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Moon and Yaseer visited the Pale Lady, an awful witch of tremendous power. I can only wonder what events are to be set in motion as punishment for that; seeking the help of an unknown entity, in regards to our own creations.
I do not trust this Lady, and I have reason to suspect that she is not what she appears to be.
I have been given the task by Dracerys, in direct violation of the Council, to investigate this woman, or whatever species she is. She was here before the creation; I sensed her in the heart of the dead Star we used as the basis of this planet. That alone gives rise to suspicion. Us Stars do not die easy, and to hide away in the heart? It feels blasphemous, treacherous. Perhaps Moon does not know this; or perhaps, she does not wish to speak of such things.
Except from The Divinities 1390 b.d.r.
Council of Stars
Kaleb was troubled, very troubled indeed. He’d forgotten all about the Divinities; it’d been so long since he’d heard the name of the ancient book, the vague memories he had of them had been pushed into the back of his mind, covered up and replaced by new ones. The priests of Kralle had banned the book throughout Yeois, siting it as a blasphemous account of the Separation, that the fallen Stars had manipulated it to make it seem as if the gods had been hesitant in their decisions. He doubted it would be easy to find a copy.
And ******, he needed a copy. There was information in there about the Sword! His father would be very happy to hear that Kaleb had finally found a lead, after years of searching, though upset at the prospect of learning that someone else also wanted the Sword.
Kaleb cursed inwardly. He’d thought the fallen Stars had all been wiped out decades, if not centuries, ago. He’d helped in that regard, many decades ago, as a priest himself; joining the ranks of those that would have pierced him in the heart with their own daggers if they’d known what he was. But, his father had commanded him, regardless of the danger it put Kaleb in, and he had done so, because no one refused his father.
Kaleb found Kash near the heart of the Verin forest, deep in conversation with a neko, an elegant creature, nimble on its feet and graceful in its hunt. This particular neko was similar to Kash in color, the black stripes covering its body grand and beautiful. He smiled sadly as he watched them converse in a language he could never hope to understand.
Kash noticed him after a few clicks, and he bid the neko farewell as it bounded off into the forest. “Just catching up on the latest forest gossip,” he said, brushing the dirt off his trousers. He opted for clothes whenever he was in or near human settlements, it made him appear less animal that he chose to adorn himself with unnecessary things, and made the humans much less inclined to march him to the dungeons.
Kaleb nodded, then asked softly, “your mother?” Kash grimaced, his eyes downcast.
“Yes. She’s doing well,” he added, joining Kaleb as they moved through the forest, back to Verin so Kash could get supplies for his journey to Saint Veruse. “So… how much have you already told your father?”
“Nothing yet,” Kaleb said, brushing stray branches out his way so they wouldn’t get caught in his ever-growing antlers. If he didn’t get them shaved down, he wouldn’t be able to do much of anything, as they would be dragging across the ground. They were a symbol of pride for Kaleb, as they reminded him of his mother, and since he couldn’t remember her face, either due to the curse he carried, or his own memories saving him the grief, they were all he had.
“Maybe you should hold off on saying anything until I get back with news,” Kash said hesitantly, his tail flicking back and forth. He was agitated. Kaleb fingered the small vial of thick black liquid he had grabbed before he’d left his home. He hoped Kash wouldn’t notice, and wouldn’t ask for it. “I mean, I’ve been following this girl since she left Hods, since she started asking for you, and, well, I don’t know, I like her. I don’t want your father ordering you to do something to her.”
Kaleb looked at him sharply. “So, you propose I keep this hidden from him? You know my father doesn’t like secrets.”
“I know…” Kash trailed off, twiddling with his clawed thumbs. “But wouldn’t it be better to let him know about all this, after we actually have the book? If you told him now, he might start assembling his armies, and then what if we can’t find a copy? Then it’ll be even worse than if we hadn’t told him at all.” The netama’s eyes flattened against his head. Kaleb understood his worry, and he made sense.
He’d only brought Kash along with him to Syvyet once. The spiritual separation from his body had caused Kash to go into a sort of shock, and when he’d met with the spiritual manifestation of Kaleb’s father, it had been enough to almost leave the poor demura catatonic. Still, Kash had stayed by his side afterwords, his loyalty never faltering, even in the face of true evil.
They reached the outskirts of the town, and Kaleb handed Kash a small coin bag. “Here, get what you need for the journey. I’ll find Charmaine and let her know what the plan is. We’ll wait a week, and if you haven’t returned, we’ll go ourselves. If it does come to that, then if you are able, meet us at the Demoak.”
“The Demoak? But, wouldn’t that… I mean, you shouldn’t even go to Saint Veruse. You know what’ll happen.”
Kaleb waved off the worry. “Yes, but they’ll think it’s for the crown prince.”
“What about Asterame? She’ll sense you from a mile away.”
The name sent a sharp pain coursing through his left eye, and he could feel the curse lines pushing through the blood veins in his face, moving ever so slowly until they wrapped their wicked tendrils throughout his entire circulatory system, their ultimate end goal. Kaleb gritted his teeth, trying to push back, but the curse was too strong. Though most others could not, he could see the chains that shackled his body, that cut him off from his birthright. The incorporeal chains moved to stake him to the ground, but Kaleb forced himself to move, and it was as if he was wading through a pool of thick tree sap.
“The girl, Charmaine,” Kaleb gasped, and the curse gave up, shoving themselves through his calves to wind around his ankles. He winced at the immediate fire of pain. “She has a cloaking spell, no doubt the work of her father. I think, if my assumptions are right, that she can extend it towards me, and even Asterame won’t sense a thing.”
Kash rocked onto the balls of his feet, bobbing his head up and down. He looked anguished, his face screwed up in agony. “Do you have it?” His voice was small, almost as if he were ashamed to be asking. Kaleb sighed, and placed the vial in Kash’s hand. His face instantly lit up and he went to open it.
“Wait until you are alone,” Kaleb said, wanting to grab the vial back and throw it across the continent into the seas of Yaseerin. Halois blood was an extremely addictive drug, and had been on the black market only in recent years. He’d heard halois were even paid for their blood, instead of just outright killed, by the more compassionate of sellers. Kaleb concocted this himself, because he’d rather Kash get pure, unadulterated drugs than some that had been mixed with other poisonous substances, killing users even more quickly. As it was, the blood had been slowly leeching the life from Kash, and Kaleb had tried his damnedest to lower the potency of the blood, to wean Kash off slowly.
Kash nodded feverishly, the small twinkle in his eyes making Kaleb sick. He hadn’t meant to care for the little hybrid so much, but the netama had a way of weaseling himself into people’s hearts and making himself welcome,
“And remember to give that note to the guards at the west gate. You’ll be able to get past the watch towers without any trouble.”
Kaleb watched as Kash shouldered his way into a bakery, before surveying the small town. Where was it that girl was staying, the Paradis Inn?
Ignoring the sideways glances and outright stares, just one of the many reasons he avoided towns, Kaleb brushed past demura and human alike to the inn, just as Charmaine stepped out, dark hair braided to the side, cloak draped over her shoulders, the hood resting on the top of her head, carefully concealing those strange little wings she seemed so self-conscious about.
“You attract too much attention,” Charmaine hissed at him as he came to stop beside her. She cast a few furtive glances at the townspeople, before marching towards the stables. “You need to hide those antlers of yours.”
“True,” Kaleb said, following her. He gingerly touched the impressive things on his head, could feel the power in them pulsing at his touch. Though the curse cut him off from using the magic he had inherited from his father, it didn’t stop the magic from pooling into his appendages, just out of his reach, making them a coveted treasure if anyone knew what they truly held. “Though there’s not really anything that could cover them.”
“Can’t you cast a concealing spell? Or buy one from a witch?” Charmaine asked, pushing open the stable doors. The musty smell of horse manure filled Kaleb’s nostrils and he frowned. This was one of the reasons he didn’t have a horse, they were utterly disgusting.
“The thing about curses,” Kaleb mused, staring down a poor stable boy, who flinched when he caught his eye, and scrambled out of the stables, “is that they tend to drain any magic performed on the cursed. I would need an equally powerful spell caster to counteract the curse, and so far, I’ve only met one person that fits that description.”
“Who is that?” Charmaine mumbled, feeding her brown mare an apple, giving her a gentle scratch between the ears.
“You. Or, more specifically, your father,” Kaleb said. “I’m sure you’ve noticed the cloaking spell he cast on you. Now that I’m close to you, I can feel it hiding your own magic.”
“A cloaking spell?” Charmaine looked surprised, her green and blinding white eye wide. “I… had no idea. He must’ve done that when the village was attacked.” She pursed her lips, then looked up at Kaleb, considering. “You want me to see if I can move the cloaking spell to you?”
Smart girl. “Not entirely, I think it’d be wise to keep it on yourself, as well, but perhaps, just extend it to me. Then, I can instruct you how to manipulate the spell to hide my antlers, and curse, from other’s views. Those in Saint Veruse would certainly try to claim them for themselves.” And the curse would get the attention of every minor mage throughout the city, and Asterame would know his whereabouts within hours.
“They are beautiful,” Charmaine sighed wistfully, reaching up a hand to touch them, before stopping suddenly. “We’re going to Saint Veruse? Oh Stars, help me! I hate that city!”
“I told Kash we would meet him in a week if he hadn’t returned by then, though I’m doubting he will make it back with a copy of the book without heading into trouble. I will give him the benefit of the doubt, but we must be prepared to head out within a few days. In the meantime, I will teach you about manipulating others’ spells, and see what your father has taught you of magic.” Though the thought of delving into the once sweet knowledge of magic Kaleb could no longer use was painful, he had a feeling that Charmaine would be a powerful ally in the coming weeks, and it would be best if she had a bit of practice. There was no telling how much her father had taught her, and even then, if he’d been in hiding ever since the Separation, Kaleb doubted it was much, for fear of having the Kralle priests catching wind of Star magic.
“I know magic,” Charmaine bristled, her eyes narrowed. Kaleb almost laughed at the adorable expression, but he held his tongue.
“We’ll see,” he smirked, walking out of the stables, Charmaine right behind him, almost tripping over herself as she hurried to catch up. He headed for the path to his home, the worn down dirt path giving him a sense of comfort, and he realized he’d been too tense in Verin. Most of the townspeople knew he lived in the forest, though they stayed as far away as possible, and most of the only visitors he received were ones that needed his magic for something they couldn’t achieve themselves. The humans stared because of the antlers, and the demura, because they sensed something in him they couldn’t explain, and it terrified them. He knew what it was, and he ignored their questions and avoided their gazes until at last the only villager that sought him out was Kash.
“How did you learn spirit magic?” Charmaine asked, brushing branches out of her way. She looked oddly at home in the forest, which was unusual for a halois, as that race preferred mountains and open air. He stole a glance at the back of her cloak, where he could see ever so slightly, two jagged bulges. The loss of her wings intrigued Kaleb, what had happened to them?
“Practice.” Kaleb murmured, lost in his thoughts.
Charmaine sighed, “that’s not what I meant. Why do you live in a ley node?” A visible shiver ran though Charmaine’s body at the mention of the node, and Kaleb noticed that in her hand she was clutching something… one of his sapphires. He’d created those years ago, and had planned on giving them out to magic-sensitive humans, but then had decided against that, as he rather liked seeing the humans squirm and strain against the powerful influx of natural magic. Kash must have given her one, but why? Yes, he could feel small traces of powerful magic from Charmaine, but that likely had to do with the fact she had actual Star blood running through her veins, not any indication that she was a halois and had more natural aptitude for magic than a human.
Yes, if he remembered correctly, Stars and Dragons were more powerful than humans when it came to wielding magic, but that was for their own magic, not the natural magic that flowed through the ley lines. Even the gods couldn’t hope to hold as much of that magic as the humans. It has been their greatest mistake when they’d created them.
So, there was no reason to think that just because Charmaine’s father was a Star, that she was anything special.
“It helps with the astral travel to Syvyet.” Kaleb answered after a few silent moments.
“Why would you ever want to go to Syvyet?” Charmaine asked, her voice suddenly nervous.
“I like to meditate,” Kaleb sighed. Had Kash ever talked this much? Asked this many questions? He was starting to miss the little hybrid.
“Where’d you get that curse?”
A small tingle shot through Kaleb’s eye, or what had once been his eye. He winced, shooting Charmaine a glare. “Are you always this nosy?”
“Why yes, yes I am,” she replied tersely, her jaw set. “Are you always this closed off?”
Kaleb looked at her and smiled. “Are you any good with those throwing knives?”
Charmaine looked down at the belt she had around her waist, partially covered by the cloak. “Not really,” she said, face going a slight tinge of pink as she looked back up at him. “I just started a few weeks ago.”
“Well, once you learn how to bend that spell, then I might be able to teach you a thing or two about those.” He smiled again, the action causing the left side of his face to sting.
Charmaine stared at him, dubious. “How old are you? You don’t look much older than myself.” A small chuckle escaped Kaleb’s lips before he could stop it.
“I would say, not a day over twenty-seven, if I remember correctly. And I usually don’t.” When one had lived as long as he, the memories started to disappear, or change, or were so far back that he couldn’t quite get a hold of them. Charmaine frowned at that, but then a small grin started to form on her lips.
“Thank you, for the offer, I think that would be… fun.” The hut Kaleb called home came into view just then, as if materializing out of nowhere. The trees closest to it immediately moves their branches to cover the hut, the trunks bending with audible groans. When Charmaine saw it, she started. “What… I thought… it moved?”
Kaleb nodded, clomping through the grass towards the front door. “Of course, ley nodes aren’t set in stone, they do occasionally change positions. Not too far from their original stake, though, and one of the reasons they are so unstable.” It had gotten worse in the last few decades. The more rifts that opened, the more the ley nodes traveled, though he wasn’t quite sure which caused the other. Kaleb knew it was only a matter of time before Sioey completely crumbled, causing all those that had been trapped to fade away into non-existence. He was on a deadline, and Kaleb hated to be rushed.
“I hate these things…” Charmaine grumbled, waiting outside the door as Kaleb pushed it open to gather a few things. A few throwing darts, his latest spell book, that he had almost finished writing, and a smooth orange pebble that he kept in the fireplace. It glowed faintly as he picked it out from the ashes. His curse reacted being so near it, as it did every time he held it. It was probably fool-hardy of him to carry something that had once belonged to the woman that had cursed him, but it was also one of the only things he had that held any of his genuine feelings. At the time, he had been in love, and this rock held that love; it was what he used as an anchor to hold himself in Yeois as he traveled to Syvyet.
Tonight, he would go, and he would tell his father, at the very least, that he was going after the Divinities book, and would see if his father had any insightful wisdom he would bestow upon his son.
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