Author Topic: Ex Cineribus Resurgam  (Read 2426 times)

Morningstar

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Ex Cineribus Resurgam
« Topic Start: July 07, 2011, 05:00:50 AM »
It is such a disconcerting thing, to wake up not knowing who you are or where you've been. But such was the case this afternoon as the young woman awoke. Whatever was she wearing armor for? And this crudely fashioned sword at her him gave her little more comfort.

Drawing it slowly, she sliced delicately through the air and found- to her surprise- that while her mind may be saying she was unfamiliar with the situation, her body seemed to know exactly what it was doing. Hearing a noise behind her, she spun round. Bringing a fist up for defense, she lunged toward the noise with her sword-arm as a man only barely avoided being run through.

"Steady now, m'lady," the man said. His voice was calm. Soothing. And altogether nonplussed at having been the target of a near disembowelment. Instead, he bowed low and spoke again.

"My Lady Morningstar, I see that you have awakened with vigor. Perhaps today is the day?"

Wholly off-guard and not actually entirely awake, the woman lowered her weapon slowly and replied, "I know not of whom you speak, what you speak, who you are, or if we're both being completely honest, who I am."

His head dropped slightly. "Ah. It is to be this again. Well, m'lady, I am Mikil, your ever faithful lieutenant and friend. And you are the Lady Morningstar. I fear you have been suffering from a nasty bit of amnesia. Every couple of weeks, it reverts to this condition once more and we lose all progress we had made, including new memories you might have made in the interim." He paused, watching her face closely. "But come, it is nearly dinner time."

The man, Mikil, turned and walk back down the hill toward a small cluster of tents. Amnesia.

And here she was hoping for a more original explanation as to why she seemed to have forgotten everything. Including her first name. Surely it wasn't "Lady".

*****

With a deep breath, the young woman steps into the camp. She is very aware of all the eyes following her every move. They quickly avert elsewhere when she attempts to make eye contact with anyone, and the glances turn to whispers as she passes.

She reaches a particular tent where Mikil has stopped. It is no larger than the others, though slightly more decorative. Painted on the door is an unusual looking crest and as it catches her eye, she realizes it's been a recurring image throughout the camp.

Pausing, she asks, "Whose crest does this bear? And what does it symbolize?"

Mikil breathes before responding. "M'lady selected this after a peculiar dream some months back. It is... fitting."

Without another word, the lieutenant walks into the tent, letting the flap fall back down to leave the single broken silver wing on a deep purple field staring at her.

Morningstar

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Re: Ex Cineribus Resurgam
« Reply #1: July 07, 2011, 05:01:54 AM »
A messenger arrives during dinner. Mikil speaks briefly to him before returning to the tent. He exchanges looks with the man who apparently is serving as her man-at-arms before returning to his seat. The man-at-arms, who had introduced himself as Gibral, gave a nod to the others in attendance. One by one they cleared out and left the three alone.

"M'lady," Mikil began, "Things have begun to move a little faster than we had anticipated. We are uncertain that you are ready."

"Ready for what, Mikil? Who is it outside?" she asked.

Gibral speaks now. "He is a messenger from the Duchess of Idapur. She is offering an oath of fealty for Arella Morningstar to become her knight."

Mikil continues, "How they've found us is uncertain. We believe that perhaps the peasants and lesser nobles in the area have begun to spread rumors which have proliferated to the capital city."

Idapur. Something about the name stirred her soul. A great warming and brokenness all at once flooded the woman. Arella, at least she presumes this is her name, looks puzzled. "Am I not a knight of the realm and you are my entourage? Why should an oath of fealty be any worry to you?"

Mikil and Gibral exchange looks. Finally, Mikil replies, "It is not a worry to us. The timing just isn't quite what we'd expected. If you are ready to swear, let us inform the messenger and we shall ride to Idapur."

Arella looks at both of them for a long while, deep in thought. As she turns to find the messenger, Mikil adds, "if m'lady believes she is ready, then we will follow you. To hell and back, if necessary."

The tent flap falls before she hears Gibral add, "...we already have."

*****

Arella overhears hushed chatter behind her on the road.

"I definitely do not remember the trip taking this long. Are you sure we didn't miss a turn somewhere?"

"Gibral, are you really questioning my sense of direction. Or my memory, for that matter? The city is just up ahead."

"Just? Scouts say we've only neared the halfway point!"

The young woman slows her horse and settles in beside the two warriors. Their conversation stops immediately and they try changing the subject. Gibral asks about the weather and Mikil comments on her skill in the saddle- that surely she must have had some training earlier in life. Eventually she turns a sly smile to her lieutenant.

"Oh? And have we also been to Idapur earlier 'in life'? I believe we must have, judging by the way the two of you have been babbling on for the last twenty minutes."

"Yes," Gibral replies from her other side.

"No," Mikil answers at the same time. They look at each other.

"No," Gibral shifts in the saddle.

"Yes," Mikil does the same. Then together they offer, "It's complicated."

"Well then, seeing as how the city is apparently getting further away and not closer, I imagine we have plenty of time." She grins at them. "Do continue."

Morningstar

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Re: Ex Cineribus Resurgam
« Reply #2: July 07, 2011, 08:29:22 AM »
The three ride in silence for a time.  Arella doesn't remember much about these men, but she knows enough to be certain that with such a direct question, they would provide an answer in time.  The deep greens of the forest have finally ended and they are beginning to climbing a series of small rolling hills.

She smooths the leggins of her riding gear and cocks her head toward Gibral.  Finally, he capitulates.  "Lady, we have all been to Idapur.  You just don't..."

"You just don't remember, is all," finishes Mikil quickly.  He taps his head.  "Amnesia, remember?"

"Ah yes, that again," she sighs.  But the draw of the city.  The name of the city.  Everything about it makes her heart ache.

Gibral notices it first.  "M'lady, is that a tear I see?"

He reaches over to brush it away but Arella wipes at it fiercely before he is able.  Crying?  About a city she can't even remember?  How absurd!  Still...

"Lieutenant, why is it that I know of this Idapur?"  She stares directly at Mikil now.  "What sway does it hold over me?"

"I cannot say, m'lady."

Her eyes flash afire.  "You cannot? Or will not."

"I cannot," he repeats.  Gibral on the other side shifts nervously.

"On whose grounds?" she demands.  "Am I not your superior?"

Pulling at his hair, Mikil replies, "Yes, m'lady.  But we were specifically instructed to avoid these discussions.  You must be allowed to discover the truth on your own."

The woman's greenish-blue eyes flare once again.  "Mikil, I order you to tell me who has given you such instruction.  Tell me at once who would try to suppress my learning of my own past."

Mikil stares back at her in grim, determined silence.  After a moment, however, she hears a voice behind her.  Gibral.

"It was you, Lady Morningstar.  You gave us the command."

Arella whirls around, copper red hair flipping with the movement.  Her heart begins to pound frantically, as if attempting to leap out of her chest.

"Gibral.  Tell.  The men.  To stop."  She speaks slowly and deliberately.  "We are not going any further until the two of you tell me who I am and exactly what is going on."

Arella, who had turned and was now nearly facing whence they came, was the last of the three to notice the rider approaching.

"Good day, gentlemen. Lady," he offers as he nears.

Still steaming, the woman merely nods to Mikil, who speaks up.  "And a good day to you as well.  What news?"

The man faces Mikil.  "Sir the duchess has instructed that all knights-to-be must be escorted into the city and offered the opportunity to rest and clean up before their ceremony.  I am said escort."

He gestures to Arella and then to the city, now visible in the distance.  "Shall we?"

With an almost imperceptible nod, the woman starts toward Idapur, as if iron drawn to the lodestone.  The questions would have to wait.  For now.

Morningstar

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Re: Ex Cineribus Resurgam
« Reply #3: July 08, 2011, 08:13:28 PM »
In the library of the Morningstar estate, two men speak in hushed tones.  The Lady Arella and her small entourage had arrived earlier that morning.  She had spent the past few hours exploring the grounds and was now cleaning up to officially present herself to the duchess.  There had been a few trouble patches since their arrival, but they believed most of what was uncovered thus far would only serve to build new memories.

Why is this estate so large and how have I come to own it? Your family was once very prominent in the realm.  Everything in it they have left to you.  Why are there so many guards stationed here?  Your family was once very prominent in the realm.  It is a sign of respect that they have protected the grounds from those who would wish it ill.  Who is... was... my family?  Where are my parents?  Sadly, the two of us know very little of them and they have since passed on from this life.  What's with all the angel symbology and art?  Lady, this land is named after the Aenil- the angels.  Everything about the realm revolves around this mythos... or truth.  Who is Helios?

Well, they couldn't assume it would all go without a hitch.

"...balance,"  Gibral continues.  "We know our roles, and that is to maintain the balance in this world.  Yes, she may be one of us, but this is the path she has chosen and we cannot push too hard in our attempts to 'aid' her."

Mikil sighs.  Gibral was right.  Often when the two disagreed, Gibral was the one who didn't quite get it.  But not this time.  "I'm sorry, my friend.  You are absolutely correct.  I know the danger of upsetting the balance.  It is why we had to take her the first time."

He stands up and walks to the large picture window, opening it slightly for some fresh air.  The cold, brittle ground was finally beginning to thaw but winter, as always, had done its damage.  The earth was by all accounts dead- awaiting the touch of what was promised to breathe new life into its roots.  Spring was not far off.  But for now, hope seemed a distant dream. 

A slight breeze hits his face and ruffles some nearby books that were left open on the table.  The air is crisp.  Refreshing and yet jarring.  He turns around to face his friend.

"What is she hoping to accomplish, Gibral?  She never quite made that clear to us.  Why start over?  And why now?"

Before the man-at-arms is allowed a chance to answer, a scream erupts from Arella's chambers.  Swords drawn, the two men rush out of the library and down the hall.  Neither of them notice the parchment that flutters out of one of the books and comes to rest on the floor.

Morningstar

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Re: Ex Cineribus Resurgam
« Reply #4: July 09, 2011, 06:23:09 PM »
The two men barge into the room in time to see Arella pick up a small stiletto from her bedside table and fling it at a figure on the other side of the room. This man, for that is what he was, deftly taps aside the stiletto with a short blade of his own.

"Dearest Arella, please stand down. I have been waiting for you. I am the last of your known kin. Please, let us all speak with swords sheathed."

He slides his own blade into its scabbard. "I am Azrael."

The young woman hesitates and looks to Mikil and Gibral.  After a momentary pause, Mikil sighs and nods.

"It is true."  Then, to Azrael, "Speak wisely, sir."

The newcomer brushes back a wavy black lock from his shoulder and begins stroking a neatly trimmed goatee. 

"Yes, I am well aware of the Lady's... condition."  He says the word with a slight hint of disdain in his voice.  Azrael moves to take a seat on the window ledge.  A moment ago one could have been convinced he was much younger but now his more deliberate movements proved he was every bit a man nearing 60.

"I am the son of your sister.  Yes! You do have a sister.  She was," he glances toward Mikil, "...quite a bit older than you."

Raising a hand, he points toward a small bookshelf.  "I have brought a number of books that belong to... our family.  I've spent many of the past years in seclusion, unfolding many of the secrets hidden within the texts.  I urge you to immerse yourself in them.  Lose yourself in them and you will find yourself."

He stands again.  "I will not push you further at the moment.  We have a celebration today, yes?"

Azrael reaches to shake the woman's hand, then thinks better of it and pulls her into a full embrace.  "Welcome home.  I will be around the estate.  We can talk more later."

He turns to leave her to her preparations.  At the doorway, he pauses.  "Believe those who seek the truth..."

Arella finds herself finishing the phrase, "doubt those who find it."

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Re: Ex Cineribus Resurgam
« Reply #5: July 22, 2011, 08:26:25 AM »
It was a long, hard, mostly silent ride back to the estate following Arella's release from the Arcaean prison.  She had, thus far, refused to speak of what had occurred within the walls, but Mikil and Gibral both carried a worried expression on their faces.  The young woman's jaw was set, her eyes blazed with fire, and when she thought no one was looking, she allowed the occasional tear to fall.

Arella, her lieutenant, man-at-arms, and two regular soldiers rode hard the last few hours and eventually, the Morningstar estate was upon them.  The four men took their leave of the lady after escorting her into the main house with her thanks.  She marched directly into the library, intent on doing as much research as she was able before she passed out from exhaustion.

But as she entered the room, something caught her eye on the floor.  Moving to pick it up, she finds a parchment with a male's scrawling handwriting on it.

From Azrael Morningstar, Count of Winwich
To Tenebrae Raiva

My aunt was... many things.  Delusional, perhaps.  Or cursed by enlightenment.  I myself do not know where Arella ends and where the myth of the Arcangela begins.  There was so much mystery surrounding her once she made it to the Far East that I often wonder how much was smoke and mirrors and how much was truth. 

She did always have a penchant for tricks.  Not practical jokes, mind you, but sayings that baffled the mind and actions that left people assuming much more than what was really there.  I believe it was her way of never letting people know precisely who she was.

Not that she didn't want anyone to know.  But she wanted them to be certain before she was certain she could let them in.  And I don't think any were willing to delve that deep.

One thing that was never hidden was her love for her people.  She did everything she could for them, and in the end, died of a broken heart.  If only for that legacy, I am interested in learning what these manuscripts have to say.  And also to meet you, Tenebrae.  This must have been something of great importance for you to be so excited about it.  I look forward to digging into these texts together.


Her mouth agape, Arella watched, frozen as the parchment falls from her hands onto the floor once more. Azrael- her nephew?  But he was so old! Unless she was...

She moved away from the window side of the large table and crossed to the nearest bookshelf.  What was it Jenred had said about her? Arcangela or Apostate?  And what was the book he had mentioned?

Nearly in a panic by now, she reached for a nearby book and flipped quickly through it before dropping it and reaching for another.  Her brain swam with information and questions and answers to questions she had yet to ask.

Orphen. Wings. Rhamiel's Children. Arcangela. Helios. Toril. Taith Aenil.

The room was spinning by this point but she continued her frantic searching.

Hand of Ambriel. Orphaea. Dark. Xarnelf. Light. Book of Promises. Truth. Lies.

The room had suddenly stopped spinning and the world went black.  The last thing running through the young womans mind were the words recorded in the book still clutched in her hands.  It was written in her own handwriting.

There must be balance.  Light cannot exist without darkness.  But the two will always be in constant struggle.  For the darkness does not understand that, were it to win, all that we now know would cease to be.

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Re: Ex Cineribus Resurgam
« Reply #6: July 23, 2011, 07:58:21 AM »
The next day
**********
Arella grills her two confidants, Mikil and Gibral, and her nephew, Azrael.

"What do you mean I told you not to tell me any of this?"

"M'lady, before your return, we were put under strict orders to never leak any information of your past and to never push you toward a particular destiny or decision. In short, we were told to protect and train you until such a time that the full truth became known to you."

"But what became of me, and why did I wish to return? What purpose was it to serve?"

"M'lady, we are not able to..."

"You're not allowed to tell me if I don't already know. Got it."

She turns and stares at Azrael. "But you are under no such oath. And I can tell by your uncomfortable demeanor that there's something you have to say. Spill it."

Azrael clears his throat and strokes his trimmed black goatee twice before replying. "If I may be perfectly honest?"

"Of course. Anything less and we wouldn't be family, no?"

This brings a brief smile to both their faces. "Yes, true. The truth is that you failed. Your mission- at least that which we believe you were sent to do- was a failure."

The young woman frowns. "How so? What went wrong?"

"You did," is the reply. Gibral looks at Mikil, startled, as Azrael continues. "That we have descended from the Aenil is true. That apparently you ascended as a chosen one and given a divine task is true. That there was a dark storm coming- a cloud of change, uncertainty- is also true. That there was a taint enveloping the world- that, too, is true. And you believed that your role in the big picture was to rid the world of the darkness- to bring light to all the shadowed places until the dark had been eradicated."

He stops to brush a dark lock from his face. Arella, until now, standing and pacing, sits. All of this seems so very familiar- as if she'd heard it all in a dream long ago.

"But you learned- too late to correct your mistake- that eliminating the darkness was not your calling. Indeed, it could not be the calling of anyone- mortal or Aenil. For the light cannot exist without darkness, and vice versa. To rid the world of darkness would be to destroy it- and thus would eliminate the light you sought to bring forth. You failed because you did not understand your mission."

A look of deep sorrow strikes Azrael's face as he looks at Arella. "Tenebrae and I spent years studying what had happened, digging through the manuscripts you had unearthed, and piecing together the details..."

Gibral interjects. "Excuse me, who? And what manuscripts? I was unaware of any of this."

Mikil holds up a hand to his friend. "Tenebrae is... or was, the younger sister of Helios Raiva. As for the manuscript..." He looks to Azrael.

The man nods. "I spent the bulk of my military career in Minas Ithil, on Atamara, with the sister of your good friend Helios. After your passing and his, Tenebrae received a strange package from the Far East containing the things her brother had left behind for her. Among those things were a number of writings. Many were his own records of events. Most were documents written by you regarding what you had unearthed and been taught. A few of them were even older, including the Book of Promises."

"But that's impossible," Arella cries. "I only just saw the book on display deep inside the temple."

"Ah yes. A copy. A hand-written facsimile. Made by you, of course. Helios had the original in his possession after you left, and sent it on to Tenebrae with her inheritance. And so we had all that the two of you together had compiled. And plenty of time on our hands."

He pauses. "Does any of this sound familiar?"

"Yes," she replies, sucking in air. "Every bit of it."

"It wasn't about making the world wholly pure," he continues, as if reciting. "Without the darkness, there is nothing to hold up a light against. Without some evil, purity becomes the mundane, not the exception. Light and darkness. Good and evil. They both must exist for either to exist. The Aenil never had an agenda to bring about one or the other. All along, they were seeking..."

"Balance." The four of them all found themselves answering together.
« Last Edit: July 23, 2011, 08:06:34 AM by Morningstar »

Morningstar

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Re: Ex Cineribus Resurgam
« Reply #7: September 06, 2011, 07:35:21 AM »
What was intended to be a quick stop at the estate in Idapur ended up being a long, emotional exchange. The young woman with the fiery red hair and piercing green eyes approached the city of Nahad now with those eyes still damp. For the first time that she could remember in this life, she was completely alone. Life as a priestess was intentionally solitary, but until this point, she had still always kept Mikil and Gibral close by her side. But as she was packing for the trip to Nahad, her confidants pulled her aside.

"M'lady, our time here has come to an end."

Arella looked surprised. "Yes, lieutenant. We will be departing soon."

Gibral tried this time. "No, priestess. What Mikil means is... he and I are leaving. Going home."

They let this sink in, which it did. "Going back to rejoin your ranks. Your mission is over, then? That's it? What was your mission?

"You," Mikil said, simply.

"Priestess," Gibral continued, "we came here when you returned. I realize that your memories are foggy beyond just a few months ago from this lifetime. But we've been here for nigh twenty years. You were our mission. To raise, train, protect, and teach you from your youth. To bring you to the point that you are now, and then to release you with your final commission."

The woman's face had fallen. "And what might that be?" she whispered, tears beginning to stream down her face.

Mikil straightened up fully. "Go and unite the island, m'lady. There is a darkness coming unlike any this continent has yet seen. Already it threatens to destroy a land across the ocean. After such time, it will set its sights on this one. Its thirst is unquenchable and its hunger, ravenous. The only hope against an island of darkness is one united to stand in light. Bring the people together as one and then throw back this growing darkness once and for all. Restore balance not only to this island but to the world."

The two bowed, then Gibral added, "Our full confidence, loyalty, and faith, remain in you."

With that, the two Aenil turned to walk back inside the house. Arella, blinking through tears, fought the urge to run after them. But she knew full well that they were already gone.

Such a task. What did it all mean? This question was still on her mind as she dabbed at her eyes one final time and rode alone into the city of Nahad and its festival, already beginning to kick off.