Spirits and Demons - Tarina

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Spirits and Demons - Tarina

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Disclaimer: Some posts in this journal deal with topics some readers might find uncomfortable. While I do my best to keep everything within a PG-13 lens and so descriptions are left generally vague, there may be occasional implications of gore or sexual themes. Reader discretion is advised.


The eye opened. It pulled at Tarina's skin, wider and wider and wider. She dragged her fingers down her face, searching for a hold, something to grab, some way to stop it. Some way to close it. "Please!" she cried, "Stop! Close! Stop!" It didn't answer, it didn't care. There was a hiss on her shoulder, like a laugh, but when she looked there was nothing. Just red. She screamed for help and threw her arms out, but there wasn't anything to reach for. There were supposed to be spirits, voices. She could always hear, she could always see. She was Whisper, the Spirit Talker, Shaman. She perceived things that no one else could. But now there was just red.

You wanted the truth, said a voice in her mind. Now you have it.

And then she woke up. She pulled herself free of the tangle of bed sheets that coiled around her and sat up. It was dark with night, but at least it wasn't red. A candle burned dim atop the table in the center of the room, the only illumination at this hour. There was little wax left and Tarina could bare see the flame over the bronze of the rim. The dawn would come soon, but Lathander still slept and hadn't yet blessed the earth with His light.

Tarina rubbed at her eyes. They stung fierce, and her cheeks were damp with tears. She had not been able to cleanse their itch since the shadow spirit at Soubar had jumped into her sight. It was not the first evil spirit to cling to her, but none before had been able to touch Lavern, the spirit by who's gifts Tarina was able to see into the world's soul. There was only red and pain when she tried to see now with that mystical eye. Had the shadow blinded her? She pulled herself tight at the thought.

Knock, knock.

Tarina turned her eyes to the door as the two thumps broke the quiet. Her legs ached, they had still slept even as her mind woke. She'd no desire to stand, but even less to throw a raised voice across the room. She freed herself from her sheets and walked to the door, picking up her candle along the way.

"Hello?" she said as she slipped the door open a creek. There was another light on the other side, and a shadowed face. The woman was familiar--one of the kitchen servants, Tarina thought. Her eyes were clouded, she seemed as recently taken from Shar's embrace as Tarina was.

"Are you alright, dear?" the woman asked. "There was screams, I heard."

Tarina cursed her body. "Just a bad dream," she said, and offered a reassuring smile. She needed not say that bad dreams were more serious an affair for her than they were for most people. If she was blinded, they had never known to see at all.

The woman nodded and spoke some further words of comfort, and then turned back down the hall. She told Tarina to come down to the kitchen if she needed anything, as it was near enough morning for her to begin preparing the inn's meals for the day. Tarina wished her well and closed the door. She cursed herself again. She'd no wish to rob others of their rest; she got little enough herself to not wish it upon others.

Tarina laid back down on the edge of her bed. She snuffed out her candlelight and whispered a prayer for sleep to Shar. Though the shadow that now infected her was one born from the Lady of Loss, Tarina had no hatred for the goddess of night. She knew how it felt to be spurned and misunderstood. Over the past weeks every attempt she had made to help anyone saw her spat on. Even after Sir Eldarian had died and they had all mourned together, they dismissed her when she asked to help. When she asked for help. They had known the truth, all of them. The temple and its priests, Ameris, Telia too it seemed. They knew and still left her to search alone. If they had just told her, she never would have had to have gone to Soubar. Every time she came back, blooded and cursed, they derided her. Every answer she found, they seemed to already know. Eldarian had said the light must be shown on the darkness, so that it could be seen as it was and defeated, and yet him and his church and his friends all favored secrets instead of truth.

Tarina reached up to touch the center of her forehead, then down to her eyes. Their secrets may now have cost her her magic, the only thing that made her anything more than a poor peasant girl. How could she find Hearth now, or Father? Would her spells even still work? Their spirits were bound to her talismans, but would they still listen to her calls if they knew she were blind? Lavern was still there--the pain was hers--but she was dying. The shadow was killing her.

Tarina closed her eyes as she rested her head back on the pillow and whispered a silent plea to the Dark Goddess.
Last edited by Rhifox on Sun Apr 25, 2021 12:16 am, edited 5 times in total.
Tarina — Witch, Apothecary, Dealer in Spirits and Black Magic
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Re: Spirits and Demons - Tarina Mazir

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Tarina screamed from the inferno. She thrashed her arms, slapping the ground, and clawed at her hair. She was fire, and she burned. She ran as fast as her legs could carry her, down the street and out the gates. There was the cliff, there ahead! She'd toss herself from it, plummet to the ocean and relief from the fire. But her body betrayed her, twisting and throwing itself to the side just before she could push herself over the mountainside. Cobblestones caught her, not water, and then her breath was gone and her ears cried.

No, came a voice, several voices. They repeated that one word, again and again, as their bodies stepped out of the smoke and pulled her to her feat. Their touch was slick and wet, and what passed for their faces was a mass of boiling flesh dripping from charred skulls. She kicked at these burned men and cried for them to let her go. No, they said again, but this time it came with a sudden numbing of her limbs and the sweet relief from the fire.

"Please, Hearth, please," Tarina pleaded once her thoughts could find words beyond pain. It was him, she could see him. Channeling the orphan girl Amanda's spirit guide had let her see again, though with none of the clarity or brightness she had once had. The molten faces of the burned men were smudged across her vision, like a painter had spread his colors with too broad a brush. But Hearth didn't care about her sight today. He was angry. Maybe he would burn out her eyes and leave her blind again.

His burned men said nothing as they dragged her back into the keep. They passed between the twin candle towers that held up the portcullis, and Tarina watched as the flames blew once they had reached the inner courtyard. Candlekeep's wards allowed no fire here. Hearth had exerted a lot of his energy to burn her despite them. He was angry.

You curse us, one of the burned men said.

You bring in shadows and demons, said another. Foul things.

Stupid girl.

Tarina tried to explain. Seeker Keenan was wasting away from the curse of the magic book she had found. Their only leads were dead, killed by bandits. But on his body were tattoos, and his friend's spirit called them marks of devilry. Who else could know such things but another fiend? And Malrakus had known. The marks were the sign of the Harkener. He had given her a name. Seeker Keenan was smart, she could find answers in names, follow paths in books until they knew what they needed.

But Hearth didn't care. She is not us, said his burned men. She is not the fire. You have let her sickness live and now it spreads its foulness to you. The other burned men shouted a chorus of Demons! and Shadows!

Tarina said it wasn't Alexandra's fault. It wasn't. The demons and shadows were things Tarina had brought, long before the Seeker's curse. But the burned men did not answer. They carried her into a broken shack and threw her onto a table. The force should have hurt, but she could feel nothing from the impact. Numbness still blessed her.

You bring foulness into you, Hearth continued. You open to spirits that would kill us. You let them skulk about you, caging you in their pits of foulness and corruption, until you are not you and we are not we.

Tarina was a medium. More than just a seer of spirits, she opened her mind and invited them inside her. It was dangerous, Hearth was right. The rat spirit had nearly dragged her off to realms beyond with it, and Tarina had nearly poisoned Amanda's mind when one of her own riders had tried to use their connection to pull an invasive spirit into the little girl. It was only thanks to Amanda's guide that it had failed.

And then there was Malrakus. She had been alone, with weak magic, in a nation gone mad with civil war. She could speak with spirits, but she couldn't defend herself with that. Not against wizards, certainly. Amn's secret wizards had tried to arrest her for the crime of having magic without their approval, and they'd have locked her in Spellhold for their experiments if Malrakus hadn't taught her how to empower herself with life's blood. She was where she was today because of him.

But he was a demon, and demons are evil. He'd near let her bleed out when she had called him yesterday. That was what had angered Hearth.

Tarina looked up at them. They had stepped away from her and were talking among themselves. A few turned looks her way. Glares, she thought, but even were her vision clear she could probably not see any expressions on their melted faces. She knew it was glares, though. Hearth was always angry. He was fire, and fire always wanted to burn. Tarina did not listen to him as often as she should; this was not the first time he had burned her. How many times would it take before he simply abandoned her? Or worse, let her leap off that cliff? It was not a fall she could have survived.

"I'm sorry," she said. There was no answer. After a moment, though, one of the men moved towards her, away from the others. He stopped at the edge of the table she was laying on and stared down at her. This one still had some hair, or maybe it was a helmet. It fell down both sides of his head, heavy, framing his face. He said something down to her, but she couldn't hear it as clearly as before. She called his name, but his reply was again muffled. Why couldn't she hear him anymore? It was so clear before.

"Hearth?" she asked again. The burned man said nothing this time. Instead he raised his hand and struck her.

When the sting had gone and she had opened her eyes again, Tarina saw not burned men, but Candlekeep staff standing around her. The one that had hit her slapped her lightly a few more times, interchanging between each cheek. "Hey, wake up. Wake up. Acolyte. Hey. Tarina. Hey. Can you hear me?"

It wasn't a table she had been thrown on, but a bed, and this wasn't a burnt-out shack, it was the infirmary. The Candlekeepers told her that she had ran out the gates screaming, stopping just before she had run off the cliff. She had been unresponsive to the guards that had ran out to help her, so they carried her back inside. And she had been talking to herself the entire while, sounding right mad.
Tarina — Witch, Apothecary, Dealer in Spirits and Black Magic
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Re: Spirits and Demons - Tarina Mazir

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The rain droplet snaked its way down the windows of the acolyte quarters. It had begun a tiny thing, no larger than the nail of Tarina's small finger, but as it traveled it gorged itself on its kin. It could never be satiated, this droplet. For every brother or sister it devoured, it wanted more. Faster, and faster, down and down. It was unstoppable.

And then it was over. It reached the end of the glass and struck the windowsill, spilling its watery innards across the wood. What remained of it was washed away in the flood of rainwater that never stopped pouring down from the heavens.

Thief.

Tarina slapped the window, shaking the remaining droplets. A few lost their footing and began to tumble down like the first.

Outside the window was the great library of Candlekeep, its blue-stoned pillars reaching up into the sky. Every floor carried wall upon wall of bookcases, filled with every story the world had ever told. Every man, woman, and child in the keep would die to see them protected and preserved. Even Oghma himself watched over them, this greatest repository of His work on Toril.

Tarina would sometimes explore the library. Not in the way of the Readers, no. Even if she had a key, words alone were dull. She read sometimes, yes she did. She'd come to the keep illiterate, but after half a year of study she had finally escaped that shame. But she would never be like Alexandra or the Guide. Theirs was a world in the pages, in ink and quill. Tarina's world was in spirits and dreams. She reached into the souls of the books, touched the mind of the author, and saw what he had poured into its pages. She'd seen the lands of the Sea of Fallen Stars, watched the plummet of the sky cities of Netheril, intruded on the intimacy of lovers entwined. There were memories in those books, and Tarina could witness them with more intensity than any Reader of Candlekeep.

That was easy, and it didn't hurt no one. It was just a little peek. She did it sometimes with people, too. When people dreamed, she watched sometimes. They were like the books, pages open to her as they slept. She'd swing sword at faceless men beside Watcher Marshall as he fought neverending for purpose. It was a war he could never win, every night a defeat that left him skewered and his ideals splattered across the ground. She'd join Seeker Keenan dancing beneath the stars with Sir Eldarian, and felt the warmth in their embrace as she snuck with them into places hidden. In spite of everything she had said, the Seeker still yearned for him.

They never knew she was there, watching from the window. No, they weren't hers. But she didn't hurt them. She didn't steal them. She just changed them, sometimes. She hated watching Keenan's. Tarina would sometimes twist the Seeker's dreams, turn them dark and force her awake, just to spite her. But that didn't hurt her. They was just dreams. They didn't hurt nobody.

Look how she protests, voices cackled in her mind.

Terrified of your own nature.

“No,” Tarina said. Her denial was barely loud enough to even be a whisper. She had to be quiet, lest the other sleeping acolytes hear her. No one understood that she could hear things they couldn't. Even mages thought she was crazy. Amn had tried to lock her in Spellhold for it, once, back in Murann. Their Cowled Wizards had called her fascinating, like they had discovered a new breed of animal. Tarina had been one of thousands of Tethyrian refugees fleeing that wartorn country. Her prospects had been good though, unlike many of them. She was a mage, and while that was a terrible thing to be in Amn, they loved control more than they hated magic. The choice between serving for the glory of Amn or being hanged as an illegal street mage had been an easy one.

It was easy to slip into the memory, to look out through eyes two years younger. More than just a quiet thought at the back of her mind, she was there, in the Harbor Guardhouse at the end of South Coral Street. Sweat peppered her brow. She dragged her fingers across her forehead and flicked the water away. It was middle of highsun, a little under a tenday since the midsummer celebrations. Tarina didn't mind the heat so much, but the smell. A mass of bodies sweltered in the cells, looking almost like some monstrous sea creature with all the glistening limbs hanging out between the bars. She was glad that she wasn't one of them. Half of the prisoners were refugees, like her, caught stealing a wheel of cheese or cutting someone's purse. They'd be let go if they could pay the fines, though Tarina doubted how many of them had the tarans for it. The ones who couldn't pay risked slavery. Truly told, that was probably a better life than they were getting now.

A few of the prisoners were mages. She'd just helped catch one. He'd been selling books at the market, nothing magical about him. But Tarina could see things other people couldn't, and he had magic etched on his soul. That was what she did, she sniffed out unlicensed street mages for the guards. It didn't pay terribly much, but it protected her from being thrown into a cell herself.

This mage had been different from the others. His spirit was murky. He wore a great hood, beneath it was only a pool of black where his face should be. The guards had thought her mad when she had pointed them to the hooded man that wasn't wearing a hood. They arrested him anyway, and took him to the guardhouse. He'd watched her the whole way there. Why do you keep looking at me, she'd asked him, but he didn't answer. Most of the mages they had caught were terrified, they refused to be mages, or said they weren't powerful enough to be no trouble. This one was sure of himself, and that worried her.

He apparently had a reason to be. When they'd arrived at the guardhouse, he gave the name for a contact. It was a Mondinir, one of the merchant houses. Lots of people said they had friends, but this mage actually had one. A Mondinir emissary stopped by that afternoon, and he was furious. He threw obscenities at Tarina, calling her things too crass for public discourse. This man's not a mage, he'd said, your harlot's playing you all for fools. Tarina knew he was lying, his spirit said so. His friend really was a mage and he knew it. She tried to tell them, but they didn't believe her. They started asking how many times she had tricked them before. But she hadn't! They'd seen the spells, lots of the mages they'd caught had tried to fight the guards. But now this lying merchant man was telling them she was a charlatan and they believed him.

“She's fascinating, isn't she?” said the hooded man.

They worked out a deal. Well, the guards and the merchant man and the hooded man did. Tarina didn't. The merchant man said the Mondinirs wouldn't expose the Harbor Guard for the embarrassment, but they wanted Tarina to come with them. They'd said they just wanted to talk to her, but she knew they was lying. She said she wouldn't go. The guards said she had to, threatened to lock her up and revoke her license if she didn't. So she did.

They took merchant man's horse-cart back to their manor. It was a rich place, with two sharp stone towers and a golden spiral stairwell. They went to the study on the second floor, and that's when the hooded man said he was a Cowled Wizard. She'd heard about them. Some common folk thought they was council mages, but the hooded man didn't have no license.

The hooded man didn't say anything else to her for awhile. He just started whispering with the merchant man. They was talking about her, she knew by the way they kept looking at her. She wanted to leave. She really wanted to leave. They'd locked the door when they had entered, and there were guards outside, but there were two windows in the room, glass with a thin wooden frame. She could jump out, run away. It was the second floor, she'd sure break something, but it wasn't no safer here.

“What is your name, girl?” the hooded man said. It came suddenly, as if he just remembered she was still there.

“I'm Tarina, sir.”

“Tethyrian?” he asked.

“Yes, sir.”

“How did you know I was a wizard?”

“There was magic on your spirit.”

More whispers.

“The Harbor Guard said you claim to see things, that you talk to yourself.”

“I talk to the spirits, sir.”

“And what do the spirits tell you?”

“Lots of things.” Tarina pointed at the merchant man. “They told me you was lying, to the guards.”

The merchant man spread his arms and smiled. “Sold,” he admitted. He wore a red and gold-embroidered tunic, with a thin leather belt tied beneath his thick belly. A dagger hung from it.

“I were just doing my job,” Tarina said. “They-- I-I was told to, to lead them to, to illegals. You were an illegal you were. You're not registered.”

The hooded man chuckled. “The Cowled Wizards do not need to register, girl.”

“Every mage has gotta register. That's the law.”

The hooded man smiled and then ignored her again, whispering to the merchant man. Tarina focused on them, trying to listen. She begged the spirits to help her, and the room stilled as they answered. They carried their words to her ears, clear as if she had been standing next to them.

“... possessed, clearly...”

“... won't be missed. Refugee, no family...”

“... Jashem's sailing for Spellhold within the tenday...”

Spellhold! That was the prison that local folk said they sent bad mages to. No one ever came back from there. Why were they sending her there? She'd done what she was supposed to! She was the good mage, the hooded man was the illegal one! He should be sent there! She had to get away. She looked to the window. She could do it. She could run, dive out the window. But no, no, don't be stupid. They'll take you outside, you have to go the harbor. Once you're outside, run. But then what? The Mondinirs had money, they'd find her. The guards listened to them. What if they revoked her license? She'd be an illegal, they'd hunt her too.

Someone grabbed her shoulder. Tarina ripped herself away and screamed. So much for staying calm.

“I'm not going with you!”

“Relax,” said the hooded man. “You will be well taken care of. Don't you want to get off the streets?”

No, no she wanted to get out of here, away from these men. She grabbed a chair and dashed to the window, but before she could smash it large red arms wrapped around her back. She tried to keep her grip on the chair, hit him with it maybe, but the merchant man tore it from her. She grabbed for his dagger instead, and before either of them knew what was happening she had buried it hilt-deep into his neck. Tarina's back suddenly felt really warm. The merchant man let her go and reached for his neck to try and keep the blood in. Tarina looked for the hooded man. But he was … gone? The room was empty.

He's still here, came a voice in her head. Run.

She threw the chair out the window and leaped after it. There was a brief start of pain at her arm as she passed the shattered threshold of the window, but it was forgotten a moment later once her feet hit the street and bone shot out the side of her calf. There was nothing else in that moment. She doubled over on the ground and screamed.

You can't stop. Run.

Her leg straightened all of a sudden, pulled out from under her like she were a puppet. Agony tore through her body. She didn't want to run, she didn't care. All she wanted was for the pain to go away. Why hadn't she run sooner? Why hadn't she just left that man alone at the market? She had known he was trouble, she'd known it! She didn't want this! Gods, it hurt! She instinctively reached for the bloody limb, for all the good that would do. What her fingers found, though, was a whole leg. Where was the bone? She had seen bone, hadn't she?

RUN.

The voice had a sudden weight to it. Before she could think, before she could do anything, her body threw itself up and began to run. It wasn't her, that wasn't her. How could she run? The pain was still there, every step a bolt of lightning up her legs. She heard an explosion behind her, but even if she had wanted to look to see what it was her body wasn't listening to her. It kept running, dashing down streets until it had taken her straight out of the city.

In the months following the only stops she had made on her journey across Amn were for supplies. The Trade Way had taken her quickly to Tradesmeet, where she had been able to acquire a bedroll, satchel, and other essentials. But she had never risked staying in the cities for very long. She had become a proper illegal mage; they'd have killed her if they could find her. That news had even followed her as far north as Beregost; only a month ago the guards had warned her that the Cowled Wizards were watching still. But she was with Candlekeep now. Now they couldn't touch her.

Another memory, the spirits said. Is it really yours? Can you know anymore?

She knew. She remembered. They'd tried to take her, and she'd escaped. She would never forget that.

You are a thief of memories. Eldarian will never know what you took. Can you know?

Tarina wished the paladin had never made his offer. He'd told her to take a spirit of joy from him, something to protect her from her darker spirits. She'd told him it was dangerous, that he could lose things. Spirits were spawned from experiences, joy had to come from joy: a happy memory. She told him he'd lose that memory. But he didn't listen. He never listened. They joined spirits and he showed her the memory and she had taken it, just like he told her to, and he had forgotten it, just like she had said he would.

He had given her a memory of an experience they had both shared. Perhaps that was a blessing. What if he had given her a private memory? Would her soul have twisted that memory, turned it into something of her own? How could she know what was really hers? What if all those dreams she'd watched, those memories she'd intruded on, what if little bits of them chipped off and twisted together in her mind until she became a lie? She could see things that no one else could see, and that no one else was supposed to see.

And now Gatewarden Villame had told her to cure this other woman, Diane, of her fear of bugs. And so they met and Tarina had told her the same thing. She'd told her the spirit of that fear could be killed, but it'd kill the memory that built it. Diane was smart. She'd told Tarina no. Eldarian should have told her no. But Diane told her no and Tarina didn't have to rob another person of their memories.

Thief.

Tarina watched another droplet roll down the window.
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Re: Spirits and Demons - Tarina Mazir

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It was dusk in the High Moors. Tarina had made her way over hills of olive and golden grass, out up from the low-lying wetlands and bogs and into the mountains bordering the Serpent Hills. As she ascended higher the foliage grew less dense until she was surrounded only by barren stone and the few hardy shrubs that defiantly grew out from between the cracks in the rock. The air was still tonight, held like baited breath for what was to come. Behind her she could still make out the imposing sight of the ziggurat on the horizon, its stepped black structure reaching up to the sky like a staircase for giants and gods. She had half considered doing her ritual there, but it was occupied already by monsters and servitors of draconic masters, to whom the monolith was likely dedicated. Even the snake temples deeper in the Hills were not appropriate. The yuan-ti would not likely take kindly to her presence, and she could not know for sure if their gods were the same as the one she was to honor tonight.

The witch found her destination in a quiet valley between tors of rock. She had moved far from the lairs of the manticores by now, and knew that she would not be disturbed here. The only life around her, beside the shrubbery, was that which she had brought with her. She climbed up to the top of the outcrop and set a spear and her pack down on the ground. She unpacked a broom, a large waterskin, a collection of candles, a mat, two bowls, a pouch of incense, two closed wicker baskets, a pot containing sand, a pot containing rotten meat, a knife, a figurine carved in the image of a snake, several stones of green and black, and a handful of dried Calim thyme, oleander, and ginyak weed. She would have preferred a selection of herbs from Mulhorand, but importing from Calimshan was already more expensive than she would have liked.

With everything ready, she began to prepare the ritual site. Using her broom and some of the water she brought, she swept and washed the top of the stone. This she repeated on a collection of rocks she'd gathered nearby, which she then proceeded to stack upon each other until she had assembled a small altar. Atop that altar she set out candles, and then the sacrifices. To the far left and the far right, the herbs and gemstones. To the near left and the near right, the pot of sand and the pot of meat. And to the very center, the snake figurine, one of the bowls, and the larger of the two wicker baskets. Before the altar she laid out her spear, the remainder of her candles, the second bowl, into which she poured the incense, and a mat upon which she would kneel. At the left of the mat she set the smaller of the two wicker baskets, and to the right her ritual knife.

It was ready. Dusk turned to night, and then the ceremony began.

She disrobed, setting all of her clothing and her other totems and charms aside, save for one: a necklace made from greenstones and hematite. She then stood before the altar and spoke the first of the incantations, naming the god to call his sight upon her as she cleansed herself before him. She lit the incense and breathed deeply from its smoke, and then she poured the remainder of the water over herself, splashing her face and allowing it to drain down the rest of her body. She had already thoroughly washed before she left civilized places, but this ritual cleansing was still required so that she would be pure before the god. She had not eaten since the previous night, either. To earn the god's attention she would have to be totally exposed, totally clean, totally empty, in order that she be open to the power that he would bring.

The purification finished, Tarina knelt upon the mat and prostrated herself before the altar. She called to the snake figurine atop it. "I beseech you, Set, Typhon, Gilgeam, the Father of Jackals, the Brother of Serpents, the King of Malice, the Outcast of the Gods!"

No local god was Set. An eastern deity from the lands of Mulhorand, Thay, and Unther, the witch had only learned of him recently, when researching alternative routes to blood magic after her original patron had been banished from her. She had discovered, through such writings as the warning of Khuzon Delvind Dachar against subversive Mulhorandi cults, that the snake god was the patron of blood mages, though the Lord of Murder, Bhaal, had been scheming to take the domain away from him. She could have perhaps turned her plea to Bhaal instead of the foreign and distant Set, but Tarina could not stomach the thought of blessing Bhaal with such worship—he had taken the lives of too many she held dear.

"I apologize that I call you you so far from your home, God of the Desert, Lord of Poison, but I beg you, accept these offerings, and hear my plea!"

She picked up first the herbs and stones, placing them into the center bowl, which she set alight. The acidic smell of the ginyak weed and the poisonous scent of the oleander rose into the air, where they were met by the smoke of incense. Then, she opened the two wicker baskets—the one at her left side, and the one at the center of the altar. From the smaller one she removed a small, yellow-feathered chick, which she set into the larger basket. Finally, into the offering bowl she chopped off a lock of her hair and spilled her own blood, slashing open her wrist with her ritual knife.

"I give myself unto you—take my blood, now and tomorrow. Bless me with your power, bless my spellcraft, you that rules over black magic, oh Lord of Carrion."

She opened the pot of rotten meat, joining its foul stench with the rest, and removed from it the wretched carcass of a rooster, which she cut it into 26 pieces. She cast 25 of them into the offering bowl. She then steeled herself and brought to her mouth the 26th piece, the rooster's heart, which oozed with disgusting ichor and coagulated blood. Every instinct in her body demanded she turn it aside, but she forced herself to swallow it. She wretched and dry heaved, then swallowed once, twice, three times, compelling her insides to accept this poison.

This demonstration of her piety complete, Tarina prostrated herself before the altar once again as she awaited the god's answer. The chirping from the chick had quieted by now, leaving only the sound of the wind across the rocky outcroppings. It had picked up since the ritual began, and it threatened to blow out her candles. They remained lit enough for her to see what happened next, however. From the larger basket emerged a snake, its gullet now fat with the meal she had fed it. It dropped itself onto the altar with a plop, and then a second plop when it hit the stone at the base of the altar. Tarina lowered her eyes as it approached her, staying as still as she could despite the war she was waging with her gut.

Pain shot up her arm then as the snake buried its fangs into her wrist. She could feel its venom spread through her veins, and her body trembled, not only with nausea but with fear. Was this a sign of Set's acceptance of her offering, or his anger? Would she die here, atop these hills, or emerge with renewed strength? She pushed those thoughts aside for now. She had to see the ritual through to the end. Choking back her cries as the wound swelled and burned, she returned the snake to its basket, snuffed out the candles and the offering fire, and cleansed her ritual knife. She could feel her heart beat faster, and faster, and faster and then, slower, slower... slower... too slow. The world began to spin, and she passed out.
Tarina — Witch, Apothecary, Dealer in Spirits and Black Magic
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Re: Spirits and Demons - Tarina Mazir

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She didn't want to look at it. She hated that Vox had given it to her. Though the amulet from Nashkel had not yet provoked a reaction when she saw it, when she touched it, Tarina feared that if she peered at it with her spirit sight, it would awaken again the twisted thing from the Cloud Peak ruins that had cursed her. This was a dangerous thing, she knew that now. She had always been a bit reckless with her magic—Abjuration was her prohibited arcane school, even—but she could usually trust in her spirits to protect her from the worst of her mistakes. The good ones, anyway. But this thing, whatever it was, did not respond to her magics (though it did seem to be hurt by her cold iron dagger?). It even killed her spirits, for a brief time. That thought dreaded her above all. It had not been the first time she'd experienced their loss. She'd been inside anti-magic fields that had suppressed them, taking away all feeling and color and dreams from the world. She had given too much of herself to the spirits, and she was not whole without them.

But they did return, thank the gods. But this thing that afflicted her had touched them, too. They were sick. Light or dark alike, when she looked on their forms they were bruised, oozing black pus, crawling with worms made of a thousand yellow eyes, and even the most compassionate spirit seemed taken now of a hostile disposition. She prayed to Talona and Ilmater in some distant hope that they could cure this foulness, but it was not enough. If she could just talk with it! If she could learn what it wanted, she could appease it, maybe. But if she was ever going to do that, she would need to learn more about it, even if that meant opening herself to more of its evil.

She prepared the ritual space. White paint and candles in a circle around herself and her altar, to ward off all things but that which she was to commune with. On the wood altar ahead of her, feathers and stones and branches and shells in the four cardinal directions, bones and soil for death and the earth, and blood and copper for life and the heavens. At the center was the amulet and an offering bowl, and at Tarina's feet a bowl of water. She didn't need all of this to detect spirits, but such unprepared vision was more shallow, less clear, and more dangerous. A ceremony helped focus her sight and keep unwanted things away—and it helped keep her spirit from getting lost if things went badly. Properly done, it also encouraged a spirit to be more open to her.

First, she lit the offering bowl and cast into it flakes of metal and string, sacrificing them to the spirit of the amulet. As the offerings burned, she delicately and thoroughly washed and scrubbed the amulet. This care would hopefully put its spirit at ease and make it more willing to respond favorably to the witch. Finally she spoke, "Spirit of the amulet taken from the cellar of the Belching Dragon inn, wake and show me your dreams." She raised the bowl to her face and breathed its waters in. As her physical body wretched and coughed, her consciousness was projected forth. She sent herself to the amulet, diving into its spirit, seeking to witness the events that had occurred around it through its own 'eyes'.

[ As this plot has ended, readers can now find the full scene under the spoiler tag below. ]
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Vukodlak wrote: Thu Jul 02, 2020 3:21 pmThe spirit of the amulet, as it would turn out, was an unusually strong thing for a simple mundane item. Tarina could tell it was greatly loved by its former owner and carried immense sentimental value, perhaps even crafted by them by hand. Almost unbidden it gave Tarina a rapid-fire glimpse of its time since its creation, dangling from the neck of a pretty human woman. A flashing sequence of visions showed the amulet and its owner sitting around a campfire with others, others the amulet knew were loved ones - friends, companions, family. There was much love, and there were other amulets like it with each one of them. Inside a tent, the woman stroking her thumb along the amulet's rough, curved form. A frequent habit, as it would turn out. Adventures together, going through caves and battling monsters with others of the troupe. As the memories progressed, a palpable mood shift occurred. The amulet's spirit was in pain, terrible pain. A glimpse of a black gem floating in the air. Screaming pierced through the vision like a crossbow bolt, stabbing directly into Tarina's mind as if someone was shrieking directly into her ear. The woman's voice, howling in primal agony and terror. A glimpse of the woman's fingernails bending backwards and ripping off at the roots as she clawed them against something metallic. Sprays of blood before the woman collapsed on top of the amulet, and then there was only darkness.

The night after the vision ceremony and Tarina settled down for another dreamless sleep. She would awaken early in the morning in what seemed like another dream, for when she awoke she was staring at herself through what seemed to be a thick plane of glass. She recognized herself, her room, everything on the other side. On her side was only darkness, but she could tell by her approximate place relative to everything that she was where there was a mirror in her room. She tried pounding on the glass, her impacts making no sound, while her body on the other side continued to stare forward at her. Finally, a small smile formed on her body on the other side. She watched her tongue run its way across her teeth,tapping at the tips of her canines. Darkness pooled in her eyes as the smile spread, like ink dripped into water. She watched her body turn and walk out of her room, leaving her behind. It was only after the body - and whatever was controlling it - departed, that her spirits manifested in the dark all around her. They were there, but did not notice or respond to her. They only stared out through the window along with her, their sadness radiating from their diseased and blackened forms. Many hours passed trapped in this purgatory, until finally she saw her body return to the room. It looked at her once, that same awful smile forming on its face, before it moved out of her field of vision, towards where her bed was. A few moments later, her vision clouded and she abruptly awoke back in the real world and in her body. She would be able to confirm that the period of her vision was indeed time lost in the real world, with most of the day having come and gone without her being in control of her body.
Last edited by Rhifox on Fri Feb 05, 2021 8:11 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Tarina — Witch, Apothecary, Dealer in Spirits and Black Magic
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Re: Spirits and Demons - Tarina Mazir

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Here she stood, among the waves, her arms sore from hours of rowing. She had made her way to one of the many islands off of Ulgoth's Beard. It was little more than a rock jutting out of the water, likely submerged completely during the high tide, and entirely uninhabited except for perhaps the occasional bird that needed a rest. This was enough for her purposes. For what she was to call, land was a distraction, an insult.

She didn't need much for this spell. To cast it required only ten minutes of chanting, no materials, no altar, no offerings, no gestures. Even the place was, likely, irrelevant. But this was a great thing she was calling. What sort of mage would be so arrogant as to demand the attention of outside things with no respect shown to what they sought to question? It was a problem she found common especially in this region, where blasphemy and disrespect towards the gods seemed common. But not Tarina. If she was to call the gods, then she would offer them their due sacrifices.

She set before her a boulder found from the island. Atop it she carved the symbols of that which she wished to call—various stylized forms of sea creatures, and its name, written in some strange language. It looked like the battlement of a castle wall, three merlons spaced almost evenly between each other. The central merlon appeared pierced by a sword, and another by something resembling a key. At the end on the left was a circle, and at the right a cross.

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Atop the stone altar she placed a ceramic bowl in which would contain the entity's essence over the duration of the spell. Around it, she painted with white a triangle, and around herself two layered circles. In the space between the two circles, she wrote the names of gods, to protect her from the entity that would rise to face her. This was a new kind of calling for her, more secure than her primitive attempts at shielding herself in the past, learned from her recent studies into binding spells. She still had little training in abjuration magic, so such protections were far from what they could be, but she was probably safe enough as contact other plane did not call the creature physically to her, and did not normally call for protections to be drawn. But it was better to be safe than sorry—she did not want to get possessed by a second obyrith.

Everything prepared, she stripped herself of all her clothes but one magical necklace (which she needed to have the power to cast the spell) and one protective charm. She knelt in the circle and began the ritual. First of all, the cleansing. She lit incense and cleansed herself with a bucket of water. Then she took a ritual knife and, with it, slit the throat of the lamb she had brought with her. She spoke the long incantations of the spell, contact other plane, naming the entity, directing it into the vessel, and invoking the protection of the gods (Umberlee especially, for this far from land was her domain). She swiped across her forehead with a bloodied hand, marking herself with the sacrifice, which she then gave to the water.

"Oh, Prince of the Depths!" she called out, "I beseech thee for your great knowledge!"

The waters churned. He came.

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[ As this plot has ended, readers can now find the full scene under the spoiler tag below. ]
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Vukodlak wrote: Sat Aug 01, 2020 10:15 am As her summoning chant neared its conclusion, the sacrificial blood and saltwater mixture blackened and began to churn, the polluted sea foam roiling and forming a shallow vortex. Tarina's vision faded as the bridge between realms was completed and she found her psyche cast into the Abyss, where the Prince of the Depths lay in wait.

She felt herself floating as if underwater, though consciously she knew her physical form remained on that small rocky island. The water felt incredibly wrong somehow as well, tainted in some way as if it were infused with a slime that sought to seep in through her skin and infect her flesh. Her body wanted desperately to get away from it, but it was all around her and she was engulfed by it. Despite this, her breathing was not obstructed.

Slowly, the all-encompassing darkness gave way to a shape rapidly approaching her mind's eye. She could do nothing but await its arrival, and with the muted physical sensation of the sludge-like ocean water she was submerged in, she could not tell if she was moving towards it, or it towards her. Regardless, she could soon make out what appeared to be a school of sea creatures - countless millions of them. Drawing closer, she could see them individually as some form of tentacle-like creature. Closer still, upon her arrival, she could tell they were some sort of corrupted lamprey. They seemed to grow agitated at her arrival, their collective swirling together and gradually taking on the shape of a great open maw not unlike the mouth of the lamprey itself. The shape constantly wiggled and churned, owing to the seemingly infinite multitude of the vile beasts that drifted throughout the greater shape to maintain its form.

As the shape came into more definite form, she knew that Dagon was in front of her, embodied in the school. Its presence radiated an incomprehensible and incalculable malevolence, a wrongness that defied and defiled reality in a manner similar to how a powerful acid devours solid matter. Its existence was hostile and corrosive to existence and sanity simultaneously, and her intuition told her that were it not for her experience some days prior of her mind being broken into countless pieces, and instead had been some unified whole, that merely being before such a presence might have proven incredibly dangerous to her sanity. As it were, the lingering dissociation from the prior experience seemed to have provided some buffer against its psychic poison.

Regardless, she felt the entity reach out towards her, though she could not see it do so in any physical sense. She then felt a flare up, a burst from whatever it was trapped within her, a strange experience as previously such eruptions had only taken place while she was unconscious. Now, she was awake for it. She felt the ancient one recoil at the reaction that its probing had provoked, and then a sense of anger radiating from the corrupted lampreys in response. Its voice intoned throughout her being, seemingly coming from the water itself that she was engulfed in, the mouth-like shape that the school of creatures formed never altering its shape in a way that a mouth might while speaking. It seethed with resentment.

".....INVADER....."

There was a lingering pause, the anger subsiding for a moment, Tarina sensing that it was in contemplation.

"....no.... MORTAL...."

The voice came booming in its volume and somewhat difficult to understand, sounding as if someone were speaking while gargling water. It fell silent, allowing Tarina to speak her introduction and first question. She could feel, as she did so, a continuing struggle between the entity within her and Dagon, and she knew she would not be able to hold her concentration for long while the conflict between them raged. How many questions she would get before the ritual ended, she could not know. After her question came its answer, its tone sounding vaguely amused.

"....I know of.... it.... YES...."
Rhifox wrote: Sat Aug 01, 2020 7:33 pm Were she a normal person, this experience would have sent her running. Mortals were not meant to witness these things. But she was a dealer in spirits and demons. She had opened her third eye, and gazed long upon the wonders and horrors of the unfathomable. Her very knowledge of Dagon came from past experiences with such creatures. The glabrezu, Malrakus, had taught her much secrets of the world of demons. Names such as Dagon's, and also Demogorgon, the Prince of Demons, Graz'zt, the Dark Prince, and Abraxas, the Unfathomable. Some of her knowledge in magic had come from communing with them. But she had not before now ever tried to call on the Prince of the Depths.

She did panic a little when the water closed in around her. Instinctively she prepared to cast a Silent water breathing spell, but she found she could already breathe. Still, the fear did not go away. Her spirit guide, Lavern, was the victim of drowning, and though her powers now gave Tarina control over water, it had also given her the memory of her death. And this was more than just water. It was foul, corrupt, a true Abyss.

The mass that was Dagon fell upon her. Creatures of the sea swam and crawled over each other in the thousands and thousands, their shape almost that of flesh instead of individual creatures, and this monster opened its maw to her, and she saw infinity in that maw. For one horrifying moment, she felt as if her soul had been sheered from her body. Her breath did escape her, then, consumed by the Prince, and she felt a terrible weight upon her. In that maw she saw a realm of black horror that swelled in her mind until she knew and remembered nothing else of her life but this moment.

After an eternity of seconds, Tarina tore herself away from it. No! she screamed in her mind. She would not be devoured. Her mind was hers, it was not the property of these demons. She was in command, it was she that had learned this spell, that had cast it. And who else but her could command such power, such courage, as to commune with things such as these? Everyone told her that she was dealing in powers beyond her, things she did not understand, but it was they that were behind, too fearful to explore the furthest boundaries of magic! They were all cowards.

As was the demon that possessed her. She felt it rise up in her, witness the Greatness that was the Prince of the Depths, and it feared. You thought you had me, Tarina thought, but you know not of the skills I have, of the knowledge I possess. She did not need Drego, or Khali, or Edelgarde, or any of them. Weeks she had waited for answers, but all she had gotten from their research was the theft of her father's sword and the lashes upon her back she paid to get it back. She would wait no more. As ever, the only one she could rely on was herself.

"....I know of.... it.... YES...." the Prince said. And He did. Dagon knew all that there was. That is why she knew this was the right step to take. If you wanted to know about an obyrith, ask another obyrith.

"What is its name?" Tarina asked then. "What is it? How do I fight it!" She spat the questions out, one after the other, not knowing how long she could maintain this spell before the thing inside of her corrupted it. She needed these answers, and she would not let it get in the way.

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Vukodlak wrote: Sat Aug 01, 2020 10:40 pm Within the vision, Tarina could sense an unusual vibration within the muddy water accompanied by a low, distant rumbling as one might imagine an underwater earthquake deep within the ocean floor might sound. Despite this, Tarina had the sense that this was the sound of Dagon laughing. Why the dread entity was laughing was beyond her, however. Either way, the sound quickly subsided, replaced with that cold, alien discomfort as Dagon's malevolent gaze continued to bore into her being, each second of continued exposure to his presence seeming to tug at the strings of her very existence. Very acutely, she felt herself suspended beneath the yawning void of oblivion, its hunger acting as a force of gravity, threatening to pull her in and dissolve her mind and soul into utter nothingness.

"....an.... OFFER.... for.... you.... MORTAL...."

"....a.... PACT...."

The words came slow and deliberate, each intonation reverberating through the water with the patience that only an incalculably ancient and immortal being could manifest.

"....I.... will.... answer.... TRUTHFULLY...."

"....in.... exchange.... for.... a.... SMALL.... service...."
Rhifox wrote: Sun Aug 02, 2020 12:03 pm A deal? No, no, no! Had she done the spell wrong? She was owed answers! She gave already more than the spell demanded. She gave an offering, she had prepared a whole ceremony in the Prince's honor. This was a spell for receiving answers, not deals! But could she dare refuse? Would he end the contact if she held him to give her answers? Would he attack her? Would her protections work? Could she risk it? This all would have been for nothing if she angered the demon. But she had to be careful. She couldn't just keep accepting deals with demons. She had to prove that she was in control, not them, else she would always be a slave. She had to trust that the spell would hold the demon to her will.

"I have called on you for answers, not pacts, oh Prince of the Depths. By the names of the gods," which she then named, "I hold you to, to obey me, and heed my spell." Her voiced wavered, a slip in her confidence. This was a demon lord that she sought to command! Was she so brash?
Vukodlak wrote: Sun Aug 02, 2020 1:02 pm The ocean churned once again, the water that engulfed her pulsating with the emanations from the presence that she recognized as Dagon laughing once again, though this time it felt infused with contempt.

"....insignificant.... INSECT...."

"....you.... PRESUME.... to.... bind.... ME?"

There was another flare in anger, similar though far less pronounced than when he had first detected her presence. That anger subsided, the dread intonations of the being continuing on in a steady pace, like the rolling in of the tide against the shore.

"....your.... YOUTH.... reveals.... itself.... MORTAL...."

"....my.... ANSWER.... can.... HELP.... you.... or.... DESTROY.... you...."

The malevolent words washed over her in rhythmic waves, and as Dagon continued to speak, Tarina felt it beginning to gradually amplify its malign, reality-devouring aura. She felt her sense of self, of time and space, even of Dagon's presence and her awareness of the entity within her, begin to dissolve away, devoured by the ancient evil. It brought her to the very brink of what her concentration could tolerate before the vision snapped back into focus very abruptly, an accompanying laugh from Dagon seeming to accentuate the control it held over the situation and its disdain for her posturing.

"....you.... compel.... an.... ANSWER.... but.... not.... TRUTH...."

"....for.... your.... IMPUDENCE.... I.... will.... SAY...."

"....the.... name.... of.... IT.... is.... YEENOGHU...."

The flagrant and obvious lie, she knew, was both deliberate and issued to make the point. Dagon's rolling, rhythmic speech finally broke as the entity fell silent, allowing her a moment's respite to consider the ramifications of what had just transpired. Finally it spoke again, and though its pace and tone did not alter, the words seethed with an undercurrent of implied threat.

"....you.... have.... USED.... one.... QUESTION...."
Rhifox wrote: Mon Aug 03, 2020 6:46 am It was wrong. She was wrong. She shouldn't have challenged him. As great as Dagon already was, he seemed to grow even larger, and she smaller, before his terrible presence. She felt she could count every scale of every fish that made up his body, and she saw a million stars in each of their eyes. She sank into the mass. When she looked out again, she saw a woman staring back at her, dark skinned and dark haired, drowning in the water. Who was she? She was so small. No, not a woman now, a child, and then an infant, and then nothing. There was nothing there. And in that nothingness a great terror rose in her, for she knew that was all there had been before she was and all there would be after she was gone. There had been thousands of thousands of years before her, and there would be millions of millions after. Only the Greatness that was Dagon remained, until he too disappeared, and she was alone.

And then she snapped back into herself, and heard his voice, and it was in that moment the sweetest thing she had ever heard. She smiled and touched herself, her face and her arms, down to her legs and feet, overjoyed that she existed. She laughed a twisted and shaky laugh, part gladness and part terror, and then hugged herself. She pledged never to let go.

"Forgive me, Your Vastness, Oh Prince, Great Dagon. Please tell me what service you would have of me." She barely even remembered about the entity that possessed her. She wanted in that moment only to give Dagon thanks for allowing her to be.
Vukodlak wrote: Mon Aug 03, 2020 10:17 am Dagon seemed, strangely enough, to permit or even encourage this brief revelry in the respite period that he granted. The ocean waters, though they remained infused with the sludge-like pollution of his essence, became strangely soothing in their embrace, like one might imagine a relaxing mud bath to be. This window of relief was quickly closed, however, as the dread entity's voice once more reverberated through the water in response to her question.

"....once.... you.... AWAKEN.... from.... this.... INTRUSION...."

"....gather..... ocean.... WATER.... within.... your.... RITUAL.... bowl...."

"....find.... an.... EGG.... of.... a.... GULL...."

"....place.... the.... EGG.... within.... the.... WATER.... in.... your... BOWL...."

"....after.... one.... HOUR.... cast.... the.... EGG.... into.... the.... OCEAN...."

There was another pause, this one longer than the one before, Dagon apparently signaling both that that was the end of his instructions, and of the task, as well as to give her a moment to consider. Then, the rolling speech continued, the infinite swarm of lampreys seething among themselves within the collective, their tendril-like bodies casting a uniform and corruptly hypnotic swaying pattern not unlike the rhythm of Dagon's speech.

"....vow.... to.... DO.... this.... and.... YOUR.... remaining.... questions.... WILL.... be.... answered.... TRUTHFULLY...."

"....if.... you.... BETRAY.... your.... oath.... AFTER.... I.... have.... FULFILLED.... our.... pact...."

"....then.... know.... DOOM.... is.... coming.... FOR.... your.... home...."
Rhifox wrote: Mon Aug 03, 2020 12:24 pm Just sacrifice a gull egg to the ocean? That was it? She challenged the Prince of the Depths over a gull egg? Idiot.

"I vow that I will do as you ask, Mighty Dagon."
Vukodlak wrote: Mon Aug 03, 2020 1:02 pm A strange sensation came over her as she gave her answer. Her vow carried weight to it that she felt acutely on a deeply spiritual level.

"....the.... PACT.... is.... SEALED...."

The words rolled over her with a sense that the obyrith lord was pleased, and she had an intuition that such a trivial thing should be meaningless to the being... unless there was more to it than seemed apparent. She could sense a great and terrible magic of some sort had just been wrought, infused throughout each word Dagon spoke in response to her consent that bound her to their pact. The dread entity then began the flow of its words once again.

"....within.... you.... LIES.... a.... fragment.... OF.... a.... fragment.... OF.... a fragment...."

"....it.... is.... YOU.... and.... thus.... SHARES.... your.... own.... NAME...."

Dagon then fell silent once again, signaling that he had finished answering her first question.
Rhifox wrote: Mon Aug 03, 2020 1:29 pm She didn't care about the ramifications of the pact. It was just a seagull. She had not been asked to sacrifice a person, or to give up her soul. She knew, at the back of her mind, that it held far more weight despite seeming so simple, but that mattered little compared to protecting her mind from the thing that infested her.

The Prince spoke again. "....within.... you.... LIES.... a.... fragment.... OF.... a.... fragment.... OF.... a fragment...."

That made sense, it was as she thought. Drego had believed it left her, but it never really did. Parts of its essence were inside of her, and the priest, and perhaps Drego himself. It was a spirit, and it operated by the laws of spirits. They did not have to be in just one place. Drego did not understand this.

"....it.... is.... YOU.... and.... thus.... SHARES.... your.... own.... NAME...."

A shadow. Like Lavern. Or was it Lavern? Is this why Lavern asked for her to kill her? Was this the only way to get rid of it? No! She couldn't do that! She had wanted to become less dependent on the spirits, that's why she was learning arcane magic, but she would not give up her power. She'd worked too hard for it. Who would she even be if she did? Without her spirits, would she still be herself? She'd torn apart her soul for them, given each a piece to feed on. Without them she was hollow, dead. She'd seen that at the Santraeger manse in Berdusk, inside their antimagic field. She'd seen it again when the entity took her spirits away.

"What is it?" she asked. "What is it a fragment of?"
Vukodlak wrote: Mon Aug 03, 2020 2:05 pm "....two.... questions.... ASKED.... and.... two.... ANSWERS.... given...."

The dread entity seemed to be cautioning her for some unfathomable reason, though its motives for doing so were of course utterly inscrutable. Regardless, it began to answer her questions in sequence.

"....it.... is.... YOUR.... own.... nightmares.... DIGESTED.... and.... given.... LIFE...."

"....a.... PIECE.... of.... the.... PIECE.... beneath.... the.... RUINS...."

"....ITSELF.... broken.... away.... FROM.... that.... which.... DWELLS.... in.... the.... ABYSS...."

"....ITSELF.... trapped.... here.... DURING.... the.... last.... FLUX...."

"....broken.... AWAY.... from.... the.... NIGHT.... serpent...."
Rhifox wrote: Mon Aug 03, 2020 2:56 pm The Night Serpent! She knew that name! The talk had been that Batibat feared it, and there was black ichor, and the gems! Was it all connected, everything that was happening this year? Surely it couldn't be? But there it was, the Night Serpent. That was why it had a snake eye, and perhaps what she had thought to be worms and tentacles were, in truth, snakes. But a strange coincidence this was, so soon after she had bartered a compact with Set to restore her blood magic. Had this thing truly come from Drego, or the sigil, or was it the spawn of Set's venom in her veins? But why? He had answered her prayers and given her his power, still gave her power, so why now would he curse her? Was the Night Serpent not his?

Whatever. She'd worry about that later. Perhaps Herald would have answers.

"How do I exorcise it from me?"
Vukodlak wrote: Mon Aug 03, 2020 3:30 pm "....to.... BANISH.... it.... you.... HAVE.... two.... paths...."

"....you.... can.... ENDURE.... until.... it.... HAS.... completed.... its.... TASK...."

"....it.... will.... THEN.... leave.... on.... ITS.... own.... to.... ESCAPE.... your.... world...."

"....or.... you.... STARVE.... it.... and.... FORCE.... it.... to.... FLEE...."

"....for.... it.... FEEDS.... on.... your.... EMOTIONS.... like.... a.... LEECH...."

After the last word was intoned and Dagon finished giving his answer, Tarina felt a strong fluctuation in the vision. Though nothing had changed with respects to Dagon himself, his malign presence and aura neither waxing nor waning, she felt her focus and concentration begin to break apart, rapidly slipping through her fingers like sand. She knew that her time with the obyrith lord was very nearly at an end, with enough time for likely only one more question.
Rhifox wrote: Mon Aug 03, 2020 3:52 pm The last question was obvious.

"What is its task?"
Vukodlak wrote: Mon Aug 03, 2020 4:17 pm The ancient monstrosity seemed to relish giving her this answer, savoring the words it spoke as one might enjoy a particularly good bite of meat. Though it gave no change, if it even could, to the audible tone in which the words reverberated through the ocean depths, she could sense the shift as clearly as if she herself were speaking the words.

"....it.... and.... OTHERS.... like.... it.... WITHIN.... other.... mortals...."

She knew, then, that she was not the only one experiencing this phenomenon, nor doing the bidding - consciously or otherwise - of the thing beneath the Nashkel ruins.

"....are.... FEEDING.... the.... hive.... BENEATH.... the.... ruins...."

"....bringing.... IT.... souls... and.... FLESH...."

"....POWER.... so.... that.... IT.... may.... return.... TO... the.... whole.... WITHIN.... the.... Abyss...."

At that, Tarina felt the vision beginning to disintegrate, her sensation of the engulfing sludge and sight of the lamprey swarm that was Dagon fading into the infinite blackness of space as it slipped away. The last thing she felt or heard was the reverberating, malevolent laughter of the obyrith and its voice, now merely a whisper within her mind.

"....a.... GIFT.... for.... you.... INSECT...."

And then her eyes opened, finding herself back on the small rocky island where she had conducted the ritual. Though it felt as though many hours, or even days, had passed within the Abyssal realm of the evil entity, she could tell from the position of the sun in the sky that she had been under the ritual's influence for barely any time. Despite the disorientation as she readjusted to her return to this plane of existence, she soon noticed what it seemed Dagon meant with his parting words. Though she carried the heavy physical exhaustion of an adrenaline crash, likely as a result of the primal terror that came from extended contact with Dagon, she also felt rejuvenated spiritually. She would notice that she could no longer sense the entity's presence within her, although whether it was actually banished or merely suppressed she could not say. Her connection to her spirits was also the strongest it had been in recent memory, and in many ways she was the most herself that she had been since the ordeal began - though how long this "gift" would last, she had no way of knowing.
Rhifox wrote: Tue Aug 04, 2020 3:24 am It was over. Even though she felt she could breathe in the visions, when she opened her real eyes again she had to gasp for breath. The weight that had been pushing on her during the ritual fell away, and she felt lighter than she had in weeks. The undercurrent of sickness she'd felt since the demon had possessed her was gone, too. Had Dagon banished it? Had it fled her? She laughed that morbid laugh again, grateful that she had made it through this experience alive, even better maybe than before. She dropped her head onto the rock, trembling and crying. It was over, and she had answers. It was of the Night Serpent, and it fed from her emotions. A part of her said that she should stop this exultation, if so, but she could not. She had touched a demon lord and lived.

But she still had more work to do. Dagon had taken her to vow to sacrifice the egg of a gull, and before she left these islands she would see that task fulfilled. She performed the closing act of her ritual, releasing the spirit of Dagon from the vessel and putting out the incense. She would have to rededicate it once she had the egg, but while she had such dread things called to her it would have been unwise to exit the protective circle. Once the closure was complete, she cleaned and dressed herself and returned to her rowboat what she was not going to leave here. Then, she began her hunt for the egg. If it was not on this island, then she would row to the next, and the next, until she found one.

Once she had an egg, she returned to the ritual site. She did as Dagon asked and filled the bowl with water, and then began anew her ceremony. She placed the egg into the bowl and called back the great Prince, then she waited. The egg slowly turned dark in the bowl, then black, and when it was time to drop it into the sea, she noted its great weight. What had Dagon done to it? Had he put his spirit to it? Was she creating an anchor for him, as she had done all those times for Malrakus? What consequences would this act wrought, she wondered. She did not hesitate, though, and when the time was right she went to cast the egg into the ocean.
Vukodlak wrote: Tue Aug 04, 2020 10:07 am The egg was easily found, though not in the physical sense. Her body was wracked with exhaustion, and so the rowing of her boat from island to island in search of it was excruciating as it screamed at her mind for rest. She knew better than to keep the Lord of the Depths waiting, and within the hour an egg was indeed within her possession. The ritual itself was a simple thing, though as she consecrated the bowl in Dagon's name she could observe the sea water contained within it turn murky, sloshing about within the bowl in a slow, mucus-like way that reminded her of the sludge she was submerged in during her vision. Over the prescribed hour she could observe the egg's corruption through the haze of the polluted water, the dark spots that naturally dotted the surface of the yellowish eggshell gradually expanding like spilled ink until they engulfed its entirety, the egg turning a deep obsidian.

Once the hour had passed and she removed the egg from the bowl, the touch of the water would confirm for her that it was remarkably similar to the vile Abyssal depths of the vision. She noticed the egg had both hardened significantly and grown considerably more dense than when she had placed it into the bowl. As she stood at the shore, the corrupted egg in her hand and readying to cast it into the ocean as instructed, a terrible thing happened. Awareness pierced through the clouded veil in her mind, for some reason unknown to her. Perhaps it was some subtle hand of an unknown being intervening in the situation, or perhaps it was the interference of her spirits. She would notice their presence far more acutely than before, and know that while any of the good-aligned ones were not begging for her to stop, she could sense their despair at what she was doing. She became aware, somehow, that what she was about to do was an immeasurably and irredeemably evil act. That somehow, someway, what seemed to be a simple action - the tossing of this rock-like egg into the sea - would send ripples cascading through space and time, ultimately culminating in countless deaths.

And yet, she also remembered Dagon's warning, that to violate their pact would bring his doom directly upon her home - though what that meant, be it Candlekeep or even the entire region more broadly, she could only guess. She was stuck between two choices, both of them likely to kill many people. She closed her eyes and could feel the elder evil's departing laughter from the end of her vision rolling through her body, and that is when she came to understand the nature of his "gift". It was not a kindness, but a curse. Dagon had healed her, only so that he may open new wounds. He had restored her connection to her spirits, undone the damage the entity within her had wrought, only so that this moment could be felt with absolute clarity. She felt the weight of the moment as surely as she felt the weight of the egg, the destinies of potentially millions quite literally in her hand, and whatever corner of her soul that still contained some goodness in it crying out in horror at the choice that lay before her. Whether she even cared any more, having gazed into the maw of oblivion so recently, was her decision, as was what to do with the egg.
Rhifox wrote: Tue Aug 04, 2020 11:19 am She hesitated there, at the edge. She wanted to throw it in, needed to throw it in. She would not break her vow to Dagon, that would damn herself and maybe others she cared about. But she couldn't let go. Her arms trembled. From the exhaustion, or from the decision? Why was this so hard?

You have poisoned yourself. You have poisoned us. Now you would poison others. It was Hearth's warning. Ameris and the others had always seen the fire spirit as evil, but its aggression was rooted in its desire for purity, to burn away corruption and become stronger. Its warning was echoed by the Candle in the Dark, and the Bear of Three Days, and the Purple Phoenix. Don't run away from your responsibility, they said. You have chosen an evil path, and it will bring you to hurt others. Come back. You who would bleed yourself for your ill-gotten power before you would bleed another, remember your compassion.

Then chided Reach, You should have waited. The old wolf turned its back to her and left her sight. You were impatient, it said. You rushed, and that has lead you to no good ends, as it never has. Know that you will return and find the same answers you learned tonight uncovered by the Wizard in Red, and you will regret having ever called this fish prince. He already betrays you, arrogant child, foolish child.

No! Do not listen to them! screeched the Rat. If you do not drop it, Dagon will destroy you! You know I am right! You will beg for the curse of the Night Serpent before the Deep One is done with you! Remember what you saw in the water! You will die and be nothing. She heard its skittering laughs, and the caws of its Court of Crows. What pained her most, though, was the quiet voice of the spirit behind her. It stood in the body of her father, and its name was Resolution. You will drop it, because this is what you always were. Kinslayer, murderer, monster.

When all the other voices had said their piece, one more spoke. Do it, Seethe howled. Do it. What it was was irrelevant to the werewolf. It cared not for either choice, only her hesitation angered it. And so it fed its strength to her will, calmed her trembling hands, and demanded she make her choice.

Do it.

She dropped the egg into the water.
Vukodlak wrote: Tue Aug 04, 2020 11:54 am And so her choice came to be. Her finely-tuned spiritual sense could feel the goodness in her own soul withering away as the egg plummeted from her grip, then snuffing out completely as it plunged into the depths of the ocean, rapidly sinking from view in a mirror of her own descent. Strangely enough, she would notice with an almost clinical dispassion, the experience felt... good. Liberating, somehow, as though the last shackles that bound her to something had finally been cast aside. She could dwell on this as much as she liked, for it was a long and torturous row back to Ulgoth's Beard.

Fortunately for her, despite all that had transpired in the short window of a few hours, it seemed a rather pleasant day and the sea was on her side, a gentle breeze helping urge her journey to shore. Despite this, as she continued to row through the gently lolling waves of the sea's current, she could not help but shake a looming sense of malign threat lurking beneath her small boat. She felt the ocean itself watching her, judging her, waiting for the right moment before it reached up to swallow her for her transgressions. Deep, deep below it all, she sensed the lurking maw of Dagon.

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Despite the seemingly imminent threat she felt through her entire return journey, she reached the shore without trouble. Setting foot once more upon dried land, she could not help but think on all that had transpired since she had first ventured forth into the sea in search of answers. In many ways, she felt transformed - more, even, than perhaps all that had transpired over the course of her possession at the hands of the entity within her. The dread touch of the obyrith lord, her dancing along the very rim of madness and dissolution into the void, had altered her perception of the physical world in some strange way. There was a newness to everything, as if experiencing it for the first time. Colors were more vivid, the countless pleasures, the meat and drink of life, were more pronounced. Everything stood in contrast to the dread void, seeming all the brighter for it, but looking back to the ocean as she moved ashore, she could not help but remember its gnawing hunger.
Last edited by Rhifox on Fri Feb 05, 2021 8:11 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Spirits and Demons - Tarina Mazir

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With the revelation of the entity's name and purpose, Tarina finally had some clear avenues to take. At a first, after Edelgarde did a little research on the Night Serpent in Candlekeep's library and found it was combated by the priests of Ubtao, Tarina ventured to the Undercity to converse with the Ubtao priestess Batibat. Batibat revealed that to save her spirit from the Night Serpent, she would need to go into the fugue plane. "Here, if you search, watch, and listen," the halfling said, "you will find the nightmares of those she is preparing to devour, and your own nightmares. Face your nightmares and siphon any others." When asked on how she might do this, though, Batibat had little counsel to give. She was not a Spearbinder, so the proper rituals for combating Dendar were unknown to her.

If she was supposed to find nightmares, Tarina thought, perhaps she could go into the spirit world instead. That was a place she did know.

Later, Tarina arranged a meeting with Sir Rennec of the Auxiliary Order of the Radiant Heart. This was not to talk about the demon (at first, anyway), but instead family matters. She gave to Sir Rennec the signet ring Sir Jonas had given her, and divorced herself from the Rokranon family she had only briefly been a part of. The actions she had done while possessed, and what she had done for Dagon, weighed heavily on her, and she knew she could not live up to the standard expected of a purple phoenix. She was no paladin, nor Radiant. She was evil. If word of what she had done spread, she would disgrace the name. So she had decided she would end that threat before it began and save the house from her own follies.

She had not thought of the ramifications of joining it in the first place. It was easy to say yes, when she lived in Thrynnar's Hold alongside Sir Jonas, Saint Merielle, and their families. All people who she had come to know, and had come to know her, over the three years she had been back in Tethyr. Sir Jonas had helped her banish Malrakus, after he had compelled Tarina through possession to kill her father. In the years after, too, he and the others had helped her recover emotionally (as best as she could, anyway). While some there were difficult to get along with—Sir Jonas's daughter, Doriah, and the elf wizard, Elkor—she still knew them. Her own family was all gone, but it was a new family she had found. Upon returning to Baldur's Gate, though, and finding strangers of the same name, Sir Rennec and Thedran, and a whole order of paladins devoted to the memory of the purple phoenix, Tarina realized just what she had embraced. She was now an ambassador of a family that was not truly her own, and to which she could only be a disappointment. Those in Tethyr knew her problems and could understand her, but strangers never would. They would only see the evil and condemn her. They already had, after the rumors the vile elves of Doron Amar spread about her ruined her chance to make a good first impression.

Sir Rennec was perceptive, though. He understood what motivations lay behind the sacrifice of the ring. He pressed her on her guilt, and she spilled. She was a blood mage, and worse, a murderer. She revealed the possession she suffered under, what it had made her do, and what it was doing in Nashkel and the Cloud Peaks. But Sir Rennec had sympathy. He did not blame her for what she had done at the hands of the Night Serpent. He should have, she thought. Instead, he called on her to acknowledge what she had done and allow the chapterhouse to take her into their protection to keep her from hurting anyone else. She feared being jailed, and she feared especially paladins, but Sir Rennec gave her his word that she would not be harmed, and she knew she could at least trust the word of a paladin, so in her vulnerable state she agreed.

She had never wanted to hurt anyone else with her dealings and her magic. When it had brought her to hurt Jonas, and kill her father, that had devastated her, and now it was making her go down an even darker path, and not all of it involuntary. The answers she had gotten from Dagon, though they had pleased her, soon began to sit ill in her mouth as she realized what she had done for them, and just how true Reach's chastisement had been—the Wizard in Red did indeed reveal the name the next day, without needing to contact an elder being or perform a service for it. Her contact helped verify Khali's findings, at least, and the Prince of the Depths did reveal too things Khali had not discovered (plus, it had forced the entity into hiding), but was the price she paid worth it? The sacrifice of the blackened gull egg to the ocean had not hurt anyone—really, it seemed a rather small price in the moment—but the pit that had grown in her stomach and the warnings of her spirits spoke of a greater darkness to come from it.

With the consultations with Batibat and Sir Rennec done, there was only one thing more she needed to do. The Night Serpent was a snake god, and Tarina had made contract with a snake god only a short time earlier. She needed to know if this was Set's punishment, or if these two serpents were enemies. If they were, perhaps Set would have his own advice to give. Set was not Tarina's patron, so there were limits to what she could ask, but he was the sponsor of her blood magic, and he gave her some tutelage in arcane magic through his Herald, in return for offerings and worship.

So Tarina came to her familiar—truly, not her familiar, but Sets, for he was a Herald of the Lord of Carrion—and offered him a taste of her blood, and spoke to him in the tongue of serpents. "I had thought I upheld my duties. Is Set displeased with me?" she asked the viper, "Is the Night Serpent and its servitors of Set's army, and he has thought to curse me? Else, can the Lord teach me how to repel it?"
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Re: Spirits and Demons - Tarina Mazir

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She had woken on the night of the Winter Solstice, in the Healing House of Lathander in Scornubel. Confused, frightened, she had tried to stand, but found her legs could not support her body, and when she tried to call for help, only a quivering whisper came from her throat. She felt hungry, cold, stretched, her voice echoed in her mind as if it was a vast, empty temple.

The doctors found Tarina there, placed her back on her bed, told her what happened. They said that she had come to them from the Order of the Radiant Heart in Baldur's Gate, that she had been cursed by a spirit of something called Dendar, the Night Serpent. That it had left her comatose for weeks, waking only in short intercessions to spout madness before falling back to the long sleep. The spirit had been defeated, they said, but she had not awoken, so she was sent here, where the servants of the Morninglord could tend to her withering body and broken mind. They told her that her awareness of herself was a good sign, that she was improving, that the dawn had finally come.

The next weeks were spent recovering her lost strength. So much time in bed had left her frail. "You must eat," they said. "Let me help you." Tarina cursed her body for betraying her, for forcing her to need the doctors for help, for exposing her to their invasive questions and accusations. What happened to your arm? Do you want to talk about the scars? These are bad marks, black magic. What did you do? If she had been in a temple of Tyr, she expected they would have thrown her straight from her bed and into a dungeon. In some ways, that might have been easier to endure than the unrelenting optimism of the Morninglord's servants. As they spoke of bright forecasts, daily improvements, she knew the truth: something was missing. Something had changed.

Dark dreams consumed her nights. She saw herself leaping from the top of the church, falling into a neverending black void. She plunged into water, drowning. She saw rats, a sword, the silhouette of a man, and a girl, brown skinned, dark haired, with a third eye in the middle of her forehead. Tarina reached out for her, called her name, Lavern! But when Tarina touched her, she was gone. Tarina tried to find her, she knew she had to find her. "Where are you!" she shouted into the void, and the void shouted back, "Help me! Kill me!" Then a great maw opened, and inside its gullet was a slitted yellow eye. Then she would wake, screaming.

Tarina saw the girl in her dreams before she remembered who she was. But the memories did eventually return. Lavern. Her spirit guide. Tarina had been a mage, she had brokered contracts with spirits in exchange for spells, and Lavern had been the first. Tarina could not recall the details. They had met long ago, bonded in some way, and were together for years. But now, when she called, there was only silence, that empty echo in her mind. "I need to get her back," Tarina pleaded to the doctors. "Please help me." Of course, they promised their help, assured her that she must still be out there somewhere, but Tarina knew there was nothing they could do. Lavern was not a real girl, alive in blood and flesh, somewhere out there in the world for trackers to find, and the Lathanderites' magicks could not call her spirit back. Tarina was alone in her mind.

Lavern was not the only thing missing. Like someone had gone through her mind with an axe, Tarina began to find blank spots in her memories. Of her childhood she remembered little. She was from Tethyr, but she could not describe that country if asked. She could not recall her father's face, but she did remember her mother. She knew she lived in Baldur's Gate, that she was a Reader at the library-fortress of Candlekeep, though not how she had gotten there.

Tarina prayed to the gods that these memories would return, and some did over the weeks of her recovery, but when the time came for her to leave the Healing House and Scornubel, she feared a part of herself was forever lost to that terrible creature.

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Re: Spirits and Demons - Tarina

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Tarina gazed upon the box she had received from Aunrae. It was deceptively decorated, and heavy, wrought from steel and bearing an even greater weight inside. A deep blue velvet fabric lined the surface of the package. It bristled under her fingers as she faintly drew her hand across it. She imagined it was humming with magic, but without the keen sight she once possessed she couldn't tell. It was enchanted, though, that much she knew. It had to preserve the special contents that laid within. Could she open it? Did she dare to?

She had been staring at this box for the last hour. Edegarde's words from a tenday ago continued to echo in her mind. "Please. No. Shortcuts. This time. You are doing well." She didn't need it. She didn't need it. She was finally free of any monsters looking over her shoulder, finally free to own her own powers. All she needed to do was forget this scheme. She could toss it into the river and never have to worry about the temptation again. But she refused to move. Instead, she just held it, her limbs paralyzed. She closed her eyes and wept. Gods, she was an idiot. Why, why did she need it? It wasn't like she was incapable of learning spells the way Edelgarde and Sirion and the others did. She had the books, she could even cast a few spells. She just needed to be patient.

Patient. While the Demon Prince of Undeath is invading with an army of mummies and demons, a hunger devil is kidnapping people to sacrifice in the sewers, and who knows what else might pop up next week.

But that was just an excuse. The real reason was more vain. She was powerless like this. Useless. Nothing.

Set's Herald rose up over her shoulder, hissing in her ear. He is waiting. The snake's alien voice was a slow, quiet one, every word was articulated precisely.

"I can't do this," Tarina said.

The night wanes, the familiar said. Would she throw away this chance? The Equinox was a time of power. Day and night in equal proportion to each other. A crossroads. After tonight, the reign of winter's darkness would end, and light and warmth would overtake the world. It was a time for new beginnings, when the living forces of creation and imagination would wake and push you to new ventures. It was Lathander's time to rule. For a god of darkness such as Set, the Spring Equinox was his final night of strength, before he would slither back into his cave to wait out the light.

Herald's serpentine tongue flicked past Tarina's cheek. You made a contract.

"That was for blood mag—"

The snake snapped his jaws at the air. A thousand hissing whispers erupted around Tarina for a brief second. Set had given more to her than blood, they said. And he demanded more than blood.

Tarina turned her eyes from the box in her hand to look at her spellbook on the altar. It was a plain thing by the standards of many mages, but it was hers. Its contents represented the extent of her efforts to learn spells that did not leave her beholden to any entity other than Mystra, the Lady of Magic, and Azuth, the Lord of Spells. It had taken her three years to fill its pages as she poured over arcane tomes borrowed from Candlekeep. But the sad truth was that even this was entirely on her own. Much of the scraps of arcane spellcraft she knew had come from calling spirits of magic and demonic servitors loyal to lords with such names as Abraxas and Graz'zt. The thought Edelgarde had that Tarina had learned magic by herself was a lie. But it was still hers. She had still learned it on her own.

And now Set meant to take it away.

Herald slithered around her shoulders, almost gently. It promised her that after the ritual, she would have all of that and more. She just had to have faith.

Tarina looked back down at her box. With a trembling hand, she untied the white ribbon that held the lid down and opened it. Inside was a pool of thick, dark blood. It swirled preternaturally around a mass of black flesh at its center: a drow heart. Specifically, the heart of a drow mage. Tarina tried to quiet her discomfort at having played a part in his murder. She had been unwilling to do the deed herself, so she hired Aunrae to acquire one for her. It was, supposedly, the heart of an evil, "feral" drow—whatever that meant—but she still regretted the necessity.

Place it upon the altar.

Atop the altar was laid a small black cloth, along with a snake figurine, two small braziers, and sets of offerings to its left and right, composed of dry desert herbs, gemstones of green and black, and coin. At the center was a bowl, where the heart would reside. She had prepared it all for tonight, when the sun had passed below the earth and all light had faded from the sky. The darkest hour. Shar's hour. And tonight, Set's. What did the gods think of her, she wondered, as she prepared this ceremony to a lord of darkness from the east. Did Shar think her a foe for giving ministrations to a rival? Would Talona afflict her with a pox for taking in poisons that were not her own? Set was an interloper and any offerings to him were a challenge to the authority of the gods that ruled these lands. What had led Tarina to this blasphemy?

With a deep breath, Tarina began the ritual. She undressed, save for Set's symbol around her neck, and cleansed herself with water she'd brought with her. She knelt before the altar and lit the braziers. The smell of incense and offerings spread through her room. She then lowered her hands into the bloody box at her knees. It was still warm for the dead heart of a dead man. She rose the mass towards the darkened ceiling.

"I call to you, Set, Typhon, Gilgeam, Father of Jackals, Brother of Serpents, King of Malice, Outcast of the Gods, Lord of Carrion, Lord of Darkness!" she intoned as bloody drops from the offering fell over her. "Please, take this offering and bless me with your great wisdom!" She set the heart into the bowl. That it was the heart of a mage was no coincidence. If Set welcomed her offering, he would return it to her, and she would eat it. The magic inherent in the heart would swell in her gut and imbue her with its arcane might.

Then she took her spellbook, offering it to Herald, who had taken his place behind the bowl atop the altar. The snake rose its head and stared coolly at the book for a quiet moment. Then, a great wind screamed past her, extinguishing the braziers. The last thing Tarina's eyes saw before she was enveloped in darkness was Herald's mouth disjoining to an incredible size.

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Re: Spirits and Demons - Tarina

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"Me and you together, digging through texts on this Quill. It will be like old times."

Tarina and Isabella had never actually done research together, even after six years at Candlekeep (well, more like three, with how long Tarina had been away in Tethyr). She knew exactly why the sorceress was doing it now. They'd been on bad terms with each other ever since Tarina recovered from the Night Serpent's possession, when Bella had revealed just how tired she was of dealing with Tarina's problems. Bella hoped that if they did something simple and humble together, that maybe it'd help break the ice, and maybe help Tarina from diving into the magicks that Bella hated.

Too late for that.

The two ventured into the library later that evening and set to work. It was a different kind of search than Tarina was used to. Once, when she was a spirit shaman, she would commune with the spirits of the library and the books and ask them to help her to find what she was looking for. Now she had to do it the way everyone else did: sort through poorly-kept indexes and quick read through everything that might be of relevance. It was a tiring and exhausting procedure, and Tarina was glad that Isabella was here to help her do it. They didn't speak much—even this joint activity couldn't bridge the gulf that had grown between them so quickly—but talking wasn't needed for the search.

Velsharoon's Quill. Neither of them had heard the name before. Hopefully there was at least some information on it in Candlekeep's halls. She didn't need much, just enough to give her a starting point for divinations. Where had knowledge of this relic had even come from? Apparently everyone was looking for it all of a sudden. Aunrae to break her contract with the devils, and the defenders at Soubar to use it in some way to defeat the Prince of Undeath and his forces. Or maybe just to keep Aunrae from getting it—that would be well within their shortsighted and arrogant views. They have bigger problems to deal with, and yet cared more about fighting a drow that was trying to be a better person. A drow who would probably give them the quill after she was done with it anyway!

Tarina and Isabella would spend the next few days venturing into the great library's depths together to pour through its tomes. If there was anything to be found, they would find it...

... hopefully. Candlekeep wasn't known for its organization.

It also helps, of course, for information given to be accurate. At some point deep into the research, the two would find reference to a Vaelsharon instead. Tarina cursed those who had given her the wrong name.
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Re: Spirits and Demons - Tarina

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Caelus lead her down into a separate section of the temple, past a cellar and a pantry and to a room beneath the altar. There were several objects already set up there in a circle traced in strange runes and sigils. Moving into the circle, he motioned for her to join him, opposite an open, and seemingly blank, book between them. Tarina looked at it, then around at the rest of the room. She rubbed her arms. The cellar was cold.

"Are you chilly?" Caelus asked, "We could get you a scarf or cloak or...?"

"I'm fine."

The Lorebinder nodded slowly. He took a seat on a blue cushion. There was one for the both of them, on either side of the book. "Please have a seat," he said. As the witch sat down, Caelus retrieved a strange quill from inside of his vest, though there was no inkwell in sight. He laid the quill carefully between the pages of the book, then retrieved a bright gem that seemed lost somewhere between green and red in the candelight. He held it out for her. "Please take this and place it in your lap." He then lit several candles and produced several flowers, which he slowly burned one at a time in the candles. Tarina recognized a periwinkle, a zinnia flower, a forget-me-not, and a pheasant's-eye. As the priest burned the herbs, he quietly whispered a prayer in honor of Oghma. It was in some foreign language, Tarina couldn't understand it. Once that was done, the room smelling of burnt plants and clean paper, Caelus smiled across the book from her. "Are you ready?" he asked one more time.

Tarina nodded. "I am."

Caelus nodded in return. He picked up the quill and drew several symbols on the faces of the empty pages of the open book. Even without an ink quill to dip it in, the quill seemed to have no trouble putting ink across the page. Once that was done, he placed the quill back in between the pages, in the indent where the paper met the binding. He held both hands out for hers. "All right. Take my hands." Caelus breathed several slow, calming breaths. "Lord of All Knowledge," he announced, "Wise God Oghma, patron and father of ideas, please hear us and listen to our prayer. We seek knowledge, lost and forgotten. We seek a past obscured by a great power. We seek your help in uncovering secrets forgotten and events transpired, but now lost to time..." His voice droned, losing much of the cadence and friendliness it usually held. It was somber, but bold. Each syllable pronounced in full, but still seeming from the heart. Partly through, he shifted his words into another language, and then another, several times. Only the tone and measures of his speech remained consistent.

Tarina sat upright as the priest called on Oghma, raising her head. She drew in a breath.

Caelus was soon lost in his words. Blue-green radiance began to trace the interior of their circle, chasing cracks in the cellar floor, terminating altogether beneath the book in the center. Distinctive music began to fill the room, music Tarina had never heard before, soft and distant at first, but rising in volume. It was almost menacing. The priest's words slowly eased away, until he was speaking no longer, though his mouth was still open and moving. Awareness left his eyes, leaving behind only a gold glow, as though his eyes had rolled back into his head and left nothing but plane-touched sclera behind.

Tarina prayed that she was judged worthy of this ritual by the forces that Caelus had called. As if to answer her, words appeared then, on the pages of the book, before her eyes, asking her what she sought.

Tarina's body went rigged. Was that Oghma speaking to her? Or, no, perhaps some servant of his? Surely she did not merit his full attention to speak directly? "I-I uh..." she stammered, not having expected this, "T-the, the Night Serpent, ate my spirits. Ate my memories. I... I want to know, what I lost. M-my... my childhood, my uhm... my father. U-uh, uhm, Eldarian, and, and last year, what happened last year, and..." She wasn't expecting to need to list everything she forgot. It was hard for her to even know what she was missing. "Please help me, oh Lord of Knowledge, I beg of you restore what I lost."

Whether it was really well said or not, Oghma seemed content with her answer. The text faded from the book, leaving blank pages once more. Suddenly, Caelus released Tarina's hands and slumped forward. Animation and life seemed to leave his body, making him look almost like a rag doll. Possession, Tarina knew. She had experienced it so many times, herself.

Caelus autonomously picked up the forgotten quill, as the book preternaturally turned itself to the very first page. The priest then began hastily scratching down words. His hand seemed to fly at unnatural speed. Tarina watched as her history started to ink across the pages in real time. Born in the village of Shanah to the former adventurer, Emell Mazir... The page flipped. The spirit's name was Lavern, and while not potent in its own sense, her pact with this being opened a path for the young... A page flipped. How fearful it was, how confusing! Civil war ravaged the countryside, but she never expected the part she was to play in it... A page flipped, a page flipped. Amn was not kind to those who wielded magic, but she had learned not to expect kindness...

Tarina pressed a hand to her mouth as Caelus wrote. The enormity of what was happening hit her all of a sudden. This was her. Her life! Her history! All of it here, scribed in a book by the grace of Oghma himself! Her eyes teared up, though she tried to blink them away. This wasn't the time for crying.

A page turned, a page turned. The spirit was a potent one, but Tarina had grown more confident in her dealings with such beings, and... A page flipped. A page flipped. A page flipped. How had Caelus's wrist not broken at the pace he was writing? She joined Candlekeep, the finest center of learning on the Sword Coast, where she took her vows and became... A page, and then another. She was leaving her home, and perhaps the future she could have had. But he saw her off, and gifted her glass...

More pages, and endless ink. The music had left by now. All that sounded in the quiet cellar was the rapid scratch of quill across paper. An urgency took hold in Tarina's expression as if she willed Caelus to write even faster than he already was.

Ameris said the man's name was Jonas Rokranon, and he seemed as much a hero as any living person you might imagine. But Tarina would soon come to learn more of this man, and his family, as... A page flipped. Her father was alive? Her father was alive! But this happy news could not stay happy for long... A page flipped. They expelled the demon Malrakus, but while he was gone, could it be said she was truly rid of his threat? A page, a page, a page. It was said this was an aspect of the Night Serpent, but investigation was required. Unfortunately... The book was nearing completion. Her spirits, and with them, her memories, were devoured and lost... More pages, but the end was in sight. The book seemed to have exactly as many pages as it needed to. Requested the aid of a priest of Oghma named Caelus Moon, and... A few more words, a few more paragraphs, a few deals made, a few things she already knew. And then the pen stopped. The last line read, And so she invoked the Lord of Knowledge in his temple, and there found the answers she sought. What, now, will she do?

The book slammed closed. The pen dropped from Caelus's hand, floating to the ground, and the candles all winked out at once.

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Tarina — Witch, Apothecary, Dealer in Spirits and Black Magic
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