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-Malice-

Moths drawn to flame

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Men may covet crowns, and women jewels to decorate them, but there were things more precious still, to those that were immortal.

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Orisia, the summer isle, where splendour stalks the lands as readily as any predator might the shadows, a place where peasant and prince alike can savour its beauty, though society would seek to split one from the other. It is here where stories blossom, where knight and knave can win renown with the edge of a blade. No tale lasts forever though, no life lingers longer than fate has ordained, and so in the fleeting moments after one flame flounders, and another burns anew within the eyes of its parents, there lies a limbo for the soul.

Vast as the star-stitched heavens, and deep as the roots of mountains, this plane is a world betwixt consciousness and death, a sea of psyche, where the immortal essence of Valucre's creatures all come eventually, as their spark is snuffed forever. It is here that these beings swim, clinging to one another for comfort, as though fish caught amidst some swift and ever extending shoal that stretches for eternity. Down there in the depths, however, where light itself dreads to tread, there exist entities whom prey upon the dead, beasts that gorge upon the last vestiges of life and drag souls screaming toward the great beyond, and the judgement that waits for all in the end.

Time holds no power there, as ages entwine and nations rise and fall like fields plump with corn, for this realm is bordered by none, yet surrounded by all, an expanse where Orisia's heroes and horrors mingle, and become consumed by the cosmos anew. When the scent of nobility filled those calm waters though, and an aid to Raspberry splashed into their placid embrace, a ripple echoed across the ocean, a pulse which peeked the interest of no mere predator alone, but something far more ancient.

Churning the waters with the sheer strength of its passage, the presence was gigantic, a force which dwarfed the feeble fish which sauntered haplessly through the sea, so fresh was their departure from the life they once knew. The leviathan had known countless aeons though, had bathed upon the surface of suns and drank civilizations dry, such was its terrible thirst. Onwards it swam then, drawn like a shark toward the faintest flicker of the DuGrace dynasty, until it isolated the latest traveller and set them down upon a seabed of sand, and bone.

Blazing brighter than a thousand bonfires, the sight of this figure was blinding at first, the power they exuded overwhelming, but as the seconds slipped by, their lustre began to fade, until the spirit of the woman, who once had tended to Royalty, could observe the silhouette of the seraphim without fear.

Radiant as the dawn, the being was impossibly beautiful, a purple-haired Adonis, whose physique could have been graven from marble itself, and as the woman stared up toward the behemoth, a sliver of recognition might hurtle through her mind. This monstrosity resembled Malice, the Warlord who had girded Orisia for the Black Queen for as long as she could remember, but there was something different about him here, something strange beyond the massive scale his form took, as she sat there, smaller even than the juggernaut's hand. It was not the size which surprised her then, miniscule as she was compared to the hundred foot titan, no it was the warmth which radiated from every pore, the peace the Warlord promised, with each and every tilt of their gaze, as the terror of the mortal world was replaced now by something she had not expected, she discovered awe.

Words rolled in upon her thoughts like waves, as the Great Devourer spoke, syllables which sounded now like honey laced with velvet, where once their baritone had crackled through the throne-room like thunder. 'Be at peace my child, for there is no pain left here. Be at ease, for no terror shall touch your heart, whilst I am near.' The leviathan paused for a moment, allowing the woman to take account of her situation and surroundings, before adding simply, 'this is the Silver Sea, and no soul may linger here for long'. The voice stopped then, as the woman was again afforded time to process this encounter, preparing to answer questions which doubtless, even now, were bubbling up within her, like magma threatening to burst upon the mountainside as lava.

 

 

Edited by -Malice-

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Lilly Ann Merigold

Death was nothing like she had imagined. Having spent the last five years in her life within the gilded halls of the DuGrace castle, and all other subsequent palaces, castles, and fortresses that belonged to the Royal Family of Orisia, Lilly had come to hear so many stories. Death and life for the woman that she served seemed the very stuff of fairytales, with each chapter of a story being some intricate plot line that detailed the deep tragedy of death and the triumphant will of life. And somehow, she had gotten caught up in all the limelight. She had gone so far as to fancy herself a part of those wonderful and fantastic stories, and why not…

 

Because she was just a human woman in her late thirties. The cancer that had afflicted her body in devastating silence was a very normal part of the human condition, and so was her disgusting, undignified, and pathetic death. She hadn’t died in the arms of her beloved, a heroine in her own right after some selfless sacrifice of love and duty. No -- the cancer had eaten her from the inside out, starting in her right breast and spreading into the surrounding tissue, and eventually her blood. Upon her deathbed she had been surrounded by strangers, having been a long way from home when the worst of the symptoms hit her. She had been so weak that she hadn’t been able to tell the doctors her name, or where she was from, or the fact that she had a beautiful son back home waiting for her. Her death had been a drop in the ocean, one of many, and she had died a nameless nothing. But in death her soul returned to the Summer Isles, called back by whatever trace amounts of La’Ruta floated in her veins, which had through some method or another entertwined with her very soul.

 

And now here she was --

 

The waves of the Silver Sea shimmered as they lapped against the golden sands of the nameless beach where she had been set. It looked like quick silver, that strange liquid meta, beautiful but known to be quite toxic to living beings. Death, she was suddenly reminded, was her new state of being. The conscious realization of this should have caused a stronger reaction in her, but the truth was that Lilly felt very little -- or rather -- she felt very much, sadness, curiosity, wonder, fear, anxiety, but it was distant in some strange way. Without a body to feed a physical brain any of the multiple physiological cues of these strong emotions, she was left only to savor the memory of them.

 

The sight of the swirling, glimmering Silver Sea, along with the endless multitude of floating “souls” that swam across and below the waters, was nothing in comparison to the creature that had pulled her from her aimless wandering. She regarded the creature with fear, but due to the warm radiating light that shome from the surface of it’s perfect flesh and the indescribable beauty and peace of it’s facial features, she felt that sense of trepidation slowly shift toward quiet but sincere awe.

 

“I’ll never be at peace,” she replied, and was strangely surprised by the sound of her voice -- or rather lack of a voice. Her words were thoughts, and her thoughts floated through the space that separates them like pastel wisps of smoke light. It was beautiful and frightening all at once. She could hear the words, but she knew that she was also feeling them and seeing them. This was a language that was writing in empty space with flashes of color. So strange. Utterly sublime. But she had to get back to the point. Whatever this was, she could not waste the opportunity. “Not one of my loved ones knows what became of me. My bones were buried in foreign soil under a marker that bore no name. How will my husband and my son ever mourn me if they do not even know I am dead? They will live a tortured life, miserably wondering if I abandoned them or if I perished -- if I was killed or died naturally. It is beyond cruel and the weight of my remembrance of these emotions makes me unique and install. I cannot go forth into the great unknown knowing that my son has no place to leave his dead mother some flowers.”

 

Her words had come as bright, bold, and almost angrily flashes of light and fog as she blurted out all that had been contained in her heart. He was the first being to offer to hear her, or at least who had bothered to speak to her. The other spirits in the sea were moaning and whimpering about their own losses, their own grievances, and the many things that caused them to linger. She knew she must not have been very different from them. Something had made her noticeable and special enough to be plucked out of the waters of fate.

 

“How can I let them know that I am dead and that they don’t have to wait for me?”

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Often the pain of loss is felt not by those whom forsake life, but instead those left to suffer in their absence

Immortal, eternal, an existence as inexorable as the rising sun, these and many more monikers had been employed in the past to describe the entity known as Malice, a creature whose hunger had driven them to bypass borders, to surpass sovereigns, and even transcend time itself. This was a being who had experienced a hundred lifetimes, millennia untold of mankind's destiny, and so it was not empathy that moved his hand that day, nor emotion which caused him to caress the woman's cheek. Doubtless, most mortals might have been reassured by such a gesture, reading compassion in its contours and ascribing meaning to movements born of reflex, rather than remorse, as Lilly lamented her departure from those she loved, and the leviathan tailored its behaviour to maintain a terrible ruse.

Thrumming with thoughts, as they spilled electric throughout the Silver Sea, Lilly was surrounded by the sorrow of countless souls that came before her, as though she were an insect within an ocean, a single ship caught amidst the storm of consciousness that dwelt within its waves. Piercing the maelstrom though, as if their mind were a scalpel dissecting layers of an onion, Malice's response was an anchor, a haven which sheltered her, as readily as it deafened the noise of any other which wailed in their vicinity. 'Do not despair, daughter of Orisia, do not doubt that which dwells within thine breast.' Visions of her family flooded into reality next, as her host plucked the whims from her heart with the fearsome force of its telepathy, moulding dream and desire alike until they were made manifest beside her once more, and images of her child played out before her eyes.

Its innocence is delicious, the Great Devourer reflected, as he watched the woman for a moment, as he savoured the poignant emotions that this visage conjured within her, as though he were an angler, and she the fish now tempted by a well-baited hook. 'What would you give to see your family again?', the behemoth inquired, guiding her slowly yet surely toward an outcome he himself had envisioned, long before the cancer had taken her from the world. 'What would you sacrifice, if you could feel the sun's warmth upon your face anew?'

In truth, Malice could have maintained the image for hours, could have crafted the very likeness of her child into some ghastly homunculus, had he so desired it, but his machinations were far more subtle than this, and so after a few seconds of solace, the conjuration began to waver, its lines distorting and diminishing, until it slipped from sight. This was the great deception, the reason that the deity's presence dwelt within the sea itself, for he would offer souls the slightest taste of what they yearned for, would promise them the world and more, if they but relinquished the one thing his avatar alone could not claim.

'Pledge your soul to me, sweet sparrow, and fly anew amongst those you hold dear, for death itself shall bend to me, if you but spread word of the salvation I alone can offer Orisia'. It was in that moment that Lilly would realize why the Warlord had never sullied itself with the politics of the realm, had never challenged Rafael's ascension, nor seized the throne by force from the Black Queen herself. Malice was a being who sought to preserve the very spirit of the Summer Isle, a thing so ancient that it would never be a king or courtier, it would become an ideal, a prospect of redemption beyond the lands of men and beast.

 

Edited by -Malice-

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Lilly Ann Merigold

Do not despair, he said, and so she did not despair. He was full of light and warmth, how could she do anything other than what he commanded? Her heart, or at least what she imagined must have been her heart in this strange form, seemed to swell to near bursting. There was a great comfort in the tone of his voice, and in his sheer size. She had a sense that if he wanted to he could lift his mighty hand and cup it over her and that she would then be shielded from every pain and sorrow of the life she left behind. However, as alluring as that possibility was, her love was far too strong and far too pure. There was a sense of duty in those sentiments that bound her now, even in death, to her son and her husband. While death had freed her from the mortal coil, and while there was a growing sense of longing for what came next and the bliss of letting go of regret and remorse, there was that part of her that remained mortal -- love.

 

“What would you give to see your family again?”

 

Lilly was confounded by the question.

 

“Anything. But I have nothing -- I am nothing.”

 

The Behemoth seemed beyond benevolent. She could not hope to see through his lies at the mass of corruption that lay just beneath the surface of his appearance. Her innocence made her a fool -- it sent her headlong into the welcome embrace of the solace he seemed to offer with just the tone of his voice.

 

“What would you sacrifice, if you could feel the sun’s warmth upon your face anew?”

 

“I do not care for the sun, my lord,” she replied softly, her words a series of pastel colors that ranged all shades and hues of the rainbow. There was a sincerity to the statement that transcended her humble appearance. Love, in its purest of forms, when it was nothing but spirit and light, floated up like the offerings of ambrosia to the monstrous beast bent on devouring the tiny, lost soul. “Tell me that you could return me to my boy, that again I will feel his arms around my neck, and his lips against my cheeks. Promise me that I’ll be able to bury my nose in his hair and breathe deep of his smell. When he was a child, newly born, how that smell affected me so. It was sweeter than any flower’s perfume, it was by far more subtle.”

 

She stopped because there was a swell inside of her that ached suddenly. It hurt to remember these distinct details of a life that was no longer hers. It hurt to try and clutch at these visions that she had no eyes to see or imagination to reconstruct. The memory of them were like images that someone was trying to describe to her -- but she was deaf and dumb. Every part of her ached for that child she had left behind, but she had no parts. The whole of her felt like a phantom limb, and it made her want to weep.

 

“Pledge your soul to me, sweet sparrow, and fly anew amongst those you hold dear, for death itself shall bend ot me, if you but spread word of the salvation I alone can offer Orisia.”

 

“My lord, if you are powerful enough to give me back my life then I will gladly give you my soul and spend whatever you deem right and fit to give me, whether it is a single minute or a hundred years, singing praises to your glory. I ask only that you place me near my son, so that I may see him -- so that I may embrace him one last time.”

 

Yes, yes, yes -- I will sell my soul to the devil himself if only I can see Joshua again, if only I can smooth back his hair and kiss his brow and tell him what happened. But this was no devil, she thought to herself with distinct conviction. He was merciful, kind, and gentle -- he was goodness incarnate, was he not?

 

“I give you my soul, and my heart, and my mind, and body if you see fit to dress me in flesh once more.”

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Terrible though a tyrant may be, there are some things which may not be taken by force alone.

Malice had encountered many worlds, had rent kingdoms asunder and dethroned deities in his time as a warrior, but despite the distance which separated one dimension from the next, there remained one constant within the Multiverse, one ideal which empowered the planes and sent ripples across reality itself, free will was the strongest magic of all. That was why he had wormed his way betwixt life on Valucre and its ever after, that was how he had crept like a cancer through the heart of Orisian belief, to coax their minds toward his merciless waiting jaws, pandering to their perceptions of what a god would embody and express.

A smile snaked across the being's black lips when Lilly's assent approached, relishing the turmoil she experienced, whilst outwardly he remained the very effigy of affection, a blazing seraphim, whose wings would usher her toward a new dawn, a golden age where the dead would be delivered from damnation, if they would but worship at the Warlord's feet. That was the propaganda his disciples would preach, at least, the Great deception which, he anticipated, would deliver unparalleled power unto him upon the planes themselves, as he quietly converted Orisian souls into fuel to feed his crusade.

All galaxies shall burn, he reflected, as Lilly surrendered herself unto his indomitable will, and his immortal essence veritably swelled with fresh energy, potency enough to defy even Valucre's virtues, if only for a time. Summoning his strength from the vast reservoirs which, normally, were quelled but not extinguished by the realm's wards, the leviathan located the place where Lilly fell, tracking her unique spiritual imprint with little effort and then, as his arms out-stretched to enclose the woman in an embrace within the Silver Sea, something began to stir.

Reconstituting her genetic structure, rather than salvaging the sick-stricken corpse itself, Malice's ministrations transcended a mere spell to raise the slain, employing techniques from another era, another age, to sculpt an identical shell from matter, and house her spirit within a body born from his baleful touch. This endeavour was not instant, though in the timeless tides of her current surroundings, Lilly might have perceived it so, for the Great Devourer twisted, rather than defied, the laws of nature, utilising Dark La'Ruta to perform a true resurrection, a sorcery so sophisticated that it would have taken mortal men generations to master.

Light engulfed her consciousness, as the enchantment took hold, a radiance so bright that it was as if she suddenly stood before the sun itself until, with a sensation like being dragged by the navel, the illumination dimmed suddenly, became bearable once more, as Lilly found herself upon the boundaries of her house, and a breeze swept through the grass, bearing with it a whisper.

Travel this land and tell all who will listen of my love child. Tell them of the Golden Dawn and the truth behind the war-like form I must guard you with in this material world. As the words faded, and Joshua came running through the fields to greet her, Lilly suddenly knew the symbol of her saviour, and the tenets which those she converted should adhere to.

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Edited by -Malice-

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Lilly stretched out her hands and felt the tall grass brush across her fingertips. The blades were cool but the sun was warm, and these sensations which she had been deprived of for what felt like an eternity suddenly were too much to contain within her small, mortal heart. Her chest felt like it would burst from sheer happiness. From the blue sky above with the glorious sun burning at its center, to the damp earth under her bare feet -- the pleasure she derived from her senses were sensations she had believed to be forever gone.

 

Her eyes closed and she inhaled deeply, filling her lungs with the smell of sweet grass, the perfume of flowers, and the scent of baking bread. And then there were the sounds. At least a hundred songbirds all chirping and whistling to create a delightfully mad orchestra, and beyond the sound of laughter -- rich, unencumbered, and encompassing everything that made this one moment in time so utterly delightful and wonderful.

 

Joshua came into sight. He was no longer the little boy she had been forced to leave behind some five years ago, when he was only eight years old. He now stood a youth, fully set on the path of becoming a remarkably handsome, and from the looks of the leather straps of the backpack set over his shoulder, a remarkably studious young man. He broke the horizon of a slight hill as he climbed up the steadily rising eastern gardens of the DuGrace Castle, clearly coming in from the glittering city that sat below on the shoreline of the great sparkling lake beyond. He lifted his head, a proud pale face peeking up through a curtain of dark hair that nearly fell over his blue eyes. When he caught sight of his mother, he all but froze midstep.

 

She watched him and reflected on the vasty array of sensations that were going through her body. Much like young love, but far more important and more profound, she felt the flutter of butterfly wings in her stomach and the swell of color in her cheeks. Her equally lovely face, for Lilly and her son were incredibly beautiful creatures, was flush and painted with aa blush born from embarrassment, from shame, but also from pure, unabashed joy.

 

There was her son -- there was her bright and radiant boy.

 

He wasted no time after the initial shock wore off. Joshua kicked up dirt and gravel as he dashed forward and ran into his mother’s open arms. They crashed into each other with the full force of an angry and storming ocean and the hard and unforgiving clifeside -- and then they melted into one another with a gentleness that only mother and child could share. Her arms were around his neck, her hands in his hair, her lips pressed to his forehead, and then his brow, and then his eyes. Meanwhile he buried his face into her chest and breathed in deeply. Her smell was familiar and Joshua found that he had longed for this moment without ever having known it. Somehow, he had made peace with his mother’s disappearance some years ago -- but seeing her, hugging her, and hearing her weeping above him seemed to set into motion some emotional gears that had stopped spinning a long time ago. Suddenly, the thought that he had been without his mother for this long made him wrap his arms around her and cling to her with all the strength his skinny arms would allow.

 

“Mom,” he whispered against the soft fabric of her white dress. “Mom, momma…”

 

“Yes, yes,” she replied, rocking her young son back and forth, “Yes, sweet boy.”

 

He had so many questions, but at the same time no real interest in asking and no interest in hearing an answer. She was weeping and he could feel her tears raining down on top of his head, just as he could feel how fast her heart was beating against his cheek, and he could sense the desperation in the way her arms gripped him -- she was happy to be back, and every one of her actions showed that she had never wanted to leave him. That’s all that mattered to him.

 

“It’s a glorious day,” she whispered, but this time she wasn’t speaking to him. Her lips were pressed to his hair, and she was certain that although he was on his way to becoming a fine young man -- she could still catch the faintest traces of that baby perfume that had totally intoxicated her upon his birth. Regardless of his age, he was still her child -- he was still her baby. “The Lord made good on his promise, and now I must make good on mine. It is the age of a new dawn,” she pulled her son away from her breast and regarded the youth with teary-eyes that were filled to the brim with pride, love, and a nearly sinister edge of madness.

 

“He brought me back to you,” she said softly, aware suddenly that she might sound mad if she also looked the part. She had to calm down, and so she forced herself to breathe, and to stop her happy weeping. “The Dawn is Golden, my love -- golden.”

 

Joshua was perplexed. He looked at his mother with wide, innocent eyes and glanced at the blue sky. It wasn’t dawn -- it was the middle of the day and the sun was bright and bold overhead. He didn’t understand what she was saying, and so he looked at her apologetically. Lilly laughed and shook her head.

 

“Nevermind, baby.”

 

She gave him another tight hug.

 

“Let’s go home...I have work to do, and years to catch up on.”

Edited by Pasion Pasiva

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