Author Topic: To Serve His Radiance  (Read 20878 times)

Iridni Ren

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Radium Divinum
« Reply #125 on: June 17, 2020, 01:18:42 PM »
Although Loric Ashall’s dismissal of Iridni from the Kinship and Zephyr’s release of her from their betrothal had freed her to chart her own course (as well as liberated her from much odious paperwork and administration), life only grew in complexity. Perhaps a cloistered existence could be simple, but as long as she must minister to the conflicting needs of so many others, the dream of being a singular lens through which Pelor could focus His divine power—His will indistinct from her own—felt elusive, myriad shadows and clouds passing between her and the brilliant omnipotence of her adoration.

Yue. Syndra. Mishandra. Their faces and the faces of all she feared to fail appeared before her.

Alone in the Tenements, she examined the magnificent blade with sadness, her own slender fingers scarcely able to encircle its hilt. Her labor would restore its dulled gleam to its former glory; for too long had it remained unused since dropped from the more valiant hand of its dying wielder. For a moment she saw in her mind's eye that tragic morning in the Lodge when she had shown it to Trentor Atriens, envisioning that the Ilmateri might one day raise it as the proud champion and defender of the Wayfarers, a most worthy successor in the Kinship’s tradition of holy knights.

Trentor had proved himself to her in honor, trust, and sacrifice—above all, humility—but long prayer had revealed another way of choosing who was to take up this singular blade. She would not pass it from her healing touch to Trentor’s scarred grasp unconditionally, though that would have been her fondest wish. No, this storied prize, like any of such singular value, ought be won.

She placed the sword down with gentleness, its massive size filling the entire length of her snug cot, and prepared to clean and polish it. But then her violet eyes focused on the now empty bottom shelf of her bookcase. Those books were gone. Should Monsieur Anatole de la Rochenoire once more breach the threshold of her sleeping room, his invasive curiosity would have to satisfy itself with less titillating insights into the priestess’s bedtime reading.

She did, however, have to see the nobleman again. As embarrassed as she would feel when next they met, she could not trust to a letter the information that she had promised to convey. It was, after all, a matter of life and death.
« Last Edit: June 17, 2020, 02:17:53 PM by Iridni Ren »

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

Iridni Ren

  • L'injustice à la fin produit l'indépendance.
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Radium Divinum
« Reply #126 on: June 30, 2020, 12:01:27 AM »
Sun Father…take me, Thy sacrifice:

Exposed on the altar of Thine eyes,

I unknot my soul to seek Thy grace.

Mercy, lift this small cup to Thy face,

The Light that shines on me such that I

Receiving its joy cannot but sigh.

When consumed away like sweetest wine,

Offering of me, mine all is Thine—

Thy holy will now all my desire,

To die in Love’s ecstatic fire.




Spoiler: show
Lyrics:
Thought you had
all the answers
to rest your heart upon.
But something happens,
don't see it coming, now
you can't stop yourself.
Now you're out there swimming...
In the deep.
In the deep.

Life keeps tumbling your heart in circles
till you... Let go.
Till you shed your pride, and you climb to heaven,
and you throw yourself off.
Now you're out there spinning...
In the deep.
In the deep.
In the deep.
In the deep.

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

Iridni Ren

  • L'injustice à la fin produit l'indépendance.
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Radium Divinum
« Reply #127 on: July 01, 2020, 11:22:15 PM »

Iridni read through Lexington's translation and corrections of her essay. All of her hours with the dictionary had paid off, as it was at least somewhat understandable. She had not read aloud all her words in class, however, for fear of disappointing her teacher.

She unfolded the original, in all its halting diction and mass of strike-throughs:


Quote
Why I Try Learn This Language

by

Mademoiselle Iridni Ren

Over three years passing, I have been stealing from my home by villain. Then the Mists put me in her bag. No choose to leave my family. People in Barovia don't ask me come. They don't want me close. I do not want to be.

Much time I stay in Barovia and I'm learning Balok. To accommodate. I am unwelcome guest.

Sometimes I visit Port-a-Lucine. I see the little childs. But language is a rock. Childs have hard time understanding and trusting strange little woman.

In Vallaki I feel more at home and can talk right. But my long old friend say, "Come on! I need you Port."

I cry, but do as he tell.

So I come here now and try to do same. Learn language. Fit in and help.

But the last few days I think maybe I never be home. The nobles force me to come to their party. They want to hear joke. But they sit at their own table and do not speak to any of us. When I tell joke, my language I work hard still all wrong. It hurts old grieving man.

I stop now.


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

Iridni Ren

  • L'injustice à la fin produit l'indépendance.
  • Dark Power
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  • Posts: 4388
  • When all other lights go out
Radium Divinum
« Reply #128 on: July 14, 2020, 12:11:45 PM »
“Something beyond, or perhaps below, altruism and malevolence.”

Iridni had broken the cypher of mad Kymil’s last gift to her. What a rambling mess of incoherence it was—at least to her pedestrian intelligence. If only Yunon or Medea remained to reconcile and clarify such contradictory concepts. Kymil, too, had departed, gone home to Hroth, to make something of a family life with Syndra….

Though the rain poured down in drops the size of Iridni’s thumb, the carpeting mists of Sithicus still hung about her legs and caressed the back of her knees in an idle gesture that felt eerie and possessive. The dark atmosphere surrounding the diverse mix of Elves and humans brightened only from the occasional flash of lightning.

The expressions the friends wore at parting—save one—were bittersweet smiles. And in the Sithican dusk’s chill, their hearts were warm and glowing fires as they gazed for the last time upon one another.

The Pelorean never expected Kymil the perpetual sourpuss to transform into a doting expectant father, or for Syndra to cast aside her beloved blade and anticipate motherhood so keenly. People had a way of surprising you: occasionally, in good ways. Iridni had put her faith in Marry and been tragically wrong, but Syndra disproved Marry’s example. The priestess would continue to believe in the risky worth of individuals, no matter how many others, seen and unseen, sought to discourage her.

Aside from bearing witness to the unanticipated love between Kymil and Syndra as they hand-in-hand launched their new journey together, Iridni would hold most in her heart the memory of the embrace of peace and affection between Jean and his former pupil. The steadfast Syndra deserved that rapprochement, and, as gruff as he wished to appear, Iridni was certain Jean had melted a wee bit too.


Now alone in the Tenements with Kymil’s lengthy cryptic scroll, Iridni was convinced more than mere chance bore it to her. She saw a glimmer of her own thoughts and conclusions in some of it, although she did not accept Kymil’s admonition against hope. After all, who would bring a child—as he was doing—into a hopeless world? No, the Sylvanesti did not exemplify what he admonished, nor would the Pelorean priestess accept its anathema conclusion.

“An organism of a sort, feeding off emotions and psychic energy of those inside. Namely, the emotion of dread—the precipice where a mere push will kill hope and cause an untimely fall into despair.”

If the prisoner did not hope, then hopes could not be dashed. Could the emotions of dread or despair, then, exist for the organism to feed upon, without the precursor of hope? Did the already hopeless have too little to lose?

Without a certain answer that Kymil’s ideas were anything other than raving, the metaphor of a monstrous appetite for the suffering of others nonetheless appealed to her, as did other conclusions Kymil reached. Nothing he had written, if true, compelled her to alter what she already perceived as her own best course and what her religious faith required.

Within these isles of darkness on a shadowed sea, one might in turn fashion an abrasive pocket of unquenchable light to irritate the unseen tormentors.

She would not feed the organism. She would instead try to starve it by saving herself and as many others as she could from its maw of despair. And if the organism remained bent on devouring her, consuming her crushed hopes to spice its fiendish fare, she promised to give it the worst case of indigestion a small but an indefatigable Pelorean could muster.



Spoiler: show
Oh friends, not these tones!
Let us raise our voices in more
Pleasing and more joyful sounds!
Joy, beautiful spark of the gods,
Daughter of Elysium,
We enter fire imbibed,
Heavenly, thy sanctuary.

Thy magic reunites those
Whom stern custom has parted;
All men will become brothers
Under thy gentle wing.
« Last Edit: July 14, 2020, 12:31:17 PM by Iridni Ren »

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

Iridni Ren

  • L'injustice à la fin produit l'indépendance.
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  • Posts: 4388
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Radium Divinum
« Reply #129 on: July 26, 2020, 06:20:03 PM »
The grizzled veteran stretched his legs with a crack and spat into the Mist Camp fire. “You never see or hear that last blow coming.”

Casting Iridni into shadow, the two-ton female demon uncoiled nine of her 20-foot length to tower over the diminutive priestess as the young woman slung bullet after bullet into the malicious face that leered with hatred above her. Then one of the marilith’s six muscled arms swept down and toward the Pelorean, a gleaming scimitar in a taloned grip. The blade brushed Iridni’s small chitin shield aside, striking it from her hand and catching her in her vulnerable midsection, lifting her off her feet, until she felt as though the searing steel had cleft her in two. Her sling clattered to the ground. Her eyes were sightless violet pools before her body smashed into the wall and her forehead struck the cobblestone floor.

Blood poured from her sundered abdomen to seep between the moss-covered stones and dampen the soil of Sithicus. As she began to die, Iridni could see all of Dementlieu’s finest marching away from her in a line toward Ameranthe.

Lexington, her patient “professor,” put aside the Mordentish lesson to speak to Iridni more softly. “Should I not return, I want you to look after my property.”

How far they had traveled since their days together as Wayfarers! At the least the two who shared so much history had made more than a peace in these last few months—no matter what happened to one or both.

“I will.”

He confided in her then of a growing affection he felt toward another but could not confess his love to the woman until he returned safely. “I don’t want her to endure so much worry and uncertainly while I’m abroad.”

Iridni thought of all those months Zephyr spent in Paridon with her helpless in Vallaki and not knowing whether he still breathed or might desperately need her aid. “That is both wise and kind of you, Lex.” She caressed his carpenter’s hand. 

** ** **

Now the scarred priest embraced her for a moment and lifted her hand to his lips, but abruptly kissed instead her mouth.

Another of her oldest friends, and one for whom the friendship had sometimes been strained: why was she now receptive to and returning his sudden kiss? She had never viewed him romantically, knowing when she served him as his Second of his love for Anya Rose. She had instead feared him and that he might strike her as he had Harleen Summerset because Iridni believed her duty—while acting always within loyalty—also included speaking her mind when she thought him in error. How many times had the result been his volcanic temper (though he always limited his anger only to words)?

The deaths of Emma and Vayn, and his subsequent service to Janos: those events had revealed his softer side, and this kindness was what had drawn from Iridni at last a willingness to feel and display affection. He seemed so terribly alone in Port, a warrior who had swallowed enormous pride and a desire to lead so that he might serve as a humble retainer to look after a small orphan. Accepting this almost brotherly kiss and returning it in kind seemed the least she could yield to him as he prepared for a battle from which he might never return.

** ** **

Lastly, Anatole appeared, a friendship that had only recently begun to blossom. How ironic it was that Audric bent his knee in allegiance to a nobleman who eschewed many of the trappings of royalty! At their most recent parting, she had called Anatole by his first name to see how Monsieur De La Rochenoire might react; if he took any offense, he did not evidence it. If Iridni were to continue to confide in him as she had matters of greater import than her bedtime reading, she needed to discover how close a confidant he in turn thought her.

Would language, manners, and title always create an inseparable distance between them?


In the wild, discordant thoughts that passed through Iridni’s mind as her life force prepared to leave her body, these three immediacies strangely figured, rather than all the many plans she had been making and the work that so engaged her day to day. She could not have explained why or why she had not supplicated herself to Pelor and commended her spirit to Elysium. Perhaps the answer was that all three men were in a similar situation of death threatening to end all their hopes and aspirations. Or perhaps her concern went to them rather than herself because today was not, after all, her day to die.

Her eyes opened slowly to see a circle of allies, including the three Wayfarers and Mero, standing over her small, crumpled form. Though she remained in great pain, her nearly fatal wound had likewise been closed by Asariel, the marilith vanquished.

Humble, reliable Trentor spoke: “We will need Undeath’s Eternal Foe again, Miss Ren. But next time, you stay back.”




« Last Edit: July 26, 2020, 09:04:34 PM by Iridni Ren »

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

Iridni Ren

  • L'injustice à la fin produit l'indépendance.
  • Dark Power
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  • Posts: 4388
  • When all other lights go out
Radium Divinum
« Reply #130 on: July 30, 2020, 12:11:21 AM »

When Vicar Miklos cast a suspicious eye upon Asariel, his glare spawned the habitual urge within Iridni to intercede on her friend’s behalf, borne not only of her maternal instinct (and long-time custom while in the Kinship toward all the Wayfarers), but because she knew she alone was responsible for the Elf’s presence in the church. Asariel’s participation had been reluctant, as she little enjoyed hand-to-hand combat, preferring her bow at a distance to close quarters. Good Trentor’s practice with her—although gentle and chivalrous—had not dissuaded Asariel from her innate skepticism that she could outfight a trained, armored foe.

What was I thinking?

This was Barovia, and not even slowly evolving Vallaki, but a static, captive society practically on Strahd’s doorstep. Should it surprise her that the local church, reflecting the views—and prejudices—of the populace would not countenance Outlanders and a “Knife Ears” engaging in what must appear to the faith reckless to the point of folly? It was impossible for the Morning Lords to consider even the illusion of a fiend sport or much other than calamity when the nearby crypt nurtured Cornugons and was rumored to have once been a gateway to Perfidus.

Still, Iridni subdued her defensive impulse—as the Vicar seemed to be deciding whether madness or malignity had given birth to their request and whether Asariel was a nascent Halvor. The priestess let Asariel speak for herself, in part because the druidess knew better how her great powers worked than did Iridni, in part because being a good mother meant realizing when it was time for the child to spread her wings and fly on her own. After all, Asariel was almost six times as old as the small Pelorean and, "Knife Ear" or no, unlike Iridni a native to Barovia.

As the priestess listened to the Vicar and Asariel debate, she became acutely aware of the chasm between them. Their respective points of reference did not allow a mutual context for understanding one another. Iridni reflected then whether, had she remained in the life she was born into until she was the Vicar’s hoary age, she would have been as uncomfortable with the reality that was Asariel as was the elder. Would she, too, find the druidess’s worldview and nature almost incomprehensibly alien…and something to fear?

No: The enlightenment of Pelor and the Prelacy exceeded that of the Morning Lord and Barovia…and with good reason. In Iridni’s home there was no Strahd, there were no Mists, to keep all in abject fear, misery, and dread because those emotions were nourishment to this land’s oppressors. For a moment, the young priestess had allowed herself to forget that truth…and now she and the others must salvage what they could from her mistake.

At least Mero wasn’t here, as his sharp tongue and irrepressible humor would not have set well with the Vicar. The outcome might have been truly disastrous.

The metaphysical discussion continued, while Iridni’s thoughts flew to Port-a-Lucine and the grim news of recent events. She would have to return to learn greater details, including the fates of those she cared for, to see for herself the outcome, and, finally, to reassess her future.

Nothing she had heard warranted her hope.


Spoiler: show

This is the sound of the men in the night
Coming out of the darkness
And into the light
Shining alarmingly
Curiously bright

This is the sound of those murderous drums
The marching of footsteps
The twisting of thumbs
Over and over
Again here it comes…

We’re lost
(Baby come again don’t let me fall)
We’re lost
(Baby come again despite it all)
We’re lost…

Tell me the story
‘Bout when you were young
I want to hear it again
Leave in the part
Where the hero gets stung
I want to savor it
I want to play it again…

This is the sound of a baby’s first breath
The dying of footsteps
The touching of flesh
To hold in your memory
To keep by your chest

We’re lost
So lost
Lost

« Last Edit: July 30, 2020, 12:21:14 AM by Iridni Ren »

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

Iridni Ren

  • L'injustice à la fin produit l'indépendance.
  • Dark Power
  • ******
  • Posts: 4388
  • When all other lights go out
Radium Divinum
« Reply #131 on: August 02, 2020, 04:38:49 PM »
Spoiler: show
Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.”

Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”

And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life.”

Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And Job took for himself a potsherd with which to scrape himself while he sat in the midst of the ashes.

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!”



Despite Iridni’s desire, the lingering toll on her small body of the Darkon journey made her doubt she could sleep. Sorry was gone; Asariel had nodded off in a large chair.

The disheveled but sedulous woman drew a shallow bath into the large wooden tub in the inn room, removed her gore- and filth-matted armor and underthings, then scrunched herself into the water and washed. The Great Salt Swamp of Magnus Paius Salis had left her more wretched than the sewers of Vallaki, for she felt certain that the wild, unchecked residual energies of the Requiem were at work in her.

Neither Sorry’s stethoscope nor Asariel’s visual inspection could locate cause or sign for her condition. Yet the Pelorean’s long experience as a healer foreboded that something worse than infected wounds had tainted her flesh. Flies continued to buzz near her, though the water at last protected much of her pallored skin from their onslaught.

She soaked, her muscles finally easing, her eyelids closing. Yes…what afflicted her now was much stronger than previous mundane filth. Nevertheless, she had grown as well in her faith and wisdom since journeying three years ago into the sewers with her fellow Wayfarers to destroy the aboleth, and even then her young will had been sufficient to oppose a monstrous, destructive mental assault.

She would not cry; she would not despair; she would resist. Perhaps the young girl who the Mists took over-estimated the importance of the flesh, as youth and those possessed of much physical beauty are prone. But the mature woman who at that moment desired the release of sleep above all else drew to her the unaesthetic faces of all those she had helped and healed—the begrimed urchins, the beggars, the maimed and disfigured, the cursed—smiling in their lovely gratitude, lifting her brokenness now in her own moment of need. And she found comfort that, through her tiny lens, Pelor’s light had shone upon each of them, for a bright moment pushing back the darkness in their lives, the darkness of those who would extinguish her.

Never in the past had she gazed upon the suffering of others with judgment or disgust. Why should she feel those dark emotions toward herself in her present frailty? Whatever had happened to her in Darkon, she had committed no evil, and her soul remained bright and untainted. All nature was destined to age and decay, every flower faded. She would be foolish and vain to think her small vessel was an exception.

We are all food for the worms. She lifted her forearm to her face. If only the stench were not so over-whelming!

She felt something writhe free of her inner thigh, and a maggot floated to the surface of the water she corrupted.

She accepted that within the Mists she could do little to defend herself physically against these dark rulers…what Kymil referred to as the organism. They had against her will snatched her from Oerth, where they were far weaker than in their own domains, so how could she stand against them here, should they focus their conscienceless, omnipotent might against her?

They could not, however, extract from Iridni what they most sought unless she yielded to them: the dread and despair upon which they fed. She would not feed them, and she would persist in shining the Light’s goodness into the lives of others against that evil maw until her lungs could no longer breathe, her heart no longer beat. 

She looked past her empty, fallen armor to her pack, which still bulged with volumes of The Light of Pelor. Port-a-Lucine had several copies now. Marcus Phoenix—the Pelorean paladin she had met before her Darkonian trip—had carried another to Vallaki, as had Yue before him.

She regretted she had not left a copy of her god’s gospel in Darkon. What a missed opportunity! She giggled to think the dark lady Volusia’s reaction had Iridni done so secretly among the skulls in the temple of the Eternal Order. That likely would have been a wasted effort.

The laughter caused Iridni to ache momentarily, but even in her pain this ache felt relieving, as the darkness always receded from the joy that was to live in the Light.

Her violet eyes fluttered open once more, and she saw her smashed and bloody parasol. Again the Pelorean laughed painfully…to think of Asariel—in Balor form no less!—pausing to retrieve not only Iridni’s sundered body but that now worthless accoutrement as well…all while fleeing ravaging swamp ghouls. For all of Asariel’s scruff and sketchiness, the Pelorean could never ask for a more reliable and diligent friend. Sorry, too, had proved her worth.

Iridni watched the Elven druidess sleep, her mouth dropping open like the yawn of a feral cat as she slumbered near the fire. Forgive me, dear one, for all the worry I have caused you.

Forgiveness asked and granted…mercy…other Pelorean virtues that pushed back the night. Above all, love, and as Iridni’s affection for Asariel engulfed her almost to tears, she again knew her inner fortress remained unconquered, the darkness at bay. Turn suffering to love and compassion, she heard Bishop Ren say.

** ** **

At last Iridni slept. And in her dreams she saw her delicate parasol restored to its pristine condition, and she as whole as the parasol’s white lace. She dreamed oh so much more than that, but a young woman’s dreams may be personal and private, no matter how open a book she may otherwise appear. The mystery that lies within each woman’s heart commands respect to view only what she consents to share, and so the other pages of Iridni’s dream must for now remain uncut and unread.

When the priestess awoke, however, her parasol looked as ruined as ever, and the Pelorean herself felt no better. Asariel was nowhere to be seen. The cooled water now chilled her, and when she stood, she doubled over as her shaking body disgorged a great mass of maggots, seeming to burrow almost from her every pore. She restrained a scream as her mouth opened to spew more of the larvae. They continued to boil out and down, working even out of her scalp and from around her eyes until the water became a small sea of vermin.

After the violence of the eruption and her own shuddering subsided, Iridni, dripping blood from a blanket of uncountable small wounds, slipped on her shift of mourning. She dragged the water tub to the doorway, unlatched the door, and looked up and down the hallway. No one was stirring. In a moment, she had fresh water and a clean basin, her door once more locked. She disrobed.

Where the maggots had fed on her, the wounds appeared bloody and open, yet cleansed of any rot. The putrid taint of Darkon’s Great Swamp was no more, and blessed Pelor!—she sniffed—the stench was lessening. She again began to wash herself, seeing noticeable improvement in the reflected wan and abused face. She dried, put on clean clothing, and prepared to greet the Dawn.   


« Last Edit: August 11, 2020, 01:52:46 PM by Iridni Ren »

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

Iridni Ren

  • L'injustice à la fin produit l'indépendance.
  • Dark Power
  • ******
  • Posts: 4388
  • When all other lights go out
Radium Divinum
« Reply #132 on: August 11, 2020, 01:47:41 AM »
A blanched and weary face illuminated only by candlelight in the cramped and tidy Room 3 of the Quartier Ouvrier tenements studied an array of paper bits spread out on a roughened desk. A book on folklore lay open and near. The small face hovering over the pages had almost healed, with only the faintest red remnants of wounds yet blemishing the previously porcelain skin. Provided a little color returned, Iridni’s body would no longer evidence to any observing her the trauma of Darkon, although her mind had not so easily forgotten the nauseating aftermath.

Her dream…it had been so vivid in its sense of finality, and the power of her feelings at the revelation convinced her that what she had gone through was an augury. So close had her light been to flickering out forever that she was uncertain whether she had truly escaped even now the fetid tendrils of Magnus Paius Salis. The priestess was certain, however, that all mortals live on borrowed time. How much had her account been extended? How much remained to her?

She reviewed the clues before her in frustration before gathering them up and replacing them in a binder that bore—in plain, even print—a single word: “Missing.” She sipped her tea. Thinking about something else might help clarify her mind.

Those she had cared for had all returned safely from Ameranthe; for that she was grateful. The more she learned of the war’s outcome, however, the more convinced she was that victory had eluded her friends. Innocents literally liquidated in war’s crucible: could she imagine a more horrific metaphor for all such wars?

Agnès…imprisoned. What should Iridni think of that? How ought she judge her one-time friend and ally? All she really knew of Agnès was someone who she once felt so much similarity with, who had translated for Iridni on her first long visit to Port when they both came at Mainane’s call. And though they had gone years without seeing one another—time during which Agnès had executed poor Verinne—the diminished Agnès who Iridni had last seen barely resembled the figure now of history about whom Iridni read so much. Between the two flesh-and-blood women of Iridni's first-hand experience had been the political maneuverer she knew only in letters and reports, the government functionary Iridni had at last asked Zephyr to remove from the Kinship.

The priestess shook her head even in her quiet thoughts. She would think of the woman in prison only as that ambitious Agnès…who had committed a tragic crime and now served her sentence. Perhaps the soul who would walk free in three years would once more be the Agnès of their early life together, the woman Iridni yet missed. The Pelorean was uncertain of the Ezrite faith, but in her own, lost innocence might be regained.

Her small hand placed a clean sheet of parchment on the desk and then wrote in the same pedestrian printing: A pure heart can serve but one will. Underneath this admonition, she began a list entitled, “Whom Have I Served?”


Quote
My will
The will of the Kinship
Zephyr’s will
The will of Pelor
The will of the Mists?

She then paused for several moments before writing something next to “My will.”

To love and be loved. To serve a loyal husband as his faithful wife. To bear and raise children with my beloved. To go home.

She looked that over, her lower lip tucked under her upper, and nodded with satisfaction before continuing. Beside the Kinship she wrote, Always follow the Code. After a moment, she marked through this entry. In the end, the Code for all its stated ideals was a series of self-contradictions that members inevitably failed to uphold. The Light of Pelor encompassed all the parts of it worth keeping.

The will of Zephyr…beside this entry Iridni wrote, Did I ever truly understand him? Or did I understand him more than he understood himself? With resignation, she marked through this entry as well. Zephyr had released her from this service, and her violet eyes traveled back sadly and briefly to the first item on her list.

She considered the last two. Whom did her presence here now serve? To whom did she owe her continued existence, each borrowed breath? Had her faith and Pelorean acts of mercy and kindness buoyed her at the last moment from an eternal gruesome rest? Or had those she swore enmity with spared her that they might torment her further—and yet envelope her unvanquished citadel?

Did her resurrection by the Eternal Order signify the answer?

She glanced from her list to the binder and all its papers she had put aside. Which fate did the mystery contained therein draw her nearer to: her cherished hopes and dreams or a final, irrevocable moment of dread and despair?

For all her precocious wisdom, Iridni Ren could not guess.




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

Iridni Ren

  • L'injustice à la fin produit l'indépendance.
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« Reply #133 on: August 25, 2020, 04:27:13 PM »
They also serve who only stand and wait.

The tranquil sea of stars stretched from horizon to horizon above the tiny shape of Iridni Ren, uncountable lights piercing an otherwise infinite darkness, a distance greater than she could traverse in a million of her lifetimes isolating each defiant diamond. Barovia, all that Strahd encompassed, was nothing in comparison to this enduring expanse…and she of less consequence. Or so it seemed to the young priestess as her violet eyes beheld this night’s poignant beauty.

Her wistful gaze avoided the silhouette to her east, the spires of Castle Ravenloft, rising like bared fangs to remind her of the centuries-old monster sheltered evilly within, who, if he knew of her existence, must mock her feeble efforts against him. His fortress, his lair: Within it, he believed himself impregnable and able to draw his enemies to him with caprice, toying with them, breaking them, until he disposed of what was left as a jackal might spit out a bit of gristle and bone.

Soon, soon…another would pass through the stolid gates, most certainly never to return. Would it make any difference for Iridni to accompany the doomed knight? Of two truths she was certain: that such opportunities were rare, and greater numbers of the Light prevailed when fewer faltered. She feared worse than her own death believing that her absence would help guarantee failure.

She would perform, however, as she had been entrusted—as she always had, as a daughter of Bishop Ren, a servant of Pelor, and a woman loyal to her promise. So she waited, however restlessly her small vessel bore being docked.

If she never saw Port-a-Lucine again, she felt at least something of a finality of purpose to her life there. She carried both the news of events to those who needed to know and—in a small victory—had prevented Strahd from at least achieving all of his current goals, however inconsequential that might prove. Even should she and all the others die, his victory for once would not be complete.

What she learned in turn in Port had also reduced her belief that she should try to make it her future. The war’s result, and now news of Jean’s commitment to an asylum, both colored her already dim perception of the city, but more than that, her own nascent feelings had proved sadly misguided. In these dread realms she must pursue happiness and contentment as the surest armor against her unseen and strongest foes, those who would destroy and damn her more utterly than Strahd. Were she to remain in Port just now, childish feelings of disappointment and envy at the happiness of others—feelings unworthy of a servant of Pelor—were sure to tempt her.

She thought back to her fevered plague dream the night she was certain a Darkonian death laid claim to her. Her vision had not revealed to her every mystery, and so regardless of her fresh buffet, that last door might yet yield to her timid gentleness, a door she knew she could not open as others seemed to, with bold and reckless ease. Why not choose a door already open?

She considered the note folded discreetly on her bedside. It was too much to think about that for now. Life had been so simpler in the Lodge with Zephyr, even with all the worry his frequent absences caused her. She had at least known who he was and that—for all his many, many faults—he was at heart a kind man of good intentions, that the two of them only and always encouraged the best in one another.

I love the idea of you.

Did the letter writer know more of Iridni than the "idea" of her? Harsh experience had taught her it was much easier to love that ideal than the flesh-and-bone reality of her, including her weaknesses and faults, and it was for the latter—just as she had loved Zephyr—she, too, wished to be loved. She was all one bundle, inseparable and immutable, a thousand delights and a thousand dilemmas.

She half grinned to herself and wondered which of the four men who pursued her of late would want her even as maggots poured from her rancid, bleeding, shaking body? And, Iridni mused, should such undeterred desire be a point in a suitor’s favor or not?

Her humor was short lived as she looked to the room’s empty bookcase. She needed something…something to read while she waited for news, something to take her mind off all her fears and doubts. To help her forget…Port-a-Lucine. And she was not in the mood for The Light of Pelor.

She rubbed her cheek thoughtfully. Then with a look of sudden inspiration, she took her own paper and quill and began to write.


Quote
Ravished by the Mists
By Chastity Swan
Chapter the First

Lying upon her silken bed, Raven Goodwing swore that Garthrob Hardrad, seafaring barbarian and captain of the dread ship Salty Dog, would never have his way with her or enjoy the smallest taste of her sweet charms, should he make good on his oath to storm her father’s opulent castle. Raven tossed her luxuriant tresses of beauteous, perfectly brushed crimson curls in a defiant huff at the mere thought of Garthrob’s audacity. His naked gaze from across the room at the recent ball seemed to see everything beneath her flowing gown, telling her that he was a hunter and she might be his next meal, preferably unwrapped.   

Stretching her long legs and reveling in her statuesque height, Raven finished an enormous bon-bon, a gift from her preferred suitor, the young, dashing nobleman, Lance Sirocco. Her heart suddenly fluttered within her delicately passionate bosom as she thought what might tragically happen should the two men realize their mutual desire for her.

“Oh dear!” she lamented.


“Chastity Swan”: it would not be proper for such bawdy works to appear under Iridni’s own name as a priestess, and so that night the young Pelorean added one more mystery to her ever-more complicated life.



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

Iridni Ren

  • L'injustice à la fin produit l'indépendance.
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Radium Divinum
« Reply #134 on: August 30, 2020, 05:12:40 PM »
Deux peuvent garder un secret, si l'un est mort.

Iridni considered the Mordentish proverb as she once more found herself in the posh Governor’s Hotel, sipping a tasty wine. She could manage a glass—one—with only a flush to her cheeks and a seeming easing of the valves in her tear ducts; after more than three years' away from home, she no longer feared that a nightcap might require Zephyr’s intervention and protection, as he had provided her at their introduction soon after her Misting.

Her companion this night Iridni refused to see as a rival, for any contest they might have engaged in had already resolved itself. A few nights’ reflection and away from the City of Lights in duty and hazard had restored the same equanimity to her soul that she felt toward Ionathan, once she had seen him rejoined properly with his Bri by the Kinship’s fireplace. To seek any displeasure in a friend’s joy would be a dark feeling indeed. Strahd’s own wretched tale evidenced the fatality of jealousy’s poison, and so she was happy for the two.

Had Iridni not promised herself—after years of fruitless devotion—to celebrate her own independence and agency, both from the Wayfarers and Zephyr? Why, then, had the lock of her heart momentarily loosened?

She could well recognize the causes of her sudden and brief infatuation: the man aspired to see many of the same things come to pass as she, he was a friend in a place where she was a foreigner, and he represented all those qualities of the city she found mysterious and difficult, yet made them seem attractive and approachable. He was also eager to help her with the work she had for so long had no one in this city to call ally. And then…then the matter of what could only be described as a sort of sexual tension as he pried into that most private of her weaknesses. Her being had been torn between shame of what he might think of her and an urgent desire that he discover—and embrace—her all.

Only at that moment had she come to see him in a light distinguished from the effete class to which he belonged: the gentle apology offered her for his violation, he, a nobleman, and she but a poorly spoken young woman who called the Tenements her home.

Iridni’s thoughts returned to the present of enjoying critical conversation and wine with the person he had chosen as his own instead of the Pelorean. Even before tactfully seeking clarity at their last meeting, her heart and instincts had told her the truth, for a man does not invite a third when given the opportunity to be alone with a woman he wishes to pursue. Rather than spending this time trying to discover which qualities she, Iridni, lacked—how and where the figure seated in the cushioned chair opposite surpassed her—the priestess focused on more urgent topics.

Would Roland escape, and if not, what was to be done with the salvaged remnants of his Holy Order?

Per the proverb, one secret she would share with no one, for her own safety as well as not to imperil others. The fewer who knew the better, as too much caution was preferable to inadequate safeguards. No harm would result from leaving matters as they stood. If Roland did not soon appear, she would seek the council of a long and wise friend.

As for Roland’s people, that was a more difficult matter. She much sympathized with them, finding similarities with her own experience. Loric, too, had sent her to a strange and undesired land in a decision that left her feeling hurt, homeless, and fighting against anger’s impulse. So when she spoke with the small, salvaged band after their arrival, she tried the same balm that had placated her in the months since:

Quote
This is no doubt...hugely traumatic for you. And you may be feeling anger and disappointment. But Roland has acted for your safety and so that something of the Order might be preserved…regardless of what happens. As you have trusted him until now, trust him in this as well.

In the interim, Anthaxious was their leader. The Pelorean would help them in any way they wished, just as she had Roland, but she could not fathom more as her role, for experience had taught her how soon her aid could cause resentment in such men.

The evening’s conversation passed from the Holy Order to Ezra and Ezrites, and Iridni was unsurprised to discover that a conversion was almost a necessity of any Port-a-Lucine marriage. That, too, would have been an obstacle, she thought glumly.

“You’ve reminded me of the first Ezrite I ever met,” Iridni began, the wine having a nostalgic effect upon her. “And you must have encountered her yourself. During the recent battles.”

“Really? Tell me about them,” her companion asked, grinning.

“Agnes. Gauthier. Though I know she is married now.”

The smile widened. "I was one of the witnesses at her wedding."

Iridni grew astonished at the coincidence, and her eagerness blazed in her face. “Oh? Please describe her to me.” Then, thinking that her request might sound odd, she added, “How did she seem as she took her vows?” The young priestess realized emotion now tinged her voice.

"Ecstatic... she was..very in love."

“She was?” The priestess’s eyes softened with immense gratitude as she turned them from her glass to her companion.

“Alexandre Vaillant, Jean, and I were the witnesses."

Such a small gathering. “You were fortunate, and I'm fortunate then to have you tell me of it.”

"And a few of the house guards... as well as... Esme? I think that was her name. It took place... in the middle of the night. Everyone else of the Campaign was asleep."

Iridni settled back against the cushions of the over-stuffed chair and half-closed her eyelids, the tableau described forming in her imagination.

“It was in the meeting room of the fortress... a large table in the center of the room, which was much larger than the table. A stone patterned floor... The Duc bellowed for the Ezrite priest.” Her companion laughed at the memory.

“He was quite frustrated when all of those who could perform the ceremony among the campaign were asleep.”

The Pelorean giggled and opened her eyes briefly to share the laughter between the two.

“The ceremony was... simple... but beautiful. It had to be quick... given the situation we were under.”

“Of course.”

“They were both wearing gauntlets when the rings were exchanged. The Duc was moved more than you would believe when Agnes took off her gauntlet to put on the ring. He did the same himself... to put on his.”

Under once more closed lids, Iridni’s violet pools began to moisten.

“When they kissed... all the house guards banged their polearms against the floor. I'm surprised it didn't wake anyone up. It... really was lovely... A gleaming point in a slog of...."

Iridni’s eyes shot open to see her companion’s gaze averted, her smile fading. Impulsively, the Pelorean’s gentle hand reached out to cover the speaker’s. “Don’t….Let’s not speak of the rest of it.” She controlled a sob.

Such happy occasions were a rarity to treasure and contemplate, to dwell upon and steel oneself against the Mists’ oppression. Iridni was relieved to learn her opinion of Agnes’s marriage had been mistaken and a time for celebration rather than Dementlieuse cynicism. She would think often of the pretty scene she imagined, preserving it in her mind’s eye.

Rather than those horrors to where Jean and now Roland had travelled beyond her reach.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2020, 05:15:54 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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Radium Divinum
« Reply #135 on: September 20, 2020, 11:08:00 PM »
At last the small priestess had seen him, but she would not dwell on his cruel and unattractive visage. In truth, he was something of a disappointment: Strahd, in the pallid, lifeless flesh as an uninvited wedding guest. Evil usually was…an anticlimax…for all its boasting and need to puff itself up, compensation for the self-awareness that it was lacking in beauty and every virtue that inspired willing love and sacrifice. It was ugly and distasteful, wretched, deserving only of her Pelorean contempt.

Although Iridni felt some compassion for those Strahd had turned to the darkness, his black will destroying whatever goodness had once shone in their sacrificed hearts, she knew that they now tragically served him. Those noble, selfless impulses they once felt he and his own masters would corrupt and twist to use for their selfish, depraved purposes. As she told Mero and as she had told her Kin before, should she herself ever succumb and rise as an undead, she would view her own extinction as a mercy, and so it would be for all she now sought to stake.

Had she become as remorseless as the Inquisitor, Jacques Martel, the agent of Ezra’s divine destruction Iridni had watched tuck a trusting child into bed before driving a sharpened yew branch into the undiscerning girl’s defenseless breast? No…Iridni felt with all her heart the tragedy of what had befallen these women of noble impulse, but the highest honor she could pay them would be to free them from their current enslavement and restore to them the precious peace and agency they had once enjoyed and which Strahd had stolen from them. She wept for what they once were, but she would give no quarter to what they had since become.

Moreover, the darkness used them now to draw others to its service. To spare them would be to allow Strahd’s cancer to further metastasize.

As for those profane mortals who bent their knees willingly and with free conscience to serve death and darkness, for some, hope of redemption remained. Pelor would have mercy rather than sacrifice. Even so, their time to seek the Light’s forgiveness drew short. Those who wallowed in their dank filth and rot, the offal and stench, who preyed like bottom-feeding scavengers upon the innocent to slake their lusty thirst to see others suffer and die, their moment of just reckoning drew nigh.

Their sad, petty embrace of evil in hopes of giving meaning to their mediocre and envious existence was nearing an end. Even a Pelorean’s patience was finite. As much as Iridni was the child of her parents—her merciful mother and wise Bishop Ren—those faultless saints lived in the Prelacy. The lessons and truths they had provided preserved their daughter now against corruption, but she saw and lived a world different than theirs. And Pelor had blessed her with wisdom and graces beyond those of her most devout ancestors.

To serve His radiance in Barovia required more of the young maiden than the soft glow of charity and benevolence. It demanded righteous fire.


« Last Edit: September 20, 2020, 11:40:39 PM by Iridni Ren »

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

Iridni Ren

  • L'injustice à la fin produit l'indépendance.
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  • Posts: 4388
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Radium Divinum
« Reply #136 on: October 14, 2020, 06:48:46 PM »
Captain of our fairy band,
Helena is here at hand,
And the youth, mistook by me,
Pleading for a lover's fee.
Shall we their fond pageant see?
Lord, what fools these mortals be!


The small priestess propped in her warm cot in the Tenements after her guest left and began slicing open the correspondence slid under her door or left with Monsieur Roussin for her since her last visit. Some of the folded papers she read with delight, some with misgivings.

Words, so many words, she mused, as her violet eyes scanned the longest and most worrisome. She thought of all the thousands and thousands of words she had placed with care to paper since passing through the Mists—reports, letters, notices, and secrets—and wondered had they been as unnecessary and verbose. How little they all seemed to accomplish against the prejudices and self-interest of others. Had any soul learned a single lesson from her labors so as not to repeat her many mistakes?

By her bedside and in the flickering warm yellow of the lamp gleamed the leather cover of The Light of Pelor, its reflective shine seeming to chide her for her doubts, as each embossed letter—small but individual and distinct—scintillated against the pervasive darkness of the Quartier Ouvrier, only together providing a meaning. She dipped her head with comprehension and gave quiet thanks to her god for the revelation: whatever her own contribution, the context of the lives of others would disclose her life’s purpose.

She put the long letter aside and began to write to the correspondent who had provided her with it. The wisest response was to do nothing:

These matters are for [redacted] to rectify. Pressing them will—I fear—only paint a target on your back. When darkness fights against itself, the best course has always been for good to let it continue to do so. The downfall of the pure is often brought about by yielding to the temptation of which evil seems to be the lesser.

She smiled faintly as she printed her name, thinking with affection of whom she wrote…and of her own behavior. In her advice she was more protective of those she loved than she had been and would be of herself. Certainly, the desire to choose sides between execrable villains did not tempt her, yet she would meditate where Light might gain advantage—and pray for Pelor’s aid to ensure she not neglect any opportunity. Already she had thought of one.

She sipped the hot tea she had prepared before bedding down and looked over a more gratifying note. As with the other, she pictured the correspondent in her mind’s eye, and more than tea warmed her. Although perhaps not a particularly handsome vision, she must question whether her pleasure at this letter redounded merely from a chance to perform good works of the Light. She shook her head slightly. Don’t get ahead of yourself, Iridni. Before you expect others to learn from your mistakes, shouldn’t you do so as well?

Still, the invitation would be a good note to end on, after saying her bedtime prayers. She might be rewarded with a happy dream—a rare night’s occasion.

First, first, she had her own words to record. Did the great malice of this place always know everything she did? It seemed so, which meant all her secret keeping was, in the end, for naught. She had to believe it cared only for darkness, and that when one’s heart was pure and acting from selflessness and sacrifice, the malice could not bear to look upon what transpired. If, as Kymil wrote to her, fear and despair fed the malice, then perhaps love and hope caused it…indigestion and an impulse to hunt elsewhere.

A moment, then, she wavered. What of her own recent bargain? In this question, imagination was her enemy, but only in romance did the priestess ever give way to her imagination. To minimize the possible consequences of the pragmatic quid pro quo she had struck was, therefore, easy.

For now.

She set down her cup, blew out the lamp, nestled into her covers, and slept as untroubled as she once had in the Prelacy.


« Last Edit: October 14, 2020, 06:53:02 PM by Iridni Ren »

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

Iridni Ren

  • L'injustice à la fin produit l'indépendance.
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  • When all other lights go out
Radium Divinum
« Reply #137 on: October 18, 2020, 01:33:45 PM »
The always ebullient Antoine Gauthier greeted the odd trio warmly, oblivious to the bright pixie hovering near Iridni’s delicate ear—and took her lustrous armor in officious stride. The small priestess was too exhausted from the rapid march across Ghastria to bother with removing her plates, regardless of the disapproving stares or the busybody remark she received from a solitary passing stranger. If the manager did not criticize her attire, let those with complaints ask to see him.

The Croissant Bleu welcomed her tired gaze, tidy tables arranged with care, receding into the bright-beyond-belief reaches of the expansive café, each spotless cloth shrouding a round, flat surface adorned with crisp napkins folded to a peak achieved through the perfect measure of starch. The staff all bustled among those tables with a posture that bespoke the same starch in their veins.

Teram paid for one of the private rooms and ordered their repast. The smells from the kitchen reminded Iridni for how long she had neglected to eat.

Once alone and the door secured, she made ready to collapse on the pile of cushions and pillows nearest her, pausing only to remove the flowing cloak that had kept her warm during their journey. To her dismay, she almost crushed the pixie, who—Pelor be praised—chose that moment to transform into her true shape.

Or was it?

For Iridni did not know the blonde, buxom woman before her, clad almost entirely in black. “Apologies,” the woman chuckled. “I sat down while both tiny and invisible. My fault you nearly sat on me.”

Setting their places, Teram spoke softly: “I wanted to tell you earlier, but this is as good time as any. Privacy and secrecy are paramount. Remember our mutual frustration we were talking about earlier?”

“I do,” Iridni said.

The woman waved a hand over her face, and her disguise fell away, her features changing briefly. Iridni’s violet eyes widened: it was Korin Noamuth, Dante’s widow and mother to the twins Iridni had helped deliver one fateful night in Berez. Korin remained seated and, after only a moment, waved her hand again to restore her disguise.

The priestess exhaled, her face a bright smile now, regardless of her fatigue. “You don’t know how worried I’ve been. This is such a relief.” She observed Korin’s continued immobility. “Do you remember anything?”

When Korin spoke it was a dry croak: “A bit. I remember a mask….A mask and fists beating me to death while I was in the middle of warding.”

Iridni cringed at the mental imagery, but her countenance turned from dismay to a flash of anger. The rasping voice along with Korin’s stiffness caused the priestess to ask, “Are you…well?”

Beside them, Teram tucked into some lamb, chewing slowly and savoring the long-awaited meal. Despite the current topic of discussion, Iridni, too, moved her plate close and tasted hunger’s relief.

“Better than I was a couple of days ago,” Korin grinned. “I’m glad so many cared enough to look for me for so long.”

The priestess swallowed while looking at her with compassion. “Many do care for you, Korin. A great many. As well as your children. I couldn’t bear to think of them as orphans. Have you been able to see them yet?”

“I…yes.” Korin took a deep breath. “I have not, no. I’ve focused on my persona as…” She pointed at the unfamiliar face, with fair skin and freckles across the nose. “I want to wait until whoever killed me is dealt with or it’s safe before I go to see them.”

Iridni’s voice grew increasingly tender. “That’s difficult for you…but you’re being very wise.” It also occurred to the priestess that for small children to see their brutalized mother—their only parent and source of care—in this state would be asking to scar them. The priestess recalled Korin’s great reserves of strength and courage during their delivery, so much in contrast to the frailty her cowardly ambush had wrought.

Korin spoke with worry. “It doesn’t help that I haven’t been able to walk yet. I had to fly the entire way here.”

“I will reassure you,” Teram said, washing down another bite of lamb. “They are well cared for at the moment. And very safe.”

The healer dropped her gaze toward Korin’s immobile lower half. “Weakness prevents your walking, or have you injuries in your legs?”

“I thought the rigor mortis would’ve faded by now, and my muscles aren’t stiff. They’re…they’re just not responding. I don’t know what it is.”

“I could try some blessings. Asa as well. I’ve learned that for some conditions, her healing magic seems preferable.”

Teram nodded. “I have seen this with soldiers who have gone lame from a wound. Sometimes usage will return.”

Korin listened to each with a grim expression, then said, “I was thinking it might be how he killed me. He landed quite a few strikes into my back and directly at my spine.” Her lip quivered at the memory. “I should just be patient.”

The priestess could only scowl. “Such a villain.”

Teram made a crude joke, and Korin snorted for a moment.

“Do you know who might have wanted this done?”

“I’ve an idea.”

** ** **

Sometime later, all three feeling much more sated, Teram presented the coup de grace: a faint-inducing chocolate cake. Both Korin and Iridni felt certain room remained in their respective stomachs for a bit of that. Korin sliced each of them a wedge, and the priestess surreptitiously used her finger to wipe the frosting and sprinkles from the knife, not wishing to waste even this much of the delightful flavor.

Regardless of her current health, Korin’s appetite for chocolate was hearty, the two women keeping the shrunken remainder of the delicious dessert between them.

Teram cleared his throat. “Are you two going to share that cake or just let me suffer to my self-centered perception of being scorned by such gregarious female companions?”

Iridni held up her napkin long enough to hide the pink tongue that was busily licking her lower lip for any stray crumbs. Korin’s disguised face wore a glare. “Hmm...You ask two women to share cake. This is not a wise move, Teram.”

“Yes..it’s like a bounty or treasure found. Sharing.”

Iridni eyed the diminished cake and reached for the knife. “I suppose we could.” Carefully she cut Teram a thin portion through which, without straining his eyes, he might read The Light of Pelor.

“I ask that you share so I do not have to deprive you of it.” Teram observed the slice Iridni slid toward him, its structure wavering with the motion so that it seemed only a Pelorean miracle it did not topple over and collapse into a pile of crumbs.

Korin laughed. “Now that’s talent.”

Close to Teram’s nose, the chocolate edifice began to vibrate like a snare drum from the force of Teram’s nostrils inhaling its lovely odor. This assault on his senses made him desire only a greater portion. Meanwhile, both Korin and Iridni seemed ready to divide what was left of the cake between them. “You didn’t think this through. I do have the only key to this room, you know.”

At last the two women could no longer maintain their impassive demeanors, cackling uncontrollably as they offered the cake more equitably to the perturbed warrior. Almost as though toasting, Iridni proposed, “Yes, this is a happy day. One to celebrate with much chocolate cake shared.” They feasted on it then without restraint, each laughing and smiling as their eyes met, one to another.

It would be the last time Iridni saw either of them.   



« Last Edit: October 18, 2020, 05:44:07 PM by Iridni Ren »

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

Iridni Ren

  • L'injustice à la fin produit l'indépendance.
  • Dark Power
  • ******
  • Posts: 4388
  • When all other lights go out
Radium Divinum
« Reply #138 on: October 20, 2020, 12:52:17 AM »
Spoiler: show

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic 'til I'm gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on
Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long
We're both of us beneath our love, we're both of us above
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I'm gathered safely in
Touch me with your naked hand, touch me with your glove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love



So long since she had danced...so long since a man had surrounded her uncertain body in his arms and held her close. For all of the knight's awkwardness and apologies, his slow and unskilled tongue compared to Zephyr's as he whispered into her yearning ear, yet the young priestess sensed within him a sincerity without guile the same as her own. For all of her secret plottings and plans—the woman duty and faith commanded that she be to the world—in her love-making she, too, knew and wished no artifice.

I am sorry of your feet, her partner spoke against her.

Be careful only of my heart, Iridni murmured in return in a voice that sounded almost tearful.

The night was magical and perfect, as fireworks exploded around them, illuminating the sky of Port-a-Lucine and the fantastic creatures roaming around the two dancers, in all their myriad costumes and disguises. Yet on this night, these shapes and images bore no threat to the couple's shared rhythm and embrace, for they were all illusion, even the great insect-like beast skittering so close to Iridni as to make her twist in her sway to avoid it.

The torrid revelry contrasting with Marcus's gentleness seemed so much like a dream. Could the pageantry and her emotions be real, or would she soon awake when the clock struck twelve in her same, usual room in the Tenements? Had Pelor truly sent her a helpmate after almost four long years of unrequited service?

She opened her timid eyes for a moment to look upon the rugged face and consider whether she ought to feel any guilt. Had she summoned Marcus to this dread land by her own loneliness, imprisoning him as she herself had been imprisoned? She shook her head against this thought and buried her face in the broad chest before her. The powers Pelor had granted her were great, but such was beyond her ken. And even in this moment of bliss, could she free Marcus from their mutual jail, she would make that sacrifice.

For now, she would take this moment of pleasure as all happiness in the Mists: brief, invaluable, surprising...and with gratitude.

Liars' Night


After Marcus kissed her goodnight and when she did return to the mundane reality of her room, she found a brief letter from Teram:

Dear sweet Iridni,

For everything that you've done, you have our appreciation. But after due consideration of all risks—including to the children—we have decided to travel far beyond the reach of such a dishonorable threat to a mother and her offspring. Korin intends to teach her two daughters the ways of magic, as her mother did before her. Her sons I trust will find their own path in time.

As for me, I hope to reclaim a small portion of Forlorn from the goblyns and reestablish a foothold with the help of my kin and any settlers fool enough to throw in with me. Will I succeed? Who knows...but I want to try. When he's grown up a bit, I hope my boy Edrick will be by my side, contributing to this legacy, but that's up to him. He may have the wanderlust as I did for so long.

You have always been a gem, Iridni, and I hope someday you find someone who appreciates your true value.

Your friend,

Teram Monroe







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

Iridni Ren

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« Reply #139 on: October 25, 2020, 01:58:39 AM »
A bleak domain on the Core’s western coast, a land of fishing hamlets and desolate, haunted moors. Tracks of dense forest still cover much of the countryside, alternating with low, foggy plains and rolling heaths. Stiff winds whistle across the eastern moors; some travelers have reported hearing chilling howls carried on the breezes. At night, curling fog creeps out of the moors and into the domain’s decrepit graveyards. Majestic ruined manors, crumbling and choked with dark ivy, loom out of the fog.

The two Peloreans, woman and man, sat side by side on her made bed in the dim light before sunrise, his weight inexorably drawing her small frame toward him. She acquiesced to the inclination and nuzzled her concerned face against his muscled chest. His pure and guileless heart deserved the truth.

“Have I ever mentioned Mordent to you?” she whispered.

“I think not.”

“It's not something I plan right away, but I have been thinking that I would like to travel there some time and see whether I like it...better than Dementlieu. The language is the same, and I do know some people.”

“Oh now I remember that you spoke of the place, yes.”

“But I feel as though something has at least started between us?” She waited with cautious expectation for his response.

“It has for me…. I hope you think the same.” He was blushing.

“I do, very much, M-m-marcus. I…” she stammered. “You’ve made me feel better than I have in ages.”

“You do the same to me…. Always when I was in Barovia I wanted to see you again. You make me feel good this moments. It felt more like home this way.” He took her fingers and kissed them.

She watched his lips meet her trembling hand and said softly, “I don’t want to leave now and perhaps regret losing something that has only begun to bloom.”

“You would travel to Mordent and come back here…or remain there?”

She swallowed and returned her head to its position against him. “No one can see the future, so whether I would ever be back…” She trailed off before beginning anew. “But this much I am certain. I told you how Zephyr left me all those months waiting for him. Not knowing whether he was alive or dead?”

“Yes, you did.”

A snore rasped from beyond the thin Tenement walls. Something fragile broke.

“I would never do that to anyone I cared about. You don’t deserve it. And so…I wish to be open and honest with you, Marcus. There may come a time when, either through choice or force, I have to leave here.”

Her ear listened to the steady, rhythmic beating from within his body as he said nothing, and so she continued. “If you want to come with me,” she looked up through her long lashes at his chiseled face, “you would be welcome. But I want you to know this possibility, rather than hurt you later.” She tried not to sob. She would not influence his choice with her tears.

“I really wish to come with you, I think I can see a future with us together.... But there is people that still needs me. I.... want to be honest too.... I... thank you for your honesty.”

“I understand. I've felt the same whenever I've considered leaving before. Always someone needs the Light. And…it seems selfish to do what I want, rather than continue to serve others. But I know that in Mordent there will be need for me as well.” She nodded reassuringly to herself, causing her cheek to brush like a cat’s against him.

He smiled. “The Light is needed everywhere.”

“Yes.” Without a doubt. “You recall how Strahd drove Roland and the rest of you from Barovia?” She looked up again then, her violet eyes seeking his, visualizing that hurried flight of desperation and near panic. “I’m often surprised it hasn’t happened to me. That I can still travel his roads without threat. Those such as we, Marcus, if we serve the Light as we ought, it’s only a matter of time before we become hunted. Regardless of how careful we are.”

“True. I know that the next time we put up against him, could be the last.”

Her eyes glistened with as yet unshed tears, and he held her closer and more tightly so that the softness of her pressed against him and yielded to his firmness. “But we are aware of this,” he continued. “The people need someone to give them hope. Especially where is most darkness and no light can be seen.”

She tried to speak with reason and pragmatism, regardless of the emotions strumming her being as though she were their captive instrument. “Strahd is so powerful in his own land, that it’s more effective to work against him from afar. Sneaking in and out. But eventually…he will catch and extinguish me. As so many others.” After a moment she added, “Roland too.” She turned again into the comforting chest, hiding her face perhaps from her own thoughts or perhaps that he might not see the distress there. She heard him take a deep breath, and then his rough hand was caressing the back of her head and holding the nape of her neck within its grip, his fingers working their way into her raven hair. It felt good.

“I’ll try my best to avoid something bad happens to the ones I take care of.”

For the first time, her upturned expression did not share his smile. “Marcus…it’s not so easy to do. I have failed so many times. I worry now for you…I think you can tell this. So few remain of all those I’ve cared for and tried to protect. It was hard to open my heart again. Do you remember….?” Her soft and gentle hand reached upward to touch the side of his firm jawline. “What I said to you when we were dancing? What I whispered?”

“I do.”

“I’ve learned how this place could use our best feelings to hurt us.”

“Iridni…you have to know that this is the first time I care for someone the way I care for you.”

“I’m thankful for that, Marcus. I…believe that Pelor has blessed me—us—with one another.” She suddenly and impulsively kissed him, her eyes closing in reverie as her lips sought his. She clung to him, then, her hands resting on his strong and wide shoulders, her so often hurt heart savoring the moment. She wanted—then she pulled back from embarrassment and even fear. She flushed.

It was dawn, and time they both should pray.



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

Iridni Ren

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Radium Divinum
« Reply #140 on: October 30, 2020, 08:54:53 PM »
Tears and fears and feeling proud, to say “I love you” right out loud—
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds…
I’ve looked at life that way.


The caprice of the undead Count closed the fell gates to Western Barovia soon after Iridni’s words to Marcus, the thunderous shutter of their sealing giving weight to the wisdom of her warning. All praise to their mutual god, however: The ancient vampire’s whim did not separate the two Peloreans. Had Strahd succeeded, they would have been powerless to reunite against his edict. Instead, they happily shared treasured time in strolls along la plage, oblivious to the cool spring rain as they arm-in-arm drew together under the young woman’s delicate parasol. In the evening the lovers returned to the tenements with never-altering smiles, the fullness of their entwined hearts warding them against the drab poverty of their dwelling.

I’m starting to feel something more deeper. I feel better with you every time, only your thought makes everything better...... I...I think is love.

You…think? She looked at him encouragingly.

I love you. Yes.


She surrendered then to the suit of his kisses, feeling the pent-up tension of his emotions seeking and finding their relief against her mouth and now the soft skin of her neck, finally dipping into the shallow well of her breastbone just below her tantalizing throat.

The sensation overwhelmed her.

“I love you, too…my sweet hero,” she murmured as her quavering chin lowered into the mat of his thick hair so that her grateful lips might kiss the top of his head.

The man’s muscular frame felt over-powering and massive as he bore down on her slight vessel, until she almost could not remain upright, and her long-time self-consciousness for a moment distracted her from his love-making.

Why must I be so…petit?

She wanted her soft strength to fill Marcus’s arms fully, to surround his desire completely, and to not feel fragile to him as he embraced her, but, rather, as though her body could rise to any demand his passion would make of her. She wished to be statuesque, voluptuous, and abundant—rather than an hors d'oeuvre that might leave his appetite unsated. Yet for all her prowess in battle and the pleasing appearance of her proportions once bereft of their gilded armor, she felt inadequate and doubtful when the surge of Marcus’s manly physique crested against her.

Perhaps the assault from Anxan Madog would always cause Iridni to associate what she experienced now with fear, and that one-time powerlessness in the Forest of Adri drove her insecurity when a male expressed physical passion toward her. Whatever the reason, the priestess forced these thoughts from her. She sensed the evil of the Mists at work, and she would not permit them to corrupt the purity of her and Marcus’s nascent love. So she was short: at the moment, Marcus did not seem to mind. His words, eyes, and smile conveyed complete satisfaction with the feminine beauty captive against him.

** ** **

After they parted and Iridni returned to her own room, she thought of all the letters she must write. She would continue with her work and her plans. Matters might yet change, but, for all that she considered Marcus now in them and how his kind face filled her dreams as well as her present, she would not remain idle. She would be ready.

He, too, was in danger.

Poor Zephyr had been wrong when he told her that their duties precluded that the two could have a home life and children. He went about having children after all, and his work instead separated his children from him.

At least for Iridni, the realization that someday her own light would pass away illuminated for her that caring for children—whether her own or someone else’s—was part of her work. She and Marcus could have them, perhaps in Mordent, and the fruit of their union would sustain the Light after she was gone, just as light from her mother and father burned on in Winona and Iridni Ren.


« Last Edit: October 30, 2020, 08:56:34 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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Radium Divinum
« Reply #141 on: November 10, 2020, 12:33:30 AM »

The small priestess disengaged Marcus’s arm from around her slim waist, sat up, and observed the large form of the sleeping man. To study her beloved without self-consciousness was so exceedingly pleasant, to indulge her eyes greedily as they drank his essence in and intoxicated her with the love she felt for all his subtle flavors. There...the little bit of fleshy webbing where his thumb joined the rest of his hand—the hand that caressed her to such welcome yet tantalizing pleasure; there...where his thick hair curled like an umbrella over his ear. While he slept, she need not be shy in the affection and desire she felt over the most incidental parts of him that reason told her was silly. Were he awake he might think her mad or wanton.

She longed to unburden him of his shirt and rest against the muscular expanse she knew his clothing concealed from her searching, yearning gaze.

Soon, my love, soon.

She looked to her writing desk and thought of her neglected efforts. What of all her many responsibilities? Why had she not taken pen to move forward on her plans? Was she afraid that any action on her part might threaten the momentary bliss she now felt?

She thought of Asariel’s warning that she had conveyed to Marcus. She thought of Conner’s wedding and its unwelcome guest. She shuddered in her desire for happiness for the two of them, while contemplating how precarious such a wish might be.

Regardless of her misgivings, she must act. Marcus deserved it, as did her allies. Regardless of her desire to pass with a Pelorean peace into matrimony, she could not neglect all that had been entrusted to her.

Dearest Pelor: Please let me be wise. Even in this moment of passion, desire, and love, let Thy wisdom rule Thy servant. Let her not forget her duties to you and to all she owes oaths. Let her serve with selflessness and sacrifice. Be merciful and kind to her, but Thy most high will be done.

Iridni wept and drew the covers over her beloved’s bare shoulder before sitting at her cramped desk to write.





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

Iridni Ren

  • L'injustice à la fin produit l'indépendance.
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Radium Divinum
« Reply #142 on: November 23, 2020, 02:29:12 PM »
Iridni prayed the ceremony had been worthy to the occasion. She was no monarch to knight the doughty warrior as she bequeathed to him the heirloom sword, and it would have felt pretentious to have him kneel before her small frame while she held aloft adamantine fashioned almost to as great a length as she. Even so and regardless that the Morning Lords had dashed her plans of a tourney to choose, the memory of who once wielded Traitor’s Bane weighed on the Pelorean as she ordained her deceased friend’s successor.

“This weapon belonged to Marielle Willows, a most worthy knight of Torm. She achieved many deeds of honor and repute ere I even knew her. Already she was a legend throughout the Core. With my own eyes, however, I witnessed her surpassing bravery and destruction of much evil, her inspiration to all those who served with her within the Wayfarer Kinship.

“She also spoke to me in confidence of her internal struggle as time passed, her desire to bring peace and kindness and to turn away from a life only of violence and conflict. May your god and mine, Vandryn, therefore, guide you to wield this sword with the same sacred dual purpose as she: never too weak to raise it against the evils of this land, but stronger still to sheath it when mercy is your holier course.”

As the blade passed to the pale and humble knight, Iridni felt certain it welcomed its new and proper home. Too long had she kept the weapon from the fray of Light against Darkness and the duty to which it had been first forged and then enchanted. Though his bodily vessel be flawed at the moment from the curse of Florette Khorvich, let this inheritance steel the good Christian knight and encourage him that he had much braver service unperformed, and those who loved him yet believed in his courage and resolve to overcome the snares of the Mists.

She left them, then, the sword wielder and her beloved, to reflect on the recent failure and to write to Yue of the suspect cause. Iridni doubted not that Yue would wish to try again: her longtime friend might be physically frail, but in her convictions she was as strong as their often stubborn mutual mentor.

The Pelorean paused at the coffee house’s curtain, her warm glance lingering on Marcus. He had so many friends, and she was once more overwhelmed by her love for him, seeing in him the embodiment of all the values and virtues they shared. At last she had found the companion that completed her, allowing her both to teach and to learn. In all ways but one the two were joined, and that, too, their love would soon mend.



« Last Edit: November 23, 2020, 02:32:08 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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Radium Divinum
« Reply #143 on: November 27, 2020, 01:54:02 AM »
Escape!

Not so long ago and regardless of all she knew of the treacherous Mists, Iridni would have leapt at any reckless chance at a journey home to Oerth and the Prelacy. Quinn, harsh experience, and so much else had informed her that to seek freedom from these lands of unyielding horror was to court her personal destruction. And yet the notice nailed to the door of the Lodge seemed tailored to lure her home-sickness:

Quote
OUTLANDERS!

This is not your home. Try as you might; you will never find acceptance here. You will forever be an 'outlander' to them, unwelcome. Unwanted.

Much as you might try, this place will never be a home to you. Home is what you left behind, what the Mists took you away from. Despite what others might tell you, escape is not an impossible thing. It is possible, and tangible thing, well within reach for those with determination and willpower.

We are the Chainbreakers, and we will find manumission! We will find liberty, freedom from the Mists, to return home to our loved ones, to our friends, to our families, whatever the cost!

Seek us out, come and find us. What do you have to lose?

Once, her choice would have been easy, and the answer of what she had to lose would have been nothing. Now, however…her dear, sweet Marcus.

If there is an entrance…there is an exit. The problem is…how hard is it to find the exit. And what you need to sacrifice to find it.

The small priestess trembled as she gazed at her beloved and considered his words. Indeed, what sacrifice would be required of her? Would you leave if you could?

His tender touch comforted her as only his hands were able. If I could, the real question that come to me is, if I personally want to leave here is not one of mine main goal. After all, in a way I found happiness here. His encircling arms held her more tightly as he smiled with deep meaning. I don’t have much at home. You have instead. And if you want to try this path, I’ll follow my happiness.

Was she deserving of this, his perfect love? Tears cascaded down her hot cheeks. I never wished to stay here until I found you. I would have sacrificed my longing, for Zephyr, to please him. But I didn’t want to stay. With you, though...I think I can be happy anywhere…. She cried against the fullness of his chest, her emotions flooded with indecision at the prospect of so much happiness chanced against so much uncertainty. Yet it would give me great joy to take you back to my family for our wedding, Marcus. They would love you as I do.

His eyes melted into hers. That would be wonderful.

Her heart then for only a moment turned to cold, resolute steel within her. What in the end did she owe Port-a-Lucine? The wigged and powdered Baron had treated her attempt at help with suspicion and contempt, even knowing some portion of what she had done and the past risks she had taken—though not all! Pelorean duty commanded her service to the good, but Blake was right in that Marcus, too, was deserving of her loyalty and dedication. Perhaps she might rationalize her decision in that she ought to treat her betrothed justly and give his perfect love its due. Even so, her beloved was a Pelorean as well, and Iridni felt certain how he would bid her act if she asked. Their mutual happiness must delay until their current errand was complete.


Later, after their interview with the learned and informative scholar, the two lovers returned to Port-a-Lucine, where Iridni composed a letter:

Quote
Dear Monsieur [redacted],

I write to you on a most urgent matter because our recent interview in the Tenements evidenced that you are of a more sensitive soul than many others of your class and station. It is regarding a threat I am told concerns both Houses d'Espérance and Vaillant….

As her pen moved across the parchment, the resigned yet dutiful young woman thought of what more profitable purpose she would put the stolen device had she the inclination and the power.



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

Iridni Ren

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Radium Divinum
« Reply #144 on: December 11, 2020, 12:10:21 AM »

Prudence had prevailed, or so at least it seemed. The restrained and cautious course—guided by what Iridni understood of the nature of those involved—had averted the crisis and restored almost all to balance. Unlike an old dog, a prematurely aged wizard might learn new tricks. Even in a nightmare realm such as the Core, sometimes mercy and giving a one-time ally the benefit of the doubt, rather than believing oneself possessed of all wisdom and justice, was, in fact, the wiser charter.

Let others seek to stay the stars themselves; Iridni wished only to be free mistress of her own fate.

She recalled the long cursed man as her and Zephyr’s prisoner, after they carried his ashes to the Lodge and restored him to life, his hands of conjuration smashed by the Garda, while the two Wayfarers pled for lesser cruelty. And she thought also of herself his slave of pretense, beaten and wilted within a hair’s breadth of her life. For all of that the Pelorean had come to know him in his complex motivations and wished not to make him an unfortunate enemy.

Had the Ezrite doomsday prophecy failed? Perhaps, but the year’s wheel had not yet completed its revolution. She would be better reassured once she understood the elusive Gnome’s precise circumstance and transformation.

For now she must turn her faith’s impulse back to that of another curse and a man much less potent of his own to stand against his fate and those who worked toward his damnation. Would that her beloved Marcus could aid her in this task that meant so much to him as Vandryn’s knightly brother, but, like the others, Iridni had promised to divulge these secrets of Light to none, even her soon-to-be-husband.

She longed for Mordent. Once wed, she would yield all that was hers to give him and never again hold even her own person in reserve. Had not his surpassing love already ransomed her from her greatest unfulfilled pining?

Until no chain remained for Gaherion Ashwood to break.



« Last Edit: December 11, 2020, 12:50:31 AM by Iridni Ren »

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

Iridni Ren

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Radium Divinum
« Reply #145 on: December 14, 2020, 01:11:58 AM »
If you know nothing of Strahd, if you know everything, know this today: a piece of the sun has dealt a great blow to that beast of the night. From crystal, leaping forth, a beam of brilliant, golden light sent Strahd to hiding, perhaps into long hibernation. Yet beware. When he awakes, Strahd will seek the medallion whose power all but destroyed him.

The small priestess read the words with marvel: the Sun…of course. O blessed Pelor, that Thou would prove Thy might even in this wretched world against an undead foe of seeming omnipotence.

Yet the errand fretted her. To take the nonesuch into the bowels of the castle itself…would this not forfeit a once-in-a-century opportunity to destroy the devil? To free Barovia now and forever from the evilest of vrolocks' reign?

The great argument in favor was the Christian knight’s cure. The release from the curse of Florette Khorvich might be the ultimate deception, but Iridni had witnessed it with her own violet eyes. The miracle spoke for itself, and she who had granted it…Iridni could not doubt this being was something holy. The Pelorean felt certain in fact of her identity: Lady Nneme, the celestial who had aided Master Yunon in his own struggle against an overwhelming curse of the hateful Mists. Surely no two such creatures could persist in this dreaded realm. And as much as the visitation of this angelic form filled Iridni with surpassing awe and joy, a beatific love flooding her soul, upon reflection her heart broke for Lady Nneme: to be of such grace and goodness…and yet consigned for centuries to this twilight struggle against the Darkness.

Conscious of Lady Nneme’s fate, how would Iridni ever again pity her own?

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Still, the small priestess wondered whether the planetar had left her directive deliberately vague. Ought they employ the symbol to its purpose? Would Strahd—knowing their errand—seek to thwart them, giving the band opportunity and challenge to at last be the instrument of his destruction? Sweet Pelor, to know the wise course with certainty! Still, the Christian had been quested with the errand, and her role must be one only of advice. For if she believed the Divine guided this sacred duty, then she must also believe he who grasped the symbol had been chosen specifically for the burden.

Thus, with tearful eyes she sought Marcus’s solace, after he advised the gathered band of all he knew of the interior of the monster’s lair. Most of all, she cherished his embrace as Yueshan disappeared from her sight, the shaking priestess too well remembering that other occasion when a dear and irreplaceable friend had entrusted her with his most prized and personal possessions as he made a journey from which he might never return.

Only the arms of her beloved could console her as she wailed against him, Just like Yunon!

[To be continued.]


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

Iridni Ren

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« Reply #146 on: December 26, 2020, 01:16:55 AM »
[A letter sent to Laurie Weathermay-Foxgrove printed in Iridni’s plain hand.]

Dear Sister in the Struggle,

I write to you with most blessed news and to make an inquiry: I am to be married. The gentleman is quite fine and of the same beliefs as myself.

Consequently, we wish someone of the Pelorean faith to perform the ceremony. Do you know of any such priest or priestess in Mordent? I have read through the volumes in [redacted], and I see that the particularly kind branch of the Ezrites is the most common calling, but my reason for inquiring is two-fold.

Firstly, my beau and I have spoken of Mordent as a place we would like to visit and perhaps eventually raise our family. Two Peloreans cannot remain indefinitely in Strahd’s realm, and a recent wedding I attended has alerted me against venturing anything similar in Barovia, as the Count made an unwelcome appearance. His servant also hinted that the Count might avail himself of certain rights regarding a first night with the bride.

Dementlieu’s social structure is unsuitable for child rearing for someone of my egalitarian ideals. And of any other place, I feel through you and your family I would at least have someone to call friend in Mordentshire as we try to establish ourselves.

Secondly, if there be no Peloreans as of yet in Mordent, then that is all the more reason for us to bring some of our god’s light to your homey land.

Please let me know your thoughts regarding Mordentshire as being suitable for a Pelorean wedding. A journey would give myself and Marcus—Marcus Phoenix is his name—a chance to see if we can feature living out our lives there with many children!

Marcus has a great number of friends he plans to invite as well. Most of whom I would wish to be there are no more among us sadly, but I do have plans regarding Loric, which would also offer you a chance to see your old friend.

With warmest regards,

Iridni Ren



Quote
Dearest Iridni,

Please accept my most sincere congratulations on your upcoming nuptials. I believe I know just the location for your special day. 

I'll make arrangements for transportation and meet with you soon to discuss. As for the priest presiding over the ceremony, I'm afraid I'm not aware of someone that shares your faith.  Perhaps you would consider appointing someone dear to you instead?  Think upon it and I'll see you shortly once I've settled back in from my travels.

-Laurie Weathermay-Foxgrove

A few weeks' after the correspondence, one night a carriage arrived in Port-a-Lucine. Two women boarded, one, the raven-haired priestess who so often frequented the Quartier Ouvrier. She disappeared for some time, although she eventually returned. While absent, she saw wondrous visions of her future.

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Many of those events would occur much as she saw then in her mind's eye, beginning with her wedding.

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Likewise, the reception and first night with her beloved were all that she hoped for.

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The following morning as the newlyweds began to explore Mordentshire, however, they found long-prophesied events destined to interrupt their bliss.

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

Iridni Ren

  • L'injustice à la fin produit l'indépendance.
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When All Other Lights Go Out
« Reply #147 on: December 26, 2020, 11:29:28 AM »
Wandering through the streets of Mordentshire with Marcus, Iridni was dismayed at the thick, gray mist, but she kept in mind that part of their purpose in moving here was to spread the Pelorean faith and light. Moreover, everyone she met was polite and helpful to her and her new husband.

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At last she found the herbalism shop where Laurie had promised the two Peloreans would eventually work. They learned then that they must immediately cut short their holiday, although that which Laurie required seemed small payment for all the great lady had provided.

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After Laurie's departure and watching Marcus peruse the many books within the shop--books forbidden in Barovia--Iridni felt this moment when they were alone in the shop was time to reveal the one, final secret she yet kept from her beloved. She barely had time to begin, however, before a man familiar to her only through portraits and a wax effigy passed through the locked door.

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The boon that van Richten asked them--though the two much wished otherwise--they could not turn aside. To serve Pelor's Light was to put others in need first and to deny oneself.

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As the obsessed doctor bade them come, they shared what they thought might be their last intimate moment.

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Then all three vanished from sight.

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With van Richten's help, Marcus and Iridni confronted and defeated both the doctor's guilt and his arch-nemesis, Madame Radanavich.

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But at great cost. Richten Haus sought to claim Marcus, and Iridni's beloved was spared only when van Richten himself plunged into the abyss. The Pelorean, as so often before, found herself again alone. She wandered the Mists, looking for Marcus, looking for the Light, until at last a voice--Marcus's--began once more to guide her, leading her to two portals: one portrayed the forests of Adri and Chathold, where her family still dwelled, the other a cottage by the shores of Arden Bay in Mordent. The voice said Marcus would be with her forever, whichever the bewildered priestess passed through.

She chose.

Spoiler: show



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

Iridni Ren

  • L'injustice à la fin produit l'indépendance.
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  • When all other lights go out
Epilogue: Tender Mercies
« Reply #148 on: December 26, 2020, 01:58:23 PM »

Because of the tender mercy of our God,
The Sunrise from on high will visit us,
To shine upon those in darkness….

                             Luke 1:78-79


The diminutive figure of the priestess rose before the dawn, leaving her husband in the warmth of their bed and what she prayed were peaceful dreams. She soothed his forehead then kissed it. If good fortune, Marcus would not wake before the appointed hour. The mornings when his eyes opened earlier than her own, to a room still shrouded in darkness, distressed him the most.

As she watched over him by a single candle’s light while robing her distended body against the chill of autumn, she remembered a spring afternoon when in her anticipation of receiving the first proof of the Mordentish printing of The Light of Pelor she had neglected her vigil. Marcus slipped away and traveled the path nearly to Mordentshire, before she noticed his flight and caught up to him—discovering as she did a weight and fatigue in her young wife’s form.

She had used all her powers of persuasion and cunning to convince the long-suffering soul she would not hurt him and to come with her home. A sudden drizzle in turn stirred Marcus’s instinctive chivalry, so that he had walked willingly with her, sheltering this small, strange, breathless woman against the coastal rain as he would have any in similar need.

When retiring since, she always locked him with her. Although his physical craving for the unknown supplicant who nightly came to lay beside him seldom overcame his chaste honor, the two continued in those first months to greet the dawn with anxious ardor. Later, on mornings when her nausea woke them both, his pain and misplaced guilt worsened, casting an enveloping shadow over their time of deliverance.

The auspice of today, however, caused Iridni to feel sovereign within her rebel body. Mattie and Jacques slept, while she stoked the fire and began making breakfast: waffles, Marcus’s favorite. The smoke and other fragrances her efforts offered wafted up the chimney, so that to the senses and intuition the Ren-Phoenix home might have been the coziest and most inviting in all of Mordent.

True, town gossip Virtue Laughton, knowing the sadness contained within the cottage and bearing the inhabitants a slight, was eager to share her opinion of it with any willing ear: Pity. They might otherwise make such a handsome and respectable couple. The poor children are who I feel the worst for...cursed with a halfwit for a daddy!

A kick inside Iridni’s abdomen forced her to double over with a gasp. The life she carried within her, the embodiment of their love, she felt certain would be a boy. Regardless of the malaise of his father, their child would be the first of his family the world had not ripped from the affection of biological parents. His mother would make sure he knew all his father had once been: how Marcus had so inspired devotion not only in Iridni but in their many friends, good and true.

She would prepare their child for those times when it would be difficult for a young boy to see through the shadow and hear above the cruel din of his peers, to recall these early mornings of ceremony and innocence. And when he questioned her why his father was not like those of other little boys, able instead of her to teach him all the things he ought to know, she would answer him as often as he asked that his father was a perfect lesson of the gift the finest men make to those they love: their all.

Marcus had told her in a lucid moment that, if their god granted them a son, she should name him Yunon.

The cuckoo clock chimed the dawn, and the small Pelorean’s face brightened. She pushed herself up from the hearth and wobbled back to their bedroom door, not wanting to waste a second of their morning’s bounty. “My love…you have waffles.”

His eyes opened, and as sleep fell from them, he recognized the welcome vision before him and the delighted and delighting voice in his ears. Iridni…his only one…he was home.

For sixty moments a love as bright and pure as ever shone in the Core illuminated the cottage…until the cuckoo again sounded, and the glow on the newlywed’s face as she gazed upon her husband passed from its zenith. Marcus raised his hand to his head with bewilderment. “Iridni?” He tried to shake off the fugue. “My head…hurts…so much.”

Goodbye, my darling, she whispered to him. Goodbye my sweetest of hearts.

Then his eyes of love lost focus as the disorientation and fear returned. Who are you?

The hour had passed, and her hero no longer recognized her. Although the pain of this time receded with its inescapable repetition—the clockwork regularity of knowing the light between them was for now extinguished and she was again a stranger to him—witnessing the black curtain fall never failed to wound her. How could he forget it all: so much they had been through together? The experiences they shared? Their faith? The children? The mutual discoveries of their wedding night?

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Each morning she hoped for some lengthening in the time or other sign of improvement in Marcus’s memory, some new fact retained when their hour elapsed, but without relief the opaque velvet of amnesia descended over him. Yet a worse doom had threatened the two misplaced Outlanders who had dared both in light and love to defy the Mists. If not for the doctor’s noble sacrifice, her beloved would have been drawn into a perpetual undead existence, his soul sating the hunger left by their destruction of Madame Radanavich.

More so even than that mercy, how many of faith could attest to a god who reached across the void and offered them this hour of daily reprieve from the horror that was to live in the Core? Before Marcus, the priestess had always believed Pelor still remembered her, but she had done so without sign, other than the return of her blessings after each rest, as all those others of faith in these miserable lands. Many had mocked her continued belief in a personal god who could speak to and guide her from beyond.

Now, however, with each sunrise and for an hour thereafter, the two Peloreans and their little flock had assurance of their miracle…and the reward of their faithful service. Their redeemer lived and shone his divine glory over them, their love, and their growing family, challenging the ensnaring powers of the Mists with something akin to hope.

Though they shared but one true hour in twenty-four, the voice had promised Iridni she would be with Marcus forever. Could any bride measure with surety before life’s final tick how rich or scarce her portion of love’s enumerated moments? No—all the small priestess, mother, and wife could do was burnish each of her god’s tender mercies to gold.


The End



Spoiler: show

In the wake of every heartache
In the depth of every fear
There were diamonds, diamonds
Waiting to break out of here.
Don't you think I hear the whispers
Those subtle lies, those angry pleas?
They're just demons, demons
Wishing they were free like me.
We're the fire, from the sun
We're the light when the day is done
We are brave, the chosen ones
We're the diamonds, diamonds
Rising up out of the dust.
« Last Edit: December 26, 2020, 03:00:29 PM by Iridni Ren »

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