The Glacier Legeica
Age: 12 years, 3 months, 3 weeks
Born: December 24th, 2006
Adopted: 2 years, 7 months, 4 weeks ago
Adopted: August 20th, 2016
- Level: 12
- Strength: 21
- Defense: 17
- Speed: 14
- Health: 17
- HP: 17/17
- Intelligence: 0
- Books Read: 0
- Food Eaten: 2
- Job: Unemployed
"What was that?"
The boy stopped walking and looked over his shoulder, peering back into the darkened woods.
"Aw knock it off. It was nothin'."
The other boy held a gnarled stick in his hand, every few steps he'd smack something with it, usually a tree trunk or the grass, as he hurried them along through the forest. His blue overalls were dirty with mud. According to him the cemetery was just through those trees, but that had been ten minutes ago, and now the woods surrounded them, the rolling moors had been lost to sight, swallowed up by the dying autumn trees. Their twisted branches reached up through the night as if to catch and strangle the dim moon already choking on stagnant clouds. Many of the trees had dry wrinkled leaves, they cast curious shapes as they bent against the wind in the branches. He'd never been this far from home. Or at least it had never felt this way before. He pulled his cap lower over his forehead.
The second boy pulled his jacket closer, his hand clenched on the fabric, closing the gap by his throat where the cold air snaked in. He shouldn't be out here he kept thinking to himself. The deeper in they went the more the feeling persisted. He didn’t't belong here.
The first boy ignored him and disappeared through a break in the trees.
"I found it!" He yelled, excitement in his voice.
The second boy caught up. The two stood, trees at their backs as they faced a long forgotten place. The gravestones and tombs were a pale grey against the darkness of the grass. A rickety fence surrounded the cemetery, stone pillars standing here and there holding the tresses in place. Many of them had fallen and crumbled. It was eerily quiet. There was an old church or house behind the farthest fence, it was hard to see from this angle. It looked run down and abandoned.
"I don't wanna do this Fred. I gotta get outta here."
"Screw you, wussy. Just do it. Gah! Why do you have to be such a little whiner all the time?"
The boy frowned, afraid, and now ashamed.
The boys walked towards the fence, the grass was long and looked like a black sea, and the soil was strangely soft under their boots for this time of year. There were white matted flowers against the gritty, broken splinters, glowing softly in the moonlight. The wooden fence had been painted white once, now it was mostly brown kindling, barely hanging together.
"Pfft! This is too easy."
The boy easily went over a fallen beam and took a few steps in. The other followed, slower. He wanted to stop, to say something, to ask what they were going to do now, but he couldn't. He was trying to remember to breathe. The silence had been replaced by the red pulsing of his heart beating heavily against his ribs. They felt too thin to help him.
They walked further in, among the gravestones. Thwack, the boy with the stick hit the graves as he walked by. Thwack.
The boy in the brown cap passed Fred who was hitting the heads off the flowers by one of the graves. He couldn’t believe they were actually in the long lost cemetery. He had never felt so terrified or sure that what they were doing was utterly forbidden. But luckily that also meant they were almost out of the cemetery; just a little farther. He heard a muffled sound behind him so he turned around. He saw Fred crouching on the ground. Must have tripped on one of the gravestones, the boy thought. That’s when he saw the arms pulled tightly around Fred’s head, hands where his eyes were and more hands holding his mouth. Screams only made it to Fred’s throat. His legs were sunken into the earth. The dead grey things made moaning noises, but so softly they sounded like they were coming from inside the coffins underground.
The bat fell from the stuck boys fingers as his hands were pulled into the soil by the rotting monsters pulling him down. He could no longer move from side to side. He was being swallowed by the earth. The other boy’s pure cold fear shocked him so much that it took a minute for the scream to come. Then he did scream and he saw that Fred was lost and so he ran.
He ran as hard and fast as he could out of that graveyard. The creatures posing as leaves in the dying trees turned to watch him. He felt their eyes and it made his ears ring in terror. He ran over the fence post half in the ground and ran into the forest, half a field away from where they had entered.
He was lost all night, running quickly, trying to find the moors again. He was hiding, quiet and hidden and small. He was a different person after that night.
The town was situated in the sprawling moors, constantly foggy and grey. The townsfolk had always told ghost stories about the cemetery and the old castle past the river. The stories were older than the boy’s great-grandparents. They were the reason the town was simultaneously famous and avoided. The church had been hidden for years, lost in the underbrush and forest. This latest “accident” only served to make the town more notorious.
The boy who escaped grew up mostly alone, shrouded by the shadows of that mysterious night. His name was Ephraim. He'd been 11 years old that night. When he was declared fit to be back in school he began looking up every story he could find on the graveyard. After that he used the library and town hall.
Despite the horror stories the little town hadn’t had a lot of actual excitement for a hundred years. The church was older than Ephraim had originally thought, he couldn’t believe it was still standing. It had been added onto and refurbished at least a couple of times. Though the size of the place never seemed to change. Older texts suggested it had been reinforced and the style changed in the pioneer days, as well as more recently in the Victorian era. Also, the town itself seemed to have undergone a very large undertaking.
Curious, he thought, as he perused old zoning documents. Tickets for new buildings increased exponentially, almost overnight. Checking the dates he realized, they had, literally. Some had similar address or names, some did not. It's not like anything had been hidden or covered up. All of the records were right there. But the odd thing was, the newspaper made only a passing mention of the event.
“The ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the new town hall will be at 2pm. We welcome all members of our newly baptized Saint Grand township!”
The town had been moved. From what he could decipher from old maps and the newer city records, the town had packed its bags, picked up and moved 30 miles southwest of the original settlement. Lake Pandaren and its river stood between them now. The river… Across the river was the castle… Was that where the first settlement was? When he asked his parents, they nodded their heads and said, yes, they had heard stories from their grandparents. It hadn't been a big deal, the early settlers simply had needed to move. Why? His parents thought it had to do with agriculture and the crops. He could tell they were starting to worry about him again so he put on a smile and changed the subject. Maybe it really hadn't mattered and he was being paranoid but maybe he wasn’t. He read his ghost stories and histories in secret.
His research into the church itself proved fascinating. Over two hundred years ago there’d been a civil war and many people had been buried in that graveyard. Of the castle there was almost no mention, except to say it was being abandoned. The early years of magical discovery had a dark past in this part of the world. It had been forbidden and the users were cast out of their villages or killed. The church had been a refuge for those seeking sanctuary. It offered protection and secrecy. The stories many years later documented a hooded figure who haunted the church. The men who saw it claimed it was the same as the one illustrated in ancient church texts. In later years, horror stories depicted the creature as a demon, twisted and horned, that snatched children and drank blood. More likely other sources said, the creature was an old deity or simply a warning. The church and cemetery were originally planted deep in a forest, the moors had crept in bit by bit though, twisting the paths that led to it. The first settlement was rubble and grass now. The forest had grown in the absence of man, brushing out the roads, hiding all.
Instead of warning him away, the stories only seemed to fuel him. He carried that curiosity and strangeness with him into adulthood.
Six years later-
He was back at the graveyard. It was so similar and yet so plain compared to what he remembered in his nightmares. It was a cloudy autumn day but it was warm and humid without the shadow of the trees. The tombstones were so old they were all but crumbled grey rocks in the ground. Bees buzzed onto the flowers that grew next to the crumbling fence. He remembered how nightmarish pale blooms had opened to the moonlight. He didn’t want to let that darkness in, it was still daylight, beautiful with changing leaves, and this place couldn’t harm him.
He’d been told that his friend’s body had been found, crushed as though beaten. Ephraim had told them the hands had done it… The law and folks said he was 'traumatized'. They said that Fred had been killed by a vagrant, probably right in front of him. They said his mind broke and that's why he couldn't remember it right anymore. He'd kept his thoughts on that to himself.
Silently, he walked through the graves. The grass was Moorish here, long and blowing in the wind. The forest ringed the property in, casting long dark shadows into the sunny open field of graves. Smaller trees were scattered here and there, leaves turning orange in the autumn day. They had left a wide swath around the ancient dwelling, almost as if the living parts of the forest didn’t want anything to do with the dead. Ephraim remembered how Fred had wanted to go into the house and the church on the far side of the cemetery. They were almost hidden by the bedraggled trees and outgrown shrubbery. Fred had wanted to find ghosts in the church, maybe stay all night. The house wasn’t even a house, Ephraim noticed as he got closer. It was half fallen in on itself and parts were charred and black from past fires. Man or nature? He wondered. The church was still intact, it was large and made of stone, dark with moss. A few pine trees grew right up next to the structure, their needles thin but dark. They cast part of the old building into shadow. It was covered in dirt and dead leaves and no sounds were present, no signs of life.
He had done what he had come here to do but he still couldn’t leave. He found his gaze drawn to the wooden doors at the front of the church. The steeple was still intact and he thought he could see the bell inside. He didn’t even remember climbing the steps but he become aware that he was holding the cold metal handle and pushing the heavy wooden door inwards. His senses tingled and he fought down a wall of fear. A crisp gust of wind seemed to follow him in, red leaves blowing through the door though it had been still outside. Inside it was cool and grey and dark. He couldn’t see all the way back, the glass windows were covered in decades of dirt and branches.
He walked further inside, the shadows pooling against bright sunbeams that shone through the broken roof. It was dusty and quiet. He was curious now and felt the burn to explore this sacred, haunted place. He wondered if any of the stories were true, the massacre, the demons, or the refuge, any of it. He made his way up between the broken pews that were falling apart.
“Dust to dust”, he whispered.
The sacrium was small, he could make out the statue of a woman on the wall, a cross, and found pieces of stained glass. It was hard to see but some part of him was afraid to turn on his lantern. In this dark place he would light up like a beacon and if there was something hiding it might see him. He knew it was irrational but maybe if he kept the light off then the ghosts would stay sleeping. He peered into the back hall but could make nothing out in the dark. Well, he'd had his fill of adventure anyways. Time to be done with this place. He walked back up the grey dusty floor, past the wooden crumbling pews, noting that only the iron sconces were left, wondering how long it had been since they'd held a lit candle. He pulled the doors and... The doors would not open.
His mind went blank and he pushed the doors. They would not budge, he heard a strange voice behind him and he turned around. The church had been transformed. It didn't even look as though it could have fit into the dilapidated structure he'd been standing in. It was built of plaster and warm, dark woods. There were winged statues at the front of the church and light shone brightly from candles and odd glowing orbs. The front of the cathedral had a raised dais and in front of the altar was a person.
“Welcome,” the person said, their voice was beautiful and melodic.
He couldn't quite make out her or his features to tell if it was a male or a female. The hood, he realized, it was wearing a hood, just like the creature from the stories.
“What's going on?!” He blurted out, facing them but with one hand still on the door, his only anchor to reality. Or at least he hoped. He realized he didn't know what was out there anymore either. But he still couldn’t let go.
“You are safe, “ the person said, they held out their arms, palms upward, as if to show they held no weapon. “May I come closer?” they asked.
The person was graceful, the robes it wore were thick and glossy, the color of cotton and grey thunderclouds. As it moved closer he saw that the hood was kept in place by a knotted metal circlet holding a small, golden gem that rested upon its brow. It had dark hair, orange- yellow eyes, and tan skin. A sash draped across one arm with a red emblem stitched to the top. The belt they wore was pale blue as well. When they were close enough to talk comfortably Ephraim could tell it was a female. The person gave a curt nod and began speaking.
“Welcome. I'm aware this must be a startling experience for you. I apologize for that. I promise you are safe. You are still in the church, I'm not holding you prisoner. Would you like to go back or is this okay?”
“Go back”, he whispered.
He was in darkness, he bit back a yell and his hand came down on the doorknob which easily pushed open, letting in the afternoon sunlight showing him that he was back outside the abandoned church. Compared to the brightness from the other place it was as black as night in the entryway gloom. Still hanging onto the door he looked around back in towards the pulpit. The person was still there behind him.
“Oh my god!” He yelled, jumping backwards, stumbling on debris. The person was standing in the doorway. I wonder if they can cross the threshold, he wondered, thinking back on the more demon-y ghost stories.
“Ephraim”, the person said frowning slightly, “please be more careful. I understand you're afraid but you have no reason to fear me. I'm not evil and what you are experiencing in there is magic. It used to be very good magic a long time ago. Before you all left. Do you remember that? This place is falling apart, will you talk to me for a moment?”
“I, I don't know,” he said, stuttering. “I don't like being taken to someplace else like that. Don't do it again, ok?”
He took a deep breath, wondering if he was talking to a ghost right now.
“I didn't do that, but I can make sure it doesn't happen again.”
“Okay,” Ephraim said, belatedly wondering why a murderous ghost was asking him for permission.
Something was odd about this, he couldn't put his finger on exactly what, but he had questions now and maybe this thing could answer them.
“Did you kill my friend?” He asked.
The woman’s eyes widened. She wasn’t human, at least not anymore, that much he could tell. There was something otherworldly about her.
“No, I did not kill anybody here, not in a long, long time. You speak of the boy who was killed in the graveyard?”
He took a step out of the church.
“Yeah, I saw it, the hands grabbed him and dragged him under. It was terrible.”
“Oh child,” she said, looking down on him in sadness, “Only evil can bring temptation into the garden. Only evil can bring good into the garden so that it might be tempted. You were the good. I'm so sorry.”
“Wait, what?” Was it a riddle, what was that supposed to mean?
“You must let me explain. When your town was first built this was its original church. She remained devote and steadfast throughout the ages; she has been abandoned now. When magic came into your people’s eyes the old ages and new collided in a furious war. Magic users were persecuted for their apparent sins, though persecution is a sin most unholy. This church remembers. There was civil war too, fighting up to its doorsteps, so many are buried where they lie down to die. A sickness came, a disease of the mind, a plague of thoughts, dark and twisting. With many tongues it whispered into ears, the demon poisoned everything it touched. Burn the witches, it said.”
Ephraim nodded for her to continue.
“What is a church if not a place for sanctuary and protection? So they fled and were caught in our waiting embrace. Together cleric and witch rooted out the demon's presence choking the townsfolks minds. We found the source, however we were not strong enough to destroy it.”
“Did the town know?” Ephraim asked.
“The people did not understand, they only felt hate and wickedness. Their crops and livestock began to die and they themselves became sick. At first nothing was amiss as a whole. The demon fanned their fears with the flames of hate and disease and made sure they blamed the witches and healers. It ended with the town on our doorstep, demanding the magic folk we had given asylum. They were going to burn down the church. So the hunted did the only thing they could. They defended themselves.”
She paused and looked out at the forest, as if remembering that day so long ago.
“I am the church and the church is me. I am both here and there and also somewhere far away, you will never see. “
She shook her head as if to clear her thoughts and focus.
“They called upon powers to protect these lands and all upon it. This, around you, is sacred, hallowed ground and no evil may walk foot upon it. The forest you see around you has its own protections but they are old now and mostly fallen into disuse.”
“Wait, my friend wasn't evil, he was just a kid! And what, you mean the forest has magic in it or something??”
He crossed him arms in annoyance. He still couldn't decide if he really believed any of this.
“Your friend was not that young. He carried an old evil inside of him. Perhaps even remnants of the first illness, the demon that almost destroyed your town. He had already chosen his path, he would have killed you. The earth doesn't make mistakes. It's another sign that the old magic needs renewing and that's the real reason your here. You're part of this, Ephraim. You've been chosen to be a guardian of truth and light.”
“This is crazy! Just crazy. No way. No way, I thought you were a ghost, I thought that this place was haunted and my friend was killed by a zombie. And now you're saying that it's actually half right and somehow I'm part of this? That doesn't make any sense!”
When he looked up she was gone.
When the guardian never reappeared he went back into the church. Not very far, but he went in and he yelled hello along with a few swear words but there was no answer. His walk back home gave him plenty of time to work out what she'd said.
According to the ...person... Fred was evil as fuck and dead fallen soldiers had murdered him. He shook his head, she'd said something about evil bringing good back to the garden and he was the 'good'. So the church was the garden? Somehow they had triggered something he never could have imagined.
It was all too much. It was way more complicated than any of the villager’s tales knew. It was general knowledge that witches had been burned at the stake, and while the histories suggested that could have been a reason that the town had moved, they made it clear it wasn't the only reason, with the major reason being better farmland. Even if it was the actual reason, who could have blamed them back then? The whole thing had gotten out of control.
He thought about the charters he'd seen. It had obviously been planned out and he wondered what the final push had been. Before he'd interrupted her it sounded like she was going to tell him. That was assuming that she was telling the truth, or that any of it, or all of it was real!
It wasn't long before the experience was replaying over and over in his mind. He began to obsess over the next time he'd make it out of town. It was like some weird, twisted dream and he had to prove to himself it was real. He was an apprentice at the Bookkeeper’s Den and had to work almost every day. He was exhausted and frazzled as the week wore on. Finally the weekend came and he put on his hiking boots and trekked out into the moors and woods. This time was different. Now that he knew that a whole other town had been built across the lake he found himself looking for signs of it. He didn’t find any, yet his eyes still wandered the woods, more worried by it now that he knew there was a force behind the menace. He shook his head, I’m letting this get to my head, he thought, not for the first time wondering if he was going a little crazy. But he’d wondered that his whole life, ever since he’d first seen the truth so long ago, so it didn’t really bother him.
It wasn’t long before he realized he wasn’t sure he was going in the right direction. Fearing he might be lost made the paranoia worse. He looked around at the dark fir trees, it was quiet, and there was no one around but him. He kept on walking, checking his compass, ignoring the eerie feeling humming on his skin. Once again he found the graves and the fence, the church was further on. This time he was sure he saw things skittering on the edges of his vision, just out of sight. He stopped in front of the church doors. He buttoned up his coat and pulled up the collar, and cleared his throat. He put his hand on the rotted wooden door. Alright time to-
The voice caused him to jump into the air and yelp. He flattened against the door before he realized who it was behind him. Her golden orange eyes seemed to glow, but maybe it was just the light, he told himself. Completely taken off guard he tried to assemble his thoughts. For starters, last week hadn’t been a dream, which meant that he had a lot more questions. He started to speak but before he could say the first word she held up her hand to stop him.
“Please, come inside, let me show you where you belong.”
Now that he knew what to expect Ephraim mumbled acceptance and stepped aside, pushing the door open for the hooded figure who drifted past him like a ghost. He walked in after her and the door shut behind him. It was much bigger and candlelight filled the space, though there were blue and gold globes burning that also gave off light. The pews gleamed and gave off a homey glow. A tan carpet led the way down to a grand podium and altar. A royal blue banner hung on the wall behind it. He got the impression of golden wood, reds and blues. The ancientness of the space was only given away by the stylings. Elaborate paintings and tapestries hung on the walls depicting various scenes. Yet the stones were a plain dusty vanilla. There was a wooden desk on the raised dais and a chair sat behind it, swirling intricate ribbons of wood created the high back.
He looked at the wall hangings around him. A richly embroidered tapestry showed a deep forest with two black knights on black steads jousting in the forefront. An oil painting depicted a woman in a courtly red dress and high collar smiling shyly, she was sitting, and her hand was raised partially as if to cover her mouth, her eyes filled with laughter. He saw some had flowers, maidens, deer, knights and swords. He felt like he was in the medieval ages. There was a glyph carved into the floor beneath the altar. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know why.
She had him sit down on the polished front pew and she stood behind the podium. She opened the large book in front of her, said a few words, and blew on the pages. Glittery dust flew into the air and the lights dimmed. He noticed a faint light towards the ceiling and watched as it coalesced into images. Her name was Moira, she explained, as he saw images of the church a very long time ago.
He watched the story of the town unfold. The firt part he recogonized from what she’d told him last time he was there. Little known to his ancestors a demon gained a foothold in Grimistaire Castle. It began to grow its power in secret and little by little the town crumbled into chaos. The townsfolk blamed the witches, said there was a curse, and the only way to lift it was to kill them all. Of course it wasn’t true. Sadly, not all of them got very far before they were hunted down. Many didn’t even have anywhere else to go. Most of them were farmers by trade who used spells to help their crops, though a few were skilled at trades such as healing or weather. They went to the one sanctuary they’d always believed in, their church. The gathering grew as more people heard about the safe haven and sought refuge. Moira kept talking as the images floated in the air, showing Ephraim a dark time, long ago in his people’s history.
The townsfolk, having driven off the witches, began to turn on one another instead. The images were vague, not of the actual people themselves but renderings of them. Black shadowy figures held knives, houses were on fire, children were left to fend for themselves, neighbor fought with neighbor, families broke apart, and businesses began to fail. He thought of the business ledgers he’d found. The images blurred and faded out until he see could the town as if from the air and he saw the darkness that hung over it. Most noticeable was the large castle, it was dark but faint green glowed underneath the miasma of fog. He wondered about it, they’d never rebuilt the old castle, he assumed it was because it was, well, a castle, not something you really needed or even used in the present day. It still stood today, you could see it from the road to town far off in the distance, bleak spires raised to the sky. But no one ever went there and it was well known to be haunted. His long dead friend had wanted to visit Grimistaire after the church. They’d never gotten that far.
Moira explained what the townspeople didn’t know, an evil had crept in and taken root in the ancient castle. It had started small but like most evil all it needed was a foothold. It had grown strong and taken over the town bit by bit.
“Why didn’t they just break the curse?” Ephraim asked.
“They weren’t as knowledgeable back then, it was before the council set itself up in the city. They would’ve needed to find a grand wizard to free them and they might have if the town hadn’t killed or driven off all the wizards and witches. The court magician went mad, I believe he was one of the first to be targeted. The evil grew smart as well as strong, and it got rid of any threats as quickly as possible. They locked the court magician up in the dungeon, raving and foaming at the mouth. When he tried to use his magic to escape, it was tainted, he was dangerous they said, so they beheaded him. It was a sad time in history.”
“What happened, how did they win?” Ephraim asked.
“They didn’t.” She said simply.
“What?! But how did-“
Moira gestured towards the images and looked down at her book once more, fingers waving over the pages.
“They didn’t win, they simply left. And not before they attempted to destroy the church and all who sought sanctuary within it.”
He looked back at the images as the rest of the story unfolded. This time it was much more detailed, as though the person writing it had seen it firsthand.
The evil creature in the castle gathered his power until it was as strong as he could make it. Then he sent out a black fog of evil to cover the town. The most aggravated individuals were driven to a frenzy. They gathered together and went to the countryside church itself, looking to exterminate their enemies. They brought rope to capture and lanterns to light the way. The moon was full but the tainted fog clung to the moors and kept it in bitter darkness. The shadows around the churchyard seemed to creep towards them. The moment the first boot tip was past the church’s fence the lanterns outside flared up. The wealthier ones were on horses in the front. They pulled up in front of the steps, the torches held around them blazing in the cold night air. The man riding the white horse wore a red coat and his white hair was in a bun behind his head. He’d been a wealthy merchant once. He raised his fist in the air and yelled at the closed doors to bring the witches forward.
One of the large double doors swung out quickly and silently, causing the noise to still. Out of the dark shadows within stepped a woman. She was one of the church’s nuns once who had risen to become a Holy Sister, and more recently, the sole remaining, newly self-appointed, Mother Protectorate. She was solemn, calm, and fierce, she would stand her hallowed ground.
“These people are NOT evil,” she said, voice loud but steady.
Her hands were clenched at her sides, her grey Mothers dress barely moved in the wind. She wore a hood that draped around her face, and was pulled back around her shoulders to hang in the back. A few pieces of blonde hair slipped past it. Her eyes were stone cold blue but her spirit seemed to glow from within and she raised her head higher.
“You are all under the influence of a great evil. You must put this quest of insanity aside and let good into your hearts once more! These people are your friends, family, neighbors, your healers and your teachers. You are NOT enemies. We must have peace.”
For a moment it seemed to have worked. The crowd was silent. But then the man in front nudged his horse forward and said, “No.”
They began walking forward and the woman attempted to reason with them but they would not listen to logic. They were agitated and stubborn. But she was stubborn too. The men got off the horses and they made to enter the building. They only got up a few steps before the red flames in the lanterns around the church flared up and turned blue. The people gasped in horror. The Mother Protectorate stood firmly, hands at her hips and behind her in the open doors were the witches and wizards they’d come seeking. Most were wearing dirty clothes and were unkempt, only able to take what they could carry. All wore the same determined expression however, many had clasped arms together in a show of solidarity. They weren’t leaving without a fight.
Their anger escalated as the curse fueled the darkness in the townsfolk, it wanted the magic dead. They were all that could stop it, so it would extinguish all of them. It was hungry for blood. The crowd charged up the stairs, yelling and screaming, hate in their minds. Together the witches raised a shield wall to stop the on-rush. Some got through and shoved into the line, breaking links, and knocking people over. The witches began using other more weaponized magic, fire and ice, telekinesis and that’s when the humming started. A cloud of hornets appeared, hard to see in the dark except for a fuzzy, angry buzzing shape hovering in the air. An earth witch, red pony- tailed hair shining in the firelight, had her eyes closed, one hand raised, as she concentrated on the hive.
One man started charging to stop her but it was too late, and the bees attacked him. People were panicking and the bees spread out as the woman whispered under her breath. A wizard froze as a man’s fist punched him, sending him flying down unconscious.
The Mother Protectorate had no magic of her own, she trusted in her flock to keep her safe. A wall of fire sprang up and it quickly got out of control. People kept fighting as the flames rose and began to eat the side of the church building. She stood there unable to help, she was not a fighter, or a wizard, all she had was her conviction and faith. People were getting hurt, or dying, and the church was burning.
“They’re all going to kill one another until there’s no one left,” she uttered, horrified.
She dropped down to her knees as she bit back tears, she put her hands together and prayed desperately. No one is quite sure what she said but the next time she looked up again her eyes were filled with a pale orange light. Her skin was a strange shade of greyish tan, and the skin around her glowing eyes was faint red. As she stood up again she began turning, finger pointed at the ground, and she began to rise into the air as a golden glowing circle formed around her. When it was complete she floated in the air, even her hair and clothes seemed to hang in the air unnaturally. There were golden orange lines running down her arms until they disappeared under the sleeves, and two short lines had also appeared underneath each eye. She looked like some kind of holy warrior risen from the ashes.
Some had stopped to watch, but more kept fighting, unaware of the strangeness going on. The Mother Protectorate raised her arms in the air, long sleeves falling back, and began to chant. The ground under their feet trembled and moved, several people fell to their feet. The flames stopped spreading, they no longer seemed to burn the building. Some of the crowd found themselves flailing, the wind hollowing, as if they were being pushed by invisible hands. They began tumbling towards the exit. Still, they persisted.
The witches had mostly stopped except to defend themselves, they could sense something ancient and powerful was happening. Many of them were afraid. They were the smart ones, the angry villagers were not afraid enough, and two dared to drag a witch away with them. The ground gave one final buckle and the moon suddenly appeared, looming large and orange above them. Ominously, it lit the landscape and it was all too easy to see when the hands came out of the earth and grabbed the remaining villagers. The two trying to take the healer lost their grip on her when they realized they couldn’t move. Desperately they pulled but more hands came out, they were pulled under, screaming. The rest were running away as fast as they could. The trees unbent their gnarled branches and reached for them. A few were skewered, one pulled apart. Roots came out of the ground to trip them, the flowers opened their blossoms, white as skulls, and sprayed toxin. Small creatures unfurled themselves from the trees, creeping and flying to feast on the dead. No one from the mob left the graveyard that night.
It was quieter now and the fire had died, leaving only scorch marks behind. The Mother Protectorate was no longer floating and her eyes didn’t glow anymore, but they were still the same strange color so was her skin. He was bent hunched over, holding her herself on the steps. Wondering what she’d just done. The witches and healers weren’t quite sure what to do either. She’d saved them but at what cost?
Moira closed the book calmly as Ephraim pieced together the rest of the story.
“It was a heavy cost to be sure, but one she’d had no choice but to pay,” she said.
“So they just up and left after that? Didn’t anyone come looking for all those people?” He asked.
“That mob was the worst of the worst. The rest of the town knew that the troublemakers had gone too far but vengeance was the last thing on their minds. They didn’t really know exactly what happened and most didn’t even feel sorry for them, in part thanks to the evil. They simply had no compassion. They figured their friends and family had messed with the curse and it killed them. Not quite right but it kept them away.”
Nodding, Ephraim guessed that made sense. After all, with the bad mojo still floating around it’s not like compassion was at the front of anyone’s mind.
The strange woman continued on, explaining the finer points. The demon had grown so much that only the most powerful could have stopped it. There was no one left that fit that bill however. After the massacre the villagers up and left, those that still understood the need to. Some were too far gone and had receded into madness. Those that stayed died, drained of their life force, or disappeared. The village rebuilt itself miles and miles away, they put a river between them. They believed the evil spirits wouldn’t be able to follow them over it. It seemed to have worked; the evil in Grimistaire didn’t follow them.
The darkness residing in the old castle never left either. It’s been sitting for over a hundred years now, feeding off the fear of any that dare get too close. The magic in the hallowed ground is still potent as well, as his unfortunate friend had found out. Moira did not think the two were connected but she couldn’t be sure. The demon might be active again.
It didn’t take Ephraim long to figure out that she was the Mother Protectorate from the story. She had the same look. When he asked she admitted that it had been her. Somehow she was still the same age as she’d been when she’d invoked a higher power than herself so many years ago. The powers that be had chosen her as the vessel for their power and she didn’t know if it would ever leave or if she was to remain a guardian forever.
With the powers she’d gained, she’d gone from having no magic to having a seemingly endless supply of it at its most archaic, ancient form. She’d used it to transform the small church into a haven for those persecuted for having magic. She’d had books brought in to help her learn about her new powers and talked to many teachers. She couldn’t go too far though, she had limited help and didn’t’ want to leave this place alone for too long. Nowadays, the church was forgotten and deserted. Every so often hikers or ghost chasers would wander through, mostly harmless. It still had a purpose however.
Moira explained, “My last student has been gone near five months. I usually only have one at a time, they are more like apprentices then students. If they’re chosen to be ordained by the powers of this church they become something great. There is a lot of good that must be done and places that need protecting. The power is a gift but it comes with duty and sacrifice. You could be one of those apprentices if you wished Ephraim.”
“What, what does that mean? What would I be doing?” His heart was beating rapidly, he wasn’t sure if it was fear or excitement. Another part of him wondered what he was still doing there, talking to this creature. But could he really just leave and go live a ‘normal’ life now? He didn’t think so and it hadn’t been normal to begin with anyways.
“You would remain here with me. This place is old and wise, it was built on hallowed ground and it will protect those that stand upon it. The powers that watch over this place found great potential in you. You might not have any magic now but you could. If you choose to do this you must understand that it requires much personal sacrifice, training, and you will be bound to this place and your duties for the rest of your life, natural or unnatural. Think of it like being any kind of skilled tradesman or artist. It takes years of practice but what you will be able to do at the end of it will be the most incredible thing you’ve ever done in your life.”
He gulped, somehow this felt right. He didn’t know how but he felt like this was meant to be.
“I want to do this; I want to stay.”
Her golden eyes seemed to glow as she nodded solemnly to him.
“Good,” she said, “You have a lot to learn and not as much time as I’d hoped for you to learn it. The old evil is roused. You may not feel like it now but one day you will be a powerful warrior, and maybe you’ll train others like yourself. It will be hard and there will be days you feel like giving up but you are needed, that much I promise you. Once you take the vows and are ordained you will be one of this order and the powers you fight for will fight for you too. Don’t forget that.”
With that she came down the steps and he stood up.
“Come, let me show you around. We have much to do.”
Who did you call upon in your greatest moment of need while your church burned around you? He whispered the question softly to her.
The first mother. The one whose tears blessed the hallowed ground and made it holy. It’s her power that flows through me. I am the vessel. We are her vessels.
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