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Sundering in Silverhall

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Sundering in Silverhall

Post  Wynnsaren on Wed Aug 12, 2015 2:35 pm

25th of Erastus, 4714

The midsummer night hung oppressively thick and heavy over slumbering Silverhall.  A languid carpet of clouds, laden with moisture, blotted out all hope of the stars' illumination reaching the world below and on this particular evening, not even Luthunar deigned to shine her light.  

Without any sign or sound to herald their coming, a cluster of tiny stars pierced the lofty carpet and slowly descended into the midst of this deep darkness to hover just above the ledge of the balcony on the eighth floor of the Winter Estate's tower.

The master of the estate -- a pitiable title for the man most responsible for vaulting Silverhall into both mercantile and military prominence and favorably ending Brevoy's civil war, was currently ensconced upon said balcony.  It was to him and for him that these particular stars made their descent.

Wynnsaren's form slowly materialized out of the black, a serene smile gracing her lips as she laid eyes on her quarry.  Those eyes which had formerly glowed with a soft violet hue now burned cold with the bright intensity of blue flame and the motes of light -- a halo which had once circled lazily about her head, had now taken up steady and feverishly-paced orbits about the whole of her body. These lights helped to illuminate the rest of her, which was dressed for a journey.  Soft, doeskin breeches hugged her legs and were topped with a loose, white linen shirt, open in the back but for the laces which held it in place for propriety's sake.  A fat, worn leather pack was slung over her shoulders, while a starknife hung from a buckle off her left hip.  Her hair, black as the night around them and damp from her plunge through the cloud, had been gathered into a loose braid and twisted up at the nape of her neck in a moderately successful attempt to contain it during the flight.  

When she neared the edge of the platform, the aasimar shrugged her shoulders and deposited the heavy pack gently upon the white marble.  As she twisted, with the load, there was revealed a string of tiny luminescent sigils -- not identical to but not unlike the ones emblazoned upon the sides of her face, which ran from the base of her neck and down the length of her spine before disappeared beneath the waist of her breeches.

She was changed, that was clear; evolved or matured into something more than she had previously been.

"Rasven. . ."  Though she spoke softly, her voice seemed to echo distantly in the space around them, vibrating through the humid air.  "It is time."

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Fri Aug 14, 2015 4:47 pm

The civil war had nearly come to a close.

House Garess had been obliterated by necessity, their lands turned over to the small contingent of dwarves that aided them in the mines at Highdelve. While the dwarves held no claim to the lands by blood, they were a hardworking, lawful people that could be trusted to make the transition of authority in Brevoy honorably. Also, there were few of them, and they cared more about their work than they did rebellion.

House Medvyed had most recently fallen, the brothers Coranious and Gustavous put to the sword for their part in the war. The order for execution had been difficult. These were the blood of King Thaddeus I of Novastasia, and while Rasven himself had not met the king, the woman he loved had formed a close bond with the man and respected him greatly. He had done all he could to mend the wound to House Medvyed, however, and it had not been easy. His king had not been pleased with Rasven's suggestion for leadership of the House. Because his king owed Rasven for the crown of Brevoy, some leeway had been permitted and the choice protested but accepted.

Now, it all came back to the false regent, Neski Surtova. New Stetven had fallen a month before Stoneclimb, but in reality it had been lost to Surtova for months. The city stood as a husk of its former glory, but when finally it surrendered, the false regent resided nowhere within. He had fled magically, and no one--even Rasven--was the wiser as to where the man had fled to. Even now, the combined might of Lebeda and Orlovsky marched on Port Ice, the seat of power for Surtovan lands, but Rasven held no illusion that the false regent had taken harbor there. Indeed, with the bulk of Port Ice's military strength smuggled into New Stetven before even the war began, its resistance to the forces amassed against it would be short-lived. Rasven expected a letter of surrender from House Lodovka within days in an attempt to scrounge what power they could from their new king's leniency--leniency Rasven would endorse since Lodovka had been an enemy in name only, having done nothing militarily throughout the entirety of the civil war.

That left only Neski Surtova for Rasven Winter to ruminate upon while on his balcony, where he perched when the stars fell through the clouds to meet him.

The form-fitting pants and tunic he wore blended hoarfrost blue with rich platinum, the former in homage to his name and the latter to match his eyes. The diamond-encrusted ice that created the hilt of his accustomed rapier dangled in its proper place at his side, and each of his fingers donned priceless rings, but, otherwise, Rasven Winter appeared dressed down for the evening of contemplation. His metallic silver-blond hair shone bright in the light of the descending stars, which he recognized only at the last moment, having been too deep in thought to notice their approach before. Not one to jump to conclusions, or get rattled easily, the merchant prince watched calmly as those stars settled above him and transformed into his beloved . . .

Or, at least, one that might be mistaken as his beloved! In truth, the woman hovering before him appeared far more celestial than human, though her features proved unmistakably Wynnsaren! Everything unique about her physical appearance still applied, but had exploded into something more all-encompassing, more intoxicating and vivid to behold. He knew what she had been learning in the heart of the Mwangi Expanse, and he had expected that it would change her, but he had not expected this. Though her eyes had become blue fire, the merchant prince identified the same kindness and compassion burning within them that he had come to love so dearly about Wynnsaren.

Granted, there were other things swirling about in there he did not know . . . . And Rasven wondered if it was safe to touch her! Even a rudimentary examination showed she wasn't breathing, which he associated as a commonality with beings of other planes of existence beyond this one.

Indeed, it may well not be safe to touch her!

With the soft, yet booming, proclamation, Rasven placed his hands regally behind his back and lifted his face upward toward hers. "Time?" he echoed her sentiment, then, as almost an afterthought in this surreal moment, he inquired, "Have you done something different with your hair?"

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Post  Wynnsaren on Sat Aug 15, 2015 2:35 pm

The laughter this second query engendered sounded like nothing so much as the joyful pealing of distant bells.  

"It is gracious of you to notice, my love."  Wynnsaren responded playfully as she drifted down to closer proximity.  "And yes, it is time."

She moved to embrace him after their weeks apart, but the hesitation in his eyes stayed her arms and lips.  Instead, she mirrored his stance, clasping her hands behind her back.

"You have all but won the war in Brevoy, and now it is time for you to end the war which has been raging for the past two centuries."  The aasimar floated back to allow him some space for thought before she continued, regarding Rasven with curiosity.  "If indeed you are prepared to do so."

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Sun Aug 16, 2015 1:10 am

The realization of her words struck him immediately, but he maintained a visage of introspection softened only by the heavenly sight before him.

Wynnsaren was right, of course. He had known only service for over two centuries, and while he had bolstered that service into riches beyond the imaginations of most mortal ken, it had all been for the sake of the ruling house in Silverhall. Later, it had grown into a desire to help her people, as well. All the good he had done these last two hundred-plus years had been because of the Oath forced upon him in a place unknown, by an unknown entity of exquisite power.

A power, in all likelihood, much the same as that which his beloved had become.

Wynnsaren represented the antithesis of that evil in so many ways. The most important way to him was trust. She had proven herself trustworthy from the first day she stepped into his manor, having not once lied to him. She respected him--not because of his strength and political position, but in spite of it. What's more, she opened up her weakness to him, showed dependence on him when in need, and accepted his help readily and with great longing. Wynnsaren characterized strength, yet she permitted him walk beyond that barrier to witness the fragile pieces beneath. Rasven knew without doubt that the power which had so constricted his free will would never have allowed for any of that. That was why it hid itself behind that power: to blind any from identifying its weakness.

There remained one point of unity between Wynnsaren and that power, however: both sought to help. Their motivations differed as drastically as their methodology. For that Rasven was grateful, but whatever had shackled him with the Oath had required him to help people during a time in his life when perhaps he would not have chosen to do so. His free will had been stripped from him, but the man that deed had created was quite possibly better than the man he might have become otherwise.

Now, Wynnsaren hovered before him with the key to those shackles' removal. While the freedom she offered beckoned to nearly every heart string possessed by him, one of those strings stayed taut with a sobering question: How would freedom change him?

"I do not know if I am prepared," he confided without ever looking away from her. Such was how Rasven tackled every issue: by facing it honestly. "I have sought the answer for so long that I never considered what might happen if ever I found it. What repercussions might arise from my freedom? To me?" His eyes scanned the cityscape. "To them?"

When his gaze returned to Wynn's, it betrayed a hint of the vulnerability she had opened to him those years ago when first they had met. Rasven had known he loved her then, though propriety demanded he not make a fool of himself by admitting it. Through all the questions brought about concerning what freedom might do to him, there remained one constant. One certainty.

"What I know," he proclaimed adamantly, "is this: If the Oath continues to demand obedience of me, there can be no chance for us." As though grasping hold of the meaning of that sentence, the Oath tugged at the corner of his lip with an almost animalistic ferocity. Rasven felt it tear with primordial hunger at his insides, and winced with the effort to fend it off, that he might continue. "Perhaps one may presume me selfish, but that I will not abide."

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Post  Wynnsaren on Sun Aug 16, 2015 1:28 pm

Wynnsaren had seen it before. Too many times. Though as always the half elf did well to bear up in the face of torment, when she recognized the pain he was again beginning to endure, the tender smile slipped from her face to be replaced by a mask of fierce resolve. Her jaw set hard and her eyes burned with celestial fury as she looked at him -- through him to see this Oath clearly for the first time, a living entity wrapped in a stranglehold around his very soul! The beast must have understood its end was near, for it clawed violently at its host for speaking such blasphemies.

Without hesitation, Wynn's left hand shot out, splayed fingertips pressing against the center of his chest. She uttered a word. While the particular language was unknown to him, the power of that rebuke was undeniable as the sound reverberated through the air with such intensity that it rattled the back of his jaw!

The response within him was immediate. The beast reeled back as if struck, then cowed for the moment, it retreated and left its host in peace. For a time.

The aasimar's features softened into something slightly more recognizable as the Wynnsaren he once knew, and she turned the focus of her attention back to Master Winter.

"In this decision, you must not involve me or any consideration of the future we might have together." Sadness filled the quiet hollow of her voice and she let her hand trail gently down his chest before finally falling away. "For millennia I have lived for one purpose alone and I now stand upon the threshold of that duty. You know that I cannot promise I will be able return to you, or if so, in what state I might be found. Therefore your choice needs to be one you can live with whether or not I find life beyond this purpose.

"The unknown lies before you, Rasven. True freedom! I know what it is to be shaped by bondage -- to find your true path by its hands, but my dear, the strength of your heart and will is without equal! You can stand firm in your own exceptional quality and integrity without the cruel crutch this Oath provides. I know that your duty to your people will not waver in the face of freedom, but through it, can only be enhanced.

"I trust you," she whispered, her smiled filled with admiration and adoration, "whatever repercussions might arise. Do you trust yourself?"

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Wed Aug 19, 2015 1:32 am

Did he? Could he? Virtually every memory of his life before the Oath had fled from him. Rasven knew only the man that for over two centuries had been compelled into service for Silverhall. How could he consider the man that would remain without compulsory duty to drive him forward? Said man was worse than a stranger to him . . . there simply existed no template for him to draw from!

"I cannot do what you ask," the merchant prince answered with calm rationale. "I do not know who I am beyond compulsion, except for what I feel for you, which has nothing to do with the betterment of Silverhall, but for me. Naturally, the latter would lead to the former, yet that was not how or why I fell in love with you."

Rasven averted his countenance to the floor momentarily, trying to decipher how best to make her understand the impossibility of her declaration. "Self-preservation was required of me," he explained, meeting her gaze once again as he completed the statement. "For most, such a thing seems natural . . . people strive to survive inherently, because an indescribable yearning exists within them to do so. Such was not the case for me. I survived--indeed, sought to extend my life--not because I craved it, but because if I did not the agony proved insufferable and unending. I lived not by desire, Wynnsaren, but by demand. What could I do, then, but perform to the utmost of my ability that which the alien internal force required of me. All other choice led to anguish, followed by despair, which subsequently led to more anguish . . . .

"But, I am falling into the realm of self-pity now," he sighed, shaking his head as if to clear it of such thoughts. "My apologies. It accomplishes nothing but to cloud the point I seek to make. I do not wish for you to feel sorry for me, but to better understand why I cannot do as you first stated. Let me be blunt."

Rasven squared himself and took a deep, steadying breath. "I became the Protector of Silverhall because I could not endure the suffering. I fell in love with you, Wynnsaren, and realized something worth suffering for."

The self-proclaimed Protector of Silverhall searched her eyes of blue fire, but found their new form impossible to breach. Thus, he reassured her of his sincerity with a small smile. "I would give my life for Silverhall, but I will live my life for you. Living with the Oath would permit me the former, but not the latter, Wynnsaren, and that I cannot abide. For if you die in battle against this alien threat to our world, would the Oath allow me to come find you? If you do come back to me in a broken state, would the Oath consent to my nursing you back to full health, physical or emotional, for however long it might take? It would not. You and I know that beyond all doubt.

"It is a matter of trust in the end, beloved. You trust me to do what is right within myself, and for that I am thankful. It helps me to see that there is a strength there that perhaps I cannot see because I have never been granted permission to look. I trust you to have prepared Matsuro Shi for whatever this way comes, and that you will defeat it. Yet, I need you to trust that I will be here for you, Wynnsaren, to aid you if you call and find you if you are taken.

"That will be much easier for me to do if I am not burdened with an Oath that would combat me every step of the way."

Rasven Winter stared up at her with hope and just a touch of longing. "Do you understand now why I cannot eliminate you from my decision?"

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Post  Wynnsaren on Wed Aug 19, 2015 12:41 pm

The frank sincerity of his words stunned the aasimar speechless. Never before had he been able to speak so candidly about the Oath, about his bondage and about the depths of his feelings for her, not even upon the hour of his proposal! Only now, with the ever-lurking beast quelled for the moment could he be so forthcoming.

It was only then that she understood the truth of love -- that it could not merely be turned aside or disentangled from a life, but instead grew to become an integral part. No longer simply an observational exercise, Wynn found that she herself was loved in such a manner and loved in return with the same all-encompassing desire.

Humbled by these revelations, Wynnsaren descended slowly to the balcony to stand before him, forcing her bare feet to the cool, white marble floors.

"I do," she finally whispered when her voice returned, and looked up to the man who now stood a full head taller than she. "I understand . . . . You have made your decision then. I wanted only that it be yours, Rasven. No regrets."

She reached down to take his right hand and lifted it before them, running her fingers along the tops of the three rings that made up half of the set. The Rings of Winter had served as magical wards against the Oath's intrusions for decades. Settling upon the deep red ruby he wore upon his right index finger, Wynnsaren gently twisted it, inching the priceless ring off ever so slightly toward his knuckle.

She paused before continuing to study his expression. "May I?"

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Rasven

Post  The Sub-Creator on Thu Aug 20, 2015 12:59 am

Rasven closed his eyes as she took up his hand. The star-filled heavens were without doubt a beautiful, enchanting place, but so too were they cold and distant. Though Wynnsaren had come to appear more like the heavens, her touch remained warm and kind. From the top of his head to the tip of his toes, a peaceful solace washed over him to know that this new form still felt in every way as his beloved.

With the gentle twisting of the ring, Rasven's lids slowly opened, but no fear or panic resided within his eyes. The smile that shone upon his visage displayed trust and conviction.

"Please do," he consented. "I shan't be needing them any longer."

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Post  Wynnsaren on Thu Aug 20, 2015 9:24 am

One by one she slid the rings from Rasven's fingers, tenderly massaging out the indentations they had left behind until she was left with a pair of hands she hardly recognized without all the ornamentation!

Wynnsaren padded over to the orchid divan and deposited the small horde of treasure. "I do not know what will happen once this is done, my love," she admitted, standing before him upon her return. The Oath stirred within him as she spoke, as if it sensed that the repressive wards had been removed. As if it knew that its time was at an end.

"There is much damage that has been done to you through the centuries of suffering. Damage not easily -- likely not at all able to be healed magically." Her lips pressed together in a hard line as she lifted her palms and pressed each against the Merchant Prince's chest. "But time is said to be the most efficient balm for soul-deep scars and so. . . . whatever time the gods grant me that is mine to give, I choose to give it to you, Rasven Winter," she lifted her burning blue eyes to his platinum as resolve infused each of her words. "So far as it is in my power, you will never be alone."

It was with that newly attained power that she now reached within to grab hold of the metaphysical thing which had bound him so securely within its coils. The beast lashed out violently against Master Winter intending to crush him in consequence of his blasphemies against the Oath -- even kill him outright before it was undone, but it was no match against a foe this determined to see to the freedom of its host.

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The Oathkeeper

Post  The Sub-Creator on Fri Aug 21, 2015 11:54 pm

It had never sought power. Such was not the way of its kind. It was an Oathkeeper; one whose sole purpose involved ensuring that the parameters of an oath or contract were maintained. It cared nothing for motivation or mechanization of purpose, only that the groundwork of the contract be upheld. To stray from that groundwork, even a little, meant the infliction of punishment until the one under oath returned to the parameters of the groundwork.

It was no sadist. It derived no pleasure in the onset of crippling pain whenever the Bound broke the oath. The suffering existed as a tool to bring the Bound back within the parameters of the groundwork only. If the Bound stayed true to the groundwork, the pain would never be necessary. Occasionally, his mind strayed from the proper course and had to be corrected.

The rings made punishment more difficult. Somehow, the Bound had managed to tie its own life force into them, and the items bolstered his resistance against the pain. At first, they had provided the Bound with a measure of strength to ease his suffering, but the rings were mere mortal magic, and it required only a short time to comprehend and overcome such magic. Certainly, to do so demanded more exertion, but that hardly proved unsatisfactory, since focusing on the Bound to keep the oath was its only job.

Twice, however, it had been stung. Beaten back by a power not mortal in origin. A power like that which it possessed. Such was supposed to be impossible, or so it had been assured.

Obviously, that wasn't the case.

Thus, when it sensed the sudden removal of the rings fortifying the Bound's life force, one course of action prevailed above all others. The Bound must be slain. He had somehow isolated an external power capable of overcoming it and, therefore, intended to disassociate himself from the oath. Nowhere in the groundwork was such a thing permitted. Killing the Bound would likewise kill it, but that mattered not at all. Law must overcome chaos every time or the multiverse would be doomed.

Mustering every ounce of power granted it by the Oathbinder, it lashed out at every nerve within his body, seeking to create a surge of immense magic aimed to explode within the brain stem. As the Bound's nerve endings flared with sudden raw energy, eliciting a scream from him so feral as to shake all atomic matter within his body, it stored all that power into an electrical charge within a fraction of a second. Then it loosed the charge along his central nervous system, where the electric blast would eradicate that system, fry out the immune system as it went, and assure success with the destruction of the brain stem as a finale.

The plan did not work as it had intended.

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Post  Wynnsaren on Mon Aug 24, 2015 11:55 am

Instead, his liberator was ready, waiting for the Oath to take its opportunity to strike. The charge of destructive energies was loosed but rather than traveling up the nervous system as was intended, it was absorbed -- pulled externally through the conduit of the aasimar where it pooled until the moment of redirection. With surgical precision, she reached into the merchant prince to seize the Oath in a metaphysical grasp. As she took hold of it, all the magic it had mustered to destroy its host was loosed upon it instead! With a growl of frustration, she quickly realized that while such power would be enough to kill Rasven, it was not enough to exterminate such a potent force as this being, so into that gulf Wynnsaren poured herself. Wave after wave of raw power was thrown against it, until the last remaining shred of the oathbinder had been burned away as so much chaff.

The aasimar pulled herself back into the physical realm and shook her head. The anguishing scream still rung loudly in her ears and in her heart. She was new to the use of such potency as was now within her purview, and the expenditure had been more than she'd expected necessary, leaving her flagging from the battle. Even so, when Rasven slumped to the floor she managed with great effort to catch him and heave him over to the divan where he might rest.

His heart still beat, albeit erratically, but his face was very. . .very pale. Wynnsaren sat at his side and slid her eyes over him with concern. There was only so much that magic could do. A powerful parasite that had resided within Rasven for over two hundred years had just been quite forcibly removed. He was in shock. "Lis," she spoke with intent, knowing the head servant would hear her call. "Bring a bottle of Osiowet to the Master's balcony. Quickly."

It would not have surprised her if Lis had already awoken to his Master's scream of torment. It would not have surprised her if all of Silverhall had risen from their beds and were now looking toward the tower to identify the source of such primal agony!

"Please be okay," she implored, curling her arms around him protectively. "Dear gods, please let him be okay. . ."

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Fri Aug 28, 2015 6:07 pm

Cold.

When Rasven opened his eyes, there existed nothing but a deep, hypothermic cold giving life to the impenetrable darkness. The frozen floor burned any part of him that contacted it, even through his clothing, though that was hardly surprising since silk was not known as the finest protection against anything. His breath crystallized in the air the moment it departed his lips--a phenomenon Rasven heard rather than saw, and felt as ice particles solidified upon the tips of his nose and frosted his lips. Force of will alone prevented his teeth from chattering uncontrollably. Unable to see, he dared not close his eyes longer than a blink for fear his lashes would freeze together, despite the dryness of the frigid air painfully drawing out all moisture from his eyes whenever they remained open. Periodically, loud splintering cracks erupted through the oppressive darkness that covered him like a blanket of ice, as if he resided within a glacial mountain constantly resettling.

The Merchant Prince knew this place well . . . and yet not at all. Vague impressions flitted about his memory, a nightmare ever present but never revealing. Everything he had become inevitably traced its origins to this frozen hell. It had given him his name . . . .

He had hoped never to come back.

Skin and hair from the back of his head and hands tore free as he willed himself up from the prone position. They had adhered to the floor of this place wherever naked skin touched it, and the ice refused to relinquish its grasp on them. Rasven started to scream from the pain, but just as quickly suppressed the urge. Instead, he inflicted more excruciating torture on himself by closing his fingers into the palms for warmth, an act which stretched the torn skin on the backs of his hands. The Shield of Silverhall then tucked those hands beneath each armpit in an effort to conserve body heat.

"Serethail!" the Merchant Prince cried out in a quivering voice. His vocal chords had started to freeze, and his throat burned with the forced air it took to speak. Echoes attempted escape through the lightless cavern, but died somewhere within the unknown, granting credence to the sheer enormity of this setting.

"That is not my name," replied a melodious voice from somewhere in the darkness. It echoed as well, but not like his, caused by the size of the place. No, hers echoed outside of time, as if trying to catch up to itself through multiple time streams and failing. The owner of the voice sounded childlike, distinctly feminine, and exceedingly angry.

"It-t is the name I-I've given you," Rasven hissed through teeth clenched in an effort to control their chattering, "that I might nev-v-ver l-let myself forget you-ou."

"Touching, thrall," the voice retaliated, and the surroundings emphasized the coldness of the comment with a thundering crack from somewhere deep within far off walls.

"It is n-not a term of end-dearment," the half-elf promised. He would have spit in defiance to accentuate the point, but his throat felt as if any such fluid traveling through it now would tear it out. "W-why am I here, w-witch?"

"You dare speak with such insolence?" the voice seethed with such quiet bitterness that waves of palpable chill washed over Rasven, encasing strands of his silver-blond hair within icicles. "I should freeze the blood in your veins, mortal, for addressing me as such."

Rasven tilted his head just a skosh. "Should?" he repeated the optimal word in her threat with a growing smirk. The frigid air and frost that had accumulated on his lips caused the lower one to split down its center, but the Merchant Prince ignored it. "D-do it, then, Sereth-th-thail."

"Impudent wretch of a thrall," it insulted him with scathing vindictiveness. "I should encase you in ice and never let you lose consciousness, that you might feel the agony of its cold burn for the rest of eternity." Her voice never rose in pitch, never altered from its childlike melody, making the threat even more disturbing.

The Shield of Silverhall scoffed at it just the same. "Do it, then, Serethail!" he demanded of the disembodied entity, and Rasven stepped forward as he spoke in a show of disrespect for her power against him.

"That is not my name," the voice repeated slowly, the promise of death hanging on every syllable.

Rasven heard it, but his attention had been focused elsewhere even as she delivered the bone-chilling statement. For upon his second challenge, he had noted that all the agonizing cold had gone away. Only for the briefest of moments, but he had recognized its absence rather astutely.

The half-elf relaxed, letting his hands fall away from their protection and warmth to clasp behind his back. His body no longer shivered spasmodically, and all the pain from the cold had just as quickly dispersed. With a voice now strong and bold, Rasven proclaimed, "It is now, as that is the name I have given you."

An arctic blast swept through the immense cavern like a frozen gale, its unearthly strength ripping ice shards from the distant walls to converge upon the Merchant Prince with lethal fury. The powerful display of elemental might should have thrown him off his feet and shredded him like brittle papyrus . . . but it failed to do so.

Rasven stood unassailed and underwhelmed, his demeanor passive. Not a single hair upon his head had been moved by the assault.

"None of this is real," he deduced aloud, more for the benefit of the incorporeal voice than for himself. "You have not taken me back there, but have reconstructed it in my mind. That is why I can only hear you, is it not? I am beyond your physical reach now. Thus, you concocted this illusion to punish me for breaking free from the Oath you forced upon me. I am free of you."

"You will never be free of me, thrall," the voice purred, the rage now replaced by an almost seductive confidence. "I am a fixture in your subconscious, a presence that cannot be rooted out, and I am immortal. With the breaking of the Oath, the contractual obligation has been terminated. Now we peruse the fine print. When you regain consciousness, all memory of me will be expunged, just as before, but know that I will be waiting. Your torment is not yet complete."

"When I awaken, I may not recall you," Rasven admitted. "However, I have never forgotten you, Serethail. So long as the name remains here," he tapped his temple with an index finger, "the knowledge of your existence remains, as well."

"That. Is not. My name!"

"Perhaps," the Shield of Silverhall acquiesced. "But it will be your undoing."

******************************************

Slowly, the color returned to Rasven Winter's face, and his heartbeat grew less and less erratic. Though exhausted, the warmth of gentle arms and a soothing voice rekindled his consciousness. Without ever opening his eyes, he knew where he was and in whose tender embrace he now rested. A part of him desired greatly to bluff unconsciousness and see how long he might reside in his beloved's arms, but the unselfish part of him realized he could not put her through additional moments of grief just to satisfy such an inconsiderate emotional request.

"In the arms of an angel," the half-elf mumbled weakly. "To which afterlife have I been summoned, I wonder? My darling angel," he inquired, the corners of his lips lifting slightly, "might you share with me some small gift to sate my curiosity?"

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Post  Wynnsaren on Sat Aug 29, 2015 12:00 am

"Cad. . ." The aasimar muttered in amusement, only just loudly enough for him to hear.

A great wave of relief washed over her at his stirring, for the violence that had been wrought upon him both physically and spiritually was terrifying. The strength of this man! So much suffering he had endured and yet through that suffering -- through failures and victories, the Shield of Silverhall had become something more remarkable than anything Wynnsaren had ever known in any life, on any world. And she adored him.

Tenderly, she brushed her fingers through his hair before trailing them down the sensitive ridge of his right ear from gentle point to lobe. A grin graced her visage as she spoke resonantly, playing along with his charade. "I have summoned you, mortal, not to an afterlife but to life -- your own to navigate for the first time. You are unbound. . . for as long as you wish to be," she added, shifting enticingly over him to thread the fingers of her left hand through his newly divested right.

As he opened his eyes, she saw her new self reflected in those platinum mirrors and what she saw startled her. Wynnsaren had not been aware of the outward differences, having only perceived the inner, less superficial ones; the absent need to breathe, the power that crackled through her veins and vibrated through the very air around her, the memories -- that sense of fullness of time. She remembered now. All of it, even things she couldn't have known at the time. Her mothers, her fathers, each of them, one mortal, one celestial, back to the beginning when millenia ago, the prophecy had been proclaimed and she was human. Now she had become as immortal as her celestial kin and there was nothing tying her to this world but one mission and one man.

She was not the same person that tread so fearfully through his entryway those years ago, and likewise neither was he now the same man that she'd met. The Oath was such an all-encompassing force in his life, that she wondered how much she could really know about a free Rasven when he knew naught at all about himself! The aasimar smiled warmly as she noted in his eyes the familiar intelligence, boldness, love and that little hint of danger that she had grown so fond of, and she realized that she would very much enjoy getting to know him all over again.

But there was no need to start at the beginning.

Wynnsaren lowered her mouth to his and kissed him gently, reverently. In consideration of all he had just been through, she hoped to evoke in him what he evoked in her. Something quite different from pain.

"It is a great pleasure to finally meet you, Rasven Winter." she whispered softly upon his release, "and I want to be sure you understand that I do not normally so greet those with whom I find myself in audience, but oddly I feel a powerful desire to make exception where you are concerned. I hope you do not find me too forward."

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Sun Aug 30, 2015 5:11 pm

Rasven Winter found himself in that kiss. His heart strengthened, and the rushing blood from its beating warmed him through and through. This was not the first time her proximity had so effected him, of course, but it proved the first time the half-elf could truly live within the moment! Here and now, there existed no civil war or Neski Surtova or Silverhall . . . he knew only Wynnsaren. Thus it was that, when their lips finally parted, every one of his five senses were filled with the impressions left by her in that moment.

Just after, when she greeted him so softly for the apparent first time, Rasven stanched a flood of desire for her so powerful that it nearly shook his entire body with the effort. Frankly, as fatigued as he now felt, it amazed him that he still had the force of will to be reserved!

"I should warn you, as a celestial being of unequivocal beauty and purity," he professed quietly, while gazing lovingly into her eyes of blue fire, "that I find truth and honesty extraordinarily appealing. Considering my rather fragile emotional state spurred on by a two-centuries-old binding torn asunder from my soul, combined with the all-encompassing love and passion with which I feel for you and have now for years, do venture forth cautiously along the lines of powerful desire, sweetest angel."

The half-elf waited a couple heartbeats before permitting the smile to creep upon his face. "And, if you must know," he answered her final statement, tracing the smooth and subtle curves at the side of her lips with the first two fingers of his free hand, "I find you exhilarating."

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Post  Wynnsaren on Fri Sep 04, 2015 12:55 am

Without breaking his gaze, Wynnsaren caught each of the tips of those two fingers in a delicate kiss, wavering mightily on whether or not to tempt this particular fate. Such potent longing was not a foe with which she was used to doing battle!

"And I find you entirely too alluring," she smiled down him as she shifted back to a more appropriate position curled by his side, "but I do not wish to take advantage of your current state."

In order to keep her hands -- and lips, from further mischief, the aasimar reached back to unpin the cloud-dampened braid twisted at the back of her neck. "I admit I am surprised by how well you are so far handling the transition," she stated as she proceeded to undo the tie as well, shaking out her dark locks that they might dry. "A credit to your strength of will, no doubt!

"I wonder though, do you feel any differently? Do you now remember anything of where you were hidden away during the Labeda's clash against the Conqueror, or who it was that administered the Oath?"

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Fri Sep 04, 2015 1:13 am

"My strength of will sometimes shocks even me," he confessed, watching the release of her gorgeous sable tresses. So much about Wynnsaren had changed physically, but their remained a comfortable sense of familiarity in the fullness and beauty of her hair. It would take nothing at all for the half-elf to grow accustomed to this new, overtly celestial appearance, however. Her outward appearance mattered little when compared to the heart and soul of his beloved.

The eyes might take a little getting used to.

Rasven averted his gaze from the powerful display, that he could capture a thought or two for a proper conversation. "A dull ache that runs bone deep," he conceded after a brief pause for contemplation. "I feel weakened, as though all vitality has been drained from my very being. Whether that derives from the sundering of the Oath or the lack of my rings, I cannot say for certain." The Shield of Silverhall closed his eyes and breathed deep to accentuate the point. "Whichever demonstrates itself culpable, I will not mourn its absence."

Before answering her second inquiry, Rasven spent a long moment digging through the recesses of his mind. The strain of the effort brought about a throbbing pain that pressed against his left temporal lobe, which he combated by covering the left side of his face with a hand. He compressed the space just above the eyebrow with his fingers, then moved them outward in a slow and methodical fashion, as if pushing the pain away.

"No," he sighed with a subtle shake of his head. "Nothing new. Only the similar vague impressions I have always had."

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Post  Wynnsaren on Fri Sep 04, 2015 2:04 am

Wynnsaren nodded subtly, her careful attention diverted to the pain he was encountering in the answering of her inquiry. Troubling, but perhaps only a consequence of the sundering he'd just experienced. So she hoped. . .

She'd also hoped for answers, admittedly. The aasimar had a rather large bone to pick with the entity that would so entrap a man -- this man, in a cage of torment for centuries! It might be that those answers would yet come with time but in his current state of weariness, she had no desire to press him further.

"I called for Lis after you fell," Wynnsaren related in soft resonance. "He should be here shortly with a bottle of Osiowet in tow, but I believe the greatest healing for you now is likely rest." She shook her head, scolding herself. "And here in my excitement to free you from the Oath I did not consider the hour, which surely does not help matters. For that I apologize. . . While there are other issues of which we must speak, I will not do so until you are ready to hear them, which surely will only come after some hours of sleep."

Empathetically, she reached out to lay a hand upon his aching brow, smoothing it gently across his forehead with concern burning in the blue flames of her eyes.

"What is it that you wish of me, my love?" She asked honestly. "Shall I stay here on this balcony with you through the night, or do you wish for me to ask Lis to help you to your chambers for proper rest? Either way I have no intention of leaving the estate until we have had a chance to speak again."

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Rasven & Lis

Post  The Sub-Creator on Fri Sep 04, 2015 9:11 am

The Merchant Prince regarded Wynnsaren through eyes half closed with weariness. "My choice, then, involves being with you or without you," he simplified, following it with a single chuckle. "Need I say that is no choice at all?"

Rasven clasped the hand upon his brow and brought it down for a kiss, then rested it easily upon his chest, where he covered it with his own. After a couple deep, lazy breaths, he patted her hand in reassurance. "Fret not about the hour, beloved. Perhaps in your excitement you failed to notice that I was awake anyhow." Though the gesture was a smidgen tardy, Rasven winked playfully to further nullify any concern over the issue. He followed that soon after with, "I fear the possibility exists that may not long be the case, however."

Just as Master Winter completed his statement, the door of translucent ice leading out onto the balcony slid open to reveal the master servant of the estate holding a bottle fashioned in the shape of tree bark and two crystalline goblets. Lis moved out onto the terrace with a hurried pace, beads of sweat upon his bald pate. "Forgive my tardiness," he panted. "I fear you woke me from--oh my!" he exclaimed in the midst of his statement when the celestial being came into view, subsequently halting him in his tracks.

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Post  Wynnsaren on Fri Sep 04, 2015 10:33 am

At the sound of his approach, Wynnsaren turned her burning eyes over the back of the divan to see the head servant's familiar -- if startled, features.

"Do not worry, the master is well," she smiled, misunderstanding his cause for alarm. Effortlessly, she flew up and over the enormous orchid to hover before him. "And I thank you for your haste. He has endured much this night, withstanding the final incursion of the Oath. There will not be another, for Master Winter is now free from its influence."

At end of her statements the goblets of perfect crystal the man was holding, rang out in a beautiful, eerie tone caused by the reverberations of her voice. It was only then that she realized that the servant's attention -- a peculiar mix of fear and awe, was not at all directed toward the extravagant divan the balcony boasted whereupon his extravagant master was seated, but at her.

The aasimar frowned at her oversight. Rasven Winter was unflappable in the extreme, but not everyone could boast such impassivity! Muting her voice she stepped toward him slowly. "Lis. . ." She relieved him of his priceless cargo, and pulled the bottle of wine from a very precarious grasp. "Lis, it is only I. I did not mean to startle you."

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Fri Sep 04, 2015 5:21 pm

The voice was heavenly, but its mystical overtones that rang like muted church bells all about Lis were hard to place. Likewise, this being's eyes were impossible to read, swirling and flickering like a sapphire sea of fire. The swirling star motes that haloed her entire body sparked a memory of recognition, leading the head servant to concentrate on the familiar sigils upon her face.

"Lady Wynnsaren?" he posed the hesitant question. "How did you . . . ? When did you . . . ? If it were not for the recognizable marks on your face, my Lady, I would never have known you. If I may inquire: what happened, my Lady?"

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Post  Wynnsaren on Sun Sep 06, 2015 8:46 pm

"Have I really changed so much?" Wynnsaren wondered sadly. Even Rasven seemed. . .hesitant when she first appeared, but as evidence of his genuine love, the Merchant Prince had seen beyond the physical and accepted her unquestioningly.

The aasimar offered Lis a wisp of a smile before answering his question as simply and honestly as she could. "I remembered. . ."

She took the crystal goblets from the servant's hand and glided over to the small table at the side of the divan, where she set them down and the bottle of Osiowet beside them. Noting that Rasven was already asleep or at least upon its cusp, she scooped up the pile of rings she'd removed, and returned to Lis.

"Sometimes we must become what is necessary in order to fulfill a greater purpose," she explained gently in muted strains upon her return. "Sometimes we are given little choice at all. Master Winter understands this better than most. It is because of what I have become that I was able to free him of the Oath and if I am able to give him nothing else, I am pleased to grant him that at least, for he deserves so much better than Fate has dealt him in this life."

Gingerly, Wynnsaren deposited the rings into Lis' hands, then removed a folded letter from the pocket of her breeches and rested that atop the small pile of treasure.

"Please place the rings somewhere safe for him," she asked, before dropping her voice to a whisper. "As for the letter. . . I leave tomorrow, and I know not what will become of me once my purpose is fulfilled. If you could hold on to this to give to Master Winter in the event that. . ."

She choked one the words and nodded, unable to finish the thought. In truth, Wynn didn't know what if anything lay beyond this mission which had spanned millenia, but she had sensed what she considered a gods-given impression that she would lose her life in the process. But that wasn't the sacrifice that troubled. The thought that stabbed at her heart was that she might never have this future that was so tantalizingly close. A place where she belonged. . .at the side of Rasven Winter.

"You are so dear to me Lis," she smiled, forcing away the melancholic thoughts. Gently she placed her hand against the man's cheek. "It is your heart for your master that helped me to fully open to him my own. I know you will continue to take care of him for me if I am unable to return."

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Sun Sep 06, 2015 8:57 pm

Lis slipped the six rings into a small pouch he kept empty and at the ready for just such an occasion as this. He continued to listen closely to her spoken and unspoken words, holding the letter she had given him in hand.

"Of course I will look after him, as best as I am able, though I fear if you do not return there will simply be no living with him," the head servant replied, the afterthought a rather sorry attempt at humor in his own ears. He found himself unable to smile at his own joke, perhaps, in part, because of the truth in the claim! "Even so, few adapt to situations so well as Master Winter. I know in my heart there is little he cannot overcome."

Lis peered at the flames in Wynn's eyes, hoping that some of what he was about to say would register. "You know, naturally, that this is as much your home now as anywhere could be," he stated authentically. "It has been my honor to serve you, as well, Lady Wynnsaren, and I most eagerly desire the continuance of that service. I say this only because I feel a powerful need to sway your thoughts strongly in favor of return. I do not know you near so well as my Master, but already you are as family to me . . . and family, dare I say, that I have longed for him to know for quite some time.

"So, I will hold this letter for you, my Lady," Lis assured her, glancing down at it only briefly in acknowledgment of its existence, "and I will give it to him in the event that something dire should happen when whatever this storm that continues to be hinted at comes. You have my oath on that point. However, I must be so bold as to require something from you in return," he insisted adamantly. "If that dire moment should not occur, I will have your promise that you will return to this place where you are so cherished."

The servant swallowed hard, then forced through the emotion to conclude, "I will have your word that you will come home."

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Post  Wynnsaren on Sun Sep 06, 2015 9:13 pm

Wynnsaren's brows lifted toward the heavens at the servant's bold address. Clearly this determination sprung forth solely for the well-being of his master, and for it she loved him all the more!

The oracle slowly raised herself to eye level with the man, her burning gaze affixed mercilessly to his own while power shimmered through the air between them. Palpable and unnerving, the sensation caused fresh beads of sweat to bleed from his forehead.

Her voice, cold and distant it may have resounded but it was full of love and truth that would not be denied.

"Lis. . ." He felt the ringing of the word in his chest as nearing thunder. "If there is any shred of self. . . any sliver of life or soul left to me once this is over, I give you my word that I will make my way back to this place -- to my home and to this man who would be my husband.

"Master Winter undoubtedly wields the strength to accustom himself to any tragic circumstance, but I do not. Not that." The potency surrounding the aasimar diminished slightly as distress turned down the corners of her full lips. "Whatever power I might possess, it is not enough for me to abide a life apart from what I have found here in Silverhall."

Wynnsaren lowered her feet to the cool, marble floor. "So. As it was necessary to break one Oath today, it seems I have made one of my own -- far less insidious, to replace it. I trust you find my pledge sufficient."

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Sun Sep 06, 2015 9:17 pm

Lis nodded somewhat shakily. "Quite."

He glanced down to the small pouch now housing the Rings of Winter and patted it, eliciting the telling jingles of precious metals within. "I shall find a safe place for these, then.

"Thank you for your pledge, my Lady," he expressed upon turning his sight back to her. The corners of his lips hinted upward. "I thank you all the more for working the impossible with my master. For that, I owe you a debt that can never be repaid."

Lis bowed respectfully to Wynnsaren as he backed away. "I am certainly grateful enough to try, however. Should you require anything more of me this night, my Lady, you need only call. I doubt there will be much sleep left for me in the wake of this glorious deed."

With that, he whispered the password for the lethal door of ice leading back in off the balcony and passed through it.

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Post  Wynnsaren on Mon Sep 07, 2015 8:54 am

Serethail. . .

The whispered word lingered in the thick summer air. She'd asked Rasven the meaning once and he admitted he could not recall, only knowing that it originated during his time in the enigmatic place of cold and darkness. It was a name oft repeated there and while he desired to remember it, he could not remember why. Perhaps someday, she reiterated the hope. Perhaps someday they would have the answers, but for now it was more than enough to know that he was free.

Wynnsaren turned back, padding across the balcony to the divan where she found the Merchant Prince of Silverhall sleeping peacefully. Smiling, she curled up beside him, wriggling her left hand back into its place on his chest, over his heart and beneath his palm.

If the Osiowet was necessary, it could wait until morning for she had no intention of waking him from this well-deserved rest. The oracle herself no longer slept -- or breathed or ate or drank. Useful, she rationalized, but the knowledge disturbed her more than anything for it seemed to further alienate her from those she had come to love. But not from him. . . She knew that he would not allow so trivial a thing to come between them and there was such security to be found in that knowledge!

Resting her head on his shoulder, Wynnsaren closed her eyes in peace and focused on the celestial symphony that sang above. The clouds may be obscuring their light but nothing could mute their song from her ears any longer. Now she channeled that song through herself, amplifying it to the point where Rasven would have been able to hear it with his own ears for the first time.

Even if it only drifted into his subconscious, she wished for him to have the most pleasant and restorative dreams that only the Starsong could provide.

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