Closed Witches Wick

Experiments with Death and Scented Candles

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Considered one of the most mysterious cities in Mizahar, Alvadas is called The City of Illusions. It is the home of Ionu and the notorious Inverted. This city sits on one of the main crossroads through The Region of Kalea.

Witches Wick

Postby Madeira Dusk on February 8th, 2018, 9:22 pm

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    89th of Winter, 517
"Serenity! It's good to see you!"

Madeira swept into the Sanity Centre bringing with her a wave of bright smiles and sparkling congeniality that was somewhat at odds with her appearance. Red circles were etched in the skin under the Spiritists eyes, and her lips were cracked and chewed. In one hand was a thin red journal with a binding stiff with age and lack of care, in the other was a happy yellow duck toy on wheels, and on her back was a rucksack that jangled with the tinkling of glass and metal. A powerful scent of lemons followed her in. She was one of many in the city who was using skin cream and perfume to disguise the lack of freshness in her clothes, as laundry was one of the many things sacrificed in the water shortage. The hem of her long, tightly laced dress was dark with city dust, and rusty spots of dried blood had collected on her sleeves.

The small office was made even smaller by the towers of cabinets, loose papers and stacks of books, and Madeira's grinning enthusiasm quickly suffocated what was left. Serenity's fiery curls, which hung limp and in bad need of a wash, were bent over the paperwork on her desk. The tired hunch of her shoulders deflected the Spiritists gushing charm like a dike, and at once Madeira realized she was right to expect Serenity to be short on patience and amiability today. The water shortage was making everyone irritable, and it's been years since the only staff of the Sanity Centre afforded the young Spiritist the same welcome and friendliness she gave confused newcomers.

Serenity lifted her head slowly and sighed through her nose.

"What do you need, Miss Craven."

Madeira kept the pleasant smile after reading Serenity's body language, but adjusted her own posture to tone down the friendliness and act more contrite. She stood in front of the desk with her hands folded in front of her body.

"I don't mean to put you out, Serenity, but theres a candlemaker I need to find. A young Konti called Avela Sallis. Can you find me a description of her house?"

"You know there are plenty of candlemakers in the Bazaar, right?"

"I need this one."

The shrewd Serenity narrowed her eyes at the Spiritist, taking a mental inventory of the sleeplessness in her eyes and just how many things she was bringing with her to see a candlemaker.

"That poor girl. This is just for candles, right?" Serenity's fingers drummed on her desk uncomfortably.

"Naturally." Madeira smiled even as she reached for her dijed, pushing it forward and letting it float to the uncertain Serenity on the sound of her voice. She shaped it ham-handedly, forcing the dijed to infuse in that one word and subtly speak of good intentions.

Serenity blinked hard, but the fumbling shot at hypnotism didn't seem to work. The older woman was still sizing Madeira up like she could see deceit written on her skin. Madeira cleared her throat and tried a different tract.

"Look, I know this girl. We met earlier this season. She's has a skill I need for a simple experiment and I have the means to pay her for indulging my curiosity. It's nothing dangerous, it’s nothing... Well, it's kind of weird, but it's not dangerous, at any
rate. And if she says no I'll leave her alone. But can you at least give her the chance to refuse me herself?" she persuaded gently.

Serenity was quiet for a moment, but relented when she recognized that the Craven wasn't lying. She got reluctantly to her feet and fumbled around one of the many towers of ledgers behind her desk.

"Fine. Fine. Just don't make trouble for anyone, ok?" she said in a tone that said she still remembered what happened with Dexius and the fiasco at the Crooked Playhouse.

"Yes Ma'am", Madeira nodded, doing her best to keep the anticipation out of her voice.

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••


Half a bell later Madeira was standing in front of a little cottage with the journal and duck under her arm, and the scrap of paper with a description of Avela's house in front of her nose. Surely this must be the place, she thought.

She stepped forward and rapt smartly on the door.

"Avela?" She called through the wood. "It's Madeira, from the expedition. I have a work commission for you. Can we talk?"
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Witches Wick

Postby Avela on February 10th, 2018, 5:34 am

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"Shyke!"

The exclamation hadn't been because of Avela's visitor--the Konti girl still hadn't noticed that Madeira was at the door--but because she had been sitting by the hearth, stirring a pot full of melted wax scented with lavender and had set a small vial of lavender oil down, uncapped, on the floor by her feet. The vial had, as was the tendency of all vials where Avela was involved, fallen over, and Avela was now in possession of a very fragrant, rather wasteful, slowly worsening mess. She quickly plucked the vial off the ground and righted it, holding it up to the light and examining it, then let out a groan. Half the vial had been lost to clumsiness. Avela stoppered it, and was just about to deal with the mess on her floor when a knock sounded at the door.

Avela's eyes widened, and she straightened up. It was coming to the end of her first season on her own, and she rarely got visitors outside of her family or people who were coming on business. Madeira's voice proclaimed this visit to be the latter, and Avela quickly scrambled to her feet, running over to the door. She ran a hand through her hair to gather it at the nape of her neck in a poor attempt to neaten it--there wasn't much she could do for the state of it with the water restrictions, but she could make an attempt, then wiped her lavender-scented hands on her skirt and opened the door.

"Madeira!" she said, letting a puff of lavender-scented air out into the street. Avela was aware that she had to look a mess, in her work clothes and slippers with her hair floating in every direction. She was definitely not in the sort of state to be entertaining guests, let alone a Craven, but she fought down the embarrassment, putting a smile on her face. "Uh...yes, a work commission." She cast a nervous glance behind her at the mess she had left of her home-turned-workshop before stepping away from the door. "Er...why don't you come in?"

As Madeira entered, Avela would make a quick sweep of the place, carefully setting the wicks she was planning to use on her desk, moving molds aside so there was room to walk, tossing away scraps of paper from her own private Konti language studies, and grimacing at the state of her unmade bed. She snatched the coat off of the seat of her one chair, tossing it onto her bed, and quickly wiped up the rest of the lavender mess with a rag. All of which was accomplished in a flurry of motion as Avela turned towards Madeira, holding the rag behind her back with one hand and gesturing at the chair with the other.

"Uh...have a seat!" she said. "I'm sorry about the mess. You've caught me at an...odd time. How may I help you today?"

There. She could be professional, no matter what her stepmother said. Avela tried to make sure her smile didn't waver.

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Witches Wick

Postby Madeira Dusk on February 14th, 2018, 7:11 am

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    The overwhelming scent of flowers nearly blew Madeira off her feet as Avela's door was whipped open. The Konti on the other side was all nervous energy and scattered thoughts as she wiped her hands on her skirt and tucked her hair behind her ears. She looked so young, with her wide blue eyes and halo of flyaway hair. Too young to be living on her own. Madeira had to remind herself that this girl in the middle of puberty was probably older than she was. Just like how she and Ssanya could be mistaken to be the same age, though the Dhani was eighty years her senior. Still, she couldn’t help a flare of sisterly sympathy as she stepped inside and played politely blind to the mess around her.

    Her own room she had always kept painfully neat. Yet recently, having moved in with a mad Kelvic, several ghosts and a lunatic cat, she had learned to tolerate the inevitable chaos. As the Konti whipped around the room cleaning what she could and hiding what she could not, Madeira detangled herself from her mysteriously jangling rucksack and left it by the door, and the duck toy in her hand she set very deliberately on the floor far from anything fragile.

    Eventually Avela offered her the only chair in front of what looked like a worktable. Plaster moulds, waxes, dyes and things she couldn't name were scattered across it in what looked like a completely deliberate disorder.

    "I'm sorry to catch you in the middle of... that." Madeira glanced at the caldron. "But I need some help and you seem like the person to ask."

    She spread the journal across her lap and flipped through the pages, at last landing on a page full of cramped writing around a stencil drawing of a short, leafy plant.

    "Avela, how do you feel about magic?" she asked, glancing up under her lashes to see the effect of dropping the taboo subject on her unsuspecting host, but plunging on regardless. "I've been doing some studying in the Craven library. See, my family has been connected to this city for a very long time. But every once in a while, a Craven goes wandering." She held up the book so the Konti could see the spine, where the name Luke Craven was embossed in black script.

    "I don't think Luke was a particularly powerful man, but he was very devout. He made the pilgrimage to Black Rock decades ago and wrote a fascinating account . And he makes a note of something in his journal that I've never heard of before.” Smoothing the book back across her lap, a searching fingernail skimmed over one incomprehensible squiggle after another, until she found the passage she was looking for. Madeira cleared her throat.

    "I at once took the plant to be a cousin to mint.” she read. “Except for it's glassy transparency, it has much in common to the aromatic herb. I had a handful of these serrated mint-like leaves stewing in a pot over the fire to make tea, when the first ghost arrived. She stood there by the fire, looking quite at peace, and didn't acknowledge me. I designed to do the same. But not ten chimes since she arrived, I had a dozen ghosts crowding around my fire, guttering the flame and looking untroubled.

    “At this point, I spoke to the first ghost. I asked: ‘what draws you here?’ She looked up at me then, and smiled in the most gracious way. She told me they liked the smell. Asking around the Island later it appeared this plant, called Wraithmint, had been used to calm ghosts for centuries. Some locals burned it, some stewed it, some left it scattered around the floors of their home. The ghosts I have encountered all agree it has a most pleasing scent and swear they can almost taste it.”

    Madeira looked up, and the light of discovery in her eyes just threw the insomnia beneath them in even darker relief. But at once it was apparent that the Konti didn't attach the same meaning to it that she did.

    "Avela, he found an exception to the rule that ghosts cannot use their living senses!  Here are ghosts who can smell and taste with the power of this strange little plant. And since this rule has already been proven wrong, I was thinking, perhaps, there might be other substances that can break it too. I want to see if we together can make some sort of incense that can calm ghosts just like wraithmint can!”

    “I can pay you, of course”, she continued hastily. “Whatever you make in a day, I’ll double it. I just… I would really like your help.”
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    Witches Wick

    Postby Avela on February 20th, 2018, 12:14 am

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    Avela shifted in place, her hands behind her back as Madeira took her seat. She was clearly nervous, but she started to calm as the other woman mentioned needing her help, opening a journal. Her natural curiosity appeared to overcome her nervousness as she leaned forward, trying to get a better look at the sketch of the plant.

    At Madeira's short inquiry about magic, Avela's eyes widened. She thought back to the magic that Madeira had used during their excursion--it would be difficult to ever forget that the woman in front of her was a mage. But...

    "I..." Avela gave the shut door a meaningful glance, as if checking to make sure that no one would barge in on them. "I don't know. I've never really thought about it. I don't...I mean, I know you're a m-mage..." There she was, stumbling over the term. "...but I don't think you mean any harm. I'm..." Avela stopped herself, because there was no way she could admit to being curious. Not here, not now, no matter how true it was. "...willing to work around it."

    There. That sounded like the sort of thing a professional would say.

    That was really all that Avela had time to say, because the rest of the conversation was taken up by Madeira's story. And Avela could only listen in fascination to the story of Luke Craven and the plant from Black Rock. Avela squinted at the plant in the drawing. She supposed it did look like mint, from the mint leaves that she had sometimes used for scent. But a mint plant that drew ghosts...Avela shivered, feeling cold despite the fact that her back was to the fire...

    "You want to do this here?" Avela asked, looking around at her small cottage. The thought of summoning a ghost here...but no, Avela was being silly. Madeira would be able to control it if anything did arrive, wouldn't she?

    She had to admit, the offer of double pay was tempting. Avela unclasped her hands from behind her back, tugging uncertainly at her hair.

    "To be honest, I've never...done anything like that before," she said. "I make scented candles, yes, but all of the scents I use are fairly...ordinary." She swallowed, hard, and tried to put on a brave face as she looked back up at Madeira. "I would be willing to give it a try, though. You said that boiling the leaves releases the scent? If we can do that in oil instead of water, I can make candles out of it."

    Avela wondered, as she spoke, if she was going to regret this. But she'd gone too far to turn back now, and besides, hadn't she promised herself that she wouldn't stray away from adventure?

    "What substances did you have in mind?"

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    Witches Wick

    Postby Madeira Dusk on February 22nd, 2018, 8:03 am

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      "Thank you, Avela!" Madeira let out the breath she didn't realize she had been holding. "I haven't tried anything like this either, so we’d be learning together."

      She knew she had been right to seek out Avela. The Konti was meek and nervous, but there was a curiosity about her that was greater than both. She was not comfortable with the idea of magic, that much was obvious in everything from her stuttering words to her stiff shoulders. Yet the fact that she hadn't turned her away spoke volumes about her willingness to face the unknown.

      "There are a couple substances that might be useful", she said thoughtfully, closing the book on her lap. "But lets start with one at a time." because we need to ease you into this slowly, she failed to add.

      "There is a substance called soulmist that you make from your body. Its the only thing that ghosts consume, and they're very attracted to it. If we could somehow put that into a candle to… spread the scent, as it were. That would be very useful."

      She got up from her chair and dug around in her rucksack by the door. From within she pulled out a glass jar containing three balls of sticky, rather foul-looking black dough.

      "I wanted to use fresh soulmist, so I just brought the raw dough." she explained. "I'll make some here."

      The Spiritist had just extracted a piece and popped it into her mouth when she paused and looked around at the Konti. She studied her from her white blonde hair to the scales spilling from below the ankle of her trousers. And she must have found what she was looking for, for she swallowed her dough noisily and held the jar out to Avela with a smile.

      "Would you like to try and make soulmist too?" she asked, and there was a kind of awkward hesitation in her voice. "I can teach you how. It's a useful skill to know, should you meet a spirit."

      How would the Cravens react if they knew she was teaching Spiritism to people outside the family? How would the Speakers react? A year ago that thought might have stopped her. But she had grown enough to make these decisions, and maybe Avela had too.
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      Witches Wick

      Postby Avela on February 23rd, 2018, 5:45 am

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      Soulmist...

      Avela nodded quickly at Madeira's explanation, attempting to seem like someone who was competent, professional, and absorbing information quickly. Unfortunately, with the nervousness that was obvious across her face, it really only succeeded in making her look like there was something wrong with her neck. She really was listening, although this was definitely on the stranger end of things she had done. She couldn't even think about how she would be able to make candles out of soulmist, though. It would all depend on what kind of material it was. From the sound of it, she guessed that it was a gas, which would be difficult, but depending on how thick the gas was, it might be possible.

      Yes, this was good, Avela thought. Focus on the task at hand, on the problem. Forget that magic was even involved in it at all. That was the way to go about things.

      "Um..." she said. "What kind of substance is soulmist exactly? If we're going to make a candle out of it, it needs to be something that can mix evenly into wax, so a liquid would be easiest."

      Madeira made it sound like ghosts 'scented' the mixture, so Avela started thinking about it the same way that she thought about any scented candle. "If it's solid, we can try to make an infused oil," she said. "I don't know if it'll work on soulmist, but you can infuse oil with herbal and floral scents and then use that oil in candles. Or we can..."

      She trailed off as Madeira brought out the 'dough'. It was clear that Avela had been thinking about things entirely the wrong way. What exactly was inside of that? It looked foul, like it had turned. She couldn't quite help the grimace that came to her face as Madeira tore off a piece, swallowing it. The sight turned her stomach a little.

      She certainly wasn't expecting Madeira to hand the dough to her. Avela stepped back quickly, her eyes widening in surprise. Had she heard the woman right? "M-Make soulmist?" she asked, her voice coming out in a squeak. "Oh no, I can't--I mean, I'm not--." Not a mage. Not a Spiritist.

      Besides, the dough looked vile. Avela swallowed hard, averting her eyes.

      She couldn't possibly...

      OOCAvela may need some, or a lot, of convincing, haha.

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      Postby Madeira Dusk on March 8th, 2018, 4:41 am

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        Madeira knew it was a big risk just to offer to teach Avela magic. Had anyone else refused, she would have packed everything away and pretend it had never happened. She had nothing to gain from showing the Konti anything, and a lot to lose if she told a Listener or a Craven about Madeira's loose tongue. But the waver in Avela's voice, and the way she couldn't seem to look her in the eye, told her the refusal wasn't as sure as she wanted it to seem. And there was something about her that made Madeira want to persuade her.

        Still, she nodded in assent, and gave her a reassuring smile.

        "You're right, I apologize." she said, nodding solemnly. And perhaps it was coincidence that when she put the jar back down by her bag, it was still in full view of the nervous Konti.

        "To answer your question", she continued, sitting back down with a new empty jar, "soulmist is not a liquid. It's not... anything, really. It's etherial. Watch."

        She closed her eyes and her whole body seemed to pause as she began to focus inward. Her consciousness sank down to her soul, and she concentrated on pulling it forward to the dough in her belly. The small piece of her astral body soaked through the dough, and as soon as it was detached from her body it began to change. What was once her astral body began to decay, turning into the substance that ghosts were made of. A coolness invaded her belly as she forced this piece of her soul to die and turn into soulmist. Once it was done, she cupped her hands to her mouth and gave a hard, choking hack. When she pulled them away her hands were brimming with a substance that was not quite liquid, and not quite gas, but something in between. It coiled languidly in her palms, little tendrils of the pearly substance caressing her fingertips.

        She tipped her hands forward into the waiting jar, and held it up for Avela's inspection.

        "It's completely harmless. And it will incorporate into anything, luckily." she dipped her fingers in, grabbing a finger full of the substance and brushing it across the back of her wrist. It sat like a sheen of mist over her skin for a moment, then disappeared. "It doesn’t disappear into the glass only because I don't want it to. You have this modicum of control over it if you were the one to make it. For this same reason, a ghost can't take it unless I let them."

        Her pale eyes glittered mischievously as she looked Avela over. “I understand why you don't want to learn to harness it, though. The unknown can be scary for little girls. But that means if you are ever confronted by a ghost, you must make sure to scream really really loud and hope someone else deals with it for you.", she goaded in a voice quite unlike her own. There was something venomous on her lips, but her eyes were clear and focused, at odds with her dismissive words as she studied Avela’s reaction.

        If curiosity couldn’t make the Konti reach for the magic, maybe she could wake something more defiant that would.
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        Witches Wick

        Postby Avela on March 9th, 2018, 3:49 am

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        Avela relaxed a little as Madeira set the jar down, although the other woman didn't exactly remove it from sight. She tried to calm down, to settle back into the spirit of things, but even as Madeira spoke her eyes kept drifting, unbidden, to the jar on the table.

        She really shouldn't be curious about this sort of thing, should she? Magic was not the sort of thing her family would have approved of, the sort of thing 'nice young ladies' did. And yet, she couldn't help but wonder...what it would it feel like?

        To touch that sort of power? To channel it?

        To do what Madeira did and call up the dead?

        Avela breathed in, aware that her attention was lapsing. She turned toward Madeira almost a little too sharply as the other woman started to create soulmist, the movement reminiscent of a student whose teacher had caught them daydreaming. The Konti girl watched with wide eyes as Madeira quite literally coughed out the substance. The whole process looked...honestly uncomfortable, and a little gross.

        She really shouldn't have been as intrigued or as curious as she was...

        Avela leaned forward hesitantly, examining the substance as Madeira started explaining its properties. It was an odd substance, to be sure, but she thought it would mix into wax. If the way it acted when Madeira swiped her finger through it was any indication, it almost reminded her of a salve, or a cream. She could try to put a little of it in some melted wax and see if it would disperse. It wouldn't hurt.

        ...if you were the one to make it...

        Avela looked up at Madeira's words, her mouth half-open on a suggestion for the candle. The words stopped her in her tracks. If she were the one to make it...

        Madeira didn't stop there, though. Her words washed over Avela, a constant stream of condescension. Each word felt like a little slap, cutting through to the core of her. It made her feel like she was sitting at the family dinner table, like her stepmother was sneering down at her again, about to say something cutting. It wasn't just that the words were harsh--it was that they were true. Every word was a word that had kept Avela up at night, that had haunted her into her days. Because she was afraid. She was young. She didn't want people to think of her as a little girl.

        And she was getting really, really, really tired of people pointing that out.

        A spark of defiance flashed through her, burning in her gut and making its way through her veins. Avela's eyes flashed. Before she realized what she was doing, she was reaching forward, placing one hand down on the jar. She blinked in surprise, looking from her hand, to the jar, to Madeira.

        She shouldn't have done that. She really shouldn't have done that.

        But it was too late. Things had already been set into motion. The spark was still there, and Avela couldn't imagine letting Madeira see her back down now.

        "What do I have to do?" she asked.

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        Postby Madeira Dusk on March 17th, 2018, 3:39 am

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          There it was. Avela's eyes flashed at the goading, her lips compressing into a hard, thin line as she worked through some swirling thoughts in her head. Then suddenly, the Konti reached for the jar and asked bluntly what she had to do. Madeira couldn't quite keep the wicked smirk off her face.

          "You have to eat it, for a start." She gently took the jar out from under Avela's hand and reached inside, surfacing with one of the small balls of dough. She held it out for her on the palm of her hand. "There are many different recipes for soulmist, but this is mine: equal portions black flour, goat's cheese, raw egg and my own blood.” she raised a pale brow as if daring the girl to turn her nose up at it.

          Madeira shook back the sleeve of her opposite arm and turned the soft underside to the light trickling in from between the slats of the shuttered window. Thrown into relief by the yellowish light, it was very easy to see that every square inch of skin was covered in scars. Most were puncture marks, or thin cuts no more than a centimetre long, but there were so many that they often overlapped.

          "Blood is very important to Spiritism", she said, revolving her wrist slowly from side to side so the Konti could see all the gory details. "It's vital to soulmist, for one thing. And you saw me summon Emma with a circle painted in blood. Even if you take this no further than making soulmist for the benefit of the occasional spirit, you have to be prepared to do this to yourself. Unless you use someone else's blood. But somehow you don't seem like the type." Madeira shook her sleeve back over her wrist.

          "But before you take it", she closed her fist over the ball, “you need to know a little about the soul." For a moment she ruminated on a decade of her rather strange education and tried to find a way to condense it to a few minutes. "So, there are many layers to a soul, right? Aura, astral body, persona and soulcore. But we're just going to focus on the astral body. The astral body is what moves your physical body. But if your soul separated from your body, usually through death, it will change and develop into your new... ‘casing', called soulmist. That's why ghosts look the way they do."

          She paused, making sure Avela was following before continuing.

          "So right now you need to make dead soulmist out of your living astral body. It's easier than it sounds. You chew the dough as you concentrate. Feel more than your body to find what is moving your body. Pull it into the dough, and with it and a force of will you can fool that small piece of your soul into thinking it’s dead. Once the dough dissolves and grows cold, you've succeeded.”

          She held out the dough again, and smiled reassuringly. “Give it a try.”
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          Madeira Dusk
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          Witches Wick

          Postby Avela on March 20th, 2018, 3:16 am

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          Avela looked dubiously at the small ball of dough in the Spiritist's hands, her frown deepening and her resolve wavering as the other woman listed the ingredients. The first three were not all that odd - none of them would be out of place in a kitchen, and if Avela had seen them in any other context, she might have just assumed that whoever had gathered them was about to bake some bread. But the last...

          She remembered the blood that Madeira had used to summon her ghost. She hadn't paid close attention to the ritual then, but she would never be able to forget that part. Her stomach turned as she looked over the impressive array of scars that crossed Madeira's arms. Avela's gaze drifted unbidden to her own arms, smooth-skinned and unmarred beneath their scales, mostly hidden by the sleeves of her dress. She remembered the flash of pain she had felt earlier in the season, when she had cut herself with her knife. Her stomach roiled, and she swallowed. She would never be able to do that to herself, she thought. But the thought of using someone else's blood was even worse.

          Wait? Using someone else's blood? Why was she even thinking about things like that?

          She was taking this entirely too far for an experiment. Entirely too far to just be proving a point.

          Still, dry-mouthed, scared, and disgusted, she reached out for the dough anyway, only to have Madeira close her fingers around it, keeping it away. Avela blinked up at her in confusion, but before she could even ask why, Madeira had started discussing the soul. It had the tone of a lecture, something that Avela hadn't heard since she was a child, and she found an odd part of herself wishing for a quill and paper so that she could write this down. She listened to Madeira with wide-eyed attention. She hadn't even known that a soul could have so many parts in it in the first place.

          Aura, astral body, persona, soul core. Avela had no idea what any of those meant, but as curious as she was, she focused on the 'astral body', the portion of the soul that Madeira had chosen to direct her attention to. Her brow furrowed beneath her scales as she tried to make sense of it all.

          "So, ghosts...are just astral bodies?" she asked. That question was more an idle curiosity than anything else - her next question came from somewhere more practical. As Avela reached out, taking the dough from Madeira, she held it gingerly between thumb and index finger for a moment before looking up at the other girl.

          "What...what happens to my soul when I do this?" she asked. "You said a portion of it dies. Does it ever, um, come back?" The thought of somehow using up all her soul made Avela's stomach twist more, but she looked at Madeira. Madeira had created so much more soulmist than Avela had imagined, probably. She had the marks to prove it. And if she could still make soulmist, that meant that she still had her soul.

          That meant a little couldn't hurt, even if it sounded gross.

          She squinted at the ball of dough in her hand, her natural curiosity warring with instinct that tried to convince her to throw the revolting thing away. Avela gave Madeira one more hesitant glance before taking a deep breath.

          Bottoms up...

          Before she could have second thoughts, Avela popped the dough in her mouth. Almost immediately, when the taste hit her tongue, she wanted to spit it back out. Her gorge rose, and for a moment, Avela sat there with wide eyes, actually thinking that she was about to throw up. She reminded herself to concentrate, forcing herself to sit still and hold the disgusting thing in her mouth for just a moment longer.

          Chew. Concentrate.

          Avela closed her eyes, beginning to chew the dough. She tried to think past the initial disgust and revulsion, tried to work past all of that to just feel. At first, she couldn't feel anything other than nausea, and her growing sense of embarrassment, couldn't feel anything more than self-consciousness as she felt Madeira's eyes on her.

          Deeper...

          She tried to think deeper than that, tried to work past the nausea and the revulsion. Deeper than all of the physical sensations that surrounded her, Avela focused on breathing in and out, until the rest of the world started to fade away.

          There was something moving there, Avela thought, somewhere within her beneath the nausea and the embarrassment and the disgust and the fear. Something that went beyond her heartbeat, beyond the tightening in her throat. Something...

          Was the dough growing cold, or was that just wishful thinking? Avela tried to reach out for that something, tried to grasp it and guide it into the dough...

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          ~Avela~
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          Avela
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