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Fallen Joy

Act, and Witches will act.

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Namiko listened to the Matriarch, her eyes following the orc that walked before her on her steed. Feeling the cool wetness of the rain as it fell over her body, something seemed off. After the urgency of getting to Dougton by the Matriarch, they had started over the land bridge across the gorge. The horses started to act differently.

Suddenly the animals stopped in their tracks, and she heard the Matriarch shouting at the hooded figures before them on the other side of the gorge. Feeling the amulet in her pack in the saddle start to pull forward towards the others before them, she would reach down to grab it quickly. Bracing it tightly in her hand, she would shoot her gaze forward. TURN TURN TURN!!

Pulling the reins of her horse to one side, she forced the horse to turn around in what little space there was on the land bridge. Only able to move as fast as the person behind her, she nudged the horse in the sides with her heels.

Feeling the energy of the magic being shot through the ground, she would push more urgently into her steed. With the orc behind her now in front pushing to get back over on the other side, she would follow with her steed screaming along with the thunder and the rain soaking them.

Sliding off her horse as the others passed her to reach the other side, Namiko looked up into the dark clouds that were producing the cool rain that fell. Still having worn her fan on her back from the last encounter, she would reach behind to pull it from her back. Tucking the amulet into the small bag at her waist, she would use both hands to whip open the massive bladed fan.

The energy of her magic licked the air, while she moved into a different stance. With each hand holding one end of the fan, she would prepare to send an attack towards those who wore the hoods. Closing her eyes, she would say a prayer.

“Mother, give me the strength to push our enemies back. Blessed be.”

Using her abilities with the water, the rain started to avoid her. Focusing her energy into the rain that fell around her, she would form them into little daggers shaped like rain drops. Lifting her fan up with both of her arms, she would force the fan down sending a blast of wind and rain towards the others. The rain drop blades would be sent point first towards the men/women who dared to attack them.

If the mother blessed it so, they would pierce the foes that stood before them. Each of the blades pushing their way through their skin and pores.

 

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Through the pouring rain, the caravan rushed towards the other side of the tumbling bridge. The ground rolled underneath the thunderous hooves of the heavy animals and being on the last of the line, The Matriarch and the very bulky Bodyguard were practically daunted by vertigo from it. Through her blind eyes it was awful, nothing but the hands of gravity pulling her left and right through scenes of darkness. It was only when a southern hand pulled with substantial force that the Matriarch realized she was in trouble. Everything was falling, she felt her hair swoop across her back and flail around her in a frenzy, she was suddenly faster than the pelt of raindrops, and the warmth of the beast underneath vanished..

 

Through the view of those blessed by sight, it was a chaotic travesty. The front hooves of the bull-beast touched the safety of land but the before the rear could join it, the bridge fell. The ridiculous weight of the steed itself mixed with the Bodyguards whomping 500lbs overwhelmed the creature and it barreled back towards the darkness. The alarmed roar of the orc echoed throughout the rain as the trio descended, The Matriarch only trying to grasp the situation. 

 

Suddenly a harsh force stopped the falling witch, followed by a harsher slam into a rock wall. The Bodyguard had sprung into action, grabbing the wall and the witch in opposite hands. There was nothing that could be done about the beastly steed, it squeals faded into the darkness below. They were 20 feet from the ledge and Namiko would temporarily be on her own.

 

She performed beautifully. The water appeared to bend to the invisible cadence of her magic, dancing in what was a moment grace and allure, but then became violent and deadly with bullets shooting across the land’s edge to meet the other side. Simultaneously Kana and Tana also reacted. They leaped off their steeds, Tana withdrawing her arrows and releasing several quills of bone at their assailants. Kana rushed to the edge, removing a chain from her arsenal and tossed it over the edge. The chain was adorned with a metallic hook that she slammed into the rain moist earth with her strong first. It once held a dragon, hopefully it would hold the orc.

 

The hooded row of elves responded accordingly, all five having the leisure of distance to respond and numbers to make their counter potent. As if linked through thought, they performed in union, hands swirling in a swirl about their own and generating a violet shield. The water and arrows collided, breaking the shield like glass that then twirled momentary airbone  before they threw their hands out and the shattered magic shot back at the trio with the same bullet like force. However two of them immediately knelt, as if blown by some sensation. They recovered as quick as they knelt, but the hooded figurines gazed at each other as if surprised. Immediately Kana placed herself before the witch. She didn’t know magic, but she did not her body was incredibly durable. She crossed her arms before her face and waited for the impact.

 

While all this occurred, the storm snarled ominously above. The stars were not completely suffocated by the dark clouds, the tears flashing white in increasing lightning and the sob of the storm bounding in great crackles. A heaviness was filling the air, something the Matriarch had felt just prior to the arrival of the elves. It was getting worse, more present, like the breath the devil thickening world with evil. Within the Bodygaurd's gargantuan hand, the witch couldn't help but focus on the rising iniquity. She had no premonitions, but she couldn't shake the feeling that something awful was about to happen.   

 

Edited by Fallen Joy

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With her attack shattering the shield created by the elves, it sent her magic back towards her. Kana moved quickly to shield her from the water daggers, each traveling at speeds that would make them piercing like bullets. Not moving fast enough to pull up a shield of her own from the falling rain around them, she braced for what would miss Kana to hit her.

As the rain bullets came hurtling towards them, they would pierce the flesh of the orc in front of her. What didn’t touch the orc moved past in their own paths of destruction, sending stabbing pain through whoever they touched.

For every spell, for every inch of magic came with a price to paid, for Namiko it was fatigue. Although it hadn’t really taken hold of her, it would creep in slowly with each bit of battle magic she would summon up against the elves that moved in unison in their magic. Closing her eyes, she would stand her ground behind Kana. Manipulating the rain to catch the orc if she would fall with the attack, with the other focus on pulling forth more of her light magic.

They needed help, and the rain created the perfect environment for her to make that happen. With her eyes closed, she would rest her hands over one another. Palms hovering over one another leaving space between, water would begin to gather from her skin in a swirling ball. With what little light that would be reflected through the water and rain from the sky it would form a smaller ball with in the water. Summoning a water elemental took more energy than most of her other spells, but her gut feeling gave away the darkness that would overtake them if she didn’t act. Something told Namiko that something worse would come their way, the elves were just the tip of the iceberg.

Namiko’s mouth could be seen moving, although the words she spoke were not audible. The incantation was being spoken, as the orb of light and water in her hands would move forward before the core of her body. Magic could be tasted in the rain that fell from the raging storm above, and new life could be felt taking the orb as it grew and took on a new form. With the new creature coming forward, the Elemental had a level of intelligence and self-awareness.  With the incantation and summoning done for the creature, also was a prayer focused on their safety.

The elemental would take on the shape of a human for only a moment before changing into a beastly form, growing into the shape of a massive bear it would turn to charge towards the elves. It’s size was bigger than an average bear, but it also moved through the rain without a solid ground beneath it. Water would swirl around the elemental, it’s light pulling more towards it to use to its own will.

While the elemental continued forward with its attack, Namiko had slid to her knees in the mud. Using the rain to feel out for the Matriarch and the large male orc, she could feel them working to get back up on the edge of the cliff side. She knew that they hadn’t made it like her and the other two, but in her mind’s eye she felt they would be okay. Fatigue was beginning to take its hold on her, sleep wanted to take her from the current situation. Fighting against the feeling of exhaustion, Namiko kept her energy flowing outwards in the rain.

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With the intrepid and vigorous resolve of her orc culture boiling underneath sludge of imprisonment and something mysteriously passionate, Kana flexed her muscles sharpened her carmine gaze. The onslaught of the tainted water daggers slashed through the crying rain and mercilessly assaulted her. The pain should have exploded cross her body along with decorations of spraying blood, but the astounding tenacity of her charcoal skin fought back. Generations of living among the burning currents of volcanic pits made most swords and hammers crumble against the orcs’ skin. And pain? Orcs didn’t feel pain any more than they felt comfort. She served as the cold soldier and shield she was meant to be and did it well.  However, the force was great and her footing was weak upon the slippery earth. She slid back indefinitely until an unknown  press held her still, the many hands of the rain serving the will of the witch. Bits of her skin flew from her arms and thighs like chips of rock, but her skin never bled. A low growl rumbled in her throat, a maddening rage rising within her. By the time the she-orc lowered her arms, those carmine eyes were practically inflamed with blood-lust.

Namiko stood under the skies’ and used them as her weapon and womb, birthing a force of light and water that radiated with a luminescent brilliance that  even the Matriarch could sense. This was the marvelous purity within the witch that the seer foresaw. The summoned bear manifested with a pulsing white heart of light within its core and charged towards the darkness festering on the other side of the black gorge. Using the rain as its wings, the bear needed not to leap across the gap between them but only to transcend it. The purifying beast was not alone.

Kana sprang from her spot, rushing towards the edge of the cliff side in sync with the bear and leaped into the air. The orcs of the witches’ coven did not have magic, nor were their abilities enhanced by any magical force. However, they were muscled brawny beasts with adrenaline and testosterone multitudes greater than one could imagine and the total absence of fear. When consumed with range, they performed phenomenal physical feats like leaping across a 50ft gaping maw in the earth powered by nothing by an echoing war cry.

The dark figures reacted. Their malevolent auras oscillated around their cult and snuffed out the warmth and light already suffocating around them. The middle two of the five gathered violet orbs within their hands with intention to throw them airborne into the flying orc. However, Kana's twin sister would not allow it. Tana loaded two piercing bone arrows into her bow and shot them in rapid impressive tangent to each of the hooded figures. The arrows sped past the bear and disappeared into the rogues' cloaks. The arrows seemed to completely vanish and the supposed elves fell to the earth.  Moments later the cloth rose with an unnatural elevation like specters, smoke seeping from the openings and rising into the aphotic clouds above.

The thunder roared above them with an ominous anger followed by a great flash of cerulean light.

Kana landed and the bear reached the otherside. Together they moved to assault the remaining three who manifested two violet solidifications of sabers. Upon close the mouth of their hoods painted impenetrable black, glimmers of what must have been eyes staring from within, and pale hands grasping the handle of the glowing weapon.  Kana charged towards the nearest figure, withdrawing her spear and releasing an beastly cry as her bone blade collided with the violaceous saber. The hooded rival radiated with an unpleasant aura, but Kana never cared for such antics. With inherited fearless and brutality, she pushed forth through the clash and engaged in the dance of battle with evil entity.

As the bear approached the diabolical spell casters, its glowing light cast cascaded upon them and banshee-like shrieks echoed from the darkness of their hoods as if its very presence was assaulting them. Nonetheless, they attacked with their magical blades. If the bear succeeded even just one slash, they dissipated into nothing--not even the smoke the rose from their fallen comrades.

Yulandra felt cold waves rushed down her  wet body, drawing deep into her pores and shuddering her down to her heart. Namiko was becoming weary, she felt that, but there was something else rising her apprehension. Though she was blind, her face suddenly stared up into the falling rain, forced to narrow her eyes as through fallen drops upon her lashes. The clouds began to swirl, the last of smoke disappearing within the black mass. Another clashing sound of thunder manifested,  its grueling rumble  seeming more like a crooning demon than an act of nature. The Matriarch was suddenly thrown back to her premonition, the condensing black clouds cracking in cerulean light. She remember the entity that came into being form them. Her hand suddenly grasped the handle of her sword, porcelain fingers crackling with lightning as she caressed the blade. Her seer vision swirled with the possibilities of her own future, so many filled with her death. But she had no choice. She had to protect her.  The hand of the Bodyguard was extending toward the surface of the earth when it happened.

The rain suddenly froze in time, gravity fading away from its descent and rising up towards the pulling clouds. The Matriarch’s tresses began to elevate around her, slithering like black ribbons toward the sky. Her skin crawled with goosebumps and she could have sworn that her very breath froze. In a frightening and horrific display, something burst from the clouds; a gargantuan hand covered in grotesque flesh and exposed bone. It clawed into existence like a rotten reach from the grave. It then  descended down like Death with ravenous hunger aiming for the one that produced the beast of beautiful light. Namiko, fallen onto her knees, appeared vulnerable to onslaught.

Suddenly between the witch and the hand, the Matriarch appeared. Her hair was slammed against her body from the great throw the Bodyguard now hanging on the edge of the gorge. Before her body was the sword, crackling with the great lightning that also flowed from her eyes. What happened next seemed impossible, but the magic of the coven was coursing within her. In that moment the reflection of the sword, though facing the demon hand, reflected the glinting eye of a dragon.

Auuuuugh!

From the blade came forth a gargantuan scaly face of a great serpentine creature. Pale coral scales adorned its skin and crowned upon its scale was an aquatic fine of emerald green. Transpiring from the saber, the hydra opened its endless fangs, curled around the hand, and harshly clamped into the revolting wrist. The snapping clench and the collision of the two monsters, pushed the Matriarch back. Within its venous fangs, the hand vanished into black smoke. Dematerializing and uprising back into the skies. Lined between Namiko and the beast, The Matriarch was thrown back,towards her sister. She hit the ground and rolled in the mud towards her knelt form with enough force to send her back with her. The sword remained elevated into the sky, the summon hydra head withdrawing back into the blade like a vacuum before the blade fell and stuck into the earth.  The Matriarch laid there in a heap of mud and her own pool of black rivulets hair, panting heavily. Her loss of breath was not nearly the exertion of magic as much as the astounding factors of which she had to use it on.

What in the world were they fighting against?

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With her fatigue taking a deep hold in her body, she could feel herself fighting from within. Her will to fight was great, but most of all she felt something different inside her. She could feel the slight tingle of the coven’s power, their magic was starting to reach out to her. Although she hadn’t met all of the other coven members, they seemed to be willing to lend what they could to her through the Matriarch.

As the Bear made of water rush to combat the cloaked figures on the other side of the gorge, she could feel the light of the bear threatening the shadows that filled the enemy they fought. Kana took the side of the bear, and too fought the hooded figures. With three left to combat, Namiko turned her attention to the sudden appearance of her comrade.

Looking up in time to see the Matriarch appearing before her with a blade drawn, the demonic hand that extended from the dark skies threatening to take Namiko out was interrupted. Dropping her head towards her knees, she felt a sense of relief wash over her body. Although it seemed like she was alone in all of this, she truly wasn’t.

The hydra that was produced by the sword attached the hand, but the clash sent the Matriarch back towards Namiko. As she rolled and flipped through the mud, hitting Namiko sending her back with her. Namiko’s knees stayed planted in the mud as long as she kept them there, her hands would rise to grasp a hold of her sister. With her legs coming out from under her, she moved her body to lighten the final impact of the ground on her new sister.

With the shift in the atmosphere Namiko felt the change in the rain and clouds around her, leaving her sister to rest upon her lap she would dig her fingers into the wet cold earth. Stretching her fingers in the mud, she would close her eyes to feel the properties of the elements mixed together. Pulling forth the purities of the water in the earth, she would let climb over her body like tiny bugs given life. The beads of water would move up her hands past her wrists, and begin to flow over her sister. The healing purities of the water would absorb whatever damage her sister took through the impact, each bead of water would fall away after the energy was absorbed.

Laying back into the mud Namiko let out a shaking breath, her fatigue finally having dug its claws deep in her. The water element finished its job next to Kana, soon fading away. Closing her eyes, she would feel sleep tug over her body. Magic didn’t come without a price, a lesson well ingrained within her soul.

Fighting the sleep that wished to take hold, she would reach out for her new friend, her sister. “We need to find shelter, I can’t.. I can’t keep going after this.. “ Her head would relax again, her eyes threatening to close once more.

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The healing waters slithered across The Matriarch's muddied skin and along her swelling carmine lips whilst she breathed clouds into cold air. Her porcelain fingers crept forward, reaching through the mud and to the hand of her sister to intertwine their fingers.  Raven soaked hair draped loosely over her  countenance as she dragged herself to her thighs and faced Namiko with a weak smile. She felt her extend apart of herself towards the coven and their magic and it was wondrous. Even midst a battle against an unknown beast, chains of fatigue bounding around them both, the Matriarch smileed with the greatest amount of love.  Her fingers tightened and her presence magnified, spreading about them in six vessels of magic. Unseen but felt, they placed their hands on their shoulders. Namiko was able to reach for them and in turn, they came to her. Using the very strength Namiko granted her, the Matriarch whispered a spell merged between them.

 The light within the bear suddenly pulsated with a greater brilliance, flowing into the night like the ascent of a brightest moon.

 The hooded elf fighting Kana was paralyzed by the luminescence, hissing and hesitating long enough for Kana to penetrate its gut.  Clothing fell around her spear and black smoke ascended into the skies. A growling echo hovered in the air for a lingering moment before the ebony haze vanished, leaving naught but the stars and the blink of the crescent moon above. The rain slowed to a stop, and silence resumed around them.

 Namiko fell back, nearly succumbing to slumber,  but the Matriarch's hands  reached grasped the back of her head. Fingers within her long black tresses, she brought her sister forth to rest their foreheads together.

 “We need to find shelter, I can’t.. I can’t keep going after this.. “.

 The Matriarch closed her eyes and released a small breath at Namiko’s words. Though her sister sounded concerned, the Matriarch spoke as if at perfect ease.

 “We’ll protect each other...” As she whispered this  she felled forward, pulling Namiko forward  just the same. Her face fell into the nape of the witch’s shoulder, as her sister likely did her own. Both of them passing out from exhaustion…

 ~ ~ ~ ~

 Dark clouds gathered in the heavens of a lone cottage surrounded by scorched earth. The Matriarch stood on the edge of the of the cabin, staring into the air. From the skies, streams of back rained down. They connected to the ground and formed into five new hooded figurines. They stood in a circle tense with silence.

 The Matriarch quietly watched. As these five existed, so did millions of others. Millions of possibilities of the future. Shadows of the Third Eye’s vision.  However, this was the most solid. Thus, the most likely.

 “We failed,” a dark and cold voice came from one of the hoods.

 “An unexpected obstacle. We didn’t expect-”

 “Her.”

 “We must get the amulet back before tonight. Our Master will not forgive another failure.”

 “We’ll have to find another way.”

 ~ ~  ~

 The Matriarch opened her eyes, white and misted with energy, under the shine of morning light. Another premonition. Blinded by her usual post-vision darkness, the Matriarch used her senses to gather her surroundings. She was on something soft. A bed. Her body was also blanketed. All her limbs were heavy and aching. She used entirely too much of the coven’s soul in one moment. She pushed herself passed her own vessel and extended her reach into the coven, and though she had the power of five sisters in one moment, six when Namiko connected with her, the physical toll on her body was extensive. She would have to be more careful in the future.

 “Hey, you’re awake.”

 The voice came from her left. But there was nothing but a dark void. The one that spoke didn’t possess magic, their light was even more dim. It was an old trembly voice, perhaps an elderly man. She suddenly felt a cold damp on her forehead, making her jump.

 “Oh! Sorry, sorry missy.” The voice said. Then there was a long pause as the Matriarch turned her eyes towards the voice.  “Oh you’re...Sorry.  No need to be afraid.”

 “Where is…”

 “Your companion? Oh she’s right over there." Another uncomfortable pause. "She's here in the room, I mean. Your larger orc companions came running into town with you two collapsed in their arms. Gave the citizens quite a scare and were quite pushy, they were. I happen to be a doctor here.”

 “Where is here?”

 “Dougton. And I must say, I don't know how you came in from the East like that. Turns out the bridge is out.”

 So they managed to make it. Matriarch explored through the darkness until she saw a familiar warm light within the room. It had to be Namiko.

 When Namiko woke, she’d find herself in a small clinic bed. A cool towel was upon her head. Also in the room was an elderly man , draped in his medical profession and expressing calm eyes and a gentle smile. The Matriarch was within a bed across the room, above her a small window in which the Bodyguard was peering in from the otherside. At her feet was Kana, sitting on chair and arms crossed with eyes closed. Tana was no where to be seen.

 When the older man noticed Namiko awake, he approached her as well.

 “Ah, you seem to have your eyes on ya. My name is Dr. Koyzer. You’re in my little clinic. Both of ya seemed to pass out from fatigue. Nothing a little rest couldn’t cure.”

 “Doctor, we need your help in here,” came a voice from outside the room.

 “Ah excuse me...been a lot of sick folks lately...Rest as long as you need.” And he excused himself from the room.

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Stirring from the exhaustion that over took her in the rain, she was suddenly aware that it wasn’t the moist feeling of mud under her. The cooling feeling of the wet cloth rested on her forehead, her wet bangs plastered to her head.  Shooting up to a sitting position, she would meet the doctor with her gaze. Blinking her amber brown eyes to the man, she watched as he was called away.

“Where? –“Pulling the wet cloth away from her brow, Namiko would set it down beside her left hip. Her eyes searched the room to find her companion across from her, throwing off her blankets she swung her legs over the edge of the clinic bed. Wiggling her bare feet, she would slide onto them standing she would move to cross the room to the Matriarch.

Wobbly at first Namiko used the furniture to stabilize herself as she crossed the room, finding her way into the bed of her new sister. Swallowing a few times due to her dry mouth, she would close her eyes to take a deep breath to calm her pulse.

“How did we get here?” Worry sat in her voice as she spoke to the Matriarch. “More will come. I can feel it..” She spoke of the dark hooded figures, the darkness that threatened to sweep over the town of Dougton. A hunger stirred inside her, the nights battle had not only fatigued her but made her awfully hungry.

Reaching out to gently take hold of her companion’s face, her fingers gliding over her cheeks carefully. Touching their foreheads together closing her eyes, she would sigh a bit of relief.

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The Matriarch turned her head as Namiko approached her. Even when blinded from colors and shapes, her sister's magical light was unmistakable. She closed her eyes slow as Namiko cupped her cheeks; the skin was hard, cool, but smooth like porcelain within her grasp. She smiled, taking comforting in the both the warmth and the symbolism behind it.

 “I’m alright, my sister” she whispered and as she placed one of her own hands upon her sister's.

 “I believe the orc carried us here. The Great Spirits must be in our favor, for we have reached Dougton.”

"More will come. I can feel it..."

To this the Matriarch released a long sigh and nodded her head slow. “ I fear you are right. I had another premonition, my lack of strength hindered us from sharing it, but you seem to have a magical eye of your own.” Her misty eyes couldn't help but twinkle at this beautiful and exquisite fact. Namiko was a gem. Last night the Matriarch got to witness an ounce of her shine. She knew it could be, would be, even brighter.

“The dark figures seem to be not of this living world, they die and birth within that sheet of monstrous black we witnessed in the skies.” She paused to think for a moment. “In fact...I would even suspect them to be sentient avatars. Perhaps lost souls or living puppets of some other manifested iniquity.”

 As the words slipped from her tongue, the Matriarch thought of the grotesque demonic hand raining down from the skies to smite out Namiko’s light. The witch felt as if her dangling body over the cliff-side would have been a far easier target. Was it after Namiko because it sensed the same threatening potential? The white witch sighed and tightened her fingers upon Namiko’s knuckles.

 “I’m glad you’re safe.”

 Suddenly the peace of the room was disturbed by a sudden noise within the clinic. Through the barricade of the door, it appeared to be panicked yelling, surrounding  by a clamor of other voices trying to subdue it.

 “Please stay calm! Calm yourself!” They managed to hear through the wood.

Then the door suddenly opened and the elderly doctor was back within the room.

 “Excuse me," he began in a hurried and worried voice. "Not to be a bother but... Would your, uh, orc partner be of assistance to me? We could really use some muscle to calm a patient.”

 Kana opened her eyes to the words, slowly uncrossing her arms and glancing up with a sneer at the old man. A visible bead of sweat trembled down the side of his temple, but as the struggling voices behind him intensified, he held his ground. The Matriarch, feeling slightly thankful to his kindness, said something in orc and jerked her head towards the voice of the doctor. Kana frowned deep, stood, and followed after the man.

The Matriarch was silent for a moment as felt something cold drifting into the room through the doorway. Her magic sensitive eyes picked up a demented color slithering in the void like a venomous snake.

 “I think we should go too,” she suddenly said. “Something doesn’t feel right.”

It took her a moment to stand; the blindness was always more apparent when she was enervated.  As she moved, the Bodyguard outside the window grunted loudly and disappeared from view. Her nude pale feet touched on the floor and she stood with a small quiver in her thighs. The doctor had removed her metallic boots from edge of the bed. She stepped her feet around for a moment, seeming to do a silly tap dance before she paused and her white cheeks colored into a light pink.

 “Will you...help me find my shoes? And take me where the orc went?”

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Namiko felt the warmth of embracing her new sister, with her hands now falling over the top of her own. Taking in the moment before she spoke once more, she praised the goddess that the two of them made it out of the chaos that had pursued them the night before.

“I am not sure how great my own magical eye may be, but I can feel the darkness.”

Unsure of her own potential, Namiko did what she knew and felt she could do. The night before had been a surprise to her, the power she summoned to pull the light into the dark. The bear of light was beautiful, yet deadly and effective. Now she held her sister close, feeling her hands fall as she suddenly got up to look for her shoes. The sounds outside of the room were loud and disruptive, much like the doctor that burst back into the room requesting help.

Still sitting on the Matriarch’s hospital bed, she watched as Kana disappeared into the other room. Her words of I am glad your safe echoing through her mind, coming back into reality she watched as she wondered blindly looking for her shoes.

Letting out a soft laugh although not trying to laugh at her, Namiko would spring up to her own bare feet. “Oh yes! Sorry.” Looking around the bed that the Matriarch once laid in for her boots, she spotted one under the end of the bed. Softly walking around to the end of the bed leaning down in one full swoop, Namiko pulled the metallic boots from under the end of the bed. “I’ve got them.”

Walking up to her new sister, she would lightly reach out to grab for hand. Tangling her fingers with her own, she would bring her back to sit on the edge of the bed. Setting her boots down next to her feet, she would bring her hand down to touch the boots now ready. “Any help with them?” Standing over her sister she would wait a second before walking to the bed she previously occupied, finding her own boots to slide on her bare feet.

Lifting off of the edge of her own bed, she would return to the Matriarch. Whether or not she was ready, Namiko waited for the moment to take her hand to lead her towards the orcs.

 

 

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Namiko’s laughter, as exquisitely  pleasant as it was,  still made the white witch hunch her shoulders and lower her head with an embarrassed and shy expression. “Mmn.” She mumbled uncomfortably, glancing away from her and twirling a raven locks between her fingers.  Then the warmth of Namiko hand folded into hers like nectar upon snow; she felt her pink blush deepened a shade as she sat back into the bed.  She was accustomed to be guided by the rough gargantuan hands of the Bodyguard, the gentle flow of Namiko hands pulling to her to  metallic boot was new and bewildering, but she smiled with understanding.  

“Ah, thank you sister. I can handle it from here.” She softly said, releasing her fingers and proceeding to place her boots on her feet.  Namiko did the same. Afterwards the both them exited the room hand in hand  into the swarm of noise.

Clinic was relatively small compared to the size of the room, they stepped into a white hallway of patient doors, most of them closed and occupied. What struck was  the beds outside the room, five stretchers overflowing the hallways with patrons of the city laying in discomfort. They were heavily breathing with sweat lathered and flushed faces, nurses occasionally approaching to wipe the drench away. None of them were coughing, but they seemed simply exhausted,  feverish, and ghostly pale.  The Matriarch frowned deeply as they strolled passed, not focus on either individual but feeling the heaviness of the atmosphere weigh shoulders. One of the patient rooms were open and and from it came all the clamorous sounds.

 As the witches passed the threshold, they would see the doctor and three nurses surrounding a patient bed with obscuring bodies. They spoke in asynchronous voices in attempt to calm whomever was there. The Matriarch paused, her eyes immediately narrowing. The bed could have been on fire from the amount of black smoky energy she saw leaking from the hidden patient. There was no mistaken, it was the same iniquitous ebony haze that produced that dark elves.

“Do you feel that?” She said to Namiko then quickly moved forward. The doctor saw them approaching and intervened.

 “Please keep your distance. The patient is out of control right now.”

“Let me see,” she said firmly.

 The doctor frowned and hesitated, gauging the solemn expression upon the witch’s face before  turning slightly over his shoulder. The nurses glanced back and the doctor nodded, so they slide just out of the way so they could see. Kana was bent over, her eyes stoic and facial muscles twitching with restrained aggression. Underneath her hands was a young man, perhaps an elderly teen, thrashing violently with obscenities spilling from his mouth. The white within his eyes were darkened into a grey and the veins with his neck and exposed arms ran black as if ink replaced his blood.  The metal framing was bent disruptively where the patient once grabbed and his legs flails wildly , attempting to pushing himself chaotically and angrily against Kana’s strong bind.  As the witches approached, his crazed eyes shifted toward them, his pupils suddenly dilating. He yelled out madly, convulsing even more violently. Kana tightened her muscles and pushed him more firmly down, the bed compressing under her force. 

The Matriarch stared for just a moment. Thinking. Then she touched Namiko’s arm. “I think you can help, sister.”   

The man was cursed with something beyond the role of medicine. The Matriarch was certain Namiko would be able to sense the familiarity to the night before. Her magic was purifying and blessed, and thus the white witch left it to her. She turned towards the doctor.

"What happened?"

“It’s the second one…” he said with a voice full of worry. "We’ve have over ten patients come in with sickness we haven’t been able to identify for the last three days. At first everyone seems to just have a fever and fatigue but…” He paused and sighed. “Yesterday a patient became hysterical, broke a nurses arm with his thrashing. We thought it might have been something magical...we don't specialize in that here...so we had to transfer him. A few hours later...I heard his body started leaking with this black ooze and he died. 

What's even more disturbing is that soon after he died, his body went missing. Some say it vanished into a haze of smoke. I don't know... We hoped it was a one time event, but now..."

He looked back to the patient, his wrinkles deepening with his concern. "I'm worried they're going to quarantine this quarter of Dougton if this doesn't stop. Can you...help?"

The Matriarch glanced back towards Namiko and the patient. "We'll see."  

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As Namiko lead the Matriarch through the crowded halls of the Clinic towards the commotion, she would pause as the Matriarch moved forward past her. Do you feel that? The darkness radiated off of the citizens that crowded the clinic, but more from the person Kana was currently fighting to hold down. Listening to the doctor explain what has been happening in Dougton, Namiko lost her smile.

“It is like the beast we fought last night..” she whispered to her sister. The feeling she felt deep in her gut upset her, it was nauseating to feel this energy coming from the people who were living in this town. Reflecting back on the events from the night before, the night that almost claimed their lives. Namiko without hesitation walked past her sister towards the man that Kana currently fought to hold down.

Reaching out to touch the man's forehead as he strained against the female orc, she hesitated. Namiko didn’t have to make flesh to flesh contact to feel the black energy spilling from his pores. It was hinted that she could help these people, the confidence in her abilities was a lot. Turning towards the Doctor, she would give a nervous smile.

“I think I may be able to help this man, but I would need to take him to a pure natural water source. It needs to be natural, mother’s gift to man..” How would they manage to bring everyone? She thought for a long while, the man for sure needed to be touched by the purity of the water. The others? Maybe consuming it?

Turning away from the man who was fighting to get free, Namiko leaned close to the Matriarch. “I am exhausted still, I used an extensive amount of magic last night.. I need rest before I try to cure them.. “ Glancing back over her shoulder to the doctor, she would bow slightly. “I may be able to help, but I need to rest for at least another day..”

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"I think I may be able to help this man, but I would need to take him to a pure natural water source. It needs to be natural, mother’s gift to man."

The doctor deepened his brow wrinkles in thought for a moment, then perked up with an idea.

“Would the herbal fountain work? It 's man-made but the waters are taken directly from creek rivers. We use it to boil our medicinal herbs.”

The Matriarch's head turned slightly towards Namiko as she whispered, closing her eyes and nodding with understanding. She too was exhausted from last night’s battle.  A hairline over in magic and she could have been out a week as opposed to a night. Though physically her body felt fine, her soul had a weakened quiver to it. It made her muscles feel heavy. She felt a tinge of guilt in offering Namiko so thoughtlessly without consideration of her fatigue. She was used to being forced into labor when at the very limits of her breath. She turned her best to be a witch, but more times than not, her orc guided childhood revealed itself in subtle ways. 

“We’ll need you to hold him for another day before we can help." She said to the doctor. "Will he last?”

The doctor frowned and glanced a second time at the man. He analyzed the patient for a while before nodding. “If in Gaia’s plan.”

“Good. I’d like to see your herbs. There might be something there we can use to brew a palliative remedy in the meantime. Perhaps a sedative.”

“Ah, are you alchemists?”

“Something like that.”

The doctor humbly nodded without further pry and walked to the door. As the witches turned to follow, Kana made a protesting grunt at their abandonment. The Matriarch paused and turned over her shoulder just a tad. “Hold him for just a while longer.”

Kana grumbled under her breath and leered like a protesting toddler, but the Matriarch ignored it and continued after the doctor. Her hand reached and grasped for Namiko’s smooth arm, sliding it down her skin until she reached a hand to intertwine her fingers with. She used her sister to follow them effortlessly to a sliding wood door with beige cloth panels. As the doctor opened it, the panels folded upon each other to revealed the late morning light of the outside garden.

The soothing sound of flowing water immediately serenaded their senses along with rich smells that glided off emerald carpets. The back garden was beautiful and refined; fenced off by a wooden palisade and paved with stone patterns in the earth. Littered along the different pathways were herbs of many: some flowered, others braided into vines. A few fruits trees fanned out their branches to barricaded sunlight from herbs best suited for the shadows. Everything surrounded an open green hearth of dancing water. The fountain was a large bamboo sprout spilling crystalline water onto layers upon layers of  coral rocks  and eventually fell into a gentle aesthetic spread into a stone paved creeks throughout the herbal displays around them. Noises from the city were low and surrounding towards the front of the clinic, the building appeared to be on the outer most regions of the quarter. The view from the garden has bit a few city structures to be seen in the rear.  The herbal garden definitely has a serene sense of isolation.

At the rear of the garden was a gate in the fence opened to the public. Beside the gate was a quaint stand surrounded by home packed boxes and pouches. A different dressed nurse was within the stand,  occasionally handing off a box to a patron that in turn gave her gold or silver.

“What we lack in magical specialty, we make up for in herbal medicines. A lot of our currency comes from selling and brewing them.”

The Matriarch listened silently but only offered a simple nod. The herbs were indeed fresh and beautiful, likely provided by the inner streams throughout the garden. She couldn’t see the colorful art of the design, but she felt nature’s pleasant energy dancing off the plants themselves. Or…at least they were pleasant. There was a drain in the energy, a sense of unhappiness and fatigue. It screamed and wailed more prominently from the herbs closest to the clinic. These herbs had a dark haze about them. She imagined even the Great Spirits of the nature suffered from such proximity to iniquity. The Matriarch began to understand why it called upon them to help. The Matriarch sighed a bit, she wished Clementine was there. The witch was a master of herbal art and potions; the Matriarch’s blind eyes made it impossible to practice such witch and potions craft.

“Sister do you know medicines and herbs?”

One so closely associated with the blood of nature itself, often had an affinity for it. Especially as witches with elemental chosen affinities were often close to nature itself. Even those of fire. The Matriarch guessed Namiko might have some knowledge of herbology.

“We need to find a sedative herb that we can use a small bit of magic to purify. We may be able to use it to slow the poison in these patients and sedate their suffering for a time.”

Potions were a witch’s way to expand their magic without exhausting it. If they were lucky, perhaps they would find a herb to expedite their own recovery. The longer they were weakened, they more vulnerable to their to those hunting them. Especially if they were tracking the amulet.

!!!!

The Matriarch had completely let it slip her mind! Where was the amulet? The witch’s hand clenched Namiko to draw her attention.

“Sister! The…”

An annoyed grunt interrupted them. Partially hidden behind the thicker forestry of herbs and on the other side of the fountain was The Bodyguard. We was sitting on his rump, awkward and still ridiculously tall as  he stared with his resting scowl upon two children crawling around joyfully about his trunk sized legs. The orcs had resting orders not to outright attack the innocent, though most found some way to loophole that with their aggression alone. The Bodyguard was the most loyal of the entire clan and didn’t look for loopholes. Though he gave the children a consistent evil stare and threatening growls, he sat there like a rock as they climbed on him. Around his neck was the violet amulet, his magic-void body offering nothing to its thieving effects.

Tana was also in the garden, leaning on an fruit tree with crossed arms. The kids stayed cleared from her. Perhaps they knew a biter from a barker.    

“Oi-oye!!” The doctor exclaimed horrifically with a paling face before running over to the scene. “Teta!  Jan! He is not to be played on! Get off him this instant!”

The children laughed and jumped off the orc as the doctor came at them, the boy and girl dodging his grabbing hands and running under his legs to elsewhere in the  garden. The doctor released exacerbated sigh, feeling too old of all this trouble. When The Bodyguard sneered angrily with his large pale yellow tusks and sharpened teeth, the doctor paled an additional shade and released a nervous bead of sweat.

“Ah…Sorry about them. Kids…” He slowly retreated, placing his hand on his heart. “Well…”He began as he re-approached the witches. “That is enough excitement for me…I’ll be returning inside to care for my patients. If you need anymore of my assistance, don’t hesitant to ask.”

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Namiko’s body was heavy with the fatigue brought on by the heavy use of her magic, something she hadn’t done in quite some time. Every so often she would use her magic to bring the purity of the water near her garden to the soil, or to heal one of the animals she cared for at her cottage. Now she found herself exercising her powers in a way that was far beyond what she did on a normal day, and now she was being asked to heal the people of Dougton.

“The herbal fountain should be just fine..” Turning her head as the Matriarch requested to see the herbal garden, she would look down to see her hand finding her arm to slide down into her hand. Following the doctor through the clinic while leading the Matriarch, she was suddenly hit with the fresh smell of the herbs that were being tended to behind the clinic. Although something wasn’t quite right with the herbs closest to the building, they were tainted somehow by the presence of the darkness that was threatening to take over the townspeople.

Still holding the hand of her new companion she walked towards the fountain, her free hand moving to touch the cool water that freely flowed from the creeks that fed it. Closing her eyes for a moment, she let the energy of the water wash over her hand. Opening her eyes to look back over at her sister, she would glance over to the doctor. “I have some knowledge of herbology, nothing too advanced.”

Before much more could be said her sister interrupted her to the sudden thought of the amulet, all to be distracted by the massive Orc bodyguard that was turned jungle gym by two small children. Looking over to the Orc who loudly grunted while sitting still as a rock, she patted the Matriarchs hand for a moment. “I believe your worries can be put rest, it is safe on your bodyguard.” With the children being shooed away from the Orc and the Doctor getting back to his duties, Namiko let go of the Matriarchs hand to explore the garden of herbs.

Wandering the garden Namiko found some passionflowers often used as a sedative, kneeling she would touch the dirt around the herb. “Blessed be.” she whispered as she picked the necessary herb. Standing she would look about her hoping to spot some valerian, finding the plant she hurried to pick it after saying the blessing. Taking the herbs to the woman who was selling remedies to the townsfolk, she would smile. “Grinding these up together should prove to be a potent sedative the Doctor could use for patients that are being unruly..” Watching the woman nod her head while taking the flower, Namiko would return to the Matriarch. “I need rest, and we must find some place to allow the doctor to use our beds for much needed patients..”

Before she had forgotten, she walked over to the fountain once more. Touching the water with both of her hands palms down, she would close her eyes to say a blessing. The water seemed to pick up a brighter shine from the sunlight, as its purity properties were cleansed. “I suggest watering the plants with the fountains waters, if they don’t already feed them..” Finding her new friend’s hand with her own after returning to her side, she would begin to lead her away from prying ears and eyes.

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At the sudden loss of Namiko’s hand, the Matriarch unconsciously curled her snowy fingers. Her long nails clawed the emptiness of her palm as she washed away the strange sense of disappointment shivering up her arm.

“I believe your worries can be put rest, it is safe on your bodyguard.”  

A gentle, relieved exhale rolled off her carmine lips. Her sight was lost to some things more than others, particularly with non-magic folk. It was terrible circumstance when she was enslaved by the orcs, where she was beaten and abused by violent monstrosities in the dark.

“Thank you,” she said. “My sight has much diminished since last night.”

She often recognized the orcs by smell, but normally 'saw' the Bodyguard.  Perhaps it was their unspoken and chronic kinship, but he shimmered with small rivulets of amber she often saw within herself. Her fatigue stripped her of that privilege too. Summoning the hydra, even just one head, had really done a number on her. She saved Namiko’s life, but the fear of not being able to do it a second time was burdening. Danger lurked in corners and the amulet felt like a beacon for it. The desperation of the hooded figurines to retrieve it meant it was key in their plans. So long as they had it in their possession, The Matriarch was confident her premonition would not come to pass. Still, its ominous greedy energy discomforted her. A slight touch and it would cripple them both. They needed to learn more about it. But who could they turn to?

Matriarch never felt so in need of her coven. She had done missions alone before, but nothing like this.  

With this heavy vulnerability, Namiko was a nightlight in the shadows. The white witch drifted in her footsteps like an enamored moth when she wandered through the gardens. As predicted, she knew the herbs they needed. The Matriarch’s smile steadily grew as they traveled in search of the desired flora, watching the colors of her magic whirl with northern light aesthetics as she blessed the plants.

Finally they approached the nurse selling the herbs, who greeted them with a polite smile. She accepted the flowers humbly, but then after observing them offered them an uncertain smile.

“I’m afraid we've tried these.”

“No, you haven’t,” The Matriarch interjected, smiling and placing a hand on Namiko’s shoulder. “I was once told me that the true art of magic lies  in the power of extracting it from common things.” As she spoke, her eyes rested on the herbs; their pedals sifted softly in the passing zephyr.  “I promise there is more to be taken from these now that she’s touched them.”

The nurse stared at The Matriarch for a moment, a hint of bewilderment and discomfort twitching at the corner of her mouth. She then looked once more at the flowers a second time, as if trying to visually discern a difference. Ultimately she nodded at them, storing them appropriately in preserved sac. 

The Matriarch continued to follow Namiko, the fountain being their next stop.

 “I suggest watering the plants with the fountains waters, if they don’t already feed them..”

“Ah…” she responded with a knowing smile. “I don’t think that will be a problem.”

As if on cue, the brilliance blessed upon the fountain seeped in the magnitude of rivulets and streams spread between the paved pathways of the garden. Like liquefied holiness, it glided through the water, impregnating it with its luminescence and disappearing into the scattered herbs and tree flora. The Matriarch was admiring the rivers of light in the void when Namiko grasped her hand again. The sudden warmth was enough to make her temporarily blush pink as she nodded compliantly to her sister dragging her away. Her hand was so much softer than the orc’s...

The Bodyguard shifted for the first time, ready to follow them. The Matriarch heard the crumbling nature of his rock skin and she silently glanced back at him. She said nothing but a message was communicated. The witches drifted through the doorway of the garden and into the town streets.

This quarter of Dougton was quiet. Perhaps it was due to the early morning. Or something else. People strolled the streets about their business, some occasionally turning their eyes towards the passing ladies. They likely arrived the previous night in a clamor of orc angry grunts and demands. It wasn't surprising they were recognized by a few patrons. 

Or it could have been the fact that several feet behind them, Tana was silently following. 

“I wonder how far we are from that place in my vision…” She was referring to the abandoned hill with the lonely cabin surrounded in black dismal scorched earth. “It must be close if it is beginning to affect the people.”

The Matriarch glanced up into the sky, as if expecting a dark cloud to be hidden somewhere. There was nothing but sapphires skies, fluffy clouds, and a shining sun.  Whatever it was, it hid itself for now. As she was staring up, a rumbling sound came from her abdomen.

Guuuurgrgrre.

The pink flush in her face deepened. She was suddenly starving.

“Ah…why don’t we visit the local ..what do you call them..shops? For some nourishment? Luna introduced me to teas, I’ve found them very enriching. The orcs can keep an eye on the others, and the amulet couldn’t be safer for now.”

The Bodyguard was a force to be reckoned with. It was better left with him while they rekindled their magic.

“What say you?” She reached her hand into her breast armor, feeling for a minute before removing a jingling pouch. “Luna gave me this. It should cover a meal and perhaps a place to rest, yes? You’ll have to handle the formalities though.” She the first time she laughed, though a bit shamefully. She recognized how her lack of vision might be an issue when finding an inn, let alone paying with coin. But that wasn't the only issue.

Truth be told, it was the Matriarch’s first time in a city.  She also didn't know math or currency.

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The Matriarch did her best to interject the nurse when it came to Namiko reassuring the use of the herbs she picked would help those patients they couldn’t get under control. Smiling towards her sister even though she couldn’t see the expression on her face, she knew that she could feel and see the aura Namiko gave off as it grew lighter.

As she led her sister out away from the clinic, she felt the change in her sisters body heat as she blushed with the touch of her own hand in hers. Turning to glance over her shoulder towards Tana who trailed behind them as Namiko walked forward, she knew that the Orcs would never leave their ladies side.

“The cabin must not be too far, but for now let’s enjoy the moment of rest we are receiving.”

Hearing the growling of her travel partners stomach, she giggled softly. Thinking about her own stomach, she realized she too was very hungry. The amount of energy that was spent the night before fighting the darkness that threatened them was immense, and it not only took sleep to replenish but nourishment as well.

Pausing at the words of the Matriarch, she would turn to take her hand in both of her own for a moment. “That is a wonderful idea, we should get something to eat and tea!” Giving her another smile, she would drop on hand away to continue leading her sister towards the market place that was beginning to become quite busy.

Hearing the Matriarch pull out a full pouch with more than enough to cover their meals and a place to stay, Namiko stopped again in mid-step to take the pouch. Dropping her hand to take the pouch from her, she would open it with a slight pull of a leather string. Looking inside, she would stick a finger in to move the coins around. Pulling the cord on it tightly, she would attach it to herself. “This is perfect, I can get us what we need.”

Sliding her hand inside the Matriarch’s once more, she would lead her towards a large Inn and tavern built out of stone and wood, the sign that swung just above the door read “The Cauldron.” Stopping before the building Namiko couldn’t help herself as she let out a joyous laugh, it was just to ironic. “I think I’ve found our place for the night, but first let us get something to eat..” Turning towards her sister, “Would you prefer to eat at the shops or bring it to the Inn?”

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