Discovery of Purpose
By: Tlanuwa Posted on: April 05, 2006
Discovery of Purpose
The mist roiled from all directions, obscuring vision in any outside the crossroads here. From within it, shapes manifest themselves and then disappeared just as quickly, always leaving one to wonder whether they were ever actually there.... The crowd gathered in an enormous circle around the center of the area, where two sentinels, apparently guards, held the shackled figure of a beautiful woman in place. Her hair obscured her face, and there was nothing else to identify her. She had been stripped nude, but the soot that covered almost every inch of her form preserved at least some semblance of modesty.
A cloaked figure walked forward from behind them, carrying a wicked daegger in one hand. As he passed the crowd of people, striding towards the three in the center, a hush fell over the place, leaving naught but the screams of terror echoing from far away. He stepped in front of the woman, and lifted her chin as he leaned to whisper something in her ear. Her raven hair fell away from her face. Her azure eyes burned with a mix of fear and hatred. White lines left by the stream of tears that still flowed indicated her fair, smooth complexion beneath the concealing ash.
"Tyalira!", Tlanuwa tried to scream, and it was then that he realized that he too was bound, and apparently gagged. He struggled against these bonds, struggled to simply twitch a finger or make a sound, but could not. He was helpless, forced to watch this event unfold.
The cloaked figure with the daegger turned to face the waiting crowd. He muttered something to the blade and, seemingly of its own accord, it left his hand and floated, waiting for his bidding. "Welcome, brothers and sisters. Let us begin," came the man's voice. His face remained covered, but when he spoke, Tlanuwa knew him instantly -- Malifuus. Though he had never seen the man, his taunting, dark shouts that echoed over all the lands rang in his head now, and he was sure it was Malifuus.
The story of an event that seemed, strangely, very much like the one developing now, had been posted to the public news bulletins all around Sapience. Word of it touched the ears and hearts of almost every citizen. Outrage spread nearly as quickly. People screamed and wailed at the purification of the orphan girl held in Mhaldor -- the torture and murder of the same to the rest of the realm. Tlanuwa had passed no immediate judgment -- while he was disgusted at the child's torture and death, he had never been one to discredit another's system of beliefs. This was why he had chosen the forests and Eleusis to make his home -- his values were his own, not those of Mhaldor or Shallam or the other cities that fell somewhere between.
This was different. Now he was watching someone he cared for personally. It was not about politics or the eternal battle between good and evil. No, this was nothing so noble as that -- this was someone he shared a direct bond with. They shared their groves, hunted together, visited family and friends together. Though he had not made the depth of his feelings known to her or to anyone, he had the sneaking suspicion that both she and everyone that saw them together knew it anyway. He did not mind....
Now he was forced to watch her suffering, unable to do anything at all. He feared that this ritual would reflect the last, but he did not wonder for long.
Malifuus turned back to face her, taking the daegger back into his palm as he did so. He shouted something in a language Tlanuwa did not know. The daegger seemed to come to life. Malifuus wheeled and crouched in one fluid movement, slashing Tyalira's ankles before rising again, an audible "pop" reaching Tlanuwa. As the tendons writhed their way back into her legs and she began to fall, she threw back her head and issued forth a single clarion call that rang through the land. She collapsed to the ground, her face again obscured by her long, black hair. Her body trembled. Her chest and back heaved with the labor of her breathing. Malifuus dropped into a crouch, lifting her chin once again so she faced him. This time though, when she looked at his face, her bearing was suddenly reminiscent of an eagle, and her new found strength and nobility flashed in her eyes.
"Yes! Fight! Fly away! Something!", Tlanuwa begged silently, but he knew his hope was unfounded in reality. She was going nowhere, and this would continue as the Gods willed. Now Malifuus took her right wrist in his left hand, and with his right, begin flaying the flesh from her forearm to her elbow. His surgery was perfect, in that it wrought pain in her to the absolute limit without allowing her the escape of death. As the flesh peeled away, blood poured and pooled on the ground at her knees. Her arm was now bare, the ivory bones visible through the gore. After repeating the process on her left arm, he stepped back, glaring down at her with a wicked smile on his lips. Tyalira's gaze never faltered. The spirit that now resided in her being shared her pain, and gave her strength to focus through it. Still, Tlanuwa wept, knowing the ultimate end of this, no matter her strength.
Malifuus scooped up her now weak body and, mouthing some enchantment, lifted her as if she weighed no more than a feather. He dropped the arm that supported her, but she remained, hovering there, helpless to move or do anything. Malifuus lifted the daegger with both hands above her torso, then drove it down into her flesh, directly through the navel. Now she screamed, and the eagle with her; the sound was devastating to hear, and Tlanuwa could not shut it out, even if he'd wanted to.
Withdrawing the blade some, Malifuus incised two perfect lines, creating a 4-paned grid of flesh that opened at the center. With a finger and an expectant grin, he turned her body over, spilling her intestines and blood over the ground as she finally, mercifully, expired. Tlanuwa's voice found him again, and now he screamed, with more force than he'd ever known he had....
Then he woke up, the Rajamalan roar still resounding from his mouth. Quickly realizing he had only dreamt, he stopped the outburst. The stars still shown brightly in the sky, no sign of the impending dawn yet clear. He stood from the makeshift palette of leaves he slept on each night and walked to the northeastern corner of his grove. Glancing through the willows that separated their groves, he saw Tyalira sleeping peacefully on her ivory-silk blanket -- the one he'd been with her to purchase. Satisfied that she was safe, he ambled over to one of the limbs of the ancient, fallen tree that characterized his new home. Taking a seat, he began to reflect on the events of the past couple of weeks.
At the start of his troubles, he had found himself in the middle of a Mhaldorian raid on Eleusis. He returned to his grove to find Cain there, preparing to battle those that awaited him at the gatehouse just south, and he froze. Stories of Cain's strength against even accomplished fighters had created an innate, even unjustified fear of him in Tlanuwa. And now, though he knew he should do something, even if it was only to leave, he could not. His limbs refused to move. Without a word, Cain strode south to attack, and Tlanuwa cursed for allowing himself to remain so weak that he could do nothing then. The Eleusian warriors, among them Miagorme and Rangor, managed to fend off both Cain and Xenomorph, and, for the moment, that conflict was settled.
Later in the week, several new areas in the Black Forest had been discovered, hidden away for who knows how long. Interested, but still too angry and focused on his combat training to leave immediately, Tlanuwa filed it away in his "todo" list. After his final spar for the evening, Tlanuwa sought out Tyalira, suddenly anxious for her company, though he knew not why, in particular. When he was finally able to contact her, she was exploring the new areas, and suddenly, they bumped up in priority on his list. He asked her for a gate, then stepped through the portal and found himself immediately pounced on and sent rolling through the leaves. Her way of saying, "Hi!", he assumed. With a grin, Tlanuwa stood and hugged her, happy to be in her presence again.
She sent him to look around a bit, and, though reluctant, he took his preferred form of the wolf and left out, enjoying the smell of the old trees and plants that had prospered here. Everywhere he went the Druids and Sylvans laboured lovingly to plant the herbs and flowers they depended on, encouraging their growth with sweet words and songs. Pleased, Tlanuwa finished his circuit of the new found area and returned to Tyalira's location in a clearing bordered by old, strong willows.
They talked briefly of the new area, and then she announced that she planned to move here, to this spot exactly. This was an idea that had never occurred to Tlanuwa. His home had been, for years, in the Eastern Ithmia, close to his mother, Gala, and Eleusis, where he spent much of his time sparring and learning in the estate of the Sentinel House. That grove under the old, proud oak had protected him and nourished him since he had become a Druid almost 10 years before.
But now, the idea of moving away from the mass of people that now lived in the Ithmias appealed to him, though he was unsure if it was the solitude or the chance to be closer to Tyalira that motivated him. Seeming to read his mind, she asked if he was considering moving to the Black. Nodding, Tlanuwa beckoned Tyalira to him, and he stepped through the willows and into the shaded glen just southwest of her grove. He stopped and feigned pondering over the direction in which to travel, and when she asked, he grinned and pointed at the ground. A flash of comprehension filled her face, and then a sly grin, and she nodded in approval.
The rest of that day had proven eventful. After attending the ceremonies for moving Tyalira to her new grove and moving Morine, her cousin, into Tyalira's old one, Tyalira asked if he was to move, himself. He quietly nodded, and then she pounced again. They returned to the location of his grove-to-be and he glanced around one more time, though his decision was already made. Leneas and Aethele passed through, exploring as well, and Tyalira asked if Aethele would mind peforming the imprinting ceremony. She agreed and promptly retreated to prepare, and Tlanuwa and Tyalira left to return and sever his old grove in the Ithmia. Tlanuwa gathered the few belongings he had here, then uttered a prayer that this place would remain protected, and initiated the process of severing. The feeling of loss was overwhelming, and, sympathetic to his pain, Tyalira stood close to him, comforting him as a lone tear rolled down his cheek. They tracked back to Aethele in the new location, and the imprinting ceremony was held. Immediately, the pit of loss was refilled and Tlanuwa's connection with the land renewed, much to his relief. He slept soundly that night, particularly in the knowledge that Tyalira slept so closely to him now.
The next days had been rather lazy for Tlanuwa. He spent most of them exploring the Black Forest more intently, regretting he had not learned it more adequately in his introductory training with the Sentinels. Soon, though, the day came for him to prepare for another week of combat training in Eleusis. On the last night he was to be in the Black before he left, he'd had the dream. And so here he was, sitting on the limb, wasting good sleep on pondering over memories. He would need the rest in the coming days, so, having fully rationalized the dream as nothing more than a dream, he trudged back to his familiar resting place and fell immediately back into sleep.
Though the shade provided by the myriad trees in the glen kept most of the direct sunlight out, the temperature still warmed and one stray ray shone in on Tlanuwa's forehead, waking him sooner than he'd though it possible for morning to arrive. With a dissatisfied grunt he got up and stretched languidly, relishing his body's natural strength and flexibility. After a quick breakfast, he set about preparing for the trip. Tlanuwa gathered and laid out on a blanket all of the various packs of herbs, healing elixirs, sharpened staves, and other various instruments he would need in his training.
The bundle complete and stowed away in his kitbag, he sat and began reviewing all of the various strategies he'd learned and some he'd devised himself and planned to test in the week to come. His work was engrossing. So much so that he missed the thin beam of prismatic light that appeared behind him, carrying on it Asche and his soulmaster entity, which immediately began attempting to manipulate his will. Snapping back to reality, Tlanuwa finally registered that he was being robbed. Entirely unprepared, he froze briefly, but finally managed to shout for a gate. Three portals of light appeared instantaneously, and Tlanuwa fought with all his will to dive through the first he could reach. He tumbled out of the ether into Brandi's grove, and, thankfully, Asche did not follow. After his housemates had indicated that Asche had returned to Mhaldor, Tlanuwa thanked Brandi for her quick help, and once again dove into the either, back to his own grove.
Adrenaline pumping still and anger rising, Tlanuwa tentatively sat back down to think through what had happened. The primary cause, he determined, was that he had lived a blessed life. Never once had anyone attempted to rob him or cause him harm without his already knowing it. And suddenly, the Black Forest grew a bit darker in Tlanuwa's mind. His resolve now set in stone, Tlanuwa doubled his efforts to become attuned to the combatitive powers inherent in his link to the forest. He practiced calling thorns up to wrend his enemy's flesh, beseeching the branches to trap his foes, and calling lightning down to strike them dead. He practiced, too, in the Wyvern's abilities, summoning flames and then belching them free, but ready to incinerate any who crossed him. Remembering his dream from the night before, and now acutely aware of how easy it was to be attacked, he resolved always to maintain a link with Thoth, enabling him to watch for any harm that might befall those he loved. The sunlight stored within his grove already nearly expended, Tlanuwa decided it was time to depart.
He gathered his meager belongings and strapped them to his back. Hopefully stepping to the edge of his grove, he peered through to find Tyalira still sleeping soundly. A pity, he thought. He should have liked to say goodbye. But he dared not wake her, fearing a brutal beating before he even got to the training grounds.... With a final, whispered goodbye, Tlanuwa leapt to the skies and tracked to some person he smelled in the direction of Eleusis. The day passed quickly in his journey over the Urubamba and through the Aureliana Forest, over the Prelatorian Highway and into the Ithmias, finally entering the Eastern Ithmia and stopping for just a moment over his old grove, apparently still uninhabited. The long trip over, Tlanuwa landed at the foot of the gatehouse and greeted the on-duty Treekin warriors protecting entrance to the village. Making his way quickly down the Oaken Way and into the Central Hall in the Great Oak, Tlanuwa greeted his village- and house-mates before whispering the words for entry into the Sentinel House Estate. He wandered around for a bit, greeting the other house members going about their duties, and then walked to the gardens where Vixen, the house teacher was. Lythea, too, was there, and they greeted one another. Tlanuwa sat for a quick lesson in metamorphosis, eager to transcend his knowledge of the art, and once finished, wandered back to a secluded room to sleep for the night.
The next morning he arose and headed immediately to the arena, ready to begin his training. Caelin was to be his sparring partner today, and he was already waiting with his posse of forest creatures that would fight alongside him. A sly grin crept across Caelin's face when Tlanuwa approached, and a frown beset Tlanuwa's.... The week flew by quickly. Tlanuwa lost most of his spars, still refusing to call his grove into the arena's forests, determined to learn to fight without its aide to avoid becoming dependent on it. The losses stung, but he learned from each and improved in his ability and strategy. Each night, he found himself wondering what Tyalira was doing, wishing he could be there to see for himself. And so the days passed. Each day he fought, each evening he thought of her.
Finally, the day came for him to leave Eleusis and return home. Once again, Tlanuwa gathered what remained of his supplies and packed them into his kitbag. Bidding his housemates sincere good byes, he left the village and traveled north back to his old grove under the oak. Fond memories rekindled, he returned home to the Black Forest. Tlanuwa dropped his belongings next to his chosen resting spot, and walked around for a moment, happy to be home again. Then he walked back to the edge of the trees and glanced through to see if she was there. Discovering that she was not, he morphed quickly into the jaguar form he'd grown so accustomed to and sniffed for any trace of Tyalira, hoping, perhaps, that she was visiting her mother a little ways to the north. Disappointed to detect no trace, he consumed another skullcap leaf, ever watchful for her safety. He sat back down against a tree and was content to daydream for a bit, though never far enough from awareness to miss another prismatic shaft of light....
The remaining daylight waned and the stars began to appear, signaling the sure fall of night over the land. Tired from his travels and the week of intense physical activity, Tlanuwa decided it time to rest for the evening. Just as he began to doze, lingering in that tricky realm between wakefulness and sleep, a dark voice, almost in a whisper, crept into his mind, "Tyalira has been slain by the might of..." and the voice trailed off. Awake in an instant, hoping beyond reason for it to have been another dream, he waited and listened for the calls over the forestal communication links they kept open always. To Tlanuwa's horror, the calls came, "Tyalira is down!" Fully awake now, he immediately reached for the Wyvern spirit to come to his aide. Transformed, he leapt into the skies with a mighty roar, and without stopping so much as to think of whether he smelled correctly, he beat the Wyvern wings and soared faster than he'd ever flown to the Dakhota Hills and Azdun. He descended immediately to the area in which she'd fallen, scooping her mauled form into his arms. Her clothes had been ripped and burned by her attacker, and only the sturdy leather boots she wore when she hunted had not been damaged. With a defiant shout, accompanied by the Wyvern's growl and a white hot flame erupting from his maw, Tlanuwa screamed, "GATE!" The portal of light appeared and he leapt through it, diving immediately back into the undergrowth on the other side and back into his own grove, not bothering to ask if the other grove user could call upon the mighty healing powers. Gently, and tears flowing freely, Tlanuwa lay Tyalira back down on the forest floor. Palms extended, he shouted the healing words that would beckon the grove's aide, and a blue aura began to emanate from his hands, filling the area and blinding all within it. As the bright light began to subside, Tlanuwa, now fallen to his knees, looked up, and there was Tyalira, floating gently back to the ground standing upright, bathed in pure light and unscathed as she was the day she was born. A single tear and a smile were the only things he saw in her face -- nothing of the terror she must have suffered. Relief now flooded Tlanuwa's heart, driving out the fear and hopelessness that had taken hold of him. And then the light left them completely, and in the moonlight that remained, he saw the cloaked figure wielding a daegger and the baalzadeen that accompanied him standing behind Tyalira.
Without a second thought, Tlanuwa called on his grove to trap and wrend his opponent. The mighty golem that stood watch lumbered forth, beating its massive chest with one fist, and delivered a crushing blow to the massive baalzadeen. The baalzadeen! Never in Tlanuwa's wildest nightmares had he imagined such a horrid creature. Transfixed by the image of his own limbs being torn from his body in the beasts eyes, Tlanuwa was once again frozen in place. The baalzadeen was blood red in colour and garbed only in a long cloth, with pitch black barbs covering the entirety of its body. It stepped forward on its massive legs and opened its maw, revealing rows of razor sharp teeth. What happened next is the substance of nightmares -- jaws fully spread, the baalzadeen vomited tar-black, steaming bile onto Tlanuwa, coating him in what he would have sworn was the very lifeblood of evil. In this time, his attacker writhed free of the branches that had entangled him and stood, soundlessly whispering to the daegger that hovered by his head. Shocked back into awareness, Tlanuwa began summoning the flame within him. His reflexes too slow to keep his opponent down, he relied on the bees that had swarmed from their hive and now stung the intruder at will. The golem and baalzadeen now fought to one side, each unwilling to relent until the other lay dead. Suddenly the daegger whirled and dove for him on its own, missing my a hair's breadth and continuing away behind him. The flame had built sufficiently inside Tlanuwa now, and opening his own maw, he released the blue flame with all the force he had within him towards the cloaked figure, but to no avail -- the baalzadeen had worked his way around to stand between the two, and the flame struck it instead, not harming it in the slightest. In the moment of confusion, Tlanuwa raised his hands high, preparing to strike down the man with a bolt of lightning. Glancing briefly at the man's face, he thought he detected a grin, and then the daegger struck. It had wheeled back around, ever increasing in its velocity, and burrowed through Tlanuwa's back, impaling him. As his head bowed to his chest, he watched with regret as the blood -- his blood -- pooled on the ground below him. He had failed, again, and now Tyalira was alone to fight for herself.
As he sank to the ground, his body nearly entirely dry of the blood he so desperately needed, he sensed only a few final, curious things. The first thing he heard was the furious beating of a Horkval's wings, who then landed in the clearing, though he could not tell who it was. Then, he thought he saw the outstretched, jaguar form of a man leaping through the trees and onto the cloaked man, knocking him to the ground and mauling viciously at its head and torso. Last, he felt an all-consuming blast of heat permeate the entire grove. And then, he fell, tumbling endlessly into the void.
The nightmares flashed through his mind like lighting. Everything painful in the previous weeks now flooded his very being, tormenting him. His inability to fight when his village needed him. Severing his bond with his grove. The uncertainty of living in a new place. The dreams. And finally, his horror at feeling Tyalira's death, the battle that ensued, and the insufferable pain that brought him here. "So this is death..." was the only thought that he could manage through the torrent of memories. Just as Tlanuwa resigned himself to the eternal suffering, he awoke with a gasp.
The first thing he recognized when his consciousness returned was a conversation between two people, who sounded like Lythea and Miagorme. Something about Lythea arguing the virtues of crickets.... Apparently, Miagorme had been trying to eat them, and Lythea demanding that he not. Then there was a "crunch", a "thwap", and last, the sound of Miagorme crying out as he was thrown off the log and sent rolling through the leaves....
Then he remembered her. Bolting upright, Tlanuwa called, "Where is she!" The chatting stopped, and Tlanuwa saw a brief smile cross Lythea's lips before Tlanuwa swooned and had to lie back down. His eyes immediately went for the willows that separated his grove from Tyalira's, and, to his overwhelming joy, she stepped gracefully through them, unharmed. She carried a tray of cooked venison, sweet rolls, and truffles in one hand, and a bottle of ale and a cup in the other. She was garbed in a simple, flowing white gown, and walked barefoot over the leaves, hardly making a sound. She smiled when her azure eyes met his, and a warmth Tlanuwa had never known crept into his limbs.
Tyalira placed the food and drink on the ground next to him, and then sat, gently lifting his head and placing it in her lap. As she stroked sweetly his long, curly mane of hair, now clean and brushed, he asked, "What happened?"
"Lythea and Miagorme were nearby exploring the new forest areas and heard your call for help." Tlanuwa didn't even remember making such a call. "They arrived just as you fell. Lythea rushed in, ready to incinerate. Mia ambushed the man from just southwest of here, through the trees. When he fell, he shielded himself, and Lythea simply incinerated him. The man wasn't dead though, and managed to prism out before they could finish the job."
"Mia left to look around and make sure there were no other attackers, and I linked our groves with Lythea's, allowing her to resurrect you and cure your afflictions. You've slept for two days healing."
"And what of you, Tyalira? What happened after I resurrected you?", Tlanuwa asked.
"In my state of Divine Grace, I was both powerless to help and safe from harm, so I was of little use for the moment. But I stood by the whole time."
Thoughts raced in Tlanuwa's mind then. All the questioning, the wondering, about why we are who we are and what in the Gods Names we are doing here had been answered. His place was here, beside her. Before his mind could catch his tongue, he gazed into her eyes and whispered the words, "United in death, and united in life...." A smile crossed her lips, and her eyes gleamed in the unusually bright sun.
After visiting with Lythea and Miagorme for a long while, and Tlanuwa thanking them profusely for their aide, goodbyes were said, and they were alone again. Tyalira gathered the food and drink, and they enjoyed the meal -- though he more than she, it seemed. Tlanuwa recounted the events leading up to the fight -- the dream, Asche's attack, his week in Eleusis.
"Sometimes I wonder why I'm here -- why any of us are. I wonder why we suffer. Why we celebrate. Why we stand proud in one instant and cower in the next. And then... then I see you -- look into your eyes -- and I see it all. The joy and the pain, the pride and the regret. And I understand for that instant that there are no answers to such questions, but rather a single solution to overcoming them."
"And what, dear kitty, would that be?", she asked.
"That, fair temptress, is both the simplest and the most complex to explain."
Her eyes sparkled with amusement as he finished, "We live. We grow. We learn. We cherish the happy times, and we work through the hard times. We love. We seek. And at the end of the day, when Stygian night falls, we rest, and we dream, and we hope. And then..."
Tlanuwa stood, stretching languidly, aware of her eyes on him. Before she could realize what was happening, he pounced, sending them both rolling through the leaves. After tumbling for a time, he lost himself in her gaze, and kissed her.