Solo Guiding Light

Can a man devoted to death save the lives of those dear to him?

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A lawless town of anarchists, built on the ruins of an ancient mining city. [Lore]

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Guiding Light

Postby Anja Nightwatcher on October 3rd, 2018, 5:53 pm

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Fall 36, 518
20th Bell
The Dust Bed

A howl pierced the silence of the Dust Bed, sending Anja springing upright in his bedroll, heart thudding like a drum as adrenaline coursed through his veins. The man shot to his feet, instantly awake, and fumbled for his bastard sword before dashing shirtless out of his tent and towards the noise, a vial of soulmist clutched in his hand. The brightness of Leth illuminated the Dust Bed almost as brightly as Syna might have.

The rocky terrain surrounding Anja’s tent was still, and the Spiritist froze and scanned the area as tension and anxiety coursed through his muscles. Anja felt something bump against his shoulder and nearly jumped out of his skin before he recognized his strider companion’s pale white form. She let out a few low, nervous rumbles and Anja put out a hand against her shoulder to calm her. Once more, a howl pierced through the night. But now that his senses weren’t muddied by sleep, the Drykas could sense something strange about it. The howl did not sound like that of the wolves that roamed the Dust Bed. It was higher pitched and somehow more sorrowful.

Anja stepped barefoot across the rocky ground, trying to ignore the terrible sense of foreboding that radiated through his bones. As the spiritist drew closer to the edge of his warded camp, a mournful dirge of the newly dead came to his ears. This song was different from the usual machinations that thrummed through the Dust Bed. There was a persistence to it, and it filled Anja with dread. Leth’s light caught the silvery white form of a pale figure sitting patiently at the edge of Anja’s wards. The Spiritist would have liked to have been a coward then, to return to his tent and pretend he hadn’t seen that figure there. Waiting for him. But cowardice was not a thing that Anja’s fate would permit him. His Goddess, and his desire to aid the dead pushed him forward. The man took a deep breath and crossed the barrier.

Light sat on the cool rock of the Dust Bed as she always did, with a stubborn patience that refused to be denied. The monochrome dog’s form now blurred on the edges, and the rocky terrain of the Dust Bed could be seen through the soulmist that swirled through Light’s transparent form. Aside from that, she looked much as she always did, save for an ugly red wound shining bright against her neck.

“Oh my dear Light,” Anja whispered. The man couldn't keep the sorrow from his voice. “What happened to you?” Anja bent down beside the form of the stray, whom the Drykas had tended to these past weeks with a devotion and love that rivaled his work with ghosts. Anja had put his heart into her care. And now here she was. Death waited for no one.

Anja’s hand passed through Light’s form and a familiar, uncomfortable chill fell across his fingers. Anja ignored it. He craved her touch, even if her form no longer had substance. Anja’s fingers gently explored his friend’s cold form for a long moment, then the man uncorked the vial of soulmist in his hand and offered it to her. Light surged forward, mouth open, and hungrily absorbed the offered treat. Anja saw the soulmist in her body become more substantial, and when he raised his hand to her again, this time his touch was met with resistance. Anja stroked the dog’s head gently, and her eyes closed with pleasure.

“Why--- are you still here?” Anja whispered, his voice cracking slightly.

Light whined softly. Her eyes had a quality to them that spoke volumes without words. Persistently, she nudged his hand and the whine changed to a bark. Realization struck Anja like a thunderbolt and he straightened his form in a flash. “Where are the puppies?!”

Light let out a firm bark.

“Give me but a moment!” Anja said, and rushed back into his camp. Anja did not have the luxury of grieving at the moment. Right now, for once in his death stained existence, Anja had the purpose to care about lives that still remained. That this was what Light wanted; that this was a logical path to allowing the dog to pass on to her next life, almost didn't occur to the Eiyon. For him, all that mattered was the life of the children of the creature he had devoted himself to.

The Drykas threw on his clothes and sash in a rush and sheathed his Bastard Sword, as well as stowing his two remaining vials of soulmist. When he bolted back out of the tent, Maisa was waiting beside her yvas, staring at Anja intently. The man saddled her with a practiced hand, and mounted her in a hurry. Maisa carried Anja to the edge of the camp, where Light waited. “Show us where!” Anja said. Light needed no further encouragement. With a bark, the dog turned and headed down the path leading away from the Dust Bed.

(Words 837, Total 837)
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Anja Nightwatcher
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Guiding Light

Postby Anja Nightwatcher on October 9th, 2018, 9:53 pm

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Light moved with an intensity and focus that Anja had never seen in the dog before. Perhaps it was her new ghostly body that allowed her to move without tiring, or perhaps it was simply that her mission was too important for rest to even occur to her. Whatever the reason, even with Maisa at a trot the ethereal hound had no problem keeping her pace just ahead of the drykas and his strider.

As she led the pair down the winding hill of the Dust Bed, past craggy rocks and moss covered gravestones that had been so eroded with time that the names once carved upon their surfaces had been lost, Anja found himself consumed with his thoughts. Normally this was a pastime that Anja took great pleasure in, but on this night all that came of these swirling musings was anxiety.

Anja’s worry for Light’s children was the foremost concern of his mind of course. That was what was driving him forward, with the same kind of relentless persistentance
that he might exhibit when hunting a nuit. He had to save them. They were his responsibility. He had given himself to them as a guardian, and he couldn't let anything happen to them.

But then, underneath that, a secondary emotion flitted up through the man’s subconscious. It was a gnawing, hungry thing that clawed up his chest every time his eyes fell upon the ghostly dog trotting just ahead of them. Anja had thought that he accepted death. Death was natural in the grand order of things, just as natural as birth. All things died, and they did so at the whim of fate without any concern for anyone other than it’s own whimsical machinations. Death was a deliverance. It ended suffering, and pain. It was kind. And yet, if it was so kind, then why did Anja feel as if his heart had been torn in half?

He had made Light and her children his responsibility. He had done so without much thought. In the throes of his responsibility to Dira, Anja felt empty. You could show kindness to ghosts, but if one did their job right then afterwards there was nothing left. Death itself might be kind, but the true sorrow was left behind in those that remained. It was a lonely existence, and Anja felt empty. His new friends had eased that emptiness somewhat. There had been a balance found in caring for life just as he had cared for those who had died. It had given him hope, and a further purpose beyond that which Dira had given him. And yet, he had let Light die.

Anja pushed that guilt down deep into the back of his throat where he could try to ignore it, but it sat there, a cold and persistent lump that he could avoid but not entirely ignore. Maybe, just maybe, if he could save her puppies, then Light would be able to forgive him. But could he really forgive himself?

Whatever Anja might be feeling, Light made no notice of it. She was intense, focused. This was, Anja realized, her purpose in death. “What happened...?” Anja murmured under his breath. He felt Maisa tense up underneath him, and watched Light’s ears twitch. But other than that, only silence answered the man’s query. He would find out soon enough, he supposed.

(Words 561, Total 1398)
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Anja Nightwatcher
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Guiding Light

Postby Anja Nightwatcher on October 9th, 2018, 11:42 pm

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Light’s path led Anja and Maisa down the hill of the Dust Bed and into the dark and winding streets of Sunberth. Anja disliked venturing out during the night; although ghosts preferred nights, so too did cutthroats and thieves. Maisa, knowing this well, walked a wide berth around anyone who they happened across in the streets, and Anja himself was wise enough to keep his cowl up and his head down. Whether for this reason, or for the fact that Anja was being led by an ethereal white dog, the Spiritist was left alone.

Anja was unfamiliar with the area that Light led him into. The place was decrepit and falling apart. And the ghosts...my, death was thick here. Anja almost felt the need to hold his breath, not that it would matter as the scent still clung into his throat and the song echoed in his ears. Yes… a great many people had died here. Anja gestured to Maisa the sign for danger, and she snorted in agreement. The strider was even more wary tonight than she usually was. They could both feel the dangers looming in the darkness.

When Light finally came to a halt, it was before a fine looking establishment that was such a fine looking place is such a horrid section of town that it gave Anja cold shivers. At a glance the establishment appeared...well, nice. It was a stable, judging by the fences, and from the barking Anja heard inside, he judged it to be a kennel as well. Anja dismounted from Maisa and followed Light as she lead him around the back of the establishment with Maisa following tight at his back. Here there was a massive stable, and lingering around the courtyard lounged several well armed figures, leaning against doorframes and perched on fences. Eyes fell to Anja first, then a moment later to Maisa behind him.

“Oy, Hannah!” one of the men shouted. “You got a customer!”

A woman stepped out of the interior of the building, squinting at Anja in Leth’s dim light. She was, by all accounts, a beautiful woman. But there was something no nonsense and shrewd about her, as if she had seen a great many trials and been hardened by them. She was not someone to be taken lightly.

“You here to sell your horse?” she asked him, her eyes falling on Maisa. A sickening feeling rose in Anja’s chest and he shook his head quickly. “No, no. My name is Anja. Anja Nightwatcher. I work for Jebidiah at the Dust Bed. I heard you might be having a problem with ghosts.”

The woman’s eyes roamed across Maisa, something like greed floating in them. But at the mention of ghosts, the woman’s eyes widened in surprise and jerked back to Anja. “Shyke!” she said, clearly startled. “You work for the grave digger? How’d you know?”

Before Anja could respond, Light, who until then had been invisible, materialized and let out several savage rapid barks before vanishing once more. The woman jumped and yelped, putting a hand on her heart and in sync all the guards around the courtyard pulled out their weapons and advanced, looking around nervously.

“I can help you,” Anja said. “But I need to ask you some questions.”

The woman breathed out shakily, then slowly nodded. “Yeah...yeah you got it.” She waved at the guards, who frowned and sheathed their weapons. She gestured for two of them to follow, then headed inside, waving for Anja to join them. The Drykas hesitated and glanced to Maisa. She was staring down the remaining guards, who were watching her with great interest.

“I hope you understand that if my horse isn't here when I get back that I will be happy to leave the ghosts to you to deal with,” Anja said quietly.

The wan waved her hand. “Yeah, yeah,” she said. But Anja did not miss the pointed look that the woman gave the guards, nor the way they relaxed their guarded stances and returned to their posts.

Inside the establishment, the musky smell of horse and dog emanated from every corner. Anja glanced at the rows of kennels lining the walls, filled with dogs. Anja eyed them as he passed, but Anja had come to know every mark on the bodies of Light’s puppies and none of these were them. At the end of the corridor was a sort of office with a desk and chairs. The two guards took up places on either side of the door, while the woman plopped herself down into the chair at the desk with a sigh.

“I’m Hannah,” the woman said finally. “I run Killroy Kennels…” She struck Anja with another one of those shrewd looks. “How’re you going to help me get rid of the ghost?”

(Words 805, Total 2203)
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Anja Nightwatcher
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Guiding Light

Postby Anja Nightwatcher on January 7th, 2019, 10:28 pm

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Anja pondered his course of action for only a moment, before deciding on a direct approach. “That ghost dog appears to have a vendetta against you,” Anja said seriously. “Before I can help you, can you tell me why? Did--- “ And here Anja’s voice faltered for a moment before he found it steady once more. “Were you responsible for her death? Did you kill her?” Why else would Light have guided Anja here, if this woman were not responsible for her death somehow? Anja could feel himself biting back anger that was struggling to burst forth. Not yet. Not now. He needed the story first.

“Now now, it isn't anything like that!” Hannah said, raising her hands up in protest. “We didn't kill that dog! Why would we? She was incredibly valuable!”

Anja paused at this. “Valuable?” he asked carefully. The man didn't want to lead on too much. Revealing to Hannah that he knew Light might turn this conversation sour. But Light, valuable? In a traditional sense? She was valuable to Anja of course but… wasn't she just a street dog?

“Have you ever heard of a Jivatlaus Ghost Dog?” the woman asked.

Anja paused. “No,” he said simply.

Hannah scoffed. “Would have imagined you have, considering your career. Well, whatever. They’re a type of dog that can sense ghosts. They’re very valuable. That ghost dog you saw outside barking at me, she’s one, a purebred. Or she was I guess. I dunno.” The woman shrugged and gritted her teeth.

“But anyway. I managed to buy her off of her owner who came into town. One of my men had this idea to breed her with a different type of dog, a Borzedon Shadow Dog. They’re big dogs, great guards, can see in the dark and blend into shadows. He figured any pups they made would make a amazing guard dogs. It would have worked great but...then she escaped. While pregnant.” The woman frowned, as if this matter was a huge inconvenience to her. “We finally managed to track her down. By then she had had her pups. But when we tried to catch her, there was an...accident. The puppies got away, and the bitch got killed. There was nothing we could do about it.” Hannah sighed, as though she were filled with a great regret. Anja could choke on her insincerity. “A little after that, the bitch showed up and started harassing my men. What am I supposed to do about it? You can't fight a ghost!”

You can’t,” Anja replied. “But sometimes there are better ways to move a ghost on. Where did the puppies escape to? I think if I can guarantee their safety, then she will move on.”

Hannah frowned at Anja, and the Spiritist could all but see the gears ticking behind her eyes. “How much this gonna cost me?” she asked. Anja bit his tongue and swallowed a needle sharp response. “To be decided,” Anja replied. “Do you want the ghost gone or not?”

Hannah stared at Anja cooly, chin in her hands and lips pursed. Anja could feel the heat of intensity in her eyes, strengthened by her guards imposing eyes stabbing at the back of his head. Were it for anything less, Anja might have flinched. But this was for Light. The companion who had filled his heart. He would not back down for this woman, or anyone. The tension filling the room suffocated, but neither kennel mistress nor ghost hunter backed down.

“If you are not interested in help-” Anja broke the silence by turning to leave. “Alright! Alright fine!” the woman snapped. “They escaped by The Rotting Mansion! Just get rid of this damned ghost!” Anja paused and glanced over his shoulder. “Where can I find this Mansion?” he asked. The two guards looked at Hannah, and after a moment she nodded.

“Its across the river from The Blood Pits. Hard to miss. Just a bunch of burned out buildings. Don't go in the Mansion though. It's haunted and cursed.” The guard clipped a to-the-point response, and Anja inclined his head slightly in his direction before turning back to Hannah. “If all goes well, you will not see me again and your ghost problem will be over.”

Hannah glared at him. “And if the ghost doesn't go away?”

Anja answered the woman's look with an icy stare. “At that point it will be beyond my control. Hope for the best.”

As Anja prepared to walk away, something caught his eye and he paused. “What is that?” Anja asked. Hannah followed his gaze. Sitting on the woman's desk was a leather bound book. No title was written on it.

“That?” The woman's look changed from barely stifled anger to one of mild confusion. “It's a journal some nobody wrote. Talks about training dogs. Thought I could use it, but it's bare basic stuff.”

“I'll take it as payment for dealing with the ghost,” Anja said. He almost felt as if the words falling from his mouth didn't belong to him. When had he ever been so cold and demanding? It was almost as though his words and actions belonged to someone not him. At this moment, he hated Hannah. Hate was not a familiar emotion for Anja.

“God's! Fine! Take the damned book! Not that you've done anything yet.” The woman sneered and tossed the journal at Anja's feet. “If you don't do something about this ghost, then don't plan on making it through another week.”

Anja stooped to pick up the book and tucked it in his pocket. “Until recently, I never anticipated living another day,” he said and walked out the door.

(Words 948, Total 3151)
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Anja Nightwatcher
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Guiding Light

Postby Anja Nightwatcher on January 7th, 2019, 11:50 pm

Image
The ride to the Rotting Mansion was eerily silent. After only a few minutes, Light materialized back beside Drykas and rider, once more taking the lead down towards the river. “Why did you not simply take us there?” Anja asked her quietly. “You know where they vanished to, don't you? Why waste time meeting with that woman?” Only silence and Maisa's hoofbeats answered in reply. It was true that the detour had given Anja some much needed context on the situation. But would Light really know that it was something that he needed? Anja loved the dog, truly completely and entirely. But she was a dog, not a strider. She did not understand speech or reason, only instinct. How could she possibly have known? Anja could not find an answer.

They booked passage across the river by way of a sleep deprived sverfra and stepped into the charred and dead landscape marking the Rotting Mansion. Anja felt a chill catch in his throat and as he breathed it out, his breath made smoke in the air before abruptly vanishing. Drykas and strider both hesitated. Maisa could feel the cold pricking at her skin like biting flies, and if Anja concentrated, in the distance he could hear a somber grief-song, like sobs muffled by a rainstorm. There was more to it, but Anja was not given the privilege of time. Light was already off into the charred landscape, unneeded breaths heaving urgency in the silence of the night. When Anja moved after his friend, Maisa reluctantly followed in suit.

The Rotting Mansion was everything that its name led it to be. Black, decrepit and long fallen to ruin, the house carved a black scar across the already bleak and ruined terrain. Anja could feel a sense of foreboding growing in his chest as Light weaved a path towards the mansion. The dog was filled with an intense purpose, and Anja thought that even if he wasn't here and she were reduced to making the most of her incorporeal form, that would not change her actions in the slightest. At seemingly the last moment, Light changed direction and headed away from the mansion. Her steps led her through the collapsed rubble of what had once been buildings. She simply phased through some of the rougher terrain that Anja and Maisa had to find their way through or around. While Anja was skirting a pile of corroded nails and guiding Maisa around them, a sudden wail pierced the silence. Heart thudding in his chest, Anja cleared the last of the rubble with Maisa at his tail and found Light.

The small overhang of debris was very like the one that Anja had found Light's puppies in at their first meeting. A nest of clean blankets had been dragged beneath a partially collapsed doorway, and Anja could see from the smatterings of white and black fur that the dogs had been here for a short while. But it was hard to take much notice of the fur in the wake of the blood and bodies.

Light had died here. Her monochrome corpse rested on the ground, stiff and cold, dried blood splattered dully against her white spots. Her mouth was still parted and eyes open even in death. But Light was ignoring her corpse. Her wails came from a different source. Tucked in the corner of the debris, three tiny bodies lay, stiff and still.

Anja felt grief rising from within him, threatening a storm, but he shoved it down and focused. He pushed past Light's wailing incorporeal body and gently touched the bodies of the dead pups. The heat had faded from their bodies and only traces of warmth remained. They had died recently, more recently than Light had. They were covered in dozens of wounds; small punctures that were unlike any weapon Anja had seen before. The chunks torn from their flesh cemented his hypothesis. An animal had done this.

“Only three,” Anja said. Behind the bitterness of the sorrow threatening to overwhelm him, Anja could tastel something else. It felt a little bit like hope. “The other two could still be alive,”he whispered.

Anja flung himself to his feet with a flourish unlike him, and raised his hands to the sky. “Dira!” the Eiyon cried out. “Please! Show me how these four died!”

There was no moment of pause. Anja simply blinked and the next moment he was elsewhere.

(Words 739, Total 3890)
User avatar
Anja Nightwatcher
Ghost Hunter
 
Posts: 138
Words: 168480
Joined roleplay: February 15th, 2018, 3:26 pm
Race: Human, Drykas
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