Call of the Darkness

/ By Nullification [+Watch]

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Juniper glanced up when Taog appeared and eyed the jug. Her experience with wine had been a little hazy and she wasn’t sure how they would do keeping watch with wine in their system but it was better than water. She sat up a little and took a drink from the jug, watching Taog as she did so. Take turns? Oh yeah, so neither of them were sleeping on horseback come tomorrow. She rubbed her eyes and got comfortable, she doubted anything would happen out here, but then again she didn’t know these lands. She settled in a little and yawned. Taog looked more awake than her and she wasn’t sure if she could even sleep with everything going on around them. It would be difficult and Juniper figures she would sleep whenever it claimed her.
“Do you think they’ll send us off alone?” In the vision Tian had shown her, there had only been herself and Taog. She hadn’t seen any of the others. That wasn’t to say they weren’t there but hadn’t Taog mentioned some sort of battle?

Juniper looked up at the tree branches hanging lowly above and got to her feet. Being on the ground when one had wings meant she was a sitting target and making herself vulnerable. She didn’t know how well Taog could climb, if at all. She climbed up the base of the tree and looked down at Taog from her new perch.
“You sleep first, I can keep watch.” It gave her a better vantage point too, and a chance to stretch her wings in the moonlight. The mottled brown, moth-like appendages spread and retracted and Juniper watched the surrounding area. She figured she could keep watch for a few hours at the very least but she was more worried about Ren and what he was. She stretched her limbs and lazily watched the pockets of people below. Some went to sleep, others kept watch in a rotation and she guessed it was a nice enough system.

Juniper mindlessly fiddled with some leaves that she plucked from the branch, rolling them around in her fingers. It was easier to think when she was fiddling with something but her mind was as clouded as ever and she still didn’t have the answers she desperately wanted. She didn’t think they would. Juniper spent her time watching the area, nothing really came of it but she did feel like she was being watched, trying to place it and finally seeing Ren staring at her unblinkingly and she frowned. It was uncomfortable because she wasn’t even sure if it was his eyes she was seeing. She saw another group do a rotation and figured she should wake Taog. She hopped down, wings spread to cushion her and slow her fall as she landed soundlessly, leaning down and touch his shoulder.
“Tao.” She murmured quietly, being as soft as she could to rouse him, “It’s your turn.” She said as she turned her gaze to Ren only to find him gone from the entrance of his make-shift tent. Weird.
  Juniper / Nullification / 26d 16h 14m 54s
Once all the fires were lit, Barut waved him off. Taog waited around until he could have some food and crouched down near the fire to eat and observe. So many of the community were out all at once now. It felt like a gathering almost, like the feast had been. There was even sweet fruit-water, wine, that Barut was drinking together with some others. The atmosphere seemed more relaxed than before at the caves somehow, as if everyone agreed that their current journey was better than remaining in a single place. If they were going north however, Taog wondered how they would come by food. Cold meant fewer plants, fruits and roots to gather. He wondered whether that meant the group would hunt animals instead. Juniper would hate that.
It wasn't natural for Fey to venture north, unless their element demanded it.
Taog caught sight of Ren. He was being walked into one of the shelters they'd built out of the side of a cart and some leathers. Rope tied it all together into a sheltered hideout, safe from outside influences. More of those had been erected. Young and elders gathered while the able and strong remained outside around the fires, keeping watch.
Taog did believe Ren's memories could give them more clues on what the Great One really was, but Tian would've already done that too, right? As his better, Tao decided he would have to trust her to have seen it. Barut hadn't seemed to mind however, when they'd encountered the first time.
Fir came at him then, giggling as she held a jug. She pressed a finger against her lips, "here," she told Taog. He took the clay jug and gave her a confused look.
"We're expected to keep watch. Only one of you sleeps at a time," Fir explained. "To bide your time," she motioned at the jug. Taog pulled the cork and sniffed, recognizing the scent. He was about to return the jug, but then reconsidered. Trading things was never a bad idea. A gift was a gift, after all.
"Thank you," Tao said at last and got up, venturing over to where Juniper sat. He crossed Tian on the way and the older woman gave him a nod. Taog sat down near the fire, legs folded at the ankles. "Fir gave me this," Taog offered. They could share.
"We're to take turns keeping watch," he said. Undoubtedly he'd have to tend some of the fires, if people went to asleep as well. It was better to have a burning fire during the night than just embers. Predators didn't like it when the flames were up high. The scent scared them off.
"They seem happy to travel," Taog concluded. He could practically feel their relief. Were they that afraid of the Great One's wrath?
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 26d 16h 37m 44s
Juniper smiled a little at Taog’s reaction, a break in the tension and heavy atmosphere. She finished washing her face as Barut approached and stole away Taog to use his flames for the fires. Juniper thought she might be left alone but Mirriam approached and requested her help with some of the horses and making sure they got a good rest. Juniper wouldn’t have minded being catered to the way the horses were but she knew it was an obsolete thought to have. She took care of a few nicks and scratches and watched everyone settle around a few campfires. She inspected a chestnut horse who had managed to drop lame on the journey, it was nothing serious and she instilled a little healing light into the mare before straightening. It was mostly peaceful here, she felt more comfortable surrounded by tall trees and plants. Barut has some wine, well she supposed it was wine given how relaxed he looked with Mirriam and Tian nearby. Eritreya was keeping a close watch on things and Juniper sighed out softly. She avoided to wagon with Ren inside, seeing only to the horses as instructed.

Juniper glanced over to one of the nearest fires and settled by it, taking off her cloak to allow it to air out for tomorrow and Taog’s flames were always a little warmer somehow. Fire was part of nature, was it not? She knew she would never master its manipulation but maybe part of them working together would be finding ways to use one another in such a way. Taog had mentioned using Ren’s memories for help but she was worried about how that could work. The Great One could be spying using Ren as a simple vessel so lingering around him could prove dangerous but they did need more information. It was a risky move and she figured Taog would have to be the one because Juniper couldn’t harvest Ren’s memories like he could. She wasn’t even sure what she could do to help in these situations beside offer gentle healing and a few cracked rocks. Juniper felt like prey being stalked, ever since leaving their designated path and running into Barut and this caravan of rebellious creatures from far and wide. The Council would come looking, surely, or maybe they would simply write them off as being lost or dead. Somehow, Juniper didn’t think they would just let them get away with this.

What if there was some small part of Ren left? There must have been for him to escape and make it back amongst supposed friends and companions, or was it all just a ruse to have Barut and the others pity him? Juniper didn’t know and she wasn’t sure if anyone else would know either. Having Ren around was risky so there must be a reason for Barut to keep him around. Soft music was playing and Juniper leaned back against a tree trunk, it was nice like this, out in the open. She figured there wasn’t any real pecking order like this because no one could secret away in different caves or in little clusters. Juniper watched the world these people had created, always on the move and never able to settle. Would the Council and the Great One really murder these people simply for having a different opinion?
“If you keep forgetting to eat, you’re going to struggle.” Tian remarked as she handed her a bowl of warm soup and Juniper started from her thoughts, bewildered. She took the bowl with a guilty expression at forgetting again and stirred the contents thoughtfully.
  Juniper / Nullification / 26d 18h 29m 19s
Of course not, but Taog didn't think many were privy to how the sacrifices happened. Perhaps other Seers would know, but Tao felt it would be hard to see, the same way he'd been denied seeing more of his father. They could only see what they did, because of Ren and their own possible futures. Either way it wouldn't change anything for them now. The likelihood of ever returning to the Vale was too small to ever confront their caregivers with this knowledge. And then if they did, would they not react similarly to Juniper at first? With disbelief and too much shame to admit they'd been wrong?
Ren did know what Juniper had seen, because he'd lived it.
Juniper said what he'd thought; that Ren might be a vessel for the rot, to allow the Great One to see through him somehow. Taog also thought Tian and Barut knew this, which was why Ren wasn't allowed out of the caves and why Ren was stuck in a cart with no way to see outside. Maybe something of Ren still remained, something that warranted compassion. Tao didn't know and it wasn't his place to judge.
"Ren's memories might teach us," Taog said. Unlike the visions of their unwanted future, Ren's memories were a truth. They had happened. Maybe it was the last of Ren that was left, those memories. Something he'd held onto so that people might learn and change their destiny.
Tao liked to believe there was some good in everyone.
Nothing happened without a reason. That wasn't what he'd seen in the world he'd observed in the Vale and beyond.
They rode until the light waned and they would have to use what light was left to make camp. With this amount of people, that would take time, but it seemed they'd come quite prepared. Taog was glad to finally dismount and stretched out his stiff muscles. Sitting on a horse all day did nothing for the muscles that still ached because of training the day before. And they'd have another few days of travelling ahead of them too. Tao stroked his horse's neck and started to undo some of the straps so it could cool off and drink. He set down his saddle when Juniper called him over. Curious, the half-Fey crouched close, only to get splashed with water.
"Hey!" he protested, surprised more than anything.
His skin hissed in places at the droplets. Tao shook the water from his skin, dry before he could even completely rise. Payback, was it? Fine, he'd deserved that.
He sat down near the water and stretched his legs. Barut came up, not giving him a chance to rest, "come, help build the fires," he told Taog.
Tao rolled his eyes, but got back up with a groan and followed Barut. He helped light the fires that were built, taking care to give each flame the proper intensity it needed to get embers that would keep them alive for the night. Pots were brought out. Food was shared around from the carriages and Taog could smell soup.
Travelling in a pack was hard work.
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 26d 18h 46m 22s
Juniper wasn’t really sure how Taog and other Seers managed all of this. The visions were terrifying and she supposed that there would be calm visions, nicer ones but she had seen nothing nice in Tian’s shared moments. Juniper stared at Taog,
“Mercy?!” She looked shocked, “A mercy for who. Taog if they knew how he did it, how it left us before we died, it’s not a mercy.” Taog was so calm, like he was just accepting this was what happened to him. The thought of Drit was betrayal and Juniper had never felt any sort of hurt so deeply before. She had trusted him completely and he had taken that trust and spat it back in their faces so easily. Juniper had no idea who to trust anymore or what to place her faith in because she had been toyed with and she felt like some pawn in a great game. Everything had been mapped out from the start and Juniper just wanted to rest and maybe hide for the rest of her life.

“Rot?” Juniper looked confused and thought for a while, following Taog’s gaze to where Ren was being carried along.
“He was standing in the hallway after Tian let me go.” She said to Taog quietly, “He just stood and stared, like he knew what I’d seen.” Juniper said to him and thought back on it. She glanced to Taog at his apology.
“I’m not going to let it happen, you know? For us to die like that.” She said and fell quiet for a while as she thought. If Ren was hollow then why did he watch, and what was he watching. She stroked the tufts of her horses mane in between her fingers as she tried to think.
“Taog- What if Ren is a vessel?” Juniper said softly, “If his eyes aren’t his, if he’s empty and full of rot, then why does he watch?” She asked and she knew it was likely not making any sense but she was worried that if she was right, then the Great One was watching their every move. Taog was right, they needed to get stronger.

Juniper had to get stronger if they were to have any hope of wiping that future from ever happening. The sound Tao had made when the blade entered would haunt her, if it did happen then she wanted to die first so she wouldn’t ever have to endure it.
“We shouldn’t see Ren again.” She said to Taog slightly and looked over, “In case he tries to share his memories with you, I don’t like it.” She murmured, something was off and she was scared for them both. She offered up a small smile to Taog,
“We will get stronger, I don’t think we’ll let it happen to us.” She promised because Juniper would rather die any other way than like that, even if she has to take her life herself. She was exhausted by the time the caravan of bodies came to a stop to rest, dismounting her horse and grateful they weren’t unloading the wagons yet.
“Another few day of travelling and we’ll be in a new place for at least a week.” Barut remarked in passing and Juniper went to rinse her face at the river.
“Tao.” She called and gestured him over, looking thoughtful. Once he got close enough, she splashed him with some of the river water.
“Payback, for last time.” She said with a small laugh.
  Juniper / Nullification / 27d 7h 35m 19s
It disturbed Taog that he didn't remember Tian bringing him back, or Juniper going with her. Juniper was right to fear him losing reality for dreams, even though he'd been adamant that wouldn't ever be the case. Apparently it had been. Tao wasn't sure why that unsettled him the way it did. He listened to what Juniper said. Tian made her look into the water and Juniper had seen something too, a gift shared among Fey it seemed. For some reason, Juniper seemed pained as she continued. Had she lied about her arm not hurting? No. That wasn't it.
She'd seen the man with the dagger.
Older? So it was something that might still happen? Taog had dreamt of so much lately, that it was hard to piece it all together. Juniper had seen them die.
Taog wanted to apologize, but his throat felt dry and the words wouldn't come.
"I think Elroch might have considered it mercy," Tao said. A half-Fey with his powers, cursed amongst even the other half-races? It'd be mercy to be taken away and reborn or recreated at something else, probably. At least then his existence would have served some purpose.
"I don't think they knew the ways," he ventured. They must've known they were to be sacrificed for peace to the Greater One, which was an honour amongst many races, but to willingly lead them to a torturous death or barely-existence... no. He didn't think either Drit or Elroch could be that cruel.
Tao sighed.
"I saw shadows yesterday. A rot," Taog explained. It was difficult to put to words how vile he'd felt upon seeing those visions, but he'd promised to tell Juniper. Maybe she would believe him, now that she'd seen some of it herself. He shook himself, then took a deeper breath to steel himself. Yesterday's visions had been laced with the real world in a way which left them very jumbled and confusing. Taog realized it was easier if he slept and dreamt without anything to distract.
North. It would be cold. Taog wasn't that worried for himself. His natural gift would make sure he'd stay warm, as long as there was sunlight.
"I don't trust Ren. You were right. Something is off. I dreamt he was rotten inside too," Taog said. His eyes were on the carriage that had Ren inside of it. Why did the Seers keep him around? Surely Tian already knew that something was wrong about having Ren with them? Was it a case of 'keep your enemy close'? Perhaps by having Ren close, they learned of the Great One's intentions.
"I... I'm sorry you had to see that."
Taog was sure he'd seen Ren get stabbed, not Juniper and himself. He was sure it had felt more close, more painful to see it like that.
"We need to become stronger," Taog decided. As they were right now, they weren't able to fight or even interfere in what was happening.
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 27d 8h 4m 8s
Taog approached and she honestly didn't know what to say. There was no easy way to explain what she had seen and she had to wonder how Tao managed to even start with explanations.
"No, my arm is fine." She assured him with a small smile, she tried to mull over to explain to him. He likely already knew what was going on but she hadn't really seen it. She had just stood by and watched what Tian showed her. She chewed at her lip, hanging back a little to gain some semblance of privacy with Taog. She didn't know how much else the others knew and she didn't want to cause panic or stress.
"Tian came to see me, after she brought you back." Juniper said, chewing on her words because she didn't want to get this wrong. Her whole life had been spent eating up the stories of how wonderful life could be and how everything would be made right if she was Chosen. There had been some amount of hope for her to be normal and beautiful and almost completely Fey. Not anymore.

"She let me look into the water in that cavern." She continued as she glanced over to Taog, to make sure he was following what she was saying. It hurt to speak the words out into the world because that just made them more true if she did it this way.
"I saw you, but I was just watching. I saw [i him]." She said and drew in a breath, "I know what you said you saw, in your nightmare, that it wasn't a lie." It couldn't be simple coincidence that they both mentioned a knife and saw it plunge. Juniper swallowed a little and fiddled absently with the hem of her cloak hood.
"I saw it. I saw you, I saw him with the knife and I heard you. You were older, he brought the knife down and-" She added, not wanting to ever speak the words that she had seen him murdered so coldly like he had been. Maybe this was all still a lie but Juniper knew now, Tian's little plot to open her eyes had worked and it was clear as the day was long that she was defeated by it.

"I spent my whole life- Do you think Drit knew? Elroch? When they sent us off, that we would be killed in such an awful way?" She asked him. It wasn't just death, Juniper knew every being died some day but to be drained entirely, like Ren and left a shallow husk of what he once was was somehow worse than death. Juniper couldn't even imagine the pain it would bring, to have their magic stripped from them.
"I'm sorry that I didn't believe you." She said to him, apologetically and far too submissively. She didn't know what would happen to them now, maybe they were just destined to be hidden away and run from that particular future but Juniper really didn't want to believe that others would be merrily sent to such a fate either. It had to stop, the lies had to stop because now she knew, it turned her stomach to think that others would be going to a slaughter.
"They mentioned north." Juniper mumbled, switching the grim topic to what little she knew of where they were going.
  Juniper / Nullification / 27d 11h 5m 34s
Rather than fighting, Taog got put to work hauling items. Pots, pans, blankets, furs, wood, food. Everything and anything was put on the wagons that would carry them further into the mounts, from what he understood Barut had said. Taog didn't complain, but he was grateful for the moment everything was finally done. He was reunited with his brown mare and slung his cloak around his shoulders. It was still quite warm, but thankfully nothing near what yesterday was like.
Eritreya gave him his pole to carry as well.
A warrior lived and breathed by his weapon, he'd said. Taog figured that meant he'd be expected to defend their caravan if need be and accepted the role. That said, they were still put in the back of the line. The trained men were at the front, amongst which Barut. In the middle were the vulnerable carriages.
Taog decided to wear his gloves just to hide his half-Fey nature from sight if he had to. Who knew what roads they might travel? Their time to hunt and forage would be cut short by travelling. Barut hadn't said where they would go. Apparently it was best very few people knew. Taog wouldn't be surprised if the Great One would be able to see like Tian did. Maybe that's what the Seers were doing, preventing them from being seen.
It was because of them they were travelling. Taog was well aware of it, no matter what Mirriam said.
Tao found Juniper and guided his horse to ride alongside her.
"Morning," he started, a little apprehensive. The last few days they hadn't had to hide. It felt like he'd gotten to know Juniper a lot more as well. They might not agree on all fronts, but they got along well enough. Her posture seemed less rigid, more defeated somehow. Taog cocked his head and tried to figure out what it was, but had to admit there would always be things he wouldn't comprehend.
"Are you okay?" Tao asked in the end.
Juniper had been tired the other day and her arm had been heated. Maybe she was hurt.
"No one will say where we're going," he said, trying to ease the atmosphere a little. Tao glanced to the side, "is your arm alright?" He had no idea Tian had taken Juniper aside yesterday to see what he had already seen days prior. Yesterday's visions had mostly been about the past rather than the future. Taog didn't think Juniper would be that interested in what he'd seen. Most of the things couldn't be placed into context, Taog felt.
He didn't think that had been Tian's intent.
Taog wondered how he could learn more about visions and how to block people out. That man had blocked him in a similar way. He was curious after that and how to control his dreaming better.
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 27d 11h 24m 40s
Juniper didn’t want to get up, she didn’t want to give up everything and she just wanted to hide away. She heard Taog move in the morning, she heard the noises ebb away and she half hoped they had forgotten her. No such luck as Mirriam entered.
“Well, you look ghastly.” Mirriam remarked at Juniper’s bloodshot eyes and lack of any proper rest.
“No training today, we’re moving.” She said and Juniper startled at her like she was insane. Moving where? Mirriam has spoken with Tian who had revealed the world to the two youngsters and she sighed softly. Juniper was bound to take it hard but Taog was the stronger of the two, he knew the world and its cruelties much better than Juniper ever had.
“Let’s go.” She said and Juniper figures it was better to just oblige no matter how tired she felt. It was mechanical as she got her cloak and headed down.
“Make sure all the horses are ready, heal any who are lame.” Mirriam remarked as she went about doing the same thing.

Juniper felt down the legs of the horses, she checked for any lumps or bumps, any cuts and if she found them then she healed them so the horses would be fit for a journey.
“Where are we going?” She finally asked Mirriam as she saw to her own black horse.
“We keep moving. The Council will track us if we stay in one place.” She pointed out and Juniper shrugged a bit. She was tired, defeated. Everything she had ever been told was a lie, did Drit know? Had he so willingly sent her to her death? The thought stung and she wondered how many had died then, how many young children were eagerly awaiting being selected only to go and see themselves cut by a sharp blade. The thought made her sick.
“We’ll find somewhere to camp, it’ll get colder if we keep heading north.” She pointed out and Juniper has to say she had never really experienced cold. The Vale was so well sheltered and it never seemed to snow. Maybe when she was younger and she couldn’t remember.
“Everyone get ready to leave, we’ll make as best time as we can.” Barut was talking but Juniper didn’t look up as she helped to load things into a caravan of wagons and carriages. She would ride alone, on her lovely steed. Carriages were put aside for the elderly or the young and the supplies.

Juniper climbed atop the black stallion and looked to see Ren being helped into a wagon. They were still taking him with them? She had her bow attached to her back and her wings were veiled by the cloak she had received. She wasn’t sure what was going to happen to her and this many people travelling was bound to attract attention. She fixed her hair out of her face and beneath her hood. They still had to be careful but she figured everyone would know, everyone would sneer at them for being deserters and no one would even believe their stories. They couldn’t believe it and she knew she would react the same way if anyone ever told her these things. Now she knew though, and she couldn’t help but feel wounded by it all.
  Juniper / Nullification / 27d 16h 1m 30s
Taog woke in the dark. It took him a while to realize they were in one of the caves. He was on a soft surface, but he felt stiff and sore from yesterday's training still. Or was it the herbs Tian made him drink? Tao pulled a face at remembering the taste and tried to recall what had happened after that and drew a blank. Juniper was there, Taog realized once his eyes were adjusted to the darkness. Tian had made him try and stay awake, but maybe he'd fallen asleep after all?
Taog scratched his head and sighed out.
He was still somewhat warm, but it wasn't anywhere near to what it had been yesterday. Hunger gnawed on his stomach. Tao stretched out and stood, wistful for their fire. It'd been nice to feel its presence, though Taog agreed with not sleeping near a fire the way he'd let his magic slip uncontrolled yesterday. He would try harder today.
In the dark like this, without the fire's embers to tell the time by, Taog was a little lost. All he had to go on was his empty stomach and the pale headache accompanying the foul taste of herbs to know he'd slept off something nasty again.
It tasted like the Council's brew.
So Tian knew about it too? Was it a Seer thing then, to know those herbal concoctions? He'd ask her next time, Tao decided.
He kneeled next to Juniper, who was hidden underneath a blanket. Was her arm alright after yesterday? She'd been tired. Taog decided he would let her sleep then and wandered the halls back into the main hall. He was early, it seemed. Some people were up, tending to their chores. Without question, Taog took his on as well. As always, the animals he fed were eager for their food.
"Up already?" Fir called out with a smile. She was stretching, greeting the sun. Tao gave her a nod. Why wouldn't he be?
"After Tian's training session, I didn't expect you would be," she said, as if reading the question on his face. Was he that obvious?
Taog would have to admit he could do without the headache yesterday's training and herbs had given him, but he was awake now. Maybe it was the flame in him that gave him energy, especially after yesterday's fight-training. Even after giving Juniper some of his.
"We only need two pails today," Fir instructed him on milking the cows they kept.
"Readying up to leave is tiring work," she complained, groaning as she crouched down to pick up a tool. Taog's step faltered.
"Leave?" he asked. "Where to?"
"Oh, didn't Barut tell you? Well, they'll announce it sooner rather than later," the woman said. It wasn't a complete surprise, but Taog still felt it was moving quicker than he'd hoped. He stood there for a moment, until Fir started to chop wood and Taog was stirred into finishing his chores too. Did that mean they would come along, or would they be left behind? Taog knew that the man he'd seen would come because of him. Or was moving something these people always did? His vision yesterday about the caves past hadn't felt particularly old, somehow. The people he recognized hadn't aged much. Not notably so.
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 27d 16h 19m 1s
Juniper glanced over when there was movement and sat up, groggily upon seeing Tian with Taog who was asleep. She wondered for a moment if he was alright or if something had happened. Tian was reassuring though, and she was one of the softer presences here. Had she been helping with Taog’s visions, it seemed that way. She glanced over Taog and for a split second was reluctant to leave him but he would be safe here, nothing untoward had happened to them whilst staying here with these people. If anything they had become stronger and more resilient but she was still doubtful of their stories. Food, yeah she should probably eat something or pay the price for it tomorrow. Juniper got to her feet properly, the odd ache bothering her ever so slightly. She didn’t want to have to think about anything but the way that Tian was talking told her that she was likely not just going to eat.
“I’ll show you.” Tian said quietly to her and lead her down some halls and up to the ethereal cavern. She didn’t like it here, she had never been around Seers.

“He can’t show you, look into the pool. It will be brief.” Tian remarked gently . Her words were soft and inviting and honestly, she wasn’t sure at this stage. Juniper sat at the edge of the pool,
“Don’t touch the waters, Juniper. Just watch.” Tian moved to the other side and gestured for the Fey to look down at what was going on. At first, Juniper could see nothing but shifting waters with their glow like effect casting the icy blue hue of the room but she kept looking. She was supposed to see something, she could tell but she wasn’t Seer.
“Contact your magic.” Tian remarked and Juniper frowned a little. Her earthly magic had nothing to do with any of this but she figured it was worth a shot, they hadn’t failed her before. Before she could say anything, the waters shifted and changed, the surface vibrating and she swallowed thickly. She wanted to reach out and touch it but she couldn’t, she knew she shouldn’t. Devastation greeted her, a tall, cracked castle and dark rooms. She could hear the shrieking and wailing from inside, she could feel the death of magic and this unending presence. Something dark and something monstrous. Tian was sharing with her, calm and cool as the water had once been.
“Make it stop.” Juniper managed to get out, the destruction of every dream she had ever held onto. It didn’t stop. Taog was there, older one the eyes and the face and dread filled Juniper. She could see herself strapped down and the glint of a sharp blade cut through. She didn’t feel any pain but she watched the blade plunge down into Taog first, his cries piercing and then it was Juniper. She couldn’t see the beings face, she couldn’t see who the perpetrator was but she knew.

Juniper pulled back from the pool, gasping and looking around wildly.
“What was that?!” She demanded, voice cracked and terrified.
“That is what could come to be. It is not set in stone and you both have already shifted the path. It is what happened to Ren and those who came before him. It is what will happen to you and Taog at his hands. I am sorry Juniper but you had to understand.” Juniper was already getting to her feet. Food be damned and everything else be damned, she had trusted Taog but she had still cling to some feeble hope that this could all just be a ruse and silly people who were scorned they had never been chosen. She shuddered as she made to leave the room and Tian did not stop her. She was still calm, used to giving out bad news,
“You should rest.” Tian said and Juniper scoffed before heading down the corridors and stopping when she realised Ren was standing out in the open of the hallway, his eyes on her. Empty and hollow, Juniper froze under the stare. Ren said nothing, he didn’t do anything and instead just stared at her for a moment. Had he endured that knife and had his magic sapped?
“I’m sorry.” Juniper whispered quietly, like a frightened child before pushing past him and heading back to the privacy her and Taog now had. She curled up under the blanket, afraid now and like a toddler who had seen the monster in the closet.
  Juniper / Nullification / 27d 17h 59m 54s
It was harder than he thought to stay awake. Tian slapped his wrist several more times. Taog started to recognize when there was a pull and when to resist, how to resist, but that didn't make it easier. He was wearing down, despite having had the time to recharge under the sun. Or maybe that's what made it harder. Even though he wasn't allowed to sleep, the dreams still happened. Rather, Taog saw them while he was awake, seeing both images overlap. Was that what had happened during the fight?
It was difficult to properly focus on the dreams this way. Or visions, as it turned out to be. Taog saw some of the cavern's history, saw how the Chosen selected this cave and started to gather. Barut and Tian were amongst the first ones, convincing new Chosen again and again that the Great One was nothing but a lie. Or perhaps more dangerous than a lie. Taog dreamt of darkness, rotting away plants, killing animals. He dreamt of an empty husk, moving as if controlled by something else. Someone that couldn't be trusted any longer.
He looked like Ren.
Had the Great One let Ren go, or had Ren managed to survive?
Taog started to doubt. Not about the path they'd chosen, but about Ren. Did the Great One know about their community? Did he 'allow' it? Condone, perhaps? Another slap on his wrist. Taog snapped back to the cave. He brought up his hand and clumsily brushed his eyes. Tian stared at him.
"...Taog?"
Had she been calling him before?
Tao wasn't sure. Reality was blending together with the visions and it was hard to distinguish one from the other.
"Up, young one," Tian nudged him.
"Can we trust Ren? He is empty, a shadow puppet," Tao heard himself say. The words were distant and a little slurred. Tian stalled, glancing over at the others. Taog was falling back asleep and she clacked her tongue. He'd had enough for one day. It was imperative Taog learned how to resist the pull, so that he might awaken at will, rather than be subject to the flow of dreams. But the boy was worn down, Tian could tell.
Another, younger seer brought over the brew she would give Taog, so that he might sleep without dreams and rest that way. She would have to teach Tao what herbs to mix, so that he might enhance or dull his senses to gain better control over his abilities. It was obvious that while the other Fey taught Taog how to control his fire, no one had paid mind to the other half of him.
"Drink this," Tian said, feeding Taog the foul brew. The half-Fey was listless and barely resisted. Together with the other, Tian managed to get Taog up and half-carried him into the room she'd discussed they get for the newcomers. Only half-aware of what was going on, Taog gave in to lying down and was grateful everything came to a stop moments after. He was asleep before Tian could leave the room.
"He will sleep for a while," Tian told Juniper. "Did you eat? Come, child," she invited. Dreams would convince Taog, but Juniper was a different story altogether. She would need to be eased into the idea of the world being a worse place than she thought.
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 27d 18h 37m 46s
Juniper nodded to Taog,
"I'm alright." She said to him quietly, "It's fine, really. I was tired." She inspected her arm, nothing overly harmful and she looked up when Barut called Taog over. She rolled her shoulders a bit and watched Taog leave, she didn't like it when he just left, they still didn't know these people and she wasn't entirely sure she trusted all of them, let alone the ones she didn't know. She felt more tired now. She rubbed her head and let the sun replenish her a little.
"Where did Taog go?" She asked when Mirriam approached, "Did we do something wrong?" She murmured quietly and she was worried maybe they were trouble but Barut had said he wanted them to work together and they were trying.
"No, sweetheart." Juniper couldn't tell if she was being honest or not.

"Don't look so worried. You two are doing well but you need to be careful." Mirriam advised with a small smile before getting Juniper to her feet with a small laugh.
"Impressive though, Tian is taking care of Taog for now. Here, let's practice the bow." Ranged attacks would be good for the youngster and she watched as Juniper practiced for an hour or so more before she figured that the girl deserved a rest.
"Go and eat." She said and took the bow from Juniper who just nodded. She had hoped she would see Taog at the fire they had claimed but he wasn't there.
"Here, they set up a side room for you both." Eritreya pointed down one of the caverns and gave a small smile. It would at least be more comfortable for the two and given their time was limited in the area then they would at least be more rested. Juniper thought for a moment and figured that if Taog was anywhere then he would be there, right? No such luck as she eyed the small cavern and she figured it wasn't much but it was more private and a touch cosier than simply sleeping in the open cave entrance.

She sat dejectedly on one of the straw beds, clumsily put together and thought for a while. Taog's magical ability was fierce and it was ferocious but it hadn't hurt her. She looked over her arm before lying back on the bed. It wasn't like back at the Vale and she looked up at the ceiling of the cave. She yawned a little and stretched a bit, crossing her legs. She should've eaten but she was too tired to bother getting back up and it was comfortable, her muscles protesting every little movement and bruises were forming. Mirriam really took no prisoners when it came to fighting like she did but Juniper had come to understand there was a deep set lesson to learn from it. Their foes and their enemies wouldn't go easy on them.
  Juniper / Nullification / 28d 6h 7m 26s
Juniper agreed. The other half-Fey reached out and Taog hesitated momentarily. His magic had run wild earlier, was he able to control it? Maybe this was more so a test for himself rather than Juniper. He didn't tell that to her. Tao took Juniper's hand and focussed on their entwined fingers, the magic flowing easily like the water, gentle like the breeze. Even so, Taog was aware his fire magic was intense right now. It was so even to him. He felt it flow and flow, until Juniper directed it and then there was a sudden snap.
The rocks shattered.
Juniper's hand slipped away from his and Taog watched her. Was she alright? He felt a little more grounded now, but it actually served to make him a little more comfortable.
"Your arm..." Tao started. Juniper dipped the heated skin in the water and he relaxed slightly. There were no blisters or burns at least. Her skin just seemed red where they'd touched.
"Was it too much?" Taog asked, curious.
He sat back, watching Juniper cool her arm.
Maybe he'd been too distracted because of the heat. That and Juniper had been tired. They shouldn't have. Taog rested back on his arms, thinking.
Barut came up, signalling him to come over. Taog cast Juniper a look, but then grabbed his pole and stood. Barut's eyes were still on Juniper. Had he seen their cooperation? Maybe Mirriam had felt it.
Either way, Barut seemed to be in a mood.
"Tian would see you, go to her," he instructed.
No magic practise? Still, Taog didn't resist. Perhaps Barut hadn't been aware of his other half. Taog hadn't understood it very well himself either, though Tian and the others must have known. Was it more important he control his dreams than it was his fire magic? Reluctantly, Tao left the cool river in exchange for the caves. They felt stifling, but the Earthy current was cooler than outside at least. He put the pole aside and wandered the hallways down to where they'd encountered Ren and then further down.
Tian was already waiting, but rather than invite him close to the scrying pool as she had done before, she stood and wandered over.
"I want you to stay awake, young Taog," she instructed.
His expression was that of confusion.
Awake? What was the point of that? Tian merely chuckled at his face and then pointed out a spot. Taog looked at Tian with something of wariness, but carefully climbed over and sat. He didn't have a direct line of sight to the scrying pool from here, but he felt its pull regardless. Tao shook his head and took a deep breath. That just seemed to make matters worse. Drowsiness threatened to overwhelm him.
A slap on his wrist.
"Stay awake, fight it."
Tao wasn't sure how to. He was sleepy. Staying out in the sun made him closer to dreams. It was that much harder to resist and stay awake than it had been last time, but last time Taog had given in, thinking he was supposed to. Despite being awake, Taog did start to see dreams flutter by. At first he thought it belonged, but slowly, Taog started to realize the person he saw wasn't actually there. She wasn't moving with the rest of the world. Her motions were as if she was talking to someone else. Taog looked over to see another man. Someone of the Council? Were they having a discussion? The image was hazy and disappeared after a few moments. Fighting sleep was giving him a headache.
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 28d 9h 28m 13s
Juniper relaxed somewhat, seeing he wasn't hurt at all. She watched him for a few moments, wary almost. He said he was alright, he just seemed so on edge and she could sense his magic, it was like the air around him fizzed with energy.
"A hot day?" She tilted her head, he had mentioned something about his powers being accelerated throughout the warm days, like soaking energy from the sun. She was taken by surprise at the splash of water that managed to soak her face and neck.
"Hey!" She exclaimed and watched him, shaking her head and stifling a disapproving laugh at his antics. He seemed more at ease and that was a nice thought to have, that he seemed to be much less tense, enough to have some fun at least. She looked out to the boulders he spoke about in the water and she sighed a bit.

His magic or not, it was going to be difficult. She was exhausted and her bruising had tired her out and she sat at the edge of the river. She looked Taog over and he certainly seemed to have the magic to spare. Sharing their magic when things were like this could be risky though, could he ease it into her gently or would it come in a burst that would threaten to scorch her flesh? Juniper figured there was only one way to know and they had both had enough for the day.
"Alright, let's try this." She said, she did trust Taog because he hadn't hurt her before now. She reached out and took his hand, hopping into the water, hanging back as far as she could so she wasn't in deep enough to spoil her wings. She could feel his magic, almost immediately like a spark of electricity. She held tighter to his hand, it felt hotter this time around. She focused, using his magic and converting it to her own, or at least trying to. It was difficult but after a moment she felt more grounded.

The littering of rocks shattered, almost immediately which was brought on by a burst of energy. It took Juniper's breath away and this time, her arm was hot. She slid her hand from Tao's and looked it over, a little red, not scalded but definitely heated.
"You weren't kidding about the hot days..." She said quietly, leaning down to bathe her arm in the cool waters. No damage done and it was likely due to Taog's power and her exhaustion mixing. She figured for it to work successfully, they had to both be less tired and on an equal playing field.
  Juniper / Nullification / 28d 11h 43m 6s
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