Author Topic: To Serve His Radiance  (Read 14200 times)

Iridni Ren

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A Radiance Everlasting
« Reply #100 on: October 07, 2019, 01:18:53 AM »
As surely as Pelor’s triumphant light ascended each morning, His glory must recede at nightfall soon thereafter.

The week began with Iridni meeting with Crescent and Maxine along with her fellow Kin to consecrate the two penitents to the Pelorian faith, their redemption from the vile influence of Vashan and Vecna complete. After the calamitous setback with Quinn, the priestess dreaded her failure again—that these two seeking hearts would find their thirst for holy waters unquenched.

Her own heart felt hope, however, when Zephyr arrived at the Blood o’ the Vine, for her love had long resisted her religion, and she saw his acquiescence to witnessing the ceremony almost a miracle in itself.  Moreover, he of late seemed little inclined to stir himself from his studies, whatever caused his secret errand in Paridon to maintain its grip on his psyche and place a stumbling block between the two’s path of courtship. He kissed Iridni in greeting, and for a moment he was the romantic Zephyr of old, the man who had won her cautious heart, despite her fear of his bon vivant reputation.

She then introduced Crescent and Max to him, both receiving a similar first impression of the one-time gallant: “Greetings, ladies, I am Zephyr Kontos,” he said with a low bow, before planting a kiss on the hand of each.

The three women then changed into robes befitting the occasion, and along with Asariel and Trentor, the band journeyed to the ritual site. As was to be expected in Barovia, rain doused them all as they traveled, but their spirits refused to become discouraged, maintaining the same sense of purpose and mission until they reached the previously sanctified clearing and altar. Their timing could not have been more fortuitous, the sun about to crown the horizon like the head of a newborn, and so they began with Pelorian prayers to the dawn.

Crescent led these prayers while Iridni again baptized their setting with holy water.

Sun of Mercy, shine in the fear of my heart
Where Thou blaze, my courage is mended
Illuminate my hands, Father of Light
So I may heal the suffering to Thy glory
Burn away my pride that, free of its bonds,
I may kneel before Thee and all who are poor in spirit.
Thine undying love is better than ego's cord
I am lost here where the shadows fall
But beneath the rays of Thy wings I labor
As bright dawn renews me and Thou ascend over the darkness.


Crescent prayed in Celestial, and Maxine echoed the beseeched words in Druidic. Finished with the sanctification, Iridni raised her gaze to the horizon, the rain running down her brow and into her violet eyes. Somewhere beyond the gray clouds, she knew the dawn had come, for though Pelor’s brilliant orb was obscured by these perennial mists, a growing light was illuminating the gathering of faithful—regardless of whether that faith was in a god or one another.

The ceremony began.

Many minutes passed, the sun climbing higher as what were now becoming three Pelorians made their confessions and testimonials. When Iridni pronounced Crescent and Maxine her sisters and presented them to the assembled, heaven itself swept away any doubt as to the two penitents’ redemption: brilliant beams of sunshine broke through the relentlessly overcast Barovian skies.



Iridni almost gasped both at the display of light and the reaction from Zephyr, who leapt to his feet with sudden energy, dusting the leaves and dirt from his bottom, before crowing with exultation, “Hurrah!”

Her heart, too, leaped within her at his reaction, knowing she had pleased both her god and her man. Each could be aloof with her—remote—yet that Pelor granted her miracles daily was reassurance He had not forgotten her. From Zephyr, in contrast, she needed such smaller tokens as these: a look, a word, a kiss, a smile, an uncharacteristic display in which he lost for a moment his impeccable dignity.

Although Iridni’s inner voice scolded her for thinking now of anything other than Crescent and Maxine at this critical moment of their own lives, of the victory of Pelor over Vecna and his vampiric lieutenant, she could not help her momentary selfish weakness. Yet somehow she felt Pelor’s forgiveness already…as her heart was as suddenly pure as it had been once before.

Before her implosion of the Ghastrian hag and, inadvertently, the slaying of the wretched young girl who was its spawn.

Not only had Iridni helped Crescent and Maxine heal the wounds in their souls, but the last of that small scar in her own had been healed as well.

[To be continued]



« Last Edit: October 07, 2019, 01:25:10 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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A Radiance Everlasting
« Reply #101 on: October 07, 2019, 05:00:55 PM »
The week ended with a funeral.

Between, Iridni felt helpless as the nascent congregation of Pelorians turned to strife. Soon after the ceremony she at last received a reply from her long-missing Bri. To her dismay, Bri was unhappy with the pace at which the younger priestess had proceeded, chastising her for not testing the two penitents more thoroughly and asserting she would soon remedy this oversight herself. She asked that Iridni keep this plan secret so that it might prove more effective.

The small Pelorian felt her stomach churn at Bri’s request. She did not wish to challenge the wisdom of her elder in the faith, but nevertheless Bri had not met Crescent nor Max, nor did she know all that they had thus far endured and how fragile their rebirth had been. Would a difficult test based in Iridni’s own deception of them set the two up for failure?

So much of her life required keeping secrets in the name of duty and trust and to protect others from danger. She did not wish that her beloved god, too, become something she venerated which must needs be obscured by shadow.

Worse, the trial was to occur in Hazlan, the land where Yunon had perished and Iridni herself had almost died while helping retrieve his remains from Ramulai. Memories of her whipping and then Marcus Weyland’s spells of wilting attacking her defenseless form returned. Hazlan was too foul a risk for outsiders to use as their testing ground.

After some consideration, she penned a reply to Bri and the others:


Quote
Dear Sisters in Faith,

I am sending copies of this to all three of you because we more or less now constitute the beginnings of a Pelorian church in these evil lands, and it is important that with all that oppose us here and work to our destruction, we strive not with one another. We must support and encourage the fledgling growth, just as when alone and cut off from my home church and brothers and sisters in Pelor, the Kinship nurtured me or I little doubt in my weakness I would not have survived.

Bri, you are likely angry with me for not complying with your request to leave Crescent uninformed of your desire to test her. Yet she has been through much and only recently learned to trust me. Doing what you asked would have been in my mind like taking someone learning to swim and who had almost drowned previously, asking her to look at a beautiful view, and then pushing her into a raging river. (I have spoken excitedly of you, and both she and Max were eager to meet you.)

Once you have met them yourself, I hope you will be persuaded of my caution. Medea often reminded me that my upbringing had spoiled me, that my security of faith and love had never been tested. She was right, but it also meant that when I began to experience Barovia, I had years of knowing that everyone was not like the people I was now meeting and that it was possible to have benevolent rulers, rather than monstrous despots. I have already seen and heard of some of what has tested these two, so in time their faith in Pelor and His followers would be strong enough to withstand whatever you might engineer. For now, however, they are like ill patients who have only recently begun to recover their health.

Respectfully and in His Bright Faith,

Iridni

She enclosed a note from Crescent to Bri, although it was the protective Max she was now more worried would lose her footing if Bri pressed Crescent to additional trials.

Hoping her message would balm the roiling waters, Iridni departed the Blood of the Vine for Vallaki, whatever brief happiness she had felt dissipating at the prospect of Loredana’s funeral. The loss of the Vicar reminded Iridni of the imperative of preserving her relationship with Bri, regardless of how the latter took her note. Despite so many reasons the two of them, Iridni and Loredana, had for being friends and allies, they had lost precious time in disagreements over what in retrospect could have only helped the forces of darkness: the best way to aid Verinne, the proper relations between the allied Kinship and the Morning Lords. Finally, the Ulcissor Clan. Although neither priestess could long withhold forgiveness from the other, their squabbles shaded this time of mourning for Iridni with an especially stinging regret.

Consequently, when Alin spoke at the service of the uselessness of the effort, yet of doing good despite the futility, Iridni considered this doctrine with her stubborn jaw locked. She refused to accept pessimism, and she refused to countenance Loredana’s trading of her life for that of a vrolock. Knowing the basis of the Morning Lord church, Iridni could understand why this trade would be acceptable to the Vicar but never to a Pelorian. Through misting eyes, Iridni observed Loredana’s embalmed form and thought of all the loss to the Light represented within. How could anyone think it worth the cost?

Briefly she also studied the grieving form of Jean behind her. She did not wish her stare to intrude upon this most private moment, yet she so wanted to know what he was thinking, whether Loredana’s death had persuaded him of the truth and value of redemption. The irony was not missing to her that in this moment when she herself struggled with those scales, Loredana’s sacrifice might have awakened a more merciful Jean.

Besides the difference inherent in their respective gods, the Vicar likewise had never experienced a home far beyond the baleful gaze of Strahd as Iridni had. Barovians by their nature and circumstance were a more resigned race from centuries of nothing but the continual victory of darkness over hope. As Alin listed all the many mutilations and other suffering Loredana had endured, the litany became more and more unbearable to the young Pelorian. She thought back to her own beating by the garda and how it had filled her almost with despair and futility. Whether it was the anguish of denial when confronted by death or re-experiencing that memory, she felt herself wanting to stand in the midst of the ceremony and shout, “No!”

In Almor human affairs were not so, and she would never believe that this life of evil supreme was inevitable and immutable.

Pelor had won back Crescent and Maxine from Vecna. Now four Pelorians grew in power and light in the very heart of Strahd’s hellish, undead reign. Alin had spoken of the light that burst from Loredana in her transfiguration before her death, a light so powerful, Iridni considered, that when multiplied, unified, and magnified it might consume away even a vampiric dark lord.




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

Iridni Ren

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A Radiance Everlasting
« Reply #102 on: November 18, 2019, 04:01:00 PM »
Dying winter rattled through the crevices of the old Lodge, long, bony fingers poking through the cracks in the mortar of the fireplace and grasping into the great room, but the fire Iridni lit slapped the intruders back and kept the rustic contours cheerful and warm, as was she.

Trentor and Asariel had departed with new Kinship recruitment announcements, leaving the priestess alone with Adeline, her cup of tea, and her thoughts. As the end of the third year since her abduction neared, Iridni was troubled for others—Lucy, Morrigan, Constanta, that newborn!—but in the sanctity of her own heart and mind she was both calm and confident.

Quiet Asariel remained steadfast and reliable and had become almost frightening in her power. Trentor…Iridni could hardly ask for a better soul than the one-eyed paladin of Ilmater. Never before had she met a man who endured suffering so routinely with saint-like mien. She would have to find the unassuming loner a suitable mate…as he clearly required a good wife to look after him.

She smiled at the sudden, happy thought and sipped her tea. She filed this need of Trentor’s away in a nook for now because a more considered conclusion pressed upon her young but preternaturally wise mind: her capture by the Mists had been a mistake. For almost three years she believed Pelor had allowed her abduction to a purpose beyond her youthful understanding, but now she was certain that the vile Anxan Madog had been the only target of the Mists. Their cruel cosmic net caught the maiden accidentally along with the reprobate priest, an innocent ichthys landed alongside a shark.

This glum realization would not deter Iridni from continuing to make the best of her predicament, but it helped clarify why Pelor refused to answer her unrelenting prayers as to her purpose in Barovia. A mistake meant she would have to give meaning to her life in the Mists herself. Likewise, she no longer believed that by fulfilling some Pelorian task she would be freed to return home. The paradise of Almor and her parents and sister were almost certainly lost to her forever.

These Mists might imprison her body, then, but they had failed to defeat or even weaken her. The small wound left in her soul by the Ghastrian hag had finally and completely healed with the redemption of Crescent and Max, the twos’ conversion to the Pelorian Light, and she knew she was a better and even purer person now than the girl who Anxan in his power-crazed lust had sought to ravish and kill.

That almost-child Medea later called spoiled and dragged into Loric’s lodge had instead been conquered with the aid of Pelor by Iridni herself. The priestess had endured much hardship for the sake of others, and she was willing to face more. She had given up Ionathan because of knowing his leaving was best for him, she let herself be taken into slavery for Yunon’s sake, she had been beaten and jailed for the “criminals” of Vallaki, she had parted with much of her fortune to ransom Conner, and now…now she continued to deny her own dreams for Zephyr.

When she wished to travel with Zephyr to Paridon, he reminded her of her “duty.” Cold words she thought then, in the scales against her breaking heart’s tearful plea. In the months since, how could she not judge her beloved’s own irresponsibility toward duty, contrasted to what he had expected of her? Yet love is not love that does not love entirely, fixed, and unshaken. She loved in Zephyr his lack of responsibility—though, on lonely nights when she weakened, it had driven her nearly mad with pain—because that irresponsibility was an essential part of him.

As much as her often irritating tendency to mother those she loved was an essential part of her.

We do not love those we love in spite of their weaknesses and faults, she thought: We love them for those very imperfections; for in excess which virtue does not become a vice? And so for Zephyr all she could do was wait with Pelorian patience, telling him, Do you not know how I long for you but deprive myself of you only to please you and give you whatever you need from me—even if it be solitude? In faith, I know you cannot doubt my love, yet I would prove to you my strength as well.

Although it was not her strength alone she proved. The same god who let her cause the earth itself to move, dismiss demons and devils with a word, summon acid and lightning from the sky, and restore even life, that same god also undergirded the small and raven-haired human vessel that channeled this divine power. It was her god who let her join Max and Crescent in Pelorian matrimony without breaking down but projecting only happiness for them as her own longing went unfulfilled.

They had made a good start, these Pelorians, and they with Iridni and Bri would spread a true faith of Light to Dementlieu and beyond, rather than one based as Father Miklos’ was on a deception. With Asariel and Trentor’s help, the Kinship would also rise up to brighten Barovia, as it had for Iridni. These Dread Domains were not hers to flee but to change and improve.

Accepting the truth of her exile had not discouraged the resolute priestess; it had only set her free.



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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A Radiance Everlasting
« Reply #103 on: December 09, 2019, 12:59:52 PM »
What is truth?

Truth is the Light. The Darkness is False.

When she dissembled then, did Iridni serve the Darkness? Few loved the Light, that much she knew. Never mind the servants of evil: most of goodwill also preferred the softening warmth of shadow and shade to the bright and sometimes blinding glare of hot light seen plain. Even she was guilty. How long would she lie to herself and deny what her own wisdom revealed to her, convincing herself instead that she could not be certain, that she was still a young woman who could not answer unfathomable mysteries or judge others with perfect scales?

So she made excuses both for them and for her own behavior, her own mendacities. For the seed of hope needed dark soil to take root.

His Light too, may blind.

She thought of this most recent man who trusted her to keep him and his friends safe. He had called her “darling” when they parted, but perhaps he did not mean anything by that. He seemed in many ways unpracticed in Common…unaware of the language’s subtleties. She remained faithful in heart and body to Zephyr…and yet she could not deny she was warmed by hearing an endearment on a male tongue after so many hours of drab report writing and tired steps of trudging the old Svalich Road alone between the two gray Barovian villages.

How had she repaid the man for his sweetness? By interrogating him. By trying to extract every last dram of information from him, even that which he most wished to keep secret from her. Yes, she would try to protect him, and yes, she had given him the best advice she knew. Still, for all her compassion toward him as yet another lonely, overwhelmed vagabond in this cruel and unforgiving world, she used all the tools she had learned—even deceit—to ply from him his secrets.

Lives, so many lives, might rest on her success.

On the road he had earlier revealed his desires, what pushed him onward in life, he, without the religious faith Iridni had to sustain her. Now she must disappoint him and say his hour had not yet come, for if he persisted in his course, she was of a certain his own death would result. He deflated before her eyes as she told him this, and she felt ridiculous and more than a little heartless…a girl of her small stature and young age warning a strapping man with far more life experience than she that the trouble he sought was too dangerous for him to contemplate. He had wanted to appear a hero in her eyes…important…and she sensed she had robbed him of that.

Truth’s cold shattering of illusion made her feel as though she bore a sphere of ice in her breast, instead of the tenderness and vulnerability that once beat there.

Later, by the light of the Lodge’s fireplace, she closed her scriptures and read over once more the message to the Kinship. Would her response be another obfuscation? “The Devil” Strahd. That was who they claimed to fight against. Was that not her own battle? When would she wage it then? Only when she had the perfect ally…with pure Pelorian hands like her own? Would it not be better to raise up any stake offered, even one rough-hewn and twisted? One cut from Gundarkite wood?

Yet how many times had she in turn been warned that without Strahd, something worse would arise? Her own experience told her that for all his undead evil, Strahd was contained, that something of a life could go on under the shadow of Castle Ravenloft. There were worse places in the Core. And for the moment, a more immediately destructive enemy pressed on her and drew her and the Kinship’s attention.

She put her pen to paper and began to print in her simple letters, her uncertain black strokes once more forming on white parchment.


« Last Edit: December 09, 2019, 03:32:53 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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A Radiance Everlasting
« Reply #104 on: December 14, 2019, 11:00:19 AM »
The two women sat in the darkness of the Wandering Billy and waited. At nightfall the over-worked miners had wandered in, bringing with them the mountain cold, but almost seeming to materialize out of the shadows like ghosts who haunted the large tavern after sunset. They would stay here drinking all night, and then somehow shuffle back to their mindless, back-breaking labors when dawn came. In between, for a while they would escape their dreary lives into drunkenness and stupor.

This high in the mountains, winter had already arrived. Iridni recalled three years ago how the snows of Mount Ghakis had been crisply pristine and so very white—when she had danced in the cold with Alistair, hoping she would not embarrass herself in her sudden, silly, and armored desire to compete with Rodica Stolojan. Why had she done that? Envy had panged her, seeing the garda and her carefree exuberance, for in those days the young priestess felt much more the Outlander, whereas Rodica had the confidence and security of a native and member of the militia wherever she went.

Only later would Iridni learn to speak Balok and come to appreciate how much a life spent entirely in Barovia meant suffering and endurance.

The snows of Krofburg now all had a gray hue about them even before they accumulated on the ground, for the never-ceasing smelters polluted their angelic fall from heaven to earth. That was what the silver had done, the silver that first revealed its presence on that same day, causing Iridni to feel as though she would be swallowed whole in the erupting ground as she ran from hillock to hillock trying to heal those caught in the cataclysm.

Both Rodica and Alistair were now only memories, but the priestess could recreate them in her mind’s eye, just as she could still picture Krofburg as it was, much like Chathold and her home’s surrounding forests as she hoped they remained. All were equally beyond her reach now, perhaps forever.

Looking across the table at Asariel, the Pelorian wondered how the woods-smelling Elf never seemed to change. She was one of life’s few constants, even Asariel’s growing power making no visible difference in the Pelorean’s color-blind, almost always hooded, friend.

They were whispering together. “Please don’t take offense, Asa, but I’m not sure I can make you understand what sort of thing might cause someone to feel guilty.”

“Hmm?”

“Let me put it this way,” the priestess struggled after a moment. “Do you…ever worry?”

“Not so much anymore. I used to worry about maybe starving to death. Or something killing me.”

The Pelorian smiled slightly, her friend’s answer confirming what she suspected. “No…I mean worry about doing the right thing. Whether you are acting as you should.”

Again a deliberate pause. “I worry someone will make me do what I don’t want to. Or trick me into doing something I don’t want to do. Is that what you mean?”

“Not exactly.”

“I don’t believe so much in a certain right or wrong but only a conflict between what some want and others want.”

“Then that is what I mean, Asa. I can’t explain why Zephyr and I are driven by guilt and react to it, when you view the world as you do. My worry is the mother of my guilt.”

“Perhaps this worry and guilt are a human condition. I don’t speak with many humans as much as with you…but you seem to have a lot of both.”

The note hidden on her person burned Iridni.

She also could remember the first time she met Constanta: bleeding to death from a blood hawk’s attack. The Pelorian had no idea of the other young woman’s importance, but bore her body back to Krofburg, not yet having the power herself to restore life to the dead or the strength to outrun or outfight a crag cat so encumbered.

Two infant children. The note said “two.” Iridni had expected Constanta to have delivered by now, recalling the Steward’s morning sickness in the Lodge and the number of months ago it occurred. Twins, however, doubled the complication and risk, the worry. If only Morrigan had trusted Iridni, perhaps she would have been able to aid them all in some way before everything had come to this. On the other hand, knowing little, the priestess was able to face Corporal Nimirovic’s interrogation without fear of having to lie in order to protect anyone.

So many things to worry about. By the grace of Pelor the Kinship was growing sufficiently strong again to deal with multiple threats: Iridni had faith in Vesta. At the present, she and Asa must focus on the critical discussion with Bellegarde. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

As sunlight came to the mountain village, the two Wayfarers walked past the slumping patrons of the bar and out into the unceasing, gray snow toward the Consortium’s stony edifice, calling to mind a tomb. How many times since coming to Barovia had the priestess entered it with so much worry in her heart?

The snow fell. The smelters belched their acrid soot into the wintry air. 




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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A Radiance Everlasting
« Reply #105 on: January 04, 2020, 10:52:07 PM »


Both Bellegarde and the civil authorities in Krofburg proved unwilling to allow the Kinship to act, although Iridni was fortunate to find in the new government and militia leader, Alin Baboescu, a man who had once served together with Loric. That contact might be helpful in the days and weeks ahead. The captain would provide no cover for the Wayfarers should their mission cause any damage to persons or property, nor would he over-rule Bellegarde's profit-based decision to keep the smelters' hellish flames at full consuming brilliance. Yet it was clear also that he was a rare man of principle in the new Krofburg regime.

All the Kinship could do was wait nearby for the hearth fiend known as Mr. Ember to strike. At dawn's break, the Wayfarers shuffled from the Wandering Billy toward the Tent City and discovered that the smoke had thickened overnight, but no workers were present save one: a hulking Caliban, back-lit by the roaring flames surrounding him.

Iridni also observed an Ezrite praying and dousing himself with water. Francesca and he exchanged the pleasantries of greeting, regardless of the macabre scene unfolding.  Marry spoke to Trentor in hushed tones, "There's a man...he's holding...a torch...and standing on straw."

Tension rippled through the group as Victor exclaimed, "Hells...where'd that man come from?"

Behind them, the Bellegarde woman in charge crested the hill and drew up with a sharp stare: "Where in the hell are my smelters? Why is that idiot oiled up...for wrestling?!"

"Because he's trying to set himself on fire it appears," Fran offered.

"Light yourself on fire on someone else's property, idiot!"

The Caliban responded to the Bellegarde woman in kind: "Degrade us! Treat us like animals!...I'm going to put an end to it. All of it!"

"Now you're just putting words where they don't belong. Who gave you people medicine, numpty?!"

"No more smelters! No more silver! No more you!"

An apparent physician slithered out of the crowd toward the bellowing brute, a purposeful rag in her hand. Iridni guessed that it might be something to calm the Caliban. She wondered whether it would work if Mr. Ember was behind his madness.

The Bellegarde woman continued, "What a pointless display. All you do is hurt yourself for no reason but petty spite." She yet seemed reluctant to believe the warnings of the Kinship.

The Wayfarers began to coat themselves with the cold varnishes they bore with them as Nix whispered, "Ember...he's in the torch." The druidess edged closer, "Sir, what's your name?"

"P...Petros..."

Several people began to speak at once, the Ezrites in whispers, all in growing alarm. Fran implored Petros to put down the torch. "I can't...I can't." He clutched the torch in both hands now and stared into it longingly, his body atremble.

Meanwhile, Victor assumed his position in the ritual circle he had inscribed, a whip in one hand, a holy symbol in the other.

The Kinship began to spread out, both to surround the area and to make themselves less of a target from any blast. As Nix continued to negotiate with Petros, the physician suddenly leaped at him from behind, trying to place her cloth over his nose.

"Help me!" the poor laborer managed before his mouth was muffled. Nix lunged to keep the falling torch from its fuel.  Petros used strength honed by years of hard labor to throw off the physician before the stupefying drug could take effect. His fist crunched into her face. In his blind groping, Petros lost his balance and, trying to steady himself, released the torch.

It fell on his chest with a quiet hiss.

Before any could react other than the fleeing physician, flames swaddled the screaming form of Petros and arced to the hay bales. His limbs flailed in agony, only fanning and spreading the growing conflagration. Hearing his awful shrieks, Iridni felt her own muscles contort and knew that her nightmares would have a new sound enjoined to them. All around her the air filled with the sound of wards and blessings.

The fire arose with purpose from the ashes of the Caliban and consumed away one of the smelters. Toward the woods, it also raced, feeding on the secondary escape trail prepared beforehand. With one accord, several Wayfarers moved to cut it off, hurling masses of the precious ice varnish to render useless the fuel it sought. Others followed suit against the great mass of the hearth fiend itself.

Its retreat cut off, the monster known as Mr. Ember raised itself to its full height and towered over the tiny array of figures beneath. A face formed within it and roared at them with all the power of the smelters at full blast. It spoke with the crackle of consumed wood...the clang of coals into the ash-plate.

The Ezrite Kaverin shouted over the din, "If you hunger, then come eat me!" He presented himself to the fire, and Iridni thought he looked as though his own sweat must be boiling.

In response, the mighty flame growled, "I...shall..." As it lashed out at the group before it, the hearth fiend chortled, "You have been...NOTHING...but a thorn...in my side....This mountain...will BURN. I will BECOME it. Become...EVERYTHING!"

For a moment, the creatured seemed to Iridni as though it might make good on its threat. Even in Perfidus she had never seen a flame of this size, and she knew the Wayfarers had all but exhausted their cold varnishes. She ran as she had on that first day long ago, when the silver erupted, healing those scorched the worst by the heat while hoping whatever the mad Victor was doing would work. Trentor appeared to be drawing the fiend's worst, though the single eye of the paladin never blinked, nor did his sword blows lose their purpose when Ember struck him.

The Ezrite now lashed out with an ice-covered whip, "Witness her flame, hellspawn!" Although the monster remained largely unhurt by all those flailing at it, at least the magic of the circle seemed now to hold it in place.

Then, before their eyes, the fire at last began to die down and grow smaller. For a moment its face appeared on Victor's chest and then leaping in vain from one candle to each in the mystic circle as they were all in turn snuffed out.

Mr. Ember was no more.


Spoiler: show


Screenshot courtesy of Blissey
« Last Edit: January 04, 2020, 11:15:23 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
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  • Dark Power
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A Radiance Everlasting
« Reply #106 on: January 12, 2020, 02:34:25 AM »
Once upon another time
Before I knew which life was mine
Before I left the child behind…
Me

I saw myself in summer nights
And stars lit up like candle lights
I’d make my wish but mostly I…
Believed


The river of time flowed, and Iridni’s small vessel drifted farther along its course and farther from the receding bank of Almor. Her home was three years of lyric memory distant. Her violet eyes saw new sights and new comrades, as the stream pushed her relentlessly forward to…she knew not where or when the river of her life would empty, but it was unnatural and morbid for one of her youth and faith to think over much of her end.

Of that she was certain.

She washed her face in the basin, her gentle fingers feeling the familiar skin as she tried to imagine how different she must look from the carefree girl whom her mother, father, and sister mourned. Regardless of whether she found her way home now, that woman-child was lost to them forever. The Mists had changed her as much as war might change a callow boy into a soldier.

Two decades. Too many seasons to deceive herself a bloom rather than a flower. When she went without sleep, the effect on her appearance was noticeable, nor did she recover as quickly from rest’s absence.

How she wanted a child of her own! The desire still rose in her whenever she for a moment forgot to repress it, regardless of Zephyr’s words to her. Zephyr…she finished drying her face and looked to the door while hanging up the small cloth. That, too, she repressed…for now.

Too much was right here at her doorstep to think about more distant journeys. She drew up the straps of her nightgown.

Adeline following dutifully behind her as her small frame passed down the stairs with a candle to the archives. She sighed at the stack of reports. The letter from Loric would be first, and she eagerly opened it in the flickering light, but her eyes, laughing and hopeful, quickly turned to disappointment. Although she could not feel anything but vicarious pleasure at her Steward’s holiday and warmth at his praise, yet she had hoped for clearer guidance. Both more reassurance and acquiescence to her plans. 

Perhaps he saw her age as meaning she ought to need less supervision, less advice—that he could rely on her to make the right judgment. If so, why did he not grant her the boon she asked, a helpmate? The challenges pressing the Kinship on all sides, the ominous year that they had entered, caused her to question whether her wisdom and power alone—as much as Pelor had increased them—were sufficient to steer her and her Kin through the growing maelstrom.

Once upon another time
Deciding nothing good in dying
So I would just keep on trying
Because...I was...free....



« Last Edit: January 12, 2020, 02:43:48 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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A Radiance Everlasting
« Reply #107 on: January 18, 2020, 03:12:17 PM »
Iridni closed the dossier and sighed, before drafting a reaction. Whatever she had hoped for regarding Orsolya and the Gundarakites, it was all in ruins now. She could never form an alliance with a vampire, nor in her Pelorean opinion could any Wayfarer. Had not much of the past strife in the Kinship resulted from those who wished to tune evil in hopes of producing a just and righteous harmony? Never were those illusions realized, but rather the Kin who held them fell and often were destroyed. The Light could not prevail by using the methods of Darkness.

No compromise or coordination was possible with the undead.

Were her own delay and caution to blame? Had her many demurrings of Orsolya’s demands led to such a desperate act? The young woman could not change her nature—her first instinct to protect those she cared for, rather than hazard them all for precarious aspirations and dreams. Already, she felt enough guilt in how much she had put others at risk without their full knowledge of why.

Perhaps, then, the priestess should be relieved. The ambiguity of her situation had resolved itself. Although she might wish to stand aside and allow Orsolya to take revenge on those who had betrayed the Gundarakite in life, the knowledge that the vampire wanted to turn others to her and her hellish existence, to twist them into the monster she had become—such creatures were abominations and would require the blood of innocents to survive. Her oath to the Kinship but more importantly her faith left her no choice.

As for this other matter...although less personally felt as a weight upon her conscience, the events in Degannwy could not be ignored. She remembered Vashan, and much of the same seemed to be transpiring again, beginning with what Marry had confided to her. As wise and with all the power Pelor had granted her mortal vessel, part of her wisdom was to know when she was over-matched, when allies must be found.

Yunon was no more. Medea and Famorra were beyond her reach. Although Teram was no scholar, he knew Sithicus and had discernment. If others had not sought the warrior’s counsel, help, and experience in this battle against surpassing evil, the small priestess would.

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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A Radiance Everlasting
« Reply #108 on: February 02, 2020, 01:06:44 AM »
The young priestess listened to the three hooded figures speak in turn, the putrid smell of the grave filling her small nostrils, the yellow candlelight casting flickering shadows on the mildewed stone walls. Only the dour Elven bard seemed at home in this place of death, and as always the sunny Pelorean felt uncomfortable in his cynical, pessimistic presence, although he restrained many of his unpleasant mannerisms and words out of deference—or so he said—to her. The four had talked for hours, the wax on the wicks sputtering around them, an unknown noise now and then scuttling in the darkness that their eyes could not penetrate. She longed to breathe fresh, wholesome air again. For the rest of the world, flowers bloomed, and nature gave birth to new life, new hope. Entombed, Iridni struggled to focus on the morbid task before them…a task that would end in death. Perhaps every face she rested her violet eyes upon would soon be no more, regardless of the confidence and courage they radiated at this crucible moment.

. . .

Later, exhausted, she fell upon the cot in her rented room, her gowned legs aching from the miles of travel. She would make her journey back to the Lodge on the morrow, for she could no longer resist sleep. Bereft of her armored shell, her small, tired form barely made any impression on the hard mattress.

Her fitful dreams cascaded violent, colorful images before her. Again, she saw Asariel struck down by blinding, devastating energy. And then that selfsame vision was transformed to Yue, trying to rise and pleading for Iridni to help her, as her skin began to flame and burn. Yue’s immolating shape merged with the candle of the Pelorean’s last waking hours…melting like the red wax, while Iridni reached, powerless to help her. Yue’s arms were raised for a moment in supplication before running into molten streams.

Behind her, the bard was shouting at Iridni: “What of my people? If you twissst hiss mind, we will all fade away and die!” The shouting voice grew muffled, and she found herself being buried alive, the panels of the strange, brilliant coffin so close upon her that she could not even bring her weary limbs up to push against the entrapping lid. There was no seam. Yet she still heard the fading voice, “You have killed usss all!”

For a moment among the nightmares and chaos, her mind went back to a more ordered day. She was in the tenements with Matty and Jacques. Someone else was there…but who was it? A man…a man the two young children found fascinating. Yet Iridni thought their fascination worrisome, as he talked with each, flattering them in those ways to which the young are most susceptible. Jacques was especially taken with him. The priestess must bear the man away; she felt that instinctively. She perceived his sardonic expression that negated his honeyed words as he spoke with Matty and Jacques and then in the same voice to her.

“Come!” she said, tugging gently at his elbow, mixing the urgent command in her voice with a flirting, easy mask of a smile. He complied, and she sensed he was amused at her effort to curtail his influence on the children. Then she was strolling with her slender arm entwined in his along the water. A chill blew in from the murky sea as an old and dull sailor meandered toward them.

“Do you want me to kill him?” her companion whispered abruptly to her, bending his bald head down so that a moist lip almost grazed her ear.

The priestess shook with urgency and tried again to see his face above her, her own expression now one of pleading.

“What is this stupid cretin’s life worth to you?” he hissed, the oblivious sailor still limping along the boardwalk toward the pair of apparent lovers, leering now at Iridni. The man at her side gestured with his staff. “That old fool is of no consequence to two as powerful as we, my dear. Yet would you part with something of value to save him?”

The question challenged the Pelorean for a moment, but then she knew what she must do. She released her companion’s arm and drew back, at last seeing his monstrous, deformed face. It had been carved with torture beyond human capacity to manufacture or endure.

“Kill me, Iridni,” it croaked, its eyes—sunken in the disfigured flesh—imploring her. They were abject with fear of something far more terrifying than death.

The fine jaw of the priestess trembled, her placid beauty vanished in a contortion of horror and disgust, but then she nodded. She tried to lift her leaden arms to cast, before—

Before.

She awoke to cramps and discovered that during the night the blood had come.

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 Power
  • ******
  • Posts: 3622
  • When all other lights go out
A Radiance Everlasting
« Reply #109 on: February 17, 2020, 12:34:09 AM »
The Lodge has indeed had some banter of late, as the new members are a more playful bunch it seems than some of the past Wayfarers. Marry does not seem to mind being the butt of some of it, as his humor is unfailing no matter how much a few of the others tease him.

Trentor retrieved the small skull of the disinterred Halfing, and Iridni's thoughts returned to the foolish optimism of her letter to Loric, hardly more than a month ago. Beneath Marry's happy-go-lucky countenance, the grief he felt at losing his child and wife had settled into his soul like an accursed poison. She had chosen to overlook that, wanting to believe the best of him.

Now he was dead, paying the ultimate cost of his betrayal of the Kinship and his dark lust for power. Could she have saved him from this fate, much as she had interceded for him so that he escaped mutilation and exile? He had confided in her the unforgiving hatred that burned within him, and so she mistakenly believed she knew the extent of his wickedness, that he concealed nothing from her. She thought wise and holy words were all that were necessary to council him and hoped that her own example would be enough to persuade him of the blessedness of forgiveness and light.

It was only by Pelor's grace that her mistake had not caused her and her closest allies to walk into a snare. How she had taken his impatience with the defenders of Degannwy and his thirst for action against its adversaries as sincere!

Perhaps it had been. Perhaps Marry was opportunistic more than anything else and would have thrown in with whichever side appeared to be winning. Regardless, that possibility did not excuse the hazard she had brought upon them all by allowing Marry's presence at the Blood o' the Vine, or her continued faith in him when she first heard alternative reports of his monstrous behavior.

This, then, was her penance: that the Garda seemed to believe she had known of his evil and sheltered him even so and had only faked his execution. In isolation, she could understand that they might entertain such a suspicion, but within the context of her entire history and that of the Kinship, their paranoid demand beggared belief. Four Wayfarers stood ready with testimony that her first request after Marry's death was that the garda be informed of it.

And so Trentor toiled with his shovel to dig up the paltry remains of Marry Banbito, widower, one-time father, one-time Wayfarer, that the paladin and Iridni might transport the undeniable proof Marry was no more back to Vallaki and the Charnel House. She looked away and sobbed as Trentor slipped the skull into the burlap sack. In spite of everything, in spite of knowing he might have planned a betrayal of her similar to Hypatia's, Iridni wanted to remember him as he once had been.

The little man in a pointy hat that was too big for him, and all his Kin nicknamed him "Teapot."

« Last Edit: February 17, 2020, 09:09:23 AM by Iridni Ren »

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