Author Topic: Even Angels Fall - The Heart of Courage  (Read 1336 times)

Tycat

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Even Angels Fall - The Heart of Courage
« on: July 20, 2017, 03:49:12 PM »

This is the story of a wayward Guardian from the world Ageta, Illumina'terra or "The Light Lands". Born in the Southern Kingdoms to a sea side hamlet known as Havenshire, nestled against the Glittering Coast of the Lexea Sea, a young hero called Lexington Xerxes Gray was born to the sea captain Tavian Gray and his wife, the healer Hesper Gray. He would cast off his family name and represent his township with honor and courage, calling himself Ser Havenshire. Upon his seventeeth solis, he traveled with his parents to the great capital to begin life as a squire, and to take his sacred oaths as a paladin and live life at the Church of Creation - the Holy Capital of Excelsior - along side his cleric, companion, the holy wife Dame Crystal Willowsdale. All was well, all was joyful in the Time of Peace in which these young people lived. It was a routine pilgrimage, seven after they arrived, that they would see their lives change once and forever. Shadows swirled around the holy troupe, capturing several guardians in an unholy darkness, the first attack in centuries. But some were saved. Saved by a white, cold mist that surrounded them, ripping them from shadow. He still sees her face, the pale features of his Cleric bride, as their hands could not grip tightly enough. It would be the last of his world he'd ever see, replaced by mud and mists and the fire smoke of a Vistani camp. This is where his life would begin.

« Last Edit: July 29, 2018, 04:48:19 PM by Tycat »

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          Once upon a time,
in a land not unlike yours or mine in many a quaint and industrious way, was a warm and inviting hamlet known as Havenshire. The people of Havenshire were good, honest and hard working folk. And seldom did they ever ruffle any feathers with the neighboring Castabrooke or Selverheime. As a rule, when visiting Havenshire it is traditional to leave your boots at the gate, and walk on it's soft earth barefoot. It's roads and grasses are said to be some of the softest in all the lands, with healing properties. And it is so warm and sun kissed that even the gloomiest winter day brings fat, warm raindrops in. The people are humble, and whilst the running joke in the capital is that all old wives tales originate from Havenshire, the locals will have no problem telling you that gossiping causes gout and arthritis.
          Indeed this hamlet was small, and lovely to visit. The Glittering Coast was a magnificent and rich purple color, and they brought in the Lion's share of seafood to the realm, trading with Selverheime for their fine woolens, and Castabrooke for their bovine. Every year, the Gray family would bring forty percent of the town's catch to Excelsior, the holy Capital of Illumina'terra, in a trade caravan protected by Castabrooke militia men. Every year, but the year Lexington Gray was born. On this day, the hamlet of Havenshire would have another catch to deliver. It had been generations since Havenshire produced a star marked baby, and when the Grays announced their newest little one was blessed, there was revelry and rejoicing for months. Instead of fishing and writing proverbs, they would become focused on the rearing of this little boy, the entire village, every one, for it was their honor and duty to bring him up as a champion. They so loved him, and taught him to fight, taught him wisdom, and taught him chivalry. All the village was his family, and he was raised in great love and great support while they prepared him to be a knight, and readied him for his life ahead of himself as a hero, as a paladin, and with a courageous heart.


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« Last Edit: July 31, 2017, 03:11:21 AM by Tycat »

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Even Angels Fall - Chronology, Putting the Ser Gray in the Gray City
« Reply #2 on: July 29, 2017, 04:50:02 PM »
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WINTER, YEAR 769 - THE MORNING LORD TEMPLE, VALLAKI

Lexington woke in the night to the sounds of wolves outside again. Most of the Morning Lord temple was quiet, except for the quiet murmuring of the vigilant guards on duty. He rubbed his face, and moved away from the door. Don't let it bother you. As he paced, his boot crunched stony debris under his gait. He often wondered how he got here. Got to this city consumed in drear and mists. Got to these people of an assortment of different origins. He was alone here for the first time in his years. Without his cleric, without his family, without his cause. These people are Torilians, they are Barovians. They looked at him like an outsider even among outsiders. His tall body, his definitive Terran features and customs, mannerisms, way of speech, and composure. Can he go home? Is there a path? He would make the most of his time here, and serve these people as he would his own. A terrified, shrill scream echoed up the stair case from the catacombs below. He drew his sword, and descended. I will defend them.

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WINTER, YEAR 770 - PORT A LUCINE, DEMENTLIEU - THE DOCKS

He had spent all this time in this world devoted to training to be a better man for it. He trained, he fought, he prevailed. It was over a year before he would experience the cold, gripping feeling of his first death at the fiery breath of a massive snake in the amber wastes. It rattled him. He had never died before. Death was almost always only a near death experience, one could be saved. He's done it before, saving the fallen from peril. It was a commodity. However, he felt it this time, for the first time, the fire rip through his body only to be replaced by the touch of cold, empty death. He doesn't recall what there was between the battle and when he woke on the warm stone floor in the temple, at the feet of the dark skinned woman responsible for calling him back to his body. The Creator gave him another chance.

He traveled for a while, seeking to calm his life with the air of normalcy that he saw in his father. He heard of a position open as a ship's cook on a cargo vessel, and as a fisherman for a small sloop docked at the Port. For the first time since taking his vows, he stored his steel plates and shield, and donned the plain clothes of a sailor. It was liberating, and somehow, brought him closer to the Creator. There he would spend his next two years of his life becoming the man he remembered his father being.

In route to the docks, his belongings all in one bag, a door flung open before him, and a freshly inked man showed off his latest tattoo. Lex turned his head, thoughtful, before entering himself. It was an anchor, with his family's motto etched into its tines, "Plentiful and Dutiful", worn on his side over the rib cage and easy to hide under his arm. Only he needed to know what it stood to remind him off. He thought of his father, and could almost see his smiling face way up high on the rigging. 

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SUMMER, YEAR 772 - VALLAKI

Carrying a bag of armor and walking in sea salt seasoned boots, he approached the cold gray gates of Vallaki once again. It had been two years, and he didn't notice any difference. It was as it was left. He smiled, thinking of the friends he knew back then. Olivia, who bears his paladin's ring as a torch. Alexander, the guardian from his world that he had not heard from since both of them arrived. He wondered if he perished. He thought of Yaszyn'nel, the flirty elf who he dishonored after she kissed him. His first kiss, how he did blush even now, even though it was only on his cheek. His thoughts went to the others, the faces and names he had heard fell. The faces and names that he was ashamed to have forgotten. He strolled through the city, and took a room at the Broken Bell, where he would wash the travel and salt off his body, letting the bath clean his adventures as a sailor away.

He had learned their language, earned their comradery. He healed the sick and injured, tended to prayer with a select few who sought something greater than themselves. He buried some at sea, and brought their boots home to their wives and mothers with the news of their passing. His skin was sun kissed and dark, more freckles then he ever remembered having, and his hair grew far past his shoulders. He washed this all away, looking at his polished armor glistening in the dim candle light. What it would mean to don that armor again, to take up that shield and sword once more as a guardian of creation, gave him pause. He was ready.

The next day, he walked the lands again, taking them all in as they were before. The southern forest was beautiful. Herbs sprung up through late season snow, and he collected some for medicine. He heard an arrow shoot past his face, and turned. A woman in a peasant dress, in company with a shady looking fellow, appeared to be hunting. Her red hair bounced behind her in long curls and he would have noticed more of her if he didn't run face first into a tree he ought to have been noticing first. Her giggle drowned out the ringing in his ear.

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« Last Edit: September 12, 2017, 05:53:52 PM by Tycat »

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Even Angels Fall - A Diamond Catalyst
« Reply #3 on: July 29, 2017, 05:17:36 PM »
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SUMMER, YEAR 772 - WACHTER TERRITORY [DEN OF EVIL]

His name was Sebastian Du Valle, and he stood for all the hatred and wickedness of this world. Lexington didn't know how to defeat him yet, but he knew that he must. A movement was formed against the vampire, and while he was quickly motivated to join, he was disappointed when their more selfish intents became clear. They threatened her life. Aileen turned to smile at him in the dark cavern that they moved through. Water drips in the distance, and boot falls crunching stones under foot. He had faced the Vampire before. Watched the man's body turn to mists and scatter over his blade with the aid of a steadfast Morning lordian woman. He knew something else had to be done.

It was the Garda that gave him the approval, formally disbanding the Movement and enabling the rise of The Vanguard. They met in sunlight, broke bread, and spoke of their intentions to rid this world of the vrolock threat once and for all. Even now, some of his companions are Vanguard, which is what lead them all here this day, beneath the lake of Zarovich, North of Vallaki in Wachter territory. The den of skinchangers, werewolves, and even deeper cursed pirates. Their ship wreck loomed in the shadows ahead, coming to life as their torches enveloped the rotting wood and tangled rigging. Creaks of a ship at dock haunted the echos, and Lexington showed no fear. They were searching for something far greater than a battle with werecreatures - a coffin.

Riemuilev cried out, struck down and lifeless. The company gathered her up in a desperate attempt to find the healer that dwelled in these caves, boarding a skiff to a peice of wreckage afloat in a deep pool. They stood there, pensive, watching and waiting to find out of she was able to call the Ezrite's spirit back to her body. Lexington did as he always, and held Crystal's ring between his fingers from a cord around his neck. Drawing from her the strength and courage to be graceful in times like these, drawing from her all the way from home.

"We need a diamond."

His breath caught in his throat. He didn't even remember who said it. No one was able to produce a diamond, though they tried to find something of value. It was no use, only diamonds held the components of life, something he would believe in a heartbeat knowing how rare they are in his world and from where they are made from. When a member of the clergy dies their ashes and remains are pressed into coal, and from coal they are pressed into diamonds. Each new clergy man and woman is given a diamond ring to say their vows over, carrying the weight of their fallen predecessor. His own was given to Olivia, and he clutched on to Crystal's, since it slipped off her finger in his grip when he was ripped from her side.

"Can the diamond be pried from a wedding band?" His voice surprised him. He was reacting with instinct to preserve life, rather than the strong compulsion to save the last thing he had from his world; the last thing he had from Crystal. With a finality, he set the ring, cord and all, in the palm of Morvayn Sven, and let it go.

With her life intact, they continued their quest, all the while both a weight lifted and a new one settled on his shoulders. He had made a sacrifice he did not yet know the full meaning of, and Crystal saved one more life for him from beyond the divide between them.


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« Last Edit: September 12, 2017, 06:02:22 PM by Tycat »

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Even Angels Fall - Lexington Xerxes Gray, a brief encounter
« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2017, 07:49:49 AM »
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          Name Meaning:
Lexington; Of Lexea, derived from Alexa, or Alexo, meaning "Defender of Man." Xerxes; either "Warrior" or "Hero Among Rulers". Gray; a neutrality, or impartialness, derived from being patient, wise, and steadfast.


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          From head to foot, Lexington bears the weight of his Village of Havenshire even today, as he dwells in the Core. Brandishing a Lion's Maw shield, the iconic sigil of The Lion Heart Regimen of Paladins, who hail from the Southern Kingdoms. Upon arrival to Barovia, he realized he was going to be in need of better equipment if he was going to survive long. A smith was commissioned to follow the design to the letter, including a pair of sapphires making the mysterious Lion's eyes as bright and altogether dark as his own.

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          Although considered "average" stature in his home world among other Terran men, Lexington stands a head and shoulders above most others he encounters in his new home of the Core. Just shy of two meters tall, and proportionally fit, he displays evidence of his life long training as a warrior and guardian on his body. Strong, stoic, he carries himself with the poise and grace of the regal nobility, and also the humility and humble qualities of the modest and poor. While his body lacks the ability to be very dexterous, hard as a rock as he is with raw musculature, it is said that he is an expert swimmer, likely relying on strength and endurance alone to propel him.

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          Incidently, the greatest challenge Lexington faces in the core is not as obvious as it may appear to those who know him. His feet, quite large to support his large body, are difficult to shoe. In fact, with as often as he kicks his boots off to walk barefoot in the grass - fully armored - one might think it's still a problem.

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          The most peculiar quality about this man is his many beloved hobbies. From being a capable tailor derived from his on the field abilities to mend armor and sew injuries, he is also a fine doctor of practical medicine. Moreover is his ability to cook. Why, there are many who can already smell the fine things he puts together from scraps and scrimping. There is strong evidence that if destiny had not claimed him a Paladin, that his true calling in life would have been as a Gourmand. Partly because of his heritage, and the amount of time he spends cooking for the unfortunate, but also on some level, it is truly a gift.

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          His hair boasts many a legendary picture of him, and many are already well aware of his mane before even meeting the man, however, in his home town of Havenshire, the rich color was considered rather dull and ordinary. Many people living on the Glittering Coast were blessed with bronze skin, and an array of tresses from pure gold to glimmering ruby, making them look like metal statues of men and women, dressed in country silken togas. An idealistic beauty of the beach town is a honey complexion, and strands of shimmering dark golden blond hair. Westerners and Northerners called these sort of folks "the Golden idols."

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« Last Edit: March 12, 2018, 09:57:33 PM by Tycat »

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Even Angels Fall - One year: The Wayfarer, The Lover, The Doctor
« Reply #5 on: July 28, 2018, 11:57:02 PM »
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SUMMER, YEAR 773 - The Hospice of the Vanguard Initiative

He tossed another chunk of pine into the hearth and watched as it spat and sparked pockets of sap still clinging to the damp log. It was another rainy season, the wood couldn't be helped. There was a woman sleeping in his bunk breathing soft rhythmic breaths in an uneasy rest, a new acquaintance that he treated with fresh bandages and company before unwittingly discovering one of her personal demons. The usual patients and patrons of the hospice were elsewhere this night and leaving empty cots alone with him and his thoughts to the music of rhythmic breathing and the noisy, cracking fire. Rain beat against shoddy window shutters just outside in on Soloban street, although he stopped hearing that long ago. It had become the white noise of his home here and a long departure from sea side waves beating against the geodical cliffs of Havenshire, or the bells of the Excelsian Citadel accompanied by the symphony of horse hooves on cobble, children laughing, and the friars in the the chapel chanting like a sweet humming dirge. The rain gave him no peace so he paid it no mind. Just another anguish within the Gray City as the sky wept over stone and timber, spat out fires, washed the cobbles in refuse and wastes and disease, and created a damp moldy smell that he also learned to forget.

It had been one year since he parted with Crystal's diamond. A year, and when he had thought the ring was the last thing that could have been robbed from his home world. This year had proved him disastrously wrong. The mists were a cruel guardian and stripped down the child within him of everything that made him an Agetan man - even the touch of twin suns on his face. He often found himself feeling the new skin, pristine and soft like an infants might be, untouched by the years of sunlight and tropical beaches, salty wind kissing his cheeks in ocean spray and ruddy blush. Unscarred from battles fought now only in memory, unkissed by Yaszyn'nel, unfreckled; new. The flashbacks seeped upon him as the ghoul crept over his chest and pinned him down to devour the soft flesh of his lips, cheeks, nose and musculature. The pain of his jagged teeth ripping the meat off him was haunting as he recalled the smell of the ghoul and it's acrid breath, the sound of his skin in its maw. He blinked rapidly to shun that memory away and remembered to breathe when the fire snapped loud enough to bring him around. This year truly marred him, and he wore that change on his sleeve, guarding his heart with it so that he might do his duty without succumbing to the temptation to fear.

Fear was never far away from him. It rubbed his legs like the cat at his feet, begging him for attention and pawing for his scraps. It stole away the people he let in, finding more to take from him. His sunspots, the red of his hair, Crystal's freedom back home, the ideal of his childhood hero, Gallus Luke, his innocence purity and chastity, friends he came to know, love, and the one he gave his heart and body to wholely, and his idea of Kinship. He thought they were good people, even loved them like the family the made him believe they could be. Alorin stepped into Tavian Gray's boots like a man who knew how to wear them and for the first time since Lex left his home at seventeen he felt secure with a father figure that cared for him. Lex's fears subside for a while in this false comfort. Audric was the brother he craved as a child - the brother he should never have expected. More than losing anything his heart ached for that loss. He had let his anger take control and he had gone too far, and when they fought in that rage he only remembered Audric's face looking up at him from his back in the mud - but oh, did he feel justified. The acts of evil that he orchestrated, the people he hurt, the danger he put them all in - surely though that his eyes begged for mercy, Lex's heart wasn't prepared to grant it.

"You betrayed us all! I loved you like a brother, you worthless piece of shit!" It wasn't Alorin's disappointment that he could see existed, but that of Tavian Gray's that he felt within himself.
 
That coldness he showed him wrapped him like his cloak in ice and scorn. He felt as cold as the jail cell floor, or the mountain peak that followed. A wind blew through the window and his eyes grew heavy as the fire faded from him. All he knew was cold now. It was hard to tell if he was still in the cell or at the frozen abandoned ruins at the peak of Mount Ghakis. Both were dark. Both were haunted by the howling wind raking the old Tergish stones like a winter banshee. Both left him in agony, empty and uncertain with regret weighing him down in the pit of his gut like a stone. He looked up to a great marble statue, ancient and welcoming ghosts of the past to the fortress that once was, crumbling now and unreadable, and could not tell for the briefest of moments if that wasn't Yordan. He was in a pain that froze him to his bones like the stones he stood upon and embraced that chill as though the cold protected him from it, even if it was a wholly different sort of pain all together.

Claude Malouet.  Audric LaCroix.  Dorian Bladeweave.  Yordan Hubchev.  Andros Darrish.  Merna.  Iridni.  Jean.  Anya.  Angnes. Elrebril.  Yaszyn'nel.  Kaliara ... Crystal. Morvayn Sven.  Kaine Morrus. Gallus Luke.
The names swirled around his head and overwhelmed him like the gusts of blizzarding winds blowing snow and ice atop the summit. Numerous, falling all around him in sheets that obfuscated his senses and blended in an indescernable droning whirling cry that he could not translate or pick one name from the other. He could hear the wind and nothing else in that voice, and yet he could barely tell it was a voice at all. He looked into the drifts in his mind's eye and listened to it howl and screech past his ears and through his chest.

Why did you call me here? The Creator did not respond; there was only snow until there was rain. Shifting from a whirlwing to a downpour of heavy drops, rain grew louder and washed him down and ladened him in his armor and leathers and gambeson. Mud clung to his boots like gummy sap, popping when he pulled his feet from them, as though the mists were using it to hold him to the ground. It was a monsoon like most of the nights in Barovia, with lightning cracking and splintering across the sky to illuminate his escape with pale blue strobes of frantic light, and he clutched the man's charred body to his chest. He was escaping Vallaki in the mud and the rain and the thunder like a bandit in the night. It was the right thing, he told himself. He ran down road and hill sides, slipping in the mud when he caught his boot on a stone and went tumbling with the remains until he came to a stop at a pine bough. The head rolled away and he met Andros' gaze with horror and guilt when his young features looked up, mutilated by fire to ashy, cindered skin and melted bone. He looked up at Lex. At nothing. At everything. He grabbed him and wrapped him up in a cloak tightly as they stumbled out of the mud, for he knew what he had to do, and it was not wait here to be caught.

Vallaki depended on it. It was the right thing to do, he said to himself. But when?

He came upon the narrow passage where the road bends and  is flanked in opportunistic hills and found barricades amidst ruined stones. A woman made entirely of fire stood there smoldering and hissing under the rain as each drop steamed from her skin and cracked and popped with the sound of fire wood breaking into embers, and she had in her hand an arrow to nock on her bow, drawn on him. A great ginger cat ran after a bird escaping the rain behind her until they vanished. She said nothing, he said nothing and had no words to say or name to call her although he knew her fire and intensity and raw heartbreak. The second past that she held her shot, and when she let the arrow loose it pierced through Andros in his arms and scattered him to ash to strike his heart where the arrowhead made landfall. He looked down to it, and up to the women of flame but she was gone and so was the passage. It was dark and stony, and he could see the ancient statue once more.

Eros.

The storm grew louder and the cold left him numb; the arrow left him unfeeling. Snow and rain whipped around him like swords trying to cut away at him, hands of air gripping his body in icy claws. Within the screaming winds he could hear Her answer clearly and without doubt of it's meaning. Kaliara wrapped in a dress of rope, Crystal in a gown of mist, The Creator reached forward and cracked the earth. An oak tree grew suddenly, mighty and tall splitting the stone ruins like soft dirt and the words rang in his ears with a sonic, piercing clarity -

"INSPECTIONS!"

He woke with a jolt, and his neck and back ached from sleeping at the table. The fire in the heart was dim embers and the clanking uniformed garda walking heavily through the hospice came to a lazy gait. Andrei thumbed through the records and opened each cabinet with a lack luster.

"Morning already?" He asked while unfolding himself with a groan and cracks of bones. The bed was empty he had noticed, and the sun was already high. The nightmares slowly faded away from his mind and his heart slowed and calmed as he watched the Calimshite riffle through his desk. Coffee became the only thing he worried about, and once the inspections passed, he knew he had one true thing to do with his day.

And so he went to find Yordan.


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« Last Edit: July 29, 2018, 07:54:18 AM by Tycat »

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Even Angels Fall - Four Years Ago, at Home.
« Reply #6 on: July 29, 2018, 08:55:53 AM »
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          Havenshire's bustling whaling season had come to a close with the approach of the hot summer days slowing down the Southern peoples in their sleepy hamlet. Sailing men returned to their homes and ships were docked for repairs, maintenance, and preparation for the next endeavors. Captain Gray walked along the salty wharf of the Lexea Port with his brother and quartermaster, Adrian Gray.
          "Your son is to be returning from his pilgrimage to the Stoney Fields in a tenday, my boys have said." Adrian looked sidelong to Tavian, to take the measure of the man and his proud smile. "I cannot believe he has taken his vows at last. It seemed so long ago that he left us."
          "Seven years ago." Tavian's dark face smiled towards the wind, and his dark blue eyes glistened against the lavender colored bay. Young men shouted and laughed as they moved crates and barrels to and from the vessel, and the wind knocked ship bells in chorus with the creaking rigging and timber masts. He was happy to be home, and happier to be home in time for his son's return.
          "Will you and Hesper journey to the capital to bring him home for the celebration of his knighthood?" Adrian took a coil of rope from a sailor, and handed him a sheet of folded sail.
          "We will see what that woman wants to do. You know her stubborn ways - one cannot tell a healer the way of things unless it is her idea." He laughed.
          "She will move mountains to see her son."
          "Mountains would move to not get in her way."
          The brothers walked side by side up the cliffs to the soft green meadows of heather that lead them home. Adrian and Tavian Gray were the only two sons of their family, with Adrian being the youngest and Tavian being the Eldest, and a sister between them who had gone to marry a merchant man in the Western Kingdoms. They were dark of complexion, like wet earth and warm chocolate. Each possessed the same sapphire blue eyes that they would gift their sons, that they inherited from their grandfather and which linked them to a tribe of Dusk Landers in the islands far west of the coast of the Light Lands. Tavian wore his hair combed straight and braided while Adrian was short cropped and long of beard. He earned the length of his beard by having so many children, and grandchildren already. Tavian's beard was modest and short, having had only one son who would never have children of his own. Perhaps they would have another now that Lexington was a knight, and perhaps this would be a daughter or another son, that they could keep.
          The brothers went their separate ways at three log high gate, leaving Tavian to walk alone down the soft road. He took his boots and strung them over his shoulder, feeling the dirt between his toes again with an elation that would carry his steps. The ground was uneven, but he knew it. The roads were imperfect, lumpy, twisted, but soft. These were the roads that carried him home. Ma, the oldest woman in all of Havenshire, was ordering around her great grand daughters in merriment as they prepared a welcome dinner for the sailors feast to take place that night. Her hut in the center of the town was like a tree stump, old and squat, and the roads were made to go around it. Centuries ago, they would have shared a common ancestor, the great hero that founded their city from a port camp fending off Dark Land invaders. Ma smiled bright and toothless with silver hair hanging to her waste. "Don't forget to talk to me, child!" She called after him. Tavian laughed and waved to her, "Alright" he promised. He could start to smell less of her wonderful food, and more of the medicines wafting from his own home. His feet picked up the pace, and he jogged down the lane.
          There she was. Hesper Gray. Her long red hair was like garnet ivy clinging to a great pale granite cliff side in some forgotten, sacred lagoon. It curled and swayed around her body, and her silks fluttered in the ocean wind and clung to her long supple legs. Her eyes turned towards him, and her milky skin shimmered like the sea under sunlight, with lavender eyes sparkling like the great wide oceans he roved. His heart never failed to soar at the sight of his beautiful wife, and he ran to her emrbrace.
          "Eros my heart, you are home early." She wrapped her legs around him and brought him tumbling to the ground with a thud of their bodies. Good thing I married the healer, he thought as he reeled from it.
          "I could not be at sea while our son is coming home. My life, let's saddle Brandybright and ride her to meet him." He tangled his fingers in her hair, laying there with her in grassy earth in front of their home.
          "I have medicine to make, and Gretta's children have the spots- "
          "and our son is coming home." Her worry melted from her face, leaving only the sunspots splattered across her nose and bright smile on her lips. Her eyes creased in crows feet, and tears traveled through the valleys of age upon her features.
          "Alright. Let's bring our baby home." He kissed his bride, and after a while they rose from the earth and went inside to pack for the journey north. Tavian could not remember the last time he was this happy. Hesper ran around here and there, clanking bottles of this and that and giving instructions to the nurse who worked under her while Tavian packed a travel bag for them each. It was mid day by the time they set out to the stables, and they opened their front door with a new sense of glee and excitement. Twenty five years ago they traveled north to bless their unborn child at the holy Citadel. Seven years ago, they delivered him as a Paladin to their halls. And now, they will take him back for a holiday, to celebrate his knighthood and his vows and welcome Crystal into their home. Tavian's heart could soar, and Hesper's feet could navigate the heavens. Brandybright, their mare, was brought around to the road as they set off on their journey to their child, and the man he had become.
          But it was not but until they reached the top of the hill that they saw them, an envoy of the Creator's holy caste of messengers - the monks of the Mother. A woman in unadorned golden robes carried a sword. A man in plain white robes carried a lion's maw shield with glittering eyes of star sapphires. Hesper fell to her knees for she knew what message they were bringing and why they were coming to Havenshire. Tavian lost his senses as his eyes filled with red, he became dizzy, and a loud sonic pitch deafened him. Hesper threw down her head and with her scream she cracked the very air in two by anguish.
          Their son was dead.
 

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« Last Edit: July 29, 2018, 04:41:54 PM by Tycat »

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_____


_____

SUMMER, YEAR 773 - VILLAGE OF BAROVIA

It hurt, but there was no use in pretending otherwise. He had stood at the door of the Blessed Succor for longer than he intended to, knowing that Alorin was gone and that he would have to confront loss once more and directly. He had lost before, but they vanish on the winds and leave him behind like echos from his mouth. He barely remembers those he swore he wouldn't forget. Their faces and voices as clear as snowy phantoms on the breeze. He spent this time committing the old man to memory and trying to imagine being held once more before this, too, is blown away. He tied his hair back in a cord, and tug his hood down. He knew who he'd have to confront inside, and for this he was ready. It had been too long and it was finally time to rake the mud. "You betrayed us all! I loved you like a brother, you worthless piece of shit!" It was the last time he was going to let those words haunt him, for who knows how long they have to reconcile. Alorin is already gone.

_____

          "Patéras! He hit me!" the boy squealed with tears in his eyes and a red face to match his unruly curly red hair. Behind him ran his cousins, Jonas and Julius and their curious friends Andrid and Meagan, who were much younger but understood that there was a problem to take to the grown ups. Tavian came to his knees before his young son, still fat from youth and all but four years of age. His nephews were six and five respectively, and the other village children were three and twins. 
          "Is that so, o gios mou?" He looked between them. Julius looked quite guilty and Jonas was indignant. They both started to yell over each other and did all he could to remain as stoic and serious as their little egos require, though his natural inclination is to smile and laugh and assure them that nothing is so serious as all these tears. He wipes away the wet drops on his young son's face, as he tried to show him the place in which his cousin hit him. "Alright, boys. One at at time. Who is fighting?" The twins point to Julius, and Jonas points to Lexington. Lexington and Julius pointed at each other. "Very well, little ones. Come with me." He took them both by the hand, and lead them to a patch of mud where the town keeps piglets. He put them both inside with the baby pigs, and closed the gate to the full grown hogs who sat uninterested in anything but their grub. The two boys looked at one another with confusion as the other children ran after to watch.
          "Oh," came the voice of the old crone, Ma. "What have we here? Piggies in the mud?"
          "They are fighting. I believe you know what time it is." Ma nodded to the man, and waddled off towards a shed. When she returned she had two rakes in her hand to further bewilder the children. They stood closer together in fear of being swat, and Lexington took his cousin's hands.
          "Boys, sit there with the piggies. I am going to tell you a story." They obeyed the old woman, who also sat on the sturdy log of the fence. Tavian leaned over the gate with a knowing smile. "Once upon a time, two brothers feuded over everything they had. Land, wealth, popularity, and possessions. They always measured one another themselves, and so they grew apart and fell out of familial love with one another. It is so that their fighting caused them to hate." The children gasped at the strong word, to which Tavian adopted a stern expression and nodded. "One day, grief struck, the Creator took the boys up in her palms and asked them why they fought. 'He is wrong!' cried one. 'He is prideful!' the other. And on and on they blamed and accused and so the Creator stripped them of all their possessions and wealth and gave them a field of dust. She bestowed them with all they needed to prosper together if they worked for it. First they blamed each other more, and fought and fought and fought until they came to blows, and one tumbled to the ground, causing water to sprout from a well. All the ground became wet and muddy, and as he scrambled to get up, he tripped his brother and he fell upon the ground! He found as he pushed himself up a pair of rakes made of straw." The boys looked at each other, and then to the elder woman in confusion.
          "But Ma, why?" Lexington asked with a sniffle.
          "Because, my little Lionheart, they were to rake the mud!" Tavian hands each boy a rake, and waits for them to figure out the parable. "You see, my babes, the water is the tears of the community, and the mud is the mess they made of their own lives through their feud. Only by settling their differences, could they rake the mud and make order again in their hearts and the hearts of their family. Only then could they free themselves from the fleeting emotions of disdain, and embrace the greater good. Only then could they rejoin the community." Tavian motioned for them to start, and the baby pigs did their fair share of disrupting any progress they might make with every uncertain stroke of the rake scratching the mud bed. Lexington looked to his cousin, and he had seemed to forgotten his anger. He reached over to him and patted his back when he was frustrated. Ma smiled, and winked at the father before strutting away to let him supervise their punishment. He looked to his son and nephew, and smiled as they made amends on their own.


_____

Lexington pushed open the door of the Blessed Succor at last, and walked in to the chapel with reverence and poise. He scanned the room, but knew where it would be that he must sit. The Creator had already told him as much before, while he was dreaming, after all. His cousins were never far from his heart. He knew no brothers and no friends like them. They got into trouble together, fought together, made amends together, learned to become men together. Side by side. He didn't know family since he left his village for the Citadel, and for his training. Not at least until he came to become a Wayfarer. Even then, it was fleeting, but he found some he would never truly forget. He found a father in Alorin, who held him when he was at his lowest point. Alorin, who they were all here for today. To remember and to honor as a saint, as a father.

He came around to the front pew. There were many empty seats and benches. Many others whom he could sit beside. He did not have to choose this place but he knew it was long since time. He sat beside him, lowering his voice. He may never see Tavian Gray again, but he could always remember Alorin. It was too late to see amends be made.

"I am sorry."

Audric looked over to him.

It was time to rake the mud.


_____
« Last Edit: August 14, 2018, 11:32:44 AM by Tycat »

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Even Angels Fall - The Calm Reflection
« Reply #8 on: July 26, 2019, 10:35:06 PM »
SUMMER, YEAR 774 - DEMENTLIEU, LOST AT SEA [THE DOLDRUMS]


The sun was a blaring fire ball ever hurdling towards them, but never making contact with the sea. The endless, still, quiet sea. The only ripples came from the net as it was hoisted out of the water and back over the starboard side with what few fish they were able to catch. It would be enough, he thought. The crew was weak, but strong willed. He managed to mitigate illness from stagnation, and rationed the food supply as much as he could. Fish would have to do, and when they didn't catch any, he dived into the sea with a crew, scraped the mussels from the haul and boiled the meat inside their black shells for a slimy broth that kept them all going. There was never estimation that the calm would last; it could be days or it could be weeks. It could be until they all die from the exposure, thirst, or starvation. But they would not die today.

He wiped sweat from his crisp brow where wisps of tangled red hair clung against his flesh, and helped to hoist the last length of the net over the side with others. They would run out of drinkable water before food, and that is what will kill them. Sea water slapped against his lips as it was flung from the netting and the fish flopped about the deck, but he must never lick it. Salt water would kill them faster than thirst. He recalled a cleric once who had told him that healing magic cured dehydration, hunger, pain, broken bones, and all the ailments of the body. He only wished that was true. He could do what he could with restorative magic, though his prayers were feverish, and even devotion wasn't enough for everyone. He kept trying, he would always try. Not every battle, by the sword.

Lex served as a cook and ship's healer on voyages, although everyone contributed to running the ship. The deck hands and quartermaster all did the same work, as long as ranks were respected. He looked up towards the quarter deck, and watched the quartermaster and the navigator looking through a spy glass for any sign of salvation, as they had for several days now. Captain Favreau must be in his quarters. He had been for some time, trying to stave off hunger and thirst while documenting the voyage failings. Lex would check in on him later, for now, water was a priority. He looked back at the main deck, and watched the crew. A handful prepared the scarce fish that were caught by putting them into a barrel and bringing them down into the galley. Others were laying in any shade they could while on duty. Doldrums or not, they couldn't all just hold up in the shade of the lower decks out of the sun and heat, the ship still had to be manned in case a wind picked up or ship was spotted on the horizon. Some of the men told fanciful stories of harpooning a whale and riding it like a horse drawn carriage back towards land. The thought of that...

He placed his calloused hands on the shrouds' rough ropes, and stared ahead at the gibloom and up at the sails. The flying gib took damage in a storm, tore at the base and they would have to repair it, though they are short on supplies. The Captain said to wait, to see if it will hold, as it might. The gibs aren't  helpless with a single tear after all. Lex wondered if that tear would have made the difference before they got trapped adrift. The sails now looked inflexible, like they were stone carved to look like a ship. As if even any wind would not move them at all. It was serene, and it was a delusion. How long ago those sails braced against the storm winds, threatening to break and tear and snap ropes and masts as they fought against it. How long ago was the ship roiling, turning, tossing, threatening to capsize and sink. It's a small wonder they did not lose crew. He took a moment to thank the Creator, staring off at the misty horizon before closing his eyes.

How long ago was the Vanguard my only thought? His mind brought him back to the hospice, to the small fire in their hearth and the cold breeze seeping under the door. The shivering sickly people who laid in cots and beds and on fur throws. He was brought back to the cool, gray world of Vallaki, and all the love he bore it. All the new arrivals, the simple Barovian people and their traditions. The snow he never knew he'd miss. His gray cloak seems heavy, and his heart heavier. He saw Yordan's face in the dark places the fire could not quite reach, but he said nothing. He was brought back to the even colder stone floors of the jail cell, naked and filthy. The darkness of the cell oppressing. He did not know what his Gray Cloaks were saying, doing, to keep the torch lit. He knew his time was over, his death on the edge of that cell. He said good bye to his mother, his father, and thought only of the times he had with them and how long ago it had been since he was seventeen and he bid them fare well forever. It was a blur, and the voices echoed and mumbled as if he was under sea water. Nicolas and Andrei spoke for Yordan then, and it was clear. Why did you betray me? But it wasn't death. The Creator placed Her hand on him and clarity pierced the muted noise with a simple word: Banished. He discarded his mantle of the Vanguard, but the torch stayed at his side. Cold and tarnished now as he is outcast. And one by one, they fell away, all the torches in the darkness flickered out. The wolves won, and it was dark. How long ago did the Vanguard fall?

The coldness suffocated him until he was reminded it was heat, fever.. His eyes opened to the blinding sun blistering his face and lips and he remembered where he was. He pushed some dry, tangled gray and red hair from his brow and pulled his tricorne lower to shade his eyes from the blinding rays of noon. The hospice was gone, the Vanguard was gone. He hadn't even heard from Alarik, and assumed he may have died. He knew the hospice was now in the hands of another, and would be another, and another, long before he met his end of the deal he struck to return. It was that which brought him to Dementlieu, his exile. He found belonging on these ships, and a closeness to his father who was worlds away no doubt at sea himself. Are you on still waters, Patéras? Or have you ample wind?

"Géant Rouge," they called him, these sailors who once long ago taught him to speak Mordentish. "Zeke is non doing well." Lex nodded and followed the sailor to the one who had taken ill, and began to treat him. He was delusional, as most get in these conditions if one is allowed to fester. Zeke flailed madly, rambling about a tax collector taking everything he had, and fighting for the last of it. His boots, which he called his dog and his home each.

"He needs shade, water, and rest. Let's get him below." A handful of them tried to surround and subdue him, turning into a mild brawl which alerted the attention of the Quartermaster. His voice boomed down to them and the Captain's doors flew open in a moment of chaos - a perfect dismal contrast to the calm ocean containing them.

Once taken into custody and brought to rest in the confinement of the brig, Lex was able to give him some medical attention, and stayed by his side while he rested. He used cool sea water on a cloth to tab his forehead to try to bring down the heat fever, bringing his thoughts to Hypatia and the time the spent at her side fighting her fever then. The life she nearly lost, and what she's done with it. He closes his eyes and lays a hand on Zeke's shoulder, praying as he does for clarity and restoration to soothe him. He brought his free hand to rub the ache in his neck from sleeping against the bedpost again, and looked down at the small woman. She wasn't unlike one of his own people, and wondered if the Greeks and Southern Terrans would get along. They wore similar clothes, their hair and features in a similar way. He wondered if she would wake. What was this woman like, who was loved by so many? Whose memorial was so large and heartfelt? He wanted to know her, so he could love her the way they loved her. He wanted to know the woman who took over his hopsice and who took over his mission even if not under the cloak and torch of the Vanguard. He stayed at her side long and worked hard to save her life. Fought for days, like he fights now against the calm sea. He opened his eyes and looked down at Zeke while he slept fitfully. His breathing labored. There are thirty men on this ship to stay beside now, Zeke. you must get better on your own.

The iron door of the brig creaked and groaned closed, and the lock turned and clicked heavily before he passed the key back to the quartermaster, Martain. They nodded to each other, and Lex went up the stairs first into the galley, followed by Martain and all his jangling keys and weary boot falls. They parted ways and he went into the galley kitchen, opening a port window, it squeaked on old hinges as it opened inward. He stared through it, at the calm glass sea. It looked like a dance floor freshly polished in the ballroom of Port A Lucine's Governor's Hotel, or a mirror on the ground. He thought for a moment he could walk on it, walk into the endless still horizon and find the mists there until they eventually took him back to land, and he could fetch a rescue boat.

They'll die of thirst before they die of hunger. They'll die of heat stroke, like Zeke has. They'll die of calmness. Chaos has it's place, if only it would crack the sky and blow us away from here.

He thought of Shira, of the tournament and her face as she cheered for him. It was a quick fight, and thrilling. The chaos of it was the best part. The crowd cheered, sparks flew from blades clashing and shield grinding against shield. Shira was probably disappointed that he didn't win. He was fine with not winning, he wanted Kyros to feel empowered, he wanted to only be part of it. Glory was never his goal. He had spent hours uplifting the Turk, helping him with armor and flare, and how to put on a spectacle. Deep down, he always wanted him to win. It gave him peace to uplift another. And when it was over, she wrapped her arms around his waist and watched on the rest of the games along with him, and even after that, she wrapped her self around him in his bed. He thought of something he heard Vayn say, that he would never be happy with a relationship. That he would find some flaw, that it would never live up to his standard. Maybe so. Here she was however, all her chaos, all her wildness. Sometimes he worried about her, she was always a loose cannon. But in all that wildness he found peace, he found comfort. He always knew since they started this that he could find her and seek her comfort openly and without explanation. It was unconditional. He wondered if he loved her. Did she love him? Could she? If the sky cracked open and blew them to shore, would she meet him there? No. She wouldn't. He didn't expect her to, for her spirit is wild and she has her own battles to fight in shadow and secrets. Not every battle, by the sword.




Days passed.

Weeks.

Zeke nearly succumbed to heat stroke, and would have died if Lex did not give him his ration of water. The water was running low. They could survive another four days, if they pushed themselves. Thirty men all aboard, thirty mouths dry and cracked and peeling in dehydration. If only it would rain, like it does all year in the Core, in Dementlieu. He would never complain about the weather again if only it would rain and restock their barrels. If that rain came with wind, all the better. Some men were detained for planning to mutiny, and to take the skiffs and their ores to row to safety. If only that would work. They would die faster at sea in a skiff than adrift in this ship. Captain Favreau might take pity on them, and not report the madness if they calm themselves, he heard. He stared up at the night sky, the stars and the bright moon. He wondered if they would ever be attacked by reavers in calm waters, or be approached by sirens, mermaids, or other things that might want to eat them. It was always so quiet, save for the creak of the masts and wood as it sat there gentle rotting. He wondered if he would hear a siren now that he had thought of them, now that they are in his mind, a phantom he creates out of his own weakened state. Would it be real? Isn't that the point? He remembered the siren that nearly got him. Was it Juste who saved him, or Vayn? He heard his father's voice, urging him to sink and to come home. It was warm there in that sea, and the sweet sounds comforted him. His father's voice comforted him. It would not be as bad a way to go as thirst.

He wondered if Emma was still alive. Of course she is. No one who braves the Nocturnal sea looking for a dead man is going to die easily. He missed the baby, and thought about her request of him, to marry her and give her another child if they ended up alone. He stared up at the stars, and knew in his heart he could never do that, as beautiful as it sounded. It was not his path, and he was lost at sea anyway. A man coughed and brought him back to the present. He rose from the hammock and walked towards the shrouds, where he climbed the rigging and sat on the ropes. It's dangerous to do that any other time then when a ship is becalmed or at dock, because one could be thrown off them. It was the best view. He could see another moon at sea, and it reminded him of home. He smiled, humming a tune his mother would on calm summer nights, something his father wrote for her. The crew near by hummed with him, and one man even took up the fiddle and began to play. It was the most lively they had been since the storm, since the fight with Zeke. Even the mutiny was calm and without energy. Lex closed his eyes for a moment, and let the sound wash over him.

But it was then, that all the energy was sapped from them all at once. He opened his eyes, and stared in disbelief as the mists rolled over them and through the rigging and over the sails. Moisture from dew on the masts formed, and the men made quick work to drink up as much as they could. He looked on in disbelief as one of the stone still and firm sails, turned outward and the ship lurched forward.

Blessed Mother, thank you. We are saved.

« Last Edit: July 27, 2019, 03:34:02 AM by Tycat »