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Kissed by fire
Posted: Mon Jul 09, 2012 5:03 pm
(Check the OOC thread before posting please)
Passage from 'Trapped Beneath Heaven's Wrath: A collection of strange sights and tales' compiled by Attarni Beleth, Head Scribe of the library of Nophyles, of the miraclous, marvellous or unexplained that occurred during the destruction of the lands of Maxim prior to the fall of the God Foret.
"Those refugees who escaped the fall of Foret from the region of Maxim once known as Greater Carysford all tell a strange tale of pilrimage. They speak of a woman, or sometimes women, who travelled through their home lands prior to the fall. Most mention only one woman of indeterminate age and race who was travelling to a far off temple and who seemed to be suffering from an illness or injury so dreadful that no inch of her flesh was left unbandaged. Often these refugees suggest a disease such as leprosy, but some others suggest that she had been dreadfully burned in a fire. The truth is impossible to decipher, as is whether she travelled alone or, as some suggest, with an old and blinded companion.
It is possible to trace the path taken by this sick or injured woman through those who speak of her. From the Evenside Woods (also sometimes called locally the Witches' Woods), through the villages of Merrimead and Falsted, through the very heart of the dusty plains of Dorthos, around (though some say through) the Forest of Kineralf and then finally to the city of Millsbrook. In some places she is known to have healed, in others she spoke of old and long-forgotten times, some even say that she spent the evening with a vampire as her travelling companion and escaped without losing a drop of blood. What is sure and accounted by all who remember her, is that she was searching for a temple where she intended to make a sacrifice. Now at this time it must be remembered the great battle of the heavens raged, the Gods did not answer to mortal prayers and many had forsaken faith entirely. Some cities held true to the faiths of Foret, Isonia and Darden, believing it all a test of their strength and courage. A few however began to turn to older names and religions, and those who had whispered silent prayers to Angelique, Barnabas and Leto were no longer persecuted but rather encouraged to be more open.
The city of Millsbrook was one such place where the Goddess Angelique was openly spoken of. Indeed it is said that just prior to the fall of Foret the city-fathers had begun work on a magnificant new temple in Her name. The temple was meant to be a beacon of hope to all those who felt themselves forsaken by the Gods, a call back to faith for the faithless. At its heart was said to grow a young tree, white as porcelain and as tall as a man, which was believed to whisper with the voice of the Goddess herself.
There are very few who can give a certain description of the temple itself for it is known to have burnt to the ground shortly after the pilgrim woman reached it. Details are sketchy of exactly what happened but it is believed by those willing to speak that the woman sought the temple specifically and met with a stranger within. The stranger was not known to anyone in Millsbrook who saw him and none can remember him even entering the temple. What the pilgrim and the stranger spoke of and how a fire hot enough to burn stone started are a mystery as only two priests escaped from the temple. One of those disappeared in the aftermath of Foret's fall, and the other will speak to no one, he only sits and weeps.
What is not a mystery however is the miraclous sight that those outside the temple beheld when the flames were at their height. Many had come to try and beat the flames back so there were several witnesses who have sworn that as all were forced back by the heat a bird rose from the flames. Such an occurance would of course lead the scholar to think of the legendary phoenix, though I have no evidence of any of the known phoenixes escaping from Maxim at this time. Those that saw the bird claimed that it was no bigger than a raven and that even as it burned, it turned its wings and headed towards the coastline, shedding embers as it travelled.
It is said, by those that followed its flight, that strange things happened where ever the burning raven's embers fell. In one town I have recieved confirmed reports that when the ember touched the ground a great swathe of wildflowers appeared. In another place an ember fell into a padock where several dray horses where grazing and the horses became so crazed that it was many days before any could approach them. Where the embers touched people though are the strangest tales of all found. Without exception those touched by the embers became silent and turned away from all their usual tasks and pastimes. Within days one touched by an ember would disappear from their home with no word or note to indicate where they had gone. Whether any of these people touched by the embers survived the fall of Foret I cannot say.
And when the ashes of the temple at Millsbrook were shifted, no trace of the pilgrim woman or the stranger she met were ever found."
In the middle of the desert a woman sat so still it was as if she had been carved from stone. Only the loose robe and her hair, red and gold like rippling fire, moved in the warm winds that traversed the sands. Her eyes were shut as if she was sleeping, her breathing relaxed and calm even though the sun, Intop, beat down upon her. Her face and form was that of the endless Sidhe, once rare and seemingly reaching the end of their time upon the lands, and now? Perhaps not.
Before her, half covered by the sand, lay a mask the colour of smoke and ash, and beside it an ebony-black staff. Grains of sand crawled across the empty features of the mask, giving it an eerie life and almost making it appear to weep shimmering tears. The staff was sturdy and straight for most of its length, only the last foot was twisted and curled upon itself.
Re: Kissed by fire
Posted: Wed Jul 11, 2012 1:23 pm
The voice whispered insistantly, no louder than a breath, barely audible above the shifting sands. But still it penetrated the mind of the woman, it echoed down through her thoughts to the very heart of who and what she was. It called her back from the lonely mediation that had consumed her, it reminded her that the world still waited and that it was not yet done with her.
Her eyes opened slowly, old eyes set in the eternally young face of a Sidhe, eyes the colour of molten gold. They hadn't always been that way, but unlike the leopard, this one had learnt to change her spots. Or rather, had had them changed for her.
How long had it been since that day in the temple? She felt as if many ages had passed, come and gone and left her as unchanged as always. The woman remembered the temple clearly with its strong stone walls still unfinished, its hushed priests, its growing glory to a Goddess of the past. But she remembered too the man with the eyes that had both laughed and burned. The man who had been waiting for her, indeed perhaps he had always been waiting for her. He had welcomed her warmly, totally at ease in his surroundings, he acted as though the temple belonged to him. Or perhaps, and more accurately, he acted as though she belonged to him.
His greeting came back to her, remembered words across the years, "I knew you would come, my little witch. Through all the deception and the despair I could always rely on you. The Others never really knew what they had let slip through their fingers when they lost you. But I knew. My brother might have loved you given the chance but only I have ever known you for you who truly are."
"And what is that?" She had replied.
The man had smiled, the light in his eyes dancing, "Mine, always and forever, mine." There had been other words spoken between them, and even though they had spoken for no more than a few minutes plenty had passed between them. They had spoken of pain and hate, of promises that had yet to be fulfilled and now might never come to pass, of three debts and their payment. And finally he had spoken to her of love, a twisted, strange and bitter love, a love that she had not looked for or wanted, but love nonetheless.
She remembered how he had taken a step towards her, his hand gently touching the cheek of the mask she wore. "There's no need for this", he had said, "I know what is hidden beneath and it holds no fear for me. The scars, the wounds, they are as beautiful to me as you ever were, they mark out your path to me". He had taken the mask from her then, bending forward to brush his lips against hers in a strangely tender and unexpected kiss.
And then there had been fire, flames so hot, so impossibly hot that the stone had run like water. She vaguely remembered the cries of the priests as they had tried in vain to halt the flames. Where the fire had started she did not know, one moment the temple had been at peace, the next the very stone had burned. The young tree at the altar had been the last thing to catch light. Once it had apparently whispered with the voice of a Goddess, but when the fire finally touched it the tree had screamed.
For a while after that all she could remember was fire, flames dancing about her, caressing her but never harming her. She had been burned before but this time it had been different, there had been no fear in her, no mindless terror that tried to compel her to escape the fire's grasp. The fire had been his gift to her, perhaps a last gift between two who had been so many things to one another: enemy, prisoner, debtor, confessor, penitent, collaborator, guard, companion, guide, maybe even lover, but never friend.
And then there had only been the desert, the warmth, the heat, the slow healing of body, mind and soul.
In the flames she had been reborn, the wounds and pain she had carried for so long had been burned away. Once again her flesh was whole and the suffering that she had borne for so long was little more than a distant memory, and one that no longer held any fear for her. Now it was time to see what remained of the world her old and scarred self had once sought to escape.
Re: Kissed by fire
Posted: Mon Jul 16, 2012 12:48 pm
The Sidhe woman rose to her feet, surprisingly stead for one who had been still for so long. She reached out for the mask, she had no need for it anymore and yet there was still a part of her reluctant to leave it behind. The unhealed wounds that the mask had once hid were gone now but a voice within her urged caution. She did not know how long she had rested in the desert sands or even where in the lands she might be. For all she knew her enemies might still be waiting and watching for her, she would not put it beyond the demon at the very least to have kept a vigil for her, he had always been one who enjoyed his revenge cold.
As she lifted the mask once more to her face she noticed something that had lain hidden beaneth it: a circle of blackened metal. A wry smile lit her face under the mask as she reached down and picked it up. "Well, well, well, I had not thought to see you again", she said softly, turning it round and around in her hands. Like her, the metal had been many things in its time: a fallen star, a crown of astounding beauty, a paladin's burden, a circlet of pain, a prison for a dark soul. And now? "And now you are nothing old friend". There was no power left in the metal now, whatever it might have once held was gone now, not even a faint echo remained.
She called the staff to her, the Art singing joyfully in her veins once again as her magic curled about the wood and drew it into her right hand. The woman took the blackened metal and curled it about the twisted and grasping top of the staff. She might have been reborn and given another chance at life, but there were somethings from before that she could not leave behind.
Now she was ready to face what the lands had become. The desert stretched out before her in all directions but only from the east did she feel the slightest pull, a gentle insistance that intruded upon her thoughts. It was as though she was tied to something by a thread beyond the horizon. Had she left something of power there in her former life? Did something formed by her Art call out to its maker? She did not think so but her curiousity was piqued and do she set off towards the pull.
Several hours passed before she saw another living creature. Only the grains of sand flowed and danced across the desert until she spotted a large bird riding the thermals far in the distance. As she walked, the Sidhe watched the bird as it circled and soared, no doubt it was waiting for some unfortunate creature to present itself as supper.
As it flew the bird stirred a memory deep within her, a memory of her childhood in the Sanctuary. She could still almost hear the voice of her D'Ni telling her a story of another bird...
"The raven is the oldest of birds by our reckoning, old and clever and oh-so-very cunning, a trickster and no mistake. But the raven, she wasn't always black of both feather and humour, no, not at all, once, in the first days, she shone brightly, putting even the peacock and the phoenix to shame. Once she was beautiful. Her feathers shone and gleamed more brightly than gold and were made of so many colours that even the rainbows could not count them or seek to match them. Oh yes, though she might be a dark and blackened creature now, once the raven was the most amazing of birds.
"But the raven of those days was a proud creature and once she was even heard to boast that she thought herself more lovely than the Goddess, more clever than the God and more brilliant than Their Brother. Such pride is a sin, my little dove, never forget that, the Gods do not take lightly to a mortal creature thinking themselves greater than They. The raven did not care, not when the owl and the mouse both came to warn her that her behaviour had angered the Gods, not even when the wolf and the lamb put aside their emnity to tell her to make her peace and plead for forgiveness. Instead the raven mocked them and took wing, crying to the heavens and to the earth that she was the finest of all creatures, that she had no equal.
"'No equal? But all must have an equal', the voice startled the raven from her flight. On a nearby branch dusty and plain bird sat, which the raven would have sworn was empty before. Its colour was unknown beneath the dirt that stuck to its feathers, its kind a mystery to the raven's eyes. 'If you have no equal then you can never find a mate, for a mating should be made of equals'.
"The raven nodded at the strange bird's words, a seed of doubt within her pride-filled mind, 'But where can one such as I find a true equal? The dragon has not my wisdom, the unicorn has not my grace, the griffon has not my beauty, no man, no beast, no bird can rival me. Shall I never find a mate who can be my equal?'
"'Each creature that you name is mortal, it has its span of years and dies in its time. What mortal creature could compare to you?' the other bird shamelessly flattered the proud raven. 'No, great Raven, no you must look beyond the mortal coil for your mate, you must seek the eternal, the unending, only there could you hope to find a mate worthy of your great beauty'.
"'The Gods? They are not my equal. See my shining feathers, how could any mere God compare?'
"'No look beyond Gods, They are not truly undying. What remains even when the Gods die?' And with that the dusty bird took flight to leave the foolish raven to ponder his words.
"Days passed and the raven still pondered, she looked this way and that, once she even tried to find the strange bird to question him further, but neither the birds of the air nor the beasts of the fields seemed to know where the he had gone. She even flew down the fishes and serpents that lived in the seas and oceans but they had not seen the dusty feathers of the other bird either. But as she perched and preened herself, admiring her reflection in the sea, the answer came to the raven. 'The ocean! Gods may come and Gods may go but the ocean remains. Perhaps the ocean can be my equal'. And so the raven flew over the ocean, and dived down deep into its waters. But the ocean was cold and did not return her embrace, its waves continued to pound and its waters swirled about the raven, chilling her to the core. 'No, the ocean cannot be my mate for it is cold and has no heart to love another'.
"Again days passed and the raven flew through the skies, ignoring the cries of its winged fellows to set aside its foolish quest and make its peace with the Gods. But the raven knew what it sought now and paid the other birds and beasts no attention. Instead it perched upon a great oak and looked across the lands, 'The earth is eternal, it may suffer as the Gods play their games but it endures. I know it has a heart for no matter how it suffers, still it brings forth crops for the living and a final home for the dead. The earth shall be my love and never shall I lack for an equal'. The raven flew over the far and wide lands, displaying its fine feathers and its most clever tricks. But the earth gave no sign of acknowledgment, the seasons passed across its face as it always had and the raven's beasuty went ignored. 'No, the earth cannot be my mate for it is blind and cannot see another'.
"The foolish raven flew to the highest mountain and wept that she would never find her equal or a mate to love her. But her tears never fell for they dried upon her feathers before they could fall to the unseeing earth, touched by the warm rays of the sun. The raven raised her head high and met the unwavering gaze of the sun above her. 'Oh bright sun, you have the eye to see me, you have the fiery heart to love me. Oh glorious sun, you shine as brightly as my feathers, you are as beautiful as me. You are my equal, you shall be my mate'. With a powerful beat of her wings she left the mountain behind, seeking only the blazing embrace of the sun above her. Higher and higher she climbed till the muscles in her chest and wings ached and the ever-burning orb of the sun was all she could see, 'I come, my love, my only love, my bright and shining equal'. She would not stop, clawing across the air, taking great gulpping breaths to take her ever closer to her goal. The heat of the sun reached out to her, touching her feathers, and where it touched sparks erupted, tiny flames sprang to life, hungrily spreading across the multi-coloured wonder of the raven. With a single cry of pain the raven reached its destination, its beak brushing the sun in a single chaste kiss before it fell to the far, far earth below.
"When the raven came to itself again it found itself a much changed bird for no creature of flesh was ever meant to reach so far. Its fine plummage was black as soot and never again would its once-fine colours grow. Even its beak, with which it has stolen its single kiss, was dark as coal, from tip to tail the raven was as black as the night. Never again would she boast of her beauty or her grace, never again would she be more than she appeared to be. The raven is not so prideful now I think".
The woman laughed as she thought back to those younger, more innocent times. Peels of laughter were swallowed up by the seemingly endless sands as she walked onwards and thought of all she had been and all she had done.
The woman with eyes of liquid gold. The woman who had been cleansed by a phoenix. The woman who had been condemned by a demon. The woman who had been called mad and murderess and heretic.
The woman who had once been the dove but was now and forever the raven.
With a smile on her face she turned her masked face skywards and felt the touch of Intop caress her. Good morning, my love, she said laughing still.
Re: Kissed by fire
Posted: Wed Jul 18, 2012 1:32 pm
She walked through the desert, one foot in front of the other, implacable. Having a purpose after so many years of inactivity seemed to drive her on, even if she did not know exactly what lured her out of the sands that had nourished and protected her. Or perhaps it was just plain stubborness that drove her onwards. It would not have been the first time that she could have been accused of such a failing. Stubborness and pride, at times in her long life they had been the only things that had kept her going. Now her pride, like the raven in her D'Ni's story, had been burned away and only stubborness remained.
It was enough though.
In time the desert began to lose its grip and she walked through patches of stubby grassland. Then twisted, knotty shrubs dotted the landscape about her in the scrubland, only the hardiest of plants surviving in their endless battle with the desert. As she walked she caught occasional sight of skittering lizards and sinuous snakes, their brilliant colours making them seem as though they had been formed not of flesh but of living jewels. Even more rarely she spotted a small bird or two, tiny dun coloured creatures no larger than her hand that watched her warily.
And as her steps ate up the distance between the Sidhe woman and her unknown destination even the dry scrublands gave way to lusher places. Trees appeared on the horizon and the gurgle of a rapidly moving river reached her ears. She paid little attention to the world around her though, instead her thoughts were turned inwards as she reached for a bond that should tie her to this place. Where that bond should have been, where the blood ties that she had forged to the three lands should have been, was empty. The stalwart ghosts of Gyppeswyk were silent, the ravenous screams of Culaearien were hushed, the unforgiven Abominations of the Santuary whispered no more. She knew she should have been afraid at their loss but strangely she found herself calm, able to accept the disappearance of the blood ties with equanimity.
"This is not the isle of Maxim" she concluded, "This is not my home". As soon as the words left her lips, she laughed at them, even on the isle how long had it been since she had really and truly been able to call a place 'home'? She had always been a wanderer at heart, this was just a new land to wander in.
Days and nights passed and still the pull of the east called to her. She walked through grassland and farmland, forest and dale, sometimes there was a road beneath her feet, sometimes she forged her own path. At times she met others, some were travellers like herself and told her of the road ahead or asked of the lands behind her. At other times she passed through villages and small communities, marvelling at the joy the people found in their lives when they struggled simply to survive.
And always she moved to the east.
Her appearance raised some questions but for the most part those she met were happy to accept her as she was. They asked no questions save for inquring where she was headed or what she had seen on her travels. Several times she shared a fire or a hearth with ordinary folk who were happy to help another soul. Perhaps they just saw her as another unfortunate made homeless in all the world's troubles.
Around the fires and in the villages the Sidhe woman listened. And as she listened she learned of what had happened to the isle of Maxim. She heard of how Olandar's children had returned just as the rumours during her journey to the temple had said. In silence she listened, sadness in her heart, as she heard of how the lands of Maxim had borne the first strike in the divine war. People spoke of how Foret and Isonia had fallen to the wrath of Angelique, Barnabas and Leto, and of how the world had burned. With hushed voices they had described of Foret's fall and Isonia's fires. They talked of Darden's last desperate act, the breaking of His bowl, and of how the heavens had flooded and washed the world into a new and uncertain time.
She wasn't sure how she should feel. Should she be glad at the death of Isonia, a war-blooded Goddess who had failed to protect Her armies? And should she be even happier to hear of Foret's demise, He who had promised much and brought none of the justice that He had claimed as His gift? The Sidhe looked within herself once more but she found no joy at the deaths of the Gods, no elation at Their last and final defeats.
Equally, she could not find cheer or rage at the new that the Elder Gods had returned. She had never cared for Barnabas or Leto, even the prospect of revenge against cold and imperious Angelique failed to ignite a spark within her. Once, upon hearing of Angelique's return, she might have flown into a frenzy, swearing to bring Her and all who followed her down. There had been a time when if she had heard that the Goddess had been made mortal she would have put all tasks aside to seek Her death. But all that seemed to petty now, all part of a past that no longer seemed to have the strength to affect her.
But what of Darden? What had happened to the Demon of Tismad after He had broken His bowl? Had He too passed into death with His siblings? Or perhaps He had also been swept to the lands below with His attackers? Or maybe the Trickster had performed His last great hoax and disappeared? Did Darden still exist in some form or another in the heavens or in the lands? After all their emnity and all the trials that she had suffered at His hands and those of His followers, she should have hoped and wished Him dead and all His followers scattered. But instead she remembered the last years of her old life and smiled, "Perhaps we will met again Trickster, perhaps You have one last hand to play".
Re: Kissed by fire
Posted: Wed Jul 18, 2012 11:57 pm
A sliver of sunlight found its way through a knothole in the wooden wall, passed its way through the first floor room that smelled strongly of dirt and sheep, and stabbed directly into the just-opened eyes of an old man, whose pained groan, a wheesy, raspy sound that escaped his throat, made clear that it was unwelcome. A veined and wrinkled hand slowly raised to block the light as the man shifted and, pushing the cloak away, began his daily process of getting to his feet.
It wasn't an easy procedure. Arthritis had robbed him of much of his old agility, and pain seemed to wrap his every extremity with thin, sharp daggers as he tried to move. But eventually his free hand pushed him up to a sitting position, and then to his feet.
Mellanor stared for a moment at his surroundings... a simple extra room in the house of a sheep-herder. He had stumbled into this village late last night, hoping to find a place to sleep, prepared to go to an inn if necessary, but thankfully a pair of kind elves had offered him their spare room. A hand snaked into his pocket and pulled out the handful of coppers and single silver. All that was left.
Once, Mellanor had pulled gold and platinum from his pockets, had not needed to rely on the compassion of others. But no longer. The many years had not been kind. A rasping laugh escaped Mellanor's mouth as he laughed at his own joke.
Mellanor reached for his stick, still lying against the wall, and in the morning light, the scars on his arms became apparent, glistening sickly against the pale skin of his body. Gripping the stick in a shaking fist, he began to hobble from the room. "Perhaps it will be today..." He whispered to himself. I had not been today yesterday, or the day before that, or any day since he had started searching... but perhaps it was today.
Re: Kissed by fire
Posted: Mon Jul 30, 2012 12:21 am
On and on the Sidhe woman walked, forever drawn to the east. There was something there, something that called to her with a siren song, an irrestible lure that she could not turn away from. At first she had thought it a relic of her past, an item of power that she had once created with the Art. But the longer she walked and the closer she got, the less she was convinced. Over the years she had used her Art to create objects that time alone could not destroy. Perhaps she had made fewer than other Sidhe but such items did exist and she knew how the power within each of them felt to her. The draw to the east did not sing to her senses in any way that she was familiar with. And yet she would have sworn in blood and power that what called to her was a lost part of herself.
Curiousity gnawed at her and fired something within her, an energy that she had not known in years. It goaded her onwards, pushing her to set one foot in front of the other, daring her to see if her goal lay over the next hill or within the depths of the next valley. It had been so many years, long ages of the world, since she had last known such a strength and conviction within herself.
Before the temple, before the pilrimage, she had been so very different. She had withdrawn herself from the world, hiding away in the Evenside Woods with only a single companion for company. Not that Due had been much of a cheery friend to have by her side during the long years; the human woman had been driven out of her mind by the death of her son and the loss of Darden's presense in the world of Maxim. In those times the Sidhe woman had felt herself to be little more than a hollow shell of what she had once been. Thoughts and memories had laid heavily on her mind, regrets and doubts about what had been had occupied her till little else seemed to exist.
She remembered all too clearly how she had longed for death, for an end that would release her from all that she had done. Now she looked back on her former self and thought herself ridiculous, prideful, even downright silly. She had longed for death, or rather she had claimed so and yet she had never actually done anything about it. The power to end it all had always been within her grasp and yet in her pride she had laid the responsibility for it elsewhere, had told herself endlessly that her time had not yet come, that her burden could not yet be laid down. And old 'friend' had disabused her of that notion and still the words, spoken through his puppet resonated within her memory.
"Are you really so eager for it to be at an end?".
“You couldn't stop me. I could fulfil the promise now if I wanted to, you couldn't, there's nothing to prevent it. There's no power left in you, perhaps there was nothing to you before, maybe all your much vaunted 'strength' was nothing except what we imagined it to be".
"I don't need to stop you, you stop yourself, witch. That's always been the way with you, all that power and yet never the will to use it. You, and you alone, could have ended this years ago and yet you didn't. What's wrong witch? Afraid? You pretend that it's because 'your task is not yet completed' but you and I know the truth don't we? There's no great task for you, there never was, but you clung to life all the same, grasping at it like a miser grasps his coins. You bemoaned and bewailed the lot given to you in life but you held it near you like a beloved all the same. Admit it, here, now, admit it, admit the real reason why you could never really let go of it. Admit it witch, what's there to fear? Only you and I are here, only we'll ever know. Ah but that's the truth of the matter isn't it, you've never admitted it, not even to yourself. Not even in the secret places of your mind. You who always searched for truth hid behind your own lies all along."
He had been right, she could see that so clearly now. She looked back on her younger self and laughed, how had anyone been able to bear her?
As she considered the past the lands around her had changed, more and more she had found herself surrounded by fertile farmland. Ahead in the distance she could just make out a walled compound, crudely built but serviceable. She didn't know why but something inside her sang out at the sight of the place, this was the end of her journey, this was the source of the lure that pulled at her.
Within the walls of I'naur A'baramin
Eskil sat on the wooden bench that was his usual place during the sunlit hours. He leaned back against the wall of the main building, his face turned towards Intop, the sun's rays playing across his wizened face. He had always loved the sun, even when he had been a younger man and his vocation had called for him to spend most of his time within the temple walls, he had still made sure to rise early and spend just a few minutes by himself basking in Intop's glory.
Those times were long, long ago now. He could barely remember the temple, his Mistress, the wars or the battles. In truth Eskil remembered very little at all, the majority of his memories had been scoured away. Only the burning raven filled his mind and the prophecy entrusted to him many years before.
"Fire cleanses and in time all is forgiven or forgotten, all promises are kept in their fashion", Eskil mumbled the words, the only words left to him. "To move foward she has to move back, she has to move into the shadows, she has to move down. Down in the earth where the Anub-Re wait even though they are already gone, gone to their past and to their future. In that time that has already been and yet is still to come one waits to show her the way and one waits to deny her the way. And in the darkness the fire burns and the laughter is heard".
Re: Kissed by fire
Posted: Wed Aug 01, 2012 5:18 am
The sun has grown darker these last few decades Mellanor thought to himself, leaning his weight onto his cane, what had once been a clawed table leg, the spotted paint of the leopard it had once helped mimic still visible in the warped and cracked wood, although the paint on the improvised handle had long since rubbed away.
Either the sun was darker, or he was starting to go blind, a possibility which he had stuffed away deep within his psyche as quickly as it had bubbled up to the surface. Already he had lost several teeth and was trying his best to avoid having to have another one pulled that had a few months back started to hurt when touched. To lose his sight... how long would he have to carry on like that? He shuddered, and hobbled out into the sun and towards the main building in this little commune, hoping that, like most large buildings, there would be a kitchen from which he could put on his best 'old, doddering man' impression to beg for some scraps and provisions for the next few days until he reached another village, and he'd repeat the act again.
He had to keep moving... no one's charity in this world lasted forever. Give help once to the old man with the strange scars? Most people were willing to do so. Give help a dozen times? Suddenly, not so many people were willing to extend their charity that far. Plus, there was the feeling in his gut, telling him to keep moving, to keep searching for an answer.
He was so tired of his gut.
He made his way past the old man mumbling on his bench and made his way inside...
Re: Kissed by fire
Posted: Mon Aug 06, 2012 3:06 pm
She headed towards the walled settlement, her pace quickening as she sensed the end of her journey. What had drawn her here to this place? What could possibly hide within? Her curiousity was piqued and that had ever been a fatal flaw within the Sidhe woman. She had wandered many lands in her past, travelling through places both strange and simple, drawn to explore beyond the far horizon. The woman long known the wanderlust within her, even as a young girl she had always longed to see what lay beyond the walls of her home.
No soldiers guarded the entrance to the settlement and she let herself through the simple wooden gate. Inside a few chickens pecked absently at the ground while an old cat with a torn ear and a stunted tail sunned herself on the windowsill of a nearby building. An old man sat on a bench near the cat, seemingly unaware of the woman the old man muttered to himself, frowning and staring at the sun. In the distance she could make out fields and pastures; she could see a young man hurrying a small herd of sheep from one green expanse to another. Everything seemed very ordinary, a rural community going about their business and nothing more.
She approached the old man on his bench, but before she had a chance to speak to him a half-elven male appeared from a wooden stable off to her right. His dark brown hair was roughly cut and his clothes seemed practical rather than pretty. He looked for all the world like a farmer about his business, except for his eyes. As brown as his hair and set to a serious expression still there was something about his eyes, something that she could not put her finger on. He smiled as he saw her, crosing the distance between them in quick strides. "Welcome", he said, extending a calloused hand, You know, there were times when even I doubted that you would come, times when I wondered if you were even real".
The woman frowned, did she know this man? She had met many people over the years but his face did not stir anything within her memory. She reached up and removed the mask that covered her face, "You've been waiting for me?"
"Oh yes, for a very long time, we all have, all of us here at I'naur A'baramin", he gestured towards the fields and buildings behind him. We've done all we can to prepare but we weren't sure what you would need-
She cut him off, "I'm sorry but I think you must have mistaken me for another, do I know you?"
"I know you".
Both half-elf and Sidhe looked down at the old man at the bench who ceased his mutterings for a moment. Silence followed, long moments where none of them spoke. Then the old man frowned again and returned to his mumbling, only odd words were audible and nothing more. The woman looked at the half-elf questioningly, first he spoke as if she knew him, then the old man told her flatly that she did. However simple and ordinary this place might appear on the surface, it seemed that there was a mystery here, and more than that, it was a mystery that was specifically waiting for her.
"Perhaps it is best if we start at the beginning, it seems that there is much we each do not know about the other. My name is Alaran and you have no need of that", he pointed towards the mask in her hand. "The time for your mask has gone: the sickness from Penthsford has been purified from you, the wounds that you took from your soul's companion have healed, even the shadow that tormented you has been burned away. There is no more need for masks and besides, the one who loved you could always see through it anyway."
She looked from Alaran to the mask and back again, a slight frown wrinkling her brow. He knew things he should not know, things that she had never told anyone about. This was a strange world indeed that she had woken into, a world where things seemed simple and then were not. She focused her Art on the mask and it dissolved into glimmering motes, disappearing as soon as Intop's light touched them. Well Alaran, it seems that we have much to talk about, you know an awful lot more than anything living soul should. I am..." The words trailed off, what should she call herself now. Reborn in flame, she had shed her old name like she had shed her wounds and scars. Like the raven she had touched a fire too great for her to comprehend, "You can call me Hrafn".
Re: Kissed by fire
Posted: Sat Aug 11, 2012 8:24 am
There seemed to be some sort of commotion outside. Mellanor pulled himself up from his chair and took another lingering look at the cute young woman who had, with a sweet and somewhat pitying smile, brought him a chair within moments of his entering the large, mostly empty room. His lechery drew no attention, no one thought much of an old man's actions, really... but oh, if he had been young again, had his experiment actually worked as he had hoped instead of, well, THIS, by the night was done he would have made that girl -
But you aren't young, Mellanor. The thought rammed its way through his less-than-innocent musings. You haven't been for a long time. Who would you tell of your conquests like you did back then? Robiet is dead, as are Will and Lor. You've outlived them for longer than you even knew them.
He had made it to the door and, gripping the doorframe, looked out as the Sidhe approached and spoke with the other two. Something was... familiar... about her.
Re: Kissed by fire
Posted: Mon Aug 13, 2012 5:18 pm
You said that you have been waiting for me, Alaran", she prompted as they moved towards the largest structure in I'naur A'baramin. How is that possible? It was many years and, I fear, a world away, when last I walked the lands. I suspect many who call this place home, perhaps even yourself, were not yet born when last my name was known by many. And yet you say you have been waiting for me".
The half-elf smiled pleasantly, "I suppose I could say that the Gods move in mysterious ways but that would not answer your question. Especially not when they are as mortal as any other now".
So the stories she had heard round village hearths were true, the Elder Gods did live again, but not in perfect divine form as once they had. Now they were mortal, now they could be hurt, now they could be killed...the temptation stirred briefly inside her heart and then was gone. The Sidhe woman who had once sought the death of the Gods more than anything else was truly gone. The thought of the Elder Gods now seemed little more than a tantalising curiousity, an amusing puzzle to pass the time with. But time was something that she had plenty of. Tell me of this, tell me how proud Angelique and her brothers came to be mortal".
"Of course", Alaran replied, as the two of them walked side-by-side towards the communial hall. "I cannot say exactly how Angelique, Barnabas or Leto returned, if they had been hiding in some grave or protected by a shield that hid them for long ages, these things are not known by men such as me. But one day whispers of them started to travel the lands of Maxim, galvanising those few who still held true to the oldest of ways. They began to pray again, and then to preach, seeking out new converts and believers as times passed and faith in Foret, Isonia and Darden faltered. Eventually the time came when they were strong enough to make their strike, banding together in an unprecedented manner. A great battle took place in the heavens and when it was done the isle of Maxim burned".
Her heart ached as his last words, a pain gripping her tightly, squeezing its claws into her as in her mind the isle burned. She could see it so clearly in her head, Gyppeswyk, the Sanctuary, the Onyx temple, the desolate islands of the north, she could see it burning as brightly in her mind as if she herself had stood there and watched it happen. Hrafn barely heard Alaran as he continued his tale, talking of Foret's fall and Isonia's death, her mind was gripped by the images in her head, the flames licking and devouring all the places that she remembered so well. She closed her eyes against the world before her, retreating into the fiery memories that could not possibly be her own.
Moments passed and Hrafn opened her eyes again, for a moment, just a flickering second she seemed to see the fires that had concumed Maxim before her. They danced about the building in front of her, they caressed every inch of Alaran's form, and then they were gone. Her legs seemed to weaken beneath her and Alaran hurriedly put his arm around her to steady the Sidhe woman. "You see them", it was a statement, not a question. The flames are a part of you, they are apart of us all".
She brushed his help aside, her weakness passing as suddenly as it had appeared. "And what...what of Darden", she stuttered, trying to organise her thoughts and hear the end of the half-elf's tale before she could consider this new mystery.
"What indeed. They say He broke His bowl and that the despair within washed over all the heavens, that it dragged the Elder Gods down into the mortal world and here they remain".
"But what of Darden Himself?"
Alaran shrugged and held his hands to either side, "If you could answer that question Hrafn, oh if you could answer that question".
They reached the entrance to the main building, unaware of Mellanor's presence of the other side. Unaware also of the old man, Eskil, behind them who had risen from his bench and moved towards them with a purpose that his limbs had not seen in many years. His movements were strangely jerky, like an ill-used puppet dancing on broken strings, but he moved towards them all the same. Eskil reached clumsily for the Sidhe woman's elbow, dragging her round roughly to face him with a strength that should have long since departed from his body. "I know you",he repeated.
Again Hrafn looked at Alaran, questioning this strange behavious from one of his community, "So you said friend, but I do not know you".
"I know you",he repeated, louder this time, almost shouting at the Sidhe. And shouting he called out the prophecy once more, "Fire cleanses and in time all is forgiven or forgotten, all promises are kept in their fashion. To move foward she has to move back, she has to move into the shadows, she has to move down. Down in the earth where the Anub-Re wait even though they are already gone, gone to their past and to their future. In that time that has already been and yet is still to come one waits to show her the way and one waits to deny her the way. And in the darkness the fire burns and the laughter is heard".
As the words left him Eskil fell to the ground, dead, all purpose gone and an oddly satisfied smile on his face.
Re: Kissed by fire
Posted: Wed Aug 29, 2012 12:08 am
Hrafn pulled back startled, unsure what was happening. What had prompted the old man's strange behaviour and his sudden death? Had it merely been the excitement of his madness taking it's toll? She knew without even touching him that his spirit had left his body, she could feel it, almost as if the old man had been an extension of herself. In her mind she felt his passing like a tiny ember in her thoughts that was suddenly and unexpectedly snuffed out.
Slowly she regained her composure, moving back towards the body and kneeling beside it. The Sidhe woman reached out tentatively, brushing back a mop of unruly white hair from the dead man's face. "Who was he, Alaran?", she asked quietly, sadness choking her, grief for the death of a man that she could not remember. Why did his death cause such feelings to well within her? She had known many die within her time, it was the curse that all Sidhe came to bear. A Sidhe might befriend, even fall in love with a member of the younger races, but in the end that companion would waste away into death and the Sidhe would remain.
Eskil, his name was Eskil. He came from...Whatever else Alaran said, Hrafn did not hear it, she didn't hear anything beyond the old man's name. She held the old man's head in her hands, staring at it with her molten eyes, trying to will the years from it, to see it as she had once known it.
The old man, Eskil, he had been right, he did know her.
In her memory a scene played out, the last time she had been in Culearian, the last time she had seen Eskil, though then he had been a much younger man...
The air was hot and dry, even the shade of the temple did little to cool the four people within. She stood to the back, close to the door, unable to watch. This wasn't something that she should be a part of, there was nothing further that she could do, why didn't Ebony understand that?
Father Eskil stood behind the Seeress, as unable to comfort her as the Sidhe woman by the door. She could see the agony written across his face, he hated being unable to help his Mistress, especially in this time. Whispers abounded that Darden had forsaken them, that they had been found wanting of His love, that their actions had somehow displeased Him. And now this tragedy had befallen the Seeress' beastial son. The Sidhe knew that Eskil was helpless, powers were moving that even she didn't fully understand, so what hope did he have?
"Why don't you do anything?" The Seeress, Ebony, knelt beside her son's unmoving form, her hands holding his head in her lap. The woman's voice was cracked and raw with emotion, tears threatening to overwhelm her at any moment.
The Sidhe spoke calmly, trying to keep control, "You know why".
"No, no I don't", Ebony turned her head, fixing the Sidhe with a venomous gaze.
"Ebony, the power that gave your son life, it's not power that I control. I cannot stop what's happening to him".
"Liar", the word was spoken like a curse, "Liar, you could do something, you could save him if you really wanted. You with all your power, all your Art, you'd have me believe that now you are powerless? Tell me witch, was any of it real? Was any of your magic ever real?" Ebony gave her one last lingering look, a look filled with hatred and despair, "There's no power left in you, perhaps there was nothing to you before, maybe all your much vaunted 'strength' was nothing except what we imagined it to be".
In the present time the memory of those words rocked her to her core. Hadn't she used just those same words herself to her old 'friend'?
Hrafn shook her head to dispell the melancholy of the past. Then she rached out and gently closed Eskil's eyes, I did know him", she said quietly, "Many, many ages ago, I knew him. He stayed with Ebony while her son died, he stayed with her even to the very end, even when my own courage failed me".
Re: Kissed by fire
Posted: Wed Sep 05, 2012 11:49 am
Alaran pulled her away from the old man's body, "We will take care of him now", he said gently. "He has been called home by the fire, there is nothing more that any of us can do for him save honour his memory". He steered her back towards the main building as others appeared from nearby shelters and hurried towards Eskil's still form. Though Alaran had not called for them, they came nonetheless, knowing that one of their own had fallen. Whatever bond held the people of I'naur A'baramin together was far deeper than mere friendship or simple ideals.
"I knew him", the Sidhe repeated softly, shocked by Eskil's death, even by his appearance in the settlement. How many years had pass since she had last seen him? And what did it mean that she had been drawn to this place where he had been living? And his words...no she knew in her heart of hearts that the words Eskil had spoken to her were not his own. The old priest had merely been their keeper, remembering the words long after all others who had first heard them spoken had gone, remembering them even when all else had been taken from him. "The words that he spoke before he died-"
The half-elf cut her off as they reached the entrance to the communal building once again, They were his only words for many years, indeed they were his reason for living. They were for you".
"But where did he learn them from?" Although she asked the question, her gut told her that she already knew the answer. From out of her own past a hand was reaching for her, a hand that sought to move her, to force her to dance to the tune of an old prophecy.
"You know who he learnt them from, Hrafn. The Seeress of the red desert gave him those words".
"Ebony's last prophecy".
Alaran nodded, smiling just a touch as he reached for the door, Mellanor's presence on the other side still a secret to him. "Are you beginning to understand now?"
The Sidhe woman shook her head, leaning on her blackened staff, her years suddenly hanging heavy on her shoulders. Her mind span with the enormity of what she was trying to grasp. "Alaran this makes no sense". Many years had passed since she had last spent time in the red desert of Maxim. Culearian had been a harsh landscape, peopled by fanatical tribes and ruled by the iron grip of Ebony, the blind Seeress. They had been devoted in their worship of Darden, faithful to the point of frightening even some of those of their own faith. But when the wars of heaven had begun, when Darden and His siblings had withdrawn from the people, the people of Culearian had been devastated. Their world had been ripped asunder by the silence of Darden. But Ebony had hurt most of all, the God had given her one last gift: He had returned her eyes to her, the same eyes that she had once sacrificed to Him to gain the gift of prophecy.
With the return of her mundane sight Ebony had become convinced that the God had forsaken her, that she had somehow betrayed Him so terribly that He had withdrawn His love for her and her people. Confirmation of that seemed to follow as Ebony's son, the strange and beastial Silus, had begun to weaken and sickened. No healer had been able to help him and when Ebony had at last turned to the Sidhe for aid there had been nothing that the Art could do.
And now after all the years had passed, Culearian's mistress reached out for the Sidhe woman once more. In her mind's eye, Hrafn could picture Ebony clearly, she could see the accusing glare in her restored eyes just as she had seen it once before when Hrafn had fled the temple and the desert.
"Come", Alaran pushed open the door even as his words pushed away the old and bitter memories from her mind. "Let's go inside, we'll start properly...from the beginning".
Re: Kissed by fire
Posted: Thu Sep 06, 2012 7:27 am
Mellanor watched, shocked, as the old man spoke fervently to the stranger and just as quickly died. Mellanor held back as the Alaran and the stranger spoke briefly, not quite catching the words that passed between them, his eyes still fixed on the man who had died.
He looked peaceful, as if in death an answer to something which had plagued him for his entire life had finally been revealed to him. It was a peaceful expression of satisfaction at a job well done, and Mellanor hated the man for it. How dare he find escape so easily, when Mellanor seemed forever denied its embrace? The old man wheezed a curse under his breath, although whether for the dead or for himself, he was not certain.
He watched as the Stranger and Alaran approached and entered, and started as he realized that the stranger was Sidhe. Flashes of his past danced behind his eyes, filled with screams in the dark and arcs of Art-filled energies that he shoved down into his subconcious where they belonged.
Trying to remain unobtrusive, Mellanor followed the two into the building, curious to see what would happen next.
Re: Kissed by fire
Posted: Sun Feb 03, 2013 12:54 am
Alaran led Harfn into the building, the Sidhe woman lost in thought, a frown creasing her brow. After so many years had passed, after so many miles had been traveled, how had the Seeress' prophecy found her? The distant past was tied to her tightly still it seemed, even with the lands of Maxim burned and all their life presumably gone, still the ghosts of the past reached out to her. Long ago when Ebony the blind Seeress had first made her last prophecy Hrafn had run from it, refusing to hear her last prediction. But though she had run from the words, still they had sought her out in the end.
Hrafn sat down at the long wooden trestle table as the half elf gestured towards the chair, sitting down beside her a moment later. A young woman hurried along and dropped a bowl of thick porridge in front of them both, the Sidhe woman stared at it, unable to focus on anything more complicated. The porridge was good hearty food, though thick enough for the wooden spoon to stand up straight by itself. She had heard of food that was meant to stick to a person's ribs...the porridge in front of her looked as though it could have stuck to bricks and made an acceptable mortar.
She tore her gaze away from the bowl, "From the beginning Alaran, tell me from the beginning".
The half-elf nodded and began his tale, a tale that had begun as a young man on the land of Maxim. He had barely been considered old enough to properly take care of himself but he had wanted to see the world, even as that very world was caught up in the first rumblings of war between the old Gods and the new. Alaran had not seen much of that world before he had seen the burning raven in the sky and had been touched by one of its falling embers. "As soon as it touched me I knew what I had to do, I was filled with such certainty. I knew that I had to take a ship away from Maxim and find another land, found this place and draw the others together here", he indicated the settlement around them. "I knew you would come", the strength of his conviction was slightly unnerving, it was all too close to the fanaticism of Ebony's followers.
"But you had never met me. You cannot possibly have any idea who I am-"
Alaran smiled and cut her off, "I know exactly who you are, I have known it ever since your ember touched my forehead. You are the Burning Raven. You can call yourself by any other name you choose, Hrafn is just what you would have us all you now, but I know who you are all the same, who you have been. Murderess they called you, Sidhe Witch, apostate, traitor, protector...you have had and will have many names. Once you were Lyssia, now you are Hrafn, but always will you be the Burning Raven. We have waited for you for years and if necessary we would have waited for years to come, we waited and the prophecy waited for you".