It is raining again, thick sleets of the bitter cold liquid drowning out her small elven frame. Audrei remains still, ignoring the circling thoughts versus common sense telling her to get out the rain, to fight, to do something, to stop and fall and never get up again…and her thoughts possess a sudden clarity that gives voice:
it is always in rain that my world is unhinged on its side.
Pitch black blood, shouldn't it be red? But then the flame's light lick upon it and it is russet and pooling beneath the half-cleaved face of a child…
She finds herself watching the transposed images of the small village of West Harbor, her past-figure drenched with mud and sweat and blood, attempting to pull wrecked corpses into a line and hiding tears with rain. The villagers are all bowed in the back and have aged thirty years at least, except for Daegun, who remains as ancient and unmoving as the great trees of the Mere. There is little comfort in that thought. She turns to Bevil, watches with dull eyes as he stares and stares at Amie:
Dear Gods, Amie. Why now and to her? What about the adventures, the lessons, the explorations of new places and eventually, the little children at her feet waiting to learn?
To find he isn't crying, not really. His eyes are as dull as hers must be, replaying Amie's skin twisting upon her body into a blackened withering mess, like a prune too long in the heat of the sun. Part of Amie's face is still left as before, a hint of Her lips up to Her partially open left eye and somehow a strand of hair curls upon that fragile piece of her best friend and Audrei tries to remember that part of Amie. Not the broken figure that partially crunched under her fingertips when she tried to help, to try to do something because, oh Gods, but it was too late and there were more to save. Spite almost made her want to leave Wyl Mossfield to die, insulting Her, but faded into resignation that let her heal him without any sneers. Audrei felt the calm before the storm, before that moment that she launched herself screaming like an injured hare at her target of hate and fear without care to their size or strength. That calm that Audrei had always heard being whispered over when villagers and fathers didn't think (or care) elven ears could hear that far.
White sparks upon her fingertips, Amie's always so confident. White-orange flames lick up the screams, leaving behind trailing black smoke and the wretched scent of burnt hair. Knows that the sudden stillness and silence has to be a lie, Amie's too confident to die…
Rain leaves puddles of filth, all the sins and lies and wrongs melting away to dirt and becoming nothing. The cold seeps into her dingy cloak (Harvest Cloak finally won, victory seems bitter-sweet) and leaves her a blessed level of numb. She can't do anything but one step forward, and another and another till the pain goes away. Father telling her she will bring ruin, (Daegun, don't let me leave like this) without much thought to essentially what he is saying, doing, to her. But she had seen his reasons, and knew no one else to take the plunge.
Standing silent before her, letting moments stretch into nothing, and he's waiting for her to leave. The whisper of goodbye will not likely reach him (despite his elven hearing) and yet she says it still…
The memory fades, leaving her the nearly built wall surrounding what had become her new home. It doesn't take away the fear, that gnawing worry that tells her that much more is to come. When it had been her walking willingly into this path, after Daegun's push and after she comes to grips with the tragedy that took her from her home; she felt pride and satisfaction at risking life and limb for others, all to help them. It is not so anymore, perhaps she understands both Bishop and Casavir a little better now…
Watches the sweep of blade strike armor, sparks from metal clashing metal, and moves on. Draw, pull, release is the automatic motto. The 'fwip' of her deaths are accompanied by chinks, clanks and prayers. Behind, sneers and thuds balanced by 'clink' and 'fwoosh'. The words are ridiculous as anything but noises in her ears…
She thinks, nastily, that humans should learn to clean their own messes, for she has faced the monsters in the dark (and in the crypts, or the alternate dimensions) for them and then been told to heel and sit and beg for favor, and is rewarded by being signed into more work and responsibility. She can no longer hear the trees or the beasts speak like before. It stings. Especially since her home, the bird-song versus drunken hollers and winding barely sunlit paths versus open haphazard 'roads', of her childhood have become silent and barren. Filled only with the rot of dead bodies, not even buried (not enough time, I am so sorry) and the stench of soured water and grains.
No blood anywhere, but pitch-colored shadows cling to the pale withered faces from her youth. More terrifying than the first attack, dead untouched but staring as if their souls had been ripped from their bodies by Hell's Maker…
They all traipsed with purpose, over the very ground of her childhood without much more than their token attempts to look her in the eyes. Only one was brave, and kind, enough to voice the unasked, 'this is your home?', and you can only think 'it was'. There is heavy rain, getting stronger as if wishing to wash away the wrongs here. But while things are blurred, is it tears or water of the sky, there is nothing to take away each shrunken form lying still from death and without any given dignity. Audrei wants to stop and bury her dead, like she had before gaining titles and current companions, but they cannot wait. Sharp gold-brown eyes spear her with morbid amusement while pale blue lower with shared pain. Both are unwanted, except for her soft blue that only reach to understand and comfort. They've both lost everything now, in many ways, the same everything.
Shandra can never be Amie, replace Amie, but has become important. Is the balance she needs so desperately in this world of humans and man-made & elven-made monsters. Older than her, but less experienced. Shandra was more cynical than her, but more compassionate too.
Audrei watches each corpse; each house covered in rancid mold-smelling of crypts and bloated death, each darkened corner of her early life and continues to pass on. Finds herself noting two missing bodies of importance, her father and her last friend of childhood, before tagging onto the list Tarmas. Almost every other body is present, though flames have begun to devour some bodies close enough to their homes. The rain is not strong enough to quench the flames hunger, it seems, and Audrei wonders if both elements are trying to forget what has happened here, or trying to destroy evidence…
Brother Merring lay clutching his holy amulet, taut skin stretched over bones, as if his flesh itself had been leeched out of him. Flashes of before, with Brother Merring teaching her how to speak and act around humans, to fit in with the world at large. Never again to teach as he lies there, limbs unnaturally splayed and eyes frozen in his last horror.
Shandra had broken formation, was holding her wrist with a grip that will leave marks, but Audrei appreciated this. Her hand was a physical reminder that that had been the reality, that that was West Harbor. And while it was worse than any nightmare she could create but it was real and to forget that could doom her and the rest of the world. (Never before that moment had the temptation been deeper) and no one else will ground her.
Skull gleaming white, like sand-washed bone, jaw unhinged in its laughter. Scaly green limbs and twisted brown lips flash in comparison lightning quick. Blades and eyes gleam in the cackles of purple magic before everything fades to just the clashing of spell and steel and yielding bone and flesh.
The courtyard before her is empty, as once again the images fade to where they belong, her memories. The sting does not fade, does not dull, no matter what her group tries to tell her. The cold does not numb her, or washes away the shock or cleanses the wounds. They refuse to understand why she has been running, she is too perfect, too chosen or too practical, to fall to pieces over the fact of life. People die and all man-made and elven-made constructs will fall into disrepair and return to earth, but Audrei knows that no soul in West Harbor has returned to land and that the earth is unnatural underneath her and that the person she has become closest to, is gone. (Damn him, Damn him, Damn him). For these stolen seconds, she remembers that she's just an elven ranger who came from West Harbor who doesn't even qualify as an adult in Elven society. Not the future hero and savior to Neverwinter, or the one to damn them all if she fails.
Wrinkled face wreathed by blue flames, glowing blue-lines lit against crows feet and the bald head. Fire-red eyes darken to pitch and then he becomes nothing but shadow. Magick reeking across comrades, but Shandra!
She is laying upon the floor, eyes already pale and glazed over, evidence of fire and lightning scorched over her body. And he is there, ghastly body so much like a skeleton that Audrei reasons he isn't alive, was never alive. Kukri in her hands, and she is snarling in elvish, cursing him and ready to slit his throat for all the trouble he has given her, for his taking of Shandra. But his words, stilted and cold as they are, stop her. Shandra had always told Audrei that she is able to hear the truth and come up with the right path. And this is one she must follow, though it will be bitter in her throat. They leave her behind, and trade her for him.
After scorching words and bile-in-her-throat, the world turns on her again. No time, another yank upon the leash, more false words and platitudes before Death stalks her. The crunch and gurgles of Death's death please her far more than they had ever before.
He is there, tattoos flickering like flame atop his head with no heed to the rain or mud. Stops at the negligible (at least to the world-to Audrei, it has become something more) mound of earth she has been standing before for the past hour or so. Neither of them care about weather or approaching armies, for now. This mound of earth is more defined than the other fifty or so mounds, but does not stand out much none the less. Most of the mounds contain just earth, but this one bears a scrap of cape and a single hair tie beneath the dirt (all that she could find, later on, for the maids and soldiers had already cleaned out the room before she got back), to mark the newest member of the fallen. The fallen and left behind. Ammon Jerro drops the dagger used in that battle atop it, and leaves. For once, she understands, and watches him slink off without a word.
This is war, and it's become my war. To end this, once and for all, I'll fight it. Even as more rain falls down.
Basic back story, for those that are interested, is that Audrei is a Wood Elf Ranger (with a couple levels of Rogue) and her alignment falls under Good/Chaotic.
So, she's basically instinctively interested in helping people out and doing the right thing, but there's that cynical part of her that knows how messed up the world is and despises the 'be good and obey' type of behavior that's become expected of her.
Also, it's funny how she tends to oscillate between agreeing in-game with both Bishop and Casavir when alone with one or the other, but when they're together she gets annoyed (and disagrees with) both...