• Closed • The First Steps in a Thousand Arcs

The Vault Thread #1: Floor 1, Room 1

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Rowan
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The First Steps in a Thousand Arcs

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The hatchet bit through the spider's leg and then everything happened too fast. There was noise and movement and excitement, things flailing about as the energy brought on by his anger and pain wilted, the full agony of his situation sapping him. A whack to the chin was the last straw, the young man flopping, utterly defeated and a little stunned as activity continued around him. He had a vague understanding that there was a mouse armed with a big axe that was hacking at the wooden spider. Either the pain had made him a bit funny in the head and he was hallucinating or this was happening for real. Given how this trial was going so far, an axe-wielding and talking mouse should be considered fairly normal in the run of things.

He sat there in his daze, things blurred and sharp at the same time, some details clear while others couldn't be processed accurately. The pain was doing odd things to him now that he was becoming fully aware of it. He was too aware of the agony, predominantly aware of it in fact and it was probably a miracle that he managed to understand anything else at all. His time sense was confused, some segments slowed and others sped up, the pain eternally drawn out.

When the mouse came to talk to him, he made a non-committal noise.

"Wassa Sent'nel?" he asked with a slight slur. He wanted to sleep, he felt like he might but the world was too sharp for that, the edges too much for him to simply fall into oblivion. When they picked him up though, the darkness rushed towards him, making his vision tunnel but not wink out. Momentarily, he weakened, on the brink of passing out and then he was tugged back, the agony of consciousness dragging him back. Rowan didn''t realise it but he was sobbing, rambling a little as he cursed anything and everything for bringing him here. He cursed his homeland and his mother for driving him away, the Seven for setting him on this past, Syroa for taking her fury out on him, Amaris for shrinking him, abandoning him. The blond even cursed himself for his own stupidity and bravado.

When they started to tie him down, some sense returned to him, a dread mounting as he instinctively grasp what they were going to do to him. They were going to prod and poke. They were going to wrench at it and make the pain worse in their attempt at fixing him. The young man began to writhe, crying out for anyone to help him, calling on many of the people he'd just cursed, raving as he sobbed. Sephira might be able to help, she hadn't screwed him over, Amaris if they had reappeared, Syroa if she could just change him, give him a leg and make this torment a distant memory.

Then the *true* torture began, the cutting and tugging, his screams high, saliva pulling at the back of his throat so that he gurgled, choked, unable to breathe. He did his best to writhe free, desperate to escape this new torment. His face was drenched with sweat and tears, cold droplets raised on his forehead from the ordeal. They'd given him a strap to bite, pushing it close, an offering for him to endure his struggles. Rowan couldn't do it though, the taste of bile rising in his throat so intense that he feared if he bit it, he wouldn't get it out again. He might throw up and end up choking on it.

At some point, the pain was too much, too constant and so he fainted.
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The First Steps in a Thousand Arcs

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Her movements were almost mechanical as she moved quickly to the bleeding Rowan and tore off a strip of her beloved red coat to bind the stump of his mangled leg. The man might drive her mad but he sure as hell wasn’t going to die on her watch. She had allowed herself to get separated from the team and Rowan had paid the price for it.

“Hang in there Rowan.” Sephira said somberly, her voicing somehow coming out clearly from the mouth of her mouse form as if she was still in her normal body.

The other mouse made quick work of carrying Rowan’s broken body back into the workshop with the mage trailing behind in silence. She should have been faster and she should have never allowed herself to lose track of them. But at least Rowan was still hanging on to life. For a moment the Element wondered where Amaris was and if they was in as bad a shape as her companion that was now being carried away.

Rowan was brought into the workroom where the other apprentices were and placed on a broad wooden table. Sephira simply stood there, silent as the other mice began the desperate work of saving him. Finally the mouse that had helped kill the spider turned to her and thankfully gave her a job to do. It was a comfort to be given orders in a way; it felt more like her normal life and not this insanity.

“Maester...?” Sephira muttered to herself just as Charlie finished giving her instructions. She believed him when she said that this task would be dangerous. There was something about the wooden man outside that unnerved her and she knew that if she remained in this form that this mission would be all the more difficult.

For a trill she looked down at the struggling Rowan and then her eyes snapped back up toward the mouse.

“Consider it done.” The somber tone to her voice and had been replaced with a sense of purpose. If they could help Rowan then she would do whatever was needed to help them and make this right.

The mage kept Omnivision active allowing the slow drain of her ether into her Attunement Spark, as it kept her nimble and quick , even in this unfamiliar form. Her tiny little claws scratched at the wooden floor as she raced forward at a sprint while sheathing her miniature version of Wyvern.

Sliding beneath the door to the shop outside Sephira emerged behind the desk where Charlie Barkley was dusting off some of his wares seated on the tabletop. The wooden man hummed softly to himself as he took a feather duster to a rather intricate carving of a roosting Enormowl.
Sephira focused on one thing and one thing only, his toes. The wooden man was seemingly barefoot and his second toe was clearly the longest of the bunch. It was big enough that Sephira in her mouse form would likely have to carry it in two hands; hopefully it would be long enough to give Rowan what he needed.

She couldn’t use her saber to cut the wood, she would need something sharper, stronger and more...surgical in nature. It was likely that Sephira would have only one shot to get the piece of wood that she needed if she was to get out alive.

That meant that she was going to attempt something she had only every toyed with in practice.

She would be using Rupturing to slice through Charlie Barkley’s toe. Portals were unique in that they would cleanly slice through any object; if that object was left sitting between the Ingress and Egress of a portal when it closed. Hopefully this would be the manner in which Mr. Barkley’s toe would function.

Sephira slowly and nimbly moved closer to him, trying to stay clear of him whenever he shifted his footing or moved. Omnivision helped immensely in this as it allowed her to feel his movements as well as any uneven places on the floor beneath her feet that might cause her to trip.
Taking slow careful steps the mage moved in until she was sitting just behind the heel of the wooden man on his left foot. Her aim would need to be precise and her timing perfect if she was to open the portal right where she wanted to make the cut. Charlie would probably hear the portal open, even if it was small, additionally he might also feel the toe being removed.

Speed was going to be paramount.

Aiming precisely for the second toe in from the big toe Sephira began to pool ether right above the joint where the toe joined with the rest of his foot. Her little mouse eyes glowed with her witchmark as she tugged to the fabric of reality right at the point that she wanted to make the cut and a opened the portal.

It all happened rather quickly, and with much less finesse than she had hoped for. The portal opened with a loud ‘pop’ rather than a boom and expanded, slicing through the wooden toe. As soon as she had opened it Sephira waved her hand to close the portal and threw herself forward at a full sprint, skittering over the top of his foot to snatch up the dismembered toe.

The mouse mage found herself catapulted sideways with the toe as Charlie Barkley snatched his foot up, immediately noticing that something was very wrong. Sound thundered and boomed around her and it became clear that he knew what she had done. Sephira landed with a hard thud , but kept her furry arms wrapped tightly around the toe. She had to get it back to Rowan.

The door to the workshop lay just ahead of her, but she had a very loud and a very cross wooden man right on her tail. Sephira scrambled to her feet and took off in a bee-line toward the bottom of the door. Steps thundered behind her like miniature earthquakes. Though Omnivision she could "feel” feet and limps stomping and reaching toward her and the mage wove her path back and forth, narrowly being missed by the enraged wooden man. Finally only steps from the workshop door Sephira dropped to the ground to try and use the inertia she had built up to carry her under the door and toward Rowan and the mouse currently performing surgery on his mangled leg. She had no idea if Charlie Barkley would follow her through the door but she didn’t intend to look back to find out.

“Here!” she cried sharply,gasping for air as she held out the dismembered toe toward the mouse.
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The First Steps in a Thousand Arcs

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- common / murnasian

Amaris was tired of running. Running, here, was a very loaded word, but for the purposes of the current situation - it meant that they were sorely in need of a rest. They had gone from running to safety, to running to danger. And still, they had somehow managed to be incredibly slow about it. They had lost sight of Charlie Mouse and while that in some ways would feel like something they wouldn’t be distressed about, it was in this case. The creature scampered more quickly than they had thought would be expected of an upright, two-legged gait for a creature meant to be on all fours. The mixed blood was now, however, running the risk of getting lost within the walls.

And so they ran. Still, they had fallen behind enough that they missed some portion of the ordea. (Which was good for them, as their stomach might not have agreed entirely with the scene.) Again heaving deep breaths, they couldn’t manage much of an answer as another mouse appeared and Rowan slipped into unconsciousness. A few more moments of pulling themselves together, they trudged forward on very tired legs. “I am here,” Amaris managed to get out, brows furrowed and looking about as close to passing out Rowan. Silvery strands of hair fell into their face, hands braced on their hips and shoulders slumped.

Do we need to add another tally to the number of accidents you’ve caused? Well, this was a marvelous time for that not-so-small voice to speak up. The mixed blood pressed their lips together, jaw clenched. For now, they would provided assistance as needed, though they doubted how much help they could be in this situation. Amaris made a note to apologize as soon as Rowan was awake again, and think of some way to make up for all of this.
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The First Steps in a Thousand Arcs

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Charlie Wood quickly grabbed the large, wooden toe from Sephira, and looking back at the now arrived Architect, "Don't let him die on us!" Charlie made haste away from the table where Rowan was strapped down, accompanied by other mice, leaving Amaris alone with Sephira and the unconscious man. They led the way over to another work table, complete with a bunch of tools ready to use. The group had a small amount of time for a reprieve.

The door to the workshop was ripped open, and Charlie Barkley was glaring down from outside the door. His voice was back to deep and menacing, "How dare you attack me?!" He stepped through the door, and his demeanor once again changed back to passivity. He looked around, confused as to why he was in the workshop, shrugged, and stepped back out into the shop, returning to work.

The mice worked quickly over at the workbench, and before long, returned with a new leg in hand, masterfully crafted by the team of carvers. Charlie Wood carried it back over, setting it on the table beneath Rowan's stump. "Maester, you must attach this. Pour your power into the leg, raw, unfocused. If you fail, and your Crux comes forth, you'll destroy the leg, or worse. Architect, you need to get inside the Sentinel's mind, wake him up, keep him whole through this painful transition. Just follow the bond that all Architects and Sentinels hold. If you fail, he could die, and even if he doesn't he might be so far gone that there's nothing left of the Sentinel you know."

If Amaris sought out this bond, they would find it. It was ephemeral, a thin line that conjoined the souls of both Architect and Sentinel. By following this bond, Amaris would find themselves thrust into Rowan's mind. At first, Amaris would only be able to see a room of pure darkness. There was nothing substantial around the Architect. They could feel the connection with Rowan, but it was disjointed, scattered. And there didn't appear to be a way out. Rowan, despite being unconscious, would be able to feel any invasion in his mind. It was one of the gifts of being a Sentinel. The violation of his mind would trigger automatic defenses, as well as attempt to arouse the man from his unconsciousness. And within his own mind, the Sentinel was god. He could create anything, do anything, be anything within there.

"We must work fast, Maester."

With that, Charlie Wood untied the rope that was used to cut off circulation to Rowan's stump, and the blood began to flow freely. Charlie lined up the leg, which fit perfectly into the space he'd carved out, and held it there as blood seeped out around it. He held it in place with perfect precision, while the other mice focused on keeping Rowan completely still, even in unconsciousness. Now it was completely up to the Maester to do her part, and if she failed, he'd bleed to death.
 ! Message from: Aegis
Sending each of your a PM. For this round specifically, I think post order should go Sephira > Amaris > Rowan > Amaris then me. I do apologize if this is an inconvenience, and as such I will not be hard enforcing a posting time limit.
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It was a strange sensation to feel the hairs prickle across the entirety of her little mouse body as Charlie Barkley ripped open the door behind her and she heard the dark foreboding voice from earlier. However her fear was misplaced as the wooden man simply turned on his heel as if lost and returned to the shop outside. Sephira breathed a sigh of relief just as the axe wielding mouse from earlier turned his attention to her.

The mage had never poured her raw ether into anything, she hadn’t even known that it was possible. In the real world her magic was always expressed through her Sparks , they decided how it manifested not her. Her mortal body wasn’t made to handle power like a Spark was, not to mention she might be running low on ether soon especially if she simply dumped what she had into the leg. But Sephira knew that there was little choice and she would not hesitate to help save Rowan. Even if he was an idiot, he didn’t deserve to die or to be a cripple if she could alter his fate.

Nodding Sephira shut off her use of Omnivision to conserve what energy she hand left and came to stand in front of the freshly carved wooden leg. She could only guess that when the mouse mentioned the word Crux that he meant her Spark. She had no doubt that her Sparks would be rather angry at their host gifting her ether to something other than themselves. That was the deal between the mage and the Spark, the sorcerer provided them with ether and the Sparks granted them their abilities.

Sephira was about to violate that pact.

“I’ll do it.” She said lowly while placing her small clawed hands along the length of the wooden leg. She waited for Amaris to take her place before she began to reach for that inner reserved of ether within her soul. It swam into her grasp much as it always did before she fed it into one of her Sparks but this time the mage directed the raw untempered energy into her hands and the leg beneath her fingertips.

A radiance wept from her hands, in the same hue as her crimson portals before being channeled into the leg. It burned terribly; scorching her etheric channels like hot wax poured over the skin. Sephira closed her eyes to conceal her wincing from the sensation. After a few trills she felt the resistance start and the sudden jealously of her Sparks.

Her Attunment Spark more or less sulked in the corner like a scolded kitten but her Rupturing Spark flew down from its roost in her soul like a falcon defending its territory and began to claw ferociously at the energy she was freely giving away.

Sephira gasped softly, as she felt her Spark trying to steal any shred of the ether from her grasp as to launch her into a portal and away from Rowan. She resisted, focusing only on the scalding sensation that coursed its way through her arms and into the leg. Sometimes pain could be a welcome friend, it kept you focused and remind you that you were still alive.

Her Rupturing Spark lashed out, snatching away a wispy tendril of ether that was passing through her grasp. Sephira could feel as bright scarlet ripples of energy curled around her body, warping space as her Spark attempted to open a Blink portal to get her away from Rowan.

“No...” she whispered between gritted teeth. Her face contorting with the inner tug of war she was fighting. The warping of space around her seized up for a moment, before going silent. For a half trill Sephira thought she had won the battle, but in that moment she nearly lost the war.

Her Spark came back with a roaring intensity; bright tongues of energy crackled around her body as it grasped wildly for her ether like a spoilt child. She had to focus on the pain, if only to keep her grounded and to stop her mind from becoming distracted by her Spark’s incessant efforts. Hot tears stung at the corners of her eyes just as the Spark leapt at the stream of incandescent ether again. The light faltered for a moment, flickering as she dropped down to a knee all while keeping a death grip on the wooden leg.

“No!” Sephira cried with a painful yell while her brows knitted together in concentration.

This is what had happened before, when the docks had collapsed. She had allowed it to take control...and to do as it wished.

Not this time...never again.

The mage took a deep calming breath, and her face visibly relaxed.

‘No, you can’t have it.’ She whispered silently but firmly within the confines of her own mind. She didn’t know if the Rupturing Spark could hear or even understand her thoughts, but it made her feel better to say the words.


‘Not to-trial. Give me this, please.’
She asked solemnly, while keeping a firm hold of her own ether. Sephira had tried forcibly controlling her Spark before; perhaps it was time that she simply asked it to give her control.

Perhaps she would never know if her plea worked but evidently she had held on long enough to transfer enough ether into the leg, because suddenly the wooden surface began to dance with crimson symbols that etched themselves into its surface. The runes were strange and alien but somehow they conveyed meaning to Sephira in particular. They emulated concepts that she held dear: Loyalty, Courage, Family, Friends and even one that whispered of Magic.

All at once the soldier felt terribly faint, she had dumped a great deal of ether into the leg and now she was feeling the aftereffects. Had she overstepped? She couldn’t be sure. The mage had never used ether in such a way before and she couldn’t be sure of the price that she would pay. But at the very least her Spark seemed to have grown silent and pensive, returning to its place in her soul.
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Charlie Wood stared in disbelief at the Architect, "What are you doing?! Get in there! He needs you!" But with no sign of movement from Amaris, Charlie Wood had to make a tough decision. But there were some people who were simply worth it, and Sentinels were among them. "Maester. You'll have to do it. Or he will be lost." He looked around at his fellow apprentices, those who'd worked with him far beyond the natural length of their lives, trapped in this place. They'd worked together for so long, they knew what he was thinking, and knew he could never ask what was required of them.

He'd taught them his craft, taught them the secrets to bringing life to the inanimate, to put a piece of them within a masterpiece. They were family, they were the dearest of friends. And so, they did what was needed. Each apprentice stepped forward, and placed their paws on Rowan's wooden leg, while Charlie held it precisely where it needed to be, for a frog's hair in the wrong direction would forever ruin it. A glowing poured from each mouse's chest, and each one of them stared toward Sephira. Her Attunement spark could hear their frequencies, and they were beautiful. It was like hearing a rainbow, tasting a diamond's shine, feeling the scent of mum's home cooking.

Soon the glows moved from each chest, down through the mice's arms. The glows passed from hand into the wooden leg, and as each one pushed in, the mouse it came from slumped to the ground, their musical frequencies gone. One by one, each mouse's body died, their souls passed into the leg. And tears poured down Charlie Wood's face as each thud came through, until it was just him and the three adventurers left standing. The leg was humming with power, crafting a symphony that reflected the ancient lives of those souls sacrificed to it. The music was pure, more beautiful than anything that could be crafted by a mortal. An impossible perfection. A song so penetrating, Rowan could hear it through his unconsciousness.

The song penetrated the darkness, and was changed by it. Beautiful, terrible, powerful. It permeated everything through Rowan. "Maester. You need to bridge the connection. Join the song. Enter his mind through it." It would require a physical touch to bridge the connection, would require a piece of Sephira to be sacrificed to Rowan, if she had anything left to give. But if she gave it, she could reach him. Could find him within the darkness of his mind.
 ! Message from: Aegis
Skipping over Amaris this round. Sephira and Rowan, you two need to work up what it will be like if Sephira enters Rowan's mind, as well as the post order for you two.




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Horror flashed across the mage’s face as she watched Amaris simply stand there as more and more raw ether flowed into the leg. Charlie Wood tried getting Amaris’s attention but nothing seemed to have an effect. The mouse turned to Sephira and told her what she knew had to come next. To save Rowan she would need to be the one to hold his mind steady, even though she had barely anything else left,;barely a drop of ether left within her soul. She wasn’t an Architect like Amaris was, so she would have to improvise. The soldier’s vision swam as she released the leg and she weakly moved toward Rowan’s side, pushing past the councilor.

“I’ll do whatever I can.” She whispered before looking down at Rowan’s face. He was pale and one could barely tell that life still clung to him. She and Rowan were so different and yet they were also in a way the same. They both had vulnerabilities that she supposed that they somehow recognized in each other.

Charlie Wood turned toward the other mice within the workshop and Sephira turned to see a glance shared among them. Her mouth opened lightly as the apprentices approached one by one and placed their hands on the leg.

“What are they doing?” The woman said, her voice faltering with the sudden realization of what was about to happen. Her Attunement Spark recognized it before she did; it felt the song, the push and pull, the ebb and flow of life that passed between the mice and Rowan. Sephira found her fingertips placing themselves almost automatically on Rowan’s forehead while her left hand took hold of his hand. The sound...it was the very frequencies of the life-force leaving the apprentices reverberated against her Spark, she could taste and feel what was being given up for Rowan’s life; it was a gift like no other. She wasn’t sure if Rowan would ever be able to comprehend what had been exchanged for his life if he managed to survive but Sephira did understand. The mage lifted her gaze to Charlie Wood’s, there was a sadness there and an understanding of what was being sacrificed. But the mouse didn’t waste time on such things, instead he was focused on saving Rowan and gave Sephira the instructions she needed.

“Join the Song. Enter his mind through it.”

Join the song; this was something she had done once before with her master Elias when he had first brought her into magic that was Attunement. There was a song exchanged between teacher and student and Sephira found herself on the other side of that exchange this time.

The woman took a deep breath and collected the last few precious drops of ether that she had left and reached out toward Rowan’s mind.
Everything went black.

But she wasn’t alone because the song was still there, the music still flowed around her and her Attunement Spark sang along, keeping her connected to it.

Unexpectedly, heat blossomed against her skin and flames erupted all around Sephira; the ground trembled and she was suddenly aware of the sound of screaming in the distance. She knew that voice.

Rowan.


Tall, once beautiful buildings surrounded her but they were all now drenched in flames. The mage was no longer within the workshop but was now inside the heart of some great burning city, her body even looked like it normally did for the time being. The spiraling stone buildings rose up on either side of her and at the end of the ashen cobbled street was a harbor where the water itself was somehow burning with flames. Boats floating within the bay were smoking with gleaming embers and men and women working the sails and rigging glowed with the same heat.

“Rowan!” Sephira shouted, her voice echoing strangely across the alien landscape. The entrancing music and the link with her Attunement Spark was still with her, it was their tether to the waking world, Sephira knew that she had to keep hold of it until she found Rowan.

The sorceress caught sight of a shape at the end of the road, there were three figures surrounding one that lay crumpled on the ground. Shadowy masculine figures kicked and hissed at the collapsed shape of what appeared to be a woman. For a brief moment the woman leaned upwards and her shape shifted into the body of someone that was far more familiar.

“Rowan...” The soldier whispered softly in confusion before she began sprinting toward the group. Flames swam around her and the heat pressed in against Sephira, but she focused everything she had on maintaining the connection and holding on to the music that would guide them home. Occasionally bright lances of fire would come careering out of thin air toward the soldier, but she managed so dodge around the otherworldly attacks. Perhaps it was simply Rowan's mind attempting to frighten off the invader.

Just as the woman made it to Rowan she felt the connection flicker and waver. Sephira staggered just a step shy of Rowan who was lying prone on the ground as her knees slammed into the cobblestones and a breathless cry escaped her throat.

Her ether was nearly gone, if not completely gone, yet her Attunement Spark hungrily continued singing along with the music manifested by the life-force of the apprentices; it simply wouldn’t let go.

She had so little left to give.

“Rowan you need to listen to me.” The mage whispered as she struggled to keep hold and not lose herself to the Spark. Her eyes stung with the warmth of tears as pain siezed in her chest. As an Attuner, Sephira had never struggled with that particular Spark, as it had always been a gentle thing, but now it threatened to consume her. It was almost humorous; that after everything, it might be her Attunment Spark that stood a change of destroying her, rather than her Rupturing Spark.

“I know you are in pain, and I know you probably don't like me very much.” Sephira hissed through gritted teeth as she crawled toward him. The men who had been kicking him seemed to have become frozen at her appearance. This all had to be tied to some memory. Some part of Rowan’s past that continued to haunt him even now.

“But just stay with me, please stay with me Rowan.” The Element said weakly while she reached out to take Rowan’s pallid hand in her trembling one.

“You aren’t alone, just stay with me!” Her words came out in brittle gasps as she held on to him. Sephira reached out with what tiny fragment of power she had left and began weaving the music around them, to hold Rowan steady and keep her tethered to reality. Her Attunement Spark sang, winding its bright silvery voice amid the melody and Sephira felt a wave of dizziness hit her. Her vision blurred before going black, and she knew nothing else.

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Re: The First Steps in a Thousand Arcs

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Oblivion didn't last.

Pain had driven him to unconsciousness but something close by, some energy dragged him back, trapped within his body and the agony but kicking and screaming in his mind. It was like a nightmare except that he could feel, that he was aware. There was a faraway hum of voices, his mind translating the sound as rumbling. It melded with the agony, the burning of what seemed like every nerve ending, white-hot. Rowan's mind added it together to create something of a fever dream, his mind taking the familiar and making it uncanny.

Rynmere had been his home, a horrible, horrible home for many arcs, although he had seen very little of the island kingdom. He'd been to the capital a few times, Andaris itself with big fancy stone buildings for the nobility and royalty, smaller buildings of wood and brick for those who were poorer. So many people, so full of frivolity, so many people in the higher parts of the city not having to do a trial's work in their lives. Rowan had hated them for it, hated the city, hated it all. And yet now he was stuck with it, or pieces of it at least, juxtaposed with parts of his childhood home. There was the harbour near to where he had lived, the ships he had been forced to stow things on, hauling heavy crates, dragging nets, whatever was asked of him. All of it was here, smashed together in a combination that didn't exist in real life, squashed on top of one another.

And the whole thing was ablaze, even the sea.

It was both his pain and a perverse wish of his that the whole place would go up in smoke - literally. So many times, he'd wished that those schooners, brigs and big heavy galleons would be reduced to kindling, the fishermen tangled in their own nets, bloated and grey corpses. He knew that below the flaming water, under the dancing blaze, those fishermen lay drowned, untouched by the inferno that raged everywhere else. People moved around on the other ships, fire haloed around their heads as it shivered over their hair and clothing, wrapped around their limbs. On some level, the blond knew it all, even if he wasn't watching every detail. This was his mind and he could experience this odd landscape in a different way than anything he could experience while awake.

His past blended into the present in other odd ways, past hurt married to current pain as he dealt with the agony that Sephira was causing him now.

Trevan...

The dock worker had been his - well hers, Em's - boyfriend. It had been him that she'd first tried to explain her feelings to, the gender issues, the wrongness, the desire to try male pronouns. He, no, she - he couldn't keep his gender identity clear in his head as past crashed into present - had tried trusting him and it had freaked the young man out. Emmeline had been freaked out too, hadn't known who or what she was. And Trevan had tried, seemed to accept that his girlfriend might in fact be his boyfriend, but he'd also told his friends, other dock workers. They had not been kind.

Once again, the young man found himself vulnerable and terrified, curled in upon himself, shifting between his memory body, the more feminine one, and his current one, so carefully constrained. They surrounded him, kicking him, voices an indistinct rumble now as they inflicted their pain. The remembered abuse seeped into him, Rowan crying out, wanting it to end and that was when something current shattered the illusions of the past.

Sephira.

The mage came from nowhere, blazing in his subconscious so brightly that she showed up against the inferno around her, those flames paling in comparison. The woman was more solid, more real. The young man sobbed, relieved and terrified by the sight of her, and reaching for her.

Save me, his body language said, expression plaintive, pleading as he begged for rescue. He couldn't rescue himself; he hadn't the last time and this was so, so much worse.

"I don't deserve this," he cried out, whimpering as she moved to envelop her. "I'm just me. I didn't do anything wrong. I just wanted to be myself."

He tried to curl around her, desperate for contact, comfort. She helped him focus, senses clearer while she was close. There was a warm touch, light on his skin, a scent that was somehow familiar - a Sephira smell - that he didn't think he could have learned in their brief acquaintance. Yet he did know it, he realised, and it was comforting.

"'m not alone. You're here. Don't leave me," he mumbled, reaching for her mentally, physically, he wasn't really sure. She was upset and he wanted to return comfort, make it a mutual thing. He wanted to keep her steady too.
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Amaris
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Re: The First Steps in a Thousand Arcs

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They were slow to the draw. Another thing they were becoming quite adept at. Amaris ad frozen, locked. Enter his mind? Oh, no; that couldn’t spell out good even if Amaris had forced the letters into shape. And they likely wouldn’t have been able to, no matter how hard they tried. Envisioning themselves in the mind of Rowan was an image far from their mind. At that - did it work both ways? Will he see just how crazy you are? That was even further from good than being in there in the first place.

But it was Sephira who volunteered in their stead. Not unexpected in the slightest. The element had a penchant for bravery that Amaris did not, and they appreciated it. But now was not the time to be appreciative. Now was supposed to be the time for action - and yet Amaris could not bring themselves to move. Not when they suspected that they’d be just as much help in there as they’d been out here; none.

Swallowing, they teetered on the edge of spectating and participating. The mixed blood was very much pro-spectating at this point, fretting from the fringes of it all. There wasn’t much else they would be able to do. Not aside from what Charlie Mouse had suggested and that was still very much an unpleasant idea. No. But they had gotten Rowan into this mess and it was only right that they should bring him back. If they could bring him back.

And just as Sephira had, so did Amaris join in. Late, but there, nonetheless. And what they were greeted with was fire and blurred faces that didn’t seem to panic. Or maybe they did and the mixed blood couldn’t notice over their own state. “Sephira? Rowan?”
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Sephira
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Re: The First Steps in a Thousand Arcs

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The abyss swept up to embrace her. Sephira felt it approach as her Attunement Spark spiraled out of control within the sway of the music. Everything felt so distant, as if she was falling down into nothingness. She was alone, with nothing but her spark as it ate away at her soul.

Then her senses began to trickle back to her. First came the sensation of touch, she felt Rowan reach out for her, taking her hands and bringing his body in close to hers. There was no sound, she was essentially blind and deaf as her Spark tore away at her senses.

But there was warmth, however it wasn’t from the fire, instead it came from him; from Rowan.

It was good not to be alone in this dark place.

She had been on her own for nearly the past arc. Elias was dead and her mother wouldn’t speak to her now that she knew of her identity as a mage. Life had been difficult, but even amid everything Rowan had been there. Always in fleeting encounters but she had always been able to see that fear in his eyes when they were together. He had known what she was from their first meeting, and he had made no secret of the fact that he wasn’t all that fond of magic. The unknown was a frightening thing after all.

Tears wept from her eyes as she wrapped her arms tightly around the thin figure of the man and held him. There was pain and fear tearing through her but there was also Rowan and the music that surrounded them like bright incandescent light.

Her sense of hearing began to return to her next, along with her sense of smell. This delay in her senses must have something to do with overstepping with her Attunement spark. Sephira didn’t have but a split trill to even consider this as she heard Rowan’s voice come lancing through the darkness that swallowed her. She was blind and terrified, but his voice and touch grounded her. She was not alone and neither was he.

"I don’t deserve this, I'm just me. I didn't do anything wrong. I just wanted to be myself."


For a moment the woman was transported back to the night overlooking the dimly glowing lights of Scalvoris Town with Rowan at her side. She had brought him there after she had fled from Cally’s restaurant after a particularly horrifying fit of booming sneezes, caused by her ridiculous Rupturing Spark. While the man hadn’t really appreciated being teleported to the edge of town, that hadn’t stopped him from comforting her. There had been a mutual understanding between them that night, and Sephira hadn’t forgotten it.

“There’s nothing wrong with being yourself.” She whispered painfully with sightless eyes as she held him.

“You know this is you.” The mage said gently, recalling the words he had said to her that night as the music surrounded them swelled. She could hear it, even if she couldn’t see right then in that moment.

“And you must be true to yourself.”

Her vision wasn’t returning but it didn’t matter, because at least she wasn’t alone and now everything made sense.; Rowan’s body shifting from male and female, the male figures assaulting him. Not to mention his otherworldly wisdom when it came to her questioning her own identity as a mage.

She understood utterly and completely.

“I’m not going anywhere.” Sephira whispered softly as she continued to hold him. She didn’t know what they could do next. Rowan had been found, hopefully it meant that his mind would be calm enough to withstand whatever was happening to him out in the real world. The mage didn’t know how she would return either, not that it really mattered in that moment. Although she did distantly catch the sound of her name and Rowan’s being called by a familiar voice.

“Amaris...?” she whispered in confusion.
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Posting again since Aegis said we were to go another round between ourselves :)
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