You have been taken by the Mists

Author Topic: To Serve His Radiance  (Read 15082 times)

Iridni Ren

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The ceremony began.

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



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

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

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

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

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

[To be continued]



« Last Edit: October 07, 2019, 01:25:10 AM by Iridni Ren »

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

Iridni Ren

  • Priestess of Pelor
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A Radiance Everlasting
« Reply #101 on: October 07, 2019, 05:00:55 PM »
The week ended with a funeral.

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

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

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

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

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


Quote
Dear Sisters in Faith,

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

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

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

Respectfully and in His Bright Faith,

Iridni

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

Iridni Ren

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

Iridni Ren

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

Truth is the Light. The Darkness is False.

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

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

His Light too, may blind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


« Last Edit: December 09, 2019, 03:32:53 PM by Iridni Ren »

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

Iridni Ren

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hmm?”

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

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

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

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

“Not exactly.”

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

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

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

The note hidden on her person burned Iridni.

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

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

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

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

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




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

Iridni Ren

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"P...Petros..."

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

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

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

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

It fell on his chest with a quiet hiss.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Ember was no more.


Spoiler: show


Screenshot courtesy of Blissey
« Last Edit: January 04, 2020, 11:15:23 PM by Iridni Ren »

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

Iridni Ren

  • Priestess of Pelor
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  • Dark Power
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  • Posts: 3725
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A Radiance Everlasting
« Reply #106 on: January 12, 2020, 02:34:25 AM »
Once upon another time
Before I knew which life was mine
Before I left the child behind…
Me

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


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

Of that she was certain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



« Last Edit: January 12, 2020, 02:43:48 AM by Iridni Ren »

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

Iridni Ren

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

No compromise or coordination was possible with the undead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

. . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before.

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

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

Iridni Ren

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iridni Ren

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« Reply #110 on: February 27, 2020, 12:35:58 PM »

Iridni closed the door to the dark office in the Lodge’s basement and prepared to document all that she had learned this evening, but as she took quill in hand her mind would not focus. Vampires and all the usual horrible business of the Kinship seemed so insignificant to her in the lonely darkness and pain that throbbed like a long-embedded icepick in her heart. She felt as though something was dying inside her.

She knew the name of what that fatality was: hope. Could love survive without it?

What had begun in an evening of tearful joy had ended again in disappointment. She considered a moment and then put aside the fresh dossier she had begun. She wrote anew on a clean, white sheet of parchment, the black words starting as an uneven, unsteady trickle, but soon flowing like an undammed torrent, her simple printing almost becoming illegible in her rapid dictation of all that her heart wished her hand to express.

My dearest Zephyr,

I hope you recall our betrothal as clearly as I. When you made your feelings known and asked whether I might reciprocate them, I put you off for a week, telling you that—under the circumstances of your own recent heartbreak and emotional trauma—you should reflect on the sincerity of your love toward me. If after this reflection you still believed in its depth, then I might accede to your suggestion. A week later, you assured me our union was what you wanted.

I also told you that for me any such commitment would end in marriage. You did not propose formally in response to my strong hint, but neither did you say my aspiration was impossible. Rather, you said you would need time to grow used to the idea. My beloved, it has been almost a year and a half now since you professed your love, and much of that time you have spent more absent from me than when we were only Trustee and Second.

During that year and a half, I begged of you that we might adopt Mattie and Jacques together. You refused. I begged of you that I could accompany you to Paridon and assist you in your work there. You refused. And now after another long absence, you return to tell me that we cannot marry because you have never desired a family. My love, regardless of your intent, you do have a family and children in Kartakass; it is only the marriage you lack.

For that matter, I may not be capable of bearing you children. What am I to conclude, then, but that you simply do not wish to marry me?

Zephyr, as much as I care for you and as much as I have been compliant to your will, I cannot think of a single time in this last year and a half you have changed your mind to please me, even when your bending would cost you little but would have given me so much.

I long for the embrace of no other man. My affections toward you yearn as they ever did, my beloved, making this letter all the more painful to write. But you cannot continue to evade doing what is worthy and right—and treat me like someone you do love!—or admit that your feelings were transitory and that you are incapable of returning mine as they deserve to be.
 
Your broken Iridni




« Last Edit: February 27, 2020, 01:57:03 PM by Iridni Ren »

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

Iridni Ren

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« Reply #111 on: March 05, 2020, 11:06:47 PM »
The wisest midwives of Almor tell of the omen of a white hatchling crested with a thorn-shaped raven feather. From the moment the young dove so marked leaves her nest, she searches for a thorn tree and does not rest until she finds one. Then, singing among the savage branches, she impales herself upon the longest, sharpest spine. And, dying, she rises above her own agony to out-carol the lark and the nightingale. One superlative song, sweeter than any other, existence the price. But the whole world stills to listen, and in Elysium Pelor smiles. For the best—or so these wisest of women say—is bought only at the cost of great pain.

At last Zephyr summoned Iridni, and the young priestess obeyed with trepidation. For she knew that his once endearing violet gaze had of late avoided hers, and his displays of affection since her pleading letter were minimal—chaste and almost brotherly when bestowed upon her upturned and waiting face. Often she went over in her mind what she would say when they were next alone together, but she rehearsed only from her desire to express herself after many months of silence and solitude. Her feelings and thoughts caged so long within her heart begged for their release; they would be heard.

Otherwise, speech would feel vain to her, dry on her tongue, for she did not believe it in her power to persuade Zephyr: regardless of his place of birth and his race, his core resembled Barovia—a land that a traveler might glimpse but that wished to remain insulated and private from those outside it. Only on rare occasions had Zephyr exposed himself to the young Pelorean, and, afterward, she perceived his regret at needing to do so. In those vulnerabilities he desired intimacy, for her to accept him as he truly was, but it was thereafter safest to retreat behind the flamboyant persona he displayed and the concealment with which he covered even his skin.

Now, as the moment of her beloved’s decision arrived, Iridni wondered whether she might have done better to display greater flaws of her own. Zephyr insisted he did not deserve her, and perhaps he meant the remark as more than flattering words. Yet, if sincere, why would he have asked her to love him? Had her strength and patience in the subsequent months been unexpected? Had he, as so many other companions and acquaintances, mistaken her gentleness for frailty, when nothing in this grievous realm required greater strength from her than did restraint? If she were being penalized for unfailing obedience to Zephyr’s command to wait upon his return and her lonely, painful fortitude while he was absent, the gods must truly favor irony.

Iridni knew many faults about herself, and she was certain one quality she could never possess was to surprise.

Older than she, Zephyr must know that giving in to hate was always easier than restraint, more so in Barovia. Since her passage through the mists a thousand blows hammered this truth home to her, for she had learned that a defeated foe would either yield or perish. And then hatred, too, died, its fleeting ardor sated with the spilling of blood. Love’s steadfast passion, in contrast, demanded a strength never to show anger and to endure pain always with kindness. Her god’s own love was one of mercy, absolute and eternal, rather than justice. Might a god who loved, then, so infinitely but therefore unjustly and unfairly expect the same unending sacrifice of a mortal woman?

A god might, but surely not Zephyr?

Iridni brushed and pinned up her raven hair, then put aside her more ceremonial gown to wear the same robin’s egg shift as when she first joined the Kinship three years ago. It was in this simple dress that Zephyr had attended her when they first met, and she, a young sojourner in a strange land, had been sick and weak. She hoped it would remind her former Trustee that underneath all her covering—rather than a litigant to be reasoned with, an asset or a liability to be evaluated and judged—was still that raw and tender woman who most needed his mercy.

What Zephyr was about to do, he did to both of them. She would, therefore, afford her love no nobility, no justification, in breaking her heart.


***

Zephyr lowered his gaze with shame. “I received your letter I...I carry it with me.”

She sniffed and nodded, trying to keep her voice, her eyes, from betraying her. “You know my feelings then, Zephyr. I would know yours.”

“Everything you wrote is true.  My behavior has been shameful, unforgiveable....You don't deserve it, Iridni.

“Zephyr...you most need to forgive yourself. My forgiveness is yours for the asking.”

He shook his head. “You do not deserve to be treated this way, nor am I deserving of your endless patience. I cannot be what you need me to be, and I cannot see you so broken because of my negligence.”

“What do I need you to be? What is it you are unwilling to give?” She wiped at the side of her face, knowing she was losing the battle against her own emotions.

“You need a partner who will value and cherish you like the treasure you are.” He took her hand. “Someone who will take that step with you as an equal partner....and give you a family.”

Looking down at the vision of their conjoined hands, she sighed. “I have prepared for this moment, thinking of all I would say, but”—she shook her head—“I  know how unpersuadable you can be, Zephyr. Yet I would ask...”

When she raised her eyes, she saw Zephyr, too, was beginning to cry, unable to mask his emotion.

“Why did you wish me to love you? Did you not know me...did you not know yourself...those many months ago?” The priestess maintained an even voice through the question, but seeing her beloved in torment almost broke the remnants of her composure.

“This does not diminish my feelings, my lady. I was and am earnest with you and my love for you, but I believe I am broken, too. In a different way.”

Instinctively, she put her other hand to the side of his face as though, if it remained within her power, she would wipe away his tears.

“What was it, Zephyr? Was it going home? Discovering your twins?”

The dam broke, and Iridni felt Zephyr’s grief streaming down her hand. “I'm so terribly sorry…I am no father to them...I am...I don't know.”

She could no longer check her own as sobs racked her.

“I wish only happiness for you, Iridni.”

For both of them, she had to be strong. As much as she wanted to explode at this moment, it would destroy all the good they had created together—and might create together in the future. “Everything I wrote you in that letter is true, my love. I do not desire freedom for another. But…I can't...I can't…” Damn...why did the right words not come to her?

She felt a gentle squeeze on her hand, and Zephyr’s gesture clarified her mind. “I can't remain in uncertainty. Not knowing whether you will be here, or what you truly want me to do as I have for the past year. I don't want to be one more thing you feel guilty about. And beat yourself up over.”

“My behavior was...is unbecoming. Cruel. You are such a beautiful soul inside and out…You don't deserve it.”

“Zephyr...you are a resolute and strong man in your own way. People don't often appreciate that in those who are gentle. But I wish you would not do this to both of us.” The betraying tears crested again.

Zephyr furrowed his brow, and the back of his hand went to his eyes. “I need to let you go, my dear. It is perhaps the most painful thing I've done and I cannot imagine how...how you're feeling. But this will be better for you. You need not have to spend lonely nights waiting and wondering where I am. Dreaming of a future that you deserve, but I, in all my faults, will not grant you.”

“If you are sure this is what you want, I will not argue. Every man must choose his own path, and I can't force you into the path I alone wish for you.”
 
She brought his hand to her cheek to rub it against her tears and then kiss it before at last releasing him.

Zephyr seemed to sense their moment was at an end. “I can leave, if you'd like.  I can go to Port a Lucine...”

Iridni shook her head. “No...I do not want that. You have always been dear to me and always will be.”

“As you will be to me.”

Her freed hand at last found a handkerchief. “I will not make any uncomfortable scenes.” She forced herself to smile as she wiped her eyes.

“You are entitled to respond in any way you wish,” he said with sadness. “I will prepare myself for the backlash.  You are well loved, my dear.”

“We still have our work together. There is no reason for any evil to come of...this path.” She managed a rueful giggle. “As for that letter, feel free to burn it and keep one of my older letters with you.”

“I could never burn anything written by your hand, and from your heart, my dear.”

She nodded. “I appreciate you, Zephyr. No matter what, I will always remember how much I owe you. And I will still love you for who you are. Whether or not you are my husband.” She paused. “Whether or not I can call you…mine.”



« Last Edit: March 05, 2020, 11:52:21 PM by Iridni Ren »

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

Iridni Ren

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« Reply #112 on: March 06, 2020, 09:40:21 PM »
This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –


After many hours Iridni awakened and remembered that today was Simona's funeral. Regardless of how miserable she felt, she must attend. At least she knew she was all cried out.

She traded the shift for her mourning clothes and traversed the small section of the slums from the Lodge to the church. How many Morning Lords had she seen buried since coming to Barovia? Belonging to a native faith all but guaranteed a memorial service, whereas her only memories of Pelorean funerals were in the Prelacy.

Sitting in the pew and surveying so many unfamiliar faces, she was as alone as she had been in three years. Regardless of how often Zephyr absented himself, she always felt connected to him wherever he might be--that she and her fate mattered to someone above all else. Perhaps it had always been an illusory dream; for now she was done with all men and their thoughtless promises.

Enduring the pain was liberating in that her uncertain mind had regained its certainty. For Zephyr's sake, the longing for her home she had suppressed as a sort of infidelity. Now, however, no bonds of affection constrained her most heartfelt wish: to return to Almor. The vision of Simona's crumpled body at the altar had but one message for her: I do not want to die in Barovia.

Poor Simona. Iridni felt a twinge of survivor's guilt that was not entirely irrational. She thought back to the Kinship open house when Simona had discussed her secret plan with Iridni, and the Pelorean had neither dissuaded her nor agreed to help her in it. Iridni thought instead of what was best for the Kinship, and she was certain still that was her proper course. Nonetheless, another choice might not have resulted in the shrouded body before her.

Quinn, Arthur, Marry, and now even Zephyr were lessons to her in how limited was her ability to influence and alter the fate of another. Perhaps she was learning, for Iridni had told Snow that the druid alone must make the choice of who her friends were to be.

As Iridni listened to Simona's many eulogies, she was approached by a white-clad novitiate who motioned to the seat next to her: "May I?"

The Pelorean nodded, thinking that company might help her stay focused on the proceedings and give them their proper respect, rather than her mind drifting again to selfish, personal troubles.

"I'm Iridni. I am not of the faith, but I knew her very well. And we shared similar beliefs," she whispered. Throughout the service thereafter, the Pelorean considered that even in death Simona was providing a teachable moment to this young acolyte (the Pelorean learned was named Liliana). For who could help but be inspired by so many achievements in service to their common god, Liliana's and Simona's?

Only one matter continued to prey on Iridni's mind: where was Savu, Simona's beloved husband and father of their child? In vain did her violet eyes pass to and fro over the congregation. As beautiful and memorable as the service all was, Savu's absence was troubling, for she well knew how both had pined for each other whenever separated and how joyful their reunions. Although she had decided against speaking once she heard Anghel Vântu say everything that was on her own mind (and aware of how terrible she must look), Iridni realized Savu needed at least a mention.

Abruptly, she stood and joined the line of those paying their final respects, recognizing Conner Cunningham in front of her, his head bereft for once of his ever-present bandana.

At last it was her turn, and she faced the gathered crowd: "Dear Anghel has spoken for me in most ways. But I will add to his gracious words a little. Simona was complex. As much as has been said about her, she had more about her and her life than we can hope to capture in this short service. For example, she was married, but regretfully her beloved husband, Savu, is unable to be here. I am certain he would be if he could."

She paused and spied the young acolyte watching her now. "The most important quality Simona possessed, however, is she brought those who served the Light together. This was her great and tireless gift. As Anghel said, this was how the Deceiver was destroyed. As we are united in grief for her now, I hope whatever our faiths and perspectives, we remain so united--as she would wish--after she is laid to rest."

Iridni turned to view Simona's remains and place a bouquet beside them. "Farewell, Sister Simona," she said before returning to her seat.

Others came forward, one by one, until the service concluded. As Tess invited everyone to refreshments, a sudden racket sounded in the entrance, and the door flew open. Savu, followed closely by an enormous wererat, burst into the temple. Ready blades quickly skewered the monster, and the mourners parted like a sea before Savu to let him approach his fallen beloved.

He ran a hand over her hair. "For those of you who remain, I assume you were among those closest to her...Simona was... Everything to me, she was the reason I strove for greatness in the garda, the reason I gave chances time and time again to those who needed them."

Iridni watched the tableau of the grieving husband with his unresponsive wife and discovered to her dismay she was not cried out after all.

"She was the reason I strode into the mists day after day, growing stronger, the reason I gathered all the wealth I now have. To build a life for her that was worthy of her. But, she never lost sight of who she was, no matter what I showered upon her, wealth, jewelery, equipment, rare flowers... She always saw herself as a protector, someone who fought for all of you."

Kerdic was placing golem skulls by Simona's body as Savu spoke.

"I am... Destroyed by this loss, the man I was goes to the grave with Simona...."

The Pelorean watched, listened, and felt her shoulders shaking. And not all of her grief at this tragic spectacle was for Simona and Savu. She turned to leave, clutching her wet handkerchief. "I must go. I hope the service was meaningful for you, Liliana," she whispered.



« Last Edit: March 06, 2020, 10:23:34 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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A Radiance Everlasting
« Reply #113 on: March 27, 2020, 03:00:35 AM »
As so often of late, Iridni found herself thinking about family. Soon after she arrived in Barovia and Medea brought her to the Lodge, what had most attracted her to the Wayfarers was this place was called a Kinship, and those kind souls she met then told her she was among family. Although she had never completely in the years since lost her longing to return home to her true family, suppressing it for a time out of a desire for unreserved fidelity to Zephyr, the Lodge and its hearty inhabitants had provided her with something akin to that which she had lost and most needed. Likewise, the Code’s eternal struggle against darkness in which the strong and true must protect the weak and innocent—while not clothed in the divine and poetic dogma of Pelor—accorded with her own most devout and filial beliefs.

Now the recent conversation with Asariel over their respective sisters explained the direction of Iridni’s thoughts easily enough, yet it was not her younger sibling she pictured in her mind’s eye but her father. Regardless of her warm relationship with Bishop Ren and immense respect for him, Iridni had always assumed she would grow to be more like her mother, and that her own life would resemble that of the woman who gave birth to her. Looking back, she knew that her instinctive (and sometimes resented) nurturing of those around her was her mother’s example manifesting itself in Aeresa Ren’s eldest daughter.

The religious work of her father growing up seemed so important and beyond her, his words always so wise. Although faith and her time in Barovia had expanded the powers that Pelor placed at her disposal beyond any of her predecessors in the line of Ren (even his), her growing understanding only confirmed the lessons he had poured into her mind and heart: “You learn more from adversity, my child, than ease.”

When she knew not the right answers or was at a loss as to the best path to take, when she could not equal the grace with which Bishop Ren guided his contented flock, she recalled that much of her wisdom was an excessive gift from her god’s hand. Her father had passed sufficient years in thoughtful worship and simple living until he had acquired the more natural and earned wisdom of age.

Imitating either of the paragons that were her mother and father would have been difficult, but to satisfy the standard both had set for Iridni while imprisoned in a place so foreign to them she felt was merciless. Perhaps if she had not been so young when they were separated from her, she could have better clung to their receding influence and not come to rely on guidance from these more broken people of the Mists.

She might, for example, have been able to council her first fatherly substitute, Yunon, to restrain his irascibility. Instead of always believing that as her elder his judgment must surpass her own, she could have remembered how her mother used strong gentleness to calm the rare moments of anger of Bishop Ren. Had Iridni not stood by helpless when Yunon lost patience with the Kinship, perhaps he would never have, on another moment of impetuosity, gone to duel and perish in Hazlan.

She knew she had made that calming effort with Medea, her adopted “mother,” many times, all of them a failure, culminating in what she still recalled with a twinge of regret. She had tried to persuade Medea to return the Rod of Azalin Rex through personal appeal, and—when that failed—forced the issue via the Erudites, which ultimately led to Medea’s expulsion from their mutual family. Her duty to the many and the Light had not lessened the feeling that she had betrayed her patroness and a woman who had more than once saved her life, including staying the fangs of the Deathsinger from Iridni’s defenseless throat.

Now, Zephyr.

Their respective roles over the years were too complex to bear easy analysis, and perhaps she did not even want to think too much about what it might all mean. Yet she was certain that their romance had been of his choosing and nothing she had ever sought. If she knew most to express love through obedience, self-sacrifice, and loyalty, then she concluded Zephyr’s own path had taught him that evidencing sexual desire for her was how best to show his affection and respond to her devotion. She could not judge him for this difference because his examples had doubtless been less holy than her own in the Prelacy.

Lovers always loved each other as they wished to be loved, rather than how those they loved most wished.

That much she had come to understand. What the priestess had not yet resolved in her mind was loyalty and whether it was vice masquerading as virtue. For were not personal loyalty and favoritism two sides of the same coin? In setting Zephyr’s will so often above her own had she evidenced loyalty to a self-admittedly flawed man while betraying her own conscience and ideals?

To be sure, she had believed that on the matters of the Kinship they valued the same principles. Zephyr’s view of the meaning of life and the best way to spend it might have been vastly different from her own, but to her that had only made their relationship more interesting and fraught with possibility. Each might learn something from the other. In their work, however, he spoke with authority, and she absorbed each lesson he taught her. She also became ever more grateful to him for the praise and honors he bestowed upon her, until finally she gave in and accepted his misplaced promise of love.

In allowing Zephyr to influence her and sway her mind time and again, should her decisions taste of sweet loyalty or insipid favoritism?

Pelor’s only response was silence, and Iridni’s father was too far away to answer her.


« Last Edit: March 27, 2020, 04:07:21 PM by Iridni Ren »

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