Friday, February 4, 2011

Immortal Flesh, Mortal Bindings

So very long ago, that time itself had yet to be, the ifrit dwelled within their cities of brass and fire. Their power was great and terrible; they grew wise in strange magics and entertained themselves with the suffering of smaller, weaker things. When time came to be, and humanity eventually became known to these cruel spirits of living flame, they looked with a hungry eye towards the frail, ever-so-mortal creatures, eager to find some new sport with which to occupy their endless days and nights.

Nasrin was a gentry of the
ifrit and particularly cruel, even by their immortal standards. Crossing the farthest dunes and passing through vicious oases of barbs, she crossed into the human realm, seeking her pleasures in the torments of merchants caught in greed, maidens in jealousy, children in curiousity, and others still. Upon the Material, she would visit them in the small hours of the night, and make available to them her services, and her vast power, all to the end of granting the foremost desire of each wish, but twist it upon itself in such a way as to bring utter destruction and ruin to the wisher.

Nasrin came and went as she pleased from the Material to the City of Brass, sowing pain and misery with such wild abandon that their broken hopes and wishes rained down like sweet nectar upon the desert sands and that strange, wild blooms sprouded wherever the shattered dreams fell. So great was Nasrin's fame that it became known even amongst mortal chroniclers of the otherworldly, and a nameless, but wise, man conspired to ensnare the vicious spirit in a web of her own making.

For several years, the merchant-scholar pondered every possible avenue of this wish. Every dark end to which the
ifrit might bend anything that he requested, and he perfected his words-smith in such ways as never had been seen outside of mages of the highest rank. When all was said and done, the scroll upon which the man's wish was written trailed from his hand to the floor, and its intention, so tightly woven that none of the spirit's malice could possibly slip through the pattern of its threads. While he could not unmake the creature's evil entirely, it was possible to confine her and so limit her power to work wickedness only upon those caught by her seductive promises.

After that followed long months of pursuit, wherein the scholar-merchant followed a trail of destroyed lives, and devastated leavings of wishes turned spiteful and sour. Here he found the funerary procession of a prince who had hanged himself for the cost of freedom from an unwanted betrothal. There, he puzzled through the barely coherent mutterings of a prostitute whose mind could not bear the weight of the price of her vengeance upon the man who had carved her face into such shapes. Still further, he broke fast with a heartbroken father who learned only too late what had come of his longing for his son to return home from a faraway war. Each of Nasrin's sins, he studied within his mind, and within his heart, taking the measure of the noble's monstrousness.

At last, among the ruins of a civilization long since fallen, the merchant-scholar found Nasrin, and, as was her way, she offered to grant unto him the foremost wish of his heart. An offer he readily accepted. When she asked whatever it was he had desired, the young man unrolled his scroll, and began to recite the command he had so painstakingly created. By the tenth word, Nasrin's eyes went wide with vicious seething and horror, for she knew the man's intention but was forbidden by her nature either to interrupt or to refuse. Even as he continued to speak, the
ifrit was compelled to fashion out of her magic a crystalline bottle and stopper, and began to pour the totality of her being and magic into the vessel. She shrieked ugly words born of pain and fury, though the man listened to neither her maledictions nor her desperate pleas. Nasrin offered to make the man a king, but still he read. She promised him a mountain of coins, but he still did not desist. She told him she could make him immortal and like unto one of the ifrit in power, but he had no ear for her deceptions....

And so it was that Nasrin was captured by a mortal man.

Eventually, the man became filled with sorrow for his captive. For the first time in her life, the
ifrit had been bested, and possibly permanently. She flew into rages, crying out at the man who had trapped her. He did not waver. She would sneer, taunting him from her glass chamber. He did not waver. She would tempt and promise, eventually devolving into begging and pleading. He did not waver.

However, one day, the wind blew just so, from the south; tinged with heat, dry, and carrying the scent of exotic flowers. The
ifrit grew calm, and a hint of a smile curved her lips, and it became clear to the man that the things that reminded her of home brought a measure of peace to her inhuman heart. He became entranced, and allowed her to dance among the dunes of Toril's deserts, to savor the fruits plucked freshly from the trees of forgotten oases, content to watch her happiness. Nevertheless, every time her brief respite was ended, she would resume her solemnity and anger, becoming more and more spiteful, more and more hateful. The merchant-scholar's heart cracked softly, and offered her a semblance of release, and wished for the ifrit's hand in marriage.

The
ifrit was furious, of course, but, powerless to resist. She then set up a series of labors for her merchant suitor, quests ridiculous in of themselves from the sheer scope of them. She had him fetching from the vines of the deepest reaches of the Cormanthor a fruit that brings certain death with a single taste. He was set to forging, in a day, the sharpest sword in the world from steel alloyed out of elements that had never touched Toril before. All tasks nigh impossible, but ultimately able to be accomplished.

And when he accomplished this, he was transported into the inmost paradise of her prison, and a celebration of nearly unfathomable scope unfolded, merging immortal flesh to mortal bindings...


Narishka slowly shut the book. I never thought you for such an embellisher, father, Narishka thought offhandedly, sweeping her hand across the thick, embossed leather of the old tome.

And the man succeeded, of course. Where would the story be if the protagonist failed? Even if he was trying to wed the antagonist, they painted Nasrin as quite the prize.

Narishka tiptoed her fingers across the spine of the book, and quietly slipped it into her bag, away from the shelf where she had found it. A blaze of pride shot through her chest, and she could feel her heart swell a bit. She was one step closer to finding her mother.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sourange

Joel La Belle-FeƩ did not think himself a very complex man. Certainly, there were things that separated him from the others in Marias d'Sablet, but that was basic variation in life. No, he thought himself rather practical, when he had the time to be speculative on his life, usually sitting upon the porch of his home, outside of the local mausoleum. Strange, that his lot in life would be intrinsically linked to death, although he supposed that was also one variation in life that stayed the same--the currency of the country were named by monuments of death, toothchips, fingerbones, and gravestones. Mind you, Joel always earned his gravestones well, and honestly, as he was the caretaker of the mausoleum.

In Marias d'Sablet--or Sourange, as others outside of the place itself would call it--the swamp ruled the lives of those who lived there. It would figure that the swamp would still have its hold over those who had died, as well, as the influx of swampwater prevented any sort of normal burial within the country's soil--they would just wash up again several days later. Thus, all the dead of Sourange were stored within mausoleums, which were the closest to holy places one could get in the swamp. Most were beautiful, in their own way. Joel took special pride in his own, as his fellows and he had carved out the tomb themselves, making it their own way to honor their dead, after they had finished their trek to the place. The mausoleum's stone was culled from mountains outside of Marias d'Sablet, and they brought it here.

Then they left. Joel did not know exactly where, but some of them spread out. Others left altogether, never heard from again. He chose to stay with the mausoleum, as a caretaker. A guardian--after all, that is what he was supposed to be, no?

The mausoleum itself was a large thing, extensive. His family had been thorough--there were secret entryways, exits, and almost every sort of artistic carving you could think of. The archways into the crypts were large, lustrous white, with heavy iron doors and carvings of angels with large, feathered wings. Joel often would patrol the grounds of the crypts, or inside, making sure that theives or ne'er-do-wells did not interrupt the repose of the dead inside. For his work, he was paid in gravestones (he still chuckled at the thought), and he lived simply.

And then everything changed.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Venice

Her mother told her dreams want to be real, that when one starts to wake up, they hang on and try to slip out into the waking world when you do not notice. Very strong dreams, she had said, can almost do it--those that last for almost half a day, but not much longer. Venetia asked her if any ever made it. If any dreams had actually stolen out into the real world, like one of the rhyming thieves of the smoke-and-mist filled city that her father had once talked of.

She had smiled, and said, she knew at least of one. She had that longing, tired look in her eyes that made Venetia think of her father. Her mother always looked like that when she talked of him.

Venetia was small, she could have not been any more than five. In all her childish innocence and curiousity, she asked who, and did she know them?

Her mother simply smiled, and said that it was a long time ago, and Venetia wouldn't remember.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Foam, Part 2

Egeria wondered a moment in the darkness, which was odd for her. Sea foam does not wonder, oftentimes. She heard the rushing of the waves, and felt the sea changing, pressure increasing. After a time, perhaps an hour, perhaps a few minutes, she felt the cold start to creep in through the jaws of the large creature she seemed to be inhabiting at the moment. Only now did it occur to her that the creature was acting out of the ordinary--usually, she would have been popped and swirled about in the creature's mouth. So far, it had only popped the few bubbles it had gotten at the beginning, and it took care not to move its tongue too much. She pondered at this a moment before going back to resting, thinking of nothing.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, the jaws of the beast opened, and the sea foam once known as Egeria flowed out into the cold waters of the deep sea, slowly starting to rise back to the surface.
Now that she was able to see, she took the chance to look around, vaguely curious. The creature that had carried her was a large thing, all fins and rough skin and teeth. It swished her about as it swam away, and she spun in several circles until she felt weightless. But then, she always felt weightless.
Suddenly, a voice echoed in her mind.
Hello, mermaid princess.
She paused a moment, and wondered vaguely how she would reply, as she were sea foam. It then occurred to her that sea foam also have no eyes, and couldn't see. Everything around her went black almost instantly, and she would have frowned, if she could.
It is alright. You may speak with me, here.
The voice was unlike anything she knew she'd ever experienced, as if some unspeakable rule were being broken here, that the voice belonged to something strange and terrible, that the being speaking was something that no human could comprehend.
But to a bit of sea foam, this was no matter.
Who are you?
The voice paused a moment, either surprised or thinking. Egeria couldn't guess which.
I am... a god of the sea. Little sea foam. You speak so insolently.
Well, yes, but sea foam doesn't thi--












The deity sighed, granting the sea foam sentience again.
Ah, no. Most sea foam doesn't think, I suppose, but you do.
Do I? Then.. I must not be sea foam.
No... And, quite frankly, Egeria, you are not sea foam, nor do I want you as sea foam in my sea, anymore.
Oh. Then what will you do to me?

There was no answer, but Egeria felt something happening. At her core. It was as singular thought, and it bothered the little sea foam, and she tried to figure it out, but could not, not quite yet, grasp it...

I... am.

She felt the tiniest parts of her existence fizzling, changing. The bubbles began popping, and where they disappeared, flesh grew. Instead of water and air, there was mass and muscle. Instead of nonexistent eyes, she had glorious sight, and, as she looked around, Egeria saw that she was rising, rising, quickly, out of the water, towards the surface, at a terrifying speed.

And what a thrill it was, for her first time having blood, feeling the tension that felt as if you were falling, instead of rising up.

Egeria burst out of the water, falling onto the shore of a sandy riverbed, gasping, naked. She paused to look at the sky, to look at the water, to look at her surroundings. And then, she did something she had not done in decades.

She cried.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Aftermath of a Backstabber, Partner to Flying Narwhal's Story

Serci fumbled with the plant. She could barely remember the last time she was this nervous, and she knew exactly why. Him. It was always him that found the weak spot, that found the crack in her armor, her wall that she put up around herself. Anyone else, she could brush off easily, scare them away, even as a kid. She had enjoyed her self-imposed exile, too. It had made life easier. And then Joe had come along and complicated things. If it were anyone else, it would make her angry. Since it was Joe, though...
Serci! Look what I found!
Her heart hurt again, craved for the times when she could protect him, and he would protect her in return. Now look how they were. She protected him best she could (which had turned out to not be as well as she thought, and misconstrued for a blasted item, instead of what really mattered....), and he probably plotted her own death as she sat here, feeling around the greenery for Lougdol berries. She found none, and flushed under the hood, feeling embarrassed. Wasn't the forest supposed to be her specialty?
Stupid, stupid.. Why are you worried about how you look to him, when he is going to kill you eventually?
She bit her lip at her inner voice. She knew it was right, and logically, she shouldn't do this... feel these things, or even think these thoughts. She didn't deserve to, for one, and she didn't want to, for another. She didn't even dare that he would ever... No, that was a ridiculous idea.
She was completely aware of him behind her, and wondered why he'd put off killing her for so long. Maybe he was lost, and needed someone to guide him around until he got a lay of the land? Or may hap he hadn't wanted to kill her so near Alvarilja. Indeed, it would be a deserved killing, and she found herself worrying that Alvarilja would take his actions in the wrong way, instead of knowing the truth--that he was avenging himself, instead of murdering. She wondered if there was a way to get Alvarilja to understand what would happen when she died, before she died, so that Joe would not suffer the consequences.
You're crazy, you know, to think that. Your pining is making your thoughts fuzzy. She bit her lip again, knowing her inner voice was right. Again.
She picked up a small, almond-shaped seed from below the plant, however, and croaked out a sentence, her voice scratchy.
"Ah, well... Found a seed, though." She smiled to herself, despite the situation. Maybe Joe could plant this later...
She put it in a bag of other seeds that she had marked his name on, for when they got back to Alvarilja. "Let's see.. Deeper into the forest, or back?" She wondered what he would choose. If he said deeper into the forest, what would happen there..? It was already late, as it was. The sun would set soon.
"Deeper, perhaps." She trembled at his reply, somewhat happy, and started leading him deeper into the forest.
"Alright, then. Then, back?" She wondered momentarily why she was happy with his reply. All her survival instincts told her logically that he was probably leading her away from society to kill her and hide her. Deeper in the forest, no one would find the rotting limbs of a half-elven woman. Deeper in the forest, no one would disturb her again, except maybe Joe, occasionally. Something about that made her a little at-ease. If she were to die, she would want Joe to know. It might give him closure.
"Mmm."
She wondered at the thousand meanings behind that momentary grunt, for minutes on end. The majority of those were bad. They continued in relative silence, until Serci heard a rustle in the leaves. Soft, sounding like something dragged their foot through leaves. She paused a moment, and drew the bow from her back, bending it and stringing it, a practiced action, thoughtless by now. She murmured back to Joe, crouching a bit into a defensive stance, elbows out, taut. "Careful.."
"Why?" She couldn't help it--she smiled at his response, and then saw a small flash of green. Instinctively, without thinking, she loosed arrows at it. She cursed at herself in her head.
Always, always get a good look first, you idiot!
Luckily for her, this time, it was a forest goblin. She eased herself with that, but reminded herself that next time, she may not be lucky, and could have accidentally taken a life. She glanced back at Joe, and reminded herself what that felt like.
It felt like shattered, hot iron, pressed up between her ribs, forcing them open, and stabbing her through her heart. She looked down, swallowing bile, and moved to go examine some mushrooms near a tree, looking for the few that were edible, just in case.
"Ah. You're quite good at this." She paused at the praise, tensing and starting to put up a wall.
"Not... really." She cringed a bit, remembering what good she had been..
"No?" Serci paused a moment, and decided to bask in the praise, just a little. It wouldn't hurt, to pretend for a moment, that he wasn't going to kill her, that she'd never abandoned him, that they could be friends again. She was silent for a few moments, before she pointed towards the mushrooms.
"This is called Redfoot.. None I can salvage, though. ...And, no." She paused a moment, and it hit her--she could may hap find a measure of peace, as well as give Joe his own peace, as well, maybe... "I was..." She bit her lip, thinking over how to explain it to him. Strange, how such a pivotal role in her life was so hard to explain to the more important role. "...Entrusted. To protect something, is all."
She immediately started bemoaning her words in her head. The only thing she should have been protecting, she had run away from. She loathed herself. She tried to save her words, pulling out that damn spear from the bag, showing it to him. Even now, the blasted thing hummed softly with magic. The spear's head was styled like a sunburst, an intricate, almost torturously complex design carved into it, the haft engraved in Elven. She glanced along it, for the first time in a very long time. Since she had... left Joe, she hadn't wanted to look at it. Day after day, she would stand at the edge of a cliff, a different one each day, overlooking the ocean, pondering if she should throw it in. Eventually, the visits diminished less and less, until she stopped going altogether. She gulped again, remembering how much she hated this thing. The most glorious spear in the history of elven weaponry.
Joe, however, was looking around, instead. "The forest?"
She croaked out, rather anti-climatically, "Namely this." She flushed, and hoped he didn't see it, ashamed that she was doing this, already. She felt like a mere child, again, trying to use something to excuse her own actions.
"Ohh." Joe seemed to look the spear over, but other than that, she couldn't tell his expression.
She sat there for a moment, and heard her heart thumping, and started talking again, her voice cracking a bit. "I... failed, in part of its protection. Or succeeded, I guess." She shrugged, trying to seem nonchalant, but she knew the truth.
You failed in protecting the thing that was the most important.
She cringed as, instead of hearing her own inner voice, she heard Joe, accusing her, from so long ago. The close proximity to him made her shiver again.
"Well, you seem to wield it well." Joe, as usual, took the neutral stance. She wished she knew what he was thinking right now, craved a kind word, and sighed inwardly at herself for her own thoughts.
"..Eh.. I do not think it was meant for my hands." She shrugged, again, speaking flatly. She didn't know what to do with this thing, anymore. The most holy relic in the area, and she couldn't decide what the hell to do with it.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Foam, Part 1

She was drifting, without a care for the world. The water was cold today, rough. She really should have been afraid, maybe been scared and sought self-preservation, but she really didn't care. She hadn't, not for a long, long time.
Egeria the sea foam alighted on the ocean's water. A few bubbles popped. It didn't hurt--you had to have nerves to hurt. She looked around(for it hadn't occurred to her that sea foam did not have eyes, and if it had, she would not be able to see), and saw the sky was a sort of grey, clouds lazily passing through. She wondered if someday she would float that high, become clouds. She had lost the desire to be what she had been, but secretly, she missed being able to move as freely as she once had, to be able to move to other vantages to see the sky. It had been magical, seeing the sky from under the water. Like a silver mirror.
It came to mind that she was losing her former identity, but this brought no pain. Sea foam had no feelings. She drifted along the top of the sea, being tugged about and around.
This was better.
She needed no food(for sea foam was born of bubbles), and there was no pain, not really. There was nothing but her and the sea, the freedom of her beloved water, the open sky, and the comfort of the surf. It had been like this for.. years.
How odd. Years is a sentient description.
If sea foam had lips, brain shocks, or the inclination to smile, she would have. She wondered at what sea foam would look like, smiling, until her thoughts drifted elsewhere, to the past, before she became nothing.
Beside her, she found seaweed. She decided it was a good thing to call it--seaweed. Very much like sea foam. Egeria worried if calling something very close to her own type of name was arrogant, but the thought faded, as they all did.
Without warning, a very different sort of movement happened, one that was not in time with the ocean waves. Egeria saw the sky, huge teeth, curving like... well, teeth, but she vaguely remembered something called a trident. Its points reminded her of the teeth. The jaws clamped around her, and a few of her bubbles popped, and she saw nothing, for a time.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Aftermath of a Deceiver, Partner to Flying Narwhal's Story

"I'm not quite a /medical/ doctor, but I do know some techniques."
"Oh. You are a doctor?" Serci knew this already, but his comment took her aback. Techniques?
"Mhm. In Golemancy and the application thereof." Aah, yes.. That was what it was called. She remembered now. He had worked so hard to master that craft.. She smiled, remembering him spouting off theories and equations she didn't have any idea even existed, stunning even the local teachers.
I'll probably have to leave for the city college, soon..
Yeah..
Serci.. Would you care to join me?

"I see." She flushed under the hood. Stupid! Stupid, stupid, stupid.. She wanted to seem neural, not seem dimwitted. She bit her lip, and asked, just out of curiosity. "So... Can you use spears?" Maybe she could give it to him.. It would defend him better than she could, at any rate.
"Not particularly."
"No?" She was surprised. She'd have thought he could do anything.. But then, she supposed, if she truly thought that, she wouldn't have run away.
"The suit has its own weaponry, in any case." That it did... Her chest ached again, remembering all the times he'd stood up for her, and the one time he needed her most..
"I see.. I thought everyone could." She winced a bit at her tactless comment.
"And well, I've spent more time building than.. fighting." She looked over the nicks and scratches in the armor, and thought otherwise. She closed her eyes, strengthening her resolve to be his bodyguard, even more.
"Well, it is good that you are here, then." Serci nodded a bit, looking towards him, once more. She couldn't stop it, even if his appearance sometimes made her tremor in fear as much as wonder. He was back. She wondered where his scarf was, if he'd destroyed it, cast it over some cliff, wishing it were her, instead.
"How is that?" She couldn't help it. She smiled again, remembering how Joe would usually advocate for a no-fighting approach, but if a threat reared its head, he would throw himself headfirst into battle.
She figured that if he could see her face again, he'd have thought her mad. Maybe she was. But she was thankful for the hood, nonetheless.
"There is.. much fighting, that needs to be done, I suppose is the best way to put it." She rubbed the back of her head, looking ahead flatly. She couldn't believe herself, making inside jokes about her death like that.
"I've learned that most anything can be adapted to that purpose. This suit was originally for helping miners, people doing work in harsh climates.. It was not... hard to weaponize, when the need came." He aimed at a passing deer, raising his arm. A projectile shot from Joe's glove. It whizzed past the deer. Joe's helmet regarded this. "The targeting system needs work, though. In that, I need one that isn't just squinting one eye."
Serci wanted to chime in. Well, that's why you need me, then, I guess! It struck her that saying that would not only be incredibly rude, but also arrogant, and undeserving for her to say it. Her, of all people. She smiled at him weakly, instead, and motioned to the deer they had killed, in the meantime, knowing he wanted to practice skinning, her other hand placed on his shoulder lightly. "This one, first, and then we'll decide whether or not to kill the other one." She paused for a moment, his scent reaching her a moment. He smelled of metal, his cologne, and cloth, as well as a faint trace of sweat, from the exertion. She smiled a moment, but instead of pressing herself against him to inhale it, she took her hands back quickly, remembering that she wasn't fit to touch him. She backed away a few steps for good measure.
"Are you quite alright?" Joe looked back at her. She hoped he hadn't noticed, but then she quickly changed the subject, peering over his shoulder at the skin.
"..Ah, good job." And it was. A little ragged around the edges, but good.
"It's not a /very/ good job. But I will at least call it a job." Serci arched her eyebrows at his statement--it was better than she was likely to do, right now. However, she conceded to his point silently, deciding that she'd rather train him and then compliment him, rather than give herself away.
"Well, when we go back, I'll show you how to make it into this." She moved to hold out some leather she had treated, the day before. Her nose burned in memory, and the hide was low-quality, but it was hide, nonetheless.
"Ohhh... So, where to now?"
Serci pointed. "A foraging spot, over here... " As well as, she hoped, a camping spot, for where they might rest for the night.