Author Topic: Whitebeam  (Read 1018 times)


  • Young Wyrm
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« on: July 30, 2015, 10:51:20 AM »
?She?s gone,? Val informed, as he had repeatedly throughout the week, missing not a day since he and Nazareth returned from The Rim. ?Wasting another second here, another breath is absolutely inexcusable. Whatever scrap of sanity remained in mother flew away the minute you and I returned home with Pilot?s corpse. And just why, I don?t know. She already knew she was dead. . . so why is she so broken??
The estate of Maetron, called Remeer Manor (?Reminder? in the old Dominion tongue, Judace constantly reminded, despite the uselessness of the language in the present) was a place mentioned aside religion and hereditary recuperation in the few remaining circles of cognitive Dominion; in the paved, watered lands and cities of The Brides and the mundane of blood that plow, dig and mine under its flag, it was a place of legend forcefully jettisoned from the scripts of fact, for it was insane to award it validity; it was simply too horrible a place that housed too horrible a power. Seated in the The Narvoble Chasm (A depression in the land so massive that the furious dust storms that roamed the sands stirred within it always, filled it up every hour of every day like a bowl of quicksand) it was the last standing structure, the last lesson of Dominion architecture that would ever inspire the eyes of the furiously charging generations of Bride that, in Val?s eyes, would soon spread across the very world like the virus his sister so frustratingly swore they were.
Aside from the glorious dome roof???that which wove into the fibers of the soul some smokey, spiritual chastity that whispered diffidently, uneasily of a historical purpose???the streamlined sides that sloped and span around the exterior without a single crease, a single jagged edge???it was the land it presided over and the alien growths in its black soil that inspired centuries of legend, lore and insipid (to the Brides, of course) exaggerations. In neat rows, as if mathematically plotted, stretched four rows of a dead, unknown and mystic foliage of a single trunk design, hundreds of splintery, blade-like appendages that seemed unjustly deprived a purpose, split out from the primary root. Two-thousand-three-hundred-fifty-two (For Judace counted them every sixth day) in all, spread out from the estate and crawled up the slope of Narvoble. The place itself was a forbidden zone for merchants and travelers for reasons they not once cared to argue, for treaties were made for their protection of course (of course), but many tales had been told about the hours preceding morning, when the sands were calm and the trinity of cracked moon, bald tangerine half-sun and sharp stars would show, for a brief, terrifying moment, the etchings of those neatly-lined plants cruising out of the Chasm?s smoggy pit.

Cooperation with the existence of a constant of course dulled mystique, meaning the plants, in the eyes of Maetron?s children, were nothing noteworthy anymore. Judace alone found them fascinating; Val found them unbeautiful and nonfunctional; Nazareth once told a story of slicing one down, only to find it regrown in the morning; she did not like them afterwards. However, despite his general dislike of the bleak vegetation, Val always felt many years younger when gazing over the prickly canopy. It was a wonderful piece of a cherished memory that felt like a key to a much larger and more significant one. Frustration would rise and boil in him sometimes while seeking to unlock the rest of the strobing, fleeting memory-frame, but these instances were few.

This memory begins with a calm in the rushing sands and a glimpse of the opal, cratered moon: a remarkable rarity in Narvoble?s pit. On the serenely curved porch that bends around the estate?s right side, he recalls being seated in the lap of his mother, her fingers gently musing through the infant curls of black hair that tussled over his head.
?And then what, mother?? he recalls as the first words, and they are his own and quite inquirous. ?How will I know??

Lush as the fabled Hailous Garden that supposedly surrounds and richens mythically the castle deep in Inosis? pit, (mentioned innumerous times in his mother?s lovely, lyrical reveries) is Maetron?s replying voice: ?Death will no longer stand jury over the hot, angry world, Valcroix; you will make it happy again.?

Lovingly, the boy leans his head into the nook of his mother?s neck and shoulder. His eyes are closed and he?s smiling brilliantly. ?I can do that?? he asks, but his smile, his chirping voice reveals unwavering confidence in the great power confided in him by his mother.
Long, luxurious arms ensnare her little boy. She kisses his ear "You can do much more than that. This world?s repair will be trivial to you in time. Make it happy, and you will be filled with happiness; from there you will do things so great that none in this world will live without joy. You will invent glories that will inspire progress; that will ignite minds and hearts and fill the  spirits of this world with the purpose The Great Death stole. Destinies are not locked courses of existence; rather, they are segments of them, each with breaking routes, actions and reactions: removing the great hate, the Great Death from Gailey is but a single trivial destiny of your wonderful life, Valcroix. But I cherish this segment above all others, selfishly, for it will be the only one I will be able to oversee in flesh.?

Next he recalls the great fear those words fill his little body with. Frightened dearly, he turns in his mother?s lap and throws his arms around her neck, his big, unresting crimson eyes shining wondrously as tears fill them. ?You?re going to leave me??

?Silly little boy,? she says then, and the words fall from a smile so perfectly distant, so divinely somber it cuts her child?s heart in two. ?Everything here is me; you could not escape me unless you erased the whole, wide world. When my body perishes, I will be the sand; and when the air whisks me away, I?ll be the stars. And when the dawn turns them off, I?ll be the sun. And as the sun, I want to cast light on your happy world and see the gloriously diverse life it had once before.?

He isn?t sure if these words reassure him or terrify him further: he cannot speak to the sand; he cannot hold the stars; he cannot kiss the sun.

There was more to the memory, but the skinny young man, exhausted from the completed expedition, although it was just over a week ago, did not want to sink any further into it. With his own evolution came the depreciation of flowery words: the world was indeed hot, and was indeed angry, but no longer did that planted spark, that which was lit as a child, radiate with possibility, with that power that disregarded logic; dim was that destined path that promised a revision of the world.

With his body leaned lazily against the wall near the estate?s front door, his loose cloak rippling in the wind, his exposed toes wiggling boredly and slender, unenthused eyes reaching far into the smog that engulfed the great four rows, he said again, ?She?s lost??finally lost. And now we either choose to be lost with her, or go on alone.?

Nazareth had been squinting harshly at her brother, even before his dire, deadpan proclamation. A creature of wrath is rarely bathed in constructive ideals, is instead cast, by her handler, in iron discipline and riddled with holes that can be filled only with the visceral, caustic  hatred that fuels their power. She could of course not slip into his memories, nor had she ever heard him speak of them, nor would she choose to embark upon their murky shores were the invitation extended. Nazareth?s only concern was the promise made to her on the bloody sand over the spared body of a grizzled old captain whose name she would never be able to forget. It was as much a regret now as it was then.

?You?re a fool, Valcroix,? said Nazareth firmly. Her gaze intensified. The slender fingers of her left hand took on a deadly grip of the long, thin hilt of the blade sheathed at her side; the knuckles whitened; Judace had once asked her if she felt insecure when not ?holding its hand?---he was beaten severely for this observation.  ?You were given absolutely everything.? Her face twisted-up, wrinkled like a fissure in the sand. ?Everything! And now so quickly you?ll abandon she that not only gave you life, but entrusted to you the power to raise your own people from bedamned Void. You?re shameful.? The girl glanced away with a snotty flick-of-the head that sent sharp straws of glimmering platinum hair dancing into the air. ?Were you betrothed to a Reika, she would have to remove as many as four fingers as repentance for your shame. The disgust I feel may drive me to do just that, for I feel like the great fates will unleash an epic storm on this house if no payment is made.?

Val hissed laughter, smiled a smile that was full of teeth and shook his head. ?You don?t get it.? Again, dilapidated and inauthentically servile chortles patronized his sister. ?Stuck in a period of time and allied with an old caste you?re only seventeen generations too late to even understand. . . You?re truly the pathetic one. You?re no Reika. You?re just an angry little girl with a bad temper and an old sword. And that?s all you?ll ever be.?

Understanding that he?d whipped up a storm with but a few harsh words, Val looked inwardly for guidance??strangely, neither his younger brother, Judace, nor his own mother were creatures asphyxiated by pride?s nonsensical trappings??he and his sister, the wild one with The Void in her sparking, spiraling eyes, eyes that were at that moment snipping his soulstrings from afar, razing his resolve, were, themselves, completely consumed by it. She more than he, but a history of deadly alliances between he and the sensation had brought injury and ridicule upon his head many a-time. Standing up, his face grave, the young man figured another such instance was impending.

The hellish young girl, snarling, said only, ?Shut. Up.?

With a grin and his arms folded, her brother replied, ?I will not. Mother herself told you to keep away from that weapon and to leave dead religions alone. There?s no need for it. We?re not at war.?

Nazareth never looked away and, of course, not for a second relinquished the whiteknuckle vicegrip of her weapon?s handle. Every filthy line that dripped off the foolish, corroded tongue of her brother was like a magic passage that acted to unlock the stowed-away wrath inside Nazareth; they both understood the repercussions of completely unsealing the rancor swimming around in the girl?s belly. The young girl could always take a stance of blindness, for she knew not what she did??Val could not, but proceeded anyway.

He shouted now: ?Did you hear me! You don?t have to act like an assassin! You don?t have to spend every second of every bedamned day hating everything that doesn?t share blood with you. . . . . you don?t: you really, really don?t. Say what you may about my gifts, but don?t act as though you suffer any great hardship yourself. You were born with as much privilege as???

Even with sharp Dominion senses, Val was never once able to track Nazareth?s movements when she approached full speed. There was only that same explosion of sand, the kinetic ferocity, the reaction of the world at her feet disturbed by her incomprehensible celerity. And even so, the clue in the rising dust was simply not enough; he was too slow; he would be hit. This instance was no different. The speedy girl flew through the air and inserted her elbow into her brother?s chest. Val?s body ragdolled, hers pressed fiercely into it, and collided into the terribly sound wall of pure stone at his flank. There was a shattering crash followed by a pathetic and stunted whimper, that of a seemingly crushed windpipe sucking in air futilely. The damage was not so extensive in actuality, but rather the strong, sharp elbow piercing into his chest impeded all oxygen flow. The girl whipped her arm around, caught Val?s neck with the underside of her forearm and slammed him down to the ground effortlessly.

Before he closed his eyes, he saw, looking up, the detestable image of his vengeful sister hoisting her weapon high over her head. He?d taken beatings before; had seen her nearly completely consumed by the elation of violence??for this alone was the alien joy in her damaged little heart??but this sight was new, was authentic in a way that did truly terrify him. The shadowy black steel of the weapon did not glimmer, but her eyes did: they sparkled with a contentedness previously unwitnessed by the boy on the ground. Before his eyes closed, the last thing he captured was a break in the clouds and a sole beam of light that threw his sister?s shadow over his chest.

 If this is the only thing that will ever bring you joy. Well. . . then sobeit.

For what felt like ages (but was in actuality seven seconds) Val laid on his back with his eyes closed and his mouth cringed a bit, his body resisting the inevitability, or so his mind supposed, of a strike. But the light that had trickled in and made shadows, had made the underside of his eyelids red, faded out. Or rather, was masked. Slowly, Val opened his eyes and saw this: the image of two figures now, made nearly black by the brilliance of the sun at their rear.

Nazareth?s pose was unchanged, but this was the doing of the figure behind her. Maetron, tall as a sleek, white peak to the aghast boy laying on the ground, had her fingers wrapped around the risen blade in Nazareth?s hands. Blood ran from an opening in their mother?s palm, span down the straight edge of that pitchblack blade and finally gave it glimmer.

Her daughter?s face was torn in terror. She had yet to turn around, but the situation was very much clear.

How. . . How could she have moved so. . .

?Silly little girl,? her mother said in a voice without intonation, and yet, dead and equalizing as it was, Nazareth felt mocked by the way the woman spoke to her. Maetron leaned down; Val could see her smile, but did not hear the words she whispered:

?I do not move fast around this world, child. I move the very world itself.?


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Re: Whitebeam
« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2015, 10:37:48 AM »
Maetron released the blade, and Nazareth?s arm fell down lifelessly, as if holding the weapon was a new labor, as if her mother had somehow made it several times more dense. Val, a face filled with an absolutely astonished horror, saw only two syrupy motions: his sister?s blade collapsing so slowly that it appeared as though it were cutting through water, and the pins of crimson that flowed rhythmically from the graceful slash in his mother?s open palm; the red of the wound was menacingly queer against the powdery flesh his mother wore.

With a sharp little sound, the tip of Nazareth?s weapon fell to rest against the stone flooring of the long, curved porch. The inexorable, the disbelief, it was all gone from her face now. Ruination: thin, calm eyes; a wrinkless nose; neutral lips: these were the components, the products of suffering and defeat. Her mind did not move because the quaking heart in her chest screamed madness into it, swallowed all the meter, all the fairground and left only a thousand twisted, bloody blades, each one either an ideal or drastic course of action yet to be thoroughly plotted, scattered across the burnt, ashy desert that was her mind. In agonizing concert they rusted and decayed; all at once they were made useless by the very woman who had given them shape. Her face a paradise of pretty, pompous petulance, Nazareth began walking  towards the stoop on the edge of the porch.  

Maetron moved her arms towards her daughter, and although Nazareth had given the woman her back, she sensed them and halted step. Her mother placed a palm on each of her cheeks. Slowly she descended until her chin was rested atop her little mirror?s whitegold scalp. ?I have not dismissed you, Nazareth,? Maetron said. She then, with a smile heinously quaint, motioned her right hand, smearing a ribbon of blood across daughter?s flesh. ?There we go??a gift. You do adore it, do you not? You always smell of blood, Nazareth. When you returned with my son and my Pilot, you made me sick with the smell; I am still sick with it.?

The young girl tried to slash her head around, something imperative in her eyes and morosely crested eyebrows??explanation perhaps, or maybe a plea. Her lips even began to shape this amoebic, hastened apology, but with pressure-enough to dimple the flesh where her fingers were placed, Maetron halted the jerk of her daughter?s head and turned it so it again faced forward. ?Say nothing, child. You are eternally wounded, and yet no one has forced a blade through you; none but yourself. Stories that were meant to inspire and sharpen your mind have made it ugly and serrated instead. This is my failure. Say you forgive me, and I shall grant you passage to Darkoukka; I know that you wish to see the ruins of Forez? Circle; to stand on the ground where she and Bith locked swords for the first time when they were both but children not much younger than you. Is this adequate compensation for but single verse??

It was.

But there are hatreds I would not trade-away for every meter of sand in Gailey; hatreds I cherish more than even the stoic ruins of the exalted Reika; over every drop of Dominion blood.

But for this, for the acceptance of an esoteric apology she cared little about, the reward was immense, and therefore. . . it was a facile exchange. Nazareth felt warm, lush waves of childish excitement crash over her and neutralize her anger. When Maetron released her grip, the young girl sprang around, her face (sans the streak of blood that ran vertically up her right cheek) sincerely aglow. ?Of course mother. . . Of course! Don?t be silly, I could never be angry with you. I will even my temperament, I promise. But do you really mean it?? Circulating eyes widened like engorged balloons inflated with all of her resolve, all of her hope and joy; popping them chanced a struck nerve even within the brother (who was still on his back and quite sore) whom she rarely got along with; he who mocked and cared little about her aspirations and ideals: it was but an insightfully genuine desire for the integrity of adolescent idolatry to remain upheld, even if he could not, or cared not to understand the desire.

Smiling warmly, as she often did, the tall woman bowed her head a single time. ?Of course, child. You may go at your earliest convenience. I give you two-days-grace for travel, one there, two back??so I expect you before the moon is new, Nazareth. Can you uphold??

Quickly, excitedly, her face in a rosy-cheeked fervor, her daughter nodded. ?I can! I will leave immediately, mother. I will make it there in mere???

?Do not,? interrupted her mother sternly, ?stop at any of the camps on your way; you are forbidden to make trouble. It is for this reason alone I give such lax traveling conditions; do not file upon the main roads. It?s best you follow the dunes north. As you know the terrain is unforgiving, but you are a strong thing, yes? This will not be a problem??

For a moment, and just before her mother blessed her with compliments of power, Nazareth frowned, appearing severely crestfallen. And even despite the bright smile that followed, her disgust was earnest: she did not wish to crawl over the rippled dunes like a ragged hermit for the sole purpose of avoiding the Labor Yards where the inbred imbeciles, with whom she shared blood (doctored, disarmed and inferior as theirs was) toiled and groaned. The nearest to Remeer, and just twenty-four kilometers from Narvoble?s edge, was the Decisole Camp, one of the newest sites, and also one of the most remote, as it was more than a day?s travel from the bannered lands of the Bride. Although few patches of land  were not under their flags in this age, the wisest and most worldly of The Empire?s Court knew better than to claw at territory purportedly under the jurisdiction of The Last Four Sisters of The Gail (Maetron being one of these four). Nazareth had only heard talk of the others, and many times wondered if their existence was merely the wild old talk of her mother or off the delusional, literarily-foamed tongue of her strange little encyclopedia of a brother. What Nazareth did know was that besides herself, Pilot and her mother, she had never chanced across another woman of Dominion blood. She had been told many times the sun was setting on their order; her rarity could not dispute this: it made her feel special, lonely and angry all at once. Yet Pilot always smiled, despite knowledge of their fleeting line, and for that reason alone Nazareth detested her late sister.

Without any objections, Nazareth accepted her mother?s order and (after a quick trip indoors to collect her red cloak) set off down the macabre tunnel of black, twisted foliage. Not until her red and gold form vanished would Val pick himself up. A quick examination of his flat, rib-etched chest thereafter revealed a wondrously designed blot of purple and black; the bruise was so sensitive that even the most mild ticks of wind brought electric pricks. He was limping his way towards the door (he had yet to address his mother) when Maetron spoke:

?Did she hit you very hard??

Wounded, leaning into the doorframe in exhaustion, in frustration, looking indoors rather than at her, he replied, ?She always hits hard, mother,? before making his way in.
The main room of Remeer was spacious and furnished luxuriously. And yet despite the classic prints, long parlor sofas richly plump and lined in shiny crimson velvet, leather chairs and the decorous candle-chandelier suspended from the high ceiling, the room, and house as an entirety for that matter, seemed to be the kind of place more likely to be inhabited by rancorous old spirits than the corporeal; Val had such thoughts often and knew, in a figurative way he could not quite articulate, that he was not incorrect.

In the room?s corner, near a window that viewed the porch, stood Judace, his hands tethered together apprehensively, his head bowed, his face masked completely by a wealth of heavy, blonde curls. Because Judace was a boy rarely without input of some kind, Val was immediately injured by his abject silence. Eyes slender and mean, he stabbed, ?Get a good show, Judace??

The little boy, standing a mere 131 centimeters, with twig-like limbs and flesh ghostly pale (as was uniform for all but Nazareth, who was not ripely golden, but had acquired a faint bronzing as she was outdoors often) shot his head back in shock; one eye of bright and wet red burned-free of the curls; Val saw terror in it, which he found satisfactory. Meagerly voiced, Judace defended himself: ?No. . I??I heard the yelling and. . I was just worried, so I went to see. . . Are you oka???

?Silence,? interrupted the irascible Val. The tall, dark-haired young man limped over to one of the long, crimson sofas, laid down, closed his eyes and, shortly, fell asleep.

Judace did not retire his spot by the window (although his attention was paid entirely to his brother now) until disturbed by a command in his mother?s melancholic voice. For the entirety of his (short) life, Judace knew Maetron to be a woman that could be counted on for one of two things always: being in a single place and pose for impossible periods of time, or being nowhere at all. Of all of Maetron?s children, Val?s five senses were the most useless; he had not Nazareth?s ears nor her eyes, and most definitely did not have her acute nose; Judace was not quite as sharp as she, however he had little difficulty sensing those approaching Remeer from as far as a kilometer out, even through the stormy sands. Secretly coveted, as precious an ability as a child may possess, Judace was capable of sensing the presence of Maetron. . . always. When up close, nuzzled into her breast; when at the table for meals (a rarity), their mother did have an especially captivating scent, something rustic and fine and vernal, like freshly watered flowers (despite this scent being alien to her children); so bright and invigorating; so clean and pleasing. But unlike every other object in their sensorium, once she was but a few steps away, the woman slipped away from every sense besides the eye. Yet, somewhere in his mind, in a warm, knotted region aware to him even when not signalling, Maetron existed always. Be-it a little tickle; a sonorous bleep; a fuzzy numbness??if the woman was near, that little ear in the young, blonde boy?s brain could always point him in her direction. For a boy of tender age, this was, again, a most coveted sense. Of course, when the region was empty. . when it felt cold and failed to register, Judace felt agonizingly empty.

The night previous to this: this day that had, so far, seen Val injured by Nazareth, and Nazareth given a strange leave, or, even queerer, seen her seemingly rewarded with it, Judace had felt, for the first time in a long time, that empty feeling; it had actually driven him out of a particularly deep and satisfying slumber that night.

But now, that good old sense ringing melodically, his mother called. Judace ran onto the porch in bare feet and looked at his mother in wonder.

?Judace,? she said (she was seated on stone edge, her feet resting on the steps, her gaze cast through the quad-row of skinny death). ?Have you read every tome I possess??

The boy nodded in excitement (for the question was not "had" he, but rather, "how many times each?"). ?Unless there are more, I have! I?ve read every one.?

?There may be more; in fact I am certain there are. I will gift you a completed collection in time. It?s just that I?ve been very tired lately, sweet Judace. Even worse, mother?s mind is. . . blurred; her heart is confused.?

Visibly wracked by this expressed weakness the little blonde lad slowly approached his seated mother, placed his hand on her shoulder and leaned over so that he could examine the side of her sharp, flawless face, a face maybe eons old, but woven with twine undying; unaged. ?Mother??

?Shh. Do not concern yourself.? Maetron wrapped her arm around Judace?s hip; her grip was loose, but perfectly-so. ?Everything passes. This will. But, I wanted to ask you about a specific volume: have I any notes, be them extensive or otherwise, on Melia of Porta??

Her child?s eyes danced with intrigue. ?Melia of Porta. . . I know the name, but there is no specific volume that I?ve read on her???do you know where one is!?

?I know you are a child fond of literature,? said Maetron with a savvy grin. ?But I wonder if you might enjoy a spoken tale this day.?


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Re: Whitebeam
« Reply #2 on: August 09, 2015, 09:28:01 AM »
With her son seated comfortably upon the spot on the porch she had inhabited only seconds ago, the grand Maetron took a pose of pleasured reverie. Wide tangerine eyes skyward, her long, peerless cloak of white rippling only slightly as the remarkably dry afternoon winds slipped over it, she began:

?Several ages before you and your siblings were born, I walked with three women; this impudent and reckless age of talentless scribes and profiteers refer to us now as, The Four Sisters of The Gail. This day could offer me not even a tenth of the time required to tell you a story that would summarize our travels with a prudent beginning and end, but my goal is not this, thankfully; no, I will tell you only of Melia, child.

?North of here, the city of Porta once stood,? and she stretched her arm in this direction with striking precision. ?As the acquired title speaks,? she continued, ?Melia called Porta home, as did many thousands of Dominion; it was a wonderful city that I visited often in that age, rich with spirit and reason; a utopian excerpt that failed, most certainly, because not even the wisest of that day could tolerate the unwavering successes of culture and intellect that seemed to stream indefatigably from its streets as if pumped from some mechanical fount deep below its foundations. In that day I was relatively unknown; I am jealous of that instance of myself, but I of course would not trade, for I had not my beautiful children, then.? (she smiled quickly for her son before reverting her gaze)

?I had spent many years as an Idol in the Clan of Leiss??which is little-more than a flowery title for a lecturer and leader, though I?m certain you?ve read on it??but decided to disband, for the Ladies of Leiss were oft violent and unclean: the copulative acts were adored practices among many of The Leiss, and their fever and hot blood became only hotter as time went on, so, feeling a risen sense of discomfort, I left the clan in search of a new endeavor. Without a goal in mind, I made track to Porta for I could think of no grander place to go. I was not disappointed by what I found there.

?Being that I was a talented Idol, I found myself in a somewhat difficult predicament: I was pursued by several clans simultaneously, this after only a week in Porta. This was, of course, a shock indeed: I?d never realized, during my earlier stays there, that there existed such diverseness behind the scenes. Rarely do two clans settle near one-another??yet here, in Porta, three combated for influence: The Jint, The Uegodora and The Exa. Only The Uegodora were familiar to me as they were of high caste, of rich foundations, lush lineage. While teaching during my time with The Leiss, I oft cited the philosophies of Ceeth, the founder of The Uegodora Clan and, queerest of all, a male; he was a genuinely fascinating and intelligent person, but I have gone very far away from my point, child, I?m sure much of this is simple reiteration to you. Of all the sharp, tactful representatives I met, only the two women that came to me under the colors of The Exa moved me. The Jint (who I rejected outright when the liaison they sent appeared before me in a tasteless violet mid-coat clearly imported from Ionosis) were serene and clean, be-them pretentiously polite. They were, much to my disappointment, a clan that operated more like a mercantile association than clan of Dominion. Their conquests were few??their objective was primarily the business of unearthing valuables from the excrements of the fallen civilizations within the Lightning Lands; I told them this was an unwise endeavor, as the poison air of the Lightning Lands had long-since taken ownership of the dead cities there. The Uegodora were a fine clan. . . I sometimes regretted refusing them; yes??I did, I told them that I would take residence with The Exa and start up an idolship. They did not not like this decision, as The Exa were. . . . radicals, in a sense, but all new things are, are they not, when viewed through an old lens?

?Because I enjoyed my work, time was often very cruel to me. Simply, it ran away from me without my knowing it was even there most times: my first year with The Exa passed in what felt like weeks. The founder of The Exa was a woman called Torrea of Porta. One would be incorrect in assuming this was a title of prestige: it was not; it was sharply derogatory. Dominion are nomadic; it is a sign of weakness, infertility and cowardice to remain in one?s town of birth for more than twenty years. Torrea never once told me what kept her within Porta?s walls her whole life, but I was not, and still am not, one inquirous to the point of blind, radical judgments. Torrea had but a single daughter (that looked nothing like her, which of course only added to the fanaticism) named Melia. Melia was. . . an exceptionally short-tempered young woman. When I met her she was fourteen, and of all my students she was the absolute worst. Hah??yes, the passages of the old blood, the wisdom of the lost, the prolific (although admittedly exaggerated) stories of past conquests meant absolutely nothing to her. Were she under the guidance of any Idol but myself, I fear she would have been beaten severely and often, and perhaps even taken to the pole. However, it was this about her that I cherished. One of my responsibilities was to cultivate and mature the mind, the other, and this varied somewhat clan-to-clan, was to pinpoint the strongest of the bunch. This was sometimes a difficult dance, so I can say in earnest that I was especially appreciative to Melia for making that task easy: Melia was very, very strong.

?The year turned over, and I was content in Porta. Now-and-again Exa and Uegodora would clash on the cobbled streets, would tear flesh from one-another, but there were never fatalities. The year?s third month was heralded, as one runt of the Uegodora, a lad by the name of Rin, turned fifteen: it made five boys and five girls??a joyous rarity.?

Judace, whom was smiling heartily now, bowed his head in excitement. ?An Evening!?

?Of course,? his mother replied with a clever wink. ?Many parents are forced to connect with other Clans, to travel great distances, to submit their children to the ritual, but in Porta?s majesty, wondrous, serendipitous occurrences seemed to be happenstance. In any case, as is required, and as previously stated, I was to report to Torrea the range of strength within the class, and being that two Exa girls??Melia and a delightfully husky little thing whose name escapes me??were to participate in The Evening, my findings were especially critical. Although tampering with the order of the fights is highly taboo, everyone grins wryly at the impossibility of this: every parent has a possible suitor in mind. Torrea, however, cared little about my findings??partly because she knew the husky what?s-her-name was very much inferior to Melia; partly because she knew something very funny about her daughter; something that I, myself, discovered after a time.?

?Something very funny?? asked Judace. His little toes wiggled anxiously.

Maetron nodded. ???Melia held a secret affection for the Uegodora runt, Rin. I knew not enough about the girl at the time to grasp just why, as the boy was not particularly handsome, was not particularly sharp, and was comically weak. Ahh?but how little I knew. Children have perfect eyes: they see everything we old dismiss as impractical. Cherish the eyes you have now, Judace. Continuing, I found Melia in very high spirits in the days leading up to The Evening. I often asked her, ?Child, just why are you so cheeky?? And the clever little devil would always wag her finger at me, like I was the fool, and reply, ?You?ll see, you?ll see.?

?And then, child, the day came; I, myself, could hardly contain my excitement. Imagine the sight of all these younglings who were, unbeknownst in that languorous way they move about the world in their early years, standing not only at the precipice of adulthood, but ready to defend the colors of their clan??for the collusion of elders is hardly a secret worth secrecy: The Jint, The Uegodora and The Exa all watched with pride in their eyes, ready to let their children wage a covert war they couldn?t possibly comprehend. In order to preserve the excellence of this drama, the arrangement of the bouts featured obvious mismatches first: the first match of The Evening was Rin, the runty Uegodora, versus another Uegodora boy named Gont, and let me just for a moment paint for you the panorama of rolled-eyes and sighs at this matchup: Gont was an absolutely monstrous lad, perhaps over ten stones of raw muscle. Gont was a direct descendant of Ceeth himself (who had long-since passed, but whose blood still coursed strongly through the Uegodora line) and, not surprisingly, the pride of their clan; a certain shoe-in for the title. This of course, and excuse my rude smile, Judace, meant that his fate was the chubby little Exa girl I?ve ignorantly prodded-at several times??but at the time the thought of the mighty Gont pairing with her was one of the few things able to bring me joy, for I did not find the sortie between he and Rin fair in any regard; I feel like little Rin was written-off by his own clansmen, and this of course was not a rarity in any regard. The Sisters of Exa spent a great many weeks training the fat little thing they were sending into The Evening, because as long as one fights valiantly, with guile and precise might, defeat cannot be frowned upon. Personally, I found the methods of The Uegodora insulting. But, little Judace, I was struck at once by a strange thing. . . . yes. . .  a most strange thing: the adoring face of little Melia. Rapt; locked; invested with every sense was she when her Rin entered the circle; when he stood in the shadow of the mighty Gont without fear. It was then that I realized what quality our Melia adored within Rin: infinite confidence; aye, that boy had it full.

?The Evening?s Master was a neutral Dominion, someone outside Clan affairs, which is customary. He stands on the outskirts of the circle-in-the-sand and maintains order. The rules are simple, as you know: if one is knocked onto their back, they may choose to remain there and forfeit, or get up a single time; the second time one is knocked down, the match is over. The only weapons allowed are ritual bands (tall staffs of wood). Rin held his band low, and what a sight! The tiny little thing with that long staff in his grasp; it might?ve weighed more than even him! And then the grunting Gont, holding his like it were a twig. The Master asks that both the combatants and the gathered audience give the Ontz sign (two fingers horizontally across the collar, as a sign of respect); when he gives the Ontz himself the match begins. Rin took off like a strike of lightning! What great celerity in that little body! I swear in that instant, with his confident and unfazed eyes burning like whorls of fire, I saw a handsomeness I had not previously.

?Rin tried to strike at Gont, but the larger boy deflected his blow without much trouble. For just-over a minute, Rin danced like a dynamo on the sand, employing great technique with that band, but what blows he did land were. . . unfortunately simply lacking in power. An instant arose where the young lad jumped up into the air, pulled that long staff behind his head and readied a crushing blow. But. . .  Gont countered with a heavy swipe that caught Rin at the hip; the runty boy was sent through the air like a thrown-stone, hit the sand like a meteor and rolled what seemed like one-hundred times before his body came to rest. Just then I looked at Melia, expecting outrage or disappointment; what I witnessed was only an enhanced smile and a snarky little shake of her head, as if Rin and she were already paired and he had gone and done something comically unsatisfactory, but charming, and thusly redeemable. I was not wrong.

?Although he was badly bruised; although all the air in his lungs had been forced out, Rin stood; his ritual band was now mostly a walking cane now, but he refused to give the concession sign. No??No, little Judace, Rin wanted to be disqualified in a dignified manner; in the very manner his own caste had tried to deny him. I think at that moment I may have loved him as Melia loved him. The several Exa woman, with whom I?d arrived, and I gave the boy respectful nods. He deserved nothing less. On shaky feet, the lad walked right up to Gont and with the force of a jelly-armed newborn, poked him in the belly with his staff??he smiled ear-to-ear. One could say it was a defiling gesture, but Gont had already done what was expected: won, and in convincing fashion. All Gont would have had to do was push little Rin, the poor runt would?ve blown away like ash in a breeze. Instead,? Maetron?s voice flattened regrettably, ?Gont wound his torso, bore his teeth and delivered a blow to the side of Rin?s head so crushing that it cracked the large boy?s ritual band in-two. I saw the light in Rin?s eyes die instantly. He crashed down to the sand and the gathered crowd gasped; while, disgustingly, relations to Gont hollered excitedly. I looked to where I had last saw Melia??she was gone; I looked to the circle: she was there, crouched over the body of Rin, shaking him, hollering at him, but he was gone. Romanticism aside, I could too trace the death of Melia back to that moment. Both had died, but one could still move their body. And move it she did.?


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Re: Whitebeam
« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2015, 12:38:35 PM »
Out of respect for the long-since-passed Rin, Maetron bowed her head. Eyes closed, she drifted slowly over to the edge of the porch and took a seat next to Judace. The little boy?s eyes were wide; his mother could see inside them: his articulate brain was rerunning, in terrifying detail, Rin?s murder scene. Maetron rested her arm across her son?s shoulders. ?Come, come,? she said with cheer, ?do not let it bother you. As you know, if a child refuses to give concession he-or-she is opening themselves up to the possibility of severe injury. Deaths are not uncommon in Evenings. Tempers run high: pride is an addictive stimulant.?

At last, and after some massaging rubs from his mother, the boy smiled. ?I know,? he said.  ?But it?s. . . . well, it seems very unnecessary. At least what that boy Gont did at least.  Was there was no punishment for his actions? The Evening just went on??

It was now Maetron who wore a grave face. To the sky went her eyes. ?For many years I pondered on it. You see, the staff that broke Rin?s neck broke a great many more things. The Idol in me, the woman who once told stories of the past, told legends of wondrous Dominion artifacts, was sometimes saddened by the fact that the severed ritual band Gont used to murder Rin was never recovered. Because it changed the destiny of two clans forever.?

Judace could not have appeared more intrigued. ?Will you tell me how? I?ve never heard this story. . . in fact, Porta is only mentioned several times within your tomes.?

?That is because,? replied the boy?s mother knowingly, ?it was but a fleet, although excellent, instance of what Dominion are capable of accomplishing when our minds reject the old, primal ways. Silly words from a historian, I know, but historians preach to solidify the future?s foundation: as much as our race detests the Brides and their craving for expansion; their ravenous technological ascension, we would have been wise to learn from them instead of tossing them aside for generations: it is of my belief that the war we fought, and the war we lost, was their revenge for the concentrated hatred that mixed and toiled in their fragile little hearts for eons. Before they were smarter than us, they were nothings; they were peons, weak and frail and in possession of emotions that confused and angered us.

?But Porta was the birthplace of several grand inventions, inventions forged from Dominion hands, including the steam heater, that which keeps even Remeer warm on colder nights.?

With a somber face, Judace informed, ?Ours does not work anymore.?

Sharply did his Maetron grin. ?I know. But there is one installed in the main column. I had an apprentice of the original inventor install it personally. The ones used in this age are far more advanced, but the concept and design has not changed drastically.?

It was a time before either spoke. Easily caught in the winds of inspiration, Judace dreamt of walking upon the streets of the grand City of Porta; played out little scenarios that saw him witness the construction of these aforementioned inventions. He would have loved to have been there. Yet, delightful as these fabricated experiences were, he hungered for the conclusion of his mother?s tale.

And clairvoyant as always, Maetron continued her piece the instant her son glanced over to speak:

?The crowd grumbled: no one likes death at an Evening. Yet, there are banners to consider, and if some of the Uegodora believed that Gont was justified, it became the duty of all Uegodora to unify under that belief. It was strange, for Rin was a member of their clan, and here they were, getting the filthy looks of outsiders for an in-house death. This was because Melia revealed her affections, and thusly. . the dead child, Rin, was Uegodora no more: he was Exa; adopted in death.

?Seated just behind the pedestal upon which the Evening Master stands when the fights engage, the very Evening Master who was then trying desperately to calm Melia with emphatic hand gestures and soothing words, were the three clan leaders: Torrea of Porta, Exa; Messeth, Jint; Venzis, Uegodora. Venzis, who was a very tall, regal and beautiful woman with extremely long and straight hair, was burning a fierce gaze into Torrea, who was sitting a chair over. Messeth, seated between them, dressed in that hoighty Jint way of fabricated majesty, was visibly nerved, as she?d clearly sensed the grown tension. Torrea?s head was down, her eyes were closed and partly veiled by short, choppy bangs of white, mouth calm, her right hand resting upon the waxy onyx pommel of her hip-sheathed rezormora.?

?A real rezormora?? cried Judace excitedly, his eyes bursting with anticipation.

His mother nodded. ?Indeed,? she replied with some astonishment of her own. ?It was the first authentic Reika weapon I?d ever seen; I?ve seen only one more since then. As you well know,? and she grinned, ?Nazareth?s is but a reproduction; functional and deadly, but it is not made from the same fantastic steel, and was certainly not forged by a master smith. But I?m off-topic again.

?I saw, from where I stood amongst the crowd, Messeth stand and saunter towards the enclave of Jint that had, wisely, chosen a stance of neutrality in all the madness: awkwardly they looked on as the Uegodora and Exa exchanged threats and insults. Next, Venzis stood and approached the calm, stoic Torrea. I saw her lean down and whisper in Torrea?s ear, but Torrea, of course, did not react at all; it did not appear as though she were even listening. Venzis slipped away after speaking her piece; two sisters under her colors rushed up and escorted her off the Evening grounds.

?I finally saw Melia rise. She was done with the shouting, with the shaking, with the crying??she chose the death of it all, for it?s what she understood best of all. I would come to learn this in time. Gont hadn?t moved. Like an imbecile he stood, shirtless, both his head and face boulder-like. From the chaos in the crowd, I was able to discern his relatives: they were trying to make their way through the fray to reach him. They probably understood the sensation bursting from the crowd and knew we Exa would brand that boy a senseless brute; neither concepts were incorrect.

?Melia sprinted over to Torrea, the only seated patron now, all alone and private as always; apart from all the hustle of the world. She was not lethargic, but rather intolerant of sensationalism and wasted energy. So one could conclude, as I had at the time, that she found the death of Rin inconsequential, and was thusly annoyed by the proceedings yield. I cannot say whether or not Torrea?s daughter found her mother?s nonchalance offensive, since it was of course her precious Rin who had perished, but what I do know is that young Melia began to beg her mother.?

?For what?? Judace asked.

?I could not tell you in earnest, for I could not hear. But what I saw was this: Melia was screaming, as the language of her body told: hunched over, arms waving, jaw nearly unhinged to allow the passage of titanic words of anger. Torrea did not move; did not answer. But Melia continued to holler and gesture. What happened next perplexes me as much now as it did then, for even ages after this event Melia remains silent over the exchange. . . the little girl turned and found me??me??-just another appalled onlooker in a sea of gold hair and shouting. She pointed at me and her lips moved; our eyes were connected; I felt exposed and uncomfortable. Whatever words she chose struck her mother, for Torrea?s eyes opened at last; they too locked onto mine. Melia flipped around; I could discern her expression no longer. Once more she dipped and pleaded, and Torrea engaged her now, for I saw her placid mouth move within that stern face. She uttered a passage and her daughter nodded. Torrea?s eyes then closed and she removed her hand from the hilt of her rezormora; calm again, closed again. Without any pause, little Melia wrapped her fragile white hands around the lengthy handle of that relic weapon and tore it out of the sheath latched to her mother?s belt.?

?Brave!? Judace hollered anxiously, his face a well-wedded union of fear and astonishment. ?To simply steal it the moment her mother let go. . .?

?Aye. But it was no theft, child: as I said, I could not hear the words of their exchange, but I know for a fact that some deal had been struck, for Torrea moved not a muscle, opened not an eye as her fabulous blade was taken into her child?s hands. Rather, she blessed her daughter with it, payment, I can only assume, for indenturement to a contract unknown. Unknown to all but they, of course.?

Breaks in the lofty sheets of heavy cloud above Remeer and the valley of sand and dead trees gave superb definition to the organic shadows that scudded across the desert floor. Judace looked up at an approaching bar of crisp, sharp sunlight that had cut through the deep shades. When the warmth bled over him and the light illuminated his face, the little boy closed his eyes. He asked sadly, ?She went and killed that boy, didn?t she, mother? Gont? Did she kill him for what he did to Rin??
She too had sealed her eyes. She nodded. ?Aye. When she ran towards the mighty oaf, he tried to flee: were they engaged even in simple hand-to-hand combat she would have easily bested the clumsy Gont. But with a craving for blood on her tongue and a most excellent weapon in her grasp, every onlooker knew that the mighty Uegodora boy was about to be cast into the void. There was a great, appalled silence shared by all in the crowd as the premonition of death was understood universally among us. Gont sprinted like a beast from a huntress. The impossibly nimble Melia caught up to him easily and caned the large boy at the shin with the broad, unsharpened side of Torrea?s rezormora. Gont fell, rolled onto his back, raised his hands and screamed for mercy. Melia, deaf to his pleas of course, stood over him, raised the blade over her head???
Judace threw his arms around Maetron?s hip and buried his head into the giving cloth of her glamorous white cloak. ?Mother,? he wept, his little voice muffled.
The woman kissed his curls. ?Forgive me, Judace. I know you detest the world?s violent things: there?s no need to get into every detail. What matters is that the blow she delivered was fatal; was an act of clean, though perhaps questionable, vengeance. I can agree that Gont was a violent fool who deserved punishment, but Melia. . . Melia and Torrea wagered the fate of an entire city on this cavalier instance of justice. It was selfish. Rin deserved better than that.?
?How do you mean? You didn?t agree that Gont should?ve been killed for the murder of Rin??
?I did not, child. The sisters and governing clansmen of the Uegodora set that match up to put the strength of their prize on display. Rin was a nothing to them; an embarrassment. There are those that believe that they wished the death of Rin; I did not delve into such heinous claims of conspiracy, but I do believe his life was inconsequential. Gont did not kill Rin, the clan as a whole did. Gont was but a child high on the emotions of battle; his strength was out of Rin?s league: the hit he delivered may not have killed any of the other boys in the Evening: that is my point.?

Judace, now calm, began to chew on his bottom lip contemplatively. ?So,? he asked in a voice melodic with inquiry. ??how does it all end? What became of the clans; what became of Porta??
?Almost every resident of the city, outside the Exa, demanded Melia be taken to the pole. Many agreed that Gont?s actions were outrageous, but deaths happen in Evenings. . this is simply a fact, and one a combatant must accept if they choose to get up and continue to engage in a losing battle. I, along with every sister and clansman, stayed within the walls of the clan house for the remainder of the week. We needed solutions, for we could not wage a war against the Uegodora, what members of the Jint were combat-enthused (a small number, but numbers that needed considering) and the general guard of Porta. Despite the accepted knowledge that the three clans held massive influence over the city and its policies, Porta still had a polished little panel of ministers and jurors that enjoyed the festivities of governing without any of the actual powers or stresses of it: the actual ruling was left to the clans. So when I say the city ?demanded? Torrea?s daughter, I mean of course that the Uegodora demanded her. Thusly the Jint, who were weak and easily influenced, demanded it. With the majority rule, the panel of ministers of Porta?s court ratified the sentence. It was a waiting game now. Try as I might, I could not offer Torrea any caveat to side-step the ruling. The option of fighting our way out of Porta to find claims elsewhere was evaluated, but very few would have survived the likely pursuit to follow: this plan was abandoned.

?And so I sat in my room for a week in deep, filthy depression. I liked Melia, just as I liked Torrea, despite the fact that she was a woman with whom I rarely spoke. In fact, it was her subordinates that asked for my advice, not her. . nothing about the situation seemed to bother her in the least, despite the glaring issue with which she was presented: sacrifice her daughter, or sacrifice her clan? She was stoic as always, locked in her chambers with her tomes and her thoughts. It was not until the sixth day of our self-imprisonment that I saw her, and what a shock indeed: Torrea of Porta came to my chambers and asked if I might allow her to speak for a moment. I was elated, intrigued and terrified all at once.

?I remember everything about not only this moment, but the day as a whole. Selfish as it might seem, I was actually writing an account of what I saw at the Evening??even we teachers take stabs at chronicling history from time-to-time: I titled it, The Last Evening; a pious title my younger self adored, but we as a people were outgrowing ritual during that age. The Brides? borders were expanding, and with them came technological marvels, riotous satires and strange art; cultures of all kinds that were blending in with our own. Because Brides are. . . loosely moraled, to say the least, in all their endeavors, I predicted that it was their sexual immorality that would bleed into our veins first. This prediction was not incorrect.

?Assessments aside, Torrea came to my chambers. She sat in front of my desk, leaned into her chair as if she would nap and closed her eyes. She spoke with incredible knowledge. . . she also stabbed at me with several unusual accusations.?

?What kinds of things did you and she talk about? Of what did she accuse you??

?Oh, another time,? Maetron said with amusement. ?The things she spoke of initially are between she and I only??the point of her visit was revealed later in the conversation. Her proclamation was this: Torrea of Porta was going to offer herself, the choleric master of the raucous Exa clan, as a substitute for her daughter. She was going to choose the pole; she was choosing to die for the one thing in the world for which she cared. I am embarrassed to mention the astonished look on my face after she told me this, because at heart I was not surprised in the least. Before she took her leave, Torrea opened her eyes, and with those brutal little red daggers fiercely cutting into me, she requested that I stay at Melia?s side until she turned twenty. I agreed, and Torrea departed. She then exited the clan house alone, marched to the grand hall in the city?s center and issued her demand. Many of the Exa thought the plan was foolhardy, for they figured the clans, as well as the city officials, would simply take Torrea to the pole, then come for her daughter. But I knew her sacrifice would succeed??try as they might to seem cool and confident, there wasn?t a Dominion in Porta that didn?t fear the wrath of Torrea??whether in life or in death. Thusly, the Uegodora, as I figured they would be, were delighted to accept her body as tribute. When news came of the panel?s amended sentence, we all left the clan house and made our way to the cobblestone square. Torrea?s hands were bound; the fat, ugly ministers shouted their victory; Venzis sat behind them, grinning. I was repulsed.

?The ceremony held in 'reverence' of Torrea?s life and death was unheard of: it was truly barbaric. Executions are rarely things to be celebrated, as history often sees the worst villains of our culture killed in battle, thusly those taken in for sentences of death are often enemies of clans and are guilty of very little. Torrea was a woman that deserved a valiant and respectable death, but was instead tied to the bedamned pole and left in the intolerable sun until her body withered. However, I again was the fool. . . Torrea died on her own terms; she designed it; she embraced it. Her daughter would be free. I can?t say for certain whether or not she cared deeply for the Exa, which might sound silly when one considers the fact that she was the founder, but I say this because I never found Torrea to be the kind of woman in possession of the tolerances needed to navigate the bureaucratic hells of clanship. Being a leader requires much patience, add in the fact that the territory upon which she founded the Exa was already under the jurisdiction of the Uegodora and I?d say that the scant bloodshed and battles on Porta?s street were ultimately evidences of her suave guidance: Torrea of Porta may have been a secret bureaucratic dynamo all along.

?I am not sure how many weeks Torrea survived on the pole. They say that the longest a Dominion woman ever lasted was eighteen weeks, which is a marvel! Have you not read Boscenia Hung, I must recommend it this instant, it is an engaging account.?

Judace nodded excitedly, despite the fact that he had indeed read it.

?But for all I know, Torrea may have lasted longer. As I have mentioned innumerable times throughout this tale, she hardly emoted in life. The instant she was tied and dangled on the outskirts of Porta, where dozens of other skeletons hung from their dooming poles, Torrea closed her eyes. Melia visited her often. I accompanied for as long as my stomach allowed, which was a little over four weeks. I tried to engage the little girl, but she had recessed: seeing Rin killed; facing the fact that her mother hung for her. . . heartbreaks such as these cannot be assumed to be understood by any other than the sufferer. So I ceased my bothersome sermons and focused on clan affairs. Torrea?s second, a woman named Gesla, who was as talkative as Torrea was silent, assumed the role of Clan Master. Gesla was a skilled combatant, and had been fiercely loyal to Torrea, but many of the sisters of Exa knew the clan?s end was drawing near because Gesla was neither calm nor tactful. Much pressure was put on all of our affairs; restrictions, all of that. The Exa had proved themselves the radicals they?d been assumed to be in the past, and were thusly punished. Had it not been for the promise I made to Torrea, I would have left them, I am ashamed to admit.?

?So you did stay?? asked Judace. ?All the way up to Melia?s twentieth birthday? Did much happen in Porta??

?Certainly,? replied the boy?s mother, nodding. ?To summarize quickly, the Exa disbanded less-than a year after Torrea?s sentence. Gesla got caught-up in a heated exchange with several Uegodora during the Union Sitting, which was the rare counsel setting that was created in Porta due to the unusual presence of three clans. In anger, she slew three Uegodora before finally catching a blade herself; I heard it was Venzis that delivered the deathblow. Five weeks later there was an attempt on Melia?s life. . . four women in deep hoods and black robes snuck into the clan house with the intent to kill. The sisters of Exa fought them off, but one had indeed made it into Melia?s chambers while she slept. Thankfully the assassin was killed by a spry guardswoman that watched-over Melia always: the attacker was identified as a loose relative to Gont. This meant that she was Uegodora, but the clan, of course, absolved themselves of responsibility, citing the attack as personally motivated by a splinter group that still held contempt for Melia.

?And so the laborious turning of the great wheel of dry ceremony that constricted Porta continued; continued for five more years. The Uegodora were the only clan left in Porta when Melia came of age. A fine woman she became. . so strong and beautiful. The very same way I discovered little Rin?s handsomeness when he confidently battled that heinous oaf, I discovered Melia?s resemblance to Torrea when she grew tall enough to carry that rezormora around without it seeming a burdenous absurdity; she?d also acquired her mother?s dry, sensible, and sometimes wicked, countenance. The years Melia spent under my supervision were spent mostly in training. I tried to stress the need for education, but she resisted, as I knew she would. She became rapt with the Reika sect, for the tomes that I had on them enlightened her to the possibilities of ascension. . . of true, unfathomable power. Although no Reika ever achieved the kind of power Forez and Bith possessed, those two women, who died before the age of the Reika truly even began, showed just what a Dominion is capable of with discipline and a generous portion of raw talent. Throughout the course of those five years, I learned that Melia possessed both qualities. She became something truly rare. And truly terrifying.?