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    Yeoldebard
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Stolen Dreams - 11. Rituals

AMETHYST

 

Soft green fingers ran through her fur, and the kitsune let out a gentle sigh. She lay back in a warm glade, watching specks of dust dance in a sunbeam as she was stroked. Little braids of lilac plaited through white fur, the scent of the blooms almost as soothing as the hands of the Guardian, her guardian.

Amethyst looked up at the nymph, a look of concentration on the Guardian’s face.

“They know about you. The tiefling already told them exactly who you are.”

The words sent a chill through the kitsune, marring the beauty around her as her mood darkened. A drop of rain fell from a suddenly cloudy sky, and Amethyst closed her eyes.

“I was going to tell them eventually,” she said quietly.

“But this is too soon. They can still make someone else the baron. Someone who is more stable. Already they seek to replace you with the faun,” the Guardian murmured, hands still playing through Amethyst’s head fur.

“The humans would never allow a faun to be their leader.”

“What choice do they have? An aasimar who makes contracts with devils? Cat people who are so chaotic they’d make the Stag Lord look like a saint?”

Every word struck her soul with the weight of truth. Amethyst sighed, listening to the rain soak the world around them. A moment’s doubt struck her; why would the Guardian be turning her opinion against her companions? But no, the nymph had helped her with Happs, had comforted her and helped her see the truth. She could trust the nymph.

“All I want is to see the land healthy and free once more,” the Guardian said quietly. “You understand. You, who hold healing dear to your heart.”

“I want to help you however I can. But Seilenos is a steward of the Stolen Lands, isn’t he? Why would it be bad if he took my place?”

“The faun is a relic of another age, before even the Stag Lord. He did nothing to stop the bandit’s rise to power; why would he bother to help end the Stag Lord’s rule?”

“Do you know him personally?” Amethyst asked, shaking the rain from her fur.

“Seilenos. Everyone knew Seilenos. The faun bard at the dryad queen’s side. He was known to be hedonistic, even for a faun. Always shirking his duties to play with some young toy. He was absent the day of Callitropsia’s demise. Perhaps if he had remained at her side, the tragedy of that day could have been avoided. That he resurfaces now is nothing more than suspicious.”

“He recognized me as a kitsune. He greeted me as a nature spirit.”

“He will do whatever it takes to woo you, to win you over. And then he will abandon you for the next pretty thing that comes along,” the Guardian said quietly. “It was how he was before. I doubt he has changed much since.”

Amethyst sighed quietly, laying back against the Guardian. Gentle rain fell throughout the meadow, yet she found the sound soothing, cleansing her mind and soul. She didn’t need her cards to tell her that she needed a break from the relentless pace of the past few days; a pace Hope seemed to dictate for the entire group.

“We’re just settling into a rhythm,” the kitsune whispered. “We’re getting to know each other. I shouldn’t lie to them. They have the right to leave me if they do not approve of my curse.”

“There are so many curses, Amethyst. What is one more for them to deal with?” the Guardian murmured, tucking a damp lilac behind the fox’s ear.

“Seilenos should travel with us. He knows the land. He is useful. And we can keep an eye on a powerful fey.”

“He is dangerous. Do not trust him. He is a drain on your resources as well. Do you expect him to hunt for the party?”

“We will find Tartuccio and take him back to Kesten. And then we will take a day to recover before heading out again, to take care of the camp. We have Kesten’s mercenaries to help us when we attack the Stag Lord.”

The kitsune spoke without thinking, letting her thoughts out. Even just listening to her plans out loud made her feel like she might actually have things well in hand.

“Seilenos doesn’t need to hunt. He can be a guard. We’ll keep him close, to make sure he can’t get into trouble. Hope says we need to go underground to find Tartuccio. So Seilenos will guard our horses and keep our camp in order.”

“But enough of the waking world,” the Guardian soothed, scratching Amethyst lightly. “They can wait for you to wake. Take the time to relax, to find comfort in my arms. Listen to the rain falling, softly heavy, and let your worries wash away.”

The kitsune took a deep breath, her eyes blinking slowly as she looked up at the Guardian.

“I thank you for providing this safe place,” Amethyst murmured. “I fear I would go insane without it.”

“You will never have to fear for as long as I am by your side.”

 

RAMIEL

 

Water sprayed from the aasimar’s mouth, washing away the foul taste of the bugs from the night before. The remnants of the faun’s supper had lost its flavour sometime during the night, and while Ramiel had eaten his share of bugs while on patrol around Citadel Dinyar, the taste never ceased to turn his stomach.

He took another swig from his waterskin, trusting that there would be a clean water source nearby. The sycamore they had tracked Tartuccio’s kobolds to was truly enormous, and a tree this big had to have some sort of lake or cistern to water it.

All around them were the remnants of a late night storm. Frigid mud covered much of the camp, the glistening of frozen dew on dead grass shining like diamonds in the late morning light. Elias was already up, grinding spell components with a mortar and pestle. Nearby, the faun was drying out a wet tent with a spell, his fur looking a lot more curly than it had the night before. Ramiel watched the fey creature for a moment, a feeling of unease passing through him.

“Fuck.”

Rising to his feet, the armiger removed his breastplate, setting it and his gambeson aside. He pulled the whip from Greenbriar’s saddlebag, uncoiling it before stepping away from the camp.

A passage came to mind from the Measure.

“Suffer not the fey, for their law is but mockery of mortal laws, a guise through which chaos is sown.”

The words broke the silence around him. Standing between a pair of boulders, the armiger took a fortifying breath, and began his daily Reckoning.

The whip flexed back, a lash spreading like a blazing fire across his back. Encouragement to remember the Citadel’s law, the only law that mattered. Switching hands, the armiger cracked the whip again, striking the other side of his back. Two strokes for the broken law, and for his failure to convince the group that the faun was not to be trusted.

Flecks of blood stained the five heads of the whip, and Ramiel wiped the liquid off derisively. The blood of an outsider, the blood of neutrality in the war between law and chaos.

Another two cracks sounded, tearing the flesh from his back. Those who embraced neutrality chose chaos with their indecision. He was tainted, but Ramiel would beat the taint out of himself until he was blameless in the war against chaos.

Rapidly cooling blood trickled down his back as he coiled his whip once more. The welts would dry and then crack as he fought through the day, reopening with burning pain to remind him of the price of chaos. And he would continue to bear the price.

“The Perfect Man knows humans are imperfect.”

Ramiel looked up at a rock, finding Ilyas balanced perfectly on one foot. The Qadiran stared down at him in calm detachment, and the aasimer let out a grunt.

“I wouldn’t dare tell you how to follow your god. Don’t tell me how to follow mine.”

“But our god is the same-”

“Wrong. I may follow some tenets of Irori, but I do not worship him. Even perfection can hide chaos,” the armiger said haughtily, well aware of the blood that still dripped down his back.

“Then who do you direct your prayers to?”

“The real question is why do you direct your prayers to the embodiment of perfection on Golarion? Do you expect his help? Irori wishes to see humans overcome their imperfections through rigid discipline, not by begging to the gods. And this is how I overcome mine.”

“Then you venerate your Godclaw? Is not Irori one of their number?”

“So is Iomedae. Yet you would not find me slaying my enemies with divine power. So is Asmodeus. You would not find me roasting my enemies in hellfire. I take my code from many sources. It does not mean I’m beholden to any of them.”

“And the dwarven smith? Where does he stand in your code?”

“In the state of my gear, the care I take in keeping my morningstar oiled and clean. They are the laws we follow, and while I might pray, I pray to all five, not any one. I pray for clarity, understanding, and for the strength to bring order to a land languishing in chaos.”

“Then you pray to Irori yourself, while degrading me for doing the same,” Ilyas noted evenly.

Ramiel grunted, letting the coiled whip unroll again. One last crack bit into his back as he stared at the Qadiran unflinchingly.

“I will take care not to let chaos overwhelm my words.”

The armiger stepped around the boulders, leaving the Easterner to his own morning rituals. Wiping the blood off his back with a rag, Ramiel pulled on a shirt, and laced his gambeson over the linen, cutting off much of the morning chill. His armour buckled on next, polished black metal lacking the adornments of true hellknight armour. He would get there some day. He would be strong enough to kill Abapad in single combat. And on that day, Ramiel’s life long dream would end, and he would awaken into the rest of his life as one who would be respected and feared.

Copyright © 2021 Yeoldebard; All Rights Reserved.
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A very suspicious guardian person - there must be a price for comfort. 

Poor Ramiel being pushed towards the path of chaos - I’d give him a hug but I guess it would only hurt him more. 


 

 

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