Vasha watched in horror as her vision became reality. She pulled Vaekyr closer to her, instinctively, knowing it would be impossible to protect him from this monster. As she did, the bones in her right arm cracked, her entire arm lengthening a few inches, and a crop of bright pink flesh began to form the entire length, the flesh overlapping each other like multiple strands of ligament laid over each other. She cried out in pain, falling to her knees, clutching her deformed arm.
Kayn stared up at the Titan, unflinching. He felt her attempts to assault his mind, but the protections of the Speckormerelf prevented her from entering. It was then that he realized the madness was not merely mental with this titan, but physical as well. His ears elongated and grew a glowing membrane like a Mer's head, his chin dropped into small tendrils of flesh like a Kor's barbels. Kayn immediately grew in height, his bones popping and cracking at the sudden change. Looking at his hands, he saw webbing in-between each finger. Kayn vaguely looked like a small dragon as he gained these aspects from the Speckormerelf. He felt their intangible forms wrap around him until they became a part of him. The strange spectral residue still lingered, and he still felt them in his mind. All was right... this was right.
Perfection, Kayn thought. He continued staring at the titan in defiance, but took a moment to look at the odd changes in his companions around him.
Ato, too, stood transfixed as he watched this creature from elsewhere emerge from the mountain. His mind reeled at the sheer incomprehensibility of it and he could feel his grip on reality slipping from his grasp.
Even as he struggled to hold onto some semblance of sanity, Ato could feel his body changing, remolded by the very nature of the titanic monstrosity warping the very fabric of reality around itself. Those watching would see the flesh of his chin and neck, throb and pulsate, taking on the pinkish color of the tentacled horror. His skin flowing into overlapping patches and mutated strands. He clawed at it, eyes wide and crazed by both the pain of his transformation and the sight of the eldritch horror.
That isn't.. she isn't the one I saw.. There's more than one.. Rezivah trembled at her realization, at the hideous, droning--- perfection--- monstrosity that blotted the sun and choked the sky. This life, all life was hers. All Zendikar was hers. Hers to silence, to null, to transform. But I'm alive, I'm alive. I must take and make mine. Must make mine and make perfect! As her fangs began to tingle, her forearms began to elongate. Three inches they have grown if anyone was to measure, straining the skin, producing stretch marks across the taut flesh. Her fingers as well grew two inches more, looking more like claws of a carrion. Her eyes grew red in intensity. I must make mine!
DM - Innistrad: The Cursed Blade, a campaign inspired by Magic the Gathering's gothic plane of Innistrad played by...
Malekus Montag, Goldnight warlock.......................Theinx Gerard Waltgaud, forcemage of the land......MadMulligan Vict, Alabaster knight-inquisitor............Ivanchina [open player slot] [open player slot]
Jerrock stared up at the...thing...blotting out the sky. He could not wrap his mind around it. This was far beyond his experience. It was compelling and horrifying at the same time. He tried to tear his gaze away, but could not. As he stared, he felt his skin begin to itch and burn. Boils erupted across his chest and all up the front of his neck, but he ignored them. As he listened to the voice, he became more acutely aware of those around him. Who among them were with the...what were they called...emcayi? Were they behind the destruction of his tribe? They could be anywhere. He scanned the crowd, tightening his grip on his sword.
A mixture of awe, fear, and horror raced into the hearts of the survivors of For Keff as this behemoth rose from the mountain, bringing madness and death in tow with it. Gideon sunk to his knees in complete fear and awe, his mind racing as all he could do was sit, powerless to the force. Vasha's scream snapped him back to attention as he rushed to her side. Radiating light, warmth, and soothing peace filled Vasha's mind, soul, and body as he placed his hands on her head, muttering an angelic incantation [greater restoration]. Her mind was clear, purged from whatever madness had wrecked it, and the malformities brought about by her madness quickly subsided. He breathed heavily, making it evident that the spell was taxing and that his mana was significantly low. "Go..." he gasped, trying to maintain whatever sense of charisma and command he held. "Flee. Take the refugees and get to the river. It's your only chance of survival."
Screams rang out from the populace, though most could only stare upward with jaws dropped as they awaited their inevitable death.
As Vasha kneeled on the ground, holding her deformed arm close to her chest, she began to feel healing warmth fall over her. Suddenly the pain was gone, as was the seething rage pent up within her. Her mind was clear, and she knew what she needed to do. Holding Gideon's hand a moment, she said, "The river. Where is it?"
"This way," Kayn said, pointing with a webbed finger. "Gather up everyone we can!"
Gideon stands to his feet, assisting Vasha to hers as he does so. "Follow the...." he looks at Kayn with a puzzled look, "goblin-hybrid. I'm going to get reinforcements," he states starkly as he eyes down Emrakul. Like reality itself cracked, a split in space appeared just in front of him. Peering within for a brief moment, you see the night sky, radiant with stars and other celestial objects with a wooden path that winds through the darkness. As he steps through the split in space, it quickly seals up behind him, leaving those witnesses both confused and amazed at what they witnessed.
Vasha nods, pulling Vaekyr close. "Thank you," she says, softly, giving Gideon a nod. She picked up Vaekyr, running to meet the others. "We have to leave. Now. Everyone stay close. Kayn knows the way to the river."
Ato slowly regains some semblance of control. Shaking his head in a futile effort to clear it, he opens his eyes to take in the reality that surrounds him, grounding himself once again in the here and now. Fervently hoping it was all in his mind, he sees the physical changes wrought upon those around him, and feels at the fleshy growth upon his own neck, all too real. He climbs to his feet, focusing on Vasha's voice and the urgent need to help these people. "Yes, we can get them to safety if we go now."
Jerrock follows,eyeing them suspiciously. Are any of them in league with the nightmares. Best to be on guard.
The group rushes down the battlements, scouring through the camp to grab as many people as they can. They quickly find out that many of the refugees are utterly in shock as they stare at the slowly approaching monstrosity. Their faces are contorted with fear, and yet they can't look away, as if in a daze.
Kayn continues to lead the way, letting the others worry about the refugees. "Hurry up, now!" He calls.
Ato continues after Kayn, trying to grab people and shake them from thier shock as he goes, urging each one to help gather others as they are able to. While his efforts are seen as sincere, some can hear the lack of conviction... the lack of hope, in his voice. He was able to get about six people to come with him.
“Stay here and you will surely die. Come with me and you might live!” Jerrock yelled. While Jerrock's pitch seems sound, as he goes from person to person, trying to get them to join him, he can't help but wonder: who is infected? Who here might secretly serve the Queen? This questioning breeds doubt, leading to an inability to break whatever "spell" the Queen has cast on some of these people. He is able to get about four more to join them though.
Kayn stops, seeing his companions failing in their effort to snap the refugees out of their stupor. "Lets go!" He calls out. He stands atop a rock, erecting a pillar of flame to draw their eyes towards him. "Whatever that thing is," he says. "It's coming! There's a way out by the river. If you follow us, you might survive this! Now... run!! Before that thing sucks every drop of mana from your bodies!" Like moths to a flame, many of the refugees shift their attention away from the eldrazi and towards Kayn. His words inspire many within the fort as they shake their head and look around themselves, following those who are heading towards the river. You count an upwards of twenty to thirty refugees you can see moving towards the mouth of the cave that leads to the river.
While the refugees begin to hasten themselves, Rezivah lingers between them, waving her arm like herding cattle. "Move it, unless you want me to bite you and make you move!" She says aloud, conspicuously eyeing for a lone or separated refugee, like a lion watching for a young or lame gazelle in a herd.
As the oppressive, unnatural force slowly looms towards the fort, the group scrambles to gather as many people as they can in the midst of Gideon's perplexing disappearance. Rushing down the battlement, they move through the move, shouting, shaking, pleading... anything to get the people to stop looking at the monstrosity bearing down on their location. Kayn leads the efforts in relocated the refugees and getting as many people as they can safely into the cavern entrance, down the winding stairs, and to the underground river.
The stairs spill out into a fairly wide bank along a fast-moving river. Looking around, you note the river tunnel to be about twenty or so feet high, with the ceiling of the cavern dipping low or raising higher as it travels. The opposite side of the river tunnel lies enshrouded in darkness as those with darkvision are unable to penetrate through the lack of light and see the other. To the group's right, they see several small, makeshift docks that extend about fifteen feet into the water. Two boats, each one able to pack about a dozen or so people into it, lay tied to the docks. Burning lanterns rest on poles at the edge of each makeshift dock, providing ample light to their surroundings. The air is wet, and yet still warm: a feature that seems everpresent on Akoum.
With Kayn leading, he stands watch at the base of the stairs, counting the number of worshippers he's brought with him. Forty-three. Forty-three people were able to be saved. That's not even the number of people that were waiting to get into the gates just last night. A sickness sits in his stomach as the thought of how many people died, will die, or worse lingers in his mind.
Two of the refugees, with waves of their hands and a short incantation [light], each illuminate an object in their hands, raising it into the air to provide light to the group. Their faces carry heavy expressions, ones filled with fear, worry, and despair. Some of them too, you realize, have been warped by the Queen's insanity: boils blister on some of their arms, hands, or neck. Noses protrude outward in hag-like fashion.
The bank of the river extends in opposite directions, both north and south, before running off into the darkness.
As the refugees passed Rezivah, she eyed what she was hoping for: a lone male human who was seemingly transfixed on the massive blight in the sky. The vampire hunches low, bending her knees, and approached the man at an angled path through tents and stalls, her eyes wild in anticipation. The poor human didn't notice when Rezivah stood behind him, when she opened her mouth, when she split his skin. Not a second later, the man passed and Rezivah overlooked the inevitable process of the corpse changing. It transformed into a a dull, gray emasculated figure, losing its facial features save its mouth. It twitched and shuddered, twisted and jerked, and eventually came to unlife. Rezivah smiled a wide, satisfied smile. "Welcome, null-mine. Follow me," she said and they made their way back to the group.
Rollback Post to RevisionRollBack
DM - Innistrad: The Cursed Blade, a campaign inspired by Magic the Gathering's gothic plane of Innistrad played by...
Malekus Montag, Goldnight warlock.......................Theinx Gerard Waltgaud, forcemage of the land......MadMulligan Vict, Alabaster knight-inquisitor............Ivanchina [open player slot] [open player slot]
Ato moves through the small crowd, drawn to the water. Just the moisture in the air was like a balm to his soul - it had been so dry up above. He joins Kayn at the front, looking out over the river as the magic light illuminates the underground scene.
"Best to make sure this route hasn't been compromised. We should be sure the water is safe before taking these people out there, don't you think? I'll check the river. Get the survivors loaded on the boats. Though I'm not sure how we outrun..." His words trail off as he shudders, hand moving unconsciously to the mutated growth at this neck.
While the group discusses amongst themselves on the proper course of action, high above on the surface, a rumbling noise can be heard, as well as tremors. Several of the refugees start screaming and run to the boats, desperate to get away.
"To the boats," Vasha said, hurriedly. "Quickly!"
“If you are uninjured or can walk, please make space in the boats,” Vesra boomed. “We cannot got everyone in the boats, but we will protect everyone.”
While Vesra's pleading might've worked with a calm crowd, the refugees are panicking, having just witnessed a... thing unimaginable tear through a mountain like it was feta cheese. Her words meant little to the people as more and more began to panic, rushing, pushing, and shoving as they tried to find safety in the boat.
"There will be order!" Vasha yelled. (Intimidate - 14)
Vasha's attempt to establish order fall deaf on the ears of the panicked, despite her voices echoing off the cavern ceiling and walls. The panick begins to grow worse, as people leap onto the boats nearly in droves. Fighting begins to break out as the boats begin to fill past their normal capacity. Only a handful remain on land, unsure of what to do.
Kayn walks calmly towards the beach and watches the chaos that ensues. How like ants they are... organized, intelligent when needed, and in a chaotic panic when one drop of water lands nearby.
Standing on the beach, Kayn gestures upwards to the sky. A loud crack rings out across the the water causing both boats to rock. The shatter is aimed just right to cause the least amount of damage to the area but loud enough for everyone's attention to be turned to him. "Make room for everyone!" He yells. "Not a single person is to be left behind. Toss all crates, drop all non-essential items. If there are small boats aboard, tether them to the larger ones. EVERYONE GETS ONBOARD!" The goblin commands.
Kayn's spell shocks the people as they stop their infighting, wailing, and other activities, stunned by the deafening sound which echoes across the cavern. With their attention on him, they seem to snap out of whatever craze swept through them. Unfortunately, the shockwave also startled two figures so much that they both fall out of the rocking boats and begin getting pulled by the current down the underground river. Some look downward in horror at the situation, but most begin to more orderly arrange themselves, taking only the bare necessities of what they have and what's in the boats. Drawn back to the surface by the boom of Kayn's spell, Ato emerges in time to see the pair go over and moves to catch them before they can be swept away. While Ato is able to get ahold of them--or rather, have them hold onto him--he finds it too difficult to struggle against the ongoing current. Instead of aiming for the docks, Ato allows the current to pull them further down, angling his swimming until they reach a further shoreline. Reinvigorated by the feeling of water on his skin, Ato draws upon some of his stores of blue mana, calling forth a cluster of flickering lights to illuminate the area around the trio. "Come, let's get you back to the others." He begins to lead the unlucky pair back upstream.
The pair, shivering and cold and covered in nasty warts, thank Ato. "We don't want to be swept to some watery grave. Our lives still have meaning. Even with this... this..." they look themselves over, and the word "rot" initially comes to Ato's mind. "It must. Make the most of it." Once they've joined back up with the others, he'll jump back on the water.
"Friends!" Jerrock called. "Perhaps we can use these barrels and tables and tie them between the boats. That will allow us to carry more people."
Kayn continues to watch with amusement. "I think we'll be walking," he whispers to anyone listening. "Perhaps we can take the strongest with us. They'll have the best chance at surviving."
Vasha began to nod, then stopped. "We need to save as many as possible," she whispered back to Kayn. "However, walking might be the best idea at this point."
“Ato and I will go with the boats, the rest of you take anyone who is left and walk,” Vesra said as loudly as she could.
Kayn takes that cue as a confirmation. "ANYONE THAT CAN FIGHT. IS WILLING TO FIGHT. JOIN US ON THE LAND!!" His voice is lower, but still loud as he says, "Those that seek the protection and swift current of the sea, keep yourselves to the boats. We will meet you in the next place!" Whether the next place was an afterlife or a town, that remained to be seen. He looks over to Vasha, "The child should be on the boat," he mentions, motioning to Vesra to take him. The refugees pause, contemplating the choice. Regardless of the choice, they all realize that the boats can only take half of the people, or perhaps two-thirds at most. About eight or so people step off the boats, joining Kayn and the others. Among them are Velan Somnaho and three of his tribe. Their spots are quickly filled by those more in need of quick passage.
“Come, get ready to get on my back,” Vesra murmured to her stepbrother.
Velan intercedes. "Anywhere my son goes, I go. I won't take him out of my sight."
“So which would you rather,” Vesra countered angrily. “Him walk for dozens of miles, or you, an able-bodied fighter, take the spot on this boat of someone who needs it more? Vaekyr and the rest of these people will be under my protection.”
Kayn watches the exchange with interest. Noticing the intricate similarities between the two... three... four. "The boats will launch soon," he comments.
He grimaces, looking between the lot of them before his gaze falls on his son. Dropping to a knee, he looks him square in the eyes before embracing him in a hug. The exchange is silent until he looks to Vesra. "Take good care of him. Do you have a harness or some way to keep him from falling off?"
Vasha held Vaekyr tightly. "I'd rather keep him close. If something happened to you in the water, we can't guarantee his safety. If he walks with us, I can keep a close eye on him."
Velan smiled, excited to see his stubbornness had been passed to Vasha. "Yes... my thoughts exactly. Stay with us, Vesra."
“Fine, take Vaekyr the,” Vesra sighed. “But I’m going with them.”
Jerrock sighs, disappointed that nobody liked his barrels and tables idea. Clearly, his wisdom was not needed at this moment. He moved himself toward the front of the assembling pedestrian caravan, muttering to himself, "Just let me know when there is something to hit."
"Soon, my friend." Kayn mumbles, glancing in the direction of the massive titan. "Soon."
With about thirty or so refugees on the boats, many of them older folk and children, Ato and Vesra guided them from the water as the boats got picked up by the current and carried down the river. Vesra and Vasha looked at each other one last time, their hearts gripped with worry as they both realized they might not see each other days... maybe even weeks. Neither was sure the last time they spent for than a day apart, but they both know their decisions were necessary in order to save the refugees. The boats, with Ato and Vesra, quickly slipped out of sight as darkness overtook them. Two beacons of light sprouted from each of the packed boats, growing smaller and smaller until they abruptly disappeared behind the curvature of the tunnel wall.
That left Kayn, Rezivah, Vasha, and Jerrock with the remaining fourteen refugees, many of them more fit for battle, to walk along the banks of the river and hope that they were consistent throughout their entire journey. One of the men, a guard from the fort, speaks up as the large group starts moving forward into the darkness, proclaiming, "I've patrolled these banks before, and I know the way for at least a day's travel. Be wary. Surrakar often make their spawning pools in terrain such as this and judging by the occasional raids we've had, I suspect we'll run into at least one. It'll be about a week's travel by foot, though thankfully the river never splits, so we just need to follow the bank."
Walking along the river... Vasha watched the boats as long as she possibly could until they were completely out of sight. Hugging Vaekyr tight, she told herself that Vesra would be fine. Keeping toward the front of the group, she handed a torch to her father. "Light, and hold this," she growled, unhappy he was sticking so close to her, but understanding. "Give us some light to walk by."
Velan smiles, lighting the torch quickly and holding it aloft for them to see. Many others within the group light torches of their own, while others result to magic, illuminating objects on their persons for guidance. Soon the entire refugee group is a glowing ball consisting of various points of light, traveling along the warm bank of the underground river.
For five days, the group with their refugees wander along the bank of the river. The sounds of water sloshing onto gravel or racing around boulders fill your ears as your boots and feet crunch into the wet gravel or plop over solid stone. Darkness beckons all around you as the light from the torches keep it at bay. At times, the bank narrows, forcing the group to go single-file, or the ceiling caves in, forcing them to crawl or wade through deep water. Diligent in setting watch while they rest and sleep, they avoid any monsters or deeper and darker denizens which roam within the river. Occasionally, the group will pass the entrance to a small tunnel or cave, but the guards will remind them to stick to the riverbank--it's best not disturbing whatever may lie within. A few of those tunnels even host sets of tracks, ones the group is able to determine are humanoid and from large creatures with webbed feet... more than likely surrakar. At other times, they'll spot drag marks of something heavy coming out of the water, as well as the footprints of dozen of people, huddled close together. Vesra and Ato's group are still alive. The thought comforts them as they see the signs of their safe passage.
On the sixth day--at least, the group reckons it to be without any sunlight or horizon to dictate the falling of the sun and rising of the stars--the group comes across a large passageway cut into the cavern wall that empties out into a wide eddy on the side of the river. Loose gravel deposits into the eddy and Vasha picks up the same tracks she's occasionally spotted for the last couple of days... but in much greater number here.
Sailing along the river. Ato and Vesra follow behind the two boats as they swiftly sail along the underground river. The time flows by as darkness quickly passes them. The moderate roar of the river fills their ears, but Ato feels right at home in the darkness and cool water. When exhausted, they pull the boats over to a wide bank, using their frames as protection while the refugees rest. Rotating watch, they never come across any dangers, though at times they can see the odd surrakar along the banks of the river. They stare at the boats as they pass by, but do nothing to impede their travels.
After six days, a small speck of light can be seen off in the far distance, slowly growing larger and larger. The sun. The refugees get excited at the thought of escaping this all-encompassing darkness and finally feeling the warm sun on their transfigured and hideous faces. Like a blinding light, the two boats race into the bright portals, returning to the outside world. It takes a few minutes for their eyes to adjust to the normal sunlight, but once they do, they're met with the glistening waves of the sea as an unending horizon of water. High above, the sun beams down bright light. They've deposited in the ocean. Far off to their left, a steady stream of lava pours into the water, cascading great plumes of steam into the sky. To their right, the coastline seems to go on forever before turning in on itself.
Ato stares up into the pale blue sky, the bright sun still stabbing like daggers into eyes not used to the brightness. Still, it was a beautiful sight. "We should find a safe place to set up camp. Someplace we can watch the mouth of the river, and defend should it come to that. We are far ahead of the others and will be waiting here for days if not weeks. Shelter, food, fresh water... There is much to do."
After a day of walking, Vasha helped set up camp, and made sure Vaekyr got food and finally, some sleep. Talk of watch had been had, and Valen offered to take double shifts. Vasha brought him some water, while on his watch, and sat next to him, silent. He takes the water, nodding his head in thanks with a quick spout of Kor Sign and continues to stare out into the darkness, a pair of kor hooks coiled to his side. Vasha gives him a side glance, then turns her gaze toward the sleeping Vaekyr. "He's a good boy," she said, quietly.
Valen nods his head. "He is," he responds as he casts his down for moment. "A shame it took me four deaths to finally get it right. At least two of them proved to be false."
Vasha swallowed hard, and looked down at her hands. After a moment of reflection, she spoke again. "Why did you hate us so much? Was it because... because we killed mom?"
The question hit Valen like a wall, causing his heart to pound. "I..." he shook his head, deferring to Kor Sign. "For a long time, I thought so," he began with a sigh. "But as time went on, I realized it was because I hated myself." The silence hangs in the air as he pauses, unsure of how to continue.
Vasha sat in silence again, taking in this information. You were supposed to protect us. Instead, I protected Vesra by taking all those beatings intended for her. And I would do it again, because she's the most important person in the world. To me, at least. Vasha paused, realizing her hands were trembling. We needed you, but... She paused again, sending another glance to the sleeping boy. I care nothing of this tribe. Not one of them would stand up for us. But for some reason, I want to keep Vaekyr safe. I've always hated you. Always planned how I would kill you if I ever saw your face again. But I guess... you were always right. I'm a failure.
He nods, watching Vasha intently as she sighs. When finished, his milky-white eyes stare into Vasha's for a few moments. Behind them, Vasha sees a swirl of conflict and deep emotion. "Such is our destiny," he signs with melancholy, turning away from her gaze. "For the Somnaho, failure is our future." He hesitates, as if unsure if he should continue. Shaking his head, he presses on. "Do you remember the old family legend, 'The Tale of the Sparrow and the Fox'?"
Vaguely, Vasha signed back, with a shrug. I did my best to push out all of my childhood memories.
He repeats the tale in sign. "An old sparrow, whose wings were too old to fly, laid on the ground, ready to die. A red fox walked along, and seeing the dying sparrow, sang a song. The sparrow grew young, and flew again, and so the friendship with the fox began. It is not so much a tale as it is a history. It is our history."
What do you mean? Vasha asked, confused.
He takes a moment and closes his eyes, gathering his thoughts. "Long ago, your grandfather's grandfather's grandfather sought power and influence with the kor. He was a sick and dying man, and in a desperate attempt to preserve his life and secure such power for his posterity, he turned to ancient vampiric rites. He.... struck a bargain with a powerful fiend, one who could alter and twist fate itself. As long as the firstborn child of a clan chieftain was sacrificed at birth, the Somnaho line would forever prosper and grow. Thus the friendship of the sparrow, the Somnaho, and the fox. If such a sacrifice was not committed, then the Somnaho line would run dry like the cracked bed of a dried river before overflowing with blood and desolation." He lets the words and what they mean sink in.
So, Vasha paused, thinking. Who stopped this tradition?
"I did," is all he could reply.
Vasha sat stunned.Vesra... He nodded his head silently, his eyes glistening with reflected torch-light. "It's just a story. An old story," Vasha said softly, placing a hand on her father's shoulder. "This changes nothing that happened in our childhood... but I'm grateful you didn't sacrifice my sister. If she didn't exist, I would be alone."
"Vasha..." he waves his hand around, explaining, "Look around. We were once proud and strong. No other kor clan, not even the Karghans, would dare rally against us. We were prominent, and we were powerful. And now..." he turns his head behind him to the sleeping refugees, "only a dozen or so remain." He grabs his daughter's hand for comfort with a weak grasp. "The tale is true. Life... love... one by one, they will be taken away."
"What is power if your own family hates you?" Vasha asked in reply. She cringed away from his touch, still expecting him to hit her.
"Now? It is nothing. I..." he returns to the past, "When your mother died, I cried, and pleaded with our gods to bring her back. But when I looked into your's and Vesra's eyes..." tears well up, quickly sliding down his cheeks. "They were the same. She lives on in her twin daughters." His teary eyes look over your face. "She lives on through her daughters. I couldn't... I couldn't sacrifice her. Not after I had just lost her. I couldn't sacrifice my daughter."
"If we reminded you of her..." Vasha trailed off, pointing to the prominent scars on her back. "Would you ever do this to her?"
He can hardly look at the wounds. "No... I..." he's unsure how to continue. "After her death... after your life... I hit a period of lowness. I knew what would become of all of us for my selfish decision. So I steeled myself. I drove out love and replaced it with hate. Hate for my selfishness. Hate for my failing to become Stoneforge. I thought... in that hate, the loss was lost. I stopped caring. I took my hate out on you and Vesra, forgetting what drove me to keep her alive. I thought if I hardened you two too, steeled yourselves against the world, that you would grow up strong. That you'd never have to suffer like I did.... I thought I did it to protect you, but when I heard you two died... The loss was just as strong. Just as real as when your mother died. It... it was then that I realized, if I'm going to lose everything I know and love, then I might as well live those last moments in love. In life. Not as stone being worn down by the wind, but as a flower, surrounded by others."
"We are strong. But we're strong because of what we've endured. Vesra did die. Zendikar brought her back to me. Now she's cursed to relive her teenage years, and I aim to make this go around better than the first." Vasha paused again, this time pulling at her red arm band. "I only did this to prove that I could do it without training. I always associated the guild with you, for sending me away, for separating Vesra and I... for that tattoo you put on her forehead."
He explains as the tears stop. "You two are strong. And it was not because of me, but because you two clung together... a lesson I've only recently learned these past few years."
"So... why did you think we were dead?" Vasha asked curious. "How did we die? I hope it was glorious."
"After your sister ran away, I sent scouts for her. They told me she fell off of a cliff. Then when I sent for word of your progress with the Stoneforge and heard you were missing, I knew. Well... I thought I knew. I'll never know why they said she fell from a cliff. They died in the slaughter from those demons."
Vasha went silent, taking everything in. After a while, she said, "What kind of power did that pact give?"
He shrugs. "He lived for another sixty years. Our clan flourished tremendously after he sacrificed his firstborn. So he got what he asked for."
"So, long life and... what? A strong clan?" Vasha raised an eyebrow. "That's it? They were killing babies for that?
"Power. Some people will go to any measure for it."
"But, you didn't."
He shakes his head and looks around. "I did not. Perhaps all of this is your mother's wish after all."
"I wish I knew her," Vasha said softly, suddenly feeling sad. "Would you tell me of her?"
He sits up straighter, stretching his arched back. "Your mother was.... well, she wasn't a proper lady," he begins. "You remind me much of her. Stubborn and strong-willed, but she cared for the land and for the lot. She loved tradition and the solidity it brought our family, but she also knew change was necessary for growing in an evolving world. Zendikar allows nothing less for survival." He looks off into the darkness sorrowful with a deep breath.
"Sounds more like Vesra than me," Vasha said sadly.
He smirks, glancing over to Vasha. "You don't think you're stubborn? You don't think you care for others? Don't lie to yourself, daughter. You've got plenty of both, even if it's buried beneath a hard past."
"I don't care for anyone," Vasha said looking away. "I hate you. I hate the tribe. Sometimes I even hate Vesra. I cared for people once..." She trailed off, emotion welling up in her.
He pauses, unsure of what to say. The silence lingers for a few seconds before he replies, "A life filled with hate is hard, isn't it?"
"It's better than being constantly disappointed," Vasha snapped, giving her father a glare. "Better than having my heart ripped out every time I start feeling something for someone. The difference between us is that I don't hate myself and I don't take it out on anyone else."
"A light is much brighter when it's in the dark," he calmly states as he looks around at his surroundings. "I've lived both lives, and all I can promise you is a life of love is more fulfilling than a life of hate. I don't expect you to forgive me for my past... Kamsa knows I never could. But I'll add this: don't let Death's cold hands be the ones to open your eyes to this realization as they take everything from you."
Vasha stood, glaring coldly down at Valen, and pulled the mask over her face. "You have to have something in order to lose it. I've already lost everything." Then she walked away, to the edge of the camp, and stared into the darkness. As Vasha walks away, a weak smile forms across his lips. Reaching for one of his hooks, he draws a simple symbol in the gravel before returning back to his post.
Somewhere along the coast of Akoum... While the underground river flowed out onto the coastline, the waves crashed and trashed against the high cliffs all around them. Ato spotted a small, artificial indent into the cliffside and a steep, winding trail which cut back and forth, climbing higher and higher until it reached the top. Navigating the boats, Ato and Vesra unloaded the refugees and what little supplies they still had onto the outcropping and then began the steep ascent up the trail.
Along the underground river... The rest of the group were careful and cautious as they approached the eddy. It was clear and evident that this area was frequented by surrakar, and they couldn't afford a hostile situation with the savage reptilians. With the aid of magic, they created an illusion to shield their passage from any prying eyes lurking within the cave's entrance. Soon, the eddy was behind them and they continued along the bank of the river towards the coastline.
Somewhere along the coast of Akoum... Reaching the top, they took a moment to survey their surroundings. A small encampment, nothing more than some stacked stones forming a low wall around several stone-tents, lay backed against the cliffside surrounded by vast, empty, and flat land, stretching all the way to the mountains the group had come from just a few days ago, over two-hundred miles away. The ruts of wagons lay dug into the hard, dry dirt, heading west. The refugees crowded underneath the stone-tents, eager to find some respite from the blazing sun, whereas Vesra shapeshifted into an elemental and began surveying the land around them for anything of use... or even food. Ato returned to the sea with his broadspear in hand to hunt for fish to feed the group. Survival. That was their plan until the others made it out of the caves.
Reunited and it feels so good... Eight days passed until the rest of the refugees, lead by Vasha, Kayn, and Jerrock made it out of the tunnels. No one was sure quite when, but Rezivah slipped off into the night with her null in tow, silently parting ways with the group. Having a maddened vampire with powers was concerning, but the group pushed on regardless and was thankful they didn't have to face her. Pushing on through the darkness, the small speck of light grew brighter and larger until it fully encompassed their view, marking their passage from darkness into the outside world. The waves crashed all around them, but to their right, a young kor called out to them from the artificial ledge. Guiding the group up the winding path, they reached the top of the cliffside and reunited with those above, bringing the groups together.
The days apart had been rough. Both groups had lost several refugees, either due to sickness or injury. A cairn was made as a symbol to represent those who passed away during the tragedy, and then the refugees, lead by Ato, Jerrock, Kayn, Vasha, and Vesra, departed, following the lightly-worn track marks of previous caravans towards Affa.
Two days passed as they trekked across the scorching plateau, following along the cliffside, knowing that they would run into Affa eventually. It was along the cliffside that they spotted a lone cloud, slowly moving towards their direction, pouring rain on the ground beneath. Eager for the refreshing soak, they made no attempts to avoid it as it began to pour over them. The drops of rain glistened white in the light, refreshing their skin, cooling their bodies, and calming their minds. It was during that rain that a heavenly being, born aloft by six radiant wings of white feathers, gracefully swooped down from the clouds, landing in front of the group. She wore golden armor that glistened as the white rain fell off of her, bathing the ground like a mother's tears. A blinding ring of radiant white light surrounding her head, blinding her to her surroundings; and yet, she could see. She carried a long, golden staff, topped with a crescent circle which cradled a soft, glowing ball of light. With a soft, yet powerful voice, she declared, "Drink. Bathe yourselves in Emeria's tears and be healed."