Hello, Oath Takers and Deal Breakers.
Do you know what you’re doing? This isn’t something to be taken lightly. Once you say those words, you can’t take them back. And words can be light as thread or heavy as chains. If you’re absolutely sure, then place one hand over your heart, because…
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
I Swore an Oath
RULES AND GUIDELINES BELOW!
Make sure you scroll down and read them if you haven’t! You may not be eligible if you don’t!
A lot of people will tell you that an oath is just a really strong, really important promise. They’re not wrong, but… they’re not entirely correct either. An oath is something much more binding, spoken word pertaining to something sacred, or at least thought highly important.
Whether that thing is sacred to everyone, a group, or even an individual is up to you. It can be a knight swearing an oath to protect an entire kingdom, or swearing to protect the next in line for the kingdom’s throne. It can be a guardian who’s sworn to protect some child with magic that no one knows about. Perhaps a newly appointed Druid has just fulfilled the vows she was required to see through in order to join a higher council. Or even just two children who don’t entirely know what the word “oath” means, but swearing nonetheless to be friends forever.
And what happens when oaths are broken? Well, it depends on what was promised. After all, not all oaths are good ones. Your life was saved, and so you’ve sworn to this savior that you’re forever in their debt, but you didn’t realize just what that meant this savior would make you do. Or maybe some witch has sworn to dark forces to do their dirty work in ways they can’t, but she fails to carry out an order for whatever reason. What happens to her power? Her mind? Maybe even her very existence? Consequences can be anything from being banned from the tree house for ten minutes to having one’s soul collected.
It really all depends on who made what oath, to whom the oath is sworn to, and the intentions behind it, whether known to the oath taker or not.
So get your sacred artifacts and make your deals, but do be careful. Breaking an oath can have… unpredictable consequences.
Remember, this is part of our weekly Writing Group stream! Submit a little piece following the rules and guidelines below, and there’s a chance your entry will be read live on stream! In addition, we’ll discuss it for a minute and give you some feedback.
Tune into the stream this Saturday at 7:00pm CST to see if you made the cut!
The whole purpose of this is to show off the creativity of the community, while also helping each other to become better writers. Lean into that spirit, and get ready to help each other improve their confidence in their writing, as well as their skill with their craft!
Rules and Guidelines
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“The Legacy Oath”
By Hemming Sebastian Bane
I never signed up for this crazy alchemy stuff. But if I wanted to get into the family business, I need the Lanciocchis’ and the Maruaries’ approval. So, I gotta do what they say. But they both brought their daughters and a buncha candles to the warehouse. I didn’ like where this is going. But to be a proper Divy, I gotta do it.
The Lanciocchi daughter, a gorgeous undine with sea-green skin, approached first. She nodded at me and then the Maruary girl came over. Smokin’ hot troll babe. We just stood and took each other in before getting into a triangle with candles at the points. Then, the ritual began.
“Oh, sky above,” Maruary bellowed, “Bear testament to the renewal of oaths!”
“Oh, earth below,” Lanciocchi said. “Awaken, and hear our words!”
“Oh sea afar,” I said. “Acknowledge us not. This oath was forged of stars and stones, of hosts and worms, of aether and bones.”
Then Lanciocchi took the knife out, a brass weapon with a wicked hook. Yeah, the one you picked up. She took that and drew the edge against her palms in the shape of an X.
“Hear us, sky!” Lanciocchi cried. “Our fearful cries and screams of anguish.”
Then, she squeezed some blood into a crystal jar and passed the blade to me. I could tell by the look in her eyes she was enjoying this. Spooked me a little. But there was no time to be scared. I had to do it. Otherwise, I’d be out. So, I did the same.
“Taste of us, earth!” I said. “Our blood and sweat, ephemeral.”
I added my blood to the jar and quickly passed it to Maruary. It felt like she took forever taking it. But she took it and did the same, too. Lanciocchi passed her a clear liquid.
“Feel us, sea!” Maruary said. “Embrace your children, oh mother!”
She added her blood and the liquid to the jar. Suddenly, the mixture went black. The ritual was successful. Dunno what it did, don’ care as long as it doesn’t get in my way.
By Cansas Wanderlust
The room was small—walls of mossy cobblestone. The air was wet and smelled of mud. Dakarai slowly regained consciousness. He tried to sit up and cursed when he discovered thick leather cuffs around his wrists, ankles, and chest, binding him to what felt like a metal table.
He’d known the risk, but he couldn’t stand by while these monsters took his mother. He promised to come back to her while the gundulves were dragging him away. The look in her eyes would haunt him forever. Still, this was best. He’d gotten out of many tight spots since joining the Crimson Rangers. He was sure it was him they wanted anyway.
The wooden door creaked open. A tall man appeared, white hair swaying as he shut the door.
“Now this is a surprise,” Dakarai said. “To what do I owe the pleasure, great lord Malacom?”
“Don’t flatter yourself,” Malacom said flatly. “I’m only interested in the knowledge you possess.”
“If you wanted to know the best taverns, you only needed to ask.”
The ranger chuckled but Malacom stayed neutral.
Dakarai sighed. “What do you want?”
“You know what I want.”
“Always so cryptic, Malacom,” Dakarai gave a playful smirk.
A hint of annoyance flashed in Malacom’s blue eyes. “I want the location of the one called Stranger.”
“Str-stran-ger. Odd name. Can’t say I know a stranger. Everyone I know is either a friend or an enemy. Now there is a boy who plays his lute for the street cats, and he is a strange fellow.”
“I don’t have time for your games,” Malacom said, turning on his heel.
A moment after Malacom left, a young woman entered. Beads of iron decorated her blood-red hair. Dakarai recognized her at once as the ulven shadow, Dale Lykrus.
“Where is Stranger?” Her voice was sharp as a razor.
Dakarai closed his eyes and whispered, “I’m sorry mama. I break my promise to you so that I can keep my promise to my blood brother.”
The ranger opened his eyes, and said with a smile, “not a clue, my lady.”
Cassidy Markham knocked on the door to Marcus Reid’s office.
“Come in,” he called.
Cassidy entered the office and stood at attention. “You called for me, guv?”
Reid smiled, almost a smirk. “Well, I have the results from your field training. Your instructor informed me that you were among the best to ever attend the course in terms of marksmanship and physical conditioning.”
Cassidy tried to keep her smile from breaking into a full-blown grin. “Thank you, guv.”
“Your literacy was a little low. I’m sure Doyle can help you bring that up to speed. Your class work was still rated above average.”
Cassidy nodded. “Understandable. Knowing my letters wasn’t that important when I was in the army. I will try my best.”
“I’m sure you will, Markham. I’m sure you will.” He stood up from behind his desk and opened a drawer. From it he took a bible. “Time to make this official.”
“Well, I did fill out all the paperwork. I mean, with Doyle’s help, of course.”
“Yes, yes. Your paperwork is fine, Markham,” Reid replied. “You need to take your oath to the Crown.”
Cassidy’s mouth slowly opened, fighting to find the words. “I took an oath when I joined the army.”
“And this will be much the same thing, Markham. It’s mostly a formality.”
Cassidy shook her head. “But I’m still technically bound by that oath, aren’t I?”
Reid frowned. “You’re not in the army anymore. You were discharged when they found out you were a woman. This is a different service to the crown, and even if you meant it in your heart and soul, you did give the oath under a false name.”
Cassidy sighed. “I suppose so, Guv.”
“Now, let’s get this over with, and then toast your time with the Bureau.” He grabbed the bible and held it out to her. “Place your hand on the bible and repeat after me.”
Cassidy reached forward, and laid her left hand on the bible. Her right hand rested on her chest above her heart.
“I, state your name…”
“I, Cassidy Rebecca Markham…”
She coughed up blood as the acrid smell of ash filled her nose. She pushed herself up with her sword, looking around her. The balefire blazed as the dead shambled about with tactical precision. This was a catastrophe the goddess wouldn’t, that she wouldn’t allow.
She stared up at the creature before her. She had once heard that it was human, but she knew better than to allow those heresies to fester in her mind. She could make out the vaguely humanoid form by the bony carapace holding the creature’s slick, dark form. It was disgusting, something not of this plane, something that should be destroyed utterly in holy fire.
She held up her shield and pointed her sword at the horror. She began to chant the litanies she had been taught since her childhood. The words had been beaten into her, all disgrace annihilated, all her imperfection eradicated. She was a servant to the goddess and she would serve till death. She would not be made a mockery of.
She screamed and charged forward, sword flashing with the light of the surrounding fires. She blocked a blast of dark magic with her shield. She dove forward. She only needed one chance to skewer this creature and in the name of the Goddess she shall!
The warrior woman’s corpse shambled with the rest of the procession. Her body was hardy and good armor. She would break through the battleline once the useless corpses of peasants had been destroyed. She would skewer those that had prayed to her goddess and would do so at the flick of the wrist.
The “horror” she had so adamantly hunted watched his dread legion with a cold visage. Slowly, he commanded his legion to rest for the day and to bury themselves in the ground. It was also better to travel at night.
Once his congregation had completed their orders, he removed the mask that held his face. William Bracus looked out into the countryside and reminded himself of his quest for vengeance against the people of this land. All for his lost love…
A Day’s Work
By Jesse Fisher
The sound of a shuttering door punctuated by the clicking of the latch into the lock jamb. Jelly legs nearly gave out from under him after his journey started long before the sun cracked the darkness of the night.
After waking from a near dreamless sleep he looked to his clock and wanted to roll over to the silence of the non-waking world. His mind prevented this and with a groan he got up and dressed. A backpack and jacket awaited the start of the next step of the routine. Checking the report would determine whether it was a bundle or just one layer type of day.
Fifteen minutes of cycle travel and a change to the uniform in the pack, the real fun starts. Five hours of lifting and moving items begin to wear him down. Hour one was the roughest as it was the setup and he could not know if something had been misplaced or used up before he got there. That was a pain to deal with.
Then hours two and three meant dealing with the heated items. Normally it would be fine, but one of the gloves was a size too small and it was not as well rated for this type of heat.
Fourth and fifth hours were the easiest as cleanup was much quicker and least taxing. Just breaking down empty boxes and waste to take out. A break followed this with a moment’s reprieve from all the crazy of the past hours.
Only an hour reminded before he could leave, and that gave him a bit of pep. This would be the outdoor potion and it was less than fun. His back ached as he moved to change back to this morning’s clothes.
Here he slumped as he fell to his knees, dull pains came from most of his body. Before he just fell face first to the ground.
“Damn my word being my promise.” He spoke aloud to a room as silent as day outside.
A Teacher In Search… (Collab with Matthew (Handsome Johanson))
By Giovanna J. Fuller
“Ssssssssssssigh…..” I slithered dejectedly across the green grass of the quad. My books and handy laser pointer left behind in my classroom, I was free to move. Unseen by the students cramming for finals. It was quite a strange sight to see a snake pull a bag of books along the ground. No one had quite gotten used to it.
The year had been a disaster.
I had started the semester with high hopes and, perhaps, a little too high of expectations. My first class, a senior class, had ended with all the students screaming, a few, fainting, and one chair being thrown at my head.
Flattening out the upper half of my noodle body hadn’t helped at all. They had just called me a cobra and I was left with an empty room. All of them dropped my class.
This happened to all four classes I had been assigned and that youthful vigor to fill the minds of young college students with fascinating facts about my scaled brethren had dulled to despair. I was a failure of a teacher. What was the point of taking this position if I couldn’t even do my job?
“Sssssssssssigh….” I found a nice sunny patch of earth and curled up, resting my upturned snout on my coiled body.
I was just as knowledgeable about herpetology as the large, fleshy, bipedal humans.
I was just as eager to teach as a green professor.
If only I had the chance to prove myself.
I turned my head in the direction of the dismayed cry. The distinct cry of someone overwhelmed with the burden of studying. A small sprout of hope rising in my chest.
“Did ssssssomebody ssssay ‘aaaa?’”
A new Tutor (Collab with GJ Fuller!)
by Matthew (Handsome Johanson)
It was a quiet cool day at the park.
Green bushes swayed in the gentle breeze, old trees shown in vibrant colors of green and brown, and white puffy clouds shielded me from the bright yellow sun that illuminated the day. All of this lay in stark contrast to the eldritch storm of endless misery and torment that populated my mind.
The weight of the situation had donned on me and had tore a deep hole into my mental state. I had only twenty-four hours left to study for the final exam of my Herpetology class. The test covered everything we had gone through in class, but nothing stuck. Facts about how certain reptiles reproduce, the interesting way some snakes give live birth, the intricacies of how poisonous frogs get poisonous, I could remember none of it.
I sighed and carefully set my flashcards down. I took a few deep breaths.
When I had finished screaming, I picked up the flash cards and once again tried to cram in the information necessary to get a good grade.
“Did ssssssomebody ssssay ‘aaaa?’”
I turned and saw what looked like a, um, western hognose? No, those are called plains hognoses now. Wait, a plains hognose talked to me?
I went to say something, but the slithery boy spoke first in a breathy voice. “Yes, I know. Isn’t it amazing that I’m talking? But we have more important matters to attend to, don’t we?”
The snake seemed to gesture to my notes.
“Y-yeah. I-I’ve got a test coming up…”
The snake continued. “Aren’t you lucky, then? I’m a bit of an expert in Herpetology.”
I laughed a bit. “Cause you are a snake?”
“No, my doctoral thessiss wass on herpetology and herpetological presssservation tacticssss.”
“Ssssssseriously, what doessss a sssnake gotta do to get sssome recognition around here?” The snake sighed and slithered to me.
“Here’ssss the deal, I tutor you on Herpetology, and you do me a favor of my choossssing.”
I considered it for a while, before shouting “yes!” and accepting the deal.
What’s the worst that could happen?
By: Larissa (Lari B. Haven)
He still recalled vividly their last hurrah, drunkenly walking the boulevards of Paris after their graduation, talking about the things they wished to do back home.
Stumbling in his own feet, Albert landed face first onto the pavement. They were so wasted that Leonard just dragged him to a marquee and laid him down on his lap until he felt well enough to get up.
Albert was pitching some jokes at his own expense while Leonard attended his wounds. They laugh, but Leonard seemed to force himself to laugh.
“Something it’s bothering you, isn’t it?” He lifted his head and looked into his friend’s eyes, capturing his nebulous thoughts.
Leonard debated with himself for a minute, but couldn’t lie to his best friend:
“I’m afraid, Albert. We’re making our oaths in a week. It will be real this time… What if I’m not a good enough doctor?”
“You’re being a great doctor right now and I’m honored to be your patient.” Albert smirked.
Leonard was not entertained.
“We’re men. Our choices in the hospital ward will inevitably be final, Albert. I don’t want to mess up.”
“All we do is final. Life is final.” Albert put his hands on Leonard’s shoulders and smiled. “If you trust in yourself that it will pay off, everything will be worth it.”
Leonard looked away for a moment. Albert knew his colleague could put on a tough facade, but he was always insecure about himself.
“If you ever feel you are uncertain about something, I will be there for you.” Albert held his friend’s hands together and proclaimed: “This is a promise, better yet, an oath above any other my friend. No choice will be hard enough for us to not take together.”
Leonard was flustered but couldn’t say anything. All his anxieties washed away.
They watched the silent streets getting ready for another morning. All the bohemians marched home while they kept in the moment, feeling something indistinguishable, but earnest.
As they silently accepted that promise, the future seemed less scary.
She ate his heart, and his corpse still wanders. (North Cendralia Cultists)
Jackson sighed, watching glassy-blue cubes fall from the sky.
He pushed up his sleeves, exposing thick black tendrils down his arms. He opened a battered flip phone, and let it ring.
“Katarina, I’m going to be late to our date tonight.” Jackson eyed the mammoth cube crawling from the crater in front of him.
“Not by long. 15 minutes.”
“Earth is being invaded, and your concern is—”
“I’m working on it.” He snapped the phone shut.
Jackson adjusted his stance as the machine scuttled closer. He exhaled.
Jackson could not fly. He could, as a full grown hound of death, ignore the rules of life. Like, say, maximum speed without damage to soft tissue. One of the blessings of being technically undead.
He hit the invader like the broad side of a mountain, compressed to a person-sized point of devastation.
When the invader slid to a stop, Jackson threw his head back and howled.
A stilled heartbeat has a distinct sound to it. Since his adoption by the Great Hound, Guardian of the Catacombs Below, he had learned many types and flavors of silence. This one was a deeper shade of silence than the one he learned from his first foul rituals, when he first blackened and stilled his heart. This was a lack of noise he had learned when he chose The Queen, and she accepted.
The sound of where-there-was-once-life ripped the hull plating like tissue paper.
The silence echoed, and with it rose the shadows of fallen hounds, sworn in life, death, and after. His siblings, his ancestors, called to join the Hunt.
From his perch atop his conquered cube, Jackson felt a solar bombardment hit Northside, and snorted. Etheric Masters, always so flashy. He squinted at the sky, where the atmosphere had turned sharp, shredding those ships that had started attempting to flee. He had no liking for Tech-mages, but they were efficient…when they weren’t invading hell.
Finally he spotted a red, fleshy maw roaring challenge. He set off at a lope. It wouldn’t do to keep Katarina waiting, and… drat, he wrinkled his shirt.
The Weight of Immortality (From Grael’s Library)
The heavy weight thumped down each and every stair, finally coming to rest at the bottom of the basement. No one knew what I had hidden down there, not that anyone would care.
The Madness changed everyone it consumed. I saw it cloud the minds of what used to be my neighbors, warping them mentally and physically. I was equally warped into this monstrous shell, occupied by my cracked mind.
My footsteps creaked down the old wooden stairs to where my latest victim rested. The body was bruised, but The Judge would still be pleased to receive it, so long as I kept it in one piece. I dared not make him angry.
I felt myself changing every day. It started with the eyes, shedding my pathetic fleshy orbs for golden pearls that revealed more than reflected light ever could. I could see the Chosen and the Lost at a glance. I saw beyond the flesh, peering into the soul.
I knew which ones The Judge wanted, though I tried to fight it at first. He assured me they were simply delusional corpses, clinging to a life they no longer held. This understanding does not fully ease my burden, but still I do the work. Such is the Contract.
I bear it gladly and I would do it again, knowing that my family is being cared for by the Lifelight. The Judge reminds me of that fact daily. They will never be in pain again, for they are as immortal as the Wounds.
I am but a shadow for now, but I will join them again in time. I am changing every day, growing stronger and stranger. Will they recognize me when I see them again, or have I already been forgotten?
I carried the body to the circle. The Judge stood there, waiting for his executioner to begin the process yet again. I started to turn away, but memories burrowed into my brain, reminding me of what I could lose. I took the glass dagger into my shadowed claws and reluctantly marked the flesh.
Such is the Contract.
Kindness at What Cost
by Carrie (Glaceon373)
“It’s fine, Sophia. I promise.” Gale looked at her with pleading eyes. “This is what I live for.”
“So what?!” Sophia slammed her fist on the nearby table. “You’re tearing yourself apart!”
“No, I’m not. Do you see their smiles? I made them feel better.” A smile danced across his face in the dim light of Sophia’s kitchen. It never reached his eyes.
“Sure, but it’s all I’ve ever seen you do for years! All you do is help people! Remember the first time we met? You saved Poppy from a tree.”
“I know. I’ve never forgotten.”
“And since then, only selfless things. You made sure I could feed myself when I got fired. When I got dumped on Valentine’s Day, you comforted me without being creepy. You even paid for Poppy’s vet bills when she broke her leg. And I know you do this for other people, too. Henry and John’s broken air conditioner, the Sanderson’s missing cat—”
“It’s the least I can do.” He never stopped smiling. His eyes never matched his expression.
“It’s nowhere near the least you could do! You’ve done more than anyone ever should! Ever! When are you going to take a break for yourself? Or demand to be paid back for the thousands of dollars you’ve spent on me alone? Even a fraction of it?”
“Serving others is serving the self.”
“Who the heck told you that?”
He raised his right arm. A chain-like green tattoo wrapped around his wrist.
Sophia squinted at the bracelet. “…what?”
“I promised I would serve the world.”
“…for, like, ever? No breaks? Not even one self-care day?”
“Selfish acts breach the pact.”
“Oh…” Sophia puzzled through Gale’s words. “Maybe…let me do something? For you? Just once?”
Gale laughed. “The pact forbids rewards.”
“Gale…you’re gonna burn yourself out. Spiral into something really scary. Please, Gale, take a break, or something!”
His phone buzzed. “Pardon me, Sophia, but apparently someone’s pipe burst across town. I’ll deliver you those cookies tomorrow morning.” He walked to the door.
“Gale!” she called as it slammed behind him.
The Queen’s Vow
By L. L. Marco
“We can’t let them get away with it!” one man screamed from the crowd. “If the monsters are brave enough to steal our queen, nothing is stopping them from killing everyone!”
A cacophony of voices rang out in agreement.
“You can’t lie to us anymore! Where is our queen?!”
“Yeah! Let her speak if she lives!”
The crowd festered into incoherent shouting. It had been months since anyone had seen their beloved ruler. The streets, once warmed by her presence, felt empty. Babies went unblessed by her kisses, children graduated without her praise. It was unthinkable. The heart of the kingdom had seemingly vanished overnight. And every day more rumors seeded themselves into the common folk. It had only been a matter of time before fear devoured them.
Just as the crowd was about to evolve into a full blown mob at the palace’s entrance, a figure stepped out onto the balcony above them. Silence fell over the people as they stared, shocked, at the face at their beloved queen.
“Citizens of Royal City, please, calm yourselves!” She paused. “I apologize. Illness has befallen me and I did not want to give the Belua nation reason to think us vulnerable. I’ve spent many nights feeling your fears. We must not allow the monsters into our minds; do not fall into the propaganda of beasts! Those rumors are weapons to make us scared and stupid. I’ve come before you to assure you I have not been taken. I will not fall to Belua. This is my vow to you!”
The crowd erupted into cheering as the queen, coughing, fled back into her palace. The fire had been stifled. For now.
“Quite a show,” a beast chortled from the shadows.
The ‘queen’ stepped into her chambers, flesh oozing off her figure in thick chunks with each step. Some pieces clung like mold to their body. The shapeshifter reached up with its slender claws to peel it from their slimy white flesh. Finally. They were free of that wretched disguise.
“We can’t let them grow wise,” they replied, “Not when we’re so close.”
The heels of his boots clicked down the Great Hall to the tune of roaring wind and hushed breaths. Past the library where he had spent many an evening curled up with a book. Through the inner courtyard where beams of arcane light floated like fireflies.
He paused once at his classroom, placed a hand open the doorframe and drew a shuddering breath. Then carefully, he pulled a knife from his pocket and pried his nameplate from the top of the door. Before continuing between the gathered rows of mages.
Some pressed up against the walls with disgust in their eyes. Others stood silent with glassy gazes as if they couldn’t understand. Some reached out to squeeze his hand. Some spit in his path.
And some followed in his wake.
The Headmasters were waiting for him when he finally reached the entrance, they stood- heads bowed, hoods drawn save for Father Zeke. The older mage stepped down from the raised dais and pulled Seiko into a warm embrace.
Seiko could not help clinging to the man who had pulled him out of the ice and snow so long ago.
He could not see through his tears as a crystalline sword was pushed into his hands. A kaleidoscope of colors rippled over its surface and the golden light of strong magic shown from within. As weightless as a feather and yet it was the heaviest burden he’d ever borne.
Finally Zeke spoke, “My son, will you break your vow of peace and take this sword to protect your kindred from the darkness beyond our doors?”
“I will.” His voice shook, the words like a hot coal on his tongue.
“Do you understand that this means you can never return?”
“Then my son…this is goodbye.”
The entrance doors were thrown open, letting in the biting cold. Snow dusted the flagstones as Zeke tearfully pulled him into one last rib-breaking hug. His final words to Seiko rang in his ears as he stepped out into the cold with three hundred mages at his heels.
“I am so proud of you.”
The Final Words of A Broken Vow
by Gage Jarman
Kiera, you are to receive this letter upon my descent into the abyss where all come to rest. I am sorry. I am sorry for many things. I am not scared of my passing, but there is still so much to be done. This world needs a torch to burn out the blight, to guide it out of the coming dark.
You know, when me and your mother had you, I swore I had never seen such a helpless thing in all my life, all puffy and pink; wet and cold, but you were something precious. I would give you a peaceful life. The one I never had.
My father beat me with a wooden sword every day. I was always sore, always battered and bruised. I still loathe looking back on those days, but it made me strong. It made me humble. It made me acquainted with the dark. I doubt I ever would have opened my heart to your mother if this duality did not exist within me. Still, I could not save her.
The night of her funeral, when the flowers spoke, after you fell asleep, I wandered into the forest. I let out all my wrath and anguish on any cursed beasts that lurked. I screamed into the moonless sky bathed in their blood and bile.
My hope for the future vanished that night. I knew your peaceful existence had shattered in twain. I sacrificed the other half of you, but I couldn’t allow my daughter to exist in this world of hypocrisy. I have fought with every ounce of strength granted to me by The Twilight Maiden and my own will. I pray this selfish price was enough.
You have suffered when you should not, but should my sacrifice be insufficient and the rot within the church escape to fester further, you must be strong. Learn to balance the dark as well as the light within you. No matter what anyone says, you are good. You are our child. Never forget that.
I wish those halcyon days could have lasted.
I love you, always.
By RVMPLSTLSKN (The Saga of The Deep One’s Wake)
Jabil-Tai, the eternal god-king of the south, was many things first: infant, young, warlord and shaman, but only one did Tai choose. Tai chose to be a shaman and that choice was the foundation of Tai’s identity. To be a shaman was to have great responsibility, to be strong of will, to have the strength to hold on to your freedom and dictate how you are accepted. When the dead are your daily routine, the experience of living flesh is wonderful.
Shamans stood between the living and dead, between the mundane and divine, to be an arbiter of vows in the reality of chaos.
Now to be a shaman was to be alone, for Tai alone remained. Tai’s people had gone and taken their spirits with them. They had left Tai during a battle of wills, like spirit’s erasure of identity, like a fire dying.
Tai was all that was left, until others appeared. The first was a cunning-woman, who wasn’t quite a shaman, but neither was she simply a wife. Tai found her with a petulant child who called her ‘sorceress’ and ‘child-thief.’
Tai felt the tug of duty at that, but even Tai couldn’t sooth the child’s aches, which flared up like a cauldron set alight.
Tai instead set to the shaman’s other duty and protected them from the spirits of the woods and sky, tents, cairns and wells.
All this is why Tai was alone in the night when a ghost finally arrived. It was a strong thing, but lamed and left forgotten. It was a crippled thing of pain and rebirth and unbirth. It had been a god and now was nothing more.
Tai tried to commune with it.
It lashed out.
Tai held it, knowing the physical can’t harm the spiritual, but the reverse is untrue. Tai killed it in a way known only to shamans, for such is the nature of their wills. Tai bound it and broke it and remade it. It became a vessel for the shaman’s future and Tai named it Hope. For Tai, hope was all that they had left.
“My Oath, my War”
by Exce [Checked by Wvlf]
A clear blue sky stretched as far as the eye could see, and the sun shone with the mellow warmth of spring. On blankets and cushions Excelsius lay, stretched out on the flat top of the hollow mountain.
It was an odd conundrum that let him lounge there; despite living at the heart of a desert, it seldom got very hot, not even in summer. And Excelsius would be damned if he didn’t exploit that.
As he was floating somewhere between waking and sleep, he heard steps on the ladder followed by the dull scraping of the stone lid that covered the shaft. When he cracked open one eye, he saw that it was the Arawin woman, Amrhysea. As far as he knew, the woman was mute, but when he languidly raised his hand to allow them to communicate telepathically, she accepted and sat down next to him.
Her voice was gentle in his mind. >For someone who so often drenches himself in blood, you have quite the affinity for making yourself comfortableLuciel is worried about your mental state, and I’m worried for your life. Why do you pursue the Angels so obsessively in disregard for your self-preservation?To whom? Who holds such sway over you that you would risk so much.> Excelsius knew what she didn’t dare say. Was this just an excuse to justify his suicidal behavior?
Excelsius sat up and raised his free hand. As if painted from glowing red ink, a shape came into being.
A small ragged child with torn clothing and wild hair. Curled up next to him, it was heaving with silent sobs.
“I swore it to him. To myself.”