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    • supernal

      Vote for Valucre [September]   09/01/2017

      Voting for the month of September is open on TopRPSites! Vote for Valucre daily and help new members searching for a place to roleplay discover the same joys you have in Valucre. You can vote daily, so make voting for Valucre a habit. Discussion thread

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Camilla fell—

Ezekiel caught her in his arm, grunting in pain as the motion tugged on his wound. Stabbing his sword into the snow and stone for aid, he braced himself against it as he hiked the girl up, leaning her against his larger frame. Damn it, the rider cursed. This is bad. I won’t be able to defend if—ah, to hell with it. I don’t have any other choice.

“Just hold on,” he pleaded. “This isn’t where you die.”

The rider fastened the lantern to his belt, its light dull, weaker than it had been just moments ago, and leaned forward as he pulled Camila onto his back. He positioned the flat of his sword beneath her bottom, and her arms slumped weakly over his broad shoulders.  Ezekiel’s legs felt like there were aflame, overworked muscles throbbing and convulsing with the additional weight he was far too weak to endure. Still, he pressed on.

Pain is a tenet of your patron, the rider chanted as he trudged through the snow and shadow. Pain is fundament, the Great Catalyst. Pain brings life; pain brings growth. Without it, there is nothing.  Ezekiel’s pace stiffened, his strides strengthening with conviction. “I am not nothing,” he heaved and gasped, slowly finding the rhythm of his steps. Pain is fundament, the Great Catalyst. “I am not nothing,” he said again, pushing himself harder. Pain brings life; pain brings growth. “I am not nothing.” Without it, there is nothing.

Ezekiel’s pain would deliver her from this hell. His pain would bring her life, growth.

“I am not nothing!” he screamed.

The rider was running with all the strength hidden inside his wounded body, racing the lantern’s dying light. The shadows patiently ate away at the iridescent sanctuary, their whispers heightening into a terrifying chatter of excitement. Soon, they said eagerly. Ezekiel forced the thoughts from his mind, focusing on the path. Even as flashes of night breached the luminescent walls, opening his arms and legs with deep wounds, cutting into his chest and face, he gritted his teeth against the pain and kept moving.

Pain is fundament—Ezekiel couldn’t feel anything in the wake of the cold, ethereal numb that had consumed him. His body felt as though it were moving purely off will, the strength of his promise to the young noble replacing the lifeblood he left splattering along the mountainside. It was also so distant now, so detached. Am I dy—

Pain is fundament—He stumbled forward as his foot caught on an upturned stone, smashing his knee into the ground. But he didn’t feel it, and with the next step, the rider was sprinting again. His gait felt awkward after that, like one leg wasn’t working properly and he was favoring it, but he didn’t look. It wouldn’t do him any good to know.

Ezekiel didn’t know how much further they had to go. Camila still hadn’t woken up, and the lantern’s light was all but extinguished. The shadows cut at him with impunity now. The taste of blood was thick in his mouth, heavy on his tongue, and blinded him red in one eye. Still, he ran.

Pain is fundament.

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Camila entered the world of shadows, alone and defenseless. She floated there, for however long, void of any sensation or thought, and likely would have remained as such were it not for the faint whisper of a voice, rousing her from her catatonic state. The rumble was low and distant, but carried a familiar tone to it, enough to provide the frightened girl with a pinch of hope for some companionship. The whispering continued, but the words were unintelligible to her ears, despite them growing much more pronounced and clear.

“He…llo? I can’t understand.”

She stood—or at least felt as though she had—and surveyed the darkness for the source of the words. She could see nothing, but the voice continued to speak, louder and louder, though the words retained their foreign origin.

“Who are you? What are you saying? Please, help. I am stuck here. I don’t know…I don’t want to be here. I need to go back. I can’t stay here. Can you help me? I beg of you, whatever it takes, I will do to leave this place. Let me return.”

The plea caused the voice to cease its strange chanting, leaving Camila in solitude and near tears. Before she could dissolve into uncontrollable sobs, the noble felt her body stiffen, shake, and contort in shapes beyond human physiology. She felt no pain during the process, and could not even begin to formulate an idea of what was going on; she was changing, somehow, and that was all she could surmised. The darkness that engulfed her began to shift into more of a gray color, gradually brightened as she saw the first wisps of light start to appear before her. Her body ceased its strange contortions, and she began to recognize the smell of Ezekiel’s sweat and blood, her frail limbs weakly wrapped around his shoulders. Just as she regained her full consciousness, the familiar voice returned for a brief second, but this time she understood it perfectly as it uttered:

“As you wish, so it shall be.”

Camila awaken, understood the dire situation, and acted in a manner she could have never fathomed weeks earlier. She jumped away from the weakened Ezekiel, grabbed the dangling lantern from its hook, and turned it to the monstrosities chasing them. She held the tattered item in front of her, her dark eyes dark with a strange fury that did not seem indigenous to her character.

“ENOUGH!”

She shouted, commanding the lantern to perform its duty and blast the creatures into oblivion. In response, the lantern pulsed with light, stronger and brighter than witnessed before, destroying the shadows in one dazzlingly bright attack. Camila, astonished that her spur of the moment planned had worked, stood there, the last of the light still warming her whole body. She may have remained there indefinitely, lost in thought, had her spirits not urged her to tend to Ezekiel, and continue their escape before other creatures took up the pursuit.

She ran over to the wounded warrior, placed a hand to his back. “You’ll die soon,” she said, almost unfeeling, perhaps still too dazed to properly process her emotions, “We must go. Can you survive the rest of the trip?”

Edited by deadcasketburied

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Ezekiel was on the ground again, though he couldn’t remember how he got there. He’d heard Camila’s voice, though it didn’t sound like her—too strong, he thought. But it was definitely hers. He felt the warmth of the lantern’s light as it washed over him, renewed with the strength and cleansing fury of the sun.

I’ve died, the rider thought to himself. Is this heaven?

Is that what you wish?

He recognized the voice.

Shall I take you away from this miserable mountain and leave the noble to her fate? Is that your desire, Ezekiel?

The light of the lantern receded back behind the iron walls of its slats, and the holiness of its warmth was replaced by the cold, bitter snow. The rider felt the weight of his sword in his hand, the unrelenting bed of rock and shadow beneath his bloodied face, and the pain of countless wounds wracking his entire body.

No, he answered, already awake.

Mm, I thought not.

Camila’s hand upon his back was a welcomed reprieve from the lingering haze of his own thoughts. She was strong enough to walk now—that was good. Whatever had transpired, Ezekiel couldn’t help but feel grateful for it. Even injured as he was, the ex-soldier was still more fit to continue their journey than the inexperienced noble. Perhaps their luck was finally turning around?

“I’ll be fine,” he lied. “Someone has to make sure you get home safe.”

--

The remainder of their journey proved favorable, weather aside. The creatures of the mountain’s shadow posed little threat, and those that dared show themselves were all but scorched from existence by the lantern’s vigorous holy light. By the time they reached the foot of the mountain and stumbled out onto the barren plains, the world was once right once again.

They traveled just a short distance further before making camp. Once again, Camila tended to the rider’s wounds, and more than once did he fall unconscious from the combination of his injuries. But he always came back, drawn by her sweet voice and her presence, now heavy with experience and… something he could not quite place his finger on. Even in his condition, Ezekiel’s seventh sense touched the edge of something inside Camila.

“So, what do you think?” He glanced at the mountain, now a monolith on the horizon. “Not bad for a first adventure, hm?”

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Aided by the lustrous light of the lantern, Camila watched and tended to Ezekiel over the course of several days, the vicious injuries he had suffered slowly but surely healing—and rather well, at that. After his condition stabilized, Camila indulged in a bit of rest herself, now that she was certain Death would not slither in and sink its fangs into Ezekiel and drag his life away. She settled on the opposite side of the warrior, to best cover ground and remain alert should any creature dare encroach on their temporary territory. Likely unnecessary, she mused as she let one fingertip trace the shape of the lantern, as it appeared all their enemies had accepted their defeat and remained behind in the cold mountains. Comforted by the warmth of the light, she dropped her guard, accepted the fatigue of the arduous journey and tried to fall asleep.

She tried. And tried. And then tried some more.

But alas, her mind refused to rest and sleep was swatted away. Camila could not forget those dark moments, the crushing loneliness that had nearly extinguished her life before that strange voice arrived. Something had changed, that much she could sense, but just what she could not say. She had been different back then in the mountain, when she had taken charge of the counterattack and driven the monsters of the mountains away. It had been her hands that moved the lantern, her voice that shouted, her actions that saved them both, so then why had it all felt so strange? She could have sworn she watched it all happen from the backrow, saw her body act in a manner that was not her own.

What had really happened back there? Was there any way to know?

Her spirits, forever by her side, urged her to not dwell on those thoughts too much; when one is placed in such perilous conditions, they said, it is natural to experience massive and abrupt change. Nevertheless, she countered, there was more to it than that and they had felt it as well. She was not the same, far from it.

---

Morning came, Ezekiel stirred from his slumber and initiated conversation. She had not managed a wink of sleep, but felt oddly refreshed and full of strength. She began to pack what little they had in their possession, her mouth cracking open with a smile at his question.

“I think it was the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life…and also the only thing with meaning.” She picked up the lantern, its light faint compared to the rays of the rising sun. “I can’t say I’d like to repeat it exactly as it happened, but this is not the end for me.”

She turned away from him, spoke quietly as she bent down to fold up her sleeping mat, “I am no longer her. She will never come back.”

With her items neatly arranged, she turned her eyes, just a tad cloudy, to meet his. “It would be nice though, to return home. I think I have made people worry about me.”

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Ezekiel smiled, unbothered by the haze of her eyes—she had to be tired. “You’re a young woman, Camila. You’re changing. By tomorrow, you won’t be the same person you were today.” Even stitched and bandaged, the pain of their journey weighed heaviest on the rider. He was slow to check himself, slower still to rise and even then required the assistance of his blade. “That’s a good thing.”

There was an extended pause as he tested the limits of his body, shifting, moving, bending and flexing various appendages. Leg isn’t as bad as I thought it would be, he noted as he paced several steps, his limp not nearly as noticeable as he expected. This stitching is good, as well. Limited range of motion aside, things could have been worse.

“You’re right though, it would probably be best to get you home.” Three days and three nights, he reasoned as he tried to figure out just how long their journey had taken them. That mountain—it had been such a terribly strange place.

Ezekiel set to gathering up his items and filling his rucksack. “We’ve no food, no water.” He didn’t seem troubled by the revelation. “Fortunately, Blairville isn’t terribly far, and after everything we’ve been through… I don’t think a little bit of thirst or hunger is going to kill us.” The rider’s stomach growled in a loud. “Let’s go.”

They exchanged the lantern several times on their journey, each taking their turn admiring the object they had fought so fearsomely for. It was an old, ornate looking thing of wrought iron and light. Its light burned hot and bright even in midday, and the warmth of its rays soothed the aches of a long journey. Then he fastened it to his waist, letting the lantern click and clank against the steel plates.

“You might have nightmares,” he said abruptly. “It happens sometimes, after going through a thing like that. Don’t let it worry you.” Amber eyes swept over her in quick surveillance. “You still have the knife I gave you, yes? Keep it somewhere nearby, whenever you go to bed. Yes, sheathed, of course. But hold onto it. It will help.”

Ezekiel found having his sword in hand often helped him with conquering his own nightmares.

Craning his neck, the rider did his best to see down the road. “We’re making good time.” For a half-dead man and beat up young woman, he noted privately. “How are your friends?”

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Camila sighed, saddened that the end of their journey would be accompanied by rumbling intestines and parched tongues. She had acquired a taste for Ezekiel’s cooking, and would have liked to have learned a few more recipes before they returned to the city. Nevertheless, she understood this was the best course of action, and because she had grown considerably in the last few days, she only pouted a little bit and quickly erased the feature if he happened to glance her way.

They traveled side by side, sharing the lantern between them, admiring its antiquity and persistent warmth. They spoke of the things they saw, smelled, heard but never of the mountain’s perilous encounters, or the future of their partnership once they reached Blairville. It was a conversation to be had at the city gates, she supposed, once all other topics of conversation withered and died.

Ezekiel’s warning about nightmares caught her off guard, her big brown eyes wide with concern. Protectively, she clutched the dagger he had gifted her and had saved their lives more than once, the noble bringing the weapon close to her heart. “I will,” she promised, paused, and continued, “but I am not afraid. I have fought worse, seen worse, felt worse. I can survive any dream, even the unpleasant ones.”

She lacked Ezekiel’s eyesight or sense of direction, had lost track of the time the moment they set out, and was in such a good mood just traveling next to him, she had forgotten she swore she’d be half dead with hunger by high noon. When he raised the question of her friends, Camila turned her head up high towards him and laughed. “Frightened still, I think. They have not said much lately, just whispers here and there. Perhaps they are waiting for us to reach Blairville, since then I’ll be safe.”

She inched a little closer to the warrior, skipped a little to keep up with his long strides—quite impressive for a man that had nearly met his end to have such speed after the fact. “Say…we spoke of it before, traveling together and such until I wanted. I was wondering…are you going after that lady and man I saw? When your sword shone bright.”

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Ezekiel was thankful for the girl’s laughter, her closeness, and feeling more bold and familiar since their time together, worked his arm around hers and pulled her closer to his side. In spite of the strength behind his stride, it was easy to mistake the gesture as a need for support—so he smiled, dispelling the notion, and slowed his step. Amber eyes darkened with an appreciation for her rich beauty and blossoming figure, which he could feel swaying and moving against his.

“I’m not sure,” the rider confessed. “It will be a while before I’m able to do any real traveling, and I still need to find my companion.” He turned his eyes to the road ahead. “I’m not even sure where I would start. It would be nice, though. It sounds like they might be able to answer some questions about this lunk of steel,” he chuckled, rattling his sword by the hilt.

Truth be told, Ezekiel couldn’t remember how he’d come into possession of the strange, nameless weapon. Even with a splintered blade, the sword cut and killed better than any steel he’d seen thus far. In a wild, savage frontier, that was enough for the rider.

“If it’s something important,” he continued with a sigh, already bored with the prospect, “I’m sure they’ll find me.” Then he shrugged, his smile returning. “I’ve never been too good at hiding, anyway.”

Most soldiers weren’t.

They walked in silence for quite some time, enjoying the comfort of each other, the passing of the day, the touch of the breeze and the warmth of the sun. Ezekiel often found himself looking at Camila, whether directly or out of the corner of his eye, still wrapped around his arm and tucked close to his side. You’re going to make some noble a very happy man someday soon. Maybe I’ll attend the wedding. Ha, I can see the look on their faces. Who is this sellsword? What is he doing here?

"We'll have to get you a sword," he noted matter of factly. "Some armor, as well. Something light, maybe some leather and spellcloth. If you're going to be an adventurer, you can't be running around in fancy dresses and looking so pretty. You'll have every thief and marauder chasing us trying to kidnap you."

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Camila’s inexperience forbade her from recognize the meaning behind Ezekiel’s actions, though she was woman enough to appreciate the intertwine of their arms and all of the flutters that it brought to her young heart. The mountain, its horrid occupants and all that had transpired there were miles away, the battle scars they wore and the prize that hung by Ezekiel’s side the only physical signs of their hard-fought journey, which with every step they took, came that much closer to ending.

Ezekiel was not concerned about the woman and man she had seen in their moment of need, his main objective, as soon as he was able, was to find his companion, the first she had heard of him—at least she could not recall any previous mention of him. “Your companion? Who is it? Was he a member of your fallen kingdom as well?”

Blairville was within viewing distance, and though she dreaded the moment they crossed the gates and separate ways, she was anxious to return and announce her living status, certain her family was a wreck without news of their youngest daughter. She unconsciously put a spring to her step, nearly dragging the still weakened warrior with her. Delighted at the prospect of her own personal sword, Camila threw her head back and laughed, her rejuvenated spiritual friends dancing about her wildly, happy to be so close to the safety of home—even though this was just a temporary one.

“I’m hardly a warrior, Ezekiel. I think though, should I do this…”

She scanned the area, located a rock not too far off, and used her increasingly stronger mental powers to make it dance in the air before she commanded it to fly across the field, as far as she could make it go.

“Something like that ought to be enough to deal with a couple of thieves. However, I will not deny that I enjoy the weight of steel in my hand.” She reached for the knife he had given her, pulled it out to examine the blade. “It feels warm in a way, and right to hold.”

It did not take them much longer to reach the city’s gates, with Camila dashing the rest of the way to cross them and twirl in a show of joy.

“Ah, we have made it! Ezekiel, we truly did make it back! I did it—we did it—we completed our journey! Oh, I must return to my guardian’s home. My father may be in the city too, I hope he won’t be too angry with me. Surely, I must be punished for my actions but—well, I shall deal with that as it comes. Ezekiel, hurry! We must get you treated, your wounds are still fresh and you need more rest. Come, my guardian’s home is….this way, I believe. Yes, that way!”

She pointed to the left of town, where the prestigious members of Blairville lived.

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