Sun Down

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by karmaylore, Aug 20, 2014.

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  1. He should have known this would happen. He had heard about the atrocities from others for years. But he supposed that something inside of him, some naive, nostalgic inclination towards Solarias hadn't let him believe it. He stopped for a moment, checking his map to make sure he was still going the right way. It flickered on with a snap of his fingers, illuminating the twisting and turning paths in the dark forest. No, he was fine, and almost there, to boot. With another snap it returned to a boring, printed piece of paper.

    Continuing on, he thought that it wasn't really his fault. After all, he hadn't intended to stumble upon a magic-letting ceremony. He had simply needed a place to stay for the night, there was a temple nearby, and, and... Well, he could admit it was maybe a bad idea to snoop around when the altar girl had told him he was to stay in one of the guest rooms all temples had for members for the night. And it was probably an even worse idea to sneak into the altar room itself, which had only been enterable by scaling one of the walls and looking from the top-down, since all altars were open to the sky.

    And then he hadn't been able to stop himself from crying out when they bled a child dry, which had led to him being found out, which had caused him to run and hide in a nearby village, which had ended with him talking to some of the villagers and discovering that, if what he saw was indeed so terrible, he should seek out the witch in the bordering forest, which had led

    Theobald looked up, and sure enough, there was the shack, exactly where the map had said it would be. Removing his hat, he took a deep breath and began knocking on the door, as if they were friends and it was normal for him to knock loudly on her (at least he assumed it was a her) door at Solaris knew what hours of the night. "Witch!" he called, incessant pounding not missing a beat.
  2. The door nearly broke at the effort of withstanding the knocking. In fact, it was something of a miracle that the shack stood at all- there were a surprising amount of holes in the walls. The sheets of wood that served as a roof seemed to lean more on the trees than on the structure itself. To the average observer, it was just a bit of luck that the wrong breeze hadn't blown by that was holding the shack together. The truth was that there was magic here.


    It was a wonderful thing, the witch thought to herself. Hard to trace. Or detect. It was magic that had kept her hidden from the only other magic users in the country. Xalia had yet to hear of any others that had survived using it. Not that that was particularly shocking, though- she didn't exactly leave her hut much. Or get much in the way of visitors. No, it was just the three of them. Xalia herself sat on a hovering lump of hey that had been shoved into a cloth to serve as a bed. There was another blanket, and a similarly made pillow, that lay atop it. Not much else was in the hut; a chest that served as a table, two limp figures in the corner, and a pot. It sat in another corner now, currently unused, but sometimes it would spring to life.

    At the moment, Xalia had been sleeping. She woke at the first knock- but whoever this guest was had at least the manners to stay outside of her home. She woman sat up, and groped the air for her dress. In these warm summer months, she slept without it, but slipped it on for the sake of company. One of the figures in the corner, the smaller one, stirred, roused itself, and silently made its way to the door. It was stiff in walking, but seemed to have the hand of movements by the time it reached the door.

    Xalia looked at it, before it continued. The door opened towards Xalia, which offered her enough protection in the likely scenario that this was a follower of Solaris. The thing at the door resembled a young girl, no older than 8 or 9 years. It had vacant brown eyes, brown hair that reached where breasts would have formed in coming years, and clear skin. Despite wearing just a simple white dress, there wasn't so much as a speck of dirt on the girl, which gave her an eerie look.

    "Junedith, would you see what our guest wants?" Xalia murmured. The mockery of a girl complied, and opened the door. While it didn't speak, it looked up at Theobald, awaiting explanation. Had its eyes not been so dead, there might have been a look of expectancy, but as it were, the man was only met with unblinking eyes and pupils pointed towards him.
  3. Theobald looked down at...the...girl? Was it a girl? If it was, she certainly was the creepiest girl he had ever seen. Somehow she was clean (what would seem an impossible feat out here), her hair was perfect, and her eyes...holy fuck those eyes. Theo had to force himself to look away, then immediately decided never to look at them again. He blinked a few times, taking a moment to remember what it was he was supposed to be doing here.

    "Are you...the witch? I was told one lived out here." He rubbed the back of his neck, looking around. Anything but at those weird, glassy eyes, for Solaris' sake. "No offense, but I kind of expected you to be bigger."

    Even with how short the girl was, he couldn't see inside the hut, leaving him with no indication that someone else was there. And his knocking had been so loud he hadn't heard any other voices from outside. Not that it was necessarily bad if this was her. There were witches around her age; exceptionally powerful ones, too. But they tended not to be human, as he was increasingly doubting this one was.

    And he wasn't completely sure he wanted to collaborate with someone who wasn't human. In his experience, non-humans could be tricky to figure out, difficult to get to cooperate, and rarely cared about the same issues as you. Though...the villagers wouldn't have told him about this place unless she had something against Solarias, right?

    "Uh, sorry that it's late," he tried. "But I came from kind of far off, on foot, and I didn't think that staying out there-" He gestured behind him with his thumb. "-was the best idea, soo..." His voice pitched up at the end of the word, his mouth forming an "o", leaving the sentence open for her to jump in. And say something. Anytime now. Don't look at the eyes oh my Solaris. Anything at all.
  4. It was evident that he wasn't here to kill her. A swift attack was the way to go- Xalia would be hard pressed to fall for anything else, she decided, and stood up. Junedith opened the door wider and stepped out of the way, while Xalia took to the center of the shack. Some dire wisps ebbed into existence and started floating around the hut to allow light in, and Xalia eyed the man up and down. The witch realized that she would have been quite the sight- her black hair looked as though it were never combed, her skin taunt and stretched over her bones. Her collar bones jutted out, her check bones- even her hands were just skin tight across the bones.

    Junedith, still silent, retreated to where she had sat in the corner moments before, and returned to her limp and lifeless state. "What do you want?" she snapped. So long away from others had ruined her manners. A voice in her head reminded her to pay a visit to the man she'd paid to keep the town silent about her existence. Being a collection of families that had suffered too many losses thanks to slavers, she had assumed that the gold and promised quiet would have been enough to keep her out of the ears of others, but clearly that wasn't the case.

    "You were right about it not being safe out there," she added, abruptly. "Step inside," she instructed the man, and the door slammed itself shut behind him when he did. "And who told you about me?" I need to slit their throat. Or promise that I shall, at any rate.
  5. Theobald jumped when she slammed the door behind him. Or it slammed by itself? You could never tell with witches what was what. That much he had learned. At any rate, this woman certainly filled the title well. She was at least ten years his elder, but it would appear that when it came to self care, she knew about as much as someone ten years younger than him. But again, witches were weird like that. The wisps were a nice touch, though. They were warm and comforting in a way that only those who grew up around magic understood.

    He took a moment to really look around the shack. Worn down, generally dirty, magical, seemingly sentient things here and there. Either this lady was asking for trouble, or she was powerful enough to hide all of this. He wasn't sure which he preferred.

    He held up his hands to the woman, making it clear that he wasn't here to do her harm. "I heard you don't like Solarias? I, uhm," he began. "I can't, well, I've recently found reason to dislike them as well."

    Theobald figured she'd want to know the next thing, about where he heard of her. He briefly considered telling her, but the man had been so nice, with kids and farm and a wife, and she seemed so...willing to disregard all of that. He shrugged. "Just some guy from the town near here. Not from there, so I couldn't help you with a name. Sorry."

    "Anyway, I'm Theo. Probably should've started with that." He laughed a bit, though it came out more awkward and strained than the casual attempt to ease tension it was meant to be.
  6. Xalia only arched an eyebrow in response to her guest's forced laughter, and a wisp passed by her face to emphasize the incredulity on her face. "I'm going to assume it was Jonas," she remarked, as the wisp floated away. Jonas was one of the many farmers, but also the easiest to scare. Even this guy, with his nervousness and apparent inexperience at talking could have scared him- but maybe that was just her. Most of the townsfolk were scared by her, and they were right to be. The only thing more dangerous than an angry woman who knew magic was the crushing religion that she despised.

    "But no matter. It's an odd hour of the night to tell me that you'd like to have tea because we've something in common," the witch said, moving on. "Theo- is that short for something?- I take it you've something more urgent to talk to me about." This boy had best discovered that Solaris was real and have angered that false god, Xalia thought to herself. Much short of that wouldn't have been enough to wake her up, and part of being a recluse did entail that Xalia didn't take kindly to guests.

    But- it was rare to find someone who also saw through the religion. "Sit," she instructed. A wisp passed by a chair that was beside the chest. It may not have been there before, but it was now, and it was real enough. "They can say what they will, but they can't say I'm a rude host. What shall you have to drink? Tea? Coffee?" She turned towards the pot in the corner, which revealed that it had actually been a kettle this whole time- never a pot. "Choose now so that I may serve it before you answer, so you needn't think I may have poisoned it," she advised, and a larger wisp, a fire, stationed itself next to the pot, which roused itself to the flames and sat upon them.

    With one last parlor trick to impress her guest, Xalia held two cups, one in each hand, when she turned around. She went and sat in the chair on her side of the chest- it had been there, as evident by the wisp that passed by just a moment ago, the entire time. Then, the witch eyed her guest, trying to gauge how he felt about the magic. In truth, many of these items were kept in a much smaller form in the chest- it was moving them a short distance and enlarging them, or substituting in the case of the pot and the kettle. To a nonmagic-user, the effect was usually unnerving, but Theo had seemed unfazed by the wisps, so perhaps the simple grandeur would be lost on him.
  7. Theo watched her, scrunching his face slightly. Wow, isn't she fun? he thought. She had guessed correctly; it had been some guy named Jonas, now that he thought about it. But then she was ordering him to sit down (in a chair that he could say with certainty had not been there only five seconds ago), and who was he to argue with this powerful woman? Making objects appear, causing them to come to life, controlling wisps - those weren't cheap tricks. At least not the way she did them.

    "Tea is good," he told her, nodding. He grinned at her. "Wouldn't dream of it." Theo watched as she worked, making it seem effortless, like the magic was an extension of herself, an unconscious thought. That was how it was supposed to be, and sure, he respected those who were capable of such things, but not enough to pursue that level of talent for himself.

    A wisp landed on the table near him, and he grasped at it, letting it skim his hand from palm to back. These things looked like they would burn you, given how they resembled tiny fires, but were exceedingly harmless. A bit warm, thought that was comforting. He let it go, watching as it flit around the surface of the table.

    Remembering her other question, he replied, "Theobald." He looked up at her, checking to see if she followed. "It's short for, uh, Theobald. And yourself?" Sure, he had a last name - who didn't - but it was kind of a dead giveaway of who he was (or, rather, had been), and anyone who hated Solarias as much as this woman seemed to would know this right away. He wasn't here to defend himself or share his life story, after all. Even if he had to remind himself that before saying anything.

    "Well, yeah," Theo began, rubbing his hands together in that weird, nervous tick he had. "I wanted to talk to you about Solarias." He paused, picking up his tea and trying it. Burnt his mouth, but it was good all the same. He continued, holding the cup with one hand and using a simple cooling spell. "Here's the thing - I want it gone. And I was told you'd be willing to help." Not that the two of them could single-handedly do it, but making powerful allies was never a stupid idea.
  8. Her guest was impressed by the magic, evidently, and despite what the witch may have initially thought, he was perhaps even more impressed than the average citizen would be. He's had schooling in magic, she realized, suddenly, as the kettle floated over and filled their cups. Several wisps settled in the center of the table and danced together there, giving the two better lighting to more carefully inspect each other with. The wisps don't trouble him, but the parlour tricks do. He knows he strenuous conjuring can be. That certainly gave things an interesting twist.

    "Xalia will suffice," she replied to his query for a name. It was a self-given one. Unlike other slaves that she had lived with, Xalia had been too young to remember her name before the Solarians had taken her and her family to the tower's construction. Upon escape, she fashioned herself a name; a crude name was better than a string of number any day.

    At his proposition, Xalia froze. Get rid of Solarias? A dream, certainly- but, just like that? The witch choked back a laugh. The boy seemed too eager, too serious, to be simply fooling her. And what idiot would come here for a practical joke? The offer was tempting, so the witch rose her cup to her lips and sipped her tea to mull it over.

    "I don't know what makes you think I'd take up such a foolish offer," she said, after a moment, and set her cup on the chest between them. "You have not heard wrong. I would dearly like to see that idiot's belief system exposed for the sham it is, but where the masses lay their belief is where the power lies, and lest you've some army that you've yet to mention to me, then the only thing to be achieved by rising up against them would be death in the name of their god and a brand of lunacy."

    But the idea still enticed her. Despite there being no reason to pursue it any further- after all, Xalia herself could have started on the same endeavor years ago- the witch liked it more, when it came from someone else's lips. "But I would hope that you would approach me with more than just a shared desire. Perhaps you can convince me that this is more than suicide?" To those that knew Xalia, they might have detected a note of hope in the witch's voice. To those that didn't, it was more of a question with more inflection than normal.
  9. Xalia? That was new. It had that weird quality of a chosen name, though. Names you were given didn't sound natural; didn't fit you one hundred percent. Theo had learned that easily enough in the past few years. And would suffice? Solaris, who was this woman? No wonder witches tended to be loners - they were antisocial and cryptic in the most condescending sense.

    "I..." Theo looked at her, frowned, looked down at his cup and thought. He hadn't really thought this far ahead. He guessed it meant revealing himself. Unless he lied. But no...from looking at her that seemed even more foolish than his plan. And come to think of it, did he even have a plan? Was this just suicide? He held his face in one hand, vacantly watching the wisps.

    They were so simple and small and...small. But there was the child. That the Solarians had killed. He had no doubt it wasn't the first time - bleeding people was an art you were taught about (though the specifics were, of course, not given), and, though he had no reason why they did it besides fanatical sacrifice, there was no doubt it would be the last.

    He sighed. This would either get him in some serious trouble with Xalia, or earn some points in his favor. Stomach churning at the former, he began, "Because I have intimate knowledge of the way they operate, believe it or not. I used to be in line to become a priest." He looked at her. He wasn't dead, and she hadn't made any move to make that a reality, so he figured it was alright to continue. "Keep in mind the word used, though. I never had much interest in doing that, so, a few years back I ran away." He shrugged. "Besides, I doubt that would have happened." He stopped himself from going into any more detail, thinking that that might be too much to tell her right away.

    "But anyway, I lived in their temples for over a decade. I know how their lay out, who does what, some of their weak points. Not as well as I might of a few years ago, but things don't change that much." If there was one thing that could be counted upon, it was the Solarians' insistence on ritual, quite often in the literal sense.
  10. The boy was constructing an answer as Xalia sipped her tea again. Then he's a liar, she decided, here to lure me out of hiding and into death. If it weren't for the Solarians killing anything that didn't worship the sun, she would have taken that as a compliment that she was powerful enough to need to be exterminated. But alas, that wasn't the case. It could be. If I could see their libraries... For as many faults as they had, one had to commend their followers for their ability to gather and store knowledge from the general public. If only...

    A priest, was he? Xalia continued to drink and watch the boy. Perhaps he wasn't lying. That would take time to gather up the necessary courage to say, certainly. There was hope yet. "You ran away because it was a boring career to you?" The witch tore the darkness with her laugh. It sawed the air between them. The idea! That someone would leave their home, their gold, their status- that they would risk their life? Because they weren't interested in it? And they didn't have enough confidence to become a priest? Hilarious.

    "I'm not sure I believe you," she admitted, when she could control the laughter again, but there was still a disturbing, misplaced mirth in her words. "But, you've made me laugh." Now she was back, settled into her normal voice. A sip of tea returned the edge of boredom to her lips. "You can try again. And perhaps actually answer my question this time? Convince me that this isn't suicide. Haven't you a plan of action? Or are we, two renegades, simply to away to each temple and kill the priests, so that our romantic tale may be sung from every bar across this damned land once we are worshiped instead of Solarias?"

    Though Xalia spat out the name of the god, she had to admit that she was more allured by this idea than the sarcasm in her voice might have otherwise shared. Tearing down Solarias was good enough. Replacing him as the object of worship, though? No more living in a hovel, no more living in dirt. She thought about the two lumps in the corner, where the girl from earlier had returned to. No more hiding her dolls to conserve her energy. She'd constantly be full. And could eternally use her surroundings to keep them alive, if she wanted. She could have anything. Oh, that was positively intoxicating.
  11. Xalia's laughter gave him pause. It seemed out of place on her, but he guessed it was good...but it still sounded off to him. He smiled awkwardly back, shifting in his seat. But of course being a priest was boring. You never went anywhere; all you ever did was study and lead worship, if you were high enough up. There was such a big world out there, though. How could anyone ever be content doing the same thing their entire lives? He had wanted to explore, to know the outside world without only reading about it, to experience life.

    He knew why she was laughing. Everyone assumed that if you were chosen to become a priest, you had hit some sort of sweet spot in life. They thought you were endlessly lucky, blessed by Solaris himself. Money wasn't everything, but he guessed he could see where she was coming from here.

    I'm not smart enough to lie, he thought. He sighed at her supercilious manner, her rampant lack of sincerity. "Well, I mean, you're a witch, right? You have magic and know how to use it. And I don't take you as the kind of person for vows, so I doubt we have that issue." Vows were something a religious practitioner of magic made; you agreed not to use your power to any useful degree. Unless, of course, you were already in power. "But, I mean, you're right. It's going to take more than just the two of us. You're not the only one who hates Solarias, though, remember? I'm sure plenty of people out there would rebel just as easily, but they're scared. So we need to give them the means to fight back. I mean, you're good with your power thing, and I'm pretty good with the more physical aspects of fighting."

    Theo paused, thinking about the next part. Xalia had been sarcastic, of course, but he didn't want her to think she could entertain any ideas of claiming power for herself. This was not about that. He continued, "So I say that you, me, and whoever we can get to join us, go temple to temple and take over. But after, we leave the people in charge of themselves. It's an idea I read once, and I think it's the best thing." Though, because it was so radical, it might take some time for the average man to grasp the concept of...what was it again? Demony? Deomcacy? Whatever. Regardless, as he saw it, religion did nothing but hold people back, and a more secular world would be a one worth fighting for.
  12. How observant. But Xalia had to give the boy some credit; perhaps it was just the nerves of being near one such as herself that made him spit out the obvious. "Correct," she affirmed. "I never took their vows. I stole their books and taught myself," she explained. That had been for the pillars of her understanding. The rest, she'd learned and reasoned out herself. The witch finished her tea and considered what her guest offered. Finding others would be difficult, and leaving the people in charge would be risky, but he seemed confident in that choice of action.

    Then the witch put her cup down. "How do you propose we find these others? You may have found me, but asking for adversaries of Solaris likely won't yield such nice results next time," she said. "More live alone, or in settlements that know not of their distaste for the religion. Calling our for them shan't make them come, either, as they'd likely think it to be another culling put on by the followers."

    This idea of the people ruling themselves, that too won't work. If we got into this divine mess by following just one, what may happen when we are ruled by all? And there went the thrill, as well- Xalia had lived in the dirt her entire life. If she was to destroy the religion, she would benefit from it as much as possible. Tell him that she wouldn't aid without such benefit? ... No. Either he would leave and tell them, or he would kill her in her sleep later on. But sorting it out when they came to that bridge didn't seem to have any better results. A wisp floated by, and Xalia decided for an intermediate.

    "Leave the people in charge of themselves, so that neighborly squabbles may cause wars? I think not. With no sense of ruling, there will be chaos. Even this awful facade is better than nothing- there is still some order, something to prevent men from killing their brothers for a larger stake of land," she pointed out. "I shan't help you if that is your plan. How would you remedy that?"
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