Sorrowdale itself has come under attack by agents of the Moon Lord; but the soldiers of the Rebellion, alongside the Women's Council, hope to catch the Acolytes by surprise...
Meanwhile, Broon the Immortal crosses the Fields of Glass, seeking counsel from the Sundered Goddess...and perhaps, something else.
The Fallen Moon Part V
17,665 Grace of Our Lords
11 Years after the Moon's Fall
North of Sorrowdale
The first of the Acolytes ground to shore in the dead of night, propelling its craft swiftly across the waves. He had once been Re Datha, a fisherman's son in Saint's Landing. Now he was simply an Acolyte of the First Rise, having served his Lord this past decade. When he struck, he did so without rage or hate. He struck because his Lord said that he must. He felt only...regret. Regret that more could not share in the wondrous enlightenment of the Rise.
But such things could only be changed by spilled blood. This was a truth he understood well.
He could feel his brethren sliding ashore, even as he unfolded himself to his full height to taste the wind. No resistance appeared from the black treeline. Eyeless though he was, the night appeared bright and distinct to his other senses. He did not miss his eyes; they could not be trusted in a world of illusion and lies. His Runic senses cut to the heart of things.
The Acolyte, once called Re Datha, reached out to his brethren, feeling as they felt, tasting as they tasted. They communed as one mind, briefly, filled with the ecstasy of their purpose.
The way was open, and Sorrowdale slept this night.
The Seer would be theirs.
* * *
But Sorrowdale did not sleep.
Gregg knew this, because he was never this irritable or cold in his dreams.
“Damn Seer. Damn Rebellion. Damn, damn, damn Immortal.” It was a litany of his own devising, but it did little to make him feel better. Winter was going out like a lion this year, and a thin carpet of snow had fallen this night, making Sorrowdale's drab log homes glitter silver in the moonlight. Spring in the north always included a little snow. It was pretty enough, Gregg thought, but right now his feet were soaked in melting snow, and his fingers were stiff and clumsy with cold.
He could hear his troop breathing heavily next to him, nestled in the shadow of a house only twenty yards from the Square. Bern, Fel, Karin, and Borik. So damn young, all four of them. The fact that they were only a couple years younger than Gregg didn't cross his mind. In terms of numbing, visceral horror, Gregg thought of himself as at least eighty-seven.
And, he thought irritably, in terms of waiting around in the cold for things to happen, he was at least four-hundred and twenty-eight.
He shot a glance to the small townhouse where Sylva 'slept' this night. She'd assured him that this plan held the best chance for success against the coming assault. A skeleton watch was patrolling the walls with orders to avoid any engagement at all costs. Such a fight would be suicidal, with such paltry numbers. Every other soldier based out of Sorrowdale stood now in the cold streets, clutching javelins or blades in hands that were sweaty in spite of the cold. The assault would converge on her position; the Seer would stand out like a beacon in the night to G'rell's servants.
They were counting on it.
“It must be gone midnight,” Fel muttered blackly behind him.
“Shut up,” Gregg hissed. “Or I'll tell your mam you've been sneaking out to see the butcher's daughter.”
The rest of the troop stifled a chuckle. Fel went silent. Threatening to tan the lad's hide wouldn't do much good, but like every man in Sorrowdale, he lived in mortal terror of his mother, or at the very least the sharp side of her tongue.
Gregg clenched his fist again, went over the plan in his head. He'd always disliked plans and ambushes, on the principle that as soon as the enemy made contact everything went to hell anyway. The major flaw here was the soldiers themselves, of course. The last crop he'd trained almost exclusively in combat from horseback, for skirmishes on Tornon's Plain. Fighting in the streets was not their strength...
Gregg drew in a breath as a shadow blocked out the starlight above Sorrowdale's palisade. Wisely, none of the watch cried a warning. They were there to reassure the attackers that everything was normal, not draw down the wrath of over a score of Acolytes.
As Gregg watched, a half dozen more shapes sailed over the wall into the silver-limned town, landing silently. They crouched, still as the night in the shadow of the wall, before moving off at a lope, straight towards Gregg and his squad.
All according to plan...
* * *
The Acolytes moved like silent, black-hearted lightning through the streets of Sorrowdale, converging from all sides on the small house that held the Seer. Power bloomed from the structure, drowning out their senses and casting strange half-shadows through their thoughts. They ignored it. They were all Acolytes of the First Rise. They had been birthed in pain, from the verge of death. Some discomfort could be managed.
The Acolyte Re Datha timed his attack perfectly, reaching the corner of the blazing house in sync with three more of his brethren. An Acolyte to his left drew up to its full height as the group halted, flung back one long, sinuous arm, and struck the side of the house, ripping through the log wall in a single blow.
And as the wall fell away beneath the assault, new power suddenly blazed forth from the gap, and Re Datha suddenly remembered what it was to look directly into the sun...
* * *
Gregg cursed as the flare of Runic power shattered the darkness. He caught a glimpse of three of the Acolytes, standing mere yards away, amidst the blaze, flesh tearing away from bones just a half second before even their skeletons were devoured.
A fourth Acolyte reeled away, one limb burned to a blackened stump, its skin sizzling with Runic flame. The Seer's Rune-Trap had worked even better than expected, and Gregg hoped it had not worked too well. The women inside could easily have been caught in the explosion.
But then, Sylva would have foreseen that, wouldn't she?
Gregg wasted no more time with thought. He moved forward, not daring a cry, saving his breath for combat. His troop darted forward with him, cleaver-blades raising for the first of many, many blows.
Start from the outside, work your way in...
The Acolyte was already recovering when Gregg's sword bit deep into its good arm. He heard bone snap. He wrenched the sword free, brought down another blow and severed the arm just above the elbow. The thing did not cry out; instead, it shot out a clawed foot at Gregg, seeking to gut him; as it was, the glancing blow threw him backwards to land on his face on the cobbles.
He stood unsteadily, turned, and felt blood spatter him across the face. The Acolyte was already a mass of hacked flesh as his squad finished their grisly task. Finally, someone had the sense to take the thing's head off.
“Anyone injured?” Gregg asked.
“No, sir,” Came Karin's crisp reply. Gregg reminded himself to keep an eye on her for promotion. There weren't many that could keep that cool in combat, especially the grisly, hacking kind.
“Good.” Gregg glanced down the street as a Runic detonation sounded in that direction. Three more followed it, illuminating a writhing Acolyte in twisting, horrid shadows. There was just enough light to see a squad of soldiers converging on the downed monster. “Seer! Is everyone all right up there?”
A shape emerged from the jagged, smoldering hole in the side of the house. “All's well, captain. Everyone here is fine.”
“The Runes took down three of them, and we finished off a fourth. And...”
“And Tana's squad has taken down another. We're well on our way, Captain. Hold position, we'll be down shortly.” The figure disappeared.
Gregg suppressed a shudder. Sylva was every inch the Seer, now, immersed in her prescience, and she was not the woman Gregg had come to know. She was calm, certain, and cold. It scared the hell out of him.
Sylva appeared out of the doorway, several senior members of the Women's Council in tow, including the Great Mother, Lysa. The strongest of the Council had spent days fortifying the room with Runes, until the very wood started to twist and creak beneath the strain of power. It had proven worth it. Sylva was safe, and they had killed more Acolytes in the last few minutes than in the past three months of operations on Tornon's Plain. She looked at him, and the cold exterior faded, her eyes losing their icy focus. “Are you injured, Gregg?”
Gregg wiped hastily at the black, fast-cooling blood that had spattered his face. “Not mine, Sylva. Don't worry.”
Sylva nodded. Gregg watched as she sank back into her trance-like state, tensed as her eyes flickered. Something unexpected. He'd come to recognize the expression. “The Acolytes will escape the ambush on the south side of the Square. We must intercept them.”
Gregg turned to Sylva. “How many, and how long?”
“Four, and only minutes,” Sylva replied.
“Teeth of the Pack!” Gregg swore. “We have to get you and the councilors to safety. We can't take that many. Fel, find some cover for -”
“If we do that, Captain, our squads in this part of town will be slaughtered. Cover will not avail us, in any case. They can sense me from a great distance. We must meet them with full force. The clash should draw out any Acolytes that were not caught in ambushes,” Sylva replied.
“Why do we want that?” Gregg asked incredulously.
“Do you really want them lurking in the shadows, taking targets of opportunity? No, we concentrate them here, where our Lore will be most effective. I have Seen, Captain. This is the best way.”
Lysa spoke up behind Sylva. “Swords are not the only way to kill Acolytes, Captain. I assure you we are not helpless.”
“These are our homes as well as yours, and we will defend them,” came the determined voice of Elder Shern.
Gregg gritted his teeth, nodded. “We'll meet them in the square, then. Fel, take word to Tana's squad that there will be fighting in the square, and she's to move to support us as soon as she can.”
“Yes sir!” The young man took off at a run down the street.
Gregg turned to the Seer. “You'd better know what you're doing.”
Sylva shrugged. “I see what I see.”
Gregg nodded. “Let's move, then.”
They moved at a trot towards the square, Bern and Karin at point, Borik at the rear, and Gregg at Sylva's shoulder, stooping as he jogged to pick up a bundle of three Runic javelins. He sheathed his blade and hefted the javelin. The Runic enchantments had been hasty on these weapons; there were never very many of them, and they were mostly reserved for patrols on the Plain...but the women had worked day and night to make them en masse, and now they were stockpiled in strategic areas all over town, waiting to be used against the Acolytes.
They advanced into the square cautiously. The snow reflected starlight, casting shifting shadows that set Gregg's teeth on edge. The half-light was eerie, and the night was tense with pain and spilled blood.
“They are one street away. They have killed Garth's squad. Drek's squad has taken shelter and is preparing to ambush them at the rear soon after they enter the square.” Sylva whispered. “They will be upon us very soon.”
“Useless. They know we are here.”
“Damn it, we should have kept you in cover...”
“Cover is irrelevant. They know where I am. We face them here.” Sylva said, in clipped tones. A moment later, she said. “One minute.”
“Oh, goddess, oh, goddess...” came Bern's shaking voice.
“The first one we see gets a face full of javelins, alright?” Gregg murmured.
Shaky nods from his squad, as Borik joined them at the fore.
Tense seconds passed.
Across the square, a dark shape flickered in the reflected starlight as it sailed over the stable, landing spider-like in the square. For a moment, it became simply a dark shape against the dusting of snow. Then, from over the buildings came three more shapes. These rolled as they hit the ground, coming to their feet and running straight towards the tiny knot of soldiers. The fourth followed soon after.
Gregg waited, holding back his javelin as the night-shrouded Acolytes covered the distance at blinding speed. He would only get one throw before they struck...
He threw his javelin with a yell, “Middle!”
A half second later, Borik, Bern and Karin hurled their javelins as well, the missiles converging on the central Acolyte. One javelin sailed past, striking the snow and detonating in a flash of light. The other three javelins rammed home, exploding soon after, sending shards of white-hot metal deep into the creature's flesh, scorching its skin and nearly tearing off its right arm. The Acolyte reeled back, blood spraying in dark, glittering globules.
A moment later, an Acolyte's swinging fist crashed into Bern's head, the blow snapping his neck with a grisly crack. Karin narrowly dodged another Acolyte's sweeping blow, trying to draw her heavy blade to chop at its limbs.
Gregg cursed, lifting another of his Runic javelins, and hurled it at point-blank range into the side of the Acolyte that had killed Bern. The javelin slid between ribs before exploding, tearing away the entire top half of the Acolyte's body in a welter of flame and gore. Gregg spun, holding his last javelin, ready to go to Karin's aid...
But he could only watch as the Acolyte lifted her into the air, and with cold, casual disdain, squeezed her in one hand until her spine snapped.
Gregg backed away quickly, holding his last Runic javelin. The Acolyte first struck with the javelins was rising from the snow, covered in blood and one arm hanging from nothing but sinew and skin, but alive. The other attacker that had hung back was advancing at a trot.
Gregg felt a low, joint-melting thrum flow up his legs from the ground. He watched as the Acolytes halted their movements, cocking their head as if to listen.
“Captain...?” Came Borik's worried tone.
“Silence,” Sylva commanded in whisper. “I have veiled us from their senses, for now. Stay close. The Rune does not protect a large area. And do not attack them, whatever you do. It will break the enchantment.”
“What good does this do?”
“It buys us time, Captain. Drek's ambush and Tana's counterattack are only minutes away.” Gregg glanced back at Sylva, saw the glowing Rune-stone she held in her hand. Even as he watched, it was starting to crumble at the edges with the strain of containing so much power.
Gregg edged towards Sylva, looking for Borik. He saw him moving off to his right, near where Karin's body lay. The bundle of javelins she had been carrying had spilled into the snow, and as Gregg watched, Borik reached for one of them.
“Don't you dare, soldier!” Gregg snapped, but either Borik didn't hear him or didn't care. He grabbed one of the fallen javelins, reared back to throw it -
A moment later, it fell from his nerveless fingers, an Acolyte's claws buried in his chest. He slipped to the ground with a gurgle, blood darkening the snow.
The Acolyte flexed its clawed hand, turned its head in Gregg's direction. Its eye sockets seemed to drink in the starlight, drown it in inky blackness.
“I thought you said we were veiled!”
“Borik strayed too far,” Sylva answered calmly. “Closer, captain. Our allies are at hand...”
Gregg backed towards Sylva, gaze still on the eyeless monstrosity that had killed Borik. “How much longer can you hold the veil?”
“Ten breaths left,” the Seer answered. Gregg heard the women behind him gasp. One of them used an unladylike curse. “Prepare yourselves.”
The veil dropped. The starlight sharpened, sound became crisp...
And the Acolytes turned as one to look straight at Gregg.
Gregg felt the thrum of Runic power once more, saw a stone streak past his head, ablaze with fiery red light. The stone struck the closest acolyte, and the blazing light seemed to draw deep into the stone, reverting to an orange glow. The stone crumbled to ash, and there was a deep, reverberating concussion. The Acolyte screamed, an oddly human sound, and streams of dark liquid ran from its ears. Gregg took his chance, dashing forward, sliding the last few yards and whipping his sword around in a starlit arc to crunch into the creature's knee. He tore the blade free as the Acolyte toppled sideways, aiming another blow at the side of its head. The blade struck home, splitting the skull like a melon.
Gregg hauled at the blade once, then again, before abandoning it in the thing's skull. The remaining Acolytes were already moving towards him. He threw himself towards Borik's fallen corpse, grabbing the Runic javelin that had dropped from his hands. He slid through the snow, felt an Acolyte's claw gouge a path through the cobbles just inches from his feet. He spun, slashing with the javelin's tip as he rose to score a vicious wound on the Acolyte's face. The creature was barely fazed, and launched itself at him only a second later.
A blazing ray of light screamed through the air, catching Gregg's attacker in the legs and casting it to the ground, legs severed and cauterized by the Runic fire. The sickening smell of burnt flesh wafted through the air.
The last of the Acolytes dashed forward, towards the knot of women who stood weaving their Runelore in Gregg's aid. Gregg reared back to throw his javelin at the running creature, but something seized his leg and jerked his feet out from under him. He cracked into the cold stone of the square, almost blacking out as his head struck. He fought through the pain, lifting his head to see the legless Acolyte, dragging itself forward, gripping his leg in one hand. He met its soulless, eyeless gaze, felt the agony of its grip as it began to crush his leg.
With a cry of pain and terror, Gregg drove the javelin deep into the meat of the Acolyte's shoulder. The detonation, when it came, spattered dark blood all over Gregg's legs, and sent a painful shockwave through his joints.
Gregg came to his feet unsteadily, casting about for a weapon. He found Borik's blade lying in the snow, lifted it, and turned to where the women stood against the last of the Acolytes.
One dark shape lay huddled on the ground a few yards away from where Sylva now stood, curtains of Runic light surrounding her, the ash of used-up stones and other foci drifting down like snow. Behind her, the women of the senior Council brought their power to bear. It was no mean thing, to see the power of The Cold Lady's priestesses unleashed.
But the battle had drawn other enemies. Gregg saw the shadows of three more Acolytes sail over the rooftops or glide on swift limbs out of the streets beyond the square. Gregg staggered towards them, trying to shout a warning...
The next few seconds were an eternity of blazing light and thunderous explosions of power as Sylva and the elder councilors tore into the Acolytes with desperate power. It was not enough, and Gregg's legs failed him before he reached the cluster of women. Pain wracked his body, even as he dragged himself towards the battle...
And in the next moment, just as Gregg thought that the noise and light could not grow further, detonations tore the air. Runic javelins sailed in from all directions, slamming into the Acolytes and tearing away flesh and bone. Shouting soldiers, men and women both, emerged from the darkness, brutal swords flashing to hack the enemy down.
Tana and Drek's reinforcements, at last.
Gregg struggled to rise as the last of the Acolytes were dispatched. Tana jogged over, offered a hand to the struggling young man, and hauled him up by main strength. “I'm sorry, sir,” She said, voice tense with grief. “We got here as soon as we could.”
“I know,” Gregg managed, wincing with pain and regret. “Thank you.”
Tana nodded, helped Gregg limp over to where Sylva now stood, Runic power still crackling in the air around her. She looked at him, her eyes distant with power. “That was the last, Captain. The battle is over. We have lost...sixty-five soldiers.”
Gregg closed his eyes, swallowed a shout of pain before it could burst out. Sixty-five. Over three score men and women to consign to the flames... “What of the wounded?” he managed.
“Those that can be moved are being taken to the field hospital Aerik has set up. The others are being seen to by the best healers among the women,” Sylva replied. “We will lose no more soldiers this night.”
Gregg nodded, numbly. They'd had things prepared, for if it went badly. There was that, at least, the comfort that the survivors would last through the night...but what comfort was that for the dead?
Gregg turned away, looked for the first time on the dark shape he had seen lying in the snow. He blinked, then rushed forward with a cry.
It was the Great Mother, lying in a splash of scarlet.
He laid a hand on her throat, knowing already that she was long dead. No pulse. No breath to fog the air. A gaping red wound in her chest where an Acolyte's claw had torn into her...
He bowed his head, stood slowly, as other clustered around, the elders of the Council gasping in surprise and grief as they fell to their knees next to the body. Gregg stepped back slowly, turned to face Sylva...
Who regarded the scene with perfect composure.
Gregg looked upon her, and realized he didn't know her at all.
* * *
Upon the Fields of Glass, there were two suns.
Broon had given up any pretense of shielding his eyes any longer, though he covered his face and head as much as possible. He'd left Kanis at the edge of the Fields; she hadn't been happy about that, but she knew as well as he did that she wasn't suited for this kind of land. No one was, really. They'd crossed it together once before, of course, but that had been when the moon-dust still hung heavily in the air and obscured the burning orb of the sun.
No longer. Dull as it was, the sun beat down on the ridges and ripples of a wasteland of shimmering heat and light. The footing was treacherous: sharp edges of glass protruded at odd angles, followed by smooth, almost frictionless surfaces. Travel on the Fields was an exhausting business, and best undertaken only by the prepared.
It helped if you were Immortal.
He looked south, now, as he stood on a jagged ridge on a slight rise in the landscape. There, shining in light of the sun and its cruel reflection, was the Shattered Fortress, once a temple to the Cold Lady...and now, a combination of tomb and asylum. A large piece of it had sheared away, probably from the stress of so near an impact by a moon shard. The rest of the facade was a crazy spiderweb of cracks and fissures, marring the essential, perfect beauty of a structure molded from eternal ice.
Distances were deceptive here, without any reference. He still had a long walk ahead of him...but the end, at least, was in sight. Something stirred inside him, something dark, but not so dark as it might have been...
Setting off carefully, picking his way among the razor-sharp glass, Broon headed for the Fortress.
* * *
Inside, bathed in frosty blue light, the Sundered Goddess watched Broon approach in her mind's eye. She sighed, feeling the twisting of her heart. It was the same, every time he came. The long silences. His attempts at remoteness, despite the truth writ across his features. He struggled through a fog of lost memory, seeking a truth that would, perhaps, undo him...
Or worse, remake him.
She sat in her throne, constantly aware of the fissure that cut its jagged path through the back. She didn't notice the cold; in a very real way, she was the cold. The now-dead Lord of Winter may have embodied the season, but she...she was the ice itself, awaiting its inevitable return to supremacy, merciless and eternal...she was the North, and in her demesne nothing could defeat her.
Once, she had truly believed that.
“He comes to us, again. Why?” sobbed a voice to her right.
She glanced over, took in the naked, blue-skinned woman sitting on the steps to the dais, arms wrapped around her legs, perfectly formed features marred with tears. Completely hairless, she seldom moved from that spot. She simply wept, and wept, suffering incarnate.
“It doesn't matter. Kill him. Kill him, this time!” Raged another voice, this one to her left.
She turned to look. This one stood on the dais, pacing back and forth, unable to still herself for even a moment. Statuesque as she was, she was tense as a harp-string, on the verge of snapping. Constant fury spewed from her, rolling outwards in palpable waves. Their eyes met, one pair remote, the other full of rage. “You know you should. Look what he's done to us! To this world! End him.”
She shook her head, turned away as the woman raged. Madness. That was what this was. The Godhunter's blow had shattered her, had stopped just short of killing her. He'd hesitated. She'd seen it, as he stared down at her, trying to drink in despair and agony and fear like he always had, and feeling nothing. He'd hesitated, and she knew why.
It was a terrible thing, what he had done to her. And yet, whenever he returned, she felt no rage, no sorrow, only...
Footsteps rang in the hall of ice. She sat slightly straighter.
He entered the hall, casting back his hood and unwrapping his face. His skin was raw with sunburn and icy winds where it had been exposed, leaving him looking strangely two-toned. She saw his facade crack for a moment, saw the stutter of some feeling across his face as his eyes met hers. Then it was gone, some creature disappearing back into the depths.
“You have come again.”
“Yes,” he replied. Nothing more.
Always the same. They repeated the same words so they could avoid saying the more dangerous ones. “If you come to beseech my aid, you know that you already have it.”
“I come seeking...counsel,” he said carefully. “The Moon Lord has moved against us in recent days. And Lesfyth has made herself known again. She has chosen a Seer, from among the Council. She survived, as we suspected...and for now, she appears to be on our side...we must use this to our advantage, move before G'rell launches a serious offensive...”
“He already has,” she cut him off.
“Last night, a score of Acolytes assaulted Sorrowdale.”
Broon's eyes widened, his legendary calm fracturing. “So many, and so quickly...I must return...”
“No,” She replied, tone flat. “Your Seer has already proven her worth. And the young Captain has proven his as well, yet again. They were ready, when the attackers came. All were destroyed.”
“And what of our losses?”
“Several dozen soldiers dead. And the Great Mother herself was slain.” The Sundered Goddess stood slowly, shrugged at Broon's expression of surprise. “The elder council took part in the battle, to even the odds against the Acolytes. Their Runelore was instrumental in drawing in the enemy, and destroying them. A victory, even if it was a costly one. And the Seer remains in your control. If G'rell were to seize her, you should not doubt that he would break her to his purposes soon enough.”
“How do you know all this?” Broon asked thickly.
“G'rell is the most powerful of us that remain, it is true. But the North is still my dominion. I feel everything that happens upon it...especially as it involves my faithful.”
“Ah. Yes,” Broon said.
“You have little patience for the Council. It is not a common thing, in this world, that women should rule, least of all in such a way. But the people of the North know it was they who turned to me, in the depths of that first winter, when the animals were dying and children were starving. It was they who offered fealty in exchange for power. They saved Sorrowdale and all the North when it might have died in its infancy.” The Goddess walked slowly down the stairs to where Broon stood. “They have ruled well, and wisely. Lysa...was not a trusting woman and, perhaps, overly fond of power. But she was a good servant, in her way. Nevertheless, another will rise in her place. I have no doubt she will be more...sympathetic.”
Broon shook his head. “Possibly.” He sighed. “I came here for counsel, Lady. We must move against G'rell, but the question is - ”
“You did not come here for counsel,” She said.
There was a long, long silence, before either of them dared to move.
She reached out a long, slender arm. He took her hand, none too gently. As he always did. As he had since the first time he had come south, seeking the aid of a Goddess.
As Broon took her into his arms, a part of her raged, and a part of her wept. But, a moment later, it was all swept away.
* * *
The Sundered Goddess rose some time later, letting the icy air run across her skin. The cold was more than an old friend, it was a part of her, down to her bones.
That was, she was sure, what inspired Broon's lust.
He had looked into her, and seen a reflection of his own soul, of his own ideal, there in the glaciers of her eyes. He returned again and again, not knowing what drove him, his memory gone but its ghost remaining, driving him onward...
Back to her. To the cold floor, heated all too briefly. To worship, of a sort.
The irony, she knew, was staggering.
He was not sweet, or gentle, had not been even that first time. There was nothing of sweetness or gentleness in him, nothing much human at all, after all these years. Deep down, in his ragged soul, lurked something so dark that there was no name for it. A seed, drinking deep of death and despair, on the fear in the eyes of quarry. He had fed it, oh how he had fed it. He had looked into his darkness, and he had not turned away. And yet...
She slipped back into her simple, sleeveless dress, after recovering it from the floor of the Fortress. Already she could hear the Immortal dressing behind her. They never made eye contact, not afterward. They would turn away from each other, each pretending that the surge of desire had never come. Broon ignored the raging of her anger, and the weeping of her sorrow. He seldom acknowledged those parts of her, even when they spoke to him, when they ranted in his face.
Her anger spoke in her ear. “You lay with him, again and again. You betray yourself at his lightest touch.” Behind her, her sorrow could only weep.
“I choose to do so,” she murmured. “He is not the man he once was.”
“He is. You have seen into his depths. His memory may be gone, but he still is what he always has been. He will destroy you, one way or another.”
“We need him, still. Only he can oppose G'rell,” She replied, calmly.
“And he is also a threat to us. Better were he dead, and peace be made with the Moon Lord.”
“With G'rell, there will be no peace. He was never like the rest of us. He never played by the same rules. He, alone, did not believe that it was even a game,” she said. She turned, ignoring the hiss of rage this provoked, to look at Broon.
He stood, back to her, some of the tension gone out of him. It would not last long. With all that lurked inside him, it was inevitable that the driving, incoherent force would return. Without memories, it was merely a wordless surge...but it was enough to drive him towards his goal.
“You said you came seeking counsel,” she said, noting how he tensed at the sound of her voice. “This is my counsel. Heed the Seer. You wish to strike soon, with all your force. It is your way. But it may not be the best way. Your forces have been mauled, and G'rell has yet to reveal his true strength. You have time, yet. Use it.”
Broon, at last, turned to her. His eyes avoided hers. There was still something raw there, like abraded flesh. It would be some time before they resumed their distance, and until then he would not allow himself to be made vulnerable. “Thank you, Goddess. I will think on it.”
For a while, there was silence. Off to her right, her anger stood, teeth gritted, fists clenched, frustration and rage writ across her entire body. Far away, on the stairs to the dais, her sorrow clutched her legs all the tighter and wept all the more.
“It is a long journey back to Sorrowdale,” she found herself saying, feeling the hint of desperation and, yes, longing in her voice. “Perhaps you'd like to...stay and rest...”
Broon glanced up, met her eyes briefly before turning away. As he always did. It was like a ritual. Her brief exposure of vulnerability, his rejection now that he was sated. “I must return, as quickly as possible. I will be needed. I am used to hardship, in any case. Another long journey will not harm me.”
“Of course,” She replied, letting her usual iciness sweep over her like a familiar blanket. It was always thus. “If you have need of my aid...”
“I will return when I need it, Lady,” he said.
Still adjusting his clothes, wrapping his head and arms against the sun, he hurried out of the icy hall.
“To travel so far, simply to use you,” her anger said, tone dripping scorn.
“We use one another,” she replied, somewhat sharply. On the dais, the weeping dwindled down into heart-deep sobbing.
She closed her eyes, feeling Broon's footsteps as he strode quickly across her domain, heading North in desperate flight. He would return to her, perhaps not soon, but he would. He always did.
Until then, she was alone, here with herself.
“We will have to move soon. Lesfyth has returned. The Rebellion is no longer enough. Soon, we shall have to act more directly,” Her anger was speaking now, and calmly. It was a rare enough occurrence.
“Yes. Soon,” she said. “But for now, we wait.”
“For how long?”
The Sundered Goddess opened her eyes, still feeling the footsteps across her land as closely as if it were her skin. “We wait,” She said, “until we are least expected.”
|23 Dec 2009|| Kelsey M. Graham|
EXACTLY AS PLANNED! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!
(writing as she gets farther in the story)
*awkwardness* Jake Diebolt
replies: "Just be thankful that Elfwood makes me keep it relatively vague. "
|3 Feb 2010|| Jeremy Whiteoak|
I like Sylva’s "transformation", though perhaps it is a false visage that she wears like a cloak (or armour)?
Sidenote: I used to rp a half-elf ranger named Drek. He woulda ambushed the acolytes too. Jake Diebolt
replies: "Sylva’s transformation is indeed genuine - her talent requires an almost inhuman objectivity to use properly...hence her coldness.
Sidenote: I think Re Datha rolled a 1 on his Don’t Get Blown Up check