Call of the Darkness

/ By Nullification [+Watch]

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Juniper watched Taog as he agreed to see Barut and she gave a nod. It was their best shot at getting sort of answers or clarity right then. If they were supposed to fight some battle or help take down the Great One then they needed to at least know what was in store. A few hours of sleep was what she preferred but that wouldn’t be happening any time soon, Eritreya and that pole was going to be the death of her sometime. Juniper watched Taog as he spoke and she pondered what it meant that his visions hadn’t changed. She wasn’t sure what to make any of it in all honesty but she knew better than to just question it.

“The past?” She asked and pushed herself up, grateful for breakfast as she stretched her stiff limbs and cringed as a few muscles pulled in protest.
“Don’t tell me something’s wrong with the Vale.” She mumbled, looking around to try and find Barut. It took her a while to track him down, he was busy and he gestured the two over inside the caves and by a fire, signalling he would be a moment and Juniper stepped into the cave and looked around, leaning against the wall and seeming anxious. They had to travel and she knew that meant the possibility of more council members, although how much safer were they here really? They were probably sitting ducks here too.

Juniper wondered if Taog was as worked up over all of this, as impatient as she was to just race to the end and know the outcome. Maybe he could see it, or at least one of the possibilities. Tian had seen many outcomes, some good and some bad from what Juniper had overheard.
“Tian and Mirriam told me you two have been full of questions.” Barut announced his entrance and sat by the fire, creaking bones relenting for a break as he eyed them both.
“I suppose you wish to know where we are going next.” He contemplated and seemed to chew on the thought for a while.

“We are going to try and convince the Dwarves to join us. Our plan is to go around the strong factions, invite them to our cause as best we can. This could be all our war.” Barut remarked.
  Juniper / Nullification / 15d 10h 56m 46s
She knew, somehow, that his dream had been more vivid than any he had so far. Taog hadn't ever paid much attention to his dreams, not since Tian pointed them out to him. Not since he'd taken in so much magic and used so much in turn. Hopefully Barut wasn't going to make him use his magic today. He only just felt like his old self.
"I dreamt of the Vale, but it was different," Taog started.
Tian wouldn't answer for Barut, but sure there would be some light to shed on that? Maybe he was hoping for too much however. Tian liked riddles.
She smiled at him. "One day dreams might become reality and your reality a dream," Tian said. Taog rolled his eyes and got up, dusting himself off.
He still wasn't sure what she'd meant by the whole 'dreams are for the night'-but either. It hurt his head to consider it all and Tao scratched the back of his head, wandering around for something to eat before returning to Juniper and Mirriam.
Juniper approached as he ate, saying they should speak with Barut.
He nodded, "Tian said the same. I thought we should too," Tao agreed. Only Barut would know where they were headed and even though Taog felt a lot wasn't spoken about because they wanted to protect them, it was time they were told what they were getting themselves into now.
Juniper seemed tired. His flames had helped replenish his energy, so Taog actually felt good today. He pensively chewed on his breakfast, some bread and cheese.
"Barut's stories are never long," Tao said. They would be well on time to meet with Eritreya and talk to Barut, though he'd slept long. He'd missed his morning chores somehow. Tian had been late waking him. Perhaps Fir had taken pity on him.
Juniper's words surprised him. They wouldn't make it?
Tian's visions. Taog wasn't sure, but he suspected Tian was a more capable Seer than he was. His hadn't changed much. They'd been different because of the time they'd portrayed, but never conflicted.
"Mine haven't," Tao said, looking at Juniper. "For what it's worth anyway." He felt Tian might have a plan for him today and Taog wasn't sure he trusted it. The last few times he'd trained with Tian, he'd been forced to drink the foul tasting stuff to stop his dreams from disturbing his rest. It was hard to find a way to control the dreams.
Actually.
"I dreamt of the Vale," Tao said.
"Of the past," he muttered. "But it was different. I knew it was a dream... I could navigate how I wanted." Taog finished his meal.
"Let's find Barut," he decided and stood to stretch.
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 15d 12h 4m 11s
Juniper was out of her element as she listened to orders from the older women about what to do and how to brew certain things. She was just glad when they seemed to shoo her away. She took her bowl and went to sit, spotting Taog and Tian together. She settled herself nearby as she ate some of the soup and was just grateful for a hot meal. She wiped her mouth and looked to Mirriam,
“We can’t stay here forever.” Mirriam remarked, although it did warm her to see everyone so relaxed and it wasn’t like they had never considered it before. Juniper knew they wouldn’t stay.
“So, what are we doing then?” She asked, wondering where they would go and what they would do. If they continued north then that would mean it would get cold again, South would be warmer. Juniper fixed some strands of hair as she waited for Mirriam’s answers and hopefully it was be straightforward and simple, no riddles like Tian seemed to like.

“Barut will explain, no doubt. You should go and seek him out.” Mirriam remarked and Juniper didn’t mention what she had overheard last night. Part of her thought maybe she had dreamt it up, yesterday had been exhausting after all. She only nodded to Mirriam, apparently no one else really wanted to bite the bullet and explain anything. Juniper had to wonder if the others travelling with them knew what was happening or if they just trusted Barut and his leadership.
“What is Barut?” Juniper asked before Mirriam could leave and Mirriam flashed a small smile,
“Aside from old and wise? He was a very keen sorcerer back in the day. Then he learnt the truth and started this caravan of rebels.” Mirriam pointed out. Juniper just shrugged a little and got to her feet, heading over to see Taog.

“Everyone keeps saying we should see Barut.” She mumbled and slumped down beside him, stiff from yesterday. She was still tired and although she wanted to stick around here she just wanted this to be over. She felt restless, like there was something to be done but they had to be patient about it and Juniper wasn’t the patient sort. She had her cloak on and figured their best way to any answers was with Barut if he would explain anything to them.
“Maybe we should, I don’t want to skip out on Eritreya again though, he really made us pay for it yesterday.” She mumbled and looked thoughtful.
“Tian doesn’t know if we’ll make it. I heard her and Mirriam speaking last night. Her visions keep changing.” Juniper mumbled, disheartened because she didn’t understand the nature of the visions Seers had. They were confusing to her and she always imagined visions would simply be set in stone.
  Juniper / Nullification / 15d 16h 34m 13s
Just stiff. Right. Taog knew what sort of 'stiffness' came with fighting Eritreya and Tao was sure he'd feel sore in the morning from their training session. Juniper slept easily then. Taog felt awake, strangely enough. He wandered to the horses and helped tend to the beasts before washing himself in one of the springs. By the time he returned to find Juniper peacefully asleep, the sun had long since gone down. Unlike Juniper, Taog didn't want to sleep and dream right then. He knew there'd be vivid dreams again, as his magic was slowly but surely restored by what he'd taken earlier that day. Tao listened to the people of Haven as they softly conversed. Stories were told to the children. Stories about the lights in the sky, how they moved and interacted. Travellers across the sea could tell where they were by looking at the stars at night, Fir explained.
Taog had heard about the sea before from Elroch. All rivers converged in the sea, in oceans of water. Old El always had a faintly longing look in his eyes when he told of it. The water Fey obviously enjoyed the river, felt a bond with it similar to what he must've felt with the flame river, but he never travelled to go there.
What made those Elders stay in the Vale anyway?
Taog rested back, staring at the stars himself. Sleep came easily. Drowsiness settled on his senses, but kept his sleep ever so light. Dreams fluttered by.

First he saw a boat, dancing on a roiling ocean. Water was all around them and Taog felt the icy cold of the lake surround him. He was swimming then, Mothra's claw-like appendages threatening to choke the very air from his lungs. The water dipped into darkness, a sensation akin to that of Ren's, when the male was close. He watched as Dwarves rose from the darkness, breaking away stone and digging their large halls, how they forged their weapons. Large gems were caressed by light, same as the window they had made for the Great One, amplifying and transforming magic into something else. Without direction, Taog's sleep was restless. He twitched and fought as he tumbled from dream to dream.
He wanted it to stop.
He wanted the dreams to make sense or stop.

And then Taog dreamt he was in the Vale. Back at his cave. He moved carefully, but he couldn't quite smell anything. It was dark, like night. Crickets and other insects buzzed, soothing light emanating from certain plants and the river, reflecting the moon. It was a dream, but at the same time, it wasn't.
His cave was empty. Taog turned around and wandered along the beaten paths through the forest, down to the valley. Lights flickered, fires were alight. No one was there. Everything was vacant. He touched the tree they'd rested at together, Juniper and he. It felt different, not quite real. And then there was a sound. A horse's hooves.
'Please, take care of the boy,' a soft voice said. A woman.
Taog carefully crept closer, taking care to remain quiet.
'He must not know. He must never know,' she said. She was cloaked, hooded and her face was obscured from sight. Regardless, it was obvious from her clothing that she was nobility. An orphan then?
'His is a curse,' the woman spat.

Tao woke by Tian's nudge. His eyes were distant at first and Tian cocked her head at Tao as his eyes searched for something. Taog blinked and furrowed his brow. Oh. The springs. It was day already.
"Did you have a nice dream?" Tian asked softly.
Taog took a deep breath and sat up. She was too close, Tian was.
"Do you know where Barut is leading us?" Tao asked.
She smiled, "you should ask Barut."
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 16d 11h 24m 56s
"Huh, no. Not." Juniper replied a little too quickly to spare his feelings,
"It's just stiff." She murmured, today had been physical for sure and Juniper watched Taog with his soup. He didn't seem as keen as she did and she gave a weak smile to him, just strike low? She figured that would work but the last thing she wanted was to knock Taog off of his feet. She wasn't keen on fighting him, she didn't understand the lesson either because Taog was the closest thing she had to a friend right then. She averted her gaze as she set her bowl aside and got comfortable, content with a hot meal in her stomach and the campfire was warm. Taog seemed completely distracted and Juniper figured it was best to leave him muse. She was too tired to really keep up any conversation anyways. Juniper was soon asleep, everything too comfortable and fuzzy for her to resist as she tucked herself under a blanket and closed her eyes, letting sleep wash her away.

Juniper stirred sometime during the night, disturbed by voices as she sat up, blinking around with stinging eyes. She watched Tian and Mirriam wandering near the spring.
"Do you think they'll be ready?" Mirriam asked, Juniper tucked back down to play asleep.
"I don't think anything can ready them, Mirriam. Even my visions of them are different every time, sometimes they succeed and others they fall." Tian responded, calmly and Juniper swallowed a little. Tian mumbled quietly, Juniper couldn't quite hear even with the peace and stillness of the night.
"All we can do is prepare them for a victory or glorious death." Mirriam remarked, calmly but there was a tremor in her voice.

Juniper turned on her side as their voices got quieter with the more distance the two put as they wandered and Juniper was conflicted. She felt there was a lot they weren't being told and Juniper couldn't get back to sleep after what she had overheard and she instead stretched and sat up when the coast was clear. The sky was starting to brighten and Juniper rubbed her eyes, warming herself up. She figured she should help with breakfast this morning, standing and making her way over to those who were starting to prepare breakfast and helping them out with ingredients and watching how they brewed and cooked and served up.
  Juniper / Nullification / 16d 13h 2m 53s
Juniper's hunger got them out of training for now and Taog was more than grateful to be done with today. Tao watched Tian leave without any more hints or words, frustrated. He didn't even know what was happening or why. Were they waking dreams? Visions of a very near future? He'd felt like that was what happened. Was he meant to fight those like he'd practised at the scrying pools? Taog pondered about whether or not Tian would have set up here already, but doubted it. Barut would soon want to travel again, no doubt, so settling in would be pointless.
Tao lifted his pole to rest on both shoulders and let his arms dangle from the weapon, holding it loosely in place.
Eritreya nodded at him to go and Taog hesitated for a second before snatching up his cloak and following Juniper down to a camp-fire. Again they'd chosen a spot outside of the caves, though Juniper had been fine going further into the Earth to find the fire. He'd thought moving the liquid rock would be easier for Juniper. Maybe he was mistaken. Was his vision that far in the future? Maybe it'd just been a dream then.
Taog was preocupied, his thoughts distracting from the food Tian left behind for them. Juniper however at quicker than he'd ever seen her eat.
"Did I hurt you?" Tao asked, when she rubbed her shoulder. He hadn't meant to hit her hard, or at all, frankly. She'd left plenty of bruised to make up for it however. He sat with one leg bent, an arm on the other which had remained upright. Taog was bent over his soup, but he wasn't that interested this time.
The purity of the flames they'd seen, it had been astounding. Eritreya hadn't been interested, but perhaps Mirriam would be. Either way the flames' energy coursed through him with increased vigour. Each morsel of magic that was converted to feel like his own served to replenish and empower him. Taog didn't feel hunger with such boundless energy in his body. If only he could do it quicker.
Convert, embed and using his magic quicker, easier, would make him unstoppable. Fighting the Great One would become laughable then.
Taller people?
Oh.
Taog cocked his head in thought.
"Just strike low," he suggested. It was hard to keep crouching down and defend low blows. Eritreya was around the same height he was, but still liked to tap him in the legs when able. Taog finished his soup and stared into the hot springs. Maybe the pure flames would give him dreams tonight, memories of this place and the battle that'd been fought here. He wondered what Barut's plan was. Taog decided to find the man and ask him for more stories tomorrow.
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 16d 13h 43m 45s
Taog was stronger than her, she could tell he was being careful and she shifted from foot to foot. She didn't want to fight Taog, they had to work together so why would they learn how to fight one another. It didn't make sense to her but she followed Eritreya's warning as the male barked them out. She could tell Taog's blows were getting more serious,
"H'hey!" She said but Eritreya had his hand around Taog's elbow and stopped him before anything could escalate. Juniper swallowed a little, taken off guard as she lowered her pole. She was exhausted and her chest heaved with the effort to breathe, muscles worn out. She looked up when she heard Tian, he hadn't meant it. She knew that, the heat of the fight just seemed to get to him.

Juniper cleared her throat and sighed out,
"Do you think we could eat now?" She asked and Eritreya just rolled his eyes and gave a nod. He watched the two and knew that things would be very odd but they needed to know each others weaknesses, they could discover each other's strengths easily enough but to know another's weakness was the true test of trust. Juniper was completely relieved as she found a campfire and Tian had left some soup for them both. Juniper flopped down and rubbed a stiff shoulder. Everything ached and Juniper just wanted to sleep and the sun was barely starting to go down. She eyed the broth and eagerly ate some, hunger taking over as she greedily ate. It did wonders for warming her and making her comfortable.

Juniper rested back and stifled a yawn, rubbing her face with the back of her hand. It was early to sleep but she was just exhausted, turning on her side and eyeing Taog over.
"I have to figure out how to get the better of taller people." She said to him with a tired smile, propping her head up on her elbow, eyes half-lidded.
  Juniper / Nullification / 17d 10h 9m 47s
Fight? Did they have to? Eritreya wasn't kidding however. Taog had a pole tossed to him, one that hadn't been scorched by his fight against Mothra. He didn't have long to enjoy it however, as Eritreya suggested they spar together. How would that work? Was Juniper even strong enough to guard against his blows? What if he damaged Juniper's wings? They looked fragile. Like Mothra's. They'd burnt so easily.
Taog could still smell it.
Juniper struggled to her feet and Taog was hesitant.
"I- it's... I don't want to fight Juniper," he said.
Eritreya raised his eyebrows, unimpressed. Juniper didn't seem to have such reserves. She readied herself and Taog lowered his shoulders, pole swinging loosely from his hold as he circled her. Maybe if he moved slow, at first. So he could see how strong she was? Taog didn't think he could do much damage anyway, given it'd only been a couple of days ago that his body utterly refused to move and only today that the heaviness and stiffness had truly left his limbs.
His responses were sluggish.
Taog would willingly admit that he was slow and Juniper managed to get some hits in, though Tao suspected she might not be using her full strength. Eritreya's voice droned out instructions and Taog tried to follow them.
They fought. Juniper was more agile than he'd expected.

"Don't be afraid. Trust one another," Eritreya instructed. Taog was breathing hard. His muscles were trembling from the exertion. He'd managed to get some hits in too, but he was quickly losing the ability to focus and respond in time. If he hadn't played as much with the liquid fire, he might've been able to put up a better fight, Taog reasoned. It would still have taken him some energy to make what he'd taken his own, but at least he'd have some energy spare.
Tao wiped his brow and circled Juniper again. He felt that flow again, the same sensation he'd felt when fighting Eritreya, when his flames had come out on their own. Before he could use it or feel Juniper move, Eritreya's hand wrapped around his elbow.
"No," he warned sternly. Taog snapped to reality with a harsh tug and searched Eritreya's face, slightly confused as to what had happened.

"Using that power might ill advise you during a fight," Tian said. She bit into a piece of fruit from the ledge up above from which she'd chosen to watch the fight.
"You lose sight of what is in front of you," Eritreya added. Tao looked at the man's hand on his elbow and carefully freed himself.
"...how do I stop it? It just happens."
"Dreams are for the night," Tian said and stood. Taog watched her go, arms down, head cocked in thought. She liked to speak in riddles. He sighed out.
Dreams were for the night? Really?
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 17d 10h 56m 48s
Juniper watched Taog has patterns seemed to form. She smiled a little, it still seemed fantastical for them to be able to split the earth. Even the thought of it left Juniper exhausted and she settled down. It was comfortable, the heat and the little ledge she had found herself as she lazily watched Taog make his shapes and attach with the heat of the very earth. She settled in her spot and given any more time, she might have just dozed off. She was half-way there when Taog roused her with his words about going back up top. How long had it been? She got to her feet, very slowly and reached to take her torch but it was almost dwindled. She cocked her head and figured it was alright to leave it given she was stuck close to Taog with his embers. Going up was harder than down and by the time she saw the light of the day, she was exhausted.

They must have gone very deep, longer than they realised. She shielded her eyes when she exited, eyes adjusting for a moment.
"Well, if it isn't the two wandering rogues?" Eritreya approached with their poles and Juniper pulled a face. The last thing she wanted to do right then was train and take a beating with a pole. She stifled a groan under Eritreya's look and took her pole.
"Could we get lunch first, we found a-" A pole swept her feet from under her and she gasped, landing flat on her back. Juniper stared up at Eritreya who tossed a pole to Taog,
"Doesn't matter, you can eat after you make up for lost time, this one won't be around to rescue you every time you decide to call out a foe." Eritreya said and stepped out of the way, folding her arms. Eritreya was stern and he watched the two. They needed to learn strength, resilience and how to take a hit.

Juniper struggled to her feet and rubbed her back, frowning a little. Their lovely melee weapon trainer wasn't wrong and that stung, Juniper knew out on that ice Mothra could have killed her if Taog hadn't intervened but the moment had led her to act stupidly.
"Wait, we have to train together?" Juniper said, not really keen on the idea of sparring with him. She hardly felt ready and she sighed a little, taking up a readying stance. Juniper was better with her defences and blocking, using her agility to try and get a tap in now and then. She didn't want to hurt Taog or hit him too hard, he wasn't her enemy.
  Juniper / Nullification / 17d 10h 55m 30s
"It's heavy," Taog agreed. His eyes ran over Juniper as she tried, but he didn't push it. After Mothra and her icy death, Taog was reluctant to push his abilities so soon. He felt better, yes, but at the same time Tao feared taking too much. As if how pure the magic was might overtake his senses entirely. Perhaps one day he would be strong enough to relish in the molten fire's presence. For now, Taog was satisfied with just sitting at some distance, as he did to normal fire and basking.
"Yeah," he replied to Juniper's question of whether or not it made him feel better, "it's pure, but not mine. Like when you give me magic," Taog tried to explain.
"Yes," Taog said. "I saw the Earth split and we reached for the liquid fire below." Curious, Tao tried again. This time the liquid fire moved and shaped, a careful and blazing dancing of liquid strands which weaved in intricate patterns. A small bird formed, trying to escape the fiery river. Fish coursed through the thick lava, leaving trails of flames behind as they dove back under. Taog's face lit up in delight and wonder. It was a slow moving fire, but fire nonetheless. The core was more easily manipulated, if he put in the strength to pull it forth. His play wore him out.
Taog yawned and rested, legs crossed, just watching the river. He felt connected. As if it was his friend.
They would be safe here. It would protect them.
Training would resume again soon. Barut was going to have to tell them his plan too, or did he fear he couldn't keep it safe from being seen? Taog thought of that other Seer, who had simply pushed him aside. Someone he thought might be his father. In his dreams they hadn't met and Tao wondered if they ever would.
He thought he might fall asleep again then, so Taog stood.
"Let's go back up," Tao said, hands behind his head. He wanted to hurry up and become stronger. If the defeated the Great One, the whole world would be theirs to explore, not just caves and the Council would stop hunting them and hurting people. Then they could live however they pleased, free from the stigma the Vale gave them and the curses of their mixed blood. Taog realized it was the fiery resolve of the flames he'd taken without even trying. If he took too much, the dreams would crowd him tonight.
He stretched and started for Juniper, then conjured some small flame and lead the way back up the rocky path they'd come down.
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 17d 11h 54m 47s
Juniper hung back, not wanting to scorch herself, even such a small amount gave off a lot of heat and she was a little taken aback by it. She couldn't imagine what unearthing a whole lake of this stuff would feel like and she watched Taog. He seemed entirely at ease and she found a crook to stick her torch in, balancing it for a while. Juniper took a step closer and eyed the substance, rock? She looked at Taog, wondering if he had bumped his head. It didn't look like rock at all and she supposed she never imagined what melted, hot rock was like. She wasn't sure if she could control it, this was something entirely raw. It wasn't fast flowing but it was like battling a current,
"I don't think I can, well, it's difficult." She said to Taog and pondered why something like this was so powerful. They needed to practice and hone their powers and magic more.

"I feel like I could, there's no wall but-" She wasn't strong enough and she pondered on how would it all work. It was melted rock, fire rock. It was both nature and fire, maybe they really did have to learn to combine their magic and not just imbue it, combining magic would be tricky.
"Is it making you feel better?" She asked, timidly. She figured this was very pure and raw fire, it was certainly stronger than a campfire. She didn't really know what to do with it. Something like this could be used, manipulated if they ever got strong enough.
"Did you see this sort of thing, in your visions?" She asked him, pondering on what else he had seen in his visions. She wondered if Seers could tell what was set in stone and what was changeable, or was nothing set in stone?

Juniper looked back up the vast and dark corridors they had weaved their way down. They could wait a while, let him replenish with this source for as long as he needed. She shifted and found a small ledge to sit on where she could watch in case anyone happened upon them. She moved some hair from her face and watched Taog and his interactions with the fire. He wasn't a feral thing, he wasn't entirely wild or cursed, not really. Juniper sat in the quiet and pondered what stories Drit told her were even true. She thought all of them were true, up until the night of the Choosing. Taog hadn't been wile then, in fact he had been a little drunk on the wine and happy. Was he happy now? She lowered her gaze and instead watched the fiery river.
  Juniper / Nullification / 17d 13h 14m 55s
Compassion, then? Her compassion stretched beyond her own wellbeing? Taog found it hard to comprehend, but Juniper didn't seem unhealthy and it wasn't as if he ate a lot of animals himself. Sometimes, he'd venture to the river and try to catch a fish or two, but it was difficult, never mind that Elroch had never allowed him weapons with which to hunt either. When given the opportunity however, Taog would eat it.
In the depths of the cave, Taog toyed with the flames, letting it swirl about his fingers, which he kept aloft next to him. Like this, his flames were free and almost merry, a reflection of his mood.
"I don't know," Tao admitted. He didn't know how weapons were made.
The poles they used were made from wood, that much was obvious, but knives and the likes? He had no idea. Not even his vision had been very elaborate on the work the Dwarves were doing for the Great One. That said, the vision had been around the time when they had finished their work and the Great One's betrayal came to light.
The darkness was all around them now. Taog kept going further. He felt it stronger here now, the flames. It was warmer too.
"It's faint, more spread," Taog tried. Juniper knew he was no good at sensing magic or the elements. Like his Seer abilities had made his magical talents deaf somehow. And then they stumbled upon it. An amber river, seering hot, smoking and moving slow, oozing almost. Taog's eyes reflected the fire with keen interest. It was hot here. Real hot.
Juniper didn't step any closer and kept her distance. Taog on the other hand was curious and the heat didn't bother him as much.
He welcomed it. It felt like the fires they made at night, but pure. As if there was no more taint to it.
"It's like the rock Barut made me embed with flames," Taog said and crouched near. He reached out to the river of molten fire and it reacted, moved, but it was sluggish, like sap from a tree. It was hard to control, because it wasn't just fire, Taog realized.
"It's rock," he said.
It cost him a lot of energy to move it. Energy Tao didn't have. He sighed out and sat down for a bit. The heat replenished him quickly, quicker than the heat of the springs had. Taog tried to take some and felt how dense and pure the energy was. It revitalized him, but at the same time made him tired too. As with other sources, it didn't quite feel like his own magic and it would take him some time for the additional flow to feel right again.
Tao scratched the back of his head, watching the bright river.
"You should try to move it too," Taog said.
He was sure Juniper could control it too.
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 17d 13h 50m 7s
Juniper eyed over the berries as she ate a few. She figured most of the caravan of people were wary of Taog for having killed Mothra in such a way, not that it wasn’t celebrated but he had proven himself to be intimidating and powerful. Juniper supposed maybe she was slightly intimidated by him now, it didn’t change who he was and he had been honest about his feelings towards it. It was still bewildering to her that he managed to do something like that and he had nearly drowned in the process. Never again, Juniper decided there and then. She didn’t want to watch anyone die, not Taog and not the people who had taken them in so graciously and shown them a different path.
“Hm?” She glanced up at his question and gave an awkward smile, shaking her head.

“I don’t eat it. I guess being in touch with nature makes things like that hard. I tried to, Drit took me hunting once and I tried to shoot a rabbit but I missed, the poor thing suffered a lot and since then I just couldn’t bring myself to eat it.” She knew others did and she didn’t really mind. Meat was a hard thing to come by most of the time, even fishing required a certain level of skill. She followed along with Taog but carried her own lit torch, no one seemed to be bothered that they had ventured off. They could handle themselves, mostly. There were etchings here and there on the caves and she thought for a while.
“Dwarves make weapons, that’s what Drit said. Metal swords and shields, or they used to. Don’t you need fire for that?” She was mostly musing away time herself as she placed her footing carefully, not wanting to tumble down. Deeper and deeper they went, Juniper couldn’t see the light from the outside now and the dark felt smothering.

Juniper could sense they were deep, it didn’t even take her magic to know they were down deep into the earth. Juniper kept a close eye on Taog and followed the steps,
“Do you feel anything?” She asked Taog, it was difficult for her to really get a feel, being underground like this but she could faintly feel nature. It was going to take time for her to attune this way. There was a faint red glowing up ahead and Juniper squinted to make sure she wasn’t seeing things. She balanced the torch and pondered if it had cast a shadow in a peculiar way. The glow remained painted along the walls and Juniper could feel warmth. She poked her head around the corner to see a very thin line of lava trickling through the cavern’s corridor. Fire in the mountains, below the earth. It was liquid fire and Juniper had never seen anything like it before. The heat was a little uncomfortable for her, she hung back and looked to Taog.
“It’s a Fire River.” She said to him. He had been right, truly. There was fire beneath the earth and this small trickle was an indicator that there would be larger amounts.
  Juniper / Nullification / 17d 19h 56m 23s
Oh, could she now? Taog laughed when Juniper suggested she teach him what was good to eat and not. Was she not raised shielded and protected by the Vale far more than he was? He took his hand back and rested back on his hands, legs sprawled out in front, never touching the water. Yesterday had been wet enough, even though the water was nice and warm. Water just wasn't that nice when it surrounding him from all sides.
Why wouldn't they want to spar? Taog listened to Juniper's words and frowned, then realized his curse was haunting him still. Maybe she'd been right. He was still cursed after all.
Eritreya hadn't really shown fear though. Neither had any of the others, but that might change as his flame returned. They weren't without compassion, but a being that was strong and whole could be preyed on with fair challenge.
He and Juniper could spar?
Taog snorted. As if.
If he accidentally scorched Juniper's wings, Taog didn't think he could forgive himself. It seemed Juniper wasn't particularly set in training against him though and Taog stood when she invited him. Berries were a good breakfast and Taog casually plucked some, eyes on their surroundings. His ears listened for changes, but everything seemed calm. It really was the perfect place to set up camp, were it not for the terrible history tainting the place.
"You don't like meat?" Tao asked.
Juniper seemed to almost begrudge the hunters seeking out the easiest and most nutricious foods available. There wasn't much on these plains, so rabbits were a viable options to hunt for. The Vale never had such troubles most of the time. Perhaps it was their mixed up magic, but something was always blooming in the Vale. Taog couldn't say he longed to go back there, but his life had certainly been a lot simpler then. No worries of intricate stories, powerful beings and dark shadows stretching across the lands.
And no icy cold lakes or twisted Council members.
There was no turning back now.
Taog ate his fill, licking his fingers clean from the juice and waited for Juniper. Perhaps that dark crevice Juniper had ventured a look into the other day would hold some clues. They could also borrow some fire instead. He didn't have to use his powers, Taog reasoned. It'd be easier though and honestly, a few embers for sight wouldn't make a dent considering he could take back the flames.
This time though, Taog moved a little more elegantly and his senses were more keen. Though he wasn't in any way spectacular at detecting magic, Taog tried his hardest to sense where it was thickest, rounding corners and winding down halls. Some of them seemed to have been carved out to be smoother, bigger. Dwarves, Taog surmised.
  Taog / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 18d 11h 56m 24s
The past? She listened to Taog and she looked slightly concerned for w moment.
“Maybe the Dwarves built his home, or the chamber you keep seeing.” They would need the dwarves help then surely, maybe that was why they cowered away so obviously, they felt guilty for having helped the Great One execute his plan along with countless victims. Juniper looked over Taog’s skin and it wasn’t desolate like it had been before, there were faint glimmers of embers. He would need more rest but she seemed satisfied as she looked to his face,
“Huh? Oh, not yet.” She remarked, “I wasn’t long awake before you, there’s some berries and things around here. I could show you which ones are safe to eat.” She remarked as she let his hand drop and mused over his words. Investigating the caves did sound like an adventure they could handle and she smiled a bit, it would at least get them out of training.

“I’m sure they don’t have hard training planned for us. Especially you, I doubt anyone will want to spar with you after the whole Mothra thing.” Juniper said as she sighed and put her boots back on, lacing them up carefully and making sure they were fitting right.
“Or we could promise Barut and the others that we’ll spar and therefor not miss any of our training?” Juniper giggled with a glint of mischief rife in her emerald eyes. This was the fire time she had felt carefree. Taog was recovering, they had taken down a Council member and there was no immediate threat in this area. They were safe and could afford to be a little relaxed and lazy. Taog has height on her and weight no doubt, but Juniper was quick and she pondered that if it were another life, if Juniper had chosen the opposing side from Taog how they would match up. Taog’s flames could destroy her magic in minutes, with an opponent like him she would need to rely on her longbow or pole work. Maybe if she could split rocks though...

Juniper shrugged, leaving the decision up to him as she brushed herself off.
“C’mon, these bushes have the best berries if I can coax it to actually blossom.” She remarked as she shook a little snow off of one of the bushes at the edge. She concentrated and given the area they were in it didn’t take much as rich blackberries sprouted from the bush.
“Hah! Blackberries.” She murmured as she plucked a few from the plant and popped one in her mouth. She didn’t mind the broths and soups and teas but sometimes it was nice to have something lighter and easier.
“They sent out a hunting party today, Mirriam said they might find a lot of rabbits here.” Juniper shrugged. Meat definitely did not interest her but she knew for others it was incredibly nourishing and a rare thing to eat.
  Juniper / Nullification / 18d 14h 5m 20s
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