"Disgusting!" Feylachar spewed just as the word sounded.
"Proud perhaps. Unknowing of how you feel. But he just saved your life you know." Shaela told her in defence of her best friend.
"Yes. I know what it is to save a life. Saving one has never meant taking one to me. In such a disgusting manner! I'll never shake that from my mind!" she spoke unable to erase the image of her attacker's last moments from her mind.
The shadow cat had already long since moved on and was conceiving of its next plan. Even it's next prey perhaps. It's fur neither her nor there, where ever there was as that was not clear even with here as a reference.
"You spend too much time in that bunker for the Wytch kind who get too used to the shelter of the Sanctum." Shaela brushed the chops of her saviour as she spoke,
It smiled proudly all too happy to receive her attention.
"Well perhaps that is why Thara picked us for this? Don't you think? I mean I am never let out of that place anyway. You get to run around with Mila. Nelony. Even Jasmer." Feylachar said as she thought of Jasmer's firm jaw and lips caressing her's.
Jasmer had been a point of attention from the early days of the first Sanctum just as he had now to many of it's lady patrons. His age never giving way to his enticing looks which always seemed to latch onto some. Feylachar much like Yirfir had found him as such. Mature. Commanding. Charismatic beyond measure. Sexual yet only just touch without such. Imagination was the only true aphrodisiac. For women as compassionate as Feylachar, Jasmer was it's spice. Yirfir thrived in his love and though not ultimately jealous, she'd known of his ever conducive presence to others of her sex.
Shaela's lost love had echoed through her mind and she'd long since learnt to silence his dying voice from it. Her mind. It was her's after all. Tears. Pain. His touch upon her breast. His death back in time long before any had known he'd passed and how his heroic effort had saved her. Shaela had long been friends with the pain of loss. Feylachar had been a friend of life and love. Her eyes and heart were not accustomed to the path those like Shaela had lived.
Feylachar looked upon the shadow cat. It's head arched high looking over their surroundings without concern. Only then did she notice it's wound. Small but still a pain upon her being for Feylachar was a healer of reknown. Her's was of compassion for the living and all who'd benefited from her as such were a part of her. Even Thara, whose life she'd saved during the second battle of the Sanctum. Feylachar still heard the echoes of that night in her sleep sometimes. The long night as they called it in the Sanctum.
The shadow cat looked around and paused when it spied Shaela, a smile crossing it's face though none could ever be sure.
"We're friends. We've been as such for a long time." Shaela brushed it's whiskers.
"She chose us. Thara I mean. For this effort." Feylachar stepped between the shadowcat and Shaela.
The shadowcat then did something that Shaela had never seen before. It licked Feylachar's back lovingly and protectively. Then it looked back at Shaela as if to say "She's a good people. Accept her".
"Well it seems you have an unexpected friend." Shaela said playing down what she'd seen.
"Maybe we should concentrate on what we've been tasked with?" Shaela looked through her.
"You're the Night Wytch. Please do lead on. If you are hurt, then just tap me on the shoulder. Two, maybe three times. Just so I'll know." Shaela's shadowcat sensed the rivalry though not taking sides.
"You will have no such luxury! We're only working together because Thara recommended it and because we are doing this for Theagritanerice" Shaela responded.
"A what?" Feylachar responded.
"A part of the Librum Codex." Shaela told Feylachar.
"Why is it the Order of the Night Wytch have such a stick afore with the Order Of The Well?" Feylachar asked honestly/
That is when the second wave struck and without warning.
Feylachar caught it first even before the shadowcat had sensed the attack with it's extra planar senses.
Feyla had never shaped her magicks for harm and hurting but she'd also never seen these beings afore.
Her hand formed the etchings of the embrace. That which gave life when it was needed. Her chest ebbed as her life force energy sprang forth from her and into her handshape.
"We have come to tell you that you are entered in should you choozzzzzeeee." the shapeghost spoke.
"We've entered. Not chosen. There is not a choice in this madness!" Shaela's voice pierced far into their etchings in this world.
"If you come. Your shadowcat will be useless in ourrrrrealms!" the shapeghost continued.
Feylachar nodded to Shaela in acknowledgement. She'd known the language of the shapeghost before.
"Then I guess I need you?" Shaela looked at Feylachar.
Shaela's red hair stood out in the night and pierced the air with it's presence.
"Damn you, Did you not hear Thara. We need each other!" Feylachar pleaded with the Night Wytch.
"Then if I am of the night and the Sanctum. Why can you not trust me?" Shaela asked her.
"We're not on familiar ground this time Night Wytch!" Feylachar spoke using her essence to shield her from the presence of the Night Wytch.
"Oh yes. Mila would like you. Even my dear friend Nelony. But I?" Shaela stepped forward into her space.
"Not one bit. You couldn't save... Him!" Shaela's tears held their stay in the corners of her eyes.
"Dammit Shaela! When will you let loose of it! I did everything that I could. A lady of warmth could possibly do!" Feylachar's very own life energy had gone into reviving him.
Shaela's love had too long been in the dead. His life force too long passed. No healer could have sparked his being and Feylachar had been the one present to. She'd failed and Shaela had that failure etched upon her heart. Forever.
Feylachar's magic was not limited for she'd affected many lives positively from whence she could draw her reserves. Her mind was set in forward thinking and her immense affection despite her limits.
Shaela's shadow cat finished and approached the shapeghost. It's Jacobson organ let forth a breath of shade and the shapeghost stood before it.
"Not so easy for one of your kind to pass." it told the shadowcat.
"This beast comes with me." Shaela demanded staring the shapeghost down both eyes, red hair and aura pressing hard.
Feylachar pressed the shapeghost as hard as she could.
"We are here to be set free open our eyes to help us see moi j'eune pas c'est une jeune fille. Mon aime c'est je te se jeune fille?" Feylachar did her best with seductive language, a specialty of her healing regimen as was native to la langue francais.
The world around Feylachar, Shaela and her shadowcat dissipated to pink.
"What now?" Shaela asked.
"Trust. Know ye not?" Feylachar asked.
"Ask our Judge yet deceased." Shaela's tears fell.
The material plane disappeared and dissipated.
The shadow cat appeared first.
Updated: November 14, 2014 12:00AM
From their point of view it was as if the land itself had remained the same, and the atmosphere had somehow changed. Transformed their perception. It was the same space, but a different phase or wavelength.
The shapeghost appeared before them.
"There are some things you cannot undo. The strangeness is one of them. Though you might try?" it mocked them.
Shaela thought there was something bizarre about where they had just left and where they had just arrived.
"Why hey shant I not say? The strange?" she asked the shapeghost unaware of her expression.
"Some things are real. Arete! C'est une visage!" Feylachar spoke and the strangeness consumed her expression.
"No. It is real. As it had been passing into yours the material plane. The prime, you know. The place you call home? Detected it in the midspace they did. Your so called Sanctum. Sent you." the shapeghost spoke its words immune to the insanity of the strangeness.
"So entered we. How?" Shaela asked shielding herself and her mind from the strangeness with her aura.
"By the folds of space, it somehow overlapped yours with ours here. Made a tunnel, though not a tunnel like the kind that goes through space. It goes through layers. Dimensions you might know them as." the shapeghost's presence momentarily warped from their perspective.
"So what holds. ?Tothis. Gether" Feylachar asked, her speak changed immensely by the strangeness.
"That is what we are here to find out. I am your guide through our plane." the shapeghost told them.
"We've told not to been trust you. Thy bara." Shaela looked at the creature sceptically.
"No. You must. I will not harm you. I cannot. Yet. Until the strangeness is lifted. Then our deal is done. If I get you before you're to safety and back at the folds here, you are mine to devour. Mind, being and all. Agreed?" the shapeghost proposed.
Shaela had heard the legends about shapeghosts and they were made up the kind of tales of terror that might be in the nightmares of even the most powerful of Wytch kind. Shapeghosts were dangerous as they were treacherous. Shaela looked at Feylachar who looked back at her with a look of questioning doubt. Shaela smirked at her.
"Now scaring me you're!" Shaela told her.
"It's agreed." Feylachar turned having asserted her choice for both of them fending off the worst of her fears.
This made Shaela feel much better for some reason and she stood confidently, her cat taking up its place beside her.
"Oh, heh heh heh. Your cat. Like me by the strangeness is bound between planes. We are neither here nor there. Your cat can communicate, but it cannot interact with anything on this plane until the strangeness is done and dealt away." the shapeghost told them.
"So all spells it is to deal this with !nonsense" Shaela spoke resolutely though feeling slightly unsure having her protector and friend unable to assist.
"As it were. You two beauuuuuutiful girls. Let us go." the shapeghost beckoned them to follow as it half floated and walked towards a great ravine.
Shaela followed first. Feylachar fell in behind looking warily behind them at the shadow cat.
"Does it a not name have?" Feylachar asked her.
"No. Errr. But Yes. only I it know alone." Shaela tried to explain through the strangeness.
"You tell me? can't even" Feylachar asked her curious to know the creature's name.
"Absolutely not! Nobody else can. Its what binds us. I don't even speak it when I'm alone." Shaela told her promptly and determinately.
"They why you can't give it alternate name? an Like Cuddles." Feylachar asked her with a delightful smile on her face.
"Cuddles? Never. No. I cannot give it any other name, for if it responds by name, any name. Our binding is lost. It is my friend. We are almost as one." Shaela seemed a bit agitated at having to answer this.
Feylachar understood immediately. Healing was much the same way as it was as much binding with your patient and then balancing between you and them their ills. This is why it is considered such a dangerous art for healers give of their own essence to heal others. Their reserves of lifeforce though, are far beyond those not in tune with the healing arts.
"Do I sense a bit of ego with regard to your cat then? You don't want it to be furry? Cuddly? More like a beast or monster!" she asked in a joyous manner holding up both her hands in front of her like claws.
"Stop that nonsense. Its a dangerous beast. Not to be taken so casually." Shaela looked back at the shadow cat, which held its chin up high with pride.
"Furry and cuddly I think." Feylachar said giggling a little.
"A dangerous beast!" Shaela stopped as she spoke up.
"Hey! Do you notice something?" Feylachar asked her looking around.
"The strangeness. It's gone. We're speaking as we would normally." Shaela observed.
"Exactly! Why do you think that is?" Feylachar asked looking to the shapeghost.
"Look not to me for answers. I am not even affected by the strangeness. Only beings from the Prime are affected so. I cannot tell you." if slightly phased and warped as it spoke.
Shaela looked at it sceptically.
"I do not know why it has stopped for you." it shuddered once again.
"Do not hold your Speak now. tongue" Shaela's speech once again fell to the effects of the strangeness.
"I do not know. I can only say that we must proceed if we are to get there before night fall." the shapeghost spoke with an almost sinister smile on its face.
"If hiding you are from anything me, spell phase cast I'll plane you into nether world! the" Shaela spoke looking very angry and flustered.
"You need try no such coil with me, Night Wytch. I'll be safe unto you until our deeeeeal is concluded." the shapeghost spoke this time concealing its nature.
Update: Friday November 14, 2014 10:58 AM
The land surrounding them was not as lush and fertile as the land of the Prime, the world of the material plane itself where Feylachar's and Shaela's life had been spent. Most of the plants seemed to be fungal with the occasional tree spouting up through a patch. The world around them was discoloured from how it might appear in the Prime as well as light played tricks with their eyes. It was barren and rocky, with occasional plains that gave rise to the odd plant or fungal pod.
The shapeghosts had been a natural part of this plane and its most dangerous of denizens but there was other life that took part in the daily struggle to survive. The shapeghosts were at the top of the food chain in this plane, as they were in many other planes. Especially to those that dealt in the weave. Shapeghosts did not retain any singular form but just a shape much like that of a hunched over man. They had no features such as surface or skin and were just a constant fluctuation of turbulence that was a residual of the magical aether. Occasionally a feature like a face or eyes might be seen flowing across their form at any part of it. This was most likely an aetheric echo from one of those they'd consumed. They were drawn to magic and those who used it for any purpose at all. They were a bane to the Power Lords and Culdar Rath as much as they were to the residents of the Sanctum. Treacherous devourers of all, through their deathly equal opportunity. Few whom had encountered them stood a chance at all, though some had been rumoured to have survived an encounter with such a vile being. Their hunger for the energy of magic was eternal as the planes of existence themselves. They were drawn to it from this plane and would cross other planes and thousands of leagues just to get to it.
It lead them down first into a sloped gully which curved into a ravine, taking them below the surface of the land around them. Canyon walls rose and blocked the remnants of the setting sun casting an eerie lavender shadow across them. This sent chills up Feylachar's spine as she tightened the distance between her and Shaela.
"Trick foul creature! better not this be" Shaela told it showing little fear of it though inside she struggled with it.
Shaela's shadow cat looked to Shaela and then to the shapeghost sensing the tension but ultimately unable to do anything about it. Though the cat could walk on the land itself, it had no solid interaction with anything else. It could see and sense other things around it, even with its unique ability to smell intent but it could do little to intervene. The shapeghost fortunately for both her and Feylachar was bound by the same limitation.
Feylachar jumped when she saw something that looked like a giant millipede slither up the canyon wall from one hole to another.
"Thas wat?!! what" she pressed herself against Shaela for protection.
"That wassssss a veth. They are harmless I assure you. It is what hunts veth that you should concern yourselves with." the shapeghost answered them honestly.
"yourlain creature! Expself foul" Shaela scolded the shapeghost demanding explanation.
"The veth are hunted by mookduns as we call them though mookduns will eat just about anything." the shapeghost spoke unconcerned.
"Except you." Shaela said clearly.
"Precisely." the shapeghost told her.
"Then why are you leading us through this treacherous course? Are you planning to weaken us before we deal with the strangeness so that you'll be able to deal with us easier after we're removed it?" Shaela once again said clearly and determinately unaffected by the strangeness.
"Why nooooo. Never. You worry far too much about such a being as myself. The rumours far outweigh the truth in these mattersssssss." the shapeghost's form distorted momentarily disappearing then reappearing.
"I like don't this." Feylachar said looking around.
"Pull yourself together!" Shaela told her feeling a little put off by Feylachar's sheltered naivety.
Shaela had always been brash and bold and often assumed that others were the same as herself. Whenever someone had gotten clingy with her, she would push them away as she liked her solitude and independence. This had changed when she'd met the Magistrate of West View. She had let him into her in a way that she'd never let anyone in. He was independent like her, and cared little of what others thought of him, even during the worst of the hunt. Many of the hunters despised him as did the Culdar Rath and this upset him none. He'd just ignore the remarks and continue on as if nothing had happened. He eventually started to break down when the Culdar Rath had situated residents beside him on both sides of his quaint manner. They had nightly used the weave to break down his resolve, even with her protection. It was from this experience that she felt that she had failed as a protector leading up to the battle of West View in the town's final moments of existence. With Feylachar seeking such protection from her, she'd felt vulnerable to that responsibility and ultimately to her failure of her own one true love.
Feylachar sensed a great deal of anguish within her and forgave her harshness. Being a healer gave her great insight to the nature of illness and pain, both physical and emotional. Both were as debilitating and she'd learned to recognize the difference in her early life when she'd honed her natural abilities for treating others. She shook of her sense of fear and focused on the goal at hand.
"Maybe we could cast a veil?" Feylachar suggested.
"No. It wouldn't work here. Noooo." the shapeghost sounded excited by the prospect of the magic though he could do nothing to consume it's wielder.
"Yes. I think that I know of an alteration that would work here..." Shaela spoke as she began the incantation.
Her hands moved through the air weaving the aether into a glowing green dome which expanded like a the bubble from a sweltering froth. The air around it sizzled as it grew to encompass them. Shadow cat, shapeghost and all.
Just as the dome had completed its growth around them, an enormous creature with three large fangs jumped from the canyon wall, camoflaged amongst the rock face. It bore its fangs into the dome. It had two enormous muscular legs with extendible claws at the feet and no arms. Several mandibles attempted to drag them all along with the dome into its gullet. Shaela struggled to maintain the dome while Feylachar started casting her own.
"I've an idea!" Feylachar screamed.
She let her spell got which connected a tether from the creature to the shadow cat. The shadow cat's immaterial form slowly became material and it once again could respond directly to the environment.
"Noooo!" the shapeghost hollared in ectasy and anticipation at the thought of consuming them both.
The shadow cat rolled out from the dome and confronted the creature, which was nearly twice the shadow cat's size. The creature a little dazed from having part of its material energy drained stumbled and fell to the ground. The shadow cat wasted no time and leapt onto its back looking for a point to attack. The shadow cat dug its claws into the creature which wailed in pain. It jumped up flinging the shadow cat into the wall of the canyon. The shadow cat landed on its feet using the momentum the creature had given it to launch itself off the canyon wall and back at the creature. They collided and the shadow cat viciously wrapped its claws around the creature seeking purchase of its neck. The creature's neck was too short and stocky for the shadow cat to bite, so it bit at a soft spot behind its jaws and mandibles.
The creature yelled in excruciating pain kicking the shadow cat with one of its monstrous legs. The cat flew at the dome and its panicking residents, even the shadowghost ducked though no harm could befall it. The shadow cat landed just barely missing Feylachar and Shaela with its legs as it had taken measurement of its landing to do so. The shadow cat stopped to sniff Shaela, then Feylachar making sure they were alright.
The creature charged at all of them, extending its three fangs in front of it as it did. The shadow cat leapt again landing on its back and digging its fangs into the gack of its neck this time. The creature continued its charge towards the dome and the ladies within oblivious to the cat's attack. The cat bit down ferociously and clamped its claws around the beast. The creature's head turned sideways just as it was about to collide with Shaela and turned in direction towards the canyon. The cat bit down as the creature flailed and ran at the wall. The cat jumped off at the last possible moment and the creature collided with the wall with a thud.
There was dust momentarily before the creature stood up, two of its fangs broken. It fled back down the canyon the way they'd came screaming as it did. It disappeared into the lavender darkness still crying.
The shadow cat found its way back to Feylachar and Shaela and checked them both. It's form slowly began to dematerialize as Feylachar's spell had its limits.
"Not bad for someone who doesn't get out of the Sanctum much. Very creative." Shaela commented at Feylachar's quick improvised use of a healing chain to borrow the creatures material form for the shadow cat.
"Thank you. We did it together though you know. You saved us all Shaela." Feylachar said rubbing the shadow cat's chin as it dissipated back to immaterial form.
"Yessss. Most excellent. Goooood magics. Most goood. Yesssss." the shapeghost thought about his future meal.
Update: Friday November 14, 2014 11:17 PM
"We'd best moving. now get" Shaela said as she bound the protective dome to her aura still not quite confident with the responsibility of being a protector.
The shadow cat stepped aside though its material cohesion in the plane had dissipated. It could no longer affect anything and was as the shapeghost was: eyes, ears and a mouth to communicate to them. No more.
As they proceeded the dome followed them much as Mila's dome had exposed the way for Barris and Sato in the forest surrounding Sharlesbury three hundred and fifty years earlier. The shapeghost held its tongue for the time, perhaps scheming or dreaming or both. Shaela kept her eyes on it. She did not trust it at all.
"Tell me about the your trials. For the Night Wytch Order. The stuff you can speak about. What were they like? I'd like to know." Feylachar asked Shaela almost clinically.
Shaela paused thinking about her trials. They had been a long time ago for her and she was a much different person at that time.
"They were exciting of course. One test found me in the labyrinth. A tremendous garden course beset with beasts of all varieties. I of course screwed it up right from the start. My beast friend here saved my sorry state from certain death." she spoke of the shadow cat, whose ears twitched when she made mention.
She paused a long moment before speaking again and Feylachar listened intently.
"The worst wasn't about spell casting or combat at all. It was about overcoming myself and my own limitation. Transcending them. Moving beyond what I thought I was capable of and pushing it to the limits. Well beyond. I cannot explain. I can only tell you of its results. Its impossible to describe something that can only be experienced. There are such things you know." she told Feylachar her mind lost in remembrance of those experiences that had cumulated to make her the woman that she was today.
"Perhaps that is what our experience of love is. Something that we share with someone else that we cannot describe? Something that we cannot share because it can only be experienced. No described, communicated or explained." Feylachar suggested.
Shaela thought again about the Magistrate and what Feylachar had just said best descibed what she had felt with him. No explanation but a release of her true potential and inhibitions. He did not belittle her but only helped her to feel that she could be as much as she wanted to be. The Magistrate died shortly after she'd overcome her self imposed limitations. By that time it had been nearly three days since Evan had left for the frontier with a division of troops to confront the forces of the Culdar Rath laying siege to the Haven. She'd never seen him alive again. Much like her father whose heart had given out when she was young. A tear welled in her eye and she held it back. She'd rather die a thousand deaths than yield to such emotions.
"Why are you asking such questions healer?" she asked agitated by the questioning of the young and naive healer of the Order Of The Well.
"Because I want to know. I want to know more about someone that I look up to. Whether you realize it or not, you are a hero to many of us in the Sanctum. Us of the new generation. We look up to you. Mila. Nelony. Yirfir. Jasmer. Not all of us are speakstars." Feylachar said to her truthfully.
Feylachar's generation had arrived and been overlooked mostly as the passing of generations through any such place as the Sanctum. At first to those who'd been in power, it was a threat to your age. Then it was defining moment in their chance to influence the generations to come. Then it went back to the age threat as by that time, many of the new generation had developed ego. A sometimes ugly trait which made the difference between real ability, imagined ability and feelings of inadequacy. Speakstars was the slang word for hotshots. Egotists who made up for their lack of ability by over exaggeration. There were many at the Sanctum who were hotshots trying to prove themselves but ultimately only to themselves.
"I was once a speakstar, though in those days we were called hotshots." she smiled telling her about her life.
"I had been so excited the first time I'd summoned an actual being from the shadow plane. Little did I know that the first one I did was one of the most dangerous beasts from it. Good thing I passed the shadow cat's scent test." she smiled thinking about it.
Her first time summoning had brought forth the most enormous and grumpy shadow cat she'd ever seen. It was a bit overweight and beyond its prime but still very deadly. She'd been in the confines of a small space so that made it all the worse with nowhere to run. The cat had been awakened from a deep slumber by the summoning so it was tired too. Most other Night Wytch would have been quickly felled in a comparable situation but Shaela had survived her experience.
The overweight shadow cat roared at her sending her hair back away from her face and paralysing her with fear. She stood her ground unsure of what to do. She'd been told by the instructors never to show fear and despite the fact that this monstrous beast had been agitated and tempered, she still was in awe of its beauty. If leveled its face to hers, diminishing her in size and quickly sizing her up as a quick snack. She held her ground and the enormous cat opened its mouth and sampled her aura with its innate intent organ. It closed its mouth and licked its lips sniffing her for a moment. She stood still not sure of what to expect next. Then it began to clean her like it might have a kitten. She stood still as the bristly tongue brushed her skin and clothing lightly, nearly disrobing her. Then it went back to sleep. She'd taken the opportunity to quickly unsummon it back to the shadow realm to finish its slumber. She smiled as she remembered.
"What about you? How was your experience of the great weave? What can you tell me of yourself?" Shaela asked Feylachar curious about this illustrious sprite of energy.
"I didn't really have much of a trial per se. It really came for me just shortly after the battle of Alivale. As you know a contingent of Norbids had stormed Mila's house in search of a relic there. I think it was a amulet of some sort. They'd laid waste to the nearby strip and its residents. That was beside the levelled warehouse where I'd tried to resurrect Barris. I cannot speak of that though. I was called in by the Sanctum to help the residents and rebuild the strip before it became common knowledge. Make it appear like nothing had happened. There had been so much destruction and three people dead. I'd only brought someone back once, but it was close. They had been dead for at least forty five minutes. Bringing someone back from the dead is dangerous as any healer will tell you. Our weave requires us to invest a great deal of ourselves in the injured or deceased and in doing so we risk ourselves. Many healers have been pulled down into the great sleep trying to bring back the dead. It is risky and beyond explanation. Like your experiences. Without description. When you link with the dead, you die yourself for a short time. It is timeless. Time passes at a different rate so one year can be as little as a minute here. With such a broad realm of time for experiences I cannot describe what I've encountered in just the first two resurrections I've performed. There is darkness and then it is like being born, into another world. There I was in the legendary nether. A world in the imagination of the recently deceaced. A world in their shared imagination. Things I'd never have conceived of in reality and I'd have to find them within and convince them to liberate themselves from their own mind. I've only ever lost one. A painful experience when you invest so much of yourself into such an effort. It takes weeks to get over fully. They're stuck to you for a long time and then it fades and you feel depressed for their loss." Feylachar tried to explain it to Shaela but ultimately understood it would have been like Shaela trying to explain her experiences to her.
"We're almost here, though you might want to sssssslow and take the hive by watch." the shapeghost interrupted their tete a tete.
"Hive?" Shaela asked the shapeghost.
"It appears to be an infestation of some form. I've never seen it before." the shapeghost explained as it slightly distorted appearing completely upsidedown momentarily to them.
Shaela stepped forward concentrating and dimming the dome that surrounded them until it was no more visible but still very much present.
The hive as the shapeghost had explained it was made up of several rock mounds that were built up from the canyon floor. The mounds spewed energy in small bursts leaving a residual cloud of mist which quickly dispersed into the surrounding landscape. A ghostly looking insect emerged from the mound and collected the energy from the air with a spout that rose from its hind quarters. As it gathered, the shadow cat walked around nervously like something had disturbed its peace. It mewed a few times to Shaela quietly trying to warn her of the impending danger careful not to warn the insectoids.
"This is a planar leech hive. They devour residual planar energy that results from the friction between planes. It is rare but very deadly. The strangeness is one of the symptoms of their presence. Their refuse affects reality literally. Distorts it." Shaela explained to them recognizing it as she'd seen it once before in a nightmare.
Shortly before the Magistrate's death, she'd received an omen in a dream explaining that she'd die by hive of the kind so that the breath alone could not save her. She'd puzzled over it trying to link it to the Magistrate's death but ultimately never being able to.
"You know do you'ssssse?" the shapeghost asked them looking to Shaela already knowing.
"Yes. I know. I know what must be done." Shaela explained to the shapeghost.
"Then let it be. Night Wytch." she could feel the shapeghost's elation through it's veil.
Update: Tuesday November 18, 2014 8:58 PM
The truth was that she did not know for she'd never encountered creatures such as these. This was one occasion where shapeghost and Wytch kind had worked together to overcome such a mutual obstacle to their existence. The only other time in history such a union resulted had seen a powerful sorcerer of some reknown centuries before the Sanctum, become the shapeghost's next meal. After he had dealt with the hive. So there was no other recorded information about these hives or even shapeghosts for that matter. Just warnings to take heed and use extreme caution in any dealings with them.
"Can you not get closer to have a look for us?" Shaela addressed the shapeghost.
"No. The energies they devour are intertwined with my own. If I get too close it might be dangeroussssssss for mine." the shapeghost distorted temporarily then blinked out, reappearing a moment later.
"I want you to keep an eye on the shapeghost. If anything should happen while I make this attempt, I want you to use your trick with the healing spine to bring the shadow cat into this plane. It will protect you and even if I cease to be, it will be bound here for another few hours. That will be plenty of time for you to get back to the portal and warn the others of what we've learnt here. Comprendez vu?" Shaela asked Feylachar.
"Oui. I mean yes. I understand. I will do as you instructed but I won't let it come down to that. I won't be leaving without you." Feylachar told her determinately.
"Don't gamble with others' concern for your well being, wagering it against yours and their safety. That is often the fuel for such promises." Feylachar said with experience far beyond her years.
"Point taken Feylachar. It is easy to see why Thara chose you for this dangerous task. You do what you have to. Just take care." Shaela asked her as an equal.
"Let's get this done and get out of here. What do we need to do?" Feylachar asked her, getting to the point.
"I'm going to get close to them and examine the hive a little bit closer. Naturally I'll protect myself with an aura. I'll bind the protective dome to you. Stay close to my cat." Shaela said as she stepped out from the dome.
When she was in open air again, she began a series of incantations and gestures. The energy of her aura began to grow and soon it was too focused for even Feylachar to look. She turned away and the shapeghost was elated with the display. If it had been material here, it might have been seen to be drooling if it could do such a thing. Wisps of various colours emanated from her finally congealing to form a single shifting multicolour aura around her, making her appear much like the shapeghost. Feylachar noted that may be related to the secret of how the shapeghosts were able to absorb magic and consume magic.
Shaela cast another spell, this one much less involved which imbued her with greater vision that she would need to dissect the hive's architecture. She proceeded towards the hive quietly stepping carefully forward. As she neared the hive, some of the collector insects stopped, turning what she presumed to be their heads towards her. One of them began to shriek then the others did the same. Shaela expected a similar reaction so she fought with her feelings of fear and continued her inspection of the hive.
The hive itself was similar in structure to that of an ant colony, though it was far less intricate and did not stretch so far beneath the surface. She'd noted that there was an immense concentration of energy near its centre.
"Source That of strang-ek ness that must-ek be." she tried to speak but found that the strangeness had once again consumed her speech.
That is when the shapeghost advanced towards Shaela. It's form had changed and it was now fully material in this plane. It was hungry and therefore very dangerous and very much lusted after her and her source of magic energy.
"Shaela! Look out!" Feylachar screamed.
Feylachar let a barrage of energy balls forth from her hands trying to slow the shapeghost's advance on Shaela. The balls hit the shapeghost, seeming to energize it.
"Yesssssss. Feeds me more. More!" the shapeghost grew ecstatic.
Shaela opened a large hole beneath the shapeghost which started to suck the air around it. The shapeghost was momentarily slowed nearly being sucked into the hole itself.
"That was good. Very good." the shapeghost absorbed the magical energy from the hole making it disappear before long.
Shaela opened a portal hoping she could get on the other side of the shapeghost. As she attempted to enter, the shapeghost absorbed the portal and now stood between her, Feylarchar and the shadow cat.
"This is it then Night Wytch. I'd say you and your Sanctum friends fell for my trap nicely. I set up the hive myself. It is how those of my kind proliferate their existence you know. I used the essence of the sssssssssorcerer I'd eaten more than a millenium ago by your measure of time to fuel the hive. Merely an instant in our perception of time. So I like a bird, regurgitated his essence for my progeny to consume. Soon, my offspring will emerge from the hive and I will merge with it and the cycle will be complete. Think of how nicely you, your history and energy contributed to my kind. Soon you will be forgotten and I will be everything you were." the shapeghost moved towards Shaela readying itself to consume her.
Feylachar charged at the shapeghost, which turned and strike her. Shaela caught the shapeghost's offending appendage, which was ice cold to the touch. The shapeghost struggled with Shaela who caught the shapeghost's other appendage and they struggled, arm in arm with one another.
"Feisssssssty girl she isssssssss." the shapeghost turned its full attention to Shaela once again.
"Feylachar! Get back to the portal. Warn the others, I beg of you. I cannot hold it much longer!" Shaela pleaded with Feylachar.
The shapeghost's head connected with Shaela's aura and Shaela fell weakened before the shapeghost still clasping its arms. The shapeghost consumed her energy savouring every instant until it draw no more from her. The once great Shaela fell limp and dead before the shapeghost.
Feylachar stood in disbelief that she had just seen one of her idols, consumed and discarded by that monster of a creature. She felt a rush of emotions. Pain. Helplessness. Rage. She'd struggled with them all many times before and she kept her head about her and turned to run to the portal that had brought them here. She'd warn the others and they'd return in force and better prepared to deal with this menace. She'd never forget what Shaela had done for her for Shaela had given her life for her. She lay a spell to hasten her travel and as she was about to make haste, it happened.
The hive burst and out from the havok emerged an enormous multicoloured ball of glowing energy. The ball floated free of the hive, the insectoids who'd gathered for it dead already.
"Yes my progeny! Come. We shall take our legacy of the great consuming of the aether together!" the shapeghost invited the energy ball with open arms.
The ball floated freely for a moment and then it did the extraordinary. It merged itself into Shaela's dead body.
Shaela glowed with the immense energy and arose from her grave on the canyon floor. There she stood in front of the shapeghost unafraid and unburdened of her former emotional angst.
"You have something that belongs to this woman. This lady whose body I now inhabit. You shall fall and then you shall return it to her and then your kind shall leave them in peace, never to cross paths ever again." Shaela spoke though her voice was mixed with a thousand other voices.
"You are my offspring. I gave birth to you." the shapeghost told Shaela and the beings speaking through Shaela.
"No. The hive gave birth to your progeny. You left me and the essence of thousands to be consumed by it. We instead it never developed it turns out. Your hive was producing nothing but the energies which we consumed knowing you'd return. You have returned to take the lives of these innocent women. We are arisen to deal with you once and for all." Shaela and the thousand voices spoke.
"Nooooooo. This cannot be. I will consume all of you then and become the most powerful shapeghost of ever and more." the shapeghost screamed as it advanced to do battle.
The shapeghost reached out to grasp Shaela and as it contacted her, an immense burst of energy threw it back.
"What is this? What is this that I cannot devour your being?" the shapeghost asked in bewilderment.
"The hive fed us planar energy. Energy from every plane of existence. Including yours you fool. We are immune to you but you na'er be to us." Shaela spoke the thousand voices backing her up.
Shaela lifter her arms in the air and the shapeghosts were drawn unwillingingly into a ball of energy between her hands. The energy grew as more were consumed by it until the last one grabbed hold of the ground in front of Feylachar.
"Pleeeeez kind girl. Don't let it take me. I want to live." it pleaded with Feylachar stroking her heartstrings manipulatively.
She looked at it now appearing helpless and pleading for mercy and affection. The she thought about how quickly it had consumed Shaela moments earlier. It looked to Shaela and the thousand voices, thinking that it must have consumed every single one of those voices at one time. They too had probably pleaded with the shapeghost and were ignored.
"Mercy is to be decided by Shaela and the voices. Not by I. I will not interfere for you have committed far too many atrocities to be ignored." Feylachar told it completely comfortable with her choice.
"Noooooooooooo!" it screamed as it lost its grip and flew into the energy cluster between Shaela's hands.
Then there was silence.
"Shaela?" Feylachar asked her.
"Yes. I am here but with many more. Ironically. We must be returned to the Sanctum and to the Codex Librum Universalis. There we will become a part of the full knowledge of the Sanctum and the history of our existence will be restored. We will no longer be the lost and disappeared dead. Our ancestors will rest in peace and we shall become part of the Great Source and the Great Well." Shaela and the thousand voices responded.
"Shaela will be returned?" Feylachar asked.
Deep inside, Shaela felt herself at ease for the first time in a long time.
Feylachar thought to herself rhetorically that sometimes we all need someone to save us.
Not just for you.
Copyright © 2014 Brian Joseph Johns