Path of War Expanded – Quid Nomen Mihi Est?

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“Begone from my sight, faithless traitor,” boomed the Law, and lo, it was so.

I remember falling. I don’t remember landing.

*    *    *    *

Pain. A world of pain, dimensions of agony folded into sharp, cracking sensations that crawled through my being in shifting tides. Dimly, I was aware that my body was – pressed? No, lodged – into a crater of soil. Something had fallen on me.  Many somethings.

Dimly, and at length, the pain abated enough for me to make out more of my environment. The scent of smoldering wood filled my nostrils, and the crackle of flames. I shifted a wing, screaming at the punishing agony that resulted, and felt bones crack and readjust. The Law had not taken that from me, at least.

But what had it taken?

Begone from my sight, faithless traitor.

Try as I might, I could not remember anything before the booming voice of the Law, and the terrible fall. Slowly I stood, on protesting legs, and my limp wings covered my nudity in a cloak of soot-stained feathers. I could not see –  my eyes swam with the bright stars of my torment – but near my crater I could sense life, disturbed by my terrible, burning fall, and in that life, a soul. Young, mortal, innocent. Probably a child, if my judgement was sound, and untouched by the Law.

“Can you help me?” I croaked, my throat tight and choked with ash and soot.

The soul flickered with sympathy and with selfless fear and concern. “I don’t know no proper healin’, my lady,” a small voice said, respectfully. “I could fetch the hedge witch what lives in a hut nearby. She does some of this an’ that and maybe she’d -“

“Thank you, child, but I will heal,” I said gratefully. A bone cracked as it slipped back into place, the sound echoing through the freshly-made clearing like a shot. I forced myself to walk, not fly, up the side, not trusting my wings to support me yet. Though I could feel my power returning, healing with my body, I still felt oddly heavy, robbed of some lightness that I knew only by its absence. The soul trembled in fear, but it did not turn to run. I knelt before it and ruffled its body’s hair.

“I am confused,” I said softly. “Tell me – what is my name?”

The soul flickered uncertainly, thinking hard on the matter. “My lady, I don’t rightly know. But you look like the pictures, in the windows of the church. The pictures of the angels. Maybe you’re one of them? Town rumor says only an angel’s fall coulda lit up such a fire in these woods.”

I laid a kiss upon the brow of the soul’s body, and smiled at it. “Thank you for trying.”

*    *    *    *

My feathers weren’t white. This disturbed me, and I could not have said why. They were brown and black, like the feathers of a hawk, and they served me well and faithfully. But they should have been white, and they weren’t.

Begone from my sight, faithless traitor.

I shook my head violently and landed on the windowsill of the sage’s tower. Perhaps a dozen souls resided within, each shaped by erudition. Knowledge leaves a particular mark on a soul, shaping it just as surely as its life and beliefs. I sought that knowledge, and the soul most shaped by it was through the window.

There were wards of spellcraft and psionic power upon it, but they unraveled as I touched the window, recoiled from me as the Law had recoiled.

Begone from my sight, faithless traitor.

The soul’s body stood up; it pulsed in surprise, the magical power girding it rising to its will. I held up a hand, palm spread wide, and spoke softly.

“I come in peace, Martin,” I said to the soul, and its wariness was tempered by curiosity. “I wish to hire your services. Mortals say that you know things you ought not.”

“A claim often made by the ignorant,” Martin agreed, the soul swelling with pride and darkening with resignation. “I had thought you a rumor, great lady. An angel with darkened wings, asking the great sages of the land questions in the dark of the night. Please, ask your question.”

“What is my name?”

Surprise. Fear. “May I summon a light?”

Mortals. A light, fierce and white and shining with glory, appeared in my outstretched hand. “Is this enough?”

The soul raise its body’s hand to shield its eyes, and when they adjusted, peered at me. I had found armor to clothe my nudity, had bound my hair with a ribbon given freely to me by a childish soul too awestruck to speak to me. The twin blades I carried had fallen with me. I knew not from where.

“I…I do not know,” Martin said cautiously. “I am not familiar with any angel with your face or voice. Perhaps if I -“

“You must know,” I insisted, taking a step forward. The soul’s body cowered backwards. “They say you know everything. You know things you ought not. What is my name?”

“I do not know! My lady, I speak the truth!”

Begone from my sight, faithless traitor.

I clapped my hands over my ears to drown out the voice of the Law and folded my wings around my body. I could feel my power flickering to life, sheathing me in protective energies, in flame and fury and levinbolts.

Begone from my sight, faithless traitor.

That is not my name!”

I remember flying from the tower in desperate fear.

I do not remember burning it.

*    *    *    *

A dozen souls, all molded by the Law, in chains that rustled and whispered before their every action. Their bodies were clad in metal, blackened metal hammered over infernal forges, but the stink of evil was drowned out by the horrible clattering of the Law.

“I can feel it,” the leader said, her soul all shackles and thumbscrews. “Chaotic power touched this forest. It’s getting stronger as we get closer to the crash site.”

“Rumor has it some kind of demon brought down an angel here,” her underling said.

“I think you know better than to put stock in rumors,” the shackled soul spat, and my fist clenched around the hilt of my blade. I stepped, and appeared on a high branch above them.

My wings made not a whisper when I dropped from the canopy, crushing the shackled soul to death beneath my weight, twisting her infernal armor and cutting off her scream of surprise and agony.

My blades passed through metal as if it were water, leaving ripples that stilled back into plate, but the flesh beneath was not so giving, and the three knights I struck spat sprays of thick, arterial blood, falling as I rose to my feet before they could even draw their swords.

Begone from my sight, faithless traitor.

“What is my name?”

“Bring her down!” one of the souls ordered, and I heard the chains of the Law draw tight around their fear, dragging them to courage whether they willed it or not.

“No,” I whispered, my blades flaring with smoke and sizzling acid. “That is not my name.”

When I was done, the only chains that bound their souls were that of death.

*    *    *    *

The soul came back to visit me. It had grown into a young woman, fierce in a gangly way. Even if I had not seen my kiss burned into her brow, I would have recognized her. She had changed, some, but I could still see the hope and awe, the selfless worry, as she came to my crater and found me there at the bottom, with my knees to my chest and wrapped in my wings.

She sat at the rim, with her feet in the dirt, and shared my silence.

“I owe you a debt,” I said at last. “You were the first to try to help me. And you taught me much about this world while I was too ill to learn on my own.”

“You don’t need to owe me nothin’, my lady,” she said shyly. “I just did what’s needed doing. Rumor has it someone’s been attacking the Black Thorns. It’s given the resistance a lot of courage. Is…is that someone you?”

I shifted, and lifted my head to look at the soul, which smoldered with hope that it was afraid to fan into flame.

Begone from my sight, faithless traitor.

“They serve the Law. The Law cannot be abided,” I growled, surprised at my own rage. “I will not watch them use it to hurt others. I cannot.”

“Let us help you,” the soul asked eagerly. “I’ve been training really hard. And look, I learned something!” She drew a hand axe, and I saw her inner spark flare and surge; magical energies flowed through her and to the weapon, sheathing it in levinbolts.

“Where did you learn that?” I asked, curiously.

“I watched you practice, my lady,” the soul answered. “We want to help. We’re sick of the Thorns pushing people around and taking what’s ours. Let us help you fight the Law. Teach us. We’d do anything for you.”

I stood fully and folded my wings behind my shoulders. “This is your will?”

“I…yes. Yes, it is,” she said more firmly. “Only, what do we call you?”

Begone from my sight, faithless traitor.

“I have not yet found my name,” I admitted. “You can call me Rumor.”

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By | 2015-10-27T20:35:32+00:00 October 27th, 2015|Categories: Fiction|0 Comments

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