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Staring Into the Abyss

McIan

Adventurer
Magnus could not tear himself away from the window. Each and every morning he gazed out across the green turf to view the dark, shadowy, citadel nearly a stone's throw distant. He wondered since the day he came to Sanctuary why the architects of this peaceful, welcoming, Abbey-style haven had elected to erect it so close to such a depressingly forbidding castle. He had been told that Sanctuary was the former residence of a man named Torak who had been working for the government in Britain but who had fallen out of favor, branded a criminal, and was now a fugitive from justice. This, his former home, had been confiscated, remodeled, and turned into a safehouse for all who needed a home, a redoubt, secluded and secure. He himself had come here, invited by his uncle, Itannar, Warden Commander of the Yew Commonwealth, and thus far had found it to be a home away from home which had been Trinsic at first and then Jhelom. Yet it was a paradox that tormented him. Why co-exist with the very thing this haven was dedicated to eradicating, or at least opposing vehemently if not always violently? He shook his head and turned away, sitting down in a chair beside a fireplace. Moments later his uncle arrived and, seeing him, smiled, sitting in a chair opposite him. "Good morning, nephew... and a glorious one, is it not?

Magnus nodded absently but the affirmation was palpably unconvincing. "Aye," he replied softly.

Itannar, old in age being half-elven, wrinkled his brow. "Is everything all right?" he asked. "You seem distracted today."

Magnus, knowing he could not lie nor fool his uncle, nodded again. "I am. I don't understand why we allow that foul castle to exist so near to our home? It stands for all we despise and we let it go! Every day I see odd beings, cloaked and ominous-looking, go in and out of it doing who knows what evil in the world. Is it not a stain upon the land? Is it not an offense to anyone but me?" His tone rose as he spoke and a frown crossed his face.

"That was the point of this place, nephew. Before we built this it was the home of a foul traitor and it complemented the citadel adjacent. By what we have made here of this place, it is in defiance of that. Do you not think that those who live there look out their windows too and grit their teeth at what we have done? Besides, the place is a fortress. None can enter unbidden and one must count all costs before one declares war on another. These thoughts fill the minds of them as well, and stay their hand also because being evil is not commensurate with stupidity as many believe," he explained in a calm, confident, tone of reassurance. "Relish the fact that they are as chagrined at us as we may be towards them."

His words made sense, bringing some clarity of thought. "You are right, uncle but I chafe at the sight of the place and wish I could march in and kill them all," Magnus confessed.

To those words Itannar frowned slightly. "Your zeal for good is noted and not unappreciated, nephew, but learn to control your passion for violence even toward those deserving of it. Compassion is vital to our cause, our way of life and many who are evil now may become good in time and those who are good now may become evil if they lose themselves staring into the abyss," he warned. "None are immune. Not even I."

Magnus was taken aback by the warning. He had never considered such a possibility. To him, light and dark, good and evil, were two sides of a coin. One entered life to be one or the other; the script was etched in the coin by the gods from birth. "The tiger may not change its stripes, uncle," he stated, sharing an age old adage.

Itannar smiled. "So it is said. Yet perhaps the stripes may change the tiger," he countered.

Magnus nodded. Feeling better after the conversation he decided to pay a visit to the tavern which was the third structure in the triangle of buildings situated together. There was a young, beautiful, bar maid who had caught his eye, and he thought, he had caught hers. She had asked him to see her this eve and he promised he would. Of the three, Alderia's Oasis was definitely a rising second on his list.
 

Deminatza

Visitor
TWICE SHY

Mahal was clearing down one of the tables when Alan elbowed her and nodded towards the door, “Your boyfriend's here. Third night in a row?” He winked and easily dodged her punch and his eyes were alight with mischief whispering, “You and he sitting in a tree, K I S S I N-”

“Good evening,” the two were so engrossed in their bickering that they did not hear man’s approach.

“G- I… uh… I… uh… need to,” the Bartender snatched the used cutlery from Mahal’s hands, “get to washing these. Mahal, don’t be rude, help the man,” Alan managed to say with a smile, completely straight faced.

She shook her head at him, before turning around and welcomed the patron. “It’s good to see you again sir, would you like a table…uh…?”

“Please, call me Magnus,” he bowed offering his hand to her, palm up. “Might I have the honor of your name miss?”

“People call me Mahal. It means precious,” she replied taking his hand and giving it a firm shake. “Pleased to finally make your acquaintance Magnus”

He smiled, “And you Mahal, so aptly named,” he murmured, raising her hand to his lips, turning it over to place a light kiss just above her middle knuckle.
She opened her mouth to reply but was cutoff by Alan’s words.

“Ahh, so you have decided to visit us uninjured, come on in,” Alan welcomed the man jovially. “Mahal, now we have two patrons waiting to be seated. Quit lallygagging!”

“Sorry sir, I’ll be right,” when she turned to address the newcomer, she felt as if she had been struck. She studied his seemingly familiar profile a moment. He turned his attention to Mahal and smiled, his eyes boring into hers sending a slight shiver down her spine.

“Please, take your time,” he replied merrily. Hail my queen.

“I’m sorry did you say something,” she said absently over her shoulder to Magnus, unable to take her eyes off the man before her.

“No, but would you like to join me for dinner” he asked as he lightly brushed his thumb across the back of her hand, causing her to break the eye contact and redirecting her attention back to Magnus.

“Oh no, I couldn’t,” she began to protest.

“Go on Mahal, you haven’t eaten yet. Go take your break. I’ll take care of our friend Enid here,” Alan beamed gesturing to an open seat at the bar counter.

“Well, I am hungry,” she admitted. “Is this table okay,” she asked gesturing to a corner table.

“Perfect,” Magnus smiled and waited for her to lead the way. While the pair dined and conversed, Mahal’s eyes traveled to the man at the bar oft.
 
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McIan

Adventurer
Unconscious Coincidence

The dreams came more frequently now, nightmares really. Him waking up at night, sweating profusely, staring at the open window, was becoming the norm. There would be a dark, shadowy, figure standing there with moonlight outlining its form and it would move slowly toward him, arms outstretched as if beckoning him, until he saw the eyes. The eyes. Red, glowing, sinister.

Magnus thought back to the day before the dreams began. He had been spending much time at the Oasis tavern, with the young woman, Mahal. Her laugh was infectious as it accentuated her carefree attitude. He believed he had found love, the love of a good woman. She invited him to share her private company and he had willingly, gladly, complied. Yet he never saw her of a morning; she "went out" according to Alan the bar tender. Then, one evening, he invited her to visit his domicile, Sanctuary. But as she had walked up its steps, she hesitated, flinched, as it were, either unable or unwilling to proceed.

"What's wrong?" he asked. "Lose your footing? Let me help you," he offered, returning to where she stood apparently frozen in place.

She shook her head. "No, it's all right. There's something... that symbol there... the blood oozing from it. It makes me feel uncomfortable." She pointed to the massive Ankh of Sacrifice which stood at the entrance.

Magnus smiled, "That? Oh, it's nothing to worry about," he suppressed a chuckle not wanting to upset her. "It's supposed to be some kind of ward but you can plainly see that it does nothing to keep even the birds out," he jested. "We have to clean it off every week," he added.

Mahal turned away. "I must go home," she said.

"No, wait! Don't go! Please! You are always welcome here. My home is your home. You can find me here most any time of the day. I have duties to perform. I can cook quite well," he boasted, smiling. "Or at least I'm told, though if watching men shovel down the food I cook is any proof, then it's true."

She smiled and laughed. "Let's get back to the Oasis. I'm sure Alan needs me," she said, gazing into his eyes lovingly.

How could he resist? He couldn't.

That very night the dreams began. It was days ago. Now he woke tired, as if he had not rested at all. His uncle had been patrolling Yew, being heavily engaged in its defense. He had not seen him at all during this time. Besides, he had spent some nights at the tavern with Mahal. There he woke up late also sometimes well after midday. Since she was nowhere to be found, he would return to Sanctuary to work but now that was being neglected as well. Sometimes he would sit by the pond in the afternoon staring listlessly into it as the Koi fish swam about in it slowly.

Is this what love is like he wondered?
 
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