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* Plot Information for Rihland

A Black Jewel has obliterated the longstanding Eyrien rulership of the Territory. As the Rihlanders begin to reclaim their homeland they do so under the stern gaze of their "savior". Three separate peoples struggle to both claim their own identities and become a unified nation, but old hatreds are difficult to shed.
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Author Topic: The silence so loud  (Read 720 times)

Description: Territory Keep, post-inferno // Tag: Andrei

Offline Adalwolfa Sauer

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The silence so loud
« on: Nov 08, 18, 12:32:20 PM »
Once again Ebon Varos felt like a tomb.

Adalwolfa remembered thinking as much when she'd first arrived to serve within those cold halls. As cavernous as it'd felt, with its stone walls seeming to echo every whisper three-fold, and with how rarely she used to encounter other people here, made it feel exactly like what a burial chamber ought to feel like, she'd thought. That is, if the Rihlanders had burial chambers that could span the side of a mountain. There were reasons they tended to burn their dead. The beloved of the All-Mother weren't meant to be frozen away for eternity, forgotten amidst the heartless stone of the mountain. They were meant to be consumed, with the same ferocity they used to consume the lives given to them. Kalvar Elbremov was only part of the reason Adalwolfa had been so unhappy about being called to serve the Territory Court, initially. This place, this dark and echoing fortress with its seemingly unending levels, had initially seemed like it was trying to reach into her soul and chill her in a way far more unsettling than the temperature.

Slowly, her view of the place had shifted. More courtiers had been summoned into service and more life had gradually begun to fill these wide halls. She had become familiar with the halls and levels, and the routine of her daily life here had folded in the faces and personalities of the rest of the court. She'd negotiated with the immovable realities of the place (she was always going to have to keep sweaters handy, and growing anything here was going to take a truly challenging amount of extra work), and had managed to foster a sense of ownership for her own quarters and those few other spaces that'd she'd commandeered. She'd bled and sweat for the little garden she kept near her quarters, and the large temple in the lower levels no longer made her skin crawl or threatened her with nightmares of Eyriens long dead. As ominous and daunting as her service here had seemed when she'd started, Ebon Varos had slowly begun to feel like a second home at last.

Yet now, it was quiet again. Once more, she felt the cold more than the warmth of the lives that'd lived here.

Nearly everyone who'd survived had pitched in with the cleaning. Craft could do a great deal, and indeed, most of the soot and remains and broken things had already been removed by group effort. Adalwolfa had performed rites for those souls lost in the attack, and they'd been returned to the All-Mother with proper gratitude and honor for their sacrifices. The floors had been swept, the walls were being washed, the destroyed furniture and decor was slowly being replaced. Still, it seemed like every time Adalwolfa picked up something, there were motes of ash and soot beneath it. Halfway through the day her hands were always at least partly blackened by incidental transfer of the soot she hadn't seen. Worse than that was the pain, though. Adalwolfa could still feel it here, the echo of the impressions left by a number of souls being painfully murdered together. Many of them had burned alive, she had gathered. It explained the torturous agony which had initially saturated these walls, their deaths seeming immortalized in a psychic imprint that seemed unwilling to fade.

Adalwolfa made her way back down towards the main altar. She'd finished the most recent of her passes through the most heavily affected areas, where she'd pushed cleansing spells through the stone. The impressions were subtle enough now that they wouldn't scream at people who walked through there, but it would take several more passes before the Priestess would be unable to sense them herself. As she walked, she considered asking others to come and help her, but there had always been a reluctance on her part to inflict such a potentially awkward request on the Priestesses she knew, who were divided in their feelings about their Eyrien ruler. Not for the first time, Adalwolfa mentally tabled that option. She'd take communion and feed herself some, then make another couple of passes before nightfall. Eventually, she assured herself, it would be enough.







Offline Andrei Elbremov

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Re: The silence so loud
« Reply #1 on: Nov 08, 18, 02:38:11 PM »
His footfalls, for once, were quiet as he glided through the halls of Ebon Varos. Usually, the click of his steps and the wafting scent of a cigarette announced his impending arrival, if one could not sense the dark Red power eddying around him. Today, Andrei had foregone these hallmarks, though he did still move with the same brooding, predatory grace that embodied him.

Ebon Varos had been scalded by the Dragon’s fire. And the Queen that controlled the Dragon had raised a monument in memorial. As a warning. Andrei had not thought the Eyriens so stupid and so bold to try something like this but, then again, they were Eyriens.

His eyes shifted to the corners, to the walls, to the shadows that still held whispers of what had occurred not days before. Of course, Andrei had heard of the slaughter and heard who was responsible. He had even gone to see the gruesome monument with his own eyes, standing there with a cigarette in his mouth, finding himself morbidly admiring the use of Craft and suppressing a shudder for the mind behind it. As his skin crawled at the ruthlessness imagined, his expression darkened.

His father’s mercy had done this.

The remaining servants of the Court -- those spared by the Dragon’s flame because they were not there, and then, of those remaining, the ones who had continued in their contracts -- had their hands full restoring the great stone palace. Andrei would not consider his visit today one of succor but he did not come empty-handed. His own employees were busy unpacking three carts full of foodstuffs from the farms while Andrei...meddled.

He did not want to talk to his father. Yet. Andrei was far too furious to approach his magnanimous and foolish father. Nor did he want to speak with his annoying little housekeeper, who would almost certainly chastise him for some imagined slight. So he glided towards the place he was almost certain to find someone he did want to speak with -- the altar of Ebon Varos.

Ah, there she was. By the looks of it, she had just settled down to begin whatever ritual she had in mind. With a flick of his wrist, Andrei called in a cigarette, lit it, and then let his footfalls be heard, announcing his presence. “So,” he purred as he stepped closer, letting the smoke waft like unholy incense, “who did my vaunted father piss off now?”

Offline Adalwolfa Sauer

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Re: The silence so loud
« Reply #2 on: Nov 12, 18, 09:59:50 AM »
The quiet and stillness of the main altar could be intimidating, to some. It had been constructed for true worship, and despite how the Eyriens and Rihlanders differed on their gods and dogma, Adalwolfa had never been able to deny that at least some among them had to have had some kind of reverence about them for holy things. There was no other way to describe the way this inner temple felt like both the very heart of the mountain, and the essence of the wild and open Deep as well. The rough-hewn walls here were not like the carefully smoothed halls elsewhere in the Keep, as though the one who carved this particular room out of the mountain had wanted to retain the untamed feel of the haphazardly shaped bones of the earth. A path towards daylight had been carved in the ceiling, one that she hadn't quite managed to trace entirely through the other parts of the Keep, higher up. From every vantage she could find, it seemed like that skylight ought to run into nothing but solid rock, but there was clearly daylight spilling through that channel as though the sun itself lived at its upper mouth. For about half of the day, that sunlight pooled near the front of the altar, and Adalwolfa often followed the sunlight as she worked throughout the day. It warmed her, when so few things in this fortress did. She was appreciating it just then, when Andrei so quietly made his way into the room.

Adalwolfa was on her knees before the altar, her palms turned up and seeming to glow from the spill of golden light overhead. She seemed to be contemplating her empty hands, but instead was meditating on the light while she prepared herself for communion. Andrei's footsteps registered belatedly, about the same time the odor of his cigarette reached her. She turned her head to see who approached, then faced forward again to mentally extend her regret towards the altar, as though it cared whether she finished her communion then or not.

She'd just stood up and was brushing off her hands when Andrei's question paused her movements. She studied the young Prince for a second in silence. He was further removed form the blood of Eyriens than his father was, but somehow Adalwolfa thought she saw more of it in Andrei. Maybe it was just the long, jet-black hair that so many of the Eyriens had worn. Or maybe it was the aggressiveness, or the way the darkness in Andrei didn't seem limited to his coloring.

"This was the work of the surviving Eyriens," she said, plainly. "Not Prince Elbremov."

His tone bothered her, but she supposed that was probably intentional. She had not had much experience with Andrei directly, but irreverence seemed to be his style.

"How can I help you, Prince Elbremov?"

And if she took some hidden, quiet delight in reminding him that he was his father's son, well, who could tell?




Offline Andrei Elbremov

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Re: The silence so loud
« Reply #3 on: Dec 12, 18, 11:15:48 AM »
He watched her scrutinizing him with that same bored expression he seemed to wear nearly all of the time, as though there was nothing in life that captured his attention. He had great respect for Priestesses, thanks to his mother who had taught him all about the religion of Rihland, but he had little respect for the proverbial dogs that licked his father’s Black boots. Which category Adalwolfa fell into in his mind was hard to tell.

“This was the work of the surviving Eyriens,” she informed. As expected. Cut off the head of a wolf and it could still bite. Even though his father had annihilated the Court of Eyriens overseeing their fair land, he had left a few…pups…to extract revenge. “How can I help you, Prince Elbremov?” she asked.

He took a final drag of his cigarette, toss it irreverently aside, and called in another one to light. As he extinguished the witchflame, he said, “You already have, High Priestess.” He gave her a cruel, cold smile, the kind a predator gave just before striking at its prey, but then, his entire mannerisms changed. He began strolling casually around the room, taking the occasional drag, as he began postulating aloud, “Surely, you saw this sort of thing coming. My father could only be so ruthless. He should have destroyed every last one of them.” A drag, another few gliding steps. “But he failed to.” Andrei waved his hand towards the empty space. “And now, once again, Ebon Varos became someone’s tomb.”

There came another pause before he continued. “I assume they left their calling card, whoever it was. It’s not like the Eyriens not to taunt my father into avenging his household. Their…honor…forbids them to act so cowardly.” He paused, held out a hand towards the wall like he was lining up a painting to be hung. “I’m surprised you didn’t find it written on the walls in blood.” He turned to regard Adalwolfa. “Or did you?” he purred.

Once she replied, he began his slow strolling again. “So, which one was it? I assume by the blackened walls that the one called The Dragon was here. His Queen as well? Who raised the monument of bone that has become the latest tourist attraction? An impressive piece of work, I’ll admit. It should grace a museum one day, don’t you think? Call it ‘Stele in Failure, Number Five.’”

He paused once again to give her a taunting, toothy smile. “What do you think, Priestess?” he asked. “Do I have it correct so far?”

Offline Adalwolfa Sauer

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Re: The silence so loud
« Reply #4 on: Dec 12, 18, 12:25:20 PM »
Andrei suggested that Adalwolfa might've seen an attack coming, and the hesitant patience with which she watched him was breached by an expression more stern. Her brow furrowed, and though she held her tongue in order to watch him begin to move around the room, she now watched him as though trying to diagnose some ailment she couldn't quite discern. He likened Ebon Varos to a tomb, and Adalwolfa couldn't really dispute that, at the moment. Still, Andrei's indictment of his father's failure to eradicate the Eyrien race entirely sat poorly with her. It would've been a lie to say she didn't wish he'd done so herself; she had no love for the winged monsters who'd terrorized so much of her life, and would not have been sorry had they been purged form the earth like the scourge that they were.

...but she also knew that those were thoughts and feelings spawned by pain and bitterness, and not by reason. They were feelings that she'd worked hard to mitigate within herself over the years. It wasn't right for a Priestess to be so unbalanced in her passions, so steeped in hatred towards any one thing that she could not look upon it fairly. She'd come a long way since her family had been torn apart, but not so long that Andrei's words didn't draw some warmth back into those old embers.

Yet there was something black in his tone that condemned her for those roused sympathies. She saw in him, suddenly, the bitter black knot of pain she might've become herself, had she not had the All Mother to guide her in her suffering. He moved through the room like some kind of celestial void, sucking the light and warmth out of the air wherever he moved. She could feel the lure of it, and she wondered if that was why he'd approached her. Was he looking for someone with whom he could commiserate? Something about him seemed to have a sharper edge than the search for companionship suggested. He was a knife's blade, cutting so quietly through flesh that one hardly felt the wound until they were left bleeding and confused after he'd gone. She saw it in the way he asked about the calling card left behind. She could imagine him taking some perverse sort of pleasure in hearing about the way the bodies had been piled on Kalvar's bed, topped with the same sign of war that'd been sculpted from the remains of Ebon Rih. That thought was nearly as provoking as the memory of the horror itself.

"What I found was the agonizing and terrified death of people I've worked beside since coming here. I would appreciate it greatly, Prince Elbremov if you would have a care to keep the admiration out of your tone when you speak of the massacre those animals committed." He paced more, and spoke of what'd been done to Ebon Rih and how it ought to be preserved, and the quickly-fraying strands by which Adalwolfa was restraining her temper began to give way. She'd been rubbing her arms slowly, trying to chase away the ever-present chill of the Keep, but now her hands gripped firmly at her own arms. She took two steps towards Andrei, though it did little to close the space between them.

"What is wrong with you?" she challenged, her voice dropping a notch, her expression both pained and accusing. "I cannot tell if you believe your words or if you are merely mocking the matter, but neither is an appropriate response. Have you no respect for those who gave their lives serving here? There is more kindness in your words for the Eyriens than for the ones they murdered!"




Offline Andrei Elbremov

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Re: The silence so loud
« Reply #5 on: Jan 07, 19, 11:48:15 AM »
Ah, he was getting under her skin…finally.

Andrei smiled wickedly at Adalwolfa approached him, her voice dropping a few notes, her hands clenched at her sides to keep from truly saying what she wanted to say to him. When she sought to chastise him for lacking in compassion, he listened to her without a care. Did she honestly think that he cared about the Eyriens? And that he had no respect for the departed? Oh, how delightful if she did.

Leaning forward slightly to prod her a bit more, he purred, “Seeing that my illustrious father is half Eyrien, you’ll have to excuse me for expressing a bit of…patriotism towards my kind.”

Abruptly, after saying that, he turned on his heel, putting space between them, and began ambling around the chamber, looking up at the rafters as though they were very interesting. “So, advise me, High Priestess,” he said mockingly. “If I am to eschew my heritage and support my infallible leader, what should my response to the situation then be? Hm?”

His hands slid into his pockets as he strolled lazily. “You and I both know that my father has done little to cull the threat of the Eyriens. Perhaps he, too, feels a sort of camaraderie with those…animals, being that he came from them as well. Can you honestly blame the owner of a beloved animal for being hesitant to put that same animal down?  Or, better yet, perhaps he feels remorse over killing those with wings, while still retaining his own as a perpetual reminder of his atrocities? Surely, you and I can agree that the Black Prince could do more to keep Rihland safe.”

Andrei paused. Regarded Adalwolfa over his shoulder with his long hair spilling with its raven black sheen down his back. “But he won’t. If he didn’t make a move to protect Rihland before the Eyriens took his beloved wife, what makes you think he will do so now? His vengeance has been sated but still, the many-headed hydra remains a threat. And yet…what does he do? Hold a false moot, preaching unity while still somehow spitting on the blood spilled to get us anywhere close to that illusion. You cannot believe that moot did anything important, can you?”

Offline Adalwolfa Sauer

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Re: The silence so loud
« Reply #6 on: Jan 07, 19, 03:59:59 PM »
Andrei's rebuttal concerning his patriotism was a slap in the face, and had he not turned on his heel so quickly after he would've been privy to the way the Priestess' face slacked as though it'd been a physical thing. He moseyed around the chamber as though there for a leisurely visit and no other reason, and his mocking tone made her hate every step he took, every word he uttered. How dare he come here right now and spread his hatred and bile? How dare he try and desecrate this holy space with his bitterness!

"Your heritage is that of a Rihlander Priestess and a father who turned away from war to seek peace," she challenged him, her teeth all but clenched in her aggravation. "So I would far rather you claim that than toy with some conjured allegiance to the monsters who savaged the people of this Keep. Your reaction should be compassion for those who lost people, including your father. Your reaction should be anger, righteous fury against the people who filled these halls with innocent blood. The fact that you need that told to you says much of you, Prince."

Andrei claimed that Kalvar had done little to address the threat of the Eyriens, and the Priestess' indignance broke long enough to allow her to look confused by that remark. Slowly, as Andrei continued to talk, her expression shifted to a muted horror, the sort of look one might wear while listening to him speak of dining on plump babies.

And yet he didn't stop. He kept talking, moving from his critique of his father as a Rihlander to a rejection of Kalvar's attempt at a moot. So much venom and bitterness! The thought that finally emerged in Adalwolfa's mind like a ray of sense amidst the rising anger and offense was that Andrei had a reason for being here. He'd never ventured into Ebon Varos' temple before, that she was aware of. Why now? What'd brought him to this place? Surely he hadn't been simply touring the halls, looking for the first live person he could find to aggravate beyond reason. Or had he? That thought infuriated her more than most of what he'd said. It was one thing to be angry and hurting and lash out as a reflex at people like Kalvar who were such easy targets. It was another thing entirely to desire to just spew darkness and hatred wherever one went, regardless of whom one encountered. She tried to think of any reason he'd have for addressing her this way, specifically, but could conjure none. Nothing about this interaction made any reasonable sense to her, unless she wrote him off as something unapologetically wicked.

"Why have you come here?" she asked him. After that long pause while he spoke, she'd regained some control of her temper. Her voice was still low, but it was calmer-sounding, if only superficially. She crossed the room to stand before him, reclaiming the space he'd put between them. "What is it you seek here? What help do you need, Prince? If you can gather your courage enough to ask, I will help you."




Offline Andrei Elbremov

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Re: The silence so loud
« Reply #7 on: Jan 10, 19, 01:47:31 PM »
She kindly reminded him of his more fondly felt Rihlander legacy but the last bit about his father soured it still. And soured further, bored with the castigation that he should feel compassion and righteous fury. Did she not know how weak compassion made others? Righteous fury, oh yes, he had felt that before and felt it every time his father spit on the traditions that his mother had died protecting. Even as he thought about the false moot, the forced banner of unity Kalvar was trying to erect, Andrei felt his temper slip, like lines in the sand of his mind drawn astray, marring the perfection.

“Why have you come here?” she boldly asked him. And then she crossed the room towards him, demanding to know what he sought and if he had the courage to ask of it.

Her veiled comparison that he was a coward unlocked the dam he kept so carefully contained.

Andrei whirled with the speed of a viper striking, his hand shooting out to grab Adalwolfa by the jaw. Not hard enough to break, just hard enough to restrain and bruise. The moment he realized his fingers were pressed hard enough to leave a mark, he relaxed them just enough, but didn’t restrain the rest of his fury. His mouth twisted in a snarl and his voice bordered on inhuman as he growled back, “There is nothing you can help me with, Priestess.” How dare she think of him as weak! How dare she rebuke him for pointing out the truth about the vaunted Kalvar Elbremov! How dare she act as though she had the resources, the wherewithal, the power to assist him!

Andrei was just inches from her face, still holding her in place, as he added, “You should abandon him, Priestess. If you know your histories -- his and mine so well -- then you should see where this leads. He seduces you to his cause and then he will abandon you to your fate. Do you think the Eyriens will treat you with the respect deserving of your station when they come for you? No. You are chattel to them. Chaff to be burned in the flames of a war my father will not finish because he is too cowardly. If you were wise, you would leave him and his doomed ideology.”

He didn’t think she would. She was too far involved, just like his mother had been. At least his mother had stood a chance in convincing his father to do anything because she had his love. This woman did not have that luxury. And if she thought that Kalvar Elbremov was going to protect her from the next Eyrien attack, she would find, while struggling for her last breath, that she had been very, very wrong.

Offline Adalwolfa Sauer

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Re: The silence so loud
« Reply #8 on: Jan 10, 19, 03:27:10 PM »
Adalwolfa flinched back in the face of the Prince's sudden movement, but it was nowhere near enough to escape the grasping hand she hadn't expected. She didn't have time to be terrified, as perhaps she ought to have been. One moment she was just angry and seeking, and it seemed like the next instant she was too close to him, staring into eyes that looked more familiar to her than she'd noticed before. The abject pain in them was familiar as well, in more ways than one. Yes, something whispered to her, he has come here for a reason. He growled at her like some kind of caged animal, and both of her hands touched down with cool fingers at his wrist. Not pulling, not yet. Just resting there, as though she had any hope of moving him by force. Her heart hammered in her chest, her mouth felt dry, but the stone-like weight of purpose kept her back straight and her gaze clear.

"Prince--" she started to say, but not quickly enough. He launched into a bitter diatribe about how she ought to leave. Not the Keep, not Rihland. Just him, the father this Prince so hated.

"You're wrong," she told him, her voice low but steady, her eyes fixed intently onto his. Her Craft reached for him almost without thought, the urge to investigate and absolve that pain in him nearly a compulsion of its own. It was a risk, certainly. Any second, she was sure, he'd shield himself and shove her away - in the best case scenario. Worst case was far more violent, but she refused to back down without trying. Spirit reached to spirit, and the bitterness and pain within him nearly stole her breath. She braced against it and pressed inward, though the echoes of that pain filled her eyes and threaten to spill over in diamond-like empathy.

"I can help you," she told him, clarifying that her assertion meant to counter his first comment, rather than his rant about his father. Though Kalvar was topically the source of Andrei's woes, that burning hatred sprang from something far more subtle, something far deeper within. In her eyes, that he hated his father mattered nothing when compared to what he'd allowed that hate to do to his soul. "You are strong enough," she whispered, desperate but measured, as her Craft tugged on him, pulled at the deep places in him where soul touched flesh. If the miraculous occurred and he didn't resist her, she'd pull him down into the Deep right where he stood.

"Let me show you," she begged him softly, her eyes never once leaving his, no matter how intimately her Craft moved within him. "Let me help you, Prince."

When Andrei failed to shove the Priestess away, Adalwolfa sank into her own well of power and closed her eyes. Her head bowed forward as much as Andrei's grip would allow, and between the two of them, the cavernous room in Ebon Varos faded away. There was the sense of the ground falling away beneath them, as though the room they were in suddenly expanded in all directions until it was too broad and tall and deep to sense. Slowly, Andrei would become aware of a dark copse of trees taking shape around him, emerging from the void as though his eyes were only slowly adjusting to be able to see here. This place was old, wherever it was, and it thrummed with a quiet, deep power. Adalwolfa was no longer visible, though there was no one moment in which she had faded from view. And she wasn't entirely gone; Andrei could still sense her holding onto him, escorting him in this strange place. In the distance, the sound of the drums from a moot could be heard, along with hints of a gathering. Before him, however, the dark clouds parted to reveal a harvest moon, low and heavy in the sky. Beneath its golden light, the tops of the trees took shape and the lines of the grass and a nearby creek revealed themselves. None of that was so gripping as the massive tree he could see behind him, though, when something made him turn around. It was taller than any mountain, with a trunk that wound and twisted in a great, rotund spiral. Branches and offshoots dotted it everywhere, from a few dozen feet off of the ground (which Andrei couldn't see because of the group of smaller trees between himself and the base) all the way up to the higher reaches. These branches grew thicker and larger the higher up they were, until they formed a canopy overhead that disappeared into the night sky.

It called to Andrei, this tree. It summoned him forward, into the dark grove between itself and the Prince.

Come and see, it whispered, from a place somewhere inside his very soul. Come and see.

Andrei was free to reject the lure of that tree, and the dangerous-looking woods through which he'd have to traverse to reach it. Should he yield to it, though, it wouldn't take long for the trees to crowd thick enough around him to shut out every scrap of moonlight, every trace of direction. To continue forward, he'd be forced to feel his way by touch, a humble and terrifying path in such darkness.

Your anger can guide you, that voice assured him, and it felt like a natural thing to lift his hand, to touch that wellspring of hatred within himself, and to watch as his arm from the elbow down burst into brilliant flame. It hurt; this was no witchlight but fire, but it was a pain to which he felt well-accustomed by now. What's more, it provided all the illumination he needed to move forward without having to feel his way. He was free to lunge forward, towards the Great Tree which summoned him.

It can guide you, but it can also lead you astray.

The woods around him grew thicker the further he went, until bramble clawed at him and small branches lashed him as he passed. He could swat at them, try to clear a path for himself, but the fire spread from his hand to the leaves and branches around him.

You use it as your armor. You use it as a weapon. It can serve as these things, but there is a cost.

Andrei's Craft would fail him, if he reached for it. He was limited to his burning hand and the grove which seemed to be closing in around him, slowly erupting into a ring of towering flame as the fire from his hand leapt from tree to tree. When it felt the most hopeless, when perhaps he began to wonder if he'd die there in the midst of the earth and flame, that voice roused him once more. It was familiar, and yet not. He knew it, yet he couldn't quite place it. It was rather like hearing a recording of one's own voice for the first time, unexpected and a little strange.

Hear me, the voice whispered, and something in those dulcet tones promised freedom from his fiery prison. Hear me, it softly begged, all but reaching out to physically pull him forward. Find me not with your eyes and feet, but with your heart. Perhaps his bitterness would threaten him then, perhaps it would make him want to sneer in disdain or reject the moment. That voice reached out and something moved through him, squeezing his very soul until he could not deny that - yes - he did still have a heart, have feelings, have sympathies and dreams outside of the hate which consumed so much of him. If Andrei was willing, he would be able to sense a slender, silver tether leading out from the core of him. Nothing he'd ever seen before, and yet it felt old. Eternal, perhaps. Nothing more than spidersilk, and yet strong enough that he could not sunder it if he pulled on it. It flowed out in front of him, showing him a path through the tangle of trees that he'd been unable to see before.




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Re: The silence so loud
« Reply #9 on: Jan 14, 19, 02:01:19 PM »
He didn’t expect her to do something so daring. He expected her to cower, to falter. Perhaps to even strike him or beg that he release her. “You’re wrong,” she told him. Why did they always think they were in the right and he was the only one errant? Were their memories so short? Were they so quick to forget history? “I can help you,” she said. And it was only after that offer that he felt the first tug of her Priestess Craft pulling at him.

He didn’t expect her to do something so daring, or to even be successful in doing so. She was a Rose Priestess. His Opal alone could rip her apart and yet she was boldly offering to help him, as though she actually could.

He didn’t expect her. And thus, his hubris became his undoing.

Ebon Varos fell away as though the world itself had upended them and spewed them high into a sky of nothingness. Before Andrei could right himself and find his Red to Shield, there was ground beneath his feet once more. Ground, and then a grove of trees, and an immense night sky above him.

Adalwolfa was gone from his sight but he could still feel her – and something far, far more ancient – here.

What he first thought was a heartbeat – perhaps his own terrified one in his ears – turned out to be drums keeping the rhythm of the earth. Voices raised in song. A gathering, just beyond that hill to his left. But he had no desire to see what ritual was taking place, to hear those tales brought to life by skalds of old.

No, what drew his attention, what summoned him was a massive, twisted, vibrant tree, spiraling and stretching towards those unnumbered stars and the darkness that held them.

Come and see, it whispered. And Andrei, astounded at the magnitude of it, came.

As he approached, through some unseen magic, the trees thickened to surround him, ringing him in with the great tree at the center. Darkness, absolute and unkind, fell, yet as Andrei reached out to feel his way along the trunks, he did not feel frightened. He knew this path, even though he had never tread it. Had he heard stories of it? Why was it familiar?

Your anger can guide you, the tree whispered through the rustling of leaves. A sudden burst of flame nearly blinded him, bursting into life from his own hand. He held it up, watching the flames lick between his fingers and wrap around his wrist like a snake. His anger, burning him alive yet not consuming him.

Not yet.

It can guide you but it can also lead you astray, the tree whispered. Using his anger as a torch, Andrei strode forward, baring his teeth at brambles that sought to hinder him from progressing until his anger got the best of him and swung the burning brand at the brush instead. What gave him momentary satisfaction – seeing those brambles fall away to broken ash, watching leaves curl and wither – turned into something horrific. The fire, so tiny when it sprang from his hand, began to burn uncontrollably. No Craft could contain it. The trees that had guided him deeper into the grove became living pillars of flame. The smoke thickened, choked at him.

Hear me.

“I hear you,” Andrei growled through another cough. “What do you want of me?!”

Find me.

“Where?!”

With your heart.

He coughed, feeling his chest constrict as it strove for breath. And then, there came another sensation – light and silvery, the caress of silk, a thin strand of spider’s webbing. From that same burning heart. A tether, glittering in the starlight and flame. Leading him beyond the burning circle he had made around himself. All he had to do was grab it and follow.

Andrei’s hand wrapped around the gossamer filament. And pulled.

Abruptly, Ebon Varos came back, a shock of stone like cold water on his face. Andrei gasped. Lost his grip on Adalwolfa’s jaw. Stumbled back a few steps, coughing and gasping.

He could smell smoke on his clothes. And it wasn’t his cigarette smoke.

“What…what did you…” he snarled through his gasps. “What did you do?!”

Offline Adalwolfa Sauer

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Re: The silence so loud
« Reply #10 on: Jan 14, 19, 03:47:54 PM »
Adalwolfa was missing from Andrei's vision because she wasn't inside his head. She was nestled against him in a spiritual sense, holding a hand that wasn't corporeal, but she wasn't reading his thoughts. From her perspective, there was no forest, no gathering, no fire, no Great Tree luring him through the bramble-infested darkness. She only saw the effects of it on his soul, filtered through her interpretation of the Deep place in which Communion took place. She was aware, even while descending with him, that what she was doing was dangerous. He had not prepared. Though it seemed unlikely to her for someone who considered themselves a Rihlander, it was possible Andrei had never even experienced Communion outside of his Jewel ceremonies. The strength of their Jewels was far too unbalanced, the unfamiliarity between them far too vast. Being impolite was the least of her concerns but it was very much that, too, even if one entirely discounted the danger in which she'd placed them both.

Her only defense was the feeling in her gut that it was what he needed.

When Andrei yielded and accepted the descent, triumph sang through her. Perhaps even hubris, because he knew he would find the answers he had never dared ask for before. She sensed him turning, felt him drink up her Craft and accept the healing work she began, felt him begin moving towards that source of all things eternal and powerful. He would be unburdened here, would connect to the All-Mother in a way he hadn't known he was missing, and his life would be changed.

And then, suddenly, everything changed. Andrei's will shifted and sent him rocketing back towards the shallows, and Adalwolfa had not the strength to stop him. She could not escort him, could not even hold onto him, lest his sudden velocity tear her Jewels apart. She was outmatched by him to an exponential degree, her own Jewels just pale, faint shadows of the thrumming vibrancy of his Opal and Red. His violent wake sent her spinning like a top, and for a few terrifying seconds the Priestess was lost, uncertain of direction and distance. She had Craft and training to right herself, and fought through the disorientation and rising panic to find her bearings and push herself to leave the depths behind. It felt vulgar, expending so much of her strength so quickly, but the alternative was to allow herself to spiral on indefinitely, until she broke apart or lost herself entirely. For a dizzying moment, Adalwolfa was certain she wasn't strong enough. She felt the emptiness of a depleted Rose and the fast approach of the limits of her White.

You're not going to make it, she thought. You've broken yourself on your own ego, you fool. She felt herself stretching, felt the queer hollowness of reaching the depths of her reservoir, a barren bowl which echoed back her folly with resounding clarity. This is where it ends. This is where life changes, something told her, and she braced for the fracturing trauma she knew was coming.

Her Craft gave out just as she hit the surface again, and the sensory input of her body once more showed her the altar room. It showed her the floor, specifically, as it rose up rapidly to meet her. Andrei's angry snarls existed somewhere in the vagueness of her peripheral senses, barely registering at all. More important to her were the sudden realizations that she was on the floor, that she was dizzy, that she was utterly and dangerously depleted... and that she was whole, still.

She nearly sobbed in relief, and she collapsed down from her posted arms to rest her head against the cool floor, trembling while the residual fear subsided.

Andrei was on his own for a moment, while the High Priestess of Rihland silently prayed her thanks to the All-Mother for not taking her Jewels as payment for her recklessness.




Offline Andrei Elbremov

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Re: The silence so loud
« Reply #11 on: Jan 14, 19, 04:26:50 PM »
“What did you do?!” he demanded to know, his snarl loud and clear now that his breath was returning to him more certainly. How had she transported him elsewhere like that? How had she brought him back? How had she done this thing she had just done to him?!

She did not answer.

Adalwolfa had sunk to the floor, a mirror opposite of Andrei rising from it. Her arms braced her shaking body, her head hung low while his head was rising, free of the chains of earth and exhaustion. She did not answer him, she did not look at him, she did not notice him. In his desperation to know the answer, it infuriated him. He gathered another sharp demand for her to speak but it died on his lips, failing to blossom like a flower in the snow.

Her arms gave out and she collapsed into a heap on the cold, stone floor.

For one terrifying moment, Andrei thought he had somehow killed the High Priestess of Rihland.

He took one stalking, unstable step towards her. “Priestess?” he called. She did not answer. His dark eyes stared at her spine, commanding it to bend in breath. For too many frantic heartbeats, it didn’t. “Adalwolfa?!” he called, his normally purring and calm voice now desperate for some response. Another stalking step. Fingers trembling as he reached out to her.

Her back rose and fell in one long, exhausted breath.

His heart simultaneously leapt with relief and sank with dread. She had done something impossible. Reckless. That was the only reason why she was unresponsive on the floor. His fingers touched her smooth shoulder and rolled her to her side where he could see her face. He expected to see blood. He expected to feel a stumbling heartbeat. He expected to see the shards of Rose, shattered and broken. He expected to see her White depleted and barely hanging on. He expected to find these things and then have to explain what he had done to her to his father. He imagined the conversation, the fight. A final clash of power. The expulsion from the Territory. The stain on his soul for harming a Priestess. He would be in exile, both physically and spiritually, for eternity.

Her Rose as intact but dangerously drained. As was the rest of her.

Andrei let out a sound akin to a strangled sob. Drained but not shattered. Unconscious but alive.

“What did you do?” he whispered as he knelt to gather her limp body against his own. He no longer needed to know what she had done to him – he was asking what she had done to herself so recklessly trying to help him.

Opal Shields barred the door, harboring them. If anyone walked into the room then, Andrei would have taken out his self-loathing upon that poor soul without remorse. “What did you do?” he whispered, his normally purring and calm voice now nearing a sob. Sorrow for the beauty she had shown him, the taste of eternity he was now separated from. Sorrow for what it had cost her to do so. Sorrow for himself for needing to be saved. He knew nothing of healing wounds physical or mental. Only inflicting them. He could feed the body with food from his farms but not the soul. And for all of the power that Red gave him, his hubris had nearly cost another -- one far more precious and vital to the resurrection of Rihland -- her Jewels and he could not restore her.

So, he held her, as one, then two, then three tears streamed down his face. Mourning his devastation, cursing his uselessness. And praying to the All Mother that he had not caused something irreparable.

Offline Adalwolfa Sauer

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Re: The silence so loud
« Reply #12 on: Jan 14, 19, 05:02:14 PM »
Fortunately, it wasn't healing the Priestess needed. Just rest. Despite how close she'd come to injuring herself beyond the capacity for repair, she had not done so. She'd frightened and depleted herself, but given a little time in the nurturing void of unconsciousness her Jewels would begin to slowly replenish themselves. She wasn't under for terribly long before the arms around her woke her, and she opened her eyes to find Andrei looming over her. Immediately she was aware of the emptiness where her power should be, but nothing would heal that save time and perhaps another - solitary - dip into the well of Communion. For the moment she felt stable, which allowed her to understand that the face watching over her was damp with tears.

Tears.

An hour ago she wouldn't have bet money on him possessing the ability to shed them at all, yet there was no mistaking the pattern of shining streaks over his cheeks. Did he think she'd died in front of him? Worse, we he suffering somehow? Concern stabbed at her, helping to quicken her return to full consciousness. Regret, guilt, frustration. She'd passed out in the wake of an experience that may well have been traumatic for him. What if he'd spiraled himself? Even now she'd be unable to help him, spent as she was.

"Prince?" she murmured, attempting to sit up. The longer she was awake the less comfortable she felt. Her head hurt. She was suddenly and horrifically hungry. The chill of the keep seemed sharper and crueler than normal, raising shivers along her arms. She dared not use Craft to try and sense how he was, but it was a near thing. "Are you alright?" she asked, with the hurried cadence of someone concerned.





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Re: The silence so loud
« Reply #13 on: Jan 24, 19, 11:26:19 AM »
It felt like years that he sat there, holding her, but it could hardly be more than ten minutes. In those long minutes, he continued to wonder what had happened, continued to work through the dozen possible outcomes of this, until he had reached a point where he had almost  convinced himself that this was not his fault.

Almost.

“Prince?”

Her voice was raspy, quiet. Spent. She stirred in his protective embrace and he moved gracefully to allow her, watching her with concern and wariness while keeping near to steady her. The hardness of his eyes was betrayed by the red rims left from tears. His usual defensive and asinine nature was hinted there but it was still fragile and not yet completely restored. “Are you alright?” she asked, surprising him.

“A question I should be asking you, don’t you think?” he countered in a low voice, the tones of mockery there but diminished by concern. “What you did…whatever you did…was…reckless.” If she thought it to be a chastisement, it was a weak one. Noting her shivering, with a sharp snap of his fingers, he wrapped a light warming spell around her like a comforting blanket. “Your Jewels are drained, near the point of shattering, Priestess,” he informed her. “I suggest that you do not tax them further. Let me tend instead.” It was the kindest thing he had ever done and a side of him that he absolutely would not have shown in another circumstance.

Adalwolfa would see that deep beneath the angry defense mechanisms, there was a man of great feeling and concern – for his people, for his land – but current situations, some of them his own making, would not allow him to be that vulnerable…or strong, depending on how she saw it. Andrei was an asshole because it was the easiest way to use his anger, which protected him from further harm. A harm that had begun with the death of his mother.

His mind recalled the grove of trees. The great tree at its center. The fire called from his hand. The blaze he set. The smell of smoke clinging to him. The voice that called him. The lingering need to find that voice. How she had accomplished such a sharp, permeating vision still unnerved him.

With his eyes dark, obsidian pools deep and sharp, he leaned in just a little closer and whispered, “What did you do, Priestess?”

Offline Adalwolfa Sauer

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Re: The silence so loud
« Reply #14 on: Jan 24, 19, 12:18:05 PM »
This was going to hurt, she realized. Not the recovery from her reckless expenditure of power, though she'd pay for that too, she was sure. More than that, though, she began to try and brace herself against the re-armoring of the man before her. She could already see it, the bitterness creeping back into the edges of him, if it'd ever truly left at all.

Don't think like that, she tried to tell herself. He tried to reach out. You saw it. Had he stayed he would've found Her. It will happen when it's meant to. This was a step. This was worth its consequences.

And yet the traces of mockery she could still hear behind the concern that dominated his question for the moment was an ominous reminder that men were not reborn in an instant. His wounds would heal in time, if the Mother willed it, but until then he was still the man who'd walked into this sacred place and mocked it. It was going to hurt, to be cut by those sharp edges of his while she was still so weary, but she'd deal with it, she assured herself. And they weren't quite back yet, anyway. Maybe it would take longer than she feared.

He called her reckless, and her gaze wandered while she thought back over what'd happened. She remembered the surprise and the feral joy that'd swam through her at the realization that he wasn't resisting her, that he was going to let her lead him into the depths without a fight. It'd been impulsive. Unorthodox. Dangerous, certainly. But reckless? Had it been? Or had it simply been justified faith?

Her thoughts were interrupted by Andrei's assessment of her Jewels. He asked to tend to her, and the moment was so strangely unique that it seemed otherworldly. She wasn't one to often let others fuss over her; she rarely needed it, in her mind. Yet it was such an honest and gentle offering from him that she dared not refuse it, not even for her pride. She knew at once when he'd spelled the air around them to warm, not because she could sense his Craft but because she was never truly and fully warm inside Ebon Varos except when someone's Craft covered her that way.

"Thank you." Her voice was quiet, still, as though she feared disturbing the delicate and fleeting balance of elements that kept this moment peaceful. "Dangerous, yes," she admitted, after another beat of thought. Her mind was full, and her brow was creased gently from the weight of the headache that was waking. "But... necessary, I think..." she said, her tone slowed and evidencing the way she was still building her opinions of what had happened. Would Andrei have ever come and supplicated himself on his own? It was possible, but it was also possible that the press Adalwolfa had felt to do what she'd done had come because it never would've happened, otherwise. Hard to say. Was it her own will or the Mother's that had pressed her to act? She'd have to pray over it, though for the moment it felt right to lean on faith rather than ego.

What did you do? he asked, and Adalwolfa lifted her eyes to find his again, mild surprise trespassing into her thoughtful gaze in response.

"I did very little," she told him, as she moved to sit upright. She wouldn't go far, would remain there sitting on the floor to speak with him. "It was an unorthodox induction into communion," she admitted, her expression shifting to allow an acknowledgement of that understatement. "But that's all it was. I helped you to the door," she told him, focusing on him once more. "You walked through on your own." She paused, studied him, recalled the way he'd moved in the Deep.

"You started to open yourself, to commune with the All-Mother." Her eyes narrowed thoughtfully as she dug through her recollection, looking for any details she might've missed. She'd not been privy to his vision, but she'd seen his progress towards proper communion, towards healing. "But you stopped. Something... I'm not sure what happened. What did you see?"




Offline Andrei Elbremov

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Re: The silence so loud
« Reply #15 on: Feb 11, 19, 08:08:40 PM »
She looked away briefly at his toothless rebuke, most likely contemplating the risks versus the perceived rewards, but agreed with his assessment. Eventually. Mostly. She still justified it and only the defenses reassembling in his dark eyes spoke his judgment. “I did very little,” she told him, with almost earned her a grunt of disagreement. He held it back. As she sat up, she added, “I helped you to the door.” He did not deny that. Her eyes locked on to his, searching. “You walked through on your own.”

That was not his perception of the events.

It felt like she had pushed him, even though he was certain she had not. He would not admit, however, that he had stepped through that gate entirely willingly. As he listened to her recount what she had experienced on her side (a pale shade of his own vision), he wondered even more just what sort of Craft she had wrought upon him. And if he could one day command it.

There was a long span of evaluating heartbeats before Andrei answered her question about what he had seen. The fortress of bitterness and anger he usually hid behind was mostly reconstructed but the breaches to its defenses still showed in the sunlit shadows of his eyes. “You did not see it?” he asked her quietly. When she shook her head, another parapet of that fortress settled into place.

And yet, the gate to it remained open. He let another span of heartbeats slide easily by, unhurried, before it was his turn to look away, towards the hewn altar. Stone and chisel. Masonry and mortar. So unlike what he had seen. “A forest,” he said at first. And then, when another span of heartbeats passed without his voice, he turned his smoldering attention back towards her.

The hand that had so angrily gripped her jaw just minutes before touched her cheek and the flame-kissed brush of his mind asking to show her that memory of what he had seen could be felt along the tired psychic threads between them. If she took the invitation, he would show her the best reconstruction he could make of those jarring moments. Those burning images. That calling  he had felt so deeply. If she did not let him show her, well…

He would probably mutter something mildly scathing and the gate into his vulnerabilities would slam shut, locking her out once again.

Offline Adalwolfa Sauer

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Re: The silence so loud
« Reply #16 on: Feb 12, 19, 11:19:47 AM »
Adalwolfa shook her head, seeming quietly surprised by the question about whether she saw what he'd seen or not.

"We would have to have been sharing thoughts, I think, for me to have shared in what you experienced that way," she told him, lifting a hand to rub at her brow. She was tired, and each second that ticked by seemed to aggravate the growing ache in her head. It left her silent and still while Andrei contemplated how much to share. He mentioned a forest, and Adalwolfa let her hand fall away and looked up at him, watched him watching the altar until he turned his head and found her with that brooding stare of his. He touched her face and her eyes closed, her heart lurching in trepidation as she felt his Craft extend towards her. It took concentration on her part to still the usual urges that were nearly reflexive in such an instance. She intentionally refrained from shielding the thread he offered. Refrained from reaching out through that connection to join his mind. She left herself open, tried to hold herself relaxed and passive while he shared his vision. The soundness of her Jewels depended on her not summoning her own Craft, she felt, which lent a persisting air of nervousness to her despite how safe she might be in a physical sense.

Andrei fed her the sights and sounds and feelings from his vision, and Adalwolfa witnessed it all with the solemn reverence of a woman of devotion. Her heart felt as though it swelled in her chest, a tender ache that brought traces of joy and fulfillment to her. Andrei's frustration, his defiance, his pain... and his willingness to move towards the source of that deepest of summons filled her, and she quietly exulted in that openness she would not have guessed was hiding within him.

She was so invested in what she was experiencing that when Andrei pulled sharply and suddenly on the tether he found, Adalwolfa gasped and opened her eyes. A hand fluttered to her solar plexus, where she'd "felt" the tether sink into her in Andrei's retelling. She was quiet in the aftermath for a moment, processing all that she'd seen. A pang of jealousy surfaced somewhere hidden at how clearly the All-Mother was calling him, tending to him. She told herself it was not her place, that she had nothing to be jealous of, and that even if she did it was only because Andrei needed more direction than she did. It was a childish response, but it was only a quiet thing, just one of a myriad of thoughts riddling her mind.

"You... you must go back," she said, finally, recalling her focus and pinning it to the Prince at her side. She studied him with a thoughtful frown, not understanding how she'd underestimated the complexities of him before now. "She can help you, Prince," she promised, her voice soft and encouraging. "You carry such weight on your soul. Such heaviness, and pain." She took his hand into her own, wary of forcing too much emotional intimacy on him but needing that contact herself, at the moment. "She has something to offer you, it is clear, yet only She knows what that will be." She tried to read his expression, tried to draw clues about his thoughts from the set of his dark features.

"How do you feel about what you experienced?" she prompted, hopeful but quietly so.






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Re: The silence so loud
« Reply #17 on: Feb 28, 19, 02:07:47 PM »
He guided her through the vision as best as his perplexed mind could reassemble it from the incomplete way memory worked. Sometimes he would forget a sound or a smell, but then the next step would be a bombardment of senses. Deeper into the vision they walked, until, as the smoke began to choke both him and her, there came an abrupt jolt as the tether to reality was pulled and they returned to the present.

Andrei watched her process what she had seen with a dark vigilance, a critical glint to his eye, ready to snap the final barriers back into place should she judge him too harshly.

Eventually, when she said that he must go back, he said nothing, letting her stumble through her thoughts even more as she noted the weight upon his soul, the sins piled up on his heart, and how she, the All Mother, had something to show him.

“Go back where?” he asked. His voice was a soft croon, a tone that would have been terrifying to some if he had been angry. While it was still edged with derision, it was softened more with a sense of confusion. Lost. Lacking direction. “And how, Priestess?” he added. “The method that took me there in the first place is hardly a suitable route to use a second time.” As he said that, he reached forward to touch the drained Rose Jewel around her neck. His fingers lingered there, his eyes darkened. He was remembering that terrible moment when he thought he had killed her with this...hubris.

His fingers retracted. “As to how I feel,” he said, diverting his attention to the altar, “it is...perplexing.”

He then realized that he did not want  to tell her how he felt. That was too...vulnerable, even for what they had just experienced together.

The final gate swung shut on his emotions. When he looked at her again, there was no softness in his eyes. “It is something I will consider,” he said, as though discussing a bargain or business proposition, and not the redemption of his soul.

Slowly, he rose, offering his hands to her. “You should rest,” he said. The finality in his voice indicated that the conversation was over...for the moment. Perhaps, it would come up again, later, when the fear wore off and the hunger for more returned. When he was ready to humble himself again. But Andrei had no doubt that he would be having this conversation again with her. Eventually.

 

 

anything