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  1. #71
    One Part Blood, Three Parts Madness

    Grace Notes: Anakita Snakecharm

    Anakita smoothed the note out on the dining room table so Canach could read it. She'd wanted to get the Sylvari's opinion, because... frankly, although Nairn, Ursa, or Maymar would have a greater understanding of the subjects Karpasian studied, it seemed to the Ranger that Canach would be the most likely candidate to be able to explain how these social games worked, having played them himself for years. Anakita had no idea.

    "I don't get it," the Ranger said, voicing her confusion. "I looked for The Wolf - this magic sword - using his device, and it didn't work. I got a polite acknowledgement that he'd received my message, then nothing. So now why is he suddenly thanking me for being such a big help?"

    Canach shrugged, "Courtesy?" he suggested. "You did invest time in his project, even if your part didn't bring it to fruition."

    "But you don't think that's it?" Anakita asked. The Sylvari's expression suggested he wasn't entirely satisfied with his own explanation either.

    He shook his head. "Forgive me if I'm reading too much into it, but as simple courtesy it seems over the top. He could merely have thanked you for contributing to the effort, but instead he indicates twice in the space of three sentences that you were responsible, even though by your own account you were not. He also goes out of his way to point out what great friends you are. See, he not only refers to you as his friend even though he's met you all of once, but he signs it with his first name? And yet, he addresses you by your full name and title - so no one reading the note could have any doubt whom he's addressing. It's like he expects it to be intercepted, and when it is he wants it to convey a particular impression. Of course, you wouldn't be unjustified in calling me paranoid, after my dealings with the Consortium..."

    "After your dealings with the Consortium, you were dogged by assassins. It's not paranoia to recognize that there are legitimately people after you," Anakita replied with a sympathetic smile.

    Canach smiled back. "Indeed. So, regarding this letter, you asked my opinion, and here it is: You're being played. Although to what end, I couldn't begin to speculate."

    "Thank you," the Ranger told him sincerely. "I thought that, but it seemed crazy to take a kind letter of thanks and turn it into something devious."

    "Perhaps it truly is kindness," Canach said. "But even so, I would appreciate it if you promise me you'll be careful out there. And on that note... I have a gift for you. A sort of thank you for your help, also, but without quite the same rhetorical flourish."

    He laid a cloth-wrapped parcel on the table, and removed the covering.

    "That's... the fervid censer," Anakita said, raising an eyebrow. "What you used to madden the Southsun wildlife. It's... um... it's nice of you to think of giving me a gift, but I don't really think that making the Krait crazier is going to... well, benefit my longevity..."

    Canach laughed. "Yes, that would be problematic. I should have explained. I've been working to modify the censer. It will now strengthen and heal you - and, if I've done my job right, it will offer you some protection from the toxins around the tower, too."

    Anakita was deeply touched that he'd thought to do that for her. "Thank you, Canach. This is wonderful. I had no idea you were working on this. I don't even know what to say. You realize you don't owe me anything, though? I made my own choices."

    "I understand," he replied. "And I respect you all the more for that. But you're... you're my family now, aren't you? You've been like a mother to me, and I want to keep you safe."

    "Thank you, Canach," the Ranger said.
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 11-03-2013 at 03:13 PM.
    "Sleep to dream, and we dream to live..." -Great Big Sea

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  10. #72
    One Part Blood, Three Parts Madness

    A Clash of Melodies

    The Nolani Ruins

    Anakita felt a rush of air, sensed something hurtling toward her, and she and Stefan simultaneously and instinctively hit the dirt as a burst of rock and earth slammed into the cliff face just above where their heads would have been. An instant later, Anakita had an arrow notched and Stefan's sword was free of its scabbard. Before she loosed the arrow, though, the Ranger scanned for their attacker - and when she saw desperation rather than malice in the woman's eyes, she stayed her hand.

    "Who are you?" she demanded instead. "And why are you trying to kill us?"

    Even as she said the words, Anakita knew she was wrong. It hadn't been an attempt at murder, but rather a deliberate miss. An attempt, rather, at intimidation.

    The woman facing them was about Anakita's height, human, with tan skin and very dark hair, a few strands of which were plaited into small braids. A dark tattoo decorated her right cheekbone and around her eye. Her armor was light, tattered blue and grey - and if anyone couldn't tell on sight from her garb that she was a magic user, the staff that was currently pointed at them was another clear sign.

    And, of course, she'd almost killed them with a flying rock spell, another unmistakeable giveaway of a mage. The woman was poised to attack again; as well as whatever magic she wielded, Anakita noted that the staff was tipped with a wicked blade for close-quarters combat. A threat to be taken seriously.

    Not, however, necessarily a threat that had to be neutralized with lethal force. The woman was angry, frightened... clearly willing to go to whatever lengths were necessary to obtain her ends but also by necessity giving them a chance to talk.

    Anakita had faced desperate people down before, and sometimes there was no choice but to kill them. This time, though, the Ranger held back. She knew the look in the eyes too well. It was too familiar. It was the same expression Anakita had worn for years.

    "I'm Mercy Hawke," the woman growled. "What shall I call you, then? Magister?"

    The way she spit out the title like an insult was... interesting. Anakita would have to ponder that later, but for now she merely said, "We aren't magisters. If you want to use my proper title, it's Warmaster, but there's no need. You can just call me Anakita, and this is my husband Stefan. So why exactly are you conjuring the elements against us?"

    "Don't play games! Where is he?"

    "Where is who?" Anakita asked. She genuinely had no idea what the woman was talking about, and although the delay seemed to increase Mercy's agitation, taking random guesses was just likely to make it worse. Anakita knew a lot of people, approximately half of which fit the pronoun "he." She needed more to go on to even take a stab at the question.

    "You know who! Your friends took him! Fenris, obviously!"

    Anakita's heart sank. She still had no idea who Fenris was - the only name she knew that was close was the powerful old Kveldulf named Fenrir who had been a terror of the Norn territories. A name that referred to wolves. A concept that had rightly flagged a Norn association when she spoke to Karpasian, although the magister hadn't picked up on it.

    "We're not talking about a sword, are we?" Anakita asked hopelessly.

    "A sword? No! We're talking about a person!" the woman replied. "I saw the letter the magister sent you. I know Fenris is just a weapon to you, but I won't let you do this to him. Not again."

    Anakita held up a hand to indicate a need for pause. "Sorry, but I'm way behind in this conversation. Do what, exactly?"

    Mercy stared at her for a long moment, gauging her intent, then asked in a softer, calmer voice, "You truly don't know?"

    The Ranger shook her head. "Whatever part I've played in your troubles, I'm sorry, but the magister has apparently been playing me all along - assuming you're telling the truth. He sent me to look for what he claimed was a magical sword. I found... Fenris, I suppose? But I wasn't looking for a person, I was looking for an actual weapon, so I thought I'd failed, and I sent Karpasian a letter to that effect. I have no idea what he did after that."

    "Then you're not... you're not a slaver?" Mercy's tone had become uncertain, now that her lead was rapidly turning into a dead end.

    "No," Anakita said emphatically. "I can be accused of many things, but not that."

    "But you work with slavers," Mercy pressed.

    "No I don't. You mean Karpasian? If he's keeping slaves, he's breaking the law. Slavery isn't legal in any of the free nations."

    "It's not?"

    "Nope, clearly and definitely illegal. I thought everyone knew that. Where exactly are you from?"

    Mercy completely ignored the question, but this new knowledge seemed to have given her a glimmer of hope. "Do you have any idea where they might have taken Fenris?"

    Anakita shrugged. "That would be easier to answer if I knew why they took him. Which you seem to. Please, enlighten me."

    Mercy frowned and folded her arms. "It's like the little magister told you. They wanted a weapon against these... you call them Krait?"

    The Ranger nodded. "But why Fenris? I mean, I'm sure he's a good fighter, but we've got plenty of skilled swordsmen here in Tyria. Karpasian would hardly need to kidnap one; flash around a few gold and he's got his pick. Unless... Karpasian said this 'sword' could pass through solid objects. Fenris doesn't by any chance have that ability, does he?"

    The mage's silence on the matter was all the answer Anakita needed. "Do you know what lyrium is?" Mercy asked abruptly.

    "No," Anakita admitted, then reading Mercy's expression added, "But I'm guessing it's... bad?"

    Mercy nodded. "It's a powerful substance. Rare. Coveted. Highly magical. Also highly dangerous. Fenris was born a slave. His master, Danarius, had lyrium inscribed into his skin, to improve his usefulness as a bodyguard and fighter. The lyrium enables Fenris to phase through other matter - objects, people. But the process was also excruciating. So painful, in fact, that that Fenris lost all his memories of his life before the markings were inscribed, and physical contact can still sometimes cause him discomfort. That's done now, it can't be undone - but it's not enough for your friend Karpasian. The abilities Fenris has now won't be enough to break through the tower walls. That will take more lyrium. That's what they're going to do to Fenris. Burn it into his body again, make him more powerful so they can use him for their purposes."

    "Why would Fenris agree to go along with that?" Anakita asked. "Say they kidnap him, and they use more lyrium on him... it seems like a waste. He'd never agree to follow their orders after that."

    "He wouldn't have a choice," Mercy told her quietly. "Lyrium affects the mind. He'll lose his memories again. He'll become... docile. He'll do whatever they want, and have no say in the matter. This time, I don't think there will be any coming back."

    Anakita took a moment to digest this, then finally let out a slow breath and said, "So let me get this straight. You're telling me that Karpasian's plan to attack the Krait involves torturing a man until the pain becomes so unbearable that he loses his mind?"

    "Basically," Mercy replied, and the defiant jut of her chin never wavered, but her knuckles whitened as her hands clenched more tightly on her staff at the mere thought. "But I will stop them. I will get him back. I may just be one person, I may be completely without friends or allies in this place, but I'll be damned if I don't get him back or die trying."

    Anakita shook her head. "You're not," she said. "Without allies, I mean. You have us, and I think I can safely pledge the help of my family and friends; we're actually a pretty capable fighting force."

    "Why?" Mercy's tone was guarded, suspicious. "Why would you help us? I thought you wanted to defeat the Krait."

    "I do, but... not like this. It's wrong. Flat out wrong, and nothing can justify it. Some lines should never be crossed. Victory is worthless if we make ourselves monsters to achieve it. Look, you need to understand, I..." Anakita looked over at her husband, and then went on, "If someone told me that they could give Stefan the power of a god, that we would never have to fear any enemy again - but that I would have to put him through another Foefire to do it - I would never agree to that. Not in a million years. I wouldn't do that to the man I love. And I'm not going to let them do that to the man you love, either."

    Stefan said nothing - as was his custom around strangers since he'd been burned, he didn't try to talk - but his hand lightly brushed Anakita's elbow for a moment, and she knew he'd liked what she said.

    "You can tell...?" Mercy asked hesitantly.

    "That you love him?" Anakita said with a soft smile. "Yes, I'm not blind. You'll be together again soon, Mercy. I think I know where to start looking. I think Karpasian would take him to the Priory - mind you, the Priory higher-ups would never agree to slavery and torture, but they wouldn't have to. Down in the cellar there are dozens of labs and store rooms and private libraries that people hardly visit. If they brought him in through the tunnels and kept him down there, the Steward would never have to know. It's the simplest but most logical place for Karpasian to hide him. I think we should start looking there."

    Mercy nodded. "Alright. And Anakita, Stefan... thank you. I'm sorry I..."

    The Ranger shook her head. "No need. Either of us would have done the same in your position I'm sure. Let's just skip the apologies and go find Fenris."
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 11-04-2013 at 11:57 AM.

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  17. #73
    One Part Blood, Three Parts Madness

    An Interlude in a Minor Key: Fenris

    They'd captured him, but Fenris hadn't made it easy on them. They'd outnumbered him twelve to one... and he'd taken out six of them in a frenzied fight before exhaustion had overtaken him and they'd managed to cast some sort of spell that disabled his phasing abilities.

    Apparently angry at him for slaughtering their colleagues, they'd beaten him to a bloody pulp once they'd subdued him. If Karpasian hadn't intervened and reminded them of his importance, they probably would have killed Fenris outright in their rage.

    Thus it was rather ironic that it was their beating that had saved him so far. His skin was too swollen and bruised to accept the precise tracings fresh lyrium markings would require. There had been a hasty conference about this, which had resulted in Fenris being locked in a massive metal cage - with spells applied heavily to prevent him from phasing out of it - while a more junior mage went searching for a healer who wouldn't ask questions.

    They had bought Fenris some time with their unthinking assault... but it wouldn't last forever. Sooner or later they'd find some mage who wouldn't care why they wanted the battered elf in the cage patched up.

    He would fight. He would take out a few of them, maybe more than a few. In the end, he would lose. Then the real hell would start.

    It wasn't the pain Fenris feared most, although he did fear it. Last time, it had been so bad he'd gone beyond wishing for death to being in such agony that he couldn't think at all. Perhaps last time that had been the worst part; he couldn't remember.

    This time, it wouldn't be the worst. The worst would be losing everything he'd built in his life as a free man - and that really boiled down to losing her. He'd existed before Hawke, but what sort of life had it been? Nothing to hold onto, nothing to call his own. She had taught him to feel again. Now the strongest thing he felt was love for her. He never intended to leave her side, and he'd told her as much.

    Once they destroyed his mind again, he wouldn't even recognize her.

    Fenris hoped that Hawke wouldn't try to save him. She was strong, stronger than anyone he'd ever met, but one mage against all of Karpasian's thugs? It was a hopeless battle. He hoped she would recognize that and leave him to his fate, but he knew she wouldn't. She would never give up on him. If the Maker or the Old Gods or any gods were real, he prayed they would keep her safe, and not let her die for him.

    He held the image of Hawke's face in his mind's eye, picturing every line and curve, imagining the feel of her skin, the way their hands entwined...

    Maybe if he thought of her at the last, somehow he would remember something of her on the other side, even if it was just the image of golden eyes or the sensation of soft lips against his. It was the best he could do - and he would fail, in the end. But at least his last thoughts while he was still himself would be of her...
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 12-15-2013 at 12:47 PM.

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  24. #74
    One Part Blood, Three Parts Madness

    A Resolution of Chords: Anakita Snakecharm and Mercy Hawke

    A healer had been located. The elf had been stripped of his armor and bound to the table - not merely restrained at the wrists and ankles, but bound tightly in multiple crisscrossing straps of thick leather, enchanted to keep him from phasing out of them. It was important that the prisoner not move while the markings were being applied. Fenris had killed two more while they wrestled him to the slab, but the elf was helpless now. In preparation they'd forcibly poured lyrium potions down his throat and opened gashes in his wrists to dump more of it into his veins. In a cauldron over the fire, purer, thicker lyrium bubbled, ready to be applied when it reached the proper temperature. The elf was studiously avoiding looking at the cauldron, but he couldn't avoid thinking about his fate.

    Magister Karpasian looked up from his work, startled, when he heard the sounds of combat - shouts, the clink of weaponry, heavy boots on the stone floor, the crackling and shattering noises of spells flying - in the corridor just outside the seldom-used cellar laboratory in the Priory. This mild puzzlement turned to shock when the thick wooden door burst open. He'd known one of them would come. He hadn't considered the possibility that both of them would be here. The Ranger and the Mage were silhouetted together in the doorway, bow and staff drawn, and they were followed by a small crowd of the Snakecharm-Baruch clan, including the burned warrior with sword at the ready.

    "You can go check on Fenris," Anakita told Mercy. She kept a notched arrow trained on Karpasian, while the others pointed their weapons at the other mages and bodyguards in the room. Mercy ran to her lover's side, and her face was murderous when she saw him bound, bruised, and bleeding.

    Anakita noted Karpasian's expression, and said, "You thought only one of us would still be alive, didn't you?" Karpasian didn't answer, so she went on, "That's why you sent me the letter, wasn't it? You knew Mercy would see it. You intended for her to see it, so we'd fight each other instead of going after you. Out of curiosity, who did you expect to win, me or her?"

    "I'd rather hoped it would be you, Lady Snakecharm," Karpasian replied smoothly. "But no matter, really. If the mage managed to get the better of you, your family would have finished her off as revenge. One way or the other, she would have been silenced permanently."

    "And there'd be no one to save Fenris. That was the point," Anakita said. It was a statement, not a question.

    Karpasian chuckled softly. "Save the elf? True, although I must admit I can't imagine why you would bother. He's a mere slave..."

    "There are no slaves in the free nations," Anakita growled.

    The magister, however, was pointedly ignoring her. "What is the life of one slave, compared to what we stand to gain? How many have the Krait enslaved? How many have they killed, slaughtered in battle or murdered in their sleep or sacrificed to their gods? What is the life of one elf? We could stop them once and for all!"

    "We aren't doing that," Anakita insisted. "We're better than that. Or at least we should be."

    Karpasian shot a disgusted look at the elf. "This... creature... does not deserve your pity. He is nothing, worthless as anything other than a weapon. He belonged to a Tevinter magister once. Did your new friend tell you about that? How he used to fight for Danarius on command? How Danarius kept him on a leash like a dog? How he made Fenris pour his wine... and share his bed...?"

    Anakita dismissed this with a shake of her head. "I'm sorry to interrupt, but you don't think you're embarrassing Fenris, do you? The only one you're embarrassing is yourself, Karpasian. Any decent person who knew a man was being treated like that would have helped him. Only a monster would ignore or mock him. What you're saying speaks ill of yourself and no one else."

    Mercy met Anakita's gaze for a moment, and the Ranger saw gratitude in the Mage's eyes. Then the look had passed, and Mercy was fighting frantically with the straps that bound Fenris to the table, using her knife to cut through them when they were too tight to unfasten. Fenris was choking, vomiting up the potions that had been dumped down his throat. Mercy helped him turn on his side and put a comforting hand on his back. "Just get it out..." she urged him.

    "No!" Karpasian exploded at them. He demanded of Anakita, half imploringly and half imperiously, "We need him! Do not allow this, Snakecharm! You are being shortsighted and blind. We need only apply the lyrium, and the shell around the Krait tower will not stand a chance! How many will you condemn to death for the sake of one slave?" His hands began to crackle with magical force, and he lobbed a fireball toward Mercy's head. Mercy ducked, and Anakita released her arrow.

    "I told you, there are no slaves here," Anakita told Karpasian as the arrow lodged in his chest. The apprentice mages and guards were shocked for a moment, then they fought back furiously - then just as abruptly they stopped, realizing they were outmatched and deciding surrender was the better part of wisdom.

    Mercy wrapped her arms around Fenris, and he clung to her with his last remaining strength. "I... am yours..." he whispered to her, and Mercy smiled and kissed him.

    "Let's get him back to Divinity's Reach," Anakita said. "He'll be safe there. You both will."

    "And the Krait?" Mercy asked softly.

    "We'll think of something else," Anakita replied. She walked past Karpasian's corpse still slumped in its chair, and then abruptly she dumped the cauldron full of lyrium on the floor. Mercy and Fenris watched the thick silver liquid spread across the stone... and Fenris gave the Ranger a small, exhausted smile.
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 12-15-2013 at 02:16 PM.

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  31. #75
    One Part Blood, Three Parts Madness

    Harmony: An Ensemble Piece

    Upon returning from the Priory - after having offered the necessary explanations for their presence and the chaos they had created in the cellar, and having turned over the surviving miscreants to a surprised and discomfited Steward Gixx - the party lounged in the parlor at the Snakecharm family manor, relaxing after a long and tiring night. This was not the rarely-used formal front parlor that Anakita grudgingly reserved for diplomatic visits with powerful guests, but instead the cozier, warm parlor more commonly used by the family and their friends... because after all, wasn't someone who fought by your side a friend, or even family?

    Fenris, exhausted from his ordeal, had for the sake of politeness made a few brief attempts at conversation after his wounds had been patched up, but very quickly his eyelids had begun to droop, and now he was fast asleep on the sofa, still sitting upright with his arm draped around Mercy. Mercy leaned against him, her head resting on his shoulder, her relief at his return visible in every now-relaxed line of her body.

    Mercy noticed Anakita's glance, and she said hesitantly, "What you heard Fenris say back at the Priory... that he's mine... I don't want you to misunderstand that. I'm not his new master, if that's what you're wondering. You didn't transfer him to slavery in my keeping instead, don't worry."

    Anakita shook her head. That thought hadn't even crossed her mind. Not the way Mercy looked at him. Not the way he looked at her. "No, I was actually thinking how nice it is to see you together. I understood what he meant. He belongs to you, yes - but only in the same way that you belong to him. After what he went through as a slave, the fact that he's willing to say that about you speaks amazingly well of your relationship."

    Mercy ducked her head, acknowledging this. The first time he had told her 'I am yours,' it had brought tears to her eyes, for exactly that reason. Coming from him, this particular endearment was laden with meaning. "Thank you for understanding," she said quietly.

    The Ranger shrugged. "It's not difficult to understand. It's not like I've never seen that look in someone's eyes." She smiled at Stefan, and he smiled back and shifted his leg slightly so it subtly touched hers. Anakita went on, "It's none of my business and you can tell me to butt out, but you get a lot of grief about your relationship with Fenris, don't you?"

    Mercy nodded, and asked ruefully, "It's that obvious?"

    "I just get the feeling you two have to justify yourselves a lot, that you expect judgment. You keep worrying that I'll get the wrong idea. At first I thought it was just me, that I was making you uncomfortable somehow, but it isn't that, is it?"

    The mage shook her head. "Things are very... different... where we're from. I wouldn't say worse - you have more than enough of your own challenges, I'm well aware - but there are issues in our world that make things complicated for couples like Fenris and me. He's an elf; you're aware he was enslaved, but even where slavery is forbidden, elves are outcasts and pariahs, segregated from the rest of society. Most people would expect Fenris to be a servant to a human noble, not a partner who shares her life as an equal. But nor is society exactly in love with people like me. I'm a mage, and magic users are distrusted and feared. Not, I must admit, without reason, given how most of us seem to act. To make matters worse, I'm what's called an apostate - a mage not under the control of the powers that be. And when the mages decided to rebel against their... some would say protectors, and some would say captors... I ended up as the touchstone and rallying cry of the revolution, much to my own dismay."

    "And now you're on the run?" Anakita guessed. Now their desperate journey through what Tyrians called The Mists and Mercy and Fenris called The Fade made sense. It was not merely a pleasure trip. They were fleeing, probably for their lives.

    Mercy nodded, naked exhaustion plain on her face - an exhaustion of more an emotional than physical variety now. "It's not easy to stand and fight when it's difficult to tell enemies from friends. We just needed a rest, especially since..." She looked over at Fenris to make sure he was still asleep. He was. "Fenris doesn't know this yet, but I'm..." Mercy's awkward gesture toward her midsection said it all. "It's his, obviously, and I'm happy. He'll be happy too. But that doesn't make this... easy. We're at the epicenter of a rapidly expanding war, for one thing, and the offspring of humans and elves aren't exactly... well accepted in our society. I don't know what we're going to do, except take this one day at a time."

    "You could stay," Anakita suggested impulsively. "Not forever - I mean, we wouldn't mind if you stayed forever, but I know you have important things to do back in your own world and people who need you, and I'm not trying to tempt you to turn your back on that. I'm just saying... you could stay for a little while. You could rest, let things cool down a little, get your bearings again. Get ready for the baby, that sort of thing. I know Tyria isn't exactly the safest place in the universe either, but at least no one is after you here and no one has any opinion on human/elf romances since we've never heard of elves in the first place. Just... if you need a harbor for awhile..."

    "Thank you," Mercy replied simply, the gratitude made all the more clear by the lack of embellishment. "I'll have to talk with Fenris, but I think..."

    Anakita nodded her understanding. She'd want to discuss it with Stefan, if their positions were reversed - but she was also fairly sure the Snakecharm-Baruch clan would have guests for awhile, judging by how the shadow of fear in Mercy's eyes had dissipated. It wasn't a permanent solution, but the sword hanging over their heads had, perhaps, been sheathed for the time being.


    Three days after their mission into the hidden bowels of the Priory - the same day Magister Karpasian was laid to rest in a private, sparsely attended funeral ceremony - Anakita received a message from Lady Kasmeer Meade that one of their allies had developed an antitoxin that would breach the walls of the Tower of Nightmares. No torture or sacrifice of sentient beings had been necessary to achieve this objective, just persistence and patience. Anakita hoped that wherever Karpasian's soul wandered in the Mists, he was somehow aware that he was not a martyr to fighting the Krait, that his brutal last project had been completely unnecessary.

    Breaching the tower was only a start, if course. Day after day for weeks, teams made incursions into the structure, fighting their way to its center to inject more antitoxin into the plantlike building's inner core. Many who fought bravely in the Tower of Nightmares never came back, and their sacrifice was not forgotten. Not by the people of Tyria, and not by Anakita, who had the privilege of being there to help inject the final dose of antitoxin and thus strike the killing blow.

    Mercy and Fenris were there too. As the tower exploded in a blast of magenta light, Mercy had an odd, far-away look in her eyes, and Fenris appeared unusually expressionless - both caught up in a memory which, Anakita suspected, had nothing to do with the Krait and their tower. Later, though, the human mage and the elf were just as eager as anyone to celebrate the victory and congratulate their allies on a job well done.

    The two visitors from Thedas fit well into their temporary home, not just as house guests but as friends. Anakita genuinely enjoyed their presence, and she could tell Stefan did too. It was odd, the Ranger thought, how such inauspicious circumstances had led to such harmony.

    The Curtain Falls

    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 12-15-2013 at 02:13 PM.

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  38. #76
    Entwined, Part One: Anakita Snakecharm

    Dry Top, The Maguuma Wastes, 1327 A.E.

    As Anakita hit the dirt yet again, her breath knocked forcefully from her body, a thought that had been repeating in her head all day played through Anakita's mind: There's something wrong with the Sylvari.

    She didn't mean in any sort of societal or cultural sense. It was quite different than, for example, the times when she'd been too drunk to remember to be diplomatic and that the war was over, and had announced over too many mugs of ale in a cheap tavern somewhere, "There's something wrong with the Charr."

    Anakita had no quarrel with the Sylvari as a whole. Like any race, they had their good and their bad, but overall Anakita found their positive, optimistic, curious outlook endearing, a pleasant antidote when she was feeling world-weary. The Sylvari could not be further from the warlike military machinations that made up the whole of Charr society. And Anakita didn't even truly hate the Charr. Not anymore, at least.

    There's something wrong with the Sylvari.

    It was not an accusation. It was worry. As Anakita and her comrades dodged the explosives lobbed by a saboteur who had taken down a whole airship of peaceful travelers single-handedly, killing many and stranding the others in the middle of a hostile desert, the Ranger couldn't help adding yet another mad Sylvari to the tally. It had gotten to the point, Anakita thought, where when you heard of a rampage, you could accurately predict the species of the perpetrator.

    That worried her. All of the Tyrian races had their lunatics, criminals, and monsters. The Sylvari were unique, though, in their connection through the Dream and to the Pale Tree. An infectious madness that could take out a lone Asura or a handful of humans would tear through the Sylvari like a deadly disease. Their speculated connection to the newly awakened Elder Dragon called Mordremoth only made it worse.

    That frightened her. Not of the Sylvari, but for them.

    There were Sylvari she loved, Sylvari she cared about. Her adopted son Canach, for example - a man who had made so many mistakes, but who always seemed to pay far more dearly for them than was warranted. He was sitting in a cell now after a failed rescue, awaiting his billet being sold to the highest bidder... and the Lionguard had made clear that Anakita's own gold would not get Canach out of the mess he was in. Anakita feared for him. There was a constant knot in her stomach about where he would end up. At least he was relatively safe for now. Out on the streets, he was in danger of being targeted for death by his former associates. Anakita still hated that he had to suffer the indignities of prison when, in her opinion, he didn't deserve it. And she fretted over what his future held.

    She would fret more, if Canach's connection to the Dream endangered him too.

    The Sylvari saboteur eventually died. Even as Anakita fired the arrow that drained the last of his fading life, she regretted the insanity that had taken him, the cruel waste of life. It was a sad path, a useless path to destruction. In the morning, Anakita would be bruised and sore, aching from being thrown to the ground or into rocks - but she would be alive and the Sylvari named Aerin wouldn't, for reasons she couldn't begin to understand.

    Anakita could only hope that the other Sylvari wouldn't be dragged down the same path of insanity, misery, and death.
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 07-24-2014 at 12:03 AM.

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  45. #77
    Entwined, Part Two: Anakita Snakecharm

    Cavern of the Shining Lights, Maguuma Wastes

    She had thought the drawing was the most important thing. It had seemed to be at the time. Pinned on the wall in an abandoned lab that had belonged to another mad Sylvari - the one who had awakened Mordremoth - Anakita had found a piece of parchment depicting the cosmos. Ley lines, the path of magical energies. Dragons. And at the center, the Pale Tree.

    Now she knew better. The parchment was just a drawing, an inadequate representation of the truth.

    Now she had seen.

    She had seen everything.

    Anakita had never believed in the Eternal Alchemy. She knew it was the Asuran system of belief. The Ranger would have referred to it as a religion, but she knew the Asura themselves did not. Anakita had never really understood it, or even really tried to. She had simply held a vague assumption that the Asura worshiped math.

    She understood now, though. She had seen it. Without meaning to she'd been pulled into the machine that seemed to have begun the madness, and she'd glimpsed it. All of it. Tyria. The dragons. Magic. The Pale Tree. The gods. What held the world together... that was the Eternal Alchemy.

    Anakita would have called it "Everything."

    When they pulled her from the machine, they had thought she was dead. She'd struggled to breathe, convulsed, vomited. Lived.

    Everyone had assumed she was alright.

    Anakita wasn't so sure. She had seen Everything. It had driven at least one Sylvari mad, seeing what Anakita had just seen. Anakita didn't feel mad. But she felt... different. Stretched, like her mind had absorbed more than it could hold.

    She couldn't stop obsessing about the Pale Tree, but the thoughts seemed alien, implanted. An artifact of memories not her own, driving her to seek out the Mother of the Sylvari. She didn't know why. The need could not be denied. The externality of that need made her fear for her sanity.

    There was no time to dwell on what she had seen. There was a dragon to fight - and it would never again be as weak as it was now, in its newly awakened state. There were still lives to be saved.

    Anakita didn't feel the same, though. Her mind still felt used, cluttered, and a little torn and tattered. Stefan somehow understood. He had sat for hours with her on the terrace of their home, allowing her the silence she needed to process what had happened, his arm draped around her. She'd felt safe. He had known she would talk about it when she could, and hadn't pressed her. Eventually her thoughts had crystallized enough that she could tell him what she had seen - though words proved inadequate, he had given her the gift of simply believing her.

    Whatever was sending her to the Pale Tree, Anakita would follow path set before her. Where it would lead, she could only wait to see.
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 07-24-2014 at 12:49 AM.

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  52. #78
    Entwined, Part Three: Anakita Snakecharm

    She was so tired.

    Tired in body, after being battered nearly to death by a dragon minion. When she had finally killed it - by herself, separated from her backup - she had hauled herself back to the others, bloodied, bruised, and in broken armor, only to find she was not the only one who was injured. The leaders gathered for the peace summit had escaped. The Pale Tree, however, had barely survived.

    She was tired in spirit, after so much worry. So much uncertainty. She feared for her son Canach, and for all the Sylvari. For the Pale Tree. For all of Tyria.

    There had been murmurings, but it was becoming more than murmurs. The other races were turning on the Sylvari. What had been said in whispers about the Sylvari being corrupted by a dragon was no longer confined to whispers. Open threats were being made. Anakita wasn't sure if she feared Mordremoth more, or what it would drive ordinary people to do in their terror. Some were willing to sacrifice the Sylvari outright. Anakita was not. Not just for her own son, but because if they were going to let that many people die, what was the point of standing up to an Elder Dragon in the first place? The Ranger was determined to fight, and fight to win.

    She was sick of visions she couldn't understand, though. The latest had been even less comprehensible than the one caused by Omadd's machine.

    Above all, she was sick of waiting. Sick of speculating. Sick of sitting back and watching while the avatar of the Pale Tree lay still, silent, and gasping.

    Anakita desperately needed a concrete foe to fight. For now, though, all she could do was wait.

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  59. #79
    Entwined: Part Four

    Sometimes, Anakita thought, I hate being right.

    If only it had been paranoia. If only she could have looked back on her silly fears and laughed.

    She wasn't laughing. No one in Tyria was. There was danger, certainly, but so much of the danger would come from people being afraid. There would be blood. Anakita feared a torrent of golden Sylvari blood... and that it would not be the dragon who spilled it, but neighbors and supposed allies.

    I won't let that happen. I will defend my son. I will defend my friends. I will protect them. I will not let the darkness win.

    A shadow had fallen. But Anakita was determined to drive it back. She would fight, as she had always done. And - for their sake - she would prevail.
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 01-23-2015 at 08:58 PM.

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  66. #80
    Count / Countess Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    The Great White North
    Making a Few Friends

    The skimmer chittered at her as it turned a somersault, sending water droplets flying. Was that a friendly thing, or a warning thing? This was the first time Nairn was uncertain about choosing a mount. Her Raptor, she'd felt an immediate bond with him - those eyes of his always on the move and full of intelligence. She couldn't really attribute the latter to the Springer, but the creature certainly had its merits. Her fluffy, innocent-looking highland mount would never toss her off its back, whereas she was certain her raptor thought it was hilarious whenever she bit the dust.

    The Skimmer was something else entirely. Perhaps it was the simple oddity of the creature - the way it floated on air - or perhaps it was its eyes. The eyes were surrounded by fleshy protuberances and had a sort of matte sheen. Bright eyes seemed easier to connect with - and the skimmers didn't even blink. It was circling her now and she stepped slowly in a circle to watch it, feeling like she should be ready for an attack.

    "It's alright!" A voice called from behind her, "They're quite friendly - it just wants to play."

    Play? Nairn glanced somewhat skeptically at the skimmer farmer - and ended up soaked to the skin. The farmer in view simply shrugged his shoulders as if to say, 'I told you so'. The skimmer nattered away behind her, almost like it was laughing. Play. What a strange thing. How should she respond to this? Why did it matter? Mounts were for moving more efficiently through the Crystal Desert - living tools...

    Even as she thought it, she knew she didn't believe it. Nairn thought the situation over carefully. There was more to mounts than simple transportation. She relied on them and she also found happiness in caring for them. Strange, as she'd never cared for anything or anyone before. This...nurturing aspect of the relationship...was new. Was that really something she wished to cultivate in herself? Was caring for these creatures even a good use of her time and resources?

    Nairn turned to look at the now retreating skimmer. Its fins drooped and it hovered a mere fraction off the ground, meandering aimlessly across the farm. She knew what she needed to do.

    She appeared directly in front of the skimmer, her stealth falling away even as she drew her staff and drew it in a wide circle around her, sending a veritable tidal wave of water over the skimmer (and a nearby worker). Only her eyes were visible between the wrappings of her head scarf, and they looked directly into the skimmers. Had she made the right move? The creature had stopped dead - those motionless eyes seeming to draw the very breath out of her lungs. Then she saw it. There were still muscles around those eyes and as she watched, they relaxed.

    The skimmer practically turned itself inside out as it flew up into the air, did a barrel roll and turned a tight circle around the Norn. The drenched worker had a smile on his face - and a saddle in his hand.

    "I think you two will get on just fine."
    Winner of the dubious Vaarsuvius Award for Verbousness!

    I support altruism.

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