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KittyvonCupcake

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KittyvonCupcake last won the day on April 20 2015

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About KittyvonCupcake

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    The Moon of Titan
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    Hungry ghosts, the roar of the sea crystallized and shattered thrice for good luck, poorly recorded punk music.

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  1. Her father’s knife? Seconds in his hands were transmogrified to an eternity. He waited, arms folded behind his back, for a further explanation—her tongue tripped around the connection between Viscerex and Ioreth, but the inadvertent reveal had not been what he sought—before he released her. His gaze fell away from her own and scraped along edges unseen. “‘The blood of my blood would extinguish their own,’” he intoned, each word held slowly and spoken softly, as if reciting from a half-forgotten memory. With a single footstep, he was in a mire of mud stained crimson, broken blades of grass betraying heavy footfalls, the inelegant human gait, arrowheads biting into flesh, mottled bruises fracturing Vena’s skin. He blinked, and it faded. “The uninitiated would claim that I cursed the ones that did harm upon our kin. I am not permitted to act out of vengeance, and so I reached out to our bloodline to seal their fate. Perhaps this degree of interference was a mistake.” He swept back his left sleeve, revealing the complex tangle of scar tissue and faded ink designs intertwined along his arm. Black veins peered out from the underside of his wrist’s translucent pale skin. Runic swirls of vows made and promises kept began to form in the palm of his hand. They twisted like snakes as he continued, “What does a child know of the consequences of death? Do they haunt your dreams, these lives you took?” “Come,” he said, reaching out his hand with a glacial patience. When Myth walked closer, he placed it lightly at the back of her elbow to guide her towards the door. “This is not the place to learn what I wish to teach. Take me to where you drew first blood, and we shall enact the Rites. Are you ready to earn your markings?”
  2. “Ioreth-“ Unlike Viscerex, unlike herself, Ioreth did not notice the mob carving their way through the woods. The echoing reverberations of her name, the palpable intention of his voice, stirred something slumbering within her. “I want…” What she desired no longer mattered, as the men across the river made themselves impossible to ignore and Viscerex shifted into a predatory stance. No bandit would come marching with a shovel in hand, and their eyes would not gleam green in the day’s dying light. Ioreth’s eyes flicked from the angry flock to Viscerex. A frown wrinkled her brow. Torch lights and farming tools stood little chance against God’s fire and steel. She had but a minute, only a minute to decide and revise words that could reach them, that could convince them to lay down their arms and listen. She thought of how Constans would preach to his flock—the inclination of his head as if he were listening to the voice of his god while he spoke, the orchestral rise and fall of his hands, the flash of light in his eyes—yet knew intrinsically that seeking to emulate the priest would have been ineffective. She would have to be the Lady Ioreth, not a copy of Constans nor a wildling wrapped in borrowed pelts, no matter how much she wrestled with the desire to turn her back and disappear into the forests. “Let me speak to them,” she said, resting a hand on Viscerex’s arm. It lingered, reluctantly, fingertips dragging across his skin even as she pulled herself away. The soft amusement of her voice mirrored his own when he spoke to her of naming horses. “What harm could they truly pose?” They were children armed with sticks and lit matches, more of a danger to themselves than to the direction of their anger that stood crouched on the other side of the river. How best to reach them? Ioreth took in the scent of the pines and turned her gaze inwards. A green eye blinked. She understood. As if guided by an occult hand, Ioreth took one step forward and was swallowed by a flash of verdant flame. Rather than searing her mind with divine corsucation and flinging her spirit back into the past, it was suffused with a delicate warmth. Never had she faced the fire and not felt some degree of fear. Never, until now. A blazing arc formed in the air before the Cothites gathered at the river’s edge. It unfurled, and out stepped Ioreth with a deadly curve of a smile half hidden in the shadows that fell on her face. Her expression settled back to studied neutrality as the portal behind her dissipated into the wind. Whispers fluttered from stuttering lips. “It’s the Lady,” some said. God’s work was mentioned, the signs of green fire still flickering about her as she walked out of nothingness made it clear. Doubt poured like rain upon them. “But what about the Father?” asked another, and resolve steadied their grip. Still clutching the fur cloak, she held up her free hand to beckon them forward. “Tell me, then. Why have you come?” She waited patiently for one to feel emboldened enough to grumble into his wiry beard, “That accursed barbarian laid his hands upon the Father.” Cries rang out; damning Viscerex, insisting he be the one to face them, voices building up to a rising protest that demanded retribution, until Ioreth narrowed her eyes and called out, “That is enough.” “The Constans that I know would have no desire to see his people resort to violence and call it justice. He believes in forgiveness, not in retaliation. Is it not the purity of his heart that gained our love and trust? For me, it was just that; he saw a cruel world and wished to make it better.” She paused, absorbing each face in the crowd, those that were tanned and wrinkled by decades of work out in the sun, weary eyes and worried frowns, bloodless knuckles and tightened grips on their hastily gathered weapons. “You came here to fight the wrong enemy. The world your priest has grown for you is in danger. Your god has shown me corrupted forces that gather outside our borders and seek destruction. This man you wish to bring to ‘justice’ is the one we need to protect Constans’s vision and all that you hold dear. I ask you to lay down your arms and to think. Are they not both chosen by God?” “They are brothers,” she continued, glancing back at Viscerex before returning her gaze to the Cothites, “bound not by blood, but by fate. Strife between brothers only brings bitter sorrow. I understand that you came to the woodlands out of love for Constans, but you must honor his dream for a better world. Coth needs you united to flourish, not out in the wilds blinded by a need for vengeance. Honor him, and honor your god. Take this anger out of your hearts and return home.” When alone once more, the restrained pride that tilted her chin upwards and guided the clarity of her voice collapsed. Ioreth watched them leave, torch lights bobbing like lost lanterns through the veil of trees until they shrank into pinpricks no longer visible in the distance. She, too, then vanished from sight. She stood along the shorelines of the south, bare feet in frigid sea foam. She was in the hills to the west, the ancient forests of the east, the mountains in the north. She was at Viscerex’s side, tumbling out of emerald light with untamed laughter like a song and her hand extended towards his own. “Shall we get your horse?” @Vansin
  3. This was where his daughter dwelled? She always had a taste for small spaces when not beneath the starlight. The humans’ penchant for sweeping manors, dwellings that amounted to little more than jealously guarded ruins of the future, felt like a mockery of nature’s design. She had such; a place to sleep, a place to work, a place to cook. Overstuffed as it was with her magpie’s collection of plush rugs and maps hanging between the shelves for books and glittering glass jars, it was acceptable. A quiet place, with lavender drying in bunches by the fire and the scent of roasting meat rich with herbs. Ioreth’s journals on the table besides a jar of cut orchids, a Banjari quilt tossed over the battered green sofa, a little cot wedged in the corner, the hidden thrum of enchantments that sank into the foundations of the cabin and stirred from the locked room—so she had decided to linger, then. Marl set the wolfhound pup down on the wooden floor and gazed at Mythandriel before she was aware of his presence. Slight and petite, a sparrow-hawk with uncombed hair, quick hands, and her mother’s eyes. Marl and Myth stood apart. The distance between them filled with a probing silence. She would need to be cleansed. He could sense the rotting stench of human death still clinging to her. “It is,” he said. The pup glanced back and forth between the man and the girl with its tongue happily lolling out of the side of its mouth. The tip of its left ear folded over slightly, granting it a quizzical look when paired with its facial markings. “There is much to discuss with you, I—“ Unhappy with being placed on floor and ignored, the puppy tipped back its snout and began to howl. Marl already stood at a height that towered over the average man. Before the pup could reach a crescendo of mournful moon-cries, the light in the room began to diminish and he appeared to absorb both darkness and the room’s empty space. The pup swallowed the next howl it prepared to demonstrate with a soft whimper and dove behind Mythandriel’s legs. Marl appeared as though nothing had happened. As soon as the pup ceased its noise making, both the main room and his own form returned to normal. “I have several questions. I expect answers,” he began. One hand rested upon the hilt of his blade. The other pressed against his heart as he bowed his head. “Ioreth has shared that you have grown proficient with the bow and you have found your father’s knife. A huntress requires a companion. Train this pup well and it shall hunt well by your side. Now.” Marl furrowed his brow and gestured for Mythandriel to walk closer to him. When she was arm’s reach, he did not extend out his hands for an embrace, but rather to examine her. “Who were these men that you killed and did you have assistance? I can see their blood upon you.”
  4. The door shut, and the seething spiral of anger knotted in Ioreth’s gut hissed in displeasure. Had they been brought together under different circumstances, perhaps Ioreth and Zanzarog could have had a discussion on the nature of their instincts. Ioreth’s were not driven by a primal undercurrent of her blood, yet they were similar to his own in one sense: fury courted destruction. Unchecked, she would have sliced and maimed and sank her teeth into not his flesh, but his mind and his heart. Like any emotion that did not serve her, she wrapped it tightly into a ball and pushed it elsewhere. At the window, the silhouette of her mare still laden with her gear cast a shadow against the wall. The mare dipped her head to pull at the grass that flourished around the cabin. Her tail flicked away the lulling hum of a fly. The tension and ice Mythandriel saw in Ioreth released its grip upon her shoulders, yet her agitation carried into how she removed her belt to jerk the black tunic over her head, how she ran a finger down the blood splashed along her mail shirt and the huff of a sigh it elucidated. The light armor was folded along with her tunic and placed atop the cedar chest that sat between her bookcases. Standing in her loose undershirt, the cloudy bloom of bruises flowered on her exposed skin. “Fighting is—It is not a story. It requires...” Yet that was not what she wished to say. She took a deep breath and began again, the angle of her profile still facing the weapons she hung on the wall. “When I saw him carry you here, I was reminded of how I saw you in my vision: dead at my feet, curled up on your side as if you were sleeping. Do you see why I am torn? I want you to find happiness, yet your heart leads you towards danger. If that is the life you wish to live, you must learn to look after yourself. I fear I am hindering your growth.” She walked to Mythandriel’s cot and knelt by her side. Lightly, she brushed away the girl’s stubborn swoop of bangs out of her eyes and tucked them behind her ear. The strum of magic, soft and steady, buzzed along her palm and trickled down to the pain in Mythandriel’s torso. Let her live, Marl had said. By taking in Mythandriel, Ioreth had been attempting to replace what she had lost without consideration for who the girl truly was. The longer Mythandriel remained reliant upon Ioreth, the heavier the load of Ioreth’s expectations would weigh. She needs freedom, Ioreth decided, not the scraps of what damaged love I can offer. “Within one month’s time, I would like for you to find your own place to live. If it is with Zanzarog, then so be it. I can heal your wounds, and then I need to go once more. Mythandriel, I cannot offer you what you seek. You’re looking for a place to belong?” Ioreth shook her head and gave Myth a reticent smile. “I shall always be your family, but I know that I am not someone that can be your shelter. It is best this way.”
  5. “Watch that vile tongue of yours, Elf. Lest I remove it.” It mattered little to Ioreth that Zanzarog stood over a foot taller and was thrice as broad. She met his threat with a coy smile, and watched as he entered her home with Mythandriel in his arms. There were several things gained by that interaction: that his pride was easily wounded and that he would willingly threaten his beloved’s kindred so long as his beloved did not understand what he said. The little elf and the half-orc cared deeply for each other, that much was obvious. Affection gleamed in the gentle way Zanzarog placed Myth down into her cot and how she looked up at him from beneath the blankets and furs in her nest. Mythandriel may have trusted him, but love was blindness and could be just as much of a weakness as pride. After all, these were two lessons that Ioreth struggled to accept. As she crossed the cabin’s threshold, a beast of darkness separated itself from her feet and rose up to its full height to tilt its featureless face towards Mythandriel’s cot. The top of what served as its head grazed the ceiling. Within a fraction of a second of its appearance was it dismissed. It collapsed upon itself and vanished beneath the doorway of cabin’s perpetually locked second room. The front door clicked shut behind Ioreth. She had busied herself with unbuckling the straps for the staff she wore at her back while Zanzarog spoke. Had she been a praying woman, she would have asked any god within earshot to grant her patience. Zan’s assumption that Ioreth cared little for his explanation was correct in one sense: Ioreth cared little for what he said because she felt as though Zan lacked imagination in anything outside of how he could best showcase his rippling muscles for any impressionable young elf that may be watching him. If not backing down from a fight was engrained in Zanzarog’s culture, earning respect before receiving it was engrained in her own. “You are ‘starting’ to wonder that, hm?” she purred as she hung Moontide upon the weapons hooks near her bookcases in the main room. “What an Illuminating observation.” With a deliberate languidness, she unsheathed the curved dagger from her belt, cradled the blade in her hand, and offered the hilt to Zan. “As you were kind enough to offer to remove my tongue, I thought you may like to borrow this. No?” The hilt flicked back to her grasp with a deft toss. “Despite your threat against me, I never believed you would intentionally harm Mythandriel. You have my gratitude for bringing her home alive. I mean that sincerely.” Her gaze rested upon Mythandriel, and something almost soft yielded to the girl. “You need to make a decision,” she said, voice hollow and cold. “Are you going to continue to behave like an unmarked child, like some foolhardy mortal girl from a fairy tale, or—“ the dagger flipped and she plucked it from the air “—are you going to learn to save yourself? War is coming, Mythandriel. Not a grizzly. Not a band of fanatics in the woods. War. And should I be one of the targets, do you know where the enemy would strike?” Darkness gathered by Mythandriel’s cot. A face smooth as ink stared down at her. It flexed its talons by her side before dissipating. ”Ahn uila ma solaise, fuile le fuile.* If Constans were the prize, they would seek to remove me as a threat. How best to break me than destroy you? Learning how to fight is not enough. You must learn how to think. A bear would never be able to surprise a maoir-raion**, regardless of how it may be affected by magical influences. You made yourself vulnerable, and your vulnerabilities will lead you to your demise. And Zanzarog?” The dagger returned to its sheathe at her hip. “Don’t bother threatening me. I will say and feel as I please.” *You are my light, my blood of blood. **Duendaic hunters
  6. For three days and three nights, Ioreth had been absent from the little cabin nestled at the edge of town. While it centered around church business, her “trip” was less of an evangelical mission and more of a struggle against demons. Literal demons. The personal sort often fell quiet when surrounded by vengeful strigoi that had been stirred from their graves by the recent influx of supernatural activity out in the wilds. It had precisely been why she warned Mythandriel to stay within the boundaries of the forest set by Viscerex’s men and the other hunters. Viscerex could concern himself with their stores of wild game, as he seemed to insist upon doing, and Mythandriel could frolic, or whatever it was that she insisted upon doing, in woodlands that were considered secure. Mythandriel, however, did not typically heed her warnings. For instance, her concerns over Mythandriel’s budding relationship with Zanzarog went entirely ignored, if one were to judge by the rapid pace in which Myth placed her trust in the hands of someone that recently held a debate with a cow. Ioreth did not spend the first waking hours of the morning with pancakes and soft kisses. She stood over a warg’s fresh corpse, wearing the combination of a scowl and a grimace. Even with the immediate source of the dark magic interfering with Coth’s forests removed, something odd was causing the creatures of the forest to behave in an uncharacteristic manner. A warg would have ran at her with a pack, and would have shown more cunning than pure violent antagonism. Wiping the blade of her staff clean, Ioreth longed for three things: answers, a hot bath, and a day’s worth of uninterrupted sleep out of the light mail she wore beneath her traveling garb. As fate would have it, Ioreth’s journey home coincided with Mythandriel’s return. A collection of details overtook the drive for an emotional reaction—dried blood smeared across the bridge of Zanzarog’s nose, the set line of his jaw, Myth in his arms, her brow knitted, eyes weary, bandages, sweat. Ioreth swung down from her saddle and rested a hand upon the gray mare’s dappled neck. One thousand teeth cloaked in the form of one thousand words threatened to spill from her lips like acid, yet she held each bitter phrase back as she crossed the distance between them. Initial churning anger, encouraged by worry, settled for a look of icy steel. The only outward indication of Ioreth’s inner turmoil could be seen at her feet; one shadow mirrored herself, spine straight and chin angled, while another in the form of a beast shifted and flexed its talons. “Mythandriel, this is becoming a habit. What are you to do if no man is around to carry you home after you rush headfirst into danger? You wish to be a warrior? Try to learn a little discipline.” She tossed her braided hair over her shoulder and unclasped the chain she wore around her neck that held her key for the cabin’s door. After it was unlocked and open, she glanced dismissively at Zanzarog. “Bring her inside,” she said. “I expect to know the full truth of what happened, unless you managed to forget the details.”
  7. While the Church on the Hill and her people slumbered, a man walked out of the air. There was little grandeur to his supernatural action; a slight shiver in the atmosphere, perhaps, an insignificant twist of the space that separated the distance between Coth’s territory and the wilderness to the southwest of Terrenus and the glacier fields and the barren pines. There was nothing in the circle, and then there was Marl. Rhavoni by marital ties, Zvendan by blood, Aàrd-rìn by title, he moved as though he held dominion over the land. In truth, he owned next to nothing. His robes were cut simply and dyed a solid black, as were his trousers, worn in a similar fashion as the hakama from the Yanaihara in Genesaris. He had no shoes, no adornments, and carried only one weapon sheathed at his hip: a curved blade known to the Duendaic elves as a nagealaich. His white hair fell in a single sheet down his back. He kept a topknot tied away from his face, accentuating his sunken cheeks and the downward curve of his thin dark mouth. His eyes were silver. When he spoke, one could see that his tongue was black. The Cothites slept on. His own people did not. They had gathered several miles outside of Coth’s cattle fields where the river ran deep and the land was still by mankind’s interference. Open sky stretched above them, for they did not feel the need to hide within the sanctuary of the forest. Domed tents served as their shelter. They were warriors, not families, and they had no need for a caravan. White elk grazed alongside swift, warm blooded horses. The youngest of the elves were restless. Marl could see them when he walked from the forest to the Duendaic camp—sparring with each other in the moonlight with a deadly focus, filling their skins with water, pacing, speculating, counting their arrows. Their elders preferred stillness. Some sat together. Others stood apart and gazed at the stars. After Marl had awoken two weeks prior, he traveled to each anchor that connected with the clans he watched over and asked for thirty warriors to meet with him at this place and at this time. Thirty came. He was notoriously exact with his expectations for how those indebted to him would repay. The Aàrd-rìns served a necessary role in Duendaic society. They were guardians of ancient knowledge, they maintained communion with the ancestors, and they ferried the souls of the fallen to their final Path. They dealt primarily in death. It was a title earned, not inherited, and Marl carried his responsibilities with a subdued dignity. A huntress met him before he entered the camp. A wolfhound and her pup followed. The huntress bowed her head to Marl and held out her hand to gesture towards the other elves. “There are those that wish to provide tribute,” she said as she bent to pick up the young pup by his scruff. “Including myself. He is from Lir’atha’s line and his markings are that of Cuthlinon, which—“ Marl held up his hand. The pup, gray with bright blue eyes lined with black fur in a pattern similar to the Rhavoni clan markings, wriggled in the huntress’s grasp and let out an excited whine. “This will suffice. Inform the others I will return in two days’ time after I have attended to my kin. Should any outsider, human or otherwise, walk upon our Path, demonstrate the courtesy tradition dictates. I have no desire to quell any unnecessary conflict. Do you understand?” She nodded. He took the pup from her, tucked it under his arm, and raised an eyebrow. Marl held little sentimental feeling for dogs, yet this creature panting and waggling its tail at him in a most undignified fashion was intended for another. He took one step forward and vanished into the darkness. Unlike when he first materialized in the hushed realm of Coth’s forests, he was not alone. Another elf had met him. “She made this,” said Ioreth, failing to think of anything else to say to her father. Marl did not deem obvious observations worthy of conversation. He tilted his chin upwards, studied her in silence, and nearly smiled. They walked together and Ioreth filled the space between them with information—how Myth found her by coincidence, the visions, the magic, Constans, Viscerex—until they reached the little cabin that Mythandriel shared with Ioreth. Marl stopped at the door and picked up the pup with a reluctant touch. “I will speak to her alone,” he remarked. The pup yipped in glee. He silenced it with a sideways glance, opened the door, and stepped inside. @Witches Brew
  8. Oh god, I just noticed I was switching between E'naki and E'kani for the Mork’outh’s name. Uhhhh We're just going to roll with E'kani and ignore that mistake. 🙃
  9. “Could this not have waited until after the storm, Priestess?” called out a haughty voice from the twin priestesses’ doorway. “Consider it a sign of good fortune that it began to rain after I brought your girl back to the temple.” Ioreth offered Eleanor no formal greeting, nor any indication that she was particularly pleased at having been summoned to the temple without prior notice. Her night, as each had been for the past week, was spent in the unmarked wilderness that loomed beyond Coth’s borders. There had been specters to drive away, the more sinister strains of earthbound fae to deal with—spirits attracted by the stirrings of dark magic she worked on cleansing from the land. Monsters dwelled beyond the hunters’ boundaries in the woods, and who better to hunt a monster than a Duendaic elf? Exhaustion dogged at her while she rode back home atop her grey mare, yet it seemed that the Cothite people would not let her rest, for a young acolyte stood at her door and shivered at the roaring sound of thunder. Though both women were of elvish descent, distinct differences widened the gap between their shared species. A tight braid pulled back Ioreth’s silver hair, spare for a few wayward strands that fell into her violet eyes, accentuating the sharpness of her angular features. Fresh claw marks marred her left cheekbone. While Eleanor sat perched upon her loveseat in her fine velvet gown, Ioreth stood defiantly before her in leggings reinforced with leather and a draped black tunic. Light mail peeked out from her tunic’s hem. The naked blade of her staff gleamed with the reflection of another streak of lightning that tore through the tenebrous sky. Ioreth unbuckled the straps that kept Moontide at her back and laid it gently down upon the top of Isabelle’s armoire. Her elegantly curved knife, Eleanor may have noticed, never left her waist. With a quiet efficiency, Ioreth first poured a cup of tea for Eleanor and placed it in her delicate hands before serving herself. Old blood still stained around the edges of Ioreth’s fingertips. She sat and arched a brow before remarking, “When one asks me to tea, it is because they have something they wish to discuss. What is it that you wanted?”
  10. Although stubbornness was something E’kani understood well, it came as a shock that one could be punished for it in that way and he was grateful that no one decided to burn him for it. Humans were indeed strange creatures, but the tallest one with the hidden face caused him to laugh. “I wasn’t hungry” was a Mork’Outh’s answer from a human’s mouth. “All is well, Holly Sheathe,” he said, clapping his taloned hands together. “There are larger animals that hide near the bridge. They would have smelled blood if you had tried to eat the Rixnour and they do not scare easily. And you have a soft middle. The Rixnour can harm it with their horns.” A warning sound of thunder rumbled overhead. Storms were frequent on this side of the mountains, which accounted for the vibrant greenery that seemed to stretch on for endless swaths of jungle terrain. As he offered an outstretched hand for the packhorse to inspect, E’kani surveyed the markings on Ioreth’s face and the staff she carried on her back. There were shamans in his tribe, primarily focused on the healing arts. Perhaps this was their foreign variation of one. “What is your name?” “Thiadis,” she lied, speaking in common tongue so that both Holly and Viscerex would understand her. “A cartographer. I make maps, and have been commissioned to design one for a pathway that goes east to the mountain range for anyone else that chooses to...visit.” Fortunately, neither of her companions gave the Mork’Outh enough information to see any mistruths in her statement. Lies served little purpose in their society, and E’kani felt no reason to doubt what the one with the horse claimed. He nodded, then presented her with a grin when she continued, “Could you tell me more about this land? It would be important to mark safe places to sleep or what water people can drink—“ “The essentials,” crowed E’kani. “Of course!” Ioreth gave him a courteous smile carved from ice. Heavy droplets of rain slowly hit the surface of the river, disrupting the butterflies that settled upon their lotus flowers. They shuddered their powdered wings and sought dry spaces. While E’kani did not mind a light shower, a thunderstorm would have been unpleasant to experience outside. “Come, there is shelter near. It is an Old Place, good for putting on maps.” E’kani bounded ahead for the undergrowth of palms. Ioreth watched his back as if she carved a target upon it before remarking in an undertone, “Mork’Outh are peaceful and known for their kindness. If he wished for us to be killed, he would have done so already. From what I understand, they only attack if severely provoked.” Whatever Viscerex and Holly’s feelings may have been regarding E’naki, Ioreth still chose to follow behind him until the rain poured down from the heavens above and E’kani stopped before a stone archway. Ruins of a temple constructed to a deity lost by the long passage of time loomed over their heads, but the roof was concealed by greenery. Twisting tree trunks stood like irregular pillars alongside the temple’s walls. Their branches curved along the roof, as though both structures had naturally grown together. The stone used to construct the temple was of an odd color, unlike most found in Terrenus; it was dark, iridescent blue, akin to shimmering ocean depths. Despite centuries upon centuries of it standing amongst rain and the elements, it still was smooth beneath one’s fingertips. “This is an Old Place,” Ioreth murmured. Her hand hovered along the surface of the archway before she pressed her palm against the stone. Her lips twitched into a slight frown and she tilted her head slightly, as if straining to hear a distant melody. Her eyes gleamed beneath the shade of her hood. “A very Old Place. Magic is strong here.” While E’kani and his new “human” friends entered through the archway, the trees began to shift and groan from their roots to the tips of their broad leaves in a language only they could understand. It was a slow, patient hum meant to serve as a warning. It was unfortunate for Holly that neither human nor elf nor Mork’Outh listened well enough. Before one could reach the shelter of the temple, a courtyard had to be crossed. It appeared mundane enough. A pathway had long since been lost and replaced with springy tufts of rich earth. Its center served as a home for a massive tree covered with vines dotted by the closed buds of pink flowers the size of a large wolf waiting to blossom. They had been waiting for Holly. The moment they opened, the vines unraveled themselves from the tree trunk and reached out to snatch up the burned woman. E’kani let out an exasperated shout and rattled his horns. “Let go of Holly Sheathe, rotten plant!”
  11. The trasgu were motivated by precisely two internal drives: survival and anger. An enterprising field biologist, backed up by a berth of well paid mercenaries, once dedicated a chapter of her thesis on Northern Terran creatures to the goblinoid race. Upon conducting several dissections of collected specimen and gagging at the pungent odor of their foul blood, she had found that the brains of these creatures was both disproportionately small to their skull sized and featured an oversized amygdala. It was only the desire to live for as long as possible that held their base impulses in check. This was why they hesitated for a nanosecond when Scrapper slaughtered their companion. The remaining three had little desire to rip off her limbs and tear open her soft underbelly while she buried her blade into the unlucky fourth’s flesh. Had they the capability, perhaps they would have contemplated the decisions that they made that brought them to this place with this red haired savage. Unfortunately, the frontal lobe needed for this particular style of thought had never developed fully for the trasgu. One let out a battle shriek and pounced upon her. If he were not stopped in time, he teeth would sink into Scrapper’s thigh. Another let out a bellow and ran for its cavern. The final was felt himself oscillating wildly between fight or flight, banged his fist upon his chest, and tried to throw a stone at Scrapper. It missed entirely and landed in the water with a plop. As Scrapper found herself too occupied to help Ioreth with the wraith, Ioreth found herself too occupied to help Scrapper with the trasgu. To kill a wraith, one must find its heart and strike true. It was a task that was easier said than done. An ear splitting scream and a flash of phantasmagoric light disoriented the nocturnal elf enough to grant the wraith a fortuitous moment as she dropped her staff to cover her sensitive eyes. It seized upon this opportunity and wrapped its hands around her neck. Hidden teeth sank into her shoulder. Pain choked out a feral growl. The wraith lapped at the blood from her wound with a swollen tongue. Shattered breath struggled against the ice that formed around the wraith’s grip. Her stomach protested its revulsion, her skin screamed from violation, yet her hands acted of their own accord. She stared into the darkness beneath the wraith’s shroud and plunged the curved dagger she wore at her hip into its chest. Numbing cold met her and bit at her fingertips, yet still she forced her blade inwards until her hands were could not be seen and air could no longer fill her lungs. When glaring corscucations of light no longer blinded her entirely, she found herself on her hands and knees, gasping for breath. A pile of rags and a crown of thorns sat atop ashes that would scatter in the wind. “Scrapper,” she rasped, “where is—have you…?”
  12. Mythandriel created the doorway. Now, she would have to make the key. For most traditional Duendaic spells, two key elements were required: a symbol and a catalyst. The symbol represented one’s intent, the catalyst set the spell in motion. A circle was common, for it was a sacred portrayal of the infinite, of protection, of passageways, and of life itself. The sigil embedded into Vena’s palm, for instance, was a combination of runes that could be loosely translated to a family tie and a debt to fate. And the catalyst? All power requires a sacrifice. The beginning of the circle met the end, and Marl bowed his head to listen to a faint phantom humming. The ancestors accepted Mythandriel’s intent, yet willpower alone would not sway their favor. Marl filled his bowl with black water. Vena lifted her wraith’s blade. He drank, and she traced the sigil in her hand with the edge of her knife. When the runes had been joined, Vena pressed her hand to the center of the circle. Marl shut his eyes and saw a pool of starlight. His pulse grew sluggish, his breath became shallow and infrequent. This was a place no longer meant for him, but he would have to complete one final task before he left. Is that her? asked a woman’s voice. Thank you, she murmured into Mythandriel’s hair. She has grown well. @Witches Brew
  13. It was not the priest standing amongst the fallen stones that decorated the ruined floor of what was once the church’s interior sanctum when Xildara opened the door, but an elf with ink stained fingers and a pen in her hand. It hovered above a creamy page of vellum in a leather bound journal, poised as if it were a cobra waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike down upon its prey. While Xildara and Mateja made their ascent up the hill, Ioreth Rhavon exited the study, already bogged down by the prospect of this morning’s work. Stacks upon stacks of Constans’s writing scrawled along the piles of parchment cradled in Ioreth’s tattooed arms. Scrolls enclosed in slim tubes painted with ornate sigils bumped along her hip with each footstep up the stairway. Corners of envelopes peeked out from the satchel slung over her shoulder, each letter to be sent and decree to be announced jostling each other for room over the weighty tomes and spare writing tools that settled to the bottom of her bag. Meetings at dawn between the Father and the scribe were common. As his day began, hers was winding down towards its end before she fell into a slumber fragmented by the interruptioning noise of Mythandriel stomping in and out of the cabin or Viscerex hammering dead deer against the door. Today, however, her time with Constans was brief. There something unspoken pressing its weight on him, and Ioreth felt it best to grant him solitude and rest. Her own questions could wait for a later time. One could often find Ioreth in the skeleton of the church, perched atop a large fragment of the fallen roof in a corner untouched by dawn’s warm light that came to serve as her preferred place for quiet reflection as she puzzled over drafts of the Cothite god’s messages. This morning was no different. She placed her journal and pen down upon the stone and rose to her bare feet, her belted robe of rich blue whispering of silk rustles as she moved. In the sunlight, the pupils of her upturned violet eyes constricted to thin slits. “If you came to see Constans,” said his scribe in a cold voice tinged with a smoky accent, “he is occupied with other concerns. What is your business here?”
  14. What was left of Vena Zvenda did not understand Mythandriel’s questions. There was nothing she could say to the teardrops welling in her daughter’s grey eyes. She was no longer her mother—-only a remnant of that woman kept in quarantine and called forth to serve a singular purpose. She was an afterimage burned into the wind. Her willowy form flickered before it was transmitted to Mythandriel’s side. The circle, the sigil. She pressed these together and then held her palms apart, each movement slow and scrupulous. One finger traced the circle upon her palm, then pointed to the ground. The sigil, the circle. Vena was dressed as Mythandriel would have remembered, her clothing practical and unadorned, spare for the plain silver rings stacked upon her fingers and the curved dagger at her slender waist. She used to say that it had been crafted from a fallen star. When she was alive, an unearthly glow emitted from the blade when it was immersed in pure darkness. In her death, it gleamed with a hazy glow despite the afternoon sunlight. Her hand with the sigil fell upon the hilt, and she waited. @Witches Brew Ioreth thanked him with a wordless dip of her head for the cloak and wrapped herself in his cloak, grateful for the barrier between herself and the elements that her clothing did not quite provide in its current state. The pelt was suffused with warmth from hanging in the sunlight. With half-drowsy eyes, she took note of how Viscerex stood when he inquired about the horse, that dash of earnestness that crept out from his habitual stoicism. “The horse is under Dale Thimmick’s care at his stables, which...” She bit her bottom lip and sighed at the prospect of talking with Dale after today’s tangle of events. “His home is where you, ah, hit Constans.” Perhaps it was the gentle lull of the river’s murmuring or the songbirds in the trees, but the concerns she had over the inevitable tension between Dale and Viscerex and of Constans’s current state settled to a quiet worry that she could push aside for a later time. Mythandriel, no doubt fretting over being left alone with unfamiliar faces, the orc that fell into her hands...they, too, were matters to be dealt with when she walked back to Coth. Ioreth nestled deeper into Viscerex’s cloak. “Your horse needs a name. Dale only refers to him as ‘that devil.’ He is rather wild, but he should become acclimated to you with time. Viscerex, without you, Mythandriel would have been killed. Arranging to find a horse for you is nothing in comparison.” She let her words drop away. She sensed he would have known the depths that swirled behind their meanings, that he could see the weight she carried with her daily, that to have lost Mythandriel after her unexpected return would have crippled something already fractured. The truth was often too large to fit into any structure of spoken language. It could be read in her carefully neutral face, in her hands that gripped cloak too tight, in the quick smile she offered to serve as a distraction. “Do you live out here? I often wondered where it was in Coth that you stayed.” @Vansin
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