Wandering Spirits

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  1. “It’s nothing but a message from Fate. A cruel and convoluted message, but one you cannot ignore.” Julian recalled these words, the last he’d received from his mother on the date of his exile. The weeks preceding had been rough, had been hell; being accused of that which you are certain is untrue is one thing: being guilty of that which you cannot fathom, of an evil you do not embrace, yet somehow practice, is humbling in a way Julian found surreal. He could not find his voice when the accusations rang in—for just what could he say? Of all those congregated at the funeral, of all those who witnessed the evil of dark, forbidden magic, none had a better view than the guilty himself: Julian. Of course he denied it, for he was no dark summoner, yet at heart he knew himself to be defeated. The exile wounded him, terrified him,but it was the layer beyond, the taint of his very soul that horrified him the most.
    The ruling came down; Julian was not surprised. The young man’s father was a Commission man, one of the few of the village who chose at a young age to pursue a life of financial gain over the town’s trade: magic. It was a decision that paid off from a fiscal standpoint: the Landers were, aside from the Magisters who governed the town, the most wealthy family in the village. But no amount of coin or clout could save Julian from his fate. On the day of his exile many regrets scurried around the young man’s mind, but the one that stood out ahead of the rest was the fact that his father was not present. He was an important man that, in exchange for a healthy salary, spent a great many days in Nixis’ capital. So not only could Julian not say goodbye, he could not even inform his father of the verdict and the terrible circumstances of its foundation.
    The gates closed at Julian’s back. Laid before him was an infinite expanse of snow, jagged rock and desolation. Even in the warmer months Julian’s tiny town suffered from cold, as it sat permanently in the shadow of Mount Eurias, a towering, jagged titan that served as one of Nixis’ most daunting peaks. And because months that should be warm were cold, the winters in this region were nightmares. Constant exposure gave its people tough skin, but none were completely impervious to it. The few proponents of Julian’s innocence used this aa a clutch: “The boy will surely freeze in the elements.” Pity reached none of the old Magisters; they remedied the suggestion of a certain death sentence by gifting the young exile a lavish coat of thick bearskin, plentiful in warmth and fur. Julian was indifferent. Die or not, the life he’d known had died the moment he’d inadvertently awoken the dead. And so the great gates of his village closed with a harrowing crash that soared over the silver landscape and echoed through the jagged corridors of rock that lay ahead.

    Julian, the oversized hood of the gift coat shrouding his face, did not delay. Although he had never ventured especially far from the village, he was not ignorant of direction. If he traveled southwest, a descent known for treacheries both living and landscape, Julian would reach Nixis’ capital. He knew for now, to keep his sanity and drive, he’d need a smalltime goal, and so he’d decided, or rather he’d been ordered by his mother, to seek out his father. He moved swiftly down the trade road, a route that in the spring was easily definable by the permanent scarring of horse-drawn carts and carriages. After two hours of travel, a light snow began. He didn’t worry. The third hour brought the woes of a darkening sky and the hungry howls of wolves. It was the first time since his venture began that Julian felt anxious. His stomach eased when, after a sharp descent along several curvy bends in the route, Julian spotted a stately cottage in the distance. Because of its size and the great number of mounts tied-up in the stalls on the side of the structure, Julian figured it to be a tavern or rest stop. It took less than twenty minutes to reach the tavern’s exterior. The wooden sign dangling from a post out front read, Agatha’s Stop; below the neat script was an insignia of two crossing sabers. Julian thought little of it. He knew the dangers of this new world, of being a wielder of forbidden magics. If all he had to brave were a few drunken roughians, he’d consider himself lucky. If he were to encounter a magic user on the other hand, one that was talented and sensitive to the arts, such as himself, and especially one in service of The Empire, he figured his journey would be coming to an end before it truly even began. But he hadn’t time to worry about the unknown.
    Julian slithered through the broad wooden door and did not stop to survey the crowd. The interior was filled with squabbling voices, both rough, calm, old and young. Although the space was fairly large, and although he’d yet to take a thorough look, Julian knew the place was hardly packed. He approached the long bar counter, took a seat and flipped off his hood. Julian Landers was a sharp-faced young man with shockingly bright blonde hair that slashed around his head like platinum daggers. When he was young it was hardly so bright, but as the years advanced and he became more and more reliant upon magic, his hair brightened. As it looked now, it was nearly white, but perhaps the snow had contributed. His eyes were slender and intelligent and vacuous, decently lashed and a strange mix-up of muddy greens and browns. When asked, he called them hazel. Finally seated, finally comfortable, he scanned the crowd because his stomach was tight—he couldn’t quite pinpoint it, and it may have been nothing more than a physical manifestation of his fears, but Julian felt magic in this tavern. Finding it wasn’t really his concern: it finding him was
  2. Caligo Enkali knew magic. She knew it intimately. She knew it better than she knew herself - although perhaps that's because she wasn't looking hard enough. Taking the small glass of fire-shot whiskey, as it was called, she downed it in one gulp and let the alcohol burn its way down her throat as she examined the boy who radiated magic. He seemed young and innocent, clearly unused to the darker side of life. The thick fur coat that draped over his shoulders suggested he came from money, but the fact that he was seeking shelter in a lowly travel inn suggested otherwise. Rich boy on the run then? Well, she was about to find out.

    Knowing that he could sense her magic, even if that was all he knew, she made sure to discreetly ready a shielding spell as she headed over to the newcomer. Sliding into the suddenly empty seat beside him, she tapped her knuckles on the bar and a small glass of the same whiskey was sent down her way. A small nod of thanks to the bartender and the second drink went the same way as the first, meaning straight down her gullet. Letting out a breath, she turned to the new boy and leaned on the counter slightly, white hair cascading down her back, red eyes lightly narrowed. "Well, new boy, what are you running from?"
  3. A proper examination of the room revealed to Julian several potential sources of the magical pressure that was slowly becoming less protective speculation, more tangible terror. The young man knew that somewhere along the way he’d face one or two people talented in the arcane, but so soon?—didn’t rightfully feel fair, but the Goddess of Justice had long since abandoned him which was the reason he was here in the first place. In a booth near the back wall sat an older man in robes: a traditional long-bearded hermit of sorts that looked more like the materialization of a child’s rendering of a mage than one in earnest, but something about him stood out. The next person that caught his eye was a dapper looking gentleman in fine clothes. A long, fiendish grin seemed to be struck permanently across his boxy, pompous jaw; he was standing with his leg propped-up on a stool while entertaining several cawing women who, to Julian, seemed a brainless troupe of air-headed slatterns birthed only to orbit a man so false as the one they currently accompanied.

    But the third—the young woman with the shock white hair and the piercing gaze. The young woman who stood. The young woman who appeared to be studying him just as he studied her. A rogue torrent of weakness tore up his resolve, and as a result Julian could look on her no longer. But he felt her move, felt the pressure in his temples deepen. She sat, ordered another drink with but a knock upon the counter, then, to his great displeasure, spoke: a great many fears seemed to come to fruition with her address. Julian’s eyes swung magnetically to meet her own. Such a macabre set they were, red and seemingly built of all the bad and hurtful things in the world. But he wouldn’t pass judgement yet. Instead Julian smiled cunningly, and although it was a valiant attempt, everything about the grin seemed out of place; manufactured. “Running?” He replied, acting casual by hoisting both eyebrows, retaining that easy smile. “No, no—I’m just—I’m on a bit of an errand. I suppose. . . .”
  4. Caligo sighed softly, closing her eyes for a moment before snapping them open again, the red irises seeming to glow softly with an unknown emotions - sympathy? anger? "You know, boy, you're not fooling anyone." Shaking her head, she knocked on the bar again, this time ordering two drinks with a slight motion of her head to the boy sitting next to her. They again were slid down the bar and she neatly caught them, pushing one over to the boy next to her before taking her own in hand. "You have the look of some one innocent, some one lost in the world. You're either on the run voluntarily or you were thrown out."

    "It's alright, you know. Bad shit happens to everyone. You don't have to hide it." She wasn't looking at the boy any longer, instead focusing her red eyes on a point on the bar. "It's a simple fact of this world that those who least deserve it get hurt the worst." Getting drunk always made her philosophical. It was bad for her reputation, so with some effort she managed to shut up. "Anyway, my point is, I try to help those people. Tell me what you're running from, and I'll see if I can fix the problem. If I can't, then I can at least provide some resources, enough to head to the capital if you wished."
  5. The young woman’s words did not put the boy on edge. They did not calm him, but they did not perpetuate his anxieties. And yet anxiety did tie up Julian’s belly—the reason being? The woman chose to talk to him; chose to advance, chose to, for seemingly no reason, offer her time, a thing many deemed precious above all things, and assistance. Those red eyes were equal part evocative and powerful; Julian had never seen any like them before. Back in his village, he was the unequaled power; something about this white-haired girl gave him the notion that in the world-at-large he had great deal to learn, and a great many powerful magic wielders to which he could not compare. Because he was certain she was such a user, Julian knew it was in his best interest to keep his story to himself, but also felt that angering her was equally unwise.

    So he smiled, accepted the drink with a thankful nod and sipped, not feeling bold enough shoot it back like she could. It was not his first tussle with alcohol, but experienced he was not. Proof of this showed in those muddy eyes, as they were glistening for that fiery whiskey was tearing up his throat. Looking down and smiling serenely, he said, “I’m that transparent, am I? All I’m saying for now is that I am indeed lost—my story is my own, and I would be lying if I said your offer wasn’t tempting but. . . I just have to wonder. Wonder what it is you stand to gain? You don’t know a thing about me. This innocent face could be a ruse.” Julian’s smile sharpened. “I could be a real a devil, you know.”
  6. Caligo couldn't help but laugh at the watering in the boy's eyes as he sipped the whiskey. It was just proof of his inexperience with the outside world. Although his power was great, his knowledge and wisdom, perhaps, was not. Staying silent until the boy spoke, she nodded approvingly at his words. "That's good, that thought right there. It shows that maybe you have what it takes to survive out here in the real world." However his last remark startled another laugh out of the normally solemn woman. "Oh wow... There is no way you're a devil in disguise. Unless..." She ran an appraising eye up and down his figure, a small smirk curling her lips as a mischievous glint appeared in her eyes. "Unless you're a devil in the bed... You certainly look like a sex god."

    With that remark said, she shook her head and the smirk softened into a genuine smile. "People who are innocent and lost, looking for a place they can stay, someone they can trust... I know what those people look like, I know what they need. And you, my boy, are innocent and lost, and it is my duty to take care of you. I become the person people can trust, I become the person people go to for help. I become that person because I know what it's like to go without, and I don't wish that upon anyone." She sighed again and looked at the boy with the golden hair and hazel eyes. "What's your name, boy?"
  7. When the sinister young woman replied to his claim of devilishness with an overjoyed and prodding outburst, Julian’s eyes shot out defensively. He slammed the glass down and, still smiling slightly himself, which was proof that he’d suffered no great offence, moved his lips in a way that told of a coming monologue. However his cheeky reply was slayed by the girl the minute she bemusedly jested at prowess between the sheets. Julian’s face looked as though it was again suffering from something proving difficult to swallow. With a fulgent bar of perky rose illuminating his cheeks and the bridge of his nose, the young man’s smile weakened ashamedly as his eyes scurried away.

    Thankfully the words the white haired girl chose next were of a more tangible criteria. Slowly he returned eyes, did not smile, but did, expression mute, appear completely engrossed in her proclamation. She finished with a question; those hazel eyes dropped like anvils: conflict became him. Instead of answering, Julian slid off the stool and reached into the deep pocket on the right side of the bearskin coat. Ten coins were produced; he placed them on the counter with a smile. Easily working his arms out of that hefty coat, he said through a rich smile, “The next drinks are on me—but I’m a lost little rich boy, remember, so I choose wine to be our next drink. Mother and father drank Remisuex: a fantastic, bold red wine of unrivaled vintage. But that paltry amount of silver I placed on the counter would not cover even a quarter of the price: I need to save as much coin as I can, so any red wine will do.”

    A flashy smirk made Julian’s cheeks swell up, their crests wrinkled handsomely. Finally out of that monstrosity of a coat, the young blonde folded it up neatly and placed it upon the top of a vacant stool at his aft. The clothes he wore underneath were simple and not becoming of a boy that came from money, but dressing like a noble out in the wild would have been a disastrous experiment. Once he was seated, he said finally, “Julian. That’s my name. Will you tell me yours?”
  8. "I am Caligo Enkali. The Angel of Darkness. And, some say, Mercy." The red eyed girl sighed softly and motioned to the bartender, who immediately put down the glass he was cleaning and came over to her. "The finest red wine you have, two glasses." Then she gave an amused smirk to Julian. "Put them on my tab, and give my boy here back his silver." The man behind the counter quickly complied and the ten pieces of silver were pushed back in front of Julian. "Take your ten silver, Julian, and keep it for more important items later." She said softly.

    Caligo was about to speak again when a young boy scampered up to her, a panicked expression on his face. "Miss Caligo! Miss Caligo!" The woman in question turned to look at the boy with shock clear on her face. "Scamp, what are you doing here? You shouldn't be in a bar!" The boy was trembling, and clearly frightened. "My pa needs help, Miss Caligo! Please come help him..." Caligo's face softened and she bit her lip in an uncharacteristic sign of uncertainty. She cast a glance at Julian and it was made clear that he was the cause of her indecisiveness. "Fine, I'll go. Julian," Here she turned to face him fully, her expression more serious than he had seen her thus far, "You can either stay here or come along... If you come, I will do my best to ensure your safety but there are no gauruntees when it comes to magic, I'm sure you know that. Because of that, I plead with you to remain here while I go take care of this problem. Please excuse me." And with that she stood, motioning to the young boy who still stood in front of her. "Come on, Scamp, I'll let you ride on Umbra's back the way you like it."
  9. Caligo Enkali—Such a name. To Julian, who’d never ventured beyond the borders of his village, the named seemed foreign. Whether this girl was Nixian or not was yet to be seen, but she seemed so different, so provocative and powerful that Julian did little else but stare upon her as she spoke, as she ordered up a bottle of fine wine, as she commanded the bartender to refund his coin. With the hesitation of a child enamored by the unfathomable generosity of an adult, Julian, wide-eyed, recollected his coin. Just as childishly, he mewed, “Oh. . . thank you, Miss Enkali.”

    The young blonde watched with almost mirrored shock as the troubled boy burst into the tavern and laid a plea at Caligo’s feet. She’s well known around here, it seems. . . . perhaps it’s as mother said—perhaps I have to be more keen to fate’s web—perhaps she is indeed an Angel of Mercy or Guidence. When the red-eyed woman mentioned the dangers of magic, those hazel eyes jumped out of Julian’s head. Of course she was sharp enough to sniff out his arcane aura—it was why she approached him in the first place. And yet talking about it so freely, in a dingy tavern of all places—did she not fear the prying eyes of The Empire? Was she so confident in her abilities that she feared not the Reavers that sought out rogue mages such as themselves? It was perhaps this recognized fearlessness that drove Julian to answer Caligo with a swift headshake. Quickly he turned and gathered up the massive bearskin coat, threw both arms into the sleeves and drew-up the hood. Smiling confidently (this one not so fraudulent), Julian boasted, “I can hold my own, Caligo. I won’t get in your way. As thanks for the wine, I’ll assist however possible.”
  10. "Well come along then, and for magic's sake - do not speak of anything you are about to see tonight." She said, her voice full of a barely hidden menace. "If you breath a word to anyone, besides me, I will find you, and hurt you." Shaking her head and smiling as though she hadn't just threatened his life, she spoke again. "But I don't have to worry about that, do I?" And with that parting shot delivered, she headed out the door of the inn, the young boy following after her quickly.

    Once outside of the inn, she glanced up at the sky, noting that the sun had already fallen. "That should make this easier." She mused to herself, sighing softly as she turned to face south for a reason known only to her.
    She paused to gather herself before one hand came up and cut downwards in a sharp vertical line. "Tarjoile minut, varjoja." She hissed out, her magic flaring up greatly - enough that even Julian could sense it, whether or not he remained in the bar. For a moment it seemed as though nothing had happened - before a pair of green eyes blinked open in the darkness. It's body solidified as it stepped into the light from the inn, revealing it's true shape. The wolf, for it could be nothing else, stood as high as a horse, and was composed entirely of shadows. In fact, you could see shadows breaking off of his form, new shadows merging, so that the shape was ever changing but still the same.

    Caligo smiled gently and reached out a hand, the wolf coming to nuzzle as if it were a giant dog. The little boy was staring in excitement, no shock or surprise evident on his face. "He's so big this time, Miss Caligo!" He squealed, clapping his hands together in delight. The red eyed woman couldn't help but laugh. "Yes, scamp, I made him big this time so that we could all ride him to your pa's house." At the mention of his father, the boy sombered slightly, but excitement still flickered in his eyes. "Come here, and let me help you up." The wolf knelt to the ground obediently as Caligo lifted up the child and gently placed him on the wolf's back. Despite being made of shadows, it seemed that the wolf's body was still solid, as evident by the fact that the boy hadn't fallen to the ground when he was placed atop the giant beast still kneeling on the ground. She swung aboard as well, and waited to see what Julian would do.
  11. The threat was not taken lightly—to Julian, Caligo did not seem the type to bother with idle threats, even if she had revealed herself to be a bit sly and sarcastic. The young man did not shrink or display shock when she ordered him, mostly because of how speaking to anyone about Caligo’s talents was the furthest thing from his mind; he'd figured, before leaving home, that speaking of magic in general out in the greater realm would be something of an idiotic endeavor. Smiling, although looking a bit shy, Julian nodded and said “No. . . . you don’t have to worry about anything. My lips are sealed.” To prove it he pinched his lips tightly and pantomimed sealing them with buttons.

    Following the pair of Caligo and her young admirer outdoors, Julian was confronted by a burst of cold air that drove him to wince; Getting comfortable in there lowered my tolerance so quickly, eh? Paused and admiring a sky written in crude, layered strokes of violet, orange and blue, Julian pocketed his hands and seemed to drift off. Until Caligo drove her hand down like an axe and whispered an incantation. He could not hear the seal’s verse, but, every hair on his body writhing excitedly, every nerve singing below his flesh as if he were in the aperture of a thunder head, he felt it. When the wolf materialized, Julian’s eyes widened slightly. It was like something he’d never seen before. In a way it reminded him of the companion he’d lost—his own wolf, yet the one he was once able to summon was built entirely of bending, brilliant light of white and blue. Were they side-by-side, the casual admirer would probably be aghast at the side of Caligo’s summon; would probably deem it evil. Yet despite its menacing appearance, Julian sensed an air of familiarity from the wolf’s aura, one of brilliant power, guile and, above all, unmalleable resolve and loyalty. It made him long for his lost power.

    Caligo loaded-up her little friend then mounted herself. Smiling morosely, partially smitten by the wolf’s appearance, partially hesitant, he approached the trio. “Room for one more?” He asked, before navigating the mighty beast, finding a spot on its back behind both Caligo and the excitable boy. The tendrils of syrupy shadows that flared off its back were something to behold, something like flames of pure ether, that harrowing manifestation of magic in a tangible form. Julian’s body felt hot with anticipation, and although he was deaf to it now, as all the excitement had clearly stolen every bit of his concentration, his own magics were beginning to spark and pop about him in a way Caligo would most likely sense as one might sense the dropping of air pressure in the coming minutes of an approaching storm.
  12. Caligo had to suppress a shudder at the feeling of Julian's magic surrounding her as he mounted Umbra behind her. Signalling the great black beast to rise, she reached around and grabbed Julian's hands, pulling them around her so that he was forced to press his body close to hers. "Stay close, and hold on tight." She whispered in his ear, her hot breath washing over his skin as she turned to face forward once more. Her own hands securely holding on to the young boy in front of her, a small nudge from her legs was enough to prompt the large wolf into a smooth lope, not jarring his passengers at all as he increased his pace into a full fledged run.

    "Umbra, into the woods." Caligo snapped out loud, her eyes intent on scouring the shadows of the road for unwanted witnesses, finding none but not dropping her guard. The wolf obeyed, darting into the trees where his agility was put to the test as he dodged branches and leapt over logs in the darkness. Caligo barely noticed, her mind consumed with Julian's magic. She breathed it in with every gasp of the cold night air, she felt it spark against every inch of naked skin. It was pure sensation, the sheer strength of his power inciting in her the desire to play, the desire to test her strength against his in a battle of will, but also to play... In a more carnal sense.

    Did every magic user feel this... This desire, when faced with another practioner of great power? The sheer power their joining would create... It did make her shiver. Passing it off as a chill from the night air, Caligo once more focused her attention on the journey, prompting the boy in front of her for directions when her own memory failed. Soon enough they would reach their destination, and the truth behind the boy's urgent plea would be revealed.
    #12 Ananfal, Apr 12, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2015
  13. That heated murmur partnered with forced contact evoked a fount of completely foreign and sensational feelings within Julian. Born a prodigy; tailored to lead and teach, the young man had yet, in his short life, been exposed to the visceral delights of the female form, to its haunting bends, beckons and beauties. He was not ignorant to life’s cycle, he just hadn’t the time between lessons and the furthering of his own knowledge of the arcane to succumb to the primal vacuum of the magnetic female form. But this girl, this adept, this roguish recluse who had targeted him without reservation had kindled something dormant, something that he’d set aside years ago with the acceptance of his fate. It was intoxicating, this, the simplest of contact, to Julian: to be so close to her; to feel so secure around a girl he’d known not twenty minutes. The young man hadn’t the words to describe the whorls of bright excitement that revolved in his belly like a typhoon of frozen flame. He replied softly, desperately, “I will. . .”

    Caligo ordered Umbra into the woods—the beast’s obedience was impressive to Julian. Her bond with the shadow wolf was something he’d never had with his previous companion, and in this moment, Umbra pivoting like a masterwork of precision before bolting into the thicket, Julian was humbled by the fact that Caligo was his better. He felt not contempt, for a reaction of the like would be absurd; it was instead a relief to know that such talented practitioners wandered the realm, for Julian’s greatest fear was that he’d stick out in this wild world like a red star in the black night.

    When the young man’s abilities mutated, there was a shift in his sense. Being a once prestigious summoner brought with it many gifts. The Holy Conjurings were the magics of life and light, and because of his attunement, Julian was always able to sense people, even when they were out of sight. Now, he sensed not a thing not in the net of ears or eyes—not the living, anyhow. It was something he first felt several days before his exile as he strolled around the perimeter of the cemetery: he was keen to the buried; to the bones; to the lifeless husks that dwelled below the soil. Even now, as Umbra artfully bolted through the thick darkness of the wilderness, a darkness so deep and consuming it nearly eviscerated the Shadow Wolf’s form, making it hard to tell where he ended and the space around him began (Julian's recognition of this made him feel as though the three of them were floating queerly through the air), the young Necromancer could feel the bones of the lost crammed below the soil and sediment of the forest floor. It was a feeling he’d yet to, and might possibly never would, become accustom to.
  14. A soft squeeze of her knees was enough to tell Umbra to stop, the wolf instantly obeying her wordless command. "I sense darkness ahead... Not shadows, not my darkness, but the darkness inside of another's soul..." Caligo whispered, her red eyes glinting as she stared into the night as if she could pierce the dark veil that shielded the unknown perpetrator from her sight. Tearing her gaze from the black well in front of them, she instead turned her attention to the child she held securely in her arms. "Scamp, I didn't ask you before, but now you have to tell me." Her voice was soft but firm, steel wrapped in a cover of silk. "What happened to your father?"

    The child swallowed before answering, his voice strained with fear and pain, but it barely wavered as he spoke. "M-my pa killed my ma... He was e-evil... There was a lot b-blood, Miss Caligo..." The white-haired woman said nothing, only gathering the child to her and rocking back and forth, whispering soothing words to the young boy. Slowly a small hum began to build in her throat while she continued to speak, the words attaining a melodic and rhythmic quality that entranced the listener. She finished the soft song with a kiss on the forehead, and the boy went limp in her arms. Straightening up, she slid off of Umbra's back, still carrying the child. "He's asleep now." Caligo spoke, her voice back to her normal, almost business-like tone of voice as she waited for Julian to disembark from the beast as well. Once he stepped foot on the ground, she reached out to touch Umbra on the head and the great wolf bowed to her before melting into the shadows of the forest at night.

    "You don't have to worry about waking him, the spell I sung should keep him asleep at least until tomorrow morning, but probably later since I sang the full song and he's only a child." She informed Julian as she began to walk, expecting him to follow behind her. "Umbra will go alert a friend of the family in the village, and they'll take the child in. After all, I doubt the father is in any condition to take care of his child." She said darkly, an unknown emotion coloring her tone as she clutched the child to her breast for a moment before relaxing her grip. "I'll assume you know nothing of the darker side of magic, so I'll try to explain upon the way."

    "There are such things as curses, despite what you might have heard. However, the curses that the medicine women in most villages spout about - those don't exist. Real curses are much darker than simply turning a hen barren or poisoning a well. A true curse would cause a plague, killing man and chicken alike." Caligo struggled to keep her voice steady as she spoke about the darkest side of her own powers. "There is a select portion of curses that affect a man - affect his very soul. What the boy said was correct in a sense - his father is now "evil". A curse has been laid upon him, and it has twisted his soul beyond recognition. We are now dealing with a monster in a human body. Beware, Julian."
  15. The partnership of the little boy’s heart-wrenching confession and Caligo’s insight on magic’s most heinous houses put Julian on edge. The hurricane of excitement that had sung brightly in Julian’s belly throughout the ride upon Umbra’s back transitioned into a sinkhole that sought to devour the joy he’d only just acquired. Caligo was correct in her assumption that Julian was ignorant to the arcane’s forbidden arts. Irony envigorated a recently scavenged sarcasm, a macabre sense of humor that had been born in the genesis of his exile: this irony being that the forbidden arts were foreign to him, and yet he was now a user of one of magic’s most vile practices.

    Despite the deep pit in his chest, Julian was suddenly curious. Brushing aside Caligo’s explanation of the tampering of the young boy’s father’s soul, selfish as it was, the young blonde glanced at the white-haired, red-eyed mage quizzically. “I have a question. . . . these curses—do you know much about them? Well,” shrinking, eyes dropping, “I guess that much is clear. I—that is—Okay.” Filling his body up with air via a quick, clean inhale, those hazel eyes jumped out at Caligo with fresh, fluid and authentic confidence. “I’m asking for a very specific reason, and asking on a very specific curse, one that’s almost in-line with the terrible fate that this poor boy’s father suffered. In your travels have you encountered a curse that could permanently affect the properties of another’s casting? I’m sure a powerful wielder of curses could do all sorts of things, but something like that. . . . I. . . Back in my village, a friend of mine. . . changed. He was like me, a Holy Conjurer, but one day, inexplicably, he was no longer able to cast the spells of light. Instead his incantations brought forth terrible undead. Almost every person in my village wrote him off as some devout to Necromancy, but I know, with everything I am, that this is not true. He didn’t do that, he didn’t sell himself to the darkness. His soul simply. . . changed.”
  16. Sell himself to the darkness... Caligo wondered if Julian even knew the bias of his own words. He had reacted favorably to Umbra, but that was, perhaps, the least evil of her abilities. The most familiar and common power she had. He may not have thought too much about it. However, as one drifted further into the shadows, one found powers hidden away from so long they had become mere legends... And of course, the people who wielded them lusted only for power. No one cared that they had no choice, they were forced to have this power, and unless they used it, they went mad. Of course, most went mad anyway by using it too much, but that was irrelevant at the moment. What mattered was the curse laid upon Julian's friend... And how much she should tell him about it,

    "I know of such a curse." She finally admitted carefully, making sure to say nothing that could be used against her later. As a self-professed Holy Conjurer, Julian wielded power in this society the likes of which she only dreamed of. Despite the sheer strength and scope of her powers, Caligo herself would never even touch the power structure of this world. No, she would be feared, not liked. Hated, not loved. Most likely driven out of the city with stones, or perhaps even slain upon sight of her powers. No, she didn't dare risk telling Julian the full extent of her powers. As usual, lies dominated her life. Sighing, she continued her previous statement. "I know of such a curse, yes, but as far as I know... There is no cure. I would have to see the victim in person, observe the changes to their soul myself."
  17. Although Julian had nothing even remotely reminiscent of intimate knowledge of Caligo, the young woman with the white hair and red eyes exuded confidence, intelligence and a clean, sharp awareness. Because of this he could not be sure if she’d seen through his little lie. Of course Julian’s tale of a ‘friend’ was nothing more than a side-step, a ruse implemented to steal what information he could from the worldly Caligo, who he figured knew much about the world and the mystic magics that both bound and eviscerated it, magics that had, over many eons, brought both knowledge and chaos, progress and suffering. Julian would never consider his new, dark powers a blessing, but with consideration of the many years of chatter he’d weathered from the townsfolk about a possible promotion to The Capital where he would begin a life of governmental indenturement, he almost found solace in the freedom he’d won from exile. The country of Nixis was wide and wild, terrifying to a virgin of the grand exterior, but there had never been a time in his life where he longed to become a politician.

    After a knowing nod, his expression mute and unreadable, he said, “I understand.” He, of course, did not know the way to the town of their destination where that poor little boy’s possessed father awaited, but that did not stop him from taking several steps forward. Caligo would redirect should the direction he’d chosen turn out to be incorrect, so he didn’t hesitate; he simply felt abnormally anxious in pensive pause, waiting around to be dissected. Should their time together become extended, Julian’s abilities would become known to Caligo, and being the blightful, boring realist he was made Julian feel embarrassed to play this little game of who’s-who. It made him long to simply blurt it all out, but currently, walking slowly across the crisp, crunchy, paper-like leaves that carpeted the deep, dark forest on the outskirts of the village, Julian was in no mood. But he did speak: “If I can be honest a moment, I’ll tell you that my friend is the reason a stupid, simple rich boy like myself is wandering the frightful forests of Nixis all on his lonesome.” Words ceased a moment, he glanced over and snapped Caligo a swift wink that twinkled above a cleanly cut grin that carved up his jaw. “You know how it is—we don’t belong out here, don’t belong in the ‘elements’.” To prove he was not being pious, sarcastic instead, the young man laughed breathily. “But,” continuing in a voice melancholic. “it’s true, I’m out here on his behalf. I need to find answers, need to heal his. . . . well, his very soul it seems. It may sound impossible, but I’ve seen the impossible before, and because of that I have to believe that nothing in this world is impossible, Miss Caligo.”
  18. Caligo couldn't help but key h out a bitter laugh. "Of course nothing is impossible." She said dismissively, her gaze falling to the child she cradled in her arms. For a moment she could believe he was hers- but that was impossible (and yes, she did realize the irony of her words, but that didn't stop the thought from forming) and she shouldn't dwell on it. Firmly planting her mind back onto the issue at hand, Caligo sighed slightly and shook her head. "This is why people should look to the children in times of need." She said softly.

    "Children are innocent. There is no such thing as an evil child. Furthermore, children haven't yet lost their imagination, their... spark, for lack of a better word. Children are simple... Children are an ideal that all should strive for." She cast her gaze up through the trees, changing their direction slightly in order to stay on track. "Yes, there are aspects of childhood we lose as we grow up. We lose innocence and hope... Some people lose more. But we should not strive to become an "adult" or a "grownup". Instead, we should seek to be a child. A less innocent child, a more experienced child, hut a child nonetheless."

    A ragged breath of air ended her monologue as she took another, drawing the forest air deep into her Kungs in an attempt to stave off the cold that clutched at her heart. For you see, despite her mutterings and philosophies, she feared it was too late for a soul as twisted as hers was... A scream shattered the stillness of the forest and Caligo instantly leapt forward, her moping left behind her as she was startled into action. Grabbing at Julian's hand to make sure he kept up, she took off into the woods, twisting around trees in the darkness as she dreaded what they would find... Finally a log cabin loomed into sight, wisps of fog floating by gave it an eerie appearance of a house long deserted although it had held a happy family just that morning.

    A man shambled out of the mist, his body contorting as though in pain as he walked ever closer to the pair of Mages. Blood stained his skin, his clothes, and even his hair, as though he had taken a bath in the scarlet fluid. He let out a pitiful moan as he stumbled, but managed to right himself. "H...Help me..."
  19. Caligo’s words on embracing childhood affected Julian in a multitude of ways. It was maybe the first time he’d ever been afforded the time to reflect on such things. His was a life lived with a purpose, a purpose that had not been his in a lot of ways, it was a purpose that was little more than the desires of his people, of his village, the practice of his desire to please and pride them. Because of this he was never truly exposed to the delights of a normal childhood. Of course normality is relative, such was the viewpoint of the realist Julian, but neither rationality nor the services of logic could suffocate the fact that his younger days were ill-spent. Diminished, however, were his experiences and exposures to the greater and more affluent things of young life: love; career—even sex and the pursuit of money; these were perhaps not the concerns of a child, but were the concerns of a young teen and adult, relatively speaking, and from where he stood, as a conjurer, as a prodigy, Julian had never experienced carnal delights, had never had a day off, so to speak.

    A shriek seared through the thick silence of the still, chilly forest and shocked Julian. The young man’s face opened: eyes wide, jaw hanging, all while now standing completely still. Whether it was fear or shock was unknown, or perhaps a more accurate combination of both, but he wouldn’t be allowed to simply stand around and gawk into the blackness. Caligo grabbed the young man’s wrist and snapped into an erratic, but objective, sprint through the deep wood. Their breakneck boon under branch, around trunk and over crisp, frozen leaf ended when the thicket opened up to a clearing where an eerie cabin stood.

    When the blood-soaked man shambled out of the darkness, that clean coat of sanguine vitality shimmering under the few skinny spokes of bright moonlight that splintered through the canopy, Julian gasped and jumped back, his wrist slipping out of Caligo’s grasp. Again that pressure was felt in the air, the instability of roiling magics that seemed to be bursting out of Julian’s every pore, although invisibly. Still, he was ignorant to it—it almost seemed as though his power spiked defensively and of its own volition, as if it were a separate being that watched over Julian instead of an under-control practice. For now the hazel-eyed young man tore his eyes off of the sauntering father and bore them into his white-haired companion. “Caligo. . . Caligo. . . what. . . what do we do here? What should we do?”
  20. Caligo said nothing for a moment, staring at the husk of a good man she had known. He had loved his children greatly... Shielding her eyes with her hair, Caligo whirled around and pushed the small child she held into Julian's arms. "Hold him." She said roughly, her voice thin under the emotional burden she had taken upon herself. She struggled to say something, perhaps a tender word or two, but finally shook her head with a heavy exhalation. "Make sure he doesn't awaken. He needs to have his childhood - at least what's left of it." Was what she finally whispered, her heart heavy in her chest as slowly she turned back to the job at hand - for she could think of it no other way, for fear of being unable to complete her task.

    She slowly strode towards the shambling figure, silence reigning, broken only by moans or pleas for help that fell from the former man's lips. Caligo ignored them all, saying nothing in response and only continuing her slow advance onto the creature. Finally, when she was only a pace or two away, she stopped. "I will give you mercy, for the man you once were. Once your soul is freed from its shackles, you shall rejoin your wife. Are you content with this?" Her voice was thick, though it was clear this was not her first experience.

    The former man gave a single nod and Caligo responded with a bow of her head. "Your child shall always be cared for. This, I promise." She stated, and what appears on the creature's face could have passed for a smile. Then she raised her hand and pressed it to his heart, there was a sickening crack- and he began to wither. The former man's body crumbled into dust, the wind blowing it about until it seemed the night was filled with shimmering shining sparkles. Then, slowly, the sparkles too faded into nothing and it was only the two of them remaining in the clearing.

    Caligo stayed there, head bowed for an infinitely long minute, before she finally raised her attention back to Julian. "He's gone now." She said, voice low, red eyes dull and downcast.
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