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Author Topic: From Salted Earth, A Rose  (Read 400 times)

Description: TW: Contains Violence, Gore, Murder, Compulsion, and Death - AKA Murderfest

Offline Adavera ibna Sadagh

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From Salted Earth, A Rose
« on: Aug 27, 18, 10:11:25 PM »
Mother… Barin says that they are going to do Salma’s birthright today. But… she’s too young. Mother, are you listening?

Why did she care if a Sabbah child was going to get a birthright… at six… wait, that was too soon. A spark of worry touched her features, her eyes turning towards Taisha as the girl’s voice echoed in her ears, in the air between them, like she was a large bell and Taisha had started to ring the clapper. The beautiful girl’s eyes were staring at her, studying her. There was something… strange about that stare. But she supposed that must be the developing caste.

They had noticed it a week ago. The scent that Taisha had been sprouting - that of a Spider, a Black Widow - one of the castes she wasn’t all that fond of. Still this was Taisha and she loved her daughter. Her thoughts focused on that, how much she loved her daughter, and on how she needed to get her caste training. She’d much rather think about her own family than some waste of space Sabbah business...

She loved her daughter, and if she loved a Geiba orphan despite what had been done to her, then how was Matin going through with…

Prince Matin wouldn’t know…  he would never allow it.  A splash of reason in a mind that was fighting to remain clouded. It was shocking, the clarity of that thought, like a Worm appearing without a dust trail.

She was certain of one fact. Matin would never, ever, allow any risk to Salma or her future. So he couldn’t know about this ceremony. But… but if he didn’t know, then that meant that the women guarding Salma were going to try to keep her; to themselves. Likely because they wanted her to be a puppet of the True Sabbah, and why was she worrying about this because really it wasn’t her business…?

“Darling..”
“Mother… They aren’t letting Barin go.”  That wasn’t right. A Queen’s Bonded should be there for her… to not do that was a violation… a violation...

Fingers on her Jewel… Fingers and Claws and a voice that wouldn’t get out of her head… “If you do everything I tell you, no harm will come to you, Adavera….”   Flashes of a face she knew… A Black Widow that was trying to tell Salma that Elenor was a false Queen…

The sudden… awareness… That something was wrong… It plagued her. She held up a hand to Taisha, silencing her daughter’s concern as her brow furrowed and eyes closed. She sought, digging at the nebulous thread in her mind that was trying to escape. Something that sought to be unseen, to be… Uncaught. But she caught it. She wound it about her fingers, forcing it to come to her Call.

Color bloomed before her eyes, and Shira al-Sabbah’s voice hissed in her ear. The spider had … she had…

Nausea bloomed in her gut, her legs straightening beneath her as she rose in her chair. Ice rolled through her veins, but she held tight. No… it wouldn’t be possible. No one was that stupid, no one that suicidal that they would risk laying a Compulsion on another Clan’s Voice..

Were they? Abulurd al-Bali had lain a curse on Adramalech.. why not this?

Her mind raced, recalling the many times she’d ignored letters. The way her leg had caused so much pain whenever she attempted to Ride any of the horses… The many times she’d turned away messages from the Mineborn and Elenor.… The many times she’d tried to find excuses to keep Taisha from going to see her cousins…

That bitch had tried to keep her from allowing Taisha to see her cousins, from seeing Salma!  Taisha loved Salma. Taisha needed Salma, and Salma needed… Taisha. Salma was in danger and something must be done. But she could not get her legs to move.

She needed to go, she needed to warn Matin… But she could not find her feet. They were there. She could feel them as if they were nailed to the floor - but they would not move. She could feel the push of her own JEWEL[/i] to not speak, to not tell Taisha about what she remembered…

The compulsion was in her Jewel!  The shock of that realization was even worse than the knowledge a compulsion had been ruling her life! The reality that her soul had been violated, the sanctity of her Jewel erased, and the last refuge of her autonomy that she could call her own was shattered… It became real, that truth.

She could not deny that her own Jewel was actively working to change her mind. Even now, she could feel it.

But Shira al-Sabbah had made a mistake. When they inquire as to why, give a convincing and plausible reason.  There was no convincing and plausible reason to stop working with the Sabbah and Mineborn contacts she’d made. She’d been working for peace, and trade. She’d been trying to prevent… a nightmare.

And now she was living it. Maybe she would not be able to fight this off for herself.  Yet for Taisha and little Salma?  For them… She would find a way. It was another mistake the Spider had made because the Spider did not know Adavera al-Jinan, or her habit of taking a problem apart, and of looking at it from every angle.

Shira had laid a compulsion on her Jewel… If she Broke her Jewel, she could outmaneuver this Compulsion. She was certain of it. But what could be done without her Jewel?  She would have no power to save Salma. No.  She couldn’t do that. But neither could she move to do so without ridding herself of the compulsion plaguing her … mind…

“Taisha… Go to Torin.”  She pointed at the door, ice spreading beneath her left palm as she set it to the desk. For once… For the first time, her daughter obeyed without question. Good. She wasn’t sure she would be able to attempt this again if Taisha distracted her.

She could not break a Red Compulsion on her Jewel… it was likely impossible. But maybe… Maybe she didn’t have to. The compulsion would have to effect her mind, and if… If she shattered her Chalice, then perhaps… perhaps the Compulsion would end. The webs woven would have nothing to sink their hooks into, nothing they could reason with or command, perhaps they would fall away...

“I am Adavera al-Jinan, Voice of my People. I stand for Honor, and I will not allow the evils of the past to shadow our future.”  She whispered it, remembering that oath. Speaking that oath, as she had a few short years before. As she did whenever she had nightmares of the Mines returning to plague her.

“I must save Salma.”  That little girl was precious, sweet… innocent.
“I must kill Zhaleh al-Sabbah.”  That Priestess led the True Sabbah… And if she led them, then she had arranged this violation of Vera’s mind. Her Jewel. She had attacked the Voice of the Jinan, more than enough cause for a war, but really she had taken the only thing Vera had kept in the mines. Her own thoughts.
“I must kill Shira al-Sabbah.”  She whispered it, feeling those three statements settle into her throat. Three commands. Three goals. Just like when she was little… when her father said to never have more than three goals for any horse she meant to tame.

“Salma… Zhaleh… Shira..”  She whispered those names, sought to fix them in her mind. Save Salma. Kill Zhaleh… Kill Shira.

She reached up to her Tiger Eye, curling her left fingers around it as her eyes opened to look at the wall. Not in here. This wouldn’t do. She kept her fingers around the Jewel she’d earned, the Jewel her father had been proud of, the Jewel defiled by a Red Widow's touch, the Jewel violated by the True Sabbah; and she plucked at one of the canes on the wall, a cane she never went anywhere without. But this time the bottom of that cane fell away. She pulled free the blade that Torin had once had made for her, feeling the familiar handle warm in her hand. She left her Office, and then stepped outside. She could feel them now… The strands straining to try to pull her mind back into place, to make her obey the compulsion the Spider had woven.

Would the Widow feel her Compulsion Spell struggling?  It didn’t matter. She’d make sure it wouldn’t matter. She felt the fading sun on her face. With the Birthright starting at dusk, there wouldn’t be much time. She only had until dawn, and that would be if little Salma took a long while for her Jewel to come to her hand. She had to do this now. Her eyes opened, looking one last time at the beautiful Desert sky, and she lowered her head to focus on the horizon. There, in that direction, lay the True Sabbah.

What if I fall, papa?
Then you do better on the next try. No failure is forever so long as you’ve the will to keep moving.


Her father was right. He always had been. He’d taught her that Blood, Landen, Jewel… It didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was will. She held that close, pulling upon everything she was. She hardened it, formed that will into a solid ball that would see Salma saved. There was no other option, and so it would be done.

She set aside the memories of her father, but kept the willpower he had taught her. She set aside the gentle love of her mother, because she could not afford it in this moment. There was only determination. She had to do this. She had to save Salma… kill Zhaleh… Kill Shira.

And so she reached into that depth of will within her - that roiling rage and ice cold hate. She set her psychic hands to the Chalice that contained the fire and violence, that kept her people safe from the bloodthirsty monster within…

She let herself feel who she was. She let herself recognize one last time the woman that her parents had raised..

And she shattered that Chalice with a resolved blast of her own power, turning her rage against the very thing that kept so many in Pruul safe from her thirst for vengeance… and knowing it would turn to those that were her enemies as everything in her sight turned red.

Save Salma… Kill Zhaleh..Kill Shira…   saveSalma.killZhaleh..killShira. sAveSaLmakILlzHaleHkiLlShiRa…[/b]

Adavera al-Jinan knew her purpose and began to walk… Her senses ranging sharper, more aware, more hungry… And then to run. 



Offline Nayarreh al-Sabbah

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Re: From Salted Earth, A Rose
« Reply #1 on: Aug 27, 18, 10:14:05 PM »
[tw: self harm, attempted suicide, compulsions]

Naya finally knew what Shira wanted her to do.

She had known for the past day, ever since Shira had told her and Elham that the date had been set for the following evening and that Barin and Yari were to stay behind. That was when she had realized that she didn’t want this. It didn’t matter how much she had talked herself and Elham into this decision, she didn’t want it, but when she opened her mouth to say as much to her wife, nothing but a strangled sound came out.

Naya had waited until her wife was asleep then had gone to Salma’s room. With shaking fingers she had called in a bag and packed a spare set of clothes, then went to Barin and Yari’s room and tried to wake them so that they could get Salma… away. Surely Barin had places he could hide his Queen and since Naya did not know of them, she would not be able to give them away.

Her hand trembled as it reached for her son but would not touch him. Her mouth would not make a sound and after twenty minutes of struggling she retreated, internally screaming at the Black Widow who had woven her web too tight.

On tiptoes, Naya walked through the house to the back door. If she couldn't send Salma to safety, then she would just have to go herself. She was Salma’s closest living relative on her mother’s side. Only Naya could give or deny paternity. If she wasn’t there it would cause a delay.

The door of the house might as well have been a wall. She rammed herself against it, weeping as her attempt left her with nothing but a bruised ass from falling over again and again. It was a wonder that Elham did not wake. Crying silent, bitter, desperate tears, Naya returned to Salma’s room. She watched the little girl sleep, watched her perfect face so serene in slumber and the rise and fall of that chest which meant that all was well.

She might not have born her from her womb, but Salma was her daughter, and Naya would do anything for one of her children.

She walked to her shop. She locked the door and put up a Purple Dusk shield. Hands shaking but not letting herself think too far ahead as she had learned to do while picking apart what this compulsion wanted her to do, Naya slipped a long knife from the cutting block and held it at one of her wrists.

Better me than her. Sweet Darkness, make her at least have left this out.

The fucking Spider had not.

The knife clattered to the floor and Naya sank to it as well, sobbing as she had not since the night that the Geiba had been slain. She cried and cried until there were no tears left and still more came. At last, exhausted, defeated, an ant on a chessboard, she returned to bed.

The next day was an agony of minutes. Naya’s body was moving for her, her soul an unwilling passenger as she set Barin and Yari to mind the shop while she, Elham and Salma went for an ‘outing’. Words were spoken, laughter shared, and the whole time Naya was screaming silently.

There was nothing she could do.

They reached the temple by foot but accompanied by Zhaleh and her guards. Salma took her grandma’s hand and chattered about all the things she had done. Adel, holding her new Offering Jewel was the only one who seemed at all concerned, but then again why shouldn’t she be? Two years early was too soon to have a Birthright. It could harm Salma but everyone was going along with it because Zhaleh and Shira said so and Naya, Salma’s guardian, had agreed. They thought this was for the best but how could something so tainted be good? How could taking a daughter from a father and a father from a daughter be right? She refused to accept it now, clinging to that truth for fear that if she doubted she would lose even this little corner of her own mind.

Except didn’t she doubt? Hadn’t she even before the Spider had woven her webs? Was that why they worked? Naya had always feared Matin’s bond to his Queen but never enough before now to keep SALMA from him.

How had it gotten so far?

The arrived at the Temple and that was the first time Salma looked around and asked where her daddy was. Naya felt like crying all over again but could do nothing, not even say words of reassurance. Instead, she just hugged the little girl and handed her off to her aunt for the ceremony. Together Adel and Salma entered the altar room and Naya’s eyes found Shira.

The bitch was smiling.

Her eyes drifted further, to Adel who was distinctly not smiling. Did she know too? Did she realize what was about to happen to her brother?



Offline Elenor al-Sabbah

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Re: From Salted Earth, A Rose
« Reply #2 on: Aug 27, 18, 10:15:05 PM »
Elenor pushed open the door to her bedroom with a deep sigh of contented relief.

Home.

She was home. Months of travel, five -technically six- Territories, two new Bonded males, a gaggle of new family members, a Purge and a traumatic Mind Healing later, but she was finally home. Yes, the grief at the door when Matin delivered final tally of Sabbah dead in the worm attack had left dry lines of salt on her cheeks, but even the loss of a Tribe couldn’t overshadow the overwhelming relief of just being home for long, though she was sure it would return in force soon.

The puppy didn’t hurt either. Sa’di’s head perked up from where he had been asleep on the bed and all but zoomed into the Queen’s arms. Elenor fell backward, laughing and sputtering as his rough tongue licked her face clean of drying tears and anything else that might be there. Behind her, she heard Michael chuckle. “Sa’di, get off, get off!” She said through her giggle, covering her face with her arms and prompting the yearling pup to bound off her to go explore the new person standing at the door. His attention was only diverted for a few seconds though before he was focused back on Elenor, tail wagging and black and white butt wiggling.

Elenor pulled him into her arms and buried her face in his soft coat. “I missed you!”

After she had gotten her fill of puppy cuddles, something that admittedly took about five minutes of solid snuggles, Elenor let Michael help her to her feet. “I should be good from here. You should go get settled. It’s been quite the adventure and you must be as tired as I am. Rest, and we’ll talk about Court stuff in the morning.”

Glancing towards her balcony, Elenor’s hands itched to get out to the garden. There were still a few hours of daylight and maybe Mehdi would come find her and show her all the new things she could smell growing. Was that lavender? Must be.

She had taken a single step further into the room when Sa’di, still bounding about excitedly, bumped into the dresser. The little bowl, inlaid with mother of pearl where Elenor kept the little trinkets and pieces of jewelry she had somehow collected while in Pruul teetered then fell off the edge. Before she could reach to grab it it hit the floor, shattering into dozens of rainbow shards into a little dusting of sand that must have blown into the room in the months it lay vacant. The floor lurched and Elenor had to steady herself on Michael.

A rainbow cup shattered inwards, treasures flying in pieces to sink into the sands. Blood in the footsteps, Elenor… so much blood[/b]

Kiarian’s voice echoed in her ears. She stared at that broken rainbow, at all the sparkling bits of silver scattered on the floor and then the shouting started.

Matin was shouting for her, and he sounded over the edge of panic.


Offline Adavera ibna Sadagh

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Re: From Salted Earth, A Rose
« Reply #3 on: Aug 27, 18, 10:22:28 PM »
There was a shadow in front of her and her blade came up without thought. This was the fifth one, and it was growing more and more frustrating. The first few… She’d understood. Sort of. But now?  Their blood had been sweet in the air and their deaths sweeter on her tongue. The True Sabbah were murderers. Rapists. Violators. Killing those who got in her way had been a sweet treat.

Now it was just pissing her off.

Which fed the ice. Which fed the winds. Which fed her pain. And pain?  Pain made her better. Pain focused her strikes, pain focused her rage… Pain gave her targets. This one… This one fought better than the last.

She clashed swords with him, and he… Somehow… Kept up. But there were no shields. His feet moved with hers, and he shouted something. It didn’t matter what he shouted. She heard none of it.

sAvESalMa…

Her blade lashed out, head dipping to the side as the shadow struck out. She felt her blade move, catch just a little… And when she pulled it back she smelled fresh blood. There was a great deal of blood in the air, but she smelled his.

Her hand slapped against the Shadow’s arm as she slid past him, her Rage burrowing into the bastard and his skin, while she blurring herself further along the road. She could feel the spell she’d left behind, even as he tried to run after her. He made it three steps before he collapsed, screaming.

Another shadow was in front of her, a weapon raising. Did they never learn?  She smiled, baring teeth framed in blood and pieces of flesh that had sprayed against her when she’d taken a shadow's worthless head. There was a strange gurgle behind her… And she felt the pulse of the shadow’s life spill across the sands.

Good. The desert would eat well tonight.

KilLZhaLeH…

This Shadow -  It was trying to stop her, and so it must be stopped. Her blade snaked out, and rather than clashing it slid along her enemy's own weapon. Her eyes narrowed, steps spinning in the sand to bring her in close to the fool. The shadow moved with her. There was something… familiar in that. It was infuriating.

KiLlsHiRa…

She punched, kicked… Sliced. The Shadow kept up. The Shadow didn’t spill precious blood… The shadow was not leaving. It would not get out of the way. A fury-filled roar left her lips, her Craft surging through her limbs to send her moving faster… faster.

Her eyes were clearing, a little, as it took more effort to defeat this Shadow. And then she found her opening. He couldn’t turn fast enough, his foot slipping at the worst time… And so she thrust her blade up, letting it leave her hand so that she could jab her fingers into his ribs… And catch the blade with her other hand on the downstroke.

It allowed her to bring the sword to his right side, where he was not expecting the blow, and she began driving it down into his arm. Just as she was readying to twist it, to send it at an angle into his lung, she paused. There wasn’t much of a pause there… Just a half breath. Torin.

She pulled the blade free, her foot kicking Torin to the side. She heard him cry out… She felt his blood spray against her… But that was all the mercy she could grant him. That swift moment of recognition was all she could give without risking something terrible. Without risking worse. She did not kill him… And her Rage returned, clouding her eyes again.

She had to save Salma. Above all else… She had to save Salma. She could feel the Shields behind her. She could FEEL the boy that was chasing behind her - but as he was not stopping her, she paid him no more than that small flicker of awareness. Let him save the wounded, what few she left. Let him watch.

She had to save Salma.



Offline Nayarreh al-Sabbah

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Re: From Salted Earth, A Rose
« Reply #4 on: Aug 27, 18, 10:23:28 PM »
Barin al-Sabbah
[/url]





Barin studied the Opal shield around the house with near-panic. Stay here, he had been told. Fuck that. His Queen was out there and there was no reason that she would be out with both his moms, her grandmother and her great aunt that wasn’t her Birthright. He had caught his moms talking about it two weeks ago and the fact that he wasn’t allowed to go…

Something was wrong.

Something was wrong and he and Yari were trapped.

*NIV* He called out for the third time.

*I’m hurrying! I have Hasna and we’re coming your way.*

*Run faster!*

Nothing. Nothing but annoyance because he knew Niv wanted to be running in the opposite direction, towards the Temple where Salma would be taken to protect their Queen instead of away from it, with the Opal Birthright Priestess that could get him out of his prison. Instead, he focused in on Taisha. *Tai, can you get to the Temple ahead of us?*

*Barin! I was just about to open a thread. Something is wrong with my mom! She just took off running towards the Temple with a sword after I told her that they were doing Salma’s Birthright. Torin just raced after her, he looked scared. I’m going to-*

*Don’t you fucking dare chase them down, Tai. You sprained your ankle at training, you’ll get yourself killed. Do you think your mom is a danger to Salma?*

*Hell no.*

Barin’s thoughts were racing. He had to make a judgement call without all the information, but so far Adavera al-Jinan had done only right by his cousins, and he couldn’t see her working with Shira… *Let her horses go. You’re always telling me how Torin says that horses are a Jinan’s greatest weapon. Let them go after her instead of you. I’ll follow as soon as Hasna-*

*We’re here!* from Niv. Barin spun towards the door.

“YARI!” His brother was by his side in a moment, “as soon as we’re out go get Matin. Run as fast as you can, ok? I’m going to let him know you’re coming but I’ll be busy and won’t be able to answer questions. Then I want you to get to our bolt-hole and get it ready. I’m getting Salma and we’re going. I’m tired of the adults thinking they can fuck us over again.”

The Opal shields around the house shuddered, then fell. Barin didn’t even stop long enough to thank the ten year old Priestess, just flew out the door, calling in the sword he had filched from Elham’s things. He tore down the street in the direction of the Temple and Taisha’s house, and people either got out of the way or got knocked over.

His nose scented blood just a few streets past Taisha’s house. *MATIN! Salma’s having her Birthright. There’s going to be a fight. Get your ass there now!* and then *THEO! Salma is having her Birthright, you need to get there now. I think… I think they’re going to try to deny Matin paternity.* It was only a guess but he’d heard his moms whispering. Theo could help… maybe.

That was all he stopped to warn, then tore in the direction of the dust cloud of horse’s hooves. He passed a body that looked like it had its blood boiled from the inside, then past one without a head. Gritting his teeth, he caught sight of Taisha’s mom with a sword in her hand up ahead, locked in combat with… was that Taisha’s dad?

Barin was still a block away when her sword pierced Torin’s arm and he fell, howling to the ground. He threw his hands forward, locking a Purple Dusk shield tight around the witch as she turned and continued running towards the temple, Barin racing behind and praying to the Darkness that he was right to trust that she didn’t want to hurt Salma and was just as pissed off as he was.



Offline Torin al-Jinan

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Re: From Salted Earth, A Rose
« Reply #5 on: Aug 27, 18, 10:24:44 PM »
Taisha burst in on Torin as he had one of Cleo’s hooves in his hands, cleaning it while the mare grumbled. She didn’t like it when someone other than Vera took care of her -possibly her one failing as a Jinan steed, though Torin did not see it that way himself- and was nickering to show her disapproval when Taisha ran into the stable.

“You shouldn’t be running, Taisha, you sprained you-”

“Something’s wrong with mom!” That made Torin freeze, not just because of the implied danger to his witch but because this was the first time he had ever heard the child refer to Vera as her mother.

“What-”

“Salma is having her Birthright early. I told her and she said to come find you, pulled out a sword and is running towards the Temp-” This time it was Torin’s turn to interrupt and swear.

“Stay here!” He yelled at the girl, already pushing past her, calling in his own blade. Not his shorter Khanjar but the longer one that he had always used when training Vera so that she would learn to use a weapon that gave her more reach. His heart pounded as he ran to the heavy wooden door to their yard and flung it open.

Where the fuck are you, Vera?

A scream pierced the air.

Ah, there!

He took off at a sprint. What was she thinking? Who was she trying to kill? Probably not the little Queen. Even Torin, who thought that the fact that the Sabbah had managed to spawn a Queen a horrible omen wouldn’t try to outright murder one, and Vera… was odd about the Geiba children. That left only one option, really, which was that she was trying to kill everyone else. That was a lovely idea, except she was being an idiot about it. She was going in alone instead of gathering her Clan and horses as she should, as Torin would have told her to do if she had stopped to ask him.

He passed a mangled, steaming corpse and caught sight of her. Already his witch was splattered with blood, and he watched in pride and horror as she sliced a Tarazed’s head clean off for the crime of -seemingly- just being in her way. Something was wrong. Vera hated the Sabbah and had no aversion to killing, but there was something about the way she was moving, the way she didn’t even twitch as blood flew across her face, or stop as the body hit the ground which made Torin sure, to his bones, that something was wrong.

“Adavera!” He bellowed, but she did not turn to him. “VERA!” Nothing. No reaction, she just ran forward. Swearing, Torin picked up speed and when he was only a few paces behind tried to grab for her shoulder, to stop her before she got herself killed and killed his heart in the process.

She swiveled, and only a lifetime of training and naturally fast reflexes had Torin ducking out of the way fast enough to avoid losing his head to her blade. “Vera, it’s me!”

Eyes that were fire and death stared out of the face of the woman he loved. Eyes that were mad. “Vera-” he tried again, but she swung at him, her sword flashing. He raised his own on instinct alone, then again. In a moment, they were caught in a duel, one that took his breath away. Never before had he seen her apply her skills this way. She fought with no restraint, no heed to the pain she must have in her leg as she put too much pressure on it. Torin fought back defensively, trying to buy himself time to think of how to stop her. His Tiger Eye flung up an aural shield around his head, muting the world to silence -for he knew her tricks- and in that quiet the Jinan Warlord’s heart broke.

He had sworn to protect Vera and somehow…

Somehow it hadn’t been enough. Something had happened to her, to her mind, the mind he worshipped and adored. He had no doubt she was heading to kill the one who did this, but she wasn’t thinking. If he didn’t find a way to stop her…

Vera would die.

He launched himself into the fight in earnest. He had to take her down, take her down without hurting her too badly and get her somewhere quiet until he could get help, he had to-

His foot came down wrong, something most warriors would have seen but few would have been fast enough to take advantage of, but not Vera, who he had trained for years to be fast and accurate, and take every advantage she could for a swift kill.

Torin gasped as the blade sunk into his raised forearm, twisting into the bone as it tore through into his shoulder, severing muscle and tendons in its path. He screamed out his pain and rage as he fell, but his eyes never left her.

Mother Night, if this is how I go, thank you for having hers be the last face I see.

He braced for the killing blow, knowing the angle from which it would come, just as he had taught her...

But it didn’t. Her eyes caught his and for just a flash it was Vera again, inside that face; Vera who saw him, who stepped away just as the monster returned, dismissed Torin as no longer a threat, and continued on its path of destruction.

He crumpled but something caught him. Young, thin arms and the scent of a Warlord Prince. The boy lowered him to the ground.

“Taisha’s coming for you. I’ll watch her back.” Was all Barin said before darting after Adavera. The world was wobbling, the pain immense. Torin collapsed onto his back, his head thudding on the dusty paved road and eyes fixed on the darkening sky.

I failed to protect her. was the last thought before unconsciousness claimed him.

Offline Elham al-Sabbah

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Re: From Salted Earth, A Rose
« Reply #6 on: Aug 28, 18, 12:44:41 PM »
Salma wasn't old enough, Elham had said. It wasn't time. It didn't matter how badly the Sabbah needed a Queen, rushing Salma's Birthright was absolutely unnecessary. But Naya had been so sure, so persuasive, her arguments logical and convincing. Naya's reasons for leaving Barin and Yari at home had been equally convincing, and Elham had reluctantly locked them in under an Opal shield. And so she found herself heading to the Temple with Naya and Salma, dressed in her best tunic, formal sash slung low around her hips, the hilt of her Khanjar gleaming in the evening sunlight.

Salma, Adel, and Zhaleh had disappeared deeper into the Temple, and Naya and Elham sat waiting, hands clasped tight together. Naya had been stressed lately– Elham couldn't blame her, not with how difficult everything had been since Barin disappeared, and especially since his return. She was especially anxious today, and Elham's heart ached to see her wife with dark circles under her eyes and a furrowed brow. She rubbed her thumb in little circles across Naya's hand, and leaned her cheek against the top of her head.

"Everything will be alright. Lady Zhaleh knows what she's–" Elham cut off abruptly as someone screamed outside. And then another someone. And another. Her witch-warlord instincts kicked in, and Elham sprang to her feet. "Stay here," she instructed Naya, and snapped an Opal shield tight around her.

She was halfway down the first flight of stairs when the shield she'd put around the house shattered. Barin couldn't have gotten out on his own, but he certainly could have asked for help. He was also certainly headed here, and certainly in danger. Elham quickened her pace, taking the stairs two at a time, shoving past the people running into the temple for safety. She burst out of the Temple's main entrance and stopped short.

The source of the chaos was a block and a half away, and closing in. The air was heavy with the scent of violence, of blood and shit and fear, and the sound of panic was near-deafening. Elham took a breath, centering herself, and focused in on the center of the fray.

She might not have recognized Adavera al-Jinan's psychic scent if the witch hadn't shown up to dinner just a few short weeks ago. And it was wrong, wrong in a way Elham had only seen once before, in a young man who'd shattered his chalice in his first battle and never recovered. But it was unmistakably the Voice of the Jinan. And wrapped around her was the all too familiar Purple Dusk of Barin.

Mother-fucking-Night.

*Barin. Go back to the house this instant. I'm here, I can protect Salma, but I can't do that and look after you. Get Yari, go home, and wait for this to die down.*

His response was quick: *No.*

She didn't have time to argue with the teenage Warlord Prince. It physically hurt to know that Barin was there and in danger and there was nothing she could do about it. Salma needed her. Naya needed her. If Barin was smart, he could keep himself safe.

Adavera was moving ever-closer, and Elham watched as she handily ran a Sabbah warrior through with her blade, the man screaming in anguish as his blood soaked into the gaps between the cobblestones. Elham didn't wait to watch him die. Turning back, she shoved through the panicked civilians in the temple, bounding up the steps three at a time. Naya was where she left her, thank the Darkness. Elham threw a shield up on the room's door, and another over the door Zhaleh, Adel, and Salma had disappeared through.

"Naya. I don't know why, but Adavera al-Jinan is on some kind of rampage out there." Elham reached into her boot and pulled out a dagger, offering the hilt to her wife. "Whatever happens, nobody will get to Salma."

Offline Matin al-Sabbah

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Re: From Salted Earth, A Rose
« Reply #7 on: Aug 28, 18, 03:58:48 PM »
Elenor was back in Onn.

Part of Matin—the part that was Bonded to her—had been waiting restlessly, confident that as soon as he was near her everything would fall into place and make sense. He no longer had to hide his daughter from his Queen, and during their travels things between them had finally been getting easier. With Elenor and Salma in the same city, he wouldn’t constantly feel like he had to choose between them.

The more rational part of him had known better. It had been easy to serve Elenor without his mother and aunt there to pressure him, and it had been easy to be in Pruul when he could bury himself in work and, for the most part, ignore them. Now they were all together. Old fears about the Bond changing who he was threatened to resurface, and Matin was acutely aware of how strongly he felt drawn to be close to her every moment.

Thankfully, there were more than enough reports and schedules and ledgers and communications to drown out his anxieties and desires for the time being and he had barely given himself a chance to be relieved that Elenor was safe or concerned that her psychic scent was different than he remembered.

Instead, he had pushed those emotions to the side and was sorting a folio of delivery receipts for transcription that almost certainly could have waited another day or two. The inane, unambiguous task and the silence of his office had been calming, then the serenity was broken by a Purple Dusk spear thread and Barin’s desperate voice filling his mind.

*MATIN! Salma’s having her Birthright. There’s going to be a fight. Get your ass there now!*

There was a moment of strained stillness as the Warlord Prince struggled to make sense of words.

His mother. She was the only one with the power to do this, but why? Salma was six. There was no political advantage to this, and it would only lessen the depth that the little Queen could reach, already restrained by having a Landen grandparent.

There was no good reason for this, no good reason for it to be hidden, but there was also no reason for Barin to lie.

Realization snapped the silence like a cord drawn too tight and Matin erupted with burning anger. He was barely aware of what he was doing as he moved to the door, bellowing a string a meaningless curses.

He tapped into the spell that told him where Salma was, and almost took off in a straight line towards that point, damning any person or structure in his way, but he felt a pull in the other direction and faltered.

Elenor.

Elenor wouldn’t let Zhaleh turn a child Queen into a puppet, even if their relationship had been strained.

He ran towards her bedroom, any sense of decorum or proprietary abandoned. She stood in the open doorway and he stopped just short of grabbing her, his hands shaking at his sides and emotions rolling off of him that he made no attempt to suppress.

“Salma’s in danger.”



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Offline Elenor al-Sabbah

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Re: From Salted Earth, A Rose
« Reply #8 on: Aug 28, 18, 04:00:27 PM »
Elenor was already out the door by the time Matin rounded the corner, fear and rage rolling off him in waves. Elenor opened her mouth to ask what was wrong when he shouted,

Salma’s in danger.

For a moment, she saw red. She had never even met Matin’s daughter but she was a Queen, a little Queen, and if there was one thing Elenor could not -would not- stand was danger to young Queens. A flash of memory knocked her back a step as Matin reached her, then had her lurching forward to take his arm.

Four pairs of yellow eyes, gleaming in the dark. A bag of coins tossed across an open space and the hands on Elenor’s shoulders pushing her forward.

“Where?”

The word was barked, angry, authoritative. It brokered no answer but the one she wanted: a direction to point her rage. Not how, she didn’t give a shit as to the how of it, only the where so that they could get there and stop it.

Matin said something about the Temple and what little calm had still resided deep inside the Queen snapped like a brittle twig. She swept past the Warlord Princes, and if either tried to stop her an Opal Shield pushed out from her body kept them from grabbing at her to try to stop her. They could keep up or not, she didn’t care.

At the first staircase up she took a left, taking the stairs two at a time until she burst through the door to the roof. There, across the city in the settling light of the sun the Vada Temple stood, like a sentinel of stone against the flat roofs of Onn. Roofs that would be much faster to move on than the streets below.

She kicked off her shoes, knowing they would just get in the way and took off at a run over the flat roof. At the edge she vaulted down, feet finding purchase on the tiles of the lower roofline and not slowing down one bit. At the edge of the Sabbah compound there was a spot where there was only a five foot gap between their roof’s and the neighbours. How many times had she taken a jump like that across a stream or between tree limbs in Shalador? Too many to count.

Maybe it was the bit of her that was Eyrien that had just never developed a fear of heights, but no time to ponder that now. She took the jump at a sprint and reached the other side with a thud, her shoulder colliding with a chimney. Eyes finding the temple again she spared only a single moment to send out a tendril of power behind. Michael and Matin were both following, though her way or on the street she didn’t stop to check.

A few blocks further, the smell of blood hit her. She looked down and her stomach turned at the sight of a corpse, coagulated fluid that looked like boiled blood surrounding it. What had done that? Worse, she recognized the man. He was Hague, one of her people. Who the fuck was killing her people and was that what was going after Salma? But why the Temple then? WHAT WAS HAPPENING HERE??!!!

Offline Adileh al-Sabbah

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Re: From Salted Earth, A Rose
« Reply #9 on: Aug 28, 18, 04:10:29 PM »
Earlier:

In his time as Lady Elenor’s agent, Adel had done things that made his stomach twist and his heart fracture. He had stood by while his family preached and plotted, he had said things that went against the very core of what he believed in, he had strung up bodies of people whose only crime was looking like his Queen and defaced the building that held the cultural legacy of his Clan.

Even when it was difficult, even when it made him question his ability to carry on in his task, he had never doubted that it was worth it.

Not until this.

The first discussions of Salma approaching her Birthright Ceremony had troubled him. She was was only six, and there was no advantage Adel could see to having it early. What political advantage was there to this, especially when Matin had been so explicit about keeping his daughter away from politics until she was older? Zhaleh should have been the first person preventing this, not the Priestess organizing it.

And then Adel had realized that his brother didn’t know, and the motives had become clear.

Matin, for his numerous faults, had done everything in his power to give his daughter the best life possible, even when it meant sacrificing his own comfort and happiness. He had done well, as well as anyone could given the circumstances. He was not someone who deserved to have their child taken away from them, and Salma did not deserve to lose her father and become another child Queen with no freedom, no agency and no real childhood.

She most definitely did not deserve to be sent to Dar-El-Salaam, to be trained as a Priestess and groomed into someone the Territory would be forced to accept as its Queen, regardless of the hatred she would face or the personal cost. That part of the plan had been revealed to Adel more recently, and he had argued with his mother over whether it was a perversion of what it meant to be a Priestess or an honor for Salma to be brought closer to the Darkness.

He needed Zhaleh to think he was on her side, but there could still be moments when he was a difficult child.

There could also be moments when he was exactly the child she wanted him to be.

Adel had told his mother that he wanted to perform his niece’s Birthright Ceremony, and that he was ready to make his own Offering to the Darkness in order to do so. The Priestess had been thrilled—as thrilled as she ever was, at least—at her daughter taking initiative and wanting to be part of this key moment in Salma’s life.

Adel had spent the day before in seclusion, meditating, reading and planning. He turned the question over and over in his mind.

Was his secrecy and continued service worth this price?

No, it was not. Even if his own convictions had faltered, the Priest was certain that his Lady would trade having an agent among the True Sabbah for the safety of the little Queen, and that decided it. He had already given Barin the innocuous hints and suggestions that would—hopefully—let him realize what was happening before it was too late, and he would be there. There was very little that would keep that young Warlord Prince from his Bonded Queen, and if anyone knew how to disappear in Onn it was the Geiba children. Barin would also tell Matin, and that… would be something to deal with when it happened.

At sunset, Adel entered the inner sanctuary of the Temple. It was a familiar, place, and drifting down into the Abyss was as natural and comfortable as falling asleep. He had heard others talk about their Offerings and speak of fighting or falling, but this was not a fight. It was like leaning into a firm but malleable surface and feeling it give way without fearing it would collapse under his weight.

There had been moments when Adel had questioned his own feelings, when a lifetime of conditioning and training and being told who he was had gnawed at him until he felt raw. He had feared that he would reach this day and the Abyss would reflect back parts of himself he had buried and demand he acknowledge his femaleness, to wrestle the truth at the center of him and devour it in payment for his power. Or maybe the Darkness would hold him in judgement and decide that he was too weak, that he didn’t deserve a stronger place among the Blood. But as Adel descended, he felt his own strength wrap around him and a sense of rightness settled into him. He knew, completely and absolutely, who he was. He wasn’t supposed to become a Priestess and force himself into a life that would break his soul, but not because of some mistake of Caste or sex. He was a Priest, and Mother Night had given him this body, this vessel, because it was what he needed, or what his purpose needed of him. And his purpose… he didn’t know if it was serving Lady Elenor or if that was a means to a greater end, but this was exactly where he needed to be.

Adel rose from the Abyss at sunrise enveloped in that conviction. As he held his uncut Sapphire Jewel for the first time, feeling the well of power now within his reach, he remembered what his Queen asked of him when he swore into her service.

He was the High Priest of Clan Sabbah.

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Offline Michael Dyslin

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Re: From Salted Earth, A Rose
« Reply #10 on: Aug 28, 18, 08:24:10 PM »
Looking back on those moments later, Michael would decide that he should have known things were going too smoothly. They had arrived exhausted after one hell of a ride. Two horses had been ridden nead to death and Mike resolved to see to their care personally as they recovered. He and the others had been in Onn long enough for El to order a GIANT meal be set up for them and then to head to her rooms, Michael in tow as she gave him the tour on the way. There was even a delightful four-legged creature awaiting him. Nothing, absolutely nothing, he had heard about Elenor’s life in Pruul thus far lent its weight towards anything going well. So, when their return to his Queen’s Territory and home was pleasant and happy, he should have known better than to let himself relax. Should have, but didn’t.

Michael was on his knees, fingers and face buried in soft fur and being slathered in dog-kisses when Matin burst into the corridor running full tilt towards Elenor. Only her lack of fear in his direction stopped Michael from blasting the man apart, though he reflexively wrapped three layers of shields on Elenor, just in case.

Mike was on his feet by the time Matin had finished speaking, because Elenor’s reaction said that she was planning to do something about this Salma person being in trouble. He hated it when queens decided that they had to do things abo--- and there she went. Michael swore and had exactly enough time to slap a Mark on Elenor so he could find her if they got separated.

He was a few seconds - damn she was faster than he had judged based on their few weeks together and he would have to remember that - behind Elenor and Matin because he had to stop long enough to concentrate on calling in his knives. He cursed his inability to do that in the flickering of an eye like the other Blood could, but wasted no more than a thought on such. Blades in hand, he was running after her.

When he realized his Queen was going up Michael had a brief moment of wan hope that she wouldn’t be doing exactly what he thought she was. Then she burst through the door onto the roof, letting blistering air in past the cooling spells and Mike knew he was wrong.

He caught the door before it slammed shut, and thanked Mother Night that keeping up with the street urchins in Dena Nehele meant going where they went, and up for them was safer than down. His heart leapt to his throat while his stomach plummeted groundwards as El made the leap from the edge of the roof to the next one, and when she hit the chimney, he thought she would fall and he prepared cushion her with craft. Broken limbs was better than dead, no matter how one cut it. She made it, though and he lost no time in moving after her.

As they went, he categorized the sights he saw below, and later, when he had time to process, two things would stick out to him. The first being that the trail of bodies - including one that looked like it had torn itself into pieces from a wound in it’s gut outward -  belonged to someone who was very, very good at killing.

The second, in surreal juxtaposition, was that El had been right. Onn was very pretty from this angle as sunset drew near.


Offline Adavera ibna Sadagh

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Re: From Salted Earth, A Rose
« Reply #11 on: Aug 28, 18, 08:59:28 PM »
Shadow after shadow… they raised blades against her, and they fell. She had no time for this. Salma … she had to save Salma!  She had to work her way through the world, through shadow and webbing and spider and filth… and still they kept coming.

The temple was nearby. She could smell it, tainted with True Sabbah and their violating traditions. Just the thought of that damned Priestess, and her thrice damned Spider…..

Another shadow rose before her, and she spared no time for the dance it seemed to crave. Her blade locked against the new one, and she kicked out with her good leg, foot popping into something solid in the knee. The scream earned a glance from her just before her left hand drove into the shadow’s face, through soft nose and hard skull, and through the back to touch open air. The scream stopped, and she dropped the body at her feet, moving ever forward.

SaVeSaLMa…  That was the important part. There was more, too… but that was the important part. All of this filth in her path, it could get out of the way, or it could die. She didn’t rightly care. Something small drove between her and the next shadow… And she snarled. The hilt of her blade flipped in her hand, jabbing upwards into the chin of that shadow as she scooped the small one out of the way and threw it to the side.

Small shadows… were no threat to her right now.

KiLlZhaLeh…

Movement, fast and dangerous.

She snarled, felt something come into her space fast, and dodged just a little left. The impact of something behind her?  That caught her attention. Slowly her head swiveled, facing the shadow that dared, fucking dared, to try to throw a power bolt at her. And instead of growling… She laughed. Because this smell… She knew this scent.

This was one of those that had been at the dinner. That wretched farce of remembrance and memorial. If they’d wanted to remember the Geiba, and the honor that the tribe once held… They wouldn’t have done what they did… What they were still trying to do. That laugh echoed on the walls, reverberating forward to try to wrap into the skull of the widow that faced her… Esther al-Sabbah"I seE yOu SabBah..."

Spider. The scent was thick. And the woman’s pained grunt pleased her… But like her wretched mother she shielded her ears quickly. Good. There were other ways to pluck her legs from her wretched body.

She dashed forward, using a small bubble of her Jewel’s energy to move her closer, to lock blades with the she-bitch that had dared to get in her way. The shield kept her back. She could feel it against her skin as she fought, as she ducked and wove away from the slashing Tooth that would spell her death before she could spare Salma… And she snarled.

It wasn’t so much planning. She didn’t plan in this Rage… she simply reached. Instinct and training had her reaching out for the closest of her brothers and sisters. Not Blood, of course… But those four-hoofed beasts that the Sabbah always, always forgot about.

Her Shadow, her target, her hated foe was deaf. It was the only way to ensure her survival, after all. She would not notice how two horses turned in their stampeding. SHE would not notice the pounding hoofbeats as they came up from behind her.

No, she only saw the mad woman covered in blood and pieces of her people. She only saw the deranged eyes, and the reflection of flames and smoke in their golden gloss. Esther al-Sabbah assumed, just as her mother would, that Adavera al-Jinan would be easily handled.

And then… She saw nothing. Because she had kept her shields forward to deal with the threat of the mad woman in front of her. And so she paid no mind to what could come from behind. She fell beneath stampeding hooves, hooves that raised and lowered. She screamed only for a few breaths before her skull was crushed beneath their feet… And pieces of her were dragged in the horse’s pacing to outrun the flames.

And Adavera?  Adavera paid the corpse no more mind herself, her gore-slicked boots stepping in the mashed meat left behind by horse’s hooves and vengeful woman as she stepped towards the temple.

kiLlShiRa… Oh yes… there were only so many shadows the Spider could send her way. One way or the other, in this life or her death… She would get that woman’s throat in her jaws.



Offline Adileh al-Sabbah

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Re: From Salted Earth, A Rose
« Reply #12 on: Aug 31, 18, 12:49:43 AM »
Adel’s family—Matin conspicuously absent—had gathered after he completed his Offering to the Darkness. The night had been draining, which left him more vulnerable to the sting every time someone said something about him becoming a woman or hinted at him finding some man to marry so he could bear children, but the exhaustion also gave him an excuse to not be quite as enthusiastic about those comments as his elders might have hoped. At least he could be forgiven for being distracted by Salma’s Birthright, now hours away.

*You shouldn't perform the ceremony.*

The Sapphire distaff thread was in Hava’s voice, and Adel glanced at his cousin fecklessly.

*I know she's young, but my mother said—*

*I'm not worried for Salma. Something bad is going to happen. People are going to die. I've seen it.*

Adel had chewed on that. Hava was a capable Black Widow, even though she was barely older than Adel himself, so he didn't take her warning lightly, especially given that he had already taken steps to sabotage the event. But his part to play was not yet completed, so when Hava had left, accompanied by Adel’s father, Adel himself had stayed and began preparations.

There were the obvious arrangements for a Birthright Ceremony, of course. He had observed and assisted in many, both with Zhaleh and other Priestesses, but this was the first one he would perform alone. With his mother watching, everything had to be in perfect order, and she gave no guidance or suggestion as he worked. Internally, Adel was readying himself to get Salma away from the Temple before she had the opportunity to receive a Jewel. He wasn’t usually one to plan several steps ahead, he didn’t have his brother’s skill in that, but there was too much hinging on this to assume that his intuition would see him through. If he was lucky, there would be a way to do this or a way to explain it that didn’t sever him from the True Sabbah entirely, but to survive this he might need to run as Matin has when Salma was an infant. Possible outcomes blinked in and out of his mind, but he didn’t cling to any of them.

Finally, the young Queen arrived, accompanied by Naya and Elham. Barin’s absence was as glaring as Matin’s, and just as expected. Hopefully Salma’s Bonded would understand what Adel had told him and find a way past whatever barriers had been left for him, because what Adel was about to do would be much more difficult if he had to do it alone.

After brief greetings and well-wishing, the ceremony began. Adel performed the public segments by rote, then he and Salma retreated to the inner sanctuary alone. As the door closed, yelling started outside, and the Priest’s chest tightened with apprehension, but he knelt down in front of Salma and held both of her hands.

“You don’t have to do this yet, okay? It’s alright if you want to wait.”

“I can do it.” The determination in the six-year-old’s eyes reminded Adel of her mother’s proud defiance on the day she had died. “I’m going to get the Rose.”

Salma had been promising that since she learned it was the darkest Birthright she was capable of, and her psychic scent had begun giving hints that she would reach that depth, but doing this so early jeapordized that. Adel gave the child a reproachful smile.

“I know you want to, but the Darkness might have another plan for you. There’s no shame in wearing the White, and your papa will be proud of you no matter what.”

Salma huffed. “But I’m going to get the Rose. I even brought something to trade with Mother Night, see?” She reached into the pouch on her belt and pulled out a small, smooth piece of rose quartz.

Of course you did, Adel thought, though he was more concerned with how to get her away from here safely. The sound of trouble outside increased, and Adel glanced at the door, then at Salma. There was only so long he could stall, and they might both lose a chance of escape if he gave too much away. Besides, if things got as dangerous as Hava had suggested, the little Queen might need her Jewel

The Priest took a deep, centering breath.

“Alright. Come up to the altar and we’ll begin.”

Salma placed the stone she had brought on the altar and they began. Adel guided her gently in a meditation, and they descended into the Abyss together. The little Queen’s stubborn, forceful march down was so different from the ease and gentleness with which her guide touched the Darkness. Salma was as fearless as her mother and as relentless as her father, and even before he opened his eyes and looked at the altar Adel knew what he would find.

Salma took her Jewel in both hands, holding it like the precious thing it was, then she noticed her piece of quartz still lying there and frowned.

“You cannot bargain with the Darkness, Lady Salma,” Adel picked up the stone and studied it before placing it in his niece’s grasp, beside its twin that radiated power. “But you can thank it for the responsibility it placed upon you today.”

Adel al-Sabbah

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Offline Shira al-Sabbah

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Re: From Salted Earth, A Rose
« Reply #13 on: Aug 31, 18, 12:58:00 AM »
Zhaleh:

The screams were getting louder. The monster coming for them… It wasn’t even slowing down. Zhaleh al-Sabbah stared at the shielded door, her fists clenching as she waited. The Sabbah were warriors, and they were capable, and surely they could handle whatever came for them here in their own compound!

Except, apparently, not.

She could hear the stampeding of horses outside, and could hear the gurgled cries as one after another fell to the beast that had come for the Temple. The threads were all saying it was the Voice of the Jinan.

The threads said she had gone into the Killing Edge. That she was fighting like the Desert itself, and couldn’t be stopped. She had quickly snapped for people to attend the problem, not rumors. But it didn’t stop the small thread of concern that was rapidly growing with every new scream.

What could have thrown Adavera al-Jinan into the Killing Edge?  What could have made her so willing to rush into a sacred temple and slaughter whoever came before her?  What could have done this?

A small chill of suspicion touched her heart. Adavera al Jinan did not hate the Geiba children. This was not about the Geiba. She did not hate Salma.

Her eyes turned towards her sister, looking at the woman’s thoughtful face. What had Shira done?  Who else would have acted against the Jinan without Zhaleh’s knowledge?  “What is going on, sister?”

She asked it with all the confidence she could muster. Shira was powerful, and frightening… But she was still her sister. No matter how mad she might be, she would still respect her Priestess Sister. She would still obey.

When directly confronted at any rate.

Her hands settled on her granddaughter’s shoulders as she and Adileh emerged from the sanctuary, her eyes closing as she sought some bit of wisdom. Some sense of comfort she could grant her. In this moment her little Salma should be jubilant. She had obtained the Rose. For her heritage it was wonderful. And yet, in this moment, all she could think of was how dangerous this evening might be for her little Queen.

Why would the Jinan be marching with death in their eyes for the Temple? 

​************

For a beautiful, Night blessed moment Shira had simply been happy. Adileh, her niece, and her sister walked out of the inner sanctum with little Salma holding a lovely Rose Jewel. Rose was the darkest the girl could have reached what with her Landen blood and a reason to celebrate. It was proof that this early Birthright pleased the Darkness herself for why else would she have fulfilled this potential.

Salma would save them all one day, but that day was not yet here. First, she needed to be trained and to do that she needed to be taken far from here and her wretched father and his impure Queen.

Still, Shira took a moment to get to one knee and hug the little girl tight, breathing in the sweet smell of her hair and listing to her babble. Then something pricked at the back of her neck and a pang of worry shot through her as Elham storde to the door of the temple then returned looking grave and ordering defensive maneuvers.

A vision she had received the night before returned to her.

A sandstorm of broken glass sweeping through Onn, her eldest daughter lying in a pool of blood. A choice to be made about Salma. Shira had interpreted that… as proof that she should keep to her path to avoid the storm but Hava had looked and thought… Had her daughter been right, this once? Could she have guessed wrong?

“Esther!” She rose, looking around for her daughter, her first born, but the girl was nowhere to be seen. *Esther?!*

Only silence. Shira bolted towards the door. Elham tried to get in her way but she brushed the warrior aside with a touch of Red and raced for the open doors of the Tempe. Beyond was… carnage. Bodies littered the streets and at the center of it all.

That Jinan bitch.

But Shira’s gaze did not linger on her, no, they were drawn to one face, one precious, beautiful face that was staring at her out of a mangled corpse and -

A cry of agony pierced the air, of a soul in torment and it took the Black Widow a long moment to realize it had come from her own lips. “ESTHER!”

A hand wrapped around her arm. She tried to fling it off but it was the one person in the world who could have gotten to her in this moment. Her sister.

“I’m going to kill-”

“We will, together, but first we must see this through, sister. Or her death means nothing. Please.” Zhaleh almost never asked for anything and it was the please that permeated through the rage and grief. Yes, yes. They were doing something, saving a little girl they both loved from the corrupting influence of her father. They hadn’t been able to save Shira’s beloved child but it wasn’t too late for the little Queen.

“Guard the doors, do not let the bitch in.” Shira bellowed then turned around and looked at Zhaleh. “When this is over we will get our vengeance.”

Then she turned her eyes to Nayarreh who was now clutching a scared looking Salma. “It’s time, Naya.”


Offline Nayarreh al-Sabbah

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Re: From Salted Earth, A Rose
« Reply #14 on: Aug 31, 18, 01:05:37 AM »
Naya heard the screams, saw the horror and fear in her wife’s face and knew that death was coming for them all. They had done wrong, crossed a line, and someone knew it and was coming to fix it. She almost hoped it was Matin for he had the most to lose this day and she didn’t think she would mind dying so much if she could just see him taking Salma back before her end.

Her hands on Salma’s shoulders tightened until the girl squirmed.

“What’s happening?” she asked, her voice high and frightened. “Mama, I got my Rose just like I said I would, why is everyone scared?”

Naya couldn’t answer, she couldn’t form words. Her head was aching, dizzy, not her own. She glanced up as Shira stalked towards them and the desire to pull Salma behind her was overwhelming, yet she couldn't force her muscles to move. She could feel them now, the bands around her, now that they were coming to a close, tightening for the one action they were made to see through.

“Do it now.” The Widow barked, stepping to one side of the mosaic circle on the floor meant for one ceremony and one only. “Do it so we can get her out of here.”

Naya shook but her body lurched to obey, dragging Salma with her as she stepped up to the line. There were tears on her cheeks now, her fingernails dug into the little Queen’s shoulders and it was getting hard to breathe. Around them guards were mobilizing, people were shouting, but in this circle

Everything was still.

Like the eye of the storm, the rest became distant, echoing in the Hearth Witch’s ears as she stood where so many women before her had stood, ready to declare the paternity of a child during their Birthright. She could dear her own heartbeat thundering in her ears.

“DO IT!” Shira bellowed.

No.

It started out as just a squawk in the back of her mind, under the bands of red surrounding what she now realized wasn’t her head but her Jewel, her Purple Dusk.

NO.

“Nayarreh…” Shira hissed and she felt a throb of power in the compulsions.

She opened her mouth, her own will screaming at her to stop but her body responding to the command of the puppetmaster.

“Paternity is-”

NO!!!!!!!!

She dove. Not her body but her mind, gathering her power. She couldn’t fight a Red but she couldn’t not fight, not now. Naya had not been able to fight to save her mother, she had not been able to fight to save Elham’s family. She had not been able to save Barin and Yari’s cousins or her own. Salma had lost her mother already and Naya would be damned if she would lose her father too.

A Jewel being unleashed was always explosive, from the White to the Black. Naya could feel the bands of Red around hers, holding it tight, so as she made the turn in the abyss and came back up wielding the full strength of her Purple Dusk and Rose, she focused inward, not outward. With a scream of pain she slammed every ounce of both her Jewels into her Purple Dusk where the compulsion was laced and felt it

SHATTER.

And as it did, as the agony swept over her and for only Salma to hear for it was spoken so softly, she managed to whisper, “granted to Matin al-Sabbah.” before falling to her knees clutching at the shards of her Broken Offering.




Offline Elenor al-Sabbah

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Re: From Salted Earth, A Rose
« Reply #15 on: Aug 31, 18, 01:06:38 AM »
Elenor’s blood was fire in her veins. Someone was killing her people, someone was slaughtering them. As she raced along the rooftops she saw the bodies, each lit up like the sun in the eyes of their Queen. Fury the likes of which she had never known pushed away fear, concern, even curiosity. She didn’t care who or why, she only cared about looking into the eyes of the monster slicing through her Clan as she ended their life.

And yet, something under that primal fury nagged at her. Not right, it said, this wasn’t what you were called for. Salma is why, there is no reason for this level of violence in the streets unless it’s someone else trying to protect her too. But who?

Who cared about the little Queen enough to do this who wasn’t complicit in whatever was happening at that Temple?

It didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that her mind could not make sense of this, that pieces were missing because there was blood in the air and ahead a little Queen was about to have her Birthright and then have her life torn apart… just like Elenor had. Flashes of memory tried to superimpose themselves on her focus but she brushed them away. Not now, this was not the time to dwell on those spidery hands or the open belly of her Bonded. This was the time to keep putting one foot in front of the other, to leap from rooftop to rooftop and not fall.

At the square, though, she stopped. It was awash with blood. Bodies littered the ground and she caught sight of motion up ahead, motion that stopped her dead in her tracks for the space of a long, drawn out gasp.

Adavera was there, on the steps of the temple, slashing at a Black Widow with a Sabbah cuff and covered with blood. Adavera, her friend, her confidante, her ally…

Had killed her people…

A pained sound, half-scream, half-sob ripped from her chest.

Why?

As she watched the Black Widow fall, her death brutal but fast and she saw Vera climb up through a window towards…

“Salma,” Elenor whispered, horrified. Michael was right on her heels and had almost reached her when she jumped, cushioning her fall with Craft like she had learned to do jumping down from trees in Shalador. She landed in a crouch in a pool of blood and felt the world wobble for an instant, then started running for the Temple.

Offline Adavera ibna Sadagh

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Re: From Salted Earth, A Rose
« Reply #16 on: Aug 31, 18, 01:11:16 AM »
Tw: decapitation

Temple. Salma. Shira. Zhaleh. The Sabbah had to burn, to die… But Salma had to live. These things thumped, thumped, thumped in her brain. She couldn’t make them stop even if she wanted to… and oh, how she did not want them to stop.

ESTHER! 

Her head swiveled, almost instantly, towards that voice. That voice, like glass on her mind and on her face. She bared teeth in a sadistic smile, head cocking to the side as she twisted her blade in her arm. “ShiRaaa…. I see you.[/b]” She sung it, her voice rocking forward to lash out towards that face… And then the doors closed. A howl of Rage echoed from her lips, her feet marching forward.

The spider was here. HERE… and she was going to get her due. Nothing would stop her, nothing would slow her for more than a heartbeat… And that bitch was not going to get away. Could not get away.

SaVe… Salma…

She hissed, setting her hand to the door. IT was solid. Shielded. She could feel it beneath her hands. They were trying to hold her off. How… cute. A hysterical laugh left her, her free hand springing open before moving forward, sliding across that wood. She let Witchfire tingle from her fingers, drawing Shira’s name into the door.

It seemed appropriate. Hilariously so. The bitch had burned Adavera’s life away… Why not burn down a door to a holy place?

It was a whisper of sound that had her suddenly dashing right, her eyes narrowing as she saw the impact of spell web on her fire-lit door. She followed the angle, dashing left as another wove outwards. There. Another Black Widow. Another face she knew.

Nahal… al-Sabbah..

The ghosts in her head echoed the name, and her lips curled upwards. “You’re too slow, little spider.”  She didn’t tell her to run. She didn’t tell her to stop. She didn’t even ignore her, as she likely would have done were the spider anyone else.

No… she moved closer. Like a ghost, she stepped across the distance. Watching those dark eyes widen in surprise made her laugh. And laugh louder. She wove the sound over and over and over through the air, seeking weakness. Seeking a mind unshielded against the sound. Stone cracked, and sand swirled.

But the Black Widow held strong.

It didn’t matter. She drove her blade against the creature, the shadow, the dead woman. Nahal just didn't know she was dead yet. That was ok. Vera could prove it. Would prove it.

The Black Widow’s spell slammed out again… And this time Vera simply wasn’t there. The widow spun, doubling over in surprise as she felt something hot and cold all at once slide across her belly.

She fell to the ground, desperately trying to cling to the rush of her insides as she felt them begin to spill. A foot landed on her back, pressing her down into the sand. Where the ground could hold those organs for her. Where she could kiss her beloved Desert and wonder why it hadn’t devoured her enemy with her last breath. I see you little spider, go away.”

Her blade swept in an arc downwards, separating bone and flesh like a hot knife through butter. She smiled as blood sprayed out across the sand, an odd little hum leaving her lips as she reached down to pluck up that head, dangling it from her fingers before turning her attention back towards the Temple.

Kill Shira… Save...SaLma..

She strode to the side, away from the door. The fire was at the door… They would focus there. She instead moved to the wall, then looked up. There. She leapt, her feet finding purchase in one of the top window sills. And then she walked through the window. Then she dropped through the floor, landing nimbly on stone tile and tossing the head towards the Red Spider that had dared to violate her thoughts, her soul.

”I SeE yOu, SpiDerrrr. AnD so DoeS shEEE”

A whisper of sound had her twisting about, again, with her eyes sliding over other shadows, uncaring of who or what they were. That sound, she knew that sound..

Salma. Salma with Rose light, and scared eyes, and tears on her cheeks. “Salma.”  She forgot about Shira, striding closer, instead, to the girl that must be saved.



Offline Elham al-Sabbah

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Re: From Salted Earth, A Rose
« Reply #17 on: Aug 31, 18, 10:18:57 AM »
tw: disembowelment, vomit

The door to the altar room swung open at last, and Shira al-Sabbah strode out purposefully. Elham stepped forward.

"Lady Shira, don't go out there, there's–" She felt herself brushed aside by Red power, and fell silent. If Shira wanted to see what was happening for herself, there was little Elham could do to stop her.

Elham turned her attention instead to Salma, the daughter not of her blood but of her heart, wide-eyed and proud of herself and clutching a shimmering Rose jewel, just like Elham's own Birthright, like Naya's. Kneeling down, she reached out and wrapped her little Queen in a hug. Elham's eyes burned and her heart pounded, but she forced herself not to show her fear.

"I'm so proud of you, little one. We're both so proud."

She cut herself off there, nudged Salma toward Naya. Elham couldn't possibly explain to Salma what was happening– she wasn't even sure exactly what was happening, not really. All Elham knew was that she was prepared to kill Adavera al-Jinan.

Elham held Naya's gaze for a long moment, every goodbye they'd exchanged each time Elham had ridden out into the desert with the Sabbah warriors replaying in her mind. Every goodbye was inadequate. When you'd been with someone so long, there was nothing left between you, not really. I love you didn't even begin to cover it.

Her head snapped up when Shira and Zhaleh burst back into the room and positioned themselves around the circle. Elham watched in horror as Naya hesitated, struggled to speak. Was she having second thoughts? Naya was the one who'd convinced Elham that denying Matin paternity was necessary, that he'd fallen too far under the influence of Elenor Lirion. Elham had always felt a little uneasy with the plan, but it was ultimately Naya's decision. Elham had never seen her wife look so torn, so helpless.

"DO IT."

Shira yelled again and Elham turned to face her, shoulders squared. She'd been about to snap back at her, tell her not to speak to her wife that way, when Naya screamed and a wave of Purple Dusk crashed over them all.

No.

No, no. Elham wheeled around in time to see Naya's beautiful Purple Dusk, the jewel she'd been so proud to receive at her Offering, shatter like glass. No. No. But before Elham could rush to her wife's side, Adavera al-Jinan dropped through the ceiling and tossed a human head at Shira.

"Shield your ears!" Elham screamed, recalling the piercing whistle she'd heard, the blood that trickled from the ears of the dead and wounded she'd seen on the street. Elham kept only enough power back to protect herself from the craft-laden sound: the rest of it went straight into wrapping Naya and Salma in the strongest Opal shield she was capable of making.

When Vera stepped toward Salma, Elham was there with Khanjar drawn.

She didn't wait for Vera to make the first move. Elham lunged at her, a cold clarity coming over her. She'd always thought she was prepared to die for her Clan, always swore to protect the Sabbah to the last breath. Now, she knew for the first time what it truly was to be ready to give her life in battle. Elham was nothing. Only Salma mattered.

Adavera was an unexpectedly good swordsman, parrying Elham's blows with ease, taking advantage of each opening. Her movements were too quick, jerky, and her deranged expression made her an impossible opponent to read. She got a cut in on Elham's shin, and another on her forehead. Elham recovered quickly each time. She had no use for pain, and so she felt none. Blinking the blood out of her eye, she tried to sweep the witch's legs from under her, but Adavera was too fast.

But not quite fast enough. Vera stumbled slightly, leaving herself open for just a split second– but that was all Elham needed. She lunged in, the tip of her Khanjar meeting resistance and then opening a gash her opponent's shoulder, making a cut in her ear. It wasn't a significant wound, really. But Elham couldn't help but feel perversely satisfied at the sight of Vera's blood.

Vera was moving before Elham could even pull her blade back, ducking under the witch-warlord's arm and bringing her own blade across Elham's belly. It had been a trap, of course. A feint to lure Elham in close, in easy range. A cheap trick that Elham had fallen for like a first-day student.

The sword felt more like a tickle than anything as it dragged across Elham's torso. At first, she wasn't even sure it had broken her skin. But when she raised her own blade to counterattack, the movement pulled all wrong and wetness spilled out, blood running freely down Elham's leg, soaking her trousers. She stumbled and sank to her knees between Vera and Salma, her Khanjar still raised, knuckles white on its hilt.

"Stay away from my daughter." Elham's menacing tone was slightly undercut by the mouthful of blood she immediately vomited up.

Her sword arm shook– from strain or because her whole body was shaking, Elham wasn't sure. She could hear Naya screaming from somewhere very far away, feel the shield she'd put around her and Salma starting to falter. No. She had to save Salma.

Elham raised her sword– when had she lowered it? But then she realized that her Khanjar was on the ground next to her, and her arms were cradling her belly, and Elham had killed before but she didn't remember there being quite as much blood. The gash across her torso had opened up like the maw of a sandworm, but instead of spitting poison it spilled out her own viscera, slick with blood.

That wasn't good. Elham was trained in battlefield medicine, she should help. It was her job to help, when people were injured. The first step of triage was to check the airway. She took an experimental breath, which hurt a little bit. Was it good or bad that it was starting to hurt? More people were screaming far away, which actually was really annoying, because she was trying to concentrate damnit. It was her job to help when people were injured. It was her job to help.

Elham meant to say "shut up," but in reality she just coughed up more blood. She had been Cold before, but now she felt cold. Cold like the winter up in the Northern Range, where they'd met up with Matin and an infant Salma. Cold like Naya's ice cream. Cold like the darkness that was closing in on her. Elham really was going to die for Salma after all, which would be easier to stomach– ha, stomach– if she knew she'd even made a difference.

The last thing Elham felt was the tile floor under her cheek. The distant screaming faded into a dull roar, like the wind whipping over the dunes, and then there was nothing.

Offline Michael Dyslin

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Re: From Salted Earth, A Rose
« Reply #18 on: Aug 31, 18, 05:58:37 PM »
Michael was not a squeamish man. In his seven hundred some-odd years he’d seen his fair share of death, and by his reckoning, caused more than his fair share. He still privately thought it better that those first dark years after the Witchstorm were mostly blank in his memory. When they did surface, after all, they were more red than anything else, and the blood was rarely ever his. Before then, even, he’d slaughtered horses. And since, he’d slaughtered men - and those haunted dreams of his first few ruts after his wife died told him that there was at least one woman’s name on that list as well.

That aside… this was something altogether different. This was not war. This was not a murder or two, no matter how gruesome. This destruction was the work of a different kind of storm than Witch’s Purge. This was the sort of thing heard about in legends, a wind not Black, but black, full of darkness, full of knives and magick. Here there were dead, there too, and there. In one place or another, there were survivors, and running all around were those who this tragedy-becoming touched only in the mind or heart, leaving their bodies spared as they screamed in anguish for their dead or dying loved ones.

It made a something from a book he had read once come to mind, the inner monologue of a malevolent force. Flesh so fine, so fine to tear, to gnash the skin; skin to strip, to plait, so nice to plait the strips, so nice, so red the drops that fall; blood so red, so red, so sweet; sweet screams, pretty screams, singing screams, scream your song, sing your screams… The memory of it mad his skin crawl in the same way the scene in front of him did. It reminded him of… no that wasn’t right at all. It WAS madness. Insanity incarnate.

All of this he took into account as he went. The Warlord Prince allowed himself to rise to the Killing Edge, and and then - he did what some might call embracing it, but to him always felt like rising through, and above it. It felt as through the whole world was now viewed in third person, as if from a view above and behind him. The details became crisp, his senses singing to a new height of keen intensity. Every scent and sight became magnified, every motion caught his eye, was cataloged and assessed as a threat or dismissed as a non-threat, all in the blink of an eye.

He put on a burst of speed and had nearly caught up with El when he saw it. Someone, a young male, no more than twenty or so, fixated on Elenor. Everything went still for a single moment in time, but that was enough. The Sabbah male drew a pair of blades crafted for throwing and touched each one with a drop of Yellow Jeweled power, aiming true with the assistance of his craft and loosing the blades one after another. Michael was too far away to intervene directly but-- ah, yes, there. A string of Summer Sky shot out from him, not towards the man, but towards El. A bit of force, not unlike a weak shield, or more accurately, a thick bit of webbing. Enough to make his Queen stumble, but not enough to send her sprawling.

The stumble saved her, the one aimed towards her heart missing entirely, and the other slicing into the fabric of her clothing two steps later, separating a few strands of hair just above her shoulder as it narrowly missed her throat.

A roar escaped Michael’s own throat then, though he did not recognize the thunderous sound as coming from himself. Three streaks of power shot out from him as he changed the angle of his sprint. One Summer Sky bolt hamstrung the man, dropping him in place. The next passed through the man’s head, in one side and out the other, just above his temples. The final was a skilled streak of Tiger Eye, that slashed across the man’s face and marked his forehead with the letter T in the old script. For Traitor. He would find that man’s associates, his family, his friends, everyone who knew him, and assure that none of them served in the Sabbah compound. But that was later.

For now, he put on a burst of Jewel-aided speed and caught up with Elenor. Sensing his Queen’s intent, they both blasted the doors off the temple, the flaming splinters of wood flying every which way.

The sight inside presented itself like a series of still portraits. A woman on her knees, clutching a sobbing child and broken jewels.


That child - a little Queen! - too young for her Birthright but clutching a Rose jewel in her tiny fist.

A woman who wore the Red, looking furious, and another who was Green in strength hovered over that pair. A severed head was on the floor by their feet.

Not far from that was the only thing in the room that didn’t seem frozen in endless time, a battle between a pair of witches which moved at speeds that Michael had once presumed were reserved for those of the male castes who could rise to a Killing Field. And that, it seemed was what Onn had become.

Later, Michael would recall what happened next with a sort of surreal clarity, the sort granted by shock more often than not. One witch feinted an opening, the other falling into it, and when the parted again, red was spreading across the second woman’s mid-section. With a slithery motion, loops of intestines spilled out.

What happened to her next, Michael did not know, because it was at that moment, accompanied by a feeling of cold dread and a sound of furious terror from his Queen, that time decided to re-assert itself at the proper pace. He had only a moment to glimpse her face, and try to reach for her, and then, Elenor was gone. She had pulled that damned trick out of it’s box again, and even as he lunged for her, he knew she was no longer there, the Mark he’d placed on her moving out of his reach.

When his arms closed on nothing, at least Michael was not surprised.


Offline Elenor al-Sabbah

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Re: From Salted Earth, A Rose
« Reply #19 on: Aug 31, 18, 06:14:12 PM »
[tw: disembowelment, PTSD]

She had almost been killed again. It should not have shocked her to feel that knife brush against her but it had. It had also reminded Elenor to shield. Fucking stupid not to have up to now, though she felt Michael’s close to her skin. Atop that she layered an Opal one but didn’t stop her sprint towards the Temple to do that. There were bodies all over the ground, bodies with Sabbah cuffs shining silver in the bloody pools gathering the hollows between cobblestones.

Water in the street. Blood in the sand.

Kiarian had said something about this, and something about a horse sinking… Vera.

At the heart of all of this was Adavera and Elenor didn’t know why, but… could she stop to care when she was killing her way through the Sabbah? No. If Vera raised a weapon towards Salma Elenor would strike to kill. There was no other option and any hesitation the Queen might have felt at the thought of ending a life was pushed aside by the insistent need to protect a little girl. The why of it all just didn’t matter.

Save Salma. That was the only thing that registered any more.

Her bare feet, slick with blood and caked in dust and sand skidded to a halt as they blasted through the doors to the temple. She felt the presence of her Bonded right behind her, his scent - angry, protective, worried - hit her at the same time as Adavera’s knife slashed through the belly of the woman she was locked in combat with, guts slipping out of the bloody wound, the Jinan’s yellow eyes gleaming in the dim light of the Temple.

The monsters were real.

It was all happening again.

Elenor cowered in the bushes, her cheeks wet with tears as the man, her Warlord, fought. Eyrien War Blades flashed in the light of the moon through the foliage above and two bodies already lay on the forest floor. The smell of blood in the air made the little Queen sick, memories that she couldn’t even piece together making it hard to breathe. She wanted to do something, wanted to help in some way but he had told her to hide.

So she hid. She watched. She sobbed.

Wings flared, blades danced, Jewels glittered as power was drawn from them. Her Warlord wore the Rose, his opponent Tiger Eye. He should have won but there was a gash on his thigh that made him stumble and lose ground. Elenor’s whole body shook every time the blades clashed, her knuckles white against her Jewel.

“Please don’t die. Please don’t die. Please don’t die.” The chant was repeated over and over again, too quiet to be heard over the sounds of the fighting.

And then…

She smelled it,
his blood, before she even heard the cry of pain. He fell but as he did a lucky lunge upward caught his opponent through the throat. Elenor didn’t have eyes for the dead man, she didn’t whoop in triumph. She screamed as his pain became hers.

Her legs pushed her up off the ground, launching the little Queen at her Bonded as he fell over, at his stomach where things were falling out. Elenor skidded to the ground next to him, her hands outstretched, and tried to help him gather up the slippery coils, though the tears in her eyes made it hard to see.

“Don’t die. Please. Please don’t die.” She begged.

He tried to answer but a cough was the best he could do, hollow and wet.

She felt Craft wrap around the belly she was trying to hold closed, and then she heard his voice in her mind, deeper than she had ever felt the touch of psychic communication before, all the way down at the Rose.
*Help me up, little one. I know where I can find a Healer. We just have to get to the Landing Web. Just down the hill.*[/color]

Elenor nodded and tried her best to help. She could feel his Jewel flaring and wished she knew how to assist him, that she had been born a Healer and not a Queen so maybe she could do something.

They reached the Landing Web and she felt his wings curl around her body protectively before they were launched into the Rose Wind. Elenor gasped and clutched at him, careful to avoid the wound. She could feel him shaking, could hear the cough again, worse this time. Flying, flying, then

Falling.

They landed with a crash and his scream made the child quake. The Craft holding him together evaporated as he crumpled to the forest floor. It was a different forest, hot and humid and dripping with rain. Elenor didn’t care, her hands fisted in his shirt, head falling to his chest. Her arms were sticky with his blood and stinking innards and it got on her face now, it got everywhere as she clung to him.

“Don’t die!”

*I’m sorry, little one. I-*[/color] a pause, a long one as blood oozed out of his mouth as he coughed, whole body spasming with the motion. Suddenly around them the clearing filled with things, his Psychic Cabinet emptying to give every last drop of his power over to trying to keep himself alive. Elenor’s hand cupped his face, her eyes staring into his in desperation.

“Please, Pleeeeease, you can’t die. I don’t know where I am. I can’t… you can’t die!”

*Listen… to me. You have to… have… go… I’m sorry…*[/color]

And that was it. She felt his heart stop beating as if it had been her own and felt something deeper than that SNAP with a ferocity that made her scream, the sound echoing off the trees. His dead eyes looked up into hers and the little Queen was all alone.


Elenor’s eyes darted from the gaping wound to the glinting Jewel against Adavera’s chest, to the maddened eyes and it all came crashing down around her, all the courage she had gathered, all the willingness to kill…

Then her eyes found those of the little Queen clutching a Rose Jewel and staring at her protector dying in terror and everything stilled, pulled taut, and snapped.

A knife appeared in her hand.

Time seemed to slow to a crawl as Elenor drew from her Opal and slammed her power into the webs that let her become nothing, just a ghost in the darkness, and vanished. There had been nothing she could do last time, but not again. She would not hide again.

The sound of her steps muffled by aural shield, the Queen of the Sabbah stalked forward. There were screams and other things happening in the room. She was even vaguely aware of the two women who had tried to ruin her life, again and again, standing there, but everything other than Salma and Vera were just shadows and echoes now.

Her fingers tightened around the hilt of the knife, the long blade she had used for hunting now ready for a different sort of bloodletting. Closer, closer and…

Offline Theodor Lirion

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Re: From Salted Earth, A Rose
« Reply #20 on: Aug 31, 18, 09:07:51 PM »
*THEO! Salma is having her Birthright, you need to get there now. I think… I think they’re going to try to deny Matin paternity.*

Theo all but dropped the piece of wood he had been holding up to the wall of his shop, instinct rather than any sort of conscious move catching it before it clattered to the floor. He sorted out the panicked words that filtered through his brain. The voice sounded like Barin, if Barin had ever spoken to him in a manner other than bottled anger and hatred. It sounded pleading and desperate.

The fuck?

That only lasted a second until his brain kicked him in the balls with the context of the words. Salma was having her Birthright?!  The hell was wrong with these people, had the sun baked the common sense right out of them?  She was just barely six years old and while it wasn’t completely unheard of, it was still far too young realistically. There was something about all this that seemed….more.

Cries on the street, the sound of an alarm being raised and Theo opened the door to his shop just in time to see a strange blood covered witch taking down a warrior who was rushing her with his Khanjar. Staring dumbfounded, he watched her blankly continue forward in her progress, her lips moving slightly as if she were repeating something over and over to herself but the expression in her eyes.

Mother Blessed Night and all the realms of Hell!   He had seen that look before in men at war, those who had pushed themselves past the point of all logical reasoning to the limit and broken or at the very least shattered their chalices until they were nothing more than a singularly focused killing machine. And she was. From this distance he couldn’t tell where her jewel strength rested just her skill with the blade. She had training and lots of it.

Things seem to have just gotten a lot more complicated and he didn’t know this woman and might have said the two things were totally unrelated but she was moving in the direction of the Temple where certainly Naya would be taking Salma. No, not Naya. She would never do anything to put Salma at risk like this. This stank of that bitch Zhaleh and Matin’s aunt Shira. He had picked up enough from his casual listening in of discussions and comments made that those two had intentions for Salma that would someday put her in Elenor’s place as the ‘rightful’ Queen of the Sabbah. He only had minor conflicts about his Queen replacing his sister in the sense that he would support his Lady to his death but only if it was a choice that SHE made, not was forced upon her.

Well, if he was going up against a possible Green and Red, not to mention the men they were probably going to have in place to prevent anyone from stopping their plans, he wasn’t going into this half cocked and unprepared. Hurrying up to his apartments, he released the craft lock on a very old and battered chest. He didn’t place much value in material things, having had to pack up and leave much in his life, but this was precious. So much so he had paid a pretty penny for the webs that were wrapped around what looked to be a useless and worthless crate. Inside, nestled in protective fabrics to keep air and moisture from ravaging the items inside, was the molded leather cuirass and bracers that Theo had worn all those centuries ago in the last vestiges of the Great War.

He would never say he was a man meant for war, and prefered to do his fighting to his own strengths and so was fitted with armor that left his movements flexible without leaving him unprotected. Using craft to cinch the sides together, he pulled on his bracers and reached for the last items, a scabbard belt and sword. The familiar tingle of craft, the long lost feel of the Green that he had been a part of his soul brushed over his skin like an absent lover and he sighed softly. No, this was not the time.

Rushing towards the door as he pulled the belt around his waist, he took to the streets, rushing down a side alley that ran parallel to the woman reeking havoc. He had no plans to get in her way, he had a more important task but he also did not want her to assume he was yet another obstacle to be resolved and come after him. He didn’t have the time to deal with her.

Snap, Snarl and Girl took flank around him and he gave a harsh whistle. Now was not the time to test their merit. He didn’t know what was awaiting them and he did not want the dogs to be risked. They stopped and whined sadly, but sat down. He kept running. It didn’t take him long to reach where the woman was. He could hear the sounds of fighting echoing over the rooftops. Good, even if she was headed in the same direction, she would be delayed just slightly longer than he by her opponents.

Something soared above him, and he had the faintest recognition brush his senses but he didn’t let it phase his progress. Rooftops might have been quicker. Already his way was being blocked by people who were trying to view the fighting but were wise enough not to step out onto the main roads. The temple loomed just within his view and he roared “MOVE”, startling a few of the last obstacles out of his path. He was well aware of the stares he garnered, a strange blond giant man in armor rushing forward like a runaway carriage. It wasn’t the first time the people of Onn had seen this.

He hadn’t quite made the time she did and by the time he broke through to the area around the temple it had already been a bloodbath. He just missed the blooded witch slipping over a windowsill and into the temple.

*Clever girl* he thought. When confronted with the bodies on the ground, it was obvious that going through the front door wouldn’t work. A quick sight shield and he made a running leap for the wall, his arms reaching up and grasping at jutting stones, pulling himself up swiftly to a nearby window. Not the same one he saw her go through, but close enough.

Pain, it radiated out like a spiked collar that hit him in the stomach. He almost lost his grip and fell so intense was the scream that pierced his soul, hit him at his very depth of his core. For a moment, his heart stopped as he thought…. No, the pulse of Salma was still strong but he could feel her fear, her excitement and her pain. No, something else….it tasted of Purple Dusk power and then was gone.

He pulled himself up and over the sill, crouching in the shadow  of the dawning light outside.

Inside he saw Naya crouched on the ground, his Queen beside her and the glint of something rose in her hands. His Queen, his Sister, Mya. Three women who meant everything in the world to him and they all bore the same Birthright. There was something important in that commonality, but he would explore that later. Behind them, two older women who radiated the power that held the main temple doors closed. His eyes narrowed, focused on them as they watched intently and with a degree of bloodthirsty satisfaction as Elham stepped up, Khanjar unsheathed and ready.

He needed to get Salma out of here, get her and Naya to safety. Looking around carefully, he wrapped himself in a sightshield and dropped to the ground, using aural craft to hide the sound of his landing. As soon as his feet hit the ground, he pooled his Purple Dusk strength and threw it at the two women. It wasn’t a killing blow, offensively he was never very good at that sort of attack. He was always more adept at physical confrontations than craft ones but he used what he could to the best of his abilities. Pressure, sound and brilliant light flashed in their face with enough heat to make them stagger backwards and if he was very lucky, probably singe off eyebrows and eyelashes in the process.

Rolling forward, he swept his sword from its scabbard and bounced to his feet, point extended as he felt the Green shields in his armor and weapon flare around him as it was meant to do when the sword was free. Placing himself between Salma and the women, his eyes flashed gold and he snarled fiercely.

“Back the fuck away from my Queen,” he hissed, throwing another brilliant flash in their faces as his sword followed suit, narrowly missing the front of their clothes. He heard Elham cry out painfully, and feigned left. If Elham was down, that meant the woman was coming for them next. He dashed towards Salma and Naya, throwing a Purple Dusk around them tightly. Uncertain of the effect, he stared at the gore covered woman.

“This is my Queen, she is under my protection and no man or woman will come between us. I am not your enemy but I will place my life before hers.”  He carefully placed the sword back into its scabbard slowly, eyes fixed on the woman who had delivered a disabling blow to a seasoned and strong warrior like Elham before raising his hands carefully to show he was now unarmed and no threat to anyone.

Movement behind him and he saw Naya and Salma move towards the fallen Warlord and he carefully stepped back to follow their movements, keeping his eyes on the feral creature who watched him with those vacant and frightening eyes. Without looking away, he knelt beside his Queen, his large hand carefully placed on her back as he said softly. “I am here Salma, let me try and help your mothers.”

The wound was awful, he had seen men bleed out from similar wounds and it was slow and painful. The fact that she hadn’t gone into critical shock already was a testament to her strength. He called in linen fabric from his psychic cabinet, long strips that he would use to wrap smaller delicate items for their long travels in a crate and took in the damage. He swore under his breath at the smell and his lack of healing talent as he carefully tried to wrap the fabric around her middle and up and around her torso to hold the gaping hole together. Blood loss was almost the least concern, more so was the puncture of vital organs or the leaking of the intestinal fluids into the body itself. And it was painful and very very slow.

“We need to get her to a Healer fast!”  He said softly, and started in surprise as the bloody woman suddenly was flung backwards and Elenor appeared atop her, hands pressed onto the stranger’s head. He would have said something, did something and then they both collapsed as males he recognized from El’s court appeared at her side.


Offline Adavera ibna Sadagh

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Re: From Salted Earth, A Rose
« Reply #21 on: Aug 31, 18, 09:15:21 PM »
Flash. Smoke. Burn. Singe. She felt born in those sensations. They didn’t bother her, not in the way they should. What bothered her was that she hadn't been the one to start those flashes, those burns. What bothered her was that yet another shadow was trying to interfere.

What was it about fucking Shira al-Sabbah that the entire desert would try to protect her?  She hissed, whipping about to face the new shadow between herself and Salma. Salma, with her glowing Rose light and her tears. Color and sound that managed to penetrate the thick haze surrounding her thoughts.
SavESaLma…

Her eyes slid to the shadow in the way, the way he maneuvered to stay between her and the Queenling. His sword went into the scabbard at his hip. His hands went up. If the shadow was trying to speak, he was wasting his breath. She didn’t care what that shadow had to say. But he wasn’t going to attack, and he wasn’t moving Salma out of the building.

For now, it would do. She twisted about, her blade flicking to send blood splashing across the tiles and let the lights play along an edge kept sharp from years of care. Her eyes narrowed, taking in the new targets.

The original targets.

KiLLshIra… KiLLZhaleH…

They were here. She could see them, in all their colored glory. They were not shadows. The world was crystal clear around them.. Kidnappers. Rapists. Murderers

Her lips peeled back off her teeth as she watched them. The were here… and she would kill them. The Queenling was safe. That was all that mattered before… And now all that mattered was that she get Shira’s throat in her teeth. She wanted to feel her jaw ache with the effort of ripping it apart.

She made it five steps before she felt something impact her, crash into her back and ride her down, sending the blade - her blade - skittering across the floor. She had only made it five steps before she felt one of her hands pulled back behind her as she fell, her head lifting to stare at her enemies while a howl left her lips, even as she felt something slide across her palm.

That howl turned into a wail as she felt… pressure. Pressure, and darkness, and… Someone was dipping into her mind. HERS!  HER thoughts, HERS!gEtOut!



Offline Matin al-Sabbah

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Re: From Salted Earth, A Rose
« Reply #22 on: Aug 31, 18, 09:54:36 PM »
It was slower than running along the rooftops after Elenor and Michael, but the strength of Matin’s Purple Dusk and the clarity of the Killing Edge propelled Matin through the streets of Onn towards the Temple, barreling through anyone and anything that was foolish enough to stand in the path of a Warlord Prince seething hot anger.

Salma needed him.

He didn’t think about everything he had sacrificed to keep his daughter safe, or everything else he was willing to give for her. He didn’t wonder how it had come to this or who was to blame, or analyze the situation until it somehow made sense.

It didn’t need to make sense, but he didn’t even waste a thought to realize that.

Salma needed him, and that singular fact tore through every ounce of training and Protocol and experience that usually held him together. He was not a man but a force, like the wind, like a sandstorm, like the Darkness itself.

Seeing blood in the streets fueled him, honing the nameless emotion that drove him towards his child and anyone who would stand between them. The sweet, metallic scent blended with the fear that hung palpable in the air, pressing against his need to protect and it was everything.

Salma was everything, and she needed him.

He didn’t look at the faces of the corpses and moaning wounded he passed. His Mark told him where his daughter was, and the bodies and blood were just obstacles he needed to get through to reach her.

He finally reached the Temple, and he pushed past the people left standing and threw himself towards the inner chamber where Salma would be.

His heart burst with relief and fear when he finally laid eyes on her, wrapped in Naya’s arms.

Naya.

Salma’s Birthright.

Flashes of coherent thought.

Naya could have brought her here.

Naya was the only person who could grant Matin paternity of his daughter.

He had trusted her.

Matin didn’t know when he had drawn his Khanjar, but it was in his hand as he threw himself towards her, a wordless scream of betrayal and fury ripping out of his core.



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Offline Theodor Lirion

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Re: From Salted Earth, A Rose
« Reply #23 on: Aug 31, 18, 09:59:53 PM »
Theo turned his attention back to Elham.  She was in horrible shape and he worried that trying to move her before a healer could secure the wound better would cause more harm than good, maybe even kill her.

Throwing a thought out on the Purple Dusk thread, he made a desperate plea for a healer, any healer to get their ass to the Vaya Temple immediately and they would be richly rewarded.  He wasn’t sure if anyone would come, the situation seemed to be heavily Sabbah and he didn’t think anyone from another Clan would stick their noses into the melee but he had to try.  He didn’t know the healers of the Sabbah or even if they would be willing to help.   The True Sabbah had polarized the Clan to the point of breaking and things were dangerously complicated at this very moment.

He thought for the briefest moment that backup had arrived, when Matin came rushing into the room.  Matin would help get Elham to safety, Matin would….

He saw the cold expression fall across his face as he stared down at Naya who was crouched with her daughter and wife, stared with an expression that could have stopped a weaker man in his tracks.  Theo swore under his breath as Matin’s khanjar appeared in his hand and the man rushed forward.

Shit.  What was he… Theo didn’t have more than that much time to think, pushing forward to meet the Warlord Prince, his own sword brandished out to block the blow meant for Naya.  He braced his body forward, one leg behind him as he pushed Matin backwards using the strength of his arms.

“For fuck sake Matin!  What is wrong with you?!  It’s Naya!” 

There was a feral quality behind the eyes, this was a Warlord Prince and he was pissed!  Theo swallowed hard and pushed forward, blocking any move that Matin made with his own sword and was thankful, not for the first time, that he still had the Green shielding in his gear.  Seeing an opening, he tucked his shoulder down and rammed the other man in the chest, sending him flying backwards.

“Dammit man, I don’t want to hurt you!”  and he meant it.  For as much as he thought Matin a pompous ass for so many months since he met him, lately he had to admit he was actually starting to see him for a fairly decent fellow and not just because he was the father of his Queen.  The first night of the festival, when he had brought Salma to him for safety and then returned and slept in his apartment, had marked a strange turning point in their relationship...nee even friendship?   He admired him for what he had done to keep Salma safe, he really didn’t want to hurt him and he REALLY didn’t want to think about having to stop him permanently but Naya was wounded, in spirit if not in body and he couldn’t stand by and let Matin blindly attack her.

Why was he attacking her?  He didn’t understand the rage in the man’s face.

A brush of Purple Dusk at his awareness and he saw the young Warlord Prince appear from a side door. 

*Barin, get the women out of here!  Matin’s damned lost his senses and is trying to go after Naya.  I can hold him off, but get them SAFE*   He cut off the dialogue as something hot and sharp sliced against his upper arm and he dodged out of the way.  He didn’t wait for a response, he knew that Barin would do right by his cousin and mothers.  He saw the flicker in Matin’s eyes and swung his sword down, bringing the hilt to strike against Matin’s wrist.

“I’m your opponent,” he challenged harshly, dancing back a few steps to avoid another blow.   He knew that he only had the smallest advantage because Matin’s focus was on Naya, his true goal was Naya and Theo was only a minor blockade.  On a true Killing Field, Theo’s limited training wouldn’t stand a chance but what he lacked in finesse he could make up with speed and agility.  Theo was remarkably quick on his feet for such a large man and could keep dodging and ducking the strongest of blows.  His Green shielding would help protect him from any power bolts…for a little time anyway, hopefully long enough for Barin to get Naya out of eyesight.

As soon as they were gone, Theo rushed Matin and threw the entirety of his weight behind the movement, ignoring the feeling of something going through his side.  He knew it was a calculated risk in the move, that pushing for closer quarters would give Matin an opening to stick him with that pointy sword of his, but he trusted he could move fast enough to keep it from angling correctly into anything useful.  He had been meaning to work on the little bit of fleshy bits on his waist anyway.


Hearing the loud and painful sound of body hitting stone, he held Matin into the wall, his arm braced against the man’s collarbone as he leaned into him.  “By all the levels of Hell man, what has gotten into you?!   Naya would never do anything to hurt you, to hurt Salma!”  He pointed with his hand in the direction of where those other women had been, but they had vanished in the chaos sometime during the fight.

“I don’t know what the fuck is going on here, but it stinks something fierce of darker jewels than either of us have, certainly Naya.  Didn’t you realize something was going on with her?  She came to see me and…” well better not bring that up at the moment, “I think that crazy Red bitch did something to her, Black Widow craft or something.  I don’t know what but I’d wager it's what caused all this.  Naya would never ever hurt you Matin,” he growled softly

He didn’t know for certain, hadn’t heard the words spoken but he knew the Birthright ceremony, knew that as soon as the child had their jewel, the most immediate step was the paternity declaration.  Salma had her jewel, Naya was standing with her, so it only made sense…

Hoping that his next words would temper the Prince and would ring true enough in his scent.  He wasn’t sure, couldn’t really be sure, he could only weigh what he knew about Naya and Matin and with what he felt as he had crawled through that window, what could have happened to cause anyone to endure the intense pain of a breaking jewel.

“She gave you paternity Matin, said it just before I came in.  I heard it.   Salma is YOURS, witnessed by everyone in this room.  She’s yours and I think she broke her Offering to make it happen.”  He waited, lessening his grip and weight on the Warlord Prince, his sister’s Bonded male.   It was a lie, a bold faced lie that was coated with the best of intentions to bring a frightened, angry and hurting male back from the brink of doing something he might regret when the fog cleared.   The fear that he had just lost the most important creature in existence to him had to be driving his attack, and perhaps if he was convincing enough, it would take the fire out of him.

Theo felt Matin’s hand move up, press itself to his chest and for a moment he wasn’t sure if the man was finally going to come back from that killing edge and was holding onto him for a point of focus.  Something hot flashed through his ribcage, sending him flying back across the floor, smoke rising off of him as he caught the briefest glance  of Matin rushing past him and out of the temple.

Damnit, he thought as his head fell back on the cold stone and he brushed his hand against the hole in his armor, feeling like he had just been kicked by a herd of horses.  He forgot how much a power bolt at close range could hurt like a bitch.  Could have killed him too, if his gear hadn’t been shielded….had been shielded.  All gone now.  That took some of the physical sting out of the hit and made it more emotional.  The last of his Green gone now, lost forever.

Groaning loudly he pushed himself off the ground, pressing a hand into the shallow cut against his ribs, eyes sliding around at the destruction and carnage.  El was still on top of the crazed woman, and both looked to be unconscious.  He sucked up his discomfort, and rose to his feet, intending to make his way over towards Elenor but a sharp look from one of her males had him reconsidering the idea.  He hadn’t met this one, older male from the look of him, not Pruulian for sure, but he held that fierce protective look that Theo recognized as a Bonded male ready to do all to protect his Queen.

Theo bent down to pick up his sword from where it had fallen, nodded to the male with a “I would appreciate someone updating me on my sister when all this quiets down,” before he hurried off to follow Matin.