• Graded • Stepping Through

A Journey of Faith

Once an isolated and dying township, an influx of academics, adventurers and thrill seekers have made Scalvoris Town their home. From scholars' tea shops to a new satellite campus for Viden Academy, this is an exciting place to visit or make your home!

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• Graded • Stepping Through

Postby Maltruism » Tue Apr 03, 2018 1:40 am

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Stepping Through
120 Ashan, arc 718
There would be some in Scalvoris that would recognize the wagon for what it was. It lacked the cage normally associated with an arrest escort, as well as the dozen troops that would be on hand for dangerous targets. Only two men manned this wagon, Troopers Grell and Jarevill, the former a sergeant, and his subordinate guardsman.

"I still don't believe it, Sergeant." the younger man whined. There has to be a mistake. My sister has sat in on some of her lectures, my uncle had some injuries treated at the Adunih Outpost, and no one on the street speaks of aught but gentle kindness and helpfulness when she's brought up. Why would she have spoken up on that guy's behalf in the carriage, only to do that to him now? it doesn't make any sense."

Sergeant Grell no longer even looked at the trooper to reiterate the protocols of duty, "Should I bother telling you a fifth time that I agree, kid? Should I have to tell you again that we're not here to reach a verdict on her? If anything, we'd only be called to testify if she resisted being called in for questioning. We're NOT arresting her, Jarvy. Just bringing her down to answer the deposition before it goes on record."

He slapped the cushioned seat, just beside the slots where the "guest's" wrists would be locked in place. "We're already bending protocol by picking her up in this thing. They're usually used to delay public awareness of some scandalous arrest. I asked for it myself, to spare her the embarrassment of a cage, just in case. So quit going on. Someone hearing YOU is more likely to tip folks off than anything else."

Jarevill sulked, but stifled his complaint. He knew what Grell meant. Even the use of this more luxurious version of an arrest escort cart could be taken as favoritism to less respected citizens than Professor Faith. It could even be twisted by some slick advocate as a discriminatory social affront to lessen, or even justify the overturning, of some verdict.

But it still bent the alignment of his world to think of this paragon of Scalvoris society even possibly being guilty of an actual crime. Especially one as grisly as was being levied against her. It had always been believed that only mages were capable of such things. But everyone was aware of her alignment with Immortal blessings and divine powers. Maybe this would reveal some new evil on that front.

They pulled up and stopped in front of the house; one known well enough to bring curious neighboring eyes on them the moment they started up the stairs to the front door. They made an effort to appear nonchalant, for any onlookers, as they awaited a response to their knocking. They doffed their helms when the woman they were after came to the door.

"Faith Augustin? I am Sergeant Warlen Grell, and this is my partner, Ranno Jarevill." They both gave brief, shallow bows and discretely flashed Land Troop emblems. "I'm afraid we must extend the inconvenience of requiring you to accompany us to Element Hall. We've done what we can to make it look less serious than it is, and we can come inside for a short while, like guests, for appearance' sake if you'd like."

They stepped in as they spoke, Jarevill closing the door behind them as Grell continued, "We have been approved to give you time time to dress and grab a few things. But you have been identified as a perpetrator of a murder, and the victim is none other than the one survivor of the abduction attempt against you. That previous encounter, and the legitimate motive it could cause, give us no choice but to inform you that you have been named accused. You will have to come with us."

Jarevill piped in hopefully, "But we brought the 'councilman's cart', so it won't look like you're being arrested or anything."

Somehow, his subordinate's ongoing attempts to stay unrealistically upbeat about it only made Grell feel worse. He found it harder to meet Faith's eyes. He knew how serious the charge was, and how solid the evidence was against her.
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Stepping Through

Postby Faith » Tue Apr 03, 2018 10:45 am

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The young woman who opened the door did so after hushing the dog which started barking. "Cosmo, shush! Guard, not bark. Guard!" The dog went quiet but when she opened the door, he was there. He was a large Nightpup, a very large one and came up to Faith's waist. The large, glow-in-the-dark blue and white dog was right next to her and Faith had her hand on him. "Hello, can I help?" She looked a little surprised to see them there and, if they noticed such things she looked a little pale, a little tired. But then, she had very young babies as almost everyone knew and, the actual reason for her tiredness was that her husband was away, on another expedition and she worried.

They stepped in, though, and Faith was quickly joined by an older man, Padraig's grandfather, who had heard what was happening. "What are you saying, that's ridiculous!" The older man seemed quite prepared to get agitated, his usual drawl replaced by a deep, resonant tone of annoyance. "The girl works every break for the good of others, what nonsense is this? You can't even look her in the eye, you know this is buffoonery and still you want to take her away from her children?" Faith turned and smiled at her grandfather by law and shook her head. "It's alright, Cyrus. They're doing their job." Cyrus Augustin was quite prepared to get into a full on refusal to let her out of the door when the sound of first one, then a second infant crying cut through the sounds in the hallway.

Faith had gone completely cold at the words of the guard. She'd been accused of murder? There must be a mistake but fear gripped her. Padraig wasn't here and here, she knew, was the moment where her past was going to come out. She'd kept it quiet for over an arc on Scalvoris, done what she'd done free of the mantle of 'former slave'. This was where that ended. However, all of that fear fell into nothing of importance as she heard the cry of her babies. "My children.." she looked at Cyrus and met his amber gaze, so like Padraig's. "Please, Cyrus. I need you to look after them. Please. I .. " At the sounds of movement, and Katie and Luna's voices, she looked at her grandfather and asked again, more urgently. "I'll take care of this. Please, you take care of them. Get Tina, the babies will need to be fed. I... , I'll just go." Cyrus was less than happy, but his options were none. "I'll get things sorted here, then I'm coming to Element Hall. You stay put till I arrive and if anyone harms a hair on your head there will be hell to pay." Faith smiled at him, gratefully and with an expression which showed that she was just holding it together, so Cyrus reached out, squeezed her arm and then went to the living room and his baritone voice could be heard chivvying the women along.

That Faith stumbled over her words was enough to show just how shocked she was. She never did and as she turned back to the two Land Troops, she regained her composure. The disciplined young woman swallowed, then stood up straight, pulling herself to her full five foot four and nodded. "I've committed no crime, I assure you. There must be some mistake, there simply has to be. The sooner we go, the sooner we'll clear this up. Shall we?"

She gestured to the door and sent the dog in to the living room. Then, without question or complaint, without looking left or right, she got into the cart and sat, her hands folded together in her lap and said nothing for the duration of the journey. Instead, she sat in silence, praying to Famula, Vri and Moseke that Padraig was safe and well, that the children were calm and settled, that Cyrus didn't charge off and do anything foolish and that Stig, for so it must be, had not died in pain and his soul had moved on to a place of peace. She'd meant to visit him after the babies were born, the man had changed his allegiance, changed his actions and saved her life. She had no reason to harm him. However, things had been so busy and there had seemed to be plenty of time to visit. Always, she'd do it soon.

Why would anyone kill him and frame her for it? Was that was this was? So, she said nothing and simply waited. After all, she would find out soon enough and, as they arrived she breathed in and prayed thanks to Famula for every opportunity for service she had been given, to Vri for the love and memories of her life and to Moseke for the life she, and her family, had. No doubt, whatever this was, it was better faced and done so head on, so she went where she was told to and waited until she found out what was happening.
"To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."

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Stepping Through

Postby Maltruism » Sun Apr 08, 2018 2:00 am

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Sergeant Grell looked for a moment at the channels cut in the seats, knowing he ought to be stocking his prisoner's wrists into them. But with Jarevill seated behind her, there was little likelihood of some escape attempt. At the back of his mind, however, was an actual hope that his prisoner would do that very thing. Then the surety of her guilt would no longer be in doubt. Despite the eyewitness, and her clear and consistent testimony, Grell felt the same as Jarevill. He could not truly believe such a good woman could have flayed the same victim she'd spoken up for, on behalf of mercy, to spare him the anger of the mob during the failed abduction attempt.

It was no simple matter to set these contradictions aside as they made their way to Element Hall. He was well aware that the legal system in Scalvoris Town was more geared toward confirming convictions than seeking acquittals. It was not exactly that the system was cruel, so much as it hinged on the priority of ensuring that court costs were not spent to no purpose. Acquittals were a waste of nel, and if the accused were truly innocent, then how had they come to be named and identified?

This train of thought left a sour taste in the man's mouth. As a Land Trooper, he had more chance to see the injustices stemming from these policies than most others. But there was no background of guile or duplicity in the witness either. She may not have had the number of character references as did Professor Augustin, but those she did have were of impeccable integrity. The woman had seen Faith do it, there was no standing reward for the professor to motivate deceit, and there was no prior history between them to suggest revenge. It was one respectable woman, giving believable testimony, under eyewitness circumstances, against another woman, who just happened to be a paragon of benevolence. He sighed, as his subordinate spent the ride making light chat. The town criers and gazettes would splash this up one side of town and down the other.

They reached Element Hall, an oddly distorted and flowing building, with contours reminiscent of the waves and rolling hills of nature, rather than the usual symmetrical styles of men's construction. The front steps and doors were one of the few straight features of the edifice, but Faith was given little chance to appreciate the singular nature of the architecture, as she was marched straight in and down into a lower level where several grim-faced troopers, two women and a body awaited her.

One of the women was clearly stricken with grief, sobbing over the shrouded figure on the slab. The mass of the body beneath the shroud suggested some level of withered emaciation, as the head was by far the most prominent bulge. The other woman was far more composed, but was still taken aback when Faith was marched in. Every detail of her reaction said that Faith was the woman she would identify as the murderer.

She nodded at the one trooper with slightly different emblemage than the others and he stepped toward the shrouded cadaver. His stone gaze was fixed on Faith's face as he whisked the shroud from the figure to reveal the shrunken and shriveled corpse of Stig; the man who'd turned sides and ended up saving faith's life from the rest of his team of kidnappers.

Now, Stig was a gray, waxen skinned horror, eyeballs shrunk to dull white staring marbles, held in place by dry stretched tissue extending into the recesses of sticky glazed sockets. His nose was shrunk back to give little definition beyond the twin cavities of a dry skull, the skin stretched and parched to seemingly define every seam in the cranium. His teeth were a vile mockery of a smile; a rictus of agonized death. The length of his torso was no better; skin sucked onto his bones as if the muscle tissue had fled before some baking Hotlands sun, except where the rib cage was rent open to display misshapen and dehydrated organs. The joints of his limbs were swollen in starved exaggeration by comparison, every previous fracture in stark evidence as irregular nooks and jagged edges beneath the taut leathery covering.

The detention officer had found a great deal of worth in gauging the reactions of those who saw a horrific corpse for the first time. He knew well the difference between the reaction of one seeing such a grisly spectacle for the first time, and another who was already steeled to it for having been there as the murderer.

He watched Faith very carefully as the corpse was suddenly exposed to her. But his attention was split as the woman who had already been in tears collapsed in a wailing heap in the corner, crying the name of her son, Stig.
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Stepping Through

Postby Faith » Sun Apr 08, 2018 9:21 am

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Faith sat in the carriage, not making small talk or chatting, simply sitting with her hands folded in her lap. If there was ever a woman who was the very picture of not an escape risk, it was this one. She sat and kept quiet and still, holding on to her composure the best way she knew how, by focusing on her hands. Ever had she done this, it was how she had maintained her discipline and endured the tortures upon her when she was a slave. If it was Stig, that was such a shame and Faith knew that, whoever had done this would be at large if she was being falsely accused of his murder. But who was setting her up and why? Alissa was going to have a field day over this, Faith considered.

She believed that it would be sorted out, she would be shown to be innocent. Because she knew that she was, therefore things had to work out. Allowing herself to go to the place where she worried about what would happen if was entirely unhelpful and unnecessary. That, in fairness, was one thing which being a slave had taught her and taught her well - she could control what she could and there was no point in worrying about what she could not. So, she folded her hands and she waited.

They arrived at Element Hall and they made their way with no preamble, for which she was grateful. Down into the lower levels and into a room. It was a room she'd been in herself, previously, where they kept the bodies of those involved in ongoing investigations. When there'd been murder victims and the Order was called on, Faith had usually been the one to come here, ironically. How things had changed.

She noticed the other people in the room, saw them and noted them, but the sorrow and grief pouring from the woman was palpable and, more than anything Faith wanted to help her. When they pulled back the sheet, though, and there was Stig, Faith's face showed her sorrow. "Stig," she said, softly and there was no guile on her face, just sorrow and more than a little horror. "What happened to him?" Faith asked and she frowned, looking down at him. "I didn't do this. He helped me, and I tried to help him. I haven't seen him since the day my children were born," she looked at the detention officer. "When did this happen? I'm very rarely alone, I'll have witnesses to where I was. With your permission, I'd like to help find who did this," Her silver eyes were unwavering as she looked at him and the sadness at Stig's death was most genuine.

How could they think that she did this? Faith didn't know and then, a realisation, a thought, a sudden clicking together of things happened in her mind. "I have a twin. I.. she and I are identical." And come to that? "When Alexander, the necromancer who was trying to kill me, who paid for the men to try and kidnap me? When he kidnapped my husband and I, last season, he was working on twins. A lot of them." Could he have called on Morana? Faith didn't know, couldn't know, but it made sense. "Morana Nardovino. She calls herself Leech." That was all Faith knew of the twin sister she had. After all, that twin was born in freedom and not sold into slavery. Because Morana was the one on the right and Faith, or Vesna as her birth name was, had been the one on the left. "Will you let me help?"

To Stig's mother, Faith turned and spoke, "I'm so sorry for your loss." If they'd let her help, then she could do just that. Help the mother, help them find who the killer actually was. If they would but just give her the benefit of the doubt. So, she looked back at the officer and asked again. "Please, let me help?"
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Stepping Through

Postby Maltruism » Mon Apr 09, 2018 8:17 pm

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Conspiracies can take a multitude of forms. Mostly, they are the embodiment of the hunger for wealth, power or revenge. Such agendas are universally deliberate in creation. But on occasions it is neither mortal nor Immortal nor deliberation that aligns events to serve some drastic end. Sometimes, fate alone conspires.

The timing of the day, the distance to Faith's home - combined with the return trip - the scheduling of the Detention Squad Commander's lunch break, the turn of a cook's head, and the opening of a door all led to a napkin being flipped by a breeze to cover a small, sharp kitchen knife, which was then further secured by the placement of the usual fork and spoon upon the napkin. Fate conspires.

The grisly display on the table was nothing to which the Commander had not long-since grown accustomed. The cook knew this, and did not hesitate to bring the man his lunch. He had just reset the fork and spoon to the left of the plate as the soldier flipped back the cover over the body of Stig. The cook left the room with a look of sympathy at the heartbroken mother of the victim. Fate conspires.

Her lamentations of her son's simple mind, and the ease with which he was led astray by true villains, were genuinely tragic. Perhaps if he'd been less sensitive, he'd have been looking at how the current of the breeze from the flipped cover blew back the napkin to reveal the undetected knife; and not at her. But fate conspires.

Or perhaps if he'd not been thinking back on the tragedies he himself had witnessed, where gullible folks were concerned, a few even quite well-known to him, he'd have detected the edge in the woman's voice, and the direction of her eyes as she said it. Even Faith's well-intended offer to help the poor, traumatized mother became a perfectly-timed element in this conspiracy.

The tears in the woman's eyes may well have obscured the flare of hate residing there as she rose to her feet with a sad smile. This smile, however, was not sad with bittersweet thanks for this offer of help. It was sad for her knowledge that her son would never know how she would avenge him. Even as the guard Commander relaxed with satisfaction that there was good reason to think Faith was not the perpetrator of Stig's death, Carlene Varlich, the mad, grief-stricken mother, launched her self onto Faith with the knife.

The sharper the blade, the less the pain, they say. Faith's eyes truly did bulge more from surprise than pain. It was possible that a less sharp blade may have given pain enough to warn her of the woman's lethal intent after the first stab. The second and third might have at least caused her to cry out so the guards might have reacted in greater haste. Like Faith, they thought the woman was simply collapsing against her. It was not until the blood began to stain the front of her attire that they realized the crisis that was upon them.

But by that time Faith's throat had joined several of her internal organs in a state of slashed, irreversible mortality. It was only the loss of blood from the many wounds on her torso that reduced the gush from her throat that spattered across the face of her assailant, who was now cackling her son's name and screaming with the mad joy of "justice". The woman that had identified Faith as the accused, shrank back against the wall, aghast; mouth agape, eyes wide in shock.

Guards threw themselves against the woman, slamming her to the ground as one with a fair medical training rushed to the fallen Faith. The dread on his face as he tried to stem the blood soon became a grim shake of the head. Blood stopped pouring from the wounds. The eyes no longer blinked. The chest no longer rose or fell. The mirror held to her open mouth did not cloud. Outside of a few twitches, there was no movement at all.

Faith was dead.
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Stepping Through

Postby Faith » Tue Apr 10, 2018 5:58 am

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Vesna Nardovino would have been a happy child, had her childhood been allowed. Bright and filled with laughter and love, she would have run everywhere, never walked; had she lived the life she should have lived, Vesna would have had to be told, time and again as a child, to use her 'indoor voice' and stop shouting. In school, she would have shone and the bright, cheerful child would have grown into a formidable, driven young woman.

But Vesna Nardovino had died, in a sense, within breaks of being born. One of twins, her parents ~ her father ~ insistent that they wanted only one child, they had sold the unwanted twin...
The one on the left. I was the one on the left
until he told me I'd always be the one on the right for him...

... and kept the twin on the right of the crib.

And so, Vesna Nardovino had died.

Who she became then, no one really knew. The torture and pain she had endured, the loss of self which had taken so long to overcome. The belief, the knowledge that she was less than human. She could not give it words nor would she want to live there to explain it. But no one understood. Not even Jamal, the owner who had given her the name she now wore. Faith.
Little bird. He used to call me little bird.
He hurt me. He was the last man ever to torture me.
Those trials are over. He told me, he protected me.
Why am I cold?

Because the young woman that Tristan Venora bought, Faith the slave, she was already becoming Faith Augustin. He taught her things, too. Much more kind, much more gentle, he never hurt her. And then she had met people. Lady Elyna, Lord Krome, Aeon, Kura and Nir'wei. People who walked a part of the way with her. They were all there for a length of time; a reason, a season or life. But they were there and important. But then, even those she loved so well, those she mourned, they all faded away before a pair of apparently serious, brimming with life, amber eyes.
Padraig
My husband. My love.
Mine. I'm so cold, and I'm so sorry.
Will you know I was sorry?

He had changed her life. With him, because of him, alongside him her life had shifted and completely was no more what it had been. She had been truly born again and she was free and strong and able to make changes to the world and yet, here she was on the floor of a room in Elements Hall in Scalvoris. The room was growing dark and as she realised that she could no longer feel her arms or legs, Faith Augustin suddenly knew without a doubt that she was dying. Or maybe, she was already dead. She didn't know for sure, but she knew that she didn't want it to happen. She wanted to fight it.
I want to live
And yet, the blood poured from her and she breathed in a single, final gasp as she thought of the infants who would grow, never knowing their mother. Of the moments she would never see, never share and never be part of. Of the lives that would move on without her and would mourn, but live and as the final, shallow breath left her body, a single tear fell from her now sightless eyes, trailing down towards her ear and Faith felt like she breathed out a scream of rage and fury and pain though yet she made no noise.
My babies...
...
please, no.
Please. Beloved Famula, Lord Vri and Mother Moseke, please, no.
My babies...please

And then she breathed no more.

Vesna Nardovino had died at birth, in many ways.
She had been a slave without name for eighteen long, abusive arcs.
Eventually, she was born into a new life.
And at nineteen arcs old, having celebrated one birthday and lived a lifetime, she breathed no more.

Faith Augustin was dead.
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Stepping Through

Postby Maltruism » Fri Apr 13, 2018 9:59 am

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The Twins stood in a pocket outside of time. The same span of time it took for the other relevant Immortals to come together roughly equivalent to the time it took Faith's father-in-law to arrive, and be given vague accounts of what was happening below. He was not told that the cooling body of his son's beloved wife was being cleaned up, the woman who had attacked her raving in alternating tears for her flayed son, and taunts at the body now being laid upon wrappings, in preparation for burial. He knew something was being withheld.

In the Beneath, the figure stood in a glowing form that could have easily taken another shape besides the human one it was familiar with. Tendrils of curiosity strung from it, in advance of what would be arms, toward other sources of ectoplasmic light. And around them all was a light that was bright enough to render all else just flashes of slightly brighter or duller shapes, yet did not dazzle uncomfortably. Not for this soul anyway. Colors swirled, but rarely took discernible forms. The colors passed by and through all the figures, including this new arrival. But no sense of touch or temperature accompanied this coalescence.

In a distant mental echo, there were impressions that consciousness took only small efforts to cross-reference with anything resembling memory. But "memory" was unsure of its own existence. There seemed to be a connection to so many sources of what could be current existence or memories of indeterminate age, that no one sensation could clearly be attributed to any particular one.

But the flashes and sensations did not terrify. Nor did they bring grief or longing. There was only a steady patience that there would ultimately be purpose. There was no hurry. A comfortable warmth began to grow from this perception. And a wish that it could be shared with some of the flashes and sounds that echoed through a series of reverberating doors. No words were decipherable, but there was sadness to be felt when they touched the essence of the heart.

One other had the feel of a growing apprehension. An anger willed to the surface to protect the heart from crippling grief. Guilt rang through a number of others, a sense of profound failure to have ensured what was right. But even among all these darker essences, love and respect was dominant, and somehow directed at the consciousness now finding itself flowing into the presence of beings more clearly defined. The faces showed little beyond sympathy of varying degrees upon two of the faces, neutrality upon two others, and a slightly adversarial purpose upon the last one.

"Always the good ones are lost too soon." Moseke spoke softly, her head shaking with remembrances of courage and sacrifice.

"She was of your Order, was she not?" Pre questioned, establishing a base for the argument in favor of the one being judged, "A healer. A Teacher. One whose only real aggressions of free will were toward the perpetrators of necromantic abominations." Pre's gaze turned to the expressionless figure of Famula, whose face showed neither agreement nor dispute.

The advocate against favor, Pier, took this lack of response as a vote of disfavor, and spoke up now, "Suggesting that the age when a mortal dies in any way implies or imparts good character is absurd. Should a twisted youth, bent on killing all around her, be allowed to continue doing so, in order to follow suit with that notion? That killing her at this young age would contradict some established paradigm?"

Pre cast a sour smile in her sister's direction, "Oh please. Let's not be so literal, okay? It's just an understandable lament that we are never graced with the full measure of good deeds that one who makes a regular practice of them could bestow upon our world. It is only a perception, dear sister."

Pier was not about to relinquish the point, though, "And an irrelevant one that you would have nonetheless allowed to be entered as an actual point of favor, if I let you!" she crowed in triumph.

Pre waved an exaggeratedly dismissive hand, "Have it your way then sister. I guess I will have to settle for nothing but the long history of healing, gentleness, helpfulness to complete strangers, thankfulness for the like extended to her, tolerance in the face of hate, scrupulous honesty, forgiveness of abuse, past and present, uncomplaining service, optimism, trust, and trustworthiness that has marked every aspect of this woman's life. In exchange, I will allow that 'only the good die young' should be stricken from the record."

Pier was not one to abandon an argument so easily though. "Oh, I see, so healing done to win further favor from Moseke, in exchange for her blessing, should not be viewed as self-serving?"

Moseke's expression darkened, "No! I have never felt any such self-interest in her actions! It has always been done in-..."

"You are a spectator here, good cousin. It is not for you to make my sister's arguments for her." Pier snapped back. "You are only here to speak with the subject on matters of what comes after judgement. Then the options will be open to your input."

Pre remained surprisingly pleasant, "Yes, I'm afraid I have to agree, Moseke. But please know that I appreciate the thought. I'm sure my sister meant no insult to your integrity."

Pier remained defensive, "And I'M sure my sister is not deliberately trying to sidetrack my argument by requiring me to focus on apologies rather than facts. Facts like the subject's abundance of good gestures being nothing more than that...Gestures!...Void of true intent. Meant only to capture the eyes of those all-too eager to grace her with blessings for her 'good works'. Can you deny..." she turned now to Famula, "...that her 'uncomplaining service' is not precisely in line with your domain? Is it not possible her eagerness to do this couldn't only be to stand tall in your eyes, with no true reflection on some altruistic attitude?"

Famula's expression remained neutral, as Pier now turned back, arms wide to voice her argument to all present, "...that all her 'great forgiveness and tolerance and optimism...blah, blah, blah'...only served to make other slaves more inclined to accept their station? That it made the slaver trainers and owners glean more profit, by showing her off as an example? Is she not truly just an enabler for the very institution of slavery itself? Had she shown some belligerency...had she cooperated less...had she stood less for forgiveness and more for rebellion, perhaps there would be thousands less slaves...tens of thousands!"

Pre laughed lightly, musically, "Well, I must confess, you have outdone yourself this time sister. Never before have I seen you put such an uncompromisingly negative spin on so many good qualities. Well Done! Oh, I think there might actually be millions of less slaves. Because they'd have been slain in retribution!"

Pre's voice grew harsh on the last statement, and waned little as she continued, "You know the policy of Athart. One slave rebels, five slaves die, as object lesson to the rest. And usually drawn from those closest to the one that rebelled. Her willingness to accept this abuse graciously may well have saved tens of thousands of slaves. Now if you want to bring harsh judgement upon those trainers and owners you mentioned, I expect I will be much less motivated to debate that issue with you."

She folded her arms before her now, "You speak of facts. very well let's have them! Not just potential dodges, based on your duty to find fault in everything; but actual confirmations of selfish intentions, lies, and hidden agendas. Come on now. You knew we would come to this point. Have you any proof prepared? We have her whole history here at our disposal."

It went on for a long time, although 'time' did not truly relate to this Emean chamber. Ralaith excluded such proceedings from the timeline. The events of the subject's life were able to be drawn from the swirling vortex of colors and sounds that served as the boundary. Pier gave an admirable effort. But without even the aid of Moseke, or Vri - who was also a patron of the subject - in the form of hints or leading questions, Pre was able to counter every unconfirmed suspicion with a dozen confirmed testimonies and displayed actions.

But when it was finally ended, there was no resentment for the heated debate. It was only proper that Pier should do her duty, and Pre should counter the effort. But it was curious how Famula had remained silent the whole time. But with the final accord that judgement would be strongly favorable, Famula, the matron with the most vested interest in the subject, stood suddenly forth...

"No."
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Stepping Through

Postby Faith » Fri Apr 13, 2018 5:50 pm

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Cyrus Augustin was not a man given to temper. He was more the kind of man who tended towards a drawled word which was as likely to be a teasing irony, a sharp rebuff or an incredibly well hidden and hard to unpick expression of emotion. A calming presence and not an individual who was known for extremes of emotion. Certainly not showing them. "Well, what do you mean exactly, son?" Had been how he started when he got there and was told that there had been a complication and he couldn't see his daughter-in-law. His voice had grown sharper, though, as he got another piece of information. "What kind of accident? What possible accident could there have been? Speak up, lad." By now his amber eyes, so like Padraig's, had grown concerned and he had become more demanding. The young receptionist who tried his best to not tell him anything stumbled over what he was saying. Cyrus was a tall, well built man and his age was not so much a disadvantage as something which had given him the ability to pin someone with his gaze.

The boy behind the counter didn't stand a chance and, after ascertaining that there'd been an accident, that Faith had been injured and they had got the best medics on it, but unfortunately, well, sir, he was very sorry to tell him.... at that stuttered admission, Cyrus Augustin had stood to his full height and leaned down till his nose and the receptionist lad's were more or less touching. "Take me to her," he said, his voice a low and deep growl, "now."

As the door opened, therefore, and in walked a tall man, in his sixties but obviously fit and healthy, Cyrus Augustin took in the scene. The young Air Troop who had been on reception duty looked apologetically at his senior officer as, after stalling him for as long as he could, the grandfather had overcome all attempts at dissembling and walked in to the room. As he strode in, fury on his face and obviously about to demand to speak to whoever in the Beneath was in charge here, his gaze fell on to the body of Padraig's wife. "Faith?" His voice shook and all the colour drained from his face.

Cyrus had buried his wife, had raised Padraig from a few trials old and he was a resilient man, but a low groan escaped him as he looked at her ashen white face and the blood they hadn't managed to completely clear. He walked to her, the rest of the world non-existent for him. His shaking hand reached out and moved her hair from her face and Cyrus turned to the Detention Squad Commander, who seemed to be in charge. "But she's good. She'd never harm a soul," he said and he looked back down at her. "They've got newborn twins, her and my boy. Oh.." The thought of Padraig was close to too much for the older man and tears brimmed in his eyes. Leaning forward, he kissed the young woman on the forehead. "I should have come with you. I should have insisted. I'm sorry."

Standing again, Cyrus turned to the man who was ostensibly in charge and the soldier would recognise someone on the verge of becoming very, very dangerous indeed when Cyrus asked "How did this happen?" in a voice so low it was a snarl.



It was dark and she was in the Beneath. Not by her own choice, although the young Zu'uda could and had gone there of her own volition. No, as much as she knew this place, so too did Faith know why she was here. She was dead, slain at the hands of a woman who had believed that Faith's hands had murdered her son. Faith couldn't find it in her to be angry at Stig's mother. How would she, herself, react if anyone harmed a hair on either Noah or Madison's heads? Yet she felt a desperate, awful emptiness where once her heart had beaten.

It did not surprise her to discover that she was kneeling on the floor. In the position she had knelt so many times from the time she could walk, kneeling in position, head bowed and waiting for her orders, her commands. Waiting to be told where she would go, what she would do and at whose will this happened. Was that what this was?

Then, the twins.

Oh, the irony of twins, Faith thought and she kept her head down, looking at the floor that was not there. Her hands were clasped together in her lap and she looked at them. From the time she could understand the words, she had been taught to put her feelings into hands. To push them there, where they could do no harm. But there were too many and she was not a slave any more.

She was not.

So, Faith lifted her head and she looked. Meeting Moseke's gaze, Vri's and bowing her respect to them both, to the twins also. Then to Famula, whose face Faith could not read. She must be dead, for the Immortals who had blessed her were here, gathered together and speaking about her. Was she supposed to speak? She didn't think so. She wanted to, though. So much, she wanted to. To argue, to shout and to tell them that she had babies and a husband and a life. For the first time in nineteen long and difficult arcs, she had a life of her own. It was the bitterest of ironies that she had endured so much and now, now that she had found happiness it was taken from her.

They spoke of her, of what she had done and who she was. Arguing, debating, judging and she knelt on the floor and she heard it all. Fair words and harsh, truths and utter falsehoods, they were all laid bare. Her life was place on display for those gathered and Faith knelt, head bowed and she listened.

And then, the debate ended and the command came.

Not a harsh order, not a whip to her back but a gentle, favourable judgement. That she had earned the right to go with Vri, to move on and be at rest and, in the same moment that Famula stepped forward, Faith stood up and she lifted her head. She didn't see anyone else except the twins, her focus on Pier and Pre as she stood and she realised that she was cross. Without realising it, Faith moved at the same time as the Immortal in whose service she had been raised. As a slave, every beating and torture, each abuse and cruelty had been perpetrated on her Famula's name, to teach her how to serve. Yet Faith knew, without a doubt, that they had done nothing. Because Famula had marked her when Faith was free and still chose a life of service. And, in the exact same moment as the Immortal spoke, so too did Faith.

"No," she said, standing and looking at the twins. Something she had never said as a slave, and for the very reason stated, but she knew that right now, she had to. However, as she spoke, she realised that her voice was a quiet and unheeded whisper in comparison to the voice of the Lady of the Lantern. Faith looked, wide eyed, to the Immortal and she said no more, waiting for Famula to speak.

She thought, all things considered, it was the polite thing to do.
"To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."

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Stepping Through

Postby Maltruism » Tue Apr 17, 2018 2:48 am

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The chamber was, by its nature, silent, save when past events were reviewed. Existing outside of time, there was no fact of any existence to prompt sound. Yet, at Famula's single uttered syllable, one would have guessed that the silence had been measurably increased. The four other Immortals turned as one, their expressions matched in disbelief, toward the Keeper of Souls.

Moeske stood in wide-eyed silence, only the gasped beginnings of a mutter verifying the muted questioning of her own ears.

Pre was the first to respond audibly, "What? After this entire judgement? All the truth of her goodness? You would condemn her to Colegut? Masarvva? One you have marked so dearly? One so clearly undeserving of such a harsh balance? What did we miss? Why should she suffer this end?"

Pier looked in with equal mystification; her expression clearly stating the same questions; her head nodding to emphasize the validity of her sister's queries. She and Pre seemed as mirrors, turning on cue to face each other, and Famula, in alternating puzzlement.

Vri looked on silently, his brow furrowed as if he'd only begun to guess at his cousin's agenda. There was nothing close to a smile on his face, but neither was there a scowl. He simply folded his arms and waited for confirmation of his suspicion.

It was quickly forthcoming, "I did not say this one should reside in tunnels or silence, nor do I disagree with what judgement you would extend to her. I am in full agreement. I simply state that she will not pass on in any capacity, to any realm. I thank you for the verdict, but Faith will be returning above with me."

In balance with their natures, Pier now took her turn, "So you never intended to abide by our decision! How dare you! You bring us here under false pretenses! Waste our time and our brother's time! Moseke's time! All for this charade? You insult both us AND our purpose with this game. I demand an apology! WE demand!" Again, the mirror images of the twins turned from each other to Famula in perfectly matched timing.

Only a twitch of an eyebrow betrayed a measure of surprise in Famula's mein, "I am matron of Resurrection. Why is this one incident so troublesome to you? This is hardly the first time I have brought a subject back. Judged or not, you know that this one is still well within the scope of my calling. I do not infringe upon yours or any others' domain by this act. Still, I clearly have upset you, and for that, you have my apology."

Pre snorted with dissatisfaction. "A tone of distress might lend some credence to your concession, cousin. You MOCK us, by having stayed silent this whole time. You have played us as tools for a purpose of which you could have informed us beforehand. Is our effort nothing but theater to amuse your leisure?" she now snapped, her voice once again being instinctively given the floor, as Pier nodded along enthusiastically.

Now Famula's eyes betrayed taxed patience,"Not at all! On the contrary, your effort was essential in confirming the merit of this one's ascension. But why should it upset you to perform the function for which you exist? And what time...in this chamber, have I wasted? This was not some game of my design. This is not a fate I set in motion. The attack took me as much by surprise as any other."

A focus on the situation now replaced annoyance as Famula continued, "But the opportunity now presented itself. If I am to embrace this one as my Champion, and give her the ability to call others back from this same chamber, it is only proper that she know all of what is involved by doing so. And that includes witnessing a genuine effort by the twins of judgement. Not one diluted by the prior knowledge that it is not to be upheld."

Her arms now swung to indicate Moseke and Vri, "And two others there are here that have granted her their favor. What if I had found them to disagree? To feel her NOT deserving of favor and mercy? Might I not have then had cause to question my own choice? Should I not give them their due by ensuring that we are in honest accord regarding this worthy mortal?"

There was a disgruntled silence as the twins still sought points to argue. Pier suddenly lit with a new angle, "And what of Ralaith? What of his effort in creating this chamber. You have wasted his time as well with a judgement that served a purpose you knew may render it moot."

A sigh preceded Famula's response, "My answer is the same. No verdict would be moot. Had I found cause to reject her as champion, as a result of your collective work, I would be genuinely in debt to you for revealing my own error in judgement. As it is, I am indebted to you instead for confirming it. The one is just as important as the other, and they both required your work, as well as Raliath's. I thank you all."

The Blood Mother bowed formally as Vri now stepped forward, "It should be noted as well, dear sisters, that our cousin has achieved something rarely seen in all the countless arcs. She has found a subject upon which you both agree."

Mirrored expressions of mischief graced twin faces as Moseke laughed outright. Both Vri and Famula retained stone-like changelessness as the twins silently agreed on a response. It being Pre's turn, Pier stepped back with a flourish as her sister did the honor, "Not so, brother. Not a trial goes by where we are not in complete agreement that you are an insufferable pain in the ass."

Even the sober face of Famula could not help but grin. But with the judgement complete, Raliath's chamber was reverting back to temporal alignment, and time was suddenly pressing. The Blood Mother held Faith close and the chamber began to take on the look of Element Hall. Her voice echoed so the other Immortals could hear. "Again, I thank you all, and apologize for what effort I might have taken, on your collective behalf, that escaped my consideration. But I now perceive that this one's living presence is greatly needed to prevent further tragedy."

Hands in Element Hall were already gripping hilts of swords, and tensions were on the verge of exploding into violence as the wrapped body of Faith stirred suddenly upon the slab on which it had been laid...
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Stepping Through

Postby Faith » Tue Apr 17, 2018 7:22 am

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Life,
Death &
The In-Between


It was obvious that Cyrus was not going to be silenced as his questions came, one after another. The man was evidently distraught, although his naturally stoic nature meant that he did not show it as many others would; he held it together and he remained firm. Shock was moving through his body and Cyrus wondered how he went from drinking coffee in the kitchen with his lady to standing here, in this room, with the body of his daughter-in-law and the imbeciles who had allowed it to happen.

The world, he knew, was a strange place. After all he'd been alive long enough that he had seen a lot of strange things. Here, in this room, he was facing an inevitability, however. "She was kidnapped in the street, in broad daylight and you did nothing. Again, those babies were born in the street because you did nothing. She and Padraig were taken, just last season and you did nothing." The older man was doing his best to hold on to his temper. "And the one time you do get off your asses and do something, it's arrest her for a crime she didn't commit and then you revert back to form and watch her get murdered in your custody!?"

Meanwhile, Faith stood and watched. It was all she could do, all she ever would do; incredibly aware of the presence of the Immortals. Moseke and Vri, both of them she had met before. Moseke, in fact, had taken away her scars, having stroked her cheek in a hall in Ne'haer before they stepped through a portal to Oscillus. Have faith the Immortal said and in this moment, Faith wanted to, but more than anything she wanted to hold her babies in her arms, breathe in the scent of them and feel their skin against hers.

Yet, she stood and listened as Famula spoke.

Faith did not believe that she was being sent into either Colegut or Masarvva. She would not claim to know Famula, but she and the Immortal had met more than a few times now and Faith understood that Famula was harsh, sometimes, unyielding in many things and yet she was fair, not the harsh and grim mistress of death so many saw her as. The same with Lord Vri, of course. Faith's silver eyes turned to him. He had come to her first in the temple as she stood and mourned the death of their daughter, Rose. He was known as the lord of death, yet Faith understood that love was his domain; love brought sorrow but that sorrow was worth it.

But then, Famula said that she would not pass in any capacity and would be returning above with her.

"She has a twin, yes," Cyrus said. "I don't know much more than that, they were separated at birth." Cyrus shook his head, turning to look again at the man who asked him. "What does it matter how that happened? It happened. Let the girl have her privacy and dignity in death," Death? The older man shook his head and breathed out a pain and sorrow filled sigh. As he did, his shoulders dropped slightly and somehow, the anger which he had been emanating all dissipated. Suddenly, he was no threat at all, just a man filled with grief. "I'd like to take her home. My son, her husband. He's on an expedition and out of contact." Padraig would have to know, Cyrus was thinking. There was the pegasus which Faith had adopted. He or Katie would have to go and find the boy.

And as he thought of telling him, of informing Padraig that his wife had died so needlessly, slain by the hands of an enraged mother after being falsely accused of killing her son, Cyrus knew that it would be him who went. It could only be. "Katie will look after the babies," he spoke to Faith in that moment. "I'll go tell him, bring him home."

Famula spoke and explained her reasoning to her sister Moseke and her cousins, Pier, Pri and Vri. It was a truly strange experience and yet one which Faith was used to in a very odd way. They were talking about her, deciding her fate and what she would do, where she would go. As a slave, that had been her life and even now she had the urge to resume the kneeling position she had been in when she arrived here. But she did not. She was slave no longer, now she served and did so from her own choice and by her own volition. So, the earnest young woman stood and watched and listened.

Did she just say Champion?
In the world of the living, Faith breathed and gulped in a sudden inrush of air.

"Aelig's nuts!" Cyrus exclaimed, jumping backwards with the vigour of a man a third of his age. His eyes were wide and shocked as the young woman breathed in, then out, and sat up. Consciousness returned to her and Faith looked around. "Cyrus? What are you doing here?" Earnest and concerned silver eyes looked at him and then Faith let out a gasp of surprise as her father in law wrapped her in a hug. "Immortals, child, are you alright?" Faith smiled and nodded, her memory of the events which had transpired clear. Pushing to one side the wrappings, freeing herself from what was effectively her temporary death shroud, Faith's arms moved and she hugged Cyrus tightly. Kissing him on the cheek she smiled softly. "I'm fine. I promise you."

To the Element commander, the one in charge, Faith spoke again. "I have a twin. Her name is Morana Nardovino, but she calls herself Leech." Why, Faith did not know, but that was that. "When you find her, she is identical to me, except for the marks associated with the blessings I wear. And Stig's mother? Please, I want no charges brought against her."

Cyrus shook his head in disbelief, "Faith, the woman..." Faith looked at him and put her hand on his arm. "The woman was mad with grief. I can not decry her for that. I would like to speak to Stig's mother, if it's possible. May I?" That, she said to the Element. Then, she looked down at herself, blood soaked as she was and she sighed. "This top is ruined." With a smile of reassurance to Cyrus, she lifted a trembling hand to her father-in-law and squeezed his arm. Then, she closed her eyes and spoke the most heartfelt prayer she had ever. It was, of course, her promise to Famula, Moseke and Vri.

"Unto my final breath, and beyond."
"To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."

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