The green light from the sky was gone, but now everything was bright. It was bright but dark. Things stood out in sharp contrast, as if with lines drawn around them, but then everything had a strange blur to it. Strange creatures, monstrous creatures, the kind of stuff that nightmares were built on, flitted in and out of view. There was no sun in the sky. As the days turned to night, the whole sky darkened, but was never quite black. Sleep came hard. If he didn’t know any better, Sparrowhawk would have thought he had gone insane.
Of course, he knew he hadn’t gone crazy. He had Lady Luck on his side. Nothing could hurt him like that.
Sparrowhawk stepped into the town, flanked by a group of soldiers. They had split off from the main army with a special mission. Wipe out any demons and rebellion they could find. Sparrowhawk’s feet and hands were messy from blood and demon gunk. He had seen lots of divine. He had killed lots of divine. He remembered each time fondly. But his favorite were the people. Some fought smugly, some fought with desperation. But it all turned to fear, in the end.
Sparrowhawk marched up the main street of the town, sword out and loose in his hand. The men and women with him were fanning out, knocking down doors and searching houses, looking for something to drag out and kill. But as he marched forward, Sparrowhawk realized that he remembered this city.
The big wooden archway at the entrance, the post office. The red light district. And the bar. He recognized that bar. They were in Whispering Sands. Sparrowhawk grinned wide and toothy at this. He remembered for a split second the pitiful years he had spent there, running from himself with the drink. But in a flash it was gone, leaving behind a heaping of resent and contempt.
From down the way, Sparrowhawk heard a scream. When he looked, he saw the temple to the Light Spirit, in his memory all flashy and white with pretty windows, right now with windows a blaze with something infernal. His troop stormed into action, but he strolled down. No need to rush. His boys got this.
Sparrowhawk stepped up to the door, and inside was a whole congregation’s worth of terrified sheep, His boys and girls were being tossed around by a great tall robed thing. A great tall robed thing on fire. As the people pulled away they prayed, they prayed loud and good, and the thing in its great, firey robes heaved up. A Nimon. Well, of course. And a full one at that.
Through the center of pews Sparrowhawk sauntered, up to the great demon. The Nimon roared, and a great flame, the kind that scorched the flesh without so much as touching it, flared up and smacked Sparrowhawk across the face, blasting off all of his flesh and reducing him to a ashy spot.
Which is what it would have done. But this Sparrowhawk has got a greater being in his corner. The flame built up too bright and, before the thing could throw down the thing blew up in its stupid face. The Nimon screamed while Sparrowhawk laughed. And the dance began. The Nimon attacked and grabbed and thrashed and bashed, but managed to hurt itself moreso than Sparrowhawk. Hell, it didn’t even so much as scratch the guy, who savagely stabbed and gashed and clawed and smashed.
In the final moments of its life, the Nimon had started running away, but Sparrowhawk slammed his sword through the thing’s foot, nailing it to the ground. Sparrowhawk knew that killing it would just send it back to Hell. So he meant to enjoy its time on Keimin. So with his bare hands he beat at what he figured for a skull, painting his fists and shirt with demon blood. The people had been cheering him on and taunting the demon, but now they fell quiet. They couldn’t place what about the scene felt off, but the way this man with a wide brimmed hat and a checkered shirt seemed to take so much glee, well, it didn’t feel right. The soldiers, they kept on cheering.
Sparrowhawk got up, breathing heavy but smiling. The Nimon groaned, but lay still. Not quite dead. But not getting up either.
The people got up to leave, disturbed and silent, but Sparrowhawk barked out “Sit back down!” and they did.
“All of you, out,” Sparrowhawk yelled to his boys and girls, “I need a word with the congregation.” One of them, an older guy, stepped up with a complaint.
“Naw, Hawk. We gotta get go-” was all he said before Sparrowhawk lifted him up into the air by the throat, crushing his windpipe. Sparrowhawk stared up into the boy’s eyes, grinning madly with blood splattered on his face.
“Did I ask for your fucking opinion?” Sparrowhawk whispered. The guy made some gargled noises as he clawed at his throat, but Sparrowhawk clenched harder. “Did I?!”
“N-N-N-GHA-NO!” the guy managed to force out, and Sparrowhawk threw him out the door.
“Follow him! And bar the door! No one gets out until I say so!” Sparrowhawk watched his troop retreat out, the mirth in their faces gone. The congregation looked at him with apprehension, until someone stood up. A lady, the barber.
“I remember you,” she said, “you’re Sparrow!” When she said this, many of the people calmed down, smiling a bit. They remembered Sparrow. Village drunk Sparrow. Could never win a bet Sparrow.
In a flash, it was gone, and all that was left in Sparrowhawk was hate. He grinned, and waited for the door to be closed. He walked over and tried it. Wouldn’t open. He turned to the congregation.
“I want to talk to you all,” he said “about Luck. See, one way to see tonight is that ya’ll were lucky, weren’t ya? Lucky that I and my boys came by to save your asses, is that right?” Sparrowhawk walked up the center again, looking up at the pulpit. Some of the people nodded. “And you might be right. But there’s a problem. Lady Luck, purveyor of Luck and decider of Fortunes, she don’t give gifts lightly, right? It’s with a heavy hand that she bestows her blessings. So what I want you all to ask yourselves is this:” Sparrowhawk turned to each side of the temple, grinning, blood running down his face, staining his clothes. “‘Am I worthy of good fortunes? Am I, a heretic who cowers in the home of a whore god, worthy of salvation?’ And I don’t think you are.” Sparrowhawk walks up to the Nimon, and picks up a piece of wood. The Nimon still had a blaze on it, but a light one. He held the wooden stack to it until it caught. He marched up to the pulpit, looking up at the tapestries above, brand in hand. “I don’t think you do deserve good luck. I don’t think you do. You wanna know why I think this?” Sparrowhawk stood at the pulpit now, and turned to the congregation, smiling the same smile he had when he brained the Nimon. “Because if you were worthy, you wouldn’t have gotten me.” Sparrow took his brand and tossed it behind himself, into the tapestries.
They took to flame, and the crowd took to panic. It was a chaos as the flame spread from tapestry to tapestry, from tapestry to the walls, and from the walls to the roof. In just moments, the whole place was in a blaze, except the door. The door held, and though a mob of people slammed against it, it would not budge. And Sparrowhawk, he looked up into the flame, smiling still, his hat held to his chest while he uttered a silent prayer to the good Lady Luck.
The soldiers outside watched the thing go up in flames. They didn’t move to go help. They trusted their commander to know what he was doing. And if he died in the blaze, well, it wasn’t the worst thing. They ignored the screams too. That wasn’t too hard. They had gotten used to it. The building collapsed, and the screaming stopped. A great breeze came through, buffeting away the smoke. And in the center of the rubble, untouched, was their leader.
Hawk placed his hat back on, walked up to where there used to be a Nimon, and pulled out his sword. He approached the soldiers, still grinning. “What are you all waiting around for?” he asked. “We’re on a schedule, right? Can’t be wasting time loafing, right? We gotta get back to Xanthera.”
And with that, Hawk walked forward, and the soldiers followed.
In the forest on the edge of Council territory, Celeste and Vala walked side by side under the full moon. No, that wouldn’t be quite right to say. Celeste walked through the forest next to the new goddess of magic. Her mother had read Caranist’s portfolio and had become the new Caranist. That knowledge alone was mind numbing. Celeste still couldn’t properly process everything that had transpired over the past day. Her mind was fuzzy with disbelief.
She lagged behind, then stopped altogether. Vala turned around to notice her daughter’s hands were balled into fists at her sides.
“Why did you read it?” Celeste asked, her Old Elvish wavering.
“You know why,” Vala replied with a sigh.
“You’re going to say how you had no other option, and that the remaining choices would have ended up worse for everyone. You’ll defend your actions as a way of making the things right that you helped to wrong. You’ll apologize for deserting me again, then say you don’t ask for forgiveness, only that I understand.”
“And you’ll resign yourself to knowing there’s nothing that can be done about the situation and feeling helpless about it, You’ll want to say how much we still had left to do. You’ll try to come up with an argument only to fall short. You’ll want to cry about it but keep a brave face for your pride.”
“There’s still so much I wanted to tell you. About the Academy, my tattoos, our missions, everything. And there’s so much I wanted to ask you about that now I’ll never know.”
“I believe I may have a few answers for you.” Vala held out a key. “Go to Lares. Wrath gifted the Legionnaires mansions there. I still have personal things that I would like you to have. It’s not much-“
“It’s perfect,” Celeste cut her off. She took the key, then rubbed her eyes with her sleeve.
Vala reached over and wiped away the slowly building tears herself. “I know you dislike your eyes, but you should feel proud of them. After all, we have the same eyes now.”
Celeste looked up and met her mother’s gaze. Vala’s eyes, previously purple, had become a dark red. Magic swirled around in them, tinting them all the colors of the rainbow. “You have to leave now, don’t you?” Celeste guessed. When Vala nodded, Celeste hesitated, then buried her head into her mother’s shoulder.
“Oh Lossiel, I will always love you,” Vala said lovingly, stroking her daughter’s hair. A few tears escaped before she could stop them.
“I know, ammë. I love you too,” Celeste mumbled in reply.
Vala pulled away and kissed her daughter on the forehead. She watched as her daughter walked back towards the main Council building. She sighed one final time before turning her face to the sky. A faint light shimmered over her body, and she disappeared.
Caranist had returned.
It was nice to wake up and not worry about getting ready for a mission.
Though Fianna still had to deal with her step-mother glaring at her as she came downstairs for breakfast in the middle of the afternoon, while her father tried to ignore it. Home in Kasinthia was nowhere near as dangerous as what she’d put up with in the Council, but at least she could combat her step-mother’s disapproval with a snarky remark rather than an arrow. For her, life off of parole and home for a little while was a nice change of pace. She felt a little bad that Arden went in her place, probably causing his young daughter to throw a fit, but both of them needed a change of pace. But she had promised that they could switch back by the end of the month. But for now, it should be as any other day.
Except that there was something furry hopping across her bedroom, with a smile on its face.
“WHAT IS THAT”
Fianna nearly fell out of her bed at the sight of the creature. If someone had sent something to kill her, they certainly picked something she wasn’t expecting. Not that she was really expecting anyone to want her dead, but thoughts raced through her mind, and that was the one that plagued her most.
Maybe it’s a prank. Maybe Arden sent it. Or…or Sheo. That’s something I don’t want to deal with.
The creature bounced its way over to Fianna, causing her to scramble away and towards the door.
And without really thinking, she locked herself in with it.
“Why are you here? What do you want, you little…intruder?
She grabbed her bow and reached for an arrow; but the squeak that came from the little animal made her stop.
“Whoever sent you was pretty damn smart to pick something cute to kill me.”
I’m not gonna do that!! I’m here for you!
Fianna lowered her bow slightly and tilted her head. There was no way that the little creature had spoken to her. But as clear as day, she heard what sounded like a small, sort of congested voice in her room that clearly didn’t match anyone in her home.
I’m here because I’m part of you, Fianna!
Okay, that’s weird. It knows my name.
“…Sure. If you were really part of me, then you’d know that I don’t make that face.”
That face which is really cute and distracting.
The animal was about to chime in until a knock came at Fianna’s door.
“Fianna? Fianna, are you awake.”
The voice belonged to her now ex-parole officer, Lycoris Lohengrin. Now that Fianna was practically free, there really wasn’t any need for Lycoris to stick around with her. But the two had grown fairly close, and at the request of Fianna’s parents, the paladin always seemed to be nearby. More to spy on Fianna and make sure that she wasn’t getting into any trouble than anything, but despite their previous relationship, they’d grown to become friends.
Fianna pressed herself up against her door to speak.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. There’s just…a thing in here. I can handle it.”
“…A ‘thing’?” The paladin was skeptical. “Let me come in and see it.”
“NO. No, nope, it’s fine. I’ve locked the door and it’s under control.”
Fianna was nearly thrown from the door when she felt Lycoris throw herself against it.
“You locked it? There’s something in your room, and you locked yourself in there with it?!”
The redhead looked back and forth between the door and the small creature, which was still smiling at her as if nothing was wrong. “Well, when you put it that way, it sounds a lot worse.”
Let her in, Fianna. I know Lyco isn’t going to be mad.
No one called Lycoris “Lyco” except for Fianna. That was an exclusive nickname that the half-elf used, and no one else dared call the paladin that. That was enough for Fianna to lower her guard, and the hand she would’ve used to shoot the animal moved to her door.
“I’m opening this. Gimme a few seconds to get out of the way.”
With a little bit of fumbling and refusing to look away from the creature, Fianna jiggled her door open. Not quite following the redhead’s request, Lycoris came barreling in, sword in hand.
“Alright Fianna, where is it? Where’s this dangerous ‘thing’?”
The half-elf pointed to her bed, and the blonde paladin squinted.
“That? That’s what you got so worked up over?” the latter asked.
“It showed up, and I freaked. I think that’s a reasonable reaction.” replied the former. The two women stared at the smiling ball of fur before looking back at each other.
*a letter is delivered to Fianna by a bird made of cheese. It drips mozzarella all over you accidentally when it flaps its wings to fly away*
I am sad that I did not get to see you for Summer LARP. I mean, for the Weirdmageddon. Wait, I mean A House Divided. Yes. That weekend in which the Crusaders fixed the Et’Ada situation.
I wanted to say a few things to you, as the Chaos House especially among the Et’Ada is being barred by the empowered gods from interacting on a severe and common basis with the Mortal Realm.
You were my friend and I enjoyed time spent with you. Libby left to Not-Australia so I get to spend time with Ava a lot off screen. But I won’t get to spend as much time with you, Fianna Atkinson. And that makes me sad.
You, my dear fire child, did influence me. Did affect me. I don’t think I would’ve turned against the other members of the Chaos House in this timeline if I didn’t think of how you would feel if I supported them instead.
For influencing madness incarnate, I offer you something. A choice among many choices actually:
1. Come join Ava and I. Become the minor goddess of the mad flame. Double entendre too
2. Keep this mirror I have enclosed with this letter ((a mirror falls out of the word mirror as you’re reading it)). This will allow you to go into my realm of fun once every semester. About 4 months. That way you can visit me and spend time with me and be mad and merry.
3. Break the mirror. This will sever your connection with me. It will undo madness seeping into your brain. That thing called Prismatic. Also I will take back my chicken fingers gift.
4. Marry me. Be the wife of madness and we can be besties forever.
5. Destroy your friendship bracelet. I will never bother you again, but you will keep the gift of madness I have given you. Prismatic and chicken fingers.
6. Burn this letter. I’ll send another one. And our last conversation never has to end, I’ll just keep sending this letter and you’ll burn it and we will forever repeat this process yay.
7. Embrace this path and continue as you were, but with the knowledge that I consider you my bestie, even if we never speak again. Drop this letter on the ground, and it will be done.
It was very nice knowing you, Fianna That-Gurl-Is-On-Fiyah.
*there is a slobbery kiss of glitter at the bottom*
Fianna brushed the excess glitter off of her lap; if she hadn’t been wearing black, maybe she wouldn’t have minded as much.
“I should’ve expected such a weird letter from Sheo,” she muttered, inspecting the letter again, “‘Not-Australia’? Where is that–Sarenu?” She gave up trying to figure out the odd names and sat back in her chair.
“Trudy, c’mere.” The small rodent popped her head up at her name and climbed up Fianna’s arm to sit on her shoulder. “What do you think I should do?”
The creature peered down at the letter and squinted. “Fianna, you know I can’t understand this. You’ll have to read it to me!” Trudy sneezed as a cloud of glitter drifted upwards, causing the girl to chuckle. “Okay, okay. I’ll read you my options, and you tell me what you think the best option is.” With a nod, the quokka nestled herself in the crook of Fianna’s neck to get comfortable.
“Option one: Join Ava and be a minor god. Not a bad gig, I guess. But the gods have been getting their asses kicked pretty lately, so maybe not.” Trudy squeaked in agreement.
“Option two: Keep this nifty little mirror from Sheo, though it’s not just for checking makeup. I can visit him every four months and ‘be mad and merry’.” Trudy shook her head. “You might get stuck there forever if you’re by yourself! Then how would you get home?” Fianna’s eyes widened at the thought. “Good point. Not that one. Option three: Break the mirror and–ow! Trudy!”
The mage rubbed the back of her neck. “Why’d you go pulling at my hair for? It hurts when you pull the baby hairs…and I didn’t even tell you what happens if I break it, you just yanked!”
Trudy sighed. “Sorry. Go on.”
Fianna huffed, and went back to the letter. “As I was saying, option three: break the mirror and lose all that madness-y stuff.” Not really understanding what Sheo meant, she squinted at the page. “I’m guessing the hellfire raining down on everyone.” Again, Trudy started to pull her hair. “That one, that one!!”
As the quokka continued to squeak, Fianna picked her up from her shoulder and placed her onto her lap. “There. No more hair pulling.” She stared the creature down. “Why that one? As much as I didn’t like it, it was sometimes helpful. Doesn’t that matter?”
Trudy made the angriest expression she could. “If you didn’t like it, why keep it? It made you frantic when you saw it in the sky, and guilty when you couldn’t help everyone.”
“How would you know how I felt?” Fianna asked, crossing her arms. In response, Trudy mimicked her actions. “…Right. Sometimes I forget.” She let out a sigh, as she couldn’t stay mad at the creature for long. “Alright, alright. Option three is in the running. Option four: Marry Sheo.”
The two both made a series of gagging sounds. “No! No, no! Option four is out, and has been out. Ugh, no, no, no–not marrying a god, and not the god of madness. Jeez, no. Just….moving on.”
Once they had composed themselves, Fianna straightened the letter out. “Okay, okay. Option five: Destroy the bracelet, but keep the weird gifts.” She eyed said bracelet on her wrist–it looked like something she would’ve made with her friends as a child. If she had any friends then. “I mean, Sheo won’t talk to me anymore, but I get everything he gave me. Would that be rude?” Trudy shrugged. “Probably. Okay, not option five. Onto option six: burn the letter. But then I’ll just keep getting them. Over and over again. Do I really need that much mail?”
She looked over at the stack of letters from Lycoris. “Only important letters.” Trudy waggled her little fuzzy brows, causing Fianna to roll her eyes. “…Anyway. Option seven: Basically…do nothing. That’s it. Everything will be as it is right now.” The mage set the letter down and put her head in her hands.
“Everything is fine now. Why change it? That should be the obvious answer.”
“Not entirely true. Aren’t you missing something, Fianna?”
Fianna looked around–she had everything she came with. Maybe she’d gone through a few hair ribbons, or bought new black clothes, but nothing seemed too out-of-the-ordinary.
Trudy scampered over to the stack of letters and nudged them with her nose. Trying to follow the animal’s train of thought, Fianna picked one up. They were all sent from her former parole officer.
“Hey Trudy,” Fianna started, sifting through the lavender-scented letters, “do you remember if I ever got my crime back from Sheo?”
The quokka shrugged. “No, I don’t remember. But if you don’t remember if it happened or not…”
“…then I should make sure that I get it back, right?” The mage remembered having her crime practically erased, but she couldn’t remember if she had begged for it back–not because she liked all of the negative attention surrounding it, but because the ones she’d hurt deserved to be remembered.
“I know what I’m doing, Trudy.” With a heavy heart, she picked up the mirror in her small hands. “Thanks, Sheo. Really, I mean it. I don’t even know if you can hear me, but you certainly did help sometimes. But I can’t keep this forever. It’s not fair, and it wouldn’t be right. But I thank you for your…thoughtfulness…all of this time. I hope you and Ava will be well.”
She gripped the mirror tightly before throwing it against the wall with all of her strength.
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