Maere’s skittishness over the last week or two had several factors, but the main reason was finally before her. To be honestly, the girl had some difficulty reconciling herself to the fact that of her involvement bringing an end to Khavos was observing just how one would go about creating a portal to another world. There was no way she could never have created something on such a grand scale as to allow a god through, but to allow herself through; that she could and had managed. Her newly purchased house in Sundown was rundown and unkempt, in fact it was really only to keep her things in and have a place for Doomy to live in relative safety… For both him and everyone else.
It was just as messy inside as outside, her things scattered “orderly” or strewn about the counter. There were a several pieces of furniture, mainly for the Anamalian to chew on and maybe for her to collapse on when she returns home tired. It was probably her closet, that was most important. Her closet was pretty dour, just a mattress on the floor with a blanket and a small trunk for clothes. Then, there was also the ordinary-looking little door made of mismatched wood; a door to the Valorian Abyss. No one would ever notice, except maybe a vampire, that the wood was soaked with her blood to make it work, but it did indeed work properly, a small, discreet gate to another world. Thankfully, nothing terrible leaked out of this Abyss, so the door was not going to spit up a fiend to slaughter people one night.
Now, this Practitioner from a small town in the backwaters of an unnamed continent did enjoy, as much as she could, living in Sundown. People here treated her as a living individual and did not spurn or shun her for being whatever she is. However… It simply was not her home. Her roots weren’t planted here, they were ingrained in an earth elsewhere, long ago. She had washed up and changed into her old clothes, the ones she arrived in to start with, then turned her attention to actually crossing over. It was going to be a bittersweet return, two things had been lost: Rigan and an integral part of herself. Both had been lost at the exact same time, and she knew she had changed from it.
She was still unsure how much she had changed, or whether it was for good or bad, but it had happened. With Bird pressed reassuringly to her neck and Doomy collared with the leash coiled in her hand, she turned the doorknob and stepped inside without apprehension. Doomy was decorated in a maddening amount of silly little charms and wards, to ensure his safe travel through the darkness, even though he would have been safe beside her anyway. The shadows assaulted her, trying to swallow her up in their absolute darkness, but she preserved and pushed the shadows aside. They were the same as her, so there was no way she could be consumed. Walking, was Was she running or walking running? Regardless of what it was, it was continued forward motion through the pathless, endless black realm. It might’ve been only several seconds or a few hours, but eventually the darkness started to recede, dwindling at the center of her vision and melting away outwards to reveal lush grass and old, sanded stone. This was more than familiar to Maere Jun Eschaton, she had spent a lot of time here… The Relic of Spite, a shrine to the Mother Goddess. The shadows waver and finally depart altogether, leaving the demure girl covered in a brackish soot.
“I-I… Who are you?!” As far back as she remembered, there were always a few men in light leather armoring who wielded spears that guarded the shrine, alternating watches throughout the day and into the night. The shrine was a holy relic and always needed to be kept safe from any potential threat. One of them moved forward to interrogate the arrival. “What you doing here, Shadow Walker, with that demon beast?” A suspicious, contemptuous stare, fixated on her pale face, the other guards eyeing the Anamalian with grave concern.
“You… Do not remember me? Ah… A few years ago, the Vessel of Spite?” She wiped away some of the darkness. “Or have I been gone a long time…?” Her posture slumped a little, mind wracked with concern. “This… Is Ria village, right?” Had she ended somewhere else? “And, uh… Pet, he’s my pet. Harmless, really… Don’t do anything to him.”
The tanned man’s eyes went wide and he took a few steps back, surprised at what he had just heard. This girl looked suspiciously unlike a monster. “A-Ah… You?” A little pause to contemplate the matter. “Yes, that… Six years ago, was it?” The broken Common was extremely familiar to her, it was what she had been raised on. “You’re… Back. Why?” The man still seemed wary of her presence, especially with such a vicious-looking… Thing beside her.
“… Tired, lonely, confused. Your ceremony failed, the darkness couldn’t swallow me… Why? I want to talk to the shamans, and Grandpapa.” Her eyes had an almost feral glint to them—it was dawning on her now, that it was this place that broke her. “I’m not here for trouble…” The girl tightened her grip on Doomy’s leash, fearful of the beastie deciding to lash out if he felt cornered. “… Really.”
The guards were suspicious, and it was well-deserved; most vessels left the village and were either hunted down by Magekillers or went half-mad with self-doubt, lost to the darkness. Having a friendly conversation with one was almost unheard of. “… I see. That all? Really? Then, I will bring you. You, no moving your hands. I watch you. Keep that thing, leashed. It attacks, it dies.” He gestured at her with the barbed spear, then turned, cautiously, to head down the path into the village.
The Practitioner neglected to mention the Anamalian could probably kill everyone of them three days after his birth. “… Thank you. Sorry for the trouble,” she mumbled softly and offered a bow of respect to the other guards before she trailed along. “Six years… So I’m nineteen.” Her estimate had been off a bit, but not too much time passed since she left the village. Not too much had changed, from what she could see. A little bit more vegetation and a few more houses, but everything was pretty much the same. She uses her hand to quell Doomy’s quivering tail. “Has everything been well, sir?”
“Hah! Yes, village very good.” A derisive point at a standing house. “All together, we all fine.” He looked a bit surprised he was still alive, actually. The two continued along, quietly now, heading along the road. They finally reached a house that seemed a little more urban than the huts. “… Chronicler here. You, behave, I go now.” With a slight bow he hurriedly took his leave back towards the shrine steps, spear tapping against the ground. The man spares a quick glance back to be sure that Doomy is not stalking him.
This place held a lot of fond memories, she spent most of her life behind those walls. Wood floors, an ornate fire place based off ones found across the sea, many odds and ends to look at on rainy days. And, of course, Grandpapa lived, and still lives, here. She took a contemplative breath to bolster her courage, then moved forward to knock on the door. There was not any response for a bit, then she heard an abrupt “Come in!” She steeled herself and gulped, then turned the handle and walked in, trying to force as big a smile on her pale face. “Uh… I-I’m home.” It settled looking like a half-mischievous, bright grin. It… Doesn’t really look any different from it did the last time she was here.
“Home, dear gir-… Jun? My, my, are my senses failing this old man?” The wrinkled old Chronicler rose up to his feet, fumbling about for his cane as he stared at the door. “You… Look different, child!” He squinted beadily to take her in. “Hair… Dyed your hair, did you? You look a little taller, too, my little Jun. Come’ere, girl!” He beckoned her forward with her free hand, and after a hesitant moment, the young Practitioner embraced her adoptive grandfather tearfully. The Anamalian chattered, displeased that his leash had been wrapped up in the two embracing relatives, and circled them, trying to get free.
“A-Ah… I missed you… I missed the village… I missed everyone… I hate this, I should have said no…” She was having a hard time not crying. “The guards… They looked at me like I was some sort of monster, I hate this…” A fragile sop was muffled against his robes and the girl sank a little. “It’s too much… Even the people I’ve found who were nice to me, it doesn’t matter… I can’t forgive myself, it’s hard…”
Deoradhán blinked his hazy eyes a few times in surprise, trying to recall the last time he saw such emotion in the girl. “My… My, what is this? Dear girl, get a hold of yourself…” He gives her a few reassuring pats on the back, careful about her other mouth. “Maere Eschaton, do you know what I see? I see a young woman who’s persevered and learned from her mistakes… I’m amazed, dear Jun, that you’ve remained conscious of yourself. It does this old man proud to know I raised such a tenacious child!” He tried not to look down at the thing circling them.
She listened to his words of encouragement, face buried against him. He was right, she knew, but her mind was such a whirlwind of emotions from her emergence from the Abyss that it was hard to keep herself in check. “I… But… Ah… Uh…” Something else was also on her mind. “… Osu, uh… How is Osu doing…? Is he married and happy now…?” She wanted him to be happy, there was a time where Osu and her grandpa were near everything to her.
“Mmm, Osu? Married? Ohohoho… No, dear. I’ll have you know he stops by once a week to have tea. He misses your, dearly, dear. I believe he even still has your old toy ring hanging around!” He blinked in surprise as she almost jerked out of his grasp, but held her steady. “Rest, dear, rest… You’ve been through a lot, why don’t we sit down and talk over something to drink? I’m sure you’ve quiet a story to tell.”
The girl took a few deep breaths to calm herself, then extracts herself her grandfather, an embarrassed look on her face. “A-Ah, yeah… Okay… Sorry.” The chair she had always sat in when she was younger, the old thing was still there! Relieved, the she slumped down into it. “I do… Have a lot to tell, yeah.”
The old man turned and shuffled off towards the shelves to find a tea of some sort to boil. “And, is that Rigan, or…?” Bird had been sort of disoriented from the travel through the Abyss—birds do not like it at all. He flutters his wings, trying to shake off the soot and brimstone. “And I see you’ve… A little friend there.”
“This…? No, this is Bird, uh…” An explanation, she needed an explanation. “He… Sort of vanished, this is a new crow.” Bird cawed a bit and fluttered his wings against her hair. “I’m not sure… And this is… Doomy. I can tell you about him too, I guess…”
“Ah, then… The Black Crow has indeed returned. The winds whispered such things a while back, I thought it a bit suspicious… How about we start there while the tea boils? What happened?” He settled back down into his chair, resting his hands on the arms.
A few moments of contemplation, then she nodded her head. “Well, I’ll start from the beginning… It all started with a weird dream…” And she began to recount her tale to the Chronicler.
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