Author Topic: To Serve His Radiance  (Read 2363 times)

Iridni Ren

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His Consuming Radiance
« Reply #25 on: August 08, 2017, 02:33:30 PM »
Spoiler: show


After Warden Agnes sealed against all evil the accursed tomb’s exit with the blessed water, the five began to examine their macabre surroundings, searching for additional traps. For such a task Iridni was nearly useless, and so her attention instead wandered over the opulence that Port-a-Lucine nobility enjoyed even in death and decay. Heraldic crests, signs, and symbols adorned everything upon which her eyes came to rest. Above her, the ceiling was carved in great relief and painted in pastel colors, wherever it was not inlaid with precious stones. Faux windows with gilded frames intervened against the same pattern on the walls, and the size of the chiseled baroque pillars had made dressing with the entirety of her small form obscured behind one relatively easy, more so when she had moved out of the glow of the group’s torches.

All the wasted wealth offended Iridni’s Pelorian sensibilities as she thought of the dire, grinding poverty that persisted among the living. What madness caused men to bury their treasure and then that much more to squander it on guards to watch over it continually, so that those who lived and dwelt in the light could not put it to good and productive use?

Her busy compatriots knew not the cause of the holy maiden’s audible sigh.



What had helped previously to preserve Iridni’s modesty made their present endeavors all the more arduous. The dim light rendered spotting traps nearly impossible, and the hellish creatures they sought could use both the columns and darkness to advantage as well. The vampires for which the five searched and their minions might be waiting in ambush, ready to pounce when the crusaders were distracted or, worse, wounded and in disarray from an undetected trap.

The sergeant continued to look for and disarm the latter, her effort aided by some lens that Agnes had provided her. Yet regardless of the meticulous woman’s care, another magical explosion ripped through them, and Iridni doubled over in pain. When she straightened back up, she saw that the bloodied gendarme had taken the worst of it…and was no longer moving.

Warden Agnes, herself bleeding from several wounds, looked at the crumpled Lamordian and knelt beside her, just as Iridni had ministered unto Ionathan the previous night. She placed diamonds on the ground in sacrifice to Ezra for the boon she sought. Meanwhile, Iridni tended to the many injuries to all the women, including herself. They had not yet found any of their foes, but already the tomb itself had reduced their small band by one.

As if to prove her worry of moments before correct, swarms of giant undead insects erupted around them, many specimens bigger than Iridni. Her mien of healing and compassion vanished in a tick of the clock, her small but gauntleted hand reaching for the hammer at her belt that hungered without sating to crush the undead.  Although Zachary dispatched many with less effort and Mainane fought bravely at his side, the Pelorian at last felt useful to their common cause, smashing their bloodsucking foes asunder and sustaining but few wounds herself. When bitten, however, she felt the burning fire of poison and the life-sapping energy that coursed through all undead. Through Pelor’s infinite mercy she shrugged both off.

Once the cloud cleared, the group perceived a pale, caged woman. Upon freeing her, Zachary spoke: “Iridni, please check her condition.”

The priestess put her weapon and shield aside as she stepped toward the prisoner, while trying to smile reassuringly in contrast to the sadistic scene encompassing them. On her neck the anemic woman exhibited evidence of a vampire’s handiwork, but the feeding had not yet converted the poor victim to darkness. Iridni and the others had arrived in time to save her, although the three nearby coffins were also empty. Her vile tormentors were yet at large.

Zachary thought it best to escort the prisoner back out of the crypts, and Iridni was more than a little frightened to see him leave, knowing that Saskia suffered with the death sickness and that left only three women against at least as many vampires. Worse, the blessings of the two priestesses had faded, so that they would need to pray to regain Ezra’s and Pelor’s favor.

Blessedly, the vrolocks did not strike during this most opportune time, and with Zachary’s return and her prayers uttered, Iridni felt more confident that they might yet prevail, no matter the number of their foe. Her assuredness was short-lived, as they soon entered a more wretched chamber yet.

The still ailing sergeant reached for the door but noticed a strange, intricate device upon it. As she began to tinker with the mechanism, a horrendous cacophony blasted the air about them, almost rupturing Iridni’s eardrums. Instinctively raising her slender shoulders to protect against the noise, the maiden felt something warm and wet strike her simultaneously in the face. It was a fragment of Sergeant Niederhauser.

The explosion left nothing of the gendarme that resembled a human woman, only butchered meat.

« Last Edit: August 09, 2017, 01:24:50 AM by Iridni Ren »

My windows cracked, but they can be replaced.
Your arm will tire throwing stones my way.

Iridni Ren

  • Priestess of Pelor
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His Consuming Radiance
« Reply #26 on: August 10, 2017, 01:24:31 AM »
The seemingly indestructible Zachary, who was closest to the sergeant when the device detonated, had been stunned and knocked to his knees. The three women stared in horror at the mangled form of Saskia, and Iridni realized that nothing could restore her; she was beyond the greatest powers with which Iridni's god had ever blessed the young priestess. Even so, they could not leave the gendarme behind.

Swallowing as she observed that the blast had ripped off most of the woman's skin, Iridni said, “I can carry what remains of her, Zachary.” It was not a task she relished.

Warden Agnes spoke matter-of-factly. “It's alright...I'll do it. You're the better fighter, Iridni.”

Although Iridni doubted the Ezrite's assessment, she nonetheless met the Warden's eyes in gratitude and welcomed being spared the macabre task. Her relief was not purely from squeamishness, as her religious practice had necessitated she expose herself to all manner of blood, wounds, guts, and, indeed, putrescence. No, knowing how the sergeant in life had resisted both her Pelorian faith and her healing touch caused Iridni to feel it somehow a violation even to look upon Saskia Niederhauser in this least private of states, much more so to take her bared bones and spilled entrails into Iridni's own alien hands and hoist the woman into a bag—as though stuffing a sausage, rather than performing the final, respectful duty owed the quarrelsome companion who had only moments before stood beside them.

Perhaps Pelorians at such times were too sensitive, she considered, and the cold practicality of an Ezrite was preferable.

Once everything of the Sergeant that could be gathered had been scooped into the Warden's bag, the four passed through the door they had breached at such great cost. Inside, more coffins evidenced the presence of yet more vrolocks, but dominating the tableau before them was an immense mechanism of cruelty and torture: an iron maiden. Fresh blood dripped from something within, and chairs were arranged in a circle around it so that its evil employers could watch its handiwork in leisure. Zachary put his hand upon it and spoke softly, “Turn your head, Iridni.”

Iridni willingly complied, recalling how this coven favored child victims. She did not need to see to know what the diabolical device likely contained. When she again looked, she saw the container ajar and Zachary cloaking a form on the ground. He muttered as he did so, “I am sorry. You deserved better than this.”

Meanwhile, Warden Agnes had opened one of the coffins and made an opportune discovery: these were not the hiding places of undead but some of the sepulchers in which the tomb's rightful occupants rested. “It seems this brave man was a templar in life,” Agnes said, her eyes widening at the magnificent regalia of the knight within. “Pierre Vernier, the Second Vicomte de Guisse.” In particular a sword and scroll caught her eye.

She reached for the papyrus with a delirious smile of satisfaction and recognition, yet as she touched it an almost painful chill like the touch of death itself passed over her. All in the room felt something dark and powerful looking for a moment upon them, judging them, it seemed. Iridni had witnessed Agnes in agony when the Storyteller had nearly killed them both, but she had never before seen any expression distort her fellow Kin's kind face as it was distorted now.

The Warden composed herself and looked heavenward: “Ezra will forgive this desecration in the spirit of duty, I pray.” She pulled the scroll free. “I pray. And you shall too, Templar Vernier....I pray.”

The darkness passed anon, but Agnes dare not disturb the remains of the vicomte or his treasure further, although the glorious sword within seemed to beckon with temptation. Under the circumstances, the scroll proved far more valuable than any weapon of violence, for inscribed upon it was the means of restoring their obliterated comrade to life.

All of them at once focused completely on the ritual. “I will also need a candle,” Agnes said, and one was retrieved from the crypt's many candelabras. Circled around Agnes and the remains of Saskia as the Ezrite began to read from the scroll, they little noticed in the dim light the ominous figure forming out of mist behind them.


Spoiler: show

« Last Edit: August 10, 2017, 01:26:47 AM by Iridni Ren »

My windows cracked, but they can be replaced.
Your arm will tire throwing stones my way.

Iridni Ren

  • Priestess of Pelor
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Re: His Consuming Radiance
« Reply #27 on: August 13, 2017, 09:59:07 PM »
Although Zachary remained solicitous of the sergeant's well-being after the divine magic mended her destroyed body, Mainane grew impatient with the minutes passing as Saskia struggled to revive. “We don't have time!” she hissed. Or perhaps she resented the charismatic paladin's attention toward the disagreeable gendarme.

While they bickered, Iridni noticed the ominous figure that had formed in the shadows. “Here comes someone.”

Mainane did not immediately hear the Pelorian's warning and continued to fume. “Delacourte could be escaping as—“

As the stranger approached, Iridni paled. “It's her!”

Yes...the woman of noble bearing who now stood before them was none other than Marie Delacourte, the vampire they sought and the instrument of all the evil they had witnessed. Mainane turned from Zachary and Saskia and tightened her grip on her weapons.

Warden Agnes began to pray to Ezra while Iridni moved to create distance between herself and the others. She knew not what attack might come upon them from the vrolock or her allied devils, but the young priestess intended at least to make it difficult to strike the small company all at once as had happened with many of the traps that ripped through them earlier. Marie spoke, “Yes, it is I...and I am not escaping.”

At this pronouncement, Zachary slowly drew his sword and retrieved his shield from where he had placed it while kneeling by Saskia. Marie continued, “There is no escaping from...this. But I've come to realize something.”

Mainane stepped forward. “What have you come to realize.”

“I...never asked for this. I didn't ever want...Ira...Ira transformed me into what I am, now. But I've allowed myself to go along with it. I even invited...” Marie paused and looked behind her into the darkness where none of their light reached. “I even invited the others here.”

Iridni could feel the blessings of Pelor wane, and she wished to speak, to warn the others, but felt it was above her station to do so. Both Zachary and Mainane seemed confident in what they were doing, whereas she could not discern whether the vrolock was sincere in her words or only stalling for time. Marie did look a piteous sight, yet Iridni recalled all the horrors and evil that they had encountered before now and used the memory to ward against her natural merciful impulses. Instead of lowering her guard, she strained her eyes to see whether the shadows cloaked Marie's allies, positioning themselves for a surprise attack while the vampire parlayed.

Still Marie kept speaking: “But...perhaps a piece of my...humanity, it remains. I'm sorry for what I did to Jean-Michel Piaget. For what I did in the orphanage. It doesn't change anything...and I know what you must do.”

Mainane stared at her for a long while, as though waiting to see whether Marie would say more. Then she spoke softly, “This is exactly what he wanted. I told you that.”

Zachary nodded and added, “You were better than this, Marie....You are what you are because it's what your father wanted—wanted you to become. He set that creature on your path.”

No matter how she strained, Iridni could see nothing, and so she only listened to the others and watched, her slender frame still tensed like a tightened spring within her over-sized armor.

Zachary had once again lowered his weapon. “For what it's worth, I'm sorry, too. For all the horror that has happened, you did not deserve what was done to start it.”

In the meantime, Mainane had slipped her hand into her robes, where her grip found something unseen by the rest of them. Marie sighed, “I hate what I've become. I hate it with every piece of who I am.”

When Mainane's hand reappeared, it held a round, sharpened piece of wood. “Will you allow me to do this for you? I'll free you of this.”

Iridni watched the vrolock to see how she would react. “I will.” Marie looked at the stake with resignation. “But you will still have work to be done. The others...the other five...they will not go so quietly.”

Mainane brandished the stake and stepped forward. “Lie down, Marie, and it will all be over. Then we will take care of the others.”

Marie's body began to assume an air of repose, but on the woman's face was yet fear—the fear of true death and non-existence. The pity that Iridni had held in check broke the dam of her strong will and poured into the Pelorian's heart as she witnessed the woman's anguish. She knelt to pray for Marie's soul.

Marie spoke one last time: “I defy you father. I defy you as well, Ira...I'm through playing either of your...games.” She rasped the last word as the point of Mainane's stake rested against her upturned breast.

Father of the Dawn...bless this woman as she lays aside her unnatural unlife willingly.
May she know Thy blessed warmth in the fields of Elysium
Redeem her now to the good woman she was in life
Rather than what dark corruption would have her be.


Mainane drove the stake home, and Marie's blood erupted from her chest.

Thank you, Pelor, for Thy mercy.

Marie's body was still. Warden Agnes broke the ensuing silence: “We must decapitate her.”

Iridni rose from her knees and bit her lower lip to stop its quivering. “Yes, but first...” The Pelorian's trembling, gauntleted hand reached toward Marie's lifeless, staring eyes.

And gently closed them.


Spoiler: show

My windows cracked, but they can be replaced.
Your arm will tire throwing stones my way.

Iridni Ren

  • Priestess of Pelor
  • The Wayfarer Kinship
  • Dark Lord
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  • Posts: 851
  • When all other lights go out
His Consuming Radiance
« Reply #28 on: August 17, 2017, 10:27:19 AM »
There was little more to say.

Although the five remaining vampires appeared formidable, the band dispatched them with ease—more so when the spirit of Pierre Vernier himself appeared to aid them. As Mainane, the sergeant, Zachary, and Warden Agnes retraced their steps in victory, however, Iridni lost sight of the others and found herself in the crypt alone. Recalling the many horrendous traps they had endured during their descent and having no skill for avoiding such on her own, she asked Pelor to bless her against them. By His grace she became incorporeal, so that she felt much at home with the other residual spirits of the tomb—except she could not speak Mordentish and so had little to say to them.

Passing through the gates and into the night, she spied the guard who had made their entry so difficult and considered putting a naughty scare into him, but realized he was only doing his job. Nothing in his behavior toward the questing group had been evil or warranted her impulsive mischief.

She journeyed on toward the caravans and found some of the guards of Port-a-Lucine had blockaded the road. One of them was the gendarme whom she thought Sergeant Saskia’s superior, and she little wished to challenge him, yet hiring the Vistani would require that she dispel her god’s blessing of protection. Thus, she found a secluded spot from which to observe the road, stretched out her bedroll, and slept as best she could.

She had not dreamed of Alistar for many nights and hoped this meant the wound to her heart from his repeated absences was again mending. Regardless of the strength of the feeling of first love and how he had reciprocated, she little doubted that what she had feared had come to pass: in her youth, innocence, and devotion to her god, she had been unable to sustain the paladin’s passion for her, no matter his good and noble intent.

Instead she dreamed only of Almor…home...of using the scroll Medea described and that belonged to the Midnight Shrike to return there. In her dream, however, she also saw another girl, much like herself but so young as to be a true child: scared, alone, and pulled in by the Mists as she had been all those months ago. Slowly it dawned on Iridni as she watched the terrified waif that the mechanism of the scroll was such that it could indeed offer an escape from this trap and return her to Chathold and her family—but only by replacing one victim with another.

Could she employ it so selfishly if by doing so she doomed some innocent even less capable than she to take her place in this nightmarish hell?

The next morning, her road was clear.


My windows cracked, but they can be replaced.
Your arm will tire throwing stones my way.

Iridni Ren

  • Priestess of Pelor
  • The Wayfarer Kinship
  • Dark Lord
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  • Posts: 851
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His Consuming Radiance
« Reply #29 on: August 23, 2017, 04:13:00 PM »
All is well…the spell is broken.
I am here with thee...for this moment.


After Iridni finished her morning prayers and felt her soul composed, she began to practice and train her petite body. The unending struggle that was Barovia made her physically stronger; so did the constant bearing of her armor and the heavy but holy hammer Sora had bequeathed her. She wielded it with more ease and skill than ever before. She progressed, but other than her own growing faith, the power her god granted her, and the losing of those she loved—her family, Alistar, Father Dimitru, Argali—she saw no discernible change in the world around her.

Life in Chathold from one year to the next had been different, yet this land was an endless circle of seasons and transient travelers, none leaving a lasting mark. She recalled her long ago conversation with Father Dimitru when he had imparted the same truth to her. He, too, began with idealism, only to discover why the Morning Lordian church had moved incessantly west, never realizing its ideals in the shadow of the enormous, oppressive castle over-arching the Village of Barovia.

She no longer had the blessed water Father Miklos gave her on that occasion, when he had shown her for one moment that most forbidden of volumes. Warden Agnes had used the holy liquid to seal the Vernier crypt against Madame Delacourte’s escape. All that remained to Iridni of the Father besides her memory was his liturgical book that echoed so many Pelorian prayers.

Now another vampire rampaged in Port-a-Lucine, one even more bold and bloody than the last. Father Miklos was no more, the gift of his water poured out, but the onslaught of undead was never-ending. And so she trained, pushing both her spirit and body further each hour than the hour before. Yet if she remained trapped here, where nothing ever changed, was she of any real use? Did her efforts make any difference in the end, or would she inevitably fail just as everyone before her? To die to accomplish her god’s will, to amplify His light even the smallest of slivers, that she would consider herself blessed to do: to be consumed so that Pelor’s immortal majesty would nova through her in all His glory, even if she—so very mortal in her youth and growing beauty—burned to spent, dry ash.

Perhaps in Almor she might have achieved such an elevation, but why had she been abducted to a place where the brightest light was as inconsequential and forgotten as a child’s castle of sand erected against the relentless ocean’s dark tide?

She kneeled briefly, as though dodging an attack, then sprang up and feinted in a maneuver Argali had taught her, before spinning and swinging her weapon in surprise devastation from the opposite direction. No, she refused the frustration and despair that longed to penetrate like tendrils of subtle, corrupting mist into her mind, her heart, instead focusing on how her muscles stretched and ached as she moved from one combat defense and attack to another, refusing also to tire physically.

Medea thought her a selfish baby for wanting to go home, that the wretched souls here needed her compassion more than did an entire prelacy of Pelorians. Perhaps the always harping wizard was right. Perhaps Iridni’s dull candle would have added little to the Father of Light’s brilliance except here in contrasted isolation.

If she, with the constant reassurance of her faith, faltered, how much more so those who were so very alone in the darkness—suffering the same loss and sadness as she, but without the glow of Pelor to reassure them?

In the depths of her heart, she could not relinquish her desire to see her mother, father, and sister: to be embraced and comforted again by those who would shelter and love her, rather than always looking to her with eyes that asked to be healed themselves, seeking and draining her blessings from her…much as a vampire might thirst after her life’s blood. She must, she told herself, forgive them their perpetual need and how her own wants went unrequited. For now, this day, this night, she would put aside her heart’s desire, risk her small and uncomforted form again…and indeed sacrifice it if she must.

To serve His radiance.


Spoiler: show
« Last Edit: August 24, 2017, 12:51:02 AM by Iridni Ren »

My windows cracked, but they can be replaced.
Your arm will tire throwing stones my way.

Iridni Ren

  • Priestess of Pelor
  • The Wayfarer Kinship
  • Dark Lord
  • *****
  • Posts: 851
  • When all other lights go out
Re: His Consuming Radiance
« Reply #30 on: August 27, 2017, 07:47:26 PM »
Spoiler: show
Kill of the Night

The street's a liar
I'm gonna lure you into the dark
My cold desire
To hear the boom, boom, boom of your heart
The danger is I'm dangerous
And I might just tear you apart
Oh, ah, oh
I'm gonna catch ya
I'm gonna get ya, get ya
Oh, ah, oh
I wanna taste the way that you bleed, oh
You're my kill of the night....

This is a bad town for such a pretty face.

After night fell, Morvayn, Io, and Iridni dragged themselves back into the embattled city of Port-a-Lucine. The priestess ignored the gawks her armor elicited from passersby, knowing, if she were accosted, the deputation from the lieutenant was tucked in her healer's belt. The two men and she had a murderous vampire to hunt, and now was no time to give into her timidity and desire to avoid drawing attention. She did not intend to fight a vrolock wearing nothing but an evening gown.

Likewise, when she summoned Pelor's power so that she could see all creatures that might hide or even use arcane arts to render themselves undetectable, she tried to shrug off Morvayn's whispered criticism: “Casting a spell in front of everyone is not usually considered careful...but okay.”

She murmured back to him, “No one likes me here anyway. I'm going to avoid being blindsided, if I can.” The Story Teller, she recalled, had held her attention until his “son” ambushed her from behind, plunging his sword with terrifying force into her vulnerable back, so that she fell almost lifeless between the two. She prayed she had learned from her past mistakes and would survive this night the new mistakes she was certain to commit.

Near where the ships sailed in when the Port was not blockaded, they came upon a woman who for a moment Iridni thought might be enthralled to Tristand, as the Dementlieuse stranger stood alone and stared with complete vacancy out at the bottled-up bay. When Iridni approached so that her Kinship amulet was visible, however, the woman's demeanor turned to a distasteful frown, and her Mordentish words were haughty: “Wayfarers...how quaint.”

Yes, how quaint: three misplaced foreigners risking their lives for a populace that in normal circumstances would find them beneath notice at best, contemptible at worst.

Iridni could not understand her, and the three Kin had no time to consider the cause of the woman's reaction in any case. As the clock struck 11 p.m., a ghastly fog descended from the precipice of the promenade. This mist crept across the cobblestones, almost taunting the onlookers and refracting the glow of the moon and lamplight until it suffused the ground with what resembled wispy, ivy-like tendrils.

The Kin signaled among themselves before edging toward it. Just as previous reports had described the vampire's behavior, the mist spilled down the grate through the gaps and into the fetid bowels of the city. Iridni saw Io moving into a nearby doorway and thought perhaps he was deceived about what had become of their foe: “It went below,” she said.

He snorted, “That's what he iadul wants aint it? Us to follow?” Instead, he gestured for the other two to come into the doorway with him. Both Iridni and Morvayn complied with the brusque Barovian. “Nu bloody walking in there like this.”

The two men as last swapped into their combat gear and girded themselves for battle, while Iridni began praying Pelor's protection on them all. Io spoke with his usual pessimism: “Eh, I do nu imagine the three of us can do mult, but I'm curious and dumb enough to try having a look at least.”

They hurried down the sewer ladder, believing that the vrolock would still be close by. All were certain he did not fear them but rather was luring intended victims to dinner. Beneath, they were instantly set upon by the largest wererats Iridni had ever seen, perhaps minions of Tristand, who observed the spectacle of their struggle from close by. He was still in mist form and hovered like morning dew over the putrid filth and sludge to whence he had led them.

Io had gone down first, and Iridni saw him flinch and cough as the werecreatures engulfed him, tearing at his flesh and leaving him horribly bloodied. As soon as she slew those around her she invoked Pelor's healing for her companion.

In his cool confidence, Tristand waited, amused, until the three had disposed of the rodent horde and could grant him their full attention. Only then did he coalesce as a gaunt man, no more imposing in his slim figure than was the slight Iridni. Unlike she, however, Tristand smiled and revealed sharp, fanged teeth: “Welcome.”

Tristand walked closer to them with a lopsided gait, seeming to have some deformity or other imperfection in his leg.

“You obviously wanted us to follow you,” Iridni finally spoke, looking for something upon which to wipe the wererat gore from her hammer but finding herself surrounded by far worse filth. Its odor filled her nostrils, making her gag with revulsion more than did the macabre appearance of the elderly undead man. Yet she knew for all his aristocratic bearing and the velveteen gloves covering Tristand's hands, the vrolock who stood before her not only drank his victim's blood; he dismembered their organs and tore the flesh from their bodies.

Oui, I did. I wanted you to delve into the true nature of the City of Lights. You see...these depths...they are analogous to the city itself....”

Io coughed and muttered, “So mult for the, eh, 'beauty.'”

“I suppose you are tired of killing the weak and want a greater challenge,” the Pelorian answered Tristand, forcing the images of what he planned to do to her out of her imagination and focusing on remaining alert.

It was shocking that the gaunt figure before them could laugh with such low resonance from deep within his belly. “You? All of you? A challenge?...I think non.”

“More so than the poor people you've been disembowelling thus far.” Although her teeth had begun to chatter from nervousness, Iridni tried yet to project defiance.

Morvayn spoke up, “I believe he wishes to 'teach' us something. Some lesson on the true nature of this--”

Tristand nodded to him: “Yes, the City of Lights...its horrors and atrocities.”

“You're preaching for unu church of believers,” Io snorted.

“None of us cares for this city.”

“As for those deaths...” Tristand's eyes came to rest on Iridni as he began to murmur each word in a melodic cadence. “They were a paltry price to pay to chase the ever elusive muse of inspiration...my raven-haired, ethereal beauty.”

His mesmeric gaze bore into her for a moment, probing through her own violet eyes into the window of her soul. He seemed disappointed that the group showed no love for the city to be argued out of. “If you simply come to claim your bounty and care nothing for the people and their well-being...I'll allow you chase. But know this!” His voice rose with anger, and he mopped spittle from his chin: “It will not end well for you.”

Iridni felt her will struggling to push his away as Tristand's maneuvered within her psyche for any advantage, his hypnotic voice droning on: “I am eternal and you, by your very nature, are ephemeral.” Could the vrolock actually read her thoughts and use them to his advantage? How did Tristand recognize her constant feeling of...inconsequence? With great mental effort, she fended off the thrust of his dominating gaze and sensed Tristand's will slowly retreat from hers.

She stayed her hand for another moment, though she knew the time for talking was coming to an end. She wished this creature of evil to know that those who would destroy it were not of the same darkness, that they were good-intentioned servants of holy light: “We're not bounty hunters. We're here to stop your preying on the defenseless.”

In response, Tristand chuckled, his lips curling back into another malefic grin as his piercing azure gaze left Iridni's eyes to settle on her visibly pulsing throat: “I require sustenance to fuel me, and I've quite the voracious appetite!”

At this remark and certain of Tristand's intent, Ionathan snarled and notched an arrow to his gleaming bow.



« Last Edit: August 27, 2017, 07:55:12 PM by Iridni Ren »

My windows cracked, but they can be replaced.
Your arm will tire throwing stones my way.

Iridni Ren

  • Priestess of Pelor
  • The Wayfarer Kinship
  • Dark Lord
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  • Posts: 851
  • When all other lights go out
His Consuming Radiance
« Reply #31 on: August 28, 2017, 05:18:27 PM »
As Ionathan bent his bow, Tristand never took his eyes off Iridni’s jugular, his lurid lips slurping against the points of his fangs. He instead bantered at the Barovian’s threat, responding with sarcasm to Io’s inarticulate snarl while ignoring his readied weapon: “You have quite the elegant tongue and extensive vernacular, monsieur.”

Morvayn’s hand reached into his pocket, and Iridni reflexively raised her shield and hammer into her fighting stance. The vampire began to make gestures in the air.

Da?” Io asked, as his fingers released the shaft toward Tristand’s chest. The gaunt figure looked surprised for a moment as the arrow pierced him…and then Tristand seemed suddenly to reflect his long years of undeath. His face wrinkled with age before them, and the monster who had struck fear into so many was for the first time unnerved himself. He shuddered, his hungry mouth now slack, and he tried to grasp the protruding arrow with a doddering, gloved hand, but he could claw only mechanically at it.

“That’s what I bloody think of that!” Io growled.

Tristand had no way of knowing that the ranger, in the same fashion as a Pelorian, was a sworn foe of undead and had focused all his training and skills on ending their existence. Before Tristand could react, Io sent another arrow home with equal devastation while Iridni engaged the vampire up close, making it more difficult for Tristand to concentrate on the source of the arrows that threatened to annihilate him.

Tristand had but one chance. He dissipated into his mist form and bolted.

The three Kin did not hesitate but pursued the retreating fog, Iridni staying always as close to Tristand as she could, recalling how she had lost the Death Singer and almost paid for it with both her and Yunon’s lives. This time, she hounded her malevolent enemy like the most faithful of trackers, often finding herself immersed within the incorporeal form of the fleeing vrolock.

Onward, the fog rolled, first up the ladder, and then through the long boulevards and out toward the Dementlieu countryside. As the vampire raced through the city and Iridni churned on her metal-sheathed legs after him, she could feel herself tiring under the load she bore. Yet she dared not slow even to look behind her to make sure her comrades were with her for fear of losing track of the indefatigable mist. Now, now was the time when the conditioning of pushing her muscles past their endurance paid off, though each expanse of her lungs was torture and her heart pounded like a small drum within her.

Still the incorporeal form of Tristand boiled on under the starry night, across meadows and toward the noble estates. Iridni cried out softly, not so much in pain or complaint as a desire to know that her companions remained near, “I weary, Io.”

An unknown masculine voice answered her, “Then stop chasing?”

For an instant she was unsettled, but then Morvayn replied, “Not sure that’s much of an option.” Somewhere in their course, a third ally familiar to Vayn had joined with her two Kin.

Finally, the vrolock stopped, and Iridni found herself once more in the crypts of the Nobles. She watched as Tristand’s misty form disappeared into an ornate mahogany box. All told they had been fighting and running for nearly an hour, and the girl doubled over in breathless agony. Yet when she straightened, she raised her weapon and attacked the coffin, wanting to destroy it rather than let the vampire regain his strength.

Io arrived also breathless, as did Morvayn and their new helpmate, Taelar Stormwalker. Before Iridni’s hammer could damage the box, Tristand reformed and emerged from it, almost unscathed. He smoothed the wrinkles from his tattered formal wear and now seemed cognizant that the eternal existence he had so recently boasted of was in considerable peril. Gone was the suave, would-be teacher; all that remained was a savage instinct to survive.

Once more his eyes went wide and feral, locking on Iridni as he hissed, baring his fangs in the moonlight. She felt his attempted assault of her psyche again, but instead of fighting back only with her will, she bashed with her hammer the carnivorous face that looked so eager to suck her young life from her. Twice her weapon struck home, while the fortress of her mind repulsed Tristand’s invasion and her armor shielded her body from his clawing touch.

Morvayn, too, attacked the beast, but leaped back in torment from a burning fluid that suddenly covered Tristand’s body, “Agh!”

Meanwhile, Ionathan let loose another volley. Tristand wilted under the combined effort of his many opponents and again was forced into mist and into his coffin. He had nowhere left to run. Io coated a stake with crushed garlic in ritualistic motions and stood over the box. He took out a small hammer and said, “Say your prayers, Iridni.”

The Pelorian blessed them all, before kneeling beside the wooden box and beginning to pray. The sound of pathetic scratching and clawing resounded from within the coffin as Iridni’s orisons echoed in the waning night. Taelar placed his hand on the ornate lid, ready to draw it back at Io’s signal.

The Barovian took a deep breath. “Now.”

A porcelain man rested inside, a wicked snarl curling his lips and twisting his visage into a fiendish sight. Now, however, Tristand looked emaciated and weary. He could offer only a limp gesture from his velveteen gloved hand in futile protection. Already his right leg had withered into a twisted mess of an appendage, and his hair was a matted mop, sticking to his pate.

Io placed the stake over the feeble undead’s heart. “Tristand, you will find peace…I hope.”

Hearing Io, Iridni paused in her prayers and glanced at the vrolock. Seeing him as nothing now but a weak, old man, she forgot for an instant the malice he had intended her and a brief look of pity crossed her face. Io drove the stake home into pliant flesh, and a shrill scream pierced the air. From the nearby trees, birds that had nested for the night took to the air in response to the vrolock's keening. Foul ichor erupted and lathered the sides of the coffin, with yet more of it oozing from Tristand’s nose and mouth.

Then what had once been a man became still, his visage slackening with an almost serenity. After only a moment, Morvayn made ready to finish their work with his sword. Iridni turned to look away and saw the first rays of another gift of dawn appearing on the horizon behind them. Perhaps, just perhaps, Tristand had in the final seconds of his existence been blessed to see Pelor’s light one last time after so many years of having its glory denied to him.

Morvayn brought down his blade. Almost immediately, the headless corpse of Tristand began to bubble, blacken, and crack from the sun’s power. Soon it was consumed entirely by light and fire, leaving nothing of the vrolock but ash.


Spoiler: show
« Last Edit: August 29, 2017, 10:24:50 AM by Iridni Ren »

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Your arm will tire throwing stones my way.

Iridni Ren

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« Reply #32 on: August 31, 2017, 05:07:04 PM »
The thought that it was time to rise woke Iridni. The sun's light struck her full in the face, stirring her. She was still clad in her frock from the night before. Why had she slept so late, rather than greeting Pelor’s morning glory, and why had she never changed into her sleeping shift?

Then she remembered: the defiant shot of brandy and how Lexington had lifted her off her feet and carried her to her cot. She rubbed her aching forehead in shame. What had...no, how much had she said to him?

Why had she said it? Did she even know herself? Perhaps it was because that’s what everyone assumed anyway. She saw how Lexington had stared at her midriff as though trying to detect any sign of pregnancy. The only person who seemed utterly clueless was Io.

What a wretched man!

Always wanting to pawn her off on every available male in the Kinship. Trying to arrange a date—a date!—for her at the soldier’s ball in Port-a-Lucine. She could not think of anything less enjoyable than trekking back there again and then spending a night on her poor, tired feet, while all the lords and ladies tittered in Mordentish and wondered who the clueless village bumpkin was. She had not danced since she shone with Alistar in Krofberg.

Whatever she said to Lexington, she resolved here and now it meant nothing; that was fatigue, confusion, and alcohol talking.

Her mind was clear, as was her conscience. She so wished to see Bri—above all to see Bri and Ionathan reunited. Iridni’s Pelorian sister would keep that—ugly!—troublesome Barovian busy and his matchmaking to himself.

She took out the Pelorian holy symbol that Io had fashioned for her and looked at it, her face a mixture of emotions. How could he make her so happy one minute and so beside herself the next?

Enough lounging in bed wallowing in nonsense. She stood up and listened to hear whether anyone else was in the Lodge: thanks be to Pelor, no. Adeline, however, was whimpering outside the door, either hungry or wanting to be let out.

Iridni opened the door, smiling at her one constant companion, but then flounced with a put-on scowl downstairs…just in case. No, no one was here. She sighed.

Adeline did not go to her food dish but toward the entrance to the Lodge. “Alright…I’ll take you for a walk…no matter how awful I look.”

The young priestess made a couple of passes through her ebony hair with her hand, trying and failing to get it to behave, before taking her cloak from its peg and draping it over her shoulders. Out of the corner of her eye she spotted a note someone had slid under the Lodge door.

She knelt to pick it up. The missive was sealed but addressed to her. She ran her finger under the seal and began reading, a shadow passing over her face.

My windows cracked, but they can be replaced.
Your arm will tire throwing stones my way.

Iridni Ren

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« Reply #33 on: September 12, 2017, 02:46:03 AM »
In the shadowed valley, I shall fear no evil, for Thou are with me;
Thy light and holiness comfort me.
They refresh my soul
And guide me along the right path.
Thy goodness and mercy will follow me all my days,
And I shall dwell in the house of Pelor forever.


With her heart still hammering within her, Iridni returned to the Lodge from Krofburg, having resolved, she hoped, the fear that most hung over her. Io was safe, and she herself had not perished in a bargain for his life.

She was sworn not to reveal more than that. She looked at the legal pages she carried in her waist belt and to which she had signed her name. Not even to Io himself could she disclose the bargain described therein.

In truth and her own simplicity, she did not comprehend what all the lengthy writing required of her, and so she had written in her own hand what she understood she was agreeing to. Paper and ink to bind her or no, she was a maiden of her word…within reason…although she also was no paladin. If in her judgment good and Father Pelor could be better served by bending the truth or sacrificing her own reputation—or more—so be it.

At least she had tried to reciprocate all the aid and friendship Io had offered her. Was she more to him than any other Kin? Every day she grew more uncertain of that and of her own feelings, but as long as there was Bri, her Pelorian sister, the question was pointless. This service to Io was the only moral avenue through which Iridni could express her growing devotion.

She did not expect the taciturn Barovian’s reaction when she told him what she had done: “Would you have wanted me to rush heedlessly off to save your life with no regards to my own? Can you iadul try and understand what I mean when I say I wished you would have asked?”

Io was even more beside himself that she would not reveal what was in the document she had signed. No matter how she reassured him that it was nothing to worry about, he scowled at her with his coal-black eyes and fumed. In frustration at her inability to please him, Iridni at last blurted out her secret feelings: “Io…this is the Pelorian way. We must sacrifice ourselves for those we…care for. Those we love.”

His unappealing face turned ashen and he moved to embrace her, perhaps only in comfort. Iridni, however, tensed herself against him, fearing that she—who had been so long on her own and without any physical affection—would enjoy his strong arms around her in a way that betrayed Bri. Worse, what if Io likewise had his own confession to make?

Such a betrayal would open a wide path of darkness for all three of the devoted friends.

Feeling her resistance, Io immediately released her and, after a moment, said. “You need to nu be so alone, Iridni.”

She swallowed. “I am not so alone, Io. I have my god. Always.” She flexed her small hand around the holy symbol Io had made for her. “The journey from Krofburg—the fear they made me feel—it has all tired me. I need to rest…and to think.”

He nodded and whispered, but she did not understand what he said. All she heard was “Bri.” She knew, moreover, that Io’s faithfulness to Bri was one of the reasons for which she, Iridni, most admired him. Consequently, she could not conceive of a love between the two of them born in his own infidelity.

Thus, she left him and went to her cot. She resolved to absent herself from his company for a long time—for both of their sakes. First, however, she must tend to Net'lia—the asp she had long nurtured in the Kinship's midst.
« Last Edit: September 12, 2017, 11:17:15 AM by Iridni Ren »

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Your arm will tire throwing stones my way.

Iridni Ren

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« Reply #34 on: September 13, 2017, 05:09:46 PM »
Cold and darkness had descended over Vallaki, and the young priestess was sitting by the fire in the Lodge, for once not clad in the simple shift she wore when reposing in this place she considered her home. Instead, her armor encased her slight form, and she had propped her hammer and shield against her large oaken chair. She had locked Adeline in the kitchen to prevent the faithful dog from trying to aid her, should the Pelorian come under assault.

After securing all the other doors, she had employed varja and walked carefully over every square inch of the enormous, familiar room to make certain no one lurked in the shadows. Because the fresh beech that fueled it still retained some moisture, the fire crackled and popped now and then, like the ticking of an erratic clock, its dancing light reflecting in Iridni’s watchful, violet eyes.

She waited for Net’lia.

Unlike the fire, Iridni was steady and without heat, even yet regretful of the decision the Kinship had been forced to make in response to Net’s continued conduct. The two had been friends before Net joined, but Iridni knew the wild emotions of the Elf—her proclivity to violence—and the Pelorian did not expect their reunion to be one of only measured sadness. Iridni realized also that, deprived of the Kinship’s buoy, whatever was good about Net would crumble and sink beneath the waves of darkness that eroded her soul. Even so, the priestess could not let her one-time friend continue to endanger all those she considered her family. Better to cut off a hand than the entire body perish!

A key turned in the latch, and the girl started up from her reverie…but did not yet reach for her weapon.

It was only Io, the first she had seen him since their last, awkward parting several nights before. Instinctively, she smiled shyly at him before catching herself and assuming a more nonchalant expression. Although she knew Io was far less of a danger to her than Net, she still felt her heart pounding within her breast and an inability to resume her previous state of calm patience. Sweat began to form in her palms.

“Iridni,” he said. “Come. We must go to Krofburg. No time to explain.”

Whatever the girl’s many faults, requiring lengthy explanations was not one of them. She fetched her hammer, shield, and cloak and ran after the Barovian into the darkness, pausing long enough only to lock the Lodge behind them. She hoped another Kin would soon be around before the whimpering Adeline experienced too great of distress.

Winter had come to the Gray City, causing Iridni to rue immediately having to leave the warmth and light of the fire. She plunged on, doing her best to keep up with the more lightly clad Io.

“Jakob Zdénrik is dead,” Io said, the short sentence forming little puffs of vapor that disappeared almost instantly without a trace in the night air.

“What happened?” Iridni recalled the verbose legal document secured at her slim waist. Was she so soon to be free of her recent promise? She felt guilt at this first selfish thought, as she remembered that other woman whom this loss would concern and hurt far more than she. Yet she knew Jakob mostly as the man who Lex claimed sought the murder of Io—the imperious figure whose mere presence had frightened her when alone with him and his two companions, preparing to strike their bargain.

She could not help that instinctively she felt somehow safer hearing this news.

“Things happen,” Io finally answered to her question. She stared at the back of his dark-skinned neck, certain he knew more about Jakob’s death than he was willing to tell her—likely for her own safety. Fair enough, Io…we all must keep our secrets.

[Spoilers omitted.]

Afterward, Iridni let Io think both of them were retiring for the night to their separate rooms, but she instead headed back down the mountain alone. She was fatigued to her bones, and the cold crept through all the seams of her armor to slash her pale, vulnerable skin with the pain that Net’lia's blade had not. Her ranger companion would likely think Iridni had left for some personal and “girlish” reason, but it was not so. She had simply seen how tired he was and did not want to keep them both awake for a purpose she could just as easily accomplish—or not—by herself.

She alone, not Io, owed Roland Steele this debt.

« Last Edit: September 13, 2017, 05:12:41 PM by Iridni Ren »

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Your arm will tire throwing stones my way.

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« Reply #35 on: September 14, 2017, 11:01:05 AM »
Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile?
"My Last Duchess,” Robert Browning

Even with all that was on her mind, Iridni found her memory returning to Anxan Madog, the curate whose attempted violation of her had occurred the night she was first drawn into the Mists. Naturally, she worried from time to time that he, too, was somewhere in these dread realms and what might happen should they cross paths. (No longer, however, was she the weak and naïve, almost child he thought incapable of defending herself from his brutality.)

The mental distraction he posed now was of a more troubling sort, more relevant to her current circumstances. Although Anxan had failed in his physical objective, had not his action begun the process by which she was slowly losing her innocence? In many ways was she not changed inside more by that night than if Anxan had claimed her physical shell as his own to satisfy his lust?

All she was certain of as she read Net’s suicide note was that she felt very old, regardless of her chronological years. So many failures in such a short time. In only seven months she felt she had aged decades. Where was the girl who took such joy at running through the fields of Almor, picking wild flowers? Barovia would soon have her as husk-like and wilted as those long-faded petals.

She had failed Roland, too. She had let her anger over Alistar influence her, and so she had never lifted a hand of comfort or friendship to him…until it was too late. In Port, she had been willing to take advantage of him as an ally against the vrolock…but never to make him feel forgiven or equal to one of the Kin.

Now, all her pleading with the garda on his behalf had done was cause her almost to be imprisoned herself. It had not stopped Roland from twisting at the end of a hangman’s noose. She could not blot from her mind the once handsome face of the paladin—how it had bulged and changed colors as he slowly asphyxiated. To teach you Outlanders a lesson! My Pelor, but what lesson did they think they were teaching us?

Alistar…Argali.

My Divine Father...do I not always perform Thy will? Why, then, do I fail again and again?

Net’lia.

The Elf had addressed the letter to her to try to hurt her. Iridni was wise enough to see that. It was as though the priestess deserved the most punishment for trying the most to help. Yet that did not release her from her guilt for she saw all the more what a child Net’lia had always been…a child who knew only to lash out when she was hurt and rejected. A child who did not know how to make anyone love her and had thus become a creature of spite.

Iridni could not love Net in the way Cassandra had—as her one and only. The Pelorian’s nature was to be the lens through which her god’s light shone on many. Perhaps, then, this was her deceit and betrayal that Net felt so keenly…and the source of why Iridni’s efforts so often came to naught. These poor, lonely prisoners of the mist wanted someone to love them in an individual, personal way—not as some evidence of some devotion to some god.

When they inevitably came to realize Iridni’s true nature, they felt she was a fraud and a counterfeit.

The young priestess dutifully attached Net’s letter to the former Kinswoman’s journal as a warning to everyone who read it what she, Iridni, was beneath her attractive and welcoming form. She was not sure she was or would ever be capable of that other kind of more human love they sought. All she felt at this moment was so very, very cold...and empty.


My windows cracked, but they can be replaced.
Your arm will tire throwing stones my way.

Iridni Ren

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« Reply #36 on: September 24, 2017, 03:00:04 PM »
Night had fallen over the Lodge, and on the main level the only noises were the clicking and clacking of Adeline's nails on the hardwood floors and the faint, occasional rustle caused by the falling away of dying embers in the fireplace. Upstairs and collapsed across one of the cots, a large, insensible man snored, passed out in a drunken stupor. From another cot in the collective darkness, made less visible by the draping of a royal blue cloak over a makeshift clothesline, came the sound of a slight woman's soft weeping.

It had been a long day for Herald Ren of the Wayfarer Kinship, and sleep would not come to her until she had—almost like a wailing infant—emptied her brain of all the emotions with which hours of activity had filled it. And so she wept. Her pillow was damp against her face, the cotton mass an inert lump that cared nothing for the Pelorian who drenched it with the release of her pent up emotions.

She had done the right thing—as always—and at least she would be spared the infliction of shame. She had summoned Bri from Port-a-Lucine so that Bri and Io could be reunited. She hoped that seeing the two of them together, seeing Io not so often wandering about alone, clueless in the social graces that came so easily to her, would strengthen her own resolve that it was better one hurt than three. After all, such would return the world to its rightful orbit: Io and Bri had loved one another before, and Iridni had borne the loss of Alistar with as much equanimity as any good Pelorian ought. She would not become some evil-omened comet, her light twisted to a dark path that disrupted the shining stars' balance.

When the three of them had eaten Io's deer and turnip stew together, she had been so confident that all was mended. Even she was happy—happy for Io and Bri's sake, happy that she could be the agent of Io's joyful reunion with his beloved, her Pelorian sister. Yet why did Bri whisper to her in a way that made Iridni once more uncertain where her true course would lie?

She hoped the Krofburg Faire would take her mind off all this painful churning in her heart. In a way it did, as she was finally able to make right Alistar's debt to Mr. Laurier. Clearly, Alistar would never do so. A paladin's oath, it seemed, was more an inescapable obligation in regards to violence than to finances...and feelings.

She saw Emma Grace there, and trying to help that poor woman also kept her from thinking her own situation deserved Pelor's sympathy. What a sniveling little weakling in comparison Iridni was! She had so many friends and so much greater security than Emma, while needing both less.

Yet even at the Faire, she had watched Io in his flailing attempts at trying to find a goat for the race. This was his element, and she could not help but admire his persistence here, where he was confident of his success and knowledgeable about what he was doing. As much as he might disparage it—the same way he disparaged himself—this was his home, the place of his family and roots. No matter how ugly and crude she so often found him when she tried to look at him with objectivity, here he had a graceful competence that made her proud. She felt for a moment that she alone recognized it, but then her gaze swept toward Bri, and she knew that such was not true. She was being a foolish young girl again, with a romantic illusion that her feelings were unique and profound, rather than waiting to be discovered in every hut in Krofburg.

Afterward, she walked as quickly to the Lodge as her tired legs would carry her. She wanted no more company, no more words, only solitude and sleep. She felt herself revive upon seeing Master Yunon almost nodding by the fire. He had journeyed all these miles from the Iron Warden and left off his research because of having received her letter about Net'lia...and Io.

“I did not come back to attend these gatherings, young Ren, but to speak to you. I am concerned about you.”

It was almost too much for her to hold back then what she would save for her pillow later. She had so wanted and needed someone she could be weak with—how she missed her mother and father!—and here Yunon was. They talked for hours. Finally, Yunon said, “You're on a road which will make you bitter, I feel. I don't like the situation at all, and I'm sorry you've found yourself in it.”

“Bitter? By Pelor, I won't let that happen, Master Yunon. But if you can advise me, I would always welcome that.”

“We never say we'd let ourselves become bitter, hurt, or angry; those things tend to be beyond our control to contain, however.”

Yunon then told her his own story, which she promised never to speak of again, even to him. And so she locked it away in her heart, but like anyone as young as she, no matter her exceptional wisdom, she doubted the experience of age would ever apply to her. She had let vile bitterness about Roland's influence on Alistar ensnare her judgment once; its seed would never again find purchase in her breast. If she was devoted enough to Pelor, if she prayed hard and long enough, she was sure that in His infinite mercy He would keep her soul free of all evil and darkness.

For one night at least, her faith held: she forced herself to imagine a wedding, and in that wedding, she would join Io and Bri together in Pelorian matrimony, both of them now believers in the one, true god.

She still felt the hot tears on her face, but in the dark night she whimpered. O, Master Yunon, if you could but experience the power of my god! She licked at her lips, and the taste she found there was not bitter but the sweetness of joy.

« Last Edit: September 24, 2017, 03:20:39 PM by Iridni Ren »

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Your arm will tire throwing stones my way.

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« Reply #37 on: September 27, 2017, 12:12:59 AM »
Iridni washed and rinsed the new bottles to ensure they were free from impurities, then, while the bottles dried, sorted the spring herbs that both Io and Vayn had given her. A mixture of pungent and sweet smells filled the air as she worked, but the odors were pleasant because the elixirs she brewed were those of healing. Although she wiped the ivory skin of her small hands often on the apron she wore tied about her hips, her fingers took on some of the color and all of the fragrances of the plants as she with quick gentleness separated the delicate flowers from the accompanying stems and brambles.

On one side in her stitched-together journal she made notes of her successful recipes and mistakes; on the other she printed in her even letters the poem she wanted to recall. The words she wrote were of a song she had as a little girl often heard her mother sing when her mother, as Iridni did now, labored. The young maiden wanted never to forget these words, never to forget any memories of all she loved before coming here. In her mind’s eye she saw her mother’s tender expression hovering over her, and Iridni smiled in her loneliness to know that though they were now separated from those treasured days in distance and more so time she was still in every way her mother’s daughter.

She hoped the busier she made herself the easier it would be to keep her thoughts from straying too much back to Io and Vallaki. Something about their last meeting had sparked the memory of her mother's singing as much as did her current activity, yet she was too preoccupied to consider why.

Where could I find such love, Father? The woman without reproach I treasure more than rubies?

She had prepared herself for Io’s judgement, but not his question. She had never allowed herself to think what life together with him would be like because he was not hers! She would not covet what belonged to another. Men…what did they want, anyway—what did they expect of a girl?

She considered Alistar, who had always told her his duty as a paladin and to Tyr came first. He would have died defending her body from harm, she was certain, but he reserved for himself his sacred honor. Even so, had he wished her to have an uncontrollable burning for him, one that made her deny her own loyalties, beliefs, and conscience? That her love was only an encouraging sunrise and not a volcanic inferno—was that why he had forsaken her?

All she knew of such consuming emotions was to fear them because they turned men—and women, too—into driven, selfish beasts. Anxen would have taken everything from her, including her very life, to satisfy his ravenous appetite but once. She suspected that the same sort of possessive rage had caused Aileen almost to kill Lex. Why would anyone wish to be the object of a feeling like that, something unrecognizable to her as to go by the name love?

A strong and self-sufficient man might find naked emotion thrilling to experience. She had long observed how men liked to drink to free themselves of their inhibitions. But to be small and female…to grow up knowing that a single mistake could lead to a lifetime of shame—or worse, exile—for you and even your family…for a novitiate in the Prelacy, unchained feelings were anathema.

I will trust my love in all, and she will do me no evil all the days of my life.

When at the Gaping Wound Iridni had observed Io with the women mud wrestlers, she thought him—despite all his coarse talk—different from most other Barovian men. To make her turn crimson, he might joke about how he liked to play “hide the sausage,” but he had been indifferent to the display of flesh and advances of the prostitutes there, instead punching a man for insulting Iridni’s honor (no matter how he denied the reason afterward). He had gone to jail, been strip searched, and lost his pistols all to rebut she was “loose” like those other women.

Moreover, the object of his affection was Bri. Iridni knew the sweet stories of their courtship, of their times together since, and they were not torrid tales of lust. Bri was a Pelorian, like herself, a woman whose strongest passion was for good works.

My beloved stretches out her hand to the poor and opens it to the needy.

No, Iridni had allowed herself only a single weakness—of thinking that Io was lonely, that Bri’s neglect caused him to suffer. For that reason alone she wished to open herself to him and to a bond greater than that of brother and sister. Any physical desires of her own she both feared and repressed as invitations to doom, perhaps for all three of them. She had never yielded to her young imagination the indulgence that answering Io’s question would have required.

If he were not Bri’s but hers, then she might quit telling herself how uncouth and ugly he was and own he had a certain scruffy charm to him—much like a game goat that tried to take on a crag cat. As things were, she feared to share a room alone with him at the Blood of the Vine or to fantasize what a future together would mean.

Strength and honor are her clothing; her mouth fills my ears with wisdom, her tongue speaks only kindness.

Iridni sensed that Io had been disappointed but also relieved in her truthful answer. If he was uncertain of his own choice between Bri and herself, though, could he ask Iridni to let down her guard and give into and express feelings that he might never requite?

Again, what did men expect? What did Io want of her? A passion he clearly did not feel in return? For if he felt that unspeakable heat for either of the two Pelorians, why would his choice be difficult? Or...perhaps…perhaps if one were capable of such strong emotions, then one could burn for two people at once. She shook her head momentarily over the cauldron. All of this…carnality…was so far beyond her own understanding and experience.

All she knew was she could not in deceit offer Io more than what she was: a hearth not a conflagration.

She has girded my arms and loins with strength, she has borne with her labor our children.

Time had passed, and Iridni had not wasted it entirely in useless, circular thoughts. She recalled and jotted the last line of her mother’s song, and—despite the uncertain meandering of her mind—she beamed to see the many healing tonics her stained fingers had yielded.

For these fruits of her hands I praise her and will devoted remain all my days.

My windows cracked, but they can be replaced.
Your arm will tire throwing stones my way.

Iridni Ren

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« Reply #38 on: September 28, 2017, 04:03:21 PM »
Spoiler: show

Iridni could not long admire her handiwork before Io abruptly entered the dwelling, causing her to almost drop the flask she was stoppering.

He whispered, “I have news you need to hear. About the hostage situation.”

She paled but was relieved that he wished only to talk about Kinship business, as they always had before personal feelings became involved.

He wheezed. “And that other thing.”

She kept her expression impassive as they stepped outside into the misty dawn and a Barovian spring rain. Cold rivulets ran down her face, but if the Half Vistani could ignore them, so could she.

She saw he held the parchment he had entrusted to her to give to Bri months ago, should anything happen to him. He broke its seal and handed it to her. “Do you wish me to read this?” Iridni whispered.

“Da. If you want.”

She was not a fast reader, and the rain began to blur the ink of his handwriting, but she made out what was important: his confession of love to her Pelorian sister. “I’m sticking with Bri,” he announced when she looked up.

As she returned the paper, she was surprised at how little his decision wounded her. “Does Bri have a copy of this now?”

“Da. I suppose she’s read it.”

Iridni nodded. She had strengthened the bond between the two, rather than weakening it, for Io had never before told Bri he loved her. Bri likely would not see matters this way, however, and would instead want Iridni to stay far from her beloved.

“I’m truly happy for you both, Io, but I don’t think Bri will forgive me.”

“Eh. She will, but if not, that’s a problem for her and me, not you.”

She smiled faintly. “I wish only you wouldn’t use the word ‘sticking’ because I never meant to come between the two of you or separate you from her. I wanted her to return and fight for you…to show you she still wanted you.”

He shrugged. “She may work me over yet.”

Iridni giggled but quickly turned again serious. “She will not; she’s a Pelorian.”

The priestess adjusted the nape portion of her cloak to try to stop the rain from running beneath the metal of her armor and onto her shivering skin. “Io…if we are to remain friends, you must promise me something in return.”

“Da?”

She thought a long time before speaking once more. “You cannot toy with me about this.”

He swallowed. “I won’t.”

“You are happy as you are, with Bri…and I am happy as I am. By myself.”

“Eh? You mean no more trying to match you with some turnip farmer?” He smiled that half-crooked way he always did when he was playing the fool. “I thought you were lonely.”

She shook her head. “As I did you. But no…we’ve both been too much concerning ourselves with the other’s business. I felt you wanted to marry me off to remove something tempting you.”

He scratched the back of his neck. “Maybe so. Maybe that was part of it.” He looked at all the bottles she had stacked around her. “Are you done here?”

“What I’ve not finished can wait; it’s urgent you warn Trustee Audric.”

On the road she watched him from behind, noting how he always stayed a few steps ahead of her. He was not careful to walk side by side with her as of old, and Iridni felt she had come at last to understand something about men.


My windows cracked, but they can be replaced.
Your arm will tire throwing stones my way.

Iridni Ren

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« Reply #39 on: October 04, 2017, 03:22:14 AM »
Although Pelor had blessed Iridni with many gifts—including His most precious of all, wisdom—she often wished she was clever. Men, of course, valued a woman’s physical appearance so that the most foolish of women, if comely enough, could overthrow the wisest and most intelligent of men, and sometimes cause a man of the highest aims to betray himself and trade his noble character for a bowl of lumpy porridge that tasted sweet in the mouth but was bitter in its digestion.

In that regard she was quite satisfied whenever she looked in the mirror at the pleasing enough appearance that returned her violet-eyed gaze. Both her face and form were sufficient. She had sound, even teeth, fair skin, raven hair, and a perfectly well-proportioned figure...but she was also short and looked apt to bear her husband runts. She had no desire to attract the enmity of other women by owning a statuesque physical beauty that considered itself so surpassing as to make unnecessary a spirit of friendship or a beautiful soul. She had known one man’s lust and did not wish to spark it in others. The nights at the Prancing Nymph and the Gaping Wound had reminded her of that. Besides, observation revealed that such beauty faded, whereas one might increase wisdom and perhaps even cleverness unto the grave.

She could not learn other languages. She could not master a musical instrument, no matter how she longed to play and sing. She was not witty in conversation but often dull and excessively sincere. Above all, she was unimaginative. All of these weaknesses pained her and sometimes made her feel they impoverished her life.

Other than her attractiveness as a young woman with an encouraging smile, she owed her force of personality to effort. She knew her shortcomings and therefore had no qualms about letting other, cleverer people talk. Indeed, she strove to be an attentive listener. She had found that sometimes this quality could compensate for a lack of intellect, as those of great intelligence—having experienced that in comparison most other folk were fools—often listened poorly. She was wise enough to give ear to those more intelligent than she, and many of them found her deference appealing.

Since Io had chosen Bri, nonetheless, Iridni had reexamined how she was pursuing this thing called life—whether she was losing the thread of the existence she had stitched for herself in this new land. Yes, she was joyful at the effect she had helped cause in Io and Bri’s relationship, but who was to say they would not have reached the same conclusion on their own and without her meddling—and, importantly from her own perspective, without so much emotional cost to herself?

Both Yunon and Medea had wondrous intelligence, and so the two of them spent more and more time away from backward Barovia in their intellectual pursuits. That her less gifted mind was incapable of keeping up with either of them meant their relationships would always be unequal, she the child, they her adoptive parents—Yunon, a kindly and patient father, Medea, an always critical mother. If only she were more gifted with brains, it would be easier for her to please them both.

She struck the bullseye in her question: why was it so difficult to please other people? Pelor had placed such a spirit in her, yet He had not made her clever enough to know how, or talented enough to do so through some art like music. She could not even by her diplomacy or own example keep her Kin from continuously fighting among themselves.

In Almor the answer would have been easy: she would convert these others to the true faith so that they might know the joys of Pelor. (She had noted with some satisfaction Io’s recent praying, although she suspected Bri had more to do with that than she.) Here...here...she herself had to work always at feeling the divine presence fill her to overflowing so that natural human unhappiness had no place.

A new believer, even one embraced by the all-consuming light, would here experience the godhead much like a ghost through the mists and shadows that continuously covered this land. She would not know Iridni’s complete brilliant rapture. Could young Pelorian faith even grow here? Iridni’s was strong beyond her years, and yet she used all the perseverance she possessed to warm it and prevent its withering.

Still, she must try, for her own sake as well as the sake of these others. How long could she in isolation serve Pelor with such devotion and not come to believe herself deluded? How could she heal their wounded bodies and neglect their wounded hearts and souls?

The Oerdian proverb echoed in her ears: No clever woman ignites a lamp and puts it in the cellar or covers it with a basket. She instead places her lamp on a stand so that it gives light to her entire home.
« Last Edit: October 04, 2017, 08:52:03 AM by Iridni Ren »

My windows cracked, but they can be replaced.
Your arm will tire throwing stones my way.

Iridni Ren

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« Reply #40 on: October 07, 2017, 01:13:52 PM »
For the first time since receiving her Kinship key, Iridni spent the night in Vallaki but away from the Lodge and her cot, away from Adeline. She readied herself for bed, slipping on a white, ankle-length nightgown that she tied above her prominent collarbone and then seated herself at the room’s vanity. She unbound her black hair from its braids, so that it cascaded to its full length, and began to brush out the tangles, each stroke sounding like the quick opening of a felt-edged drawer. Her grooming caused sparks of electricity in the fire-dried air, and her face betrayed that from time to time her severe motions cost her some pain.

She was unhappy with herself for the extravagance of the room at the Broken Bell, even though Vayn had provided her with a considerable sum—her share of their Eldritch journey. Of late she had come to indulge her personal weaknesses far too often, wasting money on the ferry when the weather was fine and a brisk walk would have been good for her. In her desire to be attractive, she had allowed her hair to become too long, so that its heat was unbearable when she tried to wear a helm. Part of the reason her harsh brushing hurt so was the tender welt her unshielded scalp had been dealt far beneath the mountain.

At that moment, she in fact hated everything about herself.

She could not stand anyone’s company, knowing how all who knew her must hate her as well. She was insipid. She who worked always to heal wounds and bring her Kin together had caused dissension through her girlish failing. For once Iridni was glad that her mother and her always forgiving father were far away and could not know or hear of their daughter’s shame. Still, Iridni seemed to see Teresa Ren, and the look of disappointment on her face broke Iridni’s heart.

She had hoped that the misstep of Io was over and harm to anyone had been avoided. She should have realized she would have to pay a greater repentance to set it right. Pelor wished yet to teach her more about the nature of even the smallest sin and indulgence—that no obscure corner could be left untouched by light...or darkness would come to thrive in it and then spread its evil to envelop many.

Poor Lex. He tried to assume everyone’s burdens, even hers, when he was already in such great danger himself. She had warned him about his associations, as had Audric, yet he seemed bent on his own destruction, certain to take himself beyond the protection the Kinship could provide. Why, when he had so many pressing emergencies to devote his strength to, had he let the misplaced affection of a young woman distract him—let it poison his and Io’s relationship?

She tried to push that vile image he described from her mind. Yes, this was the effect her weakness had wrought: to cause others, even the purest in heart, to picture her in such a crude way. And to say those words to Io, to say them in front of Anya. How could she ever face any of them again, much less try to lead them as a Herald? She was so ashamed.

She sighed, and in her sigh there was the sound of a small, plaintive cry.

She put down her brush and regathered her hair in one tight bond. She washed her face briskly in the basin of cool, clean water she had set on the vanity. In Chathold her mother had always performed her present task, but on this occasion she would have to manage it herself. She picked up a pair of scissors, leaned over the basin, and began without remorse to cut.

« Last Edit: October 07, 2017, 06:45:51 PM by Iridni Ren »

My windows cracked, but they can be replaced.
Your arm will tire throwing stones my way.

Iridni Ren

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« Reply #41 on: October 09, 2017, 11:47:49 AM »
The next morning she went to the Lodge to retrieve the rest of her things. Almost no one was there—not anyone, praise be to Pelor, who had heard the epithet Lexington used to describe her relationship to Io. She found Medea talking to Beatrice, an Elven mage she thought was Medea’s rival, but the two instead were enjoying cordial conversation and tea. If Medea knew of Iridni’s shame, she did not evidence it, nor did she comment on Iridni’s shortened hair. This omission surprised the young priestess as whenever she made some change Medea relished the opportunity to criticize her appearance.

She also saw that the floor of the Lodge was covered by dozens of sturdy-looking black briefcases. After greeting the Wayfarers’ guest, she asked, “What are those?”

Medea smirked to Beatrice. “Ah, Iridni...good you here now.”

“Hmm?”

“Some things arrive need store-place what may hold not in Kinship.”

Iridni looked inside of one of the cases and saw it was stuffed with silver ingots. “How did these get here?”

“Medea had them delivered.”

Iridni saw the cases bore the mark of the Bellegarde Consortium and that near the bags the mining company had also left a contract of some sort.

“How many bags on you now, Iridni?”

The Pelorian’s eyes popped, and she tried to lift one of the cases. It weighed more than she did, and she counted dozens. Even if the Dawnfather blessed her temporarily with extra might, she could never manage moving this mass of silver. She looked at Medea glumly, recalling how the mage had so often used her as a pack mule in the past. Did Medea really expect…?

“Fret not. We two move this.” Medea swung her gaze back to Beatrice. “Maybe two iron golems?”

“No, too noisy.” Bea tapped her chin. “Even if we were invisible. Stomping through the city streets...bad idea.”

“Why did you buy this, Medea? What on Oerth are you going to do with it?”

“Maybe cover Lodge’s entrance with silver? All new silver furniture? Or all Wayfarers have silver armor?”

“I thought you were saving for your own wizard’s tower? Didn’t you tell me that was your life’s dream?”

Medea shrugged. “Build tower out of silver then?”

“A wizard tower?” Bea smiled at Medea and arched her brow. “Can other wizards stay at this tower?”

Medea winked. “Only wizards what womens.”

“I”m glad you’re going to move it somewhere else,” Iridni sighed. “It would be so much trouble to mop around when I’m—“ She stopped herself. She would have to leave the cleaning of the Lodge to Lexington in the future. Where was Adeline? At least while Iridni was here she wanted to visit with the one Kin she knew would always look at her with the same nonjudgmental eyes.

“Yes...but what shape best for moving, Bea?”

The two wizards began to transform one after another into various monstrous forms, much like two women deciding together on their evening dress and trying on several without finding one that quite suited. The spectacle made Iridni forget her personal troubles, as she giggled at their insanity.

Finally, the two decided it was safest to travel as themselves, with their human forms maximized in all ways by the Weave. Each hoisted half the silver.

The Elven woman tried to look around her stack at Iridni. “Why is she not carrying anything?”

“She must preserve youth. Iridni still have her whole life ahead.” Iridni looked at Medea quickly. The mage must know of her feelings, her humiliation. Why else was she being so nice? Medea’s face was expressionless.

“Hmm. I’m young,” Bea was saying. “Very young for an Elf, and I still have most of my life ahead of me, too.”

“Shush.” Medea pretended to make dagger eyes at Bea. “We start. Beside, Iridni must needs keep all what left when done. It still weigh something. A lot for puny Iridni.”

Iridni ran to open the door for the two encumbered mages, and the three women—two of them covered head to toe in black briefcases bearing a fortune in silver—trundled out of the homey Lodge into the squalid Vallaki slums. 


Spoiler: show

My windows cracked, but they can be replaced.
Your arm will tire throwing stones my way.

Iridni Ren

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His Consuming Radiance
« Reply #42 on: October 18, 2017, 10:17:17 PM »
Spoiler: show


A harsh winter descended on Barovia, smothering the warmth and light of Pelor’s sun in an unusually bleak and dank mist. Iridni felt blessed that her god in His infinite mercy sent the consolation of Father Finnegan to her to help her endure this season of cold and death. The learned priest reminded Iridni that good works were not enough to evidence her faith, but she must also remember ritual and observance. She must show her contrition not only in the custom that came most easily to her—personal deprivation—but also through practicing greater self-discipline. As much as she found the repetition of the daily routines that so many Pelorians followed lacking not only in spontaneity but fervor, she would no longer neglect them.

If a holy man as long travelled in his spiritual journey as Father Finnegan found these rote phrases and gestures necessary to cultivate his faith, how could a naif such as she presume she could put her mornings to more productive use? Also, the Holy Father’s comforting counsel helped her forgive Lexington his words and forgive herself for whatever she had done to insinuate that obscene image of her into the usual purity of Lexington’s mind.

Snow flew about her like a million white, stinging gnats. Iridni hated the cold with almost as much passion as she wished to end the blasphemy of undead existence. The memory of Anxan’s attack never left her as an actualized fear, but what fed her imagination’s most fanciful nightmares was, first, becoming an undead herself and, second, dying unfound in a place that was always cold.

Once on the way to Krofburg before the silver rush had turned—in the manner of a spring thaw—the occasional drops of mountain traffic into a stream, she had discovered the isolated, frozen body of a young woman like herself and had struggled to carry the gelid form to the then-sleepy village for revival. She could not countenance what that must feel like: to freeze to death as Pelor withdrew His holy, life-giving presence from her until her heart stopped, her blood congealed in her veins, and her supple flesh hardened into an icy blue—then to lie in frigid stasis for all eternity as though banished by the Sun Father to Cania.

Even so, the next several days and nights after Father Finnegan’s visit she spent in the glacial mountains, searching for Emma in Krofburg, then going with Vayn, Io, and others to Mount Baratak. Vayn sought rare essences, and Iridni wished to repay him for the many fine bags he had provided her to store Medea’s silver.

Medea. Her wizard friend seemed to grow ever more eccentric, first in purchasing the silver—Beatrice said Medea had in fact tried to buy three times as much—now in hoarding it like a human dragon. Perhaps Medea’s frequent shape-shifting was affecting her mind. When Iridni pretended to burn Medea’s countless silver certificates in the fire, having secretly emptied them from their original case, the wizard returned the Pelorian’s prank by placing her hands around Iridni’s neck and squeezing. In an instant Iridni was back in the Forest of Adri, struggling to breathe and incapacitated by fear as she hallucinated it was Anxan once more choking the life from her.

Although Medea quickly released her tight grip with warm words, the disoriented priestess could not be certain how much of Medea’s anger toward her had been pretense. Perhaps if Iridni had really burned the certificates, Medea would have not stopped until….

***

The journey to Baratak proved more rewarding than the search for Emma. Unexpectedly, as the five started their descent from the mountain, they discovered the undead archer, Rozassiel Tressi 'vyr, who had begun preying on both Vallaki and Krofburg. The wicked wight was no match for them, as they had all been recently blessed both by Pelor and the Weave. Io took the fallen monster’s mighty bow into the service of a brighter cause, and Vayn proposed they carry the body to Krofburg for the bounty the Burgomeister’s steward had posted. All Iridni could think of, however, was the warm fire that awaited her in the Lodge and cringed at the idea of another tiresome hike up a wintry peak.

Vayn provided them with hot varnishes, but both she and Anna were cold enough to whimper with pain. Nevertheless, Anna refused to give in, intent on demonstrating to her beloved Vayn her fortitude. Iridni felt no such compunction about impressing Io, who wore a ridiculous combination of furs and feathers.

“Eh. It keeps me warm,” he said, scratching his butt.

Iridni envied the short and green Caliban traveling with them who walked wreathed in wonderful fire. He was a friend of Io’s, who referred to him as “Ballz,” but Iridni decided on simply “B.” He quickly won her over in three ways: he admired her botched haircut, gave her a lily when she healed him, and provided her with the sweetest-smelling perfume she had ever possessed, having never spent any money on such an indulgent frivolity. Later, when Io tousled her shorn hair, she noticed him sniffing of where she had dabbed the scent behind each ear.

“You won’t be keeping the men off you,” B said, and Iridni had to resist a giggle.

Finally, they were back in Vallaki. She went with the now invisible B to the Lodge because garda were patrolling the Outskirts—garda who would not welcome a small green-skinned being, no matter how fine his manners, clothing, and smell. Inside, B gave the priestess everyone else’s gold and made ready to depart, but she heard someone descending the stairs. It was Lexington, whom she had not seen since…since his and Io’s confrontation over her.

Although she was cold and exhausted, she wanted to say something now to ease any remaining tension between them. “Lexington, where have you been?” She meant to express concern over his absence, but Lexington seemed to take her question as a challenge.

“Why? Did anything important happen?”

B nodded to them both and started out, perhaps sensing the two had unspoken business. As the Caliban left, however, Io came in. Both he and Lexington set their jaws at the sight of the other.

Pelor, forgive...but I cannot be an instrument of Thy peace now, the exhausted young woman silently prayed. She turned and began ascending the Lodge’s stairs. At the top she paused and yawned, mumbling, “Io…you should tell him of our success against the wight. That will be a more pleasant subject for you both than, well, anything else.” She closed the door behind her and slid down against it, yet armored, but in utter fatigue.

Though thy servant is weary, Thou has at last warmed her, she thought, before she passed into sleep.


« Last Edit: October 18, 2017, 10:47:09 PM by Iridni Ren »

My windows cracked, but they can be replaced.
Your arm will tire throwing stones my way.

Iridni Ren

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His Consuming Radiance
« Reply #43 on: November 11, 2017, 01:08:44 AM »
The Pelorian priestess hunched over her writing sheaf as the candle by her melted into the long hours of night. This was not how her life was supposed to be, she thought, as the hours ticked away and she realized that soon it would be one year since her abduction from Chathold and the Prelacy. The Kinship seemed to flourish, though so many she had loved had come and gone. Now...Master Yunon—although he had asked her not to refer to him with that honorific any more. She had never meant it to seem servile; rather she believed he had mastered so many things, particularly those skills that her average intelligence denied her.

Sewage. How was it that someone who devoted her life to the light now must divert her attention to such mundane and subterranean tasks as repairing a sewer pipe? Beatrice, Anya, and the others were confident that a simple ward would allow all to breathe the sewage like air. Breathe? Yes, but would that deter the filth that filled her lungs and spread plague? She gagged and only her strong will prevented her retching from the thought.

Her pen flicked across the parchment. She watched the tiny words she formed from nothingness and wondered how much they mattered.

Emma had drawn a knife on her. Another failure. She wondered where Emma and her unborn child might be. The expectant mother had released Iridni from her contractual obligation, but it did not release her conscience, nor her fear that the crazy fool would not only destroy herself but her defenseless offspring.

The pen scratched, and Iridni pushed it forward heartlessly.

Whatever her weakness, whatever her loneliness, darkness remained in this world. It was not her place to rest or grow weary. She must have faith that when she had done all that Pelor expected, her god would say, “Enough, my good and faithful servant.”

And allow her to return home.

My windows cracked, but they can be replaced.
Your arm will tire throwing stones my way.