Maxim Archive

Seeress and Sorceress, Dogma and Doubt
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Author:  Ebony [ Wed May 07, 2003 4:42 pm ]
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I brush her hair under my fingers as her breathing becomes more normal, almost seeming to relax as her pains are healed by the power within her blood. It takes more than a fall to kill off a Sidhe, her magic combining with the strength of the Lord to keep life within her flesh. Of course Darden played some part in her recovery, after all nothing lives save by His wish. If it were the Lord's will then all life within these lands would be wiped out at a single stroke, neither Isonia, nor Foret could turn His will aside. And so the woman lives, because He has decided that it will be so, she still has some part to play in His plans.

I wonder though, does the realisation that their Gods have no real power ever wake the heathens in the middle of the night? Pulling them from their petty dreams, shaking them to wakefulness as they stare blindly into the darkness, sweat-covered and shaking. What does it matter what Foret and Isonia wish? It matters not at all because in the end all their plans could be swept away by the simplest thought crossing the Lord of Sorrow's mind. Aloof Isonia, staring at Your pretty reflection in some celestial mirror, all that could be turned to less than ashes if He demands it is so. Proud Foret, You look at the world and think only of physical conquest, yet all that is physical does not last. Only Darden is eternal, He is the change and chaos from which the world was made and to which it will, one day, return. No power in heaven or under the skies can make it otherwise. Let the heathens fight on, thinking to claim just a little bit more, thinking that somehow it will make a difference. I smirk to myself at the thought, as if land or riches could ever influence a battle that is ultimately of faith and nothing more.

My faith in strong, never shall it falter, not in life or death. And while I have my faith I need nothing more, no army, no magic, such things are unnecessary when the true war is waged belief against belief. I would pit my faith in the Lord against anyone in these lands, none shall find my lacking in my faith for I would give everything to serve Him better. When first I pledged myself to Him I gave up my eyes willingly, He has only to ask and I will give up every portion of my body and soul. And nothing but death itself shall prevent me from preaching of His teachings.

For what sort of life would it be if it were not for my Lord? What reason would I have to continue my existance if I could not offer up my prayers to Him?

Lyssia's words roll and writhe in my mind, speaking of a test, of a trial, of something that will push the boundaries of who and what I am. Surely this must be why Darden aided her survival, so that she may speak His words and be at my side in the times to come. I am Your's to command Lord, Your's to test in the hope that I might be proved worthy of worshipping You. The greatest honour that any of us mortal creatures may experience is to be found deserving of following Him and acting as His tools in this land. Any that attempt to worship Him and are found wanting will soon find that His face is turned from them. Only the strong shall be His, not necessarily the strong in body but rather those strong in mind and will. Flesh withers and corrupts, growing old in its time even as the mind and the spirit endures. The warrior will soon find that his arm can no longer carry the sword that he weilded in his youth, but the advisor shall always be able to continue the battle of wits.

That thought reminds me of words once spoken over me, just after the Lord's voice had led me from the brink of death to the safety of the desert settlement. I had laid in the blessed shade then, skin blistered and burnt, suffering from a terrible thirst, still wondering if dying might not be simpler. Those who had looked after me had whispered that I had had the body of one accustomed to battle anf to the rigors of the road. Even after I had recovered I had looked at this flesh that was my own and found it criss-crossed by scars from wounds that I did not remember. I move my hands from the Sidhe's hair, running the tips of my fingers along each arm and feeling the scars that I can no longer see. What weapons caused these old lacerations? What enemies did I anger that they sought to strike me down?

Lost memories of the woman that I once was, how I wish I could reclaim those pieces of me that I have lost. Even with the blessing of Darden upon me still sometimes I wish that I knew who I had once been. I try to think back, remembering the wars and battles that I have been a part of in this isle of Maxim. But before that time there is nothing, a hollow part of me that grasps at straws to try and fill itself. Once there were memories there, thoughts and feelings, each a part of the puzzle of who I am, but now there is nothing. I am missing parts of my very soul and I mourn their loss, wishing that I could reclaim them and be whole once more.

Tell me...the words seem to get stuck in my throat, Tell me who I am Lyssia, I must know.

At first I think that sleep has claimed her, exhaustion washing over her spirit after being taxed in the healing of her flesh. Her breathing seems to be that of one who has fallen asleep, dreaming of easier and better times. But then she stirs slightly and I can almost feel her eyes upon me, staring up into the blank, empty spaces where my eyes once were. Are you sure that you want to know? Once such things are spoken of the words cannot be taken back, no matter how much you wish they could. Sometimes, she pauses, sighing, It can be better for the past to be forgotten, buried so deeply that it is almost as though it never existed.

I must know, my past has been buried already, it lays in its tomb in my mind, locked away from all who might seek to steal it from me. But I have lost the key to that tomb and now I must have it back, I must find some way to retrieve all that I once was. You alone can open the grave of my memory now, you are the only one who can piece my soul back together. Lyssia, you more than any other person in this isle knows what it is like to possess a shattered soul. You cannot mend your own spirit, but you can make mine whole once more. I will gladly accept any troubles that come from re-discovering my own history. After all what could be so terrible in my past that I could not overcome it with my faith in the Lord?

She shakes her head slowly, Very well, I will tell you of the Ebony that I knew, of the woman that you once were.

Author:  Lyssia [ Thu May 08, 2003 5:24 am ]
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She had dreaded the telling of this tale. Once she had collected stories from one end of the isle to the other, delighting in each new one as it was spread out before her eyes. Any of those tales she would have gladly spoken of, relating them to any audience willing to listen. But this story, this history of Ebony, this was the one that she had thought sealed and locked away forever. Never once had she set this story down, trapping it in chains of ink and bonds of paper, placing it upon the shelf of a library to be read by any curious enough to pick it up. No this tale had not been for the curious, this tale had not been for any save her.

But then the Sidhe had set eyes upon Ebony, seeming to see a ghost become flesh once more. The human woman should not be alive by all the laws of nature, her span of years should have been done with many ages past. When Lyssia had first set eyes on the blind woman a wave of fear had overcome her, amid the instruments of torture belonging to Maledict she had known a fear that none of them could elict from her. The dead of her past walked before her, barely changed from when she had last set eyes upon her, and the years could never be that kind to those of human blood. It had almost seemed to her that someone had plucked the Ebony that she had once known from her past and placed her in the present, never letting time touch her. Save for her lack of eyes nothing had changed in the human, she appeared exactly as she had when Lyssia had last looked upon her.

I warn you Ebony, knowing of your past will only present you with more questions, not answers. Right now you only ask a single question, 'Who was I?'. You have no need to ask who you are, you know who you are now, you are Ebony, Vision-Seeker of Darden, mother of Silus, keeper of the red desert. Who you were is very different to who you are now, you will not like what you learn from me I fear. The blind woman was so very sure of her faith, but was even that enough to help her survive learning of her past? The sorceress feared that it would prove lacking, that the knowledge Ebony craved would destroy her, shattering her faith as surely as Kara's death had killed her own. Though Lyssia did not regret throwing off the shackles of the Foretian religion, she did not think that Ebony would think the same if her belief in Darden was so shaken.

I must know, the Lord helped you to survive, brought you to me, so that you might tell me of who I was. He has decreed that it will be so, His plans are not for us to know but knowing my past is part of them. In my visions I have seen that great change will come upon these lands soon, some ill not survive that change, they will perish in it. Only by knowing who I was can I embrace these changes, her words were so full of passion for her God, so certain that His hand was in all that had occured.

Slowly Lyssia pushed herself into a sitting position, squinting up at the sun as if she sought answers from it. Did the Gods look down upon this meeting, eager to see if her tale would strengthen or shatter Ebony? Darden, if He cared to look, would be with His faithful seeress. Foret and Isonia would want Ebony to break, to turn from the worship of the Lord of sorrows and run to one of Them instead. What a coup that would be for Them, to have one of Darden's most devout children condemn Him and kneel before Their altars. But the sorceress doubted that would happen. No if Ebony turned away from Darden after knowing her history it would be to death alone that she would turn.

She looked out over the horizon, briefly wondering what new tales found their beginning out there today. Many ages hence would they still be told, or would they be forgotten? What did it matter either way, she doubted that any of them would ever be retold with as much doubt in the teller's heart as the one she was about to relate. Many ages ago, before this world became our home there was another land, a world called Mo'Pri. That is where your past begins Ebony, in a world now dead and barren, in a world that many have forgotten.

That world was not so different to this isle, wars of religion raged there just as they do here. The Gods that they fought for were not those that now watch over these lands, no back then Foret, Isonia and Darden were names that were not known to the faithful of those lands. Four Divine beings clashed in the lands of Mo'Pri, each striving for the throne of the heavens, each wishing to cast down Their siblings and rule alone. Red Barnabas, God of the sword, revelling in the rage of battle. Calm Oleana, Goddess of the green places, flesh made divine. Chaotic Leto, God of change, dark could be His banners. Cold Angelique,
The name of the Goddess seemed to stick in her throat, threatening to choke her in the flood of emotions that it raised within her. A strange mixture of hate and love, yes even after all that had happened Lyssia could still feel love for the Angelique. Goddess of justice, a fanatic in Her own right. Each had His or Her followers, people ready to fight and die for the glory of their chosen deity, it was not so different from what hapens now.

In that world you were born to human parents, kind and caring people that you often spoke of with love. Never did I meet them though, for they had passed on long before your path met mine.
She looked back to the seeress, wondering if the human felt some grief in re-learning that her parents were dead. Ebony had mourned them once, back in the lands of Mo'Pri, would she now have to mourn them again? But there was no trace of emotion on the human's face, it was as if she had been turned to stone, only capable of listening to the tale of her own past. Looking back to the horizon she continued, You grew up in a small farming community, becoming a beautiful and strong young woman, the very picture of your mother in her youth by all accounts. War touched that place as it touched all places, but never so much that destroyed the will of those simple folk. Armies would clash about them, leaving only rubble in their wake, but the people of your home would just grit their teeth and rebuild, shouldering the burdens of their harsh life without complaint.

You lived, and worshipped,
her eyes flicked back to Ebony at the mention of worshipping but still there was no reaction. How long though would it be till she had to go further than simply skirting about the problem of Ebony's religion in those days? Sooner or later she would have to lay that matter bare, trusting that the seeress would be able to take it all in. Life was not so terrible and Fate seemed to have no great plans for you, content to leave you to your own devices, to grow, to marry perhaps and to finally find solace in the earth at the end of your years. But you were not happy to live a forgotten life, in the midst of those farming people, your adventurous spirit burned like a beacon. Every passing bard and story-spinner would find you an eager audience for their wares, drinking in the news of the outside world with a thirst that could not be quenched. The road called to you, demanding that you answer it, that you see the places that had only been described to you.

Eventually you answered that call.

Lyssia had often wondered what had been the final straw, what was it in the end that had pushed Ebony from the safety of her home into the great unknown. One tale too many perhaps? Or maybe the settlement had finally seemed too smothering, trying to force a life upon her that she did not care for. Those first few months on the road were troubling times, who knows how many times you almost ran a-foul of the dangers that it presented to a lone woman. Those who walk the roads, those who wander, they must adapt to that life quickly if they are to survive at all and so you adapted. Your hands forgot the use of plough and scythe, taking up the sword and the bow instead, hunting to survive where you had once farmed. Your innocence was burned away by that life, its hardships forging you anew as your eyes were opened to what the world was really like. The lands you travelled were not those of the stories, they were darker and more perilous, and their were always hunters willing to prey on the unprepared.

Author:  Ebony [ Thu May 08, 2003 8:16 am ]
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I was a wanderer? On another world, in a land that I have no recollection of I walked the lands? What wonders did I see there? What people did I speak with? So many questions, none of them truly relevant or important but still they crawl into my mind as if they were. Somehow the tale that the Sidhe relates almost seems famaliar to me, like a dream that I once had and that slipped away from me. Sometimes it almost seems that I know what she is about to tell me before the words have left her lips. The knowledge of my past has always been there, locked within my own mind, just out of my reach. Only the sorceress could recapture my past and return it to me, only she remains that knows of it.

We met one summer, you and I, we had both travelled to one of the eastern-most lands to observe the rite of the darkened sun. It was a great cause for celebration for the people of that realm, only occuring during the total eclipse of the sun. Humans counted themselves lucky to see it once in their lifetimes and they made the most of the event. For days before and after they would dance and drink, working themselves up into a frenzy of joy that would be retold for years to come. Once before in my own travels I had been present for the celebrations and had made a mental note to return the next time that they occured. For a Sidhe the passing of a generation or two was a wait that we had the patience to endure without trouble. Sometimes it is easy to forget that the woman speaking to me has more ages than some bloodlines last. She is old enough to have seen the walls of countless cities rise and then be torn down by time alone. But it is so easy to forget that, so easy to slip into the trap of thinking her no older than I am.

I still remember catching sight of you on the day of the ritual itself, probably the only human, save for the priests, who was not drunk. She laughs to herself, remembering times that I have forgotten. You had so, life, I don't think that either of those words does it justice, you practically seemed to glow with the excitement of merely existing. I have heard it said that fae are often drawn to humans because of their energy, finding something in your race that most of us lack. I won't deny that it didn't intrigue me, but it was not that which drew me to you. No it was your endless questions that hooked me, making me wonder if I had not found my equal in the race of humanity. No matter how many the priests answered you, you always had another question ready to ask them. I think that it was not long before they fervently wished that you were as drunk as the rest of the populace.

She pauses and I fancy that I can almost sense the smile that curves her lips, the remembered joy of that time returning to her. I know that she has suffered much since the times that she now speaks of and that she still carries painful debts from her past. It feels good to know that remembering old times, times that we both lived through, brings her pleasure. Suffering and pain may be the tools that the Lord uses to teach us but He can also bestow the gifts of joy and pleasure upon His servants when it is appropriate.

It didn't matter that we were...the happiness in her spirit seems to disappear as she searches for the next word. Something concerns her but any more than that I cannot tell and it makes me uneasy. There is something important that the sorceress has yet to speak of, something that she fears will upset me perhaps? We were different and people marvelled that even though we had such differences, still we could speak as friends and equals. We watched the rite together, covered by darkness in the middle of the day as the heavens tripped through their seemingly eternal dance. And after that, well after that it seemed almost natural that as two wanderers we should walk the road together for a time.

Yes, I can imagine that time, I can imagine travelling through the mysteries of the lands with her by my side. She is not lying to me, the story she weaves is the truth and not fabrication or falsehood. It feels too right to be a lie, I think that the Lord would send me a sign if she did not tell the truth. Or perhaps He would bind her tongue so that she could only speak the truth. Good times they were, we saw cities that were scattered like jewels across the velvet of the lands. We saw creatures that were only whispered of in legend and myth, and walked through streets that were as ordinary as any other. Fantastic and mundane, we saw them both, we lived, we were free of the bindings that held others to their boring lives. How we would laugh and pity high- and low-born alike, knowing that no matter how gilded their cages were still they were cages. Wars and peace, they were the troubles of the guilds and their nobles, they did not affect us beyond meaning that we took one road rather than another.

Life was good and our 'differences' did not concern us, we could abide it as the guilds could not.

Again she speaks of differences, hiding the true issue behind that word, the worry of it knawing at her stomach no doubt. What is it that she is trying to hide from me? So far she has lied about nothing, of that I am certain, but there is something that she does not wish to speak of. It is not our difference in race that worries her, that would be too simple, no it is something else. All was well...till the day of the fire, Her words are heavy and sad, all the earlier joy has fled.

Wait, I interrupt her, knowing that I must ask the question that hangs between us, unspoken and unanswered. I must know before you continue, I must know what differences we could abide that others could not.

Silence reigns for a while and I wonder if perhaps she will refuse to answer, taking that one secret to the very grave with her rather than speak it outloud. Then she sighs and seems to relent, You wish to know? All else I would tll you gladly but this...this is something very different, something that you will not want to know. I would rather not tell it at all than bring pain to you in the telling.

I must know.

You must already suspect the truth of it for I have already told you that the Gods of that land were not the Gods of this. Something screams at me to tell her to not speak of, to keep the secret, to not say the words that my spirit seems to dread. I know the answer already deep within my soul but I need her to speak it to know the awful truth of it fully. But I stay silent, I do not beg her to remain the only holder of that secret. In the lands of Mo'Pri I was one of those that followed the teachings of the Goddess Angelique, trusting in Her justice and judgement. And in those lands you did not worship Darden, Ebony, you did not even know of Him then. You worshipped another, you worshipped the one known as Leto.

The shock of it hits me like a physical blow; I worshipped another God?

Author:  Lyssia [ Thu May 08, 2003 9:46 am ]
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There it was said, there was no taking back the words now, they were let loose into the world for good or ill. The sorceress could do no more than watch as the blood seemed to drain from the blind woman's face, leaving her as pale as milk. To one as devout as Ebony the news would come as a terrible shock, that she had once pledged her support to a God other than the one she now served. How could she react to knowing that once she had given her faith so totally to another? Ebony believed that she existed to serve Darden and nothing more, that only a life in His service was worthy living. To realise that she had once felt as strongly about another might be enough to push the human over the edge between madness and sanity that she often seemed to teeter over.

Once, she stammered out the word, pausing to swallow hard before attemtping to speak once more. Once I had a dream sent to me by the Thirteen, may Darden curse their souls, a dream that disturbed me far more than any other. In that dream I walked in fields of wheat and knelt among them before my Lord, my heart glad that I could serve Him. But when I offered myself to Him, He turned His gaze from me, accusing me of loving another God before Him. The pain of it was far more terrible than any other that I have ever experienced, to find myself unworthy of Him. The Sidhe woman could hear the sorrow in the voice of Ebony, she could see the black ichorous tears that streamed down her cheeks, burning the skin in their path. Lyssia could almost feel her heart breaking to see Ebony in such a state and knowing that it was her own words that had brought her to this. She found herself wishing that she had denied the request of the blind seeress, that she had kept her silence instead, it would have been far better for Ebony never to know. I had thought that it had all been no more than a trick of the Thirteen, designed to try and weaken of those of Officium so that we would be unable to bring them down. But now to find the grain of truth at the heart of it all...

I wish that I could spare you from the pain of it Ebony, the Sidhe woman said gently, reaching out to hold the seeress's hands in her own. But you wished to know the truth of your past, no matter what the consequences might be. In the end I am nothing more than the instrument by which your past is returned to you, I can only tell you of what happened, you alone can heal the wounds that the knowledge does to you.

The past was a double-edged blade, doing both good and bad depending on the perception of the onlooker. Sometimes it taught by previous mistakes, preventing them from being made a second time. But at other times it just seemed to cut deeply, reminding the spirit of old suffering, dredging up memories that were best left alone. Those that were without the knowledge of their own past could be the lucky ones, they could not be hurt by what had happened before. Certainly they would make mistake, repeating the ill patterns of years before but wasn't that worth being free of the past?

It seemed so silent and empty at the foot of the mountains, almost as though they were the only living creatures for miles around. She could nearly bring herself to imagine that very other living soul had been wiped from the face of the lands, leaving only Ebony and herself. Lyssia shook her head, knowing that it was false, knowing that out there wars raged and people died, unable to touch the strange peace and quiet that now blanketed the two women. Could it be that there was some glamour upon this place? Sealing it away from the distractions of the rest of the world till events here had run their course? If that were so then she wished that events would never reach their conclusion, it would be far better to remain here forever.

Ebony's hands slipped from her own, You cannot prevent the pain from reaching me, it is the Lord's will that I learn of it. The calmness of the human's words surprised her, the Sidhe had not expected Ebony to react in this way. She had been prepared for horror, for out-right denial, but never for quick acceptance of what she had said. It did not seem to fit with what she knew of Ebony for her to react in this way. Had the blind woman buried her true feelings within herself? Lyssia hoped not, she knew what damage that course of action could do to a soul, after all she had suffered it herself after thinking it better to bury her grief over Kara's death. Continue with the tale, witch, tell me of the day of the fire.

The coldness in Ebony's words, the use of the word 'witch', they pierced the Sidhe's heart as surely as the sharpest arrow. But what could she do? The repercussions of this tale were Ebony's to deal with, only she could come to terms with the truths that were revealed to her, Lyssia could not shoulder that burden for her. All that the sorceress could do was tell the tale to its end, As you wish it.

The day of the fire,
Lyssia leaned back against the warm rock of the cliff, watching the blind woman's face all the while. A sad and a joyous time, a beginning and an end. We had come to lands belonging to a guild of Angelique, though neither of us cared to stop and inquire which one it was. Why should we? After all we were free spirits, not bound by oaths to one guild or another, giving thanks to our deities as we saw fit and not holding to the laws of churches and their dour leaders. It would have made no difference of course if we had known the name of those that claimed those lands, it would not have changed what happened.

We travelled a road that had seen far better days, one that few walked at that time for there was little of interest along it. It took a winding road from one city to another, but there were shorter paths and so most ignored the presence of this one. So it was that we found ourselves alone when we spotted the smoke rising above the trees that lined one side of the road. Curious as always we tried to follow it to its source for it was obvious at first glance that it was not just the small campfire of some local hunters. As we drew nearer the source the trees began to spread further apart, becoming fewer till they opened out into what promised to be a fair sized clearly. There the smoke was thick, a foul mist that obscured the path before us. And not just before us for on our movements through the wooded area we had attracted interest from another party, a small black and white bird, it eyes bright and unafraid despite the smoke and the obvious nearness of a fire.
She stopped in the telling, smiling at the memory of that curious little bird, unsure if it might not have been better for that little magpie to have remained just that and nothing more.

Author:  Ebony [ Fri May 09, 2003 5:45 am ]
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We soaked our cloaks in water and wrapped them about our faces, trying to find breath in that place. Though smoke billowed out all about us like clouds that had been drawn down from the heavens and chained there, we could see no sign of the fire itself. It seemed odd that there would be a fire that could create so much smoke and yet not be found easily, we could not even feel the heat from it. So we wandered into the grey blindness of it, barely able to see our hands before our faces. Perhaps we should have turned back, that would have been the most sensible thing to do, but something drew us onwards.

Though I still listen to her words my mind is elsewhere, occupied by thoughts of Gods and faith. Leto, this is no more than a name to me and yet the Sidhe tells me that once I loved Him better than all things, that I worshipped Him as I now do Darden. Am I somehow tainted by this association with a dead God? Is that why the Lord turned His sight from me in my dream? Oh do not let me be unworthy of Darden because of what I have done in a life that I do not remember and in a world of which I have no recollection. There would be no point to my life, no reason to continue if it were so. Surely the Lord of Sorrows still cared for His servant? It was His voice that led me from the desert in my earliest memories, He that brought me safely to His worship. Since that moment when He found me I have done all in my power to do as He wishes, never turning aside from the path He has set before me. Haven't I done enough to wipe clean my past?

But what if I have not? What if my soul is still in debt to Him because of this 'Leto'? If I should die at this moment I would be found wanting in Darden's eyes, His judgement of me would be my damnation. I would be cast away from Him, forced to spend eternity amid the souls of the lost and the heathen. All these ages I have trusted in the teachings, knowing that if I follow them then I shall come into His presence after my death and welcomed as one of His true children. Taking those lessons to heart, I knew that I would be blessed, that I would spend the hereafter supping from the bowl of despair and basking before the glory that is Darden. And now I am no longer sure that it will be that way, for the first time fear claws its way into my breast, telling me that I am not worthy of being acknowledged by Darden.

The further we walked the more you slipped back from me, uncertain that we were taking the right path. Now and then you managed to choke out warnings, suggesting that we return to the road and forget all about this unseen fire. But I could not turn back, I knew that my future lay before us and I could no more avoid it than I could pluck out my heart from my chest.

I did not see the ruins that we were walking among but you saw them, you saw the smooth blocks of pale grey stone. You saw the symbols that were inscribed here and there upon the fallen stone, you traced with your eyes the signs of the religion of Angelique. We were stumbling through a ruined church to the Goddess, one that had been abandoned even though it lay in the very heart of lands that were supposedly devouted to Her. Once people had flocked to that place, raising their voices in sing to the Goddess and heaping offerings upon Her altar as they knelt before Her benevolent image. Now it was deserted, left to ruin and the hope that the forest would hide it from all eyes. Even now I cannot say why it was so, whatever the reason for the abandonment of that holy place it is lost to history now for there are none left alive to speak of it.

My people offer praise upto the Lord, they put themselves willingly in His hands, trusting that what they do is part of His plans. In Darden's name they live and die, reaping and slaughtering because I have told them that that is what He requires of them. What would they think if they knew that my faith had once been placed in another? How could they ever trust that I had the Lord's will at heart? Everytime that I preached to them of the correct way to live doubt would creep into their minds, deviously whispering that I was as much a heretic as any Isonian or Foretian. They would leave me eventually, melting back into the desert wastes rather than risk polluting their souls by doing my biding. This settlement that has strived for so long to bring glory to Darden would be forgotten, reclaimed by the sands from which it came. It would be as lost as the temple to this 'Angelique' that Lyssia speaks of.

I have ordered heathens to be slain in their thousands, watering the desert sands with their blood and leaving their broken corpses as food for the scavenger birds. In my time as leader of the red sands acres upon acres of enemy lands have been taken and salted, rendered useless to the puppets of the false Gods. The screams of the heathens have been dragged forth from their throats by my hand, sent onwards to join with the song of the Lord. Women, men and children, none have been spared from the cleansing that I have undertaken in Darden's name, neither age nor sex has stayed my hand when it came to purifying the rotten spirits of those that have turned from the true worship.

And after all that I must wonder, is my soul not the one most in need of purification?

Then before us, through the smoke appeared a faint light, blue and flickering, it teased the eye with its presence. At first I almost thought that I must be imagining it, that the smoke had ruined my eyes to the point where I could no longer trust them to see properly. But with each step the light grew brighter, though still it flickered and danced before my eyes, now high, now low, rising and falling as only flames could. With my eyes firmly fixed upon it, I walked quicker, drawn to it though I knew not why. The little magpie that I had seen earlier swooped down to take shelther in my hands, insisting silently that it travel with me. So enraptured with the sight before me was I that I never saw you falter, I never saw you turn back and make your way hastily back to the safety of the road.

What I found in that blue light...well that is another tale, part of my history rather than yours. All I shall say is that when I left those ruins I was different to the woman that I had been before, my soul had been joined with that of another. A phoenix once again flew in the world by my actions and the actions of that little black and white bird, a symbol of hope and eternal rebirth.

Things were never quite the same between you and I after that encounter, we became more distance from one another. The little differences suddenly seemed terribly important and became the causes of arguments that lasted for hours and left us not speaking to another another for days afterwards. That magpie that had seen the flames as I had was Kara, and her mre presence was enough to drive the initial wedge between us. I was close to her, how could I not be, she was a part of my soul now. But that wasnot all that drove us from one another. The matter of our differing religion was brought up time and again as we urged one another turn aside from the God we believed in and join the religion of the other. The time of our journeying was coming to an end as our friendship crumbled around us.

Author:  Lyssia [ Fri May 09, 2003 6:59 am ]
Post subject: 

She couldn't tell if Ebony was paying attention to her words or not. The blind woman faced ahead, her empty eyes revealing nothing of what the mind beneath was htinking or feeling. In another soul Lyssia might have been able to tell from looking at the eyes but Ebony had given those up long ago to satisfy her God. The seeress's face might as well have been made from marble, it did not flinch or change when Lyssia spoke, it remained still. Whatever thoughts held Ebony's attention they were not for the outside world to guess at.

Uncertainly the sorceress continued her tale, knowing now that there was little left to day. All that remained was the goodbye that they had bid one another that last time in the lands of Mo'Pri. She had thought back then that it would be the last time she would ever lay eyes upon the human again, had thought that Ebony would pass into death long before they ever had the chance to meet.And there was a puzzle to which Lyssia did not hold the answer. Matters came to a head while we observed from a hilltop a small skirmish between followers of Barnabas and Leto. The day was bright and we cared little for which guilds were involved as steel clashed and glinted in the sunlight. Down below the warriors were unaware of us watching them, discussing the flaws and faults the battle. Ah yes we were eager to question their abilities but I doubt we would have done any better in their position. Back then neither of us had any experience with anything more ferocious than a bar-fight or dealing with ruffians upon the road. But gladly did we pretend to be great generals of old, critisizing the battle below as though we knew what we spoke of.

Lyssia let the memory of that time warm her, the simple happiness of it flowing through her limbs and reaching every part of her body. Oh she had been so young then...well young compared to others of her race. Wars and guilds had not seemed at all important back then, if she had known more of them then perhaps she would not have been so quick to jest about them on that hiltop. But it had taken many ages for her to learn of the full horrors of war, to see it in all its terrible robes of gore. After learning the true face of war she had hoped to make it quick, clinical, as clean as such chaos could be, minimizing the pain that it brought to people caught up in it. As if such a thing were possible, that seemed laughable in its own right now but she had had such high hopes for it. When that had failed she had made bloody war, fierce and without mercy on those who would stand against her, hoping then that such tactics would so turn the stomachs of her enemies that they would no longer hunger for it. But there are always those who turn to war, worshipping it like the most devouted of lovers, sacrificing their very souls to it. And so the sorceress had turned her back on war completely for a time, removing herself from the guilds and their troubles, but even then death and battle had reached out to pull her close once more.

Now what was there left? Only acceptance. War would always exist, it was rooted in the very heart of mortal nature, peace was an alien state to the existance of all sentient living things. Even if the Gods disappeared and all weaponry was destroyed in a fire that reached up to blacken the sky, still war would not be done with. There would be some conflict, people's hatreds rising up against one another, their differences dividing them just as it once had divided Ebony and Lyssia. Swords and shields they may no longer have, but they would resort to the simplest of weapons, to fists and sticks and stones, and use them to make war live again. War would always exist, no soul, Divine or otherwise, could make it otherwise.

It did not take long for your jests about the fight below to take a more vicious turn, though I cannot say which of us who first sent it that way. Before long bitter insults were flying between us as we regarded one another, not as long-standing friends, but as heathens and heretics of the worst sort. When finally we were silent once more we stood staring at one another like strangers, knowing that the final straw had been snapped in the preceeding moments. Without another word you gathered together all that was yours and walked away from me. And I...I let you walk, I never tried to stop you, to attempt to repair what we had destroyed. There had been many nights that the sorceress had laid in led and turned that memory over in her mind, wondering over and over why she had let it happen. She could have stopped Ebony from walking away, she had had the power even then to hold the human from her course. But it had not been her dicussion to make, she had not been able to force Ebony to her will, not after they had travelled so many roads in one another's company.

I was jealous of the bird's presence, Ebony said, her voice solemn and low.

Lyssia shook her head, I cannot say-

It was not a question that I asked of your sorceress, I was stating a fact though I do not remember that time. The seeress rose to her feet, one hand out-stretched to brush against the stone face of the hill to one side. None had come between us before her, no one had been a dearer friend to you than I had been. And then suddenly there was one who was closer to you than I could ever be, a creature that I could not compete with for your friendship. You and the phoenix share a soul, that created a bond between you that I could not rival no matter how hard I tried. It was inevitable that our friendship would end, it would seem to be a pale and weak thing when held up against the bond between Kara and yourself.

That was a long time ago...Yes it was, a very long time ago, more human generations than Lyssia could think of had passed between that time and this. What had happened to Enony between then and when she had appeared in the lands of the red desert? What had protected her from the touch of time's passage? And was it the same thing that was responsible for stealing her memory from her? So many questions and none of them with an easy answer, it was probably best that the blind woman not know of them. Ebony had learnt enough for now, she did not need the added complication of the fact that she had lived well beyond the span of years allotted to humankind.

The seeress took a couple of shuffling steps back the way she had come, We have been gone to long, it is time to return to the settlement before they start to think that we have been found by enemies of Darden. At her words Lyssia looked up at the sky, noting how the sun was already on its downwards journey for the day. When they had first set out for the western mountain range the sun was only just rising, now the day was almost spent. She scrambled to her feet and stepped lightly to Ebony's side, her eyes never straying from the sight of the human. Whatever had happened before no longer mattered, they were together once more and she had given her word to watch over the seeress in all things.

Author:  Ebony [ Fri May 09, 2003 8:59 am ]
Post subject: 

Walking back to the settlement, I feel as though I have ages a thousand years in a few brief hours. I have a past once more but still it does not feel a part of me, it seems no more real than a fairy story told by a parent to its child. I do not doubt that the sorceress told me the truth of my own history but for now I cannot accept it as part of me. Did I expect that as soon as she told me the tale it would spark my memories into being? That the images she painted before me would call to my forgotten memories of those times? Perhaps I did hope that it would be so, perhaps I was niave to think that I could ever reclaim what was so utterly lost to me. I now know of the Ebony that was but she is a stranger to me.

This other me, she worshipped a God I do not know, she had a family that I cannot recall, she wandered lands that I shall never touch. She was another person, another mind, all that connects us is that we share the same flesh and bone. If we were to meet, Ebony of the past and Ebony of the present, we would have nothing to speak of, no common ground between us. I would think her a heathen and she would think the same of me, each believing the other to be deluded for following what we percieve to be a false God.

Oh Darden aid me, take away this confusion from Your faithful servant, let me simply serve You.

Will the Lord listen to my prayer? Or am I already too damned by the heretic that I once was, a woman who foolishly followed another? If I am already condemned by my actions in another world that had never heard of the Lord of Sorrows, does my voice even reach His ears? Have all my prayers throughout the ages been for naught, falling on ears that were deaf to them?

No I cannot let this doubt invade me, that way lays only destruction and madness. I trusted myself to Darden and no one else, it was in Him that I placed my faith, no matter who or what I had been before. Without question I have done the Lord's will since being brought into the care of his religion. I have accepted Him as my Lord, I have offered all that I am up to Him, my soul, my flesh, my life, it is all His. Gladly will I go to death if that is His wish, Darden alone is my master, not this dead God, this 'Leto'. For Darden alone I will lay down my life, He commands me and I obey without fear or doubt. I gave Him my eyes as a sign that I love Him above all others on the earth and in the heavens. If the Lord requires more sacrifices to prove my love for Him then it shall be so, I shall make an offering of my blood, I shall carve my flesh and lay it upon His altar to please Him. No other shall have my loyalty save for Him.

The sand beneath me burns my feet but I make no complaint, I take the pain into myself, I warm my soul around the flame of its sensation. Pain is the Lord's gift to us, it should never be ignored but rather embraced and made a part of ourselves. We should wrap ourselves in agony, letting our cries glorify Darden further, a far better hymn than any song devised by human minds. This I must never forget, I must never allow my fears to cloud my mind to the extent that I lose sight of the Lord's lessons. If I can just hold onto the pain, if I can just remember that this is all part of His plan then my doubts cannot break me, my faith will remain strong.

I have faced legions of heathens, I have stood strong against enemies who sought to overshadow the red desert. My faith has never faltered, Foret and Isonia have never come close to laying a claim upon my soul. This 'Leto' that the Sidhe speaks of is a test of my faith and nothing more, it must be so. Darden eternally tests His followers, sometimes by destroying our realms, sometimes by sending threats to our beliefs. Only those that hold to Him, only those that remain strong before such demons and doubts, both real and imagined, are His true children and are worthy of serving Him. So I shall banish my doubts with pain, I shall punish my flesh till all sin and taint it purged from it, all my fears shall be cleansed as my blood flows. I shall stand before His altar in the settlement's temple tonight and let the sacrifical knife know my flesh more keenly than any man ever could.

Thoughts of the pain to come comforts me and banishes images of dead Gods from my troubled mind. Tonight I shall devout myself to my worship of Darden, nothing shall distract me from my holy duty, it shall be as if I never was told of my past. When the pain floods my system I shall be as one with my Lord, I shall hurt my unworthy flesh till every nerve and muscle screams with the joy of knowing Darden.

Long before we the settlement's shadow reaches us I heard the pounding of hurried footsteps upon the sand, the heavy breathing of one who has made fast pace in the hot light. Vision-Seeker, I bring news from the temple, the man gasps as he falls to his knees before me, his hands grasping at the edge of my robe. Could it be that the heathens have dared to trespass on this sacred land and are attempting to bind it to the service of Foret or Isonia? No we have lived through such things before and the tone in the man's voice speaks of something new, a panic that I have never heard in my people before.

Tell me what you must, whatever ails the temple shall be seen to, Darden watches over us always.

It is not the temple that ails Vision-Seeker, they merely realised first of all what had happened. Your son, he is missing, he is no where to be found in the lands of the red desert or beyond and none have had word of him.

All energy flees my body at the news and my heart races as I realise what this messenger is speaking of. My Silus, my beloved son, where is he? Taller than any human male with the form of a bear and the head of a wolf, coated in fur that is as soft as silk and has been bathed in the blood of many a heathen. Several days ago I sent him to the Torturer's lands, thre was news of some import that had to be passed on to Maledict. And now my precious child is missing? Seemingly vanished from the lands? First the witch tells me of a God that I worshipped above Darden and now my child, my gift from the Lord, disappears? Is this the test that the Sidhe spoke of after her fall? My Silus, my love, my clever, clever son, where are you?, I call out to the winds.

Tears of blood mingle with the dark fluid that weeps continually from my eyes. My precious child come back to your Mother.

Mother loves you so very much

My Silus, my love, my light, my claws in the heathens' hearts, my pure warrior in His name. He is my own true mortal love, born of my blood and my faith, given to me by the Lord. I sob, My Silus.

My world is a dark place but without my child it seems to grow darker still. This pain is greater than any I could inflict upon my flesh, far worse than what I had planned to do with blade and fire this evening. The darkness in my mind grows, swallowing up all my thoughts till only the name 'Silus' remains. The mind and the faith may be strong but my body is weak, the shadows claim me and my body falls without thought to the burning sands.

(OOC: This story continues in the thread "Answers From The Grave".)

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