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Cassandra Gallagher

"I've learned that it's better to be alone. At least no one can hurt you then. But..."

580 views · last seen in An Alternate Universe
a character in “Covenant of the Abyss”, as played by Nemeseia

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xxImageImageImagexxxCassandraGallagher
xxxx◙◙◙◙* Female xxxxx◙◙◙◙* 26 xxxxx◙◙◙◙* 5'7" xxxxx◙◙◙◙* 139 lbs. xxxxx◙◙◙◙* Human (Caster)

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--Image- HEALING FACTOR regeneration over time; weak
CASTER BLOOD amplifies asura/deva abilities upon consumption
SPELLSONG: ICE [flute] uses music to direct elemental energy
STEALTH move unnoticed; advanced



Image I have lived in darkness / for all my life I've been pursued
- - - - - - - you'd be afraid if you could feel my pain / and if you could see the things I am able to see .


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There is nothing soft about Cassandra. She isn't the typical shy woman who plays coy when she's the center of attention. In fact, she doesn't play coy at all. If there is something that needs to be known, she will state it. Perhaps not quite blunt or straightforward though, despite this. She's much too guarded to be open about things like that. So she hides behind sarcasm and witty remarks. It's the only way she knows how to protect herself.

And that is her main priority. She's learned a long time ago that no one will ever be there to protect her, nor anyone else for that matter. It was 'only the strong survive' and this was burned so deeply into her, that she believes it. So she looks out for only herself and no one else. But there is more to it than that. Despite being deeply guarded, Cassandra cares a great deal more than she leads on. And it's because she cares, that she keeps herself guarded. She's not ready to accept the pain and hardships that come with allowing herself to be open with someone, mainly because she has been let down so many times before. Some perceive her as cold hearted and somewhat of a bitch. She isn't, but she doesn't exactly care to correct people. Let them think what they want to; she knows where she stands. And that is, perhaps, one of the hardest things to do. For as long as she can remember, Cassie has always been told she wasn't good enough. She wasn't particularly good at spellsongs, she wasn't exactly the brightest person in the Church, and her demeanor left little favoring.

That burned a hole deep into her heart that to this day, she still believes she'll never be good enough. It has left her somewhat cynical of the world, and believes that everyone else is out for their own selfish desires. But that makes her somewhat of a hypocrite, if she's being honest with herself. She desires nothing more than to be strong enough to keep herself safe and doesn't want to rely on anyone for that, however; because she is a caster, she also knows that forming a covenant will give her that strength. She'll have to rely on one person, but she's not even sure she can.

Despite these insecurities, Cassandra has learned long ago to feign confidence. She keeps her head held high, and tries her best to ignore the subtle whispers around her. If there is anything she is good at, it's ignoring people. There are some things, however, that she cannot ignore, and this has led to her being a little temperamental. She isn't an angry person by nature, nor can she be considered grumpy, however; she's only human. There will always be things that will irritate her. Oh, but get her near someone whom she considers beautiful, and you can almost see the reverse in her personality. She becomes shy, and unable to properly look at the person. She'll still attempt to hold a conversation with them, but she blushes so easily it's almost amusing to see. This confident, self-assured woman basically becomes a little girl. In some instances, it can be cute, but she hates it.

Cassandra can be many things, given her proclivity to be guarded, however; there are subtle moments in when she can be herself. Open and expressive; free and without care. This is usually brought about when she sneaks up on people to scare them. She's rather good at being quiet and sneaky. Cassandra is deeply flawed, or so she believes, however; she is also a deeply loving person. She just doesn't want to get hurt again despite the fact that she craves affection. Perhaps not in the same way people would expect. She craves affection from a friend, or perhaps a lover. She just wants to be acknowledged not as a failure, not as someone who isn't good enough, but as someone who is herself and no one else.

It leaves her at odds with herself, though, but hopes that one day, she can override everything that was seared into her and become who she used to be: a person who cared far too much about others before the world took that away.


Image Break me out / let me flee
- - - - - - - break me out / set me free .


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Cassandra was born on the streets of Athens, quite literally. Her parents were homeless, having barely scraped by in the large city, however; add two hungry mouths to the equation, and life was practically hopeless. Cassandra was not the only one born that day, and was the older sibling by ten minutes. Cassius was her twin, and she loved him dearly. Even though it was difficult, her parents managed to raise them as best as they could. Life wasn't easy, but they had managed. Of course, as she grew, she picked up a few skills in order to help out her parents, but by the time she was seven years old, Cassandra's parents vanished. They left no note, no way of ever finding them, and this devastated Cassandra. But she couldn't allow herself to fall. Even as a child, she held the title of older sibling as sacred as she held life, and Cassius was her life now.

She had to find a way to care for him and herself. And she did. She learned that there were things she could do better than most people, like picking their pockets without getting noticed, and using her childish appearance to scrape free food from the local restaurant. The owner, a man by the name of Gregoris, was a kind enough man to know the starved look in her eyes, and had taken her in as one of his own. She didn't trust him, though, and only agreed to help out in his restaurant as a dish washer, perhaps even learn the cooking trade. She would never make it that far, though. After only two months of working for him, Gregoris was murdered on his way home, and Cassandra found herself without the small job she had, and without a means to get food again. So, she went back to stealing from the people she could.

Cassius was doing his best to help, joining some of the homeless gangs in order for protection, however; something went wrong and both Cassius and Cassandra paid for it, her with a large scar down her left eye. After the incident, Cassandra vowed to herself to never allow herself to be weak again, and decided to train herself to be stronger. The bruises that covered Cassius' body and the black eye she sported was motivation enough, and she wanted to protect the only family she had left. When she grew into puberty, Cassandra noticed the odd looks she was receiving. By the time she was fifteen, she was already endowed enough to be mistaken for a fully grown woman. This would be, however, the time in her life she was most ashamed of.

Men stared at her, women envied her, and she hated every minute of it. But she used it to her advantage. She entertained men when she could, even the occasional woman, however; it was never in a way that labeled her prostitute. Perhaps he was ashamed of her, or perhaps he was ashamed of what she did for him, however; when she turned seventeen, Cassius left her. She didn't know where her brother went, and he left her in the same manner her parents did. She was alone, now, with no one to lean on. And it broke something in her heart. She wasn't sure what it was, but she knew that she had to keep herself guarded now. No one would look out for her, and no one would protect her.

It was in this moment of weakness that she was taken advantage of. Approached by a gentleman, he offered her a job, a way to earn money and clean herself up. There were no shortage of hostesses in his business, and Cassandra certainly had a look--despite the large scar on her face--about her that he wanted. So she became his hostess, his performer. She was never proud of what she did, but she was glad that she only entertained her clients, and never slept with them. There was a particular customer of hers that she had actually grown fond of, though. The woman was nice to Cassandra, and she never made things uncomfortable. But life would not be kind to Cassandra, and eventually, the woman left her too.

It wasn't too long after that that Cassandra discovered that she was what the Church had called a Caster. From there, she was taken in by the Church and raised alongside other Casters. She earned a lot of scrutiny from some of her peers, and even some of her fellow Casters because of her odd appearance and demeanor, but she was so used to it by now. She'd always known she looked different, and that people tended to over-dramatize things, however; she allowed none of their ire to bother her. She took their insults, their harsh words, and tried not to let them get to her. But they did manage to crack her self-esteem. They have managed to instill in her that she will never be good enough to bond with a Deva, let alone with one considered an archangel.

This bred in her the odd desire to become stronger, to be able to bond with such a being. From the stories she'd heard, she had hoped to be the one to Bond with Michael. He was the oldest, and probably the strongest of the Deva. It would not be, though, since she was an ice Caster, and he was only compatible with an Aether Caster. Of course, she'd known that it could be possible to attain the level of manipulating aether, but it would take a long time before that could happen. And she was recently deemed fit for her Ascendance Night. She's not entirely sure how she feels about that.


Image I hail from the dark side / for all my life I've been besieged
- - - - - - - you'd be scared living with my despair / and if you could feel the things I am able to feel .


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Siegfried
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Here are a few lines' worth of placeholder text. I use this because formatting is a bitch and nothing will stick to the place it's supposed to be in if I don't use it. Coding is hard and I'm not spectacular at it. Here are a few lines' worth of placeholder text. I use this because formatting is a bitch and nothing will stick to the place it's supposed to be in if I don't use it.

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Éva
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She's so... happy. It's annoying.

She just met Éva, and she has to say, the little woman is strange indeed. She's bright, a little scatter brained perhaps, and this is something Cassie has already begun to envy in her. If she could be like Éva, perhaps she wouldn't view the world so darkly. But as it stands, she will keep Éva at a distance for even the brightest things can still burn.

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Vincent
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Here are a few lines' worth of placeholder text. I use this because formatting is a bitch and nothing will stick to the place it's supposed to be in if I don't use it. Coding is hard and I'm not spectacular at it. Here are a few lines' worth of placeholder text. I use this because formatting is a bitch and nothing will stick to the place it's supposed to be in if I don't use it.

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Aaliyah
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Here are a few lines' worth of placeholder text. I use this because formatting is a bitch and nothing will stick to the place it's supposed to be in if I don't use it. Coding is hard and I'm not spectacular at it. Here are a few lines' worth of placeholder text. I use this because formatting is a bitch and nothing will stick to the place it's supposed to be in if I don't use it.

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Octavian
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Here are a few lines' worth of placeholder text. I use this because formatting is a bitch and nothing will stick to the place it's supposed to be in if I don't use it. Coding is hard and I'm not spectacular at it. Here are a few lines' worth of placeholder text. I use this because formatting is a bitch and nothing will stick to the place it's supposed to be in if I don't use it.

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Coding by Aethiya, inspired by maccotango's guide to the same.

So begins...

Cassandra Gallagher's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Éva Devereaux Character Portrait: Cassandra Gallagher
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INK



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Éva tugged at the hood draped over her head, pulling it down. The afternoon sun beat down on her—it was much warmer here than it had been in Brussels. The journey had been long—there weren’t any roads for cars to use, just dirt paths that horses could navigate. Not to mention all the dangers of the wilderness. Her muscles ached from so long in a saddle, and from so many tense nights listening to the darkness-sounds of unpopulated areas.

She hadn’t been alone, of course; the White Orchid Paladins that protected her were a reassuring presence. One of them, a young woman about five years her senior, had appointed herself Éva’s companion for the duration. Leila. She had to admit it had been nice, having someone to talk to and cover the long hours on the road. Her other four guards had been mostly taciturn; all of them were men, and most of them at least thirty. Maybe they thought they had less to talk to her about.

But they’d crested the last major hill—Rome lay spread out beneath them. Even from a distance, it was a much… brighter city than Brussels. So much white and light stone. It shone under the light of day, even partially obscured by its protective wall. She doubted too many beasts got in there. The thought brought a little pang to her chest, but it eased much sooner than it once had.

Éva pushed out a breath. Beside her, Leila’s horse shifted.

“Home sweet home,” the Paladin said cheerfully, pulling in a deep breath of the air. It smelled like fresh grass and something else Éva couldn’t quite put her finger on. “You’ll like it too, Éva. The Cathedral is huge!”

Éva swallowed thickly, nodding. She couldn’t quite trust herself to speak. The truth was… that didn’t sound particularly comforting. Brussels was a small city, comparatively speaking, and its Church centers were few and small as well. There, she could occasionally forget what was expected of here.

Here, now, she knew she’d never again be able to forget that.

“I hope so,” she replied softly. A breeze tugged at the loose strands of hair hanging in front of her face; she pushed them to the side to get them out of her eyes.

“Sister Deveraux. We should keep going.” Renault, a tall man with somber dark eyes under a heavy brow, nodded towards the road.

Biting softly on her bottom lip, Éva nodded, turning her horse to follow Renault’s down the path. Her journey here was almost over; but she knew better than to call this anything but it was—the liminal phase before a new beginning. Ascendance Night was in three days. It was then that she’d know her fate for truth.



The streets were packed. Not unexpectedly—the week before Ascendance Night was commonly called the Processional, and large crowds gathered for exactly this: to see a Caster arrive in the city for the ceremony.

Her guards shifted in closer, forming a protective circle around her with their mounts. She was probably the last to arrive; Casters from further-flung locations tended to leave much earlier than she had, and most of them traveled by boat, which was much faster. And of course, the closer ones… were closer.

Knowing that some number of other young women had endured exactly this didn’t really make it any easier on Éva. She imagined them—the other Casters—as much more elegant and poised and prepared for this than she was. Though it was hot and uncomfortable, she was glad of the cloak she wore. At least it gave her some measure of protection from what seemed like hundreds of prying eyes. Or was it thousands? Rome had a large population—it could be that many gathered here.

Éva was met with an equal amount of scrutiny, and—perhaps even more uncomfortable—admiration.

“Mommy, mommy! Is she the one? The lady for Lord Michael?”

Though the words came from but one of many voices, she swore they struck her square in the chest. Éva pretended that she hadn’t heard, and tried her best to smile out at the crowd, even lifting a hand to wave slightly.

“I don’t know, dear—only time will tell.”

“But wouldn’t that be great? Then we’d know for sure who the next Exalt would be!”

Éva’s stomach rolled. She knew these people didn’t mean anything by it, but even so, she could feel a palpable weight settle over her, heavier and more stifling than the cloak on her shoulders. Her hand tightened on her horse’s reins.

“Don’t let it bother you,” Leila whispered. “They’re just gossiping. People love to do that.”

She nodded, but elected to keep her thoughts to herself. The truth was… she’d heard all of this before. Any hope she’d had of escaping that here, where Casters were more common—though still vanishingly-rare—was dashed. Ahead, the Cathedral loomed. It was foreboding as she’d imagined it, but if it was escape from the eyes… she’d take it.



“And this is your room,” Leila finished. “There’s a bathroom inside as well, and a communal kitchen on this floor for all the trainees. The room next door is for your Deva, when you meet them.” She smiled. “You’ll share this floor with all the other new Casters and their Deva, too. So at least you’ll be going through all this together, right?”

Éva returned the smile thinly. “It’s a bit of a relief,” she conceded. “Have the others all arrived?”

Leila nodded. “Mhm. There’s five of you this year. There haven’t been so many Casters in… it must be more than a hundred years. Usually, there’s only two or three at most.” She handed Éva a small silver key on a chain. “I’m sure they’re around—or maybe they went out into the city for a day, I don’t know. You’re allowed to do that—your time’s yours until the day before Ascendance Night.”

Éva accepted the key, closing her hand over it and bringing it back down to her side. “Thank you, Leila. And thank you, for protecting me on the way.”

The young woman grinned, winking playfully. “No problem Éva. That’s what we paladins are for. Anyway, I’ve gotta go make a report, so I’ll seeya ‘round, okay?” With a wave, she was gone, off down the hallway and leaving Éva to stare blankly down at the key in her hand.

She sighed.

"Are you just going to stand there? I thought solemn looks were just a formality, but you don't look like the hardasses around here," a voice called out from behind. The person was slightly irritated, if the tone in her voice was anything to go by. And it was undoubtedly feminine, the voice. Perhaps not so feminine that it hurt; there was something a little masculine to it. The woman came into view, stepping around Éva so that she leaned on the doorframe. Her hair was a pale white color, like snow, and close to being as white as the stone marble they'd passed on the way into Rome. Perhaps she was an albino? Her eyes were a pale blue, though, which occurred on occasion if someone had ocular albinism.

She frowned at Éva though, as she crossed her arms over her chest. "I take it you must be one of the others, a Caster," she finally spoke. "Name's Cassandra, but you can call me Cass or Cassie. We're going to be seeing a lot of each other in the next few days, might as well get acquainted with everyone," she spoke, but sounded a little grumpy about it.

Éva’s eyes went wide. “You’re so pretty,” she blurted. Immediately she felt her face get hot. “Oh. Oh dear. I just said that out loud. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean anything by it. It’s just that your hair’s so shiny-looking, and your eyes are a really nice color, and—” She cut herself off again, covering her face with a hand.

“I’m sorry. I’d completely understand if you just wanted to leave now and never talk to me again.” The woman was pretty, though, and it wasn’t just her unusual coloration: she had a lovely face, and the kind of beauty that hit the observer over the head with how obvious it was. Éva, who tended to forget to stop talking, had also forgotten how to not say true things.

Cassandra snorted softly, as if what Éva had just said was untrue. She visibly rolled her eyes, and pushed herself off of the doorframe, her arms still crossed. "You are a strange little woman, aren't you?" she spoke, shaking her head as she did so. She uncrossed her arms, though, and placed a hand on her hip. "Look, just don't say anything like that again and we'll get along just fine. Don't say anything about this mark, either, or so help me..." she spoke, leaning in closely and pointing to the scar along her cheek. She'd placed a hand against the wall behind Éva, and was leaning against it.

Éva backed up until she was right against the wall. Somehow, she’d really managed to screw this up. It figured—her first meeting since she got here, and she was already making a mess of things. Perhaps she should have expected it. “But, um…” she tried to salvage the situation, smiling shakily. “I am sorry, and I’ll try not to mention it again. My name’s Éva, by the way. Well, actually it’s Évangeline, but… Éva’s probably better.”

"Well then, Éva," she began, backing up abruptly as if she just didn't threaten Éva. "You and I will get along just fine," she stated, the smile vanishing from her face. It was, instead, something of a smirk, or maybe a lop-sided grin. "So, Éva," she began, walking away from her, but stopped. "What do you say we get acquainted with our new home for the next few days?" she beckoned for Éva to follow her, and continued walking.

Éva paused before following, of half a mind to at least open her room before she explored anything else, but she didn’t really want to make Cassandra—Cassie—any more upset, so she shoved the key into a pocket of her loose pants and jogging to catch up.

“Um… where are we going?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Éva Devereaux Character Portrait: Cassandra Gallagher
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Footnotes

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INK

Cassie stared at her for a second, raising a brow when she inquired of their destination. "Explore the city, maybe?" she spoke. She could feel her eye twitching just slightly. There was something vaguely weird about the girl, like she radiated happiness or something. But she wasn't one to say anything about it. People told her that she was weird on a daily basis. She's just learned to ignore most of it by now. Sighing, she pulled on the shirt she was wearing. It was simple in appearance, nothing too extravagant. She didn't like dressing up too nicely. If she recalled, they'd be dressing into something appropriate for their Ascendance Night.

"I haven't been to Rome, so I don't know where anything is. I figured I'd rather get lost with another person than get lost on my own," she stated, shrugging just lightly in a care-free manner. She didn't anticipate getting lost, but sometimes things happened.

The strange girl, Éva, smiled, pushing a lock of hair out of her face. It was… maybe strawberry-blonde was the right term, but it looked almost pink. Unlike Cassie’s, it was cut short, just brushing her shoulders on either side, with bangs in the front. She probably wasn’t much more than twenty—definitely on the younger side for a Caster about to have their Ascendance Night.

“That’s all right,” she said, still half-smiling. “I never get lost. So even if we take a bunch of weird turns, I’ll be able to get us back here.” She jogged a few more paces to catch up properly, until they were walking side-by-side. Already her earlier awkwardness seemed to be subsiding; she gaped at the sheer scale of the Cathedral as they passed through the domed vestibule and towards the outside.

“I still can’t believe this place,” she said softly. “It’s so incredible.” The underside of the dome was painted, varying images of deva and asura locked in battle, casters slinging magic from behind the deva lines. Each was painted carefully; a few of them were recognizable from books Cassie had seen before: Michael, Gabriel, Leviathan…

Cassie snorted softly. Incredible? She wouldn't say that much. Sure, it was a little more grand than Athens was, at least the parts they'd seen so far. But to go so far and say incredible? Cassie had to guess that Éva was from one of the smaller cities. Well, that wasn't a bad thing, she supposed. Larger cities tend to be more harsh in the environment than the smaller ones. Not that the smaller ones didn't see their fair share of life.

"You think this place is incredible?" she spoke, glancing down somewhat towards Éva. She was shorter than Cassie by a good few inches. "I think it's a little overrated. There's so much... white," she said it as if it were a bad thing. It wasn't, but it wasn't exactly something to be awed at. Maybe it was because of how grand the structures were? If that were the case, Cassie could agree with that. The paintings, however, were another story. Cassie enjoyed paintings to some extent. It was a way to get a glimpse into what the artist was feeling, or what they were trying to depict.

The painting on the underside was something that caused Cassie to frown. There was something a little sad about it, but Cassie couldn't quite put her finger on it. Instead, she glanced away from it and back towards her companion. "So Éva, tell me something about yourself. We need to know our fellow casters, right?" though honestly, Cassie couldn't give a shit.

Éva blinked up at her for a second, before flinching away as they both emerged into the bright sunlight, shading her eyes with a hand. In the middle of the afternoon like this, Rome was busy; without escorts of Paladins to identify them, they went mostly unnoticed. Cassie drew more than a few stares for her appearance, of course, but no one was really too obnoxious about it, and went back to what they were doing without commenting.

“Well,” Éva said, drawing out the word thoughtfully. “I’m from Brussels. I’d never been anywhere else until now—definitely not to a big city like this. There’s a wall and everything.” Most cities had walls; apparently her old one didn’t. But knowing she’d never been to another city wasn’t surprising—most people didn’t. Travel between them wasn’t really safe.

“How about you, Cassie? ‘Cassandra’ is a Greek name—are you from Athens?”

"Yeah, born and raised in Athens," though she didn't exactly elaborate anymore than that. She wasn't going to share her history with this woman, regardless if they were fellow casters. But she wouldn't necessarily not tell her. "Athens is a larger city, so it has walls," she began, pausing momentarily to yawn. "But I suppose it isn't as big as Rome. I'm not too surprised, though. Rome is the Holy Land," she continued in a nonchalant fashion.

Rome was, however, very pretty, she'll admit. There was something about it that she couldn't quite place. It wasn't the dirty streets she grew up on. Rome was much cleaner, however; she thought nothing more of it. "Though, it could use a little more color to it, don't you think?"

“Hmm.” Éva hummed a pleasant note in the back of her throat. “I think it might just be a little less colorful than usual because it’s the Processional Week. I heard they decorate with much more color for Ascendance Night.” What she was saying made sense. The Processional was supposed to symbolize the freshness and cleanness of a new beginning: not only for the Casters and those they would Bond with, but also for the rest of the world, who would be gaining new protectors in the process. One step closer to safety from the dangers outside. One step closer to mending the damage Armageddon had caused.

“Are you…” Éva seemed to hesitate. “Are you looking forward to it? To Ascendance Night?”

Cassie allowed a visible frown to appear on her face. She hadn't really thought about it, now that she was thinking about it. Was she looking forward to it? No, not really. Was she going to say that? No. "I will admit I'm a little curious," she stated, pulling a strand of hair over her shoulder to play with it. She braided it and unbraided it, before repeating the process. "I'm curious as to whom I will be making a covenant with. It's not every day we're lucky enough to find our other half," she stated, though she didn't quite mean it as something romantic. Everyone knew that.

"But," she continued, a little hesitant to continue. She had learned a long time ago that she was an ice caster, and the one she had wanted to form a covenant with required an aether caster. She was a little upset about it, given that with time, she could have possibly become such a caster, however; it apparently wasn't meant to be. She sighed with a hint of melancholy to it, but dismissed it.

"I guess I'm also afraid," and this time, she was being honest.

They walked for a little while down the nearest street—it was all foot-traffic only this close to the Cathedral. Even further out, most people couldn’t afford to keep cars. The solar batteries were hard to find and expensive to buy, after all.

“I am, too,” Éva admitted quietly, half-smiling up at her. “It’s a lot to deal with… being one of so few, and expected to be able to make a real difference. And then… just meeting someone you’ll have to be around for the rest of your life all of a sudden like this. I think it would be weirder if we weren’t at least a little afraid, right?”

Cassie allowed a ghost of a smile to cross her lips. She supposed Éva had a point. It would be weird if they weren't at least somewhat afraid. She almost wondered what life would have been like if she hadn't awoken her abilities as a caster. Would she still be there, with him? With them? She shuddered at the thought. That was not a life she wanted to remember. Instead, she focused out in front of her, glancing at the people they passed by.

"Well, I suppose you have a point," she finally stated. "I wonder who it'll be, though. There are so many," she thought out loud. There were so many deva, so many possibilities. Honestly, she was more afraid of who it'll be rather than the whole covenant thing. She could care less about that. But what if she made a covenant with a deva who was still... young? Or perhaps not as strong? Her eyes widened slightly at that thought, but she managed to recover before it would be noticed.

"I guess we'll find out in a few days."

“I guess so…” Éva echoed the words softly, something hesitant in her tone. Like maybe she was trying to decide whether to say something or not.

In the end, though, her eyes alighted on something on a stall display and lit up. “Oh, look! Candy floss!” she pointed to the stall in question, where indeed several colors of cotton candy were being sold. “Should we get some? It might make things a little more colorful.” Éva grinned brightly.

Cassie just quirked her brow. "You really are a strange woman, aren't you? Candy floss it is."

Setting

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Character Portrait: Éva Devereaux Character Portrait: Cassandra Gallagher
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INK

Éva sighed, shifting uncomfortably in the cushy wheeled chair. She was sitting at a big round table in a conference room within the Cathedral—it was two days from Ascendance Night, which meant the Deva would be arriving very soon. Apparently, that meant that all the new Casters were having a meeting of some kind, to cover points of etiquette and culture that they hadn’t learned during their training.

She’d chosen to sit by Cassie, the only person she knew by name. Over time, another three women had filed into the room, all of them sitting comfortably apart from each other, and the silence was—at least to Éva—getting really awkward. She stared down at the glass top of the table, fixing her eyes on her own shoes under it. She wiggled her toes back and forth in the soft slippers—apparently preferred to keep the carpet and stone floors of the residential part of the Cathedral in better condition.

No one back home had cared too much about things like that. Maybe that was why the carpet was thin and the stone had been worn down by scuffing. But it still seemed so much more… comfortable, than here. She licked her lips.

“Um..” All the attention in the room was instantly upon her. Whoever was in charge of this meeting hadn’t arrived yet, though they weren’t late for another ten minutes. Éva swallowed thickly. She had to say something now. “I’m Éva Devereaux. From Brussels. Can I ask where the rest of you are from?”

A girl about her own age, maybe slightly older, was the first to answer. Her smile was big, and slightly lopsided; something about that and the pale green of her eyes gave her a mischievous look. “I’m Sarah,” she replied. “Sarah Flynn, from London.” Her accent was tinged in a way that Éva recognized as belonging to the Irish, who now all lived in one of London’s outer boroughs. “I’m an Earth Caster, if you care about that.”

Another woman, probably the most mature-looking of all of them, with dark brown skin and beautiful jet-black hair, furrowed her brows slightly. “My name is Jamila Nassar. I am from the city of Cairo—I cast from metal.”

“Nassar? As in Amira Nassar, the Minister of Cairo?” The question came from the last woman, who looked to be in her mid-twenties. She had hair the color of fire and eyes of what looked like a deep blue.

Jamila pursed her lips slightly, but nodded. “My mother.”

Éva’s eyes went wide. A politician’s daughter? She couldn’t even imagine growing up so close to positions of importance. Her parents had been—

Mercifully, the red-haired woman continued speaking. “Elise Marquette. I am from Paris.” She flipped a long stand of hair behind her shoulder.

“Oh, I thought I heard the accent in your voice,” Éva said, smiling. “Parisian French is so pretty compared to what we have in Brussels.”

“Yes,” Elise replied, her eyes narrowing slightly. “It is.”

Cassie had remained mostly silent as the other women chatted. She had her head resting in the palm of her hand, and had an apparent bored look on her face. A soft snort could be heard in her direction, though, when Éva spoke of the pretty French and Elise replied. "I think the more common accent, such as the one you possess Éva, is lovelier than this pretty parisian one. It sounds more refined," she spoke, sounding a tad bored when she did so. She didn't bother looking at the other women, though it was hard to tell why. Maybe she didn't like them?

"Cassandra Gallagher, from Athens. Current ice caster," she finally introduced herself, but said nothing further.

Elise’s mouth turned down in a frown. Éva lifted a hand to the back of her head, sensitive to the tension that disagreement had caused. Just a slight one, but enough to move the room back to a distinct sense of discomfort.

Fortunately, before anyone could make it worse or try to smooth it over, the door on the end of the room flew open. As one, the recruits turned to it, and in strode a woman almost as small as Éva herself, but with about ten times as much presence. Her pale blonde air was chopped sharply at her shoulders; a black fabric band separated it from her blunt bangs. She wore silvery armor over the blue and white Church tunic and black trousers; it clinked slightly together when she walked. The hilt of a sword protruded from over her right shoulder.

Behind her followed a taller woman—she could only have been a Deva. Even in simple blue-and-white robes like any sister wore, she was ethereal. Her hair was actually a shade of spring-green of all things, flowing down over her shoulders and to the small of her back in elegant, perfect waves. Her eyes were nearly the same color—a sharp contrast to the other woman’s red ones.

Elise stood immediately and bowed; Éva figured it was better to be safe than sorry and did the same, her hair temporarily blocking her view of what the others chose to do.

“Sit,” the short woman commanded.

Everyone who had stood, sat.

“I am Sister Adelaide Cross, Captain of the White Orchid Paladins. This is Sephiriel, my Bonded.” Her voice softened just slightly as she introduced the Deva, who nodded at them with a friendly smile on her face.

Éva was entranced—it was the first time she’d ever seen a Deva in person before. Tearing her eyes away from Sephiriel’s face was harder than it should have been, but staring was rude and she didn’t want to offend. A glance at Sarah confirmed that she wasn’t the only one having this problem. Elise seemed the least affected, for whatever reason.

“We are here to answer any questions you have about your upcoming Ascendance Night. There is much, you will discover, that you did not learn during your training to this point. This is your chance to play catch-up before you have to actually meet them.”

Cassie didn't even look at Sephiriel or Adelaide. She was looking anywhere but them. It was a little strange, but nothing of too importance to note. She was, however, one of the first to ask a question. She still didn't look at either woman, though. "What is it like, the Bonding process?" she asked, though her voice was a little quieter than it had been previously. "There were only mentionings of it, but never of what it was," she added, chancing a glance towards the two women. Whatever it was, it caused a very pale pink to dust her face and caused her to avert her eyes again.

“That’s a good question,” Sephiriel replied kindly, her soft smile growing just a bit. “The truth is… you’re already Bonded. At least, in a certain manner of speaking. A Bond is a fundamental compatibility between the energy of two souls. Since the majority of a soul’s makeup is set around birth, compatibility is the same.” She paused, apparently to make sure everyone was following her explanation, then continued.

“That said… until you actually meet your Bonded, the Bond itself is latent. We Deva, as well as the Asura, have an innate sense for the presence of our Bonded, but it only works within a certain radius while the Bond is still latent, so we have to be brought within their proximity to actually find them. As for what happens when it goes from being latent to being active, well… for us, it feels like…” Sephiriel paused, pulling in a deep breath.

Her eyes shifted into the middle distance. “It feels like finally knowing all of ourselves. Like realizing that some part of us was incomplete before, just in time to find the missing piece.”

Adelaide hummed next to her, crossing her arms over her chestplate. “For those of us on the other end… I think that the consensus is that it feels like coming home after being gone for too long.” She made a slight face, wrinkling her nose. “Which sounds sappy as shit, but it’s the truth. It’s doubly bad if you don’t really have another home, so be prepared for that, and don’t get so happy that you drink too much during the festival after.”

Éva couldn’t decide if she thought that make things better or more frightening somehow.

“As for the rest of it… you’ll start to feel weird, when your Bonded comes within range. The first time you touch them is when the Bond gets solidified. That’s why Ascendance Night involves a lot of shaking hands. You’ll know it when you feel it, like a little bit of electricity goes through you, and then the rest of the world seems… clearer. Like it makes more sense. You aren’t contractually obligated to anything until you draw up your Covenants the day after.”

“What about those?” Éva asked. “Is there anything special involved, or do we just… sign a contract or something?”

“That will involve contract magic,” Adelaide replied crisply. “You’ll draw up the agreement on paper so everyone knows what they are. Those are filed in the Cathedral’s Hall of Records. Standard Covenants are for one hundred years of service to the Church, in exchange for something the deva wants from you, and then a renegotiation clause for after that. If you can’t decide on something for you to give them, that part can get renegotiated earlier.”

“That’s standard,” Sephiriel added with a dip of her chin. “Adelaide and I didn’t agree on what we’d exchange for a good decade after—we took that time to get to know each other first.”

“Anyway,” Adelaide continued, “once you have the terms drawn up, Her Eminence the Exalt and Lord Gabriel will help the two of you perform the Covenant Ritual. The only uncomfortable part is that you have to bleed a little for it, but it’s nothing too painful. It will bind you to your terms, however, so be careful what you agree to. Even Deva can be tricky.” She glanced askance at Sephiriel and shook her head slightly.

"So we'll basically be shaking hands with a lot of people, great," Cassie muttered the last part quietly, though Éva could still hear it. "So our souls are already Bonded with a Deva, or an Asura. What... what if our Bonded is an Asura?" she seemed almost hesitant to ask that question, though it seemed she was a little concerned about it.

"What becomes of us then? I know the views have slightly changed about such things, but it's not exactly a pleasant ordeal, is it?" she continued, the volume returning to her voice. It wasn't as quiet as it was before, but it wasn't exactly loud.

Adelaide frowned, shifting from one of her feet to the other. “It’s rare that a Church-raised Caster Bonds with an Asura, but it does happen. In such cases, the Covenant is drawn up as normal. Extra provisions are included for the protection of the Church and the Caster, including clauses against intentional harm of either. The Covenants are scrutinized more closely for wording—we will do everything in our power to protect you.”

Sephiriel cleared her throat softly. Adelaide threw her a glance, some silent communication passing between them that Éva could not interpret. The Archangel spoke. “While there was previously a stigma against Bonded pairs that included an Asura, much work has been done to reduce it. Church law forbids discrimination in matters of missions or promotions or pay against those Bonded to one. Nevertheless, the Casters in this situation may encounter… unique difficulties, related to Asura personalities. It’s advised that you come to your superior officers if you have concerns. But again… Bonding with Asura is rare.”

“What about modes of address?” Jamila asked a practical question, attention fixed on the two at the front of the room. “How are we to call our Bonded, and they us?”

“That’s a matter of personal preference,” Sephiriel replied. “Most Deva and Asura have only one name until they take up residence on the Material Plane, at which point they will choose a surname for convenience. Once they do, it’s generally acceptable to address them as Mr. or Ms., as you would with anyone. If you have only a first name, ‘Sir’ or ‘Dame’ are both appropriate for ordinary Deva—or Asura. If you should happen to meet an Archangel or Archdemon, the formality increases. Those are most often ‘Lord’ or ‘Lady’ and then their title—like Sephiriel or Leviathan. First names should only be used with permission, especially with them. Of course, with one’s own Bonded, things are often different.”

“With other members of the Church here, use ‘Sister’ or ‘Brother’ and then their last name, unless given leave to do otherwise. With the Paladins, use their rank. And the Exalt is always ‘Your Eminence.’ Her Bonded should be referred to as ‘Lord Gabriel,’ as with any Archangel.”

It was a lot of information, but Éva thought she could keep it straight. “So… it’s Captain Cross, Lady Sephiriel, but Sister Nassar?” she asked, looking at each of them in turn.

“Unless told otherwise, yes,” Adelaide replied with a nod.

"Interesting," was the only thing Cassie said, but nodded as the information was given. She still didn't look at the Adelaide or Sephiriel. It was a lot of information to process, even for Cassie it seems. Her face was pulled into passiveness, but there was still something weighing on her. Her brows were furrowed.

"What about living arrangements? Depending on how long our covenants are, what are we supposed to do about our living arrangements after. They said we would have adjoining rooms once we discovered our bonded, but nothing after. Are we supposed to negotiate that as well?" it was Sarah who asked the question this time.

“For as long as you’re in the service of the Church, the Church houses you. After that, your arrangements are something to work out between your Bonded and yourselves.” Adelaide pursed her lips, but then continued. “A hundred years is a long time. You’ll have a chance to figure it out.”

Sarah’s eyes narrowed slightly. “What are our chances of surviving that long, against the beasts?”

Éva swallowed. That was something very few people ever talked about, but… keeping the outside world from getting into the cities, clearing the major roadways for travel… those were big parts of why the Church existed. Casters and their Bonded were the best resources anyone had for that, and so they received the most dangerous assignments of all.

Adelaide pushed out a breath—it wasn’t quite a sigh, but it was close. “Statistically? About half of all Bonded pairs make it to the end of their Covenant with both parties still living. Casters have greater odds to survive than their Bonded do.”

“Why… why is that?” Éva would have thought that the Casters, being much more physically fragile, were at greater risk.

“A combination of things. Usually, we fight at greater distance than our Bonded, and most of the beasts roaming the Waste can only fight up close.”

“And,” Sephiriel broke in softly, almost sadly. “Imagine, for a moment, being an immortal, who has for the entirety of centuries felt very keenly that something about yourself is incomplete. Now imagine that you finally find that missing part of yourself, but it is much more fragile and delicate than the rest of you. And imagine the prospect of losing it again, and living out the rest of an eternity knowing that you will never be whole again.”

Éva couldn’t quite imagine it, actually—but she supposed that might be the point.

“Deva are protective,” Adelaide finished. “The hard truth is, a Bond goes both ways. It’s a benefit to both parties, but just as you’re giving up the opportunity to do anything else with your life and risking your death… so are they. And that risk, those drawbacks… are just as real for them. The sooner you can wrap your head around that, the better you’ll work with your Bonded.”

Well… that was… Éva pursed her lips. She wasn’t quite sure why any of them would undertake the process at all. It must really be worth something, to have a Caster.

She found it difficult to imagine having her around could be worth that much to anyone.