With a lack of movement in the general campaign, I wanted to do some One on One personal stuff for character development, shopping, training, and what not. Reread what happened most recently and we can start from there. =)
With a lack of movement in the general campaign, I wanted to do some One on One personal stuff for character development, shopping, training, and what not. Reread what happened most recently and we can start from there. =)
Kvärldr napped peacefully on the bed amongst the nest of Dari's possessions, her emptied knapsack and bag of holding thrown casually on the floor as she stood quietly, thoughtfully regarding the pile. Having come to the agreement that if nothing else they should stay in town one more night to at least replenish their supplies, the small group had returned to the Nightcap after leaving Merlin's Tower. Dariana had opted to take a bath in the washroom at the end of the hall while the boys, who seemed to be constantly hungry, helped themselves to lunch in the canteen downstairs; returning to their room she had put on her spare cotton blouse and donned her trousers, and turning, briefly studied herself in the dull, polished oval of silver that hung on the wall over the rough wooden table, and after a moment, stepped closer, studying her reflection.
Peering at the somewhat distorted reflection, she frowned inwardly, her eyebrows knitting together ever so slightly as she leaned in and bit her lower lip.
She had then turned to the bed where her two bags were set, her new boots and headband ontop of them, and she quickly returned to the mirror, headband clutched in her long fingers. She studied it curiously as Kvärldr watched her silently, interested. It was golden in color and soft between her fingers, and she imagined it to be made of leather, but of a kind much more supple and buttery than the leather she was used to, and she briefly wondered what that kind of material cost. The length of it was covered in intricate, shimmering embroidery, the thread delicate as spider-silk and a metallic color that caught the light as she turned it in her hand, the color almost like that of the molten sunlight that filtered through the great towers of ice that drifted in the sea. It was neither gold nor silver, nor any color she knew how to describe, and the small clusters of beadwork that were ingrained among the elegant designs only added more color and beauty. She knew she had never held anything so precious in her life, or at least nothing so expensive.
But then she thought of the money the archmage had mentioned putting into an account for them, and she suddenly felt very humble, and almost lost. This was a strange new world full of strange new customs and rules, and suddenly it all seemed so very overwhelming. How she longed suddenly for the simple life of--
She cut that thought short, her fingers tightening around the headband. She looked to the window, to the city beyond the balcony, and she suddenly realized as she watched the bustle of city life outside that it wasn't necessarily that life she missed--it was in part, but it was more than that--it was the security of that life. A life she thought she would always live--and no matter how lonely it was, it was a life that was secure. A life she knew how to live.
How suddenly everything had been upturned. How suddenly all that had vanished, forced her into this new life that she didn't quite understand.
And while she mourned for it... tremulously, on the periphery of all her anger and fear, the faintest hope drew anxious breathe. It was almost exciting, in a terrifying way.
Reaching up, she fastened the headband about her head, tying off the ends at the base of her neck, and then pulling her hair back, began to braid it. But then halfway through the quick work, she paused, her reflection catching her eye. And then she looked at it in confusion, as though not recognizing herself.
The pale skin was creamier, with a soft glow to it, the sun having kissed it with color. A subtle hint of pink was now in her cheeks, and though the bones were the same, the long soft waves of pale gold framing her face were the same, the lips and eyebrows--there was something off. Though the wild, exotic beauty was still there, there was something different too. And she realized, staring at her reflection, that something had begun to change in her, and she felt that delicate excitement, that eagerness to embrace this blossoming adventure, peering shyly out from behind the haunting anger and pain that burned in her eyes. It brought a different light to her face, and somehow the small bead-like jewels in the hairband brought out the colors of her eyes, seeming to encourage that life.
And for the first time, she faltered. Seeing that look of determined, almost unstoppable fury startled even her, but even more so that hope for a new life surprised her-- And for the first time, she hesitated, unsure of what she really wanted, unsure of where to turn or what to do.
More than anything, she wanted a home. But she could never forgive what had happened, would never be able to move on until she had destroyed those who had destroyed her. No matter how much she desired that new life, she couldn't claim it yet. But realizing that she genuinely wanted it, for the first time craved it, that feeling of home and freedom and people who cared--that shook her even more than her anger. The desire excited her, but left her feeling vulnerable, and she jumped when Kvärldr suddenly spoke from his perch on top of her bag, the goat in him having desired to be on top of the highest point in the room.
Surprised, Dari looked to Kvärldr. "What?"
Do you remember... Why she called you Lupercal?
That simple sentence took her back, her memories rushing up in a surge of ice-crested waves, so sudden and overpowering that she couldn't breathe as they filled her with the winter chill of that northern land.
Kvärldr nodded, watching her curiously. But do you remember?
She nodded, how could she have forgotten? And yet, in her anger, she had. Which was just the thing she had promised not to do.
Good. The Laathmia Dverekin... What did she say?
She swallowed, knowing what the goat was pushing her toward, and reaching up, she undid the half-done braid and slid the band from her head.
"I... asked her..."
"Why do you only ever call me Lupercal, Vi?" Dari asked as the two huddled around the fire, the blizzard howling at the window of the abandoned trapper's hut they had managed to find shelter in. The tall woman turned her face up to look at her, having been cleaning some small hare-like creature at that time, her dark, misty eyes genuinely surprised. The two had been traveling together for some time, both heading toward the sea, and this was the first time that Dari had ever mentioned the strange, unnervingly beautiful woman's habit.
"Kdar? Why do I call you Lupercal? Because that is what you are, young one." The knife in her hands moved effortlessly under the flesh of the creature in elegant, long strokes as she expertly took it apart, her ever-graceful movements manipulating the blade with fluid ease, and she set the fur aside. Dari shook her head, petting Kvärldr, who was curled at her side.
"But.. Vi, you're a Laathmia Dverekin, a two-blood. You're more cursed, more lupercal, than I am. But I don't call you that. I call you by your name."
The woman shook her head, smiling down at the dead thing in her bloodied hands, and chuckled softly, as though Dari were a small child who had just exposed her ignorance. "Lupercal, that is because you do not know what it means."
She frowned at that, offended. "I know exactly what it means. It means I'm an outsider, and so are you. That I was almost given to the wolves. That I--we--don't belong."
A shake of the head, this time more serious, her dark eyes dilating under her long lashes as her eyes half-closed, thoughtful. "Don't... Do not let them tell you that is what it means. What it means, Lupercal, is that you are set apart." She looked up, offering Dari a cut of the gamey, rubbery meat, which she had skewered on a long bone needle. Dari took it slowly, confused. "It means," she continued, "that you are free, free from having to be like them. You can be you, not elk or bear or seal or goat, or anything else they would label you. It means you have a choice, a choice to follow and live like they tell you, to be Raddutain, or a choice to listen to yourself and live as you wish, to be lupercal. It means you are special, Lupercal. Free. You are not bound like they are. Their children must follow in their footsteps, or else they die. You--you can choose. Do not let them tell you that you are theirs, their shame to carry and that you owe them. You are free from all of this."
"I... I never thought of it... like that."
Vi only smiled, that knowing smile of hers, her plush dark lips tight together, hiding her ivory teeth. "This is our life, Lupercal. To live as we choose, unbound. It is true, I am more cursed than you, but I can tell that you will do... Great things. Your journey will take you far from here, but do not let it be a journey of slavery to your anger, of slavery to their memory. It will be difficult... but you must let it pass in time. And when you leave this place, do not return. There is nothing for you here."
Frightened by the other woman's words, there was a tremulous note in her voice when Dari finally spoke softly, "But I don't... I don't think I can. I don't even know what I would do. Where I would go. I've already demonstrated that I'm perfectly useless...This is all I have, Vi. It's the one thing I can--must--do."
Vi frowned at that. "You must never believe that about yourself. Even when it seems all else has abandoned you, when you do not know where to turn or go, who to trust or what step to take next... You will always be able to count on yourself. And you, little Lupercal, are much stronger than you think. I believe you are finally free to discover that strength, and so much more."
Staring at her loose waves, Dari suddenly jolted, and rushing to the bedside, startled Kvärldr as she suddenly upended her bags onto the bed and began to root through them. And now here she stood, quietly regarding the pile as the goat made himself comfortable again, and reaching out, unearthed the small, roughly-hewn black leather pouch she had been looking for.
Returning to the mirror, she made quick work of her hair, and when she was done, secured it with the little ornate bone clip that had been in the pouch, and Kvärldr sat up slowly, studying her curiously.
That... That is how she wore her hair. That is her clip, is it not?
She nodded wordlessly, suddenly feeling very calm as she stared at her reflection. And reaching up and touching the bone clip, shaped like two hoarfrost hunters, an elusive and strange creature, locked in an endless circle, she made a promise to herself in that instant--that she would avenge her slain family, wouldn't let anything stand in her path, would give in to all her fury and her pain if she had to, would train to become strong and would travel to the ends of the earth if need be. But after it was all said and done, once she had her vengeance--she would let it go. No matter how much it frightened her, downright terrified her, she would let all of those memories go and would move on, even if it was into an uncertain future, one that promised nothing and everything. And then, with a small smile and a light laugh, she turned and shooed Kvärldr off of the bed and re-packed her things, taking careful note of what supplies she was running low on, and donning the rest of her clothes slid the bag of holding over her shoulder.
"Kvärldr, I believe we have a mage to visit, and some shopping to do. I believe we are going to have a great many adventures ahead of us... and we need to be prepared." She smiled as the goat, in an unusually compliant mood, hopped into the bag and bit her arm affectionately, and she quietly closed the door to the room behind her.
"No that is quite alright, I was meaning to head back that way eventually, I just was unsure if I would do it today, or tomorrow. But right now seems to be as good a time as any, so hopefully the archmage is still around." Standing, he nodded toward the door, "Well shall we be off then. Time is wasting, and we cannot expect the archmage to be available all day now can we?" With Dari in the lead they left the Nightcap and headed for the Mage's College.
As they walked down the road, Calden admired the strange girl; the way she walked, her hair, and dress were all very similar and familiar to that of his people, but at the same time different. Thinking back he recalled how Dari had said, "I feel like you and I are very similar...". He now understood. They were both from the frozen wastes of the north. Both had experienced great hardships, hardships neither of them would ever understand.
"So.." Calden said, trying to break the silence. "I realize I know nothing about your casting abilities. What is it about a witch that gives them their powers? I know it isn't something were born with. I see you communing with the goat in the mornings before going out. If you don't wish to talk about it you do not have to. I know you said that the archmage wished to speak with you privately, I can only assume it is about the same type of information. I am merely curious. As for myself, one day I just had these powers. I can't really begin to explain it, but in a time of need Azriel appeared and saved my life. From then on we have been practically inseparable. Azriel is the one to fight most of the battles and I shape the field to fight our needs. Of course If it comes to it I can fight, but I prefer to let him do it."
She nodded, listening attentively as the young man spoke.
"So you just had them one day, with no explanation, no warning?" She shook her head, eyes distant but thoughtful, a small, strange smile on her lips. "I can't even imagine what that must have been like, especially in a land where.... well, where magic is regarded so suspiciously most of the time. I must have been very exciting... but very frightening." She then looked ahead of them to where Kvärldr was, nose pressed curiously to some strange stain on the road, causing her to flinch inwardly. "But you are perfectly free to ask that. I will try to answer to the best of my experience and understanding."
Calden regarded her intently as she paused briefly, seeming to mull his question over before answering further. "I... I draw my powers from some greater force--that is, they were given to me. I'm afraid I can't exactly say what the source is, but I commune with it through Kvärldr, like a conduit. My mother--my mother always said that my heart was good, and my magic was too, so that it must be the Spirit. But... But I'm not so sure about that, as nice as that thought is. And you're right, every morning I have to commune with Kvärldr, and together we prepare any spells I might want to cast that day." She paused, seemingly unsure, but then shook her head. "Kvärldr has been both my teacher and my friend ever since he appeared that day in the field. I remember the first time I touched that power, felt the magic as it flowed from It through him to me. It felt like falling into the sky and touching a star, like I was surrounded and engulfed by something powerful and vast and incomprehensible. It was so frightening, but the way it buzzed under my skin was exhilarating. I sometimes think that if it wasn't for my magic... I probably wouldn't have been able to stay in the tribe."
Her face darkened and she fell silent as she suddenly felt the heavy truth of that statement--she immediately knew that if she had not been suddenly so useful, even her mother's pleas probably wouldn't have convinced the tribe to let her stay beyond her thirteenth birthday. It was a cruel and morbid truth, as it certainly meant she would have been truly left for dead, and it chilled her slightly. Kvärldr, suddenly beside her, nipped at her heels, and she jumped slightly as she was startled from that dark turn of thoughts, then smiled down at him.
"You were right before though. I can learn and cast any spell, as long as it's within my ability and I prepare it ahead of time. The stronger I get in my spell-casting ability, the more and stronger spells I can use. Growing up on the tundra though, I did learn how to use small weapons, like a dagger, and can use it well enough to defend myself. I prefer to not use it for anything other than hunting or butchering though, as having to use it probably means I am already in trouble." She laughed at that, and then her eyes trailed upward, the college breaking the line of rooftops as they turned a corner.
"Someday," she said slowly, softly, almost to herself, "I think, when all this is over, if I survive... Maybe someday, I will try to find out just who or what it is that gives me my power."
Calden remained silent at that, not sure if he was supposed to respond, or if she had even meant to speak aloud. They stopped briefly as she picked up her goat and held him firmly against her chest, and he began to reach for the bangle hanging from her ear when she swatted him lightly on the nose, making it clear that some things were most definitely not for chewing. She gazed up at the tall, strangely beautiful tower as they reached its base, and she shook her head. "So strange to think that buildings like this exist after living in caribou hide tents and wooden huts for so long. This world amazes me."
She then looked to Calden, that charming smile back. "Let's just meet there," she said, motioning with a nod of her chin to vendor across the street who was peddling thinly braided, sweet smelling breads, "when we are finished here, in case one of us is done before the other."
"That sounds good. I'm just going to head over to the School of Summoners. Maybe interact with some other summoners, check out some other eidolons, and see what the school has to offer. Also, I think it would be cool to see different summoner strategies. I'm sure not every person views it as I do. But, we shall see." Walking away, he turns, "Hopefully by the time we meet I will be hungry enough for some of that bread!" With that he was off down the road to the school.
Walking through the portal a second time was like walking through pure moonlight, and it left Dari briefly blinded, her skin tingling. But she blinked and the effect was gone, and she found herself once more in the study of the archmage Warmheart. The blue eyes of the strange woman found hers, and she smiled almost gently upong seeing Dari, whose cheeks were rather pale.
"Please, be seated. There's no need to be so nervous dear. I merely had a few questions I wanted to ask you, and I was fearful that they could make you uncomfortable if I asked in front of your comrades."
Dari sat quietly, and Kvärldr, sensing her hesitation, hopped quietly out of the bag and into her lap, and she pet his smooth back out of habit.
"I--I'll answer what I can," she returned softly, not used to someone expressing such obvious interest in her as the woman did now, her striking eyes seeming to pierce her with ease as she studied her in silence, leaning against her desk in thoughtful repose.
"Well," she said suddenly, crossing the room to sit across from Dari, "as I told you before, unfortunately we don't have a college available for you. But we will of course welcome you here with the utmost respect, as we do regard witches as legitimate and powerful casters. Just rare ones, I'm afraid, and so you will have to excuse my curiosity and humor me as best you can." She then smiled, and with a small laugh, shook her head. "I'm sorry, I keep staring. Your hair looks lovely. I assume your father's blood is responsible for that though."
Dari started at that, both flattered and completely surprised. "I--I can't say. I never knew my father."
"Of course, of course, I apologize. Now," she said, leaning forward, cheek in her hand and elbow on her knee with her eyes bright, "what can you tell me about yourself?"
Dari slowly repeated what she had told Calden earlier, feeling quite self-conscious. But as she spoke and saw how genuinely interested the woman was, and entirely without judgement or hatred of her, she began to relax and actually enjoy speaking with her.
"Fascinating. But you don't know your...patron?"
"No, but someday, I think, I would like to maybe discover it."
The woman nodded. "Then I will not tell you. And what of, well, your mother? How often does the call bother you?"
Surprised again, Dari took a moment to answer. "I--at an early age, I learned to ignore it. Especially when I was alone on my Long Walk, when her voice was strongest, especially at night. It was awful, and sometimes I can still feel that pull in my bones, but I... I have no desire to answer it."
The woman nodded, then her expression softened. "I wish we had more to offer you. Unfortunately, your kind is especially rare, Dariana. I would recommend perhaps studying some potion making, which we can teach you. You never know what kind of trouble you'll run in to. But--- I do have a word of caution to offer you. In your travels, which I assume you will have many of, you may want to exercise... caution. Unfortunately not all are as welcoming as us. Witches are more often misunderstood and feared than they are welcomed. But I have a feeling you are no stranger to that knowledge. Especially with your strange heritage."
Dari nodded, her eyes averted. "I've known that all my life." She then looked back to the woman, who seemed to be thinking something over, as though she had more to say but couldn't quite remember it.
"Was there anything else I could answer for you?" Dari asked hesitantly, uncomfortable once more under the beautiful woman's strange, scrutinizing stare.
"I am well aware that you are not fully, human, which is clear to you already. And I have read that many of your kind become witches, that it is a natural progression. But how do others undertake the role of the witch?" Twirling her fingers she summoned up two crystal glasses filled with an icy blue color. Handing one to Darianna, "Please join me for this drink. The Frost Bite, is an enchanted drink of my own creation. In the days of my training one of my masters was quite the connoisseur of fine drinks. And to make him favor me, I created this little ditty."
"This drink is always cold, even in the hottest environments, it remains cold." Sighing, "Oh look at me ramble on. I also have read that witches, like wizards, have the ability to create and adapt spells to fit their need at the time. I was wondering if that was true and how you can just do this. As much information you can give would be great. I hope you do not mind if I take notes for future reference."
Dariana frowned, staring down at the drink in her hands.
"You are correct. I am not completely... human," she said softly, the words bitter in her mouth and her expression dark. "But... I'd rather be hunted by the Hholruk than to finish that natural progression. As for others I cannot say how they find their way onto this path. I've never met others like me." Breaking off there, she sipped from the glass, and found it pleasantly chilling, which relaxed her a little, and she calmed, that darkness fading from her eyes.
"This is lovely. And yes, I can adapt my own spells--I already have several, to be honest. I will explain it best I can," she said thoughtfully, setting the glass down in front of her. "The last one I altered was a status spell, which I changed so that I could deliver it without touch. Other touch spells I have changed so Kvärldr could deliver them for me. And so on, depending on the spell and my needs." Dari paused as the woman drew out her notebook, then scratching Kvärldr behind an ear, began slowly, careful to not leave anything out of her explanation.
"I'm sorry, I know this is difficult for you." Sticking her finger in her class, stirring it, "But I can sense a great power within you. Even though you are being called, you are not evil, I hope you know that. The way you chose to use your powers is what makes you good or evil. Please continue to be strong and use your abilities for better causes. Now, I must be going. Please enjoy the city, if you wish to train in potions, come back I can teach you a little in the morning." With that, she snapped her fingers and was gone in an instant, leaving only a bright silver light behind.
Dari stared at the space the woman had occupied, and then shook her head with a small laugh.
"I have a feeling," she said to the goat in her arms as she stood, the portal not too subtly reappearing behind her, "that magic will never cease to amaze me."
Squinting slightly against the lowered, burnt rays of the late-afternoon sun as she stepped out of the tower and into the street, Kvärldr jumped out of her arms more than he waited to let her set him down, and shook himself briefly. She looked around, and seeing that Calden had not yet returned, she shrugged to herself and the two crossed the street. Dari paid for one of the sweet-smelling braids, and sitting on a nearby bench, tore off half and fed the immediately interested goat, who had hopped up into her lap and gazed at her rather insistently. He ate it eagerly, and she chuckled to herself.
"I wonder," she mused aloud, tearing off another piece for the goat, "if I can still claim to use my powers for good, when you and I both know that my motives are entirely selfish."
Kvärldr didn't seem to think much of it, stretching across her lap to reach for the treat in her hand as she pulled it away. "You'll get fat, cheeky thing."
He huffed at that, and with a rather offended sounding bleat hopped back down on the ground, tail flicking as he blatantly pouted.
Some would say yes, some would say no. What do you say?
She frowned at that. "I... I don't know." And then looking at him rather flatly and throwing a crumb at his head, which he eagerly snapped up when it landed in front of him, "I suppose that's the point of asking the question."
Is it selfish to avenge those who cared for you? No, yes, depending on what truly motivates that vengeance--love, anger, the desire for peace, for yourself, for their memory. But does it matter if it is selfish, in the end, when the goal is so much grander? You seek to eliminate those who cause this problem because you want vengeance, yes--but eliminating it solves a much greater problem affecting so many and causing much suffering. I do not think anyone would damn you for that. I think the true concern of yours is wether or not selfishness will lead you to do evil.
She was silent at that, and Kvärldr nodded to himself.
You've sworn to never forgive, to be like fire, to give everything you have to avenge yourself, and your past. But you forget that even though you burn, even though you swear to destroy like the great unstoppable fires that consume whole forests, that in the wake of such a thing there is a choice--you can continue to burn, to destroy senselessly, or you can burn just the sickly trees and let it be. Even the greatest fires can be controlled, used for good, and the ashes they leave behind allow for new growth, fertile life and hope. I think this is something you will learn, if you have not already begun to--to turn your anger into something useful. You will be like a storm, Dari, fearsome and great, but even such, thunder will roll through you and in its wake bring you the peace of the rain-scented fields. I cannot see you as the type to lose sight of their goal, I have never known you to stray from the things you hold dear or believe in. As long as you stay true to those things, your fire will allow you to flourish. He looked over his shoulder at her then, his expression strangely serious but calm.
I think what you truly fear is that in your journey you will give in. You will heed that call. You fear your anger will make you weak, perhaps, that selfishness will lead you down the darker path. But I know you, Lupercal. The Dverekin knew you. You are stronger than that. Your anger is only part of you, and while it is your fuel for now, I think it is not the strongest part of you. I think your generosity, your tenderness, your ability to love even those who would not love you, your steadfast belief in what is right and wrong--I think these are the things that are stronger. You are angry and full of fire now, but that is not the whole permanent make of your heart, but rather just a portion. The mage was right, Lupercal, the Dverekin was right, your mother was right. Even though your blood would bid you otherwise, you fight that very fate because its darkness frightens you; you are full of great power, and great good. Your anger is righteous, not evil. You are filled with light, though your veins want to drink in the deep darkness. Those people could see that good in you, that honor, that strength. I think that you need not fear ever failing yourself and falling down that path. What you need to truly understand, Lupercal, is to not doubt yourself. Remember the good in you, even when others would judge you evil just by knowing your face. Use your powers, use everything you have, to everyday prove them wrong. Use, as the mage said, your abilities for better causes.
Dari nodded slowly, and was about to respond when the goat suddenly became distracted by a beetle crawling across the ground, and the moment was gone. She smiled and watched him trail after the startled thing, the two going in circles, and she thought about what the goat had said. It was true, that she constantly feared that some night she might not be as strong as everyone seemed to think she was, and that the voice would be stronger than her. But there was a warm feeling in her chest, one that reassured her that that would never happen, and she held it close. Kvärldr was right, and in ways she hadn't even considered-- while selfish, perhaps there was some greater good in her seeking vengeance. She perhaps wouldn't use the word righteous to describe her anger, but she knew it wasn't evil either. And she knew then that she would not fail those who had faith in her, those select few who had chosen to trust her and support her when no-one else would, but more importantly, she would not fail herself. Come what darkness she may have to face, she knew it wouldn't consume her. And that knowledge gave her strength, determination, reaffirmed that what she had to do was necessary. She would have her vengeance, for herself, for those endless dreams, for that face in the snow, but also for those who had believed in her.
For those who knew she was stronger than the darkness inside of her.
Startled, she looked up as someone suddenly called her name.