A Healing Process

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Title: A Healing Process
Author: Rohese Bayvel-Timsh'l

First published on the 10th day of Fashanos in the year 5119

At the end of A Difficult Journey, back in early Olaesta 5118, Rohese had been left for dead following a bandit attack in a forest somewhere between Solhaven and the Talador refugee camps. This is a continuation of her story almost a year later and includes perspectives from the other key characters involved.

Timeline of Events

Date Event
Charlatos, 5118 Naamit discovered a single strand of Rohese's hair in her braiding tool and realized its potential for serving her needs. Using it to divine her location, Naamit dispatched a contingent of "bodyguards" to capture her. [A Woman's Needs]
1st day of Olaesta, 5118 Rohese was ambushed by bandits on her journey from Solhaven to a Talador refugee encampment. [Disappearance]

Naamit's bodyguards intercepted and "rescued" her. A wounded Rohese was taken to a manor house in an unknown location where Naamit compelled her into submission through torture and shrewd persuasion. [Dirty Little Secrets]

Ceyrin was informed of the bandit attack and subsequent capture by his network of informants prompting him to investigate. He took over the search and finally discovered Rohese's exsanguinated, wounded (her wings have been ripped from her back), and discarded body. He was unaware of the perpetrator. [A Place to Rest: Chapter 0 ~ While the Arkati Laugh]

5th day of Ivastaen, 5118 Rohese remained unconscious in the care of Ceyrin's associates. [Disquiet]
20th day of Koaratos, 5118 Tyrie (a Green Sister) wrote a letter to Puptilian to express her concern about Rohese’s disappearance. With no sign of a recovery, Ceyrin charged his brother to escort Rohese to The Isle of Graces. [Duty]
18th day of Phoenatos, 5118 The Argent Mirror held a Delegation Meeting to discuss Rohese’s disappearance and asked for a search to be made – with no success. Diplomatic discussions continued between Ta'Illistim and Solhaven. [Meeting]
10th day of Fashanos, 5119 Rohese regained consciousness and spent time recuperating on the Isle of Graces: her physical wounds were healing but her emotional state was in question. [Recuperation]
13th day of Fashanos, 5119 Ceyrin arrived on the Isle of Graces. [Recovery]
16th day of Fashanos, 5119 Ceyrin and Rohese set sail on the Shoalblazer for Solhaven. [Return]
23rd day of Fashanos, 5119 The Shoalblazer arrived in Solhaven. Rohese was in a depressed state but Ceyrin saw her settled in the Sylvanfair Mews on Tumbledown Lane before returning to his usual business affairs. [Retreat]
27th day of Fashanos, 5119 Rohese chose to spend a few days on Mist Harbor (taking up residence in Cyraeni’s house) and sent word to Puptilian, via his avian friends, that she was “fine”. She witnessed an approaching storm. [Pretty Little Lies] [QST]
11th day of Charlatos, 5119 Rohese finally came to terms with what had happened to her and with that, came the realization of who had perpetrated the act. She was flooded with emotions and struggled to deal with it. [Realization] She shared the name (Naamit) with Ceyrin but shied away from recounting the full details of what had happened.
15th day of Charlatos, 5119 Ceyrin revealed to Rohese (in confidence) that he was in possession of something belonging to Naamit. ( After his arrival on the Isle of Four Winds, Socius had coerced Naamit into helping him by taking a bracelet from her). Ceyrin offered it to Rohese to use as she saw fit.
21st day of Charlatos, 5119 Rohese was marked by a meek and fell under the spell of Nehor's charms. [QST]
23rd day of Charlatos, 5119 Rohese pondered her recent experiences and had a revelation. [Revelation]
25th day of Charlatos, 5119 Rohese is summoned to an audience with Nazhor alone. Nehor chooses between shadow and light.
27th day of Charlatos, 5119 One year on, Rohese finally breaks down and turns a corner. [Release]

Prologue

Naamit ~ A Woman's Needs

[Added with the author's permission]

Mid-life crisis

The tired, middle-aged woman sits on a curule chair before a tall rectangular mirror, knotting her hair in sections with the aid of a wooden implement. She notices a stray hair caught in its grain, quite unlike her own. The delicate paleness of it shines bright and distinct in contrast to the coarseness of her own thick, black locks.

A sudden look of dawning clarity crosses her brow.

She twirls the slender strand between her thumb and index finger. Each pirouette the stray hair's tangled path takes screams in her brain a veritable crescendo of some orchestral number on the epic journey to the fountain of youth.

Things once lost, soon to be found. Mmmm. Yes. This will do nicely.

A woman has her needs after all.

Debts owed are rarely forgotten

Donning the disguise of her forefathers, she traveled west to assemble a team of bodyguards with haste, carrying with her the imprisoned artifact now entombed a resin reliquary. It was quite easy to gain compliance from one of her former lovers, he himself having risen through the ranks of office. A man has needs too, but the price of silence is steep. She had finally come to collect after all these years and there was little he could do to decline the proposition.

A most fortuitous series of events played out once the soldiers set forth: aided by the power of this single silver strand, the team was hot on the trail of their target. It hadn't been too difficult, given the sucking mud ruts left in their wake. So too, were a group of idiot bandits. And when the first arrows flew at the behest of the bandits, the bodyguards leapt to action with the finery and flourish befitting their role. To protect their ward was their sole purpose and no other. But unfortunately, the woman was injured in the skirmish. Once the threat was obliterated, they bandaged and bundled up the injured woman best they could and returned to their employer after a difficult journey through the forest highlands.

No good deed comes for free

Cold as they often are, the mountainous manor seemed to warm with the arrival of the injured ward. The mistress of the house took her charge and responded coolly to the adjutant, "Your assistance is appreciated. Leave her with us. You'll have the rest of your payment before the next new moon. Send my pleasant regards to your esteemed officer."

She flipped a bag of silvers to the younger soldier and instructed him to visit the bawdy inn down the hill. "My women will be fair to you. Or harsh, if you beg for it," she finished with grim smugness. The crisply dressed man departed without as much as a salutation.

Long after the house quieted, she called her healer to attend to the ward's shoulder wound while her gaze remained enrapt on the tenderly feathered opportunity sprawled out perfectly before her. As she waited, the human woman knelt beside a richly draped bed and whispered into her elf's ear, "One has to keep up appearances, don't you think? Yes, I think you do."

No good deed comes for free. A woman has her needs after all.

Ceyrin ~ A Place to Rest

[Added with the author's permission]

[Shrine of Onar, Rotunda]
Pristine white marble slightly striated with black veins fills the round room and is crafted with masterful stonecutting. Each block of the walls, floor, and ceiling has been so tightly placed that the effect is almost seamless. Narrow onyx half-columns serve as floor-to-ceiling beams, their grooved shafts rising from half-moon bases and ending in heavily gilded scalloped capitals. An altar waits at the far side of the domed expanse, opposite a small, square opening leading to some dark stone steps.
While the Arkati Laugh

When I look back at my life I can't help but be dismayed at the course it has taken. The dreams I had as a young Maeramil long since lost to the fate I found myself faced with. It's been over twenty years now since I began my service to Onar. In that time I've seen and experienced a great deal -- things I wouldn't have if I were still just a simple Maeramil. I've changed the lives of many different people, some for better and some for worse. Yet nothing salves the wound of what happened on the day it all changed. The day that my clan died . . . the day I killed them all.

I'd always tried to tell the story to others and myself as if I were some sort of hero . . . that I saved everyone from a fate of slavery at the hands of Krolvin. In reality, while I'm sure their death did save them from a much worse fate, the truth is that Onar did not spare my people. My people were slain by my possessed hand alongside the Krol. Neither side survived except myself, and few others including my brother and sister who were away at the time. After that happened I spent years struggling with the so-called debt I owed Onar.

At first I resisted and tried to outrun it, fleeing to River's Rest in an attempt to isolate myself to some degree as well as try and find a new life. I did find that life for a time, until it turned out the woman I had found myself with was a Mularosian who killed our unborn child in some grotesque ritual to her disgusting patron. After that, I knew what I had to do. This world was sick, and it needed the sickness cut away. I would strive toward that end, one life at a time if I had to. Nations and Arkati alike were not to be safe from my vision of this cleansing. I began to wonder what would happen if I killed all people across Elanith. Would the Arkati weaken . . . would they die . . . could they die?

After recovering from the psychological blow dealt to me by that Mularosian I spent some time reflecting my purpose. It was then that I discovered the group known as the Dae'Randir. For a time this was a mutually beneficial relationship. They gained what they saw as a spiritual guide and an outward face for the public while I gained a network of seemingly like-minded individuals that could be utilized to further my goals. The philosophy of those who lead the Dae'Randir at the time was, at least I thought then, misguided. While I never truly understood Turinrond's motives, I wonder sometimes if we had the same goal -- a place to finally rest and a world without need of those who were willing to do ugly things to prevent atrocity, strife, and misery. The relationship and the Dae'Randir itself fell apart and I pulled away from society once again.

In the decade that followed, I spent a lot of time alone refining my perspective. Killing everyone won't solve anything. Killing the Arkati is a flawed plan and likely unattainable in any case. It seems so simple now, and yet at the time I could not see beyond my own animosity towards the world. The path forward is much more simple than I realized. Using death as a tool is a final resort, not a starting point. While it would be easy for me to kill hundreds or even thousands of people, it would simply be a waste. No, my purpose now is to stand behind those who would face the light and give all of themselves to bring positivity into the world, to stand in their shadow and guard their flank. They are the only ones who can truly rid this world of the sickness that has infected it for so long. A sickness that must be healed, and one that in doing so I might finally find a place where I can end my service and . . .

Just then the silence of Ceyrin's meditation was broken by light footfalls of a robed figure approaching him. "I've got news you're going to want to hear", came the gravelly voice from beneath a black cowl.

Ceyrin said nothing and simply waited for the man to continue.

"Rohese has been kidnapped by bandits on a trip between here and Talador", the gravelly voice explained succinctly.

Though his eyes were already shut, Ceyrin found himself forcing them closed more tightly as he took a slow and deep breath while rising smoothly from his meditation position to his feet. "Take me there . . . quickly."

Puptilian ~ A Search for a Friend

[Added with the author's permission]

I fed a piece of raw rabbit to the last of the eagles while I tie the message to her leg. With a command the five eagles flew off in different directions delivering messages to contacts throughout the empire. As they fly out of sight I hear a small growl as Aatu walks into sight followed by his pack. The wolves all smell the last letter sent by Rohese to get an idea of a scent before running off towards Talador. Lastly, I used my touch with nature to call in my little friends in a mix of finches and squirrels to send them closer to home looking for any clues. My hope is that they will succeed in finding any clues where human and elven scouts have not. I know all these options are a long shot but I feel horrible that Rohese went missing helping me aid those in need in Talador. We will find her and bring her home.

Naamit ~ Dirty Little Secrets

[Added with the author's permission]

Vertical beams of amber light project through embrasure windows on the western wall of room. A taller-than-average woman reclines against the western wall in a ruddy red robe, the nature of its dye obscured by the shadows between the rays. She watches the elf huddled in the corner, wings pulled protectively around her.

"Give me what I want or stay right where you are. The choice is yours." She closes incredulously, "you have nothing but time."

Food is brought in, stays untouched just out of reach, then wilts and molders. The elven woman's clothing becomes soiled with the duress of her predicament and she growths thin. Yet still, she does not falter as the room grows dim. A pregnant moment passes midnight before the tall woman curiously asks, "You play the harp, do you not?"

Thunder rolls overhead as the day fades to another.

The tall woman gazes intently on the silver-haired elf entangled in the frame of a massive harp. Her body remains suspended-- woven-- between the harp strings. Metal ligatures dig at the elf's thin appendages. She is all but helpless to free herself from the wooden armature built far too large for practical use.

Days go by with similar scenes of arrested torture, speckled with harrowing cries.

"How does that feel, Rohese?"

---<-`<@

As time continues, it becomes apparent that the elven woman does not weep from her own physical anguish, for all the pain in the world has been borne out upon flesh. Yet still, she does not relinquish. Her torment gnaws from something deeper.

In her darkness, the tall woman comes to the elf yet again. "He who is the Sorrow of the World feels your anguish and He mourns for you. But I cannot help you if you won't let me. So speak to me of your sorrow, child."

All the grief of the world streams from the elven woman's dry, cracked lips in that moment. Minutes turn to hours, the sun rises and sets. Rohese has seen a century of strife and the burden of this knowledge is too great to bear any longer -- too great to bear without the love of her life.

The green-eyed woman absorbs what she has been told, machination brewing in kind. "Embrace Him, and the pit in your heart will be filled again. Your troubles will end and the weight of your memories, the gravity of your loss shall be lifted from your shoulders in kind. Give me what I want and I will free of your burden. Words alone are not enough to silence your mind however."

Rohese nods with resignation and says, "I am ready."

Cool serenity now guides the tall woman, as it appears the two have finally come to a grim understanding. She is in her element and revels in her work, this cruel contrivance of... Compassion.

Leather thongs are wound around the elf's wings at their base and she is hoisted into the air. The tall woman draws neat lines down the elf's wrists and she watches, enrapt, until rivulets of blood stain the bronze ritual bowls. She lifts herself up to embrace her ward, allowing her full weight to drag on the feathered appendages.

The two women's voices rise in a sustained cacophony of screams layered with laughter. Whose voice is whose seems indecipherable as the squalling transforms into keening wails and vibrating ululations. Icy feathers fall to the ground as the constriction worsens and ligaments tear under the pressure of such dark invocations. Hour by hour, the tall woman exsanguinates her willing companion and she consumes her bloody bounty as the ritual continues.

They scream the Songs of Sorrow, until there is nothing left but razor-thin strands enveloping the mindspace Rohese's love once held. At last, the skeletonized wings give way even under the frail weight of the elf's frame and that of her keeper. The pair tumble to the ground and in that very moment, a single, roaring boom of thunder followed immediately by a clap lightning shudders the manor at its core.

Both women, spent, clutch one another and pass out in an unadultered, vacuous embrace.

---<-`<@

Vertical beams of pale light project through embrasure windows on the eastern wall of room. A now clearly younger woman rolls over, sits up, and kisses Rohese's cheek almost tenderly as she whispers, "never forget."

She plants a firm hand on the elven woman's forehead, using it like a crutch to right herself out of habit and coldly commands, "We are through here. Get your things and go. One must keep up appearances, after all."

The robust, yet short giantwoman discards her tattered robe at the frail elf's feet and with it, her mask of illusion.

Naamit simply walks away...

Recuperation

Rohese

It is said that the harp has healing qualities, its music generates an atmosphere of peace that sweeps away fear, depression, desperation, and hopelessness. It creates an opening for healing to take place. Whether or not a person recovers from their illness or not is less important than the spiritual healing that so often needs to take place.

Given the circumstances of Rohese's condition, it was somewhat ironic that she felt drawn to the musical instrument as part of her healing process. Having recently woken from her prolonged state of unconsciousness, she had spent her time simply coming to terms with what had happened to her.

It was a miracle that the exsanguination hadn't proved fatal. While the physical wounds had quickly healed, with only a faint scar showing where the crossbow bolt had entered her shoulder and the further torturous injuries to her body carefully concealed beneath layers of modest clothing, the mental scars had left her deeply troubled.

The blood loss had been significant and it had taken months of skilled tending in the hands of the Graces to restore her to near-full health but she was still plagued with horrific flashbacks: images of imprisonment met with sumptuous surroundings ... lavish dishes untouched, yet none within reach, and those eyes ... piercing green ... the hungry eyes of her captor.

In an effort to shake off the distress welling up inside her, Rohese sat on the nearby stool. She adjusted the skirts of her gown and tentatively laid her fingers across the harp. Plucking a few strings, she played a simple glissando but, hitting upon a particular chord, she was instantly reminded of that banshee's wail. A sharp pain bit deep into the flesh of her back and a blood red haze fleetingly obscured her vision causing her to hastily rise and back away from the instrument. She clutched desperately at the driftwood locket around her neck and bit down hard on her lip to hold back her tears and screams.

The momentary feeling of dread subsided to be replaced by thoughts of Ta'Illistim's shimmering blue spires and the faces of her beloved friends. She would need a little more time to recuperate and recover her strength before she could return home though.

Recovery

Ceyrin

[Added with the author's permission]
Ceyrin sits, attempting to be as unobtrusive as possible on the deck of the moderate-sized cutter Shoalblazer, while the halfling crew lazily tends to the rigging as required by such a small craft. Stiff winds beat at the sails of the small vessel creating a deep 'whuffling' sound. The first rays of morning light cast an eerie glow across the sea, changing black into a sickly dark absinthe green. A pod of sea thraks breaks the surface for a few moments off the starboard side, their fins dipping in and out of the water -- a good sign, he decided. Considering the nature of his trip and the relative distance, it seemed like a poor idea to travel on such a small ship, but it turned out to be a successful combination of discreet, cheap, and quick.

It's been nearly a year at this point since I saw her. The informant I paid a hefty sum of coins to hasn't notified me she's left, so I have to assume she is still in the care of the Graces where I insisted my brother take her. I expect by now she's made a full recovery . . . physically at least. Whatever happened to her wasn't quick, and it wasn't pleasant . . . I expect those wounds will take longer to heal, if in fact they ever do. She's fortunate to be alive . . . we're all fortunate. . .

"Port a-view, lads!", cries the captain, a fierce and robust halfling who goes by the name Emerald Eye or 'Cap'n Em' for short. "Trim the sails and get the oars ready," he barks before turning an eye toward Ceyrin.

Before the captain can even ask, Ceyrin quickly states, "Yes, give me an oar."

"There's a good lad," replies Emerald Eye, a name one can only assume he took on due to the emerald that sits in his left eye socket as a 'replacement' for a missing eye.

After a few minutes of rowing, the crew moors the craft at the modest dock on an even more modest isle. A quiet and secluded location, the main attraction of which is a small abbey dedicated to the teachings of Imaera, Phoen, Ronan, Kuon, Oleani, Aeia, Niima, and Charl -- collectively known as the Graces, for the gifts they grace the land of Elanith with.

Ceyrin slowly rises to his feet and steps off the cutter and onto the dock, glad to be rid of the mercurial stability that is a boat. "Remember, I paid you for two days, so don't leave until tomorrow evening"

"Aye", replies the captain. "Sides-which, yer not the only one wit a reason ta visit".

Ceyrin gives a final, satisfactory nod to the captain and turns to make his way up to the abbey.

Though the island itself is likely no larger than the city of Wehnimer's Landing, the bulk of the landmass is a small craggy peak atop which sits the Abbey of the Graces, supported by a tiny seaside village upon the southern shore. In times past, the abbey was used as a refuge for those who sought to escape the trappings of life on Elanith proper, and free themselves from the politics of city-states, empires, and kingdoms. Those seeking enlightenment would venture here to spend decades training themselves to let go of all things material and open their minds to the possibility of harmonious existence. Today, the Abbey is as much spa and resort as it is religious order, giving up strict adherence of faith to gain a modest amount of support income in more recent times.

Taking his time, Ceyrin ascends the elaborately carved stone stairway toward the abbey, each step adorned with a different arrangement of herbs, flowers, and other small flora that can be supported in this climate. A massive teak door pointed towards the west is painstakingly carved with religious symbology depicting the 8 Graces, punctuated with polished brass rings on either side.

Ceyrin pulls the doors open just as the Orb of Phoen begins to rise over the surface of the water in the distance.

"Welcome to the Abbey of . . .", a young male acolyte trails off as he takes in Ceyrin's appearance, such as he is able while Ceyrin is veiled by the glamour of his pendant. "How can we help you, ah. . ."

"Ceyrin, Priest of Lord Onar", he states plainly, and continues, "I'm here to see Rohese"

"We will not tolerate any sort of violence here, sir", the acolyte quickly assumes.

Ceyrin explains, "Don't worry, not only would I not come in through the front door if that was my intention, I'm the one who sent her to you nearly a year ago".

The acolyte's mouth takes on a visible 'O' shape, though no sound is made for a moment. Then, spotting a young woman who appears to be another acolyte, the young man whispers something to her and she heads off up the stairs. "Just a moment, sir"

Ceyrin ignores the young man and follows the woman up the tight spiral staircase wrought entirely of brass until they arrive at the third floor landing. Keeping pace with the young woman they quickly traverse a series of corridors lined with tapestries, flowers, and statuettes before arriving at a door upon which the young woman knocks, pauses a moment, then enters and announces, "There's someone to see you, Rohese."

Rohese

Rohese watched the coral pink of pre-dawn light illuminate the harbor below, staining the white sails of the ships moored at the dockside. A recent squall had brought them within the sanctuary of its walls for a few days but she could see that most of them were making ready to set sail again.

She usually rose early to benefit from the tranquility of the abbey cloisters. The morning prayer bell would soon toll and the hallowed halls would be filled with the hustle and bustle of daily ecclesiastical life. For now, though, she had retreated to the solitude of her chambers and the book she intended to finish that day. She stood at the window, enthralled by the tattered, blue-grey clouds scudding before the wind across the blushing sky and let her thoughts drift over the last few months.

Why have you forsaken me, Lumnis? Suddenly appalled by her own blasphemous judgement, Rohese stepped out onto the balcony and inhaled the crisp, clean air. A salt-laden breeze whipped at her hair and for a moment, the banshee’s wail resonated in her ears again. It’s just the wind. Closing her eyes, she tried to concentrate on the here-and-now and not let her grief and pain become too overwhelming.

Her walk along the beach that morning had yielded a nautilus shell, which she now gripped tightly in her hand. She murmured a brief prayer for the safety of the sailors below and tucked it into the pocket of her gown, making a silent promise to visit Charl’s shrine and honor the memory of her beloved husband. The moniker of widow was one she refused to admit publicly but it was something she knew she had to come to terms with; just not today.

Deep in thought, Rohese hadn’t heard Sister Anyia enter the room.

“There’s someone to see you, Rohese.”

Rohese stirred from her reverie and turned sharply when she heard a familiar voice behind her add, "I knew the sea air would help with your recovery."

Ceyrin released the blue-black haze of his glamour and greeted her with a vague smirk.

Puptilian ~ A Search for a Friend

[Added with the author's permission]
It's been a few weeks now since I sent out my animal friends in search Lady Rohese. None of my contacts throughout the Empire or the Nations has any new leads for me. I talked to the guards in Solhaven that escort the supply trains between Solhaven and Talador and walked away empty. Even Aatu and his pack of wolves have found no sign so far.

My work at Talador has been taking up more of my time then I would have liked and the guilt of not looking for Rohese has finally forced me to leave behind the Taladorian farmers. I did a second sweep of a few bandit and monster camps that have been recently found and destroyed around the western half of Talador. The attack on these camps were not concerned with preserving any possible evidence since the people protecting Talador are only worried about keeping the roads clear. Despite the days spent at these camps looking I yet again come up empty. I even nervously walked deep into the waste lands of Talador with no signs and no luck.

Feeling rejected, I turn to head back to the farmers of northern Talador when I heard a rustle of leaves and a warm breeze blew across me. My heart jumped with the realization that my Lady in Green, Lady Imaera is telling me to not lose hope. I suddenly felt a tug from my connection with Aatu bidding me to run to him. I can feel that he was somewhere between Talador and Solhaven so I took off at once to meet with him.

Days roll past in a blur while I travel southwest. Deep in a dark forest on my way to Solhaven I heard the howl of Aatu and his pack drawing me away from the main road. As I push my way through the underbrush I come to a small clearing to see the pack of wolves and Aatu holding a small piece of cloth coated in dried up blood. A quick survey shows a struggle but weeks of weather sadly washed away any signs to be able to track where anyone went. I quickly write a report and have an eagle friend quickly fly off to deliver what I found to Tyrie.

Return

Rohese

Standing at the stern of the Shoalblazer, Rohese’s eyes were drawn upward, past the small cottages nestled against the cliffside, to the sound of the tolling bell and the grey-stoned abbey on the island’s craggy peak. Tears streamed down her pale cheeks as she was reminded of the love and care she had received in that sanctuary; it had become like a second home to her where the Graces had dutifully tended her wounds and proffered the spiritual guidance she had sorely needed for her recovery.

She would normally be joining the sisters for prayer now, the sonorous peal signaling the beginning of another day of reflection and, in her case, recuperation but today was different; today she was beginning her long journey home. I’m not ready!

The sound of the bell receded as a feeling of panic began to overwhelm her. Her vision faded into stygian blackness and painful memories invaded her mind ... thrall to a banshee with piercing green eyes ... excruciating pain as her silver-blue wings were ripped from her back ... gaping wounds and raw flesh ... a pool of sticky red blood ... stunned silence ... cruel laughter echoing in her ears.

The lapping sound of the blue-green waters below called her back to the present moment, each susurration soothing her and bringing with it sweeter memories from her time in the abbey gardens: the gentle breeze redolent with the scent of lavender and thyme, the melodic song of the finches and wrens, and the quiet whispers of the sisters at work in the vegetable patch.

She was suddenly conscious of Ceyrin standing a few feet away. He had not spoken a word since they had boarded the ship but she drew comfort from the fact that he always seemed to be close by.

As if in response to her awareness, the sails billowed and the cutter picked up speed, finally leaving the shelter of the harbor. Heading out to sea in a southeasterly direction, Rohese allowed the salt spray to mingle with her tears before wiping them away. Enough. No more tears. Her fingers rested on the moon-filled pendant and she slowly retreated behind a silvery grey haze. She may be well again, but she still wasn’t ready for the world to see her vulnerable state.

Retreat

Rohese

Love knows many colors.
Grief knows one and its shade is bleak.

Another day dawned, colorless and bleak.

The prow of the Shoalblazer cut cleanly through the indigo waters of the bay and the grey mist parted before them to reveal a familiar coastline. The bustling port of Solhaven lay sprawled out against a colorful backdrop of an evergreen forest and white limestone cliffs.

Rohese stood silently on deck, oblivious to the flurry of cheerful activity around her. Lines were hauled, sails were released, and the anchor finally dropped into the brackish green water but she paid no attention. The welcoming squark of black-headed gulls overhead added to the clamor onboard but she did nothing to acknowledge it.

With the cutter safely anchored and two small-crewed skiffs heading towards them to help with unloading the cargo, the Captain turned his attention briefly to his two mysterious passengers. He pondered the lady first; this was in fact the only chance he’d had as she had stayed below deck for the whole voyage. Shrouded in a silvery grey haze, it was hard to discern her features but it was clear by her carriage and mien that she was high-born and melancholy. Her unlikely companion was equally enigmatic, shrouded in his own blue-black glamour there was little he could determine about his background or purpose.

The skiffs bumped alongside and Cap’n Em’ shrugged off his curiosity to greet the dockworkers now boarding his ship. Throwing his head back to laugh at a shared bawdy joke, the early morning sunlight glinted off the emerald sitting in his left eye socket. Rohese was immediately startled from her catatonic state and stared in his direction ... green ... green eyes ... piercing green eyes.

Ceyrin wasted no time and guided her to the nearest skiff. She stepped into the little boat and, with the folds of her mantle gathered around her, retreated into herself once more; ambivalent even to the golden yellow sunshine now flooding the horizon and the fiery red streaks igniting the sky.

It only took a few minutes for the skiff to reach the North ‘Haven Quay and for them to disembark. Ignoring the jostle of garishly dressed merchants, the malodorous barrels of fish, and the scavenging crabs at her feet, Rohese followed Ceyrin up the Stormdaughter's Steps and onto the Bayside Road. Even at this time of the morning, the road was busy as shoppers headed toward the bustling market in the distance or onward to the Market Bridge rising high above the Cairnfang delta.

Rohese averted her gaze in an attempt to ignore the assault on her senses; shielding her eyes from the onslaught of color and closing her ears to the cries of merchants and curses of the dockworkers.

Another day had dawned, colorless and bleak.

Rohese ~ Pretty Little Lies

[Ceiluir Glade, Beach Path]
Sheltered from the full fury of the sea by a ring of rocks, the cove's small beach is quiet and glitters with the golden sunlight that filters through the puffy white clouds above.  Tall dunes swallow the path as it ambles upward, their edges covered in high beach grasses and wild dog roses. 

An off-shore breeze lifted her hair, whipping it across her pale face. Brushing it aside, Rohese inhaled the fragrance of salty air mingled with wild roses and gazed out to sea. I’d forgotten how peaceful it was here.

There was a squall brewing on the horizon. A bank of purple clouds churned across the sky but not close enough yet to threaten the puffy white clouds overhead. Rohese instinctively massaged her temple. Her dull headache had refused to lift; the cup of herbal tea earlier hadn’t helped and sleep still eluded her. She hoped that a few days on the Isle of the Four Winds would at least help her to relax.

The ebb and flow of the ocean was soothing, its rhythmic susurration over the dark shingle punctuated only by the chorus of birdsong. She allowed her gaze to wander, her eyes drawn to the cliff face where the birds were flitting to and from their small nests. Faces drifted in and out of her thoughts, gentle voices accompanying each visage; some gruff, some soft, but all familiar and recalled with fondness. Puptilian’s low tone mingled with Tyrie’s light laughter and Corlyne’s wry smile filled her heart with warmth. It would be good to see my friends again. Her thoughts turned to where they were now and what they might be doing. Did they wonder what had become of me? Were they worried? What should I tell them?

A distant flash of lightning caused her to flinch, bringing her back to the present moment. She was startled to see that during her reverie one of the cliff-nesting birds had landed on her hand and was simply looking up her, its head cocked at an angle as if waiting for her to say something.

Rohese smiled to herself.

“Let Pup know that I’m fine,” she lied.

The pretty little bird immediately took flight and the faint smile faded from Rohese’s lips. I’m fine.

Realization

Rohese

Exactly when Rohese realized she knew her abductor was hard to pinpoint; it had been a series of recollections that finally fitted together like a puzzle.

After another night of tossing and turning, she rose from her bed before dawn, numb from lack of sleep and wondering what another day in Mist Harbor would bring. More rain, probably, and more arrests. Fractured images of her own time in captivity haunted every waking moment but slowly they were beginning to merge together into a more coherent memory. Her persistent headache was also lifting slightly, despite the stormy weather, bringing a little more clarity to her thoughts.

She should probably venture out and get some fresh air; perhaps even check on Ilsola. Poor Ilsola, I should have spoken out about her earlier maltreatment but ... Rohese sighed. At least now she was able to put on a brave face and be among people again, if not socialize properly. She had Ceyrin to thank for that. Ceyrin, who had done nothing to spare her feelings. Ceyrin who had arranged her return to the mainland. Ceyrin who had suggested she find something to do.

A loud clap of thunder outside caused her to flinch. The small scarlet leather book resting on her lap fell to the floor but she made no effort to retrieve it. Seated at the arched picture window of the drawing room, Rohese sipped her herbal tea and massaged her temple, hoping for some relief from the dull ache. Time passed as she watched people hurry by, hoods down while they carried out their daily errands.

She was reminded of her time on The Isle of Graces and how everyone around her seemed to have a purpose. She had lost her purpose when she had lost both her husband and her faith. Her eyes drifted to the paintings on the opposite wall; the misty blue watercolors of the nearby Saewehna waterways juxtaposed with images of the island’s native birds: tanagers and parrots captured in blood red and vivid green oils.

Closing her eyes, she murmured her usual prayer to Lumnis in the vain hope that she would finally hear some words of comfort or wisdom ... something ... anything to feel reassured that she was still a part of her life. It’s my fault, I know. I broke faith. A solitary tear ran down her cheek and she brushed it away in anger. You left me! Although, who she was accusing was unclear: Lumnis or Sighisoara; perhaps it was both their faults that she had suffered at the hands of ... Naamit.

There, she had openly admitted it to herself. Behind the blood red haze of pain and grief, Naamit’s green eyes bored into her very soul and her enticing voice echoed in her head with empty promises of release and freedom from sorrow. Embrace Him ... never forget.

Something stirred within Rohese’s core. Was it happiness, rage, tranquility, or sorrow? Perhaps it was a mix of all four emotions. It actually felt good to “feel” again! Tomorrow, I will write some letters but today ...

Clutching at the driftwood locket beneath her white linen shift, Rohese finally allowed herself to grieve.

Rohese reveals the identity of her captor to Ceyrin


[Cyraeni's House, Drawing Room]
Flowered silk cushions are placed around a low peach marble tea table at the center of the sprawling room.  An enormous driftwood bookcase looms over the varnished mahogany floors that are inlaid with an ornate ivory peony marquetry.  A long, solitary white wall colored in a brilliant mishmash of oil and watercolor paints stands opposite an arched picture 

The voice of Ceyrin says, "Good afternoon, Rohese."
Ceyrin suddenly fades into view.
You give your eyebrow a little workout.
Speaking distractedly to Ceyrin, you say, "Good afternoon, Ceyrin."
A loud clap of thunder rumbles the area.
You flinch.
You close your eyes for a moment.
Speaking to you, Ceyrin inquires, "How've you been?"
 (Rohese gazes out of the picture window.)
You softly remark, "When will that storm ever end!"
Speaking quietly to Ceyrin, you say, "Oh, I'm fine."
You brush your fingers lightly against your scarlet leather book.
Speaking softly to Ceyrin, you add, "Finding things to do."
You wrinkle your nose.
Speaking vaguely to Ceyrin, you say, "It's nice here."
You gaze fondly at your surroundings.
Ceyrin replies, "I suspect whenever the matter with this Socius is concluded."
You nod faintly at Ceyrin.
Ceyrin glances around the room.
 (Rohese lets her gaze wander out of the picture window again.)
Speaking interestedly to you, Ceyrin says, "What have you found to do."
You brush your fingers lightly against your scarlet leather book.
Speaking softly to Ceyrin, you explain, "There's a good collection of books to read."
You nod to the driftwood bookcase.
A loud clap of thunder rumbles the area.
Speaking softly to Ceyrin, you say, "I've learnt a lot about the flora and fauna of the Saewehna Jungle."
You flinch.
Ceyrin nods to you.
Speaking softly to Ceyrin, you say, "I'm sure it will come in handy one day."
You gently close the scarlet leather book, taking care with its pages.
You softly say, "But I'm being rude."
You stand back up.
You attend to your silk robes, making the robes as presentable as possible.
Speaking to you, Ceyrin says, "I suspect so.  Such knowledge is useful."
Speaking softly to Ceyrin, you say, "Indeed, should I ever venture into the jungle."
Ceyrin says, "Well, I did sneak up on you.  My apologies, it's an old habit."
Speaking politely to Ceyrin, you ask, "How are you?"
Speaking frankly to you, Ceyrin admits, "Concerned."
Speaking softly to Ceyrin, you say, "It's alright, I was actually thinking about taking a walk today so you've firmed my resolve."
You smile.
You incline your head.
Speaking softly to Ceyrin, you ask, "About?"
You glance at the scarlet leather book in your hand.
Speaking flatly to you, Ceyrin answers, "You."
You place a hand over your heart.
You quietly say, "Oh, I'm fine."
You gaze through the picture window and see...
Ceyrin says, "I haven't heard from you in over a week since our return to the mainland."
You distractedly glance at an enormous driftwood bookcase.
You smile at Ceyrin.
Ceyrin looks thoughtfully at you.
Speaking softly to Ceyrin, you say, "I decided to spend some time on the isle, it's such a lovely place ... usually."
Speaking softly to Ceyrin, you say, "Sighisoara and I used to ..."
You close your eyes for a moment.
Speaking to you, Ceyrin says, "I'm tempted to take you at your word, but I don't think that will suffice."
Speaking softly to Ceyrin, you say, "You are kind to worry."
Speaking softly to Ceyrin, you say, "I don't think I ever actually thanked you either."
Rumbling thunder echoes throughout the area.
You flinch.
Ceyrin stares at you.
You hang your head.
You let out a long, contemplative breath.
Speaking bluntly to you, Ceyrin insists, "You're not fine."
Speaking quickly to you, Ceyrin adds, "You weren't fine on the ride back."
You glance away.
Ceyrin continues, "The reports I've gotten insist that the character you've displayed is anything but the Rohese I'm familiar with."
Speaking tearfully to Ceyrin, you say, "I will be fine, I just need ..."
Speaking quietly to Ceyrin, you add, "... time."
You nod slowly.
Speaking to you, Ceyrin says, "And now you're just sitting... alone... reading about plants."
Speaking softly to Ceyrin, you say, "These headaches don't help."
With a wince, you slowly massage your temple hoping for some relief.
You wrinkle your nose.
Speaking indignantly to Ceyrin, you exclaim, "I like being alone and reading about plants!"
Speaking neutrally to you, Ceyrin says, "You've had time.  What you need is catharsis."
Ceyrin says, "And you won't find it in here."
Ruminating upon Ceyrin, you give consideration to his qualifications.
 (Ceyrin gestures vaguely at his surroundings.)
Speaking cryptically to Ceyrin, you inquire, "You knew, didn't you?"
You bite your lip.
Speaking to you, Ceyrin urges, "Knew what, Rohese?"
Speaking loudly to Ceyrin, you repeat, "You did, didn't you!"
Speaking softly to Ceyrin, you murmur, "Naamit."
You weep softly, quiet tears falling from your eyes.
You glance away.
Speaking confusedly to you, Ceyrin replies, "What about, Naamit?"
Ceyrin asks, "What's she got to do with anything?"
Speaking tearfully to Ceyrin, you say, "It was Naamit who ..."
You sigh.
You kneel down.
Speaking softly to Ceyrin, you say, "I can't ... I just can't say it."
You hang your head.
You cry in pain, weeping with your torment.
Speaking to you, Ceyrin continues, "Who did this to you?"
You bury your face in your hands.
Speaking quietly to Ceyrin, you repeat, "Naamit."
Ceyrin clenches his jaw.
Speaking tearfully to Ceyrin, you say, "I know now, it's all coming back."
Speaking pleadingly to Ceyrin, you say, "Please tell me you didn't know."
You pull on Ceyrin, trying to get him closer.
Ceyrin mutters, "Mularosians..."
Speaking to you, Ceyrin says, "I swear I did not, Rohese."
You clasp a hand over your mouth.
Speaking softly to Ceyrin, you say, "I couldn't bear it if you were part of it."
Speaking hastily to Ceyrin, you comment, "I'm sorry, what am I saying."
You softly say, "Of course you weren't."
You shake your head.
Speaking softly to Ceyrin, you explain, "I just don't think I can trust anyone anymore."
Speaking frustratedly to you, Ceyrin says, "The LAST thing I would do is help a Mularosian with anything they wanted, let alone something like this."
You weep softly, quiet tears falling from your eyes.
You nod slowly.
Speaking to you, Ceyrin says, "You have no idea what they've already taken from me."
Ceyrin bitterly repeats, "No idea."
Speaking hesitantly to Ceyrin, you admit, "I may have made some promise."
Ceyrin breathes very slowly and looks much calmer.
You bite your lip.
You softly exclaim, "She taunted me, begged me ... promised me!"
Speaking to you, Ceyrin asks, "Of what sort, and to whom?"
You absently fiddle with the door of the locket and take note that the driftwood feels cool against your touch.  The normality of it offers you a small measure of peace.
Speaking faintly to Ceyrin, you say, "She promised release from the pain."
Speaking flatly to you, Ceyrin insists, "She lied to you."
You clutch your oval driftwood locket tightly.
You sigh.
You quietly say, "I know that now."
You weep softly, quiet tears falling from your eyes.
Speaking to you, Ceyrin says, "Mularosians know nothing of release from pain."
Speaking softly to Ceyrin, you ask, "Do you think that's why Lumnis has abandoned me?"
Speaking to you, Ceyrin says, "They wallow in it, because they don't know how else to live."
Speaking pointedly to you, Ceyrin replies, "You should be asking yourself a different question, I think."
Speaking softly to Ceyrin, you exclaim, "But she promised!"
You hang your head.
You softly say, "I want this pain to go away."
You cry sadly, tears of sorrow flowing down your cheeks.
Ceyrin glances around the room.
Speaking angrily to Ceyrin, you exclaim, "Lumnis owes me that!"
Speaking knowingly to you, Ceyrin says, "Pain like this doesn't go away, Rohese."
Speaking quickly to you, Ceyrin shouts, "Lumnis owes you nothing!"
Speaking softly to Ceyrin, you counter, "You have no idea what I gave up for her!"
You stand back up.
You softly exclaim, "What I've sacrificed!"
Speaking calmly to you, Ceyrin replies, "No, you're right, I don't."
You let out a long, contemplative breath.
You glance away.
Speaking to you, Ceyrin says, "But I know you'll never get anywhere if you keep deflecting your pain onto others."
You quietly say, "And now I've lost my heart and soul too."
You place a hand over your heart.
Speaking quietly to Ceyrin, you say, "You're right, I'm sorry."
With exaggerated slowness you take a deep breath, then pinch the bridge of your nose.
You softly say, "I don't know what to think anymore."
Speaking to you, Ceyrin says, "Don't be sorry to me."
You shake your head, totally at a loss.
Ceyrin says, "Be sorry to yourself."
Ceyrin says, "You're the one you owe it to."
 (Rohese turns towards the picture window again.)
You quietly say, "I need to find a purpose."
You casually glance at the scarlet leather book in your hand.
Ceyrin agrees with you.
You softly say, "And one that doesn't involve gardening books."
Speaking to you, Ceyrin says, "That's why I saved you.  That's why I brought you back."
You turn to face Ceyrin.
Speaking sincerely to Ceyrin, you say, "Thank you for that."
Speaking to you, Ceyrin asks, "You think I want to live like this forever?"
(Rohese takes Ceyrin's hands in her own.)
You shake your head.
Speaking softly to Ceyrin, you say, "Not if it feels like this."
You place a hand over your heart.
Speaking softly to Ceyrin, you say, "Tell me, tell me what I should do."
Speaking to you, Ceyrin says, "That's not what my purpose is."
You glance at Ceyrin and slowly exhale.
Speaking to you, Ceyrin says, "I can offer you something else, though."
You incline your head.
Speaking quietly in Elven to you, Ceyrin says, "Silence."
Speaking softly to Ceyrin, you ask, "Silence?"
Ceyrin nods to you.
You nod slowly.
Speaking to you, Ceyrin says, "All the tiny voices in your head pulling you in different directions, I can help make them stop."
You quietly muse, "That would definitely be an improvement."
Speaking softly to Ceyrin, you say, "I will gladly accept that."
Speaking embarrassedly to Ceyrin, you add, "I have nothing to offer in return though."
You hang your head.
You close your eyes for a moment.
Speaking to you, Ceyrin says, "Yes, you do."
Speaking softly to Ceyrin, you say, "I have nothing left in me."
You shake your head.
You softly say, "She took it all."
Speaking to you, Ceyrin says, "If that were true, you wouldn't have left the Isle."
You clench your fist.
Ceyrin says, "I didn't force you -- you chose."
You nod slightly at Ceyrin.
You softly say, "I suppose that's true."
Ceyrin says, "Just like you choose now to hide from yourself."
You bite your lip.
You softly say, "I'm trying, I really am."
You glance out.
Ceyrin says, "I don't doubt that."
You tearfully say, "It just hurts so much."
You softly say, "Physically and ..."
Ceyrin frowns at you.
You softly say, "Here."
You place a hand over your heart.
You sadly say, "She tore me apart."
Speaking to you, Ceyrin admits, "I know what that's like."
You incline your head.
Speaking to you, Ceyrin says, "I was married, once, if you can believe that."
You nod at Ceyrin.
You softly say, "I can believe it, you are a good soul."
Ceyrin chuckles to himself.
Ceyrin doubtfully says, "Maybe."
Speaking softly to Ceyrin, you add, "A kind soul."
With an empathetic nod, you take Ceyrin's hand in yours for a moment and give it a gentle, reassuring squeeze.
Speaking distractedly to you, Ceyrin continues, "I was married to a Mularosian."
You close your eyes for a moment.
Speaking to you, Ceyrin says, "One day I learned she was with child. . . our child."
You softly exclaim, "Oh!"
 (Ceyrin's visible features contort into a dark expression as he continues, "Then one day I learned she had sacrificed our unborn child to Mularos in some disgusting ritual.")
You gasp.
You clasp a hand over your mouth.
You sympathetically say, "Oh Ceyrin, I am so sorry."
You reach over and gently rest your hand on Ceyrin's shoulder.
Ceyrin nods to you.
Ceyrin says, "So am I."
Speaking softly to Ceyrin, you say, "And I am being so selfish, I never had any idea."
Speaking to you, Ceyrin says, "I don't tell people that very often . . . it's none of their business."
Speaking emotionally to Ceyrin, you exclaim, "To do that to a child, it's unthinkable!"
You weep softly, quiet tears falling from your eyes.
Speaking to you, Ceyrin says, "It took me some time to make peace with it."
You softly say, "And to you."
You nod understandingly at Ceyrin.
You softly say, "I don't think I could forgive such a thing."
Ceyrin says, "Oh, I didn't forgive her."
Ceyrin says, "I suspect she's finished decomposing at the bottom of the Maelstrom Bay by now though."
You bite your lip.
Speaking softly to Ceyrin, you confess, "As someone who couldn't give Sighisoara a child, I can almost condone your actions."
You wistfully say, "Perhaps that's why Lumnis won't forgive me."
You slowly and deliberately empty your filled lungs.
Ceyrin says, "If it wasn't the sort of sick thing a Mularosian might enjoy, I would have her chained in my house to this day so I could kill her at my discretion."
Ceyrin says, "Only to revive her and do it again."
You softly say, "My thoughts and actions are no longer pure.  I feel so much anger and hate."
You glance over at Ceyrin and wince.
Ceyrin says, "At least, that's how I used to feel."
Speaking softly to Ceyrin, you ask, "Are you at peace with it now?"
You incline your head.
Speaking to you, Ceyrin says, "I have a purpose now."
You smile.
A loud clap of thunder rumbles the area.
Speaking tentatively to Ceyrin, you ask, "May I ask what it is?"
You wrinkle your nose.
Speaking to you, Ceyrin says, "For people like myself to need never exist."
You blink at Ceyrin.
Speaking confusedly to Ceyrin, you say, "But ... without you I wouldn't be here."
You softly say, "Oh!  I see what you mean now."
The pitter-patter of rain can be heard outside.
Ceyrin nods slowly to you.
You glance away.
You mutter something about rain..
You sigh.
Speaking softly to Ceyrin, you say, "Then once again, I thank you."
Speaking to you, Ceyrin says, "Thank me by doing what I can't."
(Rohese takes Ceyrin's hand and holds it for a moment.)
Speaking tentatively to Ceyrin, you reply, "Forgive?"
You bite your lip.
You softly say, "Because I'm not sure I have that in me."
Ceyrin looks thoughtfully at you.
Speaking to you, Ceyrin admits, "I don't rightly know what the answer is."
Speaking to you, Ceyrin says, "I'm hoping you'll show me."
You nod thoughtfully at Ceyrin.
You softly say, "Perhaps we'll figure it out together."
Speaking to you, Ceyrin says, "That would be acceptable."
You wrinkle your nose.
You quietly whisper to Ceyrin, "You are a kind soul, thank you."
You kiss Ceyrin tenderly on the cheek.
Speaking to you, Ceyrin says, "I wasn't always an Onarian, Rohese."
You smile at Ceyrin.
Speaking softly to Ceyrin, you say, "Perhaps one day you will tell me how that came about too, if it isn't forbidden."
Ceyrin glances around the room.
Ceyrin says, "Not here, for certain."
You touch one finger to your lips.
You nod in agreement.
You softly say, "And now I suddenly have the urge to find something more interesting to read."
Speaking to you, Ceyrin asks, "Such as?"
You softly say, "Enough with gardening books."
You glance at an enormous driftwood bookcase.
Speaking softly to Ceyrin, you say, "I do believe there is a library nearby, I should take a walk and see."
You smile at Ceyrin.
Ceyrin asks, "Mind if I join you?"
You softly say, "I'd be honoured."

Rohese ~ An Outpouring of Correspondence

Rohese spent several minutes arranging her desk, aligning sheets of parchment with envelopes and straightening wax sticks alongside a quill, an inkpot, and a cup of lavender tea. The compulsive nature of her arrangement and obvious procrastination were both testament to her current state of mind but she was resigned that today she would finally send some long overdue letters.

Pulling a sheet of ecru lily-embossed stationery towards her, she lifted the quill and dipped it carefully into the inkpot. I'll start with the easy one first.

A few moments later, she folded the sheet and slipped it into a lacquered black lace vellum envelope, along with a promissory note, and added the name Lylia Rashere with a slight flourish on the front. She deftly sealed it with a blob of ivory wax and stamped it with her signet.

Taking a sip of her lavender tea, she dipped her quill into the inkpot again and began a second, slightly more troublesome, letter.

Dear Ilsola,

I was appalled to witness your arrest last week and then hear of your recent demise. Know that my thoughts and prayers are with you at this difficult time and that I wish you a speedy recovery. You have shown such kindness to me in the past so if there is anything I can do to assist you, please do not hesitate to ask. I am currently staying at Cyraeni's house, off Gardenia Lane, and can be with you at a moment's notice.

Fondest regards,
Rohese Bayvel-Timsh'l

As before, she slipped the letter into an envelope and sealed it, addressing it to Ilsola Tuulikki. Just as she was about to add the envelope to the pile of growing correspondence, she pulled it back and added the words, Town Administrator. For some reason she felt it was appropriate to make it clear.

Taking a deep breath, she reached for the third sheet of parchment and absently nibbled on the tip of her peacock feather quill. Where to begin! Firming her resolve, she put quill to paper and began to write before she changed her mind.

Lord Aeriadrn Ghaeriden Illistim
Office of the Seneschal
Ta'Illistim Keep
15th day of Charlatos, in the year 5119

Seneschal,

It is with a heavy heart that I write today and send my sincerest apologies to our beloved Argent Mirror for my long absence. Whilst travelling in the Empire last year, I was set upon and held in captivity for some time, during which I suffered at the hands of - striking through the last four words, Rohese continued - a serious injury. I was fortunate enough to be taken into the care of the Graces, for which I shall forever be in their debt. I have recently returned to Elanith with the intention of resuming my duties once I have regained my strength and settled a few personal matters.

If it pleases the Argent Mirror, I shall return to Court soon but, in the meantime, I can be reached through House Sylvanfair.

I have the honor to be the Mirror's most humble and obedient servant.

High Lady Rohese Bayvel-Timsh'l
Scrivener of Ta'Illistim and Patron of the Displaced

Rohese carefully sealed the envelope and placed the quill on the desk with relief. Draining her teacup, she was just about to put it down too but noticed the leaves high on the side of the porcelain bowl were in the shape of a teardrop.

Note: Tea leaves arranged in a teardrop signify "open up, your honesty is needed" and their position being high means the time frame is near. From A Taste of Truth - Tea Leaves

Revelation

Rohese ~ All Laid Bare

Who really understands another’s pain? No one can truly appreciate what another person is suffering. An empath can feel the sensation of transferred physical pain but only as it relates to themselves and their own thresholds. A mother ... a twin ... a lover; they can all claim to recognize a loved one’s torment but all they actually know is how it’s manifested through expressed emotions: the anger, the tears, the silence, the pretense, the denial.

Rohese was in pain.

The wounds suffered during her earlier captivity may have healed but her body still cried out in agony with each hug from a well-wisher. Her heart still ached from grief; the loss of Sighisoara had left a void that no amount of friendship or sympathy could ever fill. Her mind was in constant turmoil from the guilt and regret she felt, and her soul was bereft of any purpose.

She had made a promise to Sighisoara to give all of herself to him, yet she had been unable to give him the son and heir he wanted.

He had made a promise to love and protect her for all eternity but had left her widowed and alone; he wasn’t there when she needed him!

She had made a promise to Lumnis to devote herself to a spiritual life but had become distracted by mortal matters.

Lumnis had, in turn, made a promise to rid her of the curse that had stolen her voice through a gift of wings to support and protect her. But, whilst she could now speak, the curse still lingered and plagued her daily. The wings had brought her little relief, in fact they had become symbolic of every failing in her life.

And Naamit ... Naamit had promised to end all of her suffering.

"Embrace Him, and the pit in your heart will be filled again. Your troubles will end and the weight of your memories, the gravity of your loss shall be lifted from your shoulders in kind. Give me what I want and I will free of your burden. Words alone are not enough to silence your mind however."

Did Naamit really understand? Were her promises and actions driven by compassion or a simple desire for satisfaction and a selfish need? Rohese would never know.

She had made a more recent promise to Nehor to help him on his quest. She had succumbed to his charms and allowed him to kiss her. This is all wrong.

Nehor had promised to take care of her, to keep her from harm but here she was nursing yet another wound and a heaviness in her heart. This is all wrong!

So many broken promises. So much guilt. So much deception and sorrow.

"I am ready."

Those fateful words echoed in her mind. Was I ready? Ready for what? Did I really believe that Naamit could free me of my grief and guilt by inflicting more pain and suffering? Did I really believe that Nehor could care for me as much as he claimed?

"Never forget."

Those words haunted her. She would never forget the choices she had made. She would never forget the pain that she had suffered ... that she was still suffering. She would never forget the promises that she had broken, and most important of all, she would never forget her lost-love.

A range of emotions washed over Rohese’s face as she bound clean linen wrappings around her arm, covering the puckered, oozing wounds carved into her flesh.

---<-`<@

Later that day ...

Idly fingering the linen wrappings around her arm, Rohese’s gaze drifted across the collection of books neatly lining the shelves of the Library bookcase. She paused to ponder a slim white volume entitled, “Grace,” and pulled it out. Odd, I don’t recall having seen this book before.

Settling herself into a nearby settee, Rohese allowed the book to fall open naturally and scanned the first paragraph.

“"hrough practicing love and forgiveness you can transcend all suffering and move into a space of profoundly deep joy, peace and harmony in every moment."

She smiled to herself and murmured a quiet prayer to Lumnis under her breath.

Could she forgive?

Could she begin to rely on her own judgement again?

Argent Mirror ~ A Peacock-stamped Parchment

Lady Rohese Bayvel-Timsh'l
House Sylvanfair
23rd day of Charlatos, in the year 5119

Lady Rohese,

Your letter reached my hands with both gladness and worry. Your disappearance was noted and gave me great concern. Our efforts to locate you were met with frustration. Information coming out of the interior of the Empire was nonexistent. We hoped for your safe return from your journey, and while we are grateful, we are also filled with heartache over what you have endured.


Your will be very welcome at court when you can return. Every resource that could aid your recovery is at your disposal. On a more personal note, information was shared with me about your situation that left my heart weeping, but a letter is not the time to speak of this. Return when you are able. Your favorite tea will be brewing.

Myasara Illistim
Argent Mirror of House Illistim

Nehor ~ From Shadow into Light

[Added with the author's permission]

Thunder crashed, rattling the windows of the Luna Rest as Nehor sipped his whiskey, calm and serene despite the powerful storm raging outside. The rain fell constantly, though its pace was fluid. It would start gently, a small pitter patter which fell on the cobbled streets at a sedate, relaxing tempo. Then, without warning, the winds would howl and the rains would fall in a grand deluge, hiding the world in a curtain of water lit by constant flashes of white hot lightning. A storm for the ages, they said. A sign of the times, they said. An omen of things to come. Where once the streets were chaotic and filled with merchants, families, fishermen and sailors? Now they were almost empty, only the most desperate or daring braving the constant assault of wind and rain. Krolvin incursions were fresh in the memories of the townsfolk, and the militia patrolled the streets under the watchful eye of sergeants and captains.

Socius had come in like a whirlwind, driving out the lax and lazy and inflicting harsh penalties on any guardsman who was found in dereliction of duty. So, though none wished to be out in this horrid storm...the patrols were walked, crisply and professionally. Anything less would mean docked pay at best, or lashings at worst. Nehor sat his now empty glass down on the table and sighed audibly. Glancing down at his Militia badge, he frowned and polished it up a bit with a handkerchief from his coat pocket, making it shine in the lamplight. Much to do, so much to do. And time was in very short supply.

The Lady Rohese had necessitated an...increase in his time table, and that of his Ally. Things were in motion...and like a runaway mine cart full of adamantine, at this point it was almost impossible to stop or even slow down. Still frowning, he stood and threw a few coins down, donning his hat as he made his way out of the dry tavern into the howling tempest. The scars burned him still. The cut flesh, red and raw and unhealing. Fend...end becoming SEEK...MEEK. Every moment, every step...he worried when it would come again. That agony, that pain. A new message from his tormentor whom he now knew as the Adversary. An adversary not to be trifled with.

His wooing of the Lady Rohese had hit..an impasse. She no longer trusted him, though her nature meant she was loath to acknowledge what he knew she saw: That darkness behind his amber eyes...the empty hollowness behind the boisterousness and burning passion he turned on the world. That is what they all thought of him, in the end, after all. He was Nehor. He was...nothing. Such it was that he was named. For all his fire, fury and whimsical words...when all his masks were stripped away and the core of him was laid bare to the world...what would the Lady find? That bright, shining visage...what would it see?

Nothing. No, without his masks...there was nothing to see at all.

As if to accentuate such dark musings, another bolt of lightning shot across the sky, instantly followed by a rich, vibrant thunderclap which seemed to shake the earth. The light silhouetted the altar he had come to, and the hooded figures surrounding it. Candles protected by cupped hands against wind and rain provided pinpricks of light on the canvas of this stormy night.

"In Law..." they spoke. "...Life." he replied. "In Obedience," they whispered. "...Meaning." was his reply. Together, Nehor and the figures spoke out with raised voices: "In Light and in Shadow."

"Brothers and sisters, the time has come to gather our forces. Reach out to the contacts you have made...the positions you have attained and risen to through work, blood, and guile. Our ally has given us a chance...and we must give him time. We will need every spell. Every sword. The arrow has been loosed...we cannot call it back. Thus, we must strike while we still can. This, my friends...this is what we have been waiting for. Screw your courage to the sticking place. Together, we shall be victorious!"

There were nods of agreement, murmurs of assent. The Flock stood together, though...not all were here. After Nazhor's last meeting with them there had been...dissent. A lack of fortitude on the part of those of weaker wills, weaker minds. Some balked at the gravity of what they were working towards. Those who had reached and clawed and fought so hard for power...shying away at the last, at a mere glimpse of understanding just what that meant.

Fools. Charlatans. Frightened to step into the Light that was their namesake.

They thought...a few tasks, and all would be done? A storm, some deaths, and the war would be won?! An End, they cried, was what Nazhor would bring. But an end was needed, the slate wiped clean.

Still...Nehor could understand. The tools their ally would use were monstrous. Horrific. He had stood in that place, surrounded by shadows. He could feel it...the weakening of the barriers between worlds. The scratching and clawing of something on the other side. Something vast. Something which knew nothing of sorrow, nothing of injustice, nothing of righting wrongs. Something that knew one thing, and one thing alone:

Hunger.

It would be the fire that cleansed, the flood that washed the filth away. A place had been prepared for them, them and those they would deem worthy. A place seperate and apart...so when the dam burst, the walls came down, they would be safe from It which would come. Then, in a world made new, they could step forth and take their rightful place as rulers of a land made right. Nehor had suffered injustices all his life. Trying to change things was foolish. In this fallen world...there would always be war, strife, pain. People like Lady Rohese strove against the darkness, but it was always there, always ready to come back. For every one she and her kind saved, ten perished or suffered in bondage and shame. If she knew what he was assisting, what he was planning...well, she would do everything in her power to stop him. Even though, really, this was the only way. She once vowed that she would not see one more innocent suffer.

In this, Nehor agreed. He took no joy in the pain of others. Nazhor and his Work...his great Balancing...was the only way to give the Lady what she wanted. But...she would never understand. She could not understand. She had lived in privilege and without want. She had never been a slave. He had. He knew what true suffering was. So...this would be his gift to Lady Rohese. His way of saying thank you, for caring for him...or the mask she thought he was. He would help see the Great Work to its conclusion.

THERE WOULD BE AN END TO THIS MAD CYCLE OF SUFFERING

As his flock flew to their various places of power to prepare, Nehor nodded and began the journey to his sanctuary. An end to poverty. An end to injustice. An end to strife. They would see it done.

Pain would be an...unavoidable side effect. But in the end? There would be true, lasting, and eternal peace.

Release

Nazhor summons Rohese and reveals his hand


To follow

Rohese

Dusk fell over Mist Harbor.

Rohese fell to her knees, her body wracked with sobs.

Midnight came and went, heralded by a particularly loud clap of thunder.

The third teacup landed just above the bookcase with a *CRASH* and the resultant shards of porcelain joined the remnants of the other two on the floor. Each had a name: Naamit ... Nehor ... Nazhor ...

Rohese reached for another but found a wine glass instead. She tossed the delicate glass at the wall and watched it shatter into hundreds of pieces.

The pink blush of dawn crept over the horizon.

Rohese blushed slightly as she surveyed the evidence of her emotional outburst and spotted Ceyrin standing in the doorway.

With a wry grin, he merely asked, "Glass say something unkind?"

Turning sharply on her heel, Rohese tossed another glass just above his head and replied, “Good morning."

Ceyrin didn't even flinch.

"If you're busy making a mess, I can come back."

Rohese suddenly looked appalled. "You won't tell anyone what you've just seen ... will you?"

"I'll even help you hide the glass," Ceyrin replied with a deadpan expression.

A sense of calm washed over her and she laughed. For the first time in months, she really laughed. The kind of laugh that brings joyful release and can often lead to tears, but there were no more tears left to cry.

Feeling somewhat embarrassed, Rohese attempted to apologise but decided against it. "I'm not sorry," she added, nonchalantly.

"That's good,” he replied, “sorry doesn't really help with anger, as it turns out."

Stepping carefully into the room so as not to crush the glass underfoot, Ceyrin raised an eyebrow.

Unable to find the right words to explain, she simply said, "I'm glad you stopped by actually."

"I hope it wasn't to give me a set of wine glasses."

Suppressing the urge to giggle, Rohese continued. "It was to tell you that I'm going away for a few days. I have some things to take care of."

Seeing the sceptical look in his face, she quickly added, "I'm going back to Solhaven to pack up and close Sighisoara's house."

"It's time I said goodbye."

She smiled at him, knowing he would insist on accompanying her.

The rest can wait until later.