• Mature • have you passed through this night? (Graded)

With the escalation of hostilities between Etzos and Rhakros, a series of small walled towns is being established as a network of early warnings and defenses against Rhakros' reprisals. Only the very bravest and most formidable of characters should risk themselves on the Witches' Wilds frontier.

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Kasoria
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have you passed through this night? (Graded)

Wed Jun 26, 2019 9:14 pm

42nd Trial, Ymiden, 719a
Westguard
8th break


The wouldn't wait much longer. The shivering mass of humans and animals all seemed to glance fearfully towards the setting sun. Every few bits, it was a few degrees lower in the sky, and he could see their mood fray. In every face there was a fear so deep and real it didn't need words. Mules and men, horses and children, they seemed to huddle against each other for protection. Families clutched each other and what few things they had left. Anyone that coughed, or sneezed, or looked a little red was instantly singled out.

He'd seen one family ostracized. Which was a nice way of saying the mother and son had been throw from their place in the caravan, and the father got his head broke while trying to protect them. Arms up, eyes wide, begging them that it was just a cold, they weren't carrying plague, they lived in Westguard, they knew them-

Kasoria watched him now, slumped next to an abandoned house. Cradled by his wife as she sobbed into his bloody head. Whispering things to her as he stared past her, back into the gaggle of frightened people. One arm around his son. The man from Etzos Prime watched his lips move... and frowned when clarity dawned.

"I can't see... I'm sorry, love... I can't see..."

"You should come with us, Kas."

Last time he'd been to Westguard, he hadn't much cared for how fast it was growing. The whole point of bringing the boy and his mother so far from the Big Smoke was so he wouldn't have to grow up like he did. History would not repeat, and Martyn would be... something better. Different, at least. Not another kid doomed to the gutters. But Westguard was growing, thriving, booming. The growth seemed unstoppable, almost inevitable. Like a sprig of the mother city had been sliced carefully off and transplanted into fertile soil. Now the new planting was rushing towards the sky, sprouting new limbs and leaves with every season. New houses, new stores, new farms, new businesses, roads, stores of food and all the supplies a town needed to bloom into a city.

"Kas? Kas, listen to me."

He looked around now and saw nothing but... no... not death. He'd been surrounded by that before, often by his own hand. But he knew plague. He knew how it could just empty a place, lodging house or entire town. The infection killed some, and panic killed the place itself. Then it would explode outwards, carried by terrified escapees. One gutted, ghostly house would become a street, a neighborhood, a perimeter. Kasoria had seen that before. He'd lived it. He'd seen the... the madness, that came with it.

That's what happened here, he thought, looking away from the doomed family, whose son was still coughing. Too many people, too quickly. Not enough time to check them all. Someone gets sicks. Then the three around him. The ten around them. And before you know it-

"Kas, I said you should-"

"I know what y'said, Alsome. I know."

Alsome's jaw worked anxiously for a moment or two. He knew that tone. His cousin was far away, inside his own head. It didn't mean he wasn't listening, but he'd already made his mind up. However that brain of his worked, Alsome couldn't guess. But for the last trial or so, he'd been watching Kasoria watching the town around him. Observing the masses of frightened, paranoid people pushed too far. At times he'd felt like a ghastly tour guide, showing his cousin just how far their town had fallen. Abandoned buildings with red crosses on the doors. Blood in alleyways. Prosperous business now hulks, forgotten or looted and, in some cases, burnt out to black bricks.

He'd come to terms with it, when his wife had died. When he'd kissed her goodbye one last time, with tears rolling down his face, before brushing them away so the girls wouldn't see. Telling them Mummy would be fine in a few trials, they'd just have to stay at their Gran's until she was feeling better. Shed done her part. She'd waved goodbye with a brave smile, and Alsome wanted for all the world to rush back and never leave.

Then he'd come back, and saw what the plague had done to her. Then he wished he had the same stone and ice in him his cousin did. No more so than when he'd set a torch to the cottage they built together, raised their family in, and walked away.

"There's nothing here, Kas."

Kasoria turned to look at his cousin. There was no flinch to him, now. No fear of his scary city relative from the Big Smoke, with his sinister reputation. Every time he'd visited, there'd been that tension between them. Like a little dog minding itself around a rottweiler. Careful not to offend, not to push too hard. Not to speak what they both knew but Alsome would never dare admit to. Who knew what Kasoria might do, if he breathed the words into the world? What the consequences might be...

What does it matter now? After what he's seen.

"No. There ain't." He looked over the heads of the caravan, back at Westguard. Slumbering in twilight already, save for a few scattered torches. Not street lamps; there wasn't enough civil order left for regular lighting of those. These were roaming faggots, blazing as they were brandished by... who knew? Looters? Soldiers? Runners, like them? "But there might be, inna' future."

Alsome frowned and cocked his head, not understanding. Kasoria turned to face the man, pinning him with the strangest look. Then he reached into his pocket, and handed Alsome two things. One was a purse, fat and clanking with coin so much he immediately shoved it deep into his pockets. The second was a letter. Folded and sealed with a hob of wax, without a sigil, of course. He could make out the words written on it, slow and neat and precise, as befitted a man who'd come to cherish literature.

"I need youse t'give them this."

"Why? Why not give it to them yerself?"

Kasoria managed a smile. A fragile, unexpected thing. Sad, in a way Alsome didn't know the man could still feel. Regretful, in a way only that boy could draw out from him.

"This tells 'em why."
word count: 1115
"This is the life we choose, the life we lead. And there is only one guarantee: none of us will see Heaven."
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Kasoria
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Re: have you passed through this night?

Thu Jun 27, 2019 10:13 pm

He didn't consider it abandonment. Whatever deal he'd made back in Yaralon, that went out the fucking window the moment he stepped foot on the pier at Foster's Landing. Fuck, it was before that; even the sight of the port town from the deck of Graeslin's ship was enough to tell him everything was wrong. The dark masses of people lining there shore. The ships filled from bilges to decks with the desperate that could afford passage. From where they stood, they could see people being thrown into the water. Calls of "no room, no room!" being bellowed as space was made, in the most heartless way possible.

No-one was stopping it. No law prevented it. In fact, as far as Kasoria could tell, what soldiers were there? They were helping.

Within a break, Kasoria had made his decision. Actually, he'd made it within the first ten bits of arriving back home, after nearly four seasons worth of trials abroad. He should have felt... everything but what he felt. Everywhere he looked, some new nightmare was pouring from a new set of eyes. Words were spilling pout around him, tales of woe and tragedy and impossible, nightmarish monsters.

"Fordwell's just gone. Nothin' but corpses inna streets, in beds, in alleys, piled up an' up like firewood-"

"Tried to turn the river on 'em, didn't even slow the bastards down. Damned army of 'em, marchin' up and puking poisons-"

"Crosston, too. Fordwell, I here. Jus' gone. Fuckin' gone, wiped out, poisoned, eaten-"

"Big Smoke's next, you watch, an' then-"

And then the rest. Then Westguard.

What's to stop them?


"Not them," Kasoria had growled to himself, letting that old, incandescent hatred burn through his bewilderment. Only one being could wreak this sort of havoc. One one breed of monster. "Her."

He couldn't have dissolved his deal with Zarik any better than if he'd shit in his hand and slapped the mage with it. Whatever deal they had, whatever understanding, it was done. Every time he blinked, he saw his son, he saw Jessye, he saw the town they called home, drowning in filth and pus and chaos. The weird band of travelers had, for some insane reason, decided to go with him. Kasoria allowed it, meaning he didn't care one way or another. He set his own punishing, brutal pace, making for Westguard as best they could. T

They had an easy time of it, actually. There weren't many people left to run away. Lisarra had done her work with her usual, inhuman thoroughness. Looking at a map, Kasoria could see her progress. A straight line, from her jungle domain, towards Etzos Prime. And everything in her path, was destroyed.

But Westguard... Westguard had yet to feel her caress. Not directly, anyway. Riding into the town, Kasoria could see the chaos stamped on every street. The glut of refugees from the south had crashed into the minor city like a tsunami. Finding lodgings was absurd; already the town was surrounded by camps, tents, shelters made of cloth and trash or just huddles of people with nothing left. The city was swamped, unable to cope... and then there was the disease. The plague. The coughing and the sneezing. All it took was a hand to come away from the lips with a speck of blood, and you were dead. Your house was burned. Your family... likely made pariahs.

Likely. That won't last much longer. People'll get scared. Start lashing out.

"m'goin'."

That was all Zarik and the boy Mauro and the slave O-something got from the Raggedy Man, after they'd found a place in a house long since left behind. A red cross on the door, but it was a chance they had to take. The children couldn't stay in a fucking field, after all. Kasoria had left his traveling bag and ax behind, not wanting to be burdened or stand out too much as he rushed through the streets. Not running would have been a good idea. It also wasn't an option.

"Martyn?!" He bellowed the name as he knocked down the door, then bellowed it again after the crash of wood on stone had faded. "Martyn?! Jessye?! Answer me!"

He ripped through the cottage in a handful of trills. He took in the empty pantry, the cupboard doors open and bare. Jessy'e traveling bag not present, and most of all, no life in the house at all. The woman, the boy, the dog... all gone. Kasoria stood in the kitchen with his breath coming out in shallow, fitful spurts. He could feel his heart crushing in his chest, like his ribs were a vice. He staggered back against the stove and forced himself not to vomit.

The plan! The plan!

"Fuckin' idiot!"

He'd fucking forgotten all about it. The very plan they'd talked about, every time he'd visited. After the first dozen times, Jessye had scowled at him with iron in her eyes, every time, but he didn't care. He wanted it to be rehearsed and recited and familiar to hear as breathing. So she spoke the words he'd taught her. She confirmed she had parchment and ink, and wax paper. Then she took him over to the pantry, and the corner shelf, and she lifted-

Kasoria ripped the shelves down and scattered dry meal and wood all over the floor. He didn't even look back, didn't even listen. He scrambled down in the darkness and pulled up the floor tiles, the one with the corner missing. A hole just large enough for a finger, and he wormed his digit under it, pulled it up... and found the wax paper waiting for him.

The killer dribbled sweat from his face like a man palsied as he staggered back to the kitchen table, swept it clear with one arm, and then ripped open the waterproof envelope. Inside was a neat, folded piece of parchment. No wax seal, no careful labels. Only one person would be reading this. He had to control himself that he didn't rip the letter to shreds as he unfolded it. Then he started to read, as the sun began to set.
word count: 1061
"This is the life we choose, the life we lead. And there is only one guarantee: none of us will see Heaven."
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Kasoria
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Re: have you passed through this night?

Fri Jun 28, 2019 1:48 am

"Hiladrith. Aye. S'where everyone's heading."

"Aye," Kasoria replied, watching as the chief of this panicky procession stomped over to his lead driver and started barking order. "Difference is, she got out early."

Alsome nodded sagely, unable to argue with that wisdom. He'd remembered when Jessye and her boy had hurried over, bags packed and slung over their shoulders, Martyn waddling under the weight. She'd been pushing her red mane over her head over and over, as if so nervous it never occurred to her to just tie it. She told him that if Kasoria came around, her was to say where they went. Alsome had smiled sadly and nodded. Poor thing. Four seasons, and not a peep from his cousin. He'd actually got quite angry, scolded his cousin when he'd supped with his wife that night. Regeta had sighed and commiserated. Well, what could you expect from such a man?

Ten trials later she was dead. Her and what seemed like every other person they knew. The survivors were angry. Scared. Angry and barely held back, like rabid dogs on chains with weak links. Soon, Alsome knew that all chains would break, all fears rise to hysteria. He knew the mindless power a mob could wreak; their family knew it better than most, in fact. So after his wife died, and his friends deserted them, him and his daughters packed what they had and made their own plans.

But Jessye? And his... her son? They were already long gone.

"Word says Muster and Relay are under siege," he said, voice the same flat monotone it had been since Kasoria had knocked on his door. Well, his mother-in-law's. Former, he reminded himself, feeling an icy blade in his guts. Former mother-in-law. "But the main bulk a'... whatever they fuckin' are, they're already at the Big Smoke. They're burnin' so many corpses inside, looks like the city's aflame. She... She's leadin' 'em."

For the first time, something more than distant sadness touched his cousin's face. Kasoria turned to him sharply, lips curled inward, eyebrows forced down. Disgust contorted his features.

"Can't even say her name?"

"She... She's a Morty, y'don't wanna go messing around-"

"Lisarra," Kasoria said, then repeated it, louder. "Her name... It's name, is Lisarra, and it's not a god. It's a monster. And it will die for what it's done."

Any other time or season, the passing folks might have nodded approvingly, murmur of righteous Eztori disdain rising from them. But these were broken people. They hurried away from the two men, as if being close might somehow taint them with the disfavor of the Plague Mother. Even Alsome winced briefly, as Kasoria looked around at each passing face, daring them to tell him to pipe down. No-one did. Not when his hand rested so clearly on the hilt of his sword. But Alsome was not cowed. He'd lost too much and too recently to be fearful of his own blood anymore.

Amazing how losing what you love, clarifies what life really means. How... barren it is, without them.

"Maybe. But it'll take an army. Not one pissed off scrote from the Oh'Pee," he said, ignoring the bristling look of anger on Kasoria's face. "Etzos'll fall, Kas. The whole city. Everyone inside. Then they'll come for every other town around it. You can't stop it. No-one can. The army, the mages... pfft, fat fucking good they've been."

Kasoria glared and smoldered but did not retort. He couldn't. Only recently had his Spark come back to life. For trials, along with a black void that was the Emea, his Abrogation had been... just gone. As lifeless as the Spark he'd been so keenly aware of since before he'd been hurtled through that fucking Rupturing portal. Not even the merest shield or barrier was available to him, and he wasn't alone. The Dreamland that Zarik had trod so easily was locked and barred to him now; whatever happened, the magic had gone from the humans of Idalos. For trial after trial, they thought it would always be the case. Was Lissira behind it, too? It was possible, but could she really wield such power, to stop all magic, all dreams, across the world?

Doesn't matter. She saw we were weak, she took advantage. Saw her opening and rammed it up us to the fucking hilt.

"Come with us," Alsome said, reaching out to grab his cousin's shoulder. Voice low and urgent. "Be with your son."

There is was. The words not spoken. The secret never to be revealed. Out of instinct, Kasoria glanced around, eyes wide and fearful for a moment. As if some great enemy or his past was waiting to use this information against him. Ready to scurry of and plot a revenge by proxy... but no-one was there. No-one heard, or cared, or even slowed. The chief was done loading his wagons and precious cargo. The passengers were almost all aboard, and now the driver of the last wagon was looking their way.

"Kas, please," Alsome said. Twin girls, pale and hungry, floated at his sides. They looked up at their Uncle Kasoria and did not smile. Maybe they would never smile again. "There's nothin' left for you here. Everyone that matters is that way."

The assassin followed the farmer's finger down the road, into the bloody horizon where the sun was sinking into its grave. Long shadows were crawling over the cloudy sky from the east. The promise of more monsters to come, mayhap. Outliers from The Plague Mother. Swarms of insects. Fates, it could just be poison in the water or the air, wafting across this beautiful land and infecting it with all her hateful evil.

Kasoria knew what was down that road. Who was waiting for him. But back where he came... that was his home. The thought of yet another Immortal, ruining his home, his city, his people... Fates, but he hadn't felt this rage in so long. For ten days they had traveled across the lands of Etzos. They had seen horror and despair and depravity and desperation beyond the worst the Underworld or Underground the city had to offer. All of it unleashed by a mutant fucking creature who presumed to make a whole nation her plaything.

This was your father's home, and his father, back to the first of you, he thought, gripping his sword a touch tighter. This will be your son's home. So you have to make sure he has a home to return to.

Kasoria put out his hand, and Alsome sighed. He knew that look. A mind made up, and not nudged a jot by his words. He shook his cousin's hand, wrist to wrist, and pulled him in for a hug. The assassin stiffened in annoyance, then softened. Family was family, after all.

"Until that Day."

Kasoria smiled and closed his eyes, just for a moment. How many times that that been said, with ill-intent behind the words. A snide, sarcastic, ironic reference to a day of bloody retribution, not fond reconciliation. Now he actually meant it. He could imagine it, if he tried. He could see a day where his son returned, to a city restored. His cousin too, maybe. But mostly his boy. The boy's mother. Safe and unharmed and in an Etzos where no monstrous, unholy abomination crafted of rot and bile and putrescence could ever threaten them.

So make that day. However you can.

"Until that Day."

He kissed the man on the cheeks, and his nieces on both of theirs. Then he watched them scurry off, not wanting to miss their exorbitantly expensive seats on the wagon. He watched the family load all they had onto their laps or between their legs, as their "carriage" trundled out of the field. Two dozen more followed suit, along with a train of oxen and donkeys, pack animals loaded tall with goods. A few score of ragged militia escorted them, some still dirty and bloodied from past actions.

Kasoria watched them leave him behind in that city, soon to tear itself apart and be put out of its fitful misery by the Plague Mother. How much difference could he make, when that happened? How much could he do, a single man with but his blades and a little magic? The little man chuckled at the thought. Oh, that was hardly a "but" with him. He caressed the handle of his gladius, ghosted his fingertips of the hilt of the throwing knives under his arms, felt the reassuring pressure of the karambit at his back and the dagger in his boot. Then he raised his hand... spoke a whispered command into his mind... and watched the witchmark on his hand glow, his Spark obeying for an instant, then fading back into his skin.

Well. Better than nothing.

Mind made up, Kasoria turned on his heel and marched back towards the shadow-shrouded city. He had a horse to find and his property to reclaim. Then he was heading back home.
Last edited by Kasoria on Sun Jul 07, 2019 2:18 am, edited 2 times in total. word count: 1562
"This is the life we choose, the life we lead. And there is only one guarantee: none of us will see Heaven."
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Kasoria
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Re: have you passed through this night?

Fri Jun 28, 2019 2:02 am

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Martyn,

I know you are angry at me for not being there. Do not ever think I don't wish I was with you. More than anything in the world, I wish I was at your side at this moment. I would never leave again. But first, I have to make sure that you have a home to come back to.

I don't know how much you know or don't know. About what has happened. An Immortal has attacked the land of Etzos. She has burned towns, killed hundreds of thousands, and now I fear she is attacking the great city herself. I cannot leave without trying to fight, son. It's the right thing to do. Sometimes, doing the right thing, means you have to be parted from those you love.

Stay with your mother, and watch over her. Remember those histories I read to you. The best soldiers, the strongest knights, did not just know how to fight, but when to fight. Your father knows how to fight. I have known for a very long time. You are still learning. Do not rush back like the stories say. The real world has no mercy, and does not care for what stories say. I am sure you will receive word in Hilarith, when Lissara had been defeated and thrown back into her jungle. Then, and only then, when others have gone first and sent back word, are you and your mother to return. I will be waiting for you,.

I will make sure you have your home back. A home for us all.

You are the best thing in my life. Kiss your mother. Hold her and listen to her. She is the wisest woman I know. Keep training with your sword and shield, like we practiced. Every day, son. Running and exercising, as well. I'll know if you haven't been, when we see each other again. Our city needs good soldiers, son. I know you will be not just good, but great.

Read all I gave you, all you can find. Then read them all again. Read and read, learn and learn. A healthy and strong body is useless when a feeble mind is inside it. Remember that, if nothing else.

Your loving father.

K
Last edited by Kasoria on Sat Jul 13, 2019 4:09 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 388
"This is the life we choose, the life we lead. And there is only one guarantee: none of us will see Heaven."
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Re: have you passed through this night?

Sun Jul 14, 2019 9:32 am

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Comments

I'm so glad you decided to bring Kasoria back home now of all times. So much going down this season. This story almost reads like a stylized biopic, complete with personal letters.

The tragedy and hardship of the people fleeing Etzos is well described here, it was truly horrifying to read about, in a good way.

I'm glad Kas' son and his baby mama are alright, for now.

Points

Knowledge

Intelligence: Agreeing on a Contingency Plan
Medicine: Plague Spreads through Refugees
Rhetoric: Appealing to a Boy's Brain, Not Just His Courage
Psychology: Recognizing a Townspeople on the Edge of Collapse
Writing: Protecting a Letter from Damage with a Wax Paper Envelope
Writing: Writing Legible Common

Non-Skill Knowledge:
NPC Alsome: Lost His Wife
NPC Jessye: Got Out Before the Panic Hit
NPC Martyn: Safe With His Mother In Hiladrith
Etzos, Ymiden 719: Invaded by the Hordes of Lisarra, the Plague Mother
Etzos, Ymiden 719: Fordwell, Darington, and Crosstown Destroyed
Etzos, Ymiden 719: Etzos Prime Under Siege
Etzos, Ymiden 719: Magic Not working for Thirty Trials, Nor the Emea

Loot

n/a

Wealth

-15WPs sacrificed on the altar of story

Renown

n/a
word count: 192
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