Author Topic: Winds of memories (Cata RP Character background stories)  (Read 1566 times)

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Chaosvolt

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(( Written with ideas and feedback from Wilson and Noctifer. ))

Timeline: Roughly 2 years after the cataclysm, a couple days before The Shifting

Characters Involved: The preceding world's versions of Helen and Lucian



Fate twisted and turned, in ways mirroring a path others walked though the cataclysm, yet diverging down other peculiar paths.

A holy order was crumbling, rife with schism. Foundering as strife tore them apart, and the heterodox grasped for fresh blood only to come up empty. With their slow march into extinction, barely even witnessing the true End of All, the Cleansing Flame had focused much more of their efforts upon the very mission that first brought them together.

Yet some paths still took a familiar shape, facing unfamiliar consequences...



There was an old lumber yard, deep within parts of New England now steadily succumbing the reclamation by the wilderness. The axes had gone still, all but one. A daily routine of blade meeting wood, but not by hands of its original employees. A stranger lingered, limping and bearing each day's hardships, far from cities still infested with horrors unlike any the world had seen before.

Another had followed a trail. Standing at the crest of a hill, overlooking the brush-choked dirt path that led to the logging camp. A woman, tattered leather cloak hanging heavy upon her shoulders, a patchwork of scratched, bent iron scales adorning it. Only a few flecks of gold and brass hinted at its purpose, but the mask of iron and copper over her face remained in far better condition. Through pinpricks of eerie red light, obscuring green eyes, she stalked her prey.

He was in one of the cabins, the one farthest from the entrance to the camp. His aura put her off guard, there was an unnatural taint to it, but it was weaker. Dull, as though he had been out of practice. Strayed from The Path, even so close to the cursed Appalachian, where abominations haunted every peak, where the temptation to exploit them would be unavoidable.

She found the door unlocked. He was waiting there, sitting at a table in the single room. A woodcutting axe was propped up against the wall by the doorway, well out of reach. A crude firearm, likely more duct tape than metal at this point, was left open and unloaded on a dresser by the bed, several feet behind him. He was looking her right in the eyes, a thousand yard stare evident. He looked as worn down as her, wearing a long coat that had been torn and patched countless times, mixed with long-inert scraps of hard leather armor, once bearing the mark of sanguine craftsmanship. The only weapon he had in reach was a cane, a stout length of hickory.

"Hunter..." he said in a voice that seemed barely audible, weak and hoarse. She stepped inside and closed the door behind her, a hammer resting over her shoulder. It was weather, tarnished, the wood cracked and only held together by the langets. The footfalls of armored boots seemed especially heavy on creaky old wood, moreso from the weariness evident in her gait. "...shrike."

"What are you waiting for? Gloat if you'd like, see if I care...if I wanted to fight you, you'd already be dead." he said, briefly managing the faintest hint of a smile. She cast that gaze over him, augmented by the sight beyond sight of her mask. "If you could fight, you mean." she answered, lowering her hammer. It wasn't into a combat stance. In fact, she seemed hesitant. "You...were the one who killed my father, weren't you? Thomas McKinnon..."

"That...was the last one I killed." he answered. "You've already figured it out, haven't you?" he said. She simply gave a nod in response, her mask deactivating. She could tell. She'd spied his movements entering the building when she first got in range, the way he heavily favored one leg. Barely able to walk, only managing through what little magic he still practiced. Only way he could even stand, at least for long enough to tend to daily tasks like chop firewood and gather food.

"This is what I find when I seek my father's murderer? After losing everyone, everything but revenge, what do I find...a cripple who left the Order. You and I are the only ones left of our conflict, aren't we..." she said, her grip on the hammer tightening. She was glaring at him under the mask, yet she couldn't bring herself to take another step forward. She looked like she was already about to collapse, not from anger or sorrow, but from simple weariness. The way the shrike simply looked back at her, fully accepting of his fate, only made it that much harder to advance those final few steps, to bash his brains out like she'd set out to do.

He seemed to be sizing her up, a reflexive appraisal before he reached for an old kettle, to pour a cup. "More or less. Tea?" he asked, and she nearly dropped her hammer outright. She set it down, grumbling to herself as she finally stepped forward, taking the other seat at the table. "I'm going to regret this...alright."

"Hungry?" he asked, taking a sip of tea first, to show it was safe before offering her a cup. She gave a little nod, lowering the torn hood of her cloak. She didn't even have her helm anymore, only the mask still concealed her, red hair tied in a short ponytail. "I...a bit. Not much left to scavenge from the cities these days." she admitted.

At that he nodded, leaning over a bit to the wood stove by the wall, to get a pot of stew left simmering on it. She was still wary, yet soon enough the allure of a hot meal was enough to convince herself to let her guard down a bit, and remove her mask to eat.

They sat and ate in silence for a few minutes, at first exchanging nothing more than names. Helen, Lucian. She was the one to finally break the silence. "How long had it been? Since you left them..." she asked.

They way he gazed back at her seemed to betray the discomfort that his memories brought up. Of staring down at an old man, crawling for his hammer with his last ounce of strength, final breath an attempt to say his daughter's name in the delirium of blood loss. Abandoning the Sanguine Order to rot, infinitely more shaken by all the bloodshed than how the conflict would play out a whole reality away.

And the bitter memory of what happened, barely making it to the very boiling point, the end that the magi had long preached of, when the only person who stuck with him had succumbed to the relic they stole from the Order. The agony of a leg wrenched out of place in a frantic struggle, kneecap split open by an unholy blade, and soon enough watching his best friend bleed out at his feet, a final spark of humanity evident in his eyes during that final moment.

"A...a long time. Years." he answered, after a moment's pause that felt like an eternity. "Before this shit started, it was after...him, the last one." he muttered. "After all this time, I..." she said softly. It was clear she was struggling with something. She came here to exterminate the Sanguine Order. It was the life she was born into. The only thing that kept her going, even as she lost everyone she ever knew, one by one. There was no final hunt of Shadows of Arcana, no dramatic clash to shake her to her core. Instead, there was only a slow burn. Worn down yet unrelenting, only to find out too late that the Sanguine Order was long gone, and she had spent the past year following the trail of a broken man.

He stood, unsteadily and clutching the cane, his other hand leaning heavily on the table. "I-- One moment." He seemed to focus his resolve, unsteadily steps making his way to a corner, where an old steamer trunk rested in the corner. Somehow, he mustered the strength to drag it closer to the table, nearly falling onto it as he knelt to open it. A hammer, and a mask. Copper adorned iron, decorations in the form of an impassive face, a bright red beard of metal trailing down so that it would cover the throat of its intended wearer.

"Those from my former order said I left behind 'a trophy'. I don't know why I kept it." he practically spat out, Helen standing to draw close, seeing him struggle she found herself compelled to help him stand, before he placed the items on the table. "Still makes me sick. It's yours." he added, nearly falling into his chair afterward.

She sat back down, and the way she was tearing up a bit, despite the grimace that crossed her face as she examined the mask, was evident with hers not being on at the moment. She could only look at it for a moment, before glancing away, forcing herself to regain her composure. "Thank you. We'd normally inter them with the fallen, or at least enshrine them if that was all we could recover, but...there's nothing left."

Lucian simply shrugged at that, breathing a heavy sigh. "I don't want it. You can probably do something with it." he answered, and she gave a nod. "I will. I'll find something to do with it..."

She would stay the night, making use of one of the other cabins, before planning her next move. He'd slept in, setting plenty of wood in his cabin's stove before going to bed nearly as soon as she'd left him alone, even though the sun was only barely beginning to set, and she'd find he slept in well past morning.

She'd gone into the main office of the old site, finding that he used the space as a workshop and pantry, to have a simple breakfast rather than disturb him. Then she walked. A simple hike, closer to the foot of the nearby mountains, where overgrowth gave way to twisted, dead plants across cold, rocky ground. Far enough from the camp that the thunder of a hammer, that hadn't resounded in several months, didn't so much as stir Lucian from his rest. Weary though she'd been, there was still fight in her, and the chittering of some chitinous abomination was silenced in a flurry of hammer blows.

She made it a short way up a mountain trail before overturning a few stones that had fallen across the unused path, fumbled to dig a small pit. Carefully, she lay the mask and hammer that Lucian had given her to rest, a short cairn the only grave marker she'd been able to give her father. They never recovered a body, so this was the best she could manage. The gear of a fallen hunter, somewhere free from the threat of scavengers finding it.

She'd return to find him still asleep, even though it was now past noon by the time she returned, groggy and answering her brief spark of concern with only a bitter smirk. "Come on, let an old man sleep..." he grumbled, Helen taking a seat at the table. "Odin's eye, you don't look any older than me. Don't tell me this is what a shrike does for half the day."

"Well I feel twice your age, so there. Besides, got firewood and stew on for the next two days, twice that depending on how soon you're leaving." he remarked. "I'd give it a bit though. There's a storm coming in...I can feel it. One advantage to having your best friend come within a few inches of taking your leg off."

At that, Helen gave a little sigh, then a nod of agreement. "You're right. There is a storm, but not that sort. How long have you been out here? The Veil itself is being torn apart..." Lucian just shook his head. "Not long before it all went pear-shaped. This area has been a mess of Veil...things, since that very day. No idea if it's any better out there."

At that, she picked up her mask, and before the shrike could raise a hand to object, she made him don it, activating it with the tap of a gauntleted finger. All around, it seemed like there was the glow of endless portals, endless holes in reality, piercing the haze limiting the mask's sight range. Brighter than it ever was before, even during the very peak of zero day.

If he had the strength to, if he wasn't already so worn down physically and mentally, he'd be laughing mad at the sight of it all. All he could manage was a tired chuckle, trembling hands fumbling blindly to remove the mask, blind himself to a clairvoyance he'd never experimented with before. "They were right, weren't they. Cultist bastards knew this would happen..."

Helen sat back down. The energy had left her, as the reality of what she had been seeing over the past month in her mask's vision sank in properly, adrenaline and resolve faded at last, her final mission ending without the blood-soaked closure she couldn't bring herself to obtain. "I don't know. This seems so much worse than what the Keepers were claiming, but...there's nothing we can do."

Lucian glanced at her, so weary and yet lacking the roughness, the scars he'd picked up along the way. Cloak kept her from staying too beat up for long, he figured. Finally, he was managing something close to a genuine smile. "Came here to kill me, and now you're spending your final moments with me. If I didn't feel another 30 or so years older than I am..."

"Wh-n-not like that, that wasn't what I was implying, gods damnit!" she said, sitting up straight with a renewed spark of fury. "It's just, we're not going to finish what's left of our past like this. Might as well just...wait it out. If we survive, whatever survival means when reality itself is falling apart...we'll see. Go our separate ways, stick together, I don't know..."

"Heh. Fine then. If we survive, and we don't find ourselves dumped on the surface of Mars or something, an extra pair of hands would be nice. Working set of legs too, for that matter." he remarked. "Pleasure meeting you, hunter...no, Helen."



Across a hundred thousand realities, a dozen hands pulled at an ever-more-threadbare patchwork of worlds. Each pulling the fabric of reality in every direction, lesser powers clawing at decaying threads in a scramble for purchase. Some worked deep and close into this growing hole in existence and risking their own destruction, some working at strings from a less precarious distance. All unknowing or uncaring about trillions upon trillions of galaxies within these strands, planet upon planet suffering uncountably infinite armageddons in the process.

Distant powers exerted influence of their own, steady hands weaving a hundred worlds at a time as they worked their machinations. From far above, ever so distant, a shrouded figure worked to steady fraying strands. From far below, yet of the same origin as the stranger above, a treacherous thing sought his own hold on the cosmos, working a thousand gambits against a thousand unknowable, distant plots of his rival. And in the abyss all in-between, with neither origin nor end, a hungering darkness awaited the feast as reality unraveled and frayed, already sending the least of their endless host to gnaw upon untainted threads.

And woven all within a particularly-thin patch of the tapestry, caught up in scarcely a hundred universes, a broken four-fold thing slumbered. If awakened, it could effortlessly contest all but the most distant of the powers warring over these crumbling realities. But if it awakened, the fraying of reality in its wake may well cast all the powers present into the abyss, then drag the abyss and its lurking hungers into depths even the immortals feared.

Just as another thread frayed and snapped, the dreaming thing stirred. Those all in between looked on with both fear and hunger, and all within paused. Shimmering fragments of a destroyed reality scattered over and all throughout its sleeping expanse, disturbing its dreams for but an instant. But it returned to its rest, tangled within one less timeline.

But as these motes of broken existence drifted off its body, the dreamer's movement denied the hungering darkness their table scraps. For much of the cast-off reality settled on another thread the dreamer was a part of, and two realities became one. Other pieces of the destroyed world settled, adrift among the tapestry to settle all throughout.

And one tiny mote of reality found its place, far from those closest threads, yet with a faint hope for a new future...

 

NOCTIFER IS A FAGGOT