"... and we shall watch over ourselves, each other, and the world. As we walk the Path, to destinations great and unknown, we shall carry the Light in our hearts and inspire and guide others to do the same. This is how we shall improve the world, through ourselves and those around us, with the Tenacity and Compassion that such a duty begs of us. We carry this duty with great honor, thankful each morning that we shall live to follow the horizon of goodness, ever vigilant."
"In Light, all is good, and may it bless us to be the same."
The home was almost dark, weakened flutters of candlelight found only in the single bedroom. Except for the lines being spoken, the air was silent and still. Though the scene suggested an overwhelming eeriness, there was an unexplainable sense of comfort and peace in the room. Neither the young boy, speaking, nor the woman seemed to be disturbed by the ambiance.
He sat on a small stool at the bedside, head bowed and leaning slightly over his mother, laying. Her head was turned toward him, smiling with obvious pride and serenity. Occasionally she would speak with him in unison, both knowing the words as if ingrained in their most basic of thoughts.
The man stands near the edge of the blight beneath his boots, the dull roar of war and death echoing distantly behind him. There are bodies, hundreds of them, scattered haphazardly as far as he could see. He closed his eyes, breathing in the scene slowly. It was almost euphoric, though the herbs flowing steadily through his bloodstream did much to contribute. The wind picked up, as if nature itself was fighting against the perversion. The man’s hair was pulled back, low and with more than an acceptable amount of it falling around his face and shoulders. The wind picked up the strands and made them dance, the man enjoying the beauty of the entire situation as he stared forward at nothing.
"Arise," he spoke softly, but with a dark determination that would make most mortals stop in their tracks. As it were, there were none present other than the man himself. Any question as to whom he was speaking to was quickly answered, however.
Behind him, a corpse of a young soldier jerked and rolled onto its side, as if unsure if the man had been meaning to speak to it in particular. As if coming to a decision, the corpse buckled and began to stand again on its own. Its body was making unsettling groans of protest, the limbs already succumbing to rigor mortis. Sheer, foreign willpower kept it moving, however, and it came to stand off to the man’s side, awaiting instruction.
A boy stood on a moderately busy street corner, in a moderately wealthy area of town, with a more than moderate amount of apprehension. He was obviously a beggar from the Southern district and most people ignored his presence completely as they went about their business of no significance. He was trembling and doing a respectable job of hiding it. Steeling himself, he dropped his small, feathered hat onto the ground before him. He had set his fate, on this corner, and he would not let himself down.
His voice trembled as he tried to be heard over the chatter, but he only allowed it to crack once. In shame and forced resolve, he carried his voice even higher. The noise in his immediate vicinity ebbed, and he could see that people were noticing him– even if not stopping or tossing him coins.
The boy was singing a traditional Elven song, one that he knew would be recognized and appreciated. It was the only real song he knew, the rest being quite inappropriate for current audience– one in which he was starting to get. His voice was very strong, the onlookers would comment. He seems a natural, he must sing with the Church, he is so striking for a boy of his age, his rendition of this song is just lovely...
The boy did his best to drown out the comments, losing himself in his own mind and self-condemnation as he threw himself at the mercy of the crowd. He repeated the song for the next five hours, usually with his eyes closed. He had always loved singing-- since he was very young-- but at this moment it was the very thing he hated the most in the world, and he doubted he would ever look at it the same again.
The man wanders around the city, aimlessly. No, not aimlessly. Aimless implies the ability to have a goal to begin with. The man was in a drunken stupor, weaving around without any grasp on reality. A succubus trailed him on his left, though nothing would suggest that she was threatening... not to him, at least. She was whispering loudly to him in Demonic, seeming (of all things!) concerned.. They wound through the streets, ignoring or not even noticing the dirty looks.
The pair found themselves outside of the city walls, and both would be relieved at the sudden lack of people if either cared to notice. The man stopped abruptly, without a hint of losing his balance at having done so, and turned on his heel. He stared at the succubus, who was straightening herself to appear taller– it wasn’t hard to do to most men, though this one made it a bit challenging. He stared at her for a long while, and she at him. She wasn’t sure what he was thinking about doing. He wasn’t either.
She smiled at him and his gaze seemed to soften. It was distant and dulled, two signs of his inebriation that he couldn’t just will away in convenience. She started to step toward him gingerly, circling around him and letting her finger trail along his shoulder. As she approached his other side, she sided up to him and started to whisper in his ear.
He let the words sink in for just a moment shuddering violently and quickly stepping away from her. He was staring at her once more, flushing in anger and the beginnings of a fever. Finally he lashed out with tendrils of shadow, yelling in demonic and Thalassian. The shadow caught the succubus off-guard– already an attack she was notoriously vulnerable against, she took the full brunt of the magic against her chest and shoulder. She could feel it flood into her very being, before something inside her was wenched in his direction. She howled in primal rage and pain, attempting and failing to leap at him. It was too late, and they both knew it. She resisted all the same, clinging to the soul that he had given her in the first place.
"I... do not... need you," the man managed to speak with only a hint of a slur, his voice ragged and dripping with malice. He sneered at the succubus, who was now fully immobile and starting to pale as she was forced from this plane of existence at his hand. She gave him a last long look before blinking into nothingness entirely, and the man promptly lost consciousness.
"... doomed, as all men are, to die, and with the hour of my death concealed from me, grant that I may pass my days in the practice of holiness and justice, and that I may be made worthy to quit this world in the peace of a good conscience, and in the embrace of the Light and her Three Virtues.."
The home was once again dark and silent. A single candle struggled against the strangling shadows, resting in a plain holder on the night-stand next to the bed. Beside it, a man sat on a too-small stool. He was hunched, both in prayer and to make up for his uncomfortable height.
The room was not a pleasant one, this time. It was cold, stuffy, and unsettling. He did not want to be here, or anywhere near.
The woman in the bed was watching him with eerie, glassy eyes. He was not sure how well she could see him, but he was content that she could as least know he was near her.
He repeated the half-dozen prayers he could recall, most uplifting and others begging for a graceful death. Her eyes were closed, by now, though he knew enough of the workings of people’s minds to be confident that she was still aware of him. He continued with persistence and extreme despair, as much for himself as for her.
He had not seen her in many, many years. He had thought she was dead. He had told himself she was, had told other people that she was. To be so suddenly aware of her continued existence, and the quickly-approaching end of it...
He resisted the urge to call up the shadows around him. He was only just getting familiar with the entire practice, but he was already missing the comforting embrace they provided. He knew better, however, instead reaching for the Light as if was young again. As if he truly believed it would make any difference. Respect, tenacity, compassion... he had none, and he was painfully aware of it.
And then it happened. He could feel it as clearly as if he himself had died. The slight amount of spiritual warmth he could feel from her life was snuffed, leaving the room feeling colder than it actually was. He shuddered, in grief and chilled, pulling the covers up to her chin as if she were merely a sleeping child. She was so frail, it wasn’t hard to imagine it. He picked up the candle and, before turning away, leaned down to give his mother a last kiss upon her forehead as per tradition.
As he left the room, he finally called the shadows around him whilst killing the candle in a hiss between his fingertips.