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Title: Eternal Knowledge
Author: Rohese Bayvel-Timsh'l

First published on the 17th day of Olaesta in the year 5119

Following on from A Difficult Journey and A Healing Process, this journal is a repository of vignettes including insights into Rohese's continued story and her involvement in The Nazhor Chronicles.

Prologue

It is through our memories that we learn to live again, learn to love again, and, in turn, make more memories – better memories. The knowledge is eternal; sustaining us, nurturing us, and allowing us to grow. As House Illistim's heraldic statement bears testament: Knowledge is the key to eternity. It is my hope that by recording my memories, my loved ones will not be forgotten, I will not be forgotten, and I can help make memories for others.

Trials and Tribulations

Rohese paused, her hand resting lightly on the door handle.

She glanced in the direction of the burly guard standing nearby, his words echoing in her mind. “Scum! That’s what he is. Should’a strung ‘im up in the commons for the real birds to feed off’a!” He snorted at his own attempt at humor and spat over the balcony.

Taking a deep breath, Rohese opened the door and stepped over the threshold, flinching slightly as she heard it lock behind her.

The room was fairly well appointed, despite being used as a holding cell, and there was a fairly decent view of the town through the window. Even through the heavy rainfall, it was possible to make out curls of black smoke in the distance where the burnt out shells of homes still smouldered.

He was seated in an armchair facing her, one leg crossed over the knee of the other, his fingers steepled together. He looked surprisingly relaxed, given the circumstances, but then Nehor was always good at putting on a show.

“Thank you for agreeing to see me,” she said, flushing slightly under his steady gaze. “I wasn’t sure you would be willing and the guard was reluctant to let me in otherwise.”

“Come to gloat?” he responded, somewhat curtly but his demeanor softened a little as he gestured towards the other chair.

Rohese hesitated, doubt still lingering over her motives for being there. Perhaps this wasn’t such a good idea after all. She knew it was probably futile but she had to try, even after her vain attempts to reason with him the other day. She would never forgive herself if she didn’t at least try to talk to him again, this time without the added distraction or pressure of a hostile audience. It was unfair of Socius to have put them both in that position but she understood the necessity; time was of the essence. She wished that she had had the chance to appeal to him alone, in a place of her choosing where he wasn’t so … vulnerable. But it was too late. She had failed him then and she was more than likely going to fail him again.

His trial was scheduled for the coming Restday, a week on from the atrocities that had occurred under his alleged leadership. She had this one last chance to reach out to him, to reason with the man that she knew he really was: Kind and caring; one certainly intelligent enough to understand her point of view and more than capable of seeing beyond the delusional plans of a madman. If only he would let his guard down and let her in; explain why he felt that Nazhor’s idea of balance was the only way forward. What had happened to make this man so disillusioned with the world? Yes, Elanthia had experienced horrific events over the millennia – and was still suffering from tyranny and malevolence - but there was hope. She witnessed many genuine acts of kindness and forgiveness every day. Goodness and mercy would prevail, of that she was certain.

Firming her resolve, she sat down in the armchair and settled her gaze upon him.

“How are you?” she began, fidgeting nervously with the skirts of her kirtle.

“I endure,” he admitted. “The treatment of the guard was not gentle. They lost friends, most of them, in the … incident.”

Rohese nodded faintly as Nehor gave her a wry smile and she knew then that this wasn’t going to be easy for either of them.

---<-`<@

An hour later, Rohese stepped back into the corridor and watched the guard turn the key in the lock. She glanced back at the door, almost tempted to go back in. Should I have refused his request to leave? No, he needs time to think. With a perfunctory nod towards his gaoler, she headed down the stairs and out into the rain.

A Life in Ruins

Mist Harbor, Restday, 31st day of Charlatos
A pretty young elven woman races in, crying. She pleads, "Can someone... please... help my father? The house was set on fire, and he's stuck in there!" As she finishes her message, she is suddenly struck by a streaking fireball! Flames engulf her body as she screams aloud! The magical flames consume her with incredible rapidity, leaving her in a heap of ashes as the last of the flames die out.
Mist Harbor, Day of the Huntress, 5th day of Olaesta

Rohese draped the silk veil across her face in an attempt to mask the lingering taint of charred flesh and the acrid smell of smoke. Cautiously stepping over the rubble, she struggled with her raw emotions as she witnessed the evidence of a murdered family strewn about the ruins of their former home.

For some reason, Ceyrin held back, the fading daylight casting him in shadow and obscuring his expression. He shifted his position as a streak of bright white lightning seared the sky and briefly illuminated the ash-filled room. She barely flinched these days. The raging storm had become part of everyday life on the island and no one seemed to pay it much attention anymore. They had more important things on their minds.

Rohese’s gaze fell upon a bloodied shirt and her hand flew to her mouth. Fortunately, the militia had taken away the corpses for burial but it was obvious what had befallen this unsuspecting household. Cracked and broken bowls lay at her feet, the smaller one still with the spoon resting inside. Caught unawares during their evening meal, they’d had no chance to escape. They were my friends! A tear ran down Rohese’s cheek as she surveyed the rest of the damage.

Whether it was seeing her distress, or just to escape the torrential rain, Ceyrin cursed under his breath and joined her inside. He bent down to retrieve something from near the hearth and attempted to conceal it before she noticed. But then, taking in the devastation around him, he had second thoughts and handed it to her.

Ceyrin simply stated, “He needs to see that.”

With a cry of anguish, Rohese slipped it carefully into her basket. Nodding once, she replied flatly, “I’ve changed my mind, I need to go to the trial.”

---<-`<@

Later that evening, alone in her room ...

A boom of thunder resonated outside.

Rohese set down her quill and read over the letter she had just written.

Clerk to the Magistrate
c/o Sergeant’s Office
Mist Harbor
Dear Sir,
I wish to formally request an opportunity to speak at the trial of Nehor on Restday, the 7th day of Olaesta. It is my understanding that witnesses will be asked to present their evidence and, if I may impose on the goodwill of the court further, I would like my testimony to be heard last, if at all possible.
Humbly yours,
Rohese Bayvel-Timsh’l Illistim

Folding the parchment and applying her seal in white wax, she found herself gazing at the basket on the floor beside her. The mere reminder of it tugged painfully at her heart but it firmed her resolve and she rose to her feet with the intention of delivering the letter herself.

How many more lives need to be ruined!

Conscience and Correspondence

She was home.

Walking into the hallowed halls of the Library Aies brought back a flood of fond memories and she breathed in its comforting fragrance. The familiar smell of wax and dusty parchment embraced her like a warm hug.

The events of last Restday had left Rohese reeling. The trial had epitomized everything she abhorred and had fought to overcome in her short life: injustice and indifference. "A travesty of justice," some hailed it but went about their day nonetheless. Many were baying for blood and seeking it in turn, while others were savoring the bizarre turn of events. A few were even whispering rumors of collusion and allegations of "crocodile tears." But one thing could be agreed upon, it had certainly had an impact on the people of Mist Harbor.

Rohese had promptly left the Isle, feeling as if she had no place there anymore. She had witnessed Nehor being found guilty of all charges brought against him yet walk free with a fine of 10 silvers; apparently that was all those innocent lives were worth. The magistrate had trivialized every word she had delivered and she had been left feeling foolish and inept. No matter, I am home now.

Lost in her thoughts, Rohese had walked the length of the Hall of Being and reached the Hall of the Ancients at the far end. Taking in its golden glory, she circled the room, allowing her fingers to wander along the spines of the weighty tomes lining its shelves. She had come to the Library in the hope that she could find something … anything … on the mysteries of the meek.

A voice behind her caused her to jump with a start. "Lady Rohese... may I please have a moment of your time?" Socius stepped into the room and approached her. "I have an apology and an explanation to offer you, Lady."

Instantly recognisable from his scar, Rohese retreated a little, shocked to see him in the Shining City.

"I have been away, checking on my father," he added, by way of explanation, "and in my absence, a cancer spread to the Isle. In fairness... it has been there for some time. But it became malignant in my absence. And some of the consequences of my inaction, and absence, caused you a great deal of hurt. And for that, I simply cannot apologize enough "

Breathing a heavy sigh, Rohese replied, "You're referring to the trial, I take it."

Socius nodded and, stepping closer, he spoke quietly, suddenly conscious of his surroundings. "May I explain the actions I have taken, and intend to take, as a result of that horrible day?"

Rohese nodded slightly by way of a response.

"I thank you, Lady. First, the magistrate has... left his post. He will never again darken anyone's door, whether within or without a hall of justice." Lowering his voice further to a mere whisper, he added, "Nehor ... when he is seen, shall be dealt with. Harshly. His role in this has not gone unnoticed by me and he must pay for the pain he has brought to the Isle."

It’s all my fault. If only I could have reached him ... made him understand that he wasn’t alone and that he was merely Nazhor’s puppet. As if hearing her inner thoughts, a darkness clouded Socius’s eyes.

"The more immediate threat, however, is Nazhor, and he nears his goal with frightening rapidity. If he is successful, the Isle will be transformed into a hellish place, populated by atrocities that were never meant to be in this world."

He glanced around the room to ensure they could not be overheard. Taking no chances, he leaned in closely and whispered something into her ear. Somewhat taken aback, Rohese considered his words and nodded in agreement. She had clearly underestimated this man and was astounded that he had made the effort to come all this way to speak with her on the matter.

"If I might be so presumptuous ..." With a ghost of a smile on his lips, Socius reached over her shoulder to one of the upper shelves and lifted down a tan leather book. "There's an old tale that I read as a boy. My father travelled a great deal, and I was always keen to read as much as I could. Given our current ... situation ... there's a particular passage that is ... worthy of consideration. It suggests some insights into ... other worlds. A guide to correspondence, if you will."

"Could be worth a read," he suggested, handing it to her with the barest hint of a wink. "Until next time, Lady," he bowed and left the room.

Rohese glanced down at the book in her hand and read the title. "Tales of Toomy the Bard." It wasn’t a thick book so, forgoing her usual ritual of a comfortable seat and a cup of tea, she quickly opened it and started to read. About halfway through, she noticed a tiny symbol at the top of one of the pages. It looked almost like a bird and appeared to be a handwritten annotation to the text. She read the passage again …

Toomy stared in the mirror at himself, his eyes wide on both sides. But the Toomy in the mirror's mouth moved! "The thing is, Toomy, you're not as alone as you think. You chose a road that looks empty to you, but there's lots of Toomys who took that road, too! You can't see them, of course, and they can't see you, but there's lots of worlds with lots of Toomys, and all of them who went down that path with you... they're closer than you think! If you take another turn, then a lot of Toomys will too. Think about that, Toomy. You're never really alone, so there's no reason to be scared. You're an army of Toomys, so you have nothing to fear!" {scribbled in the margins, in a spidery Elven script, someone has written, "Be true to yourself always, so that you are as many of yourself as you can be. Is this the secret?"}

Rohese smiled to herself and mentally started packing for her return to the Isle.

Memories (Rohese runs the Gauntlet)

Ta'Illistim, Tilamaires, 16th day of Olaesta

The Now

Rohese reached up for the tome on the highest shelf and blew away the thin layer of dust. Carefully opening the cracked leather cover, she began to read the faded text within.

She had spent the last few days wandering the Halls of the Library Aies in search of anything that would reveal the nature of the meeks and give her an insight into the meaning of their correspondence. The bruises were fading on her arm but the scar tissue was a constant reminder of their desperate attempt to reach out for help and her recent encounter with Socius had made her more determined than ever to do just that.

The storybook she was now holding was a familiar one from her childhood. One story in particular resonated with her and she paused to reflect on its meaning. The tale of "Patience and the Lily" reminded her so much of her own story: one of hope and suffering, of love and loss. Patience's story could be her own. Memories of her family flooded her mind, both happy and sad; the smiles on their beloved faces still causing her heartache but she smiled as she thought fondly of them all.

Reaching into robes, she pulled out her grandmother's book and opened it to read the words inscribed on the inside of the cover.

"Death leaves a heartache no one can heal; love leaves a memory no one can steal."

Lost in thought, she didn't notice the room around her shift slightly, and the lines of the objects become slightly less distinct.

A voice spoke in her mind, whispering slightly, "Lady Rohese... this is a time of... correspondence. And opportunity..."

Placing her hand on her book, Rohese tentatively asked, "Who are you?"

"I am one of the meek... your thoughts have drawn me to you during this time of correspondence. I have prepared... an opportunity. Should you be willing to undertake it, I believe much good can be done."

Resting the fingertips of her right hand in the hollow of her throat, Rohese closed her eyes for a moment and quietly murmured an archaic elven orison. Feeling a little more settled, she nodded slightly and felt herself pulled away.

She opened her eyes and surveyed her surroundings. She found herself standing in a white marble atrium, with elaborately styled buttresses supporting the ceiling overhead, and brilliantly colored stained glass windows casting a kaleidoscope of rainbow hues across the single massive marble slab that served as the floor. The air was still and heavy with the taste of dust and time. At the far end of the atrium was a single archway.

The awe-inspiring beauty of the chamber was oddly comforting so Rohese took the opportunity to steady her breathing and prepare for what might lay ahead. Sensing her readiness, the voice continued.

"What you see is not what is, but a construct fashioned to help you comprehend what must be done. I have tunneled through, and will hold the way as long as I can, though time will be short. The Fallen will send obstacles, but I will assist as much as I can. In your memories, we increase correspondence. Proceed, Broken One, and know that we are with you."

Stepping tentatively through the archway, Rohese was immediately transported back to her childhood.

The Past

The first thing that struck her was the fragrant scent of herbs as she stood amidst a modest garden, carefully organised and in full bloom. Various herbs and brilliant flowers lay in neat rows and a delicate wrought-iron fence surrounded the entire space. Just beyond the fence, through a faintly glowing gateway, stood an indistinct pair of figures, hand-in-hand, watching her silently. The larger of the two seemed to be carrying a fishing rod, and the smaller one seemed to be rather thin. In that moment, the smaller figure raised a hand towards her, as if in greeting, but made no sound.

Memories of her mother overwhelmed her: the scent of her garden in full bloom, her smile thought lost to the years, and her strength as she fought the unwinnable battle against illness. Carrying that memory in her heart, Rohese simply walked towards the gate and whispered, "Mother?"

Her vision faded in a melancholy grey haze only to return with a sinking feeling.

The Near

The scent of lavender filled her nostrils again but this time it came with a wave of nausea. A pair of stone pots containing large plants in full bloom rested on either side of the wooden doors through which she had just stepped. The walls were painted a pale green, and the carpet underfoot was a complementary darker green with an intricate pattern of interlaced deep blue woven throughout. Her eyes were drawn to a large writing desk in the middle of the office and she knew immediately where she was. An indistinct figure in the background sighed and approached her.

"Does this space look familiar?"

Rohese nodded and suddenly felt the stares of an unseen crowd upon her. She felt her face blush hot with embarrassment. This can’t be happening again!

"This is the place where you almost broke."

Rohese's insides roiled and she felt a deep knot of pain in her gut as she relived the deep betrayal once more. Tears rolled down her cheeks. "That wasn’t justice!" She cried out, recalling the humiliation of Nehor's trial a few weeks ago.

"And what has justice to do with reality?" The figured stepped closer again. "You are not owed justice, Lady Rohese."

Retreating, Rohese quickly replied, "Justice is everything. It creates balance!"

"And do you believe you are entitled to it, then?"

The distinct sound of laughter drifted through the room and Rohese was certain it was directed at her. Struggling to maintain her composure, she glanced at the book in her hand and recalled the words of her grandmother once more. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Rohese cleared her throat. "Yes, everyone is entitled to justice."

"And when the world does not accommodate you... you turn and run. What is the right path when faced with injustice?" The figure’s words felt like a slap in the face causing Rohese to doubt herself for a moment but she quickly recovered. "To stand and fight, I know that now."

"Is every life truly worth saving?"

"Yes!" came her reply, without hesitation. Her grandmother's face filled her thoughts as if prompting her to continue. "Every life deserves a second chance."

The indistinct figure stepped even closer but she was still unable to make out the features enough to identify him although, in her heart, she knew... and she knew she still had a chance to reach out to him.

An indistinct figure asked, "Even one... such as I... who would turn from the light time and again?"

Somewhat reassured, Rohese nodded firmly and repeated, "Yes, forgiveness is everything."

"Then why... Lady Rohese... have you been unable to forgive yourself?"

Feeling her eyes burn as she attempted to hold back the tears, she finally set aside her long-held anguish and boldly declared, "Because I wasn't ready to do so but now I am. I know that I too am worthy of forgiveness."

“You believe that you are ready... that you can stand against injustice, and your own self-doubt, and be a force for good?"

Firmer in her resolve, Rohese stated, "I will do whatever it takes ... even if it means my humiliation again." Removing the white linen bandage from her arm, she exposed the elaborate mark marring her arm and brushed her fingers lightly over the scar tissue. Taking one final step forward, the figure placed an indistinct hand across the mark.

"Go forth, then, Lady Rohese. With open eyes, and a knowledge that you... matter."

Without even a backward glance, Rohese stepped through the small hatch.

The Present

Rohese found herself in a circular room of doors. The room was lit from above by a massive candelabra and each door was equally spaced from its neighbour. Each of the doors were slightly different in color and had a plaque set at eye height. The ceiling overhead was low, causing the space to feel cramped and confining.

A familiar voice whispered to her. You know what you know. You've seen what you've seen. You've been where you've been. You've lived what you've lived. Now go where you'll go. And remember your manners.

Clutching the book tightly in her hand, Rohese surveyed each of the doors, reading the plaques in turn.

"There is one, there is the other, and never the twain shall meet."

"What is, must always be."

"When the journey ends, there is no more."

"Who we are today is who we'll be tomorrow."

"Tomorrow is tomorrow, and its worries belong to it."

Rohese wished her grandmother was here with her. She would know what to do – which door to choose - but something didn't feel right. Is the path forward always so clear? It is never clear except when the path of righteousness is before you.

Closing her eyes, Rohese searched around and discovered a hidden door. Murmuring under her breath, "Remember my manners," she knocked tentatively on the door three times and watched it slowly swing open before her.

The Path

Ahead of her lay a long hallway, down which ran a plush red velvet runner with stylized golden patterns sewn into it. The walls were sturdy and high, and decorated with palatial tapestries of vibrant scenes. Interspersed along both sides of the runner were a series of small columns, each topped with a small figurine.

Rohese peered curiously at each in turn, noticing that when she touched them, they came alight with faint tendrils of essence. Noticing an elaborate plaque imbedded in the floor, she scanned the unusual phrase and pondered its meaning. “TVYUVW, WTWX, VTYUW, TZXX”

Touching a number of figures in turn, she suddenly felt herself pulled away again.

The Quiet

Surrounded by darkness this time, Rohese quickly realised where she was. There was almost enough light to see by but she was unable to tell where it originated from. Directly overhead was a matte black ceiling and a cool breeze blew through the area. Shifting shapes appeared against the darkness on all sides but their details were impossible to discern. One thing was clear though, Nazhor wasn't here but his book was. Glancing nervously around her, Rohese quickly picked up the book and noticed that the small niche in its center was empty.

"As you see, Lady... the Fallen has made a grave error. Keep this safe. When the Fallen realizes its absence, his rage will be terrible. Seek the crystal. When the two are joined, his ability to draw on the powers of the meek will be no more."

Rohese closed her eyes and nodded. I can do this!

"You are stronger than you have shown thus far, Lady Rohese. The time for self-doubt, fear, and mourning has past. The world needs your strength. Do not disappoint it."

Rohese softly echoed, "I am stronger and I will no longer doubt myself." Kissing three of her fingertips, she pressed them to her heart and felt the comforting presence of her locket beneath her robes.

Fading away, the voice whispered, "Of this, we have no doubt. Fare thee well, Lady Rohese. We shall be watching."

The New

Finding herself back in the Library Aies, Rohese glanced down to see both the Fallen's tome in one hand and her grandmother’s book in the other.

"I will always love you, Sighisoara but it's time I stood on my own two feet."

As the words left her lips, she noticed faint lines of text lifting from the pages of her book. Writhing around her wrists and climbing her arms, the elven script settled into position on her skin and began to dissolve into it. The vellum pages glowed for a moment and the book returned to its original state leaving Rohese gazing in awe at her hands.

Several voices echoed in her mind. Know that I am always with you, child ... I love you, pixie ... Be strong, Rohese, I am inordinately proud of you.

Of Crystals and Tomes

[Darkened Hall, Oculus] 
This space is perfectly round, with a gently sloping ceiling that rises to a small opening at its peak. Through this opening, the light outside comes through and strikes a deeply-flawed crystal mounted in the floor. The floor underneath is firmly packed dirt, and the walls are sheer stone, but the room is curiously bereft of the echoes one would expect from such a space. You also see a narrow doorway. Obvious exits: none 

This ruined crystal has a deep crack cutting a jagged line through its surface. The flaw runs to the heart of the crystal, where there appears to have been a rounded out space. The entire crystal is dull and lifeless, despite the shaft of light striking it.

The faint shaft of natural light coming through the oculus dimmed for a moment as a phalanx of geese passed overhead. Avawren gestured, calling on the spirits to cast Light and the shadows in the Darkened Hall duly retreated. Now able to see a little more clearly, Rohese slowly circled the room to examine the flawed crystal mounted in the floor. Her expression hardened with each step and, on completion of her exploratory circuit, she turned to face Avawren.

As if understanding exactly what Rohese was thinking, Avawren nodded. "Where should I start ..."

She took a deep breath and began, "I don't know how long the existence of this room ... this crystal was known, but I was allowed to see it once, briefly, when it was whole. The entrance is locked and only one person holds the key. Darcena and I were shown it during a gathering of the Circle ..."

She paused to shift her weight, casting a glance at Rohese. "Though I came to know of this room a week or so prior to that."

A little distracted, Rohese nodded faintly, her attention still drawn to the center of the room. Reaching out, she touched the ruined crystal, which remained dull and lifeless despite the shaft of light striking it from the oculus above. A deep crack cut a jagged line through it surface, running to its heart where there appeared to be a rounded-out shape. Something was clearly missing.

Avawren pursed her lips, giving a slight shake of her head. "I wish I'd gotten the chance to show you before it was destroyed. It was beautiful, alive. It ... thrummed. The whole room pulsed with it. I'd have liked to have gotten a sharp pair of Illistimi eyes on it." She offered Rohese a small smile.

Rohese breathed a heavy sigh. Realising that time was of the essence and she could trust Avawren, she made a decision. "I need to show you something."

Rohese reached into her case and pulled out a small blue and black tome covered in silver scrollwork. Showing it to Avawren, she watched her expression closely as the realisation of its significance quickly dawned on the Nalfein.

"You know what this is?"

Avawren arched a brow and, with a smile, simply remarked, "We have a great deal to talk about it seems."

Nodding in agreement, Rohese returned her smile. "It's time the Inner Circle met and we put all our differences aside. I've been complacent for far too long." Slipping the tome back into her case, Rohese glanced at the crystal again before continuing. "Knowing about this place and with Nazhor's tome in our possession, I believe it's time for some decisive action."

With a resigned sigh, she noted, "I also need to meet with Nehor but, this time, I won't let him make a fool of me."

A Meeting of Minds I

They eyed each other with no small amount of scepticism but Rohese hoped they could put aside their differences for a short while to achieve her goal. At least there is no malice in their glances ... or am I fooling myself?

She adjusted her position slightly to avoid Naamit's direct gaze and opened the proceedings.

"Well, I should probably begin then but I ask you all to think kindly of me."

Rohese had spent the last few weeks trying to discern anything she could about the mysteries of the Fallen's tome now in her possession. Whilst she had gleaned much about its purpose, she was still unsure about far too many aspects. It had occurred to her that if her recollections could create correspondence - as they had done with the meek, Ghaila, to successfully acquire it in the first place - then perhaps, as a group, they might be able to reach out to her daughter, the newly ascended meek, Kheelin.

It was going to require a lot of trust on all their parts to be able to share memories from their past that they would not normally feel comfortable doing so, but with so much at stake, she had to try.

Keeping her eyes averted, Rohese began to share the reasons behind her constant feelings of shame and guilt with the small group. Thankfully, they seemed to appreciate her vulnerability and kept their judgement to a minimum.

A light whisper drifted across her thoughts, "Your pain is strong, but you are stronger ..." The air stilled around them all, growing thick. Echoes ceased and all sound felt stifled.

After a little muttering, Darcena relented and offered to share her own painful memory. It was clear from her expression during the whole account, that she too had suffered at the hands of others.

As she drew to a close, a series of faint whispers sounded through the room, some joyful, some sad, but steadily growing in intensity. Bursts of sound and colour exploded in Rohese's mind as she continued her journey through the grey murkiness of her own memories; each image becoming stronger and more painful. The room grew darker around the edges and the outline of a presence could be seen at the far end of the table, its head cocked to one side, listening intently.

Naamit glanced over at Socius. "Fine, I will go next," she said flatly and narrowed her eyes at Rohese.

Rohese squirmed uncomfortably in her chair as she listened to Naamit's account but then noticed that the area under the archway had grown opaque. The figure at the end of the table dispersed, but did not disappear. Instead, it seemed to spread throughout the room.

Furrowing her brow, Darcena asked, "Kheelin?"

A whispered voice sounded through the area, "I... am here... but more... is needed."

All eyes turned to Socius who was touching his scar with a shaking hand. With reassurances from all gathered that no word of anything shared would ever leave the room, Socius began to recount the painful memories relating to the incident around his blemish.

The room grew darker and heavier and the sensation of a presence became solid. A quiet voice intoned, "Thank you all ... your passion and strong memories have created enough correspondence for me to come to you."

With hope in her voice, Darcena repeated, "Kheelin?" to which the quiet voice duly responded, "Indeed, Lady Darcena. It is I. Were it not for the power of your collected memories, I would have been unable to reach you at all."

Rohese traced her finger over the cover of the tome in her hand, circling the small niche directly in its centre.

The quiet voice continued, "The tome of the meek ... Yes ... It is unreadable to almost all ... and cannot be read by any who do not have the crystal."

"The Flock have the crystal, Kheelin," Darcena muttered, "and I don't think we want to hand the tome over to them so they can read it."

"That is unfortunate ... the Council cannot be once again allowed to influence the selection of your world's next meek but correspondence grows weaker and I have limited time to impart knowledge."

Seizing upon the opportunity presented to them, the Circle succinctly relayed their concerns to the meek who in turn offered her insights. Her voice going ever weaker, she finally added, "You must convince one of appropriate power to take up the mantle, with all haste. In a month, the damage is impossible to gauge. Longer than that ... and entropy might take hold."

The echoes in the room started to reverberate and the air grew lighter. She was gone. A slight breeze drifted through the area and the air returned to normal.

Glancing around the room, Rohese noticed their thoughtful expressions. It had worked.

A Meeting of Minds II

Rohese seeks Lylia's advice


[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 window with a scrolling turquoise frame.
Obvious exits: out

You smile.
Lylia gazes admiringly at her surroundings.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "That's better, I would hate to be overhead as it is a matter of some delicacy."
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "Please, take a seat."
You settle yourself on the flowered silk cushions for a moment's rest.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "I gleaned as much, judging by the urgency of your letter and the slant of its writing."
Lylia walks over to the cushions and settles down.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "I'd offer you tea but I'm afraid the hour is late and the staff have all retired."
You bite your lip.
Lylia removes a matte black silver-edged teacup atop small claw-like feet from in her wrap.
Lylia smiles at you.
You smile.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "I am not without recourse."
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "Prepared, as ever."
Lylia takes a drink from her silver-edged teacup.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "You never fail to surprise."
You wrinkle your nose.
Lylia chuckles.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "Now, where to begin."
You thoughtfully tap a finger against your lips.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "Allow me to show you something."
You remove a blue and black tome covered in silvered scrollwork from in your asymmetrical cloak.
You show Lylia your blue and black tome.
Lylia gazes with interest at you.
Lylia takes a drink from her silver-edged teacup.
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you say, "I'm not sure how much you are aware of the recent events here on the island."
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "When is a book not a book? When it is a container for something else. How curious."
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "But this happens to be the tome of the meek, more specifically the Fallen meek, Nazhor."
You smile at Lylia.
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you exclaim, "Exactly so!"
Lylia leans forward and rests her chin in her hand, a thoughtful expression on her face.
You place your hand on your blue and black tome.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "I have heard the name Nazhor on many people's lips."
Lylia takes a drink from her silver-edged teacup.
You smile.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "Then you'll understand my discretion in revealing it."
You wrinkle your nose.
Speaking in Elven, you tentatively say, "I ... happened to acquire his tome through a rather interesting series of events."
Speaking in Elven, Lylia replies, "I do. I am certain others covet it."
You bite your lip.
You purse your mouth, pondering your blue and black tome.  Even without a mirror, you know your face reflects your roiling thoughts.
You nod at Lylia.
Lylia looks closely at your blue and black tome.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "They do indeed, which is why I'm seeking your advice."
You glance appraisingly at the blue and black tome in your hand.
Lylia smiles quietly to herself.
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you say, "It requires a crystal to be complete."
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "I am going to surmise you know who holds the crystal that completes it."
Speaking pointedly in Elven to Lylia, you assert, "First, I need to make it absolutely clear that I do not wish to seek the power of the tome in any way."
You nod slowly at Lylia.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "I do, and let's just say that he does wish to use the tome for his own ends."
You bite your lip.
Speaking simply in Elven to Lylia, you state, "Nehor."
Speaking in Elven, Lylia coldly says, "Nehor is not someone I hold particularly dear at the moment."
You nod understandingly.
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you ask, "May I speak frankly?"
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "If you are seeking to have him killed, though, I may not be -- yes, of course."
Lylia nods to you.
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you say, "Neither do I and it pains me to say that."
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you add, "I would prefer there to be no bloodshed if at all possible but ..."
You let out a long, contemplative breath.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "There are ways to accomplish a great deal without literal blood-letting."
You smile.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "And that's where I was hoping you might be able to help me."
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "If it would please you and vex Nehor, then I have two very good reasons to lend a hand however I can, my dear."
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you say, "Thank you."
Lylia inclines her head.
(Rohese rests her hand over Lylia's with a sigh of relief.)
(Lylia mirrors your gesture with a brief, light touch and a smile.)
Speaking embarrassedly in Elven to Lylia, you say, "Nehor used my anguish over the loss of my husband to win my confidence and in doing so, used me terribly."
You bite your lip.
Speaking tersely in Elven to Lylia, you say, "I do not wish to see a repeat of that."
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you say, "Later today, I have to meet with him to discuss a way of ... collaborating to prevent Nazhor carrying out his plans."
Speaking in Elven, Lylia asks, "And does Nehor wish to collaborate and thwart Nazhor?"
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "He says he does."
You nod.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "He is a known liar."
You nod in agreement.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "Oh I know."
You place a hand over your heart.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia notes, "He is also self-aggrandizing in the extreme. You can use this as a lever to pry him into place."
You nod slowly.
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you ask, "Do you think I should perhaps use his charms against him?"
You incline your head.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "What else do you know of him that you could use in such a fashion? I know him less well than perhaps I should. He was Vicimer's campaign manager, but I think that was an arrangement of convenience, not convictions."
You nod at Lylia.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia replies, "You should use everything against him."
Lylia smiles at you.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "I saw that whole charade as being a way to pursue his own personal agenda too."
You smile.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "Without, of course, being seen to use these tools."
You nod slowly.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "Well, he claimed to have ... feelings for me."
You wrinkle your nose.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia dryly remarks, "Oh, poor you."
You laugh softly, trying to hide your amusement.
Lylia snickers.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "I do not believe it to be true."
Lylia pauses, a flash of pain registering for mere seconds in her expression.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "I know he has no capacity to actually love or empathise with another."
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "I would not count on it either. It is a way some men believe they can disarm women -- charming them into believing that..."
Lylia inhales sharply, hissing through her teeth.
You nod in agreement.
Lylia reaches under her amber cuff and scratches her arm.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "So very true."
Speaking ashamedly in Elven to Lylia, you admit, "I almost fell for it."
Speaking in Elven, Lylia apologetically says, "Forgive me if I wince occasionally. I appear to have picked up a gift from Raznel."
Lylia sets her mouth in a thin line of disapproval.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "Oh my."
You clasp a hand over your mouth.
Speaking concernedly in Elven to Lylia, you ask, "I hope you're alright?"
Speaking in Elven, Lylia briskly says, "It is not the matter foremost in my mind at the moment. I endure what I must."
(Lylia shakes her head briefly in dismissal.)
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "Please let me know if you wish to stop at any time then."
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "I am well enough, and certainly more than hale enough to deal with the likes of Nehor."
You smile at Lylia.
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you continue, "Well, it occurred to me that during his declaring of such feelings to me, I could sense there was something troubling him."
Lylia nods encouragingly.
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you say, "And I was wondering if you may be able to shed any light on it."
You incline your head.
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you inquire, "Something in his past perhaps?"
Speaking in Elven, Lylia asks, "I can certainly try. What indication did you have of what troubled him?"
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "His past is murky."
Speaking in Elven, Lylia darkly says, "His future is as well, if he crosses too many people."
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you say, "He has ... a look in his eyes that is almost cold but troubled."
You nod at Lylia.
Lylia narrows her eyes.
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you say, "I'm learning this about him."
You let out a long, contemplative breath.
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you say, "I can't believe that all of his behaviour is play-acting."
You close your eyes for a moment.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "I'm sure there is good in the man."
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "If only I could reach him."
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "I am not certain if there is good in him. But there is something real enough within him that you could turn into a weapon against him."
You nod.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia smoothly says, "The only question is what that thing may be."
Deep in thought, Lylia laces her fingers before her.
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you say, "I've tried appealing to his conscience but that seems to be a lost cause."
You bite your lip.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia asks, "The best weaponry is that which someone keeps concealed. Do you know any of his secrets?"
You lean forward.
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you whisper aloud, "He leads the Flock, which I believe is part of the ..."
You glance around the room.
You quietly whisper to Lylia, "Council of Light."
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you say, "I have spent many hours in the Library learning as much as I can of it but there is very little written."
You sigh.
Lylia nods thoughtfully.
You recognize Lylia using the Symbol of Recognition.
You smile quietly to yourself.
Lylia smiles at you.
You let out a sigh of relief.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "I had my own acquaintance with them, at some point in time."
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "Though I know less about this Flock."
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you say, "I was hoping you might have some knowledge of their activities."
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you clarify, "They are scattered now, hopefully for good."
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "I suspect he may be alone at the meeting today."
Speaking in Elven, Lylia replies, "Sadly, no, not truly. I do know that if Nehor is put in charge of something, that cannot possibly be an auspicious sign."
Lylia smiles wryly.
You giggle.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "Good leadership does not seem like one of his stronger points. He did, after all, back Vicimer."
Speaking lightly in Elven to Lylia, you say, "I believe he is Master of none now."
You smile.
Lylia laughs softly, trying to hide her amusement.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "There is one among his party though, that I think you might also know and may be useful to us."
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you ask, "Ordim?"
You incline your head.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia asks, "Ordim. I know him, but only somewhat. Is he the baker?"
You nod.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "He is."
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "Given that both Nehor and Ordim have committed a number of atrocious acts in recent days, I was wondering if I could perhaps use that as leverage."
Speaking in Elven, you softly note, "My beloved Mirror has a warrant out for Ordim's arrest, in fact."
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "And Nehor has yet to account for the death of many innocents on this isle."
Speaking in Elven, Lylia bluntly says, "Ordim attempted to poison me as well, and nearly succeeded."
With exaggerated slowness you take a deep breath, then pinch the bridge of your nose.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "Marshmallow pie. Like a fool, I ate it, thinking it was a well-meaning gift from an admirer at a campaign event."
Speaking indignantly in Elven to Lylia, you exclaim, "He must be stopped!"
Speaking in Elven, Lylia simply says, "Yes."
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you say, "So if we could ... kill two birds with one stone, so to speak."
You giggle.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "I would be glad to testify, should it come to that. But that is not, in itself, much leverage."
Lylia grins at you.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "Yes, well, we could be more direct and simply kill them, but that would just be gauche."
Lylia raises her voice in merry laughter.
Speaking appreciatively in Elven to Lylia, you say, "That would be wonderful, you are held in such high regard."
Lylia inclines her head.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia demurs, "Kind of you to say so, but the Mirror does not hold me in particularly high esteem. I vexed her once, years ago, at Xorus' instigation."
You wrinkle your nose.
Lylia smiles quietly to herself.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "Xorus had a bit of fun at both her expense and mine, I believe."
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you offer, "I would speak on your behalf, if that might help alleviate that situation."
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "Perhaps we could settle a number of matters through this meeting of minds."
You smile at Lylia.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia warmly says, "I would welcome that."
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you ask, "So, getting to the heart of the matter, how do you think I should best approach this meeting later today?"
Speaking in Elven, you softly ask, "Winsome and naive?"
You flutter your eyelashes.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "Or cold and calculating."
You giggle.
Speaking in Elven, you softly assert, "Either way, Nehor will not be getting the tome."
You place your hand on your blue and black tome.
Lylia thoughtfully taps a finger against her lips.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "You have a wonderful tool at your disposal, one that Nehor lacks. Your reputation."
You incline your head.
Speaking in Elven, you abashedly say, "I have been led to believe that there will be 6 others standing behind me that are held in equal regard."
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "People presume they know you. You can also use something that I have learned: Most people are entirely happy to mistake courtesy for kindness, goodness, mercy, and all manner of positive things."
You smile at Lylia.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "Your courtesy is unassailable. People will expect you to be kind. Soft. Yielding."
You nod slowly.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia quips, "One might even say meek."
You laugh softly, trying to hide your amusement.
You glance at the blue and black tome in your hand.
Speaking in Elven, you lightly exclaim, "Given what I'm holding, that might be his fear!"
A small area of Lylia's skin twitches oddly.
Lylia grins at you.
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you say, "But I do not seek ascension."
You vigorously shake your head.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia asks, “Does Nehor know that?”
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "... actually."
You thoughtfully tap a finger against your lips.
Speaking in Elven, you softly exclaim, "I don't think he does!"
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you say, "I see what you're saying."
You nod slowly.
Lylia smiles at you over the rim of her teacup, tilting it slightly to reveal the pink salorisa blossoms painted within it, before taking a sip.
Lylia takes a drink from her silver-edged teacup.
You purse your mouth, pondering your blue and black tome.  Even without a mirror, you know your face reflects your roiling thoughts.
You smile quietly to yourself.
Speaking excitedly in Elven to Lylia, you acknowledge, "That could work."
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you say, "But then, he will be even more reluctant to hand over the crystal."
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "Perhaps you can claim you do seek ascension. And that you, moved by his professions of deeper and finer feelings, wish to share this with him. Or to look upon him with favor once you have ascended."
You furrow your brow, probably adding a wrinkle or two in the process.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "Oh my."
Your thoughts roil, a tumult of quick images and phrases.  Inhaling and exhaling slowly, you press a hand to your chest.
You nod slowly at Lylia.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia admits, "It is a bold gambit."
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "What an interesting idea."
You think to yourself for a while.
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you say, "I knew you were the right person to consult on this."
Lylia inclines her head.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia admits, "I do have some experience with diplomacy, which is rather trickier among certain Faendryl Pentact leaders than others."
Lylia takes a drink from her silver-edged teacup.
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you say, "I will certainly put this idea to the Inner Circle and see if we might be able to convince him of such absurdities, it's the kind of thing he would understand."
You wrinkle your nose.
Speaking in Elven, you amusedly say, "It never occurred to me to even consider such a thing."
You giggle to yourself.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "It is, of course, only one possibility."
You nod at Lylia.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "And certainly another option for us."
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "I fear we may need many."
You bite your lip.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "You had asked if you should be winsome and charming or calculating? You need not choose."
Lylia smiles at you.
You incline your head.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "He is probably expecting tearful and easily manipulated.  That is no longer the case."
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "To be blunt, men often assume that a soft voice cannot cloak a steel resolve."
You nod in agreement at Lylia.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "It is not in my nature to stamp and shout."
You wrinkle your nose.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "Well, perhaps I did at my husband once or twice."
Lylia nods in agreement to you.
You glance away.
You smile quietly to yourself.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "But that is another matter entirely."
You wrinkle your nose.
Lylia absentmindedly twists her silver wedding band back and forth on her finger.
Lylia smiles quietly to herself.
You smile at Lylia.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia gently says, "Yes, quite a different matter."
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "The fact that you do not typically show anger or flash the steel will that is within you makes it all the more powerful when it does appear. That, too, is a tool you may use against him."
Speaking in Elven, you wistfully say, "I wish he was here; he would know how to help me."
You let out a long, contemplative breath.
You nod at Lylia.
Lylia nods sympathetically to you.
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you confess, "And Nehor does make me so angry."
You take a tiny sip of your warm lavender tea, warming your lips and making sure it isn't too hot to drink.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia coldly says, "He is a small man who tries to cast a very long shadow so he may feel like a tall one. A twisted man who tries to stand at just the right angles to appear straight-limbed and true. A false man who tries to offer truths but cannot help but reveal the lies inherent within everything he does."
You bite your lip.
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you remark, "You do know him well, it seems."
Ruminating upon Lylia, you give consideration to her qualifications.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "I hold him in disdain, if not contempt, and if it were not for the fact that he undoubtedly has a few allies who would make my life difficult, I would see him dead."
You nod understandingly.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia indifferently says, "His ultimate fate is nothing to me."
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "The fate of the crystal, on the other hand, seems rather important."
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you say, "Then if I can make reparation for that too, I will be heartened indeed."
With an empathetic nod, you take Lylia's hand in yours for a moment and give it a gentle, reassuring squeeze.
Lylia inclines her head.
Lylia smiles at you.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia asks, "You wish to have it, and he will doubtless try to persuade you to hand over the tome so he may...hmm, so he may do what? What will he want?"
Lylia gazes with interest at you.
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you say, "I mentioned earlier of others who have offered to stand behind me ..."
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you say, "He wants the tome to use for his own purposes before he deals with Nazhor, it's as simple as that."
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you say, "What those purposes are, I cannot rightly say at the moment."
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "He will want the tome so he can prove his 'goodness,' I think. So he can make amends. Perhaps your way through is to prove to him that only a selfless act, not one of self-aggrandizement such as demanding to be the one to hold both, is the only way in which he can earn back some of the lost faith others may have once had in him."
Lylia nods to you.
You nod understandingly.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "Yes, those who stand behind you; I recall your mentioning them."
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you say, "They are a force to be reckoned with in their own right and may help me persuade him to relent."
Speaking in Elven, you softly state, "Ceyrin and Naamit, Darcena and Avawren, Socius and I believe Elspie is returning."
Lylia chuckles.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "Yes. Some of them are quite persuasive. Women with a whip often are."
You smile.
Lylia takes a drink from her silver-edged teacup.
Speaking in Elven, you softly admit, "We are not on the best terms, but in this, I am grateful for her ..."
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "... what's the right word."
You act puzzled.
Speaking in Elven, you lightly quip, "Support."
Lylia flashes a quick grin at you.
Lylia nods in agreement.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "It is my hope that seeing a united front on this matter will force his hand before we even begin to negotiate."
Speaking in Elven, you amusedly say, "All Nehor is likely to have at his back is a muffin-dusted halfling with a severe tick."
You giggle to yourself.
Lylia snickers.
Speaking in Elven, you softly apologize, "I'm sorry, that was cruel of me."
You place a hand over your heart.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "It is not cruel to be blunt in private."
You smile quietly to yourself.
Speaking in Elven, you softly note, "It does bode well for us in that regard."
Speaking in Elven, you softly muse, "Anyone of us could be considered for ascension really."
Speaking in Elven, Lylia asks, "You know you are not to be moved on the subject of handing over the tome. What if he is equally adamant about the crystal?"
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you say, "Then our only recourse is to suggest a third party hold both."
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "Or play his bluff and say that we will have to deal with Nazhor another way."
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you add, "And given how Nazhor has treated Nehor recently, I don't think he'd like that idea."
You wink at Lylia.
Lylia grins slowly at you.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "One option might be to have the Ta'Illistim Loremasters hold them."
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "Or perhaps even split the artefacts between the Loremasters and the Hall of Mages."
Speaking in Elven, Lylia noncommittally says, "That is one possibility. If you do, though, you may never see tome or stone again. Loremasters have a way of holding onto such things and squirrelling them away in laboratories."
You nod in agreement.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "That is a concern."
Lylia takes a drink from her silver-edged teacup.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "But we really only need to keep them both safe while a new meek is sought.  Once ascended, I don't believe they would have any difficulty in retrieving what is rightfully theirs."
Lylia nods.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "Dealing with Nazhor is the more urgent concern really and he must not be allowed to get them back.  I don't trust Nehor to be able to do that."
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "There is a truth to that that I believe even Nehor must see."
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "Nazhor has already proven himself to be quite adept at winning Nehor's support."
You nod at Lylia.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "I am hoping so."
Speaking in Elven, Lylia simply says, "You do not trust him. He knows he can trust you. This plain set of facts may be all the leverage you need."
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "I think that is why he agreed to meet with me."
You nod.
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you say, "Then that is the stance I shall adopt at the outset."
You smile at Lylia.
Lylia nods approvingly.
Speaking gratefully in Elven to Lylia, you say, "Thank you so much for your time this morning, you have been a wonderful help."
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "It is always best to use truths, and you have many of them at your disposal. His quarrel of them is all but empty."
Lylia inclines her head.
You wrinkle your nose.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "I am happy to do what I can, especially if it foils Nehor."
You gaze in amusement at Lylia.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia hisses, "Nasty little goblin of a half-man."
Lylia narrows her eyes.
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you say, "Then I hope my next letter to you will be a happier and less urgent one."
You giggle at Lylia.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "I hope so, and I shall hope for word soon of the outcome of your meeting."
Lylia stands up.
Lylia fidgets and fusses with her ebon velvet overgown, making certain of the fit.
Speaking softly in Elven to Lylia, you say, "I will make it a priority."
Speaking fondly in Elven to Lylia, you say, "And now I shall let you return to matters of state, Lady Mayoress."
Speaking in Elven, Lylia warmly says, "You are kind, my friend. And you are also quite a bit more powerful and resilient than you have needed to know you are. Rely on this in your negotiations."
Speaking in Elven, Lylia reminds, "Use everything. Everything is a weapon."
You nod firmly.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "Tears. Anger. Smiles. Affection, and the withholding of it."
Speaking graciously in Elven to Lylia, you say, "Thank you, I shall remember your words and hold firm."
You smile at Lylia.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "I have every faith in you."
Lylia leans forward.
Lylia kisses you tenderly on the cheek.
Speaking in Elven, you adamantly say, "No more tears will be shed over that man."
You kiss Lylia on the cheek.
You smile.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia quips, "It is called acting."
Lylia raises her voice in merry laughter.
You giggle.
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "I might have to practice."
You wrinkle your nose.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "He has done enough of it."
Speaking in Elven, you softly exclaim, "So true!"
Speaking fondly in Elven to Lylia, you say, "And we must do this again in better circumstances."
Speaking in Elven, you softly say, "With the staff around to make tea for us."
You smile.
Speaking in Elven, Lylia says, "I look forward to it. And to the tea."
Lylia places a hand over her heart.
You stand back up.
Lylia bows to you.
You smile at Lylia.
You curtsy gracefully to Lylia.
Mayor Lylia just went out.

Repudiation

Dipping the nib into the inkwell, Rohese paused for a moment and pensively tapped the quill against her lips. Her gaze drifted out of the window across the orchard to the forest beyond the surrounding walls and she smiled to herself. It was good to be home again and feeling somewhat at peace with her circumstances but lately her thoughts had drifted to Elspie.

It had been a month since she had last seen her and Rohese had not really reconciled with the way matters had been handled in that regard. I need to explain my actions and apologise. I wonder if she would agree to meet with me? There’s only one way to find out!

A gentle breeze caused the curtains to billow, bringing with it the scent of oleander and thyme. Rohese breathed deeply and began to write. Several sheets of vellum later, Rohese sat back in her chair and laid her quill down. She worked the tension from her fingers and reached for her sealing wax.

Having second thoughts about the closing commentary on her Nehor predicament, she removed the last page of her letter and tore it up. Lifting the quill again, she rewrote the final paragraph, this time with a little more tenacity. As if firming her resolve, she re-dotted the letter "i" and crossed the "t" in the word "repudiated" and finally sealed the letter. Adding it to the pile of correspondence for that day, she rose from her desk and went in search of some fresh tea.

Regrets? No Regrets!

Ta'Illistim, Day of the Huntress, 19th day of Koaratos

The Black Moor soared past Rohese as she spurred her mount into a full gallop, the thundering hooves splitting the silence of the pre-dawn. A thick grey mist swirled in the bone-chilling wind, its ghostly tendrils attempting to wrap themselves around the filly’s legs as they negotiated the heather and charred rocks covering the bleak landscape.

Isilme moved swiftly, her powerful limbs tearing into the earth and her ear’s twitching with the obvious pleasure of just being one with her rider. Rohese’s grip tightened on the reins and her knuckles whitened as she leaned forward to urge her on – faster and faster they flew - the icy wind whipping the filly’s flaxen mane into the air to blend with Rohese’s free-flowing tresses.

I should have worn gloves. Her rebuke was fleeting; she actually relished the feel of the cold damp wind seeping into her skin. Rohese’s mind raced with each surge of the filly’s muscular body. I made the right choice ... I made the right choice ... the phrase pounded in her head with every heart-thumping footfall.

It was only when daylight had broken through the cloud cover, that she allowed Isilme to slow. They had long since passed through the ancient stone gate and down the Old Barrow Road to reach the High Plains. Finally pausing to catch their breath, both horse and rider took a moment to savour the silence of their surroundings and warmth of the sun. The rolling, misty plain stretched in all directions, bound by the dark forms of the distant hills. Scattered stones and patches of brambles broke the landscape here and there, and the steady wind pushed faint clouds of fog in an everchanging swirling pattern.

Now at a standstill, the disorderly events of last night in the Ta’Illistim Argentate came flooding back. The court session had brought back all the painful memories of an earlier trial and Rohese bit back the tears that had started to well in her eyes. No more tears! This time the rebuke was harsher and resonated longer.

Gracefully dismounting, Rohese led Isilme over to a patch of dew-laden grass and allowed her to graze.

Torn between the desire to help Elspie, with her plea for clemency, and finally see Nehor and Ordim answer for their crimes, Rohese had spoken out, but it had all been in vain ... again. Was there really such a thing as justice anymore? The last time Nehor had been brought to trial, she had watched it all dissolve before her eyes. Last night was no better; the whole session had been a circus from start to finish. Was there no end to Nehor’s ability to be puppet master?

The Argent Mirror had listened to everyone give evidence or share their insights, including Rohese, but to no avail. Yes, Ordim had been banished for the time being – that was something - but Nehor ...

She was suddenly reminded of an earlier conversation with Socius: "Nehor ... when he is seen, shall be dealt with. Harshly. His role in this has not gone unnoticed by me and he must pay for the pain he has brought to the Isle."

When! When will he be called to account for the pain and suffering he has inflicted?

Stepping close to a flaxen-maned white filly, Rohese threw her arms around her neck and hugged her. In response, the filly lay her chin against Rohese’s back and pulled her closer.

Rohese’s expression was grave as she pondered her options. The warm steady breath of Isilme on the back of her neck soothed her and she was reminded of a different voice, a gentler voice; one that brought a smile to her face: "... the pieces will fall where they may." Enough. I did the right thing and I am done being made a fool of in the name of justice.

Placing her left foot into the stirrup, she pushed off and gracefully remounted the filly. With the reins firmly in hand, she turned Isilme south and towards home.

For the attention of Socius Leiffen, Hale Hall, Mist Harbor
20th day of Koaratos in the year 5119

Dear Socius,

May I say how pleased I was to see you again; it gladdens my heart to know you are keeping well. I am conscious that you must be extremely busy, so please forgive me for writing, but I wish to clarify the reason for my intervention at the recent court hearing because the circumstances continue to trouble me.

I received a letter that morning from one known as Akenna Briquinn. She is a delight so I was inclined to consider what she had to say. Akenna has been appointed by Elspie to help in her transformation, which apparently requires a ritual involving Nehor and Ordim. To this end, she asked that I attempt to persuade the Argent Mirror not to put them to death, should they be found guilty of the charges brought against them.

As you can imagine, this not only put me in a very difficult position but also gave me cause for concern. In fairness, Akenna understood the gravity of her request so it must be of particular importance to both her and Elspie. You - more than most - know how the outcome of Nehor’s last trial affected me and, whilst I still believe he has goodness in him, I am also convinced that I am not the one capable of helping him. The situation was made all the more problematic because the victim of Ordim’s alleged poisoning in Ta’Illistim happens to be someone very dear to me, so you can understand my predicament. 

With all this in mind, I chose to inform the Mirror of the situation during the proceedings but could not bring myself to ask for clemency. I am struggling to come to terms with that decision but it is a personal matter for me to deal with. I do think, however, that you may be able to assist me in determining whether Nehor himself had a hand in Akenna’s plea. Do you think Elspie may have been influenced by the Flock to her detriment or, perhaps it might have been Nehor’s way of reaching out to ask for help? My biggest fear is that it may be the latter and I have forsaken him by choosing to act the way I did.

As I’m writing this, I realise you probably think I’m being foolish so please disregard my sentimentality but I would welcome your thoughts on whether Nehor and the Flock continue to be a threat to the Mist Harbor citizens and, more significantly, to Elspie?

Warm regards,

Rohese Bayvel-Timsh’l
High Park, Ta’Illistim
From the desk of Socius Leiffen
20th day of Koaratos in the year 5119

To the Lady Rohese:

Lady Rohese, it was once again wonderful to see you in person, though the circumstances could have perhaps been more genial. I owe you an apology for speaking my mind in the manner that I did at the end of that evening's... events. I have been told of your closeness to the Illistim Court, and I hope that my blunt words have not caused you any distress.

I appreciate you taking the time to clarify your own actions that evening. I confess I was somewhat taken aback to see your request that the lives of Nehor and Ordim be spared, but I put it down at the time to your well-deserved reputation for forgiveness and mercy. These traits are not ones that I share, but I can, and do, admire them in others for the virtues they so often are.

As to the potential influence of Nehor on the Lady Elspie, I have been in regular contact with her, and have yet to detect any ill will. I am given to understand that the self-styled 'Flock' do not hold me in the highest of esteem, though I assure you that the sentiment is entirely mutual. Still, one would assume that if Nehor was exerting some influence over Elspie, then that would be easy to ascertain through her correspondence. Still, you raise a very valid point, and I hold your opinions in high regard. I shall keep close watch for any sign of meddling.

Warmest Regards,
Socius Leiffen
A neatly folded papyrus with the faint scent of frankincense rests on her spare pillow.
24th day of Koaratos in the year 5119

My Love,

I intended to relay my findings earlier, but needed a few days to find the words. I trust you’ll take my accounting as one which has been well-thought out, and has the best interest of our people at heart.

Firstly, Lynaera is an associate of Avawren and myself. While her actions are not indicative of something Avawren, or I, would do - we endeavor to support her on her current task. Our goal is the protection and preservation of Elven culture. We differ in opinions on how to go about this, but realize that sometimes the ends justify the means.

What happened to that Human was a terrible deed. When this sort of thing happens, those of us with a conscience - do measure it as a tragedy. We must also measure the benefit versus the cost, and in this incidence, the benefit far out-measures the cost. Lynaera has gained a level of access to the Flock which may, in time, jeopardize their very existence. Along with Nazhor.

This does not excuse the deed, but it does insinuate that the price paid was worth something. The predicament the Human got themselves into was not avoidable.The trap was set, they fell into it, and for Lynaera to abandon the ritual based on principle would have surrendered any sort of credibility or gain she could have made with the Flock.

When we attempt to parse things into black and white, or right and wrong, we run the risk of losing the game entirely by those who do not play by the same rules. Believe me when I say that I, too, wish to live in a world where those who do wrong are summarily punished. And, conversely, I wish to live in a world where those who constantly strive to do right are rewarded appropriately. Our reality is something vastly different.

I have known you long enough. I see you suffer for the consequences of the actions of others. In your unrestrained empathy, you allow the ilk of Nehor to not only torture his victims but also torture yourself. 

My Love for you is without bounds, but my Love is not enough to make you come to your senses and deliver yourself from your own prison. You are not responsible for the actions of others, their deeds are not your own. We all have the power to be proactive and strive for justice. Justice does not come from inaction, or simply lamenting the foul deeds of others.

Turn and face the world as you were meant to. We must protect what we have, or we may lose it.

~ With undying Love,

[stamped with two counter-posed black crows]

Aendir Silithyr Loenthra

Nothing in this world is done without a price

Ta'Illistim, Day of the Huntress, 25th day of Koaratos

Opening her book, Rohese retrieved the neatly folded papyrus that had been secreted within its precious pages. She unfolded the letter and read it again, her thumb rubbing over the familiar stamp of counter-posed crows as she contemplated its content for the tenth time that day.

Crumpling the sheet in her hand, her gaze wandered out of the window to the shimmering towers of the Shining City in the distance. The clouds were lazily drifting across an otherwise perfect blue sky; it was a beautiful day but Rohese's mood was pensive.

We all have the power to be proactive and strive for justice. Aendir's words echoed in her mind. Justice does not come from inaction, or simply lamenting the foul deeds of others.

She brought the papyrus to her nose and inhaled the lingering aroma of frankincense. Its delicate sweet and spicy fragrance had a calming effect on her - just as he always did - and she exhaled, the last remnants of tension leaving her body. One thing she could always rely on Aendir for was the truth – however hard it might be for her to hear it.

In search of affirmation, Rohese lifted her grandmother's book to her lips and whispered the word "wisdom" into it. Faint letters began to rise to the surface of her exposed skin, arranging themselves into words and settling into position across her hands and wrapping around her wrists like manacles.

"Turn and face the world as you were meant to."

Rohese gasped, slamming the book shut and dropping it onto the nearby desk. Smoothing out the wrinkled papyrus, she pressed it out flat and compared the rapidly fading text on her hands with the last paragraph of Aendir's letter: Turn and face the world as you were meant to.

Her mind racing, Rohese allowed her fingers to linger over the small decorative knife she used to open her letters. Justice does not come from inaction. Reaching for a sheet of parchment, she quickly scribbled a letter of her own. Before she had a chance to change her mind, she called for her maid and bade her deliver it immediately. Then, picking up the dagger, she tucked it into the bodice of her gown and made her way down the stairs.

---<-`<@

Entering the Center of Stillness, Rohese was momentarily overwhelmed with disturbing memories but purposefully brushed them aside. She couldn't allow sentiment to get in the way; not this time.

Whiskey in hand, Nehor turned to face her and greeted her somewhat crisply.

"Lady Rohese. I received your letter...I confess to being a bit... surprised."

"I wasn't sure you would come." Her words were quiet and surprisingly controlled.

---<-`<@

Twenty minutes later, Rohese placed the dagger back where it belonged. Adjusting its position slightly so that it lay perpendicular to the sheets of parchment, she quietly repeated the last words she had spoken, this time to herself: "Nothing in this world is done without a price."

Casting a final glance at the book still sitting on the desk, she walked into her bed chambers and closed the door behind her.

Rohese meets with Nehor


[The Center of Stillness]
Three concave walls enclose this large, triangular room.  Leaded crystal windows form the points of the triangle, filtering in a dim grey light.  In the center of the room, the floor is stepped downward, forming an amphitheater with a long dark platform at the fore.  A pair of jet double doors in the south wall and a panel that rests slightly ajar in the north comprise the only breaks in the smooth dark walls, their surfaces faintly etched with stark blocky designs.  The air is perfectly still and carries a faint musky tang.
Also here: Flockmaster Nehor
Obvious exits: none

Nehor turns to face you.
Speaking crisply to you, Nehor greets, "Lady Rohese. I received your letter...I confess to being a bit..."
Nehor rubs his chin thoughtfully.
You softly greet, "Nehor."
You softly say, "I wasn't sure you would come."
You gaze with interest at your surroundings.
Nehor drawls, "...surprised. It has been a bit since you reached out to me."
You nod slowly.
Speaking softly to Nehor, you say, "I have been reluctant to do so."
You smile.
Nehor nods slowly.
You softly continue, "Until now."
You take a few steps toward a long dark platform.
You brush your fingers lightly against a long dark platform.
Nehor carefully says, "Yes. Your words during the recent trial were...well. As I said. Surprise is the emotion I find myself holding onto most of all."
You incline your head.
Nehor softly confesses, "However, it is good to hear from you."
Speaking softly to Nehor, you explain, "I had to say something."
You smile at Nehor.
Nehor nods understandingly.
Nehor waves his hand in a dismissive gesture.
Speaking softly to Nehor, you say, "You're looking well."
You ponder the meaning of Nehor's existence.

You see Flockmaster Nehor the Mystic.
He appears to be a Human.
He is shorter than average.  He appears to be an adult.  He has piercing amber eyes and fair skin.  He has short, sleek amber hair.  He has an upturned nose.  He has a delicate crimson symbol laid across the back of his neck, and arcing gently over his left ear.
He is in good shape.
He is holding a shot of smoky copper whiskey in his right hand.
He is wearing a shadowy hooded cape, a golden battle dragon pin wielding dual inverted emerald quarter notes, a dark silver-framed monocle, an emerald-set sylvan bardess pin, a pristine white ash instrument case framed by gently yellowed ivory inlay, a formal crimson silk shirt with crisp pleats, a coiled mithglin chain armband, a crimson crystal-inset ring, a supple black leather belt studded with polished brass, a pair of jet black leggings, and some ombre eel-skinned boots stitched with veniom thread.

Nehor examines you closely, sizing you up and taking note of all the details.
You softly ask, "Whiskey?"
You give your eyebrow a little workout.
You smile quietly to yourself.
Nehor tentatively says, "You seem...troubled."
Straightening your carriage, you gingerly graze the neckline of your green silk gown and trace the imflass bodice dagger safely tucked inside.  With a contented sigh, you lace your fingers together at your waist in a polished, courtly pose.
Nehor offers, "Would you like a glass? I had one already."
Speaking softly to Nehor, you confess, "I am."
Nehor offers you a shot of smoky copper whiskey.  Click ACCEPT to accept the offer or DECLINE to decline it.  The offer will expire in 30 seconds.
You tersely say, "No thank you."
Offer declined.
Nehor nods once.
Nehor takes a drink from his smoky copper whiskey.
A faint howl echoes from somewhere in the distance, sending shivers up your spine.
You softly remind, "I don't drink, remember."
You smile.
Nehor smirks.
Nehor understandingly says, "Ah. Yes. I do."
Nehor surveys the area.
(Rohese slowly walks to the centre of the room.)
You glance down.
Nehor casually says, "This is where we first really talked, if you recall."
You nod.
You softly say, "And why I asked you to meet me here."
Nehor turns an inquisitive ear toward you.
You softly say, "I was hoping you would remember."
You let out a long, contemplative breath.
Speaking softly to Nehor, you query, "Is this where she knelt?"
You point down.
Speaking politely to you, Nehor allows, "Despite...everything...it was a fond time."
You cock your head at Nehor.
Nehor glances down.
Nehor confusedly asks, "She?"
Nehor blinks.
You softly say, "The young girl you lied to."
Nehor understandingly says, "Oh! Aleid."
You nod slowly.
You softly ask, "Is that her name?"
You slowly and deliberately empty your filled lungs.
Nehor disapprovingly says, "Lied? No no. I merely didn't tell her everything. Most say there is no difference...but there is."
Nehor nods sagely.
You shake your head, totally at a loss.
You take a few steps toward a long dark platform.
You brush your fingers lightly against a long dark platform.
Nehor leans against a long dark platform.
You softly recall, "This is where I knelt."
You feel more refreshed.
You surreptitiously glance at Nehor.
You softly say, "Where I tried to comfort you and offered to help you."
Speaking calmly to you, Nehor agrees, "I remember."
You softly say, "And where you lied to me too."
You glance away.
Nehor slowly empties his lungs.
You tilt your head slightly, turning your attention to Nehor and giving them a measured, collected consideration.
Speaking curiously to Nehor, you ask, "Are you pleased with yourself?"
Speaking wearily to you, Nehor says, "M'lady...I said some things that were not true. But the core of it...that was no lie."
Nehor cocks his head.
Speaking curiously to you, Nehor asks, "Pleased?"
You softly ask, "With how things have turned out?"
You peer quizzically at Nehor.
Nehor rubs his chin thoughtfully.
Nehor says, "With the results? ...Yes. Mostly. It is not perfect, and there are things I wish I could do differently but...in the end? Nazhor is gone. The world is a better place."
Nehor corrects, "Well, Nazhor is under control anyway."
Nehor smirks.
You glance at Nehor and slowly exhale.
The sound of breaking glass shatters the stillness.
You softly ponder, "Then I suppose I should ask if you have any regrets?"
You gaze with interest at your surroundings.
Nehor walks toward you.
You feel more refreshed.
You softly mutter, "Breaking glass."
You close your eyes for a moment.
Nehor nods.
You turn to face Nehor.
Speaking honestly to you, Nehor confesses, "I do have one. That I had to hurt you."
You softly respond, "Is it really too late for me to persuade you to stop what you are doing?"
Nehor slowly says, "If it could have been avoided, I would have. But some things....some things must be done."
You shake your head.
Speaking puzzledly to you, Nehor says, "Stop? But...I am making the world better."
You sadly say, "Oh Nehor."
Speaking softly to Nehor, you ask, "What if I asked you to walk out of here with me now and make amends for everything you've done?"
You reach over and gently rest your hand on Nehor's arm.
Speaking softly to Nehor, you add, "If I promise to help you do that."
Nehor smiles slightly, regarding Rohese with eyes that are pained but determined. Slowly, he shakes his head no and takes a small step back.
You close your eyes for a moment.
You think to yourself, "This is what must be done …   there's no turning back now."
With unbroken composure, you shift in place while surreptitiously plucking a silvergilt imflass bodice dagger with an intricately knotted vaalin-chased pommel from the lining of your green silk gown.  With a solid grip on the weapon, you gracefully shield it from view by bringing it to rest behind your back.

You clutch the bodice dagger tightly, locking eyes with Nehor.  His gaze doesn't waver from yours, and you wonder if you can see any good in there.  "It doesn't matter," you tell yourself, and you take a long breath to steady your nerves before stepping close to him and, in one smooth movement, sliding the dagger through his ribs and into his heart.  It slides back out just as easily as he falls to the floor.

Nehor gasps.
Nehor clutches his chest with an anguished expression.
You kneel down.
Nehor confusedly blurts, "But...what...what did you do?"
You lean forward.
Speaking softly to Nehor, you whisper aloud, "Nothing in this world is done without a price."
You give Nehor a lingering kiss on the cheek.
(Nehor gulps, then seems to choke a moment before gurgling blood. He struggles for a moment, looking up at Rohese, confusion and pain in his eyes...blood seeping from his wound.)
Nehor blinks in puzzlement at you.
You take a moment to observe everything you can about Nehor.
You nod once.
Nehor surprisedly says, "Oh..."
You stand back up.
Speaking softly to you, Nehor says, "You...you aren't so different than I, after all."
Nehor chuckles.

You watch in horror as Nehor's mouth stretches into a macabre smile.  His teeth are bloodstained, and his eyes flutter weakly.  He makes a faint sound, and you lean forward to hear, then realize it's a wet, gurgling laugh.  He wheezes his last and goes still.

Speaking softly to Nehor, you say, "I am very different and one day you will realise that."
Faintly, screaming can be heard, echoing from somewhere nearby.  The sound cuts off abruptly.
(Rohese gives Nehor one last glance and turns to leave.)

The Hour of the Wolf

Ta'Illistim, Restday, 28th day of Koaratos

It's known as the hour of the wolf: that time between midnight and dawn when most people die, when sleep is deepest, when nightmares are most palatable. It is the hour when the sleepless are pursued by their sharpest anxieties, when ghosts and demons hold sway.

Burdened with worry, Rohese found herself standing in the remains of Socius's office. She was numb; even the rash on her hand had ceased to itch for a while in her traumatized state. What she had witnessed that night would stay with her for a long time. Her gaze was fixed on the words gouged into the wall and she heard Socius's roar in her head as he broke Nehor’s body. TOO FAR.

She was reminded of Alisaire's whisper at the time, "One might say that this is the fine line between justice and vengeance." Fear and doubt added to her confusion and she began to question her own motives in stabbing Nehor. Was that justice or vengeance? She had told herself – and others - that it was a desperate attempt to stop him from falling further. Had she gone too far as well?

Closing her eyes to try and rid herself of the horrific images, she struggled to quell the nausea that threatened to overwhelm her again. Lynaera's voice reverberated in her ears, “Watch!” she had commanded. "It is every bit as horrible as you imagine, yet, you must watch, and know."

She had watched. Socius had gone too far. She wondered where Nehor was right now and hoped he wasn't alone. Yes, he had to be stopped. Yes, he needed to be held accountable but that ... Rohese swallowed hard.

A chill breeze swept through the room and she shivered. Wrapping her shawl around herself, she idly scratched her hand and furrowed her brow. The rash had spread from her fingers to cover the back of her hand with angry red blotches. I should seek out Avawren and ask her advice. The salves I have been applying haven’t helped at all. Casting her eye around the room one last time and taking in the devastation, she paused. Perhaps I will give her some time to also come to terms with this first.

  • Quote from Hour of the Wolf [1968]

Look Back to Look Forward

The faint lines of text flowing beneath her pale skin bothered her less with each passing day. It had been several months since she had taken the opportunity presented to her by the meek to retrieve Nazhor’s tome. She had faced a number of personal challenges during that “correspondence” and they still resonated with her; seeing her parents one last time had allowed her to lay some ghosts to rest but had subsequently awoken others.

Rohese laid her hand on her grandmother’s book and felt it grow warm beneath her palm. Glancing down, she watched as barely legible words surfaced on the back of her hand only to dissolve again. Look back to look forward. This phrase had repeatedly appeared and she had decided it was time to try and reconcile the meaning of the words and find out more about what was happening to her; it was time to go back to her grandparents’ house where it had all begun.

Now sat in their extensive library, Rohese was reminded of her childhood. The air was heavy with the familiar musty smell of parchment and bitter tang of ink. She could sense the antiquity of the collection of books and manuscripts surrounding her. She had been here for almost a week and was still none the wiser. Her grandfather had watched her closely since her arrival but had refused to be drawn on the matter of her book’s effaced writing or the elusive text swirling beneath her skin. He had simply escorted her to the family reading room with a wry smile and a kiss on the forehead before closing the door behind him and leaving her to it.

In frustration, Rohese rose from her seat at the high wooden desk where she had been writing copious notes. The soft wool rugs yielded beneath her bare feet as she walked to the lesser-used shelves at the far end of the room and ran her fingers idly across the spines of the tomes on display. She found herself tarrying over a small leather book squeezed tightly between two larger volumes and pulled it free. Before she could discern the title, the book fell open of its own accord and, with mild curiosity, she perused the opening passage.

"The key to magical ability is an altered state of consciousness and knowing that magic affects the world around us as well as the practitioner. In contrast to sorcery, white magic includes acts such as gaining divine knowledge, purification, attraction of proper influences, embracing one’s destiny, healing, attracting luck and love, driving away evil forces.  Its driving forces are emotion and intent."

The writing style seemed familiar. Rohese turned to the title page and was surprised to find the author’s name cited as "Sahese Bayvel." She was unaware that her grandmother had written other books apart from the original in her possession; more surprising was the fact it had been on this shelf the whole time and she had never come across it.

Brushing aside a stray lock of pale silver hair, she inadvertently left a smear of ink across her cheek. With the small book in hand, she meandered slowly back to the battered leather sofa in the middle of the room and lowered herself into its deep cushions. Engrossed in its contents, Rohese barely noticed as Aendir reached into his coat for a handkerchief and wiped away the ink smudge. He chuckled and returned to his study of an ancient Loenthran atlas. Settling back into his arms, Rohese tucked her legs up under her skirts and continued to read all about white magic.

Surrender

Rohese stirred, dawn bathing her in a golden glow as she lay sleeping on the soft feather bed. In stark contrast to her preternaturally pale skin, faint black letters rose to the surface on her outstretched arm and settled into position like lines of text on the page of a book.

She sleepily reached out to trace the familiar prose with her finger and was reminded of Aendir's feather-like touch the night before. She was fascinated with how she now responded to the slightest sensations. Unaccustomed to her new-found sensuality, her cheeks flushed with the feel of the soft silk sheet slithering over her skin and she shivered at the mere memory of her lover's whispers in her ear. The warmth of his breath across her skin was like the brush of a candle flame and the lingering scent of him on her body fuelled her hunger. It was as if her senses had finally come alive and there was a whole new world to explore.

Welcoming the new day, she stretched languorously and savoured the warmth of the late summer sunlight now pervading the bed chamber. She was eager to learn more about her transformation and noticed the stack of abandoned books on the nearby table. How easily she had been distracted from them last night. Giggling to herself, she slipped from the bed and pulled the white sheet with her to wrap around her otherwise naked body. Until recently, she would have never considered such immodest behaviour.

A gentle knock on the door was followed by an elderly Winedotter gnome entering with freshly brewed tea and a bowl of sun ripened berries. Rohese was late beginning her fast today but it didn't seem to bother her as it normally would. With a polite nod and discreet cough, the gnome left, closing the door behind her and Rohese turned her attention to the window. She gazed over the garden stretched out beneath her and noticed her grandfather – fishing rod in hand - leading Aendir towards the river in the distance. Taking a bite of a strawberry, she smiled to herself and allowed the juice to fill her mouth, flooding her tongue with its sugary sweetness. It astonished her that she had never noticed how delicious a strawberry was before; it felt like such an indulgence now.

Reaching for another, she seated herself at the table and pulled a book from the top of the stack. The title read, "Embracing the Witch Within." The text shifted slightly beneath her exposed skin and slowly dissolved away. Rohese could swear she heard a sigh of contentment.

Yes, Amma*, now I understand and I surrender.

  • Amma is Rohese's name for her grandmother

By Knot of One, It Has Begun

The morning was still pale when Rohese rose from her bed. The air held an autumnal chill, causing her to draw her brushed cotton robe tightly around her; her senses were heightened lately and she was still adjusting to it.

Picking up the small book she had wearily abandoned the night before, she resumed her seat at the window and carefully turned back a page. The book was in a poor condition, its battered leather covers barely held in place by loops of frayed cotton and the ink on the flimsy pages faded to brown. Opting not to light a candle, she tilted it into the early morning light to re-read the passage that had intrigued her, slowly mouthing the words under her breath.

By knot of one, the spell's begun.

Rohese noticed the dormant text beneath her pale skin began to rise up to the surface again, faintly at first but building layer upon layer to reproduce the words of the incantation, just as it had done a few hours earlier.

By knot of two, the spell be true.

The second line of text joined the first beneath her skin and her fingers started to tingle. In an attempt to relieve the sensation, she pressed her thumb against her little finger and gasped in surprise as silvery motes started to form at her fingertips.

By knot of three, the spell is free.

Releasing her fingers quickly, the silvery motes skittered across the back of her hand, dancing lightly over the faint words as they settled into place on her skin.

A small green tongue of fire suddenly sparked in her palm and caught the corner of the page. Crying out, she dropped the book, and the flame extinguished itself as quickly as it had appeared leaving just a tiny curl of smoke.

Rohese sighed and ashamedly retrieved the book noting the damage she had caused; the page badly singed at the edges and the front cover now hanging loosely from a single strand of cotton. Reassembling it, she gingerly placed it back on the seat and gazed out of the window, lost in thought.

If this is what I am capable of without actually tying any knots, I think I am going to need some help!