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(Created page with "{{ArcNav|Arc=Through A Glass, Darkly}} '''Summary:''' Valrae and Mathollak find the triple moon diadem. == Mountain Spring == ''The path that eventually forms from the vo...")
 
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In the faint green shine of the room and the light of Mathollak’s totem, Valrae could just make out the shape of the room. Slowly, her eyes adjusted to the dim light and she began to pick out the dwarven writing on the walls and the statue that stood toward the center of the room. Mathollak’s shoulder brushes her own and she hisses with pain. “Wha-” Before she can grumble at him, he mentions his ankle is injured and she snaps her mouth shut again. “Any chance you have some secret awesome healing abilities?” She asks hopefully, even as doubt edged her voice. Unlikely he’d sit on something like that with a busted ankle, it’d already be something he’d work to fix. Pendulum forgotten momentarily, Valrae pulls herself up and walks tentatively toward a wall of the room. Her fingers trace the dwarven script and frustration tightens her chest. She curses emphatically. “This is wrong,” The witch turns on her heel, golden hair whipping behind her, and curses again. “This is all dwarven! I don’t see anything mentioning the covens of old or anything mentioning witches at all!” She looks toward Mathollak, as if he would have the answers, and tosses her hands up toward the air. She was tired and hungry. She was stuck underground, helpless and probably lost to boot. Nothing was going the way she’d wanted or expected and the stupid pendelum that led them to the wrong dumb underground dungeon was lost. They were going to have to find a way to drag Mathollak out of this hole and back to the camp so that someone with some relative skill in healing could fix his ankle and they would have nothing to show for it.  
 
In the faint green shine of the room and the light of Mathollak’s totem, Valrae could just make out the shape of the room. Slowly, her eyes adjusted to the dim light and she began to pick out the dwarven writing on the walls and the statue that stood toward the center of the room. Mathollak’s shoulder brushes her own and she hisses with pain. “Wha-” Before she can grumble at him, he mentions his ankle is injured and she snaps her mouth shut again. “Any chance you have some secret awesome healing abilities?” She asks hopefully, even as doubt edged her voice. Unlikely he’d sit on something like that with a busted ankle, it’d already be something he’d work to fix. Pendulum forgotten momentarily, Valrae pulls herself up and walks tentatively toward a wall of the room. Her fingers trace the dwarven script and frustration tightens her chest. She curses emphatically. “This is wrong,” The witch turns on her heel, golden hair whipping behind her, and curses again. “This is all dwarven! I don’t see anything mentioning the covens of old or anything mentioning witches at all!” She looks toward Mathollak, as if he would have the answers, and tosses her hands up toward the air. She was tired and hungry. She was stuck underground, helpless and probably lost to boot. Nothing was going the way she’d wanted or expected and the stupid pendelum that led them to the wrong dumb underground dungeon was lost. They were going to have to find a way to drag Mathollak out of this hole and back to the camp so that someone with some relative skill in healing could fix his ankle and they would have nothing to show for it.  
  
Dejected, Valrae began plotting how they might climb out of the oubliette when a dark power pulsed at her side. From her bag, ancient magics whispered temptingly. A thought trickled in, appealing and potentially malignant. The witch rummaged through her back and pulled the dark artifact out. It was wrapped in blessed, purified cloth and salts. A black braided cord had been knotted nine times around springs of hyssop and Val unwound them. With the cloth pushed back, the emerald skull gleamed wickedly in the wash of green light. It’s empty socketed eyes seemed to glow from the inside, swallowing the dull light of the room and echoing it back eerily. Black, timeless power pulsed through the room and something inside Valrae rose up to meet it. As it was before, the power coalesced and crouched as heavy as a storm. Her hair moved with it, caught in the dance of magics, and her eyes turned black as it took her. The light from the skull grew and filled the oubliette, leaking out slowly, and where the light touched the room changed. The writing carved on the wall no longer dwarven, the letters and shapes rearranging to tell the stories of covens old, of those that came before them, and the story of how they fell. The carving of a stoic dwarf changes as the green light rolls over it, until the familiar figure of an old woman, the stone of her face lined deeply, delicately, stands in its place. Underneath the age was beauty. The intricate carving of her hair was long and braided back. On her head rested a diadem of gold, the symbol of the three moons fashioned from opal on her brow. Her cloak was made of black stone that sparkled like a star filled night sky. At her feet were hounds, on her shoulder a raven. With hands outstretched, the statue still held an open book.   
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Dejected, Valrae began plotting how they might climb out of the oubliette when a dark power pulsed at her side. From her bag, ancient magics whispered temptingly. A thought trickled in, appealing and potentially malignant. The witch rummaged through her bag and pulled the dark artifact out. It was wrapped in blessed, purified cloth and salts. A black braided cord had been knotted nine times around springs of hyssop and Val unwound them. With the cloth pushed back, the emerald skull gleamed wickedly in the wash of green light. It’s empty socketed eyes seemed to glow from the inside, swallowing the dull light of the room and echoing it back eerily. Black, timeless power pulsed through the room and something inside Valrae rose up to meet it. As it was before, the power coalesced and crouched as heavy as a storm. Her hair moved with it, caught in the dance of magics, and her eyes turned black as it took her. The light from the skull grew and filled the oubliette, leaking out slowly, and where the light touched the room changed. The writing carved on the wall no longer dwarven, the letters and shapes rearranging to tell the stories of covens old, of those that came before them, and the story of how they fell. The carving of a stoic dwarf changes as the green light rolls over it, until the familiar figure of an old woman, the stone of her face lined deeply, delicately, stands in its place. Underneath the age was beauty. The intricate carving of her hair was long and braided back. On her head rested a diadem of gold, the symbol of the three moons fashioned from opal on her brow. Her cloak was made of black stone that sparkled like a star filled night sky. At her feet were hounds, on her shoulder a raven. With hands outstretched, the statue still held an open book.   
  
 
Valrae’s feet moved slowly as she crossed the room. In the green light time was slow and her heart was beating loudly in her ears. The statue woman, from the shared dream she’d had with Uma when she’d been round with child, remained unmoving despite the lifelike nature of the stone. With the skull still clutched tightly in one hand, the witch reached up on the tips of her toes to touch the golden diadem and nearly cried out when the power moved through her. The air suddenly stagnated, the light wavering as she wrapped her hands around it and lifted it from the statue’s head. Val was knocked off of her feet then, flying back to her butt with a bone jarring thud and as the diadem clattered to the ground near Mathollak’s injured ankle. Quickly, painfully, Valrae covered the skull again and knotted the hyssop with shaking fingers. The room plunged into relative darkness. When the skull was back in her bag, the witch finally looked toward Mathollak and the diadem at his feet and she laughed.  
 
Valrae’s feet moved slowly as she crossed the room. In the green light time was slow and her heart was beating loudly in her ears. The statue woman, from the shared dream she’d had with Uma when she’d been round with child, remained unmoving despite the lifelike nature of the stone. With the skull still clutched tightly in one hand, the witch reached up on the tips of her toes to touch the golden diadem and nearly cried out when the power moved through her. The air suddenly stagnated, the light wavering as she wrapped her hands around it and lifted it from the statue’s head. Val was knocked off of her feet then, flying back to her butt with a bone jarring thud and as the diadem clattered to the ground near Mathollak’s injured ankle. Quickly, painfully, Valrae covered the skull again and knotted the hyssop with shaking fingers. The room plunged into relative darkness. When the skull was back in her bag, the witch finally looked toward Mathollak and the diadem at his feet and she laughed.  

Latest revision as of 21:04, 9 February 2020

Part of the Through A Glass, Darkly Arc


Summary: Valrae and Mathollak find the triple moon diadem.

Mountain Spring

The path that eventually forms from the volatile earth to the east gradually becomes mattress to elbows of shattered slabs, long since worn and devoured by the soil and undergrowth. Not only creating a difficult ascent with the steepening incline between crooked fingers of trees, rings of vines clambering from the palm in the earth to the knuckles of knots and swells in the trunks, the run of the path is more arduous with the toe cap-beckoning crowns of swallowed stone. An indication that, at some stage in the long and occult history of the island, an attempt was made to civilise the landscape fell beneath the thick sole of nature, the road runs to a clearing where the trees part to flank a trickling natural spring. The source curtained by the canopy above, the water runs down the face of stone to bubble and swell within a shallow bowl of rock it had carved over the centuries, clear and alive with glittering diamonds of droplets as light from the heavens dances upon them. This is the only fresh source of water on the island, and the wise would stock their supplies.


Mathollak spent an embarrassing amount of time setting up his tent, then had a few moments' rest. He was nearly committed to sleep, but as he lay there, eyes closed, head resting above his folded arms, a familiar smell wafted past his nostrils. So he pulled the rest of his body out of the tent (the material didn't breathe, he couldn't keep his head inside...also it was small) and stood up. Eyes closed, breathing deeply, listening intently. The sound of his kin seemed to grow. He hurriedly cut off a piece of fabric from his tent, scribbled a note on it, and walked one step. Now he was at Valrae's tent. He paused in confusion for only a second, then said in a hushed whisper: "Knock, knock!" He threw the note through her tent flaps without looking, untied his sleeping donkey from his wrist, and left. He followed his ears and nose, his eyes were open, but only served to stop him from knocking over a person or their modest home. At last he found it! A giant red tent with dim lights, enticing smells, and boisterous sounds. What was it? Laughter? Song? Dance? Fighting!? Full of wonder, he parts some hanging beads functioning as a doorway, and suddenly everything he vaguely sensed became amplified immensely. And he knew: he was right about the sounds. All of them. A particularly enticing woman with a translucent veil covering her face guides him through the tent and leads him to an empty seat at a round table. She lives him, her hand sliding off his bare chest and leaving a streak of red trailing a hand-print. As he watches her leave he notices the cloven hooves at the bottom of her skirt and the long horns arcing behind her head. Something he's never seen? A voice pierces his thought, 'I recognize that look!' A half-elf male points mischievously and smiles. 'Yes,' says a dark elf woman; her eyes were closed, but Mathollak could tell she saw him clearly. 'You're new here. To this tent, to this village, to this island.' She opens her eyes and reveals they're cloudy, she's blind. Mathollak's a little embarrassed for looking so doe-eyed, but he was! He introduces himself anyway and sits. His new friends buy him drinks and thus begins a long night.


After being chased through the mangroves of Selen, Valrae had decided it would be prudent to lay low in the growing witch camp for a while. Any one of the men that had followed her, or Mathollak, would stick out sorely amongst the former coven of Uaigni’s Cross and those that had joined them. It was just as well, the settlement was new and there was never a shortage of work or a lack of need for ready hands. So she greeted her aunt Belinda, who was a plump and attractive woman with an infectious laugh, and after hanging her things to dry she settled in to sleep. Some time in the night, when Valrae wakes to resituate her blankets on the decidedly uncomfortable mat, Mathollak’s makeshift note flutters onto her nose. First, she screamed. Girlishly. Second, she flapped about in her pallet and tangled sheets like a woman on fire (again) until she was finally free of them and tumbling out of her tent clumsily. Her aunt’s famous bawdy laugh rang in her ears when it was finally revealed that a note, and NOT a giant spider or some other crawling creature, had found its way to her face. So, she was tired, embarrassed and altogether cranky when she finally read the note. “His people…?” Her confusion was short lived. Now the witch groans. “Delisha.” Slipping back into the tent, Valrae sticks her tongue out at her giggling aunt and dresses quickly, grabs her bag and starts out to follow him. She doubles back once to run a brush through her wild hair. It’s sinfully late when she finally follows Mathollak to the Delishian tent. Suddenly feeling shy, she nears and enters with her arms crossed around her protectively, dark eyes searching.


Mathollak has abandoned the table he started at, an indeed, so has everyone else who was there been replaced. But he didn't find a new group to mingle with, no. He was in a makeshift boxing ring now. There were four posts hammered into the ground, and long elastics connecting each post to the next so they formed a square. An orc woman, his partner, dove at his legs. He answered by jumping high and falling flat, belly flopping her. This was a bad move. Everyone knows if you're the little guy, you don't make yourself airborne. But he wasn't used to being the little guy! Anyway, he landed on the back of her neck and shoulders, and she held him there, catching his head in one hand and a leg in the other. She spun around, around, around, and then pushed up! With all her might. He went soaring and spinning into the rapidly dispersing crowd and landed hard on some sand. He pushed his face off the ground and stood up, wobbled, and fell back on his rump. Once the dizziness was manageable, he tried again. There were stars in his eyes, but as he tried to see through them, and see where he was, he saw Val. He held a hand straight out in her direction. Once his one hand felt steady and the four images of Val fused into one, he started walking toward her. "Val," he says excitedly, "Val, how do you ever sleep?" He kicked off his slippers at one point, so now he was only wearing his red silk pajama bottoms, and a bloody red streak stretched from his nose to his chin, but it was dry. "And do you know that lady?" He was pointing to the orc who tossed him. She was already with someone else, and she wasn't losing.


Valrae had already told herself to expect anything, really she did. Still, stepping into what she was sure to be a den of iniquity and seeing Mathollak flying through the air due to Orcish might wasn’t something she had prepared herself to cope with. Was she still dreaming? Maybe? He had landed with such a hard thump. Her arms were still crossed around her, even now as she loomed over him and he regained whatever senses he might have. Which Valrae was questioning, because who decides to wrestle at this hour?! Who decides to wrestle with orcish women for entertainment at all, really. “I close my eyes,” The witch answers dryly, trying to fight the smile that was attempting to form on her lips. “Do you always make such grand entrances or is this a new trend?” Her face turns back to the ring at Mathollak’s prompting but she shakes her head. That was a lot of woman. Mathollak must have been mad to have sparred with her for sport. “No.” Sure she was glad she was here, with the witches, in any case. A pause. “Do you?” Val is frowning at him again. “You’ve got blood…” She pantomimes wiping the area of her face where the dried blood is streaked on his own. “Is this what you came here for?” The witch waits a heartbeat but not really long enough to answer. She’s moving through the crowd and hunting for something to drink. Anything. Suddenly, her mouth was very dry. She thought he might follow but didn’t look back.


Mathollak wasn't really ready for that answer. 'I close my eyes'. "Really? I tried that too, but then," he paused to sniff the air, like he did when his eyes were actually closed and he was laying in his tent. "But then it was like this place... called me." She was the only person he knew from the 'real world' in this place. Sure he was introduced to people in here, so many! Multiple times. "No I don't know her. She's strong though," he says as he wipes his face. He vanishes a small, tiny section of the long wide streak. "Better?" Of course he follows her! "No I...don't know why I came here." Eventually they find a table with an empty chair, and he lets Val take it. One will open up soon. Someone calls out to him, a person he apparently met. "Hey!" He says back, and returns to Val without missing a beat. "Alright so I was a little scared. Lonely." The guy in the chair next to Val stands up to give someone a hug, and Mathollak sits. "I've never been on the run before! Well I have, but I've never had to hide in the wilderness." He looks a little bashful, color starts filling his face, so he decides to embrace it. "I was scared!" He yells, throwing up his arms.


Valrae pauses long enough to give his face a once over before shaking her head. “Still there but less,” Her senses were overloaded. The sounds, the scents, the music. It all settled heavily on her chest and in her lungs and made her feel confused, muddled. So she sits, watching Mathollak greet others in the crowd and studying him, not for the first time in the few short hours she’s known him. “Lonely?” She echoes, surprise evident on her face. The witch angles her body toward him as he sits, propping her elbow on the table and dropping her chin into her palm. “It’s slowly being tamed,” She argues, crinkling her nose good naturedly at his ‘wilderness’ comment. She leans back as he yells, ducking out of the way of his sudden movement and laughing. “Scared of what, exactly, you loon?” A drink finally finds its way to the witch’s hand. She takes a long drink without studying the contents and makes a terrible face. “That was not good.” Someone to the other side of her bumps her bag and Valrae quickly pulls it into her lap protectively. “Of those men?” She guesses, leaning close conspiratively. “Do you really think it was you they were after, and not me?” That might make more sense. Why would a group of so little witch hunters follow her to Selen Island? Probably it was Mathollak they had been after. “Or is it more of like… The dark?”


Mathollak licks a finger and rubs it harder into his face, until there's only a tiny smudge of dried blood left. "Lonely, yes." There's a tap on his shoulder, presumably from the person who's seat he stole. "Excuse me I'm having a conversation. And you know the rules! Move your feet, lose your seat." The person touches his shoulder again, but not a light tap. A powerful hand grips his shoulder, something that can't be ignored. He huffs heavily through his nostrils. His pupils dilate, his hand curls into a fist, and he cranes his neck around to see who it is that can't tell when someone's having an earnest moment. It's the orc lady! 'I wanted to have a drink with you,' she says, and in her free hand are two glasses of something red and bubbly, that her long fingers easily wrap around. "But I can see you're with someone. Enjoy!" She leaves both drinks, one for him and one for Val. He sips one. It's warm, a little sweet, and fruity. Strawbs maybe. "No, no, no. Not of those men, and I'm not afraid of the dark..." He chuckles nervously. "Or...maybe. I've never lived outside of a city! And after everything quieted down, and you went to bed, I felt..." He took another sip to procrastinate, then turned his palm upward and opened his mouth, trying to beckon the words. But they didn't come, so he brought the glass to his lips again and drank it until it bottomed up. "I didn't want to be alone." Then he smiled, some of his teeth were a little crooked, and the slightly jagged angles made his grin look a little wolfish. "But now you're awake! And we don't have to stay here anymore!" He wasn't sure, but it didn't seem like this place was the type she'd normally like to be.


Mathollak licks a finger and rubs it harder into his face, until there's only a tiny smudge of dried blood left. "Lonely, yes." There's a tap on his shoulder, presumably from the person who's seat he stole. "Excuse me I'm having a conversation. And you know the rules! Move your feet, lose your seat." The person touches his shoulder again, but not a light tap. A powerful hand grips his shoulder, something that can't be ignored. He huffs heavily through his nostrils. His pupils dilate, his hand curls into a fist, and he cranes his neck around to see who it is that can't tell when someone's having an earnest moment. It's the orc lady! 'I wanted to have a drink with you,' she says, and in her free hand are two glasses of something red and bubbly, that her long fingers easily wrap around. "But I can see you're with someone. Enjoy!" She leaves both drinks, one for him and one for Val. He sips one. It's warm, a little sweet, and fruity. Strawbs maybe. "No, no, no. Not of those men, and I'm not afraid of the dark..." He chuckles nervously. "Or...maybe. I've never lived outside of a city! And after everything quieted down, and you went to bed, I felt..." He took another sip to procrastinate, then turned his palm upward and opened his mouth, trying to beckon the words. But they didn't come, so he brought the glass to his lips again and drank it until it bottomed up. "I didn't want to be alone." Then he smiled, some of his teeth were a little crooked, and the slightly jagged angles made his grin look a little wolfish. "But now you're awake! And we don't have to stay here anymore!" He wasn't sure, but it didn't seem like this place was the type she'd normally like to be.


Valrae notices the shoulder tapper before Mathollak and tries to shake her head subtly, grimacing slightly when he gives her the ‘butt up, time up” speech. The witch was sure she was about to end up in the middle of round two of their fight and was ready to jump out of her seat when the orcish woman explains herself and offers them both of the drinks she carried. She smiles with more than a little chagrin as Mathollak accepts the drinks. Had it been racist to assume the orc woman was spoiling for a fight? Yikes. “Thank you!” Val calls after her. She eyes the drink, this time sceptical, and decides to try it only after the present company has… And seems to enjoy himself. She takes a delicate testing sip and is pleased to find it enjoyable. The muddled, distracted feeling in her chest expands. She nods as he explains his earlier outburst. “I’m from Cenril originally,” The witch offers, “And I spent most of my life in the city. Noise, lights, action. I think the dark and the quiet can be unsettling after a lifetime with little acquaniace to the stillness of remote places like these.” A thoughtful frown bows the corners of her lips, furrows her brow. “I should have shown you to a better spot closer to the heart of camp,” She catches his smile and laughs, accepting the change of subject easily. “I shouldn’t be!” She answers, taking another drink. “This place isn’t terrible. I’ve been to seedier bars in Cenril,” Valrae pauses. A thought was forming in her mind. It was a dumb one. Maybe it was the hour, maybe it was that she had been a little lonely too, but whatever it was she could surely blame the drink for what she said next. “But now that you mention it… How would you feel about an adventure?”


Mathollak finds her easy to listen to, and her explanation for his unease fills in the void of what he couldn't say. "Yes!" He points and nods, "That's what it is! It's so quiet." He continues nodding thoughtfully, it clicked. "Really? Haha you? Cenril?" He closes his eyes thoughtfully, then reopens them and waves his hands in front of her. "No I can't see it I can't see you mingling with me and the degenerates I've grown to know and lo-...well. Know." His drink is gone and he has a feeling they won't be staying, so he tilts the glass upside down and right side up again while listening. It doesn't take him a second to answer. An adventure? "Yes."


Valrae finds herself wrinkling her nose at him again, “You couldn’t tell? I’m definitely a city girl.” The next part earns him another laugh. “Hey, I am one of those other degenerates. And I do love it. Despite its flaws.” And there were plenty. Still, it was home. Val snorts a laugh at him and his glass theatrics, leaving her largely untouched drink as she stands. “Great!” And she was surprised at herself that she meant it. The idea of not going it alone to explore the island for powerful artifacts was appealing. She situates her bag and starts to lead him out when the light catches on his silk pajamas and a thought occurs to her. “You ah… Might want to change.” The witch weaves her way back through the crowd, leading both of them back out into the cool, dark night. The fresh, salt heavy air washed over her flushed cheeks. “We could stop back by your tent and head out.” Val tilts her face toward the sky, it was nearing the early hours of the morning and the stars were still bright in the dark sky. Depending on how far they might need to go, they could maybe make it back before noon. “So,” She starts her explanation as they walk, “I’ve been researching tools of power, right? Looking for things to arm the coven with… Well, it’s not a coven yet but it will be. Anyway, I’m looking for tools to arm the coven with to protect ourselves against Cramer and his men. More than that though, I’m looking for artifacts that could inspire some hope, build morale?” They near his tent and Valrae stops, waiting for him to respond to her question posed as a statement. “I’ve been trying to find old coven relics and I think I’ve narrowed down the location of one here on the island.” She waits outside his tent for him to change and continues talking, raising her voice slightly. “So I planned on working a pendulum spell to lead me to it. We can follow the pendulum, maybe dig a little or something to find this old tool, and be back by lunch… If you’re interested?”


Mathollak makes a square with his thumbs and index fingers, framing Val in different angles to include different patrons in his portraits. "No you seem too...too... dignified. Even though you just snorted? Incredible." He puts the imaginary picture frame away and agrees, that he should find some actual clothes. He hugs his arms around his torso for modesty, and because it was a little cold. "Cramer? Yeah, I never liked him. So angry all the time. Probably never even met an actual witch." Mathollak was woefully ignorant, but tried to contribute. It was also cold! Such that as soon as he saw his tiny canvas tent he scurried over to it, and found the donkey sleeping on the soft bags filled with Mathollak's clothes. "Morale," he begins, while trying to yank a bag from under the donkey's pot-belly, "Is very! important. Gotta keep the troops engaged..." He was recalling his time fighting, he was never an officer, but sometimes had a few men looking to him. Eventually he frees a bag and ruffles through it until he finds an outfit. All red. He quickly dons a red tunic, slides a padded shirt of the same color over it. "And if you have a symbol," he says while swapping his silk pajama bottoms for cotton pants, "A symbol, and a worthy cause..." He dives into his tent, pulls out a dagger and a set of brass knuckles, and slots them into his belt. "You can have a very formidable fighting force. Or resistance. Or militia. Or...coven?" He takes a breath and puts his hands on his hips. "Interested. And ready!" Immediately after she would turn to lead, he would remember one last thing. His boots. But he could pull them on before she made it very far. He'd catch up, not realizing that his donkey was going to wake up alone and untethered.


Valrae smiled and was flattered but only made a small huffing noise at him for the snorting comment. “I don’t know,” She replies, when he comments on Cramer. “He knows enough to want us all dead. And he’s managed to kill, kidnap and tourture plenty of us too…” The mood darkening a bit, she was happy to switch the conversation to solutions, rather than mulling over the mystery of the witch hunters. As Mathollak struggled to unearth his things from a pile of sleeping donkey the witch covered her giggle with fake coughing. “He’s sleeping so well,” She manages, grinning. “Yes! A symbol,” Not unlike the red he’d seemed to innocently cover himself in. When she had become the Red Witch in Larket, that was the symbol the witches had rallied behind. Now that she was hidden and presumed dead, they needed a new symbol. Oblivious to him stopping to step into his boots, Valrae happily led on.


Yawning Mouth

To call the entrance, or exit depending on direction, to the cavern a mouth is only apt and fitting, the gullet of shadow beyond the slanted fall of sunlight trailing into a stone venter. Teeth fall in jagged rows from the lips of lichen that linger around the edge of the cave entrance, the gums of limestone forced to sprout the gravity-defiant stalactites over the millenia that water from the mountain above had woven through the stone. The breath of the land whistles and howls from the terraneous diaphragm suspended deep in the marrow of the rock, though whether the wind that courses in stagnant bursts from within is simply circulated and exhumed or from a source upon the other side of the network could not be gauged by those not having had explored the place. Soon the light becomes shadow, the soil becomes stone, time loses meaning and the arteries of the world swallow any that slip between their callous veins. It would be wise to bring a source of light, should one not have great vision in the dark.


The path beyond the camp had obviously seen recent use. Valrae waited unit they were standing at the edge of camp and on the threshold of the wild to fish her pendulum from her bag. It was a cone shaped piece of peacock ore attached to a thin chain of silver. “I’m going to focus my intent here and complete the dowsing spell. The goal is to find the relic of old power that is hiding here on the island.” She narrated her movements for Mathollak, delicately opening the door for him to offer his own magic if he wished or to simply watch as she went. In the dark, Valrae’s power coalesced and thickened the cool air surrounding them. It sent the curled ends of her golden hair dancing, as if the wind had caught it, and funneled into the pendulum with a nearly audible snap. In only a breath of a second, the peacock ore began to swing. It moved slowly at first, rocking gently in a circle, but with a bit of coaxing from the witch it began to swing strongly, leading them down the dark path. They traveled north, weaving every so often when the path became narrow where the island vegetation had gained ground in an effort to reclaim the land. When the pendulum finally stopped, they were standing at the black, yawning mouth of a cave. “So, maybe we won't have to dig at all?” The optimism was strained in her voice, even to her own ears.


Mathollak wondered if the 'us' Val said Cramer victimized included him at this point. He didn't yet feel that he was owed any kinship by witches at large (or by Val particularly), but was ready to lend an uncommitted hand to her cause in the short term. Then she was doing her magic. She trusted it, and so therefore, did he. He couldn't actually help though, all his magic was useful for dealing with people in a variety of ways, good and bad. But this was something he rarely needed. "Okay! I will focus my intent there also." He stared -intently- at the pendulum. Eventually Valrae's power worked, and Mathollak could feel the air change as it did. He cocked his head and nodded. "Okay, I'm impressed." He started off by her side, walking according to whichever direction the pendulum pulled them, but as the path narrowed, he fell behind Val. As best he could, he put his steps in her footprints, trusting that she was doing them purposefully, or at least was aware of what foliage might carry thorns or deadly, many legged creatures. And he was paying attention for a while, to the path and its different landmarks, so that if something bad happened, he could help find their way back. But it didn't last, and at some point he became distracted. "I'm not scared anymore, you know," he says abruptly. Time passes some more, he day dreams. "Oh and did you see that move I pulled on the orc? It usually works. But! I -usually- fight with armor!" Time passes unmeasured. It's an eternity in his mind, and soon he's humming a tune, mumbling the odd word he knows once in a while and dance-walking behind her to the beat in his head. He nearly bumps her not immediately realizing she's stopped at the mouth of a cave. "Haha! Yeah good one. Thank Sven we won't have to DIG." He asks Delisha to light the place up for him, and she does, with a bright light coming from the golden totem on a string around his neck. Then he slides the brass knuckles over his fingers and pulls the dagger out of his sheath. Just on principle of walking into total blackness. And descends into the cave mouth.


Valrae wasn’t sure she was including him in the encompassing ‘us’ yet either and was waiting to see what the future would unfold. It had been reckless to reveal her true identity to him, maybe even more dangerous still to lead a near stranger along with her in the dead of night to find relatively powerful artifacts of legend. If asked, she wouldn’t even begin to have an answer for why or how she ended up listening to him hum and chatter entertainingly behind her as they weaved through the untamed parts of Selen. “You haven’t seen anything yet,” She promises, secretly pleased that he’d enjoyed her pendulum trick. It really was nothing more than a simple location spell but it felt nice to be appreciated. “Are you not? Even though we’re deeper in the wilds?” Valrae laughed, “I haven’t stopped being surprised by you since the moment I saw you running with a donkey in your arms.” They lapsed into quiet again and Valrae spent her time focusing on her magic, unbothered by it as Mathollak seemed to be. “The belly flop?” He eventually breaks it again and the witch considers his question. “I saw it, yeah, but I also saw you landing at my feet a few seconds after so forgive me if I seem skeptical,” She had teased. At the mouth of the cavern, Val is surprised to find herself heading up the rear. Mathollak bodly strolls in and with only a heartbeat of hesitation she followed. Following him up, the witch also brandished her wand. Eventually, the pendulum starts to swing again, the movement stronger and more sure the deeper they descended into darkness. Nervous now, because she hated being underground, it was her turn to chatter. “So, how long have you been in Cenril? Were you there for the election night massacre?” Grim topic, Val. “Or did you arrive after the barrier went up?”


Mathollak hardly thought about how strange it was to be doing this. But if she wasn't scared then he wasn't scared. "I'm trusting you to know when it's time to be scared!" In the cave, he's walking without minding his feet. Probably rule number one of caving. "Wow," he says, eyes on the ceiling. "It looks like a...reminds me of... a dragon's throat. Or something?" The strange caves stone formations are something he hasn't seen before. "Actually no. I must've left for Rynvale before that. Maybe?" It was hard to keep track. He kept borrowing to pay for his expensive lifestyle, and kept 'forgetting' to pay back the loans. It was easier to leave town. And it was easier to never pay anyone when you're bigger and stronger than them! "Why would there be a massacre on election night? Don't you -want- people to vote?" At some point a wall ahead of them came into view. "Do you see that?" It didn't look like there was any other way to go, no obvious branches in the path. "It looks almost like something's written there...right?" Within just feet of the wall that's apparently inscribed with writing, forgetting to mind his footsteps is punished. "Woah!" He steps confidently into nothingness, and throws up his hands, scratching his dagger into the wall and adding another line to the 'writing' on the wall. "Val...!" Delisha's totem shines light into the abyss below them, but he doesn't want to look. He closes his eyes and does nothing but curse and spread his arms out, hoping to catch a...root? Maybe? Anything? "Sh*t! F*ck! Val! Delisha! Help! F*ck!!!!!"


Oubliette

The chain has ended not more than ten feet from the ground, hardly a fatal drop. The blanket of darkness that made this cavern seem so endless appears to have been of a magical origin; the space below is well-lit with luminous fungi and a dense population of glow-worms. In this eerie greenish glow, it may be seen that this room has no visible exits but for the ancient chain above. It is a cylinder of stone, which can be seen now to have been carved on every inch of surface in the most intricate fashion; thousands upon thousands of miniature scenes from the distant aeons of dwarven history. A statue carved from brown rock seems so lifelike that it could easily be mistaken for unexpected company. It is, however, merely an ingenious piece of art: a stoic dwarf, heavily armoured in plate inscribed with runes, holding forth a thick tome in one hand as if it was a weapon, and wielding a stout sword in the other. The most outstanding feature of the figure, aside from his curious beard which, on close inspection, will prove to be fashioned from a thousand tiny dragons, is his lack of eyes. Stone sockets glare balefully at any intruder, an odd glimmer shining from one of the holes causing a trick of the light; it seems as though the statue is winking. If one were to step closer, it is possible to read the inscription on the book-- so long as the study of Ancient Dwarvish has been a favoured pastime. The only exit is to return via the chain dangling overhead. To judge by the skeletons small and large littering the ground here, it seems few have had the wisdom to discover a means to reach it.


“Not a great visual,” Valrae quips to Mathollak at his dragon throat comparison. In the dark, the witch could all but feel the cave narrowing and shrinking in around her, damp walls ready to swallow her up. A shiver ran through her, down to her soul. Being underground was a bone deep fear. Her company didn’t seem to mind nearly as much though and his voice steadied her. She focused on the sound of it, less so the words, and followed him tensely. When they dropped, Val’s heart nearly stopped beating in her chest. They tumbled, falling into the black for several feet. Her screams were worldless and shrill enough to turn blood cold. They swallowed the sound of his cursing easily.

The landing was jarring, it rattled her teeth and sent pain shooting from her ass to her elbow, where she’d managed to land first. At least she hadn’t landed on her head. It took several moments for the witch to regain her senses. She wasn’t entirely sure she hadn’t died again but didn’t remember a faint green glow from the afterlife. Valrae slowly rights herself, pressing a palm to her aching shoulder as she curses. Slowly, she checks her person for broken bones. When everything seems to be sore but in working order, the witch moves to her bag and rummaged around. Those things seemed fine as well. “Where the hell-” She scoots herself closer to Mathollak, dark eyes moving from the walls to her company to give him a once over. “Are you alright?” She looks up to where they had fallen from and frowns. There was a chain. It looked ancient. The witch curses again. “Where is my pendulum…?”


Mathollak claws at the wall trying to delay his landing, and he does a little. His fingers find shallow divets, too shallow to cling to, but enough to slow his descent. He should be fine! Then he lands hard on his feet. One of them bends over a rounded rock and rolls over it, creating a weak foundation in his balance and a sharp pain. He yelps embarrassingly before slamming his mouth and eyes closed. And the cave yelps back at him in echoes of his voice. His gravity carries the rest of him in a wormy flop on the ground where he lingers. The light of his totem still shines and he uses it to find Valrae. Instinctively, he inches on his butt closer to her so he doesn't have to be alone in the dark. "My ankle's junk," he replies bumping shoulders with her. "But I'm good." The next thing to do is of course find the pendulum, but his hands are hovering warily over his ankle, unsure of what he's supposed to do with it. Take his boot off? Massage it? Walk it off? Then he notices a purple twinkle by his ankle. Aha! He found it! He pulls it toward him with his good leg and grabs it in his hands. "Eh...? hmmm." The light from his totem diminishes to like a candle's glow, and barely brightens anything up past his hands, "Wow, Delisha," he says in response to the dimming light. "Great timing! Right? Haha..." Hopefully Valrae doesn't see him intently trying to reattach the silver chain to the pretty rock.


In the faint green shine of the room and the light of Mathollak’s totem, Valrae could just make out the shape of the room. Slowly, her eyes adjusted to the dim light and she began to pick out the dwarven writing on the walls and the statue that stood toward the center of the room. Mathollak’s shoulder brushes her own and she hisses with pain. “Wha-” Before she can grumble at him, he mentions his ankle is injured and she snaps her mouth shut again. “Any chance you have some secret awesome healing abilities?” She asks hopefully, even as doubt edged her voice. Unlikely he’d sit on something like that with a busted ankle, it’d already be something he’d work to fix. Pendulum forgotten momentarily, Valrae pulls herself up and walks tentatively toward a wall of the room. Her fingers trace the dwarven script and frustration tightens her chest. She curses emphatically. “This is wrong,” The witch turns on her heel, golden hair whipping behind her, and curses again. “This is all dwarven! I don’t see anything mentioning the covens of old or anything mentioning witches at all!” She looks toward Mathollak, as if he would have the answers, and tosses her hands up toward the air. She was tired and hungry. She was stuck underground, helpless and probably lost to boot. Nothing was going the way she’d wanted or expected and the stupid pendelum that led them to the wrong dumb underground dungeon was lost. They were going to have to find a way to drag Mathollak out of this hole and back to the camp so that someone with some relative skill in healing could fix his ankle and they would have nothing to show for it.

Dejected, Valrae began plotting how they might climb out of the oubliette when a dark power pulsed at her side. From her bag, ancient magics whispered temptingly. A thought trickled in, appealing and potentially malignant. The witch rummaged through her bag and pulled the dark artifact out. It was wrapped in blessed, purified cloth and salts. A black braided cord had been knotted nine times around springs of hyssop and Val unwound them. With the cloth pushed back, the emerald skull gleamed wickedly in the wash of green light. It’s empty socketed eyes seemed to glow from the inside, swallowing the dull light of the room and echoing it back eerily. Black, timeless power pulsed through the room and something inside Valrae rose up to meet it. As it was before, the power coalesced and crouched as heavy as a storm. Her hair moved with it, caught in the dance of magics, and her eyes turned black as it took her. The light from the skull grew and filled the oubliette, leaking out slowly, and where the light touched the room changed. The writing carved on the wall no longer dwarven, the letters and shapes rearranging to tell the stories of covens old, of those that came before them, and the story of how they fell. The carving of a stoic dwarf changes as the green light rolls over it, until the familiar figure of an old woman, the stone of her face lined deeply, delicately, stands in its place. Underneath the age was beauty. The intricate carving of her hair was long and braided back. On her head rested a diadem of gold, the symbol of the three moons fashioned from opal on her brow. Her cloak was made of black stone that sparkled like a star filled night sky. At her feet were hounds, on her shoulder a raven. With hands outstretched, the statue still held an open book.

Valrae’s feet moved slowly as she crossed the room. In the green light time was slow and her heart was beating loudly in her ears. The statue woman, from the shared dream she’d had with Uma when she’d been round with child, remained unmoving despite the lifelike nature of the stone. With the skull still clutched tightly in one hand, the witch reached up on the tips of her toes to touch the golden diadem and nearly cried out when the power moved through her. The air suddenly stagnated, the light wavering as she wrapped her hands around it and lifted it from the statue’s head. Val was knocked off of her feet then, flying back to her butt with a bone jarring thud and as the diadem clattered to the ground near Mathollak’s injured ankle. Quickly, painfully, Valrae covered the skull again and knotted the hyssop with shaking fingers. The room plunged into relative darkness. When the skull was back in her bag, the witch finally looked toward Mathollak and the diadem at his feet and she laughed.