• Closed • The Heart of Immortal Strife

18th of Ashan 721

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Woe
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The Heart of Immortal Strife


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18th of Ashan 721


Woe sat with the woman in the makeshift therapy room of the newly anointed Order of the Adunih chapter house in Egilrun. She, who was bedraggled by grief and disturbance and self-imposed starvation had not stopped her frantic ravings for all of the past hours. Threatening everyone and anyone. She could not be reached through reason. Woe for his part, couldn't understand her plight. She was wealthy, politically connected, with many friends who would lay down their reputations for her. By all accounts she was fortunate. Yet when it came to the occurrence of one tragedy, where she is pushed past the point of emotional endurance by the death of her child, she was rendered what Woe would consider irretrievably mad.

It was then, he was struck by a sudden epiphany. These mortals, their children, their lives were fleeting. Though evidence of the persistence of souls abounded, they still tore themselves with selfish grief at the loss of their favored child, their spouse, even their pets. Woe had seen it many times. And he came to a simple perhaps erroneous yet unavoidable conclusion. Mortal suffering was the most potent force for chaos in this world.

Through this revelation, he came to the belief that mortal hearts were more dangerous than any single Immortal artifact, any single spell unleashed by a revealed fiend. Compounded suffering could tear the world apart. He slowly came to realize, although it came fast in the presence of that woman, that The Mortal Heart was the source of all the world's problems.

He stood up from the chair in which he sat and bid the woman farewell. On leaving, he hung up his green cloak on the way out of the Order hall that he'd played a small part in founding. He would not return as a friend. Their mission and methods were not in line with his sudden epiphany.

Instead, he exited the town of Egilrun, exited via the road. As he walked along, he was trailed by Breen, who looked on with concern as he went. "Master... You are unwell?" Breen asked, sensing a strange emotion that he couldn't quite identify. It was like sorrow, almost like the nihilistic abandon that had prompted him to throw his life away on the snowfields north of Viden. But somehow, misdirected. "You aren't... Going to..."

Woe sent a telepathic message back to his familiar, shaking his head as he left the town behind him. "No, Breen. What I'm wrestling with is bigger than any of the nonsensical flailings of a love-sick idiot." Breen whined to hear that, and Woe could feel his dread before he asked. So he answered, "The Mortal Heart is the illness we've been sent to heal. We only need to find a way. I'm going to commune with my mother. Her shrine in Immortal's tongue."

It was with some bitterness, Woe reflected, that he found she was right all along, all those seasons ago in Etzos when she warned about the capricious whims of Mortals, clinging to Mortal loyalty. They needed devotion to something lasting, to salvage themselves from such fiends as sorrow, grief, and the worst of them all. Love.
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Re: The Heart of Immortal Strife


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20th of Ashan 721

He arrived days later at the University of Scalvoris, where he was to find passage to the island of Immortal’s Tongue. After asking around, avoiding the frail-looking, burrowed-in students, but skewing toward those who looked as if they’d actually seen the outside of the University, he acquired the name of a man who helped students and others gain passage to places all over the island. His name was Caelin Ash.

About the same age of Woe, the mortalborn surmised. Rumored to be an ex-pirate, but not officially associated with the University, he nevertheless helped students find their way around expeditions. Woe needed his services, and was of course prepared to pay for them.

”Oy, wot ‘ere mate? Gotcha get on wif a ride? Tar Immortal’s Tongue? Pfshaw. Been ferrying wee ones to and fro for the past many days. I can certainly give yar a…”

Woe laid down a trio of onyx coins in his hands. ”Silence and discretion. And passage. Just three things I need. Can you bring me to the northern shores?”

Caelin’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head, and he licked his lips. Discretion wasn’t something he was used to dealing in, or so Woe surmised, although he’d read people wrong before. But he had a backup in case the man didn’t know how to tie his tongue.

”Oy, yar? Let’s go mate.”

Thus was the ride arranged. Woe and Caelin made their way toward his ship. Woe had paid him to be the sole passenger, and with a minimal crew. Caelin was hardly one to argue, as it meant more of a share for his pocket.

Thus, boarding the ship and disembarking from the pier, they sailed on the way toward the shores of Immortal’s tongue.
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Re: The Heart of Immortal Strife


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21st of Ashan 721

The boat ride over to Immortal’s Tongue was mostly quiet. Sailors, marines, and captain of course barked and sung orders at each other. But these were occasional distractions, easily shrugged off and to the side.

The journey over, on the boat, was more a funeral march for Woe’s recent memories, his most recent set of upheavals and struggles, and mistakes. He reflected on where this journey all began, in the disease-rattled streets of Westguard, to the burning funeral mounds of Etzos, and then the Plague tunnels of Rhakros. But those were mere set pieces, what had mattered to him then, and what prompted this journey, was the people involved.

It was perfectly encapsulated by the sudden and meaningless death of his adopted daughter, Werthom. All from a food allergy. He wasn’t prepared for the torrent of grief and upheaval that that event had brought to him. Like a gaping wound, it allowed him to spill all of his grief to precisely the wrong stranger, Llyr Llywelyn. He could have ended him then. Llyr should have ended him then. But he didn’t.

Later they met again, by serendipity, through their mutual acquaintance Emilia Enners. Llyr didn’t like that Woe’d initiated her. Woe had done it, in a momentary fit of passion and attempt at domination. He had been a slave most of his life, and just wanted one thing to be his. Was that so bad? The wound from earlier was still raw, it seemed, and wished to be filled with… something, however temporary or wretched. Stuffing the wound with whatever black dirt happened to fall in his hands. Did he imagine he could love a strange whore from Scalvoris? Was that another illusion? A byproduct of his empathic wounds?

Nevertheless, the bleeding proceeded from there and finally ran up to a head, where after fighting against Rhaum and the Purveyor among the heroes of Rharne, he capitulated to death in the snowfields of Viden. Only to be saved by the most unlikely person, Gloom, his tunawa friend.

Lovalus had given Woe a boon, a strange power, that enabled him to rewrite a person’s entire psyche, their entire emotional tangle if need be, rebuilding parts of it or tearing down others. A completely new and fresh start. A new person, in all but body. The only catch? Woe and the recipient had to be in accord, complete accord. And well, was Woe in accord with himself? Not a moment before having his epiphany. But now, he thought he was on the cusp of deciding how he wished to use the power on himself. All he needed was the slightest of pushes. And so, he sought counsel from his mothers’ faithful, in the Shrine of Sintra.



Breaks later, they anchored in the shallows north of Immortal’s Tongue. Not far from where Sintra’s shrine lay, by Caelin’s account. Woe was in a longboat with him now, helping to row to shore. There, Caelin had promised to bring Woe to the shrine personally. He only asked what business Woe had at such a place.

”I run an orchard. I have a pest control issue that needs dealing with.” A small lie, and one he hoped Caelin wouldn’t question further as they struck the shore, and tie the longboat’s line under a boulder. Then they were off, to the interior of the island.

Caelin didn’t come further than around the outcropping where the shrine was. Woe was glad for that, but bid him wait, tossing him yet another onyx. ”Still more where that comes from Ash. Service is its own reward, sometimes.” Giving him a smile, he turned and walked toward the entrance to the caves, where his mother’s worshipers groveled and prayed mostly away from prying eyes.

Woe made an offering of his blooded leather hat, which held the string of nels that Iago had gifted him. Such a sentimental thing would have to be discarded. Woe would need the strength to do away with such baubles, if he had any hope of reforming himself.

And so did he enter the lair of the Arachnid.
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Re: The Heart of Immortal Strife


Not many wandered into Sintra’s lair in this season. It was cold yet, and not yet the time for planting. Those who visited now were likely to be on other business. Nonetheless, it would not be lost on Woe that the cave had seen its share of recent visitors. Although he did not see any supplicants as he picked his way down the web-lousy tunnels, he saw plenty of recent offerings lying about in niches, some being set upon by spiders even as he watched.

When Woe offered his hat, it did not just come to rest on the top of the altar; the brim brushed against to the stone wall in back, whereupon the mortal-born felt the hat pulled away from his fingers by some unseen force and saw it flatten vertically against the back wall of the shrine, where it clung as if glued.

”The Webmistress is clearly pleased by your offering, supplicant,” called a clear, sweet female voice softly from somewhere off to Woe’s side. This was followed by the soft tones of chords gently strummed on strings.

If he looked in that direction, he would see what appeared to be an alcove filmed with finely-woven sheets of spider-silk, and dimly lit by a source of light obscured by them. Although the alcove looked from Woe’s angle to be a dead-end, a figure stepped into view there from an unseen side-passage, a thin, tall, brightly-colored form amid the colorless, shimmering strands. The form reminded one of a red dragonfly fresh-caught in a web, yet it moved freely, even gracefully. As it turned towards Woe and emerged from the web-veiled alcove, Woe could see that it was a woman, dressed head to toe in brightly colored garments, and holding a musical instrument with strings stretched across a frame.

”I can tell,” said the woman, ”that you are one favored by our Mistress, and not just a farmer looking to control weevils. With time, I might even guess your name, but that would be rude. Tell me, and tell me your errand here.”
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Re: The Heart of Immortal Strife

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From the moment Woe stepped foot on Immortal, he felt strange. Maybe it was only his imagination or the way the seaspray filled the air, but his head, his heart, felt lighter here. As if this was as much his place as that of the Immortals and their pilgrims. But then, what was Woe ever if not a pilgrim. He had drifted from port to port for many arcs now, rarely settling for more than a season. Quacia had lasted longer than most, and yet the intolerance toward the Immortals' kin was strong there, and he could not abide it for long. It was always one thing or another that dragged him out of this or that city. Here he was determined, once again, to make a stand. At least until it became unprofitable and disadvantageous.

The entrance into the shrine was easily found. As a Mortalborn, he could sense those marked by his mother, Sintra. He was able to find his way by the sense he got from them. When one of them drew near, apparently the ranking webspinner of this shrine, or else one highly placed, his eyes fell on her. The sense granted that he wouldn't need to judge by her cover, and in truth, he would've suspected. This didn't strike him as the sort of place for a minstrel to linger, playing for the creepers and crawlers.

In any event, the offering was taken. Something that had some sentimental value to Woe. He would be lying if it didn't move him in some way that his adopted child had given him a gift, to go with his hat. It did sadden him somewhat to give it up, and wonder what would happen when his son asked whither it had gone. Yet that sorrow had no other connection to his tangle. It was just that, sorrow. He didn't and couldn't truly care enough for it to linger.

He listened to the woman. She had judged him a Lethroda. The priestess was correct, of course, and satisfied Woe's belief that she might yet be of use, whether for the counsel of a spiritual or worldly nature.

"I am Woe." He nodded to her, "I've come for advice on a personal matter."

He said, settling against the wall, careful not to disturb the eight-legged brethren that crept upon it. He didn't fear spiders, they were a friend to him at this point. Woe turned to face her and spoke what might've seemed a cryptic question, "If you could remake yourself, your personality, rewrite your mind and soul... Let me start again." Woe coughed into his hand, shrugging, "What is the best way for a Lethroda to be in their mind and soul? What is important? What isn't?"
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Re: The Heart of Immortal Strife


As Woe minded the spiders scuttling along wall and ceiling, so, too, did they mind him. They scuttled wide of him, not coming closer than an arm’s length or so, while he leaned against the cobwebbed wall. Beyond that, they went about their business, and about that of their patroness.

The woman with the lute came closer, strumming it, humming, singing quietly to herself: ”…out came the sun and dried up all the rain…” She paused, grinning as she gave her latest visitor an appraising look. The grin faded slightly into a more serious expression as Woe spoke, introducing himself and explaining his errand.

”Well met, Woe,” the minstrel said, not giving away with any change of manner nor expression whether that name meant anything to her, even though just a bit before she had boasted that she might already know it. ”You started to ask another question, and that interests me. Are you somehow convinced that you are other than what you need to be?” She picked a few random strings on her lute, producing sharp, icy, isolated tones. ”This is not good, and it is is not the right question, I think.”

She strummed a few quiet, unresolved chords. ”The way for a Lethroda to be,” she intoned in a sing-song voice that bore no obvious relation to the accompaniment of her instrument, ”is just the way they need to be to achieve their designs, and those of their Lady. Sintra would never have marked you, if you were not exactly what she needed you to be. And if she wished you to change, she would have nudged you in the appropriate direction.”

Her grin faded now as she approached Woe closer, and she regarded him more sternly. ”She would not be pleased with this talk of soul-searching and crisis. Do your brothers and sisters agonize over who they must be?” She indicated the spiders all around them, suddenly numerous and visible, with a sweeping gesture, which described almost a full circle until her hand crashed against the strings of the lyre to produce a loud, powerful chord. ”Who are you?” she crooned mockingly, repeating the sweeping, windmill-like gesture and again producing a loud chord. ”Who? Who? Who? Who?”

The minstrel paused to regard Woe sharply while the resounding strings slowly faded back into silence. After a moment, she let out a throaty laugh, though the laughter did not spread to her eyes. ”It is apparent to me that you are lost, Woe. And the reason you are lost, is because you are not focused on a goal. What does Woe want, more than anything? What does he work to achieve?

“Fools think that, if they just know ‘who they are’, the goals will sort themselves. That is backwards. Your goals, and the schemes you lay to achieve them, will tell you the way you need to be. So, again, tell me, Woe: What are your goals? Clarify the end, and the means you must become to achieve them will grow clear.”

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Re: The Heart of Immortal Strife

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The priestess was very unlike what Woe had expected, yet her words as she continued contained the timeless wisdom of the Webspinners. The true Webspinners, and not the pretenders that Sintra had toyed with in Etzos. It was often the way of the Webspinners to appear one way in order to provide a lure. One of the most integral parts of a trap, after all, was a lure. Or so Woe thought, with his limited knowledge of traps. He'd toyed with such contraptions while in Etzos, but that had been a mere flirtation with drawing people into a dangerous situation.

He minded her words, and the revelation of the answer came as something of a shock to him. It almost seemed too pedestrian to even consider uttering aloud, but there it was. He wouldn't lie to her. "I want a family, I want people of my own to belong to, and who belong to me." There it was, as clear as glass for Woe, yet somehow he'd hidden that motivation even from himself. It shone through in all his actions, from his adoption of Werthom, his grief over her premature death, and then the tryst with Magpie and his totem. He just wanted a place and people to belong to.

"That's what I want, and it's where I'll start." There were no grand designs besides this. Everything he did and pursued was in service to that end, which one wondered for it to seem so elusive a goal to an impossibly capable creature as a mortalborn. But Woe was uniquely incapable even among his own kind. Or so he felt.

There may have been more beyond that which he wanted. There may be a dynastic motivation, or perhaps his ambition would halt at a happy family. But then, the world would not let them alone. One always had to take another step beyond the first to secure his family's protection. But then, he needed to find someone he honestly wanted to make a family with. Such a thing was not done without mutual admiration and respect for the other's equality.

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Re: The Heart of Immortal Strife


Chalice plucked tentatively and singly at the strings of her lyre as Woe spoke. If he knew enough about such instruments, he would realize that she was probably retuning those strings after the crashing chords she had strummed earlier. In spite of this, she gave the impression of attending to the Mortal-born’s words. When he had finished, she paused her tuning to look up with a slight, cryptic smile.

”A family,” the priestess repeated quietly. ”I do not know if the Webspinner would approve. Have you not family enough here? Your siblings must number in the myriads!” She let out another cold laugh, and it seemed like chittering, clickeringYes, 'clickering' is a word, I've decided. The dictionary just hasn't caught up yet echoes of that laugh answered from every dark recess around Woe. ”A spider mates and moves on, if the male is lucky” Chalice continued, injecting a bit of malice into those last words. ”She lays eggs and moves on. Hmmm…”

Thoughtfully, she tuned another string, taking her time before speaking further. ”And yet, if such will give you focus and silence your bellyaching…yes. A family. You would first need a spouse, would you not? Spin your web of courtship and lure your heart’s desire into it, then ensnare them in the bonds of matrimony and the strands of family loyalty. Loyalty to you. Yes, that might just prove worthy of a Lethroda after all, even if it is a bit unorthodox.”

Chalice then began strumming chords of a bridal chorus Woe might recognize, though the lyrics she sang to it seemed changed:

”Here comes the bride
All caught in white
Wrapped head to toe in the Webspinner’s silk.”


She chuckled at her own improvised song. ”I wonder what your mother would look like in beige,” she mused. That idea seemed to amuse her, as well.

A few trills passed and then her manner abruptly turned more serious. ”It seems you have a goal, Woe. You now have but to decide on your quarry. You’ll have to look elsewhere, though. I’m married to my music, you see, and my work.” For a third time, Chalice’s musical yet dry laughter flowed through the dim tunnels, as she regarded Woe with unlit eyes.

”Now that you know better what you want," the Priestess asked him, "and can begin to imagine how you must be to pursue your suit, is their aught else I can do for your this trial?”
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Re: The Heart of Immortal Strife




In truth, Woe didn’t mind much what the Webspinners thought of him anymore. He wasn’t a true webspinner, he existed outside of their hierarchy, having been raised by the fangless spider, Erastus. Woe’s father had been a pathetic wastrel. Woe had no respect for him or his ways, and he’d not raised him as a webspinner, besides all of that. Perhaps because he wished to uphold his own sense of narcissistic grandiosity, by keeping him on a silken leash after ‘freeing’ him. In any event, Woe thought of him less as a father and more as a fleck of dirt on a stepping stone.

She told him his siblings numbered in the myriads. Woe did have his kinship with the spiders, and he heard their mocking clickering reflected in her own laugh. It was true that the spider mated and moved on, yet wasn’t there an art to their chase? The jumping spider danced for its potential mate. And while those that failed often were driven off, potentially eaten for their insolent displays, there was romance to it. Something that Woe longed to feel again, yet didn’t know if it was even worth it. The whole episode that had precipitated this soul-searching trip had been prompted by a mother’s grief. If love could do that, would he be strong enough to resist the pull into the negative spaces of his psyche? If he repaired his tangle?

She mocked him again with allusions to bellyaching and lack of focus. But then went on to describe the merits of his pursuit. Woe shrugged. It seemed she’d come full circle. And in time, Woe would know what to do.

She sang an amusing little song, and Woe couldn’t help but smirk. But she made a mention of beige. ”Beige?” Woe wasn’t knowledgeable about Scalvoris bridal customs.

Woe nodded to the Priestess, and bowed slightly from the waist. It appeared their audience was at an end, and Woe would have to depart. He would pay his respects at his Patron Chamadarst’s shrine, before leaving the island. But for now, he bid her farewell, and perhaps they’d meet again, ”Thank you, Webspinner. I appreciate the perspective.”

So saying, he bowed his head once more, and left the shrine.


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Re: The Heart of Immortal Strife


Experience: +15 xp

Knowledge:

Caregiving - …isn’t for everybody.
Discipline - Commitment and focus are acts of will, not results of insight.
Etiquette - Taking leave properly.
Etiquette - Expressing gratitude.
Investigation - Making inquiries to find the right man for a job.
Persuasion - Using bribes to get not only compliance, but discretion.
Psychology - Expecting mortals to be rational just leads to frustration.
Psychology - Not everyone can be helped; some people are just crazy.
Psychology - Having a clear outcome in mind is crucial to the success of counseling.
Rhetoric - Rephrasing a question.
Seduction - Courtship is a dance.

Skillplay: Appropriate to level

Consequences The Order of Adunih will reach out to Woe to find out what the problem is, and determine what effect if any Woe’s change of heart will have on his patronage. They will ask if Soraia plans to remain with the Order, regardless of Woe’s plans. Soraia will also be anxious about how this might affect her.

Loot: None.

Injuries/Overstepping: None.

Magic Experience?: None.

Renown: +10. Assuming Woe intends to “hang it up” figuratively with the Order, his abrupt departure will cause a stir.

Comments:
This was a very interesting thread. It started with Woe’s despairing of and disgust with the mortal condition, and ended with him deciding he wants a family. That journey was fascinating. And you do a really good job conveying the various sources of torment the character deals with, without coming across as mawkish or melodramatic. I hope Woe finds himself a nice black widow!

Let me know if you have any questions/feedback. Enjoy your rewards!
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