Don't deny me...
Eclipse of the Sun: =Winter's Night= (J/K)
The sun sets on the western horizon, as the sky breaks with the shattering of day. The moon’s path nearly half way up the sky at this time of year, as the darkness begins to transcend the world beyond the forest of trees. Within the mighty oaks of unknown age, at the heart of a forest whose significance has been determined and forgotten more times than one could hope to count. A forest that once stood as mother and origin of the peoples of this world, and yet in another age stood for darkness and evil. At its heart a grove of ancient oaks stand forgotten with time. In the depths of the forest, stillness reigned. Nobody ventured into the forest these days. By order of Bevelle, whose knights rule on high in these lands, at this time and place, to breach the barrier of the trees is a crime punishable by death. Knight or cleric, boy nor man, woman nor child dared enter into the forest. Even the animals, the wild deer, the tamed steed, dared not venture to close to the ancient wood as though some mystic force held captive their beliefs, and steered them away from its terrible secrets.
Beyond the first woods of the forest, where the hills of the southern kingdom met the banks of the two rivers, lay the town of Dorman’Si. Marcus’s footsteps fell gently upon hard packed earth in the small village’s square. The town was made of a handful of small, thatch roofed houses, clustered around a rather large common lawn that seemed to span several hundred leagues. A large inn stood along the north side of town, the first to greet travels coming across the Godrick bridge at the pass in New Town, a half days ride north. Normally the inn was a quiet space, a place to gather with friends after a long, hard day working in the field over a mug of the innkeeper’s finest ale, while discussing the village’s business: the price of grain, of tobbac. But tonight was winter’s night, and the inn was a bustle of commotion.
All the villagers have come together this night. In the green that served as the playground for children, or the work yard for men’s crafts, women’s needs, a large pile of wood loomed., bedded on a circle of hay and other smaller twigs. From the base of the wood, several large tables were being set up for a feast. As Marcus drew nearer, he could hear the call for foods to be drawn to table, the bustle and chatter of women within their element, setting the table, divining the best place for the hearty pecan bread mistress Lauhan baked, or the custards from mistress Thorp. At another table, men placed heavy platters of cooked meats, of pig and goat, fresh caught fish from the Jourlan river to the south, or deer purchased from traders in New Town.
Master Lauhan’s voice rang out over the crowd from the door of the inn, a roaring laughter accompanying as two of the older boys, came out bearing wooden barrels upon their broad shoulders to set up on one of the grand tables. Kegs of ale, to be decorated by bottles of Master Shar’s wine, but already, even as the set up began, the children had already begun to party. The traditional song of winter’ s night, to be sung before the flames of the undying fire, passed from the lips of one small child to another, playing hauntingly as Marcus strolled through the town. Young boys and girls rolled and tumbled in the grass, laughing and singing, humming as they flipped cards, or passed between them a ball. Each swept their eyes past him, the familiar smith who ran his shop on the far side of town.
“Master Reir,” the voice of Harol Lauhan spoke out to him, calling between spasms of bellowing laughter, drew Marcus’s eyes up towards the good natured innkeeper. Beside him, the old, gnarled figure of Cian Grae stood snarling as though he had just had a handful of Mistress Lauhan’s bitter cabbage forced into his mouth.
“Causing trouble again Harol?” Marucs spoke up, seeing old man Grae, Master Grae, stamping off as Marcus’ approach, as the old man commonly did. There was bad blood between the two of them, and where it not for the village council, Marcus doubted the old man would ever sit under the same roof as him if he could help it. As Cian stepped off, and Marcus came to stop before the large man, Harol’s face fell from its exaggerated merriment, to one more suited to the night and its festivities.
“Nay,”he spoke, “No trouble at all. Just needed to clear master Grae from my side. He continues to press on, and I’ve no taste for council business tonight. If he is against enjoying Winter’s night so be it, but I, for one, will not let the price of barley spoil my night.”
“And of the night, what are your predictions? Do you believe the flame to light itself tonight?” Marcus asked, looking towards the large mound of wood. If the undying flame comes to the offering of wood itself, it is believed to be a sign of blessing, that the winter will be gentle, and the fall’s harvest plentiful, and if it does not…
“Ofcourse it will come,” Harol spoke, “for the last 12 years the flame has come with no more than a single verse of the song. We are a blessed people.. it will come. Of that, there is no concern,” Harol spoke, but in his face was something that spoke of more.
“Is there reason for concern good friend?” Marcus asked, his voice quieter, as he looked up upon the face of Harol. The big innkeeper seemed to be lost in thought for a moment, the words hanging between them before he snapped from it, shaking his head, and rubbing his hands over the shirt stretched taunt around his belly, as though he still wore his apron.
“Aye no,” Harol spoke, shaking his head, “Tis nothing. I reckon I’m just tired is all. What with having to get up early to get everything ready and organized… plus, we got a visitor last night… someone I’d like you to meet Marcus. She says she’s from Thorfall… but.. well.. you’ll have to see for yourself.”
Marcus nodded as the innkeeper guided him inside the inn. The hearth stood ablaze. The flame s of Master Lauhan’s hearth were born of the fire the year before.. Only once a year did the good innkeeper let the flame die, and that only to take the last fire, and blend it with flames from the new year’s fires. The winter nights tradition of blending the flames was believed by most of the villagers to be the reason for their continued good fortune, uniting past with present in order to ensure their future followed the teachings of Bevelle. The inn’s common room was, for the large part empty, except for a long figure sitting at a table by the hearth. The chill of winter’s night was beginning to set on the town, and it didn’t seem strange that she pulled her travel’s cloak up around her shoulders, or that she kept her eyes upon the blended flames, especially if Master Lauhan told the store of their origins, as he most likely had. What struck Marcus as odd was the fact that she was alone. It was odd enough for a woman to be traveling this close to the Cyfarwydd wood, but to be doing so alone?
“Mistress,” Harol spoke up as he approached the woman’s table, and Marcus understood what made the man a little stand offish. The woman had an aura around her, something unseen, but definitely felt. Harol had sensed it, like a cold caress of an unfelt breeze. Marcus felt it too, as it touched him, as her eyes touched him. “You inquired about the town’s blacksmith this morning. This is he, Master Reir.”
“A pleasure,” Marcus spoke, giving a gentle bow of his head in the custom of the people of Thorfall, with his left hand covering his heart. Marcus’s plain clothes of white shirt and brown pants were ordinary, slightly worn from use, and patched from age. He bore powerful arms, and a keen eye that made blacksmith to be a believable profession.
The echoless silence was something to behold as tendrils of white silver hair swept around her body, dancing as if life had been pressed into each strand and beckoned to perform for an ineffable master. Eve cast her crystal blue eyes at the valley below and slipped her hands behind her back, clasping her cold fingers together and breathing in slowly, deeply as she thought through not the events of the past – the were unbendable – but the events that would become her future.
The triggering events of the old prophecies had occurred and the blood of mages ran freely as they were marked and removed from the presence of any and all worlds in which they made their inhabitance. She moved so frequently and was easily mistaken for an assassin that fear had long left her core and founds in its place resolve to live another day and press forward to determine who worked behind the heavy curtain to remove the elements of magic as if never created.
The crimson light of day began to fade as the sun beckoned its rays to return to its bosom, taking with it the remaining inklings of warmth as it seeped from the sky. Her gaze moves slowly toward the dark forest, the Cyfarwydd woods. A smile touched her lips for she had brethren that lived and breathed the darkest of magic known to the inhabitance of the galaxy and they were the life force that sustained the horrors that reach out and licked at the innocent as they moved past the ancient oaks, hoping for more than a simple taste.
Eve spoke a few words of incantation and felt the weight of her body dissipate as if she never existed before that moment, lighter than the air itself. She hovered just above the ground and tipped herself over the edge of a great cliff that watched over the town of Dorman’Si as if a guardian to the people living in its dissipating warmth below. She closed her eyes to feel the wind rush past her as she reached the bottom of the hill, the cover of night holding back evidence of her power from anyone that might have glanced the way of the great mountain.
She was there to find a traveling companion. Word amongst her kind stated that there was a book of incantations that was birthed from the dark forests of Lithia long ago and in the pages of the old English were spells that could stop time in its tracks, bring back the dead without blood sacrifice and resurrect an army of impenetrable soldiers from the underworld that could take back what was rightfully owed to the commander of such a fleet. She wanted the Libro della Vita e della Morte more than she wanted her next breath. It would be the undoing of the madness that had spread so far and so thick that air was increasingly painful to breathe due to the desire for more when it was truly an unrenewable resource.
The small town was illuminated by candles in the windows and small lanterns burning olive oil along the cobblestone roads. The smell alone brought remembrance of a brighter time to Eve’s thoughts as she moved along the villagers, each taking notice of the hooded stranger. She’d raised her crimson cloak and tucked her hair beneath it as she knew she’d not be welcomed without many questions by those that lived a normal life and wore a comely face. She was exquisite in her beauty and yet it had faded in her own eyes as she used it for nefarious gain time and time again. Like unpolished brass, it had begun to tarnish around the edges and rarely did she gaze upon herself anymore.
Black magic had a way of coating the visual abducts of ones senses, of robbing the user of innocence and the more endearing desires – hope, joy… love. She laughed softly, bitterly at her own thoughts, the desires of a young girl never to die no matter those paths the life of the wicked took her. Eve stopped outside of a small inn and slipped in as a large, portly man stepped out, holding the door for the woman in red, the aroma drifting off of her smelled like jasmine and rose. He breathed in deeply, turning to watch her walk and his eyes moved down her suave figure, wanting all of a sudden to pretend as if he didn’t have a wife and babe at home awaiting his return with dinner. He snorted and shook it off, walking out and letting the large wooden door rap against the frame as it bounced back and forth a few times with his efforts.
Eve paid him no heed, her magic such a part of her core being that she could see, feel, hear, smell and sense every moment within the direct vicinity before it occurred. She was much older than she appeared, deadly as she looked and so much more tired that she’d ever let on. The large expansive room was warmed by a single hearth; a beautiful blaze roared from its belly and licked the air above it, her eyes drawn to it immediately.
When you live in the darkness whether you want to or not, you always look for the light.
The inn was rather empty or perhaps it was just the hour when most were wrapped up in the warmth of their loved ones, tucked away from the nightmares that plagued the memories of the lonely. She looked to her left as a large man with rosy red cheeks approached her, his fat little hand extended and a smile on his pink lips.
“Good Evening, my dear. What can we do for you?” He spoke and the room felt more welcoming as if his soul were tied to the ebbs and flows of the inn. He was no doubt its keeper and felt emotions for the place that kept its floors swept and rooms cleaned.
She kept her cloak up, but allowed her eyes to move toward his, the translucent blue of them causing him to take a step back as his warm hand touched her icy offering. He was afraid of her and yet intrigued by the beauty of her face. The soft planes of alabaster moved perfectly along her high cheekbones and soft jawline. The alignment of her nose to her eyes was impeccable and her lips were full and sensual, as was her gaze.
She smiled to soften herself and remove a bit of his intrepidation. “I need a room for the night and I’m actually in search of a blacksmith by the name of Marcus de’si Reir. He has been recommended to me by a friend in Thornfall. Could you beckon him come so that I might lay eyes on him and have a word with him?”
Her presence and the magic that flowed through her veins didn’t allow the poor inn keeper to make any other response but a resounding ‘of course’. He moved from her and busied himself with going about obtaining the things she needed, getting her a room and having someone call upon Marcus. Eve stood and looked at the flames before her, her mind moving back and forth in time with life and death as visions swam before her sight.
She waited patiently, not caring how long her requests took as she had only one purpose as of late and that was tied to gaining a guard, a companion and a travel guide through the journey that lay ahead. The time of powerful allies for mages was over and a new era had been more out of independence and endless death. She would gain access to the book and from it she would rebuild all that was lost to her and so much more. The sound of a man’s voice caused her pause in her preponderances as she slowly turned to greet the blacksmith, his apron still tarnished with his day’s efforts.
Harol, the innkeeper introduced her to Marcus and made mention of her asking about him earlier that morning. She smiled softly and thanked him, her mind running though how long she’d been standing at the fire. She released the thought and turned to Marcus as he addressed her, the cool gaze of her appraisal running from his oddly colored locks down his strong body and back toward his gaze. She removed her hood, letting her long silver blonde hair swirl around her taunt figure, which was still rather hidden by the cloak.
His eyes were the color of night and her were the color of day, a feeling of peace, fear, adventure and anticipation swam in her womb as she nodded back at him, her façade perfectly in place as she pulled the string that held her cloak, removing it and laying it on the table just beside her. She wore a long black dress that hugged every curve of her body, the milky white curve of her breasts peaking over the edge of the silky material just enough to remind a man that she was a well-endowed woman.
“Marcus. I am Evangelia Mortania, once advisor to the king of Espar before it fell. I am in need of a companion with your gifts and talents, or so I am told, for a journey that I will began in the next day or so. I can pay you handsomely for your time and efforts and I can assure you that it will be the adventure you will one day tell your grandchildren about.” A smile lifted the side of her mouth as she’d seen the scene herself only a few weeks earlier when gazing deeply into the waters of Espar, the things to come illuminated for those with eyes to see.
He would be great – mighty – powerful – successful – hers. He was the one.
Of that… she had no doubt.
It is as though she just slapped him across the face. The shock at what she said, not so much at the words that she spoke, but what lie between what she had said was. She knows, at least, there’s a high probably that she knows. She didn’t speak enough to give Marcus an understanding of just how much she understood of him, and he had no confidants living, much less living in the lands of Thornfall that this woman could have received her information from. So the question of how she came by his name came to mind. She must be a student of divination, or have some skill in the craft, to pull his name of the air, or read it in a pool of water, out of the shadow of a stone. So there was something to the aura that she gave off so easily, so steadily, as though in advertisement.
Still he could feel it. The presence of magic in her. Though she isn’t grasping for it, isn’t inviting it into her, its presence is there, held close as though a blanket against the cold. Marcus keeps his own shoved down far enough so that the aura doesn’t rise, so that when one stands near, the talent, even to one who possesses it, isn’t obvious in him. He could feel that she has it, but as with all other users, only the gift is palpable NO measure of strength can be gleaned by mere presence. The aura exists if they hold a trickle of power, or a raging torrent.
“I am sorry mistress Mortania,” Marcus spoke, addressing her in the manner’s and customs of the area, with a gentle smirk to his face, hiding the mask of humor beneath politeness, a mask placed over the truth of his emotions, the concern. “But my skills are not readily accessible to traveling. My anvil is quite heavy, and I do fear that my forge is well rooted to the ground. My skills as a blacksmith do not translate well without forge and anvil. However, if you’d something you wish mended,” he added the last hurriedly.
“However, I do appreciate your invitation, and do find your efforts to recruit my work a promising mark. To know that word of my craft has reached Thornfall, though surprising, is a welcome mystery to me. I fear my horses shoes and mended cook pots do not so warrant the attention given them. Perhaps you can tell me who so talks about my work that provoked the trip from Thornfall,” Marcus asked, turning and seeing Master Lauhan yawning into his vest sleeve, muttering an apology to the lady as he excused himself from their conversation, feeling no more of it would, or could concern him. Though he didn’t leave the warmth of the inn. He headed back to the far side of the common room, to pull out a rank from beneath a tray of damped mugs and set to drying the baked clay.
When Harol began to step away, Marcus began to remove the apron from his waist. He took a seat, letting his bones rest upon the wooden chair opposite her, feeling the tight muscles in back and shoulders tighten, as he leaned forward. The look to eye and lips changed. Where before was idle disinterest and firm calmness, now roaring anger burned beneath the surface, alive in his eyes, as though he could burn her with a gaze. There was something nearly animalistic about it, something sharp, as though his gaze held the hone of a razor’s edge to it.
“I don’t know what game you play shade, but I’ll have none of it.” Marcus spoke, punching the derogatory term, shade, as though a verbal assault. His voice was soft, so to keep between the two of them, yet forceful. His dark eyes met with hers, and the razor’s edge only sharpened more, as though a look could deter her from her path, or erase her presence from that chair, that inn, this village. To him, she wasn’t a welcome addition to the night, more so after his mind puzzled together how she could come by information about him from a city he hasn’t visited in well over a life time spent in a town where nobody leaves. Thornfall is too far to account for merchant traffic, as most who travel this far south come from either New Town, or Godrick’s Hollow.. only merchants looking to sell their wares, or pick up their shipments. But she was neither, and she came looking for him. Divination, what was once a jest of his mind, became a real possibility as he thought on it longer… the tongues of the dead the only that he hadn’t silenced.
“I want nothing you have to offer as I am content with the way things are, quiet and still, and I wish nothing more than to be left alone. Seek your own adventure elsewhere, I have no interest in it.”
He stood up, and without leaving her room to talk, left the inn’s common room, and stepped back out into the chill of the night. He didn’t check to see if she were following, honestly he wasn’t sure if he wanted her to or not, but he had to know what it was she knew. Was she of the orders, or some renegade here to make a name for herself? Would she know the proper response that marked her a mage of the covenants, or is she of the unbound ilk? Time will tell. Surely, the protocols established at the order were not so far removed since his days there that they would have been forgotten. Yet she approached him in an open manner. She asked for him. Inquired of him… and all the while held magic so close that he could feel the aura: In public!
No. She can’t be of the order, not and act so recklessly. She must be of her own path, a diviner who walks alone… one who claims to serve a king nearly 3 decades fallen, and yet she looks no more than a few years beyond her coming of age, and she is of fortune that Master Harol is of fine enough moral character than to question a lady openly. Though Marcus knew the thought turn in the man’s brain. Harol may be polite, but he is no fool. So she came to announce herself as though with royal fare and trumpets.. but why?
Quick footsteps carried him out of the inn, and around behind it. The back bore only large piles of chopped wood, arrayed neatly against the inn’s back wall. A stable stood off to the left, its stalls empty of all but a single horse, and Marcus could only guess that it must be the beast this woman, this Evangelina rode in on.