Player-led Stories and Roleplay

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017, 8:17:45 AM

I thought it would be nice to have a place to post our new and/or on-going character storylines so that others can jump on board if they so wish. Please try and make it clear if what you're sharing is IC knowledge i.e. freely available, or if you wish to keep it OOC for now.

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017, 8:20:45 AM

A Difficult Journey

Rohese turned the iron key in the Manor’s front door and gave it a gentle tug to check it was locked. She dropped the key into the pocket of her pelisse and glanced around to ensure she was alone.

The birds were in full song, filling the courtyard with their melodic trills and heralding the start of a new day. The sun was just breaking over the horizon and she turned to watch its golden glow seep across the sky. She welcomed its warmth on her pale face. It had been a stressful few weeks and sleep had alluded her recently. The dark circles beneath her eyes were testament to how tired she felt. She had foregone rest again that night in order to write several letters, which now sat on her desk awaiting collection and despatch by her chambermaid.

With a deep breath, she firmed her resolve; the fresh morning air had invigorated her a little. The Mirror had asked this of her and she would not fail her sovereign. Pulling her hood up to conceal her face - she would rather not be noticed and distracted from the task in hand - she made her way out of the gate and onto the road leading through the wooded Lower Trollfang. Following the course of the Locksmehr River and the high exterior walls of Wehnimer’s Landing, she slipped through the West Gate with a cursory nod to the sleepy guard and into the early morning bustle on the streets.

Reaching the southeast corner of the Town Square, she was relieved to see that a wagon was already waiting and she boarded it quickly. Apart from a couple of bruises, the journey to Bloodriven Village was without incident and she stepped out onto the muddy riverbank with the sun now high in the sky.

Lifting her skirts to avoid trailing them in the mud, she made her way carefully up and through the black iron gate. She weaved her way through the mid-morning crowds in Lyswe Court and past the buildings lining the cobbled streets. She was more determined than ever to escape notice today so she headed directly to her goal on Gloam Pike. The slipshod building was difficult to miss, it being painted in garish colours, and Rohese glanced warily around her before she entered.

A few minutes later, having acquired her purchase, she hung it around her neck and, with a nervous push, she activated it. It took all of her willpower not to scream out loud as the tiny hollow needles stabbed into her, suffusing her body with their noxious elixir. The pain was almost unbearable but it was soon over and she cautiously peered into her mirror.

You see Lady Rohese Bayvel-Timsh'l the Gentlewoman.

She appears to be a Human from Hendor.

She is taller than average with a slender willowy form. She appears to be youthful. She has silver-lashed misty grey eyes and silky smooth, fair skin. She has lustrous, hip-length pale silver hair neatly collected within an umber alum-beaded snood. She has naturally glossy, rose-pink tinted lips. Peeking through her hair are dainty upswept ears tapering to fine points which enhance her fey-like countenance.

She has an inking of a faint star constellation on her neck, and a cascade of tiny silver stars tattooed over her right eyebrow that fades into her hairline.

She is in good shape.

She is holding a silver-backed mirror etched with orbital moons in her right hand. She is wearing a metalworked withered tree talisman, a sleeveless pelisse of dove grey chamois collared in soft rabbit fur, a platinum wedding ring, a tall-collared onyx velvet bliaut with fur-lined hanging sleeves, and some tall cognac leather boots with perforated suede panels.

She was very aware that she was venturing into a troubled area of the Empire and was keen to avoid any issues. Despite recent developments, there were still those that upheld Chaston’s Edict and wished ill on her kind. I will have to keep my hood up to avoid anyone seeing my ears but this illusion should help.

Melting into the crowd, she made her way back down to the riverbank and the half-circle of wagons waiting there. Now to find a wagon to take me south.

OOC note: Rohese won't be around for a bit (other than any ongoing OOC business) so I thought I would take the opportunity to follow up on the RP hook from Valyrka last month into extending aid to those in the west if needed. IC letters will be following to certain people -- you know who you are!

Friday, August 25th, 2017, 4:08:32 AM

A Difficult Journey: Part 2

The wagon came to a halt in a sun-dappled clearing and the wagoner helped Rohese down. She was stiff from having spent the entire journey squashed between a rather stout, gruff-looking dwarf and a stack of awkwardly shaped crates filled with live poultry. She welcomed the chance to stretch her legs and breathe freely.

This was the first camp she had encountered. It was only a few hours ride from Bloodriven Village and was fairly small. It appeared to be a recent addition to the wooded area with only twenty or so tents erected around a crudely built, squat wooden building and a couple of fishing boats tied up at a makeshift dock on the nearby riverbank.

It was late afternoon and Rohese didn’t relish the prospect of another uncomfortable journey that day so she made her way over to the building to make enquiries about a place to sleep.

The timber-framed structure was simple in construction having only two storeys and a couple of partitioned rooms. It seemed to serve as a communal hall and inn of sorts. Rohese was pleasantly surprised at the comforts it afforded though; her room was basic but clean and the meal of freshly caught fish served that evening was delicious. She spent a pleasant hour conversing with some of the tent dwellers and learned that they were effectively the overspill from a much larger camp further along the river. They had decided to venture north and set up a quieter community of their own.

The stories they told of their loss were heartbreaking but Rohese’s spirits were uplifted a little by their optimism and desire to make the best of their circumstances. She listened to them share their recollection of the events that unfolded in Talador: how they were forced to leave their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs during the conflict and the countless thousands that had died in the blast that destroyed the Barony.

Some recounted the difficulties of the cold winter months they had endured in the early settlements with little to eat until the supply wagons started to arrive. Others spoke of the kindness they had personally received from the Lady Kasendra Chandrennin. They were keen to add that their dearest wish was to return home, even if that meant starting all over again in the Bleaklands. Rohese felt powerless to help them; all she could do was reassure them that, one day, it might be possible.

She cried herself to sleep that night but at least she slept; exhaustion had finally caught up with her.

The following morning, she reluctantly boarded the wagon again, this time accompanied by a mother and her two young children. The forlorn looking woman had spent the last six months travelling from camp to camp in the hope that her soldier husband had somehow escaped the atrocities and made his way to safety. As they made their way along the Locksmehr River trail, Rohese took the elder child and sat him in her lap whilst the mother nursed the baby. At last, something practical that she could do to help.

Monday, August 28th, 2017, 3:45:04 AM

(OOC NOTE: Just a story about my Platinum Character, Thresher. Excuse typos or mispellings, I wrote it at 3AM hah! Its when I do my best work)

Thresher walked the streets of Duskruin, his hand firmly on his purse as he idly scanned the crowd. The hustle and bustle had been going on since before sunrise. From his room above the tavern, the Paladin had observed the merchants setting up there wares under the soft grey of pre-dawn. As soon as the sun crested the horizon and the light touched the stalls, people had begun to flood the streets. He had watched them from his window, eyes observing how the crowd flowed like a river.

Now he was among them, caught up in the current. Even in this crowded, bustling place however people avoided him. The crowd would jostle each other but seemed to part about him as if he were a stone...which, truth be told, is how he felt. Cold. Dead. Lifeless. Without purpose. He had been to many of the great cities of Elanthia these past few years. He had made the dangerous journey over the Dragonspire mountains. Seeking the call of his God. He had felt it so keenly at first. He remembered the pull of it, the purity, the PURPOSE. The voice he had heard but a handful of times...not a voice you hear with your ears, nor in your mind...but one that spoke to the heart. It had led him to the Landing during those dark times, and whilst he was unsure what purposes his God had, he felt that there was where he would begin.

Then...the silence. What had filled his entire being...gone. And it was his fault. He knew what he was called to do. He worshipped Marlu...Cleanser of Worlds...bringer of peace through destruction. The one who would tear out the corruption of this current existence and replace it with purity. He knew that before the reshaping needs come the fire.

Why had he not struck?

He had stood over the man, the boy really...the one whose life Marlu had called on to be Forfeit. He had every opportunity to strike down and end him...and he had not. The boy lay before him heaving and panting, bloody from the wounds of their duel. And Thresher, named so by his God for what he had been called to do, had just stood there.

From that moment, he had been empty. Devoid. What had filled him and fueled him...gone.

He had sought to repent of his misdeed, but the boy had fled the town. No one knew where he had gone...and still, Marlu had not seen fit to explain to him why the boy needed to die. Death was a mercy...this Thresher knew better than most...and he had refused to impart it upon the poor lad. Exhaling softly, the paladin continued to trudge through the cobbled streets, exhausted emotionally. Since that fateful day he had gone from town to town, preaching the words he had been taught and that he knew to be true...but few listened. Here and there he ran into the Prepared. Families who had nothing, women whom had been broken and beaten and abused, men who had lost everything... such experiences had softened their hearts and made them receptive to the truth. They had given themselves freely, and Thresher had given them the Gift of his God. It gave him a small measure of joy to do so, but again...he still felt empty.

Why had he not struck?

The smells of the bazaar wafted through the air, perfumes from varied lands mixed with the pungent odor of roasted meat. Thresher sneered as the roar from the Arena rose to a crescendo briefly. Another life lost in their abominable 'games'. It was a perversion of the purity of Destruction. He had attended, simply to ascertain the nature of what it was they did...but it was just bloodlust, entertainment for the crowds. Blasphemy! It was such things that reaffirmed his belief in the need for the Cleansing. Such things needed to be done away with, and as always...the only way was the way of the flame.

As he walked, he noticed a line of slaves being led into arena. Creatures of all kinds, chained and forced to fight for the entertainment of others. The crack of the whip and laughter of the slavers offended him and his hand briefly drifted to the hilt of his weapon...but, sighing, Thresher withdrew it. Now was not the time...and even if he were to kill these slavers, there would be more to take their place. He would fall and he would be wasted.

It was as his mind contemplated the idea of drawing and going down in a blaze of glory that he saw him.

The boy, from years ago.

No longer some ruffian, bone thin and unkempt. No no, the boy had grown into a man. And a successful one, if his rainment were any indication. Bands of gold glittered on his fingers as he laughed heartily, his satin, silver trimmed cape dragging as he walked with several Arena officials and merchants. Unable to believe what he was seeing, Thresher edged closer, listening.

As the group of very official and wealthy looking men talked, Thresher despaired. Like lightning, revelation struck. The boy, now a man, was the one who had arranged the Arena and its 'shows'. After their dual, he had fled to Duskruin and somehow risen to power and influence. There he had brutally taken over the local slavers guild and extended their influence in the city ten fold. He had arranged for the enslavement and slaughter of THOUSANDS.

Thresher dropped to his knees and moaned, the passers by glaring at him askance as they hurried to go around him. One sneered and kicked out at him, swearing "Watch where you go, cur! Filthy beast...get off our streets!" But he barely heard. Thresher knew his sin. He had erred, greatly. The so called 'mercy' he had granted that boy, those years ago. Look at what he had wrought! The suffering...he felt it keen as a dagger to the heart. The roar of the Arena observers rose again, and like a dark tide it washed over him.

Barely able to think, Thresher wept openly as he stumbled to his feet. He fled. He did not know where, he could not think. More shouts and yells as he pushed his way through the crowd blindly, shame overcoming him and what he had done...what his inaction had cost.

Minutes...hours...days later...he could not say, he found himself in storefront. The shop, in stark contrast to the streets, was empty...desolate of the push of humanity that swarmed outside. The shelves were dusty and full of odds and ends. Artifacts, antiques...things that Thresher could not begin to even guess at their use. He had calmed some, but sobs still wracked him. The storekeep gave him a bored glance, and went back to perusing the leathery tome before him.

Wiping his eyes, he tried to regain his bearing. It would not do for people to see him in such a state. He was still a representative of his Order, though he felt seperated from his God. As he adjusted his armor, rechecked his purse and was about to leave, a pair of bright teal gloves fell fromt he shelf. Frowning, Thresher bent to pick them up and as his hands touched the fabric a voice whisper in his mind

"My son..."

Thresher blinked and dropped the offending object. What...what was that? That familiar. Tentatively, gently, Thresher reached out again.

"My son...hear me..."

Thresher gasped aloud and the shopkeeper shot him another annoyed glance. "Best make sure you pay for that, or I'll call the guard!" he threatened. Thresher nodded hurriedly and threw his pouch of scrip on the counter as he made his way out into the streets. His heart pounded as he made his way into his room above the tavern and he took the Gloves from his satchel and lay them on the bed. Ensuring the door was bolted, he shut the windows and the blinds and he turned to the bed. Fear played across his features, but a hidden hope had grabbed his heart and would not be outdone by such a pitiful emotion as fear. Grimacing, he grabbed the gloves and felt the sense of 'other' so very, very strong.

"My son...hear me...become one with me..."

Trembling, he reverently pulled the gloves over his bare hands. Immediately he gasped as tentacles slid out and pierced his skin, sliding into his veins, drawing at his essence. But the pain was nothing compared to the rapture he felt as he heard the voice of his God. Thresher wept openly and without shame. Tears fell on the cotton sheets as he once again was filled with Purpose. Never again would he stray from it.

And as tentacles pulsated and drew from him, an alien voice whispering in his mind, telling him what he must do... Thresher knew he need not have feared.

He would never be alone again.

Monday, August 28th, 2017, 12:07:14 PM

A Difficult Journey: Part 3

It hadn’t stopped raining for three days but Rohese was relieved to see that it had at least reduced to a drizzle when she awoke that morning. Somewhat refreshed from her sleep and with her features still masked beneath the illusion, she ventured outside into the crowded camp.

There was a definite autumnal feeling in the air with the smell of loam and wood smoke filling her nostrils. The rain had made the ground muddy and treacherous underfoot but she picked her way carefully around the worst of the puddles and wheel ruts.

Lately she had been struck by the contrast of her time in the refugee camps and the glamour of recent weeks. Fashion Week had been a wonderful interlude but there was no escaping the harsh realities of life outside of cocktail parties and elegant balls. This brief sojourn into the imperial wilderness was a stark reminder that there was no place for silk gowns here.

At first glance the encampment seemed to be a bleak and dreary place but as the sun finally broke through the clouds and hoods were removed, Rohese could see the genuine smiles on people’s faces as they went about their business. The sound of nearby laughter caught her attention and she stepped aside just in time to see a gaggle of geese cross her path, honking and hinking as they tried to elude their keeper.

Her momentary pause was all the more fortuitous because just as Rohese was about to turn away, she overheard a snippet of conversation in which a familiar name was mentioned.

“See that they reach Puptilian, he has been waiting for these supplies.” Two guards walked past, paying no attention to Rohese standing in the doorway. “There’s another shipment on its way from the Free Port but the recent bad weather has delayed it.”

Rohese’s hand instinctively went to the talisman around her neck. She felt her illusion falter for a moment but with a gentle tug, it settled back into its genteel human countenance. Wrapping the fingers of her other hand around the soft leather pouch in her pocket, she smiled. Puptilian would understand why I need to do this.

The guards continued their conversation as they headed towards the nearby watch tower. Once they were out of earshot, Rohese stepped into the Keep and up the narrow staircase to a small chamber on the first floor. She was due to meet with the Green Sisters and finalise arrangements for her journey into the Bleaklands.

Saturday, September 2nd, 2017, 10:40:50 AM

A Difficult Journey: Part 4

The landscape had changed markedly in the last hour. The air was no longer filled with the sound of birdsong or the whisper of wind through the trees. A gloomy silence now hung around them, along with the lingering smell of acrid smoke.

Earlier that morning, Rohese had passed fields filled with crops ready for harvesting and orchards of trees laden with fruit ripe for picking. Her spirits had been lifted by a feeling of hope for the future. But this? This was too much to bear: a wasteland as far as the eye could see. An occasional breeze stirred the dust covering the scorched black earth, causing eddies of choking grey ash to rise and fall around them.

Kasendra’s encampment felt like a lifetime away from the devastation now laid out before her. The thousands of displaced people who had fled the horror had found refuge in the many camps scattered throughout the war-ravaged provinces east of Vornavis. They had made a start on rebuilding their lives but Talador was still their home. With the help of the Green Sisters, perhaps it would one day be possible to return but, faced with this reality, it seemed like a distant dream.

One of the Sisters reached over and gently squeezed Rohese’s hand. Her eyes spoke volumes and it alleviated Rohese’s despair a little. Despite her youth, the young girl that had befriended Rohese back in the camp was both kind and astute. They had talked a lot over the last couple of days and Rohese had confided in her about her true identity. Her name was Tyrie and she had spent the last six months travelling back and forth between the camps and the Bleaklands, in an attempt to restore some life to the once lush Barony. Talador had been her childhood home and, despite her perpetual smile, it was clear that she was still moved by the events of last year.

The wagon eventually came to a halt at the bottom of a shallow valley just as drops of rain started to fall from the dark clouds overhead. Remnants of an ancient oak wood were visible through the undulating piles of ash with skeletal arm-like boughs of fallen trees reaching upwards. A sepulchral silence pervaded the area where the trees no longer stood. Nothing stirred, nothing sang, and nothing shone.

Rohese climbed down and joined the Sisters as they began to clear an area of ground. They worked steadily for a few hours to lift away the debris, not letting the sporadic rain showers hinder their progress. Beneath a pile of charred and broken wood, they found a small patch of sickly yellow grass. Turning their attention to the only sign of life in that whole area, they tended it with water and herbal nutrients. Rohese knew this was the spot she had been looking for.

Taking care not to damage the grass, she knelt on the ground and reached inside her pelisse for the soft leather pouch. She loosened the drawstring to reveal a handful of wrinkled brown acorns. Prior to embarking on this journey, Rohese had made a point of collecting acorns from both the Sylvanfair tree in Wehnimer’s Landing and the Oak Grove surrounding the Ta’Illistim Manse. It seemed only fitting to plant them here.

Bringing them to her lips, she reverently kissed each in turn before gently pushing them into the damp, grassy earth. Sister Tyrie joined her and together they said a prayer over the planted seeds. A single tear tracked down Rohese’s dirt-smudged cheek and landed on the hallowed ground. The clouds parted for the first time that day and a pale yellow sun could be seen hanging low in the sky. Perhaps Lumnis and Imaera had heard their prayer and would bless this ground with a new woodland in the years to come.

Tyrie and Rohese rose to their feet and wordlessly hugged each other. Tyrie was still smiling and it was Rohese’s turn to do the same.

Friday, September 8th, 2017, 6:21:56 AM

A Difficult Journey: Part 5

Dawn had always been her favourite time of day; it heralded new beginnings. Rohese sat on the grassy hillside to watch the sun rise and allowed her thoughts to wander. The golden wash of sunshine broke over the misty horizon and flooded the meadow below with its nourishing warmth. As the burgeoning light crept towards her, she felt refreshed and invigorated. I wonder what joys and sorrows today has in store for me?

Rising to her feet, Rohese straightened her gown. She barely noticed the creases, grass stains, and damp patches anymore. A couple of weeks ago, she would have been horrified at the thought of such shabby attire but it didn’t seem to matter somehow. With a beatific smile, she walked back into the encampment and acknowledged the kind greeting of the gate guards. She had become a familiar face now and, whilst she still missed home, she no longer felt bereft of friends.

She hadn't taken more than a dozen steps through the gate when she was met by a courier. Handing over a folded sheet of matte black paper, he darted away to make another delivery. Rohese opened the letter and wrinkled her nose as a faint scent of manure wafted up from its surface.

Holding the offending sheet as far away from her nose as possible, she quickly scanned the neat lines of text and smiled to herself. Heartfire had clearly found someone to read her letter and duly scribe a response for him. Naamit had cleverly squeezed his rather long dictated reply into every available space and had even managed to capture his little endearing nuances. Pick up some kitten pie from the Pie Shop, indeed.

Just as she folded the letter and tucked it into her pocket, she felt a gentle tug at her skirts and looked down into a pair of familiar brown eyes. It was the little boy she had held on her lap during the initial wagon journey to the camp. A grubby hand reached up to take hers and led her over to a nearby cluster of tents. Following the child with amused curiosity, she discovered his mother seated on a low stool, in the process of milking a goat. Standing next to her was a dark-complected man with the same brown eyes and a baby in his arms.

“Da-da!” The little boy beamed brightly at Rohese, and pointed towards the man who chuckled and nodded. “Yes, son, “I’m your da-da,” he replied, ruffling the little boy’s hair.

Rohese was invited to break bread with the family but politely declined. Despite everything she had experienced lately, she still kept to her daytime fasting regime. She did, however, accept a cup of the freshly drawn goat’s milk and sat with them whilst they joyfully recounted the story of their long-awaited reunion.

Amid all of the joviality, however, Rohese noticed that the little boy kept tugging roughly at the slightly pointed tip of his ear. Pulling him into her lap, she asked him why he was deliberately hurting himself. As the tears welled up in the little boy’s eyes, his father pushed back his black hair, tucking it behind a sharply pointed ear, and Rohese understood.

“Are you teased because of your ears?” she gently asked the little boy, who nodded and tugged angrily at them once more.

“Shall I let you into a secret?” she whispered quietly to him and he nodded again.

Rohese pulled at her talisman, causing the illusion around her to drop, and pushed back the hood of her pelisse to reveal the fine points of her own ears peeking through her pale silver hair. The little boys eyes widened and he reached up to touch them. Flinging his arms around her neck, he kissed her cheek and, with a wide grin, he squirmed out of her lap to join a group of boys who were chasing a plump of ducks. Both parents simply smiled at her and poured more milk into her cup. This humble gesture was enough to reassure Rohese that, no matter what, she was welcome amongst them.

Sipping her milk, she watched the merriment of the children at play and thought about Heartfire having to seek help to read and write. It suddenly dawned on her. Now she knew how she could make a difference. The children were the future and the one thing she understood, more than anything else, was the importance of education; as did her beloved Argent Mirror. She was suddenly excited about all of the opportunities that were now before her. She had so many ideas tumbling around in her head about how she could take this forward. It would be asking a lot of people at home but she had faith in their desire to help too. Today was a joyous day.

Friday, September 8th, 2017, 7:49:05 AM

I absolutely adore these Rohese stories, can't get enough. I think you gave me a case of the feels with this one! WTF, super cute half-elf child. Don't be mean to him about his ears! ::angry face::

Thank you for continuing to share.

Thursday, September 14th, 2017, 1:07:47 PM

A Difficult Journey: Part 6

The light sound of knocking at the door broke Rohese’s meditation. She rose to her feet to open it and was greeted by Tyrie who was smiling widely even as she apologised profusely for having disturbed her.

“Come with me! There’s someone I’d like you to meet,” she announced, leading Rohese eagerly down the narrow stairs.

Wending their way past the clusters of tents, wagons, and animal pens, Tyrie guided her towards a large cream pavilion on the outskirts of the encampment and ducked through the flap.

Despite it being mid-morning, the interior was illuminated by an array of beeswax candles and the air carried the scent of honey and chamomile. Rohese breathed deeply of the familiar aroma and immediately felt calmed; it reminded her of the Library Aies back in Ta’Illistim with its dimly-lit hallways and beeswax polished wood panelling.

Standing at a nearby table, with her back to them both, was a strikingly tall woman dressed in a hooded cloak of vibrantly coloured feathers. Hearing Tyrie and Rohese enter, she turned and walked towards them. Taking both of Rohese’s hands in her own, she bent to rest her forehead on them by way of a greeting.

“I am so pleased to meet you,” she remarked quietly, pushing her hood back to reveal a shock of white hair cut close to her head. “Tyrie has told me so much about you.” The lower portion of her face was concealed by a swathe of white silk but her blue eyes reflected a warm smile and a friendly disposition.

Rohese was rather taken aback but Tyrie was quick to explain that Inula was a Daughter of Lumnis. On hearing about Rohese and her plans, she had requested to meet with her.

“You two have a lot to talk about, I’m sure!” Tyrie declared, kissing both women on the cheek and disappearing back through the flap. Inula laughed lightly and gestured to Rohese to sit.

It was dusk by the time Tyrie returned to find the two women still engaged in conversation and surrounded by a pile of open books and empty teacups.

“I’ve arranged for the wagon to take you to Vornavis in the morning, as requested,” Tyrie said to Rohese, who rose to her feet and nodded in appreciation.

With no word of explanation, Inula offered Rohese a length of airy white silk, similar to her own, and pressed it affectionately into her hands. Rohese closed her eyes for a moment and, making a silent vow to Lumnis, she fixed the veil across the lower part of her face. It was time to get to work. It was time to go home.

Saturday, September 16th, 2017, 8:13:13 AM

A Difficult Journey: Epilogue

Rohese stepped through the door of the Lumnis’ Temple and into the comforting glow of the sconces lining the walls of the Hall of Light. Breathing a sigh of relief, she pushed back her hood and removed the white silk veil from her face. Her measured footfall was muffled by the plush woven rugs covering the marble floor as she made her way purposefully towards the gilded spiral staircase and ascended it.

Continuing past the Pool of Thought, Rohese avoided the temptation to admire the artistry of the ceiling and entered the rotunda at the far end. The Sanctuary of the Journey was one of the most beautiful chambers in the Temple so this time she allowed herself a moment to pause and appreciate the frieze on the entablature overhead. It depicted a journey of trials, sorrows and victories; all the more poignant since her own recent difficult journey.

As well as the impressive architectural sculptures, the chamber also housed a stone altar. Rohese slowly climbed the blue marble steps, mouthing a prayer of blessing for the displaced people of Talador with each footstep. Reaching the Altar of Illumination, she lit a pale ivory chamomile candle and placed it reverently among the votives. The flame flickered slightly on a small draft but steadied to illuminate the shadows with its soft golden glow. To the side, a shallow granite bowl, filled with smoldering sandalwood embers, emitted curling tendrils of perfumed smoke into the air.

Rohese inhaled deeply and felt at peace for the first time in weeks. The combination of a good night’s sleep in her Ebondrift marital bed and the bracing sea air of the Free Port had helped but, most of all, she was just happy to be back in the hallowed halls of her Lady’s Temple.

Help me to walk in your light and live my life with wisdom and understanding. With a final benediction, Rohese clasped her hands in a reverent gesture and headed back down the stairs. Stepping into the Solhaven sunlight, she fixed the white silk veil back across her mouth and began the last stage of her journey; the one that would finally take her home to Ta’Illistim.