[as a warning, the character is bisexual and polyamorous. there will not be anything too graphic or lewd in this story, but i know these traits may offend others, so i post this warning.]
I write this, not knowing if any shall ever read it. I write this, hoping they do not, yet yearning that they will. I write this craving the connection, however tenuous, I might have with the one unfortunate enough to read. If you read this, know that the tale within is one of horror, of time unending, and of futures unforeseen. You must be brave, or you must turn back now.
This tale begins nigh on two and a half centuries before I set quill to parchment to begin its telling. Orr. The crown jewel of the world of Tyria. Arah, though vacated by the gods for a thousand years and more, is still the finest city on the planet. I am a young man in the southern hinterlands, practicing the Ritualism that has flourished since the dawn of ages, its origins in the kingdom to the south- Cantha. My coven and I are married, equal partners in a covenant of blood and magic. It is a happy time. There are seven of us, four men and three women, and we love each other deeply. I am told now that this concept is foreign to most in the current age; suffice it to say, in Orr, it is accepted.
One of my wives, Steela, makes the finest tea. For healing, for magic, for trances, for pleasant aroma and taste, people visit us from farthings and cities to purchase the fruit of her pestle. She is dark as night, hailing from Elona, and speaks more with her deeds than her mouth. Glad is the heart which may taste of her presence, for in it, there is life, deep and strong and overflowing to all she meets. Indeed, I miss her quiet ways keenly.
Gretcha is our baker, our roaster of meats. She comes from the north. Ascalon. Her wit is sharp as the fang of any shark, and with it she stings your mind, only to heal the hurt dealt with laughter. Her laughter is intoxicating, a plague of delight. When the news reaches us of Ascalon's demise, she worries for her mother, and falls silent. Fretful indeed is the silence of the joyous, the stilling of lips prone to laugh.
Nodis, the eldest, is our mage-king in our small kingdom. He, like me, is from Orr. He keeps the secrets, but to shield us from their terror, not to hold us back. He is wise, a strong pillar, a bountiful well of wisdom informed by ears quick to hear. He is, in some ways, more father than husband. I sense it wears on him; he feels distant from us, who are younger, and does not share in our joy as often as he may. He forgets himself; we are his equals, not his children. I feel safe around Nodis, even to the end.
Talia of Orr, our defender and guide. She is quick to anger, and quick to forgive. Perhaps of the wives, she is the one which puzzles me the most. I cannot fathom how to please her when she is angry, yet the smallest of gestures will grant the treasure of her happiness to the one who acts. She is our fighter. It makes her dangerous in a way the rest of us find irresistible. She fell, in the end, with fists clenched, runes high, and in defense of her family.
Wanshu and Gretcha are nigh-inseperable. If she wields the sword of the tongue with a fencer's finesse, he tickles with the plumed hat of the laughing gentleman. The tiniest of circumstances become a joke in the hands of the Canthan- however nauseating and childish, we all still laugh. He is the youngest of our coven, at nineteen, and still finding his way. It is he who, in our final days, raises Gretcha's spirits in the face of invasion. Wanshu took Kana's place (of whom I will not speak) when she fell to the blade in the Mists, six months and a day before the end of our walk together.
And then, there is Kaon. Kaon and I grew up in the same village where we all now live. I always admired his strength, the way he has with animals, the quiet confidence and gleam of humour in his eyes. We of the Coven of the Branches Seven do not play favorites among our own... But if I did, it would be Kaon. I relish our time together. Mending and washing our clothes, Kaon provides a useful service for our benefit. I would be lying if I said I did not tear robes more often than the others, just to watch his strong fingers wield awl and needle and pumice and spend time with him. His absence is a hole in my heart that no needle may mend.
And I? I was the balance. The glue that bound us all. I gave my service in the healing of wounds and the casting of spells. I studied under Nodis, going further than my husbands and wives in the rituals of the dead. Yet Nodis never shared his greatest secret with me- I cannot consecrate the dead to draw on their power. I am a ritualist with dead rituals in my head and no dead to bring them forth.
The happiest time of my life was with my coven, my family, in our little cottage by the sea. We grew and picked herbs. We made charms and cast spells and served as mediums. We buried the dead. We led the living. We were priests and mages, famous through the province, yet seeking only a little in return. What we needed, we were given or borrwed with a note of promise; we repaid in kind, with a basket of Gretcha's bread or a box of Steela's tea as interest. The villagers were glad to help us. This is my story, and how it ended, and how it began anew.
Interlude: The Deep
Water. I never was much for elementalism, but in ritualism, water plays a role. It is the element of the mind, fluid and agile and quick, knowing many things and absorbing them. It heals, and may be called on to aid in purification.
There is nothing purifying about this water. It is everywhere my eye can see. The only ground which is dry is my circle, perfect and protecting. Runes of safekeeping, etched by Nodis and Talia. A bowl of incense from Steela's herbs. The sacrificial bread, baked by Gretcha, tempts me to eat it, but I must not. Not even the crumbs around it. It is helping keep me alive as long as it is whole. A talisman, finely stitched to ward off the evil eye, rests on my chest as an amulet. A last gift from Kaon. Time goes on.
I am at the bottom of the sea. I was on the prairie. I did not move; the ocean did, or the prairie- does it matter? Time goes on.
The candles have lasted supernaturally long- Wanshu dipped them. Perhaps that was to be his service to us- light in the dark nights. His memory is indeed a light in my darkness just as the candles show me a few feet outside of my circle. It has been a week. I know this, for my circle of protection extends to the heights of the heavens. For moments each day, I behold the noonday sun. I do not shy back; I gaze at it for as long as I may. If I go blind, all I will no longer see is fish, decay, and darkness. Well. Perhaps the darkness will remain. Time goes on.
Time goes on. I grow hungry and thirsty, but I may not eat the bread, and the water is salt.
Time goes on.