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Coming too took quite some time, but time was nothing they could measure, so who could say how long they were unconscious and when it was they woke. For Stupple, it was the sounds of dripping water and the way a few of his voices hummed with its steady, mournful rhythm that brought him to his senses, thought he immediately wished had not come back to awareness. He found himself lying on his back, completely naked inside a cage with barely enough room for him to stand on his hands and knees, and only just wide enough for him to turn himself around, as long as he bared the agony of scraping his flesh along rusted bars inside his tight confines. It was dark, but not entirely so, a pale flame burning down a candlewick somewhere in the distance, perhaps fifteen or twenty feet away from where he lay caged like an animal. He had no food or given water, but there was a puddle beside him, where the dripping water collected and stagnated, this perhaps the only water they would give him for now. As his eyes adjusted to this darkness, he realized he was not alone, but between two other cages. The one ahead of him contained some skinny man with tanned skin and hardly any flesh covering his bones, and when he looked hard to the cage at his feet, he could see the outline of Starthos, only just coming back to consciousness himself. “Starthos!” His voice hurt; his throat dry and parched, the sudden urge to drink upon him with the ferocity of a starving line downing a baby antelope. As disgusting as it seemed, he rolled himself on to his side and cupped the water at his cage’s edge, drinking it down in spite of the alkaline taste and the faint metallic flavor that lingered long after he drank his fill. He just about spoke out to Starthos again, when sudden screams startled him out of that effort, causing him to quiet down and wait out the horrible cries of pain and terror. At first, he wondered if it were those voices he always heard, perhaps things that even he sometimes questioned the reality of, but the way the man ahead of him flinched and then whimpered, he knew it to be true. Where had they come?
[offtopic]This is a completed thread, imported for cannon purposes. It will eventually find its home in the new city, but until such time, I am dropping it here. I am going to combine the contents of multiple threads into one, to prevent cluttering.[/offtopic] Whispers to the Apprentice The young man sweeps the cathedral floors, preparing for the next service. The priests have pushed him much harder as of late, the final days of his apprenticeship finally ending. There was little else for them to teach him, for the rest came with the acquired wisdom of time and listening to the gods; such lessons cannot be taught by mortal men, only through the divine’s imparted knowledge could one advance further. Already, he has managed to provide healing for mild injuries and maladies, he successfully identified the herbs required of an acolyte seeking priesthood and he managed to summon a rather large wolf in the nearby woods a week earlier. Since his readiness to begin the final testing became apparent, his mentors began pushing him three times as much. Such is a standard practice of their order, making you work for your right to test. The young man knew he would test for the cloth very soon. Finishing the mundane task, the youthful attendant switches the worn and nearly used up candles for new, fresh sticks, tossing the old into a bag for recycling. Later in the evening, they will charge him with melting the wax, removing the stubs of the wicks and sending the melted wax to the candle makers for reuse. It was busy work, things easily accomplished by the novices, but given to him simply to limit his time for studying, forcing him to study that much harder for his exams. The pressure was great, but he knew what he signed up for when he turned over to the seminary many years earlier, and he was near the end of his journey. Soon enough, the three brothers will bring him among their ranks of Clerics, making him one of their own, and thus he will begin his career of helping others. With the last of the candles switched out, the apprentice hauls the bag out to the backroom, where they will sit until he has to move them later in the evening. After disposing of the leftover wax, he heads back to his dormitory to change into his service robes so he can assist the night’s service leader with the evening prayer and blessings. After all that, the rest of his chores will require finishing and only then will he have six hours to study and sleep, doing whichever he should choose, knowing full well that studying will take up the majority of that time. It was the hardship he bore to complete his path and accomplish his dreams. As he changes into his robes, the resident pauses for a moment, suddenly filled with a strange and bizarre notion, a distant belief that the Clerics mean to make him fail, to single him out from among the others and see to it that he, out of all the rest, fail his tests and lose his chances. The notion leaves as soon as it came, turning to smoke and fading with all his other thoughts that race within his mind. He finds the thought out of place, strange and a little frightening, but reminds himself that it is a silly notion, to believe that of all people they would single him out for failure. He had seen the pattern before, every time someone came up for testing they were tested not only on skills and knowledge, but patience, compliance, and the ability to manage studies amongst everyday hardships. Nothing out of the usual happened with him. Shaking off the fears, the apprentice departs for the main church, ready to assist in leading this evenings mass and service. *** Mass just started, and already the room was humid and stuffy. Hundreds of people piled into the pews, taking up every bit of space the church had available for seating, leading to some few to opt for standing instead of trying to cram themselves between the others. Several conversations took place between individuals and families; some whispered, some aloud, all of them contributing to a sonorous humming that reverberated through the halls. Normally, the echoed voices were a welcome sound to the young man, for it meant a great turn out for the services, an event that made all their efforts seem worthwhile, not to mention the amount of tithes that would come in. Today, the instant buzzing put the apprentice on edge, all of the voices finding just the right way to strike a nerve in his psyche. He had no idea what led to such a level of irritation and anxious revulsion, from a normally welcome event. Putting his thoughts to rest, the young assistant pushes back his momentary frustrations to the back of his mind and resumes the final preparations for the services, laying out their tomes and ensuring the pulpit resided in its proper place. He went through and brushed away the little dust that managed to collect in between the last few days, since the reading of the last sermon. With his tasks complete, the soon to be cleric finds his proper place, ahead of the novices but to the side of the fully-fledged clerics, and waits for the ceremonies to begin. In the meantime, the people kept up their idle banter and visiting, the sounds kept echoing off the chamber walls and the young man continued to feel his mind fall from ease. Why such a normal occurrence made his heart pump and his throb on this day escaped him. Fortunately, the entrance of this week’s reader put his restless ponderings to rest, only the thoughts of duty remained within his unsettled mind. The service began as it always did, with a brief reading from some of their important scriptures, and then a request of blessing for the families who were undergoing difficult times. This transitioned into the actual lecture, reminders of the duties of the Three Brothers’ Followers, a reminder for courage as well as love and a desire for balance, for all three were a key facet to their faith. Most of the people followed along well enough, nodding in the right places, bowing their heads when the moment called for it. As it always went, a few in the back dozed off between songs and speeches, catching up on sleep at the expense of the Gods’ time. No matter, the Brothers are wise and forgiving, and perhaps know more to their situation than he a mere apprentice, understood himself. About two thirds of the way through the sermon, the young man’s mind began to wander again, taking on thoughts foreign to him and frightening in their own right. He tried to wash his mind clean of such staining thoughts, but they tried with much effort to remain firmly fixed to the front of his mind. The thoughts persisted for what felt like hours, but could not have been more than a handful of minutes, when he suddenly heard a voice from behind him. He thought he heard someone call to him, a sort of seductive tone, trying to lull him into leaving the proceedings. Naturally, he looked to see who may have been calling out to him, and who would call out to him in that way, but nobody was there. The ceremonies wrapped up without too much more occurring, other than one of the members snoring loudly in the back, leading to a mix of amusement and anger amongst the crowds. The apprentice could not help but give a light smile to the situation, finding it more of a silly event than a necessarily “Sacrilegious” action. He heard nothing more out of the ordinary during the rest of the proceedings and was able to collect tithes without any unusual circumstances presenting themselves. The young man was glad for that reprieve, chalking up his recent string of odd thoughts to being nothing more than stress and a lack of sleep, two things he needed relief from dearly. He makes a promise to himself to forgo an hour of studying to get just a little more sleep, to sleep a week straight upon passing his final tests. All seemed well, until a voice shouted from down the halls, screaming obscenities, seemingly directed at him. The anger in the voice alarmed and frightened him, for while he was trained in staff, he had no weapon on him and to be honest, he was only a cleric, not a warrior. Why someone felt so much anger at him in particular was beyond him, but clearly, someone was very upset with him. The yelling continued as he walked towards its source, trying to find whom he made so angry and to rectify the situation. Only, when he crossed the hall and turned the corner, he found nobody there at all, and the voice was gone. Was it a real person playing games, or was there more going on than he understood? The young apprentice becomes very afraid.
The air was motionless and deprived of all moisture. Greedy clouds full of storm and turbulence mocked life below with hopes of rain that would never fall. The land's surface so dead, so unforgivingly desolate, it may as well be stone. With nothing but distance in all directions, The only anchor to reality, the gates to Inns'th, slowly fading from view. From this point forward, nothing would truly be certain to the naked eye. But this is what the group of soldiers signed up for. To delve further into the depths of Yhimi, to the depths of the unknown. Mercenaries, adventurers, desperate men in need of work. No one really talks about why they are here, why they are doing this. It is an unspoken rule to never question a man's past. And so here this group hired by the Order of the White Hand, to scout out the terrain, obtain samples, specimen. Routine for the veteran workers. Not so much for those who were new. It was apparent in their eyes: Fear, trepidations, regret. Questioning if everything they did was worth the life they live now. That perhaps whatever punishment that were to fall upon them would be better than what they've signed up for here. But it's too late to make that choice now. This is the closest to hell on earth anyone could ever experience, and there's no turning back now. Once you're here, you're here to stay. It makes you wonder, why anyone would go through such lengths to be here without a knife to their throat. He held himself, broken in spirit and nearly in body, staring blankly at his feet as he trudged on sluggishly with the others. Already fatigued and they've barely made a dent in their journey, it was clear to the party, that this desperate young man would not return. Inns'th is no longer in vision, and their journey is just beginning. He would not come back, in fact, he already knew. Better for the party, he supposed. Easier to split the reward. His shaggy black hair clung to the sweat on his skin, greasy and unkept. His tan cloth shirt was drenched from collar to chest in sweat, and so too clung uncomfortably to his body. His leather armor did little to protect him from the harsh environment and even lesser extent to any dangers they may come across. Perhaps this would be his last redeeming quality? Giving the party a better chance of survival without him. Of course this was cognitive dissonance talking. This quest was never meant to be accomplished by him. This was a suicide attempt by a man who is too afraid to do the deed himself. It's sad, and unfortunate, but ultimately his choice. Pallavi could appreciate the ability to choose. She offered a swig of water to the man, her sleeve sliding back slightly revealing her olive skin. He refuses silently as she knew he would. The illusion of choice was always fascinating to her. She wondered what it would be like to not know for once, what will happen next. What the most "fortunate" path for one to be. To be sure with nearly 100% certainty what direction Time would flow. He made a cognitive decision to end it all here, and he believes that to be his choice, but many things took place for him to come to this conclusion- to be painted into this corner of futility. There are several vortices where he makes penance, and lives a new life. Travels to Genesaris after saving enough money, and work as the apprentice of a seamstress where he would meet the man of his dreams. He would design their suits and get married once he established his own place of work. Adopt and teach his child everything he wished he were taught in their age. In their teens this child would die after becoming a witness to a crime, wrong place wrong time. The man would fall into a deep depression and result in alcoholism to cope, a habit he holds to this day. The relationship with his husband further deteriorates, and one night, after a particularly volatile argument, His husband, pursued the man in secret to discover his activities at a local brothel. They promptly separate and the man dies of kidney failure 2 years later. This was the 'best case scenario' for the man, post his crimes that lead him to Inns'th in the first place. 'Best case scenario'. She wondered what the man's husband would be doing right now. Unfortunately, she cannot scry a man she has never met, though she supposes she could find the seamstress' establishment based off this man's course in future to a degree. Though the further into offshoot timelines she may scry the less accurate the space in which it inhabits and her own mind begins to fill in the blanks. It becomes more of wishful thinking, fanfiction even, than an accurate prediction. The stronger the stream, the more likely, and it was very unlikely the man would take the course of action that would change his life around to something more redeemable. A life where he could, for a time, find happiness again. This was Pallavi's best case scenario in a way- being here. Impersonating a young man in order to survive and stay hidden. Hiding her talents as a Seer. There were no other possible outcomes according to her visions, that would result in her survival. She did not have a death wish, but she understood the suffering here, was not nearly as bad as it would have been had she stayed where she was after what she did. Ending it all with the man seemed appealing, but she knew there was more to her story. Or, she at least, hoped there was. That somehow her future was not as defined as this mans. Suicide just didn't feel like a just outcome for her. "You mind?" a man beside her beckoned to her water pouch. "If you're still offering." It was Ashe. A man who's presence does not completely make her uncomfortable. He knows her as Pierce, and knows nothing about who she really is. Still he is the most trustworthy person out of the men she usually interacts with. Mostly because he too is an outcast. He's about 5'8, Dark skinned with jet black dreads that reach his shoulders. He wears leather armor, fitted loosely around his lean figure, signifying they were given by the White lotus and also auburn boots that belonged to him apparently. He used to be a Bard in his past, traveling the world, aking music, but that's as far as he is willing to divulge and she prefers not to scry as to loose her first impression on him. That impression being he is actually a nice person. "Yeah, sure." She hands the pouch to the man who took a similar swig and returns it. "Thanks". Scruff looking men looked wearily at the two, who seem to be the oddest of the bunch. Two of the most recluse, non-verbal members of the party. And seemingly the weakest. And yet they've survived this far. Questions would surely be made, but before this the leader of the party interrupts the integrity of the silent dialogue. He abruptly stops in front of the party, indicating they stop as well. Both hands are used to hoist the metal helmet off his head, his dirty blond locks unfolding into a mess of sweat clumps over his forehead before slicking it back with his hand. "We'll take a short break here. This will be the last one until nightfall, so make it count."