Shadows, An Answer

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By Jahiliya of the House of Veladorn

(What has Gone Before: At this time, Cordir had been kidnapped from her wedding to Keller Amberlin D'Augustine, and "forced" to join the Black Conclave of Nashite. (This was done to end the relationship in a way that the Paladin would accept -- he had said he would only leave her if she was evil. Therefore, that was arranged.) The "Week of Madness" had occurred <All the TFC player files were corrupted, and later restored>, and Molo "changed" her memories (in an RP sense) to ones more suitable for his purposes... Specifically, that she was married to one of his followers, Prince Caanan.)

A single, carefully rolled scroll is delivered to Cordir by a black raven who stays only long enough to let her untie the scroll from his leg. It reads:

I. Shadows: an answer
Within each heart lies madness:
the extremes of anger and love, fear and apathy,
coiling endlessly like rising smoke.
We stand all 'round a fire, our backs to it,
and shrink from the monstrous shadows on the cavern wall,
too terrified to turn and face what may be there,
and so we never see we are not alone;
we never see the raging light of the fire
leaping for the sky with all its strength.
Only to a few is given the barest wisp of something else,
the thinnest tendril of smoke reaching out from the fire,
a hint of what awaits if one should turn.
Half memory, half dream, never understood, never fully grasped
save perhaps in the very moment before turning
to be blinded by the light.

II. Of the Wyrm
A woman, slender, fine-boned, scars her only bracelets,
arresting smoky eyes: my friend, sister of my heart,
dearer than life to me.
Bowing in worship to the highest servant of the Three,
casting on the wind words that moved the world,
glorifying Their Names with fear and love and strength.
Searching, seeking, well loved of him she served,
growing in wisdom and service and Their sight:
for her the Fire cast its shadows clear and sharp.

III. Of the Wyld, Part One
Her Master gone, torn from her,
honored by Those in Whose Names he served:
When the fire flares, so too must the shadow.
Soul half lost, heart shattered,
madness but a ragged breath away:
Silence sundered Bard from song.
But then, two figures, shining even in shadow:
one whose passion shone bright as the fire itself,
the other's soul as loss-shadowed as her own.
Solace; comfort; friendship; perhaps even
the first easings of the desperate madness of sorrow and loss--
then, as two shadows reached for one another, love.
Joy of friends, chagrin of enemies,
that two whose shadows reached so far
should turn together to face the fire.
And darker plots afoot than mere jealous rumors;
but as the wedding began,
no shadows, save in memory; only light.
A sudden unease upon the gathering;
the Priestess ceased to speak;
and one in the shadows of death made known his plan.
Rupture; chaos; grief; a return to madness:
dark shadows rising, cloaking her,
holding her apart from her heart's light.
Death a black-draped trickster--
not the hoped-for release on the far side of night,
but only a plunge deeper into shadow, the Mark now irrevocable.

And I stood by, and watched it all,
felt my own shadows writhe in a mocking dance
as all my words fled from the roaring night.

IV. Of the Wyld, Part Two
Weeks of madness and grief,
hatred subsuming all prior memory,
service to Them all but forgotten--
dark and shadowed ground,
fertile for the planting of whatever seed
an artful tongue should study to sow.
New beliefs, planted with care,
soon taking root, never ruining the soil as intended:
a true heart can serve but truly.
The shadows now seen in a new light,
creations of He Who made the world,
mystery of His perfection.
But suddenly, a week of torment;
tortured fever-dreams as the world went mad,
torn down and remade at His whim.
And as the Bard's soul was melted and recast,
that same one who once had failed to sully it,
though he tore her from love and light,
stood forth once again before his own master,
and claimed this one soul
to twist, to shatter, to destroy.
False dreams, untrue memories--
visions of a Prince now lost,
of their deaths at the hand of the passionate one.
The love that once made the shadows dance,
now forgotten, existence negated,
chance itself strongly denied.
And the dark Lich smiled;
for this soul, outwardly pure,
now lived every moment for him.

V. Weaver Ascendant
But of the Three who gave her song,
who blessed her path and knew her heart,
the third now claimed her once again.
That One tested Her webs and found them strong,
strong enough to hold the Bard,
wound tight 'round though she knew it not.
Wound tighter still round he who claimed for prey
one beloved of the Three,
who thought that same web severed.
And the Weaver moved,
like a flame, like a shadow,
passing through the hearts of those who loved Cordir.
Spoke the vampire lord,
in his cave of darkness,
shadow all his domain:
"Death came for her once,
Once did snare her,
Now shall set her free again."
Spoke a blood-souled cleric,
deep in the shadow of Lord and Weaver,
true friend to the one forsaken by fire:
"I, my Lord, will be her Death,
I, my Lord, shall spill her blood,
I, my Lord, will set her free."
But the Mark was not yet to be lifted,
for the Bard did not know of the Dark One's lies,
and thought herself betrayed by her sister-in-shadow.
The Dark One smiled, and saved the bard,
well pleased at her renewed devotion,
well pleased at the pain of betrayal that rent her heart.
But the Weaver too smiled,
tested Her webs anew,
and found them stronger in fire and shadow.
For are not all things three?
Wyrm, Wyld, Weaver:
So it has been, so it is now, so it shall be forever.
Death once trickster,
Death once thwarted,
Death now bound to set her free.

Nothing comes without a price.
Two friends gone in bringing death:
And what of the third, met with open eyes?

Sister of my heart, I wish to be clear, so let me say straight what I have said slanted: You claim those cruel who say Molo stole you, who say you once called Keller beloved. I say not so; I say I remember your love for him, and his for you; I say I remember the day Molo took you. That alone can be forgiven; the Triat work in strange ways, and even Molo but serves Their purposes in the end. But to hear you deny what I know to be true! You, my sister bard, who speaks the truth when none wish to hear it, who served the Triat and Their servant so long and so well! Molo has given you those dreams of Canaan; Molo has created your visions of Keller killing you both; Molo has planted lies and deceit where once there was truth. Lord Khore and your heart-sister Mystil saw it the same, and sought to deliver you of these false dreams, believing that only the destruction of the body Molo had warped could free you. But they failed, and the Lich used their failure to make you believe in him still more, telling you your sister had betrayed you. But that was only the second time a loved one had brought Death to you, and there is power in threes... Before you deny it and me, think on it well: if what I have said is true, then do you not wish to be free? Do you not wish to serve your Lord, or whomever you are called to serve, with open eyes and a clear heart? And if it is false, if what I have seen and believed is itself no more than a lying dream, is it not better to know?

Think on it, and call to my raven when you wish to reply; he will be waiting. Walk well in the shadows, my sister, and go always with my love.

~ Jahiliya

In Answer to "Shadows"

(written by Cordir)

Dear Jahiliya:

I received your letter - as of yet, I am not certain what to make of it. Having spend the last several days examining every memory and recollection, talking to witnesses, and trying to sort out my mind, I can say I have only found more questions, and few answers.

Some things I now know for certain: Keller DID slay me at my wedding. Whether it was his wedding to me, or mine to Canaan, I am still unsure.. but if it was at mine, why would he do such a thing? In any case, Keller now loves someone else - a young, unsullied maid named Kylera. So much for vaunted pledges of "forever and always, past when the stars burn out, and the world ends". Additionally, I know that I DID serve the Triat, but They no longer have Immortal representation within the Realms - with the exception of Lorna's confused babbling - for the Lord Thaygar is well and truly gone, for whatever reasons. And lastly, that NO ONE save the gods themselves seem to know exactly what happened at my wedding or how I came to be Conclave - for I
have heard four different stories from four people who were witnesses.

If all you say is true (and, I do say this - your words carry more weight than those of any mortal - and most immortals)… well.. there lies the greatest question. Let us suppose that I had such a bright love - and was ripped from it, only to be later forgotten by him. Let us suppose I was the true servant of the Triat - only to loose my Liege and direction from Them, to have my prayers unheard. Would it not be kind, then, to grant Lethe's gift of forgetting? I truly sense no malice in the Arch-Lich, at least towards me. He has not tried to force me to any acts or actions abhorrent to me, and in fact was quite harsh in his assessment of those in the Conclave who were hurtful and contemptuous of me. His demeanor has been rather that of a protective parent, giving me a mentor and freedom to do and learn largely as I will. So, if He has, as you say, cast some spell upon me, it seems a gentle, sheltering one.

For now, although it does cause a painful twinge every now and then - such as the ill-wrought bit of bardic angst I spewed forth in Redferne's - I think I shall stay as I am, whatever that may be. The Conclave is much like the Hand in many ways, and I am comfortable there. Molo's demands are few and fair, although his weekly "gifting" of me to the Great Implementor causes me both delight and tribulation. For that brief time, I am not Witch, not Bard, not Oathbreaker, simply Cordir, who knows how to scrub floors well, and is learning how to bathe demons.

I pray my lack of... courage? defiance? curiosity? .. call it what you will does not make you think less of me. I am trying to find my way as best as I can. My heart is often shambles - remind me to tell you of what has occurred with Gwyrdain and Deamhan, and Zara's recent accusations - and my memory a box of puzzle pieces.. if the past adds more complexity, I think I shall simply thank the gods that it is hidden for now. In this case, at this time, I think a little ignorance is bliss. I hope, once more, that this does not lessen me in your eyes, taking the "easy" route… if it does, let me know, and I'll bother you not. If it does not, then I hope to take you up on your kind offer of company and assistance. I enjoy speaking with you, and hope to do so more in the future - I have missed you, sister.

- Cordir