Dawn was still a couple of hours away. All was well and quiet still. I got up to awaken the next person on watch: Psyren.
I went to my tent and poked in. Psyren was asleep, so I grabbed her ankles and yanked. I got her sword whips around my neck for my mischief. I don’t bother to tell her about how Jern and I had spoken about the gladiators that I know. But I do smile at her when she tells me to never do that stunt again. I tell her that I’m going to do something stupid.
The golem heart. That’s the something stupid. She almost seemed disappointed. I pulled my book that I have been using to write rituals and a non ceremonial quill and plain black ink. I then sat with it on my lap and began to study it in both normal sight and magical.
It’s a few years old, between 3 and 4 years I believe. The entity trapped is a demon. No chance of releasing that foul incarnation. The heart still has a fair amount of energy to it. I can use it to power a ritual. Would have to be for evil or chaotic purposes, as I do not want to contaminate a ritual. The magical signature…. That’s familiar. Similar to Toza’s, but made by different hands. So an apprentice, not Rajin. I know Rajin’s magical signature. Its duty was to guard the path that we found it upon. Once dispatched, there was some magic code to trigger and alert the creator of this thing’s destruction. I figured that would be the case. Damnit. But, the worrying part is that the creator can track the heart. In my bag of holding it should be shielded as it’s a dimensional pocket…. I hope.
While it was something stupid some useful information did come from it.
I cursed and broke my trance, and didn’t say much to Psyren, other than note that dawn had arrivred. Psyren begged to awaken Jern, which I gave her leave. She had told me that two of our number had vanished. I recited who was with us, and realised the two that I didn’t trust were gone. I looked at where they had been asleep and all was gone. To the foul Abyss with them. No doubt on their way to get away from the ritual crazed woman. I’m glad I didn’t show my true self to them.
Jern is awake, and he seems a bit annoyed at Psyren for not informing us sooner about the disappearance. We break our fast and Pheraya is a bit worried, but Jern finds their tracks and they seem to head in the direction that we were traveling in. This is good as I do not want to waste time searching for them.
Jern set the pace with me correcting his direction while serving as flank and rear guard. We stopped for a short lunch then continued into evening til my sister couldn’t see so well. Watches were divised and we slept lightly. Then we traveled hard the next day and by what would normally be dusk we found the sacred zone.
If I had known we were this close I would have done Pheraya’s naming ritual last night. So much to get done! I tell her we are going to do it. She’s oddly hesitant, but she does have a valid point, it’s not right without the family. But ritual magic is only done by adults. I know it may seem odd to Jern, as she is an adult, but she’s not officially an adult. It matters, especially as I have to take my duties as the eldest holder of rituals seriously.
While she skulked off, I set to cleaning and setting up a circle to perform the rite. I was excited. Jern even took his armour off to assist me. I was deeply honoured. I should have paid better attention, but I was busy etching in the symbols and circles necessary to he rite. The passage would happen when the moon reached its zenith, so I had time. I laid out offerings to the Gods. While working Psyren had approached to express her unease of my practicing ritual work. She honestly didn’t understand that the drain is natural, the days to recover as well. I explained that this wasn’t a ritual but a rite of passage. Sadly the traditional hunt and party would have to be postponed. I gave her the task of grabbing my sister and bringing her back for the rite. It is a modification to tradition.
She left in s much better mood, and I charged Jern with guarding the site. I understand some of her concern, since some rituals can end in death… But I wish she would just accept it, like my wings and tiny scales.
I head to the sacred pyre and begin burning away the underbrush. If I’m to do the ritual at 1st light, I need a clean area, and time to feel the ebb and flow of the magic here. I may start the sketching predawn. I’ll see. I’m very careful to leave a 2 foot area around the pyre untouched. I don’t want to risk setting it ablaze before it’s time. I keep working as time ticks by, stopping to eat and check on the moon’s hazy progress. When the zenith approaches I head back to the rite site, and set the outer ring aflame. Ok, so there’s a minor ritual in play, but it’s very minor. That’s when I hear Psyren.
She’s in trouble. I’m confused, the woman fights better than myself. I head out to check what the problem is, not realising that Jern follows.
Pheraya has a knife at Psyren’s throat, and I joke about it, as how could my sister best her? Then a voice that’s not my sister’s speaks, telling Jern to cease putting his armour on. I keep approaching, slowly and study her. There’s a giggle, similar to Nameless’. I call his name and ask him what’s going on.
You have an active imagination.
Threat. This is a serious threat. My hands want the scimitar, but I leave it in my leg. She took my father from my mother! Kya’ishna! She’s like Father and my sister! And a lot more powerful.
You stole Father. Get the hell out of my sister!
My anger is growing. I should have snuck the rite on her. Damnit! She laughs again, and I can’t help but growl. I can’t do anything to save my sister. My magic would kill the body. I can shunt the bitch out of my sister.
I switch languages, and speak to Psyren and reveal that I know what she is. Can you push her put of my sister?
I think she tried before shaking her head.
The bitch asks us what are we talking about and demands that we stop. How fast can I move? There’s movement, and I take off to collide into my sister’s body, hoping to disrupt a teleportation. I’m atop of Psyren, my clawed fingers are entwined in my sister’s hair, but she’s not responsive.
What has happened? When did this happen? When was my sister not?
Anger, my familiar state of being rages in my chest as I try to force myself to think straight. Sorrow, I hate it, but it’s there biting at me. I failed my sister, I didn’t protect her.
Before I could dwell further, Jern yells at me and points out the movement in the bushes. Angrily, I threw the fire from the rite at the movement, casting them all in light. There’s shouts, screams, and curses. Psyren and I are on our feet and weapons are in hand.
Thoughts of rites and rituals are gone. My sister is dead or unconscious, and enemies approach. I stride forward and Jern seems confused. Slavers, I tell him and he growls.
I don’t remember much of the fight, I was angry. The asshole who harmed me was there, shouting orders. I didn’t want him banished. He’ll tell the Efreet. Gronx was there, and he seemed, uncertain. I can’t blame him, I fled and left him behind. But he attacks the asshole. Sslith’luic is also here, and attacked Gronx until the big man changed his target. Was there a spell? I set a slave on fire then smacked another one. I wasn’t worried. Jern was doing good even without his armour.
Then frozen hell happened. Oh my gods! The cold. The pain. I felt my core freeze, I was near death. I know I wailed like a banshee in the rawness of it. I had to cocoon myself in the fire to hide and thaw, and heal. Kill the humans I know that was my voice. Kabal had followed like I thought they would. But to the sacred space! This is bad! Very bad. We cannot retreat or they will desecrate it. Rage gave my fire heat and I directed Jern and Sslith as they worked together. In seconds the fire planars and the slaves were gone. Then the men and Psyren killed the others save one who teleported away. Great!
I’m denied any killing, and both Toza and the bastard know where I am.
Hells bells and banshee wails!
I direct the group, since that seems to be what I’m best at still frozen in the core. They are to strip the enemies, beware of traps, and I’ll go through the pile. I desecrate their corpses. Damn them all to be currency in the Abyss. I set them aflame, but the anger is a living entity. I cannot focus. Pronkar drops a few bodies before dropping by Jern. I head to him and try and keep my anger in check, but I can’t.
I had stripped my sister to go over every item on her with Psyren’s help. We went over every inch of flesh. Not a single mark. And I don’t dare cut her open to search. She’s still alive. Her soul is gone. Not that hell for her again. Oh dear God’s, hear me, spare her that! But I think my silent prayer is for naught, so I focus on what I can do. I know her true name. True names have power. And we are full blood sisters. There has to be a way to fix this. Mom knew a way to bring back Justin, surely there’s a way to steal a stolen soul. If not, I will find it! Even if I have break every barrier the holds me back on my maternal grandfather’s side.
I’m before Pronkar, I’m not sure if I spoke, so I try again. I thank him for his aid, but I need his help in a different way. I can’t fix Pheraya. His sister in law stole her soul and I need her put somewhere safe where she will be fed, cleaned, looked after. He agrees. His expression changed, it softened then hardened. He hates the woman. Something about his nephew that she tried to kill. The nephew my mother saved, guarded and was willing to raise as her own. There’s a little relief but not much. I snarl about a lack of person to question. I growl about the man who escaped and the asshole too. I am out of time. Lets see who gets us first.
I didn’t realise it then, but I reverted to how I was over a year ago, my timeline. Angry, hurt, unable to hurt back. My sister is gone! Stolen! And I couldn’t do anything to save her. I need someone to hurt badly.
I ask the two now free men if either would care to spare. Pronkar instead tells me to follow. I comply. There’s no asking why with that voice of his at that tone We move away from the group, and we spare hard. The pain felt good. We spoke, and I think he still cares about me. I raged. I lashed out in unfocused anger. He doesn’t want me to allow the pain nor the rage to consume me. He doesn’t want me to do his mistakes. I made a joke, well, not really a joke, about it being darn near impossible for me to be turned into a vampire. I get shunted off plane when I die. I thought he would beat me for that. Instead I get smacked for not caring about myself. We spared, and worked away at my anger. It’s not my fault what happened to Pheraya. But it’s my duty to protect her. I’m not yet strong enough to try and steal her soul back by ritual. And I need her safe. From others and anyone who would possess her body. He seems worried about myself. I don’t get why. I only nearly died, again. I’m still alive.
We spare til I’m weary and bruised, calmer and coherent. I remember desecrating the bodies. I’m not ashamed of it. I’m about to leave when Pronkar suddenly grabs and embraces me. Old thoughts and fears flash up and I try to break his hold. I don’t want to be touched. The present pain though subsided is still too fresh and too similar to darker days. I fight my way through the instinctive reaction.I know I growled but I’m not certain if I spoke. Did I tell him to fuck off? Or to choke on some ice? Both are automatic responses. I have to think. Gronx and Psyren saw me through this. And this is Pronkar. He’s not going to harm me. I tried to hug him, but he didn’t care then. Or wasn’t certain that I’m me. I force myself to stop fighting him, and it takes me a long time to relax. Finally, I place my horns on his chest, and close my eyes, I’m sorry. I apologise for what I said after our last meeting. I apologise for my savage being. I’m not yet right in the head. I don’t cry, but I’m defeated for a while. I feel the arms around me protectively. There’s no warmth nor beat. He’s undead.
And I don’t cry. I instead thank him for what he’s doing for my sister when I finally pull free. I ask if I get to know where she is. He says no. I understand. I thank him for helping us and for watching over me. And then I’m allowed to depart. It’s a disappointment that I don’t get to know where she’ll be.
But it seems I caused concerns to another. Sslith is up in a tree, where he could watch Pronkar and me. Strange friend, he points out. Family, I correct. I don’t understand why Sslith decided that he would guard me, and mentor me. I told him with me, there’s a war to fight. He stated that there’s a war everywhere. I tried to push him to go back to his home realm. Surely he wants that. I wanted to get back home in a bad way, and I’m very confident that the slaves for the most part got home at death, just harshly banished. But no, he is adamant about remaining with me, to guard me. His skills clearly mark him as a balus, not just a bali, and I said as much. I had to explain that a balus is a wise warrior guardian, a weapon master. It’s so much more than that, but there’s no direct translation. Much like that word he said to me, which meant that I fought and live with honour. There’s more to it, but it’s lost.
We spoke at length about my plans, how I wanted to break the Kabal’s hold, not to be the next ruler, but to allow people to rule themselves. I don’t see how he thinks I’m worthy for his attention, and I point that out. I have no honour. I lost it in the pits to survive. I left him behind and fled. I didn’t take any other slave with me, and even though Psyren told me to go, I didn’t hesitate. My honour is badly mangled. I’m not a leader, I just have an idea and need help to see it done. But with my enemies knowing I’m here, alive and not alone… I may need to raise a barrier, but the number of people needed to raise it…. And the out pouring of magic… That alone is beyond me and the amount of power will gain most if not all the magic wielders’ attention.
I shake my head to get rid of the unwanted thoughts. The elves may have a method. Or Pyrico if we get him back.
I admit it’s overwhelming. I don’t want to be a leader. There are princesses who have been groomed for the task. Elta is one such. I would be better as Mistress of the Rituals. Especially now that I’m the last free Rûe child. Rituals are our only advantage.
We have no healer. Kayishna stole the little lady who was the closest thing to a healer. Sslith was watching me and finally speaks. He disapproves of the desecration of the enemies. Very strongly. He actually told me to not do it again and I know my mother’s fire flared in my eyes. I asked him what his people do to their enemies. They pray that they lead a better life next time. I know I snorted. He went on to say I need to be better than the Kabal. I angrily shot back that they are killing this world. The Gods are gone, magic that they control is needed to grow food, they enslaved the people and are killing the magic by strangling it. They killed my mate, took my aunts and uncles for their use, destroyed my home, killed everyone I knew, loved, and cared for. They destroyed the elven kingdoms, slaughtered and enslaved the dwarves. I am above their level.
We argued. No. I argued, he explained. He explained that I was better than I am. That I have honour, and that I could make a good leader. This is why he decided to come on the hunt for me. Not to capture me but to help me. If I’m willing to learn, he’s willing to guide. Perhaps as my grandfather did for the shiek?
He gives me an odd look, so I repeat, I’m willing to learn but I will make mistakes. He apologises and his hand moved swiftly to cover my face. I tensed and tried to pull away mindful that I’m balanced on a branch high in a tree. I reminded myself that Sslith wasn’t here to harm me and began to relax as the first of the memories stirred. Memories of pain. Memories of fear. I know this about my past. To face them again, is nothing. My great shame will be harder to handle…. Then I realised I’m not the only one seeing these, but Sslith is somehow taking them! I begin to resist. The pain is too personal, to private, to just share. No one wants to know my pain. The pain of losing a loved one, the pain of betrayal. The resignation that family members may need to be killed. The memory of just wanting to die, to see if I die or wake up elsewhere.
The pain of mother losing father to the worm in lava. Pain of my grandmother…. I try and keep my ancestors’ pain too, keep the secret of what I am safe even if I don’t know.
But new memories are flooding in. Being the last of several score of children alive. The pain of a wizard morphing the body. His memories! I flow through them, losing the battle to keep my secrets as he shares his. So many more years of pain, sorrow and oddly lacking bitterness. He lost his home at the monestary. Has seen far more planes than I and had been sold, gambled away and left for dead by various masters.
I feel pity for him. And respect. He is far older than I am, and we both lost our mates, were mal treated.
There’s a falling sensation, then peace of a sort. I awake on the ground, laying on something hard yet pliable. I’m on the ground. I’m sore but not broken, and a heavy arm cradles me. Sslith is under me, his body softened my landing. I lay there reflecting on what he had done. It was a sacred act in his culture I’m certain.
I lay there til he stirs, and soft words are spoken then I carefully get off of him then help his bulkiness to get up. He accepts me for what I am and doesn’t see it as strange.
I help him back to the others, shifting into human form. I’m very uncomfortable. Vulnerable feeling. He notes it and tells me there’s nothing to be uncomfortable with. I told him my mother would be enraged by what he did if he had done it to her. I’m allowed to feel as I do.
He needs his sleep. So I allow him to have it. I have no time for rest or sorting. I need to identify items, then feel the flow of magic. I won’t make first light with the ritual but I need to do it before more things come to kill or capture us.
How will we travel once we’re out of the forest?