Bird Calls--A Keep Story (Rewrite)

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Bird Calls--A Keep Story (Rewrite)

Postby Kestrad » February 20th, 2011, 10:36:50 pm

Yeah, the old one had some issues, so I'm juxtaposing some sections, rewriting others, and generally giving the thing an overhaul. A lot of it will be copypasta and the plot so far will be mostly the same, so no need to re-read everything if you followed the old one XD

Table of Contents:
Prologue
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3

Other stuff:

Former version of story can be found here

Awesome art of Lachesis by Munin (thank you so much!):
Last edited by Kestrad on March 1st, 2011, 11:22:20 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Bird Calls--A Keep Story (Rewrite)

Postby Kestrad » February 20th, 2011, 10:38:24 pm

Prologue

"You will regret this! I will make you pay!"

The woman being yelled at was nonplussed. "What did you expect? The Dark Brotherhood is not an evil organization."

"You call yourselves the Dark Brotherhood! You breed the most dangerous creatures!" The white-cloaked girl looked positively livid.

The Dark Brotherhood woman snorted. "What, you think just because we're dark that means we're evil? Darkness is an element. It's no more evil than the wielder chooses it to be. Now get out. You are no longer welcome here." The girl opened her mouth as if to argue, and the woman sighed. "Look. Either you can leave in a halfway dignified manner, or I can have the brothers defenestrate you. Be glad I'm not taking the Emissary from you. The process to remove it is...painful." The woman smiled mirthlessly at her understatement. "It tends to leave you in pieces. Either way, it will never help you again."

The girl glanced at the members of the Brotherhood, both men and women, assembled threateningly behind the woman, and then glared at her. "Fine. I will leave then," she said, her dark eyes burning with anger. "And I swear, by the stars above, I will make you regret this day." She turned and stepped out the door onto the streets.

They were wrong about the Emissary. It spoke to her, and she to it. Together they were a force to reckon with. Together they could take over the Keep. And the Dark Brotherhood would become her personal plaything. Smiling grimly, she wound her way through the city back towards the stone castle.

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Re: Bird Calls--A Keep Story (Rewrite)

Postby Raneth » February 20th, 2011, 10:43:36 pm

Yay!
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Re: Bird Calls--A Keep Story (Rewrite)

Postby Kestrad » February 21st, 2011, 12:20:26 am

Chapter 1

Lachesis woke up with a start and sat up far too quickly, causing sparks to dance in front of her eyes as her body protested against her sudden change in posture. She cleared stray strands of black hair from her face and glanced out the window, then swore. The sky was already red in the east--she was going to be late, and today of all days! Normally her creatures would all have started waking up at least half an hour ago, and the clamor would have woken her up too, but today they were still sleeping. She leapt out of bed, worrying about her lunar fox, nearly spilling her crystalwing off the bed in the process. He squawked indignantly and flapped heavily after her as she ran to the door.

No sooner than she had opened the door the fox bolted inside. Lachesis sighed in relief and closed the door, only to jump as something slammed against it. She opened the door again and her Tylluan fluttered inside, giving Lachesis a hurt look.

"Oh, don't look at me like that. You don't always come back every morning." The Tylluan hooted in response and glared at Lachesis. Lachesis glared back at her. "I was distracted by the Lunar Fox running in, okay?" She ignored the Tylluan's subsequent comments, focusing instead on making herself presentable. She hastily brushed her hair, wincing as she ripped knots out. She finally got it straight--at least she assumed so, since it came to about the right length, just past her chest. That done, she quickly cleaned her teeth, tossed on some clothes, and dashed out the door, putting on her cloak as she ran.

It had snowed the night before, and Lachesis muttered a few more choice words as her shoes filled with the cold white stuff. At least the running kept the rest of her warm, even though she hadn't had time to button up her cloak. It didn't matter--she would have to take it off once she entered the Keep anyway. The purple garment (and any winter garment really) was made of a material far too thick to be comfortable for the magical warmth of any of the buildings.

She managed to burst into the classroom just as the sun rose above the horizon. The masters, standing in a group to the right of the students, lifted an eyebrow at her but said nothing as she sat down beside a few of her friends. They too looked at her curiously as she attempted to catch her breath but said nothing. Their ceremony was about to start, and for once everyone was silent. This moment of their lives was too important for idle chatter. As Lachesis stopped panting, she was able to focus on being nervous instead. She still had no idea what she would choose...

After a short wait in case there were any more stragglers, the masters chanted a strange incantation, and four pillars grew laboriously from the ground in a straight line, rising until each was roughly the height of a grown man. All was still for a moment as the pillars' growth ground to a halt. Suddenly each pillar glowed with bright light, intense white at first, then changing color. Fire turned the color of molten metal, coal, and flame. Water turned into blue and white ribbons, resembling an ocean ready to burst forth. Air became the color of the sky on a calm spring morning. Earth was the green of living things and the endless shades of brown and black of the ground from which they sprang. The colors swirled hypnotically, entrancing all who looked upon them.

"Ishma!"

Lachesis started as the masters' voices jolted her from her reverie. Several of her fellow students also twitched. The student who had been called gulped and stood up, slowly walking to the assembled group of teachers. Each one made a different symbol of blessing above her. Then, as one, they intoned, "The elements await. Choose well, trainee!"

Ishma turned away from the masters and walked towards the four pillars, stopping a few paces before them. There was a long pause. Then she strode towards the pillar of Air, her steps quick and sure. She placed her hands on the pillar without hesitation. As she did so, the pillar glowed blindingly bright for a moment before fading back to its swirl of calm white and blue.

"Ishma has joined the ranks of Air," the masters called as one. "Ishma, you may now proceed to the apprentice side of the room."

The girl nodded, bowed to the masters, and walked to the opposite end of the room. She was smiling, Lachesis noted--a smile that seemed giddy with exhilaration.

The process was repeated for each student. Each apprentice stepped towards a pillar without hesitation and placed his or her hands on it. Lachesis watched with increased nervousness as her turn loomed closer and closer. As the trainee before her, a girl named Ethara, was called, Lachesis fought to keep herself from shaking visibly in her seat. Everyone seemed to know what element to choose. Everyone but her. Had there ever been a trainee who didn't have an element? Would she become the first one? Would they cast her out from the Keep then? Or would she be allowed to stay? Even if she was allowed to stay, would she want to? She would be a magi without an element. A freak.

Then Ethara place her hands on the column of Water, and Lachesis's time for questions ran out. She stood up as her name was called and walked up to each of the masters, trying not to stumble despite the trembling in each of her muscles. She stood as still as she could while each magi blessed her, watching numbly as they made each symbol above her head.

And then, suddenly, she knew what to do. Each element sang to her, their songs melding into music no human choir could sing. And of them, Fire sang the loudest, carrying the melody, the prima donna of the show. The song sounded like fire crackling and flames dancing. It sang with the strength of boundless energy and the exhilaration of playful destruction. Lachesis hardly noticed as the masters prompted her to choose, nor did she notice until she stood right in front of the row of pillars that she had moved. She stepped forward and touched the pillar of Fire.

But as soon as her hand brushed the pillar, the song stopped. A feeling of emptiness opened a void within her, before a soft voice whispered within her, "Where does fire go when it runs out of fuel?" The energy of the song rushed into her again, violent and fierce and filling her until she felt like a cup ready to spill. The rush of energy subsided soon enough, but left images burned in her head, images of birds falling out of the sky. Of her creatures abandoning her. And through the miasma of pictures, something felt horribly wrong.

It was all she could do not to stumble as she pulled her hands from the pillar and made her way to the other side of the room. Had any of the others who chose fire seemed so overwhelmed? No, they had all seemed surprised or exhilarated or both, as if they had just drunk the strongest energy potion. But while Lachesis felt energized, at the same time she felt an overwhelming sense of horror she couldn't explain. She took her spot with the others, feeling dazed.

The rest of the ceremony passed in a blur. The remaining students chose an element, and then there were all manner of beautiful treats that the kitchens had prepared just for the new apprentices. But she barely touched any, slipping away as soon as she could to dash to the library.

"Where might I find the books on the choosing ceremony?" She asked the librarian without preamble.

The woman looked up from from her work, perusing Lachesis for a moment, and then gave her a knowing smile. "Ah, you must be one of the new trainee-turned-apprentices," she said. "Always a few every class who just have to know everything behind the ceremony once they're allowed to read about it." She chuckled, and Lachesis waited impatiently for her to get to the point. "You'll find what you need on the second floor, behind the books about the common creatures." She had barely finished speaking before the apprentice was off. The woman shook her head, muttering something about overly eager young ones, and continued cataloguing books.

Lachesis found the section she was looking for and fairly tore books off the shelves. But several hours later, she was forced to admit defeat. Several books described the exhilarating song and the rush of energy, but not a single one mentioned the images. Perhaps she had just imagined them? She stood up and glanced out the window. The sky was a calm, clear blue. No flocks of birds fell from the sky; there weren't any birds in the sky at that moment at all, for that matter. It was a perfectly normal day.

But the instant Lachesis brought her thoughts back to the choosing ceremony, the feeling of extreme horror returned. She stumbled and dropped the book she was holding. A nearby student stood up quickly to help her; she brushed him off and bolted to her hut.

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Re: Bird Calls--A Keep Story (Rewrite)

Postby Kestrad » February 22nd, 2011, 1:45:59 am

Chapter 2

"Lachesis?"

Lachesis muttered something incomprehensible into her pillow and turned over, but did not open her eyes.

"Lachesis? Hey, Lach! Get up! Today's a special day, you know!" Hands reached down onto her shoulders to shake her. Lachesis groaned. It was just like Celli to be unbearably cheerful and persistent. Slowly, unwillingly, she sat up.

"Lach, are you all right?" Celli looked down at her, bright blue eyes flashing with concern. "You slipped out early yesterday, and none of us have seen you since." Lachesis looked around after hearing Celli's words but saw no one. She looked out the window then. Sure enough, a few of her other friends were waiting outside. Friends if you defined the word loosely, anyway--Vash was at best a rival, and Lyneira sometimes seemed more keen on passive-aggressively bossing her around than anything else. She wasn't sure she trusted any of the others, either. Perhaps they were just pretending to like her, so they could hurt her later.

Stop it, she told herself firmly. You're just being insecure. Lyneira probably wasn't that way on purpose, and no one else had given her any reason to be so suspicious. Not everyone is like Ziya...not everyone is like Ziya... She shook her head to clear her thoughts, and Celli interpreted this as an answer to her question.

"Lach, what's wrong? You're not sick, are you? You can't be sick, not now--we have our affinity tests in an hour!"

"No, I'm fine," Lachesis managed to reply, and hopped out of bed. "Just a bit tired. I stayed up too late reading last night," she said as cheerfully as she could. "Just napping."

Celli lifted an eyebrow, not quite convinced. "Rather awkward time for a nap. You can't have woken up more than a few hours ago, and we don't have much time before the test."

"Yeah, I know," Lachesis replied absently. "But I had to get up to take care of my creatures, y'know? Then I felt tired, so I went back to sleep." Celli made as if to say something, and Lachesis continued, "Thanks for coming to get me, but I still need to make myself presentable. Why don't you guys go on ahead of me?"

Celli hesitated and opened her mouth, then shut it. "Alright," she said, though with a tone much more serious than Lachesis would have thought her capable of. "See you in a bit, hm?"

Lachesis nodded, and waited until Celli joined the others outside and they shuffled away. Then she promptly flopped back down onto her bed.

"Ackthblt!" She was forced to jump up again a moment later as deep purple feathers tickled her mercilessly. Calida, her dusk cinersi, continued tickling her until she raised a shield spell around herself. From the safety of her spell, she glared at the bird. The bird glared back. Then Lachesis sighed and dropped her spell.

"Yes, you're right," she said slowly. "I'm being silly. I'm not a prophet. The things I saw aren't going to come to pass. I need to take that test." She uttered the last few sentences loudly and as confidently as she could, as if by doing so she could convince herself they were true.

Automatically, she dressed herself and tidied up her hair. As she opened her door, she paused. Calida swooped close as if to shoo her outside, and she reached up to stroke the bird. "You won't leave me, will you, Calida?"

The cinersi pecked her sharply on the hand. "Ow! Okay, yes, I'm done being silly!" Calida nuzzled her face and then gave her a gentle nudge. Following the bird's prompting, she stepped outside and took a deep breath. The next few hours were going to be hard, at best. But there was nothing to be done about that.




Filler chapter! XP And so much for copypasta, heh.

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Re: Bird Calls--A Keep Story (Rewrite)

Postby Raneth » February 22nd, 2011, 8:22:58 am

This is much improved over the last version of the story, IMO. I wouldn't call this as filler chapter, either-you've introduced your important characters and their relationship to Lachesis, and established that Lachesis had a bad experience with Ziya. Character development, yay! :hooray:
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Re: Bird Calls--A Keep Story (Rewrite)

Postby MageLorelei » February 26th, 2011, 5:52:33 pm

MOAR! :rawr:
Now, a civilized response:
I don't think I said this before, but I'm glad you're not having the Dark Brotherhood its self be evil. As far as I can tell. It seems a lot of people do that, and I'm interested in what this evil doer is going to... well... do.
If for some reason you ever send your characters to Voltar, stop by Siren's Point. We have free cookies! /shot
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Re: Bird Calls--A Keep Story (Rewrite)

Postby Kestrad » February 26th, 2011, 6:23:30 pm

Thanks Raneth!

Lorelei: I noticed that too, and I didn't really like that--hence the Dark Brotherhood not necessarily being evil in my story. The quest text certainly makes them seem sketchy, but it leaves whether or not they're outright evil open-ended. I think part of the reason they're usually portrayed as such is because they're convenient to use. Also, now my characters are all clamoring to go to Voltar. They want your cookies!


Chapter 3
It was very common--or expected, really--that new apprentices would want to play around with their newfound powers over an element. To limit any mayhem, though, the magi gave each group affinity tests the next day and then started element studies classes the day after that. Most students with any amount of sense chose to conserve their energy for the tests and the classes, which had a reputation for being the most tiring activities an apprentice went through.

That reputation was on Lachesis's mind as she sat down next to Celli in the test classroom. She'd found out soon after the ceremony that the images came to her whenever she tried to use fire. It not only made it exceedingly hard for her to concentrate and control her magic, but drained her strength too. And the affinity test took place before everyone. Everyone would see how weak she was.

Then the fire magi in charge stood up from the group of teachers and walked to the front of the room, and Lachesis did her best to shove her misgivings aside.

"Welcome to the affinity test," he said. "You will be going one at a time. My colleagues and I will be taking notes on your performances. Any volunteers to go first?"

There was a long moment of silence, as apprentices shrank back unconsciously in their seats and gave each other sidelong glances. No one said a word.

Then suddenly, Vash's hand shot into the air. "Me," he called out, just in case the magi didn't see.

The teacher gave the vaguest hint of a smile. "Wonderful! Please step up here, apprentice..."

"Vash," the boy replied. He wove his way through the chairs to the center of the room. The students were murmuring now, some shifting restlessly. Lachesis heard little snippets of conversation. What a showoff/Why didn't I go when I had the chance?/The masters are probably impressed with him. Lachesis had to admit, grudgingly, that his confidence was pretty admirable.

"Apprentice Vash, we will be starting with some basic spells. Please levitate an object in this room." Lachesis automatically looked around for objects that could be lifted at the same time as Vash. Everyone else did too--it would be their turn at the center sooner or later, after all. There wasn't much, she noted. A few empty chairs, a few loose stones from the ground, some of the masters' pencils--wait, either the world was moving down away from her, or--!!

Lachesis squeaked in surprise and quickly cast a counteracting spell--too quickly, because she crashed back into her seat much harder than she'd intended. The presiding magi scowled. "Please limit your spells to inanimate objects from now on," he snapped.

Vash nodded, but grinned mischievously. He aced the rest of the standard spells.

"Very good, apprentice," one of the masters said simply when that part of the test was done. He slapped his notebook open on the table in front of him. "Now for the real part."

Vash looked nervous, Lachesis noted. He'd gulped twice, and he seemed to be shaking a little. But perhaps she was just imagining things--in the next moment, his demeanor exuded confidence. The teachers prompted him to summon a fireball, and he did. It was large enough to obscure his head and torso.

"Good, now shape the fireball," one of the magi prompted. Vash closed his eyes and wrinkled his brow, and slowly the flames rearranged themselves into a large, life-sized hellhound. The shape was a bit lopsided, and the anatomy was a bit off, but then again he wasn't an artist. Suddenly the hellhound leapt and barked at the instructors, making everyone start. One of the instructors whistled slightly as they all scribbled away furiously in their notebooks. Lachesis wished that she could have such ease at impressing teachers.

"Thank you, Apprentice Vash. You may go sit down now." Vash bowed slightly to the masters and returned to his seat. Lachesis made sure to glare and scowl at him as he sat down--she was not amused at his levitating her. He grinned cockily back at her. Lachesis scowled more deeply, repressing the urge to slap him.

Their silent exchange was interrupted by the presiding magi. "Any volunteers to go second?" Suddenly, Lachesis was filled with the urge to prove to Vash she was every bit as talented as him. Even if, a small voice in the back of her mind reminded her, it wasn't true. She mentally kicked that voice into oblivion and raised her hand quickly before she could change her mind.

"You, in the purple and tan tunic--Apprentice..."

"Lachesis," she finished, and stood up at the master's beckoning. She gulped and felt her entire body start to tremble as she made her way to the center of the room. All her confidence from a few moments ago was gone, replaced by almost crippling anxiety.

But it was too late to back out now. She reached her destination and turned around to face the evaluators.

Kestrad has been eaten by life. She'll probably pop back in occasionally.

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Re: Bird Calls--A Keep Story (Rewrite)

Postby MageLorelei » February 26th, 2011, 6:44:04 pm

I haven't done the quest, I'm waiting to see what other brotherhoods come out. So I don't know more than the first two parts. But they certainly seemed sketchy... I bet they run all sorts of underground gambling dens and bars and brothels and restaurants and churches and shops and candy stores... mmm... dark brotherhood candy... Yeah, I'm going to stop spamming your thread now and go write more.
They should. It also makes their creatures talk. The keep, not the cookies.

But I like the changed bit about the tests.
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Re: Bird Calls--A Keep Story (Rewrite)

Postby Kestrad » February 28th, 2011, 12:02:20 am

Oh...I thought it simply gave Lorelei the ability to talk to her creatures, since she owns the keep. xD I haven't done the quest either, but I've read the quest text before somewhere. I'm glad you like the rewrites, btw :D


Chapter 4
Lachesis aced the simple spells part of the test. Sure, she levitated a few rocks rather than a whole person, but she was sure that was every bit as good. She felt her trembling subside a little as she calmed down slightly. The rest of the test couldn't be too bad, could it?

It could, she soon decided. The fireball she made was just barely the size of her head when images started swimming before her eyes again. This time she saw her companions. Her resurrection horse and Calida fought each other savagely, pecking and biting. Calida had several vicious slashes on her wings, while several bones were missing from the horse. Lachesis closed her eyes, doing her best to ignore the scene. It was no use--the picture bloomed inside her mind. She felt sweat rolling down her face and neck, and she was trembling--from effort this time rather than from nerves.

"Apprentice!"

Lachesis started and the fireball flickered dangerously, nearly disappearing altogether. She concentrated fiercely, forcing it back to life. "Yes, master?" she croaked.

"I said, make a shape out of the fire." Lachesis nodded, not looking at the evaluators. She didn't want to see the disapproval she was sure was on their faces. Instead she glared intently at the fireball before her, shrinking it so that it fit inside the palm of one hand. Her head was clear of images again after that distraction. She hoped it would stay that way.

Slowly, with far more energy than she expected it to take, Lachesis shaped the flames into a sleeping arkai. With some more effort, she had the fire arkai rise up and stand in her hand, wings extended. Her hair was plastered to her head with sweat by now, and her clothes clung to her body, but she had a little energy left. She channeled that energy into making the arkai fly. At the same time, she saw an image of her own flock of arkai superimposed on her vision of the classroom. The dark colored ones fought the light ones, each side striking the other down relentlessly with explosive bolts.

Lachesis faltered, and the fire arkai abruptly disappeared mid-flap as she lost her concentration. She didn't wait for the masters to dismiss her to go back to her seat. She sat, sprawled from exhaustion, as if in a daze. Vash glanced at her, his expression almost one of concern. Lachesis didn't notice.

***

"Calida, I wish you could talk to me," Lachesis grumbled as she filled her tub with water. It was fortunate, she thought, that someone had the foresight to build a heating spell into the tub. Lachesis doubted she could have mustered the strength to heat the water herself. She'd already told the cinersi all about the test and how terribly she'd done.

Calida chirped as she watched Lachesis work. Finally the tub was filled. Lachesis peeled her clothes off and slipped into the water, sighing as her muscles untensed slightly from the warmth.

"Yes, I can understand your thoughts," the magi replied as she sat in the water. "But it would be nice if you could respond physically. I get tired of sounding like I'm talking to myself." She reached for a sponge, preparing to scrub all the sweat off of herself.

Calida chirped again, and a bright flash of light suddenly emanated from the bird, blinding Lachesis and causing her to drop her sponge. When her eyes cleared again, Calida was nowhere to be seen. "Calida? Calida! Where did you go? What did you do?"

"You said you wanted me to talk." The voice sounded amused, and it came from behind her. Lachesis whirled around. A woman with long, dark purple hair in a dark purple dress stood at the edge of the tub. There was bright yellow embroidery on her sleeves and a bright yellow stone on her chest. Two clumps of her hair stuck out of the rest, curving up over her forehead. Her eyes were gold.

Lachesis gaped, not quite believing her eyes. Then she said the first thing that came to her mind.

"AAAAAH! I'm naked!"

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