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The bigger the beast, the greater the revelation [M] Chevy & Rabbit

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Offline the_rabid_rabbit_bites

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The morning broke, muted twilight giving way to a heavy, pearly grey sky that threatened rain. The heavy, smothering heat of the jungle remained. It descended like a thick, misty blanket, making those who had turned out to see the morning’s bloodsport. The arena, that had previously been used to train students and animals alike, had been set up for a single test, and already, at the crack of that dismally oppressive dawn people were already filing in to get seats, curious about what the famed necromancer had chosen to do with his disgraced student.

There was a raised platform to one side of the arena, as if someone were planning to stand there. Beneath it, the gates to unleash whatever would be the final … test? Or punishment? Were closed.

”Up! GET UP! UP! NOW!” In the dormitories, the severe headmistress Madame Rust was screeching at a tiny, wild haired girl.  She was small, her sun browned skin marred with pink skin – the result of a fresh burn that had covered nearly half her body. Her stomach was swollen, clearly pregnant, and she was in no shape to be dragged out of bed, roughly dressed, and dragged down the living wooden stairs to the Calxifer arena.

The way those students who hadn’t packed the arena to see her lined the mezzanine, the pillared entrance hall, making a path for her to be dragged, shamefully, with her cloak over her head, to the outdoors. It was useless, everyone knew her name. Some jeered, some screamed encouragement. But, for all the mixed shouts that, for once, went unchecked, everyone had made their decisions. Eden, the wild mage who had been sent to the Wastelands in a last ditch attempt to tame her, was going to return deeply damaged.

Even with the cloud cover, the light was blazing, dazzling after the darkness of the school’s interior. And still, there was no sign of any friendly faces that made a tunnel to the gates of the arena. She was thrown into the center of the arena, into the harsh, gritty sand.

It was so quiet. It was like every living thing that made a jungle had been snuffed out, holding its breath. Because of course, when she would look... The scene was begging her to look, to raise her head and finally, face the last test Helios had demanded she endure publically. The crowd was silent looking on.

-x-x-

Helios had told no one of what this final test would be. He stood now, in front of the beautiful Dryad Aerina. He looked almost mournful as he bandaged his face, trying to hide from the school the worst of the damage the Crown of Necromancy had inflicted on him, rendering his scalp a twisted, oozing mass and his eyes pulpy sockets, studded with iron.

His internal conflict was written all over his torn and oozing face. They stopped, he sat, his face in his hands. While the display was uncharacteristic, it was ambiguous why he was so upset – it was, after all, a test to put pressure on Eden, to make her sink or swim. Up until now, he had always been kind and fair – his rule had been some of the most peaceful in the charted lands, and surely, surely his integrity would hold up now….

“Oh Aerina…” He was saying. His usual consort, the Kingsguard Furiental, was nowhere to be seen, and he had refused a servant, so it was the dryad woman who helped him put on the ornate ceremonial armour – it was not needed, but he felt the need to don it for his role as the executor of the last test. “I only hope she understands. I only hope she knows. I hope …”

What could he say exactly? Everything Aerina had known – and loved him for – was on the line. He knew, intrinsically, this was as much a self-destructive action as it was a test for his student. He wanted to drive her away, to finally express the anger and sadness he had suppressed for so long. His twisted back was to her, and it took a second to realize his shuddering gasps were sobs.

He held it together long enough to put the rest of his armor on, and drew Aerina into a long, cold and thorny embrace, the spikes in his armor digging into her flesh. “Oh Aerina, please, do this one favor. From one broken being to another. Don’t watch Eden’s last test.”

-x-x-

Helios stood on the platform, far away from reaching hands and prying magic. From up there, it felt like he could have been able to see. Above the arena, jarred souls hung suspended from  crisscrossing ropes. The light was blazing, illuminating Eden’s huddled form on the ground. As she looked, as her eyes met his ghastly sneer. He began to speak. “This is your last test, Eden. There is no time limit, but it will kill you, if it can,” He boomed. “Neutralise the threat.”

The crowd roared, and a metallic grinding and clanking assaulted Eden’s ears. From within the gates, something moved, then stepped forward. Tall and imposing. A huge, dark figure, deepest black, stepped forward. It was covered in dripping black slime, huge and broad, like a man, but how could it be? It left a wake of inky blackness behind it.

Above them, Helios was deathly still. From behind the seating of the crown, drums began to play.
The dripping black giant reached for Eden, and from somewhere within the slimy darkness, a high-pitched scream emanated, and the bell to signify the final test had begun.

OOC:  Hope this is a good start for us! Enjoy 


Offline D.R.Chevalier

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Sleep had been evasive, and once found, had been sporadic at best. Vivid dreams and nightmares swirled together like the silt at the bottom of the falls that housed the dragon bones they had passed only two days prior. Spherical galaxies engulfed her and threads of silvery magic entangled her and just before Eden thought she would drown, she was rudely awaken by the headmistress of the mage college.

Fatigue was deeply set into her bones as Madam Rust's fingers bit into her skin as the older woman rushed her to get dressed. As they moved through the corridor, past all the faces that watched with astonishment, or jeered with cruel hope of watching bloodshed, Eden felt an unfathomable shame. There were none here that she could blame for her current situation, nor could she blame any of her teachers, but the sharp fingers that held her wrist like an iron shackle still ushered a dull rage. The shame was for her unborn child, who she knew would have rumors swirling about it. She hated the eyes upon her, judging her, already feeling as though they condemned her ability to parent, if the child even lived past this test.

xxxxx

Aerina had been quiet all morning, keeping her worry for the half-breed fae to herself. She had always been a compassionate soul, had always been a mother hen. That was, until she was called back to the Fae realm. There, she was a mysterious figure, cold and aloof, giving admittance to those deemed worthy, and casting those out who were unworthy. As she helped Helios with his ceremonial armor, his iron spikes striking her as though it were his fist, she couldn't help but feel something akin to pity for the Necrotsar. This student of his was proving to be a greater challenge than she figured he had bargained for, but she knew he was only doing what he needed to for the young girl.

As he sobbed, she rested her hand on his shoulder, wishing he could feel her warm touch through the cold of the metal. "She will come to understand, my love," she whispered before allowing him to embrace her, despite the discomfort she felt at being against the metal.

His request for her to not view Eden's testing, however, took her by surprise.
Looking up at his decaying face, she longed for the fair face he had once possessed, but knew that the man she loved was still in there. Raising her hand, she allowed it to rest upon the wrapped portion of his cheek, her hand itching with irritation at being so close to the metal spikes in his mouth. "If Furiental was at your side presently, I would gladly grant you this favor, but I feel as though you and Eden both need me there. If you have set some horror upon her, I have faith that she will perservere. You have trained her well."

xxxxx

As Eden was tossed into the sand and left on her hands and knees in the arena, she blinked bleerily up to where her ghastly mentor king and his beautiful Dryad confidant were perched, she slowly brought herself to her feet. Seeing the darkness within the gated area filled Eden with dread and when the gates finally opened and that hulking inky figure towered over her, she could feel her heart nearly crack through her ribs.

Backing away from it with far less agility and speed than she liked, Eden attempted to block out the noise of the crowd, drums and the worry that plagued her about disappointing her mentor. His disappointment was less important than her own life. He had said it would kill her if she allowed it. Realizing she needed to analyze the situation, Eden created space between herself and the oozing mass.

Fear began to rise into her throat. Her face betrayed her emotions and when the sound of laughter, booing, and the general cacophany of desired violence, a warmth spread through her chest. Eden reminded herself of the promise she had made herself. She would be a mother and a fierce one at that. The scared expression that had been on her face melted to one of angry determination. She'd not let some black mass of whatever evil allow harm to her and the child that grew inside of her, cursed or not.


Offline the_rabid_rabbit_bites

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Helios’s first step onto the platform had been exhilarating, the crowd had grown hushed. His rare appearance in the public domain, to be viewed and examined, to be … regarded. He would be reviewed as much as Eden would. He had not argued with Aerina, but he had still hoped, quietly that she would not return for Eden’s test. But still, her light step tilted the platform ever so slightly when she stepped up to take her place behind him. His breath caught in his throat.

It doesn’t need to be like this…

Somewhere within Helios, he knew he could have stopped it, he could have given her a sign, anything to avoid it. But also, he knew he had set this up as a statement, and he refused to show weakness now. It had been many years since Helios had taken the mind of something living, and his undead constructs were easy to fell comparatively – he knew every route into their minds, every anchor for magic, and importantly, every way to make them come undone.

He reached down as the drums began to pound, his mind seeking Furiental’s. He had always, until now, been respectful of the time and space and the needs of his constructs as people. As living, independent individuals the needed privacy and autonomy, and as he felt Furiental down there, covered in ink and truly, madly, deeply terrified of his situation, he revoked those rights from his Right Hand. It was a struggle that did not outwardly show on his face – it was all internal, in his mind, wrestling with an animal that could feel its last breaths coming. Cattle at the slaughter, knowing they were being pushed to their doom.
No, not to Furiental’s doom. To Eden’s. To the baby. Furiental’s spirit of a powerful bull, bucking the cloying, slimy feel of Helios’s magic away as it found channels into him. Helios felt fear, outrage, anger, a thousand emotions on the spectrum of grief, cycling around in a vicious, defiant circle. Furiental knew it was inevitable but he refused to land on acceptance. Over and over it was sadness and mourning, rage… over and over until, like snapping the neck of a small animal, the connection between his consciousness and his body was severed, and Helios rooted himself, firmly, in Furiental’s physical being.

He hadn’t seen. In so long. The colours Dazzled Helios and his breath hitched. He would have fallen, having lost the strength in his legs if Aerina hadn’t held him up. Below, Furiental, dark and slimy, was advancing on Eden. It didn’t look like him, just a huge black mass – dark and twisting. Its mouth split revealing pointed teeth and another scream – a high pitched twang that ripped through the eardrum in two chords.

The inky mass reached for Eden, its blackened claws throwing thick ropes of slime her way. The crowd roared again – for what? For her to stop evading and doing something? Or for the slime beast to go at her.

Above them, on the platform. Helios took in a deep breath. It was hard to stay still, not to gesture, but he still had the faint hope that if he just … if he didn’t show he was orchestrating this, somehow Aerina would never know, somehow … he could just … he could deal out the punishment, they could return, and things would be ok.

His twitching, and flexing hands were the only giveaway as down, in the arena below, the oozing beast reached again for Eden, trying to corner her, its teeth snapping.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2019, 08:01:32 AM by the_rabid_rabbit_bites »


Offline D.R.Chevalier

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The panic that had grown and swollen until it was swallowed by anger fed a rush of energy to Eden. Lowering her stance to look more like the wild girl they once had known so many months ago, her injured arm extended, her hand looking as if was gripping something. The gloves and spear that Helios had made for her, studded with black crystals that funneled her magic into a safe area, had been forgotten in her rude awakening. It was a difficult task for her still, but Eden had practiced until her fingers bled, until her very bones ached to make sure she could harness her own wild magic.

She remembered when she would allow spells to split her arm open as if she had been mauled by wild creatures. The blisters and burns and cracks had left scars upon her arms that looked like a map of rivers deep within the jungle. Remembering her time upon the Rack, and the devastation she brought upon Helios, herself and countless others in his court, Eden had trained to gain better control. Memories were there to warn her and to guide her in this trial by fire.

A bright rod of magical energy manifested in Eden's outstretched hand, about as think as the shaft of her spear, but only about half the length of her arm. Helios had only said she needed to neutralize the creature, not kill it, but he also said it would kill her if it could. Eden would use all her magic to make sure it didn't. Eden swung the bright hot magic rod at the creature, hoping that it was an effective weapon against a creation of Helios'. That was when she noticed the thin slimy thread of magic with that galaxy eye of hers. It stretched from the inky mass towards Helios. But that meant that her mentor controlled the beast.

Brought back down into the arena, the cold slimy mess threw ink at her, Eden was taken by surprise as some of the ink fell into her face and obstructed her view with her natural eye. Having only had a short amount of time to train with her new magical sighted eye, Eden was left somewhat disoriented and in that moment, her body was tossed aside with a swipe from the ink monster. Her arm stung where it had left open slashes, but she was quick to regain her feet this time. Instead of letting this thing beat her into submission, she quickly reformed the magical rod in her hand, the tips of her fingers tingling this time. Angry and frustrated that she allowed it to land a blow on her, she attacked again with renewed vigor.

xxxxx

The crowd roared when the wild witch began to fight, as the creature finally landed a strike, when Eden got back to her feet. Aerina found their lust for violence detestable. It was an admirable thing to learn how to protect oneself, but these test by fire type of challenges had always caused her stomach to flip. In recent years, Bitta had enjoyed such blood sport and regularly held gladiatorial matches.

Watching Eden fight against the inky creature broke her heart and she had gathered the clues as to why Helios had asked her to not attend this final test. She understood his need to maintain the image of strength, understood that as a king, no question to his rule would be tolerated. But, Aerina wondered, wasn't the child already suffering enough? Forced to give up the warmth she might have felt for the father of her child, her path would be difficult already. She had seen how Eden agonized over her own stupidity.

But this was Eden's test, administered by her mentor. Steeling herself against the cruelty of the situation, Aerina watched as the wild witch figured out several details of the fight. Seeing the girl's head twitch every so often, flashing her dark artificial eye towards them. The dryad knew she saw the anchor, could almost see the gears of her mind turning. The next move that the young witch made surprised the dryad and drew sounds of delight from the crowd.

A burst of illusionary birds erupted from the ground between Eden and the inky creature, scattering brilliant colors and lights everywhere. Aerina knew that if the girl saw the connection, sudden colors and light to a man who had not seen in anything besides black and white would be staggering. Careful to not become a tell for Helios, she let her gaze fall to him, as if watching for his reaction to such a strange move.


Offline the_rabid_rabbit_bites

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The rod of light struck the creature, and the ink on its arm exploded, sending hot, sizzling chunks of black around them in a semicircle. While the creature itself was cold, it seemed that it reacted violently with whatever life forging magic coursed through Eden’s veins. Up on the platform, Helios was umoving, propped up by Aerina, his teeth bared in that unmistakable leer as he pushed through, fighting Furiental’s sheer force of will.

Helios couldn’t split his mind from Furiental’s. If he had, he could have immediately seen that she was looking from the inky monster pursuing her so diligently and relentlessly, to the King. She could seem she knew. But it was the crowd that could, and the roars became hushed whispers as they realised that the king’s empty threat to kill her was, perhaps, so real, and so in his control. The crowd was slowly becoming deafeningly, echoingly silent, and in the arena, Eden was still pursued.

Then ,she attacked. And the crowd screamed. Huge black swathes of the creature were torn away from its body, revealing greyish skin beneath. Greyish, and covered in strange, swirling patterns… patterns that, to Eden, blinded in her sighted eye, could not have seen. But Aerina could, and the screaming crowd could, and Helios … Helios, for the first time in decades could see too.

The dazzling display of light and movement pierced Helios like a knife. His scream was high pitched and wailing, a response to a tightly excruciating pain as the sensation of light, colour and motion burned like fire down neural paths that had only seen black and white, had been repurposed for magic. There was too much of it… and Helios lost his grip on Furiental momentarily. The necromantic King fell against Aerina, still trying to shake the pain out of his head. There was no need for Aerina to fear, for it was now obvious Helios had some control of the beast. Down below, it staggered, then fell face first into the sand, thrashing and trying to rise.

Helios was suffering, the sight was destroying him, the burning flash that had pulsed life and magic into his skull turned cores in his magic teeth and the delicate wires in his eye sockets hot and burning – thick, foul smoke poured from his mouth, belching into the sky as he exhaled.  The magic reeled back, the hollow strip between him and Furiental. He snarled, standing. Preparing to cast out to her again – this time, he was deeply angry, but while Furiental was still able to stand, he could still hit – and to Helios, her trial was not over.

And so it was Furiental, who ended it. He stood, shaking off, wiping the ink off his face, dazzled by the light and his head pounding, only to look straight into Eden’s glittering dark eye. He saw bruising rising on her body, and the heavy sway of her stomach – and realised Helios had taken him. He had to act, he knew he would continue to rise, and go after her until either she was killed – or he killed her – or the baby.

But he had to act fast. He could already feel Helios reaching for him again. Trying to pull him under, so he could descend into blackness and become a vessel for Eden’s destruction.

“E – Eden,” he rasped, choking on ink as it fell past his lips. “Eden. I … I want you to … aaah!” He fought Helios, he fought with all his might as he felt the internal alignment of the magic that held him together shift – from sentient to automaton. He shook it off, like a horse kicking away a pouncing wolf. “Eden I want you to know, I love you very much…”

He raised a hand to the side of his face, clutching his temple and head as if he were rubbing out a headache and fixed her with a stare. “Tell our baby, too.” From his palm, some half dozen icicles, solid , fanning out from his palm and fingers, suddenly smashed through his temple and skull with such tremendous force  chunks of flesh and bone sprayed out of the side of his head. The delicate web of magic that had given Furiental his life flickered for the briefest moment, then went dark – just like a torch being extinguished.

From above, on the raised platform, Helios felt his construct die, and his consciousness was snuffed out with it at the trauma of his death reached over the barrier of his magic. He fell forwards, straight off the platform and into the sand, landing on his shoulder with a horrendous THUD.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2019, 08:13:54 AM by the_rabid_rabbit_bites »


Offline D.R.Chevalier

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As Eden fought the creature, somewhere in Aerina's heart knew it was Furiental. The shape was too familiar, and when Eden struck at the creature, she knew for certain. Under a hushed breath, she whispered the name of her once-lover with distress in her voice. The doggedness in which he made Furiental pursue the girl meant that he intended for one of them to die, and Aerina's fingers bit into his arms as she supported him.

Daring not to speak against the Necromantic King in such a public scene, and thus weakening his position, Aerina was caught off guard as she heard Furiental speak. In the moment that he raised his hand to his face, she knew what his intentions were and it seemed as if the entire arena collectively took an intake of breath. If it had only been Aerina's gasp, she could not tell.


As the giant construct committed his final act of mercy towards the girl, Aerina lost her grip of Helios and watched as both the giant and the King fell. Her first action was trying to get down to the injured and dead.


---


Eden hadn't doubted the King when he said it would kill her if it could. She even understood why he would be the puppeteer for her destruction. But the weapon had left her stunned, and as she heard her Furie's voice, her eyes widened, one unseeing, the other seemingly spinning wildly in it's socket, trying to find the correct thread of magic for the moment.


Standing with her arms down, her magical bar still in hand, Eden watched as he raised his hand to his head, watched as she saw him gather the icy magic in his hand, watched as that magic tore through him and watched whatever it was that made him stand and walk leave his body.


Pain, like a thousand daggers erupted in her chest, biting into her heart like ice, only without the numbing effect. Gripping at her top with her unhindered hand, had she been able to feel with her fingers, she would have felt the ice blooming across her skin. Is this what Britta felt? Is this what it meant to lose your heart? The screaming around her deafened her and as she staggered to the prone Helios, she only realized it was her screaming. Everything hurt, and he had to fix it.


Unable to see Aerina trying to rush towards the pair, the girl knew not what she would do when she reached the Necrotsar. Only once she looked down upon his unconcious body did she know. She kicked him so that he was staring up at her and her galaxy eye watched the slow, dark, sluggish magic in him. She wanted to rip and shred and tear into him like a beast. If he was going to make her a murderer by having the blood of her lover on her hands, knowing how she had committed manslaughter against someone she thought she loved, then she was going to become a murderer. With him laid out like a platter in front of her, Eden raised her hand with the bar of magic, and brought it down, hard and fast.


---


Aerina was the one screaming this time as she ran towards Eden, seeing how she threatened Helios. Glamors fell as she ran, her tree branch horns coming into view of everyone in the arena, the luminous nature of her Fae blood becoming clear. Though it had been silent for a while, students and teachers alike remained silent, watching the drama unfold.

Aerina knew she would have to kill the girl. While she could feel the chill of her grief, her life was not worth more than Helios'. She was but a student. Nothing more. Though Helios had forced her hand, his position meant he could not die. Her hand reached out and grabbed Eden's shoulder just as she swung down and ripped her to the side, causing the girl to fall.

The bar of magic had struck, but instead of touching the King, it had been planted deeply in the sand next to his head. As soon as Eden's hand left the magic, it blew away harmlessly in a haze of blue grey smoke. Aerina was shocked once more, and as she looked to the girl who was clutching her chest, watching as the frost began to cover her hand, she only now noticed what Eden was saying through her sobs.

"Bring him back."


Offline the_rabid_rabbit_bites

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Silence. Deep, deafening and vicious. It reigned in the arena, swallowing the gasps for breath from Aerina and Eden. Everything was heavy, laden with anticipation.

For a moment, it could be believed Helios had finally died. Joined the legions of corpses he had once commandeered. He was perfectly still and silent, face down in the sand. He smelled like burnt flesh and hot iron, and a few lazy curls of smoke escaped from the sides of his face. Eden’s sobs and pleas were suffocated in the quiet that not even birdsong pierced. A stray breeze ruffled the hems of her clothing and silently whispered through Aerina’s horns.

The ice grew, crackling as it spread across Eden’s hands. She had been pushed, and Helios’s example had been made. In the arena, by the self-destruction of his own construct, he had finally broken Eden. The wild-girl who had come from the forests. He had done it.
His legacy again, as a horror that would do anything he could to bend and break his students, was intact.
At the expense of Eden.

For another long minute, Helios remained face down, unmoved by Eden’s words. Then, there was a crackling movement, and a hand moved, planting itself beside his head to raise his body. The scarred, oozing pits where his eyes had been were now charred and bubbling, a heinous tribute to how opposed his magic was to Edens.

His breath was coming in rasps, the speech slurred by his swollen lips and tongue. But still, he looked right into the eyes of Eden, numb to the screaming pain from just looking upon her in the soft light of the souls overhead, and dignified her with a response.

“Congratulations … Eden,” he rasped, gasping each word so it would get beyond his heinous iron teeth. “You … passed … the … threat … is … neutralised … ” He could feel the rage, the anger, the pain. And then, the flare, the rising magic overwhelming and burning him further, and once again, his consciousness was snuffed out of him.

-x-x-x-

The medbay was silent. Nothing but the ticking of the clock. Helios had been conscious for hours, however he had lain still, calm and silent. He knew not how he had gone from the arena to a comfortable bed, but there he lay, dead to the world in the calm sense of peace.

He could hear the conversations amongst the nurses. They had called for Meris and Rarscha, who would come at once., Further, unsure of how to proceed, had brought the corpse of Furiental to the medbay also. Would he be saved? Or buried? Rigor mortis had set in and he had become difficult to move. Did this mean he was too far gone for the king of the dead to resurrect him?

He heard the insistence of the dryad had been part of the reason for Furiental lying in a medbay bed instead of the morgue. A good call, were he to commend her. But still, he had been kept far from Aerina and Eden. It seemed they realised he had made some deciscions, that cast him in a poor light for the too.

Soon, I must stir, and have them rebandage me he thought. His hair was slowly soaking through the bandages they had used, and the tell-tale heat and burn around his eye sockets indicated he would be dealing with infection also. No, no matter. Let them come to you.


Offline D.R.Chevalier

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Mirroring the Dead King's own room, Eden laid upon a bed, awake, and staring at the ceiling. Her hazel eye no longer held any warmth to it, and appeared as glassy as her artificial eye. Indeed, the King had broken her, but she still struggled silently with a storm of roiling emotions. Fear, anger, sorrow, depression, and determination. Most at the college had seen a difference in Eden as she had entered for the first time in months, but now the contrast of the girl who had left with the Dead King was stark. Her usual choleric attitude had been replaced with a vastly subdued nature.  Having one's lover had a particular effect on one's mind state.

Allowing the nurses to tend to her wounds and eating her first meal quietly and quickly, Eden had only requested that her pack, spear and gloves be brought to here. At the time, the nurses had exchanged worried looks, as if the half-fae girl might go on a rampage, but when they brought her items to her, Eden simply brought out the carved griffin and golden feather out of her pack. For hours, she had stared at the items, wishing for the days where she was in bed in Meris' infirmary, with him telling her stories of his past.

The girl knew that she could not be swallowed up by the frost that currently held her hand captive to her chest. Even if Furiental could not be brought back, she knew she needed to overcome for the child she had chosen to let be conceived. If not for her or the child's sake, then at least to honor Furiental's wishes. As Eden came back to looking at the griffin's feathers, she brushed it across her swollen belly, surprised to feel movement for the first time.

~~~~~~~~~


Since the final test, Aerina had been very busy and felt herself begin to tire. She'd been ordering where to place the King, his Right Hand, and his apprentice. She'd been answering questions as to what had happened and what would become of Eden now that she had passed Helios' test. Would she now be property of the college, or was there still more training? Was Helios claiming ownership of the child, or would it be the College's responsibility?


After finally yelling at the messengers that Madam Rust insisted on sending, the Dryad finally had an opportunity to fathom what exactly had happened. Sitting at a beautifully carved, dark wood desk, she rested her head in her hands and sobbed quietly.


What were your intentions? Why did you have to break her like that? Aerina thought, also lamenting the cruelty she had seen in her lover. Perhaps it would not be a good idea to reveal her secret child to him. How would he react? Although she knew that she held a spot in his rotting heart for her, she worried that her child would not be able to take hold.


She will never trust us fully again. I doubt she will trust anyone in his kingdom again. That was his challenge, and now he's spoiled her...


Slowly, Aerina's sobs came to a stop. She could not worry about this for right now. All she could do is hope that Rarscha and Meris arrived quickly. Were it allowed, she would have transported them through the fairie rings, but if Britta found out she had brought an undead construct and a bug-man from the south into their realm, there would be very few places safe from her wrath.


Jumping up from the desk as she heard the familiar scream of Eden's, Aerina hastened to the girl's room, worried that the ice was growing thicker due to some unsuspected damage to the child. As she stepped into the room, she froze at the sight she was greeted with, while also being blasted with nearly unbearable heat.


Eden had begun to undertake the process of removing the ice from her chest and arm. She was standing at her bedside, shattered ice fragments at her feet as well as her spear, and now one of her gloves on her hand as she began enveloping the ice and her arm in flames. Her eye had lost its despondant nature and was instead replaced with the same rage that she had first left here with.


"Eden! Stop!" Aerina finally spoke, knowing that the mere act of breaking the ice was painful enough, but now she feared the girl would kill herself in the attempt to rid herself of the ice.


Offline the_rabid_rabbit_bites

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The wind, bitter and chilling, raced through the streets of Helios’s kingdom. True, it was an icy wasteland – the life hard found amongst heaping piles of snow that now blanketed the Dead City. Sitting on the balcony of the only inn for many miles, a strange looking creature, shaggy and black as night, sat. It was naked, although shaggy fur on its legs gave the impression of modesty. Seemingly, the bitter wind had not bitten hard enough for Obsidian.

He had long since learned he had missed the King and his faithful servants by a matter of days, and so he simply sat on the balcony, waiting for the return of the great, swallowing darkness of the King. And the faint glimmer of his long lost lover. So it was that the only living creature to see the half-frozen messenger, galloping into town on a scruffy brown pony, was the faun. He watched with some interest as the pony, breath belching mist, fought its way through the deep snow up to the Kingdom’s castle.

But even as the pony disappeared, Obsidian heard the screams of the messenger, exploding into the castle.

“MERIS! THE WHITE WITCH! AND RARSCHA! YOU ARE SUMMONED AND MUST COME AT ONCE!” The messenger was saying. Obsidian wondered what would make such a servant scream so. He watched, curiously as, not long after the White Witch, mounted on an undead horse, and Rarscha, the insectman sprinting beside her on his long spiny legs, making their way along the only road out of the city, and on the long road to Calxifer.

----

So it came to be, that the pair arrived into the city on a thick, grey and wet morning. While winter had gripped the North, the south was under constant threat from ravaging monsoons, hot and sticky. Rarscha had taken great pains to hide his rising discomfort, the anxiety of a deeply traumatic experience rising in his chest.

“We will be returning to a very different King, and a very different Eden,” he had mused to Meris that morning as he packed his medical supplies, vials of attlan serum. “It seems, whatever vicious action happened between them, has hurt them both. I only hope they can both live on, and not linger on what damage has struck down them both.”

And so it was that when they arrived, they were ikmmediately summoned, frantically screamed for from the the medbay to subdue Eden as she flayed herself alive from the ice that had inextricably fused with her body and soul. Aerina washysterical, as they appeared in the doorway.

But immediately, Rarscha had sprung into action, throwing his doctor’s bag down at the foot of the bed. “Meris! Aerina! Hold her down!” He ordered, immediately. He was rifling through his items, frantically pulling out vials and peering at labels as the cracking, ripping sound of Eden’s self mutilation became more and more fevered.

He pulled out a syringe, and a vial of something glittering and silvery. “You must holder her still!” Rarscha commanded, although such a feat was difficult with one as strong as Eden. He fumbled, and dropped the needle, before making a snarling noise and just sliding a needlelike spine on his finger into the vial, drawing out a dose and seizing Eden’s arm. His fingers were cold and sharp, unforgiving as he held her arm still to inject more of the opiate into her.


Offline D.R.Chevalier

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Having been the town's newest errand boy, since the previous one had since disappeared, Revelin had been running a delivery to the inn Annika and her husband ran for the butcher. Lugging the large side of pork up the hill towards the inn, he had paused for a moment when he saw the small brown pony race past towards the castle. It was only when he approached the back door of the kitchen to the inn that he took a moment longer to see Meris, the King's undead white witch, and Rarscha run by with an urgency he had not seen in the town yet.

"I wonder if Helios and his followers are alright..." He mused under his breath before entering the kitchen.

---

"I can't be like this! I mustn't be like this!" Eden's screams were desperate, and though she had been fairly subdued until the time of Meris' and Rarscha's arrival, her determination and anger had finally caused her mind to snap.

"I don't want to be like Britta! I have a child to care for! He mustn't see his mother like this!" She struggled against Meris and Aerina, throwing them off of her a couple of times before Rarscha managed to grab her with his spiky fingers and slid the needle-like appendage into her arm. Slowly, her attempts to wrestle Meris and Aerina off of her weakened, and her eye, so desperately afraid and hurting, blurred into a misty haze before her struggling stopped and her eyes closed.

---

The dryad rested her face against the slumbering girl's shoulders, blood upon her sleeves where the girl had grabbed at her. Meris and Rarscha would see that she had been previously crying with the calming of the situation. Moments before they had arrived, Eden had been yelling much of the same sentiments that she refused to be like Britta, that her child would not have a mother whom others looked upon with pity. Eden had said she would be strong, with or without Furiental.

But now, with her moment to collect herself and her thoughts, Aerina stood, facing the two healers. Her eyes were glistening with tears still, and her face flushed from the excitement. It seemed that even in hysteria, the Fey still retained her mystical beauty.


Swallowing hard, she addressed the healers, "Thank you both for arriving so promptly. Meris, you should go see to Helios. It seems as though Eden's magic has caused him a fair amount of damage. Afterwards, please come see me. I would like a report on his health."

Nodding, Meris released the girl and left the room, asking the attendant outside to show her to Helios' chamber.


Still, Aerina had not gone to see the king, fearing what would be said between them. She knew he had not wanted her present for Eden's last trial, but she had attended, against his wishes. It had been brutal, and she had not yet experienced such a sadistic side to him once in the time she had known him. Not knowing what she would say to the Necrotsar, Aerina had avoided him, instead focusing on Eden and the college's plans for them both.


Looking to Rarscha, she sighed and shook her head. "I am sorry to have to call so urgently, and that your arrival was so... harried. Eden's final test was the cause of all of this." Moving to one of the two chairs in the room, Aerina slumped down into it. Though her beauty was ephemeral, it seemed as if her Fae "glow" had dimmed somewhat, as though the stress of the mortal world was weighing down upon her. "She cast some kind of magic... an illusion of some kind, that burned Helios. I remember the smell of burning iron and flesh...The Right Hand is dead. This is what caused the ice growing from her chest. Helios intended for Eden to kill him, or be killed. Instead, it seems as though Furiental fought the control of his master and killed himself instead of causing the girl harm. Helios fell as soon as it was done. I was sure she would kill him. She had black in her eyes, but that magical eye could see him, I'm sure. It was like watching an animal stalk it's prey, and I couldn't move fast enough to stop her. When I got to her, seeing her stand over his body, I threw her down, only to see she had made her choice."


---


Approaching the room she had been directed to, Meris knocked on the closed door, opening it without hearing a reply. "Master Helios?" Having brought her own supplies specific for Helios, she entered the room unwelcomed and set it on the table beside his bed.


Offline the_rabid_rabbit_bites

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“Oh?” Annika had been rummaging behind the counter and had not been immediately apparent. Her white head popped up from behind the shining countertop, and peered at Revelian and his bloody offering. “What were we so right about?” She paused for a moment, realising she had misheard.

“I would say we are alright, why there is nothing … “ but her eyes had said she was not so sure herself. The fat cat of the inn slunk over to Revelian – indeed, many of the domestic animals of the hamlet had become quite drawn to the young boy, seemingly aware of his deeply intrinsic connection to the earth. Annika tried to use his arrival to change the subject, however it did not work. She had been unable to conceal the look of fear in her face.

“You are right, we are not. The messenger likely brings news from … from the Magic School, Calxifer. Where Helios was headed before you arrived,” Annika hesitated, and then decided to leave out that he was returning with the suspected half-breed child, Eden. “Those of us who are tied to Helios by his magic, we felt a great disturbance not long ago. He must have come very near to death, and I don’t doubt the medical staff you saw are required. His care is … specialised. But he is alive, given his constructs live on.”

---

Rarscha’s sides clicked and chittered as he took in a deep breath in his own way. He had heard the tail end of Eden’s screams before he had drowned it with opiates. But he knew, subdued as she was it was not a fix for whatever she was fighting with internally. “I am glad you summoned us Aerina. This is a lot to cope with, and you are … “ he didn’t want to say it, but he offered her a frankness out of respect. “fragile. I know. And that’s OK. We will be here for you as much as Eden and Helios.”

“I am … unsurprised. Helios was never considered evil,” Rarscha sighed. The air whistled through his chitinous plates as his chest heaved. He himself had never considered Helios evil. He had worked very hard to uphold the values of a good and lawful man, and to see such a turn in him was almost uncharacteristic. “But this is truly an evil act. Abominable. In my culture, we would have given him no care as a result of the destruction of another life. But I guess … should we want Furiental back, we must wait.”

Privately, Rarscha thought Helios could not cope without his Right Hand. Indeed, Furiental had been the backbone of Helios’s morality – and it showed in his final actions, to take his own life than risk taking that of another, innocent person.

Her description of Eden gave him pause. It sounded like the magic and behaviour of the darkened fae. They had many names – the Underdark, the Black Courts, the Dropshadow. But the sentiment was the same. They were deep, dark predators. The idea Eden had some seed of them and their behaviours in her heard troubled him deeply. “She … she was born wild, Aerina. I am certain I saw nothing dark in her when she was in Helios’s kingdom this past summer,” He said finally. “She merely needs to rest, and I am sure this will lift. What we do about the Right Hand … I do not know.”

---
 
There was a timid knock. For a second, Helios thought to ignore it. But finally, he let out a hissing sigh, and unmoving, his voice filled the room, slightly slurred by the burns in his mouth. “Come in … Meris?” Helios, for a moment, felt ashamed to think even Meris, the medicine woman of his castle, would be called for specifically for his treatment.

She had already entered. Meris is ever the pragmatist, Helios thought wryly. There was a job to be done, and, king or no, he would be subject to her treatment without question. He heard her own medical kit be set down with an audible clunk! and he sat up, leaning forward so she could disrobe his upper half, and unbandage his head to examine the extent of his undead crown.

It seemed an evil act such as the torturous final exam of Eden had entrenched his kingship even more deeply. Previously, the boils and pustules had only crowned his scalp, now some new ones had appeared on his neck, upper back and shoulders.

“How is she?” He asked after a time.


Offline D.R.Chevalier

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Revelin frowned at the look that flashed across Annika's face. He had come to enjoy the company of the undead woman, her daughter and husband. While he and Obsidian had still been newcomers to the land, they welcomed them, if not with open arms, then at least with warm smiles. They were good people who did not deserve the rumors that spread outside of the kingdom.

Nodding his understanding to Annika, worry filled his mind. "Is there anything I can do to help," he asked, knowing he had nothing to do with the connection, but perhaps he could ease their discomfort in some way.

Obsidian had raised him knowing that the would could be unkind and harsh, and Revelin had seen it. But just as there were evils in the world, Revelin had seen the beauty and hope in it as well. Obsidian had shown him the dual nature of the world and raised him to be a kind young man who was considerate of the well being of other. SLow to anger, quick to defend.

---

Perhaps it was the fact that Aerina had not gone to rest within the branches of her tree in some time that caused her weakness. It was her source of strength, the anchor to her magical blood and soul. She ponded, that perhaps it was missing her and was calling her home. While she wanted to dismiss Rarscha's support, if only to convey that she wished for Helios and Eden to be their only concerned, she bowed her head slightly to the Insectman.

"Thank you, Rarscha. I am alright. I just need someone to talk to. To wrap my mind around all that has happened."

Looking up to Rarscha, she opened her mouth to protest against him calling Helios evil, however as soon as she did, she had to reconsider. It had chilled her to the core to see what he had forced upon his Right Hand and student. She had felt his anger after her illusory attack, felt hatred try to lash out like a black snake. But there was no denying that the way he had broken Eden had been evil.

"I didn't mean to suggest she was a Dark One. But... Rarscha, she has been fighting. For a very long time, it seems. She's fighting with herself constantly, and fighting against Helios, trying to please him with her actions, only to make mistake after mistake. And now..." Aerina sat back in her chair, her eyes moving to examine the girl. Blood streaked across the chunk of ice lodged in her chest, frozen and dark. She had seen this before, had witnessed darkness slip into a most beloved creature.

"Well, one does not have to be born a Dark One to become one. But she made a choice and it was for mercy, so I have hope."

---

Quietly setting to work, Meris allowed her hands to undress the Necrotsar's top half, hissing quietly at the new pustules that had appeared. She cleaned them, soothed various creams and medicated ointments across them carefully and dressed them with clean gauze. He had asked how she was, which she assumed he meant the girl, but she wondered if he also meant Aerina. It was a question that she was finding difficult to answer. Not only had she just arrived to find the girl in such a chaotic, self-damaging frenzy, but she had never seen the dryad in such a state of dismay.

"Rarscha has given her a sedative. She was in hysterics when we arrived. Aerina was having difficulty controlling her." Perhaps it was wrong of her to try to soften the blow of what he had done to his student, but he was her King. "I am unsure of what you have seen of her, but she grows Fae Ice. She is afraid it will hurt the child. She is afraid she... she will become Britta."

Applying gentle pressure to Helios' shoulder after she had finished dressing his back, shoulders, neck and head, she wished to see the extend of the damage to his mouth and eyes, having heard on the way to the college some of what had happened.

"Was this what you wanted?" There was no accusation behind the question. Her loyalty was to her King and if this is what he wanted, then this is what would be accepted.


Offline the_rabid_rabbit_bites

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“I think not,” Annika said gravely. She looked out to the icy wasteland that was her home, and for a moment the ever present cold and snow felt oppressive, instead of the icy and white wonderland she was used to it now felt like a prison, like she had no choice but to wait for a day of clear skies that was never coming. While she wanted to believe that her sentience and free will was unconditional, there was one thing Helios, no matter how hard he tried, could give them their independence from.

His death would be the end of the undead kingdom, for without Helios as the conduit of the magic, every one of his constructs would die with him.

“Run along Revelin, I believe your travelling companion is calling you,” Annika took a deep breath. The only thing she could do was wait for Furiental to return, as he had thousands of times before, when Helios had gotten into trouble that his constructs felt across the tenuous threads of his magic, and tell them what had happened. There would be closure, surely, when he returned.

---

“The formation of Dark Ones is not genetic, no birth, hatching, or brooding will have a tell for if a fae child has been called as a Dark One,” Rarscha agreed, propping his spiny fingers on his chin. “But people can be forced … and you are right, she has worked very hard. And been pushed. And pushed harder. And pushed until she broke. I know little of the fae, but I do know that will hurt a common man, and I don’t see the fae being any different.”

He took a breath, and reached down, checking Eden’s gums, lips, temperature, he tested her blood through the spines in his fingers and even with his features obscured by the chitin, it was clear he was habitually pulling his features into a facial expression of confusion. He did not speak to Aerina for a long minute as he pondered. “Her blood is very cold, it seems the ice has eaten deeply into her already. I hope she knows Britta is not cruel because of the ice… that there is still control over it…”

In the next room, Helios was also sitting with his head propped in a fist, his knuckles pressed into his lips. The sting of his teeth was almost pleasant, as the irritation from Meris’s salves and worrying at the new marks on his shoulders and neck. He could tell, just from her reaction, it was bad. It was very bad.
Both the extent of his Crown, and the impact on the girl. Helios took in a breath that whistled through his rusted iron teeth. He was both wiser than to tell Meris his first thought – that it was merely a consequence of her actions – and unable to, as she had now commanded he open his mouth so she could inspect the damage the burns had caused. He mulled over her question about what he had wanted. Indeed, what had he wanted to gain from this? His reputation was reinstated as fearsome, a punishment to be handed over to him those students should work hard to avoid. But also, he had lost the last shreds of humanity he had in the eyes of the fae, and the school itself.

But still, it was all in the name of a … consequence, wasn’t it?

The resolve was wornd down the more he turned the question over in his mind. He did admit, quietly to himself, that Eden did not deserve to grow fae ice, or to fear that her child would grow with a tyrant instead of a mother. The corners of his lips turned downward. “She deserves some mercies in her life,” he said quietly. “If you would. I would like to see his corpse … and that of the horse. Marduk. Please, dress me and guide me to them…”


Offline D.R.Chevalier

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Watching as the Chime Insectman inspected Eden, Aerina waited with bated breath. Knowing how many fae were, she knew that watching the death of a lover at their own hands, because of their own actions, would have torn them asunder. Many would have been killed by the ice. Britta did not die because she knew Obsidian was still alive, and her ice had grown slowly over the years. Suspecting Eden's human heritage to be the cause of her fortitude, Aerina nodded at Rarscha's statement about her chill. Regarding her knowledge of the fae ice, the dryad sighed.

"No. She doesn't know. She knows so little about the Fae world. But she will learn. I will be here to teach her to manage it. If she listens and understands, she will be able to control it. If she lets her grief take over her, if she lets her dark emotions loose, it will kill her. Her fae blood is not so strong as to let her withstand it forever."

Meris' silence was a testament to the turmoil of emotions and thoughts she was experiencing. As she dressed her king and helped him up, she still remained quiet. It had been strange to her, coming to the college and not being harassed by the tattooed giant's jabs and snarls. It had nearly become a comfort for her, to bicker with him as she worked. Leading Helios through the halls towards the large chamber where they had moved Furiental and Marduk, the white witch felt unease stirring even more within her cold chest.


As they entered the room that held the corpses, she noticed, but did not feel, the enchantment they had placed upon the room. The walls inside were covered in a thin layer of frost and mist flowed down from the ceiling and swirled around their feet. The horse, a great dark figure, was placed alongside the giant in an almost ritualistic way. They were both stiff, but thankfully the enchantment had allowed the flesh to remain relatively fresh.


The greatest discomfort Meris felt, was seeing Furiental's fragmented face. The spikes of ice that he had used to end his life were long gone, but the mages of the college had been thoughtful enough to even bring the shards of his skull that had broken away. Taking a deep, though useless, breath, Meris thanked her foresight to bring her pack along and pulled an empty jar out.


"Do you need a soul to see with?"


Offline the_rabid_rabbit_bites

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“Oh yes, but what makes it…?” It had been Rarscha who had often spoken of a great optimism for the fae. But it no longer was written in what little body language was consistent between the insectmen and humanity. “What makes it safe to do so? To educate her? I fear Britta will see this as an opportunity to descend. To cast a seed of doubt amongst the allies of humanity about helios … although, I daresay, a seed has been planted all by himself…”

Rarscha sighed, and leaned back, no longer needing to fuss over Eden. He had wondered what Eden had felt with Furiental. He had heard many women say fearful, sometimes hurtful things behind their palms of the giant. Eden had never done such things. “I truly hope Helios will try to make some right with his actions. I can not imagine what hate … or what hurt … has made him decide to tread a path that so violently and so publically violates the trust of his people.” His people. Rarscha could have said the school, other kingdoms, other humans. But it was his people he felt he had slighted so greatly.

“That’s the danger of her humanity, the fae are cold and powerful, but humans run hot. Their emotions rise to the surface in so many ways …” he could feel something rising in him. The memory of Meris and her industrious irritation at the world she could barely conceal. How they could sync and then separate so easily. Yes. Humanity ran close to the surface. “I think it is a risk for her.” He leaned over again, opening her undamaged eye and checking her pupil. He covered it with a palm, then removed it, checking her response to the sudden light. “I hope she can push thorugh. She may be the last good deed of the undead kingdoms.”

When Eden’s pupil constricted in response, there was barely perceptible sag of relief. He had not measured the Attlan serum and had instead simply given a dose he knew would quiet her – the risk it had been too much had been there. “Let her rest, I guess.” He sounded so uncertain – so different from the good doctor, whose feats of biomechanical engineering had restored sight to not one, but two people in two incredibly different ways.

-x-

Helios’s touch on Meris’s skin was so cold and clammy he may well have been a corpse. Indeed the only place that he seemed to be exuding heat was the infected burns in his eye sockets. There had been some damage to the complex wiring that gave him sight, although it had yet to be tested.

“A soul … yes … “ Helios breathed out, his breath somehow misting in the air of the enchanted room despite no freezing cold on their bodies. He raised a hand for her to deposit the jar into his palm, and from within some fold of cloth or crack in his person, Helios produced a soul. It flickered dimly, but illuminated the scene for the now shaken king.

“Oh … “ He could not see them properly. The image coalescing in his mind was grainy.  But that could be fixed later. For now, he needed to focus on seeing the extent of the damage. Marduk, the savage warhorse, was unremarkable. He had simply ceased to live when the soul his life was bonded to had been snuffed out. His body an empty husk as it had been when Helios restored him. No, it was the damage to Furiental that held the king’s attention.

“I chose to seek him because of that sense of … of justice,” Helios was saying as he gingerly sifted through the remnants of Furiental’s skull. Held the jar up to the hole in his head, examining the extent of the damage. It was great. The force must had been driven by something very, very powerful. “He didn’t want to come back on the field,” Helios’s tone was reflective, deep and introspective in the eerie space. He had no way of knowing if Meris stayed, to listen to his musings. He talked on anyway. “And maybe not ever, there is so little of his brain left … How much of him can I bring back?”