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 The Seventh Miracle (Sanctum Officium / Invite only) 
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Post The Seventh Miracle (Sanctum Officium / Invite only)
(OOC: This story has been built up from our Thirteen Trilogy and our more recent Tumbling up. Open to all SO members and some invites only, please pm me if you would like to take part, otherwise we hope you enjoy reading.
~Mal
/OOC)

IC:

Power was an odd thing, most men gave up their whole lives for the pursuit of power and glory while others were born with it and deemed it to be more of a curse than a blessing. Ethan was neither, he had never searched for power nor had he been born with it; he did, however, believe that some were destined to come into power at some point in their existence but he had never even dared to consider that he himself would be the end result of such a destiny.

As a child he had been taught the craft of thievery, as was the way of the Drow. He eventually shunned this heritage and told his family that he would become a priest, a statement that earned him the scorn of everyone he knew and forced him to leave the safety of his village in search of one who could understand and nurture his wants and needs. He met Ebony.

She was a young priestess at the time but he saw a great spirituality within her that he himself dreamed of obtaining and so he offered himself to her and became her apprentice. Together they preached in many cities, towns and villages, some of which welcomed their words and others spat upon them with the scorn of men afraid to look beyond the mortal coil. Yet no matter what reception they recieved, their message never changed.

He had been present at the ceremony in which Ebony offered up her sight to Darden in exchange for the deeper sight of a visionary. That ceremony had turned her into a prophet and those of the desert began to see physical blindness not as a curse, but as a blessing, something to revere and pray for. It was a great sacrifice and he had been proud to say that he was there, that he had taken part in the ceremony.

The faith of the Drow priest soon made him the Father Superior of the Desert order and those who were not granted an audience with Ebony herself would seek advice and guidance from him, in fact, if truth be told, many of the desert folk felt nervous and unworthy in the presence of Ebony and preferred to seek out the more amiable Ethan.

So much had changed between those times and these. Ethan had disappeared for a long time after the terrible business with The Thirteen and though the average citizen could only speculate as to what had happened, they all knew it wasn't good and wondered if they should have blamed the disappearance for the fall of the Sanctum Officium banner, a consideration that grew in weight when the Priest had returned to them soon after the Torturer decreed that the banner should fly once more above the Isle.

At first they had all been happy for his return and praised Darden that they had the guidance of their high priest once more. It didn't last long and praise turned into questions, questions became doubts and doubts became despair. It was true that he had returned but he was all wrong. Something had happened to him during his disappearance, something dreadful that reflected in his eyes, if not his words. Nobody had dared to question him about such matters for it was not their place and when they expressed their doubts to the other priests they would be rebuked for their lack of faith. They all knew, though, even the priests that berated the doubtful desert folk knew that he wasn't right and an unseen darkness swept behind him like a disease, affecting all who stood in it's wake.

So what now? What would they think when they heard of him healing the Sidhe? How would they react to his claims of six more miracles that would be dealt by his hands? Would the serenity and peace that now surrounded Ethan be enough to earn their trust again or would it be just more fuel for the fires of doubt and despair? These were questions that only the desert folk themselves were able to answer. He knew that his newly found message was not for them only... it was for everyone.

----------------------------

He nodded a greeting and offered a smile to Elador and the Anub-Re who had recently entered the temple. Had they arrived in time to witness his miracle of healing? He didn't know, nor did he feel the need to ask and instead he just walked past them and out into the Desert.

His eyes narrowed slightly as the bright sun battered against the leathery skin of his face and he then looked at the man who stood there, a stranger who was either waiting for someone or was trying to decide whether or not he should enter the great temple of the Red Desert. Although Corduin was a member of the Officium, Ethan had never met him and so considered him to be just a travelling stranger.


Welcome, stranger. Ethan said with a smile. It is rare for someone to travel this far into the Sands, and rarer still for the journey to be survived. He reached out and placed a hand upon Corduin's shoulder. Which tells me that you are known to us. Tell me, stranger, what brings you to this place? Without really waiting for an answer the Drow Priest continued. Has news of me travelled so far, so quickly? Am I the reason you stand here, stranger? Have you been gifted with visons of the healing miracles that I am to perform?

The voices remained silent throughout, they had no need to push him now, they knew that they had done their work well upon him.. the self importance of powerful men was a terrible weapon to behold and one that Ethan had given in to even quicker than they had dared to hope for.

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[shadow=brown]The Forgotten One[/shadow]


Thu Jan 08, 2004 7:53 am
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Nobody had taken any notice of him standing in the shadows of the temple entrance, observing the people in the streets go about their business. He wasn't worried. If necessary he would wait for a long time; this was where he was meant to be, he was sure of it. In his mind he had cut all ties with his previous life, he had nowhere else to go. His destiny in some way lay with the group of people known as the Sanctum Officium.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw a priest come out of the temple entrance, heading towards him. At least, he assumed it was a priest, dresses as he was in the robed garb of the others already going about their business outside. The man greeted him with a smile. There was something slightly off about the expression but Corduin didn't notice anything amiss.

Welcome, stranger. It is rare for someone to travel this far into the Sands, and rarer still for the journey to be survived. Which tells me that you are known to us. Tell me, stranger, what brings you to this place?"

Rare for the journey to be survived? Yet I felt no pressing danger as I walked except for that of thirst and exhaustion. There was the feeling of being watched but no-one made themselves visible to me nor did I ever feel threatened by the unseen observers. Perhaps I really am meant to be in this place, at this time.

He made to reply, but the man in front of him had already continued.

Has news of me traveled so far, so quickly? Am I the reason you stand here, stranger? Have you been gifted with visions of the healing miracles that I am to perform?

News of him? The man showed a touch of arrogance if nothing else. But he talked of miracles…could the reason for his expected renown be that he had performed one, or more than one? Corduin was aware of no miracle, had seen nothing to indicate that one had taken place. What was the man talking about? Was he a member of the mysterious Officium? Where was the witch that apparently resided in this desert? He had heard of some of the deeds of the Officium, whispered in dark corners of shady inns and usually with more than a hint of fear. What could happen that one of their own describes it as a miracle?

Questions flew through his mind, not least among them the wondering of what he had gotten himself into. He shook himself; there was no gain in worrying about that now, not that he was already here. Especially since there was something more pressing bothering him.

Something stirred in the back of his mind, something he had not felt before. Like the muted buzzing of a fly in his head, it had awoken as soon as the man had come into view, almost unnoticeable at first but getting louder as he drew closer, so loud that he had to concentrate to hear the man's words through it. He made a strong effort to quell it, to still this strange sensation, and had some success. It subsided slightly, enough that he could think again, but still an ever-present presence in his head. He had no idea what it signified or why it had chosen this moment to awaken; he felt that it was something that had been with him a long time, although now was the first time that he was consciously aware of it.

Perhaps it meant that it was this man who had unknowingly brought him here, that he had come for the very purpose of meeting him. After all, this man spoke of a miracle he himself would work so maybe it wasn't such a ludicrous idea. At any rate it was as good a guess as he had at the moment. On the other hand, he had learned to trust his instincts over the years. True, this was an unfamiliar sensation, but he would do well to be wary of its apparent cause, this man now standing before him.

I am Corduin. Something, I know not what, has called me here to seek acceptance to the ranks of those who call themselves the Sanctum Officium.

I don't know what deeds you have performed that I should have heard about, but I would be curious to learn more. What act have you performed? What miracles will you work, perhaps you could explain to me?


If this man is a performer of miracles, surely he is one of the Sanctum. I have come to the right place, although from here my path is less clear. Time will tell; it usually does.

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1am GMT Saturday 27th March 2004
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Mon Jan 12, 2004 6:19 am
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The centaur gazed thankfully (and tiredly) upon the expanse of small buildings in the distance. After the long, hard journey, he was finally almost at his destination.

It had all started shortly after DKII's return. With RKoR gone (boy had that one been a hard one to explain) they needed new allies. Ran knew that many of the old Knights still fought on with their old friends of the Officium, so he'd been planning on sending messages to them, inquiring about possible membership.

That had been before he'd felt the magical fabric covering the island, practically tear in half. Some great magical work had been wrought, and he immediately determined to discover what it was. The magic was difficult to trace, if only because it was so strong and encompassing, it seemed to come from everywhere at once. The first thing he'd been able to discover, was that a Sidhe had cast this mighty spell...but whom?

In the end, he'd found the effect before the cause. The magical shields surrounding nearly all the lands of the Officium troubled him--were they being trapped inside, or trying to keep something else out? He vaguely remembered hearing of Lyssia doing something similar with her realm at one point while she was in RKoR--right around the same time that the other strange Sidhe, Sorentio, had fled. It seemed like a good place to start looking, though Ran couldn't even imagine how much power it had taken to raise shields like that over so many disjointed realms.

His scrying told him little except that the flaming shields above the red desert did seem to house the source of the entire spell. If he wanted to figure out what had happened, it was there that he should likely go. There was no way that he was going to try and teleport himself through that shield, but that didn't mean he couldn't go right to the edge of it.

He'd quickly gathered what supplied he could--mostly water, with a small amount of food. It was a couple days' ride from the edge of the shield to the main settlement, from what he could estimate, though he thought he could make it without stopping for sleep, with his magic to support him. Thirst and protection from the elements were his main concerns, though again his magic should help him with the latter.

As he stepped through the Portal, his hooves clop-clopped oddly on a solid surface. Ran looked down as the Portal closed shut behind him--the ground beneath him was an oddly smooth glass. Ahead to the east was an intimidating mountain range, just beyond the strange blue shield, a translucent wall of fiery lightning bolts forbidding any who would trespass.

Passing through the shield was actually the easy part. All he'd felt was a slight tingling sensation as he transversed it, though he had the suspicion that had he harborered any ill will towards the realm it protected, the reaction would have been quite different. Even the people holding the mountain pass who gave him little trouble, demanding only to know why it was he wanted to cross before accepting his seemingly common explanation of wishing to see the Sidhe who now led the desert tribes--the fact that he'd passed through the shield unharmed certainly helped his case, he was sure.

No, the most difficult part of his journey had been in crossing the desert itself. Having never actually been in a desert before, he'd been unprepared for the sheer magnitude of the searing heat during the day, followed by the near-freezing temperatures the same night, all the while enduring howling dust storms that threatened to whisk him off his feet even as they choked his lungs and blinded his eyes. He spent far more of his energy warding off the elements, trying to keep himself cool beneath the sun and warm beneath the stars, then he had been used to for a long time. Great magical works had once been a common thing for him, long ago. But he was older now, lacking that youthful energy and magical practice that had made things so easy back then, in comparison.

And so it was that when he finally reached the main settlement, near sunset of the day after he'd begun his trek, that he could only think about finding himself a cheap bed somewhere and sleeping for as long as he could manage.

The locals eyed him cautiously--centaurs were not a common sight in all of Maxim this days, and Ran imagined they were even less so in the red desert. Still, the fact that he stood there at all seemed to prove that he meant no harm, and he was allowed to pass untroubled. He entered the first inn he came across, not paying any attention to name or price or even quality. "Give me whatever room's available," he said to the innkeep wearily, pulling a small purse from within his robes. He quickly counted out the coins, took his key, and walked down the hall to his room, barely pausing to lay his staff gently against the wall before collapsing into the bed, sound asleep.

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Mon Jan 12, 2004 8:20 pm
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He had heard the muffled cries, had felt what they had done to her and yet he did nothing to stop it. What could he have done? They had already displayed a fraction of their powers to him and it was more than he could even dream of, if he had turned around and tried to stop them from... raping.. Demetria then they would have squashed him like an insignificant gnat.

So it was that he pretended to ignore it, feigned a disinterest in the violation of his woman, the woman that they had given their word not to harm, yet here they were breaking that word only moments after giving it. Something had happened between then and now.. but what? Instinct told him to turn and throw accusatory questions at them, to demand an explanation but he was no fool. It wasn't that he had a fear of these shadows, these living beings of pure darkness, but he did have a healthy respect of their power and knew that an outburst of anger without thought would get him nowhere. This time he would walk away.

Finally, he turned to face her, his expression was blank but anger seethed and bubbled just beneath the surface. The Torturer stepped toward his violated lover and wrapped an arm around her flat stomach to help her stay balanced. He made a determined effort not to even look at the shadows, yet they danced and swirled in his peripheral vision with an agitation that he had not witnessed before.

With small but quick steps he helped Demetria to walk away from the temple and toward the black castle that had been created for him. The sea of beasts fell silent and parted to let their new master pass. As he entered the castle he could hear the mocking laughter of the shadows slither across the closing gates and that was when he silently swore to avenge his lover. Nobody and Nothing touched this woman and got away with it while he still had breath in his body.

There had to be a way to destroy them, and he would find that way.

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Wed Jan 14, 2004 7:37 am
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Slipping lower into the steaming water, all but her nose submerged, eyes closed tightly, then sat up again till she was only submerged to her neck. The bath was surrounded by candles, their light flickering off of black obsidian wall and floor. So many of them surrounded the room, that it was as if it were noon in the middle of a desert. It still wasn't bright enough to ease her nerves. Every flickering shadow caused her to tense in expectation of the worse. The hot water only eased the ache in her muscles- it couldn't erase the hurt to raw emotion.

Her eyes slid across the room to the huge bed, covered with thick quilts, then over to the huge thronelike chair where Maledict sat. He had slid down, propping one foot up on a nearby stool, eyes watching her, not speaking. He hadn't left her side, since he'd helped her, half-carrying her, into the castle. His words and actions after her assault had helped some. He had promised vengence- for both of them. That had helped. What had helped more was realizing that he didn't hold her responsible. She'd been so afraid that he would blame her.

She tried to smile at him, but it ended up looking more like a weak grimace. She was tired. Witnessing what should have been her death, surviving only to face death yet a second time, surviving again only to be subjected to something that would haunt her- was haunting her. Another shadow fell on her foot and she drew away from it quickly, cringing. She was tired and the water was growing tepid. The candles were working their way down to nubs of wax. The light was dimming, shivering she crawled out of the water and pulled a blanket around herself.

I need more candles...

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Desire is hunger is the fire I breathe...
...the night belongs to us.


Thu Jan 15, 2004 9:36 pm
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Anjolie knelt in one of the local temples, offering fervent prayers to Darden that she and her people might continue to succeed in their efforts at revolution. Over the past weeks, the meager lands of the Free Republic had doubled as more and more people in the surrounding lands came to realize that they did not need to remain yoked to a nobleman or woman. Her fingers lightly traced the outline of the tattooed bird in flight on her upper right arm, her freedom symbol. How she wished she could offer such comfort and solace to all who lived on the Isle. Well, all who deserved the grace of Darden and the freedom his true worship offered. The pompous aristocracy and nobility who elevated themselves in wealth and stature over the people who in truth were the reason they had power and money in the first place deserved a slow death to learn the suffering of the Dark God. She moved her fingertips to lightly press against her lips as she opened her icy blue eyes. She had spent hours in prayer, and she would be needed again beyond the temple walls.

When she moved to stand, however, she found herself unable to straighten her legs. Her brow furrowed and she looked up in search of a priest who might offer her assistance. The temple was vacant, except for a shadowy figure who stood before the altar not twenty feet in front of her.

"Who are you? Can you help me? My legs must have fallen asleep while I was in prayer." The figure made no move to help her, and the human got the impression that her voice had fallen silent the moment it passed her lips. "Hello?! Please help me!" The mysterious figure turned around slowly to face her. In that one move she saw from the profile that this was a male who was unknown to her. He couldn't be someone with ill intent toward her or these lands, for they were still guarded by the orange shield sent by the Sidhe Witch. As she contmeplated this a bowl appeared over the strange man's head. He spread his arms out to the side in a gesture of acceptance and good will and the bowl began to pour over him. The second the dark liquid that was the world's sorrow touched this being, a flash of blinding white light filled the room. Anjolie tried to turn away, but foudn she could not. In any case, the longer she looked on the light, the more her eyes seemed to be clearer and better able to see beyond.

When the bowl was empty, the man became visible again. Her was garbed in priestly robes, but his face and hair were not those of the humans Anjolie was accustomed to seeing in the garments of holy office. He was a drow elf, a creature Anjolie had heard tale of but had only seen as corpses that litered the exterior ranges of the Free Republic. His face was a serene mask of peace and light. Behind him, she could still see the back of the temple, but the hazy image of a red desert land obscured her view somewhat. She frowned in puzzlement. So he was from the red desert realm? And he had been graced with Darden's Light, something that was practically unheard of in these times. With a man so touched by the divine, the masses could be healed as she had been wishing. Almost as if he finally could hear her, even though she had not spoken, he nodded slowly and smiled.

"Wake, and come to me."

[center]~~~~~~~[/center]

"Wake up, Anjolie. The shield around the realm is collapsing. The people are worried that heathens have found a way past our protection." The human looked up into the worried face of her elven advisor, Zina. Her lips curled into a smile as memories of the dream returned to her. She sat up and began dressing for the day.

"No, dear Zina. It is Darden's will that we become a part of the wars and happenings of the Isle again. He has sent me a vision. An emissary of our Lord dwells in the desert realm. We must go pay homage to him, for with him all of our dreams and desires are possible." Her eyes practically glowed with the budding signs of fanaticism. "Send out word to the people to prepare our thieves guilds and temples so that they will be of use when the time comes. They have become lazy in our time of protection. Darden would be most unhappy if we are of no use to Him when the time comes for a cleansing of the lands." Zina frowned at her protegé. Never in all of the time she'd been watching the human had she seen any signs of visionary capacity. Her own green eyes darkened as she pulled the shadows to her, whispering questions to them about this 'emissary.'

"How do you know this isn't a dream fashioned by the false ones? The shadows are very hesitant to agree with your vision. There is something odd about this man." Anjolie's eyes narrowed as she stood.

"Then you will come with me for certain. This way you can see that the only 'oddity' about Him is that He has been touched by God." Zina frowned but nodded in agreement. "Have the priests ready a portal for us. I don't want to wait weeks to reach this man. I must offer Him the allegiance of our people as soon as possible." Zina snarled, baring her strangely sharpened teeth and in a swish of air across fabric left Anjolie's quarters.

'I will go with you, Anjolie, only to prove to you that this elf is an imposter at best, and a traitor to the faith and the guild at worst.'

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Fri Jan 16, 2004 7:37 pm
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She steps into the waning light of day. Flinching and tightly closing her eyes as she hazards a glance toward the fiery ball slowly inching its way to rest. Squinting she looks once again toward the setting sun determined to endure and defeat the pain which ordered her back into the safety of darkness. With each twilight she emerges earlier hoping to acclimate herself to the sun. She can no longer hide in the deep caverns of her birthplace; this land is merciless and will happily exploit her weakness should it become known to her enemies.

She opens herself to the pain allowing it to wash through her body gaining strength from its energy instead of fighting as most did. This only drains ones own resources. Using the strength gained from the pain she opens her eyes fully allowing her body to become a cycle of agony; her pain feeding her energy allowing her to endure more pain. A trick she had learned long ago when she was but a child. She watches until the sun has disappeared entirely wondering if she will ever be able to see the beauty that other see. For her it is only yet another hardship to overcome.

Wrapping the thick cloak tightly around her she takes slow even breaths. The air around her fills with an electrical force and she vanishes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The night is serene though quickly loosing the warmth of the sun’s heat. Electricity fills the air and she appears. This was as far as she made it the previous night, before she had been force to mark the place with her own innate magic and return to the haven of her darkness. The hair on the back of her neck stands up just as it had the night before. This is place of great magic though she can not tell if the magic is malevolent or benign. She does not know where she is going only that there is some force pulling her, guiding her. She can see for miles around her nothing but desert. She hates it and yet she can not stop herself from moving deeper into vast nothingness. She hates anything that leaves her exposed to the sky and this certainly is the case now; yet her feet move soundlessly with a purpose thus far unknown. She feels watchers scrutinizing her every move and yet her drow eyes can discern no perceivable threat.

You are a dozen types of fool. She silently chides herself. In the open, someone watching, an unknown magic surrounding you and yet you continue onward though you know not where you go. A disgusted snort and a shake of her head finish the reproach and yet she continues.

Through the night she walks, her paranoia increasing with each step though she is incapable of returning home. At least not until her mortal enemy wakes from its slumber.

The blackness fades into light. The dark sky begins to give way to the new day. Soon she will have to return home to wait for the death of the sun. She will not be able to finish her mysterious journey tonight.

_________________
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[shadow=#B8860B]Sanctum Officium's Official Peon[/shadow]
[shadow=#993300]Acolyte of Pain[/shadow]


Sun Jan 18, 2004 9:42 am
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Cursing silently she stops her march and slows her breathing. She is getting hungry anyway. It is time to return to the safety of her shadows. The air crackles around her with electricity as she casts the spell to take her home. The air calms around her.

Nothing. Nothing happens. She still stands amid the desert.

Frowning she tries again.

Again nothing.

Her brow furrows and her jaw clenches together. This can’t be happening. Why can she not return home? The paranoia that has been gnawing at her through the night begins bubbling into panic. Her eyes dart in every direction as she seeks answers that are nowhere to be found.

She starts once again in the direction that she had been drawn toward through the night. There is a vast nothingness behind her. That much is certain. Something is ahead of her though and her lips whisper ardent prayers to Darden that shelter from the damning sun could be found somewhere out there, and soon.

Her once steady pace has turned into a full-fledged race against the hated dawn. The sun is winning. The orange and red sunrise brighten the sky as the stars disappear from sight. She throws the hood of her heavy cloak over her head pulling it tightly around her chin. The only protection she has.

Her vision is growing spotted. The brightness of the day is quickly blinding her. The pain begins to cycle through her body yet again. She stumbles and catches herself scrambling back to an upright position. Is this how it is to end for her? After all she has endured to be brought to an end in this manner is unconceivable. The pain racks her body and even her childhood trick is no longer working. She collapses into a pile upon the barren land face buried in the ground. She pulls the cloak around her. The thick material that was meant to protect her from the cold desert night is now the only thing protecting her from the agony of the sun. If she survived the light she certainly would not survive the heat. One way or another she was dead.

Sweat runs freely from her every pore. The arid ground beneath her sucks the moisture up greedily. She concentrates on keeping her breathing slow and even. She will need every ounce of reserve that she can possible spare. Finally, mercifully, her head begins to spin and a weightlessness overtakes her. Darden has answered her fervent prayers as she is enveloped in the darkness.

_________________
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Do you feel lucky today?

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[shadow=#993300]Acolyte of Pain[/shadow]


Sun Jan 18, 2004 5:32 pm
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...


Sun Jan 18, 2004 10:25 pm
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Already a small gathering had formed before the temple steps, all of them had heard of the blinded boy and his fervent claims that Ethan was a worker of miracles. Whether or not this blessing had been bestowed upon him by Darden was still a murky subject and one that Ethan would not tackle for now. Dark drow eyes looked upon Corduin and thick lips smiled slightly at the words of this newcomer.

Corduin. He repeated the name as though it meant something to him, as though he remembered something long past. A strong name. He spoke softly, nodding his head in silent agreement with his words. I suppose it is too soon for the Isle to have learnt of me, soon though, Corduin, soon the name of Ethan shall have passed everyone's lips. Part of him couldn't believe the words that slipped across his lips yet they sounded no less sincere for his own disbelief. He then turned his attention to the small crowd and addressed them.

Tribes of the Red Desert! He yelled out the words in true evangelical fashion. I bring you all a message of faith. I bring you all a ray of hope, the likes of which you would not believe had your own eyes not seen it for themselves! His voice grew louder with each word and the saliva of passion sprayed out into the desert air. I will not tell you what you should believe, I will not force you into a decision of faith. No. I will show you the way, I will show you that I am hope, I am faith, I am the message. A slight grumble of discontent rippled through the crowd at Ethan's words, which could easily be seen as heretical, yet this was their High Priest, this was their chosen shepherd of faith and for that reason alone they would hear him out.

Seven miracles will be my gift to you, my gift to this Isle. Already I have healed the Sidhe with my touch, though this alone will not be my proof, this alone is not my message. He paused momentarily to catch his breath in an excited gulp and a broad smile graced the dark leathery skin of his face. This man, He placed a hand on Corduin's right shoulder. This man came seeking the acceptance of the Officium. I say to you all that this man, Corduin, shall first find the acceptance of himself. If he follows me then he shall be a part of something much greater than one clan. If any of you follow me on my coming ministry then you shall all be blessed, you shall all witness the healing of this tired and wartorn landscape that is Maxim.

He could see that there were still doubts flowing through the crowd as a gentle breeze flows through a corn field. Even so, he did not stand down nor did he take back any of his words. With or without them, the miracles would happen, the message would be delivered. When other outsiders arrived he would perform his second miracle, but for now he would leave the desert tribes to their own devices and let them try and decide for themselves.

What say you, Corduin? He asked, lowering his voice. Will you have faith in me? Will you join my message?

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[shadow=brown]The Forgotten One[/shadow]


Mon Jan 19, 2004 8:17 am
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He had fallen asleep early, before sundown even, and so even though exhausted Ran still woke up early, perhaps half an hour before sunrise. He paused a moment to reflect on the fact that he must be getting old, going to sleep and rising again so early. He decided that he'd grab a quick bite to eat before heading to the edge of the settlement to see the sun rise over the red sands of the desert, perhaps tinted by the blue shields surrounding it. It had been a long time since he'd been able to relax and enjoy a simple sunrise, and he had plenty of time later in the day to figure out just what was going on here.

He knew very little about the Officium, and what little he did know came from DKII's dealings with them, back when he led the Knights, back before his coma forced them to scatter and fight other battles. Led by a half-crazed demon fanatic, it was said. A guild consisting almost entirely of more of the same, a brutal force of demons difficult if not impossible to withstand. How both knights and demons had managed to work and fight so well together was a mystery to him, yet it had happened. Ran had been almost relieved to see that the lands of the red desert were populated by seemingly normal humans, as he'd been half-expecting all the lands of the Officium to consist of naught but imps and fiends to serve their demon masters. He silently chastised himself for being so close-minded--surely the Officium were no more one-dimensional than the Knights had been, and certainly not every member of the Knights was always wearing shining armor.

He left the inn and wandered to the east, crossing through most of the settlement, taking note of key locations and the like as he did so. The main temple itself was easy to find, at least, and he had a feeling that that was where he would need to go, it being the only structure of any note in the settlement. But all that could wait for a few minutes--he was getting old, and wanted to indulge his silly sentiment to watch a sunrise.

Ran walked out no more than a few feet beyond the last building, staring out into the vast expanse stretched before him. The sky was already brightening in preparation for the dawn, the sands and sky both burning red in the pre-dawn light. The shields that shone such a bright blue above him, even at night, faded off into the distance so that at the horizon they could not even be seen, so far away were they. The sunrise would be a magnificent sight, indeed.

He wandered out just a bit further, putting a little distance between himself and the settlement, seeking to enjoy the experience unadulterated by civilization, however unintrusive it might seem. His eyes caught the faintest hint of motion just as the sun's first rays peeked over the horizon--what was that? He quickly conjured a small spell designed to enhance his eyesight, and tried to stare into the rising sun without making himself go blind in the process. There seemed to be a figure approaching, however unsteadily. Ran squinted again, about to release the spell and go back to simply watching the sunrise, when the figure abruptly vanished. No, not vanished, he realized--the figure had stumbled and fallen to the ground. He waited another few moments, thinking that perhaps whoever it was had simply stopped to take a break, perhaps to watch the sunrise as he himself had intended to do. Still, it could not hurt to check it out, he supposed, and he'd still get to watch the sunrise even as he walked.

It did not take him far until he was able to see the figure sprawled out on the sand in the distance. If this person were taking a rest, he or she was not doing it willingly, it seemed. Ran picked up his pace, trotting over the hardened surface as best he could. The figure was covered entirely by a thick cloak, either to ward against the sun or against the cold of the desert night--possibly both. Either way, the figure was certainly not moving just now, and would likely fry beneath the sun if he lay there for too long.

The dawn rapidly grew into full daylight as Ran peered carefully underneah the cloak before quickly dropping it in surprise. A drow woman! Out in the middle of the desert, no less. Breathing evenly if not with ease, as well. Were drow allergic to sunlight as some undead creatures were? Ran could not quite remember, yet it seemed to be the case here. He needed to get her out of the sun, in any case.

He gathered her up in his arms and tried to lay her on his back; he'd never really grown comfortable with carrying a rider, whatever the circumstances. He kept the cloak carefully covering her, not wanting to risk any exposure to the sunlight, just in case. He hesitated just a moment before throwing up a magical shield as well, adjusting it to help filter out both the sunlight and the heat as best he could. Anyone who saw them now would see a tinted bubble radiating heat, no doubt an odd occurrence, but not to be helped right now. He tested its strength briefly, judging that he should be able to hold it until he reached the settlement. Satisfied, he took off, galloping as fast as he dared to with his unconscious passenger.

They reached the settlement without incident, and fortunately none of the inhabitants gave him any trouble--the shield was tinted but not opaque, or else he might've had more difficulty. As it was he rode straight through without pause, headed for the one place he figured would best be able to provide refuge for the woman, the central temple itself.

A small crowd milled about the steps leading up into the temple, but Ran had no time to waste with them. He spotted one who appeared to be a priest, and hesitated only briefly in front of him, not concerned with how odd he might look--a centaur in the desert lands, carring a figure wrapped up in a cloak, hidden behind a tinted bubble.

"This woman needs shelter from the sunlight, I must take her inside." He paused neither for permission nor even acknowledgement, but simply continued on up the steps inside the temple. Let them try and stop him.

The instant he was inside, he dropped his shield, and right away felt much better. Not noticing anyone who may have also been inside with him, he gently lifted the woman off his back and onto the ground, pulling away the cloak from her face. Her breathing had grown more shallow, though at least not yet irregular. He was at a complete loss--despite all his magical abilities, he had no healing talent whatsoever. He couldn't even tell if the drow woman were dying from her journey or merely in a deep sleep. Fortunately, he was in a temple, and if there were one thing priests were good for, it was generally for healing.

"Hello?! Can anyone help me? I think this woman, uh, might be dying!"

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Mon Jan 19, 2004 4:04 pm
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The deafening roar of blood fills her ears and she wonders if this is death.

Odd this isn’t what I expected.

She can’t move, her body must be gone, burnt in the desert. Only her conscious seems to have followed her the otherworld.

It’s really not that bad. She thinks again.

The fog that cloaks her mind is slowly lifting and things are becoming clearer. The roar quiets a bit and she can hear the faint sounds of…

What, she struggles to identify the noise.

Hoof beats? How odd? And what is that?

Thousands of sharp pricks assault her extremities. Her body is still with her. A slight pressure against her stomach and then it’s quickly gone, and back again.

I am bouncing?

Her confusion is mounting and she concentrates all of her efforts on understanding the odd situation that she has found herself in. The haze slowly lifts and she connects the hoof beats and the bouncing.

I am riding. She concludes.

She still has no power over her body, but at least it’s there. The pain of the sun has left her, and while she cannot yet open her eyes she is grateful for her life. The jostling slows and arms wrap around her, gently lifting her off the back of the horse and laying her on the ground. She hears a man’s voice speak but her head still cannot put all the pieces together. His words are gibberish in her muddled mind.

The darkness is there, beckoning her. It is so warm and inviting. There is no confusion in the darkness. Perhaps she’ll let it take her again. Yes. To the darkness. Rest will help her. Rest.

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Mon Jan 19, 2004 5:55 pm
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I keep the the shadows of one of the paths that leads to the temple, not that it hides me much, I was not made for stealth. Mother always said that I was made to take the battle to the heathens, to stand before them and make them acknowledge the raw glory of Darden. She knew that I was never meant to be one to sulk in the darkness, creeping up upon my foes and vanishing without ever leaving a trace of myself. Those of the Voralphian tribe are the ones that make their way through the night, striking from shadows at His enemies, but not me. Darden did not wish me to be like that, He made me differently, He made me, formed my flesh as He needed it to be. I cannot question the will of the Lord, that would be doubting and no true child of Darden would ever dare to doubt the Lord's decisions. We have to have faith, absolute and unwavering faith, that is our greatest weapon against the heathens that crawl across the land and seek to undo His work. No I must never doubt, never, never, never.

But sometimes...

Mother still lays unmoving upon the altar of the temple, her breathing shallow, her soul apparently gone. Why did Darden take her away like that? I know that it must be part of His plan but still I wish that He could have taken someone else, left Mother behind. I need Mother here, I need to hear her voice and wise words, I need to feel her small human hands stroking the fur between my ears. But no matter how much I need her, she remains asleep, not even the wisest healers from the tribes have been able to change her condition at all. And so I must continue in her stead, ruling in her place, Darden's 'Blessed Beast' watching over the red desert instead of Mother, His Vision-Seeker. yes I have to look after Mother's land, I have to make sure that they are just as she left them for when she wakes up. Because one day she will wake up, one day she will find her way back to me and we will be happy again, mother and son, with no one coming between us.

Not even the Sidhe witch. At the thought of her I draw back my lips in a growl, revealing the vicious fangs that lines my gums. I don't like her, never have, don't trust her, how can I? She was once a heathen, sending out armies to fight against the Lord, even when she came to the desert she did not believe in Darden. Or rather she always said she believed in Him, believed in all the Gods, but chose not to go down on bended knee to any of them. I remember hearing her argue with Mother about religion, the witch going on and on about how none of the Gods were worthy of the worship and adoration that many offered Them. Mother used to just smile and correct her, always told her that she followed a false path, that the Sidhe denied a part of herself by denying Darden.

Of course the witch claims to have 'faith' now, claims that she follows the path of Darden, that she despises Foret and Isonia. To tell the truth I believe her on that last bit, I believe that she really does hate the Eldest and the Battlemaiden. But believe the rest of what she says? Never, she has other plans, I'm sure of it, plans that will help no one except herself, plans that she advances carefully every day. Even though she acts as my advisor I do not trust her, I let her deal with the mundane matters of the desert but I watch her always, trying to put together the pieces of her game. If I can find out what she is up to then perhaps I can find out exactly what it is that she wants. And if I know that I can stop her, I can make sure that she never hurts Mother ever again.

I look up towards the temple again, this time watching Father Ethan though instead of thinking about Mother laying within there. Words have never been a strong point of mine and the drow's words most certainly are a puzzle to me. He is...different somehow, I have thought that ever since he returned to the desert, a result of his long wandererings no doubt. Mother always liked Ethan, she always said that he was a good man of faith, a man that I could trust. Of course Mother never mentioned anything about him performing miracles. Miracles have always been things that Mother used to tell me about, things that happened long ago. Like when the temple was raised from the depths of the isle for us to worship Him in, Mother said that that was a miracle from the earliest of times. But she never said that Ethan could do such things.

I press myself closer to the wall, the great white beast of the desert trying to making myself look smaller, wishing that I could understand what was going on. But one thing sticks in my mind...Mother said I could trust Ethan and I always do what Mother said. So I shall trust Ethan and his miracles because that's what Mother would want me to do.

There is one doubt left though, one tiny question that keeps gnawing its way into my thoughts no matter how much it try to swat it away. Ethan healed the Sidhe with one of his miracles...why didn't he heal Mother?

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Wed Jan 21, 2004 8:08 am
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Post Only darkness lives here
He rocked the stool with his foot, moving it forward onto two legs and then pulling it back to settle all four legs onto the cold floor before repeating the process over and over again until the tap of wooden legs on the floor became constant and repetitious like the dull beat of an army drummer boy. The inner workings of his mind were no quieter as the cacophany of questions rushed around in ever decreasing circles with no sign of the relief that even one answer would be able to offer. The Torturer knew as he sat staring at Demetria that he would get no answers from within, nor would he get any from her, in fact she was most likely more perplexed about the whole mess than he was.

Orange light flickered malevolently across his face as Demetria clambered out of the bath, errant drops of water falling down onto some candles causing them to fizzle and pop as though voicing a threat to take away their light, the light that could cast away shadows and therefore comfort Demetria. This was the wrong place for her, as he watched her dry herself off he knew that she shouldn't be here, not now. Even in the high sun of mid-day this kingdom would never be free of shadow, and so it would never be safe for her, at least until she had worked things out in her own head.. something that he himself also needed to do.

How does a demon say that he is worried about someone and send them away with a certain amount of affection?

He doesn't. Or at least this one doesn't. It wasn't that he didn't have the capability to show affection, it's just that he saw it as a human failing and if he gave in to it then he would be one step closer to proving Sacris right. Sacris, the conspirer that had claimed Maledict was no true demon but was in fact borne of a human woman. No. Sacris would not be proved right on this day.

The final decision snapped from his mouth the instant that Demetria expressed her need for more candles, for more light, for an escape from the shadows, an escape that all the candles in Maxim could not truly give her, not here, not in this Kingdom hidden behind the mountain range.

If it's light you need, then you are in the wrong place! He spat the words across the room contemptuously as he jumped to his feet. Remember where you are, woman, and ask yourself if there is ever light here, ask yourself what need would I, the blackest of all souls, have for such a thing? He turned his back on her and took a few steps toward the door, before turning his head slightly until he could see her in his peripheral vision. If it's light you want.. His voice lowered itself back into it's usual hushed tone. Then you came to the wrong person. He placed his hand on the doorknob and pulled the door open. Go to the Red Desert, I'm sure you'll find light there.

Having said all this he walked out of the room and pulled the door firmly shut behind him. It was time to go get some of these questions answered.

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Wed Jan 21, 2004 10:06 am
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The sun was hot and beat down on her mercilessly. She could feel its rays through the folds of white material that robed her. She could feel it through the thick white cowl that she'd wrapped around her face and head, giving her the appearance of a bedouin. She could feel it and she knew that even though she was covered, her skin was darkening. Hopefully she would not need ointment for a burn by the time she arrived at her destination.

Slowly she lifted the water pouch to her lips and took a long draught. She felt empty inside. Empty and dead. She'd been sent away.

Oh, she knew that it was the best thing Maledict could do for her, given how dark his kingdom was and her nerves about the darkness. It still felt as though he sent her away because he couldn't stand to look at her. How could it not, when she'd not seen him after he'd made his abrupt decision in his chambers? She'd dressed in silence, hoping he would return but he hadn't.

Instead, he'd sent one of his creatures to assist her in packing a few belongings. It was obvious he did not intend to join her, and he would not even face her to say goodbye. In her fury, she'd sent Mal's creature away, then carried her pack down to the stables herself. It hadn't taken much thought to decide her next course of action. Before she could second guess her decision, she'd taken his stallion, saddled it and hopped up, riding out and heading down toward the pass. She would have something of him with her- even if it was an animal.

She'd only glanced back at her home once- hoping that he would at least be watching her leave- but he wasn't there. She'd gone numb then. The numbness had finally left after several hours of riding. In its place an aching void tormented her.

She'd known somehow that she was to blame for what had happened to her, even if Maledict hadn't blamed her. The shadows had told her why she'd become their target. Instead of facing what they'd told her and confessing to her mate as they'd required, she'd kept quiet. And now she was being sent away. Maledict thought it best if she were not near these particular shadows. He was right, but not for the reasons he thought. She did fear them, and greatly- but mostly she feared what they knew about her. What they could tell him. But she also knew that her mate didn't want to see her. Perhaps he didn't even want her anymore. She could hear the contempt in his voice right before he left. He hadn't come to say goodbye....

Blinking back tears, she took one more sip, then carefully put the water back in place. She wasn't sure how long she'd been riding or how much further she had to go, but she would need to stop soon. The horse needed to rest and drink himself. Luckily she'd thought to bring along several bags of water. Slowly, she pulled up on the reins and hopped off, wiping the stallion down and giving him some feed and water. She then pulled a blanket out of her pack and covered him and herself to protect them from the sun. They didn't begin moving again till the sun had begun its decent into the sky.

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Wed Jan 21, 2004 12:35 pm
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Soon the name of Ethan shall have passed everyone's lips.

Corduin listened to the man’s confident words, then turned around sensing motion behind him. He was surprised to find a crowd beginning to gather in front of the steps of the temple where he was standing, all looking expectantly towards Ethan and himself. The supposed miracle had taken place only very recently, as he understood it, but someone must have witnessed it and come forth from the temple before his arrival. Or at least, presumably that was the cause of the current congregation.

Ethan began to speak out over the heads of the crowd and Corduin couldn’t help but be drawn into the words despite himself, to hang on every utterance. The priest was a talented speaker, and no one could doubt his self-belief or passion. He could hear mutterings from the crowd, but these faded into the background along with the muted buzzing in his mind. He was no scholar of religion, but he knew that some of the words sounded close to the borders of heresy. It didn’t matter; the man spoke with such conviction and proclaimed every word convincingly and with fervour that Corduin wanted to believe that this priest could show him the way, show him the message.

Totally captivated by his voice, he was startled when Ethan turned to him and touched his shoulder. Listening closely to his words, he found himself nodding along in agreement and support of everything the man said. Then he caught himself, and stopped abruptly.
Acceptance of myself? That seems to be a favoured phrase of priests everywhere. I had never kept much stock in it before; Why do I find myself so taken in by it now, find it such an attractive proposition to become a part of “something much greater”? But he speaks in such a convincing manner, about cleansing this isle…if it wasn’t for this nagging warning at the back of my mind, no doubt I would follow him without question…

What say you, Corduin? Will you have faith in me? Will you join my message?

There was a lazy flickering in the depths of Ethan’s eyes, and the noise in Corduin’s ears grew more insistent. Something wasn’t quite right; all was not as it seemed, however convincing the voice of passion was. But, he had come to the desert for a reason and now he had nowhere else to go. It was quite possible that this man would lead him deeper into the group known as the Sanctum Officium; he was probably one of them himself. Perhaps he was touched by Darden. Whatever his real story, there seemed to be few options. Go back to the city that he once called his home, or move forward.

He made his choice.

I will follow you.

The buzzing in his head increased to the point where he felt his ears were vibrating, then slowly receded.

for now.

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Thu Jan 22, 2004 4:40 pm
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Sanctuary. Solace. Solitude. The creature sought these things, among others. Another soul might have gone looking for answers, but this one lacked the questions to ask. This place though, this place provided the first three. In such quiet, even a shattered psyche could resolve itself from such disconcert. Even at high noon, a sleepless nocturne could find a sort of peace.

She paced, and often crept, across every surface. Crawling along floors and walls, to cling from or dangle off the ceilings, she made a tentative exploration of this new surrounding. She moved slowly, taking care to stay with the darkest darkness.

Images worried and gnawed at the back of her brain, remembering. Red, the colour. Like blood, drifting in the wind. The Place, and she remembed wasteing food there. Gave it away to someone who could not eat it.

It was good.

They had fed her then. They? Them. Those. Other, who is not Self.

It was worrying. She kept moving, to make it go away. Somewhere in the distance was a tapping, and she latched onto the sound. A lifeline of clarity. She followed it until it stopped, which was disconcerting. It was not yet close, and now it was lost. Voices followed...a sound. Something was coming? Was it?

It was.

What was it?

Hide. Wait. See.

And so she did, curling into a high corner and wrapping herself in shadows. Hanging there, precisely still and silent like a stone-dead gargoyle, she awaited whatever would come.
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Fri Jan 23, 2004 10:36 am
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She had traveled across the island of Maxim for months now, always stopping in the lands of the Officium when she could. Waiting to hear of Maledict's return.

It had seemed a blessing from Lord Darden himself when the shadow creatures had spoken to her at her last visit to her home. They had told her that Maledict had returned. That he was once again himself and that he had the girl/woman Demetria with him always.

Lillian had visited the Onyx temple then, but somehow it was not time for her to stay home....her Lord Darden did not call to her in the temple as he usually did. He meant her to do something else...and not here. So, she traveled on...

She took sustenance when she wanted, lustful men were plenty in these lands, and her human form was such a temptation to them. She loved playing the innocent...visiting them in their dreams, seducing them without them knowing that their dreams were controlled by her...then coming to the fools in person, revealing her true form.....and feeding.

It was an easy existence, no fighting or wars as she traveled but always she listened to the darkness, to the whispers on the wind, waiting to hear His call, to know where He wanted her to go.

Finally, she had come to the Red Desert. A land that had come to be home to many of the Officium. It was the home of the side witch, whom Lillian despised. But Ebony had also made her home here...and Silus. She had come here hoping that the Seeres might have been healed. Hoping that she could help her discover what Darden had planned for her.

So she traveled to the temple in the desert, looking for Ebony, or at least the creature Silus. She felt that she was on the right path, that she was meant to come to this desert.....

In human form she walked towards the temple, and begins to feel a familiar presence.....something hiding in the shadows of a building....trying to be inconspicuous but doing a rather poor job....

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Fri Jan 23, 2004 7:35 pm
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....


Sat Jan 24, 2004 8:08 pm
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Anjolie stood within a ring of seven specially selected priests. Four of them she had chosen primarily for their loyalty to her and to the lands of the Free Republic. Three Zina had chosen for their strength of faith and skill in magick. Together, all nine of them would make the journey to the central settlement of the red desert. Afterall, the priesthood would need to become acquainted with their Lord's chosen one. The human smiled to herself, for a moment forgetting her distrust of all things magickal. Instead she lost herself in the memory of the vision. The drow elf's entire body had radiated a serenity and certainty that tugged at her very soul. She smiled in a way that few had ever seen, as though she were truly at peace. When she opened her eyes again the temple in which they had stood was gone, but the surrounding area looked more like the middle of the desert than the desert temple. The woman's face hardened back to it's usual stern determination.

"Is there a problem, Zina?" The priests looked anxiously over the shoulder of the elf who stood between them and Anjolie. The priestess narrowed her luminescent green eyes, lightly fingering the earrings that outlined her pointed ear before pointing off behind the human woman.

"No problem. We just have to walk inside the shield around these lands before we can open a direct portal to the central temple." Anjolie glanced over her shoulder to see the glowing blue of the Sidhe Witch's magick. Her jaw clenched as she turned to face her advisor again.

"Perhaps you would be so kind as to not keep me out of the loop next time." Her icy blue eyes flashed with impatience and irritation, but she turned and lead them all through the shield. "Now get on with your hocus pocus." The priests hastily formed a circle and muttered their incantations.

"Don't rush things you cannot know." Anjolie opened her mouth to make an angry retort, but fell lost her desire to speak in the blink of an eye. There on the temple steps stood the elf she had seen. The woman took a few hesitant steps forward before rushing into the midst of the crowd.

"It's really You!" Her voice carried easily over the quiet throng. "You are the one who summoned me in a vision." Her face was filled with wonder and awe, and her eyes were tinted with an ever growing firmness of belief. "You are the One...Darden's Chosen. I saw it." She reached the foot of the steps and stared up at the priest, completely enraptured by this confirmation of her prior statements in the lands of her people. Anjolie was so caught up in his presense, that she didn't even notice Zina hanging back with her three priests, frowning darkly. Anjolie's priests had moved forward with their elected leader, and now stood in a semi-circle behind her, staring up at the drow as if expecting him to impart some great wisdom that they would only have one chance to learn. The woman, however, took no notice of even this. Instead, she fell to her knees and lowered her head.

"If ever you have need of anything, the lands and people of the Free Republic are at your disposal."

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Wed Jan 28, 2004 4:04 pm
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There was pain and confusion. No ease for the mind that she had once been connected with constantly. Now in her oblivion she occasionally seeks out those with whom she had once been familiar with in her life. Always looking for her one true love, but never finding the mind she seeks.

In the years since her self-imposed exile she has sought in vain for the one who could bring her peace and yet he is nowhere it seems. She has all but given up on finding him and resigned herself to an eternity of nothingness, but now, something stirs inside her. An old familiar tug. Yes, one of her brethren, not her love, but one who had once been quite close to her soul, was in need. Of what, she does not know, but this one deserves her assistance. Though he will never admit his need, not out loud at least, but he had never been able to hide his inner thoughts from her. One of the few whom she had ever let in for in knowing his thoughts she had to open herself up equally to him. It was a fair trade and this one had always been worthy of her trust. He needed her, though he might not know it. She would go to him. She would leave the vast nothing and return to her home, to the Isle.

It required very little, a thought of her last moments, falling, the ground rushing toward her and she was there again. Her wings wrapped around her as they had when she plunged into the nothingness. Without a thought she releases her gossamer wings and effortlessly turns her death plunge into a swoop, flying up higher and higher. Her once forbidding castle is gone, the ruins not even visible. This offers her no discomfort for that was another life.

She reaches out prodding gently, searching for the one in need, touching just the edge. So distracted is he, she is sure he is unaware of her intrusion. She follows the pull towards him.

Can it be? Is that the same mountain range that the two had once followed Bede to all those years ago? Yes, it is. He makes his home where they had sought the book. What has befallen her old companion? That place had wreaked havoc on all who sought the book even the demons and yet, he had chosen this for his home? Yes, he needed her.

A young girl flees the darkness. Escaping the horrors of her old friends pleasure? She circles twice, before swooping down toward the dark ground. Landing silently she folds her wings tightly to her back. Had she possessed a cloak it would have served to conceal them completely. She had no cloak though. In fact, she has no clothes at all. She was exactly as she had been when she left this world. In truth, she required no clothes for protection and in fact preferred the freedom of nakedness but most of the time she had covered herself for the sake of other. He would not mind and to hell with what anyone else who was present thought, they were not her concern, only him.

She strides into his home as if it were hers. For once avoiding the shadows, for there was nothing welcoming about these shadows. Standing in the middle of what she supposes is an entry hall. She reaches out with her mind to his and simultaneously with her voice she makes her presences known.

Maledict, I am here.

The announcement is simple and she awaits his welcome, friendly or otherwise, her hands planted firmly on slender hips, her face expressionless.

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Sun Feb 01, 2004 11:18 pm
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He smiled at the answer given to him by Corduin, the newcomer had agreed to follow him and though Ethan couldn't help but wonder if the man's eyes told a different story, he was still glad of the agreement. One was not enough, though, he would need more before he could leave the Red Desert and spread his gospel across the lands.

you make us proud, forgotten one, make us see that we made the right choice.

The drow priest had momentarily thought himself rid of the voices, had almost forgotten where his power originated from. Dark eyes closed in an effort to escape the voices, an effort that he knew was futile.. he would never be able to escape that which resided in his own head. All he could do was think of the good that this gift of power given him could accomplish, the route of a journey was not as important as the destination. It was true that they had made him kill before now, had forced him to silence those in the desert that had seen too much, had been witness to his madness, or rather to his reality, a reality that would surely have been mistaken for madness.

Not now though. Now he was the promise given by all Gods.. a worker of miracles, a true carrier of the message, a beacon of faith the light of which could illuminate even the most doubtful of minds.

He turned his attention to the Centaur who had arrived carrying a drow female on his back. It had been a long time since Ethan had seen one of his kin and as soon as he looked at her he knew what was wrong. She had not grown accustomed to the light as he had, she was still true drow, not like him, not like him at all.


She needs no miracle. He spoke in an authoritative voice, perhaps as an unconscious effort to rebel against the subservience that a drow male was expected to offer a female. He had left his drow heritage far behind him and was not about to pick it back up just because a female had appeared. Lay her in shadows. That is where she will find her needs.

Ethan then turned toward the gathered crowd once again, his gaze wandering across them all and catching sight of Ebony's beast. Even though the creature known as Silus was attempting not to be seen his white fur stood out in the unforgiving sun of the desert.

go to him, forgotten one. gain his trust.

No. He would not listen to them this time. It would be better for the beast to come to him. Silus more than likely already had some trust for the drow priest, but it was only borne of Ebony, and she could not speak for him now, she could not ease the doubts of the beast and so Ethan would have to tread very carefully lest he find himself being torn asunder by huge claws and wicked fangs.

There was a slight stirring in the crowd and Ethan saw a woman making her way towards him, exclaiming that it was "Really him." His face softened as he looked upon this vision of beauty as she claimed to have been summoned by him in a vision and then offered him everything that she possessed before finally falling down to her knees.


Yes. He said with a smile, placing a hand upon her head. It is me. His thumb traced along the top of her ear and then his hand dropped down until his fingers were beneath her chin and he lifted her head up so that their gazes met. Although he could not remember ever meeting this woman, somehow he knew everything about her and he also knew that for her to kneel before anyone was a miracle in itself, not the second of seven but still one in its own right. Your faith is all I ask, Anjolie. He stated as his rough hand gently caressed the soft curves of her face.

Now it was time.


People of the desert! He yelled out, his voice carrying easily over the heads of all present. I understand that some of you still harbour doubt about me. Were I in your shoes I would have the same doubts and so the time has come for the second miracle of seven! His gaze flickered down to Anjolie and he smiled, but in his eyes burned a hunger that even a miracle would not hide.

Are you ready to believe?

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I am hope, I am faith, I am the message
[shadow=brown]The Forgotten One[/shadow]


Mon Feb 02, 2004 8:04 am
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The demoness froze and looked up from her meal. The comfortably appointed room was empty save herself and the poor soul who had stopped by to ask if she had need of room service. She chewed thoughtfully on her most recent bite of flesh as she listened to the silence. Something had stirred the thoughts of the Torturer. Carefully she prodded and plucked the invisible threads that connected their thoughts until she found what she was looking for. His mind was filled with myriads of emotional repulsiveness, but a familiar, if long absent, presense was moving towards him. Dementia's lips curled into a smile.

"Entertainment alwaysss winsss over dead meat. I think I should pay our leader a visssit." She lifted her blood spattered, clawed hands to her head, feeding the black serpents that served as her hair, chuckling to herself as they hissed happily. "Well then. If we're all fed and ready..." The demoness dragged her claws across her bare flesh, drawing thin trickles of deep red from her skin. Blood sang to the elements and her figure faded from view.

Images and sounds that taunt and tease weaker minds into madness assaulted her senses as she traveled through the ether, chasing the distant sensations of Maledict. She blocked them without a second thought, instead concentrating on speed and that other mind as she neared his keep. The whisper of minds all but died out as she passed through the demon's lands. The many humans who had once inhabited this place were gone, leaving no trace of their passing, or even their initial existence. Intrigued, Dementia reappeared, hovering over the main street that led to Maledict's home. Dark shadows similar to those of the Onyx Temple slid along every surface within view. Hideous beasts roamed the streets, their hides glistening in the pale sunlight that filtered through the black shield that hid the skies. 'Love what you've done with the placcee Shape Ssstealer.'

Her figure drifted lazily down into the open doorway of the keep, landing silently behind the winged demoness who already stood within. Her forked tongue flickered out into the air, tasting the scent of this newcomer, but her hair was already hissing in recognition and welcome.

"Mallya." Her glowing golden eyes narrowed and her lips curled, revealing her fangs in a wicked smile. She padded closer and lightly trailed her claws across the other demoness's shoulders, leaning forward to hiss in her ear. "Long time no sssee." She nipped at the fleshly lobe of skin before pulling away. "What bringsss you here?"

OOC: Okay folks, the Maledict part of this story line is moving to a new thread. Here.

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~Sanctum Officium~
Never Forgotten


Mon Feb 02, 2004 8:05 pm
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I know that people can still see me, some of the tribesmen have glanced at me curiously as they hurry to the temple to hear Ethan's words. Perhaps they think that there is something wrong with me, that I am trying to hide from something or someone. That wouldn't be good, no they must never think that, if they think that then they might start wondering what it is that I fear. Mother said I must never fear, that there is nothing in the isle that I have to fear not while my faith is true. All that happens to me is the Lord's will and so I must believe that it is all a part of His great plan for the isle. I cannot go against the Lord of Sorrows' wishes, that would suggest doubt and fear, things that a true believer can never allow to cloud his faith. So long as I trust completely in the Lord Darden I have nothing to fear, that was what Mother wanted me to believe, that was what she beleived.

What she still believes.

No matter what Mother's body looks like I have to believe that she is still there somehow, still ensuring that we are safe and that our faith never wavers. Sometimes I think that I can feel her nearby, that her soul tries to comfort me when I am alone and missing her. The feeling often comes just as I am about to drift off into sleep or as I reach up into wakefulness once more. At those times I almost think I can feel her hands in my fur, her tiny heat beating in time with mine. I hope that that's real and not just my imagination, I hope that Mother truly is making sure that her son is well. Otherwise she would worry, I know Mother too well, she worries over me just like any mother does over her only child. She doesn't need to worry about me though, I can take care of myself and the Lord always watches over His faithful. Mother should stop worrying over how I am and try to return to us, some part of me will always be weakened until she is with me again, till I can hear her voice once more.

Mother is a wonderful woman, her faith was an almost tangiable thing, a light that seemed to illuminate her very soul. I have never known her to fear or doubt the Lord's will, her trust in Darden is total and unflinching. In the past I have seen her travel into heathen lands alone and unafraid, a blind woman preaching of the Lord's love and lessons. She went willingly, knowing that there was always a good chance that she might perish but going all the same. She knew that Darden would not let her perish, not until He decides that it is time to call her to Him. For Mother, spreading the teachings of Darden was always far more important than her own safety. And her faith in Him was always rewarded, never once did the heathens move against her, not even when she walked the paths of their tainted lands and made no effort to hide who she really was.

Her courage was...no, her courage is an amazing thing to behold. Her sight is gone but she has no fear of the unknown around her, trusting wholly in Darden to protect her. I used to love watching Mother preach of the Lord within the desert temple, when she spoke her whole being seemed to radiate faith. She was never more beautiful than when she passionately talked of the Lord's teachings, never more glorious to behold. There are few that I have ever seen that could match Mother's beauty and none of them could I love as much as I love her.

...well maybe just one. I look down to the sandy floor beneath my paws, knowing that there is only one other, save the Lord Himself of course, who as my love. Mother I love without question or denial but Demetria...No I cannot think of that, not even as I feel my skin underneath my fur reddening at the thought of her. She belongs to the Torturer, he look after her and makes sure that she is safe and protected. I haven't seen her, not since before I managed to break free of my captors and return to the red desert. But still I remember following her scent, I remember how I plucked her from the snows several ages ago, I remember how I saved her when the Torturer did not. That memory bring a smile to my maw, yes I saved her when the demon did not, I held her close and brought her to safety. I remember the feel of her tiny human body curled up in my arms, I remember watching her sleep as I carried her back to the red sands of home. And oh how I remember how she curled up against my body as I carroed her home, pressing herself nearer to the warmth of my body. I would always keep her safe if she let me, if she would only let me.

The feeling of being watched increases again and I peer about, wondering who has laid their eyes upon me. Did I speak outloud of my feelings? Did I say something that I shouldn't have done? My human-like eyes sweep the crude street around me, looking for the source, trying to remember if I had given voice to the thoughts that had recently wandered through my mind. I hope I did not, it would be so embarassing for another to learn of the feelings that beat within the heart of the 'Beast of Darden'. They would think me weak and foolish to even entertain such ideas, I mean, how could anyone other than Mother and the Lord love something as bestial as I am? More of the tribespeople move towards the temple, glancing at me as they go, the source of my unease.

But even so my gaze falls upon another, one who I recognise from times long before. Lillian, I have not seen or heard of her since before the banner of the Officium fell. What is she doing here? Does it have anything to do with the miracles of Ethan?

Ethan's miracles...I wish that someone were here that I could trust, someone to help me and advise me. I can't trust the witch's advice, especially not on a matter of faith like this, whatever she says I can't be sure that it'll be the truth, she might tell me anything to get me to do as she wants. I won't be another piece in the Sidhe witch's games. And I won't let her use Ethan either, I have to make sure that the priest is safe from the witch, that is what Mother would want me to do. Though I have yet to see the witch after her healing I have no doubt that she is probably planning to twist his abilities to suit her own ends. I can't let her do that, no I have to protect him from her.

That's what Mother would want...and so that is what I shall do.

_________________
[center]~~~SO~~~
Beast of Darden, Child of Ebony
I don't do this because I hate you, but rather because He loves you[/center]


Tue Feb 03, 2004 12:04 pm
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Traveling at night had been difficult. Not because the land was overly harsh or the climate unbearable. In fact, the stallion she rode had little difficulty navigating the land at all and the night temperature was infinately preferable to the heat of the day. It was her thoughts that made it difficult. Her thoughts and the shadow.

Though she knew, logically, that the shadows of the desert were not the sort that could harm her- were not the ones that had harmed her- she couldn't help but tense up whenever one of them crossed over her, causing the already cool night air to chill. She couldn't help the fear that coursed down her spine each time the light from the moon and stars was blocked out and their darkness spread over her shoulders and thighs. The fear and the tensing of nerves was wearing her down. She hated it, and she hated herself for letting it affect her.

More importantly, she hated herself for letting it happen.

It didn't matter that there was little, if anything, she could have done. Maledict hadn't done anything either and if he couldn't stop it, what hope did she have to stop it? But she still hated herself because of it. Because she had let it happen...she was alone again.

The desert day had been long, and she'd come to her conclusions well before she had turned the stallion toward the final leg of the journey to Ebony's realm. She was alone. Maledict wanted nothing to do with her- because she was tainted now. His words of avenging her, of allowing her to avenge herself, were a bitter comfort. She'd no doubt he'd find a way to get back at the shadows for what had been done, but it didn't change the fact that he did not want her any longer. He'd sent her away and hadn't even thought her deserving of even one glance out a window as she'd gone. Perhaps if he'd seen her off, she'd be able to fool herself into thinking he didn't hate her for what had occurred, but he hadn't. His last words to her had been filled with disdain. He didn't want her any longer. That was the only explanation that she could think of for why he hadn't even watched her go. He didn't care anymore, so her leaving meant nothing to him. And until she'd let the shadows defile her, he had wanted her. Because she had let it happen she was alone.

The day had been long as her thoughts had formed and the night had been longer as those thoughts tortured her. She'd lost track of time and the sun had already risen and the air was hot when she rode into the outskirts of the realm she'd chosen to retreat to. Ebony's realm. The realm that the Sidhe witch advised because of the horrible illness that had overcome the seeress. Advisor to Silus, Ebony's son. It angered her that the witch held such power. It angered her because she wanted to kill the woman, but if Silus needed her, then she could not kill the woman because it would cause problems for Silus. While she could not be certain what he thought of her, she was fond of the white beast of Darden. Shaking her head at the thoughts crowding her head, she looked around, then blinked.

It seemed as if something important were occurring. Many people were heading in the direction of the temple as quickly as possible. They were in a highly excited state. Had Ebony been cured, perhaps? Hopping off the stallion, she unloaded the burden from it, the set it loose to rest and feed with the tribes own herd. If she had need of it later, it would be easy to find...it was the largest animal in the herd.

Throwing her possessions over her shoulder, she quickly followed one of the tribesman. It was hard to see over the heads of the people. Luckily her small size, made it easy to snake her way through the crowd that was forming. Finally she was near the front and able to look up at the one they were all watching and listening to. The familiarity of the face and voice startled her.

"People of the desert!....I understand that some of you still harbour doubt about me. Were I in your shoes I would have the same doubts and so the time has come for the second miracle of seven!....Are you ready to believe?"

Believe what?....she frowned as she whispered the words. What was Ethan up to?

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It's not paranoia if they really are out to get you.
Desire is hunger is the fire I breathe...
...the night belongs to us.


Tue Feb 03, 2004 12:28 pm
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