Call of the Darkness

/ By Nullification [+Watch]

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Juniper stirred, she was late she realised as she snapped her eyes opened and looked around, wildly. The bed in the room was empty and she figured Taog had stayed with Tian and she rubbed her eyes. Mirriam was going to be agitated if she was late and Juniper got to her feet, splashing her face with some water and hurrying outside, almost tripping over herself as she eyed the Great Hall. It was bustling and she craned her neck to try and see Mirriam. She couldn't see her and she could tell the Dwarves were getting ready to move, at least some of them and Juniper furrowed her brow. They were leaving already?
"Juniper." Barut approached and Juniper immediately looked apologetic but he waved it off.
"We're leaving. Get your horse ready for travel." Barut said and Juniper looked around,
"Are they all coming?" She asked and Barut shook his head, following her gaze around,
"We are taking a handful, until the field of battle has been decided." He commented and gestured for her to get a move on and Juniper nodded.

She found her horse being looked after by a burly dwarf and she thanked him with a smile, starting to trap this and that on, now her hair was shorter it was more manageable, it didn't need to be up or braided and she could leave it loose. She rubbed her eyes and stifled a yawn, climbing atop her horse and wrapping herself in her cloak. At least it would start to warm up at least a little. She figured the Elves wouldn't like the cold and she watched the caravan of people with new faces head towards the gates of the city. The Dwarves would know the safest passages down. She caught a glimpse of Ren, eerily staring blankly out of the back of a wagon, unmoved by anything and Juniper felt her stomach twist.

Juniper hung back, not looking forwards to another long journey. Elves were proud, Mirriam had said and cared more about actions than words. She had heard rumours they could be stuck up too and she doubted they would take kindly to half-breeds like her and Taog. Speaking of Taog, she looked around and wondered if he was alright after whatever Tian had been teaching him last night. He always seemed a little out of sorts after their lessons, like he'd come back from something horrible. Her horse halted and Juniper looked down to see some Dwarven children feeding it some berries, or was it apples? She wasn't sure and she raised an eyebrow at the spoiled horse and smiled some. She waved her hand and focused for a brief second watching a shower of petals drift down from nowhere on the little ones and she wondered if they even understood that there was a war coming. People were going to die, Taog had said many would fall and she swallowed at the thought.
  Juniper / Nullification / 3d 10h 50m 56s
Another rite? Taog tired of Tian's lack of words whenever she goaded him into doing something new, though last time wasn't that bad. Taog doubted they'd be making another herbal concoction somehow. Tian's room was similar to his; simple and with two beds. It smelled funny. Not like the fresh vines Juniper had made in theirs. Heavy, somehow. Taog put the back of his hand against his mouth and wondered whether he'd walked into something again.
"Don't hesitate," Tian teased.
Taog raised his eyebrows.
"I haven't been that bad, have I?" she asked with a chuckle.
Tao looked away and let out a sigh in frustration. "Maybe I have then," Tian said, motioning for one of the beds. "We would sleep tonight, young Taog. Nothing more," she emphasised.
Tian burnt some herbs. Taog sat down and watched her move.
"Clarity is a path you need to find," Tian said.
"Your journey through your mind-scape has left you wanting and distracted."
More riddles?
Taog felt like he understood what she meant, but at the same time his interpretation of her words might be wrong.
"What are we doing?"
Before he could hear Tian's reply, Taog felt a sudden drowsiness set in. He recognized the scent of the herbs as those he'd breathed in at the scrying pool. Tian said words, but Taog was unable to make sense of them. He was aware enough to feel Tian's cool hands push him down onto the bed, flat on his back. She positioned his limb arms and legs with ease, making sure he was comfortable.
And then he was asleep.

Taog woke in the Vale.
It was the same as before, when his dream hadn't quite been like a dream. The all too familiar river where he used to live close to was gushing on what seemed to be a beautiful and hot summer's day. Birds sang in the large trees and his cave was there too, same as when he left it. Taog turned in the direction of the Vale. He felt lonely here.
"Where is this?" Tian asked.
Taog turned around, startled.
Nothing.
"Relax, young sprout, just talk to me," she eased.
"...the Vale," Taog said.
"No. Well. The outskirts of it," he corrected.
Tian had him move about, touch the water and inspect his cave. Taog wanted to go closer to the village, see who was there, but Tian said not to go there.
"Why not?"
"It's obvious you want to, but that would end the dream. Control your desire," Tian advised.
Taog hadn't really thought about it much. Usually he just did was his instincts told him. Old Elroch said that for a Fey, their senses were important. The sense of smell, sight, touch. All of those were important for survival. But now he was meant to think about what he sensed?
Was this how he would learn control?
Tian kept talking to him. Told him that it was a dream, nothing more. They were born from his mind and if he so wished, could control what happened. Some dreams turned to visions, but they were all the same in the end. A Seer's mind was in tune with the energy that flowed around the Earth they walked upon, similar to how magic did.
With just a single thought, Taog changed the Vale into something else; the hot springs. And with another thought the dream-scape shifted once more, back to the Dwarves' door. He imagined the people he'd seen, imagined the vision he'd seen. He commanded the emotionless-one to remain still. Taog walked around him, looked at the coloured window and the dagger. Details he'd missed before sprang forth. He could see the man's face. Could see the dead look in the Great One's eyes. Tian's voice was still there, but distant now.
Taog looked at his adversary.
Really looked at him.
"I will defeat you."

Water made him splutter and gasp.
Tian gave him a steady look and put the mug back down. She looked down, taking a deep breath.
Taog was still dazed, hazily trying to get his cross-eyed vision to align. He rubbed at his eyes, drowsiness following his every move.
"Pray you don't find hatred in dreams, Taog." Tian said and watched her pupil.
Taog was already losing the fight with sleep once more. She sighed. It didn't take much for Fey to be intoxicated. He was susceptible to the herbs.
"Sleep, young sprout," Tian commanded.
Taog did exactly that, though this time no dreams came.
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 3d 11h 5m 43s
Juniper smiled softly at him, whatever he had seen was never set in stone. It was all 'ifs' and 'buts' and Juniper seemed content enough. Tog had a tendency to get lost in himself and Juniper figured a life of isolation and now being thrown into the art of being a Seer kept him from letting loose. She giggled at his reaction to the leaves and shrugged,
"Stubborn, too." She reminded him and looked over her shoulder to see where his gaze had wandered off to. She noted Barut with Tian and Mirriam, wondering what had been discussed and she looked back to Taog, finishing up eating with him.
"You're right." She said when he mentioned rest, it seemed they didn't know how much more time they had in this place and Juniper didn't feel tired, she felt comfortable with her lot right then and she looked up when Tian approached.

Juniper flashed a guilty smile when she took note of the leaves in Taog's hair and watched as Tian lead him off. She just gave a smile and wave of her fingers, watching him go for a while before looking up as Mirriam approached. Evidently the Seer and Fey had been planning some sort of game plan for them both. Juniper switched her attention to her and cocked her head,
"Night training. Not all attacks happen during the day and you can't rely on Taog to guide you in darkness." Mirriam said and Juniper thought about arguing that point. Juniper pushed herself up and Mirriam eyed the blooms she had made on the table and shook her head, slightly bemused as she lead the way out into the cold night air, heading to the outskirts of the city.
"Your vision is hindered in the light, you have to use your magic, trust it to see for you." Mirriam explained and Juniper thought for a while, nodding as Mirriam waved a hand at a bundle of logs and they seemed to come to life. Juniper could see them only just by the moonlight.

Juniper found it much more difficult to get a sight on her opponent as it clanked and Mirriam watched from a distance. Juniper had to try hard and her aim was off a few times, even the feint glowing of her wings as she tried harder didn't help.
"You'll need to learn to control that glow, you give away your position each time." Mirriam said thoughtfully and pondered if she even could control it.
"Feel the tremors on the ground, trust nature to help you." She murmured and Juniper squinted in the dark before taking a deep breath. Using her magic and contacting the very nature around her was more difficult and utterly different responses. She aimed a strike at the ground, following the faintest of whispers and clues that the construct Mirriam had made was to her left and it struck the ground, the earth shattering and destroying the log construct back into inanimate logs. Mirriam watched her for a while,
"We're leaving soon. The Dwarves seem impressed by you and Taog. We'll head east from here, to the Elves." She explained, "It's a long journey and a dangerous ones but the Elven folk are a proud people, your childish antics must be quietened, do you understand? The Elves are wise and fierce, tactical fighters." Mirriam explained and Juniper gave a nod, she didn't want to face the same punishment with Eritreya.

"Go and rest, you've done well." Mirriam murmured and Juniper felt tired now as she headed back to the Great Hall and the side room her and Taog had been given. She ducked through the vines and eyed the empty bed, Tian and Taog would be much later than her and she hoped it wasn't anything too tough. She settled in the bed amongst the blankets and sleep soon came to her aid as she drifted off.
  Juniper / Nullification / 3d 14h 11m 7s
Did he see something? Taog watched Juniper for a moment and then narrowed his eyes. He wanted to tell her, but maybe it was best to let things play out naturally. What good were these visions anyway? They were not how the future would play out. Well. One string, one combination of shards, would make up their future, but Taog was resigned to not knowing which. Either way Juniper had promised.
That was all that mattered.
"It's better when we're together," Taog said at long last.
Try not to worry, she said.
Maybe he needed Juniper's grounding positivity to balance out how detached Taog sometimes felt from the real world. Tian had it worse, he felt, but she was older and more experienced at being a Seer.
Tao grew self-conscious as Juniper leaned in and he was mildly confused, "what are you doing?" He asked, reaching up to find leaves, entangled with his hair.
He have Juniper a look conveying 'oh, really?' before shaking his head. The petals danced along to the motion and he snorted.
"Mischievous little Fey," Taog called Juniper out.
He saw Barut behind Juniper, but rather than come over, the Sorcerer ventured towards where Mirriam and Tian were having their supper. Juniper said not to worry, but he couldn't stop the feeling. Was Rocha still willing to teach him? Taog had never met another aligned to fire before and he felt Rocha had taught him some valuable lessons already. He wanted to learn more. He wanted to know how Rocha had such good control over the flames. How did they not go to his head? The heat always seemed to unsettle his thoughts somehow.
Or was that the Seer part in him? Tian might know.
Was it the heat that amplified the visions?
Maybe he ought to drink some of the stuff that made the visions go away. But then he'd sleep. It looked like Barut was done talking to the Dwarves though. Taog wondered whether that meant they'd be travelling again soon then.
Taog ate some more, but soon enough had his fill.
"I think we should rest while we can." Either way they'd be training tomorrow. Training or travelling. Taog wanted to get up early tomorrow, before Arque could come wake him and try some things down at the forge's training grounds. Whenever he was pushed, Taog felt he lost control. There had to be a way to feel it coming and stop before that happened.
Before he could get up and leave for their room however, Tian approached.
"Come, young sprout," she teased him with the leaves in his hair, "tonight's sleep will be guided by my hand," Tian promised. Hesitant, Taog stood and followed Tian. He paused for a second to look back, but wasn't sure what to say to Juniper.
Good night?
A promise? Tian's impatience cut the moment short.
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 3d 14h 37m 32s
Juniper listened to Taog, a flash of concern crossing her face. She knew he didn't mean to have his powers get so out of control and it wasn't his fault. Barut and magic? Juniper cocked her head at that and patted Taog's arm,
"You didn't mean it, I'm sure they understand, you’re not dangerous just...surprising." For what it was worth, Juniper had never felt in danger around him, she understood that unlocking all of these different powers was bound to come with risks and Barut surely understood that. She was sure they weren't in trouble, she watched Taog ramble off.
"I didn't know that." She said, Mirriam had explained it but it was the first time Juniper had ever really experienced it. It didn't feel any different, it felt powerful but she was sure that was because of the magic she was channelling. She hadn’t even known Fey could do that but Mirriam had seemed pleased with it.

Taog seemed worried about all the talking going on and Juniper was sure it was nothing to worry about, Barut liked to talk and he had a good way with words for the most part.
"I don't plan on leaving." She said to Taog, when he said they should stay together. The thought of leaving by choice was not something she had never even considered, maybe at the start but not now.
"But I promise." She murmured, "I won't leave, not through choice anyway." She remarked. Mothra's attack had taught her a lot but the main lesson was that this wasn't a game, they could very well die trying to accomplish this goal. She gave a weak smile to him, he was worried and she knew that his mind knew far more than she could comprehend.
"Did you see something?" She asked him, quietly. He didn't have to share if he didn't want to and she figured he didn't to keep her from worrying about the future. Being a Seer must have been hard, harder still by himself.

Juniper looked to the flower he had stroked and smiled a little, watching it blossom and grow, winding into the wood and closer to Taog, it took such little energy from her and she was getting more confident.
"Try not to worry." She said to him, easier said than done and she worried just as much sometimes but if they could work in tandem with one another then they could keep each other safe, Juniper could heal Taog and she could do her best to support and maybe they could work more on bringing their powers together, as a united front. It seemed like a faraway dream at this stage but if they could make it work then it would be spectacular. Juniper smirked to herself and leaned in a little to Taog, a few fresh petals sprouting from his hair and she aimed to ease the tension, giggling softly to herself.
  Juniper / Nullification / 4d 8h 44m 31s
"Master Rocha made me channel fire from the fire river and I managed to hit a dummy with it yesterday. Today, I was made to do it again, but it was different and I lost control again," Taog said. He felt a little embarrassed. Here was Juniper, at ease with her power and learning new things, whereas his was out of control and dangerous to boot.
Taog played with the bread Juniper handed him, tearing off little pieces he left on the table, before deciding to eat some.
"First time I saw Barut use magic," Tao said.
"He deflected my fire," he sighed out. He wasn't sad about the fact that Barut had managed to defend himself. It shouldn't have been necessary in the first place. Taog felt he was just filling the expectations how much of a threat people thought he was.
"I was sent away. Rocha wanted to talk with Barut," Taog said demurely. He ate some more, but hunger had fled. He felt a sick feeling in his stomach that had little to do with bad food or too much drink.
At least Juniper was doing well.
A training ground full of flowers, huh? Taog smoothed his fingers across a flower-petal and sighed again.
"Your skin glows when you use your powers. So do your wings," he pointed out. "They're colourful then," Taog said. She didn't need the Fey's colours. Juniper was fine being who she was.
"I wonder when Barut will be done talking."
They'd have to move eventually. Or find out that the Dwarves didn't trust them. Taog wondered whether they would fight then. And if they did manage to get away with Haven's people, where would they travel next? The Dwarves were secluded. Taog figured it would be hard for the other races to figure out a treaty between them and Haven, but the Elves? The Fey? Humans? Some of those races were fractured amongst themselves too. How would they convince them all to align? And then there were those who believed in the Great One.
Barut's first bet was the easiest one; the Dwarves. If they didn't succeed there, their cause was lost, surely.
Taog rubbed the back of his head.
Their task was so much bigger than the two of them. And why was Barut putting so much faith in them anyway? If he'd have been stronger, which he needed to be, he might've hurt Barut today.
"Let's promise to stay together, no matter what happens," Taog asked Juniper. None of the futures in which he'd split off from Juniper ended well. He'd tried to find a way, but none of the memories or dreams that floated back up had held anything positive at that point in their lives. They were stronger together.
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 4d 11h 20m 22s
Taog's presence made her jolt and she almost knocked over the water beside her, casting him a small smile as he prodded the leaves and the faint glow of her markings and wings died off.
"Mirriam did, I don't think she's angry anymore." She said quietly, thinking about it. Mirriam didn't seem angry but Fey were hard to read and Juniper had hardly been pleasant to be around. She rubbed her eyes as she took some of the bread with cheese, eyeing over the leaves and buds on the table. She figured the Dwarves wouldn't really mind, it was pretty and even though they didn't seem the sort who liked pretty things with their rough way of life in the cold but she didn't think they were immune to seeing nice things.

"How was your training?" She asked as she handed him some bread and cheese, feeling a touch guilty for just vanishing last night and she hoped his day had been as productive as hers had. She certainly felt more fulfilled and brighter than she had in a long time. It was nice to feel useful and less of a burden and she folded her arms on the table top, not feeling as tired as she expected. She looked around lazily and there was a definite content smile fixed in place that came from knowing she had achieved something,
"I did some new stuff." She murmured, "The training area was all full of flowers. And the vines wrapped around the dummy but not just as restraint. It was like an attack and it's not like your fire, of course but it could help!" She said, rambling in her excitement.

Juniper had some more water and she felt wonderful, tiredness would creep in when her excitement wore off she was sure but right then she felt content enough to just enjoy sitting by the fire and Taog's company as she looked him over. He looked well, he didn't look tired either, a little worn out maybe and she wondered where Mirriam had gone off to. Hopefully it wasn't to give Barut another earful on why Juniper was disobedient. Juniper was sure she had made up for it with working hard today and she hadn't felt the lash of those training swords either. Eritreya had evaded her for the day or rather, Juniper had actively avoided the man for fear of being hurt once more. She would keep it up but it was rough two days in a row.
  Juniper / Nullification / 4d 11h 59m 52s
Go eat, Rocha said. Taog walked off, up through the hallways and with each step he felt a little of his energy fade. Tao knew that wasn't true, but it only just hit him what he'd done. He'd controlled more flames than he'd ever done and shot it. At Barut of all people. Taog pushed his hair back with both hands, cursing his half-shapen horns, his blotchy marks and overall half-breed nature. Why did he lose control like that?
It was as if someone else took over while he was there. Nothing in his head happened to stop what was happening. No red flags, no warnings, no urge to take control. He let the feelings overwhelm and sweep him away, only to hurt someone. They were right to say he was cursed. Eritreya had seen it first, Taog was sure, while sparring.
The way the flames came out without him trying to.
Taog finally made it back to the Great Hall. There were fewer people there now. It was late afternoon and the sun was still beaming into the hall, lighting the intricate stone engravings on the back wall. Rather than eat, Taog wandered outside, the fresh air cleansing compared to the soot-laden air down below.
He found a dry spot and sat down, enjoying the feeling of the sun on his skin.
Taog felt memories or visions loom and let them happen. He zoned out watching them, taking note of what he'd experienced as some of it matched the visions. He was meant to do this, wasn't he? Control the flames? Or were the flames meant to control him? If he knew their intention, Taog felt he could freely let go. Maybe he hadn't quite let go yet. So far both Eritreya and Rocha had easily snapped him out of his trance or whatever it was. When the visions simmered down to their rightful place, he felt empty once more.
Empty and tired.
Taog got up and wondered where Juniper would be. Training with Mirriam and Eritreya?
Apparently he'd been dozing in the sun for a while, because Juniper was already at the table for food. Sprouts blossomed from the table. Taog smiled, but then sat down and prodded some of the leaves.
"I don't think the Dwarves will approve," he said to tease Juniper.
Taog rested his chin on one hand, noting Juniper's cheek was healed.
"Did Mirriam heal you?" Tao ventured. "Was she still angry?" It'd bothered Juniper before, he knew. She'd gone off to sleep without talking. Maybe she'd been tired.
Taog sighed out. He wondered how long Barut would remain to negotiate with the spokesman of the Dwarves. Surely they couldn't afford to stay for long. The Council was bound to learn of Mothra's death sooner rather than later, same as the Dwarves had.
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 4d 14h 39s
"Keep focusing it." Mirriam said as she watched Juniper, she would need to learn more control because if she did grapple control then she would be much more powerful and able in combat. Juniper was working on making the vines and flowers more precise, more deadly if she used it in combat and Mirriam had to admit she wasn't sure where Juniper had gotten this prowess from but maybe yesterday's lesson had really set in, or seeing Taog go from boy to man with his rite and his powers had woken her up that this was going to be warfare and battles beyond her comprehension. Juniper was soon exhausted but she wanted to carry on, to keep trying and doing her best and Mirriam placed a hand on Juniper's shoulder with a soft smile,
"Rest, you'll overdo it." She said and Juniper eased off, leaving the carpet of flowers and such as she sat down on the ground, finally giving into the tiredness.

She looked at her creation and hummed to herself a little to control her breathing. She looked towards the afternoon sun and took out the bread she had taken in the morning, breaking some pieces off and looking to Mirriam,
"I didn't know I could do that." She murmured, quietly, thinking for a while as she chewed on the bread. She didn't know she could invoke such powers like that. She was really invested and she finished the bread, getting back to her feet to try again and Mirriam watched, watched the vines snake and sharp thorns pierce and Juniper continued to glow. Mirriam wasn't sure what had changed in all honesty but who was she to question the Mother of the Wilds and her ways. Juniper finished her training and Mirriam knew she was tired.

"Easy, let's get you back and something proper to eat, Eritreya told me you skipped dinner." She Remarked and Juniper nodded before she got to her feet and the two headed back, Mirriam setting Juniper down some stew and bread before going to speak with Barut about the advances in their powers. Juniper was enchanted by her new found powers, playing around with sprouting some leaves from the wood on the table top with her markings glowing wings glowing as she ate a little.
  Juniper / Nullification / 5d 10h 31m 45s
Arque woke him. Taog blinked up at the young Dwarf with bleary eyes, sitting up with a yawn. Juniper was already awake and gone. He hoped Juniper was feeling better today, but who was he to say he understood how women worked? Rather than get into that complicated mess, Taog got up, washed and followed Arque down to the blacksmith's forge. It was quieter still this time around. Taog helped Arque set up some things around the shop, moving metal to the right place and cleaning. By the time Rocha came down, Taog was already tired out.
That didn't stop the Dwarf from repeating the lesson they'd tried the other day. He had more success this time, because now Taog knew what it felt like to have the other flame dance around his energy, rather than absorb it and make the heat his own.
"Don't discard the flame, keep it flowing," Rocha commanded. Taog did as the master blacksmith commanded, and just kept the flames dancing around him. Soon he found pleasure in it, drawing from the hearth to have more and more fire dance around. Rocha stepped back, watching Taog build what was a flame-wall even before he could explain what it was. Some Dwarves who had affinity with fire took years to master the technique.
"Shape it. Think of a river," he said, recalling lessons from long ago.
The turbulent storm of fire turned dense around Taog and hot. Fish jumped around in the torrential column of fire. Taog almost lost himself in it, visions starting to shape in the fire and contort it, memories too.
"Focus, boy," Rocha said sharply.
The fire calmed again.
"Keep it up."
Taog tried to keep focus, but the heat was getting to his head, even if he wasn't absorbing the flame's energy. Slowly the flames were creeping closer to him. Taog thought he might be dreaming something. A voice. Something whispering to him. He couldn't quite make out the words. The fire stopped being a shapeless wall at some point and formed into claws, horned head and crooked legs; the figure of a demon if Taog had ever seen one. Taog focussed on control and then he heard someone approach. Someone other than Rocha.
He shot the ball of fire before he could think.
Barut was quick enough to deflect it, a shimmering wall of energy bouncing the flame to the side.
"Taog," Rocha said.
"Enough."
The flames started to die out, slowly extinguishing, though some remained flickering around Taog. Rocha glared at Barut. Taog's attention was definitely focussed there.
"To what do we owe the pleasure?" Rocha grumbled.
Rocha grabbed his shoulder and all the flames died. Taog felt a fog lift.
"Barut... I- I'm sorry," Taog stammered.
"That magic..." Barut said.
Rocha let out a chuckle. "Ay, the boy is commanding that level of magic already. Although commanding might be an overestimate," the master blacksmith huffed out. Taog was still trying to catch his breath. He felt a little faint. Hazy, was the right word for it. Rocha let go of Taog. It didn't lack the boy in raw skill, but control was an issue. The two powers in him amplified and warred, as was common in half-breeds. He had knowledge beyond his skill, and that knowledge was now polluting his control.
"He had the rite," Barut said.
"Hmpf," Rocha said. "And what good did it do him? The symbols are still crude."
"Go eat, boy. I would speak with your master in private."
Taog looked from Rocha to Barut, but then walked away from the two, still a bit shocked at what he'd done.
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 5d 12h 2m 18s
Juniper was still awake when Taog entered, the shifting of the vines was enough to clue away his entrance and she glanced over at him. He was doing so well in all his training and Juniper wanted to be just as useful. She wanted to be just as strong going into a war, into battles. She fell asleep soon after, awakening in the morning when it was still quiet and she pushed herself up, keeping quiet and ducking under the vines as she peered down into the Great Hall. Technically she hadn't been given a job for today and she could see some Dwarves shuffling about and she picked up some bread before heading down to the training area her and Eritreya had visited yesterday. The cut on her cheek was sore and a harsh reminder that swords hurt, even when blunted and if the sword had been sharp Juniper would have lost her head.

Juniper was glad it was at least glad the sun was only just rising and the land was quiet. She smiled to herself as she put a hand to the frozen ground, frost bitten but not dead. She focused as much as she could, watching as a blanket of flowers sprouted like it had back at the Council's crumbling castle but it was easier here. It was natural and she didn't have to fight through stone. She eyed one of the dummy's, practice ones and thought for a while. She knew how to entangle someone, how to trap them down fairly easily with fines but what could she do if things got close to the end. Her bow was fine, she was a half-decent shot and she could crumble rock and nature at her whim. She narrowed her eyes, eyeing the dummy over as she focused as best she could.

She snapped her fingers, the shrubbery and flowers she had brought forth swelling and moving like liquid as she they slowly wrapped around the legs and crawled up the dummy, ensnaring it and she Juniper watched, eyes bright and her wings fanned out behind her catching the first sun of the morning. She could crush it, she knew she could or she could have it squeeze the life from an actual opponent. It was the most she had ever used her earth magic for before, the veins in her wings faintly glowing green and small pin pricks like freckles glowing down her face in a symbolic design she had never known herself to have.
"Juniper." A voice made her distracted and she turned to see Mirriam, looking a little shocked along with some dwarves. Juniper swallowed and worried she was in trouble once more. Juniper averted her gaze for a moment, as if waiting for a scolding from the older Fey who simply smiled a little.
"Let's fix that." Mirriam said as she approached and touched Juniper's cheek, the cut and bruising vanishing as if they were nothing.
"Are you tired?" Mirriam asked and Juniper shook her head, she wasn't tired. She wanted to keep trying.
  Juniper / Nullification / 5d 16h 35m 11s
Taog reached out, but then stopped just before he could touch the injury. It would hurt to touch. Juniper said she didn't duck in time. He guessed Mirriam was still angry with Juniper. Enough to leave her at Eritreya's mercy all day and he'd chosen a blunt sword to train with.
"June..." Taog was sure it wasn't punishment. Food was placed down and Taog reached out to take some of it, surprised when Juniper left without taking any. There was meat, sure, but there were other things she liked too?
"H-hey, aren't... you going to eat?" Tao finished as he watched Juniper walk off. Wasn't healing also a facet of her powers she ought to train? If it was war they'd be fighting, and injuries would happen. Taog sat at the table alone, eating. He was hungry now that he was allowed to slow down for the day. Despite that, Taog wanted to learn more from Rocha. He wanted to practise guiding the fire some more as well.
He ate his fill and stood up, stretching out his body. Taog hadn't moved much, but he still felt tired. Drained was the proper word for it. And sweaty.
He sighed out. Juniper seemed to have wanted to be by herself, so he wasn't sure what to do now, given they'd been appointed a place to sleep where they were together. Did the Dwarves think they were partners?
Eritreya found him. "Where is Juniper?"
"Sleeping," he waved at the chambers in the back. Eritreya seemed a little guilty to Taog, but he didn't say as much.
"I asked Mirriam to see her," Eritreya said.
"I haven't seen Mirriam," Taog countered. If the other healer was doing the same thing Juniper had been by tending to the wounded and sick, then a mere scratch wasn't going to be a priority, Taog reckoned. He scratched the back of his head and shrugged. Eritreya didn't linger for very long, but moved away. He didn't quite agree with Juniper's recklessness, but it'd gotten them here and she was wise enough to make her own choices.
They couldn't protect her where they were headed.
Taog wanted to though.
He realized he wanted to protect Juniper. To make sure she was safe. It was why he'd attacked Mothra the way he had. Maybe he would sleep too. Master Rocha didn't seem the person to enjoy tardiness or laziness. There were vines barring the passage into their cave. Taog approached them and put his hand to them, only to find they weren't rooted both ways. He carefully nudged the vines aside and sprawled out on the other bed. Tomorrow would be better, hopefully. Taog closed his eyes and he could already tell he would dream too. Even if Rocha had him return most of the flame, there was plenty that wasn't quite mixed in with his.
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 5d 16h 50m 57s
Juniper took some water, watching the fire in the hearth burn away as she used an old rag to clean up her face. She didn’t even hear Taog sit down, distracted and her mind a thousand miles away on something else entirely. The cut on her cheek was her own fault for not being quick enough and she was pretty sure today had been a massive lump of punishment for her disobeying Mirriam’s orders yesterday and she figured it was lesson learned. She wouldn’t be disobedient again. Juniper looked up when Taog spoke, surprised by his presence as she set the rag down. He looked worn out and she figured he’d been hard at work too.
“I didn’t duck in time.” She said quietly, with a sort of half smile to assure Taog she was fine and it was just a scratch even if it did hurt. Food was placed down by one of the dwarves in front of them and Juniper eyed the platter of meats, cheeses and breads. She wasn’t hungry, she just wanted to sleep and forget today.

“You look like you had a busy day.” She murmured quietly, “I worked at the infirmary, helping cure diseases and then Eritreya took me down to the training grounds, with actual swords, just blunt.” Juniper remarked, knowing full well Taog’s day was much more exciting and she offered up another smile to keep him satisfied that she was fine.
“Punishment for being disobedient. Lesson learned.” She murmured as she finished the water and pushed herself to her feet, her appetite wasn’t appealed at all and she just wanted to sleep and to rest.
“Good night, Taog.” She said to him before heading back towards the room, glad it was close by as she shed her cloak and sat on one of the beds, looking a little lost. Tomorrow would be better, hopefully. She’d get to use her Earth magic and experiment some with it so she could keep up with Taog rather than trail behind like an errant child.

Juniper shook herself, rubbing her face and laying back, looking at the ceiling for a while as she tried to imagine what would happen tomorrow and when they would be moving off. The dwarves has proper weapons, hopefully they would help in arming themselves. Maybe Juniper wouldn’t seek anyone tomorrow, maybe she would just go to the training grounds with her bow and magic. Juniper shifted to her side and faced the stone wall, not even bothering with a blanket as she stared at the smooth rock. They should have Chosen someone else, someone not so stubborn or disobedient. Or maybe she should show them she was just as powerful as Taog, just as able to handle herself. Juniper flicked her hand towards the opening of the cave and focused some vines slithered down to make a curtain like door, bursting from the smooth rock and she glanced over to it, getting comfortable and feeling a touch better now the curtain was giving some privacy.
  Juniper / Nullification / 5d 19h 41m 10s
Rocha wielded a great hammer and brought it down upon piping hot metal again and again. Taog could only watch the master at work. At his grunts, Arque fetched him water, ale or metal. Taog resented Barut for waking him this early now. It seemed the master blacksmith was plenty busy without him standing there like a lump. Both curious and having time on his hand, Taog looked around the shop. The forge was large, with coal and molten fire rushing through it, heated by some underground source Taog could feel was the molten river they'd seen before. How deep underground were they exactly? Smoke was guided up through pipes and stream hissed and left the atmosphere humid and dank. Breathing was a little less easy here. At long last Rocha was finished with his sword and looked at him, taking off his gloves. Nerves shot through his belly. The Dwarf was as tall as he was, but muscular and strong. Keen eyes stared at him from underneath a busy brow. Taog looked away, uncomfortable. It was evident that this Dwarf was his superior and he saw no reason to defy Rocha in a battle of wills.
Meaty hands grabbed his chin and forced Taog to look at the Dwarf.
Unsure, he searched the Dwarf's face.
"A Fey? No," Rocha grumbled in a deep voice. "Something twisted," he spat.
Taog felt offended at hearing those words, but the Dwarf wasn't wrong.
"Seer," he filled in the missing element. That seemed to surprise the Dwarf, who huffed and let him go. He motioned for Arque to move away and work on something else. Taog was left behind, a little confused.
What was this?
Was he being judged for his blood, rather than his ability? Again?
Rocha started to move down into the shadows behind the forge's heart, and he motioned for Taog to follow. He flicked his eyes at Arque, who nodded for him to go.
He followed, both curious and trepidatious, when they went through a long hallway. There were multiple off-shoots, but Rocha seemed to move with determination until they came upon a circular room. It was large and there were few things in it. Some torches lined on the wall rushed to life the second Rocha stepped inside. The floor was dusty and sandy. It seemed to have been abandoned for a long time.
"Training grounds," Rocha said with a grumbling sigh.
"For what?"
A snort. "Fire magic," the blacksmith said.
Taog saw the small hearth and there too the liquid fire ran through, though it was smaller than back at the forge.
Soot marks were on the floor, gushing away from the hearth. Taog wandered the room, but he didn't remember this to be as empty from his dreams.
"Why is it empty?" Tao asked.
Master Rocha sighed, "no fire magic has been born among the Dwarves for centuries."
"The stories say it was punishment for our transgressions."
"For the dagger? And the window?"
Rocha looked at Taog, mildly surprised, until the blacksmith recalled the Fey say he was a Seer as well.
"Ay," he confirmed. "I am no teacher in the ways of magic," Rocha confessed. "But I remember my own. I will teach you how to channel the flames."
"Thank you," Taog said, daring a smile.
"This hearth will be the source of everything you do here," Rocha instructed. There was a metal training dummy quite a distance from the heart. Rocha stood near the heart, pulled in the heat to form flames and then flung them at the dummy. It rattled, but seemed otherwise undamaged.
Taog watched in amazement, then tried it himself.

"Don't take it!"
And again. "Guide the flame's heat with your energy," Rocha explained. "Again."
And again.
He couldn't count how many times he'd tried. Sweat was on his brow. More often than not his instinct told him to take the heat and even though it was pure, the heat was getting to him, almost overwhelmingly so.
And then, at long last, Taog felt he was sated on the energy. Rather than take it, he felt it glide around him, almost revolving around what he already had taken.
"Aim proper, son," Rocha said.
Taog looked up at the Dwarf, then the dummy and slung the fire, letting it go with the momentum of it's revolving on the outside. He missed. It didn't matter. Again, he wanted to try it again.
"Alright, alright," a meaty hand stopped him.
"That's enough for one day. Let's have you give back what you took to the forge," Rocha said and Taog seemed distracted, but then reluctantly agreed. He'd wanted to try it some more. He had all this energy inside of him now, but it wasn't his. It didn't feel right and once he'd given back to the forge the flames that he took, Taog realized just how tired he was. No food or drink had been had, not that his stomach would've been very grateful after yesterday's feast. Arque took him back to the Great Hall and it felt like a breath of fresh air. It was late, he realized. The sun's last rays were already casting long shadows.
Taog caught sight of Juniper and sat down next to her heavily, glad to be off his feet. He slumped down on the table and watched her from where he rested his head on his arms. A nice dip in some hot springs sounded nice about now.
Blood.
"You're hurt?" Tao asked and sat up again to take a better look at Juniper's injury.
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 5d 20h 51m 58s
Juniper watched Taog leave and looked to Barut, chewing her lip a little. Barut turned his gaze to her. Juniper hoped that she would have some sort of training too.
"You'll be with Eritreya and Mirriam for the day, helping around town. They have an infirmary here and they could use your healing magic." Juniper looked crestfallen at Barut's words and she just nodded as she looked around. It was hardly exciting but she figured she would at least get to heal and work with that. Barut watched her disappointment,
"You were disobedient yesterday, whilst it worked in our favour you must learnt temperance." Barut remarked and Juniper just nodded at him, "You have to learn to be mature in situations, Juniper. Childlike curiosity and actions could have gotten you killed, and all of us." Barut remarked and Juniper looked like a scolded child.

Eritreya showed up around then and jerked his head that they could go and she followed him around, down into the city. It was busier than yesterday and the frigid air wasn't so bad. She was greeted by a dwarven woman who smiled brightly, bright red hair a bit of a mess.
"Ah! Lovely to see you, right, in you come out of the cold." Juniper ducked inside after and Mirriam was in amongst the beds. She looked tired, Juniper noted. There were people in the beds,
"Mirriam has told us about your healing and we're very grateful." She said as she lead them around and glanced to Juniper. Juniper was given instruction to help with healing diseases and injuries of those she could manage and it was more draining than she could imagine, especially with the diseases, sucking up diseases and sickness proved to be incredibly taxing as opposed to closing a wound or healing bruises.

Juniper was soon exhausted and Eritreya nudged her to her feet,
"We will train now." He said and Juniper stared at him. She didn't argue however as she got to her feet and headed down to find a stone arena -like area where Eritreya handed her a sword, blunted down. It was a training sword of excellent craftmanship, these were going to hurt more than the poles.
"You can get all your training about earth from Mirriam, but in close combat you must know steel." Eritreya said, "Your sword is the same as a pole, use the same moves." He said as the two clashed, and Juniper found the sword heavier, not as graceful or elegant as the pole. It did hurt more when Eritreya caught her and it gave Juniper more incentive not to be hit and to be quicker on her feet. Juniper saw Eritreya aim a side swipe and ducked just a moment too late, catching a glance from the blunt metal on her cheek, causing the flesh to split thinly.
"Hey!" Juniper said, looking affronted as she wiped blood from her cheek.

"Be quicker. Come on, let's get you back up to the Great Hall and fix that up. It's barely a scratch." Eritreya said and started back up the steps to the Great Hall, Juniper following as they set aside the blunt training swords. Mirriam had stayed behind at the Infirmary and Juniper sighed as she found a seat, taking some water.
  Juniper / Nullification / 6d 12h 6m 1s
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