Notes: This is an immediate continuation of Reunion, a co-written RP between Deamhan and Cordir. Time frame wise, this was written in approximately 1997/1998,. In this segment, she learns about a very special soul - who will one day be one of the most honored members of the Chosen of Fate - Nyx (who joined us in the story writing.) A line of asterisks denotes a change of authorship, whereas a pair of asterisks denotes mind-to-mind speech. - Cordir 15:06, 17 June 2011 (MST)
As dawn grows near, Deamhan starts yawning, and his eyes are open less and less often. Finally, he works a hand and arm out of his blanket cocoon and catches your hand in his, squeezing your fingers. **Thank you.** One tremendous yawn later, he’s beyond hearing whatever reply you might make. Exhausted yourself by the night’s events, you pull a blanket up for yourself, curl around Deamhan, and prepare to go to sleep. As you do, a slight movement in the air above you catches your eye, and you see Guardian dropping on her silk from the ceiling above. She lands on Deamhan’s upper arm, but does nothing else, simply stands there.
You raise an eyebrow. **If this doesn’t bring back memories... Going to give us dreams again?**
Guardian is her usual dry, inscrutable self. **You should know it is not I who bring the dreams. I merely... facilitate.**
Your other eyebrow goes up too. **So, this is the second time we have been up all night doing major spell-work, and then had you ‘facilitate’... Go ahead, shock me, tell me there’ll be a third.**
Guardian says only, **It is you who have said it,** but you sense she does not intend that as a contradiction. After a pause, Guardian adds, with the air of one who knows but isn’t going to tell, **Perhaps tonight’s enlightenment will give you some idea as to the third.** But despite any further inquisitive eyebrow-raising you might do, she says nothing more. Eventually you decide to go to sleep and have the dream apparently awaiting you.
** ** **
You wake slowly the next night, and for once find Deamhan awake before you. He feels you stirring and turns to face you; you catch each other’s eyes and say nearly simultaneously, “I had a dream—“ then stop and laugh.
“Guardian,” you say by way of explanation. “She came—“
“—like the last time, except this time she stood on me. Yes. I woke up after it, and saw her... Well, who shall tell first?”
You stretch, and he grins at you. “You tell,” you say, poking him. “I’m hungry; I’m going to eat while you talk.”
“I’m hungry too,” he says, grinning more, ‘absentmindedly’ licking a fang. After another poke, he relents. “All right then, my witch, here.” He cups his hands and closes his eyes in concentration, then opens them and hands you a few mushrooms. “Now make yourself comfortable and let me tell you my dream.” But he does not begin immediately; instead, he sits up, squirming his way half-free of the blankets, and stretches long and carefully. Then he looks at you with a bemused half-smile. “I thank you again... and Quick-of-Eye, may his soul fly high... I feel better. My skin feels like it belongs to me again.”
You smile and kiss him, but get back to the point: “Story! Tell!”
He scoots up against the headboard, and you settle in front of him, leaning back against his chest. He kisses the top of your head, then begins. “Well. It was another true-dream, like the last time, but not as clear. More symbolic, I think. I had my eyes closed, but I could see the Pattern of the world around me - I could see people moving about, living, deciding, acting according to their Patterns and sometimes changing them - but only their own Patterns, and rarely they would do something to cause a person close to them to decide to change their own Pattern. But then I felt... I don’t know... there was a, a place, or maybe a person, some part of the Web, that caught my attention. I can’t really tell you how it was different. But... hmm... well, you know, most people aren’t aware of their own Pattern as such; the Pattern exists, but it isn’t self-aware in the same way that a person is. But this part... maybe... a little bit... I think there was a potential there for something more. Someone, or someplace, beginning to see, and wanting to learn more. I—“ He laughs, as though startled by a realization. “I didn’t even think of it like this until now, but you know, if you had dreamed of me before I met you, before I began to think of my own vampiric abilities - the healing, the quick movement - as small Pattern-workings, I might have looked like this part of the Web looks now. Perhaps it is someone who is... ” He frowns, searching for the word. “Fluid? Maybe... someone who fits inside their skin very well?”
You giggle. “Well, one would hope... it would be messy if he didn’t.” You conjure up a little image of someone with messy bulges where bits of them didn’t fit under the skin without a lot of stretching, and other places where the skin is wrinkly from being too big.
He sighs mock-impatiently and tickles you for a moment. “No, you know what I mean... someone who, who, who fits the world very well, does that suit you better? Could be noticed if he wanted to be, but I don’t think he does; the Pattern uses him, or he uses the Pattern, to be where he needs to be without a lot of fanfare... ” He starts to say more, then shakes his head and stops. “No, now I’m just starting to make up things, not really remembering from the dream. So, what was yours?”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
You start to speak, but find yourself hesitant. **Perhaps it would be best if I showed it to you.** And you let yourself remember...
The air is chilly against your skin as you run lightly across the rooftops. You stop briefly to survey the area. Harper's Landing is laid out before you, lit by the slivered moon and darkened by the thickening cloud cover. It will rain soon; you can smell the tang in the air. You need to complete your night's work quickly. You beginning running again, your feet landing surely with every step. Your pace matches the tempo within your body as you cross wood, rope, and empty air, driving you on, faster and faster.
Soon you near your destination and you allow yourself to slow. The building before looks the same as all the others, but it isn't what interests you. Not this time. You move quietly to the edge and peer down in the gloom of the alley. There are two humans below you, hunched over a fresh corpse. You recognize the face on the body and pain fills your heart. You knew it would be her, for her death is the reason you are here, but that knowledge doesn't stop the pain. For someone innocent to die so young- Enough. You have a job to do.
The men do not notice you. They are too interested in what new baubles they can pry off their kill. You feel a twitch of anger deep within you as they paw the corpse. They call themselves warriors and clerics, and yet they are no better than the thugs and murderers of Midgaard. No, these men are worse, for at least the thugs and murderers admit what they are. With a deep breath you push your feelings aside. Now is not the time.
Quickly you assess the men. They are dirty, oblivious, and cowardly hidden within layers of metal. It is clear that they are not the sharpest arrows in the quiver, as they only carried the body this far before deciding to divvy up the loot. Speaking of which, they are getting rather excited about who gets what. You smile coldly. Soon they will have other things to get excited about.
You stand up smoothly and step over to the length of rope that runs over the alley. You are pleased to see that it is still in fine condition. The thieves in this area are quite good about keeping their runways maintained. You walk out onto it, your balance perfect. You stop directly above the men. They have begun to bicker about who gets her ring. As you look down upon them, memories surface...
The tree branch you are perched upon sways slightly. Even an eight-year-old half-elf weighs something, and it's about all this branch can take. You hope that the gaggle of children below you don't look up.
They are all older and would probably make fun of you. Again. But they aren't going to look up. They are to busy with the carving. One of them stole it from Magda. Everyone says it has magic powers, and that it grants wishes. You don't believe it. Not really. Even if Jacek did carve it, and even if Magda is a witch, she wouldn't have left it someplace where it could get stolen. Probably.
"I get to use it first!" someone shouts. "I took it, so it’s mine!" The children grow quiet. The air seems too still, and too hot.
"I wish... I had... a whole bunch of candy!" The silence below is amazing. You've never heard them be that quiet before. You wait. No candy appears. "You did it wrong!"
"Give it to me!"
The screaming match turns into a wrestling match as all the children fight for the little piece of wood. You watch, nervous. Your pulse is racing. Your throat feels thick. Yet you wait. You will not turn back. Not now. You will wait until-There! The carving has fallen to the ground, momentarily forgotten by the combatants. You half-jump, half-fall from the tree, almost landing on the very thing you've come to rescue.
You snatch it in your sweaty hands and tear off into the underbrush. You don’t hear any sounds of pursuit, but it is only a matter of time. One of them must have seen you, and they will try to make you pay for it later.
If they catch you. If.
Suddenly, you find yourself before Magda's tent. Worry plays in your mind. What if she thinks I stole it from her? What if I get in trouble? What if-
"Come in." The voice soothes some of your fear, and you walk, trembling only slightly, into the tent.
Magda looks at you, a quizzical smile on her face.
You gulp. "I... Some of the guys... They... " You take a deep breath and try to steady yourself. "Here," you say, holding the carving upward in your cupped hands. "I... I think this is yours."
She takes the carving from you and brushes it off with her fingertips. "Where did you find it?" she asks.
"One of the guys had it. He said it granted wishes, so he stole it. That's what he said."
Magda laughs. It's a sweet sound that rids you of what fear was left in your body. "Oh my, no. If this small thing could grant wishes, I would be a much happier woman, that’s for sure. I'm afraid it’s merely a keepsake of mine, and its true value is only in what it means to me... "
She places the carving up on a shelf, chuckling lightly. "Wishes," she says, though mostly to herself, and shakes her head. “But I must thank you for returning it to me. I had just now noticed it missing and couldn't think for the life of me where it might have gotten to. Might I give you something as a reward?"
You feel a loathsome blush wash across your cheeks and up onto your ears.
"No, ma'am," you say quickly. "I just wanted you to have it back." You realize that you need to leave soon. The other children will probably come here first when they start looking for you. In fact, you think you hear them now, coming closer, bellowing your name. As if that would make you come out of hiding.
I have to go now, you say, and dash from the tent.
You hear Magda's voice behind you as you leave: "Thank you, Night."
The memory passes in an instant and leaves your mind. It has been long since anyone has called you that. And now you are He Who is Thrice Named.
And you have a duty to perform. It is time. With one last glance downward you take in the scene. You see where the men are standing, where they are looking, where they will not be, and where they will not see.
Your arms stretch out, and for a split-second you hang there, almost floating. And then you let yourself fall backwards. As your feet leave the thin rope instinct honed from years of practice and use takes over. Your body flips of its own accord and you land, silent, directly behind the larger of the two men. You cannot help but to notice that he reeks of sour wine and onions. Wasting no time, your gloved hands dart out, alighting here and there like two black butterflies testing a curious flowerbed. Your numerous pouches and hidden pockets fill quickly with the ill-gotten gains of the would-be plunderer that stands there, ignorant of your very existence. He shifts himself over, but you are ready and shift with him.
With a second fluid movement you place yourself behind the second killer. Soon he too is lightened of a great deal of his inventory. Finally, satisfied that you have done what was necessary, you slip up against the wall of the alley. You feel a pang of regret that you cannot take all that is here, but you refuse to leave it. Your hands move in a complicated gesture and the body lying upon the cluttered ground bursts into flames. The two men cry out and scramble backwards, reaching for weapons and shields that are no longer there. They look around fervently, but do not see you. Few do.
As you effortlessly glide from the alley you allow yourself a tiny humorless smile. You do not kill. It is not your way. But the world is a harsh place, and those who you have just left behind will find it to be much harsher, unprepared for it as they now are. You leave the alley just as the first raindrops begin to fall. You look up and feel the moisture against your face.
Yes, now you may mourn.
**And then I awoke.** You realize you have been staring down at your hands and look up to face Deamhan. He has an odd look upon his face.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
"Magda?" Deamhan looks at you in stunned silence, then finds his voice. "Someone... it must have been years ago... they knew my mother... I've never heard of any 'Night,' though, even though I knew everyone in camp when I was growing up... "
You reach back to touch his cheek, knowing what an effect this is having on him. "The same person you dreamed about, perhaps? There was that same fluidity and grace... really, for two true-dreams in one night, about such similar figures, I'd be more surprised if it _weren't_ the same person."
He nods slowly. "So... what is he to us, and how do we find him?"
When you speak, it is as Weaver. "He will be one of Mine... one of the special ones. There will be a task for him, a strand all his own for him to dance on." Then the Weaver's presence fades, and you half-turn in Deamhan's arms, pushing your hair out of your face and grinning ruefully.
"But I don't know who he is yet, or what that task will be. Perhaps one of the tasks I already know my following will require, and he will be the one to do it. Perhaps something I haven't Seen yet."
Deamhan captures your hands in his, lacing his fingers with yours, and says, "So, again, how do we find him? I suppose I could ask Jacek or Valdez if they remember a Night... "
You send a silent thank-you to Guardian for 'facilitating' something to get Deamhan interested and involved in life again. Perhaps if he's absorbed in this mystery, he'll forget to think himself a monster until he's had more time to heal. "Yes, do that. If they can tell you nothing, there are a few other things we can try. But I doubt Jacek ever forgets anything or anyone. And besides, perhaps your tale will spark memories of Magda that he would share with you."
He squeezes your hands. **Thank you, love. You know that would mean a lot to me.** "I'll go see Jacek tomorrow night, then." He laughs. "I'd say we could invite Jacek here - and Valdek too, why not! I'd make my steak with mushrooms for them, you could pry some more wine out of Churg, and we could do our first 'entertaining' as a couple." He makes his voice very formal. "The vampire ravisher" - you note he left out 'demon' - "and the old witch request the honor of your presence... But I can't imagine Jacek away from that rock, or Valdek leaving the Shanty. So I'll go to them, and see what can be seen."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * >
The next night, after a long day of looking for younglings to help, and not finding very many, you return home to find a pensive Deamhan, knife in hand, chopping mushrooms and dropping them onto a steak over a small magically heated rock. Your lips twitch slightly: characteristic of him not to want to get near the fire, after all. He looks up and smiles as your portal shimmers to nothingness. "Hello, love. I felt like making this for you...needed to think, and it smells good, even if it doesn't make me hungry."
You smile and drop into a chair. "So tell me about last night. Did you see Jacek?" **And if you need something to do with your hands to help you think, after you're done cooking, you can give me a foot massage. I was walking all over the place trying to learn the world better - I know its Pattern more and more, but I wanted to see it with mortal eyes too, before I...before I'm not mortal enough to do that anymore, I guess. So my feet are sore.**
He chuckles and drops the last slices of mushroom on the meat. "You keep an eye on that, then, since I am commanded to be otherwise occupied. What sort of vampire ravisher am I to be so at my helpless damsel's beck and call?" He sniffs. "I feel inadequate." He summons enough water to wash and warm his hands, then sits crosslegged at your feet and begins running his fingernails lightly over your feet. After an "Eeek! Stop that!", he switches to more thorough kneading and begins his story.
"Well, I stopped by Mother's tent first. I wanted to see her again - I thought maybe it would make it seem more real that I had come back. She was just staring at the fire, as she normally is, when I got there." His hands still on your feet for a moment as he pauses, and you wiggle your toes to remind him of his duty. He comes back to himself with a small start and gets back to the important bits, and the story. "I said 'Hello, Mother,' to her - usually she doesn't even react, but this time, she actually turned and looked at me for a moment, before looking back to the fire. I'm not sure there was real recognition in her eyes, but there was something...and it looked like she'd been crying. Or almost...a tear, anyway."
You look at him in surprise. "That's more reaction than she's ever shown to you before, isn't it?"
"No - there have been times in the past when she's been semi-lucid. But none recently. Well. 'Recently' before...before my time with Vil. So, I stayed and kept talking to her, trying to reach her again, but I couldn't. Nothing." He falls silent again, but remembers to keep rubbing your feet. You wiggle your toes again, this time in appreciation, knowing he will catch the subtle difference between the toe-wiggle meanings. He does: he smiles at you and squeezes your toes gently. "Finally I decided to leave. But as I stood up, this caught my eye..." You're not sure where he was keeping it, but he produces a small carving which seems very familiar...you gasp as you recognize it: the carving from your dream of the other night.
"She still had it!"
"Quite. I wonder how many decades it's been...I asked her permission to take it and told her of the dream - she didn't really react that I could see, but I got the feeling it was all right to take it. So, here: our first concrete link to the one from the dream." He gives you the carving and lets you examine it while he gets back to the important bits. And the story. "I left, in the end, and went to Jacek. He said only that there is someone who knew Night better than he did: he suggested we talk to Nyx."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * >
'Nyx?' she echoes, as a pleased grin creeps over her features. 'I was right!' She basks in the glow of self congratulations for a brief moment, then remembers to tend the steak and mushrooms.
When further details are not forthcoming, you recapture her attention with a light raking of your nails over her instep.
"Yeep! Hey!' she protests, yanking her foot from your grasp. "What… oh. Sorry. Well….' Her gaze flits away from yours, and a delicate tinge colors her cheeks. She speaks almost hesitantly. 'Earlier… while you were away…. I… Walked through the Pattern to the Dream you had… so I could see it with you…. And then Stepped to that Place and Person you saw…. Or at least, I tried to…’ Her brow creases with a frown as she tries to explain more clearly. "I told you I've been sensing the Pattern more clearly… ' Her hand steals out to caress your face, then dances over to stroke one errant lock. "With you back… I'm more Weaver. You complete my Pattern, help tie me to Life more strongly. When you were gone, I was lost, floundering, almost blind." Remembered sorrow fleetingly reflects in the set of her lips, the shade of her eyes. "So… as I was saying, I've been testing myself a bit. Trying to expand my awareness and ability to wield the Pattern. I tried to step to where you'd Dreamt. I found myself in Skull Spire, an Ogre city in the South. Nyx was there, but…. It wasn't the Nyx I remember. He was… smaller." She frowns.
"Smaller? How so?" You keep your tone soft, not wanting to interrupt.
"Well, I remember Nyx as being one of the best, most dedicated thieves in the Realm… very advanced in his skills. Granted, I was but a youngling then, new to the Ebon Hand, but… the Nyx I saw before me was younger… less sure of himself… almost like a sleeper, beginning to wake… " Another frown. "I must sound odd. I'm not really certain how to describe it."
You summon another brief bout of water, cleans your hands, and rescue dinner from the stone. Deftly transferring it to a plate, you serve your lady. "Interesting… did you speak to him?"
"Only briefly. I was so confused in the difference, I thought perhaps I had Walked Time, as well as space. So I babbled something about having had a dream about him, and then I fled. I must have seemed quite the idiot." Her tone is rueful, as she mumbles around a mouthful of the savory fare.
With a sly, teasing smile, you send her a brief image of herself looking rather like the famed panicked chicken, stepping through a large spider web, squawking and running in circles. She grumbles, but grins, devouring more of the fragrant mushrooms.
"Well, my dearest heart, shall we seek out this poor Nyx, and convince him you are not a madwoman? Perhaps he can tell us of this Night character," you suggest, toying with the carving.
Your idea meets with approval, so after she finishes and some mussing and subsequent tidying up has occurred, off you go to find the mysterious fellow.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
"How shall we find him?" Deamhan asks, linking his arm through yours. "I'd say we could ask around, but he's a thief; if he's worth his salt at all, he won't be findable _that_ way. Do you think, if you Pattern-walked to him, that you could take me with you?"
You pause to consider. "Mmmm... Yes, you, I could, since your Pattern's interlinked with mine so closely. No one else, at least not yet – perhaps after I fully Ascend. But you, I think I can do that."
Deamhan raises an eyebrow in half-joking alarm. "You _think_? Forgive me, love, but I've had my fill of being away from you, and I don't want to risk getting Patternlost again. Can you? Or do we need to find another way?"
You chuckle. "Oh, I'm not actually _going_ to Patternwalk to him. I'll just use the Pattern to get a sense of where he is, then we'll portal there. Much simpler, much less risk of anything going wrong. But you didn't ask what we _were_ going to do, just if I _could_ Patternwalk with you." You grin at him impishly, and he rolls his eyes and mutters under his breath. "What was that, love? I didn't quite catch it."
"Nothing, my old lady. On with the Weaving."
You close your eyes to concentrate, and lean back against him for stability. It begins here, with centering yourself: here is your Pattern, this is your skin, this is Deamhan behind you, earth under you and sky above. Gradually the Pattern forms itself on the backs of your eyelids, always breathtaking no matter how many times you see it. **This**, you tell it silently, holding in your mind a multifaceted image - Nyx as you remember him from so many years ago, slowly changing to the person you and Deamhan dreamed of, then to the one you spoke to so recently. You hold the last in your mind. **Find this.** Though you are still conscious of your mortal body, of standing in Deamhan's arms with the night air cool on your neck and the scent of trees on the wind, you also feel your Self skimming outwards along all the byways of the Pattern, seeking, seeking...
You are not sure if you have spoken aloud or only thought it, but Deamhan clearly heard it, for you feel him nod, almost as though he had been following your seeking with you. You are a little surprised, since you hadn't felt him in your mind, but put it aside to ask him about later. Not opening your eyes, you take a step forward out of Deamhan's arms, and raise your hands to summon the portal. He puts his hands on your shoulders and says, "Go. I am with you." You feel the pull of the portal's magic in front of you, and step through.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
You are sweating, and trying hard not to pant, and trying even harder not to think about how easy it must be to follow your smell. The jungle air is horribly humid and hot, and the lovely smells of a thousand flowers just aren't enough to make up for this blasted miserable climate. A long, long way from the cool northern forests of home you are. You close your eyes and remind yourself again why you're here. Learning. Growing. Hunting things that have a fair chance, that live the life of the hunt themselves - not preying on people who've never done you any wrong and don't know the first thing about survival. Right. That's it. That's why you're here. Right. You'll start moving again in just a moment – you thought you saw one of the huge night-tigers sliding through the shadowed growth a few minutes ago, and it should be an exciting challenge to track _that_...gods it's hot...How can it possibly be this way? The sun's been down for hours...The whine of a mosquito shrills through the air, and you stifle a groan and sigh. The mosquitoes here are huger than anything you'd ever imagined - you saw one nearly the size of your head the other day and feel lucky it apparently didn't see you. A bite from that thing would have hurt. You grimace as the whine gets closer, and slide a newly-sharpened quarrel silently into your crossbow. You may just have to put off that tracking practice for a moment, in favor of target practice.
Your eyes widen slightly as you finally catch sight of your noisy prey: it's even bigger than the last one, and no way are you letting it get anywhere near you. It dips and whirls, twenty feet away from you or so, darting erratically through the air, impossible to see except in the rare moments when it cuts through a shaft of moonlight. Arm extended, you wait. The right moment will come....Your eyes unfocus for a moment, and you sense more than see the way things are arranged, the pattern the quarrel will cut through the air...Without the conscious consent of your mind, your finger moves, and the arrow slips free, heading for the place the mosquito will be --
-- the air shimmers --
-- two people are standing there, facing you: Cordir, and someone you have never seen before, but who trips every danger instinct you have. A hunter - and the quarrel is headed directly for his heart. You start to open your mouth to shout a warning - his eyes widen as he sees the arrow - and then, impossibly, he moves, twisting with perfect fluid economy to let the arrow pass by. There is a **thunk**, and the mosquito's whine stops.
Dead silence reigns for a heartbeat or two.
You find your voice. "Er...Greetings, Cordir, and..." You nod politely in the hunter's direction. You don't feel quite comfortable taking your eyes off him long enough to bow.
The hunter smiles, and a glint of fang catches your eye. You feel an eyebrow raise, and the skin on the back of your neck prickles. This must be one of the Kindred, and clearly here with Cordir's consent, but why on earth... "Greetings to you as well," says the vampire, his deep voice carrying the accents of your home; you notice then the slightly pointed ears, and know to attribute his leanness to his race rather than the fact that he hasn't eaten anything for a long time. He turns rather pointedly to glance back along the arrow's path, and all three of you see the mosquito impaled neatly, stuck to a tree. He turns to you again, his own eyebrow raised, a spark of humor in his eyes. "My thanks," he says a bit dryly. "I hate competition."
Cordir chuckles. "Nyx, this is Deamhan An-Shalach of the Kindred. My beloved. I'm sorry, I hadn't realized you'd never met before." Her eyes flicker to your hand, and her lips twitch. "Be at ease, he's not dangerous."
Deamhan and you both snort nearly simultaneously, and you glance down to see what prompted her comment. You hadn't realized it consciously, but your hand had been hovering over one of your semi-hidden daggers...
"All right," she says, laughing, "I mean, he _is_ dangerous, but the only bloodsucker _you_ need worry about here is another mosquito."
You acknowledge that with a nod, then say, "Honored as I am to meet you, Deamhan, and glad as I am to see you again, Cordir, I get the feeling you didn't pop out of nowhere in the middle of the night just to introduce the two of us."
"The middle of the day was not an option," Deamhan murmurs.
"So, is it more to do with that dream you had, Cordir? Why are you here?"
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
"I think it does," you say. "We are looking for someone, and have been told that you know something about him."
Nyx looks interested by this.
"I know many things about many people," he says, matter of factly. "One might say it's part of my job. At least, it has been in the past. Now it's mostly paranoia."
“...Then perhaps you do know of him. His name is Night.”
Nyx blinks, and a moment passes before he speaks. "It has been a long time since I heard that name last. A very long time." He looks away, staring into the jungle. He seems to make up his mind about something. "It's rather uncomfortable out here, don't you think?"
You shrug. "It is not the most habitable of climates-"
"Then let's go elsewhere, shall we?" He strides over to the crossbow bolt holding the mosquito corpse to the tree and pulls it free. He silently offers it to Deamhan.
Deamhan’s lips twitch with the beginnings of a smile. "Thank you, but I prefer my blood first-hand."
Nyx shrugs, then whips the bolt with a snap of the wrist, flinging the bug into the ever-present vegetation. "That's quite all right," he says. "It won’t go to waste around here."
With that he slips into the surrounding jungle. Deamhan motions towards the retreating thief.
"After you, my dear," he says.
You take one look at the jungle, and at the supposed path Nyx took, and mutter a quick spell under your breath. As your body begins to turn translucent you follow, passing through any shrubbery that happens to get in your way. You glance back to see Deamhan right behind you. He, like Nyx, is having no problems with travel. It occurs to you that you could do the same, if you so chose. But no matter.
You follow the darkly-clad figure ahead of you to the Temple of Isiira. When you reach the base of a large tree where Nyx is waiting he notices your translucence and sighs. "You mages have an answer for everything," he says with a smile. He turns to Deamhan. "The rest of us are going to have to get in the hard way." Not waiting for an answer he jumps up into the tree and climbs, obviously planning on using it to get over the wall. You watch as Deamhan follows suit, then casually step through the wall. Moments later they drop into the courtyard.
"Almost there," he says. When you reach the main gate of the temple, Nyx does something to the lock. There is a faint click and the door swings open. "After you," he says, ushering you in.
Once inside he moves over to the base of the huge spiral staircase and sits down. Oddly, the air here does feel cooler, and is nowhere near as humid. You and Deamhan take the offered seats, then turn to face Nyx.
"Now," he says, "we should be able to talk without being... interrupted." He rubs his nose. "So what do you want to know about Night?"
"The dream I spoke of the other day was, I think, of Night. But when I tried to find him, I instead found you."
Nyx takes a deep breath and lets it out. "Do not doubt yourself," he says. "You found him. At least, you found what is left of him."
He nods. "There was a time when I... when that was my name. But things changed."
"How?" you ask.
"There was a day, many, many years ago, when I entered the vortex, attempting to cross the land. I had done so often enough before, but this time was different. As I tried to make headway, I was first blinded, then deafened. I kept getting blown about the vortex, but then the winds calmed. I felt as if I were floating. I could hear nothing, see nothing, feel nothing." Nyx shakes his head slightly.
"I didn't know how long I was there. It felt like an eternity, and then, finally, there was something... It wasn't a voice, just... feelings, I guess. In my head. I knew that in order to leave, I had to give something up. But I had no equipment, no money, nothing of that nature, and yet whatever was communicating with me let it be known that those _things_ were insufficient, regardless. In order to leave, I had to lose something truly valuable: my name. The instant the deal was struck, I fell. The void ripped away, exposing the world around me, and I slammed into the ground. My sight and hearing had returned, but within me was a great emptiness. In desperation, I prayed to my Goddess, Daliah, but She was not there. Instead, another voice from the heavens spoke beside me and told me that She had long since left the realm. It was then that I realized I had actually been gone for ages, and that much had changed in my absence. I took a new name, Nyx, and started life anew. Soon afterward, I met Lord Thaygar."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
As if the name spoken was the key to a gate straining to be opened, Cordir gasps, and her body sways for a moment in response. A shiver wracks her form, and she lifts inhuman, ebon-hued eyes. 'The Prophet. Like the first stone released in an avalanche of cause and effect.' Her tone is quiet - almost a whisper, and in a dialect of Thoras that is difficult to follow. Her Pattern flares brightly, and She makes an odd gesture with her hands. A coruscating Pattern forms between them, shimmers in the air, then reaches out, and engulfs you, faster than even you can move. The last glimpse you have of Nyx's face shows equal surprise and wariness.
Your vision wavers for a moment, and when it returns, you are Elsewhere.
Heat beats at you. A quick glance around reveals the black fire contained in six equidistant pits surrounding a central obelisk. The floor beneath your feet is obsidian - and the ceiling above, a roiling Void. The sight of it makes your stomach clench hard, though you don't know why. As you crouch defensively, and scan your surroundings, Nyx's voice comes from directly behind you.
Spinning, you see him assisting your beloved to her feet. Odd, how you hadn't noticed him when first you scanned the room. Cordir is covered in a thin sheen of sweat, the spidersilk dress torn in places, and she stands almost limply, most of her weight on Nyx's chest and arms.
'It's.... It's all right,' she murmurs, her shaky tone belying her words. 'It's just that... I think... sometimes, it is as troubling for the Weaver to be a mortal woman as it is for a mortal woman to be Becoming the Weaver. Sometimes She... I... am not gentle with myself in the growing process. Sometimes it is... almost a battle.' She smiles ruefully, wearily.
Nyx transfers her to your arms, and slowly paces the obsidian plates, nimbly traversing their slippery, heated surface. 'Thaygar's lost temple.' He kneels momentarily at the Ebon Hand which reaches out from the center of the floor. From his posture, you can read the gesture is one of respect, but not active fealty. He glances over his shoulder. 'It has been long since I saw this place. Cordir, why are we here?' His face is nearly expressionless, schooled to an uninformative mask, but you can read his tension in his scent.
Your love smiles wanly, and shifts in your grasp until she is leaning back against you, her head turned so that her cheek lies against your chest. You can feel her warm breath gently fanning your skin.
'I was wondering, listening to your tale, what you gave your name up to. What needed it. So I cast that question into the Pattern. The answer lies here.' She stands shakily and slowly moves over to the western-most pit of flame. She stares into them for a moment, then steps through. The conflagration roars, and burns higher, as if fuel had just been poured upon it.
A gasp tears its way from your throat, and you are there in a heartbeat's time, staring into the flames, seeking to find the passageway - but no doorway reveals itself. Nyx nods beside you, and closes his eyes, stepping forward into the holocaust.
Deamhan pauses. **_They_ could do it,** you 'hear' him muttering to himself. There is another pause. You do not sense him moving. You think he swallows, or perhaps just twitches. Your mortal self is tempted to reassure him, but you are Weaver at the moment.
He turns his back to the flames - not that this helps, since he can now see the other five fires. He grimaces, and says aloud, though quietly, to the room at large, "You understand I'm doing this for her, not for you," then turns around and steps through the flames.
The sensation is odd - not unpleasant, but not pleasing, either. Bearable. Like the flames are somehow testing you, tasting you. Oddly, you notice when you step through, the colors that beat against your eyelids are not the dark black you expected, but rather a fiery crimson.
When the flames no longer obscure your vision, you find yourself in a strange chamber, surrounded by pillars filled with creatures out of darkest madness and nightmare. Loud sounds roar from an unknown source, jarring you, and thousands of shards of a glassy substance cover the floor, making movement dangerous. Cordir is seated upon a high, floating platform, gazing into the central pillar, which is inky and cloudy, no visible occupant inside.
"Night," she whispers, and the pillar swirls and roils. Then it stills and inside you can see a vast Cavern. Winged creatures sail about on the currents of a great hurricane confined within the stone walls. Their flight is purposeful, predatory, guarding ... Something.
"N'kai." The fluid roils and shifts. When it clears, you see the Cavern, its bottom filled by a deep, dark lake. A seemingly bottomless pit gapes open by the still waters, a silent, unmoving figure kneeling there. She smiles in recognition and nods.
"Nyx," she whispers, and you see the chamber in which you stand, the thief thusly named leaning against one wall. In the Pillar, you see puzzlement written clearly on his face, the blank stare of one who does not see what you see. The two images blend for a moment, the swooping figures, the reclining thief, and then the Pillar goes dark.
Cordir spreads her hands, and between them grows a single strand of light - brilliant, shimmering, midnight-dark. She gazes at it a moment, with an odd expression of half-knowing, half-wondering, then flicks her fingers and the light is gone, dismissed for now. 'Oh. It's like that, is it...’ You can't quite tell if she's speaking only to herself, or to Nyx, though she does not look at the thief.
She looks up, smiles wanly and you, and murmurs, 'Quite the day of revelations...' She pauses, looks around, almost wistfully. 'I think it's time we left this place. It is not for mortals.'
A soft chuckle escapes your lips. 'Well, then, love, it is for you to bring us home. For unless Nyx can do more than I think.... You are our passage out of here.'
At the thief's amused snort, she nods.
You move over towards the platform, and assist her down, holding her cradled in your arms just a brief moment longer than absolutely necessary.
**Thank you, my beloved. Thank you for loving me, for bearing with me through all of this.**
A gentle smile and caress on her cheek is your only answer.
She nods in the direction of the fire-gate, and the three of you meet at its ebon barrier. She passes a hand over its surface, momentarily shifting the colors from darkest black to a lighter shade, more indigo in hue. Taking a hand of each of you, she steps through, murmuring, 'Home. I want to go home.'
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
For a moment a collage of images superimpose themselves on each other - the old cabin, the new one, the glade, the temple you have Seen - as your Selves are each called to their particular homes. But you tell yourself you are being mortal right now - and that you have company, so perhaps the glade wouldn’t be quite the thing - and choose the cabin.
It is decidedly a more comfortable place than where you have just been, and you can feel all three of you relaxing. Deamhan, especially, seems relieved to have the fire of the mortal variety and confined to the fireplace. Nyx is looking around, an eyebrow raised - and you see the other eyebrow go up ever so slightly at the sight of the expensive brass basin, but he politely refrains from comment, and keeps his hands visible. You see Deamhan noticing that too and smothering a grin.
**I think I like him,** Deamhan says to you silently. **A thief to the core, but with manners.**
**Reminds me of someone I know, Hunter,** you tease him back. **I do appreciate your not slobbering blood on the carpets in here.**
Deamhan sends you back a feeling of mock-injured dignity, and pulls two chairs together for the two of you, gesturing Nyx to a third. "Welcome to our home, Nyx. A slightly unconventional entry, I suppose -"
"I'm used to those," Nyx responds with a hint of a smile. He glances at the chair, then says, "I appreciate the offer, but I find chairs... er..." He trails off into silence, looking a little embarrassed, and rubs his nose. "Well, I just don't feel comfortable anymore without a wall at my back. Nothing personal, you know, it's just..."
Deamhan laughs understandingly. "Feel free to make yourself comfortable somewhere else, then." When Nyx nods and slides fluidly into the shadows at the edge of the hearth, not far from the fire, Deamhan murmurs, "I wouldn't have chosen there..."
Nyx smiles slightly but says nothing, looking between the two of you. Deamhan is silent a moment, but when nothing is forthcoming from you, prompts you. “Love? You may have understood everything that’s happened so far, but we poor merely mortal folk don’t. Do you know now why the two of us dreamed of Nyx? Why ... whatever that was ... needed his name? He waits until Nyx is looking at you, then eyes the rips in the spidersilk dress with a lascivious grin, and winks at you. **Shame it got ripped. Wasn’t me that did it this time...** He schools his expression back to something proper.
**Hmmm...I never have ripped one of your tunics...** you reply thoughtfully. **Perhaps...**
**You knifed one to pieces, remember? Now answer the question, poor Nyx must be dying of curiosity. And I am too.**
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
You remain silent as the two smile at each other for a long moment, by their expressions obviously communicating in some silent fashion, and then carefully ignore the vampire's libidinous glance when he thought you weren't looking. For a brief, crystalline moment, you wonder what it would be like to be thusly matched… but then carefully tuck that thought deep away, where it won't be likely to creep up and catch you unawares again. You cough softly to cover the moment, and bring the pair back to full attention.
Cordir curls up in her chair, tucking her feet beneath her and leaning slightly against Deamhan's shoulder. Watching her, you wonder for a moment if she has any idea of how much her expressions give away. She looks wan, tired, overwhelmed… and very, very mortal. Nothing seemingly remains of the Power that shone from her eyes earlier. The dichotomy is puzzling, and you lean forward to catch her words as she hesitantly begins to speak, her voice once more tinged with an old dialect of Thoras.
"Well… first, let me just say that I don't always necessarily have any idea what is going on, either." A delicate flush creeps across her face, and her gaze dances away from yours. "The process of my… Awakening… I guess you could call it, is very much a struggle. Rather like the birthing process, in a way - for its not very comfortable, and seems to go on interminably, and while I know it's a good thing in the end, or will be when it's over… for right now, it is frightening, and painful, and …"
Deamhan's hand creeps up to stroke her silvery hair, reassuring and stilling her for a moment. Again, you see that momentary expression of listening on both their faces, then she flashes a tiny, brief smile at him, and continues.
"Perhaps I should start from the beginning…. I remember being born, growing up in Southshire. Teaching the Duke's son how to make mudpies. I remember…" her voice grows slightly strained, as if she is trying with all of her will to control it into evenness. "I remember what my father did, and what I did to him. All these things I can recall. Then, the Triat took me. And for years, I have no memory of what happened. I know I wandered the Realm, and eventually found my way across the seas to Midgaard. I scribbled poems on the walls, for I couldn't trust myself to speak to people just yet, and lived in one of the taller trees in the park for a while."
She smiles ruefully. "To this day, I cannot stand the taste of duck. Any road… my poems began to gain responses, and those led me to Thaygar's Temple. When I crossed the threshold of that place, something Awoke. I understood that the voices I had heard in my madness were the voices of the Three, bound in the Place Between the Pattern and the Void. Thaygar guided me along the path of the Wyrm. That brought me in the right direction, but wasn't quite what my Other Self needed. But She was unable to act directly - most of her strength had gone into … into…" She frowns, searching for the right word. "Bonding? I…"
Cordir falls silent for a moment, and bows her head, allowing her hair to spill like a curtain over her face. Her voice comes softly, barely above a whisper, husky with unshed tears. "I do not know if the soul that I have is my own, or some fragment of the Weaver, if I am who I think I am, if what I have done in my life is by my own choices… or whether it is all Fate. All plotted out, and I simply a puppet of sorts my entire life…."
She raises her head, but keeps her eyes down, staring at her folded hands in her lap. Drawn by her gaze, you glance at them, and are surprised to notice a slight glow here and there, as if her veins were alight… but the luminescence doesn't match the simple traceries of the blood-paths, but swirls and curves. Sharply, you scan Deamhan's arm where it lays across her shoulder, and notice the same faint, faint light, similar, but unique, almost a mirror to hers… You spare a glance down at your own hand, and are relieved to see nothing more than the half-healed scratches and calluses you expected.
Deamhan murmurs something softly for her ears only, but you can read from the timbre that it is something of comfort. She nods, barely, and continues, and you listen with half your attention, the other half observing as her dress slowly seems to be healing, knitting itself back to perfection without her being aware of it. The fibers smooth and reform as you watch, the dirt and marks of the day's travails vanishing in a smooth wave from collar to hem. Blinking, you force your attentiveness fully back to what she is saying.
"I am going to be an Incarnation of the force, the being, the … the… whatever it is… that is called the Weaver. I can already read the Pattern somewhat… and my own is growing stronger. I can Pattern-walk, taking myself to different places and times. The Weaver did that earlier this evening, when She took us to Thaygar's Temple. It's like a double-life… The Triat Incarna within me is almost like a dream, half-remembered, or distant music, unless I call for it. I know certain things, but don't know why I know that particular thing, or what they mean, or how I should interpret them.
"I know that you are important… to me… to what I will be. Like Nameless and Thayren." Her mention of Thaygar's son surprises you; to the best of your knowledge, he had passed out of the Realm decades before, following, perhaps, the Pathway his Father and Mother had taken. No one really knew where any of them were. Nameless was another such as they - remembered, but not seen.
"How, I don't know. I know that you've been important in the past - the sacrifice of your name was asked, so that Thaygar's Ebon Hand would grow stronger. N'Kai was needed to burnish the steel of them, to provide them with a place of holiness and mystery and terror, to hone their skills and their purpose. Your name was needed for the creatures there. Why that name, I don't know, I just know that's where the name went…"
Her eyes search the room, as if looking for answers she knows only lie within, but does not dare yet search there.
"I guess… I guess I'm asking for your patience while I try and learn why you are important. I just don't want to sound like some mad puppeteer… I… I'm almost afraid to talk to you about it, else you start to feel the way I sometimes do - trapped by predestiny or fate or the whim of some great entity locked away somewhere. I guess… I guess I shall simply leave that in your hands. It's your life - it's your decision. What would you have me do?"
You watch tensely, not sure just how Nyx will react. You don't really think that he will shun you for what you are, and what you are becoming... not really. Slowly he turns from you and stares into the fire. The silence that fills the room is almost stifling, but you know better than to break it.
Even without the Weaver's sight, you can feel several roads sliding together, forming a nexus of possibility. It is no longer in your hands to decide what will happen... and then Nyx speaks.
"My life has been long and varied," he says, his eyes never leaving the fire. "I have lived in the service of Gods and Goddesses both Good and Evil, and have fought beside those who would one day join their ranks. I have walked among creatures of all kinds in lands of amazing beauty and incredible terror. I have aided in the discovery of jungles and ruined temples. I have snuck by guards, both human and inhuman, and stolen treasures that defy description. I have hidden in the shadows and listened to the whispers of the land, waiting for information that may prove vital. I have been the vital part of many plans, and the key the destruction of many more. I have been a warrior, a wizard, a hunter, a priest, a spy, a common man, and an unseen shadow. And from this I have learned that a life without purpose..." He turns to face you. "..is a wasted life."
"When we visited Lord Thaygar's temple, I was reminded of how things used to be... and that I never felt so alive as when I was a member of the Ebon Hand." There is a glint in his eyes. At first you thought it was a trick of the firelight, but you realize now that it is something much more.
"I would like the chance to find that feeling again," he says, "and if you believe that I may be of some use to you, I would be happy to aid in any way I can."
(The story continues in The Tale of Magda.)