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 In the Mines (openish) 
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Post In the Mines (openish)
(OOC: I'm using this thread to develop the background for an alt I've not used in a long time. Those who know where Anjolie's future path lies are welcome to post. Otherwise, ask first.)

She wiped the fat drops of sweat from her dirt-smudged brow before heaving the pickaxe back up to swing at the tunnel walls. She was beginning to feel a little sore from the hard work, but she was adept at ignoring the annoying body aches. Her muscled arms tensed as the metal made contact with hard earth, finally knocking a large chunk free to fall to the floor. She carefully propped her tool against the wall and knelt to examine her latest find. Glinting beneath the dirt was one of the largest diamonds this mine had produced. A wry smile curled her lips. This would be enough to get her the rest of the day off, and possibly the following day. She sighed as she dropped the large stone in her knapsack. It was foolish to even think of more than half a day of holiday from this godforsaken place. She was far too good a miner to be allowed much time away from the cramped tunnels. Anjolie swung her pickaxe up and rested it on her shoulder before turning to head up the mineshaft.

"Hey! Where do you think you're going?" She turned and glared at the work supervisor who was huffing and puffing up the shaft behind her, his whip dragging behind him carelessly. "I didn't call for lunch break yet missy. Get back to work!"

"Fine!" she said smugly, pulling the dull stone from her pack and waving it in front of the dark haired man's face. "But if I lose this because of you, I'll be sure to let the boss know that it wasn't my fault." With that, she slipped the diamond back into her sack and started to march back to her place in the mine.

"Was that what I think it was?" the work supervisor's voice dropped to almost a whisper in respect. Even he knew that Anjolie had been in these mines far longer than most others, and as such, he also knew she had quite the eye for a good find. She stopped in her tracks and pivoted to meet his wide-eyed stare. She watched in amusement as his eyes flitted back and forth between her self-assured smirk and the closed satchel at her side.

"Yes," she rested her hand on the sack, knowing that the fat mustached man was probably trying to think of a way to talk her out of her prize. "It's a diamond. I'm willing to bet three weeks of vacation time on it. Now if you'll excuse me I need to go show the boss what I've found." She marched resolutely past the man, gradually picking up her pace until she broke into a run. There was no way she was going to give that slimy man even half a breath to call her back so he could lay claim to the diamond.

The climb out of the mining shaft wasn't a long one, but the trek up to the boss's office was. Anjolie squinted her pale blue eyes up at the sun, pausing in her uphill climb. She had spent most of her twenty-seven years in the mines, so the sunlight was far more precious to her than the chunk of rock she was carrying to her boss. 'If I get the rest of the day off, I'll spend it laying in the sun.' She swept a stray strand of dark brown hair from her face and continued her hike up to the stone building the boss used for an office. Once she reached the door, she knocked loudly.

"Hey boss! I found something you might wanna see!"

"Is that you Anjolie?" His voice sounded soft through the thick oak door. "Come on in." She heaved the door open and slipped into the office. Her boss was an older man; his short black hair was starting to grey at the temples. He was also a shrewd businessman. It was with some pride that Anjolie remembered how he had once claimed his best business deal was purchasing her as a mere toddler. Her arms bore both his marks of ownership and the mark of a mining slave. She lightly fingered the one tattoo that was her own, the one she had chosen because it reminded her of freedom.

"Well?" His voice startled her from her reverie. She hurried to his desk, and pulled the stone from her knapsack.

"I found a large stone, sir." She held the stone out to him. It was large enough that both her hands couldn't wrap fully around it. "It's a red diamond sir. I'm sure of it." The boss carefully took the stone from her, his piercing gaze dropping from her face to the stone in his hands. He examined it for a few moments in the candlelight, then whispered softly and waved his hand over the stone. Anjolie watched intently as the stone began to glow a brilliant red and then faded back to normal. She watched his face carefully as he set the stone aside and looked up at her. He had to be the most difficult man to read. Never once in all of her memories did he show any emotion or give away his interests except for the one time he had given her praise.

"Well it appears you are right, Anjolie. This is indeed a red diamond." She smiled proudly as he continued. "A find like this is worth a day and a half away from the mines." Anjolie's jaw dropped.

"Thank you sir!" He nodded, waving his hand in dismissal. She turned and hurried out the door, afraid he would change his mind if she lingered too long. A day and a half holiday! That was unheard of in this place. She had no idea what she would do with a full day away from the dark enclosed places she was so familiar with. 'Perhaps I'll spend today laying in the sun, and tomorrow I can browse the street vendors in the nearest town.' Satisfied that she had come up with the ideal way to spend her time, she hurried to the collection of hovels that the slaves called home. In a flurry of movement she stripped out of all her clothes aside from the strips of cloth that served as undergarments and hauled her bedroll out into the sunlight, laying there with a blissful grin on her lips.

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[i]'What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source
of beauty, joy, and strength, if faced with an open mind.'


Sat Aug 16, 2003 2:24 am
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Her pale blue eyes opened slowly, blinking several times before focusing on the rotting ceiling above her. The light in the room was poor, but that was, after all, the lighting Anjolie was accustomed to living in, so she could see about her quite clearly. She pushed herself onto her feet and knelt to roll the mat on which she slept. Her bare feet were silent on the packed earth as she crossed the small room to store her bedroll in a basket near the wall. She quickly dressed in her nicest clothes, a worn, but carefully mended and washed, white sleeveless linen shirt and a pair of plain brown pants that were too short and fraying at the bottom. Pushing aside the rough fabric that served as a door, she stepped out into the pale grey pre-dawn light. She sat on the stone block just outside her door tying her rope sandals to her feet and eagerly eying the road that led to the nearby town.

The other miners were slowly making their way out of the many shacks and hovels, sleepily rubbing their eyes and stretching before heading to work while the foremen and work supervisors went from hovel to hovel whipping awake those who felt the need to continue sleeping. A small group of slaves passed where Anjolie sat, glaring at her holiday clothes with envy. She fought the urge to smile at them cruelly, instead ignoring them completely.

"You there! Get properly dressed and get to work!" The woman met her work supervisor’s angry gaze.

"It’s my holiday. Leave me be!"

"You had your holiday yesterday." His eyes narrowed as his lips curled into smile that sent chills down Anjolie’s spine, but she remained seated.

"I got one and a half days of holiday," she smirked as his smile faded. "Check with the boss if you don’t believe me." Her smile grew with satisfaction as his jaw muscles visibly tightened. "Now, if you’ll excuse me," she stood and casually walked toward him. "I have a holiday to spend in town." She moved past him and began walking toward town.

Once she was out of sight of the mining camp, she began laughing almost hysterically. For the first day in her life, she felt like a normal, free human being, and the feeling was exhilarating. She would have skipped the rest of the way to town if she weren’t fearful of being thought a fool upon her arrival. Instead, she set a purposeful but unhurried pace for herself, swinging her arms carelessly at her sides. At the rate she was going it would probably be a mere half hour before she reached the market in the center of the settlement. As she continued her walk down out of the foothills the morning sun peeked over the horizon, and upon seeing that all was well, rose in its fullness to start the new day. The rosy light stretched across and between the hills, finally finding its way to the town.

This town was nestled quite comfortably in a valley in the foothills. It could easily be described as quaint and picturesque in its perfection. All of the homes had whitewashed exteriors with thatch roofs and flower boxes in each window. The gardens were all perfectly cared for with beautifully growing vegetables and flowers. The townsfolk were all quite friendly and welcomed strangers openly. There seemed to be few disputes in this place, and those few were more often than not settled quite amicably. The market was always filled with interesting booths and food stalls, and the vendors could be counted on to treat the boss's slaves nicely since he was a well known and highly respected businessman and mage. All in all, there was no better place for a slave on holiday to visit.

Anjolie had been given a few copper coins to cover the purchase of food in the market, and while she desired many of the items for sale in other booths, she was content merely to browse. The vendors all smiled warmly and began showing their wares. None of them really tried to pursue a sale with her, after all, she was marked quite plainly as a slave; however, they seemed to understand that she wanted to be treated much like a free woman for the day.

"Would the lady like some new fabrics from lands across the oceans?" Anjolie turned with interest to the booth where various cloths were sold to seamstresses to make dresses. The fabric the merchant was displaying for her was the finest mesh she had ever seen. Though it was still possible to see through the material, it was as soft as silk to the touch. She smiled brightly and sighed.

"It’s beautiful, but I must save my money." The man smiled in return and nodded. He had expected as much, but was still pleased that his wares had impressed her.

"If you must. Just knowing that you have smiled on account of me is enough to make the loss of a sale bearable." Anjolie blushed, tucking her long dark hair behind an ear and moving on down the row with a smile. 'Today will be a wonderful day. I can feel it.'

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[i]'What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source
of beauty, joy, and strength, if faced with an open mind.'


Wed Aug 20, 2003 3:34 am
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Anjolie casually wandered through the market, smiling happily at the many vendors and merchants as the crowds wandering with her grew. Each of them treated her as their number one customer, a courtesy she enjoyed to the fullest knowing that she would be unlikely to experience such treatment ever again in her life. Not that she expected to live too much longer. In truth, she probably should have been dead long before this day, and she knew it. Few human women had survived more than fifteen years in the mines, and Anjolie was approaching her twenty fifth year. Her pale blue eyes seemed almost to darken as though a large cloud bank had swept across a bright summer sky. 'What a way to ruin my good mood.' She slowly wove her way back through the many stalls, offering those working them a polite smile and nod of her head. What she really needed was a drink and some food. When her somber gaze fell upon the local tavern, she pushed through the people milling about and opened the door.

There weren't too many people in the common room at this time of day. Some farmers and merchants seemed to be taking their lunch break, and naturally there were the few perpetual drunkards passed out at corner tables. Other than that handful of people, the two wenches, and the barkeep, the tavern seemed an empty place. Anjolie shrugged to herself and took a seat at an empty table near a wall, fiddling idly with the coins she had hidden in a small pocket in her pants and doing her best to look like she belonged there. The younger looking of the two barmaids stared warily at the tattooed slave woman until she received a stern glance from her boss. The girl quickly moved to the new patron, her eyes darting from Anjolie's dirt smudged face to the markings on her arms that declared her station in life.

"Umm...may I help you?" Anjolie's fingers slipped into that tiny pocket, removing the four copper coins the boss had given her. She met the wench's hesitant eyes steadily as she put the coins on the table top.

"Some dried meat, a crust of bread, and if I can afford it, a cup of hot wine...please." The girl nodded and turned around in such a rush that she nearly knocked over a nearby chair. Anjolie merely sighed and stared at the scratched wooden table. 'I should have stayed out in the market.' The door to the tavern opened while she waited and a couple of well dressed men entered, laughing jovially at some supposed humor, and sat at a table near the bar. The slave watched with some interest as both barmaids finger-combed their hair and moved over to the new patrons' table, swiveling their hips in a poor attempt at seduction with each step they took. One of the men, smiling quite broadly, pinched the round rump of the maid nearest him, while the other gleefully pulled the remaining maid into his lap and pressed his lips to hers in a sloppy kiss. In the meantime, the barkeep was standing behind the counter with Anjolie's food and drink, clearing his throat repeatedly to be heard over his employees' giggles. After several failed attempts to get his girls back to work, he walked around the counter and brought Anjolie her food himself.

"Sorry 'bout that, miss," he jerked his head in the direction of the maids who were teasing and kissing their respective gentlemen. "We don't get much wealthy types in here. They ain't used to it, ye see?" The woman looked around the room again, this time noticing that in comparison to the two wealthy 'gentlemen' all the farmers, merchants, drunkards, and certainly herself, looked ragged and quite poor.

"Yes," she responded softly. "I think I do see." She offered a weak smile to the barkeep. "Thanks for bringing my food." He smiled and nodded, returning to his post behind the bar. Anjolie slowly began eating as the two wealthy men started calling out orders for foods and drinks the slave had never even heard of before. The handful of men who had been in the room before eyed the newcomers with a small measure of contempt and an increasing measure of jealousy. The woman sipped her hot wine in contemplation. 'Surely there is a better way for us all to live. Surely there doesn't have to be such extreme poverty when there is such wealth in this land.' She finished her meal and continued watching the people within the tavern as she slowly drank her wine.

The wealthy men, to no one's surprise, remained loud, rude, and crude the entire time they stayed in the tavern. The bar maids continued to ignore any other patrons and seemed only too delighted to be fondled openly, something Anjolie couldn't understand being a virgin in every sense of the word. The farmers and merchants came and went, though mostly they went, until the tavern was empty of all save the employees, the gentlemen, the drunkards, and Anjolie. For some reason she found that she never tired of watching the men throw their wealth away on alcohol and foods they weren't even eating. True, it disgusted her to no end, but she seemed determined to remember every last detail of this afternoon. This display of extravagence had awakened something in Anjolie that she wasn't even sure she understood. All she knew was that she hated those men. The door opened again, distracting her emotional build-up. This time a familiar face entered the tavern.

"Is it time for me to head back already?" Anjolie smiled at the boss's most trusted guard. He was often assigned the duty of protecting the boss's investments when they traveled back to the mines on the off chance that the slaves were drunk. The large man nodded, the long black hair that flowed from the ponytail on the top of his head swinging a little with the movement. She almost gladly stood and moved to his side. She cast one last look back at the gentlemen who were being fed bite by bite by the simpering maids and shuddered. "Lets go then."

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[i]'What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source
of beauty, joy, and strength, if faced with an open mind.'


Wed Aug 27, 2003 3:18 am
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Anjolie stared at the dry rot forming on her ceiling, her hands folded and resting neatly on her stomach. It was still dark outside her little hut, but she could tell by the slight change in the scent of the air that dawn wasn't far away. She hadn't really slept much that night, so she knew she should try to get whatever sleep she could, but her mind was filled to overflowing with thoughts about her time in the little town, specifically what had happened in the tavern. With an exasperated sigh, she pushed herself up and sat cross-legged on her bedroll. It was pointless to even try to sleep when her mind was working at the pace it was.

'Why are there classes of people in the first place? Surely if those who ruled and called themselves nobility truly cared about the so-called lesser residents of their lands, they would use whatever wealth they had to make sure their peasants had adequate homes, food, education, and access to healers.' She slowly got to her feet, rolling the mat she had been lying on and putting it in the bin near the wall while her thoughts continued on. 'Obviously these people who rule the lands don't care about those who are in their care. If this is true, then they shouldn't be allowed to rule any longer. Why don't the people rise up against rulers then? Perhaps they don't realize that they could take the wealth and share it among themselves. Maybe they just need a rallying point, someone to tell them that they aren't alone in thinking that the set-up is unfair. I'd love to do that, but I'm just a slave. The only free time I'd have to meet with people is at night, but we're guarded, and there's no way I could get to town and back at night...or is there?'

Anjolie had slowly gotten herself dressed in her sweat and dirt stained work clothes. As she stepped outside the first pale streaks of sunlight stretched past the surrounding hills. Her pale blue eyes quickly scanned the heavens. While the distant skies were clear enough for the sun to shine through this morning, the sky directly overhead was dark with thick moisture-laden clouds. She slipped her rag wrapped feet into the leather boots each slave was given for work and hurried towards the mineshaft to which she had been assigned. Her work over-seer shuffled past her with his whip coiled neatly across his torso. His dark eyes glinted with subdued malice when he saw her. She subconsciously side-stepped and hurried her pace. 'Perhaps I should avoid him today.'

Several torches were lit within the shaft to allow workers better lighting. For some reason that Anjolie had yet to fathom, jewels seemed to glisten better in the light of a torch than in the light of a mage globe. Certainly it increased the costs of operating the mines, but the boss seemed to prefer that they find more gems than expend his energies casting several mage globes that didn't work half as well. The woman smiled to herself and grabbed the nearest pickaxe. She was the first to arrive for work in that tunnel, so she was able to choose the spot where she would be working all day. There was a spot on the wall near the end of the shaft, barely visible in the flickering light even to her pale blue eyes, where two different veins of rock came together. Typically she had the most luck with formations like that. She hefted the pick up over her shoulder and swung it hard, flinching a little when the metal made contact with the rock.

The work was mindless, so she could let her thoughts wander. Often she could swear she left her body behind, only to return much later without remembering a single thing about the places she'd been. She hardly even noticed when the other workers came trudging into the tunnel a few minutes later to join her in her efforts. She certainly didn't notice when the over-seer stationed himself directly behind her, glaring intently in search of even the slightest droop of her shoulders, any indication that she was falling down on the job. However, she provided him with no such satisfaction.

In this manner the minutes wore away into hours. Some of the slaves stopped working when a small portion of bread was brought by for breakfast, others, like Anjolie, continued working, fueling themselves with the growing pain in their stomachs. The pain made them work harder in their desire to force Time to speed his steps and it saved money on bread, so the over-seer didn't complain or raise his whip, though his right hand twitched on the handle each time he glanced at Anjolie's steadily moving form. Only at lunch were they all forced to take a break. Anjolie shivered and turned to see the over-seer leering at her. She lowered her gaze and slipped past him with the other workers. Even without turning, she knew he was staring at her as she walked to the tunnel entrance. She hurried ahead of the others, trying to lose herself in the crowds that clogged the entrance to the mineshaft. Outside the early morning clouds had transformed into a midday downpour. The woman groaned and pushed through the huddled slaves, turning to yell over her shoulder.

"You might want to rethink standing in the mine like that. The over-seer was right behind me, and his hand was itching to whip something." She smirked as they poured from the entrance en masse and ran through the rain to the canteen where there would be soup and bread for lunch. She was one of the first in line, and as a result one of the first finished. When she was finished, Anjolie stood just inside the door, combing her fingers through her long wet hair and staring at the hill where the boss's office was perched. 'Maybe I should report the over-seer's behavior to the boss...' She walked out into the rain, weaving her way through the slaves and hired help from the other portions of the mines, then ran up the slope toward his office. She stopped just outside his door and lifted her fist to knock, then froze. 'Is it really essential that I rat on him? After all, he hasn't done anything wrong...' She shivered and sighed, her hand falling limply to her side. 'Back to the mines then...'

The remainder of the afternoon passed with much the same monotony as the rest of her twenty-four years in the depths of the earth had. She spent the time planning possible night meetings that could be coordinated with the cycle of the night watch, and even some after-hours excursions into the town. She was so deep in her reverie that the call for quitting time almost came as a surprise to her. She let her pickaxe fall to the ground with a thud and turned to the over-seer. He always had a few words to say at the end of the day, and often those words involved the names of a few slaves he believed had not been working hard enough or had been discipline problems. Slaves weren't whipped much on the job since their work was vital to the success of the mines. Instead, supervisors were required to dole out physical punishments at the close of the day. The unfortunates who were seen as too lazy would end up spending the night in the infirmary.

"I don't have much to say tonight, so you can all hurry back to your huts." All of the slaves heaved their tools onto their shoulders and started up the shaft. "Except...Anjolie." She froze in her tracks, not even turning to look questioningly at the man. Several slave walked by, staring openly at her. They knew just as well as she did that her name had never been called for punishment. Anjolie listened to the echoes of the slaves dumping their tools at the entrance to the tunnel, waiting for the first lash of the whip.

"What did you say to the boss?" His voice was a soft hiss that seemed to ooze malice. Anjolie remained still and silent, shivering as a cool draft from above ground caressed her sweat covered body. "Answer me." His demand was punctuated by the slash of the whip across her back. She bit her tongue to keep from crying out in shock. The pain was negligible, but she really hadn't expected him to strike her.

"I didn't end up seeing the boss. I didn't say anything to him." Her voice was nearly steady, but a slight tremble near the end of her sentence betrayed her growing fear.

"You lie." Again she felt the sting of the whip. Her back had been fairly unmarred until this night, so she knew that even those two lashes alone would leave ugly red welts. The whip snapped again, only this time it was hard enough to break through her rags. Silent tears poured from her eyes, streaking the dirt on her face. She shook her head in denial of his accusation, and felt the whip rip her bared skin repeatedly. Tiny warm rivulets of blood trailed down her back as the over-seer screamed and tossed his whip aside. He grabbed her and turned her to face him, his hands squeezing her arms uncomfortably tight.

"Even if you aren't lying, you've always been a snotty rude little wench...always giving me lip." He released one of her arms and slammed his fist into the side of her face. Her vision exploded into starbursts of colors. She cried out in pain and tried to clutch her face as he tossed her roughly to the ground and kicked her several times in the stomach. "Think you're all high and mighty just because the boss likes you." Her body skidded across the rough ground, scraping her arms and legs and ripping at the tattered remains of her clothes. He stood over her, his large chest heaving with each breath, while she cried as quietly as possible, curling up into a ball. She ventured a glance up at him with the one eye that wasn't beginning to swell shut. His eyes were glazing over strangely as he stared at her. Anjolie looked down, realizing belatedly that one of her breasts had fallen free of her rags. She frantically attempted to cover herself, which snapped the over-seer from his trance.

"No no...you'll learn your lesson for sure now." He tore the thin fabric from her torso easily, and her pants with not much greater difficulty. At his touch, Anjolie finally tried to fight back. She pushed him away with what strength she had, but to no avail. She tried kicking at him, but he merely pinned her beneath his own weight.

"No...please no.." she whimpered. He grunted and smothered her refusal with one hand, gripping her neck tightly enough to prevent her from resisting too much with his other hand. 'This isn't happening. It can't be happening. Perhaps if I don't think...oh, I need to be sure to make note of the watch tonight. If I keep track of when the guards pass my hut, I'll better be able to slip out to see what paths they follow...'

[center]~~~[/center]

An hour or so later Anjolie's thoughts drifted back to her bruised and battered body. She knew she was bleeding far too much, but couldn't muster the strength or will to get up and go to the infirmary. Besides every move she made caused a riot of pain. 'It would be far easier to die. Anyway, they'd ask questions in the infirmary, and if I tell them what happened, the over-seer will surely beat me again...or worse, kill me. I've been doing this for too long. It's my time to die.'

"No it's not." The soft voice seemed strange to Anjolie's ears. It's accent was unfamiliar, and the tone was that of someone who had never lived in a mining camp. 'I must be hearing things.'

"No you aren't. I'm real." A soft blue light infused the tunnel walls, though Anjolie could barely see it through her one good eye. Just before her stood a radiant, yet somewhat translucent form of a woman. She was beautiful, with long soft wavy brown hair, and gentle brown eyes. Her figure was clothed in a simple white dress, belted in the middle with a green sash.

"You're beautiful...How? Who?..." The glowing being smiled graciously.

"I'll answer any and all of your questions to the best of my abilities later, but right now you need to get up and go to the infirmary. You must fight through the pain to live." Anjolie grimaced as she pushed herself to her feet. She leaned unsteadily against the rock tunnel wall and looked back to where the lady had been standing, only to see she was gone.

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Tue Sep 02, 2003 2:35 am
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A cold, pale sunrise pierced the dusty cave interior, filling it with the most light the shadows ever allowed. Beneath the broken remains of a stone altar, the half-starved elf priestess uncurled her bony body in what once might have passed for a graceful stretch; however, in her filthy, malnourished state Zina's movements appeared more like a frightening mockery of life. She crawled out from under the makeshift stone tent and stood, continuing to stretch her back, legs, and arms. Hands that had been curled into claws during sleep seemed to gradually transform into skeletal palms and fingers tipped with overly long pointed nails. She walked out of her cavern home into the morning light, blinking impossibly bright green eyes as she stared at the sun, a grimace of displeasure contorting her face and causing her blistered lips to crack and bleed.

"Cruel wicked sun!" She balled her hands into fists and shook them in anger at Intop as it peeked over the surrounding mountains. "Bane of my Lord's blessed shadows!" Zina's eyes flickered to a soft brown and back to green and she lowered her fists, glancing with mild interest at the places on her palms where her nails had pierced her skin drawing blood. "And yet the light of Intop allows shadows to be cast, and the sun always hides from darkness at the end of the day until it gathers enough courage to try to face the darkness once again." Her lips curled into a rictus grin, her green eyes flashing with strange mirth. "His will prevails..."

'Oh for the Goddess's sake! Must you do this every morning?' Amantha sighed as loudly as she could into her daughter's mind. Many ages ago, she had willingly joined her soul with her daughter's body in order that Zina could have a better understanding of her role as a priestess. After all, Amantha had been a high priestess long before Zina was born. Now sharing this creature's body was a trial, especially since Amantha retained her beliefs in the old ways whereas Zina had become a fanatical follower of some upstart demon god. Amantha had tried valiantly to explain to her daughter that these new gods merely had power because people foolishly chose to believe in them instead of embracing the truths hidden in the old traditions. Of course, those debates were often short-lived since Zina tended to believe in 'Her Lord' blindly...that and she slipped into animalistic insanity when she was forced to think too much beyond that with which she had grown comfortable. This morning, as with every other, Amantha's indignation was ignored as Zina continued her morning ritual of pronouncing things abominations, then explaining away their existence to suit her faith.

'Just drink from your infernal bowl already! I'd like to stop tuning out the morning.' The elf smiled inwardly at her mother's complaints and moved over to the wooden bowl that sat on a small natural ledge just outside the cave's entrance. She lifted it, carefully lowering it to her mouth, so as not to spill the precious black liquid contained within, and poured its contents into her, swallowing it down in large, pain-filled gulps. Neither Amantha nor Zina knew exactly what that mysterious black fluid was. Even if Amantha had a body of her own, her elfish curiosity would not be enough to entice her into trying to discover the nature of the liquid. It certainly was strange, for it seemed to absorb all light, not even allowing the sun's rays to be reflected on its surface. It was a fairly thin liquid, not in the least bit oily, and it burned like acid on its way down the throat, even continuing to burn once it pooled in the stomach. Zina called it 'the tears of Our Lord.' Amantha called it 'that hellish brew.'

While Zina eagerly drank her acidic breakfast, Amantha forced her thoughts to roam. After all, she had no desire to allow her soul to be 'branded as His.' Her memories covered a vast amount of time since her spirit had lingered past the point of her death. Most of the time, she chose to dwell in the distant past, long before the Isle of Tonan was ever discovered and inhabited by those who now lived here. She often would remember her youth and the time spent training to become a priestess. Those days seemed amazingly carefree, and most of the things that brought her joy when she was that young she now viewed as foolishness. The years had not been kind to her, in life or in death, yet somehow she had managed to retain a very peaceful, loving mindset in most situations. Her daughter's crazed determination to follow this god of pain happened to be one of the few situations she couldn't handle with grace. Zina let the bowl fall from her lips with an anguished sigh.

'Thank you…Hey wait!' Without warning Zina expelled the second soul from her body. Amantha stared at her daughter. Once they were mirror images of each other, but now it was near impossible to recognize any similarities aside from the long brown hair that toppled over both sets of shoulders. Mother and daughter eyed each other with interest for a tense moment before Zina broke the silence.

"A woman is in need of faith." Amantha quirked her head and looked her daughter directly in the eyes.

"You know I cannot help you." Her voice sounded soft and airy, a perfect match to her ethereal appearance. "I don't believe as you believe." Zina smirked at the hazy form before and sat on a boulder drawing her knees up to her chest.

"Ah, but in this case, mother, you do." Zina's eyes glinted cruelly in response to Amantha's apparent confusion. "Do you not believe that life should prevail over death? Do you not look for the blessings in every mishap? Do you not believe that that which does not kill us only makes us stronger?"

"That is an oversimplified and corrupt analysis of my beliefs, and you know it!"

"Yes…You must miss being able to have a flushed face." Zina smiled thoughtfully before continuing. "I also know that the woman you must find is being raped and beaten. If she is not given a reason to live, she will allow herself to die without a fight." Amantha gasped, her translucent hand flying to cover her mouth. Zina's smile widened into what looked more like a grimace.

"Okay. I'll go to the woman." Zina nodded slowly and stood, walking toward the ghostly hovering figure of her mother.

"Search the heart of the land, and remember, mother. I can and will speak through you. Choose your words carefully."

Amantha took her leave of Zina and dissipated into the ether. Zina's thoughts guided her search of the lands, but even with that guidance it took her several hours to reach her destination. Only when the sensation of being urged on with a bridle and reins stopped did Amantha's form coalesce once again. She was far to the southeast of the mountains that the elf priestess had been calling home since her 'encounter' with the demon god. It was already night here, but she could see even in the darkness of a cloudy night that she was in a mining camp. She'd almost forgotten that places like these existed. Of course that was the magick that many wove over such knowledge. Naturally those who ran camps such as these didn't want their precious customers to think too long about the origins of their expensive jewels and finery. 'Not that many of them would care so long as they were wearing something that sparkled and shined and made them feel beautiful.'

'The heart of the land…' Amantha sighed, though such an action was purely for show. Now that she saw the mines, she understood what her daughter's riddle had meant, but she still didn't know which mine shaft to enter. Almost as if Zina had been waiting for her cue, the sensation of being pulled along returned. Amantha gave in to it, letting her spirit float freely with her daughter's thoughts. She had learned long ago not to fight that sensation because Zina, in her new pain worshipping state, would send shockwaves of agony through the tenuous link they shared until Amantha followed where she was led. She looked about her and in the sputtering light of the torches she saw the prone figure of a human woman on the ground. Her clothes had been ripped to shreds by a whip judging from the lacerations and ugly red welts on her back. Several large bruises were beginning to form on her sides and legs where she had been punched and kicked. Her thin arms were marked with bruises matching the size and shape of a man's hand, as was her neck. Amantha slowly tuned herself into the woman's thoughts while gathering the strength she needed to appear to a mortal who did not know her.

'I've been doing this for too long. It's my time to die.'

"No it's not."

'I must be hearing things.'

"No you aren't. I'm real." Amantha concentrated all her strength, and slowly the tunnel filled with a soft blue radiance. Her body still appeared translucent, but at least now the woman, 'Anjolie,' could see her. Amantha nodded slightly in appreciation for the thought transfer Anjolie had given.

"You're beautiful...How? Who?..." Amantha smiled warmly.

"I'll answer any and all of your questions to the best of my abilities later, but right now you need to get up and go to the infirmary. You must fight through the pain to live." That said, the spirit faded from view, conserving her strength so that she could reappear once Anjolie had safely made it into the infirmary. She floated along beside the human, offering small tendrils of encouragement and strength and cringing empathetically each time the mortal winced in pain. A walk that normally would have taken a mere five minutes took a full half hour for the battered woman, but she made it safely to the tent of the healers. Amantha watched in silence as Anjolie's wounds were cleaned and bandaged with healing herbs. The head healer remained with the woman for a long while then whispered as he left that the boss would come to speed the healing process in the morning. Once all sounds of life had faded into a silence broken only by Anjolie's rhythmic breathing, Amantha made herself visible once again. Anjolie turned to look at her through her one open eye.

"In answer to your question, I am Amantha. I am a spirit who was sent with a message." Amantha's warm brown eyes twinkled in her own light. "I don't have much time left so I'll answer what questions I think you may have for now. I will visit you everyday. You can confide everything in me. I will do all in my power to help you. While I am here, no one but you will see me. They will not even see the light that illuminates the tent or hovel wherever you are." She smiled at the bewildered look on Anjolie's face. "Have hope child. Do not let that brute of a man win by giving up. Use the strength you have built up over the years to get back up and continue working. Let your pain give you strength." Amantha blinked in surprise at the intrusion of her daughter, and when she opened her eyes again, she was standing within the cavern where Zina crouched smiling crazily. The spirit frowned at her daughter. The priestess was beginning her regular descent into her more barbaric self.

"You didn't need to interfere." Zina's smile faded immediately. She bared her teeth and growled threateningly, and without another word the spirit snapped back into the body they shared.

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[i]Within every good there is the seed of evil,
and within every evil there is the seed of good.


Thu Sep 11, 2003 3:06 am
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Anjolie woke the next morning to a warm soothing sensation on her face. Ever so slowly and carefully she opened her eyes, mildly surprised that they both worked. The sunlight was streaming into the infirmary where she lay. She gingerly moved her arms and sat up. Her cot apparently had been moved closer to the tent entrance while she slept. Only then did her pale blue gaze pass over her bare arms. None of the bruises of the previous night remained, and when she touched her face, nothing felt swollen.

"The boss came by at dawn." Anjolie turned to see one of the younger healers sitting on the other side of the large tent watching her. "He was able to heal most of the wounds without leaving any residual scarring. Your back, however, was a different story. When we came in you were sleeping quite soundly on your back, so we thought that perhaps it was beginning to heal with the help of the herbs, but when we rolled you over and removed the bandages, it was obvious that the whip slashes on your back had grown infected in the night." The woman's eyes grew wide and she frowned, twisting her arm behind her to feel her back. What had once been smooth skin was now a delicate network of slightly raised satiny scars. Her hands fell rather dejectedly to her sides.

"You're lucky he was able to heal it at all. The healers didn't think it could be done." Anjolie nodded, remaining silent for the time being. 'It is better this way. Now I can never forget what was done to me...what is done every day to those like me.' Her jaw muscles tightened, though she doubted the healer even noticed the slight change in her facial expression. She had been wounded physically and emotionally, yes, but now she was determined that no one else be wounded as she had been. She slipped out from under the thin sheet that covered her, grateful that the healers had been kind enough to replace her blood stained rags with newer clothes. She bent to pick up her boots and slipped her feet into them. She'd have to get rags to wrap her feet later in the afternoon.

"Wait. Where are you going?" Anjolie turned to look at the man briefly and then looked outside. The sun was just past it's zenith, so most of the mining camp would still be at lunch. The healer jumped from his chair and grabbed her arm. "The boss said you shouldn't leave the tent today." The woman looked slowly from the hand that gripped her arm to the face of the healer.

"If the boss took such an interest in healing the bruises on my arms, perhaps you wouldn't want to make new ones." The healer's jaw dropped and he released her arm. The last thing he'd expected was for a slave to take a stand against something the boss had ordered, but then again, this was one of the boss's favorites. Perhaps she'd been given more liberties.

Anjolie walked resolutely out of the tent and up the hill to the boss's office. Her back was starting to feel sore from the exertions, but she ignored that pain just as she had ignored most of the pains she'd experienced over her twenty-seven years of life. The spirit had told her to let her pain give her strength, and so she would do just that. She would work through the pain. Each time she felt as though flames were licking her healing wounds, she'd remember, and she would work harder. Freedom was worth any price. Besides, she had to let the other slaves see her. Surely they wouldn't hesitate to listen to her if they saw her as strong. She knocked resolutely on the boss's door.

"Come in." Anjolie opened the door almost before he'd even finished speaking. She was barely able to conceal her satisfaction at the obvious surprise in the boss's eyes. 'Perhaps he isn't so hard to read after all.'

"Anjolie, you should be in the infirmary still. I gave expicit instructions to the healers..."

"And I chose to ignore them. I apologize for disregarding your orders, but I thought I would be more useful to you in the mines." She noticed his critical look and held his stare until he looked down at his papers with a sigh.

"I really don't think you should even be standing up. You could re-open those wounds." For the first time in her memory, Anjolie noticed the signs of exhaustion on his face. Her lips curled into a smile that the boss surely would have thought cruel if he'd known what she was thinking. 'So you aren't all-powerful as you would have us think. You really had to strain yourself to heal me as much as you did. That is certainly useful knowledge.' She continued smiling as if she was merely being self-assured and nonchalant.

"Don't worry, boss. I'll take good care of myself." He met her gaze again briefly.

"Fine then. Get back to work. Just try not to run afoul of the supervisor. He's been reprimanded for what he did to you, but he's still in charge of your unit."

"Yes sir." She turned and left the office, still smiling to herself. Already a feasible plan of action was forming in her mind. With the help of a spirit, she could certainly learn things about the camp that she wouldn't know otherwise. If she was lucky, she might be able to convince Amantha to appear to the other slaves to help organize meetings. She sauntered off the the mineshaft almost cockily. The slaves who were slowly trickling from the mess hall all eyed her with a mixture of surprise, awe, and respect. Word had already circulated about what had happened to her, so to see her heading back to work as if nothing had occurred last night impressed them....just as she had thought it would. Anjolie took note of this change in the faces of the slaves who had previously looked at her with envy and disgust. She wasn't just the boss's pet now. She was the embodiment of strength. She chuckled to herself as she picked up a pickaxe and headed into the depths of the earth. 'I will certainly have much to tell Amantha when she returns this eve.'

_________________
[i]'What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source
of beauty, joy, and strength, if faced with an open mind.'


Mon Sep 29, 2003 2:00 am
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Amantha hovered in midair as if she were sitting in a chair with her ankles crossed demurely and tucked to the side. Her soft brown eyes were focused on Anjolie as they had been for the past hour or so. The human woman was shirtless, laying on her stomach on the rickety cot slaves were given for a bed. The slashes that had been a fine network of pink scars at midday were a series of open ugly wounds now. The spirit could feel pride and satisfaction radiating from the disjointed thoughts of her daughter all those miles away. This human truly had learned to accept pain and make it a source of strength. She seemed almost oblivious to the gross nature of her back as she chattered away about the things she had seen and learned since last the spirit had visited.

"Even those slaves who spoke ill of me, saying I was showing off, have changed their opinions." Anjolie's voice grew even more animated, and though Amantha could hardly see her facial features due to the night shadows that fell across the front of the cot, she imagined the woman was smiling and her pale blue eyes were flashing. "I caught one whispering to another about how I was trying to make them all look bad. He almost looked afraid when I approached him after the day was over. 'You think me a braggart and a show off?' He stammered a quiet yes, and I laughed in his face. 'I don't do this to curry favor with the one who lords over us. I do this to let them know they will not see me cry. They will not see my pain. They will not see me cower and hide. They will know that I am stronger than they, and no whips or chains will ever hold power over my spirit.'" She laughed and shifted in her cot. Amantha winced as the wounds opened wider and then pressed themselves shut.

"I am glad your day went well." The soul of the priestess smiled warmly down at the slave. "My daughter tells me that you will have need of me in the coming nights. How may I help you?" Anjolie propped her torso up on her forearms and stared at the slightly luminescent being before her.

"You mean she can read my mind? See the future even?"

"Well, not exac-"

"Do you think she could share with me my future? Maybe she can tell me how best to lead the slaves in a revolt!"

"NO!" The woman's eyes snapped into focus on the spirit and a confused frown creased her forehead. Inside her mind, Amantha heard the unapproving thoughts of her daughter rising in strength. She would have to clarify her response quickly or be forced into submission by Zina. "For your revolt to work, you must make your own decisions. You must truly become the leader these poor souls need." Anjolie stared at the spirit in confusion, but Zina's anger had begun to recede. As much as the Dardenite priestess hated it, what Amantha was saying held true. She sighed in relief and continued. "If you wish to be a leader, you can't be a follower. You must choose your own path instead of walking one that someone claims to see lying before you. When you follow, your heart will not always be fully behind the actions you take, but when you lead, your entire soul becomes a part of the simplest decisions. These people will follow heart and soul. Only by taking control of your own destiny will you succeed."

"I think I see your meaning." Anjolie lowered her eyes, blinking several times as she weighed Amantha's words.

'You may be right, Mother, but this better not cause her to become too independent. She will need me.'

'I know, but she also needs to trust herself.'
Anjolie looked up, her arctic eyes reflecting the pale shimmer of the spirit's glow.

"I will need you to monitor the patterns of the night watch for the next few nights. Also, I need for you to learn the layout of the entire mining camp. I've only seen certain areas, and I don't know where all of the slave quarters are. They keep us divided so we can't get to know everyone and build bonds that would unite us against our oppressors." She gave Amantha a wry smile. "Unfortunately that is exactly what we must do. Once I know the frequency of the guards' rounds, I can plan a time and place for all of the slaves to meet." She paused, licking her lips as she considered her plan. "No, wait. It wouldn't be wise to gather all the slaves so soon. Because they don't know one another, it would be more likely for someone to consider ratting on us all." She pushed herself up off her cot and began pacing the little hut. Amantha hovered in silence, respecting the human's need to think things through on her own. Anjolie stopped and faced the spirit, her mouth slightly open in wonder at the idea that had occurred to her. "You must appear to the leaders of each slave encampment."

"Wait a second. I have already told you that only you will see me when I make appearances." Amantha's dark eyes narrowed slightly. It was, of course, possible for her to appear to others, but it took more energy than Zina had been supplying. All of Amantha's strength came from her daughter's life force since it was in her daughter's body that the spirit had chosen to live.

"But I need this from you. Surely you can give me this assistance." Amantha opened her mouth to explain her refusal, but her daughter's voice parted her lips instead.

"We will give you this aid. What else do you require?" Amantha took a deep breath and let it out slowly. No matter how many times her daughter chose to interfere, it still felt wrong.

"Only that you explain my plans to them. Convince them that they should fight for their freedom." Amantha swallowed, trying to rid her ethereal throat of the feel of her daughter's voice.

"This I can and will do." Her own airy tones brought a smile to her lips. "Now get some rest. I'll begin following the movements of the camp guards tonight. I will come to you briefly every night for one week to share my findings. After that, we can speak of the slaves I must visit." Amantha reached out, laying her hand on Anjolie's cheek and smiling. The human shivered at the tingling sensation brought by her touch, but held the spirit's gaze. "With a heart as strong as yours, you cannot fail." She faded from the hut and began her invisible watch.

_________________
[i]Within every good there is the seed of evil,
and within every evil there is the seed of good.


Sun Jan 11, 2004 4:33 am
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Anjolie's icy blue eyes seemed to glow with eerie phosphorescence in the pale moonlight. She sat with one knee drawn up to her chest, her other leg extended around the crude map of the mining camp that she'd drawn in the dusty earth. There were three smaller camps that formed a triangle within the whole of the area. In those collections of shacks, the slaves resided. The guards and overseers also slept in divided camps, but that was more so that they could keep an eye on the slave areas. Their huts were in much better condition than even the nicest slave shack, but that was to be expected from such class oriented pigs. There were nine mine shafts in which the slaves all worked, and each camp was split to provide enough labor for all the shafts. In this way, the slaves were kept divided even while they worked. On the highest hill of the entire camp sat the building that housed the boss's office and quarters.

Neutralizing the guards, overseers, and getting to the boss to take care of him would be difficult. That problem had been what kept Anjolie up night after night; however, this evening she stayed awake for an entirely different purpose. Tonight the first of the slave leaders was being contacted. A lot was riding on whether or not the appearance of a spirit would move the others to join Anjolie's little coup. Amantha had discovered a nice little gully that was fairly difficult to see in the dark. Fortunately, guards avoided it because so many had accidentally slipped and fallen into it so many times. None of them cared so much about their jobs that they were willing to risk breaking bones. Besides, the slaves all slept at night, right? The woman's lips curled into a cruel smile. It would be easy to play on the boss’s arrogance and sense of safety. Of course, in order for the whole ordeal to be effective, they would have only one chance. If they failed, security would increase and they might never again get a chance to free themselves.

Anjolie bit her lower lip, eying the layout of the area. They wouldn’t fail. She would see to that. She was sure that the spirit and her daughter would be offering all the help they could, and she was equally certain that the other slaves would join her revolt. Already a plan was forming in her mind as to how each willing slave and even Amantha and her daughter could serve a purpose. United they would be unstoppable. There was strength in numbers, and even greater strength in the element of surprise. She could almost picture the look of surprise that would be on the boss’s face when he was captured. In a month or two he would know his stupidity.

“No one should be a beast of burden unless it is their choice to be just that.” Her voice filled the small room she’d called home for so many years. “And no one should hold power over their fellows unless that power is freely given. Nor should anyone be forced to live in such wretched conditions while others live a short distance away in places of comfort and elegance.”

“It won’t be that way forever, Anjolie.” The woman looked up as the glow in her room increased with Amantha’s presence. Her pale eyes shimmered in the ethereal luminescence. The spirit floated over to Anjolie’s cot and perched on it. “Fortunately for us, the leader of the first slave encampment is a very religious man. With a little dogmatic help from my daughter, he was easily swayed.” Amantha didn’t roll her eyes, but if such a thing could be done with a voice, Anjolie was sure the spirit had done just that. The slave chose to ignore the obvious annoyance Amantha expressed. She knew that neither of them was interested in a lecture on faith this night. Faith could come after she’d made her arrangements to meet with the slave leaders and a select group of other slaves.

“Then when you return in a few days you can visit with the leader of the remaining encampment.” Anjolie frowned, her brow creasing with the first signs of worry. “From what I’ve heard of her, she could be difficult to convince. We need her and those who live with her though; otherwise, this whole venture will be a failure before it even begins.” The spirit nodded her understanding and moved from the cot.

“Worry about that when the time comes. In the meantime, get your rest. You’ll need it.” Anjolie moved to her bed, lying on her stomach. Her back was still very tender, but that was a small price to pay for the drive the beating and rape had given her. “Sleep well, little revolutionary.” The spirit’s gentle voice faded into the night as Anjolie drifted into dreams of conquest and equality, a soft smile frozen on her lips.

_________________
[i]'What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source
of beauty, joy, and strength, if faced with an open mind.'


Mon May 10, 2004 11:48 pm
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