Esper

Wandering Thoughts
A post by Mirage

So much…in one evening. Head unclear as she makes her way back to her chamber. Catching a glimpse of her hands still stained with the blood of the monstrous black dragonborn. She wanted…craved his death since the day that……

Her thought trails off…mother. The image of the beautiful raven haired woman appeared. Talesma. How did i not see? Shes here! Shes… Mirages thoughts wander as she walks into her chamber. Piece by piece she gently removes the torn remenence of the glistening evening sky sarape that Oz had so beautifully enchanted. Oz….i am sorry….for the dress…and what you had to bare witness to. I know you dont understand..

As she crosses to where her dusty coat lay she sees a new set of the same sarape as she had been wearing…but without the evening sky, along side near her bed a small basin with fresh towels, the boiling water had the aroma of perfumed oils…as if someone knew she was to come back. Looking around but seeing, nor sensing anyone, she dips her bloodsoaked hands into the water. she sees that in an instant the stains were gone, no odor of fresh death to remain. The water very soothing to the touch as it was the perfect warmth for her liking. Feeling a bit more at ease as she washes away any remenence of the Dragonborn’s demise….her thoughts trail off once more. Images of warm, inviting golden eyes as she stares towards the garden…seeing a fun diplay of dancing and play among the servants. Her heartbeat starts to quicken as she remembers in the market his tall presence behind her and his sweet whispers. The smell of flowers as he passed by, her breathe deepens as the memories sweep over her like the warm damp towel down her neck to her arms.

Her thoughts turn once more to her mother…concern. What was that blade? Why did Wailan want for me use it? I couldn’t focus. She could sense a darkness within, calling to her, enticing her to bathe it in blood. She will never forget this feeling. Magni whispering to Mirage along with Tal’lin’s words urging her not to use it. Something is not right….Her suspicious thoughts turn to Wailan who presented the blade, but immediately back to her mother. She used the blade to strike Vahiir down…but i gave the final blows…what residual effect could this blade have on Talesma?

As Mirage wraps the new fresh garmemt around herself, not quite as well as Tal’lin as it seems to hang a bit loose, leaving a slight bit of exposure to her scarred skin. She looks down at her now clean hand. She can still feel the warmth of his hand gently enclosing over hers. The feeling of comfort soothing her rage. Is this what prevented her from losing control? But in the end she did, she chose Vahiir’s fate. that of Death. His well deserved justice for her sister, and many of the other tortured murdered slaves. Feeling the same familiar warmth in her cheeks, she recalls Magni’s whispers, his soft pleas to seek revenge by the same enslavement other than death. But by then the rage had taken over…bering witness to the same acrid breath befall Magni as did Mirahna…though Magni physically untouched, this was enough to send her over the edge. Although she had enough will to avoid using the dark blade, she still ultimately took Vahiir’s life. The maddening fury behind each swip as the images of her sister’s fate returned making her rage even deeper within her soul until his final breath.

Her head starts pounding as these images return. So much…this evening. But her thought trail off once more to the garden..the pounding at ease soon replaced by her quickening heartbeat once more as her hand finds the necklace around her neck. Her warm cheeks heightened with a soft smile in anticipation. As she steps towards her chamber door….“am i worthy of his golden eyes?”

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Quiet Liason
Aftermath

The hour was late, the moon having already travelled through the sky as Talesma finally entered her chambers. With a quick fluid motion, the pin of her silk garments was released and it tumbled to the ground, her bare red hued skin gleaming in the candle light. She looked to the corner, in a chair in deep shadow, he sat, admiring her. His voice echoed from the shadows, a light-hearted tone, issuing from the very inky darkness. “So, Talesma, it is done. I am happy I could assist you this very night, but you did deviate from your plan, as I thought his death was to be a more, shall we say, a private affair.”

“I acted rashly, his existence could no longer be tolerated. I acted in rage for the first time in forever, and I lost control.” She said flustered, staring into the dark corner where Wailan sat. “But, I had planned even for that eventuality, if I lost control, which is why you were present, and why the salve I treated Ignus with, was in place.”

“So you used the poor man? He must be tired of woman using him as a pawn.” Wailan chuckled, leaning forward in his chair, his face appearing in the candle light, a wicked smile on his face.

“I did no such thing, the bath I prepared for him does exactly as promised, and if he continues the treatment, he will eventually see vast improvement. But, the salve I applied, might have given him a resistance from the acid. An added bonus, should he need it.”

Wailan stood up, moving closer to the tiefling woman, staring intently at her naked form. “Is that why you also seduced him?”

Talesma smirked, a wicked grin as she looked a Wailan, hunger in her eyes. “Not at all. I lay with him because he was a strong attractive man, even under those scars, and he reminded me of my lost husband. He was there. Why ignore an opportunity, when it had presented itself? Why do you ask, are you ask, are you jealous?”

Again the wry smile appeared on Wailans lips, as he took Talesma into his arms and pulled her close to him. “Hardly, should I have been there and had he been inclined, I would have also joined in for the fun of it.” He says, his smirk becoming a more wicked and devious look. “Of course. You know he fancies Mirage.”

Talesma looks guilty for the first time, but quickly stares up at Wailan. “I did not before tonight, but, now it is apparent. But, maybe, our short foray, gave him the courage to act on his true feelings and push forward.” She sighs, “Such webs we weave and tangle.”

Wailan steps with Talesma in his arms and they both fall on to the bed, his face close to hers, as he stares into her eyes.
“And you, how does it feel, his soul.” He wispers, as she stammers.

“Why?” she asks, “Why did you need the sword used?”

He looks, his visage concerned but stern. “Because Essence is alive, and needs to fed. And because, even as vile as Vahiir was, I believe he might have had some qualities your daughter could benefit from in the battles to come. Alas, instead it was you that swung the blade.” He stops and sees the confusion on her face. “You see, Essence not only feeds the wielder the soul, it traps a piece of that soul for itself as it feeds. The blade is hungry and must be satiated. The blade is very much a living thing, but it is never the same blade, as it grows with the death of each of its victims. But, it is truly dangerous when it does not feed for a while, as it will use its mental projections to slowly penetrate its wielders will to find some feast. This makes it difficult, because the blade has no feelings or attachments, and will turn the wielder’s mind, even against ally’s and friends.”

Talesma, pulls back from Wailans arms, a look of worry on her face. “Then why would you give such a vile thing to them, what purpose does it serve.?”

“It is quite literally a double-edged sword, my dear Talesma. As there are risks in life, there are risks in wielding the sword, but also, rewards. I have had flashes of fates, of minute details that it has a roll to play at the end of their great journey, and may be the only thing that can stop this catastrophe from fully consuming everything.” He sighs, and reaches up and plays with Talesma’s hair. “We all have a role to play, and I will be there watching, and I promise I will do what I can to lessen the stain on their own souls. Let me do you that kindness.”

Wailan kisses Talesma, and enfolds her. Hours later, as the sun slowly starts rising in the east, Wailan stands staring in the doorway. Flickers of shadows play against the light in his eyes as he stares at Talesma. A disturbing flash, or moment of vile hatred crosses his fate, his lips curling as he looks at the former slave whore. But, as soon as it had come, it was gone, defeated by Wailan’s formidable will. He looks down. “Oh Vahiir, you can do nothing to hurt this one or her family now. And believe me, your soul cannot taint mine, as mine is the soul of chaos, and you are just a drop of rain in it’s vast ocean.” Wailan shakes his head, a mirthful smile crossing his lips “Damn, I’m even starting to monologue to myself.” He says with a chuckle, as he walks out of the room.

Talesma sleeps, at ease, her vengeance sated, and no taint on her soul. Only the blissful and free sleep of someone who has found a small but important piece of contentment.

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The Bond
love replaced by grief, grief replaced by rage

The only thing she remembers is the warm embrace of a raven haired woman. Through blurred vision, her newborn eyes could barely make out her mother’s loving features. She remembers hearing a faint cry, alongside hers. It was that of her sister, who had arrived but minutes before her….and the soft soothing beat of this woman’s heart, who was cradling them. Who was this woman? A memory. Mirage tries to hold onto it, but cannot remember anything more of this moment in time. For it was not long after this union that these rare twins were whisked away in the night. The last sound she remembers is a cry of despair…. cries, from a familiar voice. That of the woman to whom they were embraced… and then, never saw again…. mother.

……………………………………………………………………………………

Years have passed. Sorrow did not. In the life of a slave, old cries of despair are swiftly replaced with new ones. The memories play on, night after night. In her dreams, Mirage re-lives them all; and among them, one terrible night, re-lived far more often than the rest.
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PLEASE!!!!” Mirage cries. “IT WAS MY DOINGNOT HERSCHOOSE ME”. Tears streaming down her blood covered cheek, she strains, pulling as hard as she can against the barbed chains. She can feel them painfully digging deeper into her wounded flesh with each pull, yet she fights on, hearing the tortured cries of Mirahna from mere feet away. “Mir…Mirage, don’t.” Her voice falters, breaking from every ounce of fear behind each word. Yet, even with terror etched upon her beautiful face… knowing the fate that was to befall her… she stands tall, head held high. Seeing her beaten, restrained sister, the other half of her soul, she knows she must be strong, for Mirage’s sake. Unmoving, even with the weight of the spiked shackles that bound her wrists, neck, and ankles, she tries to smile, forcing it beyond the pain, smiling for her sister one last time. She ignores the barbs, the terrible spiked collar, and the uncaring chains. In her heart, Mirahna knows these will not be needed for what is to happen to her now.

“Master…..please… take ME… I, beg of you…I’m…the one…” Mirage desperately whispers, her voice hoarse from beatings and tortures unnumbered. Her breath quickens as she watches the monstrous dragonborn, Vahiir. His ebony hide adorned with fine silks, he slowly stalks closer to Mirahna, looming over her. A hideous chuckle rasps from under his breath… as he speaks, the foul, acrid smells of acid and sulfur fill Mirage’s nostrils.

“It’s a shame,” Vahiir whispers, as his claws slowly trace a path through Mirahna’s hair and down her neck, halting just below her collarbone. Mirahna whimpers, gasps of pain eking from her lips, as his talons cut shallow lines into her soft flesh. Mirage stares hard, pleading with her bright emerald eyes. “Please…” she stammers to Vahiir, but her desperation falls upon cruel ears. Her master’s menacing smile widens. “such a pretty thing…. paid such a high price, and yet got so little use.” his words slice deeper into Mirage’s soul than any of the barbs in her flesh. As Vahiir inhales deeply of Mirahna’s dark hair, the deepest ache of dread begins to climb its way into Mirage’s throat. She had been punished many times. The bite of claws, chains, whips, and acid scars borne upon her back were like a canvas. But no amount of torment had prepared her for the unspeakable judgement that was about to befall her sweet sister.

“Mirage….be my strength….” Mirahna, with every ounce of strength she has left, reaches a hand out for her sister, her arm struggling against Vahiir’s draconic brawn. “Be my strength…I will be with you… as… we have always been… as one.” Her words are hushed, the massive dragonborn’s claws wrapped tight around her throat. As Mirage reaches out, trying with every ounce of effort she has, to grasp her sister’s hand, the montrous beast unleashes his acid breath on Mirahna’s body. All color fades from Mirage’s face, frozen in horror, as Mirahna cries out in an inhuman howl; her flesh violently bubbling, boiling, melting and sloughing away from bone.

MASTER STOP, PLEASE, NOOOO!!! STOPPPNOT MIRAHNA, PLEASE I’LL DO ANYTHING, PLEASE!!!” Mirage, fighting even harder against the chains, feels the familiar shadow of her sister’s suffering. For this was not the first time they had felt each other’s punishments; such is the strong connection between twins of shared birth. Even so, she had felt nothing so horrific as this. Vahiir grabs the writhing, collapsed form of Mirahna, his claws digging in enough to choke the remnant of her pitiful cries. “Such a pretty thing, a shame to waste such beauty. However, I did buy two of them… so who really needs two of the same toy? Gwahahahahaha…”

Everything happened so fast… and yet, every second felt like an eternity. The pain was overwhelming. Mirage sinks to her knees, reeling from the tremendous pain which she shares with her twin. In her ears, Mirahna’s unnatural scream rings everlasting; her eyes bear witness as Vahiir rears his back his monstrous head, inhales deeply, and then unleashes a torrent of vile acid, completely engulfing what’s left of her sister’s withered body. Vision clouding with tears, wrists throbbing as she struggles against the terrible barbed chains, she can almost feel herself dying, as she watches Mirahna’s beautiful face slowly melt away. Her cries, her wretched, crumpled gasps for air, grow softer.

NOOOOO, MIRAHHNAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!…Mir.. ahna…..”

Cries of desperation give way to uncontrollable sobs of grief. She can feel the other half of her soul dying. She knows, as the fading grows more complete, and Miranha’s breathing slows… stops. She feels a sudden, sharp tear in the fabric of her being; a terrible sundering, which takes Mirage’s breath away from the inside out. Then, in the last light where her sister should be… nothing. Silence. Complete silence… Agony, unending. Mirages vision blurs as she sinks to the floor. As darkness begins to creep into the edges of her vision, a horrible, bloodcurdling laugh erupts from the monstrous beast of vile, black scales.

…am I dying, too? Mirages thinks, as her vision grows darker and body grows heavier, breath quickening. All of a sudden, through her tear and blood-stained eyes… red… that darkness, turning a dark shade of RED. She remembers the sound of a low growl, slowly growing more violent. Then… a rush of heat, building, pulsing within her, coursing through her veins… like liquid fire. The RAGE, sweeping through her, replaces any and all sense of pain. The growl becomes louder, as she feels her strength returning… no, not returning. Beyond strength, stronger, and even stronger still. The growl erupts, VIOLENTLY, becoming a loud, raging cry …coming from me? Yes…. as pure anger flows through her flesh.

Vahiir’s laugher starts to fade as Mirage pulls one last time on her restraints, breaking her heavy iron chains with sudden ease, as if they had been forged from damp straw. He steps back, caught off balance, as she snaps each limb free: first her arms, then her legs. “YOUUUU……" she howls in an unholy fury, as she finds herself leaping full force into Vahiir, knocking him back almost 10 feet. Surprised by this sudden strength from his vengeful slave, the hulking dragonborn braces himself as Mirage charges in once more; horns lowered, eyes glimmering ruby red, MURDER writ loudly upon her heart. She bellows in animalistic savagery as her elongated claws strike, again and again and again, each slash tearing dark scales from his chest, his shoulders, his face. He is for a moment, taken aback… but then, upon seeing drops of own blood speckling the floor, he becomes sadistically amused.

Mirage lunges again, all too recklessly, but this time, he is ready for her. Viciously grappling one of her arms, he flings her bodily against the cool marble wall, his other talon pinning her in place by the nape of her neck. Digging his claws into her pale, rose-colored skin, he coughs a shallow spray of caustic fumes onto her exposed back. Mirage cries out in searing pain as the acid burns deep rivulets into her flesh. The stinging bite of it cracks through her senses, as the red fades and the heaviness of her true fatigue returns. Vahiir lets out another menacing chuckle as he senses Mirage’s limbs grow limp, tired… feeble. “You had a new spirit about you… I’m glad I chose the right toy to keep. I knew the other was weak, but this…” His eyes searched her sweat drenched body with newfound hunger. “This will be even sweeter tonight.”

As Vahiir grabs Mirage’s burned shoulder, again digging his claws into her soft flesh, Mirage makes no sound, the last of her strength having given way to exhaustion. Tears silently fall, staining her bruised cheek, all sounds and sensations fading away as Vahiir drags her across the stone floor toward his chambers. Knowing full well what is to come, but having no strength to resist any further… Mirage takes one last look seeing the crumpled heap of what was once her sister’s body as she is slowly dragged away.

“Mirahna…..” she whispers, before her vision fades to black, her exhausted, tortured body unable to cope. The last sound she hears, echoing forever in her memory, is the slam of Vahiir’s chamber door closing….

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Dangerous Meetings!

Talesma entered the grand council hall, taking in the wondrously open space once again, having been away from for an usually extended period this time. The massive open space circled by grand sculpted columns, cherubic angels, hellish demons, and spiraling dragons towards the top. From the outer ring descending to the center counsel floor was the circled teared terrace ways, acting as grand stair case and and also standing platform for the various wealthy merchants waiting to petition or just hoping to be seen in the presence of the great Merchant Councillors themselves.

She slowly moved down the stairs towards the base level, towards the great circular table where the Councillors were to meet. Before reaching halfway down though, a voice called out to her, which immediately made her tense. “Talesma, my dear. So long it has been since you deemed to grace us with your presence.”

Before turning around, she pasted a gracious smile on her face, forcing it in place with extreme fortitude. She turned to face the black scaled dragonborn, his tall and intimidating frame clothed in fine silks. “Vahiir, what a pleasure to see you. Yes, it has been long, but I could not vacation forever, and, as you know, duty calls.”

“Of course, I understand. You must have to work extra hard to keep a position on this council with your silly notion of paying all of your servants” his voice dripped with ooze, the smell of acidic breath wafting between his gleaming sharp teeth “But, you could always earn extra coin, if you decided to sell some of them, for I am always in need of good help.”

Bile welled up in Talesma’s throat, but through great effort she still kept the cordial smile on her lips, even slightly bowing her head in the slightest. “Now Vahiir, you know that I do not deal in slaves, and my business aspects lay elsewhere.” she looked, her eyes sparkling just a tad “And how would it look anyway, for me to sell to you, when you so recently let a slave escape after you killed and threw away another. That would be bad for my business. How goes the search for your lost slave.”

Vahiir’s slitted eyes narrowed and a look of disgust crossed his face, his black scales shifting in anger slightly. Tahesma’s smile widened, no longer fake, as she knew her jab had gotten under this vile creatures skin. His voice was low, almost a rasping growl as he continued “Talesma, it is unbecoming to talk of such things, and I warn you. . .”

WARN ME!” Talesma loudly interrupted “No, Vahiir, I came her to warn you. You are a vile creature and more akin to a weasel than the noble creature of you ancestry. You torture your slaves against are known accords, and your cruelty know no bounds. Until know you have not been censured because of you Councillor status. But, until now your crimes have been small. But, I have it on good authority that you hired a bounty hunter to follow your last prey, a bounty hunter whose body was discovered recently. So, not only did you fail to capture your quarry, but the bounty hunters body was discovered inside the Etherian Kingdom, breaking the peace accords we have laid out, that we would no longer carry out any slave activity in that nation. This information has also been relayed to their new young king, and his betrothed, an Empress in her own right who despises the slave trade. The information I have points to them sending an envoy directly her to ask for your censure.”

Vahiir stutters, his growl growing in his stomach, the look of violence on his face. “I should murder you were you stand you former slave bitch. You have no right to speak to me like this. I will ruin you.”

“No, my dear Vahiir, it is you who will be ruined.” a slow smile crossing her face. “But, for a price and with my contacts in the Esperian Kingdom, I may be able to convince the envoy that they need not come, and we could lesson your censure among the council to be a fine instead. You and I both know, should the envoy arrive, and you face public scrutiny, that the Over Judges of Fremest will get involves, and I know that you don’t want The Order going through your business records.”

Vahiir, his agitation apparent, finnaly speaks, his voice low but with the tinges of hate. “How much will it take?”

Talesma, her pointed smile never faltering, “First, you will forget that slave, as she is well out of your reach and concern. And second, you will deliver ten thousand platinum to my steward and ten percent of your crop yields for the next 3 years.” she, reaches into her bag, and pulls out a sheet of parchment. “The details of this arrangement are already here waiting for you mark, and the church will never know of your failure.”

Vahiir grabs the paper and briefly reads it, before violently pulling of his sigil ring and spitting acid upon it to burn into the paper. Handing it back to the tiefling bitch he does crack an evil smile. “One day, you will were chains again, and on that day, I will pay three times this amount so I can watch you burn alive in my gardens.”

Talesma, knowing his threat to be real, but not showing any sign of worry, gives Vahiir a slight wink. “Oh Vahiir, it’s unbecoming to be so angry after a business deal. Come, let’s go to the meeting so we can get this fine you will pay to the Council arranged. And do so with a smile, this day could of ended with you on a rack in the Pearled Temple.”

She move to the side of the massive Dragonborn, and to show her power, entwines her are through his, to lead him to the Council floor.

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A Stroll in the Gardens

Stands with Claws, having quietly slipped away from the sleeping party, strolled among the fragrant gardens, Hunts Under Red Moon by her side. Her mind was confused, identities of what she was blurring with the new pack she had chosen. She knew they were not Dire Wolves, it was not a big secret, but having bathed earlier with Sparrow, she realized that she was more like her, than her brother. She had been bared to all, and as Sparrow had been, she saw the curves and limbs that she saw on herself and not on her brother. In her mind, there had always been a mental block that separated her from the two legged ones. She knew she was different, but had always believed that she was a true Dire Wolf, but now, staring at her brother, who she still loved, she saw the differences. She saw his paws and thick grey fur, his strong proud long muzzle, his pointed fur tipped ears. And she looked down at her, in the strange clothing, her smooth and tan body showing through the fabric. A low and murmured sigh escaped her lips as she let herself fall to the stone walkway in the gardens.

Her brother slowed, nudging her with his muzzle, licking her face, obviously concerned. She looked upon him, seeing for the first time that this was not her blood brother, and her heart broke. Tears spread down her face, her mind spinning, memories of her life replaying over and over. Memories of her mother, but not her mother, protecting her, caring for her, and teaching her to hunt. Memories of her siblings, but not siblings, rolling and playing and chasing each other through the woods. Her memories rolled back and back, upon themselves through her mind. The visual experience stunning her mind, as she tucked her knees against her chest and rolled back and forth gently. Hunts Under Red Moon, whined, his concern palpable to her ears, but she was lost in visions, lost in her life lived.

The living visual dreams kept rolling backwards, finally stopping as if a wall barred their way, and though she was in pain, though she was hurt, she pushed, she forced her mind back, pushing through the barrier, pushing her memories on.

In front of her lay a two legged human, a woman, her face similar but slightly different than the one Stands with Claws often saw reflected back in lake waters. The woman, was laying on her stomach, her head turned towards her, blood spreading out under her like a pool of crimson loss. The woman’s eyes focused on her, her mouth moving, blood dripping from its corner onto the ground. She spoke. “My little water Lily, my flower, I love you. But you must run, you must hide. Go Lily, run. Live.” The life faded from her eyes as the girl watched on. The 4 year old halfling, legs against her chest, rocked back in forth, tears flowing from her eyes, screaming the word “Mama” over and over again.

Thus, Stands With Claws, mimicking her living memory, her most secluded nightmare of her past, in the gardens at night, rocked back in forth on the ground, the words “Mama!” tearing from her mouth, screamed loud into the night air. Hunts Under Red Moon, unable to help, turned his head towards the sky, and issued a low and mournful howl.

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Stands With Claws

Acrid Smoke filled her nostrils as she slowly approached, the fires burning the strange rolling beast the man things used to travel. Her senses, well beyond the woodland creatures detected no enemies, but the iron smell of blood permeated the air. Stalking forward, her strong flanks easing her gracefully among the ground, she approached the foreign site with careful but effortless stealth, springing into the midst of the burning caravan. Stalks in Grey Shadows carefully picked her way around the items scattered among the ground, sniffing for any food to scavenge. She came upon a slumped form, a body stabbed by the sharp metal false teeth the man-beast loved to use, fresh blood pouring from its body. This could be food, but she had never enjoyed the taste of the two-legged prey, preferring her kills to be hunted rather than delivered, but she had pups to feed, although they still sucked at her, she needed the energy and nutrition. Before she could reluctantly feed, a sound alerted her sensitive ears, a shrill cry, like a pup in danger, quickly she bounded in that direction. Rushing through brush and undergrowth, the sleek grey dire wolf quickly saw the source of the sound, a foul-smelling man-beast wickedly waving his false tooth around, carrying a shrilling fleshy pup. She reacted without though, three quick bounds had her upon the beast, dragging him to the ground, her massive maw quickly crushing the life out from his throat. She reveled in the kill, not her favorite, but the thrill of the hunt was apparent. After a short time, she noticed the fleshy pup, a tiny hairless thing, smaller than any man-beast she had ever seen, but it had the form of one. It was helpless, and the cry it omitted was loud and piercing. Stalks in Grey Shadows knew she should kill it, for it was alone and would not survive in the wilds. But, something stopped her, maybe because she had recently birthed pups of her own, and she stalked over to the babe. Her bloody jaws gently picked up the child, and in a flash she was off, carrying it to her den, with the rest of her brood.
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Stands With Claws, stealth as her ally, stocked her prey. The deer had not seen her, as she moved with grace towards it. Her teeth in her hands, she sprang, catching the deer off guard, the creature not ever noticing her before it feel dead at her feet, it’s throat having been torn asunder. She used her sharp teeth to strip the beast, cutting meat from its bones, to bring back to her family. She knew she was not like her brothers and sisters, as she did not have their fur or teeth. Her claws were not long and sharp and her mouth did not devour. And she was 32 seasons, and her brother and sisters were large and she was tiny, less than a third of their size. But her mother, Stalks in Grey Shadows, looked upon her with pride, because though she was different and small, her ferocity and skilled at hunting provided much food for her pack.
She finished gathering the meat and items she had gained from the kill, and using the stripped fur skin as a sled, pulled the bounty back towards the lair. Along the way, her brother, Hunts Under Red Moon, stalked beside her bumping her playfully has he looked upon her kill, a low howl of approval. She was closest with, Hunts Under Red Moon, as he was born a runt, also, being smaller and often badgered by the rest of the pack. But, they had each other, and while she had stayed small and different, he had grown and then grown some more, outpacing his siblings, and eventually became the male alpha of their family. And he was her protector, caring for her first as brother and then as almost her father. She put her strange paw upon his back, ruffling the fur on his back, as he grabbing the fur of the deer with his mouth, helped her pull.
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They were alone. Hunts Under Red Moon and Stands With Claws. Seasons and seasons they had hunted together for their pack, but today they had returned and found death. Her mother, brothers, and sisters all gone. Killed, their skins taken, but nothing else. They had smelled the man-beast. The hunters who had invaded their den. And they had stalked. Finally they were on one of their trails. He was alone, and they would have their revenge. Hunts Under Red Moon bounded ahead, the smell of the prey in his nostrils. His speed and grace guided him, and he was almost upon his target, but the ground jumped out and bit his leg. It dug into his flesh and bound him to his spot as he whined in pain. “Gotcha!” screamed the man-beast, his claw flinging stick pointed directly at the dire wolfs head.
Stands With Claws rushed from the woods, staring helplessly at her brother. The man-beast looked at her, confusing on his face, but making a fatal mistake. Discounting the tiny form he turned back towards the wolf muttering “Sorry little girl, this kill is mine!”
Those words were his last, as the small form bounded upon his back, her hand teeth biting and biting over and over into his neck and back.

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The Worlds End.
In the ever after.
His hands softly touching the grasses as the bright ethereal sun shined its rejuvenating light upon his face, Magni felt at peace. He was in a field of tall grasses and flowers, ever rolling light hills and in the distance upon a mountain top, lay the towers of his goddess. These lands promised adventure everlasting, peace, love, and whatever his heart desired. Still, within, was a slight doubt, having left the friends behind that he had sworn to protect, but his fate had been sealed, his life stolen by the evil Evelina, and his faith and guidance had been rewarded by a place at Selova’s table. He was with the fair maiden of light, in the loving embrace of the mother of adventure, and he was promised an eternity of happiness and bliss.

As Magni walked among the flowers, he recognized the tall slender but muscular frame of his goddess, her blonde tresses of hair braided to her waist, framing a heart shaped face. She strode toward him, so graceful that her walk seamed like gliding, barely causing the grasses or flowers to bend. A light shown around her, bright, almost a second sun, but not blinding to his eyes, which locked on the face of his goddess. As she came upon him, without a word, she gave him a motherly embrace, enfolding him in her serenity, washing away the little doubts that had still remained, and without a word, he understood that he had made her proud.

Slowly, the world started to fade, the edges growing fuzzy and indistinct, the fields of flowers and grasses starting to roll away from him, leaving him in gray mist. But, Selova still embraced him, trying to hold on to one of her children. Her melodic voice whispered in his ear, a language he did not know, but could understand, ancient powerful.

“We do not have much time, my child. You have served me with honor and faith unparalleled from any. You have been the highest of my children, and your words have brought my light into the hearts of many, through your example. Even your companions, who may serve other gods, hold me in their heart because of your example. But, I can not keep you hear, though I wish only to give to you what you deserve. My sister’s powers are vast, having escaped her realm and fully entered the mortal plane, she now controls the direct untapped power of the well of magic. No longer does the veil of the afterlife block her powers. No longer does she have to follow the rules that are placed upon us deities. She does not have to work through proxies, giving our godly powers to those who serve us. She can act directly, her vast powers are now fully unleashed.”

She pulls back from the embrace, a vast sadness falling across her beautiful face as she looks deeply into Magni’s eyes. “She hates you most of all. For, not only are you my most faithful servant and she could not sway you, even by the pain she inflicted upon you. So she would deny you your only desire. She would keep you away from me. Even now she calls your soul back to your body. She would deny you your very reward of afterlife. But, before you depart, I will give you one last gift. Although you have served me with your voice and are being taken from me. I will send you with on last gift. You will no longer serve me with the voice, but know you will be my sword and shield. The warrior of my faith. Your duty will not be to spread my kindness, but to protect others and seek out those who would threaten it.”

She reached up, her fingers touching his forehead. Memories flooding into his mind. Memories of several warriors. Paladins. In his mind he was still Magni, but he was also Thoruk, Hendri Reckthorson., and many others. Magni’s mind was still his, but he was combined, enhanced with the many memories of many warriors from years past. A melding on memories. But, Magni realized that, these were not separate people, but people he had been before. His soul having been from one body to the next. He he realized. His faith is about this. Adventure is always moving forward, and thus, even though he would revel in his goddesses grace after death, life was a new adventure and eventually he had chosen to return to the living throughout the years. The final revelation went all the way back to the beginning. To his first life, and the forging of his soul. Before Selova had ascended into being a goddess. She was a beautiful shield-maiden, and she had a son. And Magni had been that boy. Magni had been Ignis Selovason.

The mist thickened and he felt himself being pulled away from his true mother.

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Freedom's Price

The night air near the docks was chill, scents of fish and stale beer assaulting Wailan’s senses. A smell, usually revolting, was the sweet harmony of freedom to this shadowy figure. Standing in the darkened alley beside this tavern, Salty Pete, Wailan observed the late night adventures of the taverns patrons. He had partook in some of those adventures this night, bad food and worse drinks, and amorous quests partaken with plenty of willing wenches. And, though the food was far from good, and his other activities far from the best experiences, tonight they felt like heaven sent, as he was experiencing them as a free man.

Shadows slowly seemed to shift, moving like liquid darkness to form a faceless entity to stand next to him. Wailan did not react, having seen this happen far too often, nor did he recoil in fear, as this being no longer had hold over him. A voice, if it could be called such a thing, more an unnatural whisper, the sound of a whetstone slowly being drawn across a blade, emitted from the featureless shadow being. “Wailan, I see you finally freed yourself from my grasp, and have chosen to, once again, place yourself in the affairs of mortals.”

Sighing, though with a slight smirk, Wailan responded, his eyes never shifting to the dark presence. “For as long as I can remember, I have been bound to your services, fulfilling your whims, directing Essence to stab at the heart of Gods and Mortals alike. But once, long ago, I was a hero. And I am not even referring to my time amongst the War Wolves, and our battles against the evils of Loreun. But, from my childhood, when my love for Espana, drove me to murder her parents, and free her from the clutches of her lecherous father. For years, the subjected, tortured, and drove me into the dirt, but I never lifted a finger against them. But, when I found out about what they were doing to their own child, lovely Espana, I acted. I thought that I was corrupted, because I took pleasure in their deaths. I sent Espana away from me, because, I believed my acts to be monstrous. I filled my life with more death, killing those who prayed upon humanity and there was true pleasure and thrill with every slice of my blade. And, it was then that I tricked myself into believing that I was evil, foul, an unnatural abomination. But, then I saw true evil,and fought true evil. And I saw true honor and glory. And, I discovered, I was not evil. Chaotic, yes! A harbinger of deaths whisper, most definitely. But not evil. For, the one act I had committed, when I was truly young, had been because I loved Espana, and only wished to free her from her pain. The pleasure I felt for her parants death was not the pleasure of death itself, but because I was granting freedom to the one I loved, and ridding the world of two demon humans. So, I had been a hero from a young age. Even as your blade in the dark, I took satisfaction, for the beings I killed were always the vile sort, who thought by using the essence of your shadows, they could elevate themselves into greatness. People fear the darkness, always blaming the shadows as the true evil. But, I know your truth, Light and Shadow. Night and Day. Order and Chaos. Two sides of the same coin. Not adverse properties, or struggling entities, but complements of each other. Without the light, one could not cast a shadow, and with out the empty void of dark, light could not shine. I, am the blade of chaos, I bring the truth of that forth. Others are the word of order, and bring forward those laws. Alone, both are testaments are lies, fallacies of lesser understanding. But together, our words become truth, because it forms the fabric of reality. A millennia and once over of servitude to you, has taught me the truth of that.”

Wailan pauses, his face finally moving to stare at the figure of shadows. “But now, reality itself is again threatened, not by chaos, which is my trumpet, but by corruption. And I must stave off that corruption and do what chaos is meant to do, reflect and instill order.” another chuckle escapes his lips.

The wispy shadows shift, the raspy unnatural voice emitting once more. “So Wailan, Blade Dancer. Slicer of Kalenport, Slayer of Gods, Shadow Hand, Trickster, Dark Sword, and thousands of other names, do you finally see the truth?”

Wailan’s smile, gleaming brightly widens, a vision of mirth, but also and unsettling visage of chaotic expression. “Yes, and I have known so all along, hidden in my very mind.” the shadowy image slowly fades, as Wailan continues, the realizations finally coming full into his mind. “You did not exist. I am chaos unbridled. The chains on me were always my own making. I am Lord of Shadows.”

The night fading away, as the dawn’s sun peaks over the horizon, Wailan steps onto the road, walking into the light for the first time for almost eternity.

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Lost in a jar!

Afloat at the edge of consciousness and reason, the wispy soul of Magni, seeing with out eyes, witnessed his very still body placed upon the stone table. The raven haired woman, so easily carrying his massive form, as if he weighed but that of a feather. Magni was confined to this glass jar, which she placed high on a shelf, so he could look down upon his soulless husk. Behind the lady, stood the shadow skinned man, leaning confidently against the wall. With as wry grin on his face, he turn to the woman, his voice full of mirth. “My dear Evelina, why do you torture this man so, is not the book what you truly wanted?”

Spiteful eyes stabbed forth from Evelina’s beautiful face, as this man dared to speak to her in such a disrespectful nature. She looked at the rogue, this Wailan, and her voice, icy cold like tendrals of deadly glacier, spoke. “Not that it is any of your concern, human. But, this man will forever be my trophy. He was a champion of my sister. And now, Selova will see her champion become my tool, and destroy all she holds dear. Other than that, I care not a lick about this vessel of flesh, or the ones he traveled with.”

Walian’s eyebrow raised slightly, his grin widening in amusement, realizing that his lack of respect was indeed disturbing the so-called goddess. “So petty you have become, having been banished into the Shadowfell for how long? No matter, I guess time is not important to one such as you. But please remember my dear goddess, that you came to me for help and not the other way around. And though, I did gain my freedom from the world of shadows in aiding you, I owe you no allegiance. Your spiteful words and arrogant tone do not frighten me in the least, and in fact, as you can see, only serve as entertainment. As does the way you belittle yourself in acting on an impulsive since of revenge.” his voice, mirthful and slightly condescending as he spoke.

Rage exploded across Evelina’s face, an ire from the smoky tentacles of hell fire dancing in her eye. “HOW DARE YOU SPEAK TO ME IN SUCH A TONE.” her voice shrill and echoing, rising to the pitch of a harpy. "I will utterly destroy you. I will cast you int. . . .

Laughter cut her off, Wailan’s expression never changing. "Stop your bantering and nonsensical foolishness. If you could destroy me, you would have done so along time ago. But you know you can’t. I may not have the power of a “goddess or god”, but you know my curse. Should you strike me down now, I would awaken tomorrow, fully healed. I cannot not die. You could, as you said, utterly destroy me to nothingness, and yet, tomorrow I would still be here, to mock you and laugh in your face. So pretend not to me, as you know I care not." Wailan’s grin finally straightened, a look of seriousness on his face, as he looked down on Magni’s body. "Go from this place and take your book. But, I will keep this priest. He is not yours and was never yours to begin with. And before you protest, remember who is my true “master”. But before you go, I will once again implore you. Put aside your petty grievances. Go, and find your sister and work with her. I know in your full headed way, you wish to turn the devastation that will soon visit this land into personal gain. You believe that with that book and your godly might, you can defeat this spreading darkness, and in doing so, will rule across the land as the highest of all deities. But, I warn you, it will not be enough, and if you choose to go at it alone, you will be wiped from existence."

A long silence lingered in the room, before the raven haired mistress, without warning, became a cloud of swarming crows, and flew out of the hovel, into the night sky. Wailan sighed, his expression suddenly crest fallen. He had tried, he knew, but he knew that that one would always be on her own chosen path of self destruction. After a moment of internal reflection, he stood from the wall, and strolled to a chair beside the stone table where Magni lay. Sitting, he stared not at the body, but past it, to the jar on the shelf.

“You know Magni, I am not a goodly person. In fact, I am probably irredeemable. But, for one moment in my life, millennia ago, I was, kind of a hero. I mean, even back then, I was a rotten scoundrel. I murdered and did unspeakable things. And for those crimes, I was captured, and sent to the darkest, most vile prison one could imagine. But, in route to that prison, I was intercepted by a group of adventurers. Off to fight a great evil that had fallen upon that prison. I planned to fall in to the group long enough to trick them, maybe slit their throats and escape in the night. But before I knew it, I had fought the wicked evil in the prison, and set off on other adventures. Always in my mind I would say, I will kill this lot and be away in the morning. But, always I would find myself waking the next morning, strapping on my gear, and onward to glory. Eventually, I no longer wanted to leave. And as more time went by, I started to care for what happened to them. And so, there I found myself, one dark day, trying to stop the catastrophe that would throw my world into chaos. I stood beside. . . .my friends. Faladren, the bravest and deadliest elven ranger. Hawk, a fighter with noble intent, but dark past. Zombie, my true friend, a man so tough he had been struck with so many weapons, that his gnarled form did resemble his namesake. And countless others. We fought, and many of us died. We failed. I was among the dead. But, so dark was the powers, that I was driven not to the afterlife, but to the Shadowfell, where I found that should I die again, I would be awaken again. I was trapped there for eternity. I found service, because of my unique abilities, as an assassin of sorts, but one under the employ for the grandest of beings. I would be summoned from the shadows to do a “service” and when my contract was up, banished back into the world of shadows. Evelina, came to me, and offered me my freedom. If I would help her do one simple task, and retrieve the book. So, I agreed, and since the task is complete, and I am still here, I believe that I have finally escaped the realm."

Wailan sighed, leaning back, before he continued. “Listen to me, I look young, but must be truly old to fall into such rambling. The reason I tell you this is, so you know. What is coming will be huge, and you must be strong of heart and character to survive. But you must also rely on your friends, because unlike Evelina, you and I both know that we are strongest when those around us raise us up and we do the same for them. Anyway, I wish I could help you now. Unfortunately, I do not have the godly powers to return your soul to your body. But, I do have a gift, something I took quietly and you will have to return to your tiefling friend. Goodluck.”

Wailan winked, setting down a leather travel pouch on Magni’s body, before turning and striding out the door. A little meow sounded, and a tiny kittens head poked from the pouch.

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Lessons

It is mid-morning and the sun is shining brightly through the long windows of the Grand Library. Ta’lin reserved one of the library’s many reading rooms in order to tutor the young king Jacob and his brother Tom. A large table sits in the middle of the room with 3 chairs and a chalkboard sits against the far wall. She has stocked the room with parchment and writing utensils and has a cart stocked with various books. The thick, crimson and gold curtains are pulled away from the windows so the room is flooded with natural light. Ta’lin’s hair has finally started to grow out over the course of the last few weeks. It is now about the length of a pixie cut and she only uses her wig if she is meeting with the Empress’s envoys or other formal occasions. She stands by the chalkboard with her eyes closed taking in the scents and muted sounds of a full and active library. It almost feels like she’s back home at the college in Il’Valiran studying with her fellow bards.

She is pulled from her reverie by the sound of the door opening. Jacob walks in and goes to take his seat. “Good morning Tali, I trust you’re well? What will we be doing today?” She smiles at the boy and grabs a couple books from the cart.

“Well Jacob, I thought we’d start with your favorite, history. Today though We’re going to look into the histories of your betrothed’s lands. I was surprised that there were actually a few books on the subject of the lands to the far west. This library is truly amazing.” At the mention of the God Empress, Jacob look turns from eager to slightly sullen. Ta’lin picks up on this immediately and comes to sit beside him. “What is on your mind my dear?”

Jacob avoids eye contact and fiddles with the seam of his coat. “Do you think I am making the right choice? What if these people do not abide by their contracts and try to take over the whole country again later? What if This is just part of their game?” He looks up at Ta’lin, genuine concern on his face. Ta’lin takes his hands in hers and gives them a reassuring squeeze. “I think you are choosing the best option to help you and your people and this country get back to their rightful positions. The God Empress has a very sizable army and they will help you reclaim your throne. The people that I have met with have all been cunning but also fair and willing to compromise. I believe that in the end, we all have the same base interests at heart which is to eliminate our common foes and set the world back to rights. The empress is a woman of her word and seems to have a very intelligent head on her shoulders. To say that they have no interest in our lands would be foolhardy, but kingdoms merge and split like the flows of the tides. It is just another space in our history for a merger. From what information we have gained, these people have the capacity for ruthlessness, but are also very amiable and willing to find peaceful conclusions to conflict. I think you are proving yourself quite capable of making wise decisions and I believe that this is a good choice.”

“But what if…what if me and this God Empress Chinwe don’t get along? I know we won’t actually live together until we’re older, but well…” Jacob pulls his hands out of Ta’lin’s grasp and flushes a little. “I don’t really know how to talk to girls, er-women.” Ta’lin watches Jacob as he fidgets with embarrassment. “You don’t know how to talk to women? But you’re talking to me right now.” She grins at the boy as he rolls his eyes at her teasing. “You know what I meant damnit!” Ta’lin fakes a stern look “Language young man!” She ruffles his hair and laughs as he swats her hand away. “Well, If you want to learn how to woo your young bride, I can assist you, but for now, we must focus on your regular studies.” With that, she opens up a large dusty tome for Jacob and goes over to the chalkboard to begin their lesson. After some time has passed, she looks at the clock on the wall and notes the hour. “Where on earth is your brother?”

As if he was summoned by her question, Tom strolls through the door and sits in a chair across from Jacob. He already looks annoyed to be there. Ta’lin crosses her arms and gives him an annoyed look. “Tom, you are 45 minutes late! I know for a fact that your morning sparring lessons ended over an hour ago. You really must take care to be more prompt. It is unprofessional to not honor your appointments.” Tom leans back in his chair and grumbles to himself. “I should still be sparring with Tyna, I have no need for all this gods awful reading. I’m supposed to be my brother’s protector am I not? I can’t very well protect him with my mind. I’m not a magician.” Ta’lin give him an exasperated look then plops a heavy book down in front of the boy. “Tom, you can’t win all contests with strength and speed alone. In order to fulfill your role, you must be swift of foot and of wit. All the greatest tactical military minds of our age were extremely studious, intelligent and cunning people. You must be tutored so you will grow to become a well rounded adult. Always remember that a well read man is a well respected man, no matter his station. Besides, I will not have a giant bumbling fool for our king’s champion. If my lecturing isn’t enough to convince you that you need to come to your lessons on time, I will insist that Ardutyna personally escorts you here every day.”

Tom just rolls his eyes and lazily opens the book. “Fine, fine. You win Tali.” He raises his voice in a poor mockery of Ta’lin “I will try to me more prompt. We must not be improper and untimely and unintelligent.” Jacob can’t help but chuckle at his brother’s imitation. Ta’lin walks over and lightly smacks the side of Tom’s head, but her smile betrays her facade of annoyance. “If you are quite done sir, let us move on.” She turns back to the board and begins a rather tedious grammar lesson. In all her days, Ta’lin had never thought she would have to take on the role of a teacher in any capacity, let alone to two of the most important people to her nation. She sat and watched the boys work on their lesson in silence, heads bent studiously over their parchments and wondered what the outcome of these events will be for them. They were so young and have already gone through so much. She hoped that whatever came to be, she would be able to be there for them and aid them on their journeys.

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