Memento Mori

The story begins... or is this just yet another chapter untold?

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A city floating in the center of a lake, Ravok is a place of dark beauty, romance and culture. Behind it all though is the presence of Rhysol, God of Evil and Betrayal. The city is controlled by The Black Sun, a religious organization devoted to Rhysol. [Lore]

Memento Mori

Postby Elias Caldera on December 1st, 2018, 12:19 am

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81st day of Fall, 518 AV

Moments after the events of A Succor for Sorrow


He had been chasing something.

Something important.

It eluded him now like the fading memory of a dream, and try as he might to remember, the details simply slipped through his fingers. Whatever the case, he was here now, and it was not by fate’s hand that he’d been carried from the muddy streets of the Lakeshore outpost to this wild and untamed place. No higher power guided his trek down the winding root-snarled paths into the wilds. It was not by the will of anyone but himself that he abide here, this nameless place amidst the creak and moan of old trees. As Elias willed it, nothing brought him to the woman, for it was a coincidence born of nothing. Curiosity’s muse and little more. He had been chasing something. Something important, but while it may gone now, she was here in its place.

He recalls vaguely he had been conversing with the old woman, that drykas witch with her bond to the Blood Lord that he had sought out so desperately. The why was lost to him now, a foggy soup of memories all but abandoned at the back of his burdened mind. Something had spoke to the stryfer and brought him into the forest, beyond the protection of what he deemed safe. But at the time, it was only curiosity that led him to push past the fronds of leaves and low-hanging moss to see the little wagon pulled along on the back of a piebald mule. He was soldier as always, that much he could never forget, and that military man in him had looked on the slow progress of this weary traveler as one of Ravok’s children in need of his aid, for fate had delivered a poorly prepared wanderer into his hands and such was his sacred duty to see their pilgrimage to the holy city complete. And, should she a prove a false lamb, a pretender who did not deserve his lord’s guidance and mercy, then it was also his duty to excise her from this land like one would a disease from the body. Such was the burden of the Ebonstryfe.

So he came, sliding down the steep embankment to the beaten road, fingers thumping along the hilt of his longsword as he came to stop in front of the wagon. The old mule looked at him with bleary familiarity, stopping only a minute after registering him. The rider, a haggard cloak hung low over a hunched figure, moved only in small increments, as if barely alive. Elias marked the old hands that held the reins, veiny things of age and antiquity. Long nails, yellowed in age yet clean of dirt and debris, let the reigns fall softly and reached up to remove the hood around her head.
Last edited by Elias Caldera on February 5th, 2019, 3:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Welcome to the Family

Postby Elias Caldera on January 22nd, 2019, 8:10 am

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Tangled white hair in snarls cascaded down to obscure the puckered skin of an old woman, sightless eyes a foggy white, milky cataracts that stared straight into nothing, beyond everything, and yet still seemed to somehow perceive. Elias was taken aback for a moment, but cleared his throat and straightened, she was no druvin, that much was obvious. “Good day to you, traveler, a bit off the beaten path aren’t you? Do you travel alone in such a condition?”

She was silent at first, then answered with a coughing laughter, bubbling through her chapped lips and resounding with surprising timbre. “No, no, boy,” she said, transfixing those sightless orbs on him, “I’m here for you. Kept a poor old woman waiting now, didn’t you?” She tutted quietly, waggling a crooked finger at him. “Rude, we don’t have forever, you know.”

Elias let his surprise trickle out of his breathing, sighing out the shock of the reply in one long continuous breath. She unnerved him, those sightless eyes and knowing tone. Something about her felt wrong, different, enticing and yet reproachful all at once. She must have been waiting on another… that was the only solution. He had come upon her first and what luck it was that she mistook him for her contact. “My apologies,” he said quietly, approaching the mule, “The woods are not as easy to navigate as I’d have hoped. Shall I lead you to your destination?” It was disturbing the way her eyes followed him, as though they saw… although they clearly did not. She grinned, gap-toothed and bleeding from the gums.

“My destination has been reached,” she said softly, holding out her hands, “If you would humor me a moment, boy, let me see you with my hands.”

Elias clicked his tongue against his teeth in displeasure. If she knew her contact, then feeling his own face would only reveal him for a fraud. Well, it was no matter, he intended to rob her anyways… or was his plan to guide her? Why was he compelled to do either? He shook the hesitation from his mind and stepped toward the wagon, checking her body for the outlines of weapons, the scars of reimancy initiation on her fingers, telltale marks of danger before submitting himself to her. Everything in his mind screamed against allowing her access to his face, but there was a curious part of him... one that almost craved to know how the blind saw, what features they focused on, how they built faces in their minds. Would she show fear? Anger? He reached up and took one of her trembling hands, placing it against his cheek and letting the other guide down to feel his skin as well.

For a moment, it was only old flesh over young, pale skin, the vague sensation of leather, silence, her grunts and murmurs as she 'saw' him with the tough of her fingers. Finally, her hands trailed to the sides of his head, over both ears, gentle at first... and then she spoke,

"Ah, so it is you, Elias. Good."
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Welcome to the Family

Postby Elias Caldera on January 22nd, 2019, 8:11 am

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There is a certain moment in all encounters when one has a grasp on the danger they face. A sickening weight plummets into the pit of the stomach, a swallowed mess of anxiety and instinct that sizzles against the bile, boils, rocks, and waits to be resolved. Elias's first reaction was to yank his head away from the hands, but she held him fast. The old woman was no longer wrapped in the seeming of age and frailty. Her textured skin warped back into smooth flesh, her tangled hair coiled and ran white with lustrous light, and her milky eyes turned dark and depthless, but became somehow sharper, younger. A smaller woman held him now, easily in the breathtaking years of her pinnacle appearance, she possessed an unnatural power which held the young mage in a vice.

Elias's hand scrabbled at his blade, yanking it from his sheathe to bring up into her chest. While his hand found the pommel, the draw was slow, distant. It seemed the faster his body commanded him to move, the slower the world around him got. Lethargy, like black tendrils, moved to constrict his muscles and a sense of weary hopelessness settled in his mind. It was strange, so overwhelmingly strange. It felt as though his head was being emptied of facts, of tacit understanding and raw instinct. Like he was being controlled.

It came to him slowly, a realization dampened with hopeless enlightenment. He had been chasing something. A thief! A thief that had taken something too important! He had been chasing something, and it had been her!

Hypnotism.

The bitch had hypnotized him.

The robe around her had fallen loose in her transformation, revealing the long milky expanse of her arm, the black stretched glyphs traced along her skin. They glowed with dull activation and Elias cursed his overconfidence feebly. The Hypnotism against his own was quick and precise. She knew her target... knew from some unimaginable study, and had used glyping and physical touch to deliver the magic straight to his head, overriding his defenses before he could even conceive to muster them. He would have liked to speak to her, to curse her, spit at her, instead he only stared ahead, eyes wide and uncomprehending but sickeningly aware of her twisted smile and raven-cruel eyes.

"Sorry, my love," she whispered, a low seductive moan, playful even. It frightened him. "I didn't mean for all these theatrics, but you're a hard boy to get a hold of."

He would have murmured something clever, but all that came out was a strangled mess of syllables.

"I'm not here to hurt you, Elias," she assured, pausing and cocking her head to the side, almost as if listening, "Well, not to kill you anyways." She pressed her hands against his temple harder, blackness infringing on his vision. Elias struggled, but felt his body going limp. She was too unnaturally powerful.

"I'm here to show you something, something very important. Just a few reminders, to help guide you back on your path." She grinned, each tooth perfectly aligned and flashing white. Her breath smelled of blood. "I want you to be good and listen, see, absorb. Not many get this kind of gift... the soul so often forgets, and it can be hard to take back what we’ve lost before." She was babbling now, and Elias couldn't help but notice how bright her dark eyes were, how the sun glanced off her hair so marvelously. Little things, details to distract him from impending doom. Were these his thoughts, or hers imposed upon him? Gods above how he hated hypnotists!

"Relax," she criticized, shaking him a little, "These things are always tricky, and I dislike doing this to you, its so... so..." She shuddered, "Vulgar."

Elias hissed lethargically, a momentary act of minimal aggression. She cocked her head. "Don’t fret," she murmured, sliding from the seat and onto the ground, letting the soldier fall to his knees, "You will thank me in the end."

He had nothing, could feel little, only the haunting certainty he had no control. It was a terrifying notion, one that infected his bones and lanced through his blood as the world swam around him. She was sending him a vision, a longer hallucination. He had no choice but to accept it, whisked away by memories that were not his own while this woman and her motives remained eerily absent.

There was only the moment.

Nothing more.
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Welcome to the Family

Postby Elias Caldera on January 22nd, 2019, 8:12 am

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Shouts echoed down the narrow alleys, clinging to the mismatched stone as a single figure tore from shadow to shadow. He moved with an eerie sort of serpentine grace, pausing only to glance over his shoulder and roll beneath windows, his form continuous and fluid. Elias saw as he did, felt the pressure of his feet against the ground, the way they did not make a sound. A new cry rang out across the corridor of stone the prowler now found himself in. A man, clad in gleaming emerald armor and wielding twin blades of bristling silver charged towards him.

The blood came, as it always did when he needed it. Like a thousand coursing rivers from a thousand tiny incisions, it roared forth from beneath the bandages of his arm and hurtled down the corridor in a great and all consuming tide. The crimson storm made short work of the emerald traitor, but Elias did not stop to watch. He moved to a door and pushed it open, swinging it shut and taking the cloak from his shoulders in one continuous motion.

“Not too much trouble, I hope?” Came the cool, measured tone from behind him. Swirling, Elias faced a high-back chair in front of a fireplace, a column of noxious cigar smoke framing the handsome face of Sullis, who smiled cordially and waved at Elias to take a seat. What was he doing here?. Came a thought unbidden and in that moment the soldier couldn’t comprehend whether it had been his or someone else’s. “I witnessed the commotion. I pray all is as it should be.”

Elias sat as instructed, wearily studying the other man, only pausing briefly to secure the bandages over his arm. “No, my lord herald. No trouble at all. I have what we need.” His voice was deeper, huskier, a rasp of age as he wiped at the dried blood upon the corner of his lip. Someone else’s blood. “He gave me everything in the end. I have the locations of the other children.”

Sullis seemed to frown for a brief, imperceivably moment, then abruptly chuckled, clapping both hands together grimly as if only just remembering something. “Good. Excellent. I put my faith in a capable champion,” he said, taking a drag off the pipe and languidly blowing it toward the ceiling. He’d never seen the Herald indulge in such a vice before, but the smoke smelled vaguely familiar. It reminded him of home. “I have news, my son. Grave and Dire. Your sister… has betrayed the clan.”

Elias didn’t react. He kept his seat and his eyes upon the other man. There was a friendship between them, he felt it. Sullis would always be the Herald and thus his master, but Elias was reliable to him, useful beyond the measure of the others in the clan. That, and the fact that they were once friends even before this crusade had consumed their every waking lives likely helped keep them amiable even in the worst of times. It was why Sullis had tolerated his sister’s open dissent for as long as he had. Why the rest of the clan made their distaste known only through whispers and rumors. Now however, it seemed as if she’d finally gone too far. “So, she’s done it then.” Elias sighed, shaking his head. “Was anyone injured?” Sullis was quiet for a while, as if studying his old friend more than contemplating his response.

“Brother Vayek and his servants were unfortunately killed in her raid of the Harvest Grounds,” the blood lord said after a moment, taking another short drag of his pipe once more as Elias’s eyes went wide with disbelief, “It seems she’s not alone in this… treachery.” Elias put up his hands and stood, already gathering the necessary things from his temporary abode. If she’d struck at the harvest grounds, that meant she’d taken the anointed. The very same children he’d spent years tracking down and bringing back. All his work undone. All his vows sundered. After everything their clan had suffered, how could she do this to them! How could she do this to him?!

“I will track her down, my lord, and return all that has been stolen. I swear it.” Elias assured the Chosen, “I’ll set out in the morning.” He turned, preparing himself for the long sojourn back, but as he did so he caught his reflection in a nearby mirror and froze. The face that looked back at him was haggard and bleak, a vitality deeply burned into the tired features yet still hidden under the fatigue. Shocks of gray hair threaded the once vivid brown of his long, tied up hair and a beard which, left to its own unruly devices, had long since broken free of his controls what must have been months ago. His eyes were dark, inscrutable, and bloodshot to the point of nearly being completely crimson. Elias was not Elias… and yet somehow completely himself. The name came to him as the memory began to grow faint, the name of who he had been years ago, in a time he could not remember.

Kalidus.

He who was keeper of the old blood and seeker of the new. He who Viratas himself had blessed as champion of the clan. He whose great mission took him far from home with no promise of reward or return… But if that was true, what was he doing here, now, himself yet again in a different body? Then another realization dawned on them both, and they rose, so too did the trepidation within their hearts. That smoke… he recognized it now. Thoughts of home and his family had reminded him of his sister, and all the bad habits she had accrued from all the past lives she’d taken on. Her worst by far however, had always been her love for the pipe…

Azula!

How had she-

The world lost scope, swirled and became different, other scenes rising to take the place of this one. It all moved quickly, flickers of the had-been streaming in Elias’s mind’s eye, memories he could not fathom now but may remember later. He was being fed visions of his old self, shown the truth of a past life. But why? For what reason?

Again he was met by not silence, but another memory, folding over the last.
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Welcome to the Family

Postby Elias Caldera on January 22nd, 2019, 8:13 am

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He was standing over a grave now, just a meager pile of sticks and stones molded over the hole where a body now fed the worms beneath. It rained softly, like a breath across his back and a wet reminder of the world around him. There was no headstone, no eulogy, nothing to remember this fallen soul but the lone fool that had paused here above it. His hands were caked in dirt, bleeding from the exertion of the dig beforehand. Wind ghosted along the edge of his cloak and suggested flight, this place still as dangerous as ever despite the apparent serenity. He didn’t care. All Elias could feel was the profound sadness of loss, that something had been put beneath the ground that was solely missed by the one left behind.

Kneeling, Locke patted the earth down between dark fingers, using the gentle shower to mask the tears pouring down his face. He was alone here, no god to console him, no comrades to lift him to his feet… There was only the rest of the Elias, whatever that was, some distant shade of man not yet born to join another long since dead as they mourned a loss no one else would ever stand witness to. Reaching into his cloak, Locke withdrew a doll with black yarn hair and button eyes, a thing sowed with love and compassion, great effort and minimal skill. He laid it at the grave, standing over the small monument and letting the tears fall, letting his sorrow vent into the world around him. She had been so perfect, so beautiful, so precious...

Why? Why had she been born so weak?

He was gone again, seeing something else –someone else. He saw the coast, felt the waters lapping at his feet, saw the distant waves consuming the fires, saw the gray skies streaked with red. Blood trickled from his brow, mingling with the white of his hair and into his eyes. Desperate for breath, desperate for rest, yet neither would come and none knew it better than Angron. As he stared into the rift from whence they’d came, that place where worlds collided and reality came undone like so much thread at the seams, the old chieftain could see the place they’d left behind just beyond the vale. He still smelt the smoke, felt it on his skin, as if the ash and fire were a part of him now and would be forever. His gaze lingered not on the old however, for that was behind them now, dead and gone. Instead, his forlorn and hapless steely eyes bore witness to last moments of a God, its blazing hand of resplendent silver and gold held out to them as the world crashed to cinders in the background. At first Angron believed the great one to be reaching out to them, beckoning them back to his aid, but then he realized, with no small amount of bitterness, that the lord was not calling them hither, but bidding them farewell as he ushered them forward one final time.

Then, like that, the tear in the sky was gone, and there was not but din of the waves and the pounding beat of his heart.

The sounds of wailing and grief shattered the respite an instant later.

Angron turned, bearing his scrutiny upon those who had followed. His people. His tribe. They had all lost something. All came through the rift into the new and unknown, but none had left the old and the familiar behind. He had been the first to step through, the only one brave enough to heed to call. The others had followed only in his wake, slowly and tentatively at first, but faster and more frantic as the fires drew closer upon their heels. Now they were lost, tossed into a strange and distant land they would now have to call home. He saw how they huddled and groaned, tired, hungry, adrift. They needed him now more than ever, and as the cries of some unknown beast pierced the din of confusion and hopelessness, all eyes turned to him for guidance.

He hefted his axe and threw back his head, howling at the dull and dreary skies above. The rest of his warriors shakily roared back in unison, readying themselves to his war cry.

They needed him now more than ever, and he swore he would not fail them again.

A dozen different lives flashed before his eyes, and in each he saw himself living in the skin of someone he barely recognized. In them all he loved, lost, fought, fell and rose again to rekindle the cycle once more. Elias wasn’t fully aware the visions had stopped at first. On the ground, vaguely twitching, he was, at first, not aware the grit of the cave floor was reality. It took a few moments to feel his own body again, to know he was no longer captive, and pull his mind back from the brink of madness. The woman sat on an outcropping nearby, staring into what Elias eventually pieced together was an old, desiccated skull. He couldn’t rise, too weak to move. To weak to take his vengeance, even as he shook with exertion. His wrists were slick and wet, and he knew exactly what had transpired as the sensations returned to him bit by agonizing bit.

She’d drained him… not just of blood, but djed as well.

“Why?” He asked hoarsely. It felt like a long time had passed, days maybe? “Why me? Why him? Why show me these nightmares?”

The woman frowned, not looking at him directly, and clutched at the skull ever so delicately. “Because I need you,” She said at last, sighing, “And if have to suffer the past, so should you…”
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Welcome to the Family

Postby Elias Caldera on January 22nd, 2019, 8:15 am

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It took a moment, that timeless few ticks when one starts to regain control of their mind. Thoughts jumbled back into place, falling pieces that fell along the fault lines. His mind grew, it expanded and retracted, beat like a heart as it tried to accommodate this new self, this imagined or past self that now haunted the shadowed fringes of the young man’s mind. The woman was quiet, not looking at him, transfixed by her own idle thoughts. She was beautiful in a way, a delicately sculpted jawline and alabaster skin. Her hair fell in ivory tresses, lank ribbons that held her face in shadow and light. She looked young, but held an air of elderly wisdom that belied the youth of her features.

"How did you-" He started, the words feeling thick in his mouth, alien, and unclear. He felt like he was choking on the letters. I am Elias! He reminded himself angrily.

"I didn't," she said at last, cocking her head sideways at him and offering a mirthless smile, "All souls remember who they were at some point, deep down inside. It's just another hypnotism, brother, just another jaunt in your subconscious. Haven't you ever gone exploring before?"

He growled, face flush with fury at her casualness. Even now he was still feeling the selves within him struggle for control, vie for their own part in this strange staged drama of the mind. He fought them back, broke them down, banished them away to a place he cared not to follow. There they stayed, at last quieted, at least for the time being. Elias was himself again, shocked into a momentary lucidity by the stress of the Hypnotism on his mind. He didn't know it could be forced like that, relaxing the mind before inducing the trance, and then those pointed bursts of djed focused by glyphs on the arm. It had bene horrific. Terrifying. Dehumanizing.

…Brilliant.

"Like I said," she said to him, setting aside the old skull and leaning down to tweak his nose, "You're lucky. Your mind is in a fragile place right now thanks to that old Drykas woman, pretty much the only reason I could get in so deep -had to be now, had to be here. I just wish I had more time, but I'm here, and now you know a little... at least enough to question. To doubt the-” A wail, deep and tormented cut through the cave like an arrow, flooding the dreary dark with all the woe and pain carried in its unearthly tenor. The woman froze mid sentence, the words lost upon her lips as she glared into the inky black. Elias strained himself to turn his head, to peer into the abyss apparently sitting behind him. He wished he hadn’t. He saw only more darkness the further the cave went, but more harrowing than that were the bones of the fallen. They were not alone in this place.

The dead were among them.

The yellow and molted corpses of maybe a dozen or more ancient corpses littered the cave, some laid to rest with a semblance of respect upon humble alters cut from the wall, others simply strewn about the floor as if cast off and callously thrown.

The moan came again, shaking the cave with an unseen force. This time closer. This time angrier.

Elias decided quite fervently did not want to be here anymore…

“You know I believed you to be your father at first,” he heard the white haired witch begin again, her voice ever so slightly tinged with a touch of doubt now. “The way he hunted them so relentlessly. The way he denied them their place in the cycle… but then you came along like a shooting star, a flying arrow, right through his heart, and like that, bam! Clarity. I knew then it was you. Who else could it be?" She set aside the morbid trinket of bone she’d been toying with and seemed to be readying herself to leave, picking something else up as she stirred. Move! he bellowed at himself as she turned away, move, for the love of Rhysol, move! His mind was returned, but his body had abandoned him, refusing all but the most basic and mundane instructions. It was during this stressful wiggling of his toes that Elias first heard it; not the wailings of the damned or some other horror filled cry of the unknown, but instead a voice. A man’s voice.

“Master Caldera!”

It was faint, distant, but getting nearer!

Was it his men? Some ally he could not recognize? It didn’t matter, all that mattered now was that they were here, looking for him. That, and the witch had heard them coming too. She tutted angrily and the mage allowed himself a small grin of satisfaction.

“That old fool… a constant thorn in my side.” She sighed. “It seems our time is at end Elias, but heed this above all; He’ll come asking for your aid, turn him away or we’ll just find ourselves relieving a moment just like this one yet again." She kneeled down, placing before him a familiar silver urn.

Elias gasped, calling breath back into him, recalling life into him as fast as he could. The cries from outside the cave were getting louder, and with each one the stryfer could feel the sensation in his limbs returning. "Your name?" He gasped out, looking up at her, arms slack and dragging at his side. "Who sent you?"

"Who," she echoed, cooing the word in her throat as if feeling it around and judging it to her liking or not. "A question we all have to ask ourselves one day… I’m still figuring out my answer." She turned to leave him then, aiming herself towards the light of the cave’s entrance and had already cleared three paces, but then hesitated. She glanced back over her shoulder, her face already shifting back into the wrinkled crone. "Azula," she said at last, shrugging, and Elias realized she had answered his question. It only raised a thousand more in its place. "Seek me out in Sunberth when you’re ready to know who you are as well, brother. I fear I’m going to need your help."

And like that she was gone, and he was alone.

Alone save for whispers creeping ever closer from the depths of the cave, and the voice crying out to him from beyond its mouth. With the memories threatening once more to flood his thoughts, Elias wasn’t sure either would reach him before he was consumed again.

Yet all the while, one thought above all crowded out the rest as he lay there struggling, one thought that he knew would plague him for the rest of his days until he finally got the answers he needed.

He had felt something in that woman, something he knew intimately, something he recognized without a doubt, and he surmised so to did she.

Elias was marked by Viratas, the lord of blood… and so had been that woman.
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