Isciira En'Loec - Shadoweaver of Gwâtheryn

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Isciira En'Loec - Shadoweaver of Gwâtheryn

Postby LadyLoec » 13 Apr 2016, 20:36

In Athel Loren, rebirth is simply a part of nature. Winter brings forth Spring and new life. Fallen leaves nourish their bearers, which then sprout new leaves. In kingdoms far from the boughs of Loren, children are told how Orion is laid to rest, yet rises again each year. This tale also tells of death and rebirth, though a little madness too.

-

Several lifetimes ago by the measures of man, a wardancer named Cirenivel unleashed a ravening host of Slaaneshi daemons into the very heart of Athel Loren, becoming a cautionary tale known well among all elfin kin. Cirenivel's disgraced kindred were among many who fought to repel the tide, and each fought until their last breath to atone for their sister's foolishness. The last of the kindred to fall was Isciira Lhethril - famed throughout Athel Loren for a haunting fluidity of movement that brought silence to even the most raucous festivals. Her red hair billowed around her shoulders as she fought, and the sight of her seemingly boundless vigour boosted the resolve of those around her.

As the battle wore on, she had seen each of her comrades cut down, and her strikes began to labour. She knew she could not survive much longer, and began to long for the release of death. It was then she heard a terrible, yet somehow melodic, shriek, that seemed at once to be made up of one and many voices. She thought she could hear the voices of her fallen kin among the cacophony, and knew that this was sure to break the resolve of the remaining warriors. Though the scream pierced her to the very core, Isciira shut out the wails of the fallen and focussed on the melody: This would, after all, be her last dance.

Isciira threw herself at the daemon in a storm of blades, scything flesh from bone. Though the foe was silenced by the onslaught, the daemon did not fall. If anything, it seemed to enjoy the sensation. The two danced their duet until Isciira faltered, falling to the ground. As the daemon went for the final strike, a hail of arrows darkened the sky and fell upon the daemon horde. Isciira's fearless charge had distracted the daemon mage, and around her the tide of battle had turned. Isciira laughed as she faded into darkness; the last thing she saw was the daemon's captivating, black eye pierced by an elven spear

-

Aegwen Valen was a mere child of fourteen summers when the illness struck. Healers in Gwâtheryn were perplexed by her condition, and watched helplessly as her skin turned to ice and she drifted in and out of a dreamlike state. Over a period of days, she grew ever colder and unresponsive. As her parents prepared to bury their child, she began to convulse; as she thrashed violently, her blonde hair turned a deep red, and the healers recoiled in horror as she began to laugh maniacally. After a few chilling moments, the spasms stopped, and she lay still and silent. The formerly-dying child sprang to her feet with alarming grace, looking around her as if she was seeing the room for the first time, and smiling unnervingly. Her mother called her name, but she did not respond, and instead began to dance. She called louder, but again, the child did not respond. The room was dimly lit, but she seemed to fade and reappear before their very eyes. "Aegwen!" the mother cried hopelessly; this time, the child stopped abruptly and leapt across the room knocking the woman to the floor and whispering in her ear, before disappearing in a cloud of vapour. "What on earth did she say?" the healers asked as they helped her to her feet. The woman steadied herself against the wall and looked out into the forest, where an unseasonable mist had fallen over the forest. "She... she said: 'That is not my name'".

-

The healers reported the strange occurrence to at once to the Lord of Gwâtheryn, Cyran Dolenmorchant. Lord Dolenmorchant consulted the court prophetess Naiya, but it was as if Aegwen was shrouded from view - engulfed in shadow. It could not be explained, and the court feared that this could only mean one thing: That a daemon had taken hold of Aegwen's body. The grace with which the ungainly child had moved suggested a servant of the dark prince Slaanesh, whose dark parody of speed, intelligence and deftness were particularly distasteful to the elves. A small force was dispatched at once to search the nearby forest to purge the demon from Loren.

Meanwhile, Lord Dolenmorchant's son, Lianthorn, had been listening intently from the shadows of the hall. Secretive and independent, Lianthorn often found himself at odds with his father's decisions (one of the reasons he would often forsake his role in government and rule in favour of wandering the forest), and this time was no different. Something in the story resonated with him, and struck a discordant note with the excesses of the dark prince. He collected his daggers and bow, and pulling his cloak around him slipped into the dark forest.

-

Lianthorn had been wandering the hidden paths of the forest for years, and so it is no surprise that he happened upon Aegwen before his father's men. He had honed his senses during his waywatcher kinband, and it did not take long to discern her sound with the forest. Her ethereal voice, full of youth and levity, seemed to carry in the wind as it sang:

"So formidable a foe is he,
He seems to touch the sky,
But leaves fall from e'en the tallest trees,
For all mortal things must die.

I dance, I dance to your melody,
And my blades begin to fly,
So enthralled and entranced is he,
That his final breath draws nigh."

Before he had even set eyes on her, he knew his father had been wrong. He had heard this song on feast days, and it was a favourite often requested for performance by wardancer troupes to commemorate a victory. No Slaaneshi daemon could have knowledge of such an intimate aspect of asrai culture. However, the feasts were an event of great reverence, and a youth such as Aegwen would not have been welcome there, so she also could not have heard the song. So neither daemon nor maiden, what was she?

Knowing he would have to tread carefully in the face of such uncertainty, Lianthorn climbed into the trees and hid in the shadows as he approached the lilting voice. At first even he could not see her, despite his keen senses; he thought he was looking at the source of the voice, but could see only swirling mist. Then he saw it: A face in the mist. She seemed to fade in and out of being before his eyes, becoming almost opaque before disappearing again completely. Lianthorn knew every the face of every resident of the hold he would inherit (though, watching as he did from afar, many would not know his in return), and though he could not explain how, the being before him both was and was not Aegwen. Her features were sharper, and she looked more mature than her fourteen summers, and of course her hair had turned from the colour of hay to an almost impossibly vivid red - the kind only achieved by the dyes used by wardancers. Whilst he had been observing her, he had failed to notice that her dance had ended and she had fallen silent. Though he had made no sound to alert her, and was well camouflaged in the boughs, she whipped around and stared straight at him.

Lianthorn went to run, but it was as if somehow his speed and agility had been sapped from him, and his movement and thoughts became sluggish. He stumbled and fell from the branch (he, who had never fallen from a tree in his life). His normally strong muscles betrayed him, and he knew he was under the influence of powerful magics. Aegwen seemed to shift from one side of the clearing to the other in an instant and was upon him, his own dagger pressed to his throat, but even in his weakened state he threw her off and stumbled to his feet. She seemed disbelieving that her attack had been thwarted, and lunged for him again, but he easily evaded her and she fell to the floor.

"How can this be?" she raged. Her voice seemed to be both loud and distant at the same time as she stood and turned to face him. "I, beloved daughter of Fyr Darric, who has turned the tide of battles, and brought dozens of enemies screaming to their ends. I have danced to daemonsong!" Her voice faltered "...Haven't I?"

"Danced to daemonsong"? In that moment, it came to him. He did not fully understand - not all of it - but the girl had said enough. As a child, he had been told the tale of Cirenivel. How her selfish curiosity had claimed the souls of hundreds, how her foolishness was avenged by the swords of her kinband, and of brave Isciira, the red-haired wardancer whose cunning and sacrifice had saved so many.

The crunch of a leaf underfoot alerted him to someone approaching the clearing. He would have heard any other approaching force long ago, but the asrai tread so lightly in the forest as to be almost silent. It would be his father's men, looking for the "daemon".

"Isciira. It is Isciira, isn't it? We don't have much time. A warband approaches. They think... They don't understand what has happened, and they will kill you if they find you. Take my hand and I will lead you to safety". Isciira was uncertain, yet this elf recognised her, somehow, though she scarcely knew herself. She took his hand, and they disappeared as the guard entered the clearing, finding only mist and echoes.

-

Everything went black, and Lianthorn had the sensation he was falling slowly upwards. In a moment, the world appeared again, and he heard a shriek as he 'landed'. His body was in knots and he retched as he tried to piece together what had happened. It transpired that the shriek was a frightened Naiya - the prophetess of his father's court - whose office they had just materialised in (apparently, Isciira had other ideas when it came to being "led to safety"). He had never in all his years known Naiya to express surprise of any sort - after all, little can surprise a woman who sees the future - but as the exchange earlier had proven, something caused Naiya to be blind with regards to Isciira.

As best he could, Lainthorn calmed Naiya and tried to explain how the child in front of her was not a daemon, as had been assumed, but was a centuries old, dead, wardancer.
"Somehow, she was reborn when Aegwen passed into death, but she... Something isn't right. Can you help her?".
Naiya hesitated. Her first duty was to Lianthorn's father, who had ordered the child killed, but she could see that Lianthorn was at least right about one thing: There was no daemon here. "There is a darkness around her... Not evil, but a shadow... a fog. I can't penetrate it, so my auguries are of no use. What can I do?"
Isciira spoke softly, sounding completely different to the wild creature that sung in the clearing, "It isn't... I never had power like this before. I'm not sure I can control it. But I can try"
Naiya nodded, and the two women closed their eyes and clasped hands. Isciira's form faded into translucency several times, as Naiya's face changed from her usual serenity, to a pained expression. The experience was clearly distressing, but it was working. At length, the two separated, and Naiya sat down, exhausted.

"Isciira," she began, "when you died, your soul was taken by Slaanesh. He took you as punishment for killing his herald, and for the elven souls you had stolen from his reach. Yet it seems your soul had attracted the interest of another."

"Loec" said Isciira. "It's like remembering a dream, but the dead don't dream, do they?"

Naiya continued: "So impressed was the trickster with your cunning and skill, that he saved you. Your soul has... wandered... the forest ever since. Hundreds of years. But a soul cannot wander forever. Without a body, it... fades. I believe Loec was searching for a host that would befit your prowess, but he ran out of time. Aegwen is... was... but a child, Your strength in body is gone, and your certainty of mind is... fractured, but clearly your time in the hidden paths has given you power. Your magic is formidable - far beyond my own, though I am loathe to say it. Though obviously thrust upon an untrained host it is raw and volatile. It must be honed, controlled."

"Controlled?" Isciira laughed "Control is an illusion". Her voice had regained the echoing, distant quality he had heard before. Lianthorn backed away and braced himself, knowing this was not the same Isciira who had been before him moments ago. "We are the playthings of gods!" she spat, "We play at ruling, we play at war, we play at hide and we seek.". Her figure had begun to fluctuate again, and as she disappeared, it was as if she whispered directly in his ear: "The gods enjoy our games. Seek me out if you want to play..."

-

Lord Dolenmorchant called off his search at the behest of the prophetess, who knew that Isciira could no more be killed than reasoned with. The presence of Loec in her fractured soul was more than apparent in the glimpse she had revealed. Decades passed, and the seasons continued their eternal cycle of death and rebirth. Isciira became something of a local legend, with many claiming they saw her figure dancing in the morning mist, or her face in a cloud of incense smoke. Lianthorn took his place as Lord after his father, though he continued to maintain a disinterest for ruling, often wandering the forest alone. Sometimes he fancied he could hear an echoing laugh or melody from the shadows. He does not fear Isciira, merely seeing her as another facet of the capricious nature of Athel Loren. Her parting words to him still play on his mind to this day, and he has yet to discern with certainty her intended meaning. One of his favoured interpretations is that it was her way of offering her aid should war come to Gwâtheryn. Though her power could undoubtably turn the tide of any battle, Lianthorn is painfully aware that calling upon Isciira for aid is tantamount to inviting Loec himself to the battlefield, and that would be a dangerous game indeed.
LadyLoec
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Re: Isciira En'Loec - Shadoweaver of Gwâtheryn

Postby Etheneus » 16 Apr 2016, 07:10

I really do enjoy reading your stories. Well written and exciting. More please.
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