Chapter 14: No ward for Loneliness

Qusheab was all alone in the cottage of the three sisters. It wasn’t that hard of a task, repairing the wards of the cottage. This was mainly because traces of the wards still lingered in the flows, and the form of the cottage, frayed patterns. In a few cases all Qusheab had to do was fix a little bit of carving.

Fixing the wards wasn’t the main problem. The main problem was that Qusheab was alone. Ever since the rest of the Dauftima pride had fallen, Qusheab had been with her sisters. It did not sit well with her being parted from them, especially when there was probably some malevolent foe plotting against them.

Leaning back from a shattered statue, Qusheab pulled out the charm that she and her sisters had recently made. She could feel her sisters presences through it. Reluctantly placing it back under her hat, she got back to repairing the wards.

The wards that looked like they had been savaged by a frenzied beast, slashed, clawed and gnawed. A thought crossed Qusheab’s mind, was this really all the damage that had been done? Were the wards the only things targeted? The brutality of the damage did look like the kind of thing to come from rational action…

Recarving symbols and statues was reaching its limits. Qusheab pondered how to finish restoring the wards of the cottage. She had stuffed herself into a crevice to get a protective statue, but needing to find a solution, she returned to the brewing hall of the cottage. Her eyes roved over all the potions, pots and cauldrons. There had to be something of use. Her eyes stopped at the giant catshead cauldron. The brew.

That which they had entered the fallen realm to brew. Something that could only be made within a loop. Qusheab almost coughed up blood as she tried to remember what the brew actually was. That knowledge that was one of the memories that was damaged. Steadying herself and focusing her mind, Qusheab pushed the question from her mind. It was too dangerous to consider it currently.

She had however been given an idea of how to patch up the wards.

The brew was a scintillating liquid, so much so that the true colour of it was hard to see, but… it was the rim of bubbles, the edge of hope and the blood of rebellion. Qusheab had left a bone ladle stirring around of its own accord inside the cauldron while she had been trying to fix the wards.

Now she grabbed the ladle. The brew was born of the loop, with the steam from it, she would resist the loop, she would revitalize the wards of the cottage!

[Apologies for the small update]

Chapter 13: The Treachery of Mages

The roar of a sovereign lion thundered from Wauldigg’s throat, burning several of the nakfyggrs. Ultimately the greatest poison to spirits is that of authority greater than their own, and when the firesong connected to Wauldigg it fully expressed a noble nature!

The glow of flames had extended from the lion pelt of flames and surrounded Wauldigg and even his strangely lifeless eyes had a spark of flame within them. Jadah cackled caught up in the flow of magic, the rush of power!

Wauldigg hardly needed to strike the spirits, his mere presence burned away at them. The nakfyggrs fled from him crying out in terror, yet they did not flee into the darkness. Instead they clumped together, forming a writhing mass in a vaguely egg-like shape. Had Jadah or Wauldigg not been carried away with the flow of magic, they would have realised what was happening.

The spirits were under the pressure and fear of Wauldigg, fusing into one being! More and more the countless flock of nakfyggrs amassed!

A droning desperate cry of fear and loss issued out from the spirit egg. The nakfyggrs on the outside grew devoid of colour and turning to ashes, vanished in the dark. Before what was within the egg could be revealed there was a second droning desperate cry and the very briars of the maze twisted out and surrounded it, and flowers of shining white ice blossomed from them.

This second egg pulsated.

Finally Jadah was roused from the flow of magic by this.

“RUKH, ITS TURNING INTO A NAKRUKH!” She screamed in terror.

Wauldigg too was brought to his senses by her scream and hearing her words turned around and fled with the greatest speed he could muster. Jadah not content with this speed urged the pelt of flame to Wauldiggs legs and the dwarf then had lion legs of flame granting him speed.

The briars of trees tried to impede them, but Wualdigg simply crashed through. He ran so long and fast that he felt he legs would be burned away by flame, but he did not stop, not with knowing what was being born behind him.

They burst out from the briar maze, back into the forest of the crow-leaf trees, back under that sleeping gaze.

The flame scattered from Wauldigg’s legs and Jadah was only able to recover mere scraps.

“What madness has driven the spirits to gather and hunt, to even end their lives by fusing like that?” Jadah asked aloud.

Wauldigg panted heavily pulling out a silver flash and downing the contents. His breath evened out a bit.

“There is something else stalking the forest, I knew it had disturbed the spirits, but… a rukh?”

Rukh are not the most powerful kinds of spirits, indeed some are even quite weak, but a rukh of any kind is connected to the concept of judgement. Just as dragons were considered Judges… so too are rukhs.

Judges of spirits, of the dead. No rukh is to be simply trifled with, much less one born from the fusion of so many other spirits.

“Master Wauldigg, what kind of creature is it that stirs the spirits so?” Jadah asked.

Wauldigg shook his head.

“I don’t know, whatever it is… sinister and cowardly, that is my gut feeling”

The dwarf looked back at where they came from, a shattered hole in the briars.

“We should keep moving, I don’t want to led astray by the nakruhk”

Jadah gently climbed off Wauldigg’s back. They walked carefully under the obscure gaze of the crows.

“I must thank you in full master Wauldigg, even if I had paid a cost to deal with those spirits, I would not have escaped from them birthing that rukh.”

Wauldigg tugged on his frayed braids.

“It’s nothing miss Jadah, I just did what any true son of stone would do… but what are you doing out here? This fallen realm is filled tip to top with lurking dangers. Your cottage should be safe…”

Jadah sighed.

“Yes, it should be.”

Wauldigg almost stumbled.

“What? What has happened?”

Jadah moved in front of Wauldigg and looked into his eyes.

“Forgive me for this, but I must know what is happening… look… look… look… into my eyes…”

Wauldigg almost pulled away, but his body while still upright went strangely slack and he was lost in the unbroken whiteness of Jadah’s eyes.

“You are a good man, but you have fallen into the loop, you cannot see that the days pass by your mind is filled with fog, but through my eyes, you can see through that fog.”

A shudder passed through Wauldigg’s body and the air between his eyes and hers became hazy.

“Speak, speak to me of days that escaped your grasp, of the changes that happened, when the cottage changed, when the wards were sundered it cannot have escaped the depth of your spirit, though the loop clouded your mind, speak to me” Jadah asked.

The voice that replied was not Wauldigg’s, yet it was of him.

“Deceitful witch of compassion and defiance, you dare strain my master’s essence thus! Ever do your kind seek your own ends, and leave curses for all else to deal with! You dare to give speech to this power of his to give mind to the mindless! Curse you not a thought do you give to my master!”

A pained expression swept across Jadah’s face and guilt welled up from her very heartflame.

“Do not rebuke me, power of Wauldigg…”

“You deserve more than rebuke, would that your compassion was not so twisted! Your gratitude so heartless!”

“…please, just answer me, and this will end, I cannot drag your master free of the magic, so this is all I can do”

Wauldigg’s eyes became as two proudly blue opals.

“Your will is tainted, but to care for your kin is just, know that your wards fell after the smoke of your cottage turned wan and disturbed, when the whole forest cried out without any to hear it. Master did not see what caused it, but it was many many days ago. Since then, the loop changed and your wards were torn apart.

The next day he came upon ruins and bloodshed and lost his life in turn, many days passed, many times he was slain. NOT ONCE SEEING HIS SLAYER. Then as if it never happened it stopped, and the cottage was left intact except the wards, master and you three sisters left unslain. Return this power to mindlessness, before master is torn asunder!”

Tears worked their way from Jadah’s eyes and she closed them, the charm ended.

“I’m sorry, but I love my sisters… and… I’m afraid. I’m sorry” Jadah whispered.

Jadah hated her eyes. She hated the power they had. She hated how she would always, always end up using them. Most of all, she hated herself for using that power.

She fled into the darkness’ embrace, away from Wauldigg, away from her guilt.

When Wauldigg awoke from the scouring, he did not remember anything of what happened.

Not saving Jadah.

Not the Nakrukh.

Not what Jadah did.

He continued his struggle, his story. He was not unravelled by Jadah, and he had not yet unravelled Galshea.

The crow-leaves saw. The Forest saw, but as always it spoke not a word.

 

[One too many muck ups, I plan to be back on track]

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Chapter 12: Two Lights of Defiance

Bouncing between the nakfyggrs was a blue light so faint that it seemed it would be snuffed out at any moment. It swung in round looping motions, each time it hit it would rebound into hitting another strike. There was not one motion of gathering strength, each movement would not end in a hit, but spring from hit to hit, it was clear the pace of the light was growing faster and faster.

The blue glow revealed flashes of silver metal and russet hair and a tattered yellow half-cloak. He did not dance among the snow cloaked spirits, he was a dire pendulum! Back and forth, back and forth.

Wauldigg though partly taken by the magic of the loop, his mind beguiled was not short on battle strength!

Jadah Dauftima was not a woman who would give no aid or succour to her rescuer. As soon as she was sure that it was indeed Wauldigg and his hammer, she began to agitate the lion’s mane ring of fire around her. It wasn’t that she had no confidence in Wauldigg, she was sure that eventually he’d smash all the spirits, but how could she be so heartless as to not give a helping hand.

“Master Wauldigg, lend me your back!” she cried.

The persistent glow of Wauldigg’s hammer did not cease, but his voice boomed out.

“I thought it was you Miss Jadah, how could I deny you the sanctuary of my back!”

There was a dong as if some mighty bell had rung out and Wauldigg flew out from the swarming nakfyggrs scattering them in his wake, their beaks crying out. Bounding strike after strike he made his way to Jadah, there was another sounding of a bell and the nakfyggrs flew like snowflakes in a gale. Wauldigg’s back was to Jadah’s flame.

Wasting no time, Jadah leapt, the lion-mane flame roaring behind her. As soon as Wauldigg felt her grip onto him, he was back to the ‘gentle’ ministrations he was giving the spirits.

“Haha! Shall we break free of these disturbed spirits miss Jadah?” Wauldigg cried.

“I’ve a better idea, now that we are a pair”

It must be understood, that one of the more deadly formations in Kigan is that of fighter on front, mage on back. The theory of it is that the fighter is freer to rampage as he wills, while the mage protects the fighter’s back. Of course it requires a mage small and light enough to not be a burden to the fighter, and the mage needs to be able to cast spells rapidly. Of course the formation can have a slow casting mage(which is what most are), in that case, the fighter just has to protect their back as usual. Some nations of Kigan would even strap mages to the back of their footsoldiers, though this practice is more common in the drownlands of Heirm.

Jadah’s white eyes flashed and her head shook, sending a cascade of golden motes from her hatbush across the lionsong flame, and with a roar what was a cloak became a pelt, the whole pelt of a lion made in flame, flowing over Jadah and Wauldigg’s back.

“COME SON OF STONE, TAKE THE RAGESONG OF FIRE, LIGHT OF DEFIANCE, SMITE THOSE CONSUMED BY DESIRE!” Jadah intoned.

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