The Five of Cups

Player created stories and roleplay; please be respectful
Post Reply
User avatar
Posts: 65
Joined: Mon Jan 25, 2021 9:19 pm

The Five of Cups

Post by Valonia »


"[The Five of Cups] is a card of emotional baggage and instability and can signify that you feel deep remorse, regret, anger, sorrow or disappointment. It is also the Minor Arcana card of abandonment and can either represent you being abandoned by someone significant to you or you abandoning plans or people in your life. It can also indicate loneliness or isolation. However, for all the negative connotations this card can bring there is a positive message underneath it all. The figure depicted in the card is crying over the spilt cups and seems to be oblivious to the fact that two cups are still upright. This is reminding you that no matter how bad things may seem there is always a silver lining, you just have to choose to see it." - The Tarot Guide

Dross comes from bad iron;
the reindeer often races over the frozen snow
Norupo – Heilung, based on The Norwegian Rune Poem


“Drop it!” Valonia ordered, snatching away the small wooden disc from the small furry creature.

The rabbit made an audible grunt, thumped its displeasure, then turned its back on the woman to emphasize its unhappiness.

It was easy to figure out what happened. Various satchels, pouches, and bags had been set down on the floor and table while Val made preparations for her journey. As she was dividing her inventory among her old bag and her new one, she had dumped out the contents of both, planning to repack. But while the woman had her back turned, the rabbit had grown bored. And there were so many lightweight items that were also chewable by quickly growing rabbit teeth.

“Look, you do not want this rune,” Valonia tried to explain to the rabbit, holding up the nibbled-on elm disc. She shook it as emphasis. “It represents a dangerous animal. You do not want to be stepped on or bitten, do you?”

It was foolish to try to scare the rabbit, of course. For one, it wouldn’t understand. Two? Val wasn’t sure exactly what animal the rune referred to. Just that it no longer existed, and hadn’t for a long time. She was still being honest about it supposedly being dangerous… but did the creature actually bite rabbits? She had no idea, and no way of finding out. That was the difference between Honesty and Truth; one could be Honest, yet not know the full Truth of a matter. A person (or rabbit, for that matter) didn’t know what they didn’t know.

Valonia had heard the rune poems, of course. In the ancient times, long before the druid Selzhanik put quill to vellum to congratulate his acolyte on surviving the spiritual transformation of crossing the Abyss , long before Sosaria became Britannia, even long before Minax and Mondain bent corrupted magic to their own purposes, there were runes. Those who would eventually be called druids taught the runes to their acolytes and apprentices through the use of poems. Not only did the poems act as a mnemonic, but the words often contained double-meanings, hidden esoteric connotations, lessons that were supposed to be useful to society. So it was that the poems were spoken from generation to generation, passing them from one voice to another throughout the ages.

But not perfectly. Never perfectly, for culture changed. Stories changed. Roles changed. What was ‘common knowledge’ changed. And every time the story was told from one person to another, meanings became distorted, muddied, and changed through constant reinterpretation. History might be a torch passed from generation to generation, but it was a torch that kept burning out.

And this was the Age of Armageddon, as the bards were calling it. A divide had grown between the past and the present. There was tear in the tapestry of history, and no way to restore it. Pieces had been lost. Writings decayed and memory failed, especially where lessons had been incomplete to begin with.

Valonia knew that even in her own time, so much had been lost. Her grandfather had intentionally kept things from her, planning instead for his knowledge to die with him. And Valonia knew she had not learned everything Althaia may have been able to teach her. There had not been enough time. Though she’d had years of apprenticeship (as was tradition), the older woman had focused on the connections between people, the ills plaguing the land. Though Althaia’s motives may have been pragmatic, it meant that even more pieces of history had been lost.

Which meant Val was left with only scraps to make sense of.

If Valonia’s knowledge of the poem was accurate, if there was any validity to the meanings behind the runes, if any of it had accurately survived the various cataclysms that had shaken the ages, then the rune the rabbit had drawn for her spoke of a challenge. It meant powerful, difficult obstacles. The extinct horned animals named by the rune acted as a rite of passage, one ancient people had to hunt in order to prove themselves. In addition, the ancient poem spoke of the part of metal that rose to the surface during smelting and was discarded, that waste that would be cast aside to make the metal stronger. She was no metalworker, but she understood the symbolism of separating of bad iron from the good, the weak from the strong. And she tended to find that any mention of water involved some sort of transformation.

It was a portentous sort of rune. Assuming, of course, any of that was accurate or true.

The rabbit still sat sullenly with its back to the woman, and began to clean itself by licking its paws then rubbing them over its face and ears, very intentionally making it known it was ignoring her.

Valonia crouched behind the rabbit, and stroked its back gently. “Oh stop that. I am trying to protect you. I do not know how elm will affect your digestion.”

It likely wouldn’t, given the small dose and the absence of bark on the carved disc. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to be careful.

It took a little bit of time, but the rabbit finally turned toward her. It seemed to wait to see whether she would return the rune back to it. But though Val did not (keeping it clasped in her other hand), the rabbit finally forgave her transgressions and shoved its face into her hand for further pets. Val smiled, and continued stroking it, making certain to rub between its ears. She knew the rabbit liked that.

With the rabbit thus placated, Valonia studied the rune in her hand. She had heard of others being able to read the runes as the Romani read tarot cards, but she did not count herself one of their numbers. While she had some ideas of what the rune could mean, the symbolism could be twisted any number of ways. For all she knew, it meant she was the dross that needed to be separated out.

Still, even if the rune was true… well, what was the worst the druids could tell her? That she wasn’t worthy to be one of them? As if she hadn’t thought that already.

She hadn’t gone into this to judge others. She certainly didn’t see herself as more worthy of such things. As she had told Desmond (or was it Vern now?), she was not wearing green because she thought it suited her; she wore it because it was something she aspired to. Once upon a time, druids had been known for seeking out what was right. What was just. What was fair. Valonia wanted to believe they knew more about what was right or just… and could help her see it more clearly. At the very least, she hoped that committing to this path was a sign that she was trying to be better. And given how terrible things had been during the columns… perhaps she hoped that she had some perspective to share on the matter. People were still people, even if they’d done wrong. They needed to strive for better, yes… but perhaps the way forward was through understanding.

Or maybe she was making excuses. She wasn’t sure anymore. At any rate, it was out of her hands. She had other people to answer to.

“Bad iron or not, there are still things to be done,” she said aloud, mostly to herself, though partially to the rabbit.

Her former mentor’s notes spoke of something hidden in the dungeon known as Destard. So Valonia would go to investigate possible black robed cult magi. She would probably go anyway afterward, regardless of how this turned out. And if they ended up not seeing her as worthy… well, it would mean they didn’t have any say over where she went or what she did.

She stopped her rabbit-handling, and stood. Regardless of whatever trepidation she felt, she planned to leave by dawn. There were still preparations to be made. With a quick flick of the wrist, she tossed the elm rune toward the open bag. She had claimed Althaia’s old satchel by necessity, and had transferred some of her own belongings to it. Along with Althaia’s notes, and the urn containing the other woman’s ashes. Her own old satchel would be used to carry the rabbit with her, for she would be taking it along too.

It was foolish notion, of course. It was a rabbit. A fragile creature. It would be of no use on the road, or during any kind of druidic confrontation. All things considered, it was likely to hop out of her bag only to get eaten by bigger, better druidic-summoned creatures. Probably wolves. Or bears. Or cats. Or dire animated trees.

Taking the rabbit with her was kind of a stupid idea, really. It would probably get lost somewhere. Or get startled and run. Probably startled by those wolves or bears or cats or animated trees the other druids probably had.

The rabbit placed itself on the toe of her boot, stood up on its hind legs, and looked up at her expectantly.

“You will stay with me, right?” she whispered to the little rabbit, leaning down.

It pushed its nose into her hand, and Valonia held its little face with her fingertips, gently rubbing its nose.
Last edited by Valonia on Wed Feb 16, 2022 4:10 am, edited 1 time in total.
ImageTeam Druid aka The Justice LeagueImage
🔥 Fire Mage Fanciers Guild - You had me at "I cast fireball!"🔥
☥ 0-Part Avatars Club ☥
1 of 8 Shrines visited
User avatar
Posts: 65
Joined: Mon Jan 25, 2021 9:19 pm

Re: The Five of Cups

Post by Valonia »

The road to Yew was as it normally was these days: rife with bandits, wild beasts, and undead. Things didn’t really seem to be getting better, even if Valonia hadn’t noticed them getting any worse either. But as she might have to travel a bit more than she anticipated, she supposed should be grateful for small favors.

She wasn’t entirely sure where to go to find the other druids. While there were certain times of the year that the druidic circles traditionally gathered, there were no guarantees. It depended heavily on whether there were apocalyptic calamities or not, whether individual druids still followed particular traditions, whether her information was even still accurate, on countless other variables. Valonia’s family, for example, had not gone to any such gatherings. Her father had not chosen that life. And whether or not her grandfather had still practiced, he had wanted the traditions to die. There was much Valonia had grown up not knowing, and the various circles were disparate groups that did not always follow common traditions.

Still, Valonia had since learned from Althaia that during this particular time of year, between the solstice and equinox, a fire festival was held that brought at least a few of the circles together. It was why she had chosen this time to return to Yew. But given the… troubles that had plagued the land, it didn’t seem quite right to be holding any sort of fire gathering at the Court. Judge Grey had been sentencing people to death by fire, even for trivial offences, or banishing them to Wrong. Lighting fires there would seem… inappropriate, to say the least. Any sort of celebration seemed out of place, let alone a druidic one, given the injustices that had taken place. It didn’t make sense to look there for the druids.

She decided she would still start at the Court, however. Surely there would be someone present so she could inform them of Althaia’s passing. The older woman might have been a druid, but she was also an agent of the Court. The two did not necessarily overlap. That did not mean there would be druids at the Court, however. The present was very different from ancient times.

While Val’s knowledge of history was somewhat spotty, she knew that druids had been associated with justice for a long time. But that was when the world was more divided and the people more scattered, and there was a need for druids to serve as repositories for traditional knowledge. Back then, it seemed natural that they also grew tasked with delivering judgment, as they knew the traditional laws already. Some ancient legends said they were mystically bound not to be unjust. But that was a very long time ago. These days, rather than basing judgments based on the decisions of long-dead chieftains, or ancient mysticism, appointed judges followed the decisions of Lord British and his Council. Codified laws.

It made sense, Valonia considered. Centralizing the laws allowed for greater clarity and objectivity. Opening the position to non-druids ensured that there would always be those who could step up to dispense the King’s Justice, rather than relying on the druid circles, when an apprenticeship took many years. And being dependent on the memory of the druids was no longer as necessary as it had once been.

But she recalled that the courts had a checkered history too. Even with various practices in place, the Courts had once become a tool of the Oppression, based on the edicts of Lord Blackthorn. While those involved still followed the rule of law, few would call it justice. Even Lady Laurana had mentioned it in passing.

It was ancient history, perhaps. But these sorts of things always seemed to come back around again. A pendulum swinging (or scales tipping, if she wanted to be blunt about her metaphors). Perhaps it was important too to remember the past, to understand context. The letter of the law alone was not justice, nor did justice reside entirely in the judgments of individuals. There were far too many instances where the law was not enough to encompass justice, when people needed to commit ‘wrongs’ for the system to right itself.

It was a complicated matter though. How far was too far? Brand had believed they’d needed to make their own justice, to take their own action. He’d believed that the Courts of Yew were unjust. He believed his actions would vindicate him. And though he had a point about some things, his actions (and hers, she accepted) had gone too far. People died because of it... because of him. He had died because of it.

The scales tipped one direction.

But Althaia clearly also believed that sometimes people had to make their own justice too. Otherwise, she would not have spared Valonia, or kept her from Yew. Though the older woman had never outright explained her decision, Valonia knew that Althaia acted to spare her from being presided over by Grey. Though Althaia’s actions didn’t entirely seem law-abiding, if she hadn’t intervened, Val wouldn’t be alive on this day. Valonia had said as much to Desmond. And Valonia wasn’t the only person the older woman had saved.

The scales tipped the other direction.

The ideals they were acting on were similar, but both ended with very different results. It made it difficult for Valonia to extract an underlying principle, any common thread, something consistent that she could definitively say was right. Even the druids of the past could not find consistency, for they had once left Yew over such a dispute. To this day, Valonia could not decide whether their decision was right or not.

Was it a statement that only druids were the dispensers of justice? Did leaving actually help anything? Had it made a statement, or had it harmed more than it helped? Had it meant that those who needed justice had not received it? She couldn’t answer those questions. She simply did not know.

Sadly, she did know that those who stayed were subject to whatever corruption took place. She did know the results that followed. The hangings, burnings, and exiling that happened were testament to corruption. It was difficult to know just what wrongs could be placed at the Red Titan’s feet, and how much of it was a result of human nature.

Valonia was uncertain what her grandfather Holtraed would have thought of all of this. While she knew his opinions on the Courts (both he and she were descended from those who left Yew, after all), what would he think of the columns being the source of corruption? What would he think of her trying to go back to it, as Althaia’s kin had? Would Holtraed have disapproved? His biases tended to be a little too set in stone, his beliefs too rigid. Would he think that she was being too conciliatory by trying to join the druidic order? Would he think she was better off continuing a protest that had taken place literally centuries before?

Or would he be critical of her attempt?

Some of the criticisms he held of the Courts involved the wrongs they had perpetrated. But Valonia’s past was not perfect either. Really, neither the druidic order nor the Courts needed more stains upon their integrity. As he’d once taught her, want without knowledge might kill what one claimed to care about. There was too much harm that could come from intervening clumsily. If Valonia could not do something well, perhaps she should not do it at all.

It was a sobering thought, and it stopped her in her tracks. She wondered again whether it was even right of her to be here.

But at the same time, the world had changed again. Lord British slept. If the dispensing of Justice were to take place, it would be based on the memories of the agents of the Court. Back to memory and tradition. And while she did not pretend she was worthy to judge others, surely they needed someone to remember. At the very least, surely they needed people who wanted to do the right thing, or make up for the failures of the past.

“I do not know, rabbit. Maybe I am overthinking this,” she said, turning to the satchel at her side-… then paused.

The rabbit was sitting up in the satchel, its ears upright and alert. Its dark eyes were wide and watchful. As if it had seen a predator, it was stone-still, every hair on its body taut and unmoving.

The woman turned her attention to where the rabbit was looking.

The Yew graveyard.

Valonia had been too wrapped up in her thoughts and not been paying attention to the eerie silence of the woods or the sudden coldness of the place. If the rabbit hadn’t alerted her to their presence, she might have walked past.

But she knew that while there had been several executions ordered by the Court, not everyone had been sent to Wrong. Not everyone had died by fire. And there they stood, bones held together by tendons that hadn’t decayed entirely. Whose dead they were, she couldn’t say. They had obviously moved from whatever graves they had come from. Though they did not speak, there were sounds of bone against bone as they moved sightlessly in the chill air. Scraps of clothing clung to the old bones, hints of who they had once been. A highly-embroidered sleeve on a pallid wrist. A brightly-colored, disproportionately cheery scrap of cloth on a small frame of bones. Steel vambraces, long since rusted and ruined, no longer protected a desiccated hand that needed no guard anyway.

Was it her imagination? Or did she recognize those vambraces?

Valonia stood silently in place for a moment. She knew she’d have to do something, and she had already resolved that she would… but she just needed a moment. To brace herself.

These dead did not move. They had no need to. Their hollow eyes simply bore witness. It was the living that needed to rush around. The dead had all the time in the world.

Valonia forced herself to return their unblinking gaze, though her own gaze was filling with tears. But now was not the time to hide from the past. She had to confront this. The dead might be past the point of understanding or forgiveness, but she was still alive. And she felt some responsibility to them. While they might not know anything anymore, this was important to her.

They had been taken care of, these dead ones. Buried close enough to town so they could be visited by the ones that had loved them. But how many of these people could have been saved, if the columns hadn’t corrupted things, if magic hadn’t been corrupted, if people hadn’t been corrupted…?

There was no changing what had happened, of course. What was done was done. But they could at least be put to rest. She owed some of them that much, at least.

This wasn’t the fire festival Valonia had anticipated, but it would be a cleansing of sorts.
ImageTeam Druid aka The Justice LeagueImage
🔥 Fire Mage Fanciers Guild - You had me at "I cast fireball!"🔥
☥ 0-Part Avatars Club ☥
1 of 8 Shrines visited
User avatar
Posts: 65
Joined: Mon Jan 25, 2021 9:19 pm

Re: The Five of Cups

Post by Valonia »

"Currently, runic magic is still too weak, too alien to the known laws of Britannian magic to be effective. If, however, there were to be another weakening of the interdimensional walls, the knowledge might become useful. However, if this were to occur it would be impossible to foresee how the rules of runic magic might alter, which spells would become easier or more difficult to cast, and whether new spells might become possible..." – Nystul - ‘A Safe Passage Through Britannia

Those songs I know, which nor sons of men
nor queen in a king's court knows;
the first is Help which will bring you help
in all woes and in sorrow and strife.

A sixth I know: when some thane would harm me
in runes on a moist tree's root,
on his head alone shall light the ills
of the curse that he called upon mine.
– Havamal, Olive Bray translation


Still smelling like smoke, Valonia picked a path and just kept walking, the focus on her ‘mission’ forgotten. She didn’t know where she was headed. Just away from there. Perhaps the dead would rise again. Perhaps not. But she knew she couldn’t be there anymore.

As it was Yew, Val soon found herself in the forest, as one tended to do in this area. Road gave way to trees, and the sound of bird calls and chatter. As it had when she was younger, the presence of trees made her feel somewhat better, though she still carried heaviness in her heart.

While Valonia fled from her problems, her rabbit remained huddled in the bottom of her satchel, balled up into a little loaf. It was scared by the noises and the fire, but it stayed with the woman rather than bolting. But when it could hear the sound of bird chatter, it began to sit up, peeking its head out of the top of the leather bag. Something had caught its attention, and its ears swiveled forward.

Noticing the change in her companion’s demeanor, Val followed its gaze.

Though the area was somewhat familiar, more trees had grown up in the time she had been gone. But the rabbit’s attention, and now hers, had fallen on a particular line of trees, far taller and older than the ones surrounding them.

And upon some of them were runes.

Val squinted a bit, trying to study them closer. Though they followed the same form all Britannian rune magic followed, they… felt different. Carried somewhat different intent. Druid runes.

“I do not recall approaching from this direction before… but my family’s land should be somewhere nearby,” she said softly to the rabbit. “The tree line has changed over the years though...”

Well, it had been a while since she’d come this way. Six, maybe 7 years? And a lifetime ago.

The rabbit, of course, had no overt response to her observation. Its nose simply continued to twitch.

Valonia approached one of the trees, an old hawthorn that had obviously fallen down some years ago. While the top part of it had probably been carted away some time ago (it was an exceptionally hard wood, after all), there were still pieces of the stump remaining in the ground, including a severed rune that appeared to have been grown into the tree itself. The rune had been broken in the tree’s fall, but there was still something… odd about it.

With the new senses she was developing due to her magical studies, Val could almost read the line among the trees. She was not surprised to see several of the trees/shrubs along the line were hawthorn. People in this area commonly used them as barriers due to their thorns. It made for an effective, living barricade. But there was oak among the line as well. Ash. Elm. Her eyes followed the treeline until it was obscured by the rest of the forest.

The rabbit hopped out of the satchel, and ran toward a small shining object. There, among the dirt… a small disk? Of metal?

Valonia walked toward it herself. The metal was odd and discordant among the newly-green and growing things. She crouched down to study it better.

The small disk was wedged against, and into, the broken old growth, as if trying to make up for the break in the tree itself. But while the disk was completely and totally wrong for this area, Val had to admit it wasn’t poorly done. Though it was metal, the rune marked upon it (through some method Valonia had yet to discern) was clearly done in druidic fashion, and it had been etched or carved to a skilled an exacting standard. Wedging it into a tree seemed almost rude, but it was admittedly effective. Though, had there been no other natural methods of handling the problem other than stabbing a chunk of metal into a tree? Even if the tree was already dead, using metal in this way seemed a very blatant, direct, and decidedly clinical way of handling the problem.

Her uncle Robert’s work, Valonia recognized suddenly, the corner of her mouth lifting in a half-amused smile.

“And this is why Grandfather had not been terribly fond of him,” she explained to the rabbit, pointing out the part where the metal met wood. “Ends, means, and all that.”

The rabbit looked at her blankly, not comprehending the nuances of absolute equations, consequentialism, or greater goods. It simply swiveled its ears in her direction and continued to twitch its nose.

There was no way Val could explain fully to the rabbit, of course. It would not understand the problem with the rune, let alone any consequences thereof.

In the times of the being known as The Guardian, there had been those who studied the runes. Not the druidic ones of old, as was grown into the nearby tree, but this kind, the foreign kind brought to the land (and to others) by the efforts of the Guardian. Nystul, former Court Magus of Lord British had been one of those who studied such runes, in the event such knowledge may become necessary. Apparently, Uncle Robert had done some research as well. She recalled him mentioning studying something of Nystul’s treatises.

But while such things were turning the instruments of the enemy into a boon, Valonia was certain there were some pithy phrases about employing the weapons of one’s foes. And tainting ancient trees with the magical equivalent of metal spikes seemed disrespectful to say the least.

“I suppose can see both sides of the matter,” Valonia contemplated to the rabbit, shrugging. “Grandfather was concerned with preserving what was in place because he had a responsibility to. He was not wrong. Meanwhile, Uncle Robert felt the need to take action, regardless of what might have been tradition. He was not wrong either, though there might have been other ways of handling things…”

She contemplated that for a moment.

“Though far less efficient ones, I admit,” she mused, still studying the focus in the ground. What other ways had there been? What else could he have done?

Valonia supposed she should be more offended by the metal runes. Perhaps more critical? But she had grown up with Uncle Robert’s lessons, and had always appreciated his directness and certainty, even if she couldn’t espouse such things herself. She still admired the idea of will surmounting reality. She just saw too much gray in too many areas these days. He had acted at personal cost. No, he was not wrong about this. She could not see him as wrong here.

Or maybe she was just making a habit of sympathizing with people she shouldn’t? She’d done the same with Brand, and look where that had gotten her.

She had a responsibility to preserve things too, did she not? Like her grandfather. So maybe she should stop sympathizing with new-fangled magey ways of doing things, and handling all of this as he would. Besides, it took her mind off the events at the graveyard.

“The original hawthorn looks dead… but it looks like there is some regrowth over here,” she intentionally said aloud to the rabbit, which was busy making its own investigations. “I wonder if the rune will work again if the new growth comes from the same root.”

With the idea of trying to trace the root, she dug her fingers around the edge of the hawthorn, around the part where the rune was wedged. It moved slightly, though she was careful not to unseat it. Until she knew for certain whether the hawthorn would regrow, she didn’t want to take out what appeared to be a warding focus.

She supposed she didn’t need to take out the metal disc, as the trees would grow around it. But it was some manner of foreign magic. Surely this was not what her Grandfather would have wanted. Or any of the druids that came before.

The rabbit assisted her, its tiny claws pawing the soil, and its hind feet pushing its diggings away.

“I think the roots might be connected,” Valonia said to the rabbit, and glanced over. “I wonder… If I remove the metal, will the hawthorn over here-…”

She stopped, watching the rabbit. It stood still, its ears pricked up in alarm. And in return, the hairs on the back of Val’s neck did the same. As foolish as her companion might seem, there was no time in which it had lied to her about warnings.

Standing slowly from where she had been crouching, Valonia narrowed her eyes a bit against the light and tried to scan the forest for anything unusual. She wasn’t seeing or hearing anything, even from above. But the rabbit was still remained frozen in place and its senses were far keener than hers were. The bird noises too had died down a bit. There had to be something there. An animal perhaps?

She reached toward her reagents, and murmured the words “Flam Sanct”. If the threat was physical, then the spell would protect her against it.

“Kal Vas Flam,” came a reply.

With a clarity surprising for someone who had been set on fire, Valonia decided this was not good.

While the reactive armor she had created would have protected her against physical damage, it had weakened her resistance to the elements. She flapped her wool cloak around her, trying to stop the flames, before diving behind the nearby trees. She half-rolled on the ground to put out the last of the flames, and reached into her reagent pouch once more. A quick healing spell to sooth the burns, then a quickly muttered spell.

“In Jux Sanct,” she murmured, feeling more than seeing the magical barrier around her, then glanced around from behind the tree.

“In Por Ylem.”

The magical arrow struck her, of course. Her opponent had been waiting for her. There was a bright, almost harmless, flash. One mirrored on her opponent somewhere. But it was unlikely to cause much harm, Valonia was certain. It had been one of the first spells she had learned. But the spell, relatively harmless as it was, dissipated the fragile magical barrier she’d created. It did, in fact, return the spell that was called upon her, but in the process wasting her own spell she’d used.

Well, damnit, Valonia thought to herself, ducking back behind the tree.

Trying to fight magical opponents was difficult for her, and now was no exception. She couldn’t be sure her opponent hadn’t cast some manner of magical reflection upon themselves, so trying to fight literal fire with fire was unlikely to work. She needed help.

She fumbled at the reagents in her belt pouch.

She had intended to summon some manner of elemental. Maybe something watery? Even something of the earth? But those word parts did not come to her mind.

“Kal Xen,” was all she managed to whisper.

It didn’t occur to her in the moment that the closest animal that could hear her plea for aid was her rabbit friend.

“No!” she said as she saw the rabbit leap forward.

Whether it had been emboldened by her spell, or whether it was coming to her defense out of misplaced loyalty, leap in it did. It flattened its ears back, grunting and lunging “aggressively” as if it could accomplish anything by it.

It was then Valonia knew her rabbit would be set on fire and die horribly. And she couldn’t bear it.

She rose to her feet and leaped after the rabbit. In spite of the burning she felt in her hands, holding her oak staff in the Plough Guard. “You leave that rabbit alone!” she yelled.

She knew that it was perhaps the stupidest way to die. For all she knew, she could die to fire, and then the rabbit would kick over from stress right afterward. But she had spent all these years ruminating over how bad of a person she was, and the rabbit was a genuinely good little creature, and she cared more about it than herself.

None of which actually prevented any spells, of course.

At Valonia’s charge, the mage simply lifted a hand and said, “In Ex Grav.”

The casting was done almost dismissively, freezing both rabbit and woman in place. And while the advances of both creature and humanoid were stopped in their tracks, he came closer to examine what was disturbing the wards. He looked at the rabbit with a look of bemusement, before turning toward the woman. The bemused expression turned to stern dismay as he saw the green of her cloak and her oak staff. While she no longer had the scales stitched into her robe, the imprint of it still remained. It wasn’t a good sign, especially given all the troubles fairly recently.

And then he studied her face, which was older than he remembered. “…Valla?”

Valonia couldn’t say anything of course, even if she recognized her uncle Robert. He too was older than she remembered, but she supposed that was to be expected. Time had passed, after all. Even in this place.

She found it idly interesting that he was garbed in a long woolen tunic the a dark blue of a logberry dye, a curious fusion of Moonglowian and Yew influences. And while his attire was not quite in the style of Yew, he had clearly made some concessions to the needs of the area. It seemed uncharacteristic of him… or perhaps it didn’t match the person she had thought he was? Had she just remembered his certainty wrong?

For that matter, had she remembered a lot of things incorrectly?

Meanwhile, he engaged in his own observations of her. And whatever conclusions he came to, there was a short pause in his actions, a moment of hesitation where Valonia was concerned they were truly enemies. But eventually, Robert dispelled the paralysis field. He didn’t seem to be having any of his “fits” either, which was both expected and not given that Valonia understood more about its origins these days.

With the spell dissolved, Val was able to move again. The rabbit could too, and ran toward her feet to cower behind her boots.

“Hello, uncle,” she said, lowering her staff. “I… did not really expect to see anyone.”

She felt awkward now, having charged at him over a rabbit. Awkward that they had fought. (Awkward too that she had lost, if she was being honest. But then again, she was not the one who had studied this sort of thing.) Everything was weird and wrong and awkward, admittedly. She hadn’t planned on confronting any of her family.

“I did not expect to see you either,” Robert began, keeping a cautious distance. “Valla… everyone thought you were dead.”

“I… well… I am not,” Val replied, shrugging uncomfortably.

“I see that.” He squinted at her thoughtfully, clearly trying to piece together some question to ask her.

There were several he could ask, Valonia admitted. What had happened since she left? Why hadn’t she returned? Why hadn’t she even sent word? Why was she a druid now, when her early life had been full of the wrongs and injustices Yew had perpetuated? What was she even doing here?

But Robert simply asked, “What happened?”

Valonia supposed she should have expected that question. She’d been gone a long time. But just because a question was expected did not mean she’d planned to answer it.

“I… was just passing through,” she began lamely. “Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say I had not planned to come this way.”

“That is not what I meant.”

“I know… So I suppose… So… What happened was…” Valonia gulped in a breath, and shifted in place. This wasn’t how she had anticipated this. But then again… she hadn’t planned to come back at all. Even when she’d first left with Brand, she hadn’t anticipated ever returning to Yew.

And now here she was.

Uncle Robert looked at her in anticipation, as if expecting her to continue.

“So… I passed the graveyard,” she said quietly. “I saw Brand.”

“Ah.” Robert nodded in somber understanding. And mercifully, he remained silent for a time. For all the shortcomings her mother seemed to ascribe to him, Valonia had never doubted his intelligence. And while she had enjoyed his humor in the past, she needed his silence now more than his humor.

Perhaps it was ironic that she needed someone to listen more than she needed a judge. Perhaps she was a terrible druid.

“It has just been an… odd last few years,” Valonia continued. “I know that when I was leaving… things were said.”

To call it acrimonious was an understatement. There had been arguments all around, as she recalled, though it was difficult these days to remember exactly what was said.

“But when Brand…” She added, but couldn’t continue that sentence. “When his body was sent back, I had considered returning as well,” she said instead. “But the woman who helped me, a druid, suggested it might not be safe for me in Yew. The way she had phrased it, my service was repayment for my crimes. But others would not see it such.”

Robert nodded. “ ‘A wrong unpunished is a wrong condoned’, as the Courts might say.”

“Yes. Maybe they were not wrong about that much,” Valonia admitted. “So I stayed away. And… then I continued to stay away.”

“I see. When Brand’s parents received his body, everyone feared the worst. And with no sign of you…” He held up his hands in a shrug.

Val wasn’t sure what to think about that. On one hand, that was kind of the idea? But on the other hand, it wasn’t a deliberate choice she’d made. She’d just stayed away and hoped things would sort themselves out in her absence.

“I had not planned that.” She shrugged once more. “I suppose I hoped it would all just… resolve itself?”

Robert shook his head. “It rarely works that way.”

“So I have learned.” Valonia grimaced.

“But you have time now, do you not?” Robert suggested, gesturing in the direction Valonia knew the farm and her parents’ cabin would be. “If your business with the Courts…”

“I am not on Court business.” Val shook her head. “I mean… I do plan to meet with them. My mentor died, and I brought her ashes back… and… someone should know…”

It was another one of those sensitive subjects she didn’t exactly want to talk about, but it rested just beneath the surface.

Her uncle patted her shoulder gently in support. “There is time for that later, I am certain. The Courts have waited before, have they not? Perhaps you should handle your own affairs before you settle theirs.”

Valonia looked off in the direction of the farmstead, her brow furrowing in worry. “I know I said some harsh things to Mother and Father… Do you think… Would they…”

Robert raised a brow. “Do I think they would judge you harshly? No, Valla, I do not. For all the disagreements I may have had with your grandfather,-may he rest in peace, Holtraed always held family as important. Bernhard holds the same views. And your mother? She grieved your loss. No, they would not judge you harshly. They are not druids, as you may recall.”

He smiled faintly, with some semblance of his former humor.

“Maybe I am not either,” Valonia admitted, a wry half-smile on her lips. “I seem awful at it.”

“Then there may be hope for you yet. There is always time to reconsider your path,” he suggested, only partially serious. “You do not have to be a tree-whisperer to carry around your food animal friend, after all.”

That got a small laugh out of Val. “I… had thought you would say something like that.”

“Then I have become predictable in my dotage.” He shook his head. “But consider this: what would you regret more if you chose not to do it? Leaving? Or staying?”

Val considered that for a moment. “You make a good point.”

“It happens on occasion.” Robert smiled faintly, then gestured toward the farmstead. “Shall we then?”

Valonia leaned the empty satchel down toward the ground, allowing the rabbit to climb up into it. “I… suppose it cannot hurt to stop for a time.”
ImageTeam Druid aka The Justice LeagueImage
🔥 Fire Mage Fanciers Guild - You had me at "I cast fireball!"🔥
☥ 0-Part Avatars Club ☥
1 of 8 Shrines visited
Post Reply