Post by rathalkanemissary on Jan 30, 2021 18:27:22 GMT
A girl enveloped in shadow watches from the sidelines, silently observing the events that unfold around her. In spite of her freezing presence, she wears a warm and welcoming smile to those who bother to look at her, before quickly vanishing from their sight. Yet those who scrutinized more closely could see the cracks of guilt and sorrow seeping out of her facade. Regrets from the past which have long since passed, yet are etched into her psyche forever.
Post by rathalkanemissary on Sept 23, 2021 3:51:01 GMT
There are two voids known to the girl of shadow: The sea of the abyss and the canvas of the mind. And out of the two she found the former much, much easier to cross. The Abyssal ripples caused by something clashing with nothing were far more catastrophic, sure. Yet she was formed from nothing given want. It would take more than a meager dive to stir the Abyss from its shallow slumber. The mind, on the other hand…
To call her head a chaotic mess of thoughts and feelings would be an understatement. She finds no respite here, the vacancy twisting and turning with wicked proportions as past ties disfigure it into mutilated shapes. Her guilt, her regrets, they all play a role in her perverted play. Mockeries of cobbled paths. Downtrodden homes. Dreary markets, malicious characters, tormented souls, panicked mobs, ominous shadows, terrifying roars fire and brimstone screaming corpses tar filled sludge!
…And worst of all: her.
She was fire, dim and dying. Her scorching eyes reduced to nothing but embers, her ashen white hair suffocating in soot. She laid still on the ground teary-eyed, looking up at her visitor with desperation, fear, anger, sorrow, and betrayal. She reached for a burning violin, its flames flickering towards her hand in want of unity, yet they halted as an umbral foot stomped on the girl’s hand. Her wavering eyes broke off, recoiling from the hurt.
The shadow girl gasped—It was her foot.
“How could you?”
“I-I-I-I didn’t have any choice! You, you were only going t-to hurt yourself! I…” Blubbering white eyes looked away from her, the shadows hardening in somber regret. She knew exactly what came next. “...I didn’t want to lose you…”
“Then why did you leave me?”
No matter how many times she braced herself, it always ended the same: She fell back, loosening her grip on the girl’s hand. In turn she grabbed the violin and rose from her ashes, her eyes glaring into the other’s with malefic intent. Flames wrapped around her hands hungrily, yet she did not hear her sizzling flesh or feel the fierce pain. All that mattered to her was connecting bow and string and playing them in perfect concord.
Nothing came out from that violin, nothing but oozing sludge. An ocean leaked onto the ground, holding the girl in place. She struggled to break free of her tar prison, but it was already too late. Inhuman hands leapt out of the liquid hollow and latched to her limbs, leading her down into the dark. Fear replaced her fury, as she looked at the shadow girl with pleading eyes; she responded with a meandering look away from the scene. Her body sunk deeper into the murky prison, violin clutched closely to her chest. First her legs dissolved, then her torso, then her arms holding her prized instrument, until all there was left was a pained face staring upward into the night sky. One final hand pulled itself out of the sludge and smothered the girl’s face, leaving her blind as she plunged fully into the void. Into the Abyss.
With a silent plop the ooze laid motionless, forming into a grim reflection of the darkened sky above. The shadow girl grimaced at the sight. It was a horrid reminder of what occurred that very day, one that could never be changed. Slowly, she stepped near the edge of the pool and peered into its enigmatic depths. It was a pointless endeavor; those secrets of the Abyss were not meant for her. Yet she still looked, leaning closer and closer. Until she leaned so much she could feel the awful sludge press against her skin. In that moment she dove into its corrosive embrace, awaiting whatever remnants remained in her descent.
Fragments of a fractured past parted the way as she fell through the void. They flitted by her, scratching and scraping, leaving her wounded and exuding shade. With every cut she saw flashes of images repressed long ago. Fleeting fantasies filled with friends and phantasms; dreadful dreams dredged up from the darkest of days. They all meshed with each other, crafting an illustration indecipherable. Shards flew by with increasing speed and whirled about, egged on by howling winds and shattering glass. The cacophonous chorus grew colossal, and with it the chaotic agony she felt. Every single memory formed into one is a deafening sight to behold.
Then there was silence… and three mirrors. Shards careened together to create three cracked echoes of her character, each taking on a different aspect:
A shade housed in the leftmost mirror silently observed the girl with a faceless glare, judging in every which way. Its only motion were that of the shadows licking off of it.
An ashen haired girl in the rightmost mirror glowered at the girl, her face cycling expressions like indecisive masks. One moment she was seething; in another she was sobbing; yet another she was stoic, devoid of any desire.
A short young child centered in the middle gleamed at her with innocent eyes, yet her smile sowed discomfort within. Tiny shadows flicked off the child’s form, dissipating into the corners of the mirror.
All three looked at the shadow girl wantingly, waiting for her to play her part. She sighed, for there was no right answer to their riddle.
“What are you.” She remarked flatly. The child in the middle beamed brightly while the girl on the right sulked. The shadow remained motionless.
“We’re you, silly!” The child replied. “Your heart and hope—”
“Your soul and sorrow—”
Your origin and oblivion. She thought to herself. The shadow stayed silent.
“All of us make up you! But you can only choose one!”
“Will you make the correct choice for once?”
Or will you fail and become our slave again?
“...And what, do you represent, exactly?” She responded, then pointed a finger at the shadow. “You are the darkest desire, formed from the pits of the Abyss, are you not?” The shadow did not answer the unseemly remark. She hesitated, pondering if she shouldn’t go on. Yet go on she did. “I… cannot be you. I never will be you. I want to see the worlds in all their wonder, not stifle them to return to slumber! I’m done hiding in the shadows when I could do more. When I should’ve done more…”
“You want peace, not uncertainty. How many times did you keep her from accomplishing what she wanted? All those opportunities for adventure, lost because you didn’t know when to back off.” The ash-haired girl spat.
“She was ruining herself, for what? Revenge?!”
“Those people were very, very bad. Bad guys don’t deserve to get what they want!” The child interjected.
“SHE was bad!” She cried out. A brief moment of eternity sat between the four, before her eyes widened in realization. She looked at the girl with ashen hair with pleading eyes, her vision tearing up. “N-n-no, that’s not w-what I meant. Y-you have to b-believe me, I, I s-swear it’s not t-tr—”
“How could you say that to her? How could you say that to me? You were my friend! I gave you life, I gave you meaning—I made you who you are! And you choose to repay that with this?!” The girl behind the mirror raised her hands up in frustration and slammed them against the glass, cracking it ever so slightly. “You should feel sorry for what you’ve done. You don’t deserve to be my friend anymore.”
“I-I’m s-sorry, I never meant to h-hurt you! Please, you have to understand...” She reached out to touch the mirror housing the ash-haired girl, yet in the corner of her eye she saw the shadow stir and stare at her hand. She pulled back; nothing good comes from touching the mirror.
“I don’t have to understand anything.” The ash-haired girl huffed.
She did not respond, instead looking bleakly at the grinning child in the middle.
“Guess that just leaves you with me!
"...Cmonnnnn, touch the mirror already! It’s so boring waiting here; we all know what’s gonna happen!” The child whined.
You’re the ones who forced me to play this game… She frowned. But the child had a point, all she did was delay the inevitable. Might as well get this over with.
Slowly, she reached for mirror in the middle. That cacophonous chorus of shattering glass returned faintly, swirling around with increasing might as the hand reached closer. It grew louder than the child’s giggles, the ash-haired girl’s grumbles, or the presence of the baleful shadow. They all watched the hand move, filled with hunger, contempt, and content. Cruel smiles filled the mirrors, even from the faceless shadow. Especially from the faceless shadow, a crevice where once was nothing opened and revealed grinning sharp teeth. A long slender shadow flicked out of its mouth as the hand grew closer, mimicking a drooling tongue. The hand moved close, closer still, fingers splayed out and ready, ready to touch the mirror, until finally…
Her hand drew back, clenched and defiant. The three within the mirrors looked at her in shock.
“What?! You can’t not choose!”
“That’s not fair!”
You will not toy with us and get away with it.
“I am choosing. I’m just not choosing you.
“You three may be a part of me, but you aren’t me. I am my own self, formed of my own thoughts, feelings, and actions. None of you made me, and none of you will make me into your image. I am not any one of you...” She clutched her chest, determined to make her choice. The three in the mirrors argued and yelled and clawed at their glass prison, demanding her to change her mind, but she did not listen. The roaring glass, the screaming mirrors, they all vanished. And with it came a peaceful loneliness; one where she could finally hear just her thoughts.
She awoke to see the woman in the snow watch her warily, yet with understanding in her eyes that replaced her distrust. She could feel a face—Not a mask of writhing shadow and two eyeballs, no. A real face. One with a nose; lips; ears; hair. It reminded her of the form she wore forever ago, yet it all felt more real. More natural. Messy brown hair transformed into long strands of black. Brilliant blue eyes of wide-eyed enthusiasm became white with optimistic curiosity. And her innocent smile became more muted—It aged as the maturity of her age caught up with her. And they all looked unabashedly at the woman, with a single utterance ready at the tip of her tongue.
Post by rathalkanemissary on Oct 8, 2021 15:47:04 GMT
“What you wanted most in the world was the strength to choose your own life. You said that,” Wavering spotlights flickered with scalding desperation, two blank dots reflecting sorrow and fire. They stared down the beaten girl below despite the crumbling of wood consumed by rage and the careening of homes lost to blazing retribution. A veil of inscrutable dark surrounded the pale orbs and intermingled with smoke, their dance following the whims of the inferno. The roars of terrible death did not matter to the shadow, for it could only see strands of silken ash blanket their owner’s face. The two scorned each other in silence—The shadow’s glow overpowering the dim glare of the girl—And with it came a monster made manifest. Soft, subtle feet brushed the ground with slow, stuttering grace. Small hands outstretched reached for the girl, but were whisked away by doubt. Worst of all, it wore a hideous mask conflicted with a lamenting storm plastered on a child’s face. Her face. “Why did you throw it all away? You think that the whole world is against you yet you were given so many chances to move on. You are so lucky. I-I get it, you’re angry, you were pushed down by them, but, but you didn’t have to play their games! I just, I, I just don’t understand, I don’t… why are you so, so, so...
“...Wh-what y-ou wanted most in the world was the strength to choose your own life, but… b-but you, you, yo-u… couldn't, couldn’t see past yourself!”
“We could just… run away, you know… leave this giant mess behind. It’d be just the two of us, sneaking onto a caravan and starting over! You and I, against the world? We’d be unstoppable!” Her voice filled the pitter patters and pungent odors with warmth and light captured under a long wool tarp. Bold yet dreaming, her smile kindled an old spark in another. Were it not so dark and damp and dank she might've set the poor ash-haired girl ablaze.
Only a chuckle the sound of embers crackling prevailed. The fantasy of warmth became little more than a phantasm, and the dreamer snapped wide awake. “I’d just be proving them right if I did that. Just a weak, hopeless, cowardly little girl who can’t do anything for herself. But—”
“Oh come on, you are so much more than that! You are one hell of a fighter. We wouldn’t be here now if you actually were one of… no, any of those things! And when you fall, you always get ba—”
“Let me finish.
“Please… I’ve seen what I can really do, all thanks to this… How do you even know what I am? We’ve known each other for less than a week.”
The former dreamer found humor in the other’s remark, silently snickering through her fond smile. The ash-haired girl only squinted.
“Have you been stalking me all my life, and it’s only now you decide to show up?!”
It was now the first’s turn to be surprised, startled, Shocked, even. She held her fist up to her mouth in a futile attempt to contain an ensuing uproar of laughter—Childish giggles somehow magnified to cacophonous levels interrupted by snorts placed here or there. At the very least the relentless downpour muffled the mirth of the dreamer, leaving the other in only moderate disarray.
“Yeeeeah, no, it’s nothing like that! I’m not one of those creeps, promise!”
“What is it, then.”
“That! Is a! Secret!” A single finger bounced up to the dreamer’s mouth in a sing-song rhythm.
The ash-haired girl grumbled. “Fine. Keep your stupid secrets. Not like it matters to me anyway…”
The dreamer’s smile vanished, replaced with a cautious hand setting itself on the ash-haired girl’s shoulder. “...Hey, I’ll tell you when it’s all over, alright? Like you said, you got more pressing matters than some urchin’s private life.”
Her hand was another weight she had to bear on her shoulders, but it was a reassuring one. Cold yet comforting, like iron long since cast from the flames. It was nothing like his crooked hands or her own suffocating guilt. Least of all was it like the cruel iron shackle bearing down on her right wrist, chaining itself to a violin pushed to the side. She looked down at her wrist, watching the shackle shimmer between shadow and steel. Everywhere she placed her hand, callous cedar, smoothed and glossed, rubbed against the palm, even when she gently grasped the dreamer’s hand and moved it off her shoulder. Two pairs of eyes followed her right hand as she moved herself more upright; some held pain, and some held… nothing. Did she know? Or was she just as blind as the rest of them?
The ash-haired girl sighed. “I get it, you don’t want me to continue. I’ve been scared to go on as well, honest, after… that match. They want me gone… which is why I have to fight in the next round.
“I’ll prove to them that I’m not weak. I’ll show them that I can control this power, no matter how long it takes. And so what if they hate me and kick me down? I’ll just get back up and play my melody. Like you said.”
Her steeled gaze stole the fire from the other’s eyes. As her’s grew red and hot, so too did theirs lose warmth and light. Her eyes locked onto the ash-haired girl’s, yet they were looking elsewhere. Somewhere distant and bitter. Flame borrowed burned bleaker, desperately deprived of devotion, dying to dine the devoid.
The ash-haired girl’s body betrayed her, idle hands clawing away at rotting wood and harvesting splinters beneath her nails. Her neck stiff, her arms sore, her sight filled with spotlights. Confined under a fetid cloak her eyes refused to part with a deplorable shadow. To call it her friend when it was so aloof and melancholy was just wrong; she thought she could see her clearly, yet now it was just as shrouded as the rest of them.
Secrets, so many secrets, they expected her to play along, no, no, no games, no lies, nothing, nothing at all, she would not play, she already tried, blundered, failed, lost, again would just be the same. She knew, knew, what she had to do, she would face them, fight them, force them, to play, play her tune, a tune to torment their heart, a tune to gorge their hope, a tune to—
Scrabblings and scrawlings of her scrambling mind were scratched away by a profound glimmer peering through the dark. Creeping clear droplets refracted what little light remained, thawing frigid cheeks and mopping a mournful mask away. What sat before her was compassion, not contempt.
“Have you ever played for yourself?”
“You know, doing it just because. Letting it all out, no strings attached!”
“That was a terrible pun and you know it.”
“Hah, yeah… yeah,” She broke her eternal gaze and cleared the tears from her eyes. “I know.”
“Besides, I’ve already lost count how many times I’ve done that. Seems like such a silly question to ask in the first place…”
“I’d like to think there’s something special about letting out just music, rather than emotion. And knowing you, weeeeell…”
“Har har. Makes sense if you put it that way, sort of. Yeah, I guess I never did that. I don’t know. It feels kind of weird thinking it like that. And...”
“Scary? First time’s always the hardest. I remember that step I took, so frightened of what was gonna happen if I left. Every step after that was… still pretty hard, but it took less time than before. And would you look at that: I’m here. With you. Under a stinky blanket together. Hiding from the delightful little rain! So that you aren’t alone.”
“That’s the problem. I can’t just play for the sake of… playing, where’s the heart in that? If I don’t have it, how else am I going to play without being ridiculed? They’ve mocked me before, and they will mock me again. I can never find the peace I’d need to do that.”
“I’d say tonight is pretty peaceful!”
“By your standards.”
“And who says you can’t make them your own? You want more control in your life, this is the perfect time to seize that chance!”
“I… I guess,” The ash-haired girl glanced down at the violin. She could still feel its weight bearing down on her arm, but… it will be fine. Just this once. Pretend it never exists. She looked back up at the dreamer, whimpering flames flickering back to life, its heat seeping through the glint in her eyes. She kept that glint locked onto her as she reached for the instrument, rested it upon her shoulder, and readied bow on tense strings. “Just promise me you won’t make a fool of me as well.”
That playful poise ran to the back, letting sincerity string its answer:
Music filled the air, a dirge of dirt and dreadful misdeeds accompanied by the hard thuds of bare feet drudging along fire-licked cobble. One wretched soul parted herself from another, for once her unblinking eyes torn from the other’s pitiful weeping.
She played, and the people rejoiced. Her sinking strings raised and lowered the crowd, every note an ebb and flow. She controlled the tide’s mass, conducting them to her—And their—will. Enthralled, their spirits waltzed across the grass-touched fields by her melancholy grace. Behind her several musicians followed, their harmonious tune spurring her on. She was home.
More footsteps. Her soot-trodden soles grew silent with each passing thud. Overshadowed by roaring flames—Or was that the bellow of an iron beast above? Another house creaked under its blazing frame, daring to collapse next to her. A fire sparked nearby, wrapping its tendrils around her left foot with its excruciating embrace of—
Without warning, chains of iron tugged at her right wrist, careening her off the makeshift stage. Followers froze with the music and focused fearful eyes all on her. She locked up, but was dragged along by her merciless tether further away from the fields: Into an infinite sea of black. Seething hot hands branded themselves into her shoulder and turned her head up, leading her eyes to the chain’s end.
She willed her foot to leave the fire, but it refused. She grunted, yet remained still. She kept her eyes locked on the departing shadow—She had to, else it would vanish in the blink of an—
A raspy yet familiar voice called out to her from the flames, and the silhouette of a small figure followed. Concern gazed through the flame, and more tears fell from her weeping face. She let out a weak cry, muffled by the anarchy and her own failing body.
“N-no, it can’t be…” She clenched her eyes shut.
“Is that you? What are you doIN—AAGH!” His scream pierced her ears and opened her eyes. Too soon. She looked too soon. Now there was a girl in the flame, her violin held up high, and the small figure laid motionless on the ground. The girl turned its head to face her, and eyes as red as rage peered through the wall of flame.
He faced her, beaten and kneeling. All that was left of him were skin and bones and a shackle clasped to his neck. Chains sprouted in all different directions, each ending consumed by the dark. Except for hers. She reached out to him, yet the slightest motion of her chain sent him tumbling down . She yelped, then scrambled for him, her body sinking into softening mud by the second. He paid no mind to her, instead curling up and gazing coldly into the distant abyss. All the while red hot eyes stalked them from afar.
A strange new sound tingled her ears, frightening and fleeting. It was the sound of a friend leaving. Her head twisted to the source of the sound, confirming her worst fear. Only a pitch black clump of smoke denser than any formed by fire remained. She was heavy. Heavy with guilt, sadness, fear, obligation, and burnt-up wrath. She was so, so tired. If only she would just sink into her puddle of pity, deep into an ocean of naught. She could feel…
And no more of those crimson eyes watching her every move.
If only she would feel bliss; a brief moment would be enough to last an eternity.
If only she could see her own body pulled down by her iron chain, deep into a dark abyss.
Not that she mattered. Her story was already over.
Post by rathalkanemissary on Oct 11, 2021 21:53:22 GMT
You ever wonder if you could go back in time? Y’know, change fate and all that! It’d be great! Get to dropkick some brats to who knows where, pick up on missed quests and queues, maybe even stop being a good for nothing lamo once in your life! You could’ve shown them who’s boss instead of hiding in her shadow for how long? Days? Weeks? Months? Long enough to let her down, that’s what! What a great friend you were, sitting around doing barely anything when she got hurt! Of course you only step in when there’s no other choice—Can’t bear to see her grow worse than she already has—Well too bad! She was a lost cause long before you made your choice! And now she’s gone.
What if, what if you stopped her before? You could have saved her, lunged in, tackled her attacker, and boom! No reason for her to fight back, no need to choose her choice, ‘cause there’s no one harming her! You have saved the da—Oh, right. Silver. Stupid knight with her stupid sword would’ve sliced your stupid self into stupid ribbons. Stupid silver, what did you ever do to it to make it burn so much?
Okay, fine, maybe you can’t just dropkick that stupid silver stuck-upness to the far corner of space (Can you even do that some more… normal?). But! But but but, you could kick her out of danger! Then you’d run run RUN away from the silvered edge! Along we keep running; With nothing but our cunning. We’d be outta there in no time!
But they’d keep chasing us, and she’d tire eventually. She’d finish before you, she’d turn back to face them, she’d eat that horrible seed…
You could’ve reasoned with her more! You could’ve pushed her to stop clawing for something impossible and destructive and get her to halt what she was doing and look at you with those virulent eyes and she’d hate you even more than she ever did and she would leave you much much sooner and… Okay maybe that wouldn’t work at all. But you could have been more direct! Leading her to… what good would that do? She’d fight back. She always fights back. Always fighting back against everything except for the very ones that hold her chain. That awful chain flickering between iron and shadow… what would have happened if you touched it? Would she have realized she wasn’t alone? Would she have realized you were always there? Or would she hate you? There’s no way simply anyone could see that, she would know something’s off. Her eyes are so painful, especially when she looks at you like that. You would never hurt her; you never meant to hurt her! But her pupils would still swirl in wrath, and she’d despise you.
You couldn’t do that to her. You couldn’t. But what other option did you have?
There was always…
No no no no you would never leave him to that despicable man no you wouldn’t let her rot any longer in that horrid place than she already had you wouldn’t no you wouldn’t even if it was… no you should have helped her out sooner why didn’t you push for more why did you do so little.
The days give way to dark so soon this season. In howling winds and thickets of frozen trees, now more than ever, it would be wise, with what few hours of light there are, to survey the landscape for natural hazards, vantage points, and escape routes. Not too long ago, Atlani would have been stalking these very trails at Lettie's request, but now the hunter could no longer be found by aetherprint. It was an inopportune time to vanish, just as Lettie had gotten a hold on Zero. The best that could be done now would be to prepare for more personal yet indirect approaches. So, now the apothecary surveys, in a walking dress befitting a leisurely constitutional, to find places where she imagines there will soon be mortal struggle.
Another presence had lurked within this region, and by chance encountered the lost hunter. Perhaps then, chance would also have it that on another such night, they should meet Lettie Wormwood.
Target player reveals their hand. You choose a creature card from it. That player discards that card. Search your library for a basic land card, reveal it, put it into your hand, then shuffle.