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  #1  
Unread 13th of February, 2007, 19:05
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Chapter 4: The Village

The band of bards slogged their way through the heavy snow.

After all the events recently they had decided forego the fast paced life of the cities and turned down several invitations to perform in order to find a nice quiet isolated village to winter at. After several days of asking they found an ideal candidate, a logging village up in the mountains well away from the nearest village that was almost totally cut off by the heavy winter snows.

Once a year in later summer a caravan of traders made their way up into the region in order to supply the inhabitants and barter for lumber, a trip which cumulated with Eastbrook. It was from these traders that they gained knowledge of Eastbrook and settled upon it as a target for their winter sabbatical.

A late, warm winter along with several unexpected issues conspired to keep the bards from setting out until much later then they had intended and half a day out from the village they were caught by a sudden heavy snowfall, as if winter were attempting to make up for lost time.

It was slow going but by the time evening began to fall around them they found their way into valley that sheltered Eastbrook where it seemed almost warm and only a light dusting of snow covered the ground.
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Unread 14th of February, 2007, 16:36
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Winter is here.

It first caught them on the way through Charon’s Pass. The morning sky had turned from cobalt to steel and the crisp air held the promise of wind and snow. By mid-afternoon flakes swirled down from the heavens, collecting upon the ground. Stones and trees were marked with winter’s kiss. It was just the first blush of a long affair.

The snow was sparse at first, only faintly collecting upon the branches of the evergreen trees. However, by nightfall it had begun accumulating on the trail and drifting as the wind howled through the pass.

Only partly shielded from the elements, the three bards huddled close to the fire that night. Yavan had placed his instruments between him and the fire, hoping to keep the delicate wood from cracking in the cold.

Their destination was Eastbrook. It was at Yavan’s behest that they winter far away from any cities and the nobility that rule them. Since the night that he had dreamed, the faintest snatch of a tune has plagued his every thought. It lurks beneath the surface of his mind, haunting him. Every so often a bar will come to him, and his mind seizes upon it, turning it over and over until it’s all he can hear.

He needs the seclusion of Eastbrook to chase this song. Given the isolation and lack of trade during the winter months, coin may not suffice to keep them fed and housed—

Not all peace is restful.

—and so the bards may need to ply their trade. Keeping the simple logging folk entertained will be easy enough, and Yavan will have all the cold, snowy days to chase this song and make it his, at any cost.
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Unread 16th of February, 2007, 06:50
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"I wish your muse had led us somewhere warmer. The sands are preferable to this snow."

Rina shakes her cloak, dislodging some of the powder that had built up even as they sat in this relatively sheltered area. The irritable gesture reminds her of that week of torrential rain earlier this year - waiting outside an inn, soaked, while the innkeep tried to decide whether or not to let them in. A shadow crosses her face: that had been their arrival in Tolatakiva, home of Baron Sanguis and the all too aptly named Feast of Karthes.

Yavan makes no answer, and the silence that follows leaves her thinking of how her life had changed since that day. Life seemed more fragile now, though she refused to admit it. The events in Anorev had only served to deepen this feeling. And then there was that dream . . .

Rina was not one to be troubled by wild imaginings - she had plenty of them, actually, but the acrobat normally let things slide from her shoulders. She did not carry the burdens of the world the way Yavan did. But the Baron was different. It was as if he'd opened the door to a room in her subconscious, a place full of hopes and fears she'd never known were even there. The dream had seemed so real and even now, when the edge ought to have faded with the passage of time, she could feel it like a razor against her flesh.

Not all death is evil.

She shifts uncomfortably as melting snow trickles down her neck, hugging herself for warmth. The trees are moaning in the wind, though their camp is sheltered enough. The noise only serves to heighten the prickling unease. Rina looks at Calliste, remembering that the woman also had an unusually vivid dream that same night, and one considerably less frightening than her own. In an effort to shift her thoughts from their current bent, Rina speaks.

"Biate."

The word is a sudden crack in the ice that seems to have formed around them. It brings the eyes of the other two on her rather more quickly than she had expected.

"That was the name from your strange dream was it not, Calliste? I know nothing of this god. When we spoke I could not recall hearing his name before but now that I have had time to think, I believe I heard Yavan invoke that name once."

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Unread 18th of February, 2007, 05:11
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Calliste has to agree with Rina about the weather. Even bundled up as she is - she'd taken the advice of one of the merchants when they'd purchased their provisions and bought extra-heavy wool clothing, and a fur-lined cloak and boots - her teeth had seldom stopped chattering this past day or so. She stamps her numb feet, grateful for the warmth of the knee high boots, but unused to having her feet and legs enclosed so. Her toes are cramped, her fingers are frozen, and her nose is running! She can only imagine what the wind has done to her hair...

The litany of irritations that runs through the actress' mind is interrupted by the speaking of a name -

"Biate."

She'd been thinking about that dream a lot lately, actually. Calliste had mentioned it to Rina once, shortly after the night that she'd had it, and since that time she'd been trying to figure out how much significance it had for her life. Oddly, Rina had had a strange dream the same night. She'd spoken of it lightly but Calliste knew that it had troubled her.

"The gods will often have different names in different lands. But I have never heard of this Biate before, not by that name or any other," Calliste admits. "I've thought about it and still can't decide if the dream was a true sending or not. If it was, what was the purpose? For Biate to make me the offer, I suppose. And Iakchos approved of it, or at least condoned it.

"Or did I really just dream up the whole thing? I can't imagine why but I suppose it's possible that I'd invent a strange god! Then again, what about the similarities between the end of both our dreams? That can't be a coinicidence.

"Not all light is good . . .

"Not all death is evil . . ."

Last edited by Kelemyn; 2nd of March, 2007 at 05:40.
  #5  
Unread 20th of February, 2007, 16:29
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“There are few who do,” Yavan says. “Who would make it their business to know of a dying god? Or close enough to one for our purposes.”

I ask you this. What is prophecy?

He feels his companions’ eyes on him, heavy with surprise. Yavan shrugs. Of Ilials Biate, divine prophet, Yavan knows precious little. Biate was more than a man, but the question of his deification is unknown. There were those that followed his teachings as devoutly as any religious scriptures.

Remember this letter when you are facing the hardship that is coming.

Perhaps that is simply enough. There are, or were, those on this earth that believe in Biate’s words and prophecies with a fervent zeal. They were willing to risk their lives to help fulfill his works. The worshippers of the Beast sought to kill every one of them—men, women, and children. The risk they took was great and their belief strong. If Biate was not a god among the heavens, he was most certainly one in the truest sense of the word.

“That was no dream. I would know more of it, if you would tell me.”
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Unread 23rd of February, 2007, 03:59
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"A dying god?" Calliste asks. "How is that so?"

Gods are immortal beings. How does a god die? She can imagine that a god may die in battle with another god, although she has not heard tell of such a thing since perhaps the Dawn of Time.

Or can a god die when there are no longer those who believe in him?
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Unread 23rd of February, 2007, 17:07
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“Of matters divine, I know but little. Biate, however, is a name that has crossed my path before.” Yavan shrugs. “‘That is not dead which can eternal lie.’ I have the feeling that death for the immortals is a much different thing than what you or I might experience.”

He cups his hands and blows into them, a vain attempt at warding off the chill in his fingers. “Perhaps, though, through strife on this coil and on others, one could kill a god. Slay his followers. Then slay him. It could be done.” He shrugs a second time. “Or perhaps not. I think godslaying is a realm outside my domain.”
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Unread 24th of February, 2007, 23:49
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"It is certainly outside of mine!" Calliste assures. "But you do not explain why you say that Biate is a dying god. As I saw him in my dream, he seemed quite vital and full of life.

"I was dreaming of a market, and that is where I met him. Iakchos was there at first, and seemed to indicate that he approved of the meeting before he disappeared.

"Biate arranged the dream to make me an offer, he said. He said he has an interest in our world, and he noticed that I had heard the call of the gods. Because of that, he wants me to be one of the chosen few who carry out his plans here. He said he couldn't offer much in the way of rewards. And he also said that there are risks because he has many enemies.

"There, that is the gist of it, I believe." Calliste sits quietly for a moment, deep in thought. Knowing, as she does now, that Biate is a real god and not just a phantom of her own imagination, the dream seems more ominous. Afterall, Biate had said that, someday, she might find that she had already accepted his offer without knowing it.

"Oh, and then there was the tag line at the end: Not all light is good. But I already mentioned that."
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Unread 25th of February, 2007, 14:36
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“He is dying because his people, his followers, are being hunted and slaughtered by the servants of the Beast. They are creatures of shadow and frost. They serve their master’s dark purpose with a brutal efficiency.”

Yavan frowns. It has been some months since they first opened the scroll and read Biate’s prophecy. Since then he has seen death and betrayal and little else. The words of the prophet are cold comfort to him.

“You may be curious as to how I know of them,” he says, pulling aside his cloak and revealing the gleaming mithril shirt beneath. “I and my…former companions met such a servant upon the road one night.”

The memory flashes through his mind, vivid and real. He shivers, but not from the cold. Running one finger down the side of the chain links, he finds the several that were severed by the shadow’s touch.

“It would have ripped out my innards if not for this armor.”
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Unread 26th of February, 2007, 07:18
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Calliste has to wonder about Yavan's 'former companions'. Under what circumstances did he and they part company? Did they not survive the encounter with the servant of the Beast? Or was the leave-taking their choice?

So many questions! And first among them--

"Are you a follower of Biate, Yavan?"
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Unread 27th of February, 2007, 06:27
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Rina listens while the chill leeches down her spine like the cold fingers of death. Why else was Yavan attacked, if he was not a follower of Biate? The night around seems suddenly filled with strange portent - the dark and the snow felt like black and white magic with the bards trapped between.

"What does he want?"
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Unread 27th of February, 2007, 14:08
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“Hardly.” The corners of Yavan’s lips curl up in a smile. “We happened to pick a very bad night to share a fire with some of Biate’s followers. They told us of their plight. Shortly thereafter, the shadow attacked.”

He speaks truth, more or less. Yavan does not count himself as one of Biate’s own. He prefers not to venture into matters divine. That’s why it’s particularly frustrating that Biate will not leave him be.

“I know nothing of his agenda. Were I to guess I would say survival, first and foremost, as well as the fulfillment of his prophecies.”
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Unread 6th of March, 2007, 14:22
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"I do not think I like the idea of a dying god coming into my dreams to recruit me," Calliste murmurs thoughtfully. "Especially now that I know that his followers are being hunted by- what was it you said, Yavan? Hunted by servants of the Beast?"

She decides not to ask who or what the Beast is, not tonight anyway. The night is too dark and lonely. She considers asking Rina to recount her dream for Yavan, but then remembers how it ended - with a vampire's kiss. She shivers.

"I always thought I'd enjoy the snow," Calliste says finally, shaking off the strange feeling of dread that had come upon her. Time for a change of subect. "It makes for a pretty sight, falling all around, but why does it have to be so cold? Yavan, I do not think you warned us properly about how cold it was going to be in these mountains. Am I right, Rina?"
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Unread 7th of March, 2007, 06:24
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Rina nods absently at Calliste's question, her mind unwilling to leave the subject of Biate.

"Sometimes I believe our Yavan enjoys such punishment. A dying god might be attractive. Is there such a thing as coincidence where the divine is concerned?"

The idea that gods needed humans to survive disturbed her. These supposedly great beings feeding off of humans like parasites.

Like vampires.

Rina leaves the thought unspoken, eyes watching her foot as it traced graceful designs in the snow. She considers anew Yavan's tragic past, wondering about the impact of the world, how she would have fared in his position. Would she be as jaded? Perhaps, but she thinks that if all the world were a wonderful garden still Yavan would somberly search for snakes among the flowers. She remembers their argument after the Feast of Karthes - he had mentioned he was hunted by shadows because of Biate.

"After the Baron . . ." she falters momentarily before continuing, "Before we met Calliste on the road, you urged me to leave because you were hunted."

She looks suddenly at Yavan, face serious, dark eyes locked on his amber ones. The unspoken question hangs in the air, but she refuses to give it voice.

What hunts you?
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Unread 9th of March, 2007, 16:07
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Their breath does not steam into the air, but neither is it warm here. Yavan studies Rina coolly, taking in her discomfort in the chill. Her persistence has always caused him frustration, especially when she speaks the truth. If Yavan were to warn her off, the least he could do is explain why.

“As I said, my companions shared a fire with followers of Biate once,” he says. “We slew the minion of the Beast and since that night we have been chased by tragedy. Madness spread among us. At its best, it split us. Morgan actually thought her harp could speak to her. She left one day, wandering to the north. At its worst, it murdered. One night, sweet little Ilia slit Beronas’ throat. Beronas was a bastard, but he deserved better than that.”

Yavan never heard a sound, not a struggle, not a gurgle. Nothing. It wasn’t until Beronas, hands slick with his own blood, had clutched Yavan’s arm that the elf awoke. It had been too late then to do anything but hold the man’s hand as the light faded from his eyes.

“I need not to be chased by shadowspawn to be in danger. But I saw her, Ilia, in Anorev. She was at the masquerade. I wonder if she follows me still.”
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Unread 15th of March, 2007, 05:25
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Rina's face flickers through several emotions as she listens to Yavan - doubt, surprise, disbelief - then finally settles on thoughtful confusion. That he had not directly answered her question is not lost on her. In their earlier conversation he had never mentioned Ilia - if he wanted to pretend that was what this was about, fine.

"Be at peace, then - the three of us are more than a match for a sweet little girl. Like as not she has more sanity than to travel to this inhospitable place."
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Unread 19th of March, 2007, 00:08
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"Madness spread among us..."

Calliste had let herself fall out of the conversation, only half-listening as she stared out at the cold, snow-dusted landscape and dreamed of the comforts of an inn. But she pricked up her ears at these words.

Servants of the Beast - creatures of shadow and frost - attacked, and Yavan's companions were overcome with madness. Or so he seemed to be saying. 'Sweet little Ilia' slit another's throat in the dead of night. And Yavan saw her at the Telpac's gala.

What if she follows him to Eastbrook?

Is she out there now, hiding behind that outcropping of rock over there or in that dense thicket of trees, just waiting for sleep to take us?

Calliste shakes her head. That kind of thinking will surely lead to madness! If Ilia was in Anorev it was likely because the gala drew bards from all around. What reason would she have to tail Yavan?

That's the point. If she's mad, reason has nothing to do with it.

"Well, Yavan," Calliste says as she stands to stretch her legs. "Your stories are about as sleep-inducing as tales of ghosts told 'round the campfire! I doubt I'll get any rest tonight." She is smiling and her tone is light but it is not difficult to detect her underlying anxiety.
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Unread 26th of March, 2007, 07:21
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The night passed slowly for the companions, the frank talk putting them all on edge. They took turns keeping watch, and it was into the second watch that the half moon arose and bathed the woody snow covered valley in a silvery light.

Instead of making it easier to see, the patches of half-moonlight reflecting upon white snow only dazzled the eye and deepened the many shadows cast by evergreen trees. Even Yavan's eyes, elven as they were, could not piece far into the gloom.

The wolf howls started shortly after the moon appeared, distant and barely heard at first, a new howl could be heard every score of minutes, always from different directions and always closer. Then just as it seemed the wolves were closing in on them everything went silent.

Peering intently into the surrounding pattern of light and dark, Yavan was afforded a scant few moments warning, as his eyes picked out a dozen sneaky figures low creeping low to the ground, all around the camp, which swiftly blended into the shadow.

Then the howling began again, an mournful chorus of sound seeming to come from just beyond the edge of vision, the echoes travelling back and forth from the great forest of trees making it impossible to estimate the number or exact location of their source.

With a start, Rina and Calliste are jerked awake by the sudden clamour.
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Unread 30th of March, 2007, 23:09
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Calliste had curled into the smallest ball she could manage, hugging her knees and drawing her stockinged feet close to her body to conserve body heat. Two blankets and her fur-lined cloak were still not enough to keep out the cold, and she'd doubted during that first hour after Yavan took over the watch that she would ever be able to stop shivering and get to sleep.

So it is a bit of a surprise to her when the sudden sound of nearby howling startles her out of deep slumber.

"Wolves!" she mumbles to herself, sitting up and struggling sluggishly to kick off the cocoon she'd made for herself.

Where's that sword of Yavan's? she wonders, trying to remember where she'd put the weapon that the elf had lent her. She'd started setting it out next to her bed-roll on this trip since they were sleeping out of doors, but it takes her a moment to remember this.

"Rina, your bow!" she calls out as she finally manages to get to her feet. The fine elvish long sword feels awkward in her hands, and she prays that the wolves never come close enough that she has to use it.
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Unread 31st of March, 2007, 03:50
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Rina had been dreaming of the Lord of Karthes; she relived a somewhat warped, often accelerated version of their stay in his manse. Her feelings followed that same pattern - varying from ecstasy to horror at a dizzying pace that defied all logic. She watched the final battle in a swirl of contradictory emotions; she saw herself thrust the beast Antigone into the fire with muscle cracking effort, watched as Yavan drove his gleaming rapier into the chest of Baron Sanguis.

Yet instead of the the fierce heat of the massive flame, she felt only the barest glimmer of warmth along her left side. Instead of a blood spurting death, the baron's slow collapse changed into something else. Before her eyes, he transformed into a great, black wolf as he slid from Yavan's blade. His baleful yellow eyes fixed on her and he let out a great, shuddering howl.

The acrobat jerks awake, the howl of her dreams repeated in the waking world around her. Rina is up and following Calliste's urgent command in an instant, almost as if she hadn't been asleep at all. Pulling the bow free, she rolls to put her back to the fire and - coming up on one knee - nocks an arrow as her eyes scan the surrounding dark for a target.
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Unread 4th of April, 2007, 09:45
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Sitting by the fire, Yavan listens to the wood burn and hiss as the water evaporates out of it. Occasionally, it pops, sending a small shower of embers onto the rocky ground. He hums softly to himself, careful not to wake his slumbering companions nearby. Their breath comes and goes, slow and deep. Rina twitches too much in her sleep for his liking. The elf frowns, wondering what dark dreams may be chasing her.

The air up here is clean and crisp. He smiles, tossing another branch on the fire. They spend so much time in amidst the stench of the thronging city masses that he’s forgotten what real mountain air can smell like. Perhaps Morgan had not been quite as mad as he thought.

His peace ends suddenly.

The great wolfen chorus sends gooseflesh racing along his arms, neck, and legs. His voice, always pitch-perfect, dips acescent and then falters. His eyes, sharp as ever in his century of life, pierce the nearby dark but there is naught to be seen save the blur of shadowy forms.

They have come.

He launches himself to his feet, grabbing a burning brand from the fire and pulling the ancient jeweled sword from its nearby sheath. The blade takes the colors of the fire and torch, tinting orange and yellow.

“Rina! Calliste! Stay near the fire!”

((OOC: Ready action to drive off any punkass wolves. Non-punkass wolves will, of course, be let through.))
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Unread 4th of April, 2007, 10:55
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As the bards rush to ready themselves, the verbal assault of howls drop into an uneasy silence. With fitful starts the band look anxiously around as the moments tick past. Amber light from the fire reflecting yellow gleams within the shadows, seen from the corner of the eye but disappearing as soon as they register. Whether wolven eyes watching or merely the glittering of icicles hanging from low tree limbs, it is impossible to tell.

The moments stretch into seconds, which in turn stretch into minutes, and the pre-battle rush begins to fade as no attack materialises from the surrounding silent forest.
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Unread 5th of April, 2007, 10:20
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"I wasn't just dreaming those howls!" Calliste exclaims, then breaks into nervous laughter. "Although maybe I overreacted a bit." Now that she thinks about it rationally, even a large pack of wolves would not likely attack a camp like theirs, manned as it is by three able-bodied adults with fire at their disposal.

A faint breeze stirs a sparkling, moonlit swirl of snow along a knife-edged drift just outside the glow of firelight. It gently shakes the trees overhead and sighs a low, mournful sigh as the three stand silent and waiting.

"Can you see anything out there, Yavan?" Calliste breaks the silence. She has figured out by now that the elf has better eyesight in moonlight and starlight than either she or Rina.
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Unread 6th of April, 2007, 10:20
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Rina scans the dark restlessly, her heart having already returned to a slow and steady rhythm in her chest. The cold is beginning to seep into her as the initial rush of excitement fades. Wolves - they must be hungry indeed to challenge them in this way.

"Curse this dark. We need light - I can see nothing."
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Unread 12th of April, 2007, 03:48
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"Light!" Calliste says in answer to Rina's stated wish.

Now, why didn't I think of that? A bit of simple stage magic just might fill the bill.

Still a bit disoriented from being wakened suddenly, it takes Calliste a moment to think about the best way to proceed.

Find something that's just lying around camp ... There! That will work. It's a fist-sized pine cone that had thus far escaped being thrown onto the fire. She picks it up and shakes off the loose snow. Bright thoughts and a whispered line from Nikatos' Daughters of Eberos - "Behold, a spark of Helios' light!" - sets it aglow in her hand. She smiles at Rina.

"But which way should I throw it?" Calliste can't decide which direction the howls had mainly seemed to come from. She shrugs, and lobs the little orb of light toward the deepest shadows.
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