THE SEVERED WING
Mission and History: The Severed Wing emerged out of fire and death at the turn of the age. A zealous banner to rally the people under fealty and purpose in a time of chaos, their leadership stands as a pillar of order in history. They are the voice of the hurt; loud and militant, they boast to stand on the brink - soldiers of the fallen deity - to punish those that threaten the balance of Io.
The death of The Weavemaster has proven cataclysmic to the planet and the planes that surround it, and inaction will only steer us toward destruction. The only way for us to atone for our mistakes is to reclaim the pyres that drove us into the dark; our faith must be in ourselves, driven by the Rage Within, and justified by the Lawmaster himself, we will rebuild the world.
Head: Matriarch Saoir and Adjudicator Blake
Mothers: Relian, Thoria, Nelefi, Aeraria, Mytho, Sen, Ilonos, Holly, Ella-Rose.
Fathers: Jaka, Horace, Faerd, Jerelt, Gaern, Archer, Cooper, Lauchlan, Tristan, Lennon, Joseph, Odhran, Macleod, Arran.
Father Arkham (deceased); Father Striade (deceased); Father Tobias (exiled); Father Ventus (exiled);
Headquarters: The Winged Citadel - Stormwrack
Notes: This scribe writes these words with skepticism, as none of the Lost Pantheon have ever appeared to denizens here in the Storm's Bastion, the platitudes of this faction are based upon, well, blind faith. The obvious trope represented is, of course, that the creature believed to be the entity of magic and the tempest was the one to have fallen, hence the state of the world, but there is no tangible proof. It is just as likely that these banners and statutes are merely a vehicle to commit violence, as demonstrated by recent events. While the Blades hunt down the remaining Zealots in the streets, this scribe loses little sleep in regards to the severance of this particular faith, as their methods leave much to be desired by those under their scrutiny. But, as always, time will tell.
THE CONFLUENCE OF LIGHT
Mission: When the world broke, it shattered. Its shards rained down upon the people of Io, and the knives of our consequences crushed so many. Yet, the cosmos smiled - a confluence of light and warmth to carry the people once again. But no entity on its own could carry such a weight, so by Jenora's grace, we, the Confluence, bring forth an alliance of faith. A Trinity of Suns, held aloft by the Four Pillars of the Alliance, we shall weather the Storm with poise and warmth. Come and rest by our hearthstone. You will be welcome.
Head: Lightbringer Ilvana Orshia
Notes: There was a moment in this scribe's life where I was befallen by hunger and blight, and it was the Confluence that saved me. Their homogenous robes of white and gold, even their strange winged apparati, are all symbols of hope. The help they give is often thankless, and anonymous, and if by Pelor's light, or Kord's strength, or Sarenrae's redemption...no matter your faith, absent or present, they care not. Ask, and you will be helped. With the Citadel taking flight and the Matriarch silent, the Confluence's consistency will be something the entire city will need. Look for the wings in the crowd.
THE SPIRE OF THE RAVEN QUEEN
Mission: A city is bleeding, slow rivers of denial running down the ramparts of our desire, pooling in the mists of mythos and whispers. Here, the darkness growls, and the Raven watches. Its talons sharpen, its prey shrinks away, and in a flash of feathers, the lesser walk in peace, none the wiser.
Head: Seeker Hendragon Marina
Seconds: Vagrance Keana Orowind; Loremaster Ruse Rosa
Notes: this scribe has yet to witness the Spires at work, but their presence in the recent events is unnerving. A secret police powered by the abhorrence of undead and unnatural beings sounds good on the surface, but the Storm's Bastian is too often a haven for those entities seeking to rally against their nature. I fear the lens through which such fervent oaths are viewed, and how such cracked glass may skew the vision.
Have you located the Eye, yet?
I do not wish to hear it, Miss Scabbard.
You'd best get used to it. Here, your mistakes will be remembered.
I cannot be held accountable for the many imperceptibles in a cluster of strix.
Actually, you can. This is war, Mr. Flint. Moves and countermoves. Even standing still is an act of movement. A failure to act that has compromised one of your own.
A temporary setback. He can track it easily.
But a setback, nonetheless. You'll have to learn patience in the field. Don't rely so much upon the martial abilities of your Hats. Though effective they may be, you must admit, they've been a bit messy.
The Shiver's presence forced our hand.
Did it now? As I recall, it was still roaming the basement when the scaffolding fell in my favorite theater.
I thought one of our tenets was not to become attached, Miss Scabbard?
Assets are still assets, dear replacement. Do not lose sight of future opportunities just because you have commitment issues. Only the strongest of resolve can make the most of a situation.
And what strings are you fit to tug on, Miss Scabbard, and how many hearts will be broken by the end?
Don't worry, yourself, darlin'. They won't be any of yours.
Good evening, my lovelies.
Good evening, My Sovereign.
A good evening, indeed. Many clouds on the horizon; a tempest promised. Miss Scabbard, how fares your Sword?
She has entered a process of temperance, My Sovereign. Soon, she will be reforged, and sharper than ever. Her song is set to a strong tether.
It does seem that there might have been casualty?
Mistakes were made; hands were forced.
Your mistakes, Mr. Flint. Your hands. If you cannot control them, I hold no qualm in removing them from your body. If they are diseased and inept, they will be cut out. Do not ever forget what happened to other man in this station.
Yes... My Sovereign. With your infinite wisdom, how do you think it best to proceed?
Find the Dim Fox, Mr. Flint. The Echo won't be far behind. Bleed him if you have to.
Get all that, Mr. Flint?
It will be done, My Sovereign.
Pray that it is, if you value your hands as much as your excuses. ...Be well, my lovelies.
Goodnight, My Sovereign.
Somewhere on a rooftop overlooking the steel forest of Stormwrack...
"Sava, my darling, are you there?"
One in the chamber, two up the hill, five to get started, and four on the hill. "I have never left, My Sovereign."
"Excellent. Did you get my gift?"
Long metal core with a silver strand, crystalline ether and a cunning brand. I eye the metal box, punching in the only code that makes sense. A satisfying hiss escapes the gap as a hatch rises revealing a long outer barrel and a long fissure down the shaft that shifts with smoke and electricity.
"Sent straight from the Assembly. They call it an Anti-Matter Rifle. I think you'll be pleased with its range. I apologize; it is, unfortunately, rather loud."
It glows blue in my grasp, brimming with life, clarity in death's clasp, into each bullet I shall pour my strife. "It is beautiful, My Sovereign." I run my bare fingers over the cool metal; it's lighter than I thought it would be. Balanced.
"I thought you would like it."
"Is there a special occasion?"
"...A storm is coming. It may just be the perfect time. I need you to be my Lance again, sweetheart."
A fleeting sense, a rising breath, calm and dense, I summon death. "I would pierce the moon for thee."
"I fear nothing so extravagant, my love. Just a simple Field Test."
"Thy will be done, My Sovereign."
"Good girl. I look forward to your symphony of thunder. Aim low, and happy birthday."
Happy birthday to me...
It is no secret that the Elderburn changed things. It is a heavy heart to carry the burden of knowledge to antiquity and beyond, but this the lot I have thrown in with.
To leave magic to its ends is a folly and a farce. We students of war and arcanum understand the order of things; injuries can be mended by faith, the gods exist as entities as real as each of us, and the laws of magic are forever maintained.
But I felt the death of the Druids; eons of shepherds and timeless elemental law burned from the memory of the world. I felt the shift; not a crack in the weave, but a flood. The Font of Magic blown open; it entered the world without measure or tempo, and some creatures were unprepared. It slaughtered them, and took their energy, pouring their Ashes back into the weave.
My herbalism and botany has served me well - science is powerful, but arcanum is once again mysterious; all that we have learned is now rendered wrong. Spells do not behave as they did before, and only those who adapt by force of mind and will and study can find the answers.
But this study will be dangerous, my brothers and sisters. It has already claimed the lives of so many, as we seek to unlearn ourselves. To sift through the ruins left by our pride. In an age of discovery, there will be casualties of the body, mind, and immortal soul.
To my priests, my clerics, my soldiers of fortune - do not weep long. We are in need of your faith in the people of Io; the gods have grown tired of us. We must reclaim the Scorched earth for ourselves.
And still, fear grips me.
An image haunts my dreams. An idea; unrelenting, all-encompassing, the Last Law of the world. Like the sun and moon, the flowing seas and writhing tempests, the only Primal that remains.
Some forces try to slow the clock; stay the hands of age and seasons. Others speed forward toward destiny, eager to meet it before they're ready. These creatures are simple; we've dealt with them before. This is not my warning.
There are others. I see them, like broken tendrils of magic; loose threads of possibility. They lurk in the nightmare, obscured and secret. They wear many faces, use many names, and speak many lies. They aren't here to manipulate the clock. No, they seek to break it.
Imagine, my brothers and sisters: an endless age of chaos. An undulating mass of terror and fear, where the monsters are real...and invisible. Where voices are spoken, but the world is deaf, and nothing changes.
We say "the pendulum swings." What if it were to never swing back?
And this is why I study. I will study forever. I will fight for the magic of the world, for those left behind by the first rapture; it may take centuries, but I fight for the clock. For time is the Last Bastion; the great equalizer. It is my only weapon, ancient and immortal.
And I choose it to be my Sword.
-- The Memoirs of Daniel Miller, Loremaster
---- Recovered by Cidrynn Valsoro, Blackstaff
One step, two step, three step, four.
How many sins knock at your door?
Five step, six step, seven step, eight.
How do you plead on this night of Fate?
"GUILTY! The whole lot of 'em!" Hargus Haygen Habbernath, the triple H himself, slams the tankard down, ushering in another wave of jeers and applause. He settles back into his seat, rolling a cigar along his lips and adjusting his stained coat, still slick with rain.
"Really, Trip? How many this time?" Teagan Scheherazade, of the Sultan Press, raises an eyebrow at the large man before synching up his thin crimson tie. He leans back, pressing into the booth's cushion, careful to avoid any excess spittle.
"Relax, tea kettle. This one's on me. All I need is a piece."
"Too far, too slim, Trip. Everyone sees you as the lord of conspiracy, but none of it holds water. How deep are you willing to go here?" Teagen sips from his personal bamboo cup, keen to keep as much of himself from making contact with the table.
"Alright, alright. Fine. You want a trickle? Here it is." Hargus leans forward, pulling a wad of parchment from his coat's deep pockets. He spreads them out, opening a quill with his teeth, and begins tracing lines along a sea of names.
Teagan massages his brow. "I didn't ask for a sypher, Trip..."
"No, no, tea kettle. It'll make sense...it's confusin' on purpose. See here?" he points to a name, "This, uh, 'doctor' Cefarion? Yeah? From the hospital two disses up? Yeah...ain't no doctor. I seen her; runs down to the docks - speaks to a man in a dark cloak - trades packages. ...I'm betting it's drugs." He licks his lips, and leans in closer. "I'm bettin' it's Strain."
"Kahna, Trip. No way the caretakers need that crap. Bury it."
"Fine, but what about that Surtur game?"
"Oh Hargus, not this again..."
"I mean it, kettle. The pirate broadcast, the call to arms, and then that wacko storm and the quarantine police!?"
A well-manicured hand rises. "Would you keep your voice down?" Teagan leans in a little closer. "The Guild's shut down; we don't have champions if we need them. Now is NOT the time to have the Horsemen blowing smoke up my ass."
A mischievous grin spills across Hargus's face, broken teeth poking through. "'Cept I know who that new Horse is. I've got his name. Maybe even an address."
"And what of it, Trip? What good comes from-
"They've been lyin' to us, Tea! All of 'em!" Teagan immediately sits back, his eyes deftly scanning the perimeter and meeting a few gazes. He glares until they return to studying their own drinks. But Hargus is far from done. He sways forward, pulling himself over the table, crawling like a rabid beast toward the suit. "That weren't no storm, and it weren't no wildfire that burnt up Utriena. It was a coup... In-fighting between the cloaks and daggers." He begins frothing now, backwash and bits of mutton splattering from his words as he growls shy above a whisper. "Ain't ya' never heard of Mr. Curse?"
"...You stink of the pigs and you're as mad as the Druids that spawned you. I'll have none of your alchemy; you can burn on your own." Teagan shoves himself out of the booth, scooping up his fine duster and donning his hat in one movement. A few clip steps and he is gone.
"Hey! Tea!" But he's already out. "Hmph. Pussy." Hargus spits on the ground where his friend once stood, and turns on the table. It echoes its creaking insults and stained laughter...so he drives his fists into it with a roar.
"You! You break Gigi's stuff, Gigi breaks YOU!" The heavy footfalls of the minotaur close the distance immediately...
Welp. There goes a rib. Nothing a bit a' whisky and a nap won't fix. Mama said I always heal quick, anyway...
Hargus rises, bones creaking and chest sore from the beating and the alcohol. Fresh rain patters over his trench coat while he fishes his hat from the overflowing gutter. With a pop and a snap, he stands up, waddling his way down the narrow streets and cobblestones of Spyrelight.
An errant raven cries overhead, and for a brief moment, Hargus Haygen Habbernath, the triple H himself, contemplates how best to spend the gold that will undoubtedly be promised for the truth on the tip of his tongue. At least, this is what he would have thought, had a thunderclap not resounded so forcefully, as if it ratcheted through his own skull and shattered his senses. His knees buckle, and his body crumples like broken twigs.
Any eye that passes assumes another drunkard, face down in a ditch, and no one notices the tiny river of blood draining from a fresh hole between his eyes...
One in the chamber, two at the side, three for a lever, and four to hide.
As blood pools thin, I try to ride,
This rush I feel,
"Is it done?"
"Yes, my Sovereign."
She exhales; a beautiful, satisfying sound - like wind over leaves. "Well done, Sava. You are a sapphire among bedrock. Your next assignment is moving... are you sure you wish to tackle a third this evening?"
"Do not worry, my Sovereign..." Another casing slides into place, the receiver clicking closed. I rest the stock while I pull back the hammer and a rush of breath catches, waiting for another release. "I could do this all night..."
Promises and fallacy, I listen. I ask it questions never answered, yet I listen as its tongues flick and shudder against my skin.
Crackling visions and shattered memories, it dances across the skin.
Freya loved fire. You love it now, my beloved, a gift sent from the ground. Let it course over your mask, finally crack the porcelain that covers you.
Will you not stir? The ashes have risen. It is time to wake up. HE cannot hurt you anymore; HE does not twist your voice, it is only I. Only us.
...It is alright. Here, let me help you.
I'll carve into your feathers and peel back the husk to reveal your smiling face within. You wear my canvas again and again, and I paint my skin with your colors, mixing it with the salt of my tears, slicing away at my mask until I am raw inside and out. I feel The Beast in my bones; HE forms hooks from my marrow, and pulls my ether toward the void.
Tell me my art is beautiful. Stroke my hair from my face. Play. Play. Play with me. ...Or tell me who can. Who can stay the knife, who can stay the hand, who can pull me from HIM. He waits for me in the dark; a canvas of dusk and metal and teeth.
Let this dream become a nightmare, no, let me wander just a bit more. I see you, I see HIM. The hooks tear and bind, bleed and pull. Surrounded by ash and smoke, I trace your lines in the cosmos, and wear your scent as the fire dances.
Show me, Freya. Show me the feather.
Watch as it traces the many faces surrounding her. Secrets. Musings. Accusations. A river. A tower. A lady. An egg.
A face. New lips. Onyx hair, soft curves, and inviting eyes. Yes, an Invitation.
She kept your feather; tucked it away as something precious. You have passed your relic, Freya. This form no longer your reliquary. I the flames spread, and flinch as a sob enters my ears. A child nearby - mewling and broken.
But not me. I am not broken. I am a dancer. My wings are immortal, fire my blood, and pain my pleasure. The hot air wisps under my white wings and I soar into the night.
Every time you are lost, I find you. Just hold on, my starlight.
Do not blink. Hold me in your gaze just a bit longer.
Please don't blink...
The gnawing teeth are moving. Pawan to Siphon Three. 3P-1S-2R 3
Sprinting without scamper, it seems. Good way to get skinned. Smith to Tang Four. 3P-1S-2R 4
A ghastly fate, indeed, Mr. Silk. Raptor to Tang Seven. 3P-1S-2R 7
Shall we move shipments? They'll certainly be raided by this riffraff. Pawan to Siphon Four. Smith Shift to pool. 3P-1S-2R 4
Rinsa is still in our pocket. The Auroran will keep them safe, as they always have. No need to be alarmed. Pawan to Tang Six. 3P-1S-2R 6
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8
Forgive my worry, Mr. Curse, but the Lockgnaw are not to be misjudged. All it takes is a tiny grain to tip the scale, and these creatures are getting smarter. Raptor to Siphon Six. Raptor takes Pawan. 3P-1S-2R 6
Miss Scabbard raises a fair point, my dears. These creatures appear to have a chieftain as of late; organized, and hungry. Raptor to Tang Two. 3P-1S-2R 2
A Shiver was killed while in their midst. If they spread any further, a purge may be needed. Pawan to Tang One. 3P-1S-2R 1
Must we burn them? Could they not be culled? Seems a waste of resources to kill them now. Raptor to Siphon Seven. Raptor takes Raptor; Raptor Knight armed. 3P-1S-1R-1RK 7
We won't waste a dime if they stay put, Miss Pike. With the market flanked, they've got no reason to move. Smith to Tang Eight. 2P-1S-2R 8
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8
Hunger drives all growing packs to move, Mr. Curse. Observance in their behavior suggests a change of tactics. Pawan to Siphon Five. 3P-1S-2R 5
Mr. Oro seems weak in the legs; has he been tested, has he been tried? Raptor to Tang One. Raptor takes Pawan. 3P-1S-2R 1
Rinsa is a fine distraction; the Auroran are the prize. The rest are scum. Pawan to Tang Four. Pawan takes Pawan. 2P-1S-2R 4
No need for such language, Mr. Shade. Lest we forget; the Blood Fated is there. Or shall I ask your wife for clarification once again? Knight to Siphon Eight. Knight crushes Smith. 2P-1S-1R-1RK 8
Many assets gather in Utriena. My record speaks for itself. We run business better than any Grin on payroll. Raptor to Tang Two. Raptor takes Raptor; Raptor Knight armed. 2P-0S-1R-1RK 2
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8
Blood mage or dice thrower, the eyes of luck have not smiled on you for some time, Mr. Curse. I worry for your future enterprises. Raptor to Siphon Two. Raptor takes Knight; Raptor King armed. 3P-1S-1R-1K 2
Perhaps he could take over management at the Howling Den. I hear the Rainmaker has gone missing, and that is some prime real estate... Raptor to Tang Two. Raptor takes King; Raptor Knight armed. 3P-1S-1RK 2
Leave the Rain and Sooth alone. They serve the city, more than any market you know. Pawan to Tang Seven. 2P-1S-2R 7
The siren's song has pierced your stoic demeanor, Mr. Shade. I hadn't set you for a romantic. Raptor to Siphon Seven. Raptor takes Pawan. 2P-1S-1R-1RK 7
My lady of luck smiles each day in the hearts and minds of denizens below the law. I am their champion, if never they know my name. Pawan to Tang Two. Pawan moves Raptor Knight to Siphon Eight; Knight and Knight are obliterated. 2P-0S-1R 2
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8
So much faith in the strung out and discarded. Are you sure that you haven't been wafting the Ash as you go? Raptor to Siphon One. Raptor takes Raptor; Raptor Knight armed. 3P-1S-1RK 1
Come now, Miss Scabbard, accusations will mar his feelings. You know how touchy he can be. Pawan to Tang Seven. Pawan moves Raptor to Tang Three; Raptor takes Pawan. 3P-1S-1RK 7/3
If he is huffing it for himself, at least he's learning something. True pain is the greatest teacher. Snipe Raptor for Raptor. 2P-1S-1R N/A
If it is any consolation, Mr. Curse, I see bright flames of chance and opportunity dancing in your eyes. My visions are always pure and always true. Raptor to Siphon Two. Raptor takes Raptor Knight; Raptor King armed. 2P-1S-1R-1RK 2
Stay your hands. It appears that I am out. My market calls me, anyway. Do have fun in my absence. 2P-0S-0R Forfeit.
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8
Lo there, my darlings.
Lo there, My Sovereign.
Let it be known that our Mr. Curse has not only outstayed his welcome in our guild, but has outlived his usefulness to our cause. A severance is in our best interests. Miss Scabbard, is your sword prepared?
She is, my lady.
Then see that it is done, my lovelies.
Yes, My Sovereign.
Hampton rolls his cigar in his mouth, a thin veil of sugar and saliva congealing over his lips. A dry cough bubbles up as he spews smoke toward my face. "What do you make a' this one, Bolt?"
I slide my disgust back inside my duster, fishing the gloves from within. Their silk and leather stretch across my fingers; a shield from the leeching tendrils of his aura. How this man ever made captain, I will never understand. Useless humans and their fringer habits.
This city has an anathema. A far cry from my Feathertongue. From the stone inlays to the cracked cobblestone, everything here...is wet. A thick film already sticks to my coat; I am slick with it. The stink of liquor, tears, and regret. No wonder the dragonborn left.
It is a girl this time. Eyes still open, gazing up at the stars when life left her. It seems she was smiling when she died; a curious dichotomy to the twisted mess of flesh and bone that lay beneath her, like a gnarled bit of discarded meat. The spriggan, a frail stick of a creature, was snapped several times - no cuts, no bruises, just...broken. The girl; fine silk and cashmere, beautiful rings without the sigil of a house, circlet and bracelets that hold the dress of sky and water together, framing her fine corset and flowing curves. A young maiden - fleeing from the confines of her noble city to consummate her brigand of a boy.
They thought they were safe. A pretty, pretty princess playing too far from the eyes of her guards.
I tug at the fingers of my glove; the last one yielded so little. Will this one yield more? I'll never forget it...but it may provide another piece to this spectral puzzle. I exhale long and slow, then rip the glove off, pressing two fingers upon the girl's forehead. I poor my will through the conduit forged of my precursor and wait.
Hammering rain. Soft flutters of breath. A suppressed giggle. Soaked feet. Blurred sight. A tiny chill, but too late to act.
The images are slow at first, like trickling water. But the flood increases. I feel her heart rise, her blood boiling in anticipation. Excitement. Terror. Uncertainty. Absolute fear. Ecstasy. Numb. Falling and staring. A woman; clad in leathers and covered in blood. She paints the wall, singing to herself, as I feel life drain from me - blood washed away by the rain, seeping between the stones. She finishes her symphony upon the wall, and watches me with dread curiosity in my last moments. Her eyes transfix me - hold me there, too big, too bright, too alive.
I return, and my hands are shaking. That woman...never blinking. I suppress the shudder, but the words escape me before I can bite my tongue. "...Druid."
"What'd you say?"
I pull the glove back on as I rise, stealing one last glance at the princess. You never should have left home, little girl. These nights are cold and full of murder. Spinning on my heels, I address the captain. "This was a mercy killing, my dear Hamp. ...Now, be a good boy and close her eyes for me."
"Excuse me? Why?"
"Because... I do not sully my hands with the bodies of traitors."
Copper and salt. A curious taste. A hint of ash, eyes cold and calculating; much calmer than the flock he keeps. Is he to be my next brush?
My mind wanders these streets, eager and hungry. Such rapture carries on the wind; a feather of rushing anticipation. It flows on the wind, dampened by the rain, and settles on the rivers between buildings. Ripples of displaced water, summoned by thousands of impacts, push and pull it down a meandering path. It glides through whispers, steps, and regrets; gazes upon the secrets held in dark alleys and thrown down deep holes.
A couple dashing past in the night, giggling under soaked parchment stacks in a stolen embrace. They splash through rain hammers, and though she stammers, he insists upon another kiss. The feather floats by, a single prying eye, and I linger just a bit longer on her neck.
A slight tug, a simple caress, I trace the line down her back, holding firm her hair and tasting her lips once before the gentle prick. Warm rivulets of paint flow from her form, flooding my palms with inspiration while I hold her in the kiss. Her body grows weak in my arms, unable to resist the warmth ebbing out of her. She gives me her brush willingly, and I prune its threads with a simple snap, her hair cascading down with her frame, folding like silk upon the crumpled rags he brought to the symphony.
I dip the brush, and in the strokes I see my mistress, soaked to the bone in wine and gold. She turns and laughs, effervescent and heated, rising steam from the trenches and parapets of stone. Taunting and challenging, she wields me. I know myself to be a weapon in her eyes. But it is My Beloved whose feathers I follow; it is his call to the night that guides my step. And it is his face that finishes the sonata I have scribbled upon these walls.
I sigh at the splatter; a red canvas to enjoy. My city and its tears - they cry for me, cry out for my art - and send a spectrum of color over the stone. Oil and water and blood and ice.
Now she is beautiful. Now she is mine.
A howling wind
A rising pyre
Behind the liar
And still we burn
A hallowed urn.
Scales are scattered
A platinum hydra
And all we have
And all we are
Is a mask
Undue to mar
Rises with the wind
The fate of all who sinned.
-- Hymnal of the Faithless #26, scribed by Cidrynn Valsoro
There is a comfort in blades. How they glide between my fingers, dance along my claws, sink so greedily into flesh.
Purity in a dagger. It does not boast or buckle; no need to brandish or flourish. Such a simple, transparent thing; a waltz upon the skin, a silent symphony of the breath between cuts.
This one has little gifts to give me. The foul git decided to bleed on me, and the blade begged to take his hand. As errant blood drips over the ledge, I inspect the spoils of such an act. A brilliant ruby, still slick, and three gold rings - past wives perhaps. In any case, it is a service I provide to those stricken maidens; he was not worth the effort.
It was kind of me to liberate his body. It is now up to him to discover how to fly; it is a simple thing, I'm sure he'll be fine.
My city is soaked in rain; it dulls the smells and quiets the world, washing away the stink of the putrid masses. So many glittering prizes they could give, but my leash, my sovereign, she dares me to keep it locked away. I let the beast out sometimes, sparingly, in short cuts and minor moments crimson painting. My art is beautiful, she says, and I smile and she kisses my cheek and says good girl.
I touch the memory, red delight tracing my face in broad strokes. The paint smells of cheap liquor - I dare not taste it this time - so instead I trace the stars above me, connecting the points between gods and men, and marking my place in the cosmos. What beats of life still pulse for me, and what hearts carry them below? These questions haunt my dreams, and I wonder if I am ever really awake.
A flutter of silver and black; my heart skips a beat as my Beloved returns. Her talons, still warm from the kill, wrap around my gauntlet, her face pressing into mine. Her beak opens, a rolled bit of fabric dropping into my hand. Another contract? Another note, perhaps. Maybe a warning that my art is spreading too thin.
No. No instructions. One word, struck with fast ink and vibrant script.
"Lend." A name familiar, yet forgotten. Somewhere, the loose end of a noose lays swinging in the breeze of life. So disappointing, if left unchecked. A little mouse lost in the maze - watched by old Owls...
But no matter. The night calls. A susurrus of rapture slides around my body, my Beloved rising with the air, as I let the moon take me over the edge...
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