Rhiallis: A New Woman

bsp;     Today’s snippet, titled “A New Woman”, is a piece I wrote about my PC in Mark’s new (Good) Pathfinder Campaign.
      Be forewarned, there may be mature themes and naughty language below.
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      Somewhere, deep in the Worldwound, with an elephantine spider whom they had begun to call Herman on their trail and nothing but horrors and danger ahead, the Valorous Order tried to rest.
bsp;     They had made their way south and crept around the lake of fire a few days ago.
bsp;     They had confronted and bested a trio of red dragons, too young to know better but old enough to breathe magma upon the whole party and nearly melt the armor from their bodies.
bsp;     They had conquered more Vrocks, powerful vulture-like demons, and recovered a battle-axe so powerful none of them could be fully sure what it really did.
bsp;     They had watched the eerie skies grow dark as a profane ritual unfolded, with red bolts of lightning streaking through the sky and in killing the cultists, they had saved the life of a young woman who would never be the same.
bsp;     They had helped one of their number confront childhood trauma and the nightmares that had resulted from nearly being the victim of the same ritual some years ago.
bsp;     But there was so much left to do.
bsp;     The girl lay wrapped and senseless in Rhiallis’ old cloak. It was one she had once lent to Kumiko when the unseasonably warm nights had given way to one frigid one and the foreign woman had been caught without suitable attire. The memory of Kumiko made her smile, despite the pain of loss. She brushed the girl’s hair with a boar-bristle brush she had liberated from Aimsley’s things, murmuring tender prayers over her while her friends tended to their own wounds and the various equipment and treasure gathered from the scene. Aimsley’s golden hair was still caught in the bristles and as the light caught it, it gleamed. Again, her lips curved at the happy memory.
bsp;     I think, until we know your name, girl, I shall call you Ivy. Even if only in my head. After all you have been through, you will need a strong patron saint to watch over you and there could be none finer than Captain Ivy Ellen Graves. Rhiallis watched the girl’s muscles in the girl’s face twitch and gently stroked her cheek to soothe away whatever fears lingered. Sometimes I think Graves is with us still. I felt her in Radiance today, when I landed three consecutive blows on that bastard.
bsp;     “Graves still does the Lady’s work, wherever she has gone,” Rhiallis murmured. She chewed her lower lip for a moment. “She is too valiant and too determined to do anything else.”
bsp;     A glance across the cliff saw Sadie polishing an axe that was far too large for her to wield comfortably. Perhaps with two hands, like a greataxe, she thought. Then she nearly laughed aloud, remembering a day in the orchard where Mira and Sera and Sadie had been taking turns lifting the wood axe Rhiallis kept strapped to her mule and trying to swing it. Mostly, they had been awkward and unsuccessful, but Mira had managed to make a solid gouge in a log with it and of course, nothing less than matching that cut would do for Sadie. The littlest of her friends had tumbled head over feet at least once trying to chop that log, but eventually she had landed a good blow and the wood snapped in two.
bsp;     Mira and Sera – they gave their lives for this journey, to help us get this far. They must be at peace now, dancing amongst the butterflies in Cynosure.
bsp;     Rhiallis sighed, closing her eyes to imagine them frolicking in a flower-strewn meadow. They were not alone, in her mind’s eye. Mytra and Isaac were there. Mickey Shambo. Ema. Idril. Lucien. Jenson. Aimsley. Kumiko. Celeste. Captain Graves.
bsp;     After a long moment, she noticed someone else at the furthest corner of her gaze. Tears welled up in her eyes and her heart broke all over again.
bsp;     Amongst the flowers, his tunic festooned with wild lilies and yellow daisies just like the wreath she had woven for him the first afternoon they made love, was Viggo. His eyes, so very green in this light, were more alive and vibrant than seemed possible. He said nothing – could say nothing, for this was not real, just an illusion of her heart’s most wishful dreams – yet when his gaze met her own she heard his voice as clearly as if he had been whispering in her ear.
bsp;     Let go.
bsp;     She wanted to scream out loud – I can’t! I won’t! I would never let go! But something stayed her tongue and Rhiallis said nothing. Hot tears slipped down her cheeks in rivers and she felt herself trembling.
bsp;     Let go, Healer Corweir. Rhiallis, my love. Let go.
bsp;     Her heart began to pound within her ribcage, so fiercely she thought it might burst. This was not just her imagination. Was it? His voice, his words. They were not her own. Were they?
bsp;     You cannot move forward, if you are looking back. You cannot do what you must, clinging to those who have gone before you. Let go, Rhiallis, and be brave. Be brave, as I always knew you were.
bsp;     “Viggo,” her voice broke and she opened her eyes involuntarily. “Oh, no. No, come back. Viggo…”
bsp;     The girl’s eyes fluttered open for a moment and Rhiallis was startled to see that they too were impossibly vibrant green. She smiled as her gaze met Rhiallis’ own, then sweet oblivion took her once more.
bsp;     Let go. She shook her head. Why did it sound so simple when he said it?
bsp;     Rhiallis lay the girl down, tucked a dead man’s tunic under her head as a pillow and rose to her feet. Sadie was gathering trinkets and gold pieces into a sack, Ezekiel and Tom Parris dragged the demon bodies toward the cliff to push over the side. Dusting herself off, Rhiallis unfolded her wings and stretched, then with a fraceless grunt, she leapt into the air.
bsp;     “Let her go,” she heard Zeke tell Tom Parris, who seemed intent on following her.
bsp;     It is so easy to say, even for Zeke. Rhiallis twirled, spiralling higher. The exercise, the practice as it were, made her blood sing in a different way than battle did. She liked it better; she was peaceful, joyful, free. I’ve been so selfish. That’s the problem. All I’ve wanted is to bring them back, for me. For my peace of mind. To assauge my guilt. To return to my arms. Not for them? Why should I rip them out of paradise – even if they’re willing to return to the mortal plane? So that I can feel better? So that my heart hurts a little less? Damn it Rhiallis, you should know better than that.
bsp;     Sadie was right, though she did not even know what she was telling me. I have to… I have to let them go.

bsp;     The wind on her face grew icy and she stopped ascending, hovering with great difficulty and looking down. She had climbed too high, her wings were rapidly growing fatigued and the fall was too great.
bsp;     Wish we hadn’t switched Scales, she thought ruefully, twisting in midair. She began a lazy, circling descent, trying to glide upon the chaotic currents. It was a long way down. Rhiallis had no time to dwell on the past, only focus on the present and the future.
bsp;     As I must, from now on, she decided, alighting on the ground. She collapsed to her knees and curled her wings in tight around herself. Like a caterpillar in a cocoon, she knelt to catch her breath. When at last Sadie tapped her on the shoulder, she opened her eyes, spread her wings, and rose; a new woman.

– – – – – – – – – – –
Signed, Josie
Note: Image is “King Jagiello Statue Central” by (Mulligand) from SXC.hu; edited by me

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