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Marishi Ten

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About Marishi Ten

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  • Birthday February 21

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    Clothcrafting, smoking, exploring new areas, reading new books or uncovering something unknown
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    Adventurer/Sell Sword

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    Marishi Ten#8297

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  1. The field of battle was chaos. Artillery blew holes in the landscape, concussing all those around and rupturing their internal organs. Reapers launched ceruleum infused shells with deadly accuracy, cutting down all those in its path. Men screamed in pain and terror at the sight of their mangled friends. Bodies burnt and smoking, men wandering aimlessly looking to recover their lost limbs. Men screaming on the ground with their insides pouring onto the rock, screaming and begging for someone to help. Others said nothing at all. Their glassy eyes fixed on the smoke filled and red hued sky or staring at nothing with expressions of terror and surprise on their faces. Hand to hand combat was initiated with soldiers on either side spilling their blood with cries of rage or screams of pain. Shrapnel from spent shells raining death down upon enemy and ally alike. Pieces of the moon began to fall away slamming into the flats sending shockwaves that caused the earth to buckle and heave. Blood seeping into the dry craters forming small pools attesting to the death and destruction that war could bring. Marishi remained mounted, channeling Aether from the land and herself into shields that protected her men and gave vigor to their flagging strength. The enemy had noticed her and cut their way to where she sat upon her mount. Marishi was cut off from her comrades and no help could be mustered as the small group tore her from her Chocobo, slaughtered it, and threw her to the ground. Marishi countered by creating a crystalline shield around herself to throw them back and sear them with blinding and holy light. The barrier should have killed all those that attempted to touch it. It was all she could do to protect herself. She felt the land bleed dry, and with it, her own channeling. There was no more Aether left to coax. The flats now a withered husk. Cracked and dry, riddled with craters. She dropped her stave and pulled a small double-edged dagger she kept secured to her thigh garter. Time seemed to slow and Marishi looked around. Her men screaming, falling, maiming, and broken. The interference from the red moon made it impossible to contact command and request reinforcements. She could see clearly how this would all end. All dead upon the battlefield, the land drinking their blood to retake what they had stolen from it. The Imperials would march upon their cities uncontested. Their friends, family, and lovers slaughtered and enslaved. Each wearing the same expression as her Sergeant wore when she arrived at his body the night before. She saw some sunk to their knees, crying in despair and desperation. Their youth and happiness forever robbed from them, soon to be their lives. Marishi’s eyes fell upon the hidden archer, arrow nocked and pull drawn, aimed at Rae. The last person she trusted and the last she should care about. She remembered one of the last things she had spoken to Rae. She would be at her side and that she would protect her. Even at the cost of everything she had. Marishi focused her concentration and blew her shell outward, knocking the small group back and shattering the bubble. She began to run to Rae’s aid before the arrow let fly, hacking at the few men that attempted to stop her. Gouging with her dagger, clawing with her nails. Marishi crossed into Rae as the arrow fired with it’s high pitched wail. There was only way to stop the missile from hitting it’s intended target. To block it. Marishi ran behind Rae as the arrow found a mark. Instead of striking Rae as was the intended target, the arrow sunk deep into Marishi’s back. Between her shoulder blades where the soft skin and unprotected organs were shredded as the head of the arrow poked itself out of the front of her chest. Marishi staggered as she gripped Rae’s collar and drug her down even as she fell. The two hit the ground in the middle of the battlefield. Marishi on her side, gasping for air as the blood began to fill her lungs. Then, the moon fell broke away releasing debris to the four corners of the continent. What came out was something no one imagined and no one could stop. The Dreadwyrm Bahamut. The battle stopped dead in its tracks as all turned eyes to the floating Wyrm filled to the brim with unbridled rage and hate. All except Marishi, Rae, and the figure that was fixed upon the two. Marishi couldn’t speak, blood spraying out of her mouth as she attempted. She lifted her hand to gently stroke Rae’s cheek as her eyes began to darken with tears and death. The figure strode silently up to the two and with one fluid movement, took it’s Far Eastern blade and buried it Marishi’s throat, ending her life, her hand falling away from Rae’s face and slamming down on blood damp ground, her vacant eyes fixed upon Rae. The blade was freed from the corpses throat, still wet with red blood and leveled against Rae. “How you have bent the power of time under thy control, we do not know. But this loop is forbidden and should not be. We shall end thee and close the loop. There is only one that can be allowed to exist.” Alexander in the body of Marishi said coldly. There was hesitation in his voice and his hand began to tremble, fighting with himself to take Rae’s life. “Thou shalt not defy. We will correct the anomaly. We are the Arbiter. Thine will must be done.” Alexander spoke to himself. Spoke to Marishi, still inside, somewhere deep, using all of her will to stop Alexander from killing Rae. It was a losing struggle as Alexander began to take control of all of her extremities.
  2. Marishi let out a short laugh upon hearing Rae explain she was not of this time and that Marishi was to wed her years from now. She hadn’t heard quite a unique pickup line before. Marishi would give Rae that. Her eyes narrowed upon mention of Alexander and a frown creased her lips. Her eyes darkened with suspicion. She chose her words carefully. “… You do not know me. I do not know you. The things you speak of are bordering on insane.” She took a step back away from Rae. She was too close to her for her own comfort. “You are mistaken about any kind of association I have with Alexander. And, as you can see, I’ve suffered no malady and I can see fine, so your claims of my sight leaving me are not quite as accurate as what you remember them to be, or, what you think will happen.” Marishi was lying. There were very few that knew of her connection with Alexander and none of them were this woman. She didn’t understand most of what Rae said to her. She had no intention of leaving the army. They were her family. She had no interest in becoming a fabled Samurai. Her way was not of destruction, but of restoration. Her vision was fine and she suffered no problems. “That’s far enough.” Marishi said quietly as Rae took a step towards her. She thought a moment over the tale she was told. It was clear that the woman was addled, but Marishi didn’t sense ill intent from her. “You’re not a Garlean spy or assassin. You would have finished your work before now and slipped away … let us assume for a moment that you’re telling the truth and against all logic and reason I believe you. How do you plan on – “ Marishi was interrupted by a clamor and men yelling for assistance. There was a pit in her stomach and dread that crashed over her. She didn’t need to be told what the commotion was about. “Stay here.” She whispered to Rae. She was pale as she turned to the meet the shouting. She walked over to two of the men in her company and gave orders in a low tone, motioning to Rae. The soldier nodded, confused, and loosened the swords in their scabbards they wore at their hips. They walked to Rae one on either side and one spoke in a soft voice. “Come with us, Ma’am. You’re to be protected while the Captain is preoccupied. Please, hand over your arms and come with us.” He didn’t mention that Marishi had given orders to have Rae executed if she attempted to flee. Marishi strode quickly through the camp to a small white tent where the source of the shouting was coming. She opened the flap only to confirm what she had dreaded. “Rand …” she said brokenly as she stared in horror at the Sergeants hacked body. She removed her gloves and attempted to staunch the wounds on his chest and abdomen. The infirmaries doctor lightly touched her shoulder. “He’s already gone, Captain. I’m sorry.” Tears began to well in her eyes as guilt settled in her heart. She had sent him to his death on a silly errand to check on body whose soul had been long gone. She killed him to check upon a grave. Her actions killed her friend. “… No, we have to try to call him back. I can save him.” Marishi tried to concentrate on the strands of his soul to call him back from crossing, but she couldn’t feel it. She sunk to ground, sobbing, her hands covered in dark red blood. “What happened? He was only to scout …” She said brokenly. “A Ranger in my forward team found him wounded near the quake site.” A tall Elezen said, looking down at Marishi. The two fought valiantly against the Imperial strike team. My man was able to carry him back, though he isn’t expected to survive the night.” He said grimly as he glanced over at the cot next to the corpse of the Sergeant. “On your feet, Captain. Now is not the time to break. This is a time of war. Men die. All the living can do is protect those that still live and look to us.” Marishi forced herself to stop sobbing and drew a ragged breath. “Yes, Admiral. I thank you and your brave men for assisting. Please, allow me to care for your Ranger. It is the least I can do.” The Admiral looked at Marishi sadly, seeing the same blank mask that he wore the first time he lost his friends and family to senseless violence. “Permission granted. Appraise me if his condition worsens or improves.” He placed his hand on her frail and tense shoulder as he left the tent, lost with pity and concern for his junior officer. Marishi tended the Ranger’s wounds and eased his suffering. He did not regain consciousness though she was able to stabilize him. She then found a grey felt blanket and covered Rand with it. His battlefield burial shroud. She performed these tasks robotically without emotion, or thought. Her limbs moving their own. As she left the tent, the Sun was beginning to rise over the mountains, the silver spires of Ishgard sparkling, heralding the morning. She walked back to where the soldiers had escorted Rae and dismissed them, each with a look of concern and shock upon their faces. The wet blood still upon their hands told them what had happened. “What happens at the battle? How many more men die? How can I save them? You’re not an Imperial, you would have knifed your target and been long gone before now.” She paused a moment holding her blood-stained hand up commanding Rae to stay silent. “Your story doesn’t make any sense. You claim to be my wife, though the prospect of marriage has never interested me, that my vision deteriorates, that I’m killed by Alexander. You know of him, which is not common knowledge. Even less so my connection …” she trailed off, not knowing why she was giving Rae this information. Information less than a handful had privy to. She shook her head. “Your conviction isn’t faked and I can feel the Aether you exude, as strange as it is. My mind screams false at your claims, yet my heart tells me …” She cut herself off abruptly. “Your weapon will be returned to you, for the time being. You are hereby field commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Gridanian Army as my personal Aide. I will give my report upon returning to the city and request a Tribunal on your behalf.” Marishi thought she was going as crazy as Rae. Bestowing rank she didn’t have the authorization to grant to a stranger she met on the side of the road claiming to be her future wife sent back in time to save her from being killed by Alexander. “Never mind the questions. It has been a long night.” Marishi’s composure was back in place, but not her smile. “Attend the meals and mounts. I would be alone. Leave me.” She looked out to the rising Sun, absently rubbing her bloodstained hands together, trying not to give into her grief. Midday arrived and the orders had been given to move toward the flats. The red moon in full view. It was impossible to tell the time as the skies clouded by the fall of the Dalamud. A dull roar was distinct upon the winds that did not fade. It was present at all times. Marishi rode at the head of her company, Rae at her side and the standard bearer several feet back. She looked forward and held her expression flat. Previously, she would have jested with Rae and poked her with questions and flirtations. But not after the night previous. Not with evening in front of them. They rode onto the barren flats to view their enemy. Countless warmachina lay in formation. Magitek Reapers, Conjurers, Lancers, Archers, Marauders, Gladiators all waiting for the Eorzean Alliance to engage. The Army whispered in despair upon seeing the full might of the VIIth legion unfurled. Command tents were hastily set up and a final officers meeting was held. Marishi’s unit was to make up part of the flank and act as support to the main arm of the offensive. She received her instructions with silent nodding and a salute to her superiors. Stiffly bowing when wished Godspeed and safe return. As she approached her men, they rose to their feet and saluted. Moved by the dedication of her comrades, she spoke through tears. “My friends, my brothers. Here we stand, upon the hour of our doom. Countless enemies lie before us with the moon falling around us. We are facing insurmountable odds and given impossible tasks. Each and every one of you feels afraid. I feel afraid. But, still,” She continued as she raised her head to the group, “There is no other place I would rather be. With all of you. I will be by your side. Always at your side. For you are more important than any glory or honor that can ever be won. When you are weary, I will be at your side to provide your succor. When you are scared, I will be by your side with courage. When you are besieged, I will be by your side as your shield.” She mounted her Chocobo and gripped her stave. “For those who are lost …” She began to choke in tears, loss still too near to her. She looked out and saw the eyes of her men. Locked to hers, giving her the courage she needed and taking heart. “… And for those we can save.” She said the last quietly. Her standard bearer unfurled the banner of her company and yelled a cheer echoed by the rest. Ready to defend their lands, homes, and ladies. “I pray your predictions of the future are able to keep you safe and save the lives of our countrymen, Lieutenant. For what it’s worth, I can see myself falling for you.” She flashed a smile to Rae as her red eyes locked with emerald. “In another life, perhaps. I look at you and I see the gentle Summer Sun. Easing my burden and warming my cold. Perhaps if we live … no. I keep no hope for myself. I will be by your side. Never shall I leave.” She nudged her Chocobo forward, slowly at first, until breaking into a full gallop when the flares fired signaling the army to advance and engage their oppressors, lightning blasting craters on the flats with deafening blows as her company banner flashed white in the dim light. The air charged with static at blinding lightning blast, from the crater a lithe silhouette could be seen carrying a glowing and white Far Eastern blade.
  3. Marishi stared at Rae with a gaze of pity. “I am truly sorry for your loss. Many good men have fallen during these dark times. My name is Marishi Ten. Captain in the Gridanian Army and company White Mage. Come to enlist have you?” Marishi asked. “You’ll find the recruiting offices in the city proper, but I’m afraid that by the time you graduate the academy, the war will be far over.” Marishi winked and smiled as she gracefully and slowly remounted her issued Chocobo, lingering long enough to show the shape of her legs in her white riding boots. “It’s a shame I can’t take you with me. Hmm. I seem to recall something about field promotions in times of war …” As she was looking down and smiling charmingly, the sound of another mounted rider could be heard from behind. “My Lady! You are out of formation. Has this vagabond accosted you?” The voice of a middle-aged man rang out as he rode up to stop beside Marishi, also looking at Rae, albeit with a scrutinizing gaze. “She has done nothing of the sort, Sergeant. Do I appear as a maiden in distress?” The man quickly changed his tone. “No, Captain, of course not. The entire company knows of your feats and abilities. But you are also an asset that must be protected.” He dropped the formal tone and said quietly. “It’s not like we have swaths of White Mages at our beck and call. If something happened – “Marishi turned her full attention to the man and smiled. “I know, Rand. Thank you for looking out for me, but I should be looking out for you. There’s no need to scrutinize this woman. She’s my newly appointed Aide. Just graduated from the Academy. Second Lieutenant.” Marishi nodded in Rae’s direction. “I haven’t heard of any additions from command.” Rand stammered. Marishi quickly interjected. “Orders came in this morning. Likely, the missives are still be drafted and will be available when we arrive at Carteneau. You will treat her with the same respect as you give me, Sergeant. That’s an order.” Her tone changed from playful to stern and sharp. “Ma’am.” Sergeant Rand saluted. “We will be rejoining the main host shortly. Fetch her a fresh Chocobo and we’ll be off.” The Sergeant grunted, frowning. He would never go against a superior’s orders, but it was clear that Marishi was lying. If she had requested an aide, it would have been the sickly and pale looking man she bed with, not some random stranger that didn’t even wear a uniform. Nevertheless, he trotted back to the supply caravans and went about his orders. “Well, Lieutenant. It seems you’ve been conscripted. Now you can tell me all about the things that you mysteriously haven’t said. That is, of course, if you’d be interested in coming along. Not everyone is jumping at the chance to go to war, and I’m sure you’ve your own suitors and companions. You can find me with the main host, just accept the steed that my overbearing Sergeant offers, or don’t be here when he arrives. The choice is yours!” Marishi called over her shoulder as she began to gallop to her spot in the columns. The army rode through the Black Shroud and converged with the other two arms of Alliance in Coerthas. Marishi’s place of birth. Though the marches were filled with laughter and singing, a sense of dread began to fall upon the army. Whispers from the soldiers of Ul’Dah spoke of The White Raven invading the city of gold, slaughtering its citizens. The soldiers of the desert were much more somber and grim. Their own home had been besieged and saw first hand the horrors of war. They didn’t share in the optimism of Limsa or Gridania. During the twilight hours, Marishi would sit around the campfire and laugh and tell stories. She was light hearted and jested with her men, keeping their spirits up as they began to flag at the sight of the falling moon looming closer and closer. The light took upon a red hue even in the day. Several days marching into Coerthas, the ground shook and the very roots of the mountains groaned in pain. The army was ordered to halt its march while the Alliance sent out scouts and called an emergency officers meeting. Marishi was summoned to the command tent. As the Alliance rested and command met and waited for scouts to deliver their reports, there was a sense of unease among the men. Around early evening, the officers cleared out of the command tent. All tense and unhappy. Marishi approached her men a frown upon her face, but seeing them look to her, she changed to smiling. “We’re going to camp here for tonight. Nothing to fear! Just an earthquake is all. We hoped to convince Ishgard to lend a Dragoon or two, but they’re too busy with their head in the clouds.” She laughed, putting them more at ease. “Sergeant, if I may speak with you? In private.” Rand replied immediately. “Yes, Ma’am.” The two walked slightly out of earshot, but the men watched the two intently. The two spoke in low tones, Marishi no longer smiling. Rand never smiled. He watched Marishi, his gaze on her absorbing her orders. She made a slashing motion with her left hand downward with Rand nodding. The two walked to the Chocobo’s being watered where she placed her hand on his shoulder and smiled sadly. Rand took her hand into his own and squeezed. Marishi helped him into his saddle and as he rode away, she called out “Be back by sundown tomorrow! No longer!” She watched him as he rode away from the flats into the mountain passes of Coerthas and sighed. “It’s cold! Let’s get the fires going! I’m starving!” She called out as she walked back into the semi-circle. The men were no longer smiling. They were tense and shifting. One asked where the Sergeant had gone. “He will be back soon. Rand is just running a small errand for me. Don’t worry, I don’t think he is apt to keel over from a bit of cold weather!” Marishi said. Another soldier said “But he isn’t impervious to a knife from an Imperial assassin.” Marishi’s smile slipped showing the weight she was carrying. These men were in her care and she may have just sent one of the men that she had known for years to his death. All upon her whim. The same soldier stammered, “I-I’m sorry Ma’am, I didn’t mean – “Marishi interjected, “No, you’re absolutely right. Here we are, marching to war that we very well may lose. The red moon grows larger by the hour over our heads. Tremors rock the land. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m scared. I’m scared of dying. I’m scared of losing anyone. I’m scared of being a coward.” She looked around with tears into her eyes. “I cannot tell the future,” She looked at Rae and smiled through her own tears. “But I swear to each and every one of you that I will gladly lay down my own life for each and every single one you. You are my family. Though I was born on the soil we now stand, I am a daughter of Gridania and if it’s within my power, our lands will remain free.” Murmurs of approval and reverence rippled through the crowd. “Unfurl the company standard. All standards fly this night.” The flag of their company was brought from a storage trunk and held high on a pike dug into the ground, the cloth rippling in the mountain wind. Sentries were stationed during the night and missives were sent between the armies and leaders. During the evening, Marishi had been called back into the command tents, but only for a fraction of the time. In the dying firelight, Marishi spoke to her company. “The VIIth legion is confirmed to be on the flats. The Alliance is ordered to engage the imperials tomorrow night. Our company orders are to make up the left mounted wing and prevent counter and pincer attacks. Conjurers are to provide support and Bards are to act as mounted archers. U’lDah shall dispatch a small contingent of Black Mages to provide cover and ranged maneuvers. Don’t worry,” Marishi laughed, “Ours is the only wing with a real, flesh and blood White Mage. I’ll be there the entire time to pull us out of the fire. Sleep tonight. Do not let worry trouble your sleep. I will stand watch this night.” She stood and walked to the edge of the firelight. She stood staring out into the darkness and without turning asked the form that came to stand next to her. “What brings you to my side, Lieutenant? So enamored to me already that you cannot bear to leave my side?” She flashed her charming smile. “I can put on a good show when I need to, I suppose.” Marishi said. “To be honest, we’re facing insurmountable odds. Command has received reports of Nael clones showing up in the streets of Ul’Dah. Killing citizens. Aetherytes are destabilizing and becoming impossible to attune to. Some monstrosity called ‘Atomos’ drains the Aether from them, spews forth voidscent, eradicates the hamlet, then leaves. We don’t know why.” She sighed in frustration. “That’s not worst of it.” Her expression grew grim. “The earthquake earlier today? That earthquake was something ripping the very land up and raising it to the clouds. They call it ‘Rivenroad’. Command believes it linked to the red moon. Which is the worst of all. It continues to fall. Look,” She waved her hand in the sky at the giant red orb. “It’s entered the atmosphere. And our battleground? The impact point. Ishgard won’t allow us to use their telescopes to actually look at the surface so we have no idea what is going to happen.” She grew quiet. “The land heaves and screams. It’s become harder to bend the lands Aether to my will. It’s like there’s just not enough. It’s just barren in places. And it’s becoming more and more common.” Marishi’s small company had bedded down for the night and were sleeping. Dreams of heroic feats upon their minds. “Rand is not back yet. I should not have sent him on such a selfish request. I may have sent him to his death.” Pain and remorse rippled over her face. Her mask of confidence fell and it was plain to see the weight of leading and ordering men to their deaths was hard upon her. She cared for each and every single man and woman under her. Young, old, new recruits, hardened veterans. Her doubt was laid bare. “The lands that were torn up were near where I was raised. My father raised me. I never knew my mother. Through luck, I was taken in by the Holy See and received a good education. That’s all I received from the spires in the clouds. My father stayed behind to pay my tuition. A year before I was to be anointed as a Nun for the church, my father grew frail and sick. I was there when he passed.” Marishi seemed lost in her thoughts for long moments. Suddenly, she shook her head and smiled sadly. “Anyway, I buried him in the land he loved and worked. I didn’t mark the grave. I was angry at the world. The land I buried him is close to the reports of the lands being ripped into the sky. I ordered Rand to scout the area and check if my father’s grave was still there or if it had been defiled.” Marishi said. “There are imperial scouting squads everywhere. Though it appears empty, the forests have assassins and scouts. I pray he returns to us safely. The lights overhead are imperial recon sloops with a few frigates from time to time. The Garleans have control of the sky. The only place we can take away that advantage is at the impact site of the moon. We are to engage the enemy this time tomorrow.” Marishi turned to Rae. “I’ve been meaning to ask you. Why are you here? Why are you really here? It’s not to join the army. Who are you really, Rae?”
  4. The wisps of cloud hung heavy in the air, despite the ruined observatory coalescing once again as if the chaos of what had just transpired meant nothing. Alexander’s form peered down upon the crumpled body that lay on the floor. Marishi was in her final death throes, hyperventilating and staring canopy of the sky. Her blood pooling and matting her hair. The colors blending together making it impossible to discern the two. The only sound was Marishi’s rattled breathing, wet and labored. Alexander spoke in a low voice. “A trespasser has defied thine will. She is a threat. Together, as Arbiter, we shalt remove the disease that has infected the blood.” The mist broke form and swirled around Marishi. Her vision darkening as her heart slowed. She was dying. Her eyes welling with tears for her own wasted and squandered life and the path she set Rae down upon. It was because of her that Rae had come at all. She knew she would never see Rae across the great river. It was a journey that Marishi was never to take. She turned her head to the side and drew a sharp ragged breath and grew still. The fog enveloped the body and sped in a circular motion until the cadaver was enclosed in a cyclone of mist. Then, the mist settled over the body and dispersed. All was silent in the destroyed room. Nothing moved. Nothing shone. Marishi’s single red eye’s pupil contracted to almost a small black line scrawled on paper and she drew breath once more. She rose from the ground, black blood dripping off her clothing as she slowly walked to the gilded throne in the center of the room. She drew her Gordian Katana from its housing, the blade flashing blindingly white and sat in the chair, her right leg crossed over her left, her right hand gripping the weapon, the blade’s tip dug into the ground. She closed her eyes in concentration as the clocks begin to slow, stop, and begin to rewind. The Arbiter would deal with interloper by any means necessary and then finish what he began. The Black Shroud was as verdant as she remembered it was. So long she had been away from her home. Marishi breathed a sigh of relief as she was recalled from her post in the backwater camp in Mor Dhona. She hated it there. She hated that everything was always still. No birds sang, no wolves howled. But the wind always blew. A song between the howling rocks. The song was ominous and threatening. She was more than happy to furlough under the boughs. She spent her first days in the arms of a junior officer. A simple and unassuming man smitten with Marishi. She enjoyed the attention and doting. He would wear a mask of disappointment and hurt every time she rose from his bed in the small hours of the night to dress herself and leave. Marishi would always playfully tell him it was against military code for officers to be involved with each other romantically and how it would be a shame if either of them were to be reprimanded for this tryst. She would sneak under the cover of darkness to her own small home and sleep well into the morning. Her days spent speaking to the Hearers and teaching at the Stillglade Fane, imparting her wisdom from the days prior to the Magi Wars, when White Magic and Black were in vogue. Her stay was far too short in her city. The call to arms had been made and all members of the newly forged Eorzean Alliance were to report back to duty. Reports filtered in of the Garlean VIIth legion amassing in the flatlands of Carteneau. Whispers of the Legatus that could call down the very stars rippled in the leaves of the trees. Nael Van Darnus had ordered his legion to the flatlands for their attack that would break the Alliance and open the way for a Garlean controlled Eorzea. Marishi wasn’t scared. She was eager and excited. She could finally aid those in need and fight for what she had begun to believe in. She would fight for her hearth and her home. The morning came where all active duty assembled in the plaza of the great Gridanian Aetheryte. Commanders and Generals at the front, officers forming the body, and ground troops making the vanguard. Civilians and children lined the grassy avenue as the soldiers mounted their Chocobo’s and began their slow trot out of the city, many throwing flowers, cheering, and older men and women shielding their eyes from the procession, knowing all too well that many wouldn’t return. Marishi bade her lover goodbye the previous evening, his assignment to the administration of the newly founded Free Company initiative. He would not be taking up arms. She promised to return, triumphant. He was among the crowd to watch the soldiers march out of the Blue Badger Gates. Marishi was in high spirits. She had the love and adoration of man, she was relied upon as a fountain of bursting skill and knowledge. She would never directly take the front lines as a White Mage, but she would assist her comrades and protect them from harm, restoring their flagging strength and tending their wounds. Very few Conjurers had been chosen to be permitted the use of White Magic, the Elementals weary of man’s tendency to abuse the gifts given to them. Marishi was one of the very few. She rode into the Sun as she cleared the gates, head high. The white staff upon her back marking her as one of the Mages of White. Her deep red hair combed to each side with the center pulled back into a flat pony tail and clasped with a silver brooch. Her sanguine eyes flashed with pride and playfulness. She sat side in the saddle customary for a female. Especially one in the white and pink gowns gifted unto her. The other officers, commissioned and non, chatted and laughed in the warm morning Sun. Recalling days of their glory and the dreams of their future. On the side of the well-trodden road leading out of the city, adventurers walked to and fro from the city proper. As she rode, smiling, content with the love and conviction of her friends and gift to freely manipulate her aether and others, Marishi spotted a lone figure watching as the army passed. Upon gazing at her, Marishi’s heart skipped. Never in waking life had she seen anything quite as lovely. The figure was a woman of slender build with fire red hair and emerald green eyes. She was lithe and curved, her own attire form fitting. She wore two tucks at her hips. One on either side. The woman hadn’t noticed Marishi as she came within range of her. “A bit far from your tribe aren't you Adventurer?” Marishi called to the woman sliding off her mount gracefully and holding the reins gently in her hand and she stood to face her. "sorry," she paused while shrugging. "Your markings are a dead give away." She smiled. “I would swear from the look on your face, you’ve just come from a funeral! There is no need to be so dour! Just look, the Sun shines upon us and the weather is almost as beautiful as yourself. Take heart, my lady. There is nothing here that can do you harm. At least, not with me around.” Her voice was young and singing. Melodic and full of life. She gracefully smiled at the woman and bowed. “Are you in need of aid or direction? You stand in front of the Blue Badger Gates of the great woodland capital, Gridania. If I may be so bold as to ask your name?” Marishi’s eyes remained transfixed upon the Emerald Green that outshone even the trees of The Black Shroud.
  5. Marishi followed Rae’s lead, her head down with a blood crusted once white cloth in her hand. Her nose began to bleed in full force when they entered and it had not stopped. Blood droplets could be seen on the highly polished brass and brushed stainless steel flooring. Traces she had been there. The walls moving and doors opening and closing by an unseen hand. Marishi knew it wasn’t Sharlayn ingenuity. It was Alexander. They didn’t need a map or a book to tell them where to go. He was leading them to where he wanted them to go. Once inside his belly, they were his. At least, Marishi was. Rae had no allegiance or loyalty to the Primal who resided over the past and future. He didn’t want Rae. He wanted Marishi. It had been years since she had walked these halls, but they still felt familiar. Years past, Alexander had summoned her to remind her of the oath she had taken to him and to bestow upon her the gift of a blade unlike any other. His summons were much more urgent this time. Like the whip cracking at the back of slaves. Slaves to a God brought forth into the world not by divine intervention, but by belief and prayer. Marishi thought about Alexander as they walked. She envisioned him bound by shackles and chains himself. Unable to free himself from the hands of fate. Enslaved by the very thing he could control. The thing that equalized all life in the world. The raw forces of nature could not even bend time to it’s will completely. As they came closer to the intersection, Marishi could see distortions and mirages dancing off the polished walls. The heat of the steam and water creating a haze. In the haze she thought she could see dark figures moving, laughing, crying, loving. Young, old. As if she could see events of the past playing on a static induced screen. The voices in her head seemed to attune to these mirages, though they were garbled and couldn’t be understood, their emotions rang through clearly. Marishi clutched the cloth to her nose as she could taste nothing but hot iron on her through and tongue. “… I don’t think we’re meant to rest. He is calling. Each summon louder and urgent. He wants me. He doesn’t want you. I don’t think he’s all that fond of you.” Marishi said to Rae through the cloth, her voice stuffy as she gazed at Rae clutching her tail from the blast of steam. She wasn’t amused or angry. She was strangely devoid of any emotion. “We go up. Up and up. He sits upon his gilded throne waiting, and his patience is beginning to wane.” Her tone wasn’t harsh with Rae as it was more a statement. She felt her emotions drained from her. Her purpose and the voices filling the void. “I need you to lead the way. I’m beginning to become light headed. This blood letting is getting to be a little much.” Marishi half smiled to Rae in reassurance that she was wasn’t in danger of falling dead or robbed of her faculties completely. Marishi climbed the stairs along with Rae. Winded at the top, she kept her expression as stoic as possible. She knew Rae was fretting over her already. It wouldn’t help matters if she collapsed on the floor and began to have seizures. The door was intricate. Gold, brass, copper, brushed stainless steel all forming cogs and gears and cranks. All in impossibly intricate alignments. No human hand could have worked the metal for the designs of the door. As Rae poked and pondered, Marishi remained quiet. Her ears cocked high and twitching. She was listening to something. Something Rae couldn’t hear. Suddenly, the voices stopped all at once. The hallway was silent. The lack of sound frightened Marishi and deafened her. On silent hinges, the door began to unlock and move, the cogs, shafts, and gears moving silently. The well-oiled machine performing its purpose. Marishi could feel the presence of Alexander. The feeling was overwhelming and threatened to cause her to black out. His will so great it pushed the air out of her lungs and she struggled to breathe. The heat of her own sword emanated from it’s sheathe as it burnt the skin on her hip. Light poured into the observatory blinding Marishi momentarily as her eye adjusted to compensate. They found themselves in an observatory. Great crystalline windows overlooking the basins of the Thaliak River, the huge canopy of rock and earth that shielded the caves below them from the harsh light, the scraggly pine trees that clung to the jutting mountain rocks. In the distance could be seen the Great Gubal Library, carved out of the very mountain itself. Its own modern wonder to behold. The obelisk of Idyllshire stood high with the Sharlayn letters scrawled upon it for all to be inspired. The greatest of city states evacuated overnight. Their inventions, findings, experiments, and failures left to their own devices. Including the bastion Marishi and Rae found themselves in. In the center of the room sat a throne. Gilded in the same metal as the walls and floors with the same impossibly intricate clockwork design. Marishi’s gaze was fixed upon the seat as Rae spoke to her. Without looking away from the throne, Marishi said quietly, “He’s here.” Steam from the pipes and whistles began to pour into the room, obstructing the two from seeing clearly. The fog grew so heavy that Marishi clutched Rae’s hand in her own. Out of awe, fear, and protection. The fog focalized on the throne and from the fog, male and female voices called in unison. “Welcome, Arbiter. Though it hath been many years thou hast spoken with me, it has been but a blink of an eye. I hath seen all thy struggles and accomplishments. Thou are worthy indeed.” Marishi felt small and insignificant. She could barely lift her head to look at seat she was transfixed to but a moment ago. “Alexander.” She announced. “Thou know thy Lord. This is grand tidings. I hath summoned thee here for thy time and place for thee to ascend has come.” The heavy fog resembled the figure of a human, though it was impossible to tell its age or it’s gender. Marishi’s breath came in short quick bursts. “Ascend? I don’t understand. What do you want? Why are you tormenting me?” Alexander’s voice rippled in laughter. “Yes, ascend. This is thy purpose. This is why the covenant was forged.” His voice turned grim. “Thine future is hopeless. Even now, the world prepares for war. One that will cause untold death and pain. It is in thy design. Since time beginning, thy kin have laid waste to one another and the land. Time and time again. Never ending. Never ceasing. But there is hope,” His voice monotone and metallic. “Erase the suffering of the past and stop the suffering there will be. We will ease the pain, stop the hate and destruction by removing thy kin from their own mongering. Thou will act as my vessel and arbiter of this task.” “I-I don’t … understand … what you’re saying. You … make no sense.” Marishi stammered, though the idea rang clear in her head. The instinct to run and claw her way out of the prison she was being locked in began to overwhelm her. “The covenant has been made.” Alexander replied simply as if reading her thoughts. There was no escaping. There was no where she could go. “Thou will become mine arbiter, and together, we will release the tortured souls trapped upon this realm. We will remain until time is no more. The time hath come to rise as Arbiter.” Marishi was stupefied as Alexanders plan became clear. Exterminate every living thing upon the earth to spare them and others not yet born from the pain and conflict of life. “There is no other recourse. Man must be protected from itself, Arbiter. Now, the time is at hand.” Marishi couldn’t react. She knew that she did this to herself. Her fear of death and her boon of life turned against her. She would be the reaper of souls, yet be unable to be free. She moved her hand slowly to her katana. Her body not willing to obey her orders, she moved as if she was weighted down. As she gripped the weapon, she could feel the heat intensify. It seared the skin off her palms and fingers. She released her grip, the smell of burnt flesh filling the room. “Thou would raise arms against its creator? Thy path is set and cannot be changed. The pact is forged and thy oath called to be fulfilled.” The voice boomed loudly. Marishi looked at Rae alarmed as she broke her contact with her wife, knocked to the ground by a force unseen. She was dragged to the front of the throne in front of the Primal. Marishi struggled to free herself as she was lifted off her feet several feet into the air. “Cease thy struggle. What will happen must happen. Thou shalt be made witness to the salvation of all.” Spears of gold and light materialized from the throne and forced themselves through Marishi’s body. Her hands, shoulders, legs, and feet impaled. “Now, Arbiter, we shall be as one.” Marishi hovered in the air, her body impaled and red blood dripping on the polished floor, her head down and unmoving. The fog began to disperse and envelop her body. The Covenant invoked.
  6. Marishi trudged along with Rae through the verdant ruins, but her eye was turned inwards. The voices had been whispering in her mind for months. They started as whispers and, over time, became desperate screams without end. The voices were so loud that at times, it was all she could hear. The voices were like a knife driving into her head causing migraines that would disable her ability to think clearly or even move, the sensitivity to light in her right eye compounding the pain. She did well hiding it from Rae at first, feigning overexertion or headaches. Then, the nose bleeds came. They would come without warning and they would last for hours causing her to become physically weak anemic. The bed sheets would be white at night. Come morning, they would be blotched with dark blood. Marishi had told Rae about her venture inside the citadel and her ‘gift’ of eternal youth. Marishi did not speak of the covenant made, because it didn’t make sense to her. She didn’t speak of Alexander calling her back after the red moon fell reminding her of her duty and that she would do well to not forget. But, the flow of time speeding along, Marishi forgot. Until the metallic voices crowded her mind. She couldn’t understand what was said, but the intent was clear. Alexander has summoned you. Uncharacteristic of Marishi, she told Rae of her headaches and the things she heard. Rae was adamant about Marishi visiting a specialist in Mor Dhona and the trek to the crystal blasted land was quick. However, none could find anything physically wrong with Marishi. For all intents, she was in absolute perfect health physically. Her Aetheric signature was certainly different from others, but was not so far out of sync that would cause her to become physically debilitated. With less answers they had before they left, they returned. The headaches, nose bleeds, and voices became worse. They wouldn’t happen unceasingly. They would come in waves, each stronger than the last. During the lulls in pain, Marishi could recover and speak coherently. Finally, she spoke of having similar symptoms before, albeit not nearly as strong after the fall of Dalamud. It was Alexander summoning her to give her instruction. Abandon the healing arts and take up the Far Eastern blade. He even gifted her the weapon she would carry at all times. The Gordian Katana. Rae without prompting began to charter ferries and coachmen that would ferry the two for the Hinterlands. She was more driven than Marishi was. She was scared to go. She felt something truly horrible was to happen. She had no logical reason to feel this way, but she felt it. From the pit of her stomach, she felt a storm of unparalleled magnitude was on the horizon. Marishi, despite these feelings of dread and anxiety, agreed to go. The pain and confusion was beginning to become constant and anything to reduce the pain in her head, despite the dread in her heart. Marishi could see Rae taking in the ruins abandoned so many years ago with wide eyed wonder. Inwardly, she would have been amused and even have spoked of what she knew of them, save the chisel being hammered in her brain. Marishi was pale. More pale than normal and sweating even in the cool mountain air. She was lithe and small. Her figure slender with accents of her figure. Her curves small fitting her frame. She wore her cosmetics the old and the archaic way. Smoky shadow blended from her eyebrows to her temples. Dark and smudged. Long and dark eyelashes matching the color of her brows. Her hair a deep rust red, similar to old blood let from a liver. She wore it in a simple and single braid that fell over her left shoulder. The hair full and healthy. What was most contrasting about the way she looked was her eyes. Her eyes were startling. Her left eye the color bright red with the vertical pupil of the Miquot’e. Her right eye did not match the right. Her right eye was black. No pigment other than black. Her pupil perpetually dilated to full never to contract or respond to light. Her left eye no longer functioned. She could not see out of it and would cause her right eye vision to blur in bright, white lights. She was awarded this disability after she was assaulted, beaten, raped, and left for dead by a group of soldiers. Each finding their own end shortly after their crimes. An act of vengeance from a spouse consumed with rage, hate, and disgust. Marishi wore the garb of the Far East. She didn’t wear the flowing hakama or Gi’s of her peer Samurai, but instead opted to wear form and lithe fitting Osode, black in color. Her Haidate she wore could be better described as tights. They were form fitting and accented her legs. The fabric itself tooled and woven to allow for mobility and breathing. The inside of the lower thighs woven in a fishnet style with sheer dark colored hose to protect against open skin. Her boots were leather and calf high with pointed toes and a small heel. Similar to riding boots, but lined for comfort and protection. Her Tekko matched the color of her Osode, tooled and fitted in black leather. Her fingers open to allow for free movement and dexterity. She wore nothing to protect her head due to her already decreased vision and depth of field. And covering for her head would interfere with her ability to see more so than it already was. She wore three weapons. The small tanto on the small of her back. The wakizashi short sword she wore at her hip, and finally, the intricate Odachi she wore above her wakizashi. The Gordian Katana. Wrapped in white cloth, the blade would pulse with soft, white light, the weapon imbued with a fragment of a God. The two entered the silent, copper halls of the citadel. The doors opened by themselves, seemingly aware of their arrival. As they walked through the empty halls, the cogs and gears fired to life with pistons turning and steam blowing. Floor and flood lights illuminating slightly ahead of them, guiding their way. Beckoning them and leading them on a path mapped for them. Marishi entered Alexander and the voices suddenly stopped. The chanting instead reverberating from the hum of the machine coming to life and the frequency of the electricity charging the circuits. The feeling of despair taking the place of pain in her head. Marishi knew she couldn’t run. Alexander wouldn’t let her. What was to happen, was to happen. The hand of fate silently pushing the two to the central core.
  7. The quiet in the ruined hamlet was deafening. The wind had picked up on the coast and blew dust and embers in the air from the small fires still burning from the destroyed homes. Some had been spared. Larger two-story homes, lavishly built and adorned with fine tapestries and rugs. Marishi slowly walked through the empty town. Though it had only been hours since their altercation with the inquisitors, it seemed a lifetime. She entered one of the spare buildings. It was dark and quiet. As the stepped on the floorboards, they quietly squeaked. She entered the hall with polished and varnished hardwood. Upstairs were the bedroom suites. An affluent family had slept there once, there bodies strewn across their back lawn. Riddled with countless wounds from weapons no longer impaled upon them. An adult male and female along with two girls and a boy. All Elezen. The children weren’t yet 12 years old. Dead left to bloat and rot in the Sun. Marishi had spared no one. She hunted every single one down and executed them all. The signs of a meal could be seen and smelt in the home. They were sitting down to eat as the alarm bells tolled warning it’s people that an imminent threat was upon them. A threat none in the Hamlet took seriously. What could two emaciated and small Miquot’e female pose? She found herself in the family’s great room. Lavishly adorned. Woven rugs and plush couches. A stone fireplace. Bookshelves filled to the brim lined the walls. The light from the candelabras still burned and the curtains had been pulled back to let the light of the Sun in. The windows that were to let fresh air in let in wafts of smoke, ash, and the smell of burning bodies. In the corner of the great room sat a large and unused grand piano. An import from the mainland, left to be a decoration and not a musical instrument. It was handmade and the wood molded with carvings of woodland animals stained a dark red, the white and black keys standing out in contrast. She slowly sat down at the piano chair with a painful sigh, her joints creaking and popping. She clenched and unclenched her long and spindly fingers several times to work the pain from them. The affects of her summoning. She hadn’t noticed at first, but every day, she had a harder and harder time standing. Her muscles were tight and her bones ached. Her hands wouldn’t obey her commands and were constantly stiff and sensitive. Clenching and holding objects began to cause her pain. Arthritis was beginning to set in. Though she was well over 90 years old, she had never contracted the affliction. The byproduct of being ageless. The curse given to her by the Primal she found in the depths of the Thaliak River. The conjuring of weapons and turning against her masters unraveled the agelessness she was given. She was growing older and an exponential rate. Streaks of began to show in her red hair. She hid the silver by changing the styling of her hair and opted to braid it and lay it to one side down her left shoulder. She was markedly more tired and would flag behind where she would normally be reaching her peak. She could feel the weight of age press on her chest and push her into the earth until she could no longer draw breath. She had forgotten what it was like to become old, to become infirm, to become weak. Marishi stretched her hands to the polished keys and lightly laid her left and right hands down while moving her right foot to the pedals underneath the great piano. She sat a moment in silence not moving, waiting for the pain in her hands to subside and for the melody to come to her mind. Her thoughts drifted back to her childhood and her boarding school in Ishgard. She was among the Scholastate of the clergy and would stay entire seasons while her father risked his own life to provide for his daughter logging and taking odd jobs. All the children were instructed on the divinity, but were also taught how to behave and perform in polite society. They attended music theory, mathematics, physics, philosophy, etiquette, languages, and hierarchy. All so they would know their place. All so they would feel forever in debt to the church and its benevolence. Marishi had proven adept at the piano. Her analytical thought allowing her to see and hear the keys played. She couldn’t compose or write her own Dirge’s, Waltzes, Valse’s, Foxtrot’s, Ballad’s, Minne’s, Nocturne’s, Minuet’s, Mazurka’s, Requiem’s, Etude’s, or Operetta’s, but she could play what others had written and even commit a few to memory. It had been decades since she had sat down at a piano. She never told Rae she could play. Marishi wasn’t fond of speaking about her past, especially about her time at the Scholastate. Her beatings from the cadre and children for being lowborn and different. For questioning the teachings of a church losing its grasp on its people. The isolation and loneliness she felt for her father leaving her to monsters that abused their power. He couldn’t have known the white city of Ishgard was black from corruption and lies. The glistening spires made the city look like heaven to the man who was never allowed to enter the city. Only through the generosity and pity of others was his daughter given passage and only on the condition that she would never become more than a Nun. He couldn’t fathom the corruption and politics of the church. No one could see it from the outside. Deacons and Priests lavishly treated all to pass a good word to the Arch Bishop. An unceasing war they had stoked out of greed and fear. Their enemy sieging their city for hundreds of years. An enemy they created. The senseless murder of Nidhogg’s sister caused the strongest of the first brood to be driven mad with grief and anger. His ire set upon the eternal torment of Ishgard and her heretical people. Ishgard did not deserve absolution. It did not deserve salvation. Yet, the city was eventually delivered and Nidhogg put to rest. Marishi’s thoughts sad from thinking of her past, the rotting corpses of the family she had butchered outside the home, and her own failing body, she began to play. The blood man, woman, boy, girl, young, old still caked, dry, and cracked on her nails and her hands, her fingers moved slowly, playing the melancholic song she barely remembered. The song was somber and filled with a quiet sadness. The low keys lamenting and blending with the high keys soft weeping. Her fingers moved to the melody, her left playing the rhythm and her right the lead. She never looked at the keys, she didn’t have to. Her body swayed to the music and her head would fall as she hit the keys. She became lost in the sadness of the music, finding some comfort in the deep baritone and steady tempo. As she played, she began to cry. She wept for the family she murdered, the town she destroyed, the men who were slaughtered defending their families. She wept for her own wasted life. Her father, her childhood, The Battle of Carteneau Flats, Her expulsion from The Twin Adders, her foray into Alexander. She lamented her arrangement with the Primal. Her tears fell onto the ivory keys as she continued to play. They came harder when she thought of her first encounter with Rae. In that moment, she was filled with regret and shame for meeting her on that Sun-drenched landing in Ul’Dah. The light so bright it made the sandstone of the masonry shimmer white bleaching out all color, the heatwaves dancing and the mirages glistening. The tempo slowed as the despair began to overwhelm her. The thoughts of the nights Her and Rae spent under the stars, Rae laughing and smiling, Marishi listening. She rarely smiled and she didn’t laugh. Even with Rae. She thought about their wedding. Rae’s family and friends in full attendance. Marishi’s side was empty. She had no friends and her family had been long since dead. Buried under the eternal ice and snow of Coerthas. The tempo picked back up as she was reaching the crescendo while her thoughts drifted to her time under the employ of Rowena. “Odd Jobs” she had described it. A pretty way of saying wet work. Those that didn’t pay or those that were a threat to the House of Splendors had a visit paid by one of Rowena’s associates. To be shaken down, or put in the ground. Her thoughts drifted to the camp of the Ala Mhigan Resistance and her assault at the hands at one of their officers that caused Marishi to lose the ability to see out of her right eye, disfigure her, and never know another peaceful night’s rest. She thought about that man often, even though he was long dead. She could still feel the metal of his mailed hand hit her in the side of the face, cutting open her skin. She could feel the bone begin to cave and her oculus tear. She could feel the pain as he broke her arm and pummeled her to death. She could still remember what it felt like to lay prostrate, senseless, blind, broken, and scared as she was then stripped and had what little left violated and taken from her. Her anger overwhelmed her sadness as the song reached it’s crescendo and her fingers hammered the keys with force. The song called for a falling motif and she reverted back to caressing the piano with sad and soft glides of her fingers. She thought of Rae’s face after what was done to her and the shame she felt. The sadness that something was forever gone and it was taken away from her. She thought of their time attempting to heal the wounds suffered. Physical, mental, and emotional. Just as she was scarred and would never fully heal physically, so to would her psyche. She knew it hurt Rae to know that. She knew it hurt Rae when Marishi would withdraw from the mortal world, instead turning inward and looking for a way out. Her down spiral caused more than one failed attempt to bring about her own end. Something else she never told her wife. As the keys began their final strumming, she thought about The New World. She thought about their voyage on behest of Marishi’s employer. She thought about the feeling of foreboding she felt stepping foot on the shores. She thought about the Mamool Ja. The poor Mamool Ja, now an endangered species. Their thanks for making Marishi their own. She thought about the Wendigo and their sickness. Drawing Marishi into their world to weaken her already wavering spirit. She thought about the pact forged with the Old Gods and their “gift” they bestowed. A power that kills the bearer. She thought about Rae’s illness and decent into madness and fear. Marishi knew those feelings and her heart filled with pity and sadness that her own wife had to endure that level of pain. She thought about the traitor Hime and her peculiar urn. She thought about the strange people that took them in, flushed Rae of the illness, taught Marishi how to control her magic and even lend it to another. She thought of their generosity as they bestowed Marishi and Rae gifts, food, and shelter. She thought about their insistence to war and burn the Mamool Ja, and colonists to the ground. She thought about her altercation with Hime when Marishi began to suspect she wasn’t all that she seemed. The final notes rang out soft and sad, hanging in the air, reverberating through the now empty house. She set her bloodstained hands in her lap and stared at them. Her audience would give her no applause or beg for an encore. They would say nothing ever again. The only sound was the faint popping of wood being carried in by the wind. The smell still of smoke, ash, and charred bodies. The Sun casting a sickly brown orange light as evening wore on. The smoke filtering the light. Marishi sighed sadly and softly. “I learned that song when I was a child. It always gave me comfort when the dark recesses of my mind threatened to overwhelm me. A pity.” Marishi continued. “It gives me nothing but regret now. For the things I’ve done to myself, to you, to others, and the things that I am to do in the coming storm.” Marishi looked up to the silhouette in the doorframe. “The Sharlayn’s have already heard of what happened here. They’ll mobilize Alexander at this act of aggression. Hime can be graciously thanked for that. He will destroy all who oppose. This was doomed to blood and ash from the beginning.” Marishi looked up from her hands. She looked old. Dark smudges under her eyes showing her exhaustion and inner turmoil. Faint lines around the tips of her mouth forming frown lines. Greying hair peeking out of her braid. Her hands bony, knuckles and joints red and inflamed. Her skin a shade of death and dry. “The crown weighs heavy. But it’s not yours to bear. I’m no longer asking you to flee. I’m telling you. Don’t defy me or I’ll phase you all the way to your Mother’s. You’ll never be able to escape her clutches, if you remember the number she did me when we first met. I still have the scars from the beating that old woman gave me.” Marishi smirked slightly. “That was a good fight.” Marishi turned to look at the setting Sun and suddenly smiled. “What they say is true: We either die heroes or we live long enough to become villains. Or, maybe, I was a villain all along.” She paused a moment before finishing. “Who cares if I come back alive? At least I had the strength to fight.” “You know,” Marishi said. “There are closets of clothes here in the master upstairs. I bet you could find a nice slinky dress that you could wear while I put on something formal and we could make this a duet. You sing, I play. Would you do me the honor? What would you fancy on hearing? It’d be nice to not be a monster and forget the things I’ve done. Even if for a short time.” Her tone was almost begging. A reprieve from the memories of death and guilt for snuffing out the candles of the world. Large and small. Indoors, it was impossible to see, but in the dying light of the day light dancing off the ever-shifting waves of the ocean, the Sun reflected light off something that did not sway with the oceans flow. It glistened gold and copper, resembling a crab, but polished metal. It’s legs slowly lurching forward. Surrounded by skiffs, corsairs, frigates, and dreadnoughts all manned and armed to the teeth. Among the Armada could be spotted ships flying the flags of Sharlaya, Limsa Lominsa, Ul’Dah, Gridania, Ishgard, Yanxia, Doma, Sui-No-Sato, Rabanastre, Ala Mhigo, and even the flag of Rowena of The House of Splendors and The Scions of The Seventh Dawn. The entire might of the continents Islabard, The Far East, and Eorzea brought to bear. As the Sun dipped below the horizon and night veiled its cloak over the land, a single brightly glowing red eye came to life on the contraption as the Armada continued its journey. The mainland finally in sight, where their war would be waged on who would be the inheritors and rightful Gods and Rulers. The Captains and the Kings would be making landfall within the week.
  8. “Hmph. If only a few trinkets could pacify an entire society and convince them to just share hunting grounds. Don’t hold too fast to that hope.” Marishi said to Rae upon showing her the jewels she was given. “Have you forgotten how warlike they are? Even on Eorzea they value strength and power over anything else. Don’t you remember the stories of their enslavement of the Tonberries?” Marishi chided Rae. She was trying to prepare her wife for what was to undoubtedly come. Blood, fire, ash, and death. “Forgive me. I am weary. I have found rest to be elusive.” Marishi said slowly. She sat a moment in the dark, trying to find the words to explain her feelings. “I am no longer bound to Alexander. Whatever link I shared is gone, replaced by chains. I suppose I should be thankful that I still do not age, but you do. I don’t know how long we’ve been here. The days bleed together and what feels like days may very well be months or years.” Marishi sighed. She couldn’t explain her anxiety or pensiveness. Something was pushing on her to move and to take action. There was an urgency and feeling of drowning. “Something isn’t right. There are forces moving against us. I can feel it.” Hime strode past the two without speaking, but flashed an innocent and happy smile as she bounced, her step cheery. Marishi frowned as she passed. Her eyes belied cunning and intelligence even if mildly addled. “I know you like her. But there’s something about her that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. She’s too helpful and far too curious. She has a book she scribbles things in when she thinks no one is looking and she has a habit of disappearing from time to time.” Marishi turned to look Rae in eyes. “Make no mistake, she’s not as crazy as she’d like people to think and her loyalty is not to us or to these people.” Marishi retired for the evening feigning exhaustion. She wanted to be alone with her thoughts and sort out what she felt. As she laid on her side buried under animal skins, sleep stole upon her. The sky was a dark grey, heavy and oppressive. The ground was grey and the only sound she could hear was the ripping wind though no breeze could be felt. She was dressed in the garments given to her. The clouds had malevolence and felt like they would press and crush her into the earth. Marishi stood quiet, not looking at anything, but listening. There were voices upon the roaring wind. When they spoke, the clouds would break and lightning would flash. “The time is soon at hand. You are called to fulfill your covenant. Become the weapon for our survival. Our revenge. Enemies are preparing for war. All have sacrificed for you. Now you must sacrifice for all.” The voice boomed and rolled like thunder. Marishi couldn’t discern the voice to any single entity. Many voices in unison called. Male and female. Old and young. There was an urgency to the tone. Though it spoke as the choice was already made, Marishi had free will. “You have the illusion of free will. The path was laid the moment you accepted the gifts you have been given.” The voice was female and snide in tone. Mocking Marishi’s thought. She spun around to face the voice. She didn’t register immediately what she saw. It was like looking into the mirror. If that mirror took the reflection and twisted the image to show the ugliness that’s inside and put it on display for all to see. It was Marishi, but grotesque. Her eyes were hollow and black, the sockets oozing black liquid that streaked down her corpse white cheeks. Her hair was matted and flat in color. Emaciated and gaunt cheeks. Her lips were blood red and mouth a black chasm. Her voice seemed to come from the ground itself. Close and yet far away. Her movement was akin to a contorted puppet. Jerking and haphazard. Her fingers were long and spidery with black grime under the nails. Her clothing was as black as her eyes. Marishi was disgusted and repulsed. The feeling of panic rising within her as the reflection spoke to her. “Don’t be so shocked. After all, we’re one in the same.” The reflection said, mocking Marishi. “Don’t bother asking what I am. You already know. I’m you. You agreed to the arrangement. You took the gifts bestowed upon you and you accepted the consequences of taking. Nothing is free.” Marishi realized that she was looking at what she would become. Eternally bound to the plane between by the Gods that gave her strength. This was her fate. She could never escape. “Feeling sorry for yourself? Regret? Remorse? Won’t change a thing. There is no going back. You can only go forward. Soon, you will be required to fulfill your oath. You will be the sword that cuts down those who would oppress your benefactors. You will be the shield that defends their faithful. Destruction, death, pain. This is all you know how to inflict. This is why you were chosen. Stop denying who you are. I know because I’m you. Your companions can’t save you. If anything, they will betray you. She is working against you and will betray you. You will see.” The voice of her reflection came muffled, but perfectly understood. The reflection moved towards Marishi with alarming speed. She could smell the scent of decay and death. She felt sick and woozy. “Don’t worry, I’ll never leave you. Together, we will have our satisfaction and punish those who would stand against us. The Eorzean’s settlements are expanding and enslaving. They have had their way long enough and must be stopped. Send a message to their leaders in their white towers that the voiceless refuse to succumb and blood can only be repaid in kind. We will not fade away.” Marishi’s psyche could take no more as she began to sway and fall. She could feel the cold and clammy touch of the reflection as its nails dug into her arms as she felt her mind slip away. Marishi awoke with her heart racing. She didn’t call out or scream. As the feeling of sleep wore away, so did the feeling of terror she felt, but she could still remember the words and the voice of herself. There was something else in the voice. Marishi couldn’t place it, but there was a feeling that the reflection was trying to convince Marishi to accept what she was told. Odd, if the future has already been written and fate is cannot be denied. If that were true, there would be no need to remind her of her lot and convince her to do what others would want. Her mind and her decisions were her own. The feeling gave her strength and refused to allow her to be overwhelmed by the darkness inside her. The distrust in Hime lingered. Too much didn’t add up with her. Her conveniently lucid moments, her questioning and knowledge gathering. She couldn’t be trusted. She was a threat. The feeling of danger and suspect forced Marishi to rise from her bed. She rose slowly and quietly as to not disturb Rae who slept next to her. She dressed and silently left the small quarters headed in the direction of Hime’s room. Marishi would wring the truth and motives from her if she had to. The wooden door was closed. Not unusual. Marishi placed her ear to the door and strained to hear. There was no sound. No rustling, no shifting, no breathing. She placed her hand on the knob and attempted to open the door. Hime had locked it. Marishi stood in the dark for a moment then smiled. Locks could stop most, but not her. She took a step to the door and faded away. Marishi phased back on the other side of the door with a soft blue light. She looked around the chamber. Hime wasn’t in the small room. Marishi quickly searched the room for the notebook that she had seen Hime scribble into. She searched in the end table and even in the chipped and odd urn that Hime carried. The urn glowed a soft pink as Marishi tipped it slightly to look inside. Nothing. Hime hadn’t slept in the bed as the sheets were still fresh and the bed made. Outside the door, footsteps could be heard. Soft and light. A shadow cast itself under the door and the sound of a key fitting the lock and sliding back the bolt was heard. Marishi blended into the shadows of the room corner, invisible to all. As the door opened, Hime entered. She sighed and laid her notebook on the table. She began to sit down on the bed, but stopped. She was looking at the urn. She stood all the way up and without turning, she said, “I know you’re here. Don’t make me drag you from the darkness.” Marishi stepped into the small light of the candle that burned on the table. “Impressive that you knew I was here.” She said. “Wilson is a terrible sentry, but excellent watcher.” Hime said as she turned to face Marishi. “What is it you want? Sneaking around places you aren’t invited. You’re lucky I didn’t flush you out and burn the flesh from your body.” Her tone was calm and Hime was collected and fully lucid. “I was concerned over your wellbeing. I’ve been told there have been sightings of someone slipping in and out of the temple grounds, on top of reports of strangers skulking about.” Marishi replied, staring at Hime. “Hmph, Wilson would never let anything happen to me!” Hime chirped, her voice high pitched. “Drop the act. You’re not fooling me anymore. If you’re crazy then I’m a noble lord of Ishgard.” Marishi said with disdain. Hime stood a moment looking at Marishi and shrugged. “You know nothing. I was just taking a stroll, is all.” “A stroll, notebook in hand? A notebook filled with secrets and findings? Shared with your contact for months. You didn’t honestly think that you were that clever, did you? That no one would notice?” “Pretty strong accusations coming from a traitor to her own people.” Marishi retorted, “Me? Traitor? That’s rich coming from you, collaborator. Abandoned by your own, yet you crawl back to them the moment you have something they want, is it? You’re not crazy, but you are stupid. If you don’t think they will bury you the moment they are satisfied with what you’ve given them, you have another thing coming.” “You have no proof of any wrongdoing. You have your paranoid thoughts that are fragmented from your new found magics. Do you even know the difference between reality and your own conjuring anymore? How sad. I wonder what Rae will say? Poor thing, her own consort consumed by her own suspicion.” A flash of light flared and crystal weapons began to spin around Marishi. She had enough. Hime was prepared and countered with magics of her own. A blast of wind threw Marishi off balance in the small room as she willed her armiger to pierce Hime. The weapons shattered inches away from her body as Hime summoned a barrier against the arms. Hime countered the attack by a flash of blinding white light and a blaze of fire to incinerate Marishi. Stunned by the light, Marishi was caught off guard. She could feel the heat and the air sizzle. Marishi instinctively put her hands in front of her creating a frosted crystalline shield to prevent her from burning alive. As the fire began to die down, another blast hit her. A flash of light and a boom of sound that concussed her. Hime had created a bolt of superheated lightning to strike down Marishi. Marishi winced in pain feeling the singed skin and smelling the burnt hair. Hunched down and staring defiantly at Hime, Marishi summoned dozens of weapons materialized in a flash of light spinning in groups of five, aimed at her target as the door splintered and hung wildly on one hinge. A group of Nyctalus stood in the doorway. “Why fight eachother?” Said one quietly. Hime dropped her stance and sunk to her knees weeping and sobbing incoherently. “She’s … trying to … kill me! Please help me! Where is Rae?!”
  9. An eerie quiet was all that could be heard as Marishi was shaken from her internal thoughts. She had found Rae on the well worn and boot trodden commons. The Sun was bright and the smell of the ocean was strong in the breeze. She stood next to her and stared past the death they had brought down to the settlement. Her boot heels ringing lightly on the stone as she strode up to her. They stood there, side by side not speaking, but on the same wavelength. Marishi was the first to speak. “This sortie was less fruitful than I would have liked. They have an idea of the powers of this land, most likely from Hime directly. They don’t understand it and thus they fear it. They knew the truth of the settlement before arriving anyway.” She said. There was a bitter taste in her mouth. The metal taste of iron. She grimaced before she spoke her next thoughts. “They’re not done. They’re going to leverage the settlement against us and push propaganda to mobilize their war machines. They want the land and it’s secrets. They will not stop. They will never stop. When they bring their citadels here, there will be nothing we can do. I can’t conjure an army. I can barely provide you with the fraction that you need to summon.” Marishi swallowed. She had always been pale, but she had taken on a shade lighter than normal. Her eyes dark and smudged. The more she drew upon the strength that she had been given the weaker she became. The rules applied to those who drew from her. The more that was drawn, the more that’s consumed. When the wick of her life ran out, her debt would be called in, services would be rendered in blood. The link the two shared allowed the other to feel what the other was feeling, not thinking. Marishi chose to keep the sapping of her strength from Rae. It wouldn’t do any good for her to hesitate to use it in fear of hurting Marishi. She grimaced again at the taste of blood in her mouth. Her hair had begun to darken to a deep red with strands of black. Beneath the clothing she had been given by the people she was charged to protect black tendrils like veins traced along her skin. She hid this by not being seen without covering herself. “It matters little. They will come and we will make our stand. The cogs have been put into motion and there is no stopping what’s coming now. We signed our death warrants long ago. Grab that traitor and bring her here. Unblindfold her, but keep her gagged and restrained. Make sure she sees what she has caused. They came because of her reports. Hime will decide her own fate. She can join us or she can join her countrymen that lay slaughtered and bloating in the Sun.” Marishi had stayed with Rae during her recovery. Hidden in the shadows of the room a ghost watching over her. She felt guilt for her selfishness and ignoring the plights of her wife. She was so wrapped up in her own struggles that she didn’t see Rae’s suffering. Days passed. Rae slept, her body working to repair the damage caused. Marishi spoke little to Hime opting to keep her thoughts to herself, despite Hime’s attempts to engage her often times providing short and terse responses, or none at all. Marishi was prone to walk alone with nothing but her thoughts as Rae recovered. She would tread the silent and abandoned halls left to crumble and weather. She would explore the expansive temple grounds passing the time. She watched the Nyctalus go about their tasks and their way of life. Nocturnal creatures that could not bear the glare of the Sun. Their leader would at times be present and speak with Marishi. About the Gods they worshipped, the magics they bestowed upon those that forged covenants with them. It instructed Marishi on how to harness the abilities and bend them to her will. It told her about the boons and limitations of summoning armaments. She could lend her strength to others if the bond between the two was intimate enough and the need was strong enough. During one of her excursions, she found herself in a silent and unkept chapel. Pews were splintered and tapestries mildewed and faded. Tomes adorned a decaying bookshelf. As she touched the brittle and disintegrating pages, the Nyctalus leader silently stood behind her. “Many years church stood. Hardships caused people to turn away. Salvation never came. Many years, people forget old ways. Forget more than old ways. Forget old gifts given.” It said. The voice had startled Marishi. She had prided herself on her senses. Knowing what and who was around her. She replied with a harsh voice, attempting to mask the trembling in her voice. “Such is the way of religion. Deities speak their will to mortals who cannot hope to understand it. Instead of accepting the limitation, they twist the message to suit their own desires. They use the power as a means of manipulation and control. People tend to reject the things that oppress them. Don’t put faith in religion. Put faith in yourself.” The Nyctalus considered her words a moment. “Wise words, if not flawed. Gods exist. This is truth you know. You house the power inside you. Do not deny and deceive self. Pain and suffering only follows.” Marishi replied “I decide my own fate. Not ancient mummies pining over halcyon days. We don’t need them. They need us.” The leader emitted a clicking noise that could be considered laughter. “Perhaps. Spirit you contain. Wait here. Have gift for you.” Marishi frowned. She didn’t want to take from these people that already had to very little, but no protestations would have any impact. People’s will be their own. Shortly after the Nyctalus left, it returned with a bundle in its arms. It set the bundle on one of the last standing tables nearby. “Come. Open. Take. Use.” It motioned to Marishi. She set the tome she had in her hands back on the shelf and walked quietly over to the table. She used her tanto to cut the twine that secured the bundle and opened the canvas wrap. Inside the wrapping she found her gift. Garments whose date couldn’t be determined. They were relics from the days of old. Who made them, why, and for who lost to the ebb and flow of time? They were finely made. Much more so than anything presently. The chainmail was lacqured black and gave off a soft sheen. The links made almost no sound when shifting. Over the chainmail was a pure black Osode with golden trim and designed in motifs of the Far East. The Osode was form fitting as if it were custom fitted just for her lithe figure. Inside the wrap were finely made Tekko. Dyed black, the leather was tooled expertly with the same motifs as the Osode. The fingers cut away to allow for movement and dexterity. The Hakama were also lined with fine chainmail, black in color. The Hakama were more akin to tights and fit as such, clinging to the thighs to allow for muffled movement and accent the curves of the body. The leggings tooled the same as the Osode and Tekko with soft silver threading. “It’s beautiful.” Marishi said almost speechless. She had never seen anything like it and it’s craftmanship unapparelled. “Try on. Protect from arrows, swords, magic. Silent as Nyctalus. Please, wear.” It said. Humbled by Marishi’s words. They walked back to her quarters where she changed into her gifted clothing. It snugly fit while allowing for full freedom of movement. She strode silently and only made noise when she wanted to and only then by the soft clicking of the heels of her boots. Marishi was there when Rae awoke. In the shadows she let out a sigh of relief knowing Rae would survive. Her recovery was swift and as her wife was on the mend, Marishi spent time with her. She spoke of what had happened during and after the altercation at Hime’s cabin. She spoke of the things the Nyctalus did for them. They healed them, cared for them, fed them, bathed them, clothed them, taught them. Marishi spoke of the tomes she had read and what the Nyctalus had instructed her. She spoke about harnessing the magics she had been bestowed and how to lend that strength to Rae. The days bled into weeks, the weeks bled into months. Seasons turned into years. The time that passed seemed to speed by in the blink of an eye. Hime was full of questions about Marishi’s gift. How she used it and how one might harness it. Her normal irrational state was replaced with a cold and intense logic. Recording every word said and even attempts with experimentation of channeling through Marishi. “It doesn’t work that way, Hime.” Marishi said. “There needs to be something special between the two. It can’t just be taken as a loan. The link needs to be strong and unbending.” Hime scoffed. “What stupidity. Why would there be such asinine limitations on something so handy? There has to be a way to harness it.” She was insistent to the point of obsession. “Maybe, but drawing upon the well leaves less water for the drought. It taxes and pains me. I’ve allowed these poke and prod exams because you saved our lives and we owe a debt. But I can’t continue while maintaining a semblance of health. You have enough research to fill a bookshelf.” Marishi said. Hime frowned and her eyes narrowed. She muttered beneath her breath and walked away. Clearly unhappy that Marishi was unwilling to continue being her experiment. As the Nyctalus brought Rae to the fire, Marishi and Hime stood apart from one another and not looking at each other. As Rae bowed, Marishi spoke. “The Eastern settlers are committing genocide. They want land. They want resources. They want knowledge. They want power. They won’t just let you live in peace. Your last stand is upon you. Willing or not. The Mamool Ja may be reasoned with, but not the colonists. They will continue to kill and pillage everything.” The Nyctalus spoke sadly. “Yes. Each day, smooth skins drive further and further into forests, into jungles, onto plains. Killing, burning, harvesting, cutting, hunting.” Hime scoffed. “Oh, please. It’s not like there isn’t enough to go around. Just because you’re used to all this wealth doesn’t mean you’re entitled to it. We just want to live, learn, and survive.” Marishi glared at Hime and retorted, “And we’re entitled to it? We’re invaders that spread hate, war, pestilence, and greed. Have you been isolated so long that you’ve forgotten how our people treat anyone and anything different? Have you forgotten what we did to the Garleans? We created their empire for them and when they pushed back, we cried imperialism. You don’t get it both ways. You know what – “Marishi was cut off by the Nyctalus. “Many envoys sent to discuss coexisting. None return. Nyctalus can no longer survive.” Hime muttered into her scarf “I highly doubt that.” “I’m not a savior and I’m not a voice for a people. I don’t know how to change the hearts and minds of men. I don’t think there is a way. I know how to take life, not protect it. Talking and coexisting rarely is successful. Freedom is fought for and paid for in blood and bodies. You have taken us in. Without your aid, we would have frozen and died in the plains. My wife would be dead. You saved her without knowing if we were friend or foe. You may still have your doubts.” Marishi glanced at Hime who stared at her with a blank expression. “You respect life and only want the same returned to you. I don’t know what power I have, if any, but I can’t stand by and let an entire species be struck down because of the greed of others. I’ve done horrible things in the service of those that work against you. Things that there is no redemption for. But I will do anything and everything I can to protect your people from becoming extinct.” Marishi said.
  10. A loud sigh echoed across the room. “Are you afflicted? Do you actually think that I’m going to believe in some mystical power from Gods never uttered and a people never recorded? Please, don’t insult my intelligence. I’m not going to let you waste my time.” There was very clear irritation in the man’s voice. His patience had worn thin listening to this clearly deranged female yammer on about things that aren’t possible and have nothing to do with his inquisition. “Let alone the fact that I’m not here to listen to your life story. I don’t care. I don’t care about you. I don’t care about your consort. I’m here to find out about the settlement that vanished in the span of a night. If you can’t tell me what happened, then you’re of no use to me and the hangman is only a shout away. Let’s see if your ‘magical powers no one has ever heard of’ can help you.” He said shortly. There was quiet in the room as he stared coldly at Marishi. She sat there, staring at the floor, but focused on nothing. The Scholar clicked his tongue to the roof of his mouth and rose to his feet. “What a waste you are. I’ll not sit here while you weave a story. Guards!” He shouted as he moved towards the door. Marishi muttered a small sigh as she looked up at him. “You don’t seem to understand what’s happening. I’m not locked in here with you. You’re locked in here with me.” Two guards entered the room armed with short swords and armored. A bright light flashed that seemed to originate from nowhere as fragments of clear crystal blinked into existence and fell to the floor. From the air, weapons of all types, swords, rapiers, scimitars, daggers, wakizashi’s, katanas, glaives, great swords, and shuriken’s formed consisting of clear refractive glass. As they formed, they took aim at the small group of men and sailed through the air, hammering into the two guards with enough force to impale them through banded mail, leather, cloth, flesh, and bone. The weapons hit them with such force that upon impact, small clouds of red like crimson mist came from the wounds as they were shoved back and pinned to the wall, lifted from their feet and hung like morbid tapestries. Blood spattered and mouth agape, the man turned his head to stare at Marishi who never took her eyes from him. She stared at him calmly with an expression of slight sadness. Not for herself, but for the man that forced her hand. “If I remember correctly, inquisitor, our arrangement was clear in the fact that you were to bring what I asked for. No matter. She will be here shortly. Once she’s done with your companion who was also sent here to interrogate her. Oh, yes. I know all about your mission. You were never going to free us. You were going to pry what secrets we have and then you were going to have us knifed or poisoned on the way back.” Marishi said coldly, her voice beginning to rise in anger. Crystal wakizashi’s formed from the aether and slammed into the investigator shoulders. One on each side, lifting him into the air and slamming him into the wooden table, securing him in place with a scream of pain and anger as Marishi moved towards the slightly ajar door. Outside she could hear faint shouts and screams from the outside. Rae was cleaning up. “This was … your plan … all along?! To be … caught?!” the man said through clenched teeth. Marishi chuckled sarcastically. “Something like that. Come, even you can see the irony in all of this. A contingent of men sent to conquer and subdue by any means. Land, beast, man. Your craving for knowledge is your own undoing. You would wipe from the land anything that you deem not fit. You would eradicate anything that opposes your revision of what the truth is. There is no truth. You have encroached, subjugated, maimed, and killed those native to these lands. And for what? For you and your ilk to hoard that knowledge and snuff out the voices of an entire continent. You all tout yourselves as neutral while burying the knife in the backs that confuse your malice for generosity.” The man’s pale green eyes flared in anger as he struggled a retort. “You know nothing of me. You know nothing of Sharlayn. If you did, you would know that a dozen men mean nothing when so much is at stake. Do you actually think we’d just trust information to a clearly afflicted researcher? You’ll kill me, but I go to my end satisfied knowing that you won’t be far behind me.” She was on her feet staring down at the table clearly unhappy. A scowl marring her forehead as thirteen crystal weapons materialized from the ceiling, poised to mutilate the Scholar. “All who step on these shores are dead. The land will not suffer insolence and insult from trespassers.” Marishi said. “Including you and your heathen Gods. All burns to ashes.” The man sputtered as the weapons slammed into his body, bludgeoning bone, cleaving flesh, battering body, severing limbs. Blood pumping bright red from the lacerations and splashing to the floor. The Scholar choking on the blood flowing from his mouth. “Only dust shall remain.” Marishi finished quietly as the crystal weapons dematerialized dropping the room into shadow as their light faded. She lingered in the room frowning at the words that were spoken. She couldn’t be sure, but she knew that his threats were more than words. Sharlaya could mobilize against the perceived aggression and take it as an act of war. The perfect excuse needed for them to bring armies to these shores. She thought back to the mobile citadel of Alexander. The impervious home that could bring searing judgement against all who would stand against their idea’s and vision. Marishi, Rae, and Hime would be powerless to stop them. Even with the gifts that Marishi and Rae had been given. Unhappy, she spun on the heel of her boot and left the small room, walking up the stairs into the afternoon light. Striding through the small hamlet that was now deathly quiet. Bodies showing wounds that had been made from swords, bows, knives, and clubs. Weapons that were no longer willed into existence by the one that had called them from beyond. Marishi went out in search of Rae listening for any screams of pain as her wife silenced the last of this jailers and executors. Marishi’s mind wandered back to the small chambers she found Rae in, recovering from her illness…
  11. Marishi could see Rae in visible shock and pain, but she kept silent. She walked along the crumbling and disintegrating walkway leading into the forgotten temple able to see the jerking and twisting prisoners of the building. Her mind convulsed as she could recognize them from the world she could blink into at will. Her thoughts turned inwards as she thought of that plane of shadow. The Revelations she was provided. The Covenant she forged. Every time she called upon the ancient Gods of an ancient and forgotten religion, she came closer to them. Their coos and calls promising to keep her. Marishi could hear them whispering in unison. Chanting and praying. She didn’t recognize any of the prayers. A long dead incantation repeating to long forgotten gods waning as man poured their faith into twelve men and women who had replaced them after the great fall of the Allagan Empire. The New World had long forgotten deities holding the last of their faithful in thrall to sustain their own existence. This is where her abilities had originated and where she was now bound. Every time she blinked out of the mortal plane, she would arrive in the world between realities. Time and physics bent, their laws twisted. She would phase in and out in a fraction of second, but in the shadow plane, time would dilate. Without her ability, Rae would be dead. Marishi would be dead. Even the chipped and faded urn would be broken. As she thought about this and as they ventured further into the temple, she could feel the strength of the forgotten flow. The knowledge of what she could muster and conjure fill her mind. She could conjure spectral armaments of any weapon of her choice. She could cover huge stretches of land in the fraction of a second. She could create barriers and shields. She could enhance her allies’ own weapons and augment them with this magic. All at a cost. Her life, her soul, her being. Blood for blood. This was the trade she accepted from the desperate entities who loaned their weakened powers. Marishi felt the links of the chain fall and bind her. This was not the power of the Twelve. This was something as old as the land itself. Older than Garuda, Titan, Ravana, Bismark, Famfrit. Older than Oschon, Nymeia. Her mind snapped back to where she was and was being led as she began her slide down the slick stairs after Rae. As Rae called out asking the intention of their hosts the guardians called out, their disembodied voices lamenting that Rae was sick and feverish. The poison of the pollen working through her blood infecting her mind. As they turned to Marishi, she could feel the threat they posed. She could feel them probing and prodding her soul, feeling the experiences they had faced and the thoughts of her mind. As they demanded answers, Marishi’s instinct was to summon her crystal armiger. Thirteen weapons dancing around her flaring into a crystalline glow throwing prismatic rainbows from a light that originated from Marishi herself. The weapons encircled her spinning around her own orbit on their own intertia. The horrors took a step back from the light and the party, intimidated by the show. “I am the embodiment of those you have forgotten to serve. Those whom which you toil, but cannot remember. You will not harm us. The oath you have sworn that you cannot recall is to be fulfilled. Only then can you know freedom.” Marishi called out slowly. She was pale but her gaze was unflinching, even at these grotesque things. They made no move to move or respond. Waiting for Marishi to expand. Her weapons stopped spinning and held a moment in place before firing up into the black air towards a ceiling they couldn’t see. They multiplied and landed, impaling themselves to form rings around Rae, Hime, and Marishi. A barrier that protected them from the malevolence and ill. “You are being called upon by those you have devoted eternity to. I am their messenger.” The weapons flared in bright light creating pillars illuminating the three in a holy glow. “The return. The return.” The figures said in unison. Reverent and bowing, their deformed bodies hailing Marishi. Their dilated and black eyes upon the ground in pittance and praise. “Powers of Old Gods. New God of Old. Command us, oh Lord.” The thing that spoke to Rae said to Marishi. “No, no. You don’t understand.” Marishi stammered, but it was too late. “We are in need of aid. She’s sick.” Marishi tried not to choke on tears as the reality of the situation set in. It had all been so fast that she didn’t have time to think about how serious the situation was. Her wife was sick and not getting better. She could even be dying in a strange and unforgiving land. Underground in a temple forgotten by even time. Marishi was helpless. Even if she could remember the incantations of White Magic, she knew it would not come to her. “Aid. Yes. Venom is strong. Bring her for purging.” Their leader said. Hime stood to her feet and held an uneasy look. It was clear she didn’t trust anything that was happening. Not with a species she had never encountered and especially with the Miquot’e with the disfigured eye. “It seems there is no choice.” Hime said shortly. “I’ll stay with her. You, savior. Go do messiah things. I like her more than you anyway.” Marishi frowned. Hime was right. Marishi had been distant and aloof with Rae for months. It was easy to see the rift forming between them. Their exchanges had been transactional and brief since the moment they had left the Mamool Ja village. She felt a pang of guilt as she was to blame. Rae would try to tear the wall down and Marishi would raise it higher and higher. She couldn’t see past her own personal tribulations and had been selfish. Circumstance causing her to withdraw. She found it ironic that she would only see how selfish she had been only when Rae began to knock on Death’s Door. Even with her newfound abilities she was powerless to help the only person that tied her to the world. Marishi nodded to Hime and spun on her heel to face the leader of cultists. “She will want for nothing. Neither of them. If she fades, so do, your hopes of reprieve.” The leader shuffled. “Of course. Temple is large. Quarters shown.” It waved it’s hand to summon two others to assist Hime in moving Rae to the infirmary. The leader and Marishi walked slowly as it showed her the grounds. The temple was old. Far older than any other structure on Eorzea or the Far East. The inscriptions faded and unreadable. It spoke as they walked into the twilight hours. The founder kings which Marishi’s power originated, the forming of the church, the oaths they swore. The thousands of years they endured. Marishi couldn’t help but be wondered and moved by the stories. They stood on a small patio as the Sun began to break over snow covered mountains. “Savior will deliver? Release oath?” It spoke suddenly. Marishi, startled at the questions spoke slowly. “I will do everything in my power to release you, yes. That was the bargain.” The being spoke again with intelligence of eons. “Not real God. Chained. Like us. Mortal. Like us. People needed hope. Needed deliverance. Played part.” Marishi sighed. “I am no savior. What I do, I do for my own gain. I don’t know what I can do. But if I can, I will help you. I honestly don’t know what I’m doing or where I’m going anymore.” The leader seemed to regard her with sadness, but said nothing. As the Sun rose, one of their number arrived and whispered to it’s leader. It turned to Marishi and said, “Friend will live. Poison passed. Sleeping. Come.” It’s gangly hands tugged on her own pulling her away.
  12. A change had begun in Marishi. Like and unlike the animalistic transformation she had experienced. Her fingers were always cold with a tinge of blue to them. No matter how much she warmed them or what she did, they never warmed. She felt different inside. Like and unlike herself. Like a part of her instinct had activated and was on alert. She felt more aware of her spatial surroundings like she was keenly aware of all obstructions around her. She was quiet for nearly the entire time as Rae dressed and ate. Staring into the fire with a frown on her face. Lost to her own instinct of feeling the world around her instead of viewing it. “Wilson wants to know about you. He had an eyeful, but he wants to know where your clearly addled and simple mind goes staring into the fire.” Hime said. They had calmed Rae down where Marishi sat next to her and Hime by the door. Her wide and deranged eyes narrowing with razor focus and clarity of someone who was very, very sane. “Who I am is of no consequence. That tale is long and boring. We arrived on the New World some months ago upon orders as cartographers. We were intercepted by the local Mamool Ja which they taught us of the land and sheltered us. They even provided a guide until he departed.” Marishi said not looking away from the fire. “Superstitious people, the Mamool Ja. You were nearly gone when I found you. Wendigo. We’ve never seen anyone fight the sickness off. Not until you. Not cured though.” Hime said thoughtfully. As quickly as her clarity had taken, as quickly as it left and the addled look returned. “I don’t like you. Wilson says you’re important. How lucky you are. I’m not allowed to kill you.” The disturbed sound returned to her voice. Marishi returned the threat, “You’d find that the arms I wear I know how to wield. Astrologians may hold the knowledge of the heavens, but I hold skill with the blade. Besides, your magics are nominally honed. At best.” Marishi could see her aura and the aether swirl in a controlled fashion around her. She could feel an probe the magical shields she wove around herself. It was well built, but easily overpowered. “Strange a Samurai able to manipulate aether.” Hime’s violet eyes narrowed alarmingly again. “There is something you’re not admitting. What happened to you while you slept?” She asked. Marishi began, “That doesn’t concern you. I don’t – “her rebuttal was cut short by the sound of shuffling and knocking. The same sounds Rae had heard. Not hours before. The sound shook her from slumber and gripped Marishi’s icy hand. The knock came again, but this time harder. There was something there. All three had heard it. Marishi backed up a step. “I didn’t hear the first one, but I definitely heard that.” Marishi said slowly. Hime didn’t take her eyes from the door. “Agents of the darkness. They shouldn’t be able to step foot past the sigils, let alone find the cabin. Something drew them here.” She shifted her gaze, frowning, at Marishi. “Looks like the arms you wield will be put to the test. The other one cannot fight. She is too sick. They would overwhelm her.” Hime finished. Marishi knew Rae was in no shape to fight. Let alone to defend herself. She walked over to Rae and helped her stand to her feet while guiding her to the back of the room. Another pounding on the door. The wood could be head splitting under the hammering. Their guest’s patience began to run thin. “Stay here. It’s okay. We’ve faced far worse and made it out far better.” Marishi said to Rae, flashing a rare genuine smile, her eyes softening, her hands ice cold that bit through any outerwear. Marishi sat her down on a small mat on the floor. Hime took her place in front of her. Marishi armed herself and joined Hime next to her. “Open the door.” Marishi said in a low voice. At that moment the door gave way and in moved three large arachnids. Their legs moving unnaturally mechanical, clicking sounding from their bodies and their heads twitching side to side eyes never leaving their meals. The larger of the three hissed “Look what we have here sisters. A full course meal for each of us!” Hime spoke happily. “Wilson can make you more soup! Though beware, he ogles maidens in compromising situations. I’m half tempted to have him arrested.” The large arachnid tried to swipe at Hime to silence her. Its leg slammed into Hime’s barrier recoiling in pain its leg rendered immobile though the barrier had cracked and failed. “Kill them!” the leader screeched in pain. Marishi didn’t draw her weapon though her instinct screamed of the danger. The room was large enough to wield her sword with ease, but something held her back, advising her to wait, to not her weapon. She didn’t need to. One of the three charged Hime as she created a small singularity with a powerful gravity well. Their opponents were prepared for a weak spell from the East and moved away to avoid the spell completely Once the spell weakened, one of the spiders moved at incredible speed to slap Hime’s Astrometer away and knock her back to the back of the room next to Rae. Rae was attempting to rise to her feet to prepare her last stand. The other spiders began to close on Marishi. She could hear her heart pound in her ears, her adrenaline coursing through her body heightening her senses, but still she would not draw her weapons. As one leg came down upon her, Marishi stood there, her eyes wide. As the leg came down, time seemed to slow. Without thinking or forming a defense. Marishi stepped to the side, but something was very different. She felt foreign magic flare within her and bubble over. She surrendered herself to the instinct and without thought moved with the flow of the magic. A blue light flared as the leg came down over her head. She darted to the side with such speed that it couldn’t be tracked with the eye and left a ghost image of her outline that the leg slammed into as the copy tore into shreds and dissipated into smoky tendrils of blue. The spider wasn’t prepared of passing through nothing and her weight shifted causing her to stagger off balance. The arachnid that was near Hime and Rae closed in ignoring Marishi and her sisters. Marishi began to panic. Hime was stunned by the blow and Rae was no match in her weakened state. The spiders arm raised above her head as the stinger and sharp point poised to pierce Rae. Marishi was too far away. She couldn’t make it to stop the attack. Time slowed as the urge to protect her wife became the only thing that mattered. She raised her hand at Rae as the arm came down. As it came down, there was a loud cracking noise as the arm slammed into a frosted pane of glass, causing the glass to crack, but not shatter. The spider recoiled in pain as the glass reformed to near invisible, shimmering slightly in front of Rae acting as her guard. Marishi pulled her wakizashi from its sheathe. Instead of rushing the spider she arced her arm over her head and threw her short sword towards the assailant. The weapon flew through the air in a high-pitched whine until blinking out of existence in a flash of bright blue light and sparks. With the short sword vaporizing, Marishi too also flashed with the same bright blue flash and shower of sparks. Before the eyes could transfer the impossible any of them just saw the flare of blue and sparks flew above the spider’s head warping Marishi back into existence with her sword in hand slamming into the head of the leader. The spider reared back in pain as her sisters stared on, terrified, trying to make sense of what had just happened and the fell magic that had allowed the impossible to become possible. In it’s death throes, the spider staggered back with Marishi yanking her weapon free and flaring brilliant blue and tossing a shower of sparks. The same light and effects blinked into existence next to Rae as Marishi appeared falling to her knees, black smoke tendrils rising from her shoulders and a dozen weapons made of transparent crystal encircling her and protecting her from harm. The leader fell to the floor dead, the other two, scrambling out the door to avoid the same fate, unable to compete with a witch that can teleport instantly around raining death. Marishi fell to her knees and began coughing uncontrollably hacking up black smoke so dense it fell to the floor as the tendrils snaked out of her mouth and nose. The weapons encircling her imploded and disappeared as Marishi on her hands and knees tried to catch her breath. She felt the looks of shock, amazement, and horror on both Rae and Hime’s face. Marishi didn’t look up to face them. A fully sane and articulate voice cut into the air demanding answers. “Who gave that magic to you heathen? Do you have any idea what you’ve done? We’re all dead. You opened the door for them. I must detain you Do not fight.” Hime said with her Astrometer at her side, taking small, careful steps towards Marishi.
  13. There was no light. No feeling, but the ripping of a wind that didn’t blow. The roaring or a tornado that didn’t twist. Disintegrating skin like an invisible sandblaster. The abyss at the event horizon using all forces available to suck the soul forever to hold. This place wasn’t the realm of the living nor the dead. It was the space between in the endless expanse of nothing. Marishi wasn’t dead. Not yet. But weeks of no sleep, little food, despair, constant questioning herself as to why she was even in this alien land that made her paranoid left her severely diminished and on the brink. The visions of real and imaginary blending. The whispers of vengeance and promise of purpose. The instructions to become something greater than oneself at the sacrifice of oneself. Here, in this eternal limbo with nothing but the invisible wind that strips the soul bit by bit she found herself. She had no sense of direction if it even exists. She had no feeling but the pulling and the wind disintegrating her fortitude. A small speck of light in the infinite darkness. “You who have found yourself here. You are not living. Nor are you dead. You journey far from home but know not why you’ve traveled. What do you seek?” A disembodied voice asked. Male or female, it wasn’t discernable. The voice didn’t seem to call from without but resonate within. The voice gravely with bass that vibrated everything around it. “You have no answer. You do not know. If you do not know why you’ve come, do you even know who you are?” Marishi Ten. “That is a name. A label. Not who you are.” I am me. “Yet you have no purpose. Simply following direction without question or motive. You know not who you are. Your soul sick and malnourished.” I don’t know. I don’t remember who I am. I know not why I’ve come. “You obey without question. Accept without retort. Fight without conviction. You have come to find yourself. Your purpose. A cause.” Marishi knew it was true. She thought back on her life and could easily follow the line of it. Taking instructions. Even when she thought they were her own. Blindly following orders by father, teacher, instructor, commander, deity, even god. She was ashamed. For so long she thought of herself as independent and in control. She never was. She was powerless. Just a vessel or instrument of their will. Her own beaten down and suppressed. Never asked or consulted. “What is it you search for?” The voice boomed. Power. “Why?” To become who I am. To be allowed my own will. “Why have you come?” In search of that power. To be allowed to be. “Who are you?” Vengeance. To become more to defend that would be abused and manipulated the same way. “A guardian, then.” The disembodied voice remained silent several moments. “We can offer the power which you seek.” For a price. “There is always a price. Blood for blood. Forever will you be a servant to free others to be the masters at the cost of your own? Be it your life, or death. Not all sacrifices are mortal.” Marishi hesitated. Thinking of the stories the Mamool Ja had of the twisted corpses that had the power to wrap themselves in shadow. At the cost of their humanity, deforming their bodies into grotesque things. Haphazardly sewn together using body parts from animal and man. Marishi had seen them in the corners of her eye. In the long blackness of sleepless nights. She could hear their howls and labored breathing not whispering to her about promises of her death, but an offer. She could see them now in the plane of life and death. White wisps with silhouettes as their form. They surrounded her but not in malice, but in acceptance. Marishi was horrified by their twisted appearance and overwhelming smell, panic eroding what resolve she had. The Wendigo stopped shuffling toward her like a lover to embrace her. They stepped back and forms bent and began melding with each other. Creating larger forms. Countless tortured and angry souls. Vengeance and hate mirroring her own. Her thoughts fell on Rae. Like light piercing clouds to a land that had not known the feeling of warmth. The shades recoiled but still merged. Forming a circle around her. They were no longer phantasms of tortured men, mindlessly seeking the flesh of the living, but of images of fealty of antiquity. Great kings and queens of antiquity. Ages past, these great rulers withstood calamity after calamity to protect their lands and people from invasion, disease, abuse, slavery. They stood against man and nature. They still stood defending their ancient kingdom whose name lost, no longer important. “You begin to understand. Our line has long been broken and dead. Our blood is given to the land in exchange for the power to protect the land. To protect our brothers. The power is given by neither pure or evil. The power to claim oneself and decide their fate and future. For themselves and each other.” Are you offering me a deal? “We are not.” The sound of the voice being housed in the circle of towering souls around her. Like a great wall of blue and white smudging into the infinite black of the abyss. They themselves fighting against the pull. None were exempt. “You are not of the land nor of our blood.” Then why speak to me at all? You hypocrites. Flaunt your strength to the weak and yet deny them the ability to wield it. “What would a foreigner know?” The voice that was flat and hollow with a metallic ring now had an inflection of a female coming from one of the shades Marishi’s back was faced. I know that ‘foreigners’ are invading your lands day by day. You cannot stop them. Not as you are. They wield a power too. Not unlike your own. So be about it, then. Take me and turn me into your twisted guardians. Your power has waned and you will fall. All was quiet. There was no sound. Not even the sound of wind filling her ears. Marishi had a feeling that she was deaf. She had been punished. “The price is high for what your heart desires.” The hollow and metallic voice said as one of the giants in armor to her right began to advance upon her. It was larger than the rest and armor more intricate. “You ask for the power of kings long since passed from the mortal world, to break free of your own chains that others hold you bound to. But know this mortal, the power to break those chains will also bind you to another. The chains of this land. You will never be allowed to leave these shores. Your charge to defend the land and its people until your death. You will not rest after. You will continue to watch over the land and guard it. As we do now.” So you offer me a will that is not my own only to enslave me to another not only in life but in death? “We offer you choice. We offer you direction without deceit. We offer you more than what you are.” Only at the cost of everything I am. “Nothing is free. Not in the mortal world or the next.” The female ringing voice countered. “To become someone. To no longer feel alone. To have a purpose. Free will has always been our greatest weakness and greatest strength.” Marishi stayed quiet. There was a flaw in this logic, but couldn’t think clearly and it was clear she was expected to agree or disagree. She thought of Rae again. Was she not a purpose? A reason? Something to aspire to? Something to protect? Free will. The ability to choose. Even these guardians couldn’t take that away. They came to her because they needed her. They offered her freedom to become again a slave while trying to take away any hope of breaking the ties that bind. That was the flaw. Offering free will while saying free will is unobtainable. Freedom of oppression to join the opposing force to be oppressed. Marishi sarcastically smiled and faced the largest one. I trade being a pawn to being a rook. “Fate will not be denied. To be the arbiter of fate is the noblest of aspirations.” The land will fall and the natives murdered even with me at your call. You know it to be true. You ask me to join the collective to be something greater. I ask that you do the same. “The mortal body could not withstand the consolidation. The mind would surely break.” Not mine. I’ve lived in hells far worse than this for most of my life. It was quiet another moment and with some hesitation, came “Very well. We shall see if you can stand while all else who has tried has failed. The power of kings shall be bestowed to protect this land and its people from the outsiders and invaders. Fitting an outsider would be the ultimate weapon against the outsiders. You, however, won’t survive.” The figures surrounding her began to float and lazily drift back allowing the circle to grow wider. One by one, the towering specters stopped floating back and formed into the shape of weapons pure white in color dispelling the darkness around them. One by one, they formed into single-edged swords, double-edged bastard swords, lances, spears, tridents, bows, crossbows, shuriken, great two-handed claymores, shields, katanas, nagi, glaives, daggers, and dirks. Formed as weapons of pure light, one by one they pointed and leveled directly at her and pierced her form, burying into her flesh, but never exiting. Fusing the power within her. 13 in total. Each searing into her spirit threatening to lose the loose hold she had already on sanity and her soul. The final weapon pointed directly at her and Marishi began to panic as the searing pain of the light ripping through her chest in agony. Marishi drew a deep ragged breath, hyperventilating and staring up. She was no longer in the infinite blackness of the living and the dead, but a stone cavern shadowed overhead. The walls were smooth and cut by artisans in a style familiar to her. On the walls were scones with dimly lit torches flickering and quietly popping. She turned her head left to right. She was in a stiff with sheets decontaminated and hard as wood. She tried to piece her memories together. She could remember snapshots of walking through the frozen forests and plains. The descent into madness from no sleep and whispers from shadows. Marishi had slept. She couldn’t tell how long it had been. She knew she dreamt something important, but the more she tried to remember, the less and less she could actually recall. The feeling remained. Dread and determination. She reached up her hand and lightly touched her face expecting to feel a snout or a long row of sharp teeth. As she ran her hand over her face, it felt normal. Marishi breathed a sigh of relief. Her face was normal. Her body was normal. At least, on the outside. She felt different on the inside. She checked where she was. A small room with a bed, a nightstand, a chair was all in the way of furniture. A wooden door on the other end of the room the only way out. No one but her appeared to be in the room and it was quiet save for the popping of the wood as it expanded in the scones. As she sat herself up, she realized she was wearing no clothes. None at all. Just the sheet stiff with too much starch. She wrapped the sheet around herself expecting to hear it crack, but it did wrap. Her bare feet touched the tiled stone floor. It was cold as she made her way lightly to the door. As she cast a glance to the chair in the room she stopped short. In the chair sat some kind of large urn. Chipped and cracked, glued together or missing pieces altogether it looked like it had seen far better days. Marishi felt uncomfortable like she was being watched or monitored. Her face wore a disgusted look as the feeling or just getting away suddenly began to overpower her. She couldn’t find her clothing in the room and there was still Rae to find and get away. Fragments of another person, someone with sandy blonde hair skipped across her memories. She couldn’t remember who she was, but only that they had met before and something was odd about her. All of this she thought as she stared disgustingly at the pot. Forcibly shaking her head to focus on the task at hand, she silently made her way to the door. Before she was able to place her hand on the knob to unlatch the lock, the door opened, slamming against the wall on silent hinges making a huge boom that echoed through the stone halls and corridors. Face to face with a blonde Miquot’e with hair wild and purple eyes wide in terror. She dropped the clothing she had in her hands as she began shrieking hysterically as Marishi overcome with the startle of the situation, frayed nerves, and weakened state flung her arms up and began shrieking in fright, letting loose the sheet she tucked around her, falling to the floor. Both Miquot’e face to face. Both hands over their heads. One dressed in frayed garments, the other in nothing, screaming in hysteria and fright at each other.
  14. The plains gave way to foothills of massive proportions. Huge mountain peaks towered over the sky and were lost in the clouds. Heavy snow with the occasional patch of green could be seen. The serenity of the area was breathtaking. Koheel having departed their company some days prior. Either though meeting his contractual obligation or becoming frightened of Marishi’s demeanor and grotesque physical changes. Her face began to elongate to that of a wolf or deer. He teeth razor sharp. Soft hair began to manifest itself on her face and chest. She had grown taller, but no less heavy. He legs became elongated and more hoof like. She spoke less and less the human dialect. She would shimmer in and out of this terrible visage. One moment, she would be the Marishi that had boarded the ship to the new world. Others this abomination. An inner struggle for control. One she was losing. She seemed most weak and prone to shifting in the darkness of night. Fever wracked she couldn’t eat the foliage that would sustain her body but could only focus on the flesh of animals and man as a means to qualm the hunger in her stomach. If Rae had noticed, she hadn’t said anything about it. They marched in silence to the base of the mountains. “BitterRoot” is what the Mamool Ja called it. None have returned from attempting to scale it’s ranges to tell what they have seen. The snow was heavy on the ground and the snow kept falling in large crystalline flakes. The sky dark with oppressive clouds threatening to engulf the entire area. Marishi was the first to spot the sigils carved into the snow. Fractal in design with clean lines at the 90-degree angle. The sigils were large. Spanning several feet. She couldn’t help but be reminded of the same tracings she bore witness in Azys Lla. The Allagan Military Research base above the clouds. Torn from the twisted land now known as “The Burn”. Marishi gently grasped Rae’s arm. She jumped at her cold touch and spun in fear. “It’s okay.” Marishi cackled out. She hadn’t used her voice in days. She was raspy. “Look. There are sigils traced everywhere in the snow. The tracing is fresh. Look at how exact they are. I have seen something like these. Long ago on the floating isles. They are wards to prevent evil from entering. Or alarms to tell someone that others are approaching. Be careful. We walk into a trap.” Marishi loosened her blade in her sheathe with hands that felt too large for her body. Her manicured nails had lengthened into long points capable of rending flesh and bone. Their points razor sharp. The further they traveled to the base of the mountains, the heavier the snow fell and the more sigils appeared. Never repeating the same pattern. Reaching the rock face, the sigils were cut deep into the granite. Perfectly spaced apart, neat and orderly. Nature didn’t cut these designs. Hands did. Marishi gently reached out and touched one of the angles that made up a larger sigil. She snapped her hand back as if it pained her. The sigil stood dark a moment, then lit to a crimson red. One by one, the sigils lit in the same menacing color. Marishi fell to her knees. Like a knife was being driven through her skull. She couldn’t think, couldn’t move, couldn’t act. All she could do is lay on her side and writhe in pain screaming with her hands over her ears. Rae was at her side, a pale complexion on her face afraid to touch her. She didn’t want to make matters worse. “HA! I knew I’d catch one of you doppelgängers eventually!” A female voice cackled her joy and triumph. Isn’t that right, Wilson? We caught them red handed. RED! HA” The voice echoed off the rock sheets and came from everywhere. “Silly demon, tricks are for kids. The land will not tolerate you feeding off your kin to sustain your own selfish and evil life. Wilson! Exterminate the demon!” There was a clang and clatter. A fortified ewer fell from the rock face and rolled to where Marishi was laying and stopped. A normal, if not overused and oddly decorated pot. “Wilson! You turncoat! You’ve always had a soft spot for the shapeshifters. You hold the power of Gods. GODS. Yet you do not destroy the Wendigo and its concubine. Fine. I’ll do it myself.” There was movement in between the rocks and the sound of scuffling and swearing as something heavier than a ewer descended. Marishi looked up at the perpetrator with bloodshot eyes. If she hadn’t seen it, she would never have believed it. A Miquo’te. Female. Quite young. Bright blonde hair, lithe body with clothing that were once rich and finely tailored now tattered at the hems and seams. He bright purple eyes staring at Marishi and Rae with distrust and her Ewer with rage. “You know, if you would just listen to me, we wouldn’t find ourselves on top of mountains stalking shades Wilson. Why can’t you just listen to me?” She was yelling at the pot near Marishi. Marishi, feeling like her head was being split into two from the sigils was able to speak with gasps between words. “Are … You … Talking to … That pot?” The blonde shifted her ire to Marishi. “A POT?! That’s Wilson! The greatest sage to ever walk the new world. He shaped this land and you call him a POT?! Where is my spellbook? I’m sure you’ll be croaking a different tune when I transform you to a frog. Get it?!” She patted her shirt and thighs rigorously looking for something. “I must have left my divinity deck at the cave. WILSON! Fetch me my cards! I shall show these interlopers and skinwalkers a TRUE RECKONING!” “An … Astrologian. From Sharlaya. I am … Eorzean. She next … To me … Also, Sharlayn. Please … Help” Marishi had no more strength to speak and her head fell weakly to the ground next to the unmoving ewer. Before Marishi fell into the darkness, she heard the woman say “Eorzea … That’s a name I haven’t heard in a very long time. Perhaps Hime can help you. Perhaps not. What do you say Wilson?” Marishi fell to unconsciousness. Either from the pain, or the absurdity of the conversation, she could never tell which. Her mind faded in and out of existence. One moment she was in a verdant meadow unburdened by the horrors of the world. The next, being pawed at by a clearly disturbed Miquo’te who had been alone for far too long. “Sick, sick, sick. Sick in body, mind, spirit. Very far gone.” She let a worried expression ripple over her face. “You. Red Mage. Yes, I know you. I remember you. You are her lover? Gross. Be with her. It’ll slow the transformation. Wilson and I will try to sooth the spirit with the stars.” Hime then said abruptly. “I Don’t like you. You seek to ruin my peace. But Wilson says you are here to liberate me. He says this place is my prison. I do miss people …” She trailed off. “Food and fire is inside. Make no mistake. One false move from an excommunicated like you and I’ll kill you. I could too.” She said with a smile on her lips as she focused her attention on the writing Marishi.
  15. “All is as it should be. All is as it should be.” Marishi chanted under her breath over and over and over. A mantra. She couldn’t remember the last time she slept. She couldn’t remember the healing effects it had. He eyes were sunken and black smudges on her cheeks showed her condition. She was murmuring to herself. The same thing over and over again. All the while the smell of death and decay intensified every moment. The shadows from the corner of her eye became more brazen. The shrubs swayed when there was no wind. The sound of hooves in the distance. Even the gurgling scream of something that was not of the living nor the dead. It was as if Marishi didn’t hear Rae at all. She rose slowly and pushed Rae off her, turned and said in a flat voice. “All is as it should be. The darkness is real. It is the mother. She will defend her land from ingrates and trespassers. The vengeful souls that have long since passed demand it. Be found worthy and join the ranks. Be found wanting and be consumed by their cadre. They are everywhere.” Marishi’s hair was disheveled and unkempt. She had not bathed not even attempted to change under garments. A wet cough began to rack her body adding more stress to the frame that seemed likely to snap in half at any moment. Koheel kept his distance from Marishi. Distrust and fear written on his scale face. “Smoothskin becoming like them. Embracing lullaby’s, they sing at night. Her sorry profound. Unlike any seen. Heart is broken with no way to soothe pain. Smoothskin prays for death. By her own hand or another. Not seeking new lands and discoveries. Seeking grave.” Koheel said to Rae as they arrived at the massive river bank. The area around it was moist and warm. The humidity sticking to the skin and creating a layer of filth. The swamp lands were brown and stagnant rife with all sorts of reptiles and insects. Snakes slithering around boots, jaws attempting to tear leather to taste blood and bone. Long dead trees bleached bone white and lifting their claws to the heavens that have forsaken them. Bogs that left a film on the water where none could tell how deep the hole went. The smell of decay and rotten fish all around. The swamp was teeming with life. The kind to snuff out another for a meal. They slowly waded through the muck single file until they came upon the actual banks of the river. Though it was classified as a river, the width was massive. Neither Rae nor Marishi had seen a river so wide. But it wasn’t a cool crystalline river from Eorzea. It was brackish and brown. Constantly turning the heavy topsoil of the bed to create a cloud of mud and disease. Marishi snapped out of her morbid day dreams. “We’re not actually going to cross that, are we?” Koheel turn and faced her. “Smoothskin have better idea? Or will she call upon her new friends to help build raft?” He sneered. He was beginning to turn on her. He didn’t trust her. “I have no idea what you mean. You have been with me the entire time. Tell me of these friends I have impressed into my service reptile.” Her tone matched his own. She was no match for him in her shape. No sleep, little food, near delirious. One swipe would be all it would take to silence her and advert any more attention to them. Koheel looked at Rae. Eyes wide and frightened. He couldn’t tell if he was scared of him, or Marishi. “Smoothskin knows not what they speak. Smoothskin needs rest. Rest across river. Will help fight off darkness.” Marishi’s eyes lost focus as she said “All is as it should be.” Koheel ignored the statement and ordered trees be cut to lash together a raft. The time it took to complete the task was unnaturally long. Marishi having to take several breaks due to her weakened state. She sweat feely even though it was cool. The sound of her cough echoed through the area like a carrion call. Growing worse in the humid climate. Fits of coughing would overwhelm her where she would stop and completely bend over with a dingy rag in her hand. Pulling the rag away left bright red wet splotches. She would quickly place the rag in her breast pocket to prevent others from seeing. Once the raft was slung tougher, Marishi suddenly asked “How far have we traveled? A third? Halfway across the land? How far does this stretch.” Koheel looked toward the horizon and slowly said. “Don’t know. Never been further. Stories of endless desert and dunes to south. No water, just Sun and sand. North great lakes with many fishing villages of tribes of man who trap animal for fur. Stories of west talk about large mountain gods that rise into sky. Crowned with clouds in day and stars at night. Snow never gone. Bitter bitter cold. Freeze men to blocks of ice in passes. Only worth pass through gates of west. Further said to be promised land. Warm and green water and light. Aether pour to surface like hot springs. Paradise on edge of shore. Gods live in land. Mortals too weak to pass trials. Only stories from long ago. None believe. None have come back to prove legends.” There was a buzzing in Marishi’s ears at the thought of the legends she was told. A drive to find out. But her pathetic mortal frame would never reach its end. The buzzing told her to shed her mortality and morality. To become the darkness. To let it in. All she had to do was feast on one of her own. Cannibalize her companions. She would know the strength of the ancients that had prowled this land before any other had dared step foot upon it. She slowly looked at Rae through the corner of her eye. A dangerous look. She looked slowly at the Mamool Ja guide staring back at her knowing what she intended. Marishi slowly said “All is as it should be” as she sat down on the raft and crossed her legs. She stared forward trying to fight off the urge to kill her friends and lovers to free herself of the torment that was consuming her.
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