|Championed by the Heroine:||Ash Corde|
|Motto:||"ƒreedom is an illusion."|
|Guild:||The Forsakens Lament|
Imagine something for me. Close your eyes. Listen close. My voice is in your ears; let it lead you forward. Imagine.
You're young again, or perhaps you always were. Your hands are small, chubby little things, grabbing on to anything in reach. Mouth aching from new teeth, you jam the strangest things between your lips, and your giggling is heaven itself to your parents. You are loved, and you are warm, swaddled in a blanket sewed by your own grandmother; you can picture her wizened hands, tangled in yarn, working the needle as she spins you a tale of heroes and dragons. You even have a younger sister, though her eyes never worked like yours do. The two of you share everything, and you tell her about the colors she's never been able to see. Hours are spent outside, in the sun, running about in the grasses. There's nothing you want more from life; you are content.
The harsh, hacking cough is what changes it all. Joy seems to drain away from the faces of your parents when they look at you, hear you wheezing for air. You're suddenly bedridden, struggling for breath; when it abates, your family confines you to the house, and speak of you in hushed tones that promise a slow, painful doom. You are young, but you understand death. You understand that this cough is a lingering one. You know you're going to die. You don't want to die.
Oh, how quietly need becomes apparent. It's almost unnoticeable, really, how quickly contentment can run sour. You catch yourself forgetting the kisses that your parents planted on your forehead, the way they used to smile at you, how you lit up their world. Now, you've become nothing more than a dark spot in their eyes, and even that will fade away. You don't want to fade away. You're not done. You're not even thirteen cycles, and you're dancing with death. This cannot be allowed.
You fall in a different way than Nature had intended; you slip quietly into libraries and research Death's antics. The books are musty and breaking at the seams, but they sing to you. Steadily, you learn to sing back, and one day you find what you need. It's a ritual. Simple, isn't it? There's just some blood to spill, hearts to remove, lives to take. Easy. A knife is all it requires.
Your sister, you discover, is more loyal than you imagined. She volunteers to help you, to bring your sacrifices to you. She even plans their deaths to coincide with the times when your body is well enough to allow you to stand, something you thank her profusely for. It is far easier to end a life when you can move fluidly.
The first kill is the hardest, of course, especially when the sacrifice begs for mercy. Sacrifice- when did you start to call your mother an it? When did you give up on pretending to care? Was it when the knife went down, carving a crimson line over her chest? Was it when you nailed the heart to the door of your house? Was it when your father ignored you for days after he saw it, left you for the taverns? When did you give up on feeling for them?
Your father's blood runs thinner, you discover, when you make your second offering. You don't know who you're offering it to, but the promise of immortality is what you know you'll receive in return. The promise of eternal life is something you crave desperately; the copper tang in your mouth when you cough is a reminder of that. Even your sister craves immortality, desiring to be beside you forevermore. She is loyal to the end, even when she plunges the knife into her heart and crumples to the ground. You are kind to her as she fades. You tell her about the color of the sky, and she leaves the world with a smile.
It is your turn. The metal's so cold in your hands when you wipe the blade off, sharpen it, prepare it to be sheathed for the final time. Should you be afraid? All you notice is a desire to finish this, a subtle apathy. Your chest heaves with bitter coughing as you finish your preparations, hands shaking wildly as you position the knife over your chest. You hesitate.
You are twelve cycles and three seasons when you push the blade home and ascend into the power you've earned.
Regret, of course, is a heavy weight to bear for most people; your sister certainly feels it when she wakes up in a temple. You, however- that's a different story. You don't mind it so much, push it aside. They'd distanced themselves from you anyways, you say to yourself. Your parents hadn't deserved life. Others, however, do not believe you when you try to explain this, condemn you. You change your story after they attack you. You tell those that ask that it's agony for you to remember. You force tears and anger. You pretend, but you know better. You don't care. You never cared. Your life is an act.
You leave your sister soon after your new life began. She's useless to you, useless until you learn how you can use her. You come back to find that another had taken her as their own, claimed her mind and stored it away. You work quickly. You take over, push the other away. She becomes another pawn on the board, and you used her too.
More pretending. You created your story- she's using you, you say, taking over your mind slowly and surely. In reality, you'd destroyed her easily, sucked the life out of her, made her your puppet. Finally, you had something. You control the shadows. Life is going well, especially now that your heroine is killing in your name, lending you more power, building a temple for you. It's never enough power, of course. Other gods will have to fall for you to gain that. They need to underestimate you. They need to see you as helpless, pathetic, and undecided.
You are not concerned. This will be easy. Pretending is your profession, after all. What's another lie?