Cooperative Fiction

Skip to content


Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Uluki breathed a quiet sigh of relief when Aorle hugged Rollick. That was the last of her fears gone. Aorle had given his word he would not harm her husband, and she had no doubt he would keep it, but she had still worried Aorle might treat him differently after he knew. Might act cautiously around him, might hold him at arms’ length… as so many people had. It often seemed people were just waiting for Rollick to snap. Uluki was glad that didn’t seem to be the case with Aorle. She wanted Rollick to be accepted, not feared. How their leader reacted would strongly affect how the warriors viewed things; if Aorle had seemed not to trust Rollick, she doubted they ever would either. With Aorle showing confidence, it would be much easier for Rollick to fit in here, and she was so very glad of that. Her husband deserved to be as happy as possible.

In response to the questions, Rollick shook his head and Uluki shrugged helplessly. Rollick seemed to need a moment to recover from the emotions dragged up along with the memories he had spoken of, so Uluki fielded Aorle’s questions, allowing her husband just to listen and collect his thoughts.

“Everyone knew about Rollick getting possessed,” she explained. “I don’t think anyone could have missed hearing about the battle, and a lot of people actually saw it themselves. Everyone knew that I used magic, too. It wasn’t illegal, so there was never any need to hide it. I healed people on a daily basis, and never made any attempt to keep it secret. Those things were common knowledge.”

“The one thing I’m not sure of is how anyone would have known about our daughters. I’m not sure how much Rollick told you, but it was important we keep that quiet. Our daughters were created to be living weapons. They were considered property. Those who made them believed they owned them. They thought they could use them for anything, any purpose, like they weren’t even people. Zee was to be their soldier, and Dash their assassin— created by magic to fight, and to die, without ever being cared about or loved. We couldn’t allow them to be taken back there and forced to live like that. Our daughters are people, and they have hearts and souls just like anyone else. It isn’t right for them to be owned, to be treated like things.”

“The people who made them want them back, though, and would go to great lengths to recover them. We’ve had to be really careful, because they would definitely pay a large reward, and we couldn’t take the risk that someone unscrupulous might be tempted to betray Dash and Zee. No one knows but our family— including Mercedes, my adopted sister. She would never tell anyone, though. She would die before she let our daughters get hurt.”

“The only other thing I can think of is the scientists and mages who made Zee and Dash. They would know about their background, and they might have figured out where we are. That doesn’t makes sense, though, because they’d only care about the girls, not Rollick or me. I’m sure they wouldn’t have any qualm killing us if we got in the way, but I don’t think they’d consider it important to seek us out. If it was the people who created our daughters, they’d be here for the girls, not us, and they wouldn’t suggest you send us away and keep them. So… I don’t know.”

“I also can’t think of anyone who had sufficient grudge against us to follow us all this way to harm us. There were plenty of people who disliked us, and would have killed us if they had a chance. People like Snyde, who preyed on others, considered us an obstacle, and would have been happy to have us out of their way. We made some enemies among those who wanted to exploit the innocent and defenceless, but couldn’t because of us.”

“There were also lots of people who didn’t like me because I was Fae, and they would have killed me except that… after the battle, people both feared and respected Rollick and Mercedes and Mara, and they were afraid to hurt me because of the people I had protecting me, people who made it clear they would not tolerate me being hurt. Otherwise… well, no amount of effort against evil could make the people in our community see me as anything but an untrustworthy Fae, and a dangerous outsider. The others who survived the battle were hailed as heroes… though they were treated with caution, like loaded weapons. I… well, at least the people didn’t kill me, although they wanted to.”

“People hated it even more that Rollick and I were together. They called it an abomination, because he’s a human and I’m Fae. They thought I’d bewitched him, like there was no other way he could possibly love me. They called us bad names, and one time they threw rocks. It made them angry when we had a child together. They called our baby even worse things than they called us. They said he should never have been allowed to be. I think they would have killed Rollick for loving me, and Martin just for being alive and coming from us… but they were mostly too scared to try, luckily. Those people certainly despised us.”

Uluki was deeply glad that Aorle, Julen, Rosemary, and the others here were able to accept her relationship with Rollick, seeming to have no problems with a human and one of the Fae being openly in love. She’d heard no snide comments, seen no disapproving looks. None of that had ever affected how she felt about Rollick, of course… but being accepted felt nicer than being hated. It was a refreshing change.

“The only thing is that I can’t imagine any of those people having reason to pursue us. They didn’t like us, but I would think having us gone would be enough for them. I don’t think anyone hated us enough to follow us here. I’m sorry not to be more help, but I don’t really have any answers for you. We may have to wait for this person to make another move, and that might give us another clue. Until then, I’m just not sure.” She looked to Rollick to see if he had any ideas she hadn’t thought of, but he seemed at as much of a loss as she was.

Unable to resist any longer, she changed the subject to ask Aorle, “How are you feeling today? Are your wounds healing? Is there anything more I can do?”

Post by Sir Karsimir on

Summoning such dire memories was an ordeal which showed on Rollick's face, seeing how things were, Aorle reached an arm around Rollick's shoulders to offer comfort with a second hug. Most of his stance faced Uluki since she was speaking, but he did not neglect the sorrow of her husband.

Most of these details regarding the two daughters were accepted without comment. Mere facts to consider, and none of them a surprise. 'Living weapon' implied such dark intent. Nevertheless, it seemed a false lead. These children were not the goal.

As the tale moved on, describing the abuses the family had suffered at the hands of people they had aided at personal cost. Hearing of such a betrayal stoked wrathful fires in his heart. Taking a steadying breath, Aorle felt the gauntleted hand which rested on his hip begin curling into a tight fist, squeezing out the anger. The other hand tensed slightly in it's grip on Rollick. Realising as much, Aorle let go and stepped away, forcing his hands open with clear effort, hoping to avoid any inadvertant intimidation from his quiet fury.

Next, incredulity shocked him into speech. "Bewitched?" commented Aorle, marvelling at the stupidity of the people, "We all know that you of all people have no need to bewitch a man to love you. Everyone here has come to idolise you in the space of a day." Smoothly continuing on, "And the only reaction anyone has a right of towards your child is to congratulate you both."

"So moving on with who would want to track you here. Consider who can? As I understand you are a great distance from home." Saying that, he privately hoped they would find a new home here. He would miss them otherwise. "We got the letter within a day of meeting each other. Our foe knew where you were in time to write and send that letter. Access to that information was hard to come by, even the warriors knew little enough when I sent them."


"Staff from House Anstrun overheard my directions, and your name and description. The question is how they would recognise the importance of this, or reach our enemy. I will have Varanghar find out more." It seemed a long shot, but nothing was to be left to chance "From the letter, we know our foe wants me as an ally, and somehow believes offering slaves is supposed to do that. Does this give you any ideas?"

Finally, as an afterthought. "My wounds are improving, thank you. I am not sure what can be done but you can look at them if you wish."
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

A few days ago, seeing signs of anger in Aorle would have terrified Uluki. Now, though, she realized it was anger on their behalf, not anger directed toward them. It was a sign of friendship, not something to fear.

She couldn’t help smiling at the statement that people here idolised her. They seemed to like her, and that was enough. His words were undoubtedly an exaggeration, but they were a well meaning one. Rollick, however, gave her an I-told-you-so look. He reached for her hand, and she squeezed his in response. Both of them beamed at the comment about the baby, and Aorle’s understanding that their child was a blessing, not a curse.

“We are a long way from where we used to live, as you said.” Uluki deliberately avoided the word “home.” “We’ve been living in the woods for several weeks, though. Someone would have had time to get here the same way we did. As for finding us, and pinpointing our exact location…” She was out of ideas.

“Scrying,” Rollick said suddenly. It had been awhile since he had spoken, and it surprised Uluki when he finally did. “If someone were tracking us, and had listened in on our conversations, they would know where we were.”

It was, Uluki thought, a very smart idea. Rollick only rarely suggested a magical explanation for how things might be done, because he knew very little about magic. Scrying, however, was a tool that had often been employed by the magic-using members of the Council, so Rollick was familiar with the practice, even though he was not able to do it himself. “I think Rollick is right. They did seem to get the information very fast. If they were able to Scry, or had access to someone who could, they could have found it all out using magic.”

That brought up the question of who was able to do that, and she knew the answer wasn’t the ideal one. “That doesn’t narrow things down a lot, though. People who know how to Scry don’t usually advertise that fact to just anyone... but especially where we used to live, those services could be found discreetly if you could pay, even if you were not able to Scry yourself. I don’t know of anyone specifically, though.”

She shook her head when Aorle asked if his summary gave her any ideas. The phrasing in the letter had reminded her of something... but then it had slipped away, and she couldn't put her finger on it. “We’ll keep trying to think about it.”

Uluki nodded in response to Aorle’s comment about his injuries. “I’m glad you’re feeling better. When it would be convenient, I’ll have a look at your wounds and change your bandages.”

Post by Sir Karsimir on

Once again a small group was sent to the Fighter's Guild, or rather, a larger group split into two. Darir was assigned Gaelm and Osaw with him to begin making full hauberks from the unused byrnies, while Triarius and Metellus were to bring Numidar along with Sigvard and Thetta to search the packs of the previous attackers and help themselves to their belongings.

While eager to award trophy rings to his warriors, Aorle did not wish to destroy captured weapons that way. Instead he wished to use them to honour his promise to Orin and to arm the refugees so he could lead his warband away in good conscience and know they'll be safe.

Arjen was released to forage in the area. Tasks were set.

"Whoever this villain is, we need this place ready defend. If he is waiting for my answer, I want fortifications in place before the next attack." Since Rollick was Castellan, leaving the instructions with him seemed sensible. "Krarug can work on the ramparts, Merohl can serve as sentry with his bow." Too much guard duty for him really, "Make sure he understands why we need him for this."

Disappointing this family was not his wish, they trusted him, trusted him with the lives of their loved ones. Even his efforts seemed meager when faced with that duty. "Finding scryers may well be beyond me. Setting defences seems our best choice for now. My apologies I can do no more." Instinct urged him to mount a hunt, yet he knew that to be the visceral desire to oppose his foe in arms, to strike him down as was his purpose. What would be more satisfying would be having a foe to hunt, and knowing this family would not be in danger.

Now, duties to assign. "Tend my wounds once the others are back. Best I be ready for battle when most of our warriors are away. See to the health of the others until then." A life of drudgery and pain and weakness did not grant the best of health, so best to leave them in the hands of a healer.

"We can investigate our enemy further once we have a safe haven." Then he realised, if his enemy had scrying they would know of his plans. "We will need more careful watch until then."
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Uluki and Rollick nodded; all this seemed sensible. They couldn’t fight an enemy they couldn’t even identify, so they would need to focus on defence.

The conversation had been productive, Uluki thought, but now it was time to tend to other duties. Well… soon, at least. Rollick hadn’t had breakfast yet, and Uluki was still wearing blood-stained tatters after her exploits of the night before. Once he had eaten and she was dressed in something more likely to comfort the refugees than to frighten them, they could begin the day’s tasks. Even before that, Uluki needed a moment to speak to her husband privately. Thanking Aorle and bidding him goodbye, they stepped out of the room.

Once they were outside the door, Uluki pulled Rollick aside. She took both of his hands in hers and looked into his eyes, her own face full of concern. “Are you alright, love?” She didn’t need to explain why she was asking... it was clear she meant after sorting through those painful memories.

“I am. I really, really am.” His smile was genuine as far as she could tell. “I mean, granted, that’s not a time in my life I’d ever want to go back to, and it’s not the most comfortable of recollections, but I’m alright now. I’ve had a lot of time to heal. I’ve had… a lot of help in healing. I’m fine.” He squeezed her hands reassuringly, then pulled her toward him and kissed her. “And now I’m even better,” he said with a playful grin. Hand in hand, they returned to the others.

Uluki spoke to Martha about the food Zamat and Nasima had sent, making it clear it was for everyone and Martha was free to give it to both soldiers and civilians as she saw fit. Meanwhile, Zee emerged from upstairs carrying Martin, explaining that Dash was not awake yet, which was unsurprising given the winged girl’s tension and difficulty in sleeping the night before. Martin was transferred to Rollick’s arms as Zee was given breakfast.

Uluki offered to take the baby— she’d already eaten what Martha had given her and didn’t need any more food— but Rollick shook his head. He held Martin on his lap as he ate, alternating bites between his own mouth and the child’s. Uluki always enjoyed watching her husband interact with their son, and was as usual impressed by what a good father he was. Rollick genuinely enjoyed spending time with the baby, as well as with the older girls, and saw no disparity between his responsibilities as a parent and his profession. He had no qualms about his fellow warriors seeing he was active in raising his children, and was equally comfortable discussing military tactics and spooning food into the baby’s small mouth— both of which activities he was now engaged in simultaneously as he talked about defences with Merohl. Smiling, Uluki left them and went upstairs to change into her new clothes, careful not to wake Dash.

She chose to wear the blue dress first… and her new shoes. Such a nice dress! She wished she had a mirror so she could see how it looked. Even more, she wished she had the means to buy dresses for her daughters, too. She hated to see them looking so ragged… although after the night before combined with the arrow punctures, her own clothes had been in far worse shape. Once she had some money, she decided, she would replace the children’s worn clothes. Maybe make pretty nightgowns for her girls… and one for Kaydee, too. A surprise for all three of them. That thought made Uluki smile. She looked over at her sleeping daughter, imagining making her idea a reality.

Post by Falcon Bertille on

Dash’s dream begins as light.

Then, bits of gold and silver appear, shimmering in the air like flecks of metal drifting down through a snowstorm. As Dash watches them, they expand into definite shapes -- leaves connecting to stems, stems connecting to branches, branches connecting to trunks, until a heavenly grove seems to grow up around her. The air smells of vanilla and incense. The wind sounds sweet as chimes when it stirs the treetops. And, in the very heart of it all, is the angel Amaranda.

This time, Amaranda is not alone. One of every winged creature accompanies her. Golden insects, silver birds, all of them considerably larger than their earthly counterparts. For these are the finest of their kind, each carefully chosen for the honor of serving the holy being. Circling Dash, they bob their heads, and whisper to her in a language as old as the sky, as soft as the brush of a feather, as intangible as a cloud. Sister. We greet you. You are welcome here. You are honored among us.

After speaking, they move aside, allowing Amaranda to approach. Even in this place, the angel still bleeds. But her face holds no trace of pain as she gazes at Dash. Instead, she smiles. “I thank you for the help you have already given me. And I ask for yet another favor.”

Passing her hand through the air, Amaranda illuminates a patch of flickering light. And, although Dash can’t say exactly why, it reminds her of an open wound. She tries not to look at it as Amaranda continues speaking. “The Shining One has been gravely injured. If he is not healed, he will die.” This pronouncement is accompanied by a murmur of horror from the assembled creatures.

“The Shining One?” Dash wants to help, but she’s confused. “I don’t know who that is.”

A golden gnat the size of curled fist flits from the group. Its voice sounds like the buzzing from an entire hive of bees. “My kin say that he fought at their side against a great evil. My kin say that he risked himself for them, when other men would have seen no tragedy in the death of mere insects. My kin say that he is also known as Railtus or Aorle.”

Most of that doesn’t make sense to Dash. But the name strikes a chord. Aorle is the name of the man who gave shelter to her family -- she doesn’t want him to die. “What can I do? Should I tell Mama to heal him?”

Sadly, Amaranda shakes her head. “I am afraid that this is an injury beyond even your mother’s ability to cure. I must do it. However, I need help entering the mortal plane. May I speak and act through you? You will be fully aware of all that happens, you will not lose your ability to talk and move as you wish, and I will not force you to do anything that you do not want to do. My spirit would simply be a guest in your body. A guest which you may evict at any time.”

“Will you do this?” Reaching out, Amaranda offers her hand to Dash. “Will you help me? Help the Shining One?”

Please Sister, the assembled creatures murmur. Please help our lady. Please help the Shining One.

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Uluki glanced over as her daughter started to speak.

“I will.” Dash clasped at the air, as though reaching for a hand. “I’ll help you. I’ll help Aorle. I will!” Dash repeated, her eyelids fluttering.

In an instant Uluki was beside her, stroking her daughter’s cheek with a comforting hand. “It’s alright. Everything is alright.”

Dash’s hand shot out and grasped Uluki’s, her fingers tightening. “I have to find Aorle! He’s dying!”

“No one is dying, Dashie. Aorle got hurt, but he’s getting better.” Uluki’s voice was gentle, reassuring. “It was only a nightmare.”

“It wasn’t a nightmare, Mama.” Dash was sitting bolt upright now, still squeezing Uluki’s hand. “It was a dream, not a bad dream, a good dream, but then… I talked to the angel. She said she’d help Aorle. The angel is in me now, and I have to take her to her to Aorle so she can help him. Otherwise he’ll die. Mama, it was real. I swear it was real.”

Uluki looked at her daughter, and saw that Dash believed every word. Seeing her certainty, her worry for their friend, and her urgency, Uluki believed too. “I’ll help you find Aorle. He was just downstairs talking to your father and me. I’ll show you where, and you can bring the angel to him. Come with me.”

Dash did as Uluki asked, and they went downstairs arm in arm. Uluki had left the cloak in their room in her haste, but the coldness of her skin didn’t seem to bother Dash, who continued clinging to her.

“She didn’t make me do it, Mama. She said it was my choice. She wanted my help; she didn’t want to use me. That’s like family, isn’t it?”

Uluki nodded. “Yes, that’s like family.”

“I’m not scared of her. She was nice. I’m scared because Aorle is hurt. What if he dies before we find him?”

“He won’t, Dashie. I saw him only a few minutes ago, and he seemed well enough. We’ll find him in plenty of time, and the angel can heal him.”

Dash didn’t answer, but she seemed reassured by her mother’s words. Once they were downstairs, Uluki looked around for Aorle, calling his name and saying, “Please, it’s important!”

“The angel wants to see you,” Dash added calmly.

Post by Sir Karsimir on

On hearing Uluki's cry Aorle came running to her call. Rollick was not far behind, any guesses he made as to the situation falling behind the urgency in the voice of the woman he loved. Currently Aorle was in full armour, carrying a large oval shield on one arm.

"What's wrong?" he asked when he approached, before Dash answered. Something in that voice held a calm with stark contrast with Uluki's call.

"Lead the way." he said simply, gravely. If an angel sought him out this was clearly a serious matter. Had something gone wrong? Whatever the case, he had a duty, and knew that right would be well served by taking action at the will of a Sacred One.

"I stand ready to serve."
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Dash shook her head. “No, not to serve. Not now. The angel is here to help you. You’re hurt, but you don’t know it yet, and she’s going to save you.”

Dash was certain of this much, but didn’t know what else to say. Instead, she silently gave Amaranda permission to take over, to do whatever needed to be done.

Uluki hadn’t considered this a religious experience, not at first. She’d believed Dash about the angel, but her main emotions initially had been confusion and worry. She had been scared for Dash and then for Aorle, and there had been no room for anything in her mind but protecting her daughter and finding her friend.

That had left no room for wonder, or time to consider the implication that there was an angel here! A genuine angel!

Now, in the presence of a being so pure and good, she couldn’t help seeing herself the way the angel must see her: ugly and dirty, criss-crossed with scars and stained with guilt. She shouldn’t even be here. Dash would be safe. Uluki didn’t want to stay and risk ruining things. Especially not Aorle’s religious experience.

Uluki had not, in fact, ever had a religious experience herself. Not a real one. She had met her own celestial patron once, but it hadn’t been like this. She had begged for help, told a spirit of Fire that her friends were dying… and Fire hadn’t cared. It listened, and then it simply drifted away. It left her by herself, without even a word of comfort, unmoved by its shaman’s desperation. Fire burned, remote, beautiful and destructive. It simply lacked the capacity to concern itself with the affairs of people. Uluki understood that, and she didn’t mind. She’d been disappointed at the time… beyond disappointed… but she’d realized quickly that it was just a lesson learned. People could only rely on each other. No one else was coming to save them. That was just the way of things.

Angels were different, though. Angels cared. She didn’t know much else about them, but she knew that. She’d seen their pictures in the stained glass of the church windows, light streaming through them, and had imagined they could heal the whole world. Maybe that wasn’t true. It probably wasn’t. But it was such a nice dream.

She was glad Aorle’s angel had come to save him. She didn’t want him to die— obviously— but that wasn’t the whole of it. She was glad that the heavens had recognized his goodness, and would reward it. He deserved to be praised. He deserved an angel to take care of him.

Just knowing that it was real made Uluki feel warmer. It gave her hope. Surely learning about existence of such heavenly beings was a blessing in itself. This was a day she would never forget.

She squeezed Dash’s shoulder, trying to convey all her love and pride in her daughter, then she slipped away so she wouldn’t mess anything up. This was too important.

Uluki had an idea for what she needed to do, anyway. She was called to action, not watching. Watching was selfish when there were people she could be helping.

The angel was going to be very mad at Uluki for what she was about to do, but Uluki was willing to take that risk. The angel didn’t seem like the type to smite you with lightning bolts, and Uluki already knew where she was going when she died. She’d been near death often enough, and had seen the cold, dark place. The Bad Place couldn’t get any darker or colder, and there wasn’t any such thing as more alone. She could risk the angel’s anger.

No one else was coming to save them. That was just the way of things. Fire didn't even come to help a shaman, and not everyone had a guardian angel. All they had was Uluki. She was a poor substitute, but no one better was available to them. She was no angel, but she would have to do.

“Louise!” she called, hurrying over to the nearest former shanty town resident she could find and taking her hand. “Guess what! There’s an angel here. She came to heal…” Uluki paused, wavering, then went through with the lie. “…Everybody. If you’re sick or weak from being hungry, I’m sure you’ll start to feel better soon.” Then Uluki made it true, all except the angel part.

Uluki wished this had happened another day. She was too tired, too cold. But it was today, and she couldn’t miss the opportunity. She summoned all the energy she could muster, then, with a whispered apology for her sin, went to spread her angelic message.

Post by Julen on

Julen was not having the best morning.

After last night’s battle, he’d volunteered to share the first watch, since the adrenaline still coursing through his veins would have kept him from sleeping. That had gone well enough. His fellow warriors seemed satisfied by his performance during the fight and treated him like an equal. If some of them remembered that they’d first encountered him lying unconscious in the street, they didn’t make an issue of it. For his own part, Julen was proud of his role in the victory. Successfully protecting Kaydee -- as well as the other civilians -- helped ease the sting of his earlier failure. But still, a dark shadow lingered in the corner of his heart. A shadow which wouldn’t be banished until he faced Snyde once again, until he did right what he’d done wrong before. Until he knocked out enough teeth to prevent Snyde from sneering at anyone ever again.

Overall, though, he’d been in a good mood when his watch ended and he’d gone upstairs to sleep beside his wife. That good mood had ended abruptly when Rosemary rolled away from his attempted embrace. Is this how it’s going to be for us now, Julen? Me attacked by mercenaries one day, you carried home the next, and then our shelter besieged by an army of strangers? Will we spend the rest of our lives never knowing a moment of true safety?

How could he answer that? What promise could he make her? None. Helpless and guilty, Julen had gotten defensive. What do you want from me? What do you expect? Ever since we got married, I’ve poured every last ounce of my strength into making a life for us. So if there’s something you think I should be doing differently, I wish you’d tell me, because I swear to the gods that I don’t know what else to try. Or maybe you’re starting to regret not marrying a rich man like Phelan?

It had been the wrong thing to say. Even as the words slipped from Julen’s lips, he knew it. Rosemary hadn’t wanted an answer -- there was no answer. She’d wanted to be understood and comforted. Unfortunately, her questions had sound like an attack, so he’d attacked back, and now it was too late. The comment about Phelan ended the argument, but not in a good way. Rosemary drew in on herself, refusing to acknowledge his clumsy attempts at apologies, and Julen spent an uneasy night beside someone who wouldn’t speak to him, tormented by particularly grotesque dreams.

So, by the time morning came, Julen’s brain felt like a box of agitated cockroaches. But there were things to be done. Determined to slog onward, as he’d slogged onward so many times before, Julen went downstairs and ate breakfast. Noticing that Uluki had returned safely from her errand brought him a moment of happiness. Still, his mood remained overwhelmingly dark, until he heard the news, spreading like wildfire through the compound. There was an angel among them.

Amaranda. Somehow, the angel had returned. Julen felt a burst of joy and excitement. Now, Aorle could take his oath. Not wanting to miss his second chance to glimpse the heavenly creature, Julen started running toward where he’d last seen Aorle.

Then, for a moment -- only a moment -- Julen hesitated. Perhaps such an encounter was an intimate, personal thing. Perhaps neither the man nor the angel wanted to be gawked at during their sacred interaction. But the temptation to view such holiness was too great. And, judging by the general stampede heading in Aorle’s direction, he wasn’t going to get much privacy anyway. One additional person, more or less, wasn’t going to make a difference. So Julen resumed his dash.

When he arrived, he found a group of soldiers and refugees gathered around Aorle and Dash. Most were murmuring confused questions to each other. Did we miss her? Is Dash an angel? I thought she was Uluki’s daughter? Well, she does have wings. But angel?

However, as Dash spoke, the assembled group fell silent. Her voice remained unchanged. But the words seemed to come from somewhere beyond her, and the whites of her eyes had turned a shimmering shade of gold. Also, her wings, which she usually kept tightly folded down against her body, were now spread out to their full length, undulating softly in the air behind her, as if being enjoyed by someone who had lost their own wings long ago.

“It gives me pleasure to greet you again, Shining One. I thank you for the aid you offered to my friends during their battle against the demon. They all speak highly of your courage and compassion. There is much light in you, much light that you can shine in this dark place, and I cannot stand by and watch it be extinguished.”

Reaching out, Amaranda pressed Dash’s hand against Aorle’s chest. And Julen, who had often been on the receiving end of Aorle’s healing, couldn’t help smiling a little as he watched golden light spread from her fingertips. He wondered if Amaranda had a license to practice magic in Marn. He wondered what would happen if the city guard showed up and tried to arrest an angel. The resulting mental image made his smile grow even wider.

“A sacrifice was made,” Amaranda intoned. “But now I return what was lost, I mend what was broken. As this man gave a bit of his soul to prevent the death of an innocent boy, I give of my own essence to make him whole again.”

Unexpectedly, Julen felt a hand clutch one of his. With difficulty, he managed to tear his attention away from Aorle and Amaranda, glancing over to see who had desired his touch. Rosemary. As their eyes met, a soft smile curved her lips. And a warm, healing glow seemed to flow into Julen’s own heart. Giving her hand a gentle squeeze, he returned his gaze to the scene playing out in front of them.
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Post by Sir Karsimir on

High praise.

Only gradually understood. How she spoke implied she rested great importance on him, a concept he briefly struggled with. The Shining One knew his capabilities, knew he lived a righteous life, but never thought himself to be more important than any other. Only a useful instrument for good works. Hardly cause to be held with such esteem.

"Your friends gave far more for me. How could I do less?" answered Aorle with a mixture of reverence and sorrow, remembering the corpses of those birds he was unable to save. Accepting glory for his deeds in that battle seemed a dishonour to the valiant sacrifices made on his behalf, a dishonour to those who died for him.

Then, a golden warmth suffused his spirit, settling in his heart and filling him with vitality and passion that proved to him that he was now made whole. With that sensation, he shivered, starkly aware of the chill emptiness he had been carrying all those days since the day with Ramas. Every surge of might and power, every blessing which aided him, he knew where he had drawn it from. The bleeding of his soul.

Recalling the battle with the demonhag, and the agony of draining him, he knew how close he came to ultimate oblivion.

And regretted nothing.

"My thanks. Lady. To you both." he assured, at once addressing the angelic spirit being channeled and Dash who acted as her conduit. "I will do as is needed of me." If there was light for him to shine in a dark place, then he would use the life being returned to him to do so. As was only just.

Now was the time.

"There is more I would ask of you." he stated clearly, trusting that an angel with such authority would be fully aware of what he asked. "I wish to take the Oath."
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Post by Falcon Bertille on

The Shining One’s wish to take an Oath drew a smile from Amaranda. She did not ask him if he was sure, although with others she might have stressed the sacrifices they would be making. She did not question his motives, although with others she might have wondered if they desired power or fame more than the obligation to serve. The Shining One had proven that his intent was pure. However, there were still formalities that needed to be observed. “I thank you for your offer and truly hope that I will be able to accept it. You have a strong passion for good. But you are young in the years of your kind, and I must know that your actions are capable of matching your passion. Please do not be insulted by this. It would only cause both of us great grief if I prematurely granted such responsibility to one who was not yet ready.”

Sadness whispered inside Amaranda as more memories stirred from their long sleep. Memories of mistakes made, of men and women destroyed because they tried to do too much too soon. But resolve quickly overtook her regret, and she pulled her thoughts from the past, turning her attention to the future instead. “An act of wisdom. Three acts of generosity. Three acts of compassion. The restoration of something lost. And the noteworthy defeat of an evil opponent.”

“A few of these are already known to me. But since we seem to have such an attentive audience, perhaps some of them could bear witness to other deeds?” Expectantly, Amaranda turned her eyes on the assembled group of warriors and refugees.

Julen wanted to speak, but nervousness made his words shrivel and turn to dust in his throat. What if he said something wrong? Something stupid? What if he ruined Aorle’s chance to achieve his dream? What if he made a complete and utter ass of himself in front of an angel? Better to let someone else talk, someone who could be more eloquent, more knowledgeable.

It seemed that many of those present were struggling with similar doubts, because silence held the compound. Until it was broken by the sound of hoof beats. Trotting in through the large doorway, Arjen approached Amaranda without hesitation, and the crowd parted to let him pass.

“Ah, I remember you,” Amaranda murmured, stroking the horse’s muzzle. “You were also very brave. Is there something you wish to tell me, my friend?”

Whickering softly, Arjen pressed his head against Amaranda’s/Dash’s hand. And Amaranda nodded. “I see. Yes, he has been very kind to you. Yes, I’ll be sure to take that into consideration. And no, my friend, I’m afraid that I don’t have any apples. But I thank you for sharing your thoughts.”

Again, Amaranda turned her eyes to the humans. “Anyone else?”

That did it. Ashamed that Aorle’s horse had displayed more courage than his yeoman, Julen triumphed over his fear and stepped forward, reluctantly pulling his hand from Rosemary’s as he did so. “When I first met Aorle, I had lost hope. I was still struggling along, doing what needed to be done...but I no longer believed that it would do any good. I felt helpless. Defeated. Then Aorle showed me that none of us are ever truly defeated, not as long as we keep fighting. I don’t know if that’s what you mean, about restoring something lost, but he gave my hope back to me. And I certainly am grateful.” Julen’s gaze met his friend’s, and he tapped his fist against his chest in a sincere salute.

After that, it was like a dam breaking, as everyone eagerly shared their own stories.

“People said bad things about Mama and Papa,” Zee volunteered. “But Aorle still let us stay here.”

Jenny chimed in next. “He’s protectin’ me and my daughter from a cruel man. A man who wants to hurt us. That’s compassionate, ain’t it?”

“When a group of mercenaries tried to take advantage of me, he stood up to them. He fought eight of them at once. If he hadn’t been there...if he hadn’t been there, my husband and I would both be dead.”

"He gave my brother fine armor to protect him in battle," Thetta muttered, staring off in the opposite direction. "So I suppose he's not all bad. For a man."

Sigvard nodded enthusiastically, proudly gesturing to the iron breastplate he'd recieved from Aorle. "And, instead of sending us away, he allowed us to prove ourselves to him. At his request, we performed a mighty atonement! An attonement that the bards will sing about for -- ow!" Sigvard's witnessing was abruptly cut short by a jab from his sister's elbow.

“Most here not trust orcs.” That was from Krarug. “But Aorle trust Krarug. Now Krarug not alone. Now Krarug have good things to fight for, like pretty Ro-se-mary.”

Last of all, Kaydee crept forward, looking like she expected the angel to smite her just for being there. Her voice trembled when she spoke. But speak she did. “He healed me. He made a blister on my lip go away. And he calls me his ‘little sister’, even though I’m just a whore.”

When everyone had been given a chance to say their piece, Amaranda turned back toward the Shining One. “Impressive. It seems that you have done much to earn your many friends. Do you confirm that each of them speaks the truth?”

Post by Sir Karsimir on

"Aye, m'lady. All speak true, save one detail."

This was something which could not go unchallenged, "Kaydee is no whore. How she has suffered does not diminish her merit, she is more a lady than any I remember from royal court." In fact, he often considered the mistresses of noblemen nothing more than high-class whores, there was far more honour in Kaydee's struggle for survival and to retain her good nature. Those who took advantage of her poverty were the ones to be ashamed.

Hearing so many recount his deeds eagerly, speaking up for his merit and worth, told him of the lives he had touched and the good he had done. More proof that his devotion to his cause was worthwhile.

"There is more!" It was Triarius who spoke, him and the others had returned amid the gathering people during a rush. "This night just gone, he fought with us against deserters from our glorious Empire, deserters who attacked this place and had attacked me and my bodyguard not long before."

"And he brought us to safety after that first attack!" followed on Metellus, "Carried me and lent his horse. A lord walking so we could ride." That notion had stayed with Metellus, since none of the officers he had served with had loaned their horse to wounded troops. It was considered the place of the leader to ride, and the soldier to march.

Finally, always one to prefer actions to words, Numidar threw a leather satchel forward, a waterskin and mess tin and rolled up cloak spilled from the open end. "This is what he sent us to gather. For the civilians. So they were provided for. The battle provided loot for us warriors, he wanted to take care of the others. Call it compassion or wisdom or what you will." An effort was made to hide his own reverence for the angel, it would not do to be caught in wonderment.

"My armsmen speak true as well." Aorle affirmed, before coming to a decision regarding how he wished to proceed with his Oath, and the manner of judgement he would stand for. "Very well. Dash, do you have words you wish to share? And my lady, 'tis time I knew your name."
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

((NPC Post))

It was surprisingly relaxing with Amaranda. When Dash had first let go, she had a moment of sheer panic, like letting go of a ledge. There had been no sensation of falling, though… only drifting comfortably, like a passenger in her own body, watching and listening. It was a soothing feeling.

Dash was content simply to drift and to observe, till Aorle said her name. Did she have anything to say? Dash wondered, not with panic but with an oddly calm curiosity, whether she was able to speak. She didn’t want to displace the angel.

The angel had said Dash could still do whatever she wanted. Amaranda was a guest, not a usurper. She had come for help, and to give help. It was true, Dash thought, what she had asked Uluki and Uluki had agreed with. It was like family. Dash’s family always listened to what she had to say. Surely the angel would also let her speak.

That didn’t seem to be a problem. She found she was able to say what she wanted to. The angel’s light didn’t dissipate, but Dash’s voice and tone were once again her own.

“Aorle has been very kind to our family. He gave us shelter. He understood things about us… not just my parents, but me and my sister too… that would have made other people scared, or hate us. He promised he wouldn’t let anything bad happen to us. I think he’s a very good man.”

For Dash, that had been quite the speech. She couldn’t remember ever saying so many words all at once, except to her family. Well, and to Kaydee, but Kaydee was like family. Talking in front of all these people was pretty scary.

Dash faded into the background of her own body, once again giving the angel permission to act and speak through her.

Post by Falcon Bertille on

Kaydee blushed when Aorle called her “more of a lady” than anyone he remembered from the royal court. She’d never seen a noblewoman, but they inhabited her imagination like colorful butterflies -- wearing beautiful dresses, talking prettily amongst themselves, dancing with their handsome suitors at elegant balls. How could she be more of a lady than they were? When she was clumsy, ill-mannered, and no one had ever even asked her to dance? It couldn’t possibly be true. But still, it was kind of Aorle to say such a thing. His words made her feel a little warmer inside. “Thank you, big brother,” she murmured, before melting back into the crowd.

After the new arrivals, and then Dash, added their statements to the general outpouring of praise for the Shining One, Amaranda felt satisfied. Although young, he had proven himself capable of noble action as well as noble intent. It would be a pleasure to accept the allegiance of a person so willing to make sacrifices for the welfare of others. However, before Amaranda could announce her approval, the Shining One asked her a question that she hadn’t been expecting.

“My name?” It was not that she didn’t have an answer to that. Instead, she had too many. Thinking back, Amaranda remembered so many sounds, spoken in so many languages -- some of them as long dead as the creatures that once shaped them. Which should she choose? Which should she honor above the others? After a moment’s consideration, she picked the name she was known by in a small, stone church far from here, where a peasant lad still sang her ancient hymns. “I am the angel Amaranda.”

“And you have proven yourself most worthy, Shining One. My own experience with you has only added to all the good things your friends witnessed. I know that you defeated a vile and dangerous opponent, for the hag nails that you burned during the summoning were stained with your own blood. I know that you put the safety of your friend above your own desires. I know that you fought bravely to aid creatures which many of your kind think to be beneath them. I am grateful for all these things. And I am ready to hear your oath.”


Return to Industrial District