Writing Prompt- 3rd March

What is true fear for your character?

Fear is relative. For Suiriane, pure terror was never a stranger. However, from Warden Captain to Whispers Agent- there was one thing she feared above all else. The memory of it plagued her.

“You’re, you’re c- court?” The word almost burned her throat as she said it. The Sister with the dark bark stood in the street, the sun poured between the buildings, painting the cobbles gold and warming the hard stone to an umber hue. The Sister did not look any different and at that distance Sui could detect no aura.

It mattered not. What did nightmare look like? All thorns and fangs? No, she knew that was not the case, that was why Sui was so afraid. The asuran turret on the roof had a good range, but she wanted to make sure and backed up against the door of the townhouse she called home.

The dark Sister taunted her, standing just out of shot. Called her a replacement. Stated that her friend and mentor did not really like her. Sylvana was lost and seeking a distraction. Suiriane was not valued by her, she was pitied.

Sui’s hands shook. She said nothing. Fear raked cold fingers up her spine and made her gut clench. A pain spasmed through her chest.

Sylvana’s former lover. Justicia. Taken, tortured, fallen. The guilt still ate at Sui’s mentor.  Yet, all Suriane could see that day, was a reflection of what she could have so easily become, and it terrified her.

Suddenly the street was gone and she was once more under her Mentor’s desk. Another memory. Days old and too afraid to even speak. A dream corrupted, pieces of a hunt remained that she could not understand. Faces she had known and held dear were now lost to her. She ached with the absence. The waking world was loud, bright and confusing. Most of all she was frightened of herself. Her twisted dream had given her a vision of what she could be.

Her Grove mentor had told her in gentle tones to see it as a warning. It may not be pleasant but she could make choices to avoid turning into what she dreaded. Easier said than done. Later Sui would learn, combat was not difficult for her. She would never be a true blade specialist, but she could hold her own. No, what came very easily was power. A gift for manipulating and directing chaos, inflicting pain, confusing thoughts and ensnaring the senses.

It was too much in the end. She left the Grove. Conflicted, jaded and alone. Unable to identify with her siblings, forever an outsider behind the smile. She left, seeking the familiar. Lion’s Arch had showed her how naïve her choice was. Suiriane had hated that city after, once cursing it to Sprout, wishing it would burn. Prophetic words as it turned out…

Not half a year later she would face Justicia again. There would be no convenient turret to save Sui from fighting. Using all her mother given talents Suiriane would best the Courtier and kill her. That was the day Sui broke her vow to Sylvana, and her Mentor’s ‘heart’ in the same blade thrust.

Even if she had known before that day how deeply wounded Sylvana would be- Sui knew she would still have driven the blade home. The whisper of darkness in her demanded an answer to the Courtiers challenge. It was not pride or honour, she simply wanted to spill sap.

Part of her liked it, and that, most of all, was more frightening than any Courtier threatening her on the streets of Divinity. That darkness had led her to make her great mistake. Had meant she had hurt those around her. All a symptom of the deep fear of what she could be.

Pain

((Wee warning, adult themes.))

The young woman spat at the feet of the man before her. Saliva, mixed with blood stained the reed covered floor. She grinned up at him, her split lip opening further. She could hardly see the man’s face, combination of dim lighting and one eye being swollen closed from the fist to the face the previous day.

“Aye, I deserved tha,” she admitted with a weak chuckle. “I sorry I called ye wife a fifty silva’ whore.”

The angry guard grunted and the clenched fist fell. Her grin widened, the pain- she was used to it. At least the workhouse had gifted her with a tolerance for it. This was nothing. Scrubbing floors with a broken knee, that hurt. Few punches to the face and guts, easy.

“Nah, she be a twenty silva’ whore, sorry. I was confused like and go the-“ the fist crashing into her sternum stopped the insult. Air rushed from her lungs and she sunk to the ground. She lay there, gasping like a landed fish. She curled round herself. Small as possible, protecting face and arms. The two kicks that followed landed on shins and shoulders.

Nothing to be concerned about. She judged that was enough. The guard was panting and his hand no doubt hurt.

She lay still.

A few inexpert curses were thrown her way and a leer that she would be ugly when her neck snapped in a few days. An ugly corpse among the others who had behaved. They would go to their deaths unmarked.

“Fucking lot of good being pretty is when ye be dead,” she thought. “Unless ye like ya lasses dead… which be fucked up.” She kept that thought to herself and the cell door slammed shut.

Min did not want to behave. She knew what happened to the ones who did. The docile ones who thought if they did as they were bid, and sucked whatever was shoved in their faces; then they would get out.

That rarely happened. Then there were those that were frightened and quiet. She heard their tears and what was done to them. It was not all the guards. Just the rotten few. She had identified them early and had gone out of her way to be obnoxious to them. She took the beatings. They were better than what they did to the other lasses.

Of course, she could not go too far, or might end up getting screwed as a punishment. No, she had to walk a fine line. Annoy them enough to be battered and not be prison candy. Though not so much that she got raped as a way to control her. She was not stupid. Most of knocking boots was about control, anyone that said different was deluded.

Love, tenderness- utter ogre shite. Someone wanted, someone gave and got stuff in return. Protection, respect, money. It was how things worked. Somewhere in the last few moons she had forgotten that. Let herself think she could be respected without having to offer anything. That people liked her, for just being her.

She should thank Garry if she ever saw him again. He’d been right. He was not her family; he was her employer. Things had blurred… food fights with captains and insulting customers… Bandit and the beach… Sylvia and dresses. She had taken it all to mean more than it had. Given her hope that she had finally found ‘her’ people.

Garry had shattered that to shit… and he had done her a favour in the end. She saw that now. A slum rat did not get to be respected or liked.

At the back of her mind she knew she was deliberately ignoring the weak link in her current thinking.

Bo.

He had followed her about like an adoring baby brother. She had wanted to take care of him. He was an idiot; he would not make it on his own. Turns out she was rusty. One failed pickpocket of a labourer and she was arrested. Bo fought to defend her and got a kicking for it. So did Bandit. She hoped they were okay. Her adoptive brother was stupid enough to shout her name multiple times during the arrest.

Records were checked. ‘Min’ was linked to ‘Minnie- Ann.’ Minnie- Ann was wanted for murder.

That had been a shock. Her eleven-year-old self, had acted in fear. Grabbed the first sharp object and- well. She knew she had cut him deep. She had not stuck around to see how deep. It was her chance. She had run.

Freedom was almost as bad as the workhouse, but at least she lived on her own terms. She had been passionately independent ever since. Until she was ‘employed’ in the Bones.

“I thought they liked me,” she muttered into her hands. “We got on well like-” She shook her head and her face throbbed in tandem with a different pain in her chest. A pain that was not caused by any physical blow.

She missed them.

Which was stupid.

A few tears forced their way down her face without her permission. Crying was pointless, but the tears still splattered onto the cold stone floor she was curled up upon.

She was not sure how long she lay there, feeling pathetic and yet still crying like a little girl. The rattle of carts on the street above and the chirp of birds, alerted her to the fact it was dawn.

 

“Happy Birthday Min,” she croaked to herself in the gloom. “T’will be tha last one ye see.”

The waiting game.

Ethan sat back, looking at the half elf upon the bed. His rickety chair was precariously balanced on two legs. His feet irreverently propped up on the bed beside Garrett’s hip.  The Captain was out, said she was going for food, but he was not sure if she had been telling the truth, or just needed a break from watching over her quartermaster.

The former mercenary ran a hand through his cropped hair. The memory of his sister cornering him in the tavern with a pair of shears in her hand and a determined gleam in her eye had him sighing loudly.

He had submitted to her whim, knowing she took comfort fussing over him. He remembered Sylvia’s sly comment about his hair colour and shook his head. Red had been raised in the same place as he, he had been certain before he saw her power. Living on a farm he had only gone to town on market days. He was better known in Altinova than Tarif. If they had met he did not remember.

He glanced back at Garrett. The Quartermaster’s chest was swelling and distorted, purple creeping over bronze skin as the bruising began to show.

The crew was in a sorry state if Ethan was the best healer on offer. He knew enough from watching the vigilantes in Olvia how to stop bleeding and prevent most wounds from becoming fatal.

Garrett’s injury was almost a mortal one. He had lost a lot of blood and if he moved too much broken bones risked shredding his wounded lungs further. At least he had not drowned in his own fluids. A swift knife to the chest cavity had stopped him dying. Ethan’s knife.

He listened as the man breathed. Still no rattle, that was good. No fever as yet and the last time he had checked his wounded sides the cuts had been clean and weeping clear fluid, another good sign. That however was the extent of his knowledge. He had some leaves the pirate could chew when he woke. They would ease the pain. Sylvia had been to the alchemist for potions too. Garrett had a good chance.

Ethan had been surprised when he had heard the half elf yell. It had not been an angry shout or battle cry. No this was the sound a wounded animal would make. It had shivered through him and before he knew it, he was turning to help the quartermaster. Not because he had to, or the Captain would wish him to, but because he felt compelled to do so.

He did not want to analyse why. It had happened; there was an end to it.

“You are one lucky bastard” he grumbled to the man on the bed. “After the shit you pulled in the brothel, I should have let you die”

Alright, he admitted he had found the brothel mildly amusing. It was not like he was inexperienced. It was just- any of those women could have been his sister. It was what she almost turned to. Crops failed, mother sick, him still a boy. The money she earnt at the tavern was not enough. He remembered watching her one night, head in her hands weeping- another bill delivered they could not pay. He remembered the quiet resolve that settled over her when the tears dried. He had not liked it. She was meant to smile, not have eyes hard as chips of jade.

In the end, she sold herself anyway. Not to a brothel, but to a man. She had deserved better. Leaving the place where she was understood must have been more than difficult. He turned his thoughts from her husband. That was over too, she was free.

He looked back down at the man on the bed. Sui liked this one and Garrett had vowed to look after Ethan because the sailor liked her in return; yet here Ethan was, saving his life. A’al had a sense of humour it seemed.

Yes, Garrett and his sister were friends. That he could cope with, but the half elf certainly did not deserve any more than that from her, though Ethan trusted Sui knew that. Still, he hesitated to contact her. They were in her largest trading hub. The Samara name was on the lips of trade princes. Use it and he could have a witch here or an alchemist. He could hire an entire brothel out to tend to Garrett’s every whim. Yet- that would connect his activities to Sui. They were supposed to hate each other. She the respectable one, he her wayward brother. It was a comfortable lie, gave him freedom and her protection.

The door rattled open and with a burst of sea air and sunlight the captain strolled in, loaf of bread under her arm. He grunted at her. He never knew what to say. It was not her rank or that he was intimidated, but she had a pair of very fine- legs. He could not help but admire. He was not stupid enough to make it obvious. He knew far too many men who thought with their libido first. He was pretty sure the Captain had killed enough of those and had no wish to add himself to the list. That other elf was fine too. All curves and cool professionalism. Made him want to tease and make her blush.  Did he have a thing for elves?

The Captain slumped down in the chair opposite and instead of scolding him for having his feet on the bed, copied his pose.

“No change?” she asked, looking at Garrett and not Ethan.

“No,” he responded, more sharply than he meant to. Silence settled on them. The creek of the Captain’s chair as she leant forward to place the bread on the table seemed over loud. Should he say something? His mind was unhelpfully blank.

“Ye saved his arse,” she whispered at last, sparing him his dilemma.

“Maybe,” he grunted hating the warm feeling that crept across his chest. “He still could die.”

The Captain pinned him with a fierce look, not at all diluted by the white strands of hair that had fallen from her bandanna and over her face.

“He won’t. Ye won’t let ‘im.”

It was an order if he ever heard one. She did not have to be specific. They both knew he could be doing more.

“Aye aye, Captain.” He breathed.

Moments later he was out in the sun, heading for a courier. It did not sit well with him, but he would have to involve her.  She would have to handle how to keep things quiet. Sui would manage, she always did. They were blood, after all. A little Mediahan bureaucracy stood no chance against that.

 

(With thanks to Rhea, for helping me make sure I had Yanna correct and to all who organised and who were at the event last night. Love and sloppy kisses to you all!)

The Olive Grove

((A little encounter for my characters in BDO which is where I’ve been RPing of late))

Ethan swatted away another questing mosquito, then with an annoyed grunt pulled at the wild herb beside him, inspecting it.

“Good enough,” he grumbled and smeared the mane grass over his exposed skin. If he did not smell like a person, then he was not worth eating.

He lent back against the gnarled trunk of the olive tree he sat under, glancing around the ancient grove that had somehow escaped the ruin of the city. The last time he had been under these trees he had been a boy. He sighed to himself, then looked up. The sky was deep black and studded with a myriad of stars. He had often slept outside growing up, just to get himself lost in the enormity of the Mediahn sky.

A rare smile tugged at his lips. He was used to his life taking odd turns, but the latest twist had his head spinning. He had not been anywhere near Altinova in some time. The feeling of nostalgia that struck him as he stepped off the boat had been a surprise. He had thought his memories of the city would be tainted.

No, he felt comfortable to be in Altinova. It had an openness that the cities of the west lacked. The likes of Calpheon made him feel trapped. All hard edges and grey stone.

What he had not felt comfortable on was that cursed ship. He frowned at the sky. How could they eat while the boat rolled and pitched so? He remembered seeing Garrett eating cheese and an echo of queasiness pulled at his innards. Bastard probably had done it on purpose.

Small wonder Boyd had hired him for a job and not come himself. The sea was vast and the boat was…not. Could giants sail? He was unsure. Would not a boat have to be customised?

He shook his head and ran a hand through his green hair. None of the crew even half trusted him. That was fine, he did not trust them either. If things got rough he knew he would be the one left for the guards to find. It would not be his first arrest, or the last. His Sister would see him right. She thought she owed him.

He would have to watch that Captain, she had given him a look that said if he breathed in a way she disliked then he would find himself filleted. The one in red was annoying, but he knew better than to judge her yet. Miss Hat was fun to tease, but having seen a vanishing staff when she was drunk he knew he had to step lightly there also. He was unsure what to make of Garrett, other than he had an eye for the lasses.

A snapping twig alerted him to the presence of another. The intruder was quickly identified without even needing to look away from the bejewelled sky. The scent of jasmine oil curled up his nostrils.

“Trading’s making you sloppy Sui,” he grunted. He should have known she would find him. In fact, he was surprised it had taken her so long. This was her market. She would be buying up stock to transport back to Heidel… Or that was what everyone thought. Unknown to most was what her main source of profit was, it certainly was not spices or furniture.

He worried about her sometimes, but she was smart; smarter than he was and she deserved her success. It was hard won.

She sat silently down beside him, looking up at the sky as he was. He could feel it in her, feel the background buzz in his ears. Familiar and alien all at the same time.

“When my contact at the docks said you had stepped off a boat I thought you had come for a visit,” she paused and her hand brushed against his briefly.

Guilt tore at his gut, though he did not move nor change expression. He grunted a reply and he felt her shrug in the darkness.

“Then, he described the others with you,” she paused again, choosing her words with care. “You will be careful?”

He nodded and that seemed to placate her. Her warm, lilting tones took him back to the stories she would read for him. Drowsiness rose up and he yawned.

“Are you… planning to spend the night out here?”

He nodded again. He did not want to look at her, he did not want to see her face. The sadness mixed with affection would be his undoing.

“I could… get you a room…” she spoke slowly, knowing she was stepping over the gap that must remain between them.

“No,” he cut her off sharply.

The silence stretched and his anger flared. He knew he was hurting her, but he was not a child anymore. She had to let him go. If anything, the debt between them should be driving her away. Yet, she remained. Their upbringing was still dictating how she acted, no matter how far she distanced herself from their childhood.

“Sorry,” she whispered into the darkness. The wind sighed through the leaves above them, making him feel like it was whistling through the gulf between them.

“They were talking about a trader and unregistered ships. This was your idea?” It was not really a question, more an accusation. He knew the answer, this had his sister’s fingerprints all over it.

She pulled her knees up and wrapped her arms around them. The chill of the night was setting in and she shivered.

“I’m an investor,” she muttered. “It’s in my interests to see them do well. I will get a better…”

“Bollocks,” he grunted. Picking one of the cruder curses he had heard from a mercenary in Glish.

Again a long silence, he let it fester, knowing she would not be able to stay quiet. His patience was rewarded.

“I know what it is like to yearn for freedom,” she whispered at last. “To feel trapped by your choices, but know you could not have made better ones,” he could feel her eyes on him now. Deep green, like his own. “Existence is not the same as living. It’s for survival.”

He knew what she meant, how many years she had endured. In the end the solution had been simple. He shoved that particular memory back down where it belonged.

“So, you had to say something?” he grumbled. “Give them an idea?”

“Yes,” came the reply from the darkness.

“Might backfire.”

“I know.”

She stood, leathers creaking a little.

“These are not ‘good’ people Sui,” he pointed out.

“And we are?” she countered. Her tone was mild, but he felt as if she had punched him in the gut.

“People are people,” she continued. “We do the best we can with what we have. They are no different, we are no different. Half of Mediah is no different.” She took a step away. He had an urge to reach for her, to hold her close and tell her he would be fine. She could stop, she did not need to keep putting herself at risk. He forced himself to remain seated. He could not change her mind and did not deserve to offer her comfort.

“We do what we must for those we hold dear.”

He had no response for her.

She turned and was gone. Jasmine fading from the air gradually.

“Be safe, Sui,” the words left his mouth, but his voice failed him.

She would not have heard.

The young man found no rest that night under the boughs of the grove. Lost in memories of his older sister and how he now hardly recognised the woman she had become.

That, was his fault. He had made her what she was. His deeds had driven her to the path she now walked. Yet it was her stubbornness that had led to his need to act.

His sister was his mirror and yet his opposite. He was unsure they would ever be a true reflection of each other. Perhaps, in time, he would learn to accept her and not long for what they once were to each other.

Update- me

So…

Not posted up here in a while. Why? WORK ATE MY LIFE!

Not had much time to do anything but eat, sleep and work. Even my family have seen little of me. RP, writing and life in general have had to take a back seat.

However, I have lunch times, that golden 45 min of the day that I can close the door and do something not work related. I have even stopped eating lunch to squeeze out a few extra minutes so I can write.

Been picking at my novel for weeks, there is also another chapter of Indebted ready to go I just need to correct it.

I came to a decision on my novel. I am going to take the plunge and approach an agent… or twenty.

Am I scared? Bloody terrified. I write for fun not for the marketable value. To have a labour of love boiled down to cold hard economics… I can already visualise the multiple rejection letters. Still, something in me won’t drop the idea. Until I see ‘No, this is shit,’ in print then I guess it won’t go away.

I also took on another project for the experience. I am one of the writers on a Skyrim mod. Never written scripts before but I am getting used to the format. Recently had one of the quests I worked on voiced. I can’t quite describe it, hearing your words not only read but acted… I had to sit down for a moment, then get a strong cup of tea.

Four of the 11 main quests in so far and we are getting into the swing of things. I say “we” as there are three others like me and a lead writer who coordinates all our efforts and ensures we don’t screw up the lore or the characterisation.

Working with other writers is also very odd. I am so used to going my own way, getting directed and then have to edit and even delete something I have spent precious time putting together- GAH!

Keeps me humble however and it is very interesting getting almost instant feedback on an idea or proposed dialogue. It’s also very much a case of quality over quantity. Every sentence needs to advance the questline. Every word spoken has purpose.

So, that’s me for the time being. Busy busy.    

Skyrim is my playdough. (NSFW SCREENIES)

I am addicted to Skyrim mods and think I finally have my game looking as I wish while it is fairly stable. (Odd crash still but rare.) 

So… first a full overhaul of the graphics. this took close to 60 mods on it’s own but soooo worth it. For the most part I followed this guide for both graphics and character mods. 

Alternate start- wanted something a little different from RAWWWW dragon RUN! This mod give you the option of 20 dif starts. As I decided to make Marta, I picked shipwreck. 

Character creator starts up with you in prison before you make your choice of new life. Using Race menu on my new body mods Marta was born. Yes, she is naked. How else am I going to make sure she is in proportion? I even sculpted the skeleton for her. I was in character creator for 2 hours. 

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Marta being a strapping norn lass in GW2 she was missing tattoos. There are several tattoo plug ins for racemenu. The final result was very pleasing. 

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Now, time to get dressed and get wrecked! The poses are female idle animations mod. Plus have a female walk/run mod it affects NPCs too. 

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Marta, having been a deck hand for most of her short life (Race menu age as low as it will go) finds herself waking up in a flooded ship. It takes her a little time to get out of the capsized boat and the water is freezing (Which could kill her- Frost fall)

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The sun is setting as she swims for shore. She has a rough idea where she is from the distinctive landmarks but once she is on land… it’s luck and she is cold and wet. She has a dagger and an apple as well as her clothes. All else was lost in the ship going down.

 enb 2015_07_27 20_12_51_19The sun goes down and Marta finds an abandoned bandit camp. Dry clothes and somewhere to sleep keep her alive until morning. She eats the apple but she is till hungry (realistic needs and diseases.) The moons are rather beautiful even if she is cold. (Horizon of Dreams.)

enb 2015_07_27 20_20_15_13 The next morning she climbs the hill and finds Dawnstar, Strangely the people can’t sleep well. Odd, she had no trouble herself the previous night. 

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And then the weather changes as she gets to the town. Nice blizzard has the smiths wife whining about the weather. Marta just wants to find a way to get coin so she can eat, not have an entire family history.  (NPC overhaul, Improved NPC clothing) 

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Finally Marta finds someone to give her work and she goes mining. 

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Bit of coin made she hits the general goods store. It’s rather… odd. Still she gets a fair price and has septims to burn! 

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Armed and now mildly dangerous Marta leaves Dawnstar before she catches whatever curses the place. 

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And wouldn’t you know it… A fort on the main road has been taken over by bandits. You really think the local jarl would not stand for that but he is by all reports a nutjob. Marta is attacked… but she is no slouch with a sword and bow as it turns out. 

The Stormcloaks quickly move in to reclaim the fort… and offer Marta a chance of joining the ranks if she can get herself to Windhelm. Marta is not really wanting to get involved with them if this is how they maintain order… ie leave it to someone else… but its coin and shelter… Still she is far from Windhelm and needs supplies and more arrows.

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So, back to Dawnstar and a room in the local inn. The bard in the in… can’t sing. No really she is tone deaf. (Nice one NPC overhaul) she is nice to look at however so probably makes her septims that way.

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Next day after breakfast Marta gets her supplies and heads out to Windhelm… but then realises there is a man on the doc with a small boat offering to take her there for 25 septims. 

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 Once in Windhelm the first person to meet Marta on the docks tells a chilling story of a boy trying to summon the Dark Brotherhood. Poor deluded thing… and yet, she is hungry and if the boy is willing to pay… mmmm 

Desperate times and all that.

Awakenings

Waking takes a long time. The menders are concerned. Physically the Sister found in the forest was mending well. Mentally they were not so sure.

Even asleep, the Sisters aura swings from dizzying highs to dismal lows. Whatever she is dreaming it is as if she lives it. The warden patrol that found her had no idea who she was. They did report seeing other footprints. There was some sort of altercation. The Scout noted that there were a large set of prints near to where she lay.

Attacker or defender? Either way the large footprints followed those of the others, lending weight to the theory that the Sister had been attacked by a group. There were shell-casings from bullets that had been fired. A little sap spilt on the ground, but not so much to be concerned.

The menders knew who she was. Anwesu, was well respected for periodically sharing her medical supplies. She did so for some debt the menders could not fathom. The time she had burnt her hands in an experiment as a sapling was long forgotten. Forgotten by all except Anwesu. The kindness shown to her that day remained with her and she saw fit to redress the balance now she was in a position to do so.

She had been placed in a small hut, on a hammock, clothing removed. She appeared so much smaller and fragile with the robes gone.

She whimpered and her chest heaved as she fought her way back to consciousness. Her left eye occasionally fluttering open, showing a much dulled orange orb underneath.

Her arm was bruised from shoulder to elbow. Result of the robes deflecting a bullet. Her bark had been saved from piercing, but the impact had injured her regardless. There was also a deep gash over her forehead and extensive swelling and bruising all round the left hand side of her face. Her left eye was swollen shut.

Blunt trauma to the face had knocked her out cold.

It was just as the sun was setting when her good eye finally opened and remained open.

‘Llafn,” the name eases out of her lips, her eye still dull, not really awake. “W…why?”

Suddenly she sits up, a snarl on her full lips. Her head swims and a wave of nausea turns her stomach. She ignores it, struggling to get out of the hammock. The mender on duty, a pretty little sister with dark eyes and light leaves fluttered over to her. Words, half understood are spoken in a high tone. She needs to rest, this is unwise she has not even recovered.

The growl that leaves Anwesu’s lips is feral, like a cornered animal

“Get… out… of my… way” she demands, her tone dripping with venom.

The little mender gives a whimper as the toxic aura, swirling with hate and rage threatens to swamp her own. She backs away immediately. Her fear only goes to feed Anwesu’s fury. She would not be like this if he had not hit her in the head.

The barriers were gone, she was open, raw, vulnerable and oh so very angry.

How dare he? This was her duty and he denied her the opportunity to do as she should. Do what she had promised. When she gave her word it was never empty.

Where was he? Her orange eye turned on the terrified mender. Possibly a trainee.

“Where was I found? Was I alone?” the words lash out, answers are expected and quickly. Anwesu finally manages to get to her feet, clinging to the hammock for support. Her head screams at her, if she pushes herself it’s not a case of if she blacks out but when.

It did not matter. She needed to do something. Anything. She could not lie in the Grove oblivious and safe without knowing the truth.

“Y… you were alone,” squeaks the mender. “There were other tracks moving away but… please, you must rest! You have been unconscious for half a day there is no telling what…”

The bitter laughter from the tiny sylvari fills the hut. It is not a pleasant sound.

“If he is not dead I am going to kill him,” she says coldly. “I will hunt his blue hide down, tear strips of bark from his corpse and wear it as a dress!”

“Please!” the mender begs. “You are not yourself Sister. A blow to the head can…”

“Change personality and even alter memory,” Anwesu snaps. “Do you take me for a fool? Now step back from me before your aura makes me hug you or some other such nonsense.” The words are spat but there is less emotion behind them.

“I need to speak to Cedach, now,” she orders. “I either go myself, or you go and get her.”

“But…” the mender protested, she was swiftly cut off.

“NOW!” Anwesu’s one eye blazed with annoyance and not a small about of panic. “I am on borrowed time, there is a Brother missing!”

The little mender flees the hut.

An slumps back against the hammock, glad for a moments respite. Even having one sibling so close when she was so open made her heightened senses feel overloaded. She did not have long. Everything would soon shut down to save her from going half insane. It was her last line of defence. It was why she was such a weak seeming example of her race. Every day was a fight to keep the mental barriers in place to shield her from the world. Here, in the Gove… it was at its worst. So many bright, intrusive emotions. She could sense them, even at a distance.

Arren had once asked her why she lived like this. Why she did not go soundless and gain her strength back. She had answered that it would be like ‘them’ wining. The ones who made her this way had taken so much from her. She refused to let them take this too. Her ability to feel, her ability to connect to another without words. So she directed almost all her skill with barriers into her own mind. Dampening down her own empathy and over-active senses. It was gradually getting better. She could touch others again without screaming… but now…

She was afraid.

Frightened what she was capable of with nothing between her and the world. To feel fully what had happened…It was overwhelming. The acrimonious pang of resentment for being denied her duty, the distress that she may have been deceived, as she had been before… the hurt she felt for failing and… concern. She was worried and not about herself.

She did not matter, she never had, or someone would have found her, someone would have questioned…

They had not, she was gone over a year and no one missed her enough to seek her out. She had always faded into the background. No one of consequence. She had accepted this.

“When you wake… you will be changed. I cannot wait to see how.”

She screwed her good eye shut and shuddered. She did not want to remember. Not when she was like this… not when she would feel it all.

“Please…” she begged no-one in particular, an echo of the sapling she once was threading through her voice. “Please, not now.” Her throbbing head would not cooperate, it was only by a sheer act of will that she did not collapse into a sobbing and screaming heap on the ground.

She was needed… at least for the next few moments.

Cedach came swiftly, she took one look at An and folded her arms. The tall, imposing warden was pretty in her own way, but the bulky leaf armour covered a powerful body that was more than adequate to the task of swinging the huge blade on her back.

“What do you think are you doing?” Cedach demanded. “You should not be up yet!”

An could feel what she did not say. The warden was worried and her normally harsh gaze was full of sympathy as she took in An’s injuries.

It was too much, An’s chin wobbled slightly and her good eye misted with tears.

“They shot him,” she says in a rush. “They shot me, the Knight of Song and the gutter rats that follow in her wake.” There is was, the darkness in the back of her mind. She kept her attention on the freckled face of the warden and forced out the next few words, though they were slow and slurred.

“He knocked me out… please… please tell me he did it to save me…” she wanted to believe that. Wanted it so badly it hurt. She was not sure what she would do if she was betrayed again. She gave a strangled sob and a tear spilled from her eye.

She was pathetic.

That was the last thought, the darkness rushed over her and she slipped to the floor.

Cedach caught her before her before her injured head struck the ground.

First Steps

45th Colossus 1327AE

So yes, ‘lost’ my other journal, so starting afresh. New journal for a new life. Nope I don’t believe that either.

Well… There I was, brooding away in my camp, (Yes it was brooding, I admit it. Monumentally unhelpful self-pity,) when who should happen by but Ellros.

He asked after me. Mother, I wanted to hug that little body, he looked like a strong breeze would blow him over.

In his own… rather colloquial way, he cut through the ‘crap’ as he put it and said he had a proposition for me. Really? To open negotiations so abruptly? Had I been still trading I would have been smelling a desperation. Ellros however has very tight control of his aura. Must be exhausting to repress that much without being soundless. I can never manage it for long myself. Or rather I have not needed to in Orr and I am out of practice.

The Risen do not mind if I am sad or angry. They just make me pay if I let the emotions overcome my judgment. Fighting them has done me more than good. I am now more skilled with weaponry than I have ever been. Physically I don’t think I have ever been in such peak condition.

All that time behind the desk as Prime. I got soft. Hunt changed that.

So, I was asked to join the order of Whispers. Better than the Priory at least.

I was not sure… part of me leapt at the chance. I would have something else to distract me, take me from the forest and all that I left behind. Ease my guilt as I was being of use again, not selfishly chasing after the urgings of the hunt.

Yes I know. Valliant and all that, it’s an honour… (Still can’t see it that way no matter how hard I try.)

Part of me backed away. Arren’s trial, I had been asked to be there. Sprout was getting herself into no end of trouble back in the forest. Rhass, Thekrin, Pepper, Clu, Dex, Aggy, Liu, Argyle, Ver… the list of names continued to reel on through my mind. I avoided thinking of the name that sprang first to mind. Thekrin has told me to let him go, to stop hurting myself.

Could I really commit to something that would cause me to let Arren down again by not being there for him? Could I say yes and not be available to any of my former people until I was on leave? My hunt however, the burden would be shared. I would not fight the risen alone when we returned from deployment.

I would have an excuse to stay away from the forest. He did not want me there.

He did not want me.

Ellros did.

That was it, before I knew it I was being told to get into Vigil gear and we would depart at first light.

I was puzzled as I was given the armour by the quartermaster… then I realised.

Ellros was trying to make me stand out less, blend into the crowd a little. My face is well known.

“Good luck with that,” I muttered as I put the armour on. “I’m a giant blue female sylvari with a white glow. Not many around like me.”

I shoved the helm on my head and grumbled. It crushed my bark. I pulled it back off, hoping I could get away without wearing it. Yes…part of me is still a little vain even now.

It was then when I was nearly hit by a dove flopping out the sky. The poor thing was exhausted and the little message canister it carried had been redirected several times. I’m not that hard to find, am I?

“I need to speak with you urgently. Can’t move much.”

It was from Sprout.

My sap stilled. I had only just filled out the paperwork. I was a member of the pact. I could not just dash off without permission. This was the choice I feared I may have to face and it had happened with the ink still wet on my documentation.

Karma is a bitch.

Still, I had made my decision and was willing to accept what that entailed. I went to Ellros who was talking to Explorer Larxas. (The two are on good terms it seems. Yes Lar is Priory but not a stuck up icicle like most of them.) I named no names but asked to go back to Caledon. Ellros was evidently not pleased, but I was granted permission.

Alright that rubbed a little. Granted permission… stupid ego. I am bottom of the ranks again. Suck it up!

I digress.

I rushed back to the forest, fearing the worst. Cathal was in chaos.

One warden in open revolt, another admitting nightmare connections. I almost wanted to start snapping out orders but I bit my tongue. It’s not my job anymore and to do so would be to disrespect and undermine Pepper. She has enough to deal with.

I found Sprout, she was injured but standing. I was not exactly in a good mood having run from the gate in the Grove. Not even Rhass’ aura brushing over mine lifted my glare. The sapling must have run off, I could not find him after.

It was not as I suspected. Sprout had information for me.

She had been attacked by a wolf and under Verruh’s order.

I thought I may fall apart right there. She continued that he was wearing a scrap of silk that came from my clothing… blue… the silk I had bought in DR with Sprout. I dug for details despite my legs having turned to mush. How was she still alive? She was no match for him.

He had spared her. Not followed through on the order.

Mother help me, I felt hope. Delicious and fragile hope. I had to leave, or risk weeping. I could not let them all know the extent of my involvement… how far I had let myself slip in his case.

I wrote many a letter that night, including one I left in the forest for him to find.

It’s not in me to give up… and that is more curse than blessing.

I have hope… where I did not before.

I returned to fort trinity tired. I will not be back in the forest again for quite some time. I thought that would be the end for a while.

Of course it was not. New day, new problems.

Ellros… It’s not his real name. So the boss is a liar. Good to know. I’ll keep an eye on him, see what else he gives away. I get the impression though that he is, struggling with something. Having talked to the others, they just recently lost their leader and she will be a tough act to follow.

That is so close to my own experience it is not even funny. When Niu died I battled both grief, the fact I was in charge and people were dependent on me.

It was frightening but I rose to the challenge, never thought I would, but I did.

Len looks like he is at that turning point. He needs support but I am not sure he is going to get it. His team is fragmented and some almost hostile to him. If they don’t have each other’s backs then internal conflict can bleed over into the field. I have seen it happen. Trust is key or how do you know the orders you follow will keep you alive?

I don’t want to overstep the mark, I am just starting out, but I tried to at least show Len that I did not hold a grudge for his little lie and I was willing to learn and be a dependable member of the team. I kept the conversation light, he does not need any more on his back right now.

Abigail is intriguing. A mage that uses her power to see the world around her. Blind since birth she feels the air. She seems one of the coldest to Len but seemed friendly enough speaking to me. We got onto the topic of betrayal. (I guess I joined the right order)… she asked me if I ever got used to it.

“No, it still stings and burns. That does not stop me trusting. I have seen those who close themselves off, even tried it myself. It does not work. You only end up hurting yourself and driving those who do care from you.”

That hurt me to say, but I’m not about to lie to those around me… not unless I am forced to. I slept poorly that night, had much to think of. Got up early to help out at the kitchens. That Charr is appreciative of the help, I can tell by the way he has not hit me with a meat cleaver.

Liu came to see me. I did not expect he would and it was nice to see him. As usual with a case such as his, he already knew what he needed to do, he just needed to see things from a distance to come to the decision himself. By the time we spoke alone he already had an answer, I simply made sure he had thought it through.

This is the third time I had aided him in a crisis. He was genuinely grateful, although I did nothing really. Still, he asked if he could ever repay me. The words were out my mouth before I could hold them back.

“There is a large wolf in the forest. Some call him Verruh’s wolf but that is not true. If you see him, treat him gently. He struggles as you do.”

Mother… I truly am a pathetic creature. When will this end? When will I stop thinking about him and worrying? I have no pride… Liu took my request back to the forest with him. There is nothing more I can do. The wolf has to decide. I can only hope he chooses wisely.

Mother, I never asked for anything before… but I ask this. Get him out of that forest and away from those who seek to corrupt and confuse him. If I had stayed then…

No I can’t think like that. Not anymore. What has happened has happened. I have a new path now. The old may cross it at times but my steps are my own.

If only freedom were not such a heavy burden to carry alone.

I have seen Thekrin and his group. Rhass is also with them. I may have let slip that I was in the wastes to Rhass. He would come out here anyway. Better he does so while I am here to keep an eye on him.

Thekrin was… odd.

Stuttering like a sapling, trying to hide his face. I did not know what was wrong at first. I’ve been away from the forest too long I guess. Time was that many a sapling looked at me that way. Later on he whispered in my ear…

“Sorry to be weird, but that armour… wow.”

I spoke with him and Tea, she is not sleeping well either… eventually it was just myself and the sap… Thekrin (really must stop calling him sapling.)

I put my arm round him as we spoke of our hunts. Again his words gave me pause.

“There might be those who make you question the choices you have made, make you feel ugly inside but not me, You’ll always be beautiful to me, Suiri”

Am I reading too much into this? I know he had a sapling crush on me before but that was months ago and he moved on.

Sooner I get out this armour the better.

The Tower

Sui bent over the edge of the cliff and vomited again. Risen below got a face full of sylvari stomach contents.

She wheezed a laugh and wiped a trembling hand over her lips.

A few more breaths and the spinning in her belly settled. She rolled over to look up at the bruised Orrian sky.

She hated heights and yet had scrambled all the way up this spire to chase a rumour. A risen creature of immense power inhabited this place.

It was all true. She had made one final leap from a branch of petrified coral and bare feet landed on a mosaic floor that must have been beautiful before the land sunk.

She had seen evidence of much of that. Orr could have rivalled Kryta before it sunk, judging from the quality of the ruins and the bits of artwork that had survived with them.

The concentration of farmers, chickens, cows… the land must have been fertile indeed.

Seeing the farmers faithfully till soil that would never yield a crop, bulls hunt for blades of grass in the dust that they could not eat… it was all so sad… intolerably sad. They should all be at rest. She had thought that her dream had given her that charge… now she was not so sure.

She had cut down a giant yesterday… alone. An achievement that should have had her bragging in a bar with norn buying her drinks.

She had snuck up on the creature… when it’s back was turned and it was staring listlessly out over the corrupted landscape. She had jumped from cover and leapt.

She used her magic to boost her reflexes and got her arms round it’s neck and drew a chaos blade over it’s throat with grim efficiency.

She did not cut deep enough before she was grabbed. The giant threw her over it’s rotting head. Worn and damaged armour parted and she left half of the scales in the giant’s hand.

She landed on her feet with the grace her training with Argyle had given her. Mind cool and focused she switched weapons calling for dual chaos blades.

Falling into a more defensive form of combat… almost the same as when she would use magic offensively and keep her distance… she darted in and attacked the giants feet, avoiding deftly a fist to the skull.

Tendons snapped, the brute fell with a cry of anger and confusion.

She ignored the stab of pity she felt and acted as she knew she should. Blades crossed over one another, she sundered head from shoulders.

The wash of relief almost had her staggering. She had acted as a valiant should. She had not lost herself to instinct and while her hunt still prodded the back of her mind, it lessened in intensity. She was in control again.

Well, almost. She looked down at herself. Armour in shreds and a cut to her inner thigh where the giant’s dirt encrusted nails had sliced through her bark.

She ripped the rest of the useless bits off her and wasted a little magic to put rubbery leaves over her feet.

The pact who saw her around the cursed shore would no doubt talk about the almost naked sylvari running around the landscape. She did not care. A few risen nobles later and she had enough material to stitch together a garment to cover some of her modesty.

She had uncovered a chest inside of the ruin she spent the night. Despite the rather nasty spiked trap that sent a needle of steel right through her forearm, the chest was well worth opening.

Within, was an armoured skirt. It was made of pure damask with stitches so small and even they were certainly not put there by mortal hand. The garment practically spat power and it was all hers… she strapped it on and had smiled. The smile got wider when she moved to sprint back to Devastation and found her feet moving more swiftly than they ever had.

She headed for the drunken spire of rock in the distance. She had a risen mage to confront.

It had been a battle that had exhausted her. That necrotic magic packed quite a punch. All that time with Rhass had paid off. She anticipated the fear the evil thing had tried to conjure in her. Sui had stood her ground instead of running off the tower to her death.

Still, the pestilence had got to her and once her foe was vanquished she had run to empty her stomach over the land far below. She should have puked on the mage, but that pesky respect for the undead refused to let her do so. Thus… she lay on her back watching the purple clouds roll and boil above.

She could hear gunfire below and the roar of a flamethrower. A pact patrol no doubt. She pulled a face with distaste. Projectiles were efficient but not quick. She closed her eyes.

“Care for the risen,” she muttered, “because no one else does.”

Something clicked in the back of her mind. It was such a tiny change and she was so tired she did not even notice. She drifted to sleep, right there… with the mural of some ancient god glaring down at her.

Her dreams were the same as always… bright blue eyes… hands pushing her away… away into the arms of something greater she could not escape.

She awoke with a jolt, face wet.

More tears, the same dream, same nagging loss.

She wiped her face and growled to herself.

“Why can nothing ever be simple?” she spat to the icy eyes on the mural. Nothing like the ones in her dream, though the colour was almost identical.

She glanced to the side and noticed the note book sitting on a shelf, old but not as old as the other artefacts.

She stepped over the broken floor and brushed the dust from the cover. The spine cracked as she opened the book.

Most of the writing was unreadable, either due to the age of the tome or the fact language had moved on since the characters had been inscribed… still she could make out some of it.

 

“I’ve arrived at the Vizier’s Tower, through great peril. My health declines, and my mental state has been compromised by the horrors I’ve witnessed. I have begun to accept that I will not survive a return journey.”

 

“I see only these awful statues, and I’m not sure what I had hoped to find—some shred of information on the terrible Mursaat, perhaps, or maybe a glimpse into the life of the vizier who wrought such destruction upon Orr.”

 

“All I’ve learned is that Orr is lost to us forever. I don’t believe this land will ever heal. I will leave my notes here for someone else to find. I do not expect the Risen will allow me to leave.”

 

Suiriane realised her face was wet once more. She closed the book. So much death, so much pain. The dragon was only part of the problem. Orr was doomed long before it rose from the sea.

Mental state compromised… risen would not let him leave.

Would that be her legacy? Another lost to this place full of memory and misery?

She reverently closed the book and rested a hand on it for a moment. A little denial magic to aid in preserving it. Perhaps some priory scholar could decipher more of it in the future.

She turned back to the mural, stepping over the corpse of the mage… power still hummed round the place, she got the feeling this particular risen would not stay at rest. She should leave quickly… but not without satisfying her curiosity first.

On a closer look at the weathered mural she noticed writing at the bottom. She was very surprised when the ancient text seemed to morph and change into something she could read.

“Act with magic, act within reason, act without mercy”

Featured image

The words chilled her sap. She spent quite some time going back over the phrase.

Reason but no mercy.

This land had no mercy

She… was the antithesis of that.

She was merciful… that was why she was here…

Suiriane put her hands on the mural, it felt cold even through her hand wraps but there was also power pulsing there. Old… ancient… malevolent.

“You are wrong,” she said softly, looking defiantly into the eyes of the mural.

Later… once she found a safe camp for the night, she felt her hands hurting. She unwrapped the rags over them to see her palms were burnt.

“Evil bastard,” she muttered with a laugh. “Now that is just being a sore loser.”

It was then she realised the mural had been more crafty then she had given it credit for.

How would she hold a blade?

She would have to go back to her camp find her way very carefully.

She was now almost defenceless.

Onwards into the Dark

“I’m sorry Ma’am,” said the very polite Charr female. Vigil, judging by the uniform. “The phoenix team is on leave. They won’t be back for at least two weeks.”

Suiriane fixed on her best smile and slung her pack back over her shoulder. She thanked the Charr and clamped down on her disappointment.

A month in Orr and she had grown rather attached to the tightknit band of oddities that made up team Phoenix.

Even Zach, that annoying and judgmental charr. At least he was someone to talk to. The Charr, in-between berating her for hunting had made a few well observed comments.

“Correct me if I am wrong, but you don’t seem the type to be alone. Where are the others?”

Where indeed?

She should have written, but was terrified they would come for her if she did. Sylvana had found her of course. Her old mentor had been the tonic she needed as her faith in herself had dwindled.

“If you feel you are in the right place then you are in the right place. The answers will come in the end.”

She cursed her corrupted dream for the millionth time. If nightmare had not tried to infect her before she even opened her eyes, then she would not be left with such a fragmented image of her hunt.

“Take care of the risen,” she grumbled as she scrambled up towards her camp. “What does that even mean?”

Ellros, the enigmatic but plain speaking whispers agent agreed with her that ‘Take care’ meant kill. Though she had explained her frustration to him, just as she had to Sylvana. He had a different perspective.

“Perhaps it’s a certain type of risen you are here for?”

That had given her pause. Could it be that her dream wanted her to focus on some of the truly monstrous things out there? The idea had refused to go away.

“Just my luck,” she snarled and dumped her pack on the hill that had become her home. “Killing the risen is not enough, oh no. I get to battle the special ones.” She looked to the sky, it was a good a thing as any to yell at as the dream of dreams was not exactly a real place.

“A little fucking help down here would be nice!” she bellowed, startling a boar below the hill she stood on, the creature ran off squealing. Animals had never liked her.

Suiriane, in being around humans once more had started speaking like one again, she had even gained back the slight accent she had once had in Divinity.

“I’m here, what more do you want from me? You won! Do I have to solve a bloody puzzle too?”

But she knew there would be no answer, there never was. She rubbed a hand over her face.

“Get a grip Sui, this is not helping,” she muttered. “You are shouting at the sky.”

The dawn born sighed and sat heavily, armour clanking.

This was not how it should be. Was this punishment for delaying acting on her hunt so long?

“Bollocks,” she muttered, borrowing another human curse. “I’m tired and frustrated.”

Yes…She was tired… had been even before Orr but now it was worse. The former Prime did not sleep well. It was not just the regular nightmares she had always suffered but grief added on top.

It had taken time but she had identified the emotion now. She would wake in the middle of the night sobbing and begging, words on her lips that made no sense.

“Please… don’t do this… don’t let me go… I still need you… don’t push me away!”

She had not felt so wretched since Niu died, it was if she had suffered another bereavement but knew she had not.

Was this something from her dream, desperately trying to surface through the corruption? Or… was it something more sinister like repressed memory? Sui hesitated to dig into her psyche however. She had only just beaten her chaos addiction and her reserves were needed for fighting the risen. She could not be weak here, ever, or she would die.

It started to rain and Suiriane did not even notice for a few moments. That was happening more often also. She would lose herself in her thoughts and sometimes lose awareness altogether. Most disturbing of all, was she could not always account for her actions. Her hunt took over at times.

An image of the last incident flashed across her mind and she shuddered.

She had come back to herself and she was standing on the edge of a small cliff, looking at a pile of risen bodies below. They were missing limbs, mostly one leg. Sui had glanced at the tracks in the parched dirt and sand behind her.

The valiant had been toying with them. Removing a leg and letting them give chase until finally leading them off a cliff. Just like a well fed cat would toy with mice. That was not how she knew it should be done. They should be ended quickly and efficiently.

“Nothing like enjoying your work,” she muttered in an acidic tone, then burst out laughing.

The bitter laughter did not stop… and soon dissolved into heart felt, confused, grizzly sobs.

Suriane covered her face and rocked back and forward. Just as she would do when she was holding an upset sapling. All those she had comforted, put back together. Now she was the one that needed arms to stop her shattering to bits and there was no one to provide that.

The sobs and emotion passed as the rain intensified, hammering down on her head. It was not cold, it was never cold here. A small blessing.

Sui turned her tear streaked face up to the sky and let the warm rain wash away the evidence of her turmoil.

With the passing of the emotional storm came clarity.

She could carry on as she was and go slowly mad, or go to meet her fate.

It was time to choose.

The mindset of her time in command took hold and she gathered her things. The essentials she had managed to beg and borrow over the last few weeks. Too proud to ask for residence in the fort, but not so proud to refuse food and equipment.

She stood and saluted Fort Trinity. Her way of saying thank you.

Suiriane headed out into Orr, far from the safety of the Pact fortress.

A week later the guards who patrolled past her camp regularly took note of the fact she had still not returned. She had told the majority of the residents of the fort so little that they had no idea whom to alert that she was missing.

Just another statistic. Another that would never be found.

Sui knew well herself…

Orr did not forgive.

gw544