(1874-11-24) Goddess Death and the Riverman
Goddess Death and the Riverman
Summary: Myrana tries to uncover a clue on her quest for an ancient item
Date: 24/11/2018
Related: Related Logs (If there aren't any, use None. If there is a log, use full URLs, like http://eternalcrusade.wikidot.com/logtitle)
NPCs: None
Myrana  Ivo  

Rooster;s Belly, Common Room
A small Inn on the route to Paras

A bath does wonders for the soul.
Having scrubbed days of road from her skin and hair in the soapy furnace of the Inn's one and only wooden tub, Myrana is a woman reborn.
Sitting in the quiet common room of the Rooster's Belly, Myrana D'Armaz relaxes into the slightly ratty chair nearest to the stove and tucks her feet up under her. Her snowy hair is plaited clean down her back and her skin glows from the scrub, smelling of the cedar and attar of roses in the soap. A clean kirtle of midnight blue worked with white stars and roses and a book in her lap completes the picture.
Ludovic and Ivo are out in the town itself, resupplying for their journey. Having counselled her to relax and let them handle it, she has done exactly that.
…But perhaps, without as much relaxing as she promised.
For a long, long time the little D'Armaz doesn't so much as lift her gaze from the book- no, manuscript- in her lap, hands settled atop the uppermost page and the thumb of one gently brushing at the exposed binding. The hot tea on the arm of the chair is stone cold now, as is the platter of blood sausage and rye bread, untouched and unnoticed since the Innkeep brought it to her an hour ago.
No, she hasn't looked up. At first glance, she might even be sleeping, but closer inspection reveals her blue eyes beneath the snowy lashes to read the title, over and over, in its messy and smeared hand.
Goddess Death and the Riverman lies on the soft lap of her skirts, innocuous. But unopened.
For the past few nights, Myrana has slept poorly. Deeply, but gripped by some dream or other that, should one of her companions look her way around the fire when all three have rolled up in cloaks and blankets, has clearly plagued her before. But while she's talked in her sleep more than once, and woken up in a cold sweat twice, she's claimed to forget the nightmares right away, and has spent the days preoccupied but polite, uncomplaining even in nasty weather. Thinking.

Ivo having left Ludovic to repack the supplies, Ivo enters the common room and heads for the fire. He doesn't like the cold up here, it's developing a nasty habit of cutting right through him so he seeks the warmth of the flames. Not being entirely surprised to see his cousin has done the same he signals for a drink then heads over to the chair where she sits. Noting that she seems asleep he walks up behind her quietly, so as not to disturb her, then looks around for a blanket or such to drape over her. Finding one he turns to gently lay it over her lap then spots the manuscript there. "Goddess Death?" he mutters questioningly, "cheerful title." It's only then that it twigs that Myrana isn't actually asleep and moves round to the chair next to her without the fear of disturbing her he had before. "Any good?" he asks conversationally, not really paying close enough to notice that she's just scanning the title, "not one I've heard of I don't think."

Myrana's fingers slip beneath the edge of the first page.
At that moment, a blanket is draped over her and she jumps with a little gasp, looking up.
"Ivo! Oh, it's only you."
Smiling at her cousin, she thanks him for the blanket and looks back down at the manuscript.
"I don't know yet," she admits, eyes darkening with thought as she smoothes her hand over the title page again, shoulders narrow. "I haven't read it. I'm not sure if I should."
Sitting forward, she sighs and rakes the bangs back from her face. There is almost no-one in the common room but the two Armaz, with only the tender and a few townsfolk at the opposite end, giving the nobles a wary berth. The stove crackles quietly, and one of Myra's earrings chimes as she turns her head a little to look toward the door.
"I'd rather Ludovic not know about it," she says finally, in a quiet voice. "He is… too honest."
"Madman Faglioni wrote it before he died." Myrana chews on her lip. "I've been looking for it for a long time, ever since I heard rumours of his last work remaining unpublished
Ivo accepts a mulled wine from the bar tender as he brings it over, then, once the man is gone, turns back to his cousin. "Not sure if you should?" he asks, curiosity peaked, "how so? It's not," he leans in conspiratorially, "naughty is it?" Meaning adult, and idea only reinforced when she asks him not to tell Ludovic. Smiling in amusement he's about to make a quip then the real explanation comes and he leans back, almost disappointed it seems. "So it's the last work of a madman, why the search for it? I mean, rarity's sake, or do his other writings appeal to you?" He's clearly not familiar with the subject or author, and is trying to work out why the secrecy.

"I thought it might help us against those creatures," says Myra, waiting as Ivo does for the tender to give them privacy. At his suggestion that it's a naughty book she coughs and shakes her head, blushing. "But I'm afraid something might happen if I read it. The last book I thought would help… didn't." The end of that sentence is like a stone.
She lifts her face to him and seems to consider Ivo very seriously for a moment, blue gaze burning into him like she's peering right into the marrow of his bones, measuring the breath and blood of him.
"Ludovic told you about… the things we've seen." Next to the stove, her raspy little voice is quiet enough almost to be lost in the crackle, but she pitches it just to Ivo, as spies do in crowded taverns. "He thinks I know more than I do. I don't know anything, not really- but I want to. There are no books surviving of sorcery, or monsters. But I thought… I thought, maybe, it's madmen I should look to."

"Ah," Ivo offers, some degree of understanding forming, although he can't quite resist a quick quip. "So, I can't tell Ludovic because then he'll realise you don't know as much as he thinks eh?" His smile should hopefully indicate that he's joking, but after savouring a sip of wine he turns more serious. "So you think that there might be secrets in there? That he might have had some insights you could gleam? Have you thought that it might be something along those lines that drove him mad? Or perhaps that he always was, and you're putting weight on the ravings of a lunatic?" Not that he's saying it is like that, he just wants to make sure she's thought it through. "If you've got your hands on it though, then what harm is there in reading it, so long as you know not to trust it unthinkingly? Take a look, I'll keep my eye out in case anyone should look to disturb us."

"Oh-!" Myrana smacks at Ivo with a cushion, laughing. "Be nice!" But his joke works, and her mood lightens. Some of the wariness leaves her shoulders and she lets out a breath, gazing down at the manuscript.
"He was a genius. And if I go mad, well," she shrugs eloquently. "We're too rich to be mad, Ivo. We can only be eccentric. It's extremely convenient."
"All I know is, I do not like being in the dark," she says. "If I can learn something that will help make my mistakes right, to help us fight these things, then I don't have any right to be meek."
She opens the manuscript, but catches Ivo's eyes before beginning to read, as if to be sure that he meant what he said, of keeping an eye out. But no one knows that they're here, in the middle of nowhere with Ludovic D'Korbina.
So sitting forward in the chair, she begins to turn the pages, unable to resist reading it any longer.

Ivo makes a show of trying, and failing, to duck the cushion, but he too laughs. With the tension well and truly broken he settles into his chair and enjoys the heat of the flames. "Was a genius," he emphasises slightly, "if he did slide into madness, and this is his last work, perhaps it is the depth of that madness…" There's an unspoken 'careful cousin' there, but he sees no danger given that Myrana isn't walking into this close eyed. There is a faint frown at her mention of mistakes, but with her opening the text he doesn't ask for clarification yet. Instead he lifts his wine again, and keeps his eyes on the room, giving her the chance to read undisturbed.

Myrana turns a page with a crisp sound. "When there are monsters walking Tirth, and sorcerers hiding from the Witch Hunters…" Another page, and Myra's eyes devour the text, pausing at times to translate with fingertip and silently moving lips from the terrible chicken scratch filling each page and crowding strange, complex illustrations into margins and headers. "Maybe Faglioni wasn't really mad."
The pages crinkling under her hands breathe tantalizing mystery, and weave in that near-empty common room an image of some grand mausoleum peopled by spiders and old dead flowers. Master Faglioni, of course, had been buried in a writer's grave, in a box in the dank earth of Four Corners. The chemicals of the tannery near the pauper's graveyard on lower Pine Street would no doubt afford him a sort of eternity, even if he really was the heretic he'd been labelled by the church.
Most pages have sketches in the margins, or centred around subject headers. Faglioni is known to have dabbled in many styles of illustration; full illumination at some later stage had clearly been his goal, but his drawings in this book were messy, and too raw to be called polished. Or even legible, in some places. There were whole pages too confusing to deal with while drunk, all just piles of scribbles and deep gouged writing that'd carved through the paper and made a mess. The scribblings of a lunatic done over what had been lucid writing, likely done earlier, before the fit. Abortive waste.
But here!
A woman stands immersed in a river, a mask over her face and bare arms clasped with twisted asps, while a fisherman in profile with a net kneels on the bank over two skeletons.
Baglioni’s style was stark, almost like a woodcut, and would never be accepted by the colleges and guilds of illuminators in Rikton or Four Corners.
In the illustration, the man hunches, plaintive. The masked woman imposing, inhumanly tall and burning with radiance.
Underneath: // The Riverman bargains with Death//
Chest tightening and the colour going from her face, Myrana bends over it, feeling her heart race and goosebumps shiver over her. Distracted, she forgets herself, and a smell of ozone, strange and out of place, rises around her.
In the rushes about the riverman and the bones crouched weird figures with bright eyes. Twisted hands clutched the man's legs and ankles, coming out of the rushes, reaching for his pleading arms.
"What in heaven…? Look at this, Ivo." She tilts it toward her cousin.

Myrana opens the book and the candle in the room flickers while the oil lantern does the same. Shadows dance and alter shape on the walls and the floor and the ceilings. Some are simple swirling patterns, while others might have been what the early man created the origins of nightmares from. A whisper swirls into Myrana's ear, "Is this what you want?"
Shadows flicker with lantern and candle light once again.
Sounds this time rush through Myrana's ear. Sword on sword. A feeling of … exhilaration?
As a page turns and the world feels …. strange …. Colours swirl, and the air smells … wet?
The Salt air is good and the songs from the crew fill the air. The Imperial Common is good to hear and the shanties are great and make the crashing waves even better. The wind and salt in one's hair is the only way to live one's life, and that Pirate Flag is quite the site against the brazen blue of a clear sky….
Myrana's hands then hold a small baby in her arms. A hand is placed on her shoulder and warmth and love flow through her and her newborn child…
Then Myrana is staring at the book in her hands ….

Being now pleasantly warm, Ivo had started to try and fit stories to the others in the room before his cousin spoke his name. The couple by the window; a young married pair enjoying a night out before the toils of parenthood began, or brother and sister having slipped out from under their parent's watch to sample an ale? The man at the bar; boring the barman with the same drunken tales as everynight, or a traveller along the road, swapping tales an news for lodgings? As the distraction comes though he turns his head back to look at Myrana, then the book.
He ends up needing get up, to get an angle on it that he can see it properly from, and so moves round to besides Myrana's chair and crouches down onto his haunches to look. "hmm," he offers initially. It's a non-committal reply, but it fades off for the longer he looks at the image the more he sees. It's the asps first, the mask is neither here nor there, but those bother him a little. It's when he spots those other figures though that his brow really furrows. "I guess the d'Korbina would say he didn't leave an offering for the pixies," he replies, sounding sceptical, "is there any context for it in what's written? Any explanation?" He lifts his glass to take a drink of wine, and it's only then that he notes the ozone smell, attributing it initially to the drink, which he sets aside as a result.

Myrana seems to waver in the chair, half swooning. Perhaps she's been sitting her drinking while Ivo and Ludovic were out resupplying, to drive out the sorrow of traveling with a D'Korbina through lands entirely devoid of sensible tailors or hatters or feather mattresses.
"Did you feel that?" she asks, and now she even sounds a little drunk, grabbing Ivo's arm and looking up into his face.

As Myrana takes her grip Ivo shifts forwards slightly, so he's on his knees rather than the balls of his feet, to give a sturdier platform for her to lean on if required. He looks back down to her as she looks up at him, but has to shake his head slightly in the negative. "No, I didn't feel anything. There was a draught I think, for the fire flickered slightly, but that is all. That or they're burning something odd for fuel. If we were closer to the sea I'd swear it was driftwood for the salt smell, but who knows up here." He eyes her drink a moment, then reaches a hand towards the book, asking as he does so, "would you like me to hold that for you as you rest?"

Myrana's hand slaps down onto the book with a sharp clash of bracelets.
"No!" But she realizes what she's done, and flashes a guilty look at him.
"No," she says, less urgently. "Sorry Ivo. I thought I heard something." Taking a deep breath, she steadies herself, and turns to the next page, steeling herself visibly and straightening her back, her shoulders, causing the little bell she wears to jingle brightly. For a little while she sits with her head bowed and her eyes closed, not moving her hand from where it splays on the open book, though beneath her fingers there creeps a black line of char, slowly consuming the first layer of paper and the words printed on it in their madman's scrawl.
"God help me," she murmurs, so quietly that it might get swallowed up by the crackling stove. "If it can help us- I will not be meek anymore." She opens her eyes, and reads on.

The lights flicker again. This time it's Ivo who hears whisper in his ear. "Heresy. She is a Heretic … "
The smell of ash fills his nose and the heat of flame washes over him. A man screams in a fire lashed to a pole his head roaring in pain too the heavens as the Inquisition passes judgement.
A wind blows gently along his exposed skin as he holds hands with a beautiful woman overlooking the Great River. "We can build a home here. Safe for our children … "
A rock the size of a hit hits the ground near him and the earth shakes. Clods of dirt rain down all around and men scream as the rock bounces and hits others.
The axe bites deep. Its bite splits the wood and the pieces are tossed in a pile. His son and daughter will be back to pile them soon.
An Iron taste fills mouth and burbles out of nose and the corner of mouth. An intense pain roar over him. A man with long blonde hair in a braid, wearing old Lorica twists a great sword that is in his belly ….
Ivo is back in the Inn, looking at Myrana, the pain fading as the shadows flicker.

Ivo turns himself, so instead of facing the book and the stove he’s now facing Myrana, watching her rather than anything else as she replies. The sharpness of her answer causes him quite clear concern and he tries to read her features, to work out what is going on behind them. "What," he asks gently, although his tone still radiates disquiet, "what do you think you heard? And what did you feel?" Once she opens her eyes he lifts a hand towards her cheek he tries to gently coax her to look at him once more, only looking back to the book as she starts to read once more. It actually takes shim a moment to remember that that hand shaped char mark wasn't there a few moments ago, and that realisation rocks him like a thirty-foot wave, stunning him for a moment.
When that moment is over and his brain kicks back in, he shoots a hand out to catch Myrana's wrist so he can pull it away from the page, but before he can reach that far the light flicker and he flinches back. It's a good job he's on his knees, or he might not have been steady enough to remain upright as he starts to almost curl in on himself as he lives out one of his greatest fears. It's gone almost as soon as it arrives, but those screams will likely revisit his dreams for nights to come. As the other visions hit, he can do nothing but go with the flow, he has no defences from this kind of onslaught, and by the time that imperial sword does its worst his knuckles are white as he clings to the arm of his cousin's chair in a deathgrip. It too fades though, and he slowly manages to focus once more, focus on taking deep slow breaths, and focus on trying to slow the hammering of his heart. The other's in the inn are completely forgotten know as he slow lifts his head back up top Myrana, saying low, firm, "close it."

Pages smoulder beneath the Black Cat's porcelain hands; sparks lift away from the curling edges and trickle upwards like hungry petitioners over bracelet and up sleeve. They drift, stirred by the breath of pages turning to wash the faces of both Armaz, winking out without heat, without sound.
As Ivo reels, Myrana reads, blind to everything around her. Many pages are illegible, but her hands trace down them all the same, as if picking words out from the insane scrawl.
At Ivo's voice though she hesitates, drawn for a moment out of Goddess Death and the Riverman. Her hands stop, and she lifts her gaze reluctantly, as if almost unable to do so.
"What?" she asks, disoriented. "What did you- Ah! Are you bleeding?"

Those sparks really aren't helping Ivo keep his head in the here and now, pushing him instead back towards that execution fire his mind had seen. Dropping his head back down it takes a lot of mental energy to shake those feeling off again before he uses the arm of Myrana's chair to push himself shakily to his feet. He'd move to sit down on his own again, but isn't entirely convinced he's able to safely move right now, so stays where he is a few moments more, trying to recentre himself and make sense of what is going on. "You ask," he starts shakily, "you asked if I felt something. Well I did, just now, as you started reading again." He swallows, his throat dry, but his wine being too far to reach. "Talk to me cousin, take a break for a few moments, and tell me what you have read so far." His eyes are drawn to the smouldering pages once more and he shudders once before he finally clocks that she asked a question. "What?" he asks, sounding confused and looking down to his gut, "no. I'm not. I mean, I'm not am I?"

the Book flutters in Myrana's grasp but nothing changes. The candle's wick waves and the flame dances upon it. The book feels heavy, heavier than it should, but nothing that would cause alarm or distress.

Myrana lurches to her feet, dropping the book from nerveless hands. It tumbles from the butter soft linen of her skirts and falls to the ground, slapping shut with a flutter of pages and a cough of ash.
"Ivo I'm- I'm sorry." Shaking, she shakes the images from her eyes and looks at the book lying on the edge of her skirt and the rumpled pile of blanket. But she doesn't pick it up, only calms herself with a gasp of air, letting out a shaky breath and seeming to centre herself.
"I smelled it," she says, pivoting to face her cousin. "But it's gone now. It's… it’s in code. Ivo, I'm looking for something."
At first it seems like she might touch his arm for reassurance- her own as much as his- but then takes her hand back cautiously, and rubs it with the other, afraid to shock him.
"It's called the Darius Eye. I need to find it, and this book will help me."

Ivo takes the time to centre himself as Myrana does the same. Once he's confident of his footing he takes the pace required to reach his wine, and downs it before turning back to his cousin. "What did you smell?" he asks quietly. He might be looking outwardly much calmer due to their semi-public location, but he's still deeply shaken, "ash?" He still struggling to get the smell out of his nose himself, or perhaps it's just the fire.. "What kind of code?" he continues after a moment, "the way it's written?" He thinks that unlikely, all things considered, but he can hope. When she speaks the name of Darius he can't help but tilt his head slightly, thinking back to the man who he'd seen kill him with a sword, but now he has enough control back that he can suppress the shudder that runs up his spine at the memory. "What is it? And how does it help the fight?"

"Blood." Myrana plucks the book from where it tumbled to the floor beside the stove, where the ashes have settled into those needing to be swept up from behind the smoking logs behind the iron grate. "It's a cypher- Alchemists use it, I'm sure, for I've…" She wipes a hand across her eyes, trying to stop shaking but not quite achieving this. "I've tried a hundred times to decipher Dario's notes, but I don't understand the language of Alchemy. But this," her arms tighten around the manuscript. "This I do."
Then, realizing how crazy she must look clutching the thing, she reluctantly unwinds her arms and sets it on the arm of the chair before stepping away from it and reaching for the icy tea she's left untouched, taking a gulp of stomach-soothing mint. When she sets it down, she's calmer, but no less tired looking. Dark smudges under her eyes and an exhausted pallor remain.
"The Darius Eye is a legend," she says. "The eye that Darius Firebrand took from his own head. But it can't really be that. It would have rotted. So it must be a weapon."
Turning, she looks up at Ivo again. "We are nothing compared to the Cardinal, Ivo. Nothing. When we last faced him, we only drove him off by luck. If there's even a chance that this legend could lead to knowledge or a weapon to be used to stop him, I want it."

Ivo didn't smell blood, so just nods his head slowly at the answer as it's given. At the mention of Alchemists he draws a blank, knowing nothing of those arts or the habits of its practitioners, but if she says she can decode this cypher then he'll believe her. The book is eyed as she places it down, then he looks back to her and asks, almost absently, "Darius. Do you know much about him, appearance wise I mean? Did he braid his hair?" Aware it's an oddly specific question he adds, "long blond hair I, to keep it out of the way in battle."

"He did," Myrana says, and despite everything gives Ivo a wry little half smile as she picks at the ryebread on her plate, unable to eat the sausage now. "The Princeps Darius in Paras is his living image." A pause. "Or so they say. He'll have to lose an eye before it's perfect, though. Why do you ask?"

Ivo can't think of a way to answer that question gently, so after a moment's pondering he just tells it as it was. "I ask because I think I saw him killing me, felt it. As you were reading, it's one of the things I felt." His throat is dry as he recalls it once more, but he doesn't summon the barman over, not while they're discussing this. "I saw, felt, five different experiences, of which that was the last. Different experiences though, different people, I think different times. Vivid though, as if I was there, seeing through someone's eyes, feeling their pain, their fears." He stops there, while he's still vague enough to not see them all again in his mind’s eye.

Myrana's brows draw together and her breath catches in her throat. "I smelled blood, but the salt wind too. And I thought for a moment that I was on a ship-" Pressing the heel of her hand to her eyes, she finally shakes her head and takes Ivo's elbow. "Don't tell Ludovic. He's a good man- you can trust him, but he is a terrible actor."
Myrana says, "Let's find something to eat. Just not, that." She nods to the blood sausage on her plate, stomach sufficiently turned. "I think I'm going to throw up.""

"I smelt the sea," Ivo replies, looking thoughtfully at Myrana, just before you asked if I felt anything. "I didn't then though, nor did I see the sea after that. Perhaps," he starts, then stops as he fights an internal reluctance to continue, "Perhaps we should compare notes. If that is written in code, then we need as full a picture as we can, yes?" He doesn't seem particularly keen mind, but he can't escape the idea that it's the logical next step. Well, the next step after food, for as it's mentioned he suddenly realises that he is very hungry. "Yes," he says with a nod, "food would be good. Upstairs though perhaps, in our room, where it will be private." Setting on hand over that one on his elbow he looks to try and read her face a moment then nods once, "alright, for now at least. You are the expert on this after all."

Myrana nods to Ivo's plan and goes to follow him, taking the book with her.

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