((Author's note: This post takes place after Triana and Juleana leave Intonations of Evil))
Juleana left Triana in the East wing. She'd be safe there till nightfall. She had a lot to do before sunrise.
She stripped off her own grungy clothes and slipped on her white silk robe. Grabbing her leather bag she quietly tiptoed out onto the patio. There were few lights on in the Ranger bunks across the garden, most of the new recruits were asleep and the others were still searching Stormpoint for the demon. Taking a lantern as she passed, she hurried down the garden path and stopped before a large wooden gate.
Turning the key always gave her that same rush. Calo had requisitioned the finest landscapers to create an exact replica of the Secret Garden from the childhood book--with one minor change. The path curved to the center of the garden which held a giant marble disk. The disk was of white marble, nine feet in diameter with a pentacle carved upon it. At each of the quarters (or compass points) hung a lantern. At the center was a marble pedestal. Juleana hung the lantern off to the side of the pedestal and began unpacking her bag. One by one she placed each sacred item in its place. Lastly she lit a white candle carrying it she moved clockwise around the circle beginning in the East.
"Air, Fire, Water, Earth, Elements of Astral birth,
I ask you now; attend to me!"
In the circle, rightly cast, Safe from psychic curse or blast,
I ask you now; attend to me!
From cave and desert, sea and hill, By Wand, blade, cup and pentacle,
I ask you now; attend to me!
This is my will so mote it be!"
Three times Juleana walked around the circle and repeated the words.
Returning to the East she lit the small lantern hanging at the quarter and placed the Diamond stone from her pouch in its holder.
"Hail Watchtower of the East, Ancient Spirit of Air, Power of the mind, force of intellect, I ask you to attend this circle. Charge it with your powers."
Moving next to the West she lit the small lantern hanging at the quarter and placed the Sapphire stone in its holder.
"Hail Watchtower of the West, Ancient Spirit of Water, Giver of life, Essence of love, I ask you to attend this circle. Charge it with your powers."
Then to the North she lit its lantern and placed the Emerald stone.
"Hail Watchtower of the North, Ancient Spirit of the Earth, Our Mother, fertile and Nurturing, I ask you to attend this circle. Charge it with your powers."
Lastly Juleana moved to the Southern quarter lighting the lamp and placing the Ruby stone she said the words.
"Hail Watchtower of the South, Ancient Spirit of Fire, Creator and Destroyer, Passions Fuel, I ask you to attend this circle, Charge it with your powers."
With all the Lanterns lit, a soft glow surrounded the circle. In the center Juleana raised her arms looking upward toward the moon. Blood on the Moon, she thought gazing at its red glow. The work of the demon for sure. She closed her eyes.
"Goddess, Mother of all that is, Lover of the God, Bless this circle with your presence, Charge it with your powers."
The air about her began to move gently, lifting her hair and rustling her robes. The candles seemed to burn brighter. The power of the elements rose around her as a blue white light surrounded the circle. Juleana smiled, feeling the energy, the love, and the goodness that surrounded her. Stepping to her alter she opened the first of three parcels. Sprigs of Mugwort lay dried and fragrant in a bundle.
"Goddess bless this gift from your womb, charge it with your protection keep safe any and all who carry it."
Opening the second parcel, eight polished bloodstones tumbled onto the white marble. Each flecked with the fiery red it was named for.
"Goddess charge these stones with healing powers, that none that carry them shall be mortally wounded."
The last of the parcels contained three large scrying plates. Large black shining circles with the astrological signs forming a band around each plate. Holding all three in her hands Juleana held them skyward, the power in the circle increasing.
"Fire and Water, Mirror's light, Lend me protection!
Moon-glass and water, candle bright, Guard me with reflection!
Reflect ill, reflect bane, Reflect all that would cause me pain,
Reflect danger that grows near, Protect me here!"
Sparks flew around the plates like sparklers. Juleana replaced them on the alter, placing the stones and Mugwort upon them. A warm embrace of sorts surrounded her and she looked toward the Rangers Hall. Only the flapping of a stray curtain was visible, but she knew someone had been watching. Someone who had great power themselves. Someone safe. Looking guilty, she raised her eyes from the nighttime sky toward the rising dawn. From deep down in her robe she removed the crystal dagger that Eowyn had given Calo so long ago. She smiled as she remembered that night. She had been sad, angry, a dozen things, and in the end happy, for it was that night that Calo had asked her to be his wife aboard Lord Ogrek's ship.
"Darkness, Brightness, Points of light,
Dimming, Glowing, Shining Bright,
Shining down on me this night,
Bless me in my magic rite!"
Pointing the dagger toward the sky, she said the words she hoped would make a difference.
"O celestial, starry band charge what I hold in my hand!
Lend it strength and energy, Energy that I now see!
The powers sent, the powers free, This is my will so mote it be!"
The dagger glowed with energy as Juleana wrapped it in a soft cloth and tied it together with the other objects. As the sun began to peek over the horizon. She again closed her eyes.
"Goddess I Thank you for your help and hope you come again and bless this space."
Moving counterclockwise, she removed each stone from its place and blew out each candle, thanking each element for there help. After placing each object back into her bag she dropped to her knees and cried for the first time in twenty-four hours, both from exhaustion and fear.
The last light in Ranger Hall had been extinguished, but the last Ranger hadn't retired. Half of the men had been at the Raven with Calo. They were in the infirmary or in their bunks. The rest were tending to them or gearing up to follow Calo when he returned--all but one.
Tanis Crial stood a foot from his window, shrouded in darkness. He had blond hair and ice blue eyes. He was tall, 6'2 and athletic. Tanis wasn't a fighter. He became a Ranger to teach--to teach these men about Vampires, about their history and their attributes. Most of the Vampires in Stormpoint weren't rogues or bloodthirsty vigilantes. Most were very important people. Some held high office. But they had histories and talents that a Ranger would need to know. Some would say Crial was a traitor to his kind, but he hadn't asked to be kindred, a child of darkness. It had been thrown at him like a life lesson and this was his way of dealing with it. It's what drew him to Lord Calo and his Rangers. They each had the same hatred for what they were, their way of keeping the animal inside at bay.
But there was also the matter of Calo's fiancee, The Lady Juleana St. Clair. Tanis would make sure that nothing ever harmed her. He had made a promise years ago that she would always be safe and he would keep that promise. He had died keeping that promise.
The bright light from the Garden caused him to step back another foot. He watched as Lady Juleana cast her circle of stone. Her powers were strong. He hadn't seen power like that since his mother. The Lady Marina had been the most powerful of Witches.
Moving closer to the window again, he watched her move from object to object. He felt such awe and sadness. How he missed his old life, his human life, his Pagan upbringing. He watched her pause and stepped back again into the darkness just as she looked up toward his window. Not yet, he thought, we cannot meet just yet. With one last look Tanis Crial sped to beat the rising sun and sleep through another day.
The sun cleared the woods and warmed Juleana's back. She wasn't sure exactly how long she had knelt there. The sounds of the Rangers could be heard outside the Garden walls. She was immediately uncomfortable. When Calo slept Juleana was a recluse. She went only to The Raven or Merchants Row. Staying clear of people ment not having to answer questions. The thought of all those rangers stopping and watching her cross the courtyard put fear in the pit of her stomach. She turned back toward the marble disk hoping that a shred of her magic remained.
"Goddess, Until my form I choose to share,
Let them all see nothing there."
With a silent please she lifted her bag and left the garden, careful to lock the gate securely.Steeling herself against what she dreaded most she turned around. The early morning fog that had usually burned off, clung heavy to the courtyard. It looked like almost a wall of mist separating the garden and the mansion from the barracks and the training grounds. Relief flooded over her and she smiled thanking the Goddess for a natural way of covering her tracks. No one would suspect anything. She hurried quickly into the house and down the hall to the East Wing. Her hand slid across the ward like second nature. Yet when she stepped in she was taken back. Triana was gone.
((Continuing from Calo's actions in Intonations of Evil))
"Wyn!!" Anger, concern, confusion, and a host of other emotions coursed through his body as he stood at the darksome crossroads of the town center and shouted her name into the night.
Calo raced through the darkened city in a vain search for his friend, knowing in the back of his mind that if Eowyn didn't want to be found, she wouldn't be. He ignored the thought. He had already lost too much to the demon to pay it heed. Giacomo, the face and name the demon wore, had been almost a brother to him before the demon took him as his own, and Calo remembered bitterly the years they spent hounding and hunting each other. Later, the demon had even used Calo's body as a hiding place to escape form destruction, spreading his plague-like madness through the mind of his old old friend. Yes, he knew the demon's touch, he knew the loathsome feel of the creature, and if this was what was consuming Eowyn, he knew that he couldn't abandon her.
He ran for hours, chasing shadows through the empty streets with only the darkness and his growing concern for company. He'd known Eowyn for a lifetime, but he'd never seen such anger or pain in her eyes before, and he wasn't sure what she'd do. The uncertainty sped him onwards despite his fruitless attempts and the kindred hunger that burned his veins, demanding satiation. He ignored the frustration and the growing need, and kept up his desperate search, calling out her name and hearing only his own voice in answer. The tingle that rose on the back of his neck and the growing predawn glow, however, were signs he couldn't ignore; and though he hated to stop his search, he would be of little assistance to his friend as a pile of ash. He had to find shelter.
He was too far to make it back to the mansion before the sunrise. One of the surrounding buildings would have to do. He was in the merchants' district . . . again, having returned there time after time on his quest. Eowyn wasn't there, he could sense it, but her shoppe was; and as the sun began to peek over the horizon, the shoppe offered his best chance of a safe haven from the burning rays. He stopped before the door, noting the wards Eowyn had set about the building. He knew most of them, having taught them to her himself, but there were just as many that he didn't recognize. Feeling the urgency of the time running out as the streets began to grow brighter, Calo disarmed the wards he knew and drained the ones he didn't until the soft click of the door opening broke the predawn silence.
The wards left him drained as well, and he stumbled into the shoppe, barely aware of the chimes that pealed throughout the store as he closed the door behind him. The shoppe was empty, as it always was when Eowyn was gone--a mystery he didn't understand and had no time to consider. He staggered weakly past the bare shelves and cabinets, his strength fading as the light grew stronger.
A pair of dark, unblinking eyes stared down from atop one of the higher shelves, and a gentle rustle of feathers accompanied the gaze. Calo returned the stare. "I don't suppose your Mistress is in?" he asked the ever-present Raven as he passed under the watchful gaze of the shoppe's protector. The raven didn't answer any more than Calo expected him to, but he did alight from his perch and soar across the store to the counter, beckoning the familiar visitor onward with a series of clicks and caws. Calo might be stubborn, but he could take a hint, and he followed the raven to the counter. It took all his strength to reach it, and he leaned heavily against its smooth wooden surface, watching the bird expectantly. It alit again, this time falling to the floor behind the counter and hopping about in a corner by the back wall. Pulling himself behind the counter, Calo dropped to the floor and fumbled about the corner. His efforts were soon rewarded when a portion of the floor fell open to the basement beneath. A cold breeze rushed from the door, filling the store with its icy breath and sounding the chimes a second time.
He spared one last look about the shoppe, and his eyes caught the stairs that climbed the back wall. She might be there. He couldn't tell, but he quickly dismissed the thought. He wasn't sure he could pass the threshold, and even if it could, what lay beyond the stairs was Eowyn's sanctuary, and he wouldn't enter without her assent.
Turning back to the trap door beneath him, he descended the steps into the cool darkness of the basement. He barely made it down the stairs before the kindred slumber overcame him, and he fell to his knees as he hit the floor. The door above closed, sealing him inside the chill darkness with the ominous sound of a crypt. He hated the fact that it felt so comforting, and that he could no longer continue his search. For the thousandth time he cursed his kindred nature, he cursed the demon, and he cursed his inability to defeat either. It was a horrible, empty feeling that left him sickened, and it was the last thing he knew before he fell to the vampiric slumber that claimed him in dark exhaustion.
((This post takes place following Eowyn's departure in Crossroads))
She stood atop the cliffs overlooking the sea, watching as the waves rose and crested before tumbling back into the ocean once more. In the predawn light she saw little more than a great expanse of grey, but she stood quiet in the hope that as the first rays of light shone above the horizon, the soft hues of morning would come again. She often came here in search of solitude and peace, and though the latter eluded her, on occasion she was able to find the former. Given her supposed heritage, she should have sought the shade of the forest for her refuge, its boughs heavy with green and its floor thick with a carpet of matted pine. But the wood was home to the fey, and though she was perhaps more kin to them than the denizens of the city she now called home, even they, on occasion, looked upon her with wary eyes. And so she stood above the sea, awaiting the dewy softness of morning and the hope it might bring.
The sea wind was strong atop the great towers of rock, and her hair whipped about her face. It was pointless to try to tame it, and she had ceased trying. Instead, she simply closed her eyes and tilted her head back, allowing the wind to brush past her face and free the bits of salt-kissed strands that clung to her face and neck. The breeze was cool and crisp, but not yet cold. The city had been held in a long fall, and winter's touch had not yet been felt--a small blessing perhaps, but one not to be ignored, and she stood silently thankful in the failing darkness, listening to the wind and the sea below.
Her eyes opened when the first gentle rays of light peered over the horizon and rippled across the water, and she offered a smile in return to the morning's greeting. It was only a halfhearted attempt, however, and it somehow fell short of the mark. The sun, unaffected by her demeanor, rose all the same, warming her face if not her soul in its golden embrace; and though she tried to convince herself to the contrary, she was left with the empty knowledge that it wasn't enough.
She knew what she had planned when she came to the cliffs, even as she denied the knowing. The "gifts" called her strongly these days. ~Gifts.~ One corner of her mouth twitched upward in a wry smile as the word echoed through her thoughts. ~Gifts.~ She seldom used them, preferring instead to use only those abilities inherit to her elven blood. Experience had taught her that regardless of her intent, the surplus abilities often spawned fear in others, feeding the sense of isolation that followed her from one journey to the next. More importantly though, was the fact that the source of the "gifts" was still an enigma, even to her--a great, dark secret that consumed her past and present, and which bred a type of self-fear which she could never adequately explain. She had curbed her concerns, for the most part, by allowing the gifts to remain dormant as best she could, but in the past several weeks they had called to her with increasing need, sparked to life perhaps by the daemon's presence. She told herself that she had come to the cliffs to quiet their call, but she knew she would give in to them this time and allow herself a simple pleasure long denied.
The sun hadn't yet pulled free of the sea's edge, appearing still as only a fiery half orb floating atop the crash and call of the waves. Her eyes focused steadily on the light as it danced and rippled across the blue, and she uttered a single word, "Accipiter." She didn't need it say it, but did so out of habit, finding that others were somehow comforted by the idea that the power was called from without, rather than released from within. The priest, she thought, was one of the few exceptions, appearing to accept inherit abilities, but finding intolerable the use of any external power save that arising from his deity. She didn't fully understand his position, having had no opinion on the matter herself, but she accepted it, as she had accepted so many other things and so many other people. ~Accepted.~ The word had an odd ring--a curious, one-sided sound that rang hollow in the growing howl of the biting sea wind.
A rustling of feathers, her own, interrupted her musings, and she knew that the transformation was complete. She didn't feel any different. She rarely did, but she had hoped this time that it might be different. It wasn't. Though she couldn't see herself, she knew that she now held the form of a small, nimble-winged hawk, and she prepared to leave the rock of the cliffs, and the weight they represented, behind. Perhaps she should have taken the form of a sea bird, but she found this form preferable and had little care, at present, for the polite conventions of ecology. She therefore appeared as a hawk. When she reverted to her "normal" form, she would appear an elf again, though in truth she knew that she was neither--at least, not entirely.
She cried out once, a clarion call to the sun, and alit from the cliff in a brief ascent before beginning her fall to the sea. Slow at first, it grew faster and faster, changing into a swift and reckless plummet of complete abandon. The wind rushed past as she fell, ripping away one concern after another, tearing them free in the wake of the screaming dive until all that was left was the sun, the sea, and the salt wind. The dizzying clarity which visited her at last was both euphoric and paralyzing; but whether for good fortune or not, it was also short-lived, and she leveled off before plunging headlong into the blue expanse beneath her. She longed to brush her wingtips against the water, to touch the sun's reflection, but the sea was not at peace, and its waves denied her that desire. She therefore satisfied herself with skimming atop the crest of the waves before rising again and finding a warmer breeze which allowed her to drift upward with seemingly little effort. She rose for endless minutes, carried on the warm sea wind and hearing only the steady wash of the waves beneath her. Later, she would perhaps regret her decision; but now she was momentarily at peace with her surroundings and herself.
She followed the sun for the rest of the day, sailing through its rays as it continued its tireless journey across the sky, and thinking of nothing but the light. It came to rest, as it always did, beyond the far side of the city, appearing to slip behind the mountain peaks of the western kingdom to slumber in the cool embrace of night before rising once again. She'd seen its journey countless times, but it never ceased to fill her with a simple awe, serving as a comforting reminder of change and continuity, of completion and commencement, and of the endless cycle of life which rose and fell and rose again and of which she could claim at least partial membership as she soared beneath the fading spokes of light. Satisfied with this small solace, she spiraled slowly downwards as the red-swollen star crept beneath the distant horizon. And as the last rays faded into darkness, she landed on more "human" feet, and began her long walk back to the city--tired and sore, but carrying a small pinprick of hope to lighten the way ahead.
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