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located in Norr, a part of The Gift: Chapter Two, one of the many universes on RPG.

Norr

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After Laila had died in the last battle, Faera never had acquired a new partner, so the fact that she was able to control a construct was an enormous relief to her. There was another one in the general area which appeared to be assisting her also, but she did not know to whom it belonged. At any rate, having melee fighters around when one relied completely on magic was very useful, and they made so much noise that she didn’t have to worry about hitting them by accident, so she utilized them somewhat like moving, hitting walls, ducking between and around them, firing spells when she saw the opportunity.

Presently, she was perched on one’s shoulder (she climbed no less well than any of the other members of her species, after all), still conducting the orchestra of winds, so to speak. The infernal shriek halted her in her movements, however, and for a moment Faera was frozen in place by a fear almost older than her memory. It was almost too bad that it wasn’t in fact, because the memories themselves were much worse then the fear alone.

Ashes, smoke, and dust. Nobody within the small village could give voice to why the dragon had attacked in all its shrieking, flame-spewing, terrible glory, only that it had. Black as night, they had not seen it coming until half the small settlement was razed, most of the occupants dead or presumed to be, their remains so far beyond charred as to be indistinguishable from the cremated houses they had once lived in.

But why? Why would such a being deign to attack such a tiny dark elven settlement? They were nowhere near the capital, nor the royal family, nor anywhere associated in any but the loosest fashion with the Legion. None of it made sense.

Faera could not see the death and destruction, but she could smell it, the bitter scent of charred earth filled her nose till it ran out of space and filled her mind too. The only sounds in the unwelcome silence were the occasional wail of a grieving mother or the sound of Talae’s boots on the ground, slogging through the ashes with a merciless determination that no child of sixteen should ever have to possess.

Her sister’s hand was a wrought-iron grip on her wrist, but Fae did not struggle against it, only followed helplessly as their steps carried them further and further from the destruction. “Tala, where are we going?” The young girl flinched. Her voice sounded weak, tremulous, even to her own ears.

“Away from here,” was the terse reply, as though that explained everything. Nothing more was offered, and Fae asked no more questions, perhaps sensing that she would not like the answers. Maybe she was simply too much a coward, or too willing to allow her sibling to bear the knowledge alone. Maybe she was simply a scared little girl placing her trust the one place it had always belonged.


Faera was rudely awoken from her half-willing musings when a stray arrow struck her in the shoulder, embedding itself deep in the flesh there. With a strangled cry, she lost her grip on the construct and fell, landing in a heap on her back. For a moment, the agony was dizzying, and she couldn’t move. She could hear her construct beating back several soldiers who sought to take advantage of this, but it only dimly registered as she tried to fight her way past the agony and into clarity again. A small healing spell numbed the pain, but it would take a lot more time and concentration than a battlefield could afford her in order to do much more than that, so she left the arrow where it was, knowing enough to say that removing it and allowing the bleeding to proceed unimpeded was a very bad idea.

With the arm not connected to her injured shoulder, Faera pushed herself to her feet, ignoring her body’s rather violent protests to the very suggestion. She wasn’t ready to roll over and take it, not yet.




Neira felt a slight tug in the back of her mind, but had little time to puzzle over it before a red-robed figure appeared in front of her. Psionics… interesting. She grinned when the figure threw his hood back, revealing a rather grotesque visage and the glassy gaze of one who perhaps spent more time within than without.

“Oo-oh, you must be one of those poor bastards I’ve heard about. What do they call you? The Silent?” She knew perfectly well what they were called, of course, but it scarcely concerned her. What was important was that this disfigured dark elf probably qualified as an opponent she could sink her teeth into… perhaps literally, if he was a good little abomination.

The Fog was nothing new, and it didn’t much matter for the moment, for that was not going to be where the fight was truly decided. No, this was going to be an entirely different kind of confrontation, one she had not indulged in for quite some time. “Let’s see what goes on inside that ugly little head of yours, mime.”

Neira was lanced with agony that began in her head and psychosomatically spread down her limbs, causing a visible shudder down her spine. The Nightmarian chuckled darkly. “Ah ah ah,” she admonished lightly. “I think this would be much more fun if we took a moment to enjoy it, don’t you?” This time it was her Power that lashed out, sinking mental hooks deep into the Silenced’s consciousness, and thus mutually connected, slowly their perception of the world around the peeled away until they were both almost completely absorbed in the mental link.

Their minds perceiving what their senses never could, both were thrown into something of a vertigo as they both fought for control of what would follow. Within the consciousness, only that which is acknowledged was real, and so it was as much a contest to force the other to accept constructs of their own minds than anything else. The Silenced went for a realm of creeping darkness, dank chills, and bottomless despair. Neira scoffed. Such are the nightmares of human children. Horror looks more like this.

In so saying, she let down one of the mental barriers in her own mind and flooded the other with sensations. A darkened forest, in the centre of which stands the great Hive-city, monument to the sheer enduring obedience of those who built it. Endless labor accomplishes what even ingenuity cannot, slavery what a free man would not lower himself to endure. The ants march back and forth in endless trudging lines, doomed to live out their short, pathetic lifespans doing naught else, at the insistence of a will greater than any individual could ever hope to be. It is all linked to Her, for Her, the Queen, but even She is bound to it too strongly for anyone to break her chains.

Everything is peaceful, everything is orderly, and nothing matters but the rote motions of hands and feet and wings. The Power Within is painfully suppressed by the great droning in the back of her head, every almost-independent thought crushed by that overbearing weight. She is an automaton, just another faceless pair of hands and feet and this close to the center of it all, how can she be otherwise? She cannot feel, scarcely think, and she knows not whether even the minor rebellions she entertains are fed to her by the overarching Mind. She exists, she is, all because the Hive says it must be.

This is my nightmare. You think that after enduring this that a little bit of pain will bend me to your will when at last I am free of it? Do not make me laugh, fool.

The Silenced switches tactics, and now it is a more subtle contest, an invasion of thoughts, memories, feelings, anything to dredge up old weaknesses. For those that are so sternly gripped by ironclad resolve now were not always so, and he seeks to find that which will undo her resistance. He comes too close, and Neira lashes back, burying herself in every one of the Silenced’s most treasured memories, stored away far enough that he need not remember them while doing the bidding of his Dragon masters.

She opens what must have been Pandora’s Box: his name was once Xeron, he has lived for a good two hundred years at least. His parents were nobility- Neira sorts mercilessly through the information, tossing aside with callus disregard most everything that does not seem to be useful, until at last she stumbles upon it. His wife and child, dead at the hands of Legionnaires in a siege much like this one. So it is a recent burn, then. All the better.

She bombards him with all of it, the images, the sounds, the smell of his family’s lifeblood flowing onto the street, trying to stoke a fire of reckless rage, to build in the Silenced enough anger to circumvent his caution, to allow her to break the stalemate of paralysis that stops their bodies from moving from Without.

Too late does she realize her mistake. The Silenced at last breaks his muteness in their shared headspace and laughs, a sickening sensation that just makes her grit her teeth unconsciously. How sweet of you, my dear. You assumed that of all the things you saw there, I would actually care about my wife and son. It is rather unfortunate for you that I do not. But it does tell me something important about you, now doesn’t it?

The Silenced homes in on the memory she was hiding, and Neira braces herself to see it play once more. There is only one decision she has ever made which she still struggles with occasionally, no matter how often she manages to convince herself that it was all worth it, that regret is meaningless. Still, she retains her bravado. oh, is it your turn to try breaking me now? Have fun.

Still, he is confident that he has found it, the way to weaken her will, and he says nothing in response, merely flinging the first of the images into her brainspace while Neira works on something else entirely.

The room is dark, a few flickering candles the only light provided. A body, too indistinct to be identified, lays sprawled on the floor some distance from a standing figure. The flame-haired Nightmarian girl is examining her own arm with a fascinated curiosity, turning it this way and that, watching as the drops of blood hit the stone floor beneath as though she has never seen something quite so enthralling in all her life.

At length, the arm lowers, and red eyes flick to the crumpled pile of carapace and flesh before her. Her head tilts to the side, regarding the corpse with the same interest for a few moments. Something inscrutable passes over the dusky features, and the girl’s shoulders begin to shake.


Clearly, the Silenced thinks he has stumbled upon something important here, and Neira permits him to think so, disguising her true objective as a desire to ‘see’ as little of the image as possible. It will not be long now.

For all the world, she might be sobbing, except if one looks at her face, one would see the first of many terrifying grins beginning a slow, near-hesitant spread across her face. The eerie silence is shattered by a peal of girlish laughter, just a giggle at first, but increasing in volume and taking on a manic edge. Suddenly, it stops, and the smile vanishes, replaced with a scowl. She laughs because something in her has broken at last, and frowns because she is finally free.

With one final disdainful glance at the corpse, the Neria of memory turns on her heel in a swish of black robes, and marches straight out the door.


It was clear to the Silenced that his opponent was not the only one to make a mistake. Frantically, he tried to figure out what she’d actually been doing when pretending to squirm under his mental onslaught, and found his question answered rather painfully when a chitinous hand wrapped around his throat and he was lifted off the ground. How had she-?

“Sometimes, it pays to spend some time Without,” she informed him smugly, grinning an echo of the disturbing image from her own head. “I already told you- I freed myself from my nightmare. You didn’t think it was a simple thing, did you?”

Without giving him a chance to answer, Neira crushed his windpipe, dropping him unceremoniously upon the ground. Shaking her head and shoving her damned memories back into oblivion where they belonged, she realized only a few moments of actual time had passed, and that each of the dragons had chosen a target already. Shame.