his upper body back into the chair and steadying him.

    He had not spoken yet. Nor opened his eyes and seen her. She was but a reflection, awaiting the reflected. And still, she felt a kindling of camaraderie with him. They were captured and in the rough care of Walter, the dark-skinned woman, and all their fellows together. Whatever came, they would face it side-by-side. A shared experience. And she longed to know something of him. For him to wake. To invite her in.

    As the men scattered about the basement and leaned against walls and sat on crates and crossed their arms and waited for whatever was to come next, Anima brought her lips close to the half-elf's ear.

    Whispered, "You need him to wake up. To come back. To hear a voice and come back. You want to see his eyes. To gaze into him. You want him to know a name. A name he has always known, but a name that was never given form. Until now. A coming together of light and shadow. And that name is Anima. Let it wake you. Come back. See. And be seen."

    She couldn't help but to get his scent from being so close. A light gracing of it. A small partaking.
     
    Nayella likes this.
  5. Luc

    Member
    Luc The Unlucky

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2019
    Messages:
    62
    Character Biography:
    Bio
    An echo... It bounced off of the caverns of his mind and rebounded back, assaulted him and shattering the images of the past... present... future? The show that held him captive, the flashes of the days he lived shattered leaving him standing in the murky darkness of his own abyss which had held him captive.

    He felt when the hood had been removed and the hawk like eyes of those who held him captive. He had never felt so defeated in all his life to be so powerless. To be keenly aware that what was happenings was not right and have not the power to stop it. To what to scream but instead fall back into a daze, watching what had already happened as if he didn't know the outcome of each event which played before. He felt as they hauled him away and placed him down like a sack of rice, a inanimate object to be moved about. He wanted to cry at his fortune...

    But then he heard her... The echo's voice. A beacon in a darkness which claimed him. Through the haze he focused, willing himself to come to. He would not be lost to the prison they placed him in. The fight he lacked when they gathered him was finally showing through and Luc raced towards her, shedding leaden legs and calling forth the wind to bring him forward.

    "Thank.. You.." He croaked, throat terrible dry as he finally broke free of his daze and came to.

    It was the only possible thing he could think to say in this situation as he weakly grabbed at the person who held him up. Despite breaking free of the mental state the drugs had left him in, he soon found it was not as easy as he thought to rid himself of the stupor. His body held a sluggish quality and he found his hearing was muddled, as if his head was under water. Gathering what strength he could manage, Luc slowly pulled away and came to rest back against the chair. This afforded him a chance to look to the person who aided him and vice versa.

    His hair was long, dark, and wild, unkept in the sense that besides his fingers, he hadn't a comb to keep it in place. Despite the unruliness of his hair, his attired appeared well kept and he held onto the slight scent of spices, cloves to be exact. True to Kha's observation, there was a certain quality to the youth that many could describe as cute, thanks to his delicate features. His eyes were striking however, a brilliant blue that were deep, possible of holding a wealth of emotion that he openly displayed.

    Fear flashed across his face as he began to realize that all was not well. As he looked to the stranger in his arms, he asked in a strained voice. "Where.. Are we?"

    He fought to have the words escape his throat and found himself tucking his head down to cough. He would kill for water now... He would also kill to see Nayella who was not here with him. Which meant he would not ask for her and betray her existence to anyone. If she was not here, that meant she had not been taken.
     
    Nayella and Anima like this.
  6. Nayella

    Member
    Nayella Blight Witch

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2019
    Messages:
    74
    Character Biography:
    Bio
    Nayella roamed forwards like a corpse dragging itself to a final resting place.

    Every step brought her relief, every little movement bringing her a small amount of joy. As she walked a puzzle was floating through her mind, a question that she knew she would need to solve.

    It was more than clear to her that the Crown was urging her forward for some unknown purpose. Any direct question laid to it would be met with silence, yet the puzzle could still be solved. A reason could be found, even if there would be no answer in the affirmative.

    The path she took through the forest was the same the boy had taken.

    She was no Ranger, but she knew Luc's tracks when she saw them. The boy was clumsy by most standards, at least among her people. Broken branches, footprints in the mud, even a torn cloth from his pants.

    It was all there, and the Crown pushed her towards the path.

    The only question was why?
     
    Luc and Anima like this.
  7. Anima

    Member
    Anima A Shadow

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2019
    Messages:
    112
    Character Biography:
    Bio
    Trajan Meng walked down the dirt path toward the loyalist's farmhouse. He held his warhammer in one hand, strap of his travelling pack with the other. A dark-skinned man, tall, bald, hazel eyes, a goatee of black and gray. He wore a padded leather brigandine over a thick tunic, heavy boots and gauntlets, all dark brown.

    He had arrived in Lansing by boat an hour ago. Alone. He could walk through the streets of Elbion and all of the smaller towns in its shadow with impunity. It mattered not that he was a member of the Luminari, its de facto leader, and that he and his fellows had committed numerous crimes against Elbion and the region at large. It mattered not that he had executed scores of xenos in service to the cause, or that he planned sedition and usurpation against the traitorous College itself. He was simply one among many. Seen and noticed only when he allowed it. No one great and important, who stole curious glances and long gazes wherever he walked, no. For he was just a man.

    And though his fellows in the Luminari often thought of him as a father, he thought of himself as no more than a brother. He needed no entourage, no gaudy displays of his Vel Anirian family's wealth, no special treatment or honors in his name. Though the ranks of the Luminari were growing with each passing week and month, he considered himself no higher and no more valuable to the cause than its newest believer. For he was just a man.

    He was a man who believed in the slumbering greatness of his kin. Each had it in him, had it in her. But glory was never given. Always earned. Though mankind had achieved much, Vel Anir the shining example of the times, its manifest and ultimate destiny still waited to be taken. Such a grand undertaking took time. Years, decades, even centuries. A single great man may live a long and influential life, but he was still as mortal as all the rest. But an idea could live forever, passed on from generation to generation like a sacred tradition. And so he loathed and dismissed the attempts by some of the more ardent believers to turn him into the figurehead of the Luminari. He stressed that every single one of them had the strength within them to take over his role, should it become necessary. And he was no hero of legend, no heir of incredible birthright nor figure of godhood. He had drawn his strength from the same place they could draw their own. So, if he could carry the heavy burden of leadership, they could carry it too. After all, the true leader of the Luminari was the cause, not him. For he was just a man.

    He stopped just before the farmhouse. Dipped his boots into a puddle of rainwater and shook off most of the accumulated mud. Then he walked up the couple steps to the wooden porch and knocked on the door. The loyalist farmer opened it, and he stepped inside.

    Khadija Han, Clarissa Mejeure, and Walter Steadman--one of the newer believers--were all in the main room. Trajan made a fist with his right hand and snapped it over his heart, back of his hand facing up and clenched fingers down. And he said in greeting, "For Mankind."

    Kha, Claire, and Walter all performed the same hand gesture, and said together: "For Mankind."

    Trajan set his warhammer and pack down on a table by the door. "Which ones have you got, Kha?"

    Kha grinned ear-to-ear and strummed her fingers on the clock pendant she always wore. Eager to receive his attention, as she usually was. Of all the believers, it was Kha who looked to him as a father the most. Concerning, but in her aim to please, she performed many good services for the cause. And today was no different.

    "Anima Contra, for one."

    A tiny smirk. Amused. "Khorvayne's daughter? Hmm. If only she knew. How'd you manage it?"

    "That," Kha said, sliding over to Walter and putting a hand on his shoulder, "is all Walter's handiwork."

    Without hesitation, Trajan walked over to Walter and shook his hand and clapped a mighty hand on the man's arm. "Walter, you are my brother."

    A second passed. Walter blinked quickly. Realized. "Trajan, you are my brother."

    Together: "And we are kin."

    Trajan stepped back. Said, "Good work, Walter." Then, to Kha, "And the other?"

    But it was Claire who answered. "Luc the Unlucky." She glanced at her fingernails. Seemed to spot something she liked. "Shame, really, that title. How suited for it he is. You might even say it's tragic."

    "Lady Eneer's thief," Trajan said. A thought, and a throaty hmph. "Had these been different circumstances, I'd turn him in to face the Lady's judgment myself. But Luc will get his chance to redeem himself. As will Anima. They deserve that much, at least."

    * * * * *​

    Her words found him. And he found them. At long last.

    A clinging, after he thanked her. Anima laid her hand on his, an anchor for him as he regained his senses. To let him know, and to let her know as well, that neither of them were alone down here. The first touch. Always special. Eyes and ears and nose and even tongue lied often enough, but flesh never did.

    He pulled back and sat under his own power when he was ready.

    And there they were. Trapped together. Looking at each other. Reaffirming one another. Even up to when the rope was being tied around her wrists and the bag was being slid over her head, Walter had done this for her. Been the recipient of her gaze, her touch, her words, as she had been for him. Allowed her into his mind, let her roam free through his heart. Let her take the fragments which shined the brightest and consume them and carry them away. To bask in his presence and all that he was. To be, even if that being depended on him, and all the others that had come before him.

    And so it was now. A new beginning. And a new chance to be.

    "There you are," she said with a smile. "See. And be seen."

    The six men in the basement with them didn't very much care about them talking. They kept watch over them, firm stares from some and occasional glances from others. But they were none too concerned, so long as they stayed seated and didn't move too much or too fast.

    Fear, from him, as he grasped his current circumstance. Sour. Like citrus. Common enough.

    She placed a hand on his knee. Kept looking at him. Smiling. "You were betrayed, weren't you? You trusted someone. But you didn't think you knew what they were capable of, did you? And so you found out. As you wanted to. You knew it was coming. Time, is the only difference. How long before your innocence burns away? Before you see what lies beneath? You knew it was there, all along. And yet you wanted to find out. You always do, don't you?"

    Anima withdrew her hand. Sat back in her chair. Laughed quietly. "And where? Here. And if not here, elsewhere. Wherever that trust, when it was broken, would lead. You aren't truly surprised, are you? You knew you were coming, long before you were here. Because you knew the heart upon which you placed your trust." A small lean toward him. "You knew what lurked in that heart, for you have one of your own."
     
    Luc likes this.
  8. Luc

    Member
    Luc The Unlucky

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2019
    Messages:
    62
    Character Biography:
    Bio
    She spoke in riddles and truths and currently he found he had not the strength of the mind to follow. He was here because... Why was he here? He blinked away the confusion and finally began to take stock on the room and those with in. They weren't alone that much was clear and from the bows in their hands, they weren't the friendly sort.

    Luck twisted in his seat, ever so slowly as to not warrant a negative response, and swept the room with those large blue eyes. No windows and a enclosed space. He took in a long breath through his nose, tasting the air next as he sat there. It was dank, suggesting they were in perhaps a basement of some sort.

    "Betrayed or not... I... We are here..." Where ever here was. "Why are we here?" He wondered out loud hoping she could provide a answer. Had the mage hunters found him? If so why hadn't he been thrown in a cage and placed on a wagon. Why stop? Suddenly a shiver over came him as he began to realize that perhaps there were worse things then being caught by mage hunters.
     
    Anima and Nayella like this.
  9. Nayella

    Member
    Nayella Blight Witch

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2019
    Messages:
    74
    Character Biography:
    Bio
    She had found the trail.

    Truly found it now. The boy moved as clumsily as could be. She wondered briefly if he'd had any of the grace of his kind. Elves were reportedly known for their litheness, the ability to disappear within the forest.

    Perhaps he had lost that ability living in Elbion.

    A frown flickered across her features, and briefly she wished that she had listened more to the boy when he had said things. Had he ever even mentioned his past? Beyond Elbion she could not remember, but then again it was hard to think past that horrid place. Her lips thinned, and slowly she continued to follow the trail.

    The Ache within her skull seemed to subside, the artifact within her skull now understanding that she was doing as she was supposed to.

    It was not long before she found the boys tracks lead her to a clearing, and there the evidence of what had happened was more than obvious. Her lips thinned. "Taken."

    She should have guessed.
     
    Anima and Luc like this.
  10. Anima

    Member
    Anima A Shadow

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2019
    Messages:
    112
    Character Biography:
    Bio
    She felt it now. His fear, his anxiety, swelling inside her. The taste, not a ghostly and ephemeral thing, like the memory of a hearty feast long past, but ripe and tangible. Like the lingering of freshly-squeezed juice on the tongue. The thin film of fear, coating her mouth, her throat, the pit of her stomach. Working its way up to her skin in tiny goosebumps. And she gave herself to it. Gave herself to him. Let him wash over her. Now, neither of them feared alone.

    And she shivered with delight, even as her face outwardly conformed to Luc's own.

    "Why?" Anima said. "Hard to say."

    A glance at a nearby bowman. The bowman, leaning against a barrel with his arms crossed, just looked at her and grunted in an amused way. He wasn't saying anything.

    Back to Luc. Her smile smaller, voice quieter, than before. "You would like to guess, wouldn't you?"

    It began to dawn on her then, heralded by a spreading dread not born of Luc's emoting. A mounting excitement amidst it. A thrilling tremble of the heart. In all her travels over a vast expanse of time and distance, she had not been captured before. Escaping and evading, and the occasional overpowering, had not failed her before. But neither tactic could serve during Walter's ambush. She had been led by desire, by sheer want, into the web. Much too late then to fight or run. And so the spider had taken her. Delivered her here.

    Her thoughts escaped in a whisper, "To what end, you cannot say, and the spider won't tell. You find it funny, no?"

    A soft laugh. A knowing glance at Luc, and a playful tilt of her head and slow blinking of her eyes. Through the fear, through the unknowing, through the uncertainty of the next moment, surely he knew it too. And though he had not heard Mother's words himself, perhaps he felt the essence of them. Perhaps he had expected the very same, heard haunting echoes from the deep and wordless cavern at the bottom of his heart. Surely. For they were now kindred spirits in captivity, destined to face the same fate together. The irony, of course, was that they had known they were being hunted all along. From without. And within.

    Perhaps there truly was no escape. And Mother was right. Yet again.

    The door opened. At the top of the stairs. And the dark-skinned woman who had been with Walter came in. Followed by another woman with fair skin. And then a man. Dark-skinned, like the woman. Bald. With a black and gray goatee. They filed in and down the stairs. The two women stopping near the base, the man sliding past the two of them. The woman with the fair skin gave Luc a dainty wave. And the dark-skinned woman smirked at Anima.

    The man walked over to and grabbed one of the spare chairs. Dragged it across the basement floor. An unpleasant screeching as the legs of the chair protested. He set the chair a couple paces in front of Luc and Anima. Sat down in it. His back straight. Hands rested on his knees. Not tense in the least. And he looked at them both. Studied them for a moment.

    "Luc the Unlucky," he said to the same. Focusing on him.

    Another moment.

    And he shifted his gaze.

    "And Anima Contra."

    That fear. Without excitement or thrill. Pure. And raw. From days long gone. From before. Gripping her chest. Freezing her solid.

    Contra. The name of family. A long dead name. How could this man know it?

    He...he looked...had she seen--?

    "Would either of you like some water? Something to eat?" the man said. His eyes switching between the two. "Or would you rather I get right to it?"
     
    Luc likes this.
  11. Luc

    Member
    Luc The Unlucky

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2019
    Messages:
    62
    Character Biography:
    Bio
    Kindred or not, Luc didn't seem to share in the faint excitement his neighbor felt. It seemed the intrigue of their situation called her in such a way, where as all he could focus on was the impending doom. It was not that Luc was prone to cowardice, as when pushed he was actually capable of acts of bravery, though reckless he often was. It was just the mouse of an half elf preferred to go by unnoticed and live happily on the run.

    He sat their, cursing his fate as neither his neighbor nor the bowman offered an answer as to why they were there and he found he had only one person to blame for this predicament... Himself. His inability to mask his presence surely led them to him. He was like an open barrel of mana, left with no top to hide his stores and thus spilling out his magical signature with every jarring step he took. He realized now, that perhaps the obvious trail he left behind for Nayella while hunting for herbs would lead her to the point of his capture... it was up to her to follow his unintentional trail however. A faint glimmer of hope filled his heart and then dread washed over next... Would she come...? And if she did... Would she just end up like them?

    His thoughts were torn away as his gaze flitted to the stairs. The door had opened and a trio filed down, one going as far as to wave to Luc which garnished an confused tilt of his head in response. Did he know her? The man drew a chair and sat beside them and laid out his offers. Luc opened his mouth to respond but no words came out as his gaze moved to his neighbor, as if looking to her for her to take the lead. Water would be nice, but freedom would be nicer.
     
    Anima and Nayella like this.
  12. Nayella

    Member
    Nayella Blight Witch

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2019
    Messages:
    74
    Character Biography:
    Bio
    Magic had a price.

    There was always a price. It could be paid in dozens of different ways, by blood, by life, by the soul. It was a choice really, one that had to be made.

    A part of Nayella felt bad for the little rabbit she held, lips frowning for a moment as she looked at the creature. Her head shook, and she silenced all remorse. The creature would have been eaten anyway, and at least this way it would serve a purpose. There was just one more moment of hesitation, and then the rabbit met it's fate.

    Just a heartbeat later the blood she needed was there, and the small ritual she had set up within the clearing was completed.

    The circle she had drawn glowed a brief pale green, flashing and suddenly erupting from the ground below. Nayella watched it, then deposited the scrap of cloth torn from Luc's clothing. There was another flash of light, and then a pulse that seemed to run up her hand.

    Nayella close her eyes, and then the small circle she had drawn appeared within her palm.

    It burned for just a moment, and then she opened her eyes. The circle was an odd sort of thing, almost like a compass. It's point however did not direct her towards the North, instead towards the east. Her lips thinned for a moment, and then she scrambled to her feet.

    Closing her palm, Nayella began to walk again.
     
    Anima and Luc like this.
  13. Anima

    Member
    Anima A Shadow

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2019
    Messages:
    112
    Character Biography:
    Bio
    "Khorva, you can make a difference. Forget the College. Come to Vel Anir. Share all that you've learned of the dark arts with the rest of humanity. I know the right people. And we need you."

    Anima sat by the bucket and the washboard. Doing her chores as Mother talked to the bald man.

    The man grew frustrated with Mother's response. "Khorva, listen to me. Elbion doesn't serve us, and neither does the College. They'd cast you out if they ever learned what you're doing! Maybe even worse. I'm offering you a chance. An opportunity to shine instead of hide. To do your part for the good of mankind!"

    And Anima washed. Her hands covered in soap suds. She washed. And listened.

    Mother spoke. With pride.

    And the man slammed his hands on the table. "I've no concern for anything other than this world, and humanity's place in it! Don't squander your potential on this fool's errand!"

    Mother spoke. Confidently.

    The man, angry but resigned, sighed. Glanced at Anima. Said, "Look at me, girl."


    * * * * *
    And she looked at him. The man. The same man. Older now.

    Incredulous.

    And, for the briefest of moments, she felt whole. Like before.

    * * * * *​

    Trajan's eyes shifted between them. Quiet, these two. Quieter than he expected. Better this than the opposite. It was even difficult to tell which one was more bewildered than the other.

    He said, "Right to it, then." A sharp breath through his nose. "Know that either of you may leave at any time. These men here are for our protection; they will not try to stop you should you go, and you'll find your weapons on the porch outside the front door. This choice is afforded to you in deference to the human blood in your veins. But you would be wise to stay long enough to hear the rest of what I have to say. To make the most informed decision."

    He waited another moment, and continued, "You both are here because I want you to do something for me. If you refuse or fail to do what I ask, there will be personal repercussions for each of you. I know full well that this is nothing short of blackmail. But this demand is placed upon you on account of your elven blood." A glance at Luc. "And your demon blood." A glance at Anima.

    He watched her. Her eyes drifting down and her head turning away from him and Luc. Her distant gaze piercing through the world as she slowly withdrew. Seemed Khorvayne was right, and her daughter wasn't exactly stable after what she'd done. Trajan leaned forward. Snapped his fingers at her three times. Anima started violently. Her chair groaning sharply as it slid a little on the floor. The bowmen tensed. Two of them nocked arrows and aimed. She gripped the seat of her chair with both hands. Looked at Trajan with wild, confused, and startled eyes. But made no other movements.

    Trajan lifted his hand, and the bowmen all relaxed some.

    "You were eleven years old when I last saw you, Anima," he said. "And look at you now. All grown up." A half-smile and a hmph. "Doing gods-know-what in the world. You're not that much different than the girl I saw then. Without guidance. Purpose. Something greater than yourself to live for. Except now you're running from your mother, instead of living under her control." A pause for effect. "She's been looking for you, you know. Desperately. We may not be on the best of terms, but I could get a message to her very. Quickly."

    Heavy breathing. In and out her nose. She was afraid. Good. It would make her pliable. Willing to do as he asked.

    And Trajan looked at Luc. "Was it easy to betray Lady Eneer? Hmm? The one kind soul who accepted you at the College? I have my sources, and they told me all about the rumors concerning you, thief. Rare. That every rumor about someone turns out to be true. Did you think Lady Eneer deserved to be just another con? Or. Perhaps." Another pause. "You found it difficult. But you just couldn't help yourself. And you're ashamed of what you've done, because you still care about her. Maybe you'd even seek her forgiveness, if given the chance. And, in that case, wouldn't it be a tragedy if something were to happen...to Lady Eneer?"
     
    Nayella and Luc like this.
  14. Luc

    Member
    Luc The Unlucky

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2019
    Messages:
    62
    Character Biography:
    Bio
    Rage bubbled forth as the man ended his speech. Free to go but at a price? A heavy price at that. Yes he had wronged his master but it had nothing to do with some latent urge to steal suddenly manifesting itself. He did so to clear her name, as she was accused of a series of thefts made to discredit both of them. At least Luc could take some comfort in knowing the ruse on his part still carried on... But what good was his lie is something happened to his mistress? He lied to protect her... Now it appeared he would have to do something else to ensure her safety. Angry or not, Luc was not foolish enough to walk away at this moment and put her life at risk. This man before him was well informed, enough to show Luc he knew what his weakness was and to use it against him.

    His face had gone red and his jaw clenched so tightly that the muscles on either side show through his boyish appearance as he sat there going over the facts. The woman beside him had been placed in the same situation, given a faux choice to make it appear they could go along with what was presented. For now, there was little Luc could do... For not at least. The woman apparently knew the man who addressed them and perhaps he could gleam some information from her later.. Which meant Luc already made his decision.

    "I'm listening..." He said in a low voice as he took a calming breath and settled into his chair. Just what madness had he been dragged into?
     
    Nayella likes this.
  15. Nayella

    Member
    Nayella Blight Witch

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2019
    Messages:
    74
    Character Biography:
    Bio
    Nayella continued her journey through the forest, and the compass in her palm showed her the way.

    The Magic would last until she found the boy, a trick that she had learned even before coming to Elbion. College Magic would not have encouraged such practices, but her people had their own way of doing things. It made her wonder why they had ever sent her away, why she'd had to suffer at the hands of wizards and sorceresses who could only see their own way.

    Bitterness still clung to her, an emotion that bubbled over into hatred more often than not. It was why she was on this path, why she had chosen to take up the crown.

    Her fingers fluttered open, and the odd green circle pulsed. It's central arrowhead seemed to shift slightly, changing it's position ever so slightly.

    The Blight Witch lingered for a moment, glancing around herself and noting heavy boot prints in a patch of mud. Her lips thinned, nodding three or four separate tracks that all seemed to lead in upon themselves. What did that fool boy get himself into?

    Nayella asked herself quietly as she continued forward, the farmhouse just over the next ridge.
     
    Luc likes this.
  16. Anima

    Member
    Anima A Shadow

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2019
    Messages:
    112
    Character Biography:
    Bio
    #16 Anima, Apr 18, 2019
    Last edited: May 21, 2019
    Trajan watched them. Where Anima was frightened, Luc was furious. And that was good. Meant that it was near certain that the two of them would opt not to walk away. Anima's fear of her mother, or whatever her mother wanted with her, was potent. And it seemed Luc actually did care about Lady Eneer's well-being. A shame. To make a threat against an innocent woman. It left a bad taste in Trajan's mouth. But it was in service to the cause, so it was necessary. And if either of them succeeded in their task, then nothing unfortunate would have to happen to Lady Eneer. He prayed it would be so.

    "Good," he said to Luc. Then, to Anima, "What say you?"

    She glanced over at Luc. As if for strength or reassurance. The very real threat of her mother finding her seemed to have severely unbalanced her. Provided she had been some semblance of balanced to begin with.

    "Anima," he said, forcefully enough to get her attention again. "What say you?"

    The skin around her eyes quivered. Another tell among the many of anxiety. "You're listening..." And she took a breath. Sat straighter in her chair.

    Trajan narrowed his eyes just slightly. A momentary confusion. Then it fell into place. She had copied him. Luc. His tone. Almost his exact words. His movements. Odd. But, considering her mother, the girl's peculiar ways made more sense.

    And Trajan nodded. Looked at them both for a time. "Know that it is not your fault," he said. "To have been born as you were. You, Anima, were betrayed by your mother. And you, Luc, by your mother too, or your father. You know which. But in this you have a chance to redeem the sin of your parents. And I implore you both now to listen to the voice of humanity inside you. And you may yet find glory in service to something greater than any single one of us in this room."

    He extended his left arm behind himself, his palm open. Kha stepped forward and took two small pendants out of her pocket, their leather strings dangling. Handed them to Trajan.

    And he, in turn, stood and presented the pendants to Anima and Luc. Spherical, the pendants. Smooth. Deep and black, made of a substance not easily identified. Orange reflections of the lanterns in the basement visible on their surfaces.

    "The choice belongs to you, Luc. And you, Anima. You need only to take these pendants to Elbion. Into the Merchant District, where you will find a tavern named The Midnight Dream. You've until the next full moon to arrive there. Plenty of time if you choose to travel by boat up the Cairou River. On one of those days, enter The Midnight Dream at noon. And the pendants will cause a reaction. You will most certainly know when this happens, as will we. After this reaction occurs, consider our business complete. Lady Eneer will not be harmed, and Khorvayne will not be informed. I am a reasonable man. Neither I nor my peers will not pursue you further, hanging this blackmail over your heads again. Do this, and it will be done with forever."

    The pendants in his hand. Part of the plan to steal something of great and terrible power from Elbion. Or, more specifically, someone.

    * * * * *
    Once, she had a name. But no longer. A name that goes unspoken dies in darkness.

    She was the Nameless Victim. The Vicar of Suffering. And she had been imprisoned and tortured for twenty years and counting.

    Her folly was getting too close. Peering too deeply into something she shouldn't have.

    (Where is your father? Oh...I'm so sorry.)
    (Take my hand, sweetie, take my hand! Run!)
    (She's your own daughter! You can't...no, wait!)


    And for this, Khorvayne took her. Offered her as a gift to a group of five men she had consorted with. These men called their group the Black Circle, and they were men with shared interests and predilections. They were men who lived ordinary lives in Elbion by day. One worked as a teacher at the College, two others in support functions for the College, and the other two as shopkeepers of magical wares and potions. They blended in well. For at night, in the privacy of the basement of the Circle's most senior, they delved into the dark and the forbidden. And they gratefully accepted Khorvayne's gift. An elf, who would outlive all five of them, theirs to experiment on. A wellspring of life. And suffering.

    Each of the Black Circle had a morbid curiosity about the use of suffering as a magical cost. It was as plentiful in the world as physical exertion and life force, the more common price of magic. But did using raw suffering as a catalyst provide any unique benefits, unattainable through the use of less perverse costs? Each of the Black Circle had his own theory, his own personal belief, and each tested them on the Vicar. And for years, she suffered. The damage to her body healed by them, only to suffer again. And again. And again. After a time, she no longer had the will to speak. Only weep.

    Uncertain successes and certain failures in their theories. It mattered not. They practiced. Their theories and their dark arts. Their belief was strong.

    And then, three years ago, Khorvayne returned to them. Asked for their help with a ritual, and the Vicar as the focus. They agreed. And night after night, Khorvayne and the Circle failed. Failed and failed and failed so terribly that the six of them were left trembling, near death, on the basement floor. And then, on the fortieth night, they succeeded.

    And it was summoned.

    Khorvayne called it the Symbiote. A thing, much like an enormous leech the size of her forearm, so black that it appeared to be a hole in reality with no discernible shape or depth. She said it was merely a piece of one of Them. A shrunken finger. And she took it, and placed it upon the Vicar's chest. Watched as it slowly chewed through her skin and bone and wrapped itself around her beating heart. And she left the Circle with one instruction: Visit more suffering unto the Vicar, so that the Symbiote may feast on it, and swell with power.

    And the men of the Black Circle did as Khorvayne bid. And were awed as the horrific wounds inflicted upon the Vicar's body by their cruel tools and magic...were healed. Consumed. And as the Vicar herself, who had wept and wept for years before, shed tears no more, and was quieted. A visage of calm bliss. Staggering excitement among all five men as they found they could draw magical power from the Symbiote. From the stored suffering it had devoured.

    And flecks of pure white began to appear on the writhing body of the Symbiote as they used it more and more in their experimentation. A beautiful, enthralling white, amidst the formless black. Further confirmation. And they eagerly brought more pain upon the now silent Vicar's body, and the Symbiote absorbed all of it voraciously, and the Circle in turn found success after success using the Symbiote as a magical catalyst...until it needed replenishing. A circle, indeed.

    At long last, their beliefs and theories had been vindicated.

    And it never crossed their minds that their beliefs were "true" for reasons they had gravely misunderstood.
     
    Nayella and Luc like this.
  17. Luc

    Member
    Luc The Unlucky

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2019
    Messages:
    62
    Character Biography:
    Bio
    All they had to do was deliver two pendants... And they were free. Anima with out worry of her mother being informed of her where abouts and Luc free knowing that no harm would come to Lady Eneer... He wanted to take these words at face value but already he was focusing on what went unsaid. Why them? Why did they have to take these pendants.... The answer he arrived at was simple. The people holding them did not want to be tied to this. They couldn't be known to be the ones who carried these trinkets. So it was easier to have them take care of this task. If Anima was anything like him, he doubted she would receive a warm welcome at Elbion. Perhaps they meant to further frame him and all was said and done. But then if there was so much secrecy... Was there a real guarantee they wouldn't be killed at the end of this?

    That only meant that what ever they aimed to do would have such an effect on Elbion that they wouldn't need to be killed... A change of power?

    Luc was lost in his thoughts of conspiracy, connecting dots with only a fraction of information and he realized dwelling on this would do him no good as he was simply assuming at this point and nothing more. Tearing himself from his daze he looked to Anima who looked to him for support and all he could do is muster a simple nod. At the end of the day, he couldn't afford to have Lady Eneer involved in this nor could his new partner risk having her mother know of her where abouts from the sound of it. But first there were terms.

    "I.. Appreciate your offer.. I will not pretend to understand your cause or the plan we are now involved in... And I thank you for affording me the chance to redeem my lesser qualities... " His elvish heritage. "But it seems you have gone to great lengths to see through what ever it is you have planned... And such planning requires coin... Which I have none... I will gladly deliver this... Charm?" he looked to the pendant knowing there was more to it. "However I do not have coin to cover any expenses.. I have no issues traveling as is.. But I may draw attention.... Also I ask but one thing..." Now he was making a demand. "I need a message delivered to Lady Eneer.... That the blooming flowers have never looked lovelier.."
     
    Anima and Nayella like this.
  18. Nayella

    Member
    Nayella Blight Witch

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2019
    Messages:
    74
    Character Biography:
    Bio
    The compass in her hand flared as she stared at the farmhouse, her lips thinning as her head tilted slightly to the side. Nayella squatted in the underbrush of the treeline, her drab and dirty clothing blending in with the half dead foliage that surrounded her.

    It was obvious that the bowmen atop the broken building had not noticed her, though she knew moving too much would change that in an instant. Her fingers curled into her palm, the pale green light dispersing as the magic that had lead her here was snuffed out.

    Luc was in that building.

    She did not know where of course, the magic was not that accurate, but she knew enough. The problem was she also had no idea who else was inside. Four bowmen was already more than she could handle if they noticed her first, and if there were even more inside even the Crown could not help her.

    The Witch scowled.

    If I die for this, I will reap his soul. A pulse ran through her, another small echo of power that emanated from the artifact embedded in her skull.

    There was something to this. Something she did not yet understand. Fingers twitched, and then slowly her palm reached towards the earth. Within the darkness of the wood something began to happen. The ground shifted, the trees seemed to shake, and roots began to move.

    The blight began to ebb forward, slowly creeping towards the edges of the farmhouse. It's touch was subtle, a slow rot that rolled forward like a tide. It would bite at the building, work into it's walls, and bring them crumbling down. The hope was the building would fall into itself, cave and send the bowmen into the rubble.
     
    Anima and Luc like this.
  19. Anima

    Member
    Anima A Shadow

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2019
    Messages:
    112
    Character Biography:
    Bio
    We don't talk about what happened to her. We never talk about what happened to her.

    Anima looked at one of the two black pendants in the man's hand. Nearly hypnotized by it. It was the price to pay. Elbion. A smaller fear. The lesser of the two before her. And Elbion could not move and did not seek her. She could be in. Out. And leave the city far behind once again. Be done with it, as he said. For there were things far worse than death. She had seen them. And Mother embraced them.

    Luc. The name of the man seated next to her. He spoke to the man with the pendants in his hand. The man from before, and the man from now. Strange. Only moments before, she had basked in Luc's presence. Felt and savored all that came with it. But with a few words, the man with the pendants had broken her bond with him. And Anima had withdrawn. To a place both foreign and familiar, cold and warm. And though she was seated right next to Luc, right next to him, the loneliness crushed her. And she was trapped inside a cell with two windows into the world. She could reach out. Touch him again, if she so chose. But the eerie feeling that she was imprisoned underneath her own skin and behind her own eyes was inescapable. Foreign. And familiar.

    It would pass. That eerie feeling. Surely.

    Surely.

    The man glanced back at the dark-skinned woman. Made a slight gesture with his head. And the woman sprang forward, untying a pouch from her belt. A hint of eagerness as she approached Luc and handed him the clinking pouch.

    And the man nodded to Luc. "As I said, I am a reasonable man."

    "It's no fortune," the dark-skinned woman said, smiling at Luc, "but it should suffice." She placed the pouch in his hand, gave it a quick couple of pats, and stepped back behind the man.

    "The blooming flowers have never looked lovelier," the man said. Considered the words for a moment. "Very well. If you or Anima succeed in what I have asked, I will ensure that Lady Eneer receives this message."

    A glance to Anima. A glance, seemingly across time. "Now. Take a pendant and accept, or be on your way. Make your choice, Anima."

    Her choice. One already made. Six years ago. Not long after her twenty-fifth birthday. When she had run. Fled. Making her way all across the world and into the company of others. Seeking something. An effort to prove...to prove...

    Anima reached her hand up. Toward the man's hand and one of the pendants resting in his gloved palm. Her hand twitched with nervous anticipation.

    A loud groaning. Wood strain. Growing louder. A snapping that sundered the air. Shouts and screams from men on the ground floor. A crashing and a rumbling and a shuddering of the thick foundation boards above their own heads. Broken and stinking debris crashed down in an enormous pile from the stairs leading up and out of the basement. The other woman and two of the bowmen had to hastily jump back and scramble away to avoid being hit; the man and the dark-skinned woman each instinctively raised their arms to shield themselves. A rain of dust from the foundation boards above, creating a harsh, lingering haze. And all came to rest finally. The stairs choked with debris and what appeared to be part of the roof covering the way out, where the door had once been. And rainwater leaked through, dripping down into the basement. Gray light from the storm finding its way through cracks and gaps.

    "Walter! Walter!" The dark-skinned woman shouted, as the other woman grabbed her and held her back from the jagged debris.

    The bowmen all nocked and pulled back arrows.

    And the man's eyes went from Anima's frozen and extended hand and met her own. And he glared at her.

    "You should not have done that."

    An arrow from behind pierced through the armor of her right shoulder, through the flesh. Half of the bloodied arrowhead sticking out the front of her armor and shoulder. Anima cried out, fell from her chair and onto her side on the floor, landing on her injured shoulder, grabbing at it. The pain, igniting her veins and her blood. The spreading warmth and wetness under her armor and under her shirt.

    Her cheek pressed to the floor. Nose scrunching against the boards. Her right eye buried in her enfeebled position, she shifted her glances from Luc and to the man with her left. And, slowly, her cries morphed into laughter.

    * * * * *​

    "Watch her hands," Trajan instructed the bowmen.

    Disgust, as he watched her tremble and laugh on the floor. Foolish girl. He could only pray that Walter and the others above were not injured too grievously. And the farmer would need adequate compensation for the loss of his farmhouse. Something simple, made a mess, through and through. He never intended it to be so.

    Then, to Luc, Trajan said, "My apologies. For her foolishness. Are you alright?"

    And he took one of the two pendants from his hand and put it into his pocket.
     
    Nayella and Luc like this.
  20. Luc

    Member
    Luc The Unlucky

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2019
    Messages:
    62
    Character Biography:
    Bio
    It wasn't Anima... He knew the moment it happened when the building itself began to shake and who had caused it to. He tasted her magic in the air, bitter and powerful. The jewel he plucked from Lady Eneer, the one he kept close by burned in response, warning him. He would have smiled if not for what happened next and the woman found herself pierced through. Stop... Wait for me... The thought... His very feelings were forced through for Nayella to receive. It was by for no command as he was pleading with her to stop. The act of communicating was something he and Lady Eneer had worked on, building a bond with each other to use for emergencies. Forcing it through with someone else was no easy feat, resulting in his stomach twisting in pain as he reached out to the Blight Witch.

    He felt as if he could vomit at that moment, seated there as everything happened around them. His mouth watered and he felt dizzy wanting nothing more then to rest. Yet he forced the bile down and slipped from his seat to gather Anima into his arms, gingerly maneuvering her body to cause no further harm. "I am fine... But I need her wound treated... I cannot do this with out her help and she just proved to me she isn't with you... Which means she is the only one I'm willing to trust."

    He thought fast to twist the truth in hopes of walking out of there with no one realizing who waited for them outside.

    "I will carry both if I must... Please just help her."
     
    Anima and Nayella like this.
  21. Nayella

    Member
    Nayella Blight Witch

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2019
    Messages:
    74
    Character Biography:
    Bio
    The magic that had forced the rot ceased in an instant, the brief brush of thoughts touching her mind. Anger spiked through the Witch, the affront of having someone else press against her consciousness sending a wave of disgust through her. Fingers curled, and the odd pale green that had surrounded them faded.

    Even without the magic though the damage had been done. The rot had taken hold within the house, walls had collapsed, the ceiling caved in, and the entrance blocked.

    The bowmen that had been atop the building had disappeared from her view, heavy raindrops falling into the farmhouse. A frown touched the Blight Witches face, and for a brief moment she weighed the decision before her. After a moment she righteed herself, standing within the edge of the tree-line.

    A pale green light once again appeared around her fingers, forming slowly across her skin.

    It seemed to eat into her, and then draw down towards the grown. Vines grew over Nayella's hands, broken, rotted and desiccated they extended until they all but covered her palms.

    Then slowly she began to creep forward towards the farm.
     
    Luc and Anima like this.
  22. Anima

    Member
    Anima A Shadow

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2019
    Messages:
    112
    Character Biography:
    Bio
    Trajan watched him. Not as he took the remaining pendant and disowned the woman who, if fate had not been so kind, might have killed the whole lot of them. But as he went to her, that shuddering and laughing wreck of a daughter. That woman, broken from birth by the defilement of her father's demon blood and her mother's lack of sense. And Trajan watched as he picked her up, and hurriedly asked for help for her.

    And no small amount of astonishment overcame him, his face betraying it plainly.

    He spoke slowly. "You would do this for her? Even after you very well may have died, alongside the rest of us, from her recklessness? Her callousness?"

    A blink. An exhale. And a half-smile. It would have been hard to imagine, as he was stepping off the boat upon arriving in Lansing, that he would come to respect one of the very people Khadija had captured for her operari. A measure of guilt seized hold of him, for even having to place Luc in the terrible position he now found himself. Half-elf or no, this man's humanity had shined through. Brighter, perhaps, than some of the layabouts and complacents and sympathizers who were full-blooded men.

    "You've a quality of forgiveness that I lack," Trajan said, taking the other pendant back out of his pocket and stepping toward Luc. "An admirable thing."

    Luc's hands being full, Trajan simply slipped the pendants over Luc's head and let them come to rest about his neck. Anima's laughter had abated, save for a few quieter and smaller fits. And she spared not a glance to Trajan or the black pendants. She was staring up at Luc with something akin to wonder.

    "But I'm afraid there are no healers among us," Trajan said as he turned and walked to the blockage at the stairs. "And no potions suited for such. But I and my fellows will clear this debris."

    He grabbed a smaller wooden board and yanked it, most of the weakened and rotting wood coming out but the back portion snapping off. Four of the bowmen put down their weapons and went to help him, the two who had been standing behind the chairs keeping theirs in hand. Kha calmed down, and Claire let her go to stand on her own. They talked quietly to one another.

    "You'll need to head into Lansing proper," Trajan said, tossing a larger piece aside with the help of another man. "Up the dirt road from here, past the rest of the homesteads. You will find a town healer or apothecary there. A few of them, more likely. Lansing is a large enough town for it."

    The right piece was pulled, and the collective blockage of broken and magic-rotted wood tumbled down and over the side of the stairs, and Trajan and the men quickly stepped back and let it fall away. A strong odor, somehow even more pungent than before, as the falling wood disturbed the air and sent the haze of dust in the basement scattering.

    Just the partial roof covering the top. One of the men went to the small pile of firewood next to the broken wagon wheels and grabbed a woodcutter's axe and tossed it to Trajan. He caught it, took a few steps up, and went to work on the blighted wood. An odd angle, to be striking upward as he was, but the weakened wood, already cracked and broken and barely held together and leaking rainwater down on his sweaty head, gave way easily. A minute or two's hard labor, and he had carved an opening large enough for even Luc, with Anima in his arms, to squeeze through.

    Trajan wiped his forehead, and tossed the axe down to the basement floor. He knew he would likely not be too far behind Luc in his search for aid. Walter, the farmer, the hired bowmen posted on the roof, it would be a miracle if none of them required a healer's touch. A hard lesson to learn. One of hubris and underestimation. He should have never left his warhammer, the Emblazoned Sun, out of his reach in this situation. Perhaps, had he not done so and if he were quick and observant enough, he could have stopped Anima's treachery. But his magical talent without his enchanted weapon was hardly adequate. He had served his time in the Anirian Guard, as was his duty, and he was more a warrior than a battlemage. Even in lieu of his warhammer's magical aid, a good swing from the hammer itself would have solved the problem. Perhaps he could have spared whatever mayhem had been visited on Walter and the others who had fallen victim.

    And Trajan stepped up and out onto the ground floor wreckage. His attention and gaze back down into the basement. His right hand extended. Fingers waving, inviting him up. Rain falling on his head and his shoulders and his hand. Rolling and dripping.

    "Come then, Luc." He called down. "You should make haste."

    * * * * *​

    The pain.

    A welcome delight. It brought her back down. From the high clouds of fear and horror to the very soil of being. A soothing and a biting. A caressing and a gnawing. The give and take of it. Feeling bliss. Feeling suffering.

    Yes. You are alive. You are still here.

    You are not gone yet.

    She felt something. Arms. Hands. Warmth. Closeness.

    A lifting.

    Luc. She was in his arms. Her laughter subsiding as she focused more on him than the agony in her shoulder. A drop of her blood fell from her punctured back and to the floor.

    Luc was talking. The man from before and now was talking. Insignificant, in comparison.

    She stared up at Luc.

    What was he doing?
     
    Luc and Nayella like this.
  23. Luc

    Member
    Luc The Unlucky

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2019
    Messages:
    62
    Character Biography:
    Bio
    What was he doing? What ever it took to survive. First and foremost, Luc was a fighter. Not in the traditional sense at least, but in his mind, the grandest fight of all was that of life and death, and so far, he had managed to best death at every turn. It wasn't the greatest life, but he wasn't dead and that mattered. From life on the streets as a youth to the horrors of the orphanage, Luc had survived. This was just another obstacle in a already bumpy road. Of course, not paying the proper amount of caution to this endeavor would prove disastrous in it's own right so Luc was keenly aware of the of the tight rope he balanced on.

    With the pendants around his neck and the pouch of gold tucked away, he was free to leave in relative peace. Granted he now had a wounded woman in tow and have survived the cave in of the structure by the grace of heavens. If there was an upside, he suppose that was it, they survived. Still, he could not ignore the weight of the pendants that now hung about his neck and the implications of what would happen if he failed to deliver on his end. Worse yet, he would meet up with Nayella soon who would be none to please and he paled at the thought of that. What ever bravado he displayed moments before was quickly draining from him.

    The words of the man, Trajan, barely registered as he spoke. The compliment was lost upon him as he slowly strained under the weight of picking her up. He had been trained to be a proper battle mage, yet time spent running had weaken him to great affect. He had been thinner then when he left Elbion and being that he already had a lithe frame, this was a stark reminder of the times he found himself in. Still, he found the strength to carry her, comfortably enough, as Trajan instructed him on where to go and then cleared a way for them to leave.

    Luc barely took noticed on the moment itself, missing out on the devastation of the barn and ignoring the dust that choked the air. He moved in almost mechanical nature as if his path was determined, pausing only to make sure his footing was solid before pressing on with each slow step. With in his mind, he thought back to the teachings of Lady Eneer and more importantly, field treatment. He knew he had to remove the arrow from her shoulder and staunch the bleeding. He needed something sterile to clot the wound and thought back to the methods his master used. Wood ash would serve perfectly. Once he got out and ventured some ways of, he'd meet up with Nayela and treat Anima. Of course, Luc was called unlucky for a reason... And the moment he stepped out, he grimaced great... Rain.

    "After I do this did... We are done correct?" He asked over his shoulder as he pulled Anima closer to his lithe frame. The man seemed reasonable despite how he aquired the two half bloods. Still, Luc needed to have reassurance.
     
    Anima and Nayella like this.
  24. Nayella

    Member
    Nayella Blight Witch

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2019
    Messages:
    74
    Character Biography:
    Bio
    Within the field just ahead of Luc and the now struggling Anima stood Nayella.

    Her hands glowed that odd pale green even between the roots that now covered her fingers. Dead and rotted vines fell as she stepped forward, lips twitching into a scowl as the Crown sent another pulse through her being. Magic began to flare from her.

    The blight began to creep forth from her. It slowly ebbed over the field, death drawing forward as grass shriveled and shrubbery died. Slowly that life drew back to her, the vines upon her hands filling with minutia of power as he walked towards the hunched fingers that had left the farmhouse.

    Through the storm she saw others, figures silhouetted within darkness.

    Bright blue eyes focused, lips thinning.

    A voice caught her ear, familiar and strong enough for her to make out. Lips thinned as she heard Luc speak, her eyes wandering to the figures behind what she assumed to be him. After you do what, boy?

    The Blight Witch continued to stalk forward, every step bringing the rot further through the field. Luc and Anima would see it first, the grass around them slowly shriveling to a pale shade of it's former self. The field around them suddenly appeared to have suffered a drought of years, even while the rain continued to fall.
     
    Luc and Anima like this.
  25. Anima

    Member
    Anima A Shadow

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2019
    Messages:
    112
    Character Biography:
    Bio
    #25 Anima, Apr 23, 2019
    Last edited: May 21, 2019
    Kha and Claire came out after Luc and Anima, the former lifting up her hood, the thin green cloth her poor but sole defense against the rain. And the bowmen from down below filed out after. Went to work immediately to search through the wreckage of the farmhouse, following the groans and cries from their comrades and tossing debris aside.

    And Luc called back to Trajan. A parting question.

    "Yes," Trajan called after him. "Deliver at least one of those pendants to The Midnight Dream at noontime before the next full moon. Do this, and we will be done, and your message to Lady Eneer will be delivered as well. Godspeed to you, Luc."

    He didn't bother to say 'You have my word' or any variation thereof. He would have, if the situation had been different. But he had met the half-man in a manner that didn't make for a good foundation of trust. He had come to respect him, yes, and therefore he was as honest and straightforward as he could be with him. What good was a promise between a captor and his captive? The blackmailer and the blackmailed? Trust and promises and words of bond held value only between amicable friends. He could place himself in Luc's shoes, and he imagined that he would have quite the laugh at 'You have my word' coming from the mouth of one of his captors.

    This ugly business of theirs, the context in which they had met one another, made devilish merchants of them both. Their relation to one another was not a thing of trust, but of transaction. They both wanted something. Trajan, his task complete, and Luc, freedom from the blackmail for himself and Anima. And for both of them, Trajan and Luc, it wasn't the other man they could trust directly, but instead that man's self-interest. Such was the world of transactions and business.

    Yes. An ugly thing. If they had just come across one another under a different circumstance. But each day only came once, and thereafter could never be changed. This was the way things would be. And Trajan would learn to live with it, as he always had.

    Claire had found his warhammer. Pulled it up and out from the ruined table he had left it on and the surrounding planks of roof that had collapsed on it. She whistled, tossed it to him, and he caught it.

    And then he helped Kha search for Walter in the wreckage.

    * * * * *​

    Rain. Wetting her hair. Falling on her face.

    She closed her eyes. Losing sight of Luc.

    And the pain surged back. Claws in her body. Bursts of color behind her eyes. Dizzying. She shivered with delight.

    A tiny little laugh escaped through her throat.

    You are not gone yet.

    You may still bear witness.

    You've further to fall.

    Such is your curse.

    She opened her eyes. Saw Luc again.

    What was he doing?

    And her eyes drifted. From Luc to the direction they were headed. And she saw it. Bore witness. As was befitting.

    The dead field. The rot of the world. Mother's darkness. Made manifest.

    It was coming for the heart that beat in Luc's chest. Surely.

    The darkest hands always reached for the brightest lights.
     
    Nayella and Luc like this.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice