DESTINY ARRIVES Special thanks to Whoami, Silver Carrot, and Templar Knight for collaborative work.
The night's biting chills had begun to set in. The cold always brought with it the most beautiful, star-speckled skies. There was a time long past when Adrianna was enamored with the night sky, but no longer. The new moon bore no light upon the world, leaving only the guiding light of the campfire to show her the way. 'Be weary!' came the urgent voice.
Adrianna jolted, unprepared for Kassandra's whispy tones, 'Do not startle me like that!'
'Forgive me child.'
Adi grimmaced at the mention; she hated being belittled in such a fashion, especially by someone who lacked a physical form which she could hit back. It was no doubt a peculiar sight, a woman in a commoner's robes and a warrior's staff standing alone in the dim flicker of firelight having a silent argument seemingly with only herself. The notion went completely beyond her until something by the fire, someone of the many around it, startled her out of her embarassing performance.
Fay, ironically, was startled by Adrianna's outburst, and turned to see that they had another visitor. From the way they talked to themselves, they too must be a Legionairre's chosen. Fay noticed that she was a common-looking woman, and sick of the coversation of warriors and former nobles, stood up to greet their visitor, and approached Adrianna. 'Be extremely cautious!' Quoris hollered inside Fay's head. 'This woman has been chosen by Kassandra Malistare! I don't know what she could have in common with such a twisted individual, but I pray it is not her bloodlust, or excessive fixation on their own vices and desires over the will of the Legionaiire!'
"Hello! Please, come by the fire and warm yourself!" Fay offered the stranger with a concerned yet friendly expression, ignoring Quoris' advice for the time being in favour of courtesy. "It is late and you must be chilled to the bones! My name is Fayvre. May I ask yours?"
Gwynne's attention was focused on her wound. She was glad that proper aid was given to it, but the pain was still there for her. She let out a quiet sigh, knowing she'd have to let Topesh do much of the heavy lifting when it came to commanding the orb. She wasn't very fond of giving Topesh too much freedom with the orb, and preferred to command it directly. But with the limited motion she had with her arm, she acknowledged that it was the best choice. The orb continued to float around the camp site, as if allowing Topesh to size up the party of chosen. The light emanating from the crystal would either glow brighter or dimmer depending on the chosen. Gwynne preferred to keep it a secret that the glowing had to do with Topesh's impressions of the individuals.
Gwynne was the first to hear Adi coming. She caught Fay's movement out of the corner of her, and followed the other woman's gaze to see what the interest was. The orb floated over to Adi, "Hm~ Another weary traveller. Certainly, it is no coincidence that you have come here. Do tell us your name, girl. That one over there is Gwynne. Though Apostate is a more fitting name." The orb shone a beam of light directly on Gwynne, causing her to raise her hand and shield her eyes from it.
"Give the girl some space, Topesh... And I hate being called Apostate. Why must you keep reminding me?" Gwynne sneered at the orb.
"Simply because it is what you are~ Pigs never chose their ungraceful name as a species. So why must you choose what you call your place in this world?" Topesh let out a chuckle, which caused the orb to pulse in timing with him.
"Indeed; for certain I did not dress for weather such as this." Adi mused, "I am Adrianna Corvello-"
A floating orb whizzing into her face derailed her thoughts. She leveled a confused and judgemental look at the glowing ball, though it disappeared before her coiled hand could distance it from her personal space.
'Yes I know who you are," her gaze hastily turning to Gwynne, "anyone who's lived in the Imperium knows who you are. Had our paths crossed a year ago I ... lets just say 'twould be less friendly a relationship."
That wasn't the right way to start that conversation. She should have known better than that. "I apologize, I was too ... callous."
Her choice of words tonight was lacking the grace she was so vigorously taught. Nonetheless she felt compelled to correct the speaking orb. "Your place in this world is what you make it, Gwynne Lancet. The world is nothing if not a cruel mistress which rips from you anything it can without mercy or hesitation. Never be ashamed of who you are; never let anyone take your future from you," a strange amalgamation of prideful determination and its mirrored shame penetrated Adi's voice, "what has been given to us is the power to right the wrongs we have suffered, carve out our place in the world and finally have that which has been denied to us."
A new, domineering presence stole away the attention of all those attendance. The barely-living fire roared to new life without provocation, a deep, throaty growl emanating from the flames. "At last ..." the guttural, inhuman voice boomed from the burning centerpiece of the gathering of chosen, "I have not seen a gathering of power like this in five centuries."
The conflagration pulsed on every syllable, as if drawing breath as a human would. A more fearful variation of the same confused look that Topesh garnered spread across Adrianna's face, now staring towards the speaking bonfire. One hand slid towards her knives as if somehow that would harm whatever supernatural power had taken hold of the blaze. "Who are you?" she demanded, clutching the short blade.
"I am the God of war Aktorr Xurtas. My brothers and sisters and I once beleived in the power of your predecessors. It was to our great dissapointment that in their defeat they cheated death for their own ends. Despite their ultimate failure they were once considered heroes in my realm."
"And what changed? Adi's studies in diplomacy made the conclusion inevitable, though the correctness of her assertion apparently was irrelevant.
"Silence mortal!" the campfire erupted into a towering column of flame from the God's displeasure, "My brothers and sisters have since turned their backs upon the legends of the great Legion of Shadows that once razed Avalon. Even in my adoration I grew impatient with thier discordance. Perhaps you, their mortal chosen, will wield our gifts to the world with greater coherence."
"What would you have us do?"
"You are an audacious one it seems. Perhaps in time I will come to admire that when my patience is not being tried," Aktorr scorned, "This world is one of hypocracy. Its leaders claim many a thing will lead them to salvation but only mediocrity and toil come in lieu. Man is led away from us, taught that my brothers and sisters are the root of all evil. Evil is a construct unique to mankind. Show them the error of their ways. Rid the world of its heretical leadership and bring this world together under a single banner, our banner."
The elder diety allowed his words to permeate the minds of the mortals. Most seemed dazed and intimidated by his presence, as he felt they should.
Dorian looked on at the spectacle in somewhat stunned silence. He'd never seen much magic in action, and had never actually been much of a religious man, and this was the first "God" he had ever seen in action. Vardun chimed in within Dorian's mind.
"One of our benefactors, a God from Below. I sincerely hope I don't need to tell you not to piss him off. Ask him what you will, I have what I sought from him and his kin long ago when first we struck our bargain with them."
Dorian steeled himself before daring to ask a question, the War God was more ferocious though no less imposing than Vardun despite being merely a fire. All the same, he felt he may as well as a God something while they had its attention. Even so, his uncertainty spilled into his question.
"Is there . . . any advice or boon you can grant us? I mean, I wager most of us wouldn't know where to start in terms of bringing down empires . . . Or more simply, what would you have us do to not repeat the mistakes of our . . . predecessors?"
"I appreciate your agreeableness, mortal, though you will find it is not a trait well suited for the battlefield. In time your power shall grow to contest even the great armies of the Imperium without difficulty, provided you survive that long. Your predecessors may struggle to maintain their focus, as they did centuries before. Do not lose sight of your goals whatever they may be, and do not turn your backs upon each other ... or you too shall arrive in our realm as failures," the bassy tones of the God's voice warned intimidatingly.
"For now you all must all rest while you have the opportunity. The forces of this world will not give you many such. As they grow aware of the return of your predecessors they will pursue you without relent. Men are already on the march here. Enjoy this calm while you have it. On your journey you will have my blessings, but this time that is all you will receive."
As spontaneously as he appeared, the campfire returned to its normal, docile state signalling the departure of the God. For every question now answered, there existed at least twice that still without.
'What did he mean by 'this time that is all you will receive' Kassandra?'
'A story for another time, Adrianna. For now Aktorr is right. We must rest, for we do not know when danger will inevitably find us.'
The battalion had made camp for the night, but the battalion commander did not sleep. He stood a silent vigil over his troops in their slumber, the hot embers of fires speckling the encampment. The caw of a raven drew his attention. Its obsidian feathers invisible in the moonless night, the spectre descended gracefuly onto a pedestal, revealing itself in the lantern light of the commander's tent. The officer removed the message the bird carried from his detached cavalry group.
We have made camp early in the day and are a meager distance from the Ruined City. We intend to break camp well before first light and ride swiftly towards our destination. We should arrive shortly after dawn. If the incarnates have made camp as you have suspected, we will catch them unprepared with our arrival. We expect moderate resistance, though I have confidence in my soldiers and your intelligence that our targets are both unprepared and untrained. Our numbers will ensure a relatively decisive victory. We will report back when we have captured the incarnates and are en route towards your encampment. Please extend my thanks to Inquisitor Valdi for his assistance in this matter.
~ Captain Riquer
The commander smiled, and turned back towards his tent with its multitude of maps and model tables.