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Lirrey Lines

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Agony stood firm in the center of this open area that had been chosen, Obtenebra slowly regaining its rigidity and returning to the form of a black knight that was more representation than it was a guise now. In this land of Yh'mi, he did not feel forced to conform in order to survive nor did he care that the sorceress or shadow companion were now aware that he was not human at all. It was this freedom that he savored now that he desired for all of the creatures that called Yh'mi home just as he desired such freedom for those who remained within the Triumvirate. The influence and power needed to nourish such comfort needed to be found and Agony could see no better vessel to extract from than what he had witnessed during his journey here. It was of no surprise that those who just could not understand the worth and beauty around them aimed to destroy it but he would not let them succeed.

 

Agony’s act of kindness toward Sasha just moments ago delivered by his own manipulative shadow was short lived but very deliberate. The ancient being sensed something within his smaller counterpart that inspired something within Agony that no one here could. Though others may have softened themselves due to Sasha’s childlike frame, he felt himself foster an empathy that elevated the shadow girl to heights few could ever achieve when it came to the triumvir. This is why Agony’s shadow lingered around Sasha incognizantly even as Lunara took his attention.

 

“We should go to Weland.”

 

The logical choice given their current predicament but Agony did not truly wish to comply. It was assumed that the Mutator would already be well on his way to figuring out where they stood in reference to Patia so he was in no hurry to shift his focus on to salvaging.

 

“Does this town or anything around it house any more power that may benefit us?”

 

Agony understood that Lunara was now connected to this town of Lirrey but was curious how far her senses could reach around them, in part to gain further understanding of what his fae companion was capable of but also to feed this desire that brewed within him ever since they left Innsth. He was destined for Yh’mi.

 

His question would ultimately go unanswered for now given Karuna’s sudden departure to chase after someone and the other two companions decision to aid her. Agony did not feel inclined to assist and it was obvious in the way that he lagged behind. Still, as soon as Lunara and Sasha were no longer physically visible and Obtenebra seemed more willing to oblige, Agony employed a speed that many would not assume someone of his size would ever have. Moving through alleyways and weaving through shadows, Agony would quickly gain on them all. Eventually he would emerge from behind a home, bowling over a good number of Lirrey’s villagers, positioned several feet in front of the hooded figure. Agony suddenly expanded and latched on to the walls around him and then created a makeshift wall of black with the intent of blocking the figure’s path. Just as the figure had done to the rest of the obstacles, a blast of fire was attempted which collided with the black surface of Obtenebra and caused the wall to bubble and ripple but it never let up. Cornered, the figure turned behind him and saw just one open path. The hooded person shot toward it but was slowed down by zealous villagers. It was now Karuna’s chance to cut the book holder off if she could manage to make it in time.

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It was shuttering how the men and women who lived here seemed to turn to drones on a whim. Still the man seemed unmoved, passing through the villagers with relative ease, launching those who halt him with ghostly green flames, or telekinetic force. It was in these moments of fluctuation that the absconder's aura became known. Ghastly would probably be the best way to describe it. Cold, moot- almost fading. It was hard to describe but unmistakable, like the flicker of an icy candle or the wisp in a bog. Whatever the case may be,  Karuna had his magical aura number and she was not about to loose it.

Sasha had made the first direct strike. A highly efficient tactic, though not enough it seems, as he leaps from the floor to begin running on the side of a building, his gravity shifting completely in the momentary process, before leaping further forward. But not before The organic wall caught him off guard. Even after dousing it in flames, it did no good. He chose not to flee however, or to panic, but merely look at the wall, studying its texture, its content as if no real threat was approaching him. It would not be long before the rest of the group caught up.

Karuna assumed that Agony was never human. She never once question if he were not. And the revelation that he was did not really change anything for her. Now the extent of his abilities were cause for concern. The way the wall, which apparently consisted of Agony's being, bubbled when the man struck it, similarly to how Lunara did, was an uncomfortable sight and her stomach churned at the sight of the tar-like substance. It was more so disturbing considering the wall may have been alive. It gave rise to a lot of questions. Questions she probably will never get the answers to. 
Her sprint slowed to a halt as she cautiously paused in wait of the man's reaction. In similar more composed form of caution, the hooded figure turned to face the group. he removed his hood. 

It was a middle aged man, dark skinned, slim, but noticeably muscular. His brownish red eyes were made piercing by the frame his furrowed brow gave them to an almost inhuman extent. Within the veil of his cloak, the hint of embroidered leather vest and trousers were visible. The clothes were by no means in taters, in fact, they looked quite expensive save for the cloak he veiled himself in. His charcoal black hair was short and kinky which blended into his untrimmed beard. 

He took a long look at Sasha Lunara and Karuna before scanning the rest of the group, including Agony.

"Is there any reason in particular as to why  you attack me?" The deep raspy voice betrays his slim appearance. Karuna paused for a moment, unsure of the lack of urgency the man seemed to emit. 

"We just want to ta-" 

"Just wanting to talking does not require preemptive assault young lady. Allow me to rephrase the question." He took a few steps forward. Karuna grew tense "What do I have that you want?"

She pauses considering her reply, and flicks a look at his book before looking back at the man. He follows her hesitant glance before lowering his defenses. 

"You caused all of this commotion. Over a book?" he huffs smiling out of frustration.  Karuna pressed on anyway.

"Is there a library here?" The man lowers his hand and stares at her, his head slightly tilted forward in a more serious tone. "Where did you hear of this."

"I have my sources." Karuna abstained from telling the whole truth. "So is it true?", she inquired, crossing her arms. The man paused for a moment, looking at all parties in the vicinity including the villagers. His facial expressions remained mute.
"I suppose I'm in no position to lie, now am I? I would hardly call it a library but yes, I own a personal collection."

Karuna's interrogative stance lightens up a bit as she looks at her allies and back to the man. "We're sorry for attacking you like that. We really- well, I didn't really mean for it to escalate like that."

"Hm." He huffs. "You traveled all this way for that? Some books?" 

In all reality it does sound ridiculous, to travel such lengths for something that may not even exist. Still she was not going to back down from her convictions.

"The books I seek hold power-" Karuna responded. "-and for you to be way out here- reading a book no less- tells me that you may have the power I seek."

His stare turned from one of seriousness, to one with a hint of pity. He sized her and nodded, as if understanding something. 

"Very well-" he turns to the wall that was agony and looks up. " Just Outside the village. If you would be so kind as to allow me to pass, I can lead you there."

In their journey to the gateway to the plains, he would break the silence. "I do not mean to be rude. I do not take you all for the-" He paused for a moment before responding. "-scholarly type. Besides the young lady, why are you really here?" He takes a look at Luna mainly, before scanning the others in await for a response.

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There was something off about this person. The threads of Providence that linked each and every being in Lirrey flowed into Lirrey Star, and Lunara could now tap into the knowledge of the nature of these threads. Agony, Karuna, and even Sasha had thin links to Lirrey, but this stranger did not. His presence left a void, an oxymoronic anomaly. Yet at the same time, he obviously knew the nature of Lirrey and so had no qualms about murdering its citizens, who merely reappeared again out from their homes. 

“Why would you run if you were innocent?” Lunara retorted. “You attack our unarmed villagers indiscriminately. You know about Lirrey, and you hide from us. That in itself warrants investigation and an explanation from you.”

”Besides the young lady, why are you really here?"

Lunara looked straight into the man’s eyes when she replied. “To answer the calling to be Lirrey’s new Herald. Now, it seems that you live in the vicinity of our town. Tell me what you’re doing here, and I may allow you to continue staying here. Otherwise, I will have to ask you to leave, willingly or otherwise.” A protective tone radiated from her voice.

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Catching up was much easier once the man's escape route was blocked off by... that had to be Agony.  Presumably.  It bubbled in the same way when fire was applied to the unquestionably insane masochist.  The same general aura of disdain and grave seriousness emanated from that wall too.  It was hard to miss, even by the emotionally stunted shadow.

The man himself gave Agony a run for his money though.  Sasha found herself agreeing with Lunara.  The man started running away before they did anything at all!  He can't chastise them for not trying to talk while he was trying to walk.  Though she supposes technically Karuna did tell them to get him.  It was a little ambiguous.  Not much though.

Either way, something about him rubbed Sasha the wrong way.  Oh right.  The fire.  And the chastising.  And inquiries.  And willingness to give Karuna books?  That was pretty off.  Either way she was wholly disinclined to reply when asked what she was doing here.  That was information only the Master knew anyways.  She wasn't entirely sure.  But she was sure she wasn't going to talk about it with him.

The little shadow girl skulked behind Karuna, keeping close to the person most likely in danger from this unknown.  Her empty, void-like stare never left his figure and tendrils hovered nearby to intercede defensively should he try anything with that pyromanic tendencies of his.

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Obtenebra recovered much more quickly than before when Lunara had ignited its surface, the bubbling caused by the intense temperature ending earlier before the flames would slowly become consumed. Given that those he travelled with held high sensitivity to magic, they would notice how the energy that had been invested in the attack would slowly flow through the surface of the wall before disappearing as it was devoured by the gluttonous, ancient entity. Agony listened to the dialogue between Karuna and this mystery individual with fleeting curiousity that only existed to ensure the man would not be an impediment to his own desires. Once the man turned to him and requested passage, Agony would remain there for several seconds contemplating whether compliance was necessary but given Karuna believed that power could be attained by allowing this man to lead them he decided to humor them for now.

 

The black wall began to recede and coalesce into the tall knight once again, crimson eyes burning brightly through the makeshift helm to fixate upon the man. He did not move, did not make any motion that asked the man to begin moving. The indignation that was sensed from Lunara was mirrored by the triumvir as he waited for the man to answer for his own actions so when eyes naturally fell on him to provide his own answer to the man’s questions as to his purpose here, Agony decided to be short much like he had been with Lunara or even Karuna when he first encountered them.

 

“To repay a debt and protect a bond.”

 

As Sasha moved to protect Karuna, Agony maintained proximity to Lunara immediately speaking after the warning provided by his fae companion.

 

“Answer her or suffer…”

 

His deep baritone held a clear contrast to the higher pitch Lunara had provided but both were equally imposing in their own way. It would be in the man’s best interest to ensure he tread lightly now.

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Judging by body language as well as intonation of the vast majority, one would suspect he were that which were synonymous to a prisoner. That the man of mystery and books were simply caught in some compromising act, trapped with little alternative, as if a deer in headlights. That due to the outranking of numbers he would be forced to comply, or 'suffer' as proclaimed by the certainly formidable but notably manageable formless creature. Needless to say, such showmanship of power and personal threats elicited very little response from the man physically, for he continued his rather professional stride, comparable to one which is deemed superior; back straight, strides long but not too long, hands folded behind him, veiled in the black sleeved cloak which could be described as almost interminable in its darkness. That is to say, it was noticeably unnatural to those close enough to see it.

Regardless of the pressure, or lack thereof, for rebuttal, he replied to the question with familiar calm and poise yet with mysteriousness quick to its heel. Though his answers were true and genuine, he would not reveal too much unless prompted to. And unless it were necessity, he would rather not ruin his new attire in a brawl that would inevitably cause some collateral damage. He was, after all, trespassing; the situation could have been infinitesimally  worse.

 He could just flee. It would be quite easy to actually. There were a myriad of ways in which he could do this, but this group's particularly intriguing. A mere pixie bequeathed  with the Title of the New Harold of Lirrey. A demon repaying a debt. A child of the shadows. And a Sorceress who's thirst for knowledge so insatiable as to compete with the bottomless black of the man's cloak. It was...odd. And intriguing. And a tad humorous. Like the start of a routine wanton bar joke. A chuckle escaped the mans lips, for reasons the party may have misinterpreted as being disingenuous. He coughed in his throat as he turns back around.

"If one is to be chased, does one not instinctively flee? If charged, should a man not defend themselves? I find it strange actually that the man who reacts last is considered the most guilty. Though I suppose the opposite is just as true. Where does that leave those in between? Tell me-" His words are quick to the cut.  his head shifts fluidly with his step, tilting ever so slightly in Lunara's direction behind him, enough to catch a halo of his  chiseled cheekbone's frame but not enough to actually give view to his face. Though if she could see, she would see a content smile, like a man chatting with old friends. "-If you have taken the place as the next Harold. A Harbinger, if you will, to what is to come, what does that mean for you? Do ancestral Harolds whisper in your ear or is it a hive mind mentality similar to the villagers you puppeteer? Do you hold your puppets experiences? Their memories? Are *you* innocent? Are you even 'you' anymore? I would ask the last Harold these questions, but they were not too keen on chit chat if I recall." he continued, not expecting Lunara to answer. "I pass through here once in a while for the atmosphere. I have not seen an actual person for years. The people remedy the nostalgia to a degree. Also, I was under the impression that you were all here for ill intent so I thought I'd linger around to make sure whatever you were doing would not compromise me. Perhaps thieves? Though I see now you came for more than a few books." He pauses before continuing. "I find that those, especially out here, deem anyone who isn't them as guilty of something. And I suppose that holds truth to some degree. No one is innocent. Everyone is guilty. Especially out here." Those last words held a dimmer tone to it, as if recalling a dark truth.

"Answering a call, protecting a bond, knowledge." He sighs through his words, as if disappointed. "The real reason you are here- the reason anyone would ever venture this far- is for power. The Insatiable. The beckoning call to it. We all seek it, and we all know it resides here. Fresh for the plucking. Ripe as any forbidden fruit. Regardless how we desire to use that power, it is the source of our drive here. I am out here, dear Harold, because of my Insatiable, as you all are."

Karuna does not interject, merely listening. She knows all to well how true that was, at least to her. She would have no ulterior motive other than to obtain the power she sought. And it seemed that Lunara had similar interests in this land. Dolor however remains a mystery. To repay a debt and protect a bond? Is he referring to Lunara? How invested is he in her? It's almost making her a little jealous. She takes a silent, but existential breath.

Ever since the darkness flowed within her, willingly so, her emotions have been all over the place. Thoughts she may not have had previously are all she can think about now. Fear, anger, anxiety are the main emotions she has been feeling. The more prevalent one right now is loneliness. But she supposes she prefers it this way. She may have glanced back at Lunara and her looming knight for just a moment. It would be nice to have a Knight. Someone to protect her. But much like the majority of her intimate relationships, though invested she may be, invested in the future, she is still, at the end of the day, a solitary creature.

----

 It really was not that far off, this Hub of Knowledge. the Village is still within eyes view, though it was a noticeable distance away. Though there was not much to see, in fact, there was nothing there at all. But of course living the way one lives out here, housing in plain site was a death wish. A few gestures and chants and his residence was in clear view, though the shoddy structure was modest at best. Not exactly something someone would describe as hospitable. It looked more like a sand stone shack than a home, but it was visually big enough to at least fit the lot at the very least. The man thought nothing of it and with the same amount of swagger, would lead the group inside.

"Please, make yourself at home."

It was a claustrophobic's nightmare. Though there was somewhat of a path to navigate into the mini house, that were only because towers upon towers of books stuffed with unbound paper almost reaching the ceiling lined the walkway and threatened to topple at any moment. Fortunately, the house was able to fit the group, with some wiggle room, but only barely so. Dolor may have particular issue with navigating certain paths in the shack, but the main ones should be relatively feasible.

"Oh God." Karuna, firts of her team to enter, coughed heavily as she wafts at the dust unceremoniously entering her lungs. It was a mixture of dust and sand. And old deteriorating paper. Once she gained her bearings she managed to look, through squinted eyes, throughout the one room house. She noticed the books seemed untouched, coated in dust and sand, But one of them in particular was dust free, indicating he at least still reads one of these books; A red one with gold glinted font and fancy markings Karuna could not decipher. It resided on a medium sized pile, about up to Karuna's chest. There were also indication that he did religiously locate himself to certain parts of the room, such as the dust free hooks on the wall which contained a variety of trinkets including the one Karuna distinctly remembers around the Cyclops' Neck. It resides loosely wrapped in a similar black cloth as the robe the man wore, and seemingly shows no sign of magical activity. She would not even notice it if not for it literally being on the wall (the part that is visible anyway). There was also an empty space against the opposing wall that deviates from the book path into a subsection of equally unstable looking book forts similarly to the displayed trinkets. She could only assume this was where he would sit considering the slight indent on the sandy floor, and this is confirmed when he crosses his legs and takes a seat with that same red book she was idling at a moment ago. With routine practice he turns to the last page they could only assume he was on. Wait when did he pick it up? She shoots a look at the place she last saw it and noticed a trail of dust trailing into the air before tapering off. Ah, magic. Her lips purse in a thin line.

"Sooo. . ." Karuna trails off wondering what happens next. Was he just going to sit there and read? He answers almost immediately.

"Hm? Oh, yes, pick your book." He flails his hand as if to shoo her, the book close to his face like some magazine laced with the latest scandalous gossip.

 Wait is he serious? Karuna looks at her party with a confused look, jaw slightly agape, before looking back at the man with the same awe-stricken expression.. She tries to get his attention again, but he does not reply, too engrossed in his book. She huffs as she twists her heel to inspect some of the books.

They...all had blank faces. How does he find anything? Frustrated, Karuna picks up a random book to read.

"Not that one." The man responded monotonously, without even looking up at the girl as his half lidded eyes danced across the words on each slide of paper. Within a few seconds he was already dancing on the next page.  He seemed awfully fast at reading.

"I thought you said to choose a book." Karuna protests, audibly irritated.

"Well not that one. Choose another."

This would be followed by a series of 'nopes' 'Nuh uh's' 'Nay's ' and 'Definitely not that one's' with each book Karuna even remotely tried to pick up. Karuna was getting pretty heated at this point. She almost threw a book at the man, but decidedly mumbled some pretty vulgar language. He just smirked as he continued reading. 

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Lunara hadn’t expected the man to be so talkative. He waxed philosophical, and didn’t seem to be interested in an answer, so she listened without giving feedback. She could sense the consciousness of Lirrey’s townspeople as they were connected to Lirrey Star, and she could manipulate them like strings. Her mind was still hers, as far as she was concerned. The last Herald had allowed him to stick around, obviously for a reason. Why? She shelved the question for later.

The man’s assessment of their quest for power was spot-on, but it was hardly a difficult guess. The bigger question was power for what, and that was not something that the faerie wished to discuss right now.

-

Lunara looked around the hut that had shimmered out of nothingness. To not only hide this from adventurers, but also the creatures of Yh’mi was an impressive feat. She was sure the paladins in Inns’th would kill for such a spell of stealth. The books were of no interest to her. Karuna, however, was desperate to find something specific, and the man seemed to know what she wanted and was adamant about not helping. It was no surprise that the magic of the books were hidden, just like how the hut had been hidden. Bemused, the faerie sat on one of the tallest book towers and swung her legs back and forth.

“So, what’s the use of hoarding all these books in the middle of nowhere?” Lunara asked the man. “Also, what kind of deal exactly did you strike with the last Herald?” She smiled daintily. “You know, the little witch taught me a fire spell just now, but I’m not very good at controlling it yet. I even accidentally burnt my knight just now.” She twirled a strand of hair between her fingers casually.

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Sasha was rather surprised to find anyone, especially out in Yh'mi, who talked more than the Forbidden Snack did.  The tiny shadow girl began to doubt the old man's lucidity after a while of his rambling though.  Power?  No one was here for power.  They were all here because Master asked them and they obeyed.  And maybe for some berries that happen to also lie?  Yeah, Karuna had some weird tastes.  At least the man made no more aggressive motions.  That's good.  She's had enough fire to deal with for two lifetimes.

----

There was an undeniable relief exiting Lirrey.  The monster of shadows didn't hesitate to sink into the ground the moment she was free of that accursed village whose grip on dimensions proved ironclad.  The shadow world was a substantial comfort after meeting Lirrey.  It was a horrible place, but it was her horrible place.

The old man had a horrible place too.  It appeared out of nowhere, much to the shadow girl's awe.  This must be his personal dimension as well.  A lot more books and a lot less predators though.  Seemingly nothing to do with berries, but Karuna seemed satisfied.  At first.  Numerous attempts at taking books only resulted in an equal number of denials.  Whatever was going on, she was looking for a particular book.  Having spent a great deal of time in Master's lab, Sasha knew a little bit about cleaning up and organizing the otherwise slovenly home.  The trick was not to touch any of the vials or things he was working on at the time.  And definitely not while he was looking.

As Karuna continued her search, slender shadow tendrils rose out to grasp the books she was previously denied in order to set them aside in a new pile, heedless of the man's previous sorting system.  That way she would know which ones she's already tried.

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The cagey antics of this man were monitored with utmost scrutiny. It did not matter that his loquacious demeanor reminded him of the devil of Patia or that his responses held a measure of believability. It certainly did not matter that Karuna sought to acquire something from him either. For all her usefulness, Karuna was no member of this ailing family..at least not yet. For this reason, he let her roam free, susceptible to the dangers that could come should this enigmatic man decide to show his hand. Standing near Lunara at all times, he moved without any consideration of the obstacles before him. Stray books were trampled in his wake. Even though his massive frame found trouble at certain points maneuvering through the man’s home, the baseline expression on Agony’s face never faltered. The ancient being remained sentinel in stance and gruff in demeanor as usual.

 

As the man let Karuna peruse for a book of her choosing but then began to deny many of her choices, Agony grew as irritated as the witch though likely for a different reason. Agony, with all the tact he could decidedly muster at this time, let his forceful words escape him, playing off of Lunara’s more recent words toward the man concerning her misuse of her new fire spell. “Your knight believes this is a waste of time…” Agony was not known for his humor, the gravity of the situations he frequently places himself in usually far too involved to have allowed him to decipher what he considered funny. This is why this specific departure from his terse disposition might only surprise Lunara.

 

Crimson eyes stared at the robed man with their usual ferocity as he let loose a few more choice words.

 

“Give the little witch what she needs….”

Edited by Dolor Aeternum

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“So, what’s the use of hoarding all these books in the middle of nowhere?” Lunara asked the man. “Also, what kind of deal exactly did you strike with the last Herald?” She smiled daintily. “You know, the little witch taught me a fire spell just now, but I’m not very good at controlling it yet. I even accidentally burnt my knight just now.” She twirled a strand of hair between her fingers casually.

"A very impressive feat I'm sure," he humored the young fairy, though remaining engrossed in his book. "A Harold and a prodigy, you seem to have it all going for you." his voice was borderline sarcastic, but there was a brightness to his tone that suggested his genuine praise. A concerned look came over the man as the young lady of shadows trailed behind Karuna, placing the books in an order he did not orchestrate. He would attempt to read while looking up to take account of the book being placed elsewhere, but do nothing to stop it. Karuna, so involved in her search, did not even notice her. "As for the 'Deal', I have no idea what you are referring to. I was more of a nuisance to her than anything. Always pestering and meddling. She could never figure out how I had been so elusive. She could not even find my hiding place. Right under her nose. Well- all good things come to an end I suppose.

His eyes shoot a look up at Dolor as his bulky frame stampedes the stacks of books leading to the Fae. His eyes scanned Dolor's location, more specifically the books that were falling. without a second thought, his hand raised and a select few books from those piles fail to reach the floor, suspended mid air. the rest fall unceremoniously with a rather large cloud of dust and sand. Some arcane sounds could be heard harmonizing with the sound of scattered sand and dust from the upheaval.  He did not bother to chastise. A man his size was bound to topple a few stacks of books. But he could at least try to look sorry about it.  The select books chosen for rescue then found their way to another stack of books far from where the party resided, which isn't really that far considering the size of the shack-like home.

"These books hold very little value to me to be quite honest with you. Burning them actually would not be a bad idea in retrospect-" His voice was low and unamused, speaking through a sigh, "Though I suppose until I come to a consensus, I'd be best to keep them here where the chances of finding them are slim to none. On one hand, in this room holds the potential power to destroy cities if used correctly, On the other, I have a strong belief that all information is valuable no matter how destructive. One mans cancer could be another' cure for mortality. I've traveled the world in search of the power I need to-" he cuts himself off halting his reading to look at the ceiling for the correct word he used previously, "Satiate my Insatiable...but to no avail. Now I'm left with books that mean nearly nothing to me." He still remained on the same page as he was before. He seemed to have a harder time focusing. He was not used to these many people in his home. It wasn't until Dolor finally demanded he help Karuna did the man finally take initiative.

He huffed loudly. "She should be able to help herself but I suppose my expectations were to high." This sudden outburst grabbed Karuna's undivided attention immediately as she placed the book she was about to choose down.

"What's that suppose to mean?" she retorted in a threatening manner. The man gets up in a rather swift motion, uncrossing his legs in a spin. So fast, in fact, that it leaves a faded green after image of him reading a book. Except...he did not move that fast. And the After image did not dissipate. It was still reading the book. Taken aback, Karuna lips parted slightly as if to say something but was interrupted by the man who approached her. his palms were open to her.

"Your hands, may I see them?" She paused for a moment, looking up at him with a confused look but eventually submitting her hands to the man. Like a fly trap, his open palms clam shut  as Karuna winced from the stinging pain, but the pain did not reside in her wrists. No, it was her entire arm. The Invisible scars that plagued the entirety of her arms became apparent with a luminous purple glow. 

"You have Void Rot." he responded monotonously. She pulled away, holding her elbows. "What was that?" she cried out, her hands still stinging similarly to when she overused her powers in the caverns.

"Void Rot, girl, pay attention." he walks to one of the stacks of books and with tact, yanked a thick leather book from in between the stack without toppling the pile. he immediately underhand throws it to Karuna.  She instinctively catches it but almost topples over by the sheer weight of the book. By now the scars have faded.

"It's a condition that occurs when novice Sorcerers such as yourself use more magic than their bodies are capable of handling. I'm assuming you are of novice level considering you cannot even sense the books that are of most value to you." He lifts a finger and a book in the corner flings in the air in Karuna's Direction. She catches it as well, with similar results as the first. "H-hey wait a-" she was cut off. 

"Left untreated, Void Rot can permanently hinder a sorcerer from using their magic among loosing their lives at a much faster pace than natural."

 

"P-permanently??" She seemed more in fear of the former than the latter. She stammered towards him, only to have another book thrown at her. she barely manages to keep her pile stable.

"You absolutely wreak of magic girl, and you are no fairy, or elemental, which means your body is leaking Mana at a dangerous rate. Judging from those scars you've been leaking long before your adventure began. This has surely shaven a few years from your life." Karuna was in utter shock, as if a doctor had revealed a terminal illness to her. Before she could interject, he raised a palm to silence her. "Those books will teach you fundamental Herbology. Somewhere in there you should be able to concoct a cure to remedy the issue; I'd show you how, but I am no teacher, and it might give you incentive to take this time to self reflect on your recklessness. And this-" He places a much lighter book with a magicians hat on the cover on top of the pile now reaching mid chest. "Will be the Gateway to learning your Journey as a Magician Class witch." He walked to a table at the end of the shack giving Karuna a chance to finally speak.

"Magician? You mean illusion magic? No I'm no illusionist i'm an anarchist mage." 

"So you tell yourself. Anyway, I believe that is what you were looking for." Karuna shakes her head aggressively.

"No! I-"

"Well, it's what you need. Frankly, I haven't a clue what your plans are Girl, but I have very little hopes for you if you cannot find the book you seek." He stiffens for a moment  his face noticeable in it's restraint. He took a breath and wipes a sweat off his brow.  "Either way, it seems We've run out of Time."

Wearily, he snaps his fingers and suddenly green flames swarm his section of the shack, halting at where the group resided though It was spreading to their side gradually.  Karuna jumped back, more so startled at the books catching fire. 

"What are you doing?!" She screamed, backing up at the encroaching flames. Engulfed in the fire, he merely smiled.

"I'd be bad for me to just leave such power unattended, especially after being compromised like this... I'v derided to remove them." The fire fluctuated, his cloak flying into the flames. Through the flickers of the inferno, a green flowing lantern and hook may be visible on either side and from it a demonic presence.

At this point, they may find the shack hard to breathe in. With a lack of ventilation, and temperatures rising dangerously high the exit would be the most favorable option. The flames seemed unwilling to extinguish and by now the man was barely visible. Karuna coughed heavily, almost toppling over her books. She glanced over to where the ghastly version of the man was. His form was gone but the book was still there, unburnt. There was no reason to believe this book held any importance to her cause. Perhaps it were out of spite. But with her eyes glowing purple, she pulled the book into her pile and began to run out of the building pile in hand. Perhaps individuals would catch a glimmer of the man's skeleton before the he was unable to be distinguished from the blaze. If all left the building, the house would then fully unleash its flurry of flames, melting the sandstone that it was built upon. The house soon turned to bubbling sand. And the man would be gone. Karuna had dropped the books, now on her hands and feet coughing the rest of the smoke out of her system. The books she gathered were scattered on the sand-plated floor. She spoke between coughs while still gathering the books in a stack.

"Is everyone...okay?"

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”Your knight believes this is a waste of time…”

Lunara laughed at Agony’s unexpected echo of her words, thrown out so casually. Was that their status now? The lady and her knight? It reminded her of that night in Orisia when they had played those two roles during the Black Queen’s coronation, her hanging to Agony’s arm in his false suit of armour. That night had set off a series of events which led them to today. A mistake that forced them to be on the run from entities more ancient and more powerful than them. Their mission was now set to free themselves of this burden, as Agony would put it. Pursuing Karuna’s objective added nothing to further this goal, though Lunara found it entertaining.

The cowled man’s mock praise set her laughing again. Her voice was a lovely sound, like tinkling bells, the kind that made faeries so endearing to children that they would follow them into the land of the Fae and never return.

“The last Herald never caught you? I see why they needed a new one then.” It seemed that evading her had became this man’s idea of entertainment. How incompetent her predecessor had been.

”These books hold very little value to me to be quite honest with you. Burning them actually would not be a bad idea in retrospect.”

Ah, so the veiled threat that she had made didn’t get lost on him. She would have been disappointed if this intelligent man had not understood what she meant. Nevertheless, it was an ineffective threat since he no longer valued the books. She watched as he diagnosed a condition onto Karuna,  though she had very little interest in the Void Rot herself. Such a thing would never occur to her kind, and the witch’s teething problems were of little concern. Either Karuna eventually figured it out herself, or she would fail and never become who she wanted to be. She could see why the man did not want to offer any more assistance. If the witch could not get through this hurdle herself, there was no point in trying to continue down the path of magic.

”Either way, it seems We've run out of Time."

Lunara shrugged. “Nice meeting you, goodbye,” she said simply, as the green flames conjured by the wizard engulfed the books in an unnatural fire. She personally did not care much for books, and it was no loss to her. The demonic presence did not escape her, but neither did it surprise her. A man surviving alone and hiding in the depths of Yh’mi must not have been ordinary. She exited the hut easily, and waited for the rest to emerge.

”Is everyone… okay?”

“The only one who you need to be worried about is probably you,” the faerie replied. “We’ve completed our objective. It’s time to get our reward.” Naturally, she turned to the doctor’s pet (who was likely to be a moving shadow on the ground), expecting it to take the lead next. “So, can we go through the portal? Or do we have to walk back from here?” That would be a pain.

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A lot of the exchange between the adults (and one pixie) went over the little girl's head.  She deeply wished they wouldn't be so nonchalant about fire.  And there was a lot of concern over Karuna which sounded quite serious.  Maybe when they got back, Karuna could talk to Master about this void rot problem.  He was a Doctor after all.  He could cure anything!  Master really was quite amazing.

Everything remained relatively distant until the sudden onset of everything being on fire-itis.  The shadow writhed upon the floor in agitation.  It took a moment to realize what was going on.  To realize the fire was here to engulf everything.  To realize the man was in the middle of it all.

No no no nononono.

He should be running.  He should be screaming.  Sasha didn't like him that much, but that didn't mean she wanted him to suffer this.  No one should ever have to suffer being burned alive.  Tendrils of darkness stretched out, towards the man, into the fire.  Each one sizzled away in the light and the heat before even getting close, flailing in agony before dissipating into a heavy smoke that mingled, failing to distinguish itself from the rest of the smoke.

Yet the tendrils of darkness kept trying.  Again and again and again and again and again.  They acted recklessly, desperately, without thought, throwing themselves to their deaths in their futile efforts, each one looking thinner and weaker than the last.

Perhaps if Sasha had formulated some kind of plan, there could have been some chance.  But the cretin of shadows was hardly acting intelligibly.  It had hardly moved even as the flames spread around her and started to close in, threatening to overtake the puddle as it stood there, throwing lifeline after lifeline into the blaze.

Smoke obscured most of what happened next.  Maybe the doctor's pet remembered its own life, the fire becoming overwhelming in a different way and forcing her outside.  Maybe Agony subtly intervened while no one was looking.  Regardless, the next moment the puddle of darkness was outside the house and it erupted into an impressive inferno.  The shadow didn't even try to hide behind anyone, just watching as the domicile melted away.

Sasha doesn't respond to Lunara either.  Not immediately.  The lack of reaction stretches uncomfortably for a few moments.  Finally, laboriously, the shadow begins to move again, back towards Lirrey.  Normally her glide is smooth and graceful, but this is rough and clumsy.  Like someone staggering home injured or in a daze.

-----

The town line forces Sasha out of the ground and while she doesn't look particularly different, her travel remains erratic.  Regardless, she continues the journey back to the town church, ignoring the far too chipper townsfolk and that one guy who still seems off-synch.  When they reach the church, a small surprise awaits them.  Everything is as it was when they first arrived, except the very back of the building which now houses a dark, swirling portal.  The same that should be several meters below them.

Not even questioning it, Sasha continues forward into the portal without hesitation.  Master had told her to come through here when they were finished.  The surface is cold and the texture is oily but there is no resistance to anyone who enters.

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Agony stood firmly in the center of an open area within the library as Karuna fished for her prize and Lunara finished her conversation with the man. The sudden revelation of the malady that Karuna suffered from did little to stir the ancient being either though the realization that she could lose the power that she seemed to wield with some skill did cause the slightest fixation upon the witch’s hands for a few moments. The consideration that he could use her plight as a means to recruit her to their cause emerged. Karuna sought power to liberate herself from her burdens, power that they could continue to help her attain.

The idea that she, much like the pitiful Doctor Ravenspire could be dangerously wayward made any motivation to consider it further end, however. The sudden onset of flames around them also distracted, as Obtenebra rippled in response to the new threat. Crimson eyes stared at the man with searing intensity but it was Lunara’s nonchalant move to exit that caused him to discard his desire to engage the annoying man any further. Staying just slightly longer than the rest of the group, Agony allowed some of the flames to lick against Obtenebra’s surface. Unhindered by the flames, Agony pivots and then moves to assist Sasha’s departure, shadowy tendrils pressing against those of the small minion in a protective gesture as he moves outside.

”Is everyone… okay?”

Agony didn’t respond to the question, his form sizzling slightly in areas where the flame managed to cling to the black ooze. Instead, Agony spends most of his time monitoring Sasha and tracking her erratic movements. Shadows would attempt to urge the little girl forward, making her movement just a bit easier to execute as they were led toward the portal. Once the girl made it through the portal, Agony would wait for Lunara and Karuna to enter through before making his way through himself.

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Still bent over, she took a scan of those around her. Apparently she was the only one of the group that was not okay, and Lunara was first to verbally acknowledge it. She paused, a a flush of red undertone peered through her brown cheeks. She quickly put herself together, dusting off her soot covered clothes. She cleared her throat of the remaining dust.

"Right. Yeah, sounds about right." She coughed again as she took a look at her arms. Now that the man had brought it to her attention, it was blatantly obvious something was wrong. She is leaking energy, she can see it, sense it even. Perhaps she had not noticed because she never really takes the time to inspect herself. And perhaps in the heat of the moments the pain was ignored, placed under the category of exhaustion. But now she sees she really was not taking care of herself all these years. She needs to give her body a break. At least until she is able to fund a cure for this ailment which could permanently scar her if left untreated. She supposes all form s of magic should cease, including the illusion spell she placed on her poncho a while back for aesthetic reasons. With a  snap of her fingers, her once Teal poncho unfurls into more of an indigo Cloak, flowing to just sweep your ankles. She collected her books at followed the group back to the village.

---

Just before she would enter the portal she would look back at the Village, the landscape, and then find herself looking at Dolor, who seemed intent at ensuring everyone else entered before him. In this gaze she noticed the rune imprinted on the shoulder of her cloak. She is still not sure what it means, but she knows that once the symbol is complete, something very bad will happen to her home town. She then turned to look at her arms, which appeared normal, but leaked energy visibly to anyone with a keen sense for magic. Then she stared at the top book of her stack which had the image of the magicians hat. And then there is the demon familiar that resided in her, who has yet to communicate what the hell is going on inside of her. Wouldn't it have known of her condition? There was  a lot on her plate now. She took another deep breath before walking through the portal behind Sasha.

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No words were exchanged when they stood before the portal that was supposed to bring them back to where they started. It was a little strange that the portal had dislodged itself from where it was first formed, but portals in and of themselves were a strange form of magic that could be relatively unstable. Anomalies were to be expected, especially when it opened into the cross-dimensional village of Lirrey.

Each one of them had entered Yh’mi to pursue personal interests, and each one of them had gotten something in return, be it knowledge, skill or power. Lunara looked to Agony. If the blob had been noticing, she seemed to have something to say, but she was withholding her words for now. They were not done with Yh’mi yet, that much was certain. Besides her new duty as Lirrey Star’s new Herald, there were other powers to be sought in this forsaken land. Agony seemed somehow enamoured by Yh’mi, given his reaction to her earlier words to return to Weland. From what she knew of him, he would not pass up the chance to witness powers stronger than himself, regardless of danger; or maybe because of the potential suffering they could inflict upon him.

Abbadon had made themselves powerful enemies when they kidnapped the Black Queen of Orisia. This was a chance they could leverage relatively unknown ancient power in Yh’mi, that have been lost and hidden away from the masses in their fear. It might even be substantial in order to win the impending battle that Lunara had no doubt would come. Their enemies were long-lived vampyres who could bide their time to find them. Being forced to live in fear, in hiding and as outcasts, that was something that Abbadon as an organization sought to eliminate. Power was their solution.

These thoughts in her mind, Lunara took another look back at the village that had become dear to her, and entered the portal after Karuna. It would not be a long goodbye.

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