Carillon (Mephyst backstory)
((Old old start of a backstory I'd had in mind for a character that I thought I'd tuck away here. Pre-Ember release in-game, when we were still pulling at threads for Kelari lore. May no longer fit, but I hope you enjoy it regardless.))
The scent of myrrh and jasmine traced along the incensed smoke as I wafted the thurible through the air. Its metal surface gleamed as it swayed, the bells hanging from the chains by which I held it singing each pace and pass, echoed by the bells at my ankles. A slow, even announcement of my progress through the temple.
Often we used these incense containers to purify the temples before beginning a ritual for the spirits, so this practice was nothing new to me. Still, I was used to the more familiar scents of frankincense and clove, or even sage, anise, and lavender. Fire and air notes, intended to invoke and welcome spirits of that nature. Myrrh and jasmine were unfamiliar to me, and the headiness of their smell together was not bringing the clarity and peace I usually found, but instead a nearly dizzy grogginess.
Still, Priestess Persea had asked me specifically to help her perform the ritual. As merely a priest in training, it was my honor to do so. It would be just us, instead of the rest of the initiates performing the other intricacies.
With a shake of my head, I scolded myself for not focusing, and inwardly cursed the heady scent of the incense for not helping. Down one hall then the next, I eventually found myself at last in the main chamber.
A lavish drapery of fine, silken cloths lined the stone walls; the way they shifted and rippled with the drafts from the sea created the illusion that the temple itself was breathing in long, shallow sighs. Still further where the stage lay, I saw the glint of silver. Ornately embroidered with thread that nearly passed for its true metal counterpart, the mantle and dress gave way its wearer immediately. She looked like a delicate lily plucked from some sacred place, the silvered fabrics falling off of her in lofty petals.
She shifted, apparently having heard the chime of my approach, though I was still half of the chamber's length from her. The tinkle and cry of the bells echoed, noting just how empty the temple truly was. Not fully looking over her shoulder, I caught the hint of her profile as she spoke.
"We welcome you, Initiate Mephyst, to this place of ritual."
I lowered myself to one knee, head bowing in turn. I had stilled the thurible's motion to do so, but upon rising, resumed its slow, even sway.
The motion was repeated once more when I reached approximately ten paces from the first step toward the stage. Rising once more, I looked up to the stage where Priestess Persea still stood, her back remaining to me.
"I have humbled myself, and come to present offering," I voiced, moving immediately into the Exchange. It was part of the Invocation, wherein the participants announced what they had brought to appease the spirit they wished to bring forth.
"And what is it you give from yourself?" the Priestess countered, her smooth voice sure and projected.
"Incense meant to please the senses and bring peace. The spice and earthiness of myrrh, and the delicate sweetness of jasmine." I replied.
"May the spirits welcome us." We both intoned.
"What is it that you give from yourself, Priestess?"
At that, Persea turned, revealing what was before her.
My sister, Meclyz, was knelt before her, gagged and her wrists tied behind her back. The quiet terror of her gaze fixed upon me, her head forced back by the viced grip of one of the Priestess' hands.
I barely heard the clang of the thurible as it tumbled to the floor, the coals and incense spilling out near my feet.
"We bring that which is most precious. We bring the blood of our blood, shed as sacrifice to bring forth the one waiting."
My mind reeled, looking between her and Meclyz, my young sister's nostrils flaring with a sharp inhale. I could see the slight tremor in her shoulders, both from strain and fear. Another glint of silver in the peripheral of her form, and I realized with growing dread that not all of that glistening hue was thread.
In one hand, held with a delicate sureness, Priestess Persea held a dagger.
What was worse, I now knew who it was intended for.
This was madness.
I could hear the drum of my heart in my ears, sense—words—anything trying to find my lips and dissuade what was intended.
“Priestess—this doesn’t make sense. You have always said it was the folly of others that tried to call themselves equal to the gods while slaying their kin to remain under the yoke of the spirits they courted.”
I would try reason, throwing her teachings back at her. This was not the way of the Aeoli! She knew this!
Her features twisted in a look of annoyance as I broke away from the rhythm of the Exchange, the point of her chin lifting as she regarded me down the length of her nose. She had never regarded me so lowly, and an echo of myself felt ashamed, even if this creature before me was not the Kelari I had known.
My hands lifted, spreading before me in an entreating fan. Before I could continue and move forward, she cut me off, the honeyed notes of her voice echoing throughout the chamber, making her seem larger than life itself.
“The Aeoli are dead.”
I froze a second time, and she must have caught the shock starting to lace over my face for she continued.
“We create new pacts to compensate for their loss. We do what we must, to survive, and we shall be rewarded.” The last of this was said with some relish, a subtle rise catching in the corners of her painted lips.
Meclyz gave a muffled sound of protest as she was jerked faintly by her hair, Priestess Persea regarding me with a keen glare. I had interrupted her ritual long enough. The dagger swayed, the grip of those delicate fingers resituating to curl over the hilt more assuredly.
“Blood of our blood, sacrifice of sacrifices.”
“It is this we offer to you, of ourselves.” The dagger rose, stilling poised over my sister. Craned as she was, it would plunge cleanly into the bed of her chest.
“Come forth! And grant us your power.”
There is a space between all things. Not all can see it, and very few use it. It is the Between. I had always seen the Between, known of it, but I had never used this knowledge for fear of what could lie there in its folds.
I had no time for hesitation, and I knew where I needed to be as I dived into that darkness.
I could hear Meclyz’s cry of startlement as the dagger was redirected in its path, embedding itself instead into Persea. My hand clenched over her own still holding the hilt, and I heard a wet gasp part her lips from where I stood holding her back against me. As her hands failed in their strength. I eased the priestess away from my sister, and lowered her to the stage.
A bright red bloom of blood was spreading swiftly along the ornate silver and white frabrics enfolding her, creating a startling contrast. And even though I knew she lay dying, she was smiling up at me. Her lips moved, but I only caught traces of the words she meant to utter:
I moved swiftly to Meclyz, tugging the gag away from her lips, and guarding her with my body from the sight of Persea behind me as I reached around to untie her hands.
Her small arms shot up to wrap around my neck when she was freed, a ragged sob tearing through her. Placing a hand on top of her head, I tucked her face against my neck and negotiated her into my arms to be lifted.
“Don’t look,” though I knew she had already seen too much. “I’m so sorry,” I breathed, and I was—sorry she had been deceived just as I, that she had been put through such horrors…
That she had seen me kill someone.
As I moved to rise with her, hiccuped sobs drenching the linen at my shoulder, I stepped away from the encroaching crimson pool of blood.
Looking down, I noticed a strange, slick liquid beginning to ooze between the cracks in the flooring of the stage. It had a rank smell of decaying fish, and whispers of a faintly blue sheen.
We accept your offering…
The words sounded everywhere and nowhere, ringing in my ears and tickling the back of my mind. It was disorientating. It was only then, I realized the significance of those words.
I had made the sacrifice of blood.
And I had doomed us both.
... No, not both of us. Holding Meclyz tightly against me, I ran. The echo of
Crying in my wake.
To be continued.
One hall, and another, the clearing scent of jasmine and myrrh—how I hated the scent now!—marking a swift retrace of my previous path out of the temple. Meclyz had been startled out of her upset when I began to run, and was instead holding on to my neck and looking back over my shoulder into the passing corridors.
A loud crack of stone that brought a tremor through the very temple itself nearly tripped me a pace, and whether the gasp I heard leave her was from the same surprise I’d felt or fear that she would fall, my sister did not find mind to elaborate.
There was no time, either way.
I squinted when around the turn of one hall we were suddenly caught in the light of the evening sun that blazed itself into the main entry of the temple. Framed as it was by the two large, ornate wooden doors it was a beautiful thing to behold most days. Even now, when it granted me hope. I plunged on, lungs burning with each intake of breath.
That light was my sister’s salvation; I had to make it.
When we breached the entry, I staggered down half the steps and eventually to a halt and set her down on her feet.
Seeming to take this motion as cue that I needed her to run freely with me now, Meclyz grasped at my arm and turned to race down the rest of the steps of the temple. She swayed as her step was not followed by my weight, and my sister sent an owlish blink back at me.
“Mephyst—what are you doing? We have to get out of here!”
I shook my head once, drinking in air deeply to even out my breaths. Cupping her face in my hands, I caught her gaze with mine.
“I need you to run as far and as fast as you can back to village, alright? Do that for me?”
She was shaking her head, realization setting dread in the corners of her mouth.
A second sound of stone cleaving echoed from within the belly of the temple, and I felt her jump as I looked sharply back over my shoulder toward the unseen source.
There was little choice in the matter, my hands already pressing at her shoulders to urge her on and away.
Her hands attempted to grasp at the back of my robe, and my turn to return to the temple was halted. Looking back, I took in the sight of my sister there, clinging to that slip of fabric.
It was easier than telling her the lie that I would return.
“Aderfos…” her voice trembled, reluctant fingers unwinding their grip to free me. She understood, even as tears threatened to well in those ember eyes once more.
Patting a hand down atop her head once, I turned and raced back into the temple. To the right as I entered was a levered device which I caught and yanked to force the thick wooden doors to start their inclination to shut.
I could hear another ragged cry of Meclyz’s voice when I set my back against the doors when they closed.
My head bowed with the weight of it.
Steeling myself, I looked once more back into the darkened halls that I knew awaited me, and the summoned fiend still further.
I could not do this by myself.
“Verek,” I called, straightening from the doors. “I need you.”
I was met with darkness, and silence. A hitch in my heart’s beat echoed the worried trace of thought in my mind: if the Aeoli were no more—had the other spirits of the temple also been erased?
Then something stirred, the gentle flicker of light like a freshly struck match appearing a yard before me before it expanded and flared into the lesser air spirit’s preferred appearance of a glowing wisp.
A dire time of need, indeed. He mused in his soft, chiming voice.
What is it you require, Initiate Mephyst?
“I am ready to make my pact.”
The chiming sway of Verek’s motions seemed to pause, the weight of my statement having struck him. There was a pressure then, and I knew it to be the spirit extending a bit of himself to discern the origin of my choice and need.
… Pacts come with prices, Priest.
Everything is balance.
In need, there is consequence.
Staring at Verek's soft, wisping light his words hung in the air between us.
"I'm already willing to pay the price for your pact, Verek. You only have to name it."
A fool accepts what he doesn't truly know, but I've always liked you Priest. In order to do what it is I see in your mind, I should take something much more necessary of you.
He paused, and I felt a shift in the air around him.
The price is your voice.
I nodded, once, and spread my arms to him. Voices were unexpectedly powerful things. It revealed a mind, rallied the hearts of others, spoke truths to dissuade the darkness of ignorance.
I wondered if this was some kindness on Verek's part. I could sense that he did not think either of us would survive the ordeal. If our lives were already to be paid, what was one voice?
The spirit flared and expanded, drawing closer to me so that when I drew in a breath, tendrils of his light reached for my nostrils and mouth. He was then pressed against my brow, and I felt the light and air of him push through me and down, like a hot syrup being poured down my throat. It paused there, and in an instant it felt as if a bright poker fresh from a fire had buried itself there. I gasped, wretched--yelled--but my sounds swiftly faded even as I could hear Verek's voice in the back of my mind saying it would last but a second more.
I felt him settle in the bed of my chest--a warm fire spreading through me and alligning with my own presence.
It is done.
I was myself, and Verek would be my voice for the seal.
We must go, Priest.
I felt wonder as he looked through my eyes, seeing the slips of the Between. In an instant, we were flying through the tears of space. I would appear down the length of one hall, slip into the Between, appear in the next, and further. The pain I felt before when I had first done it was numbed, the thrill of Verek's energy pulsing through me. My feet had the wind behind them, urging me on.
As we moved further into the temple, the rank smell of rotting fish and stagnant water grew thicker. It was here, or still working its way through the stage which had been the door of its summoning.
When we arrived outside the chamber, I crouched low and eased in to slip behind a pillar and try to gather just how far it had progressed.
I hadn't expected the sound of a low grating, crunching.
Looking to the stage, I saw it had cleaved in on itself, leaving a gaping black chasm in the rock. At the base of tear, I saw white slowly being lurched into the darkness.
The sounds were of the beast ingesting her, bit by bit as it dragged her into its unseen maw.
My body instantly wished to rebel, a sick coldness gripping the back of my throat.
Despite my renewed terror, I found comfort in the fact that it still had not breached the rock. It could not make it any further. Keeping low, I wove through the shadows, slipping into the Between when I had to, in order to get closer to the spilled remains of the thurible.
I could only get so far.
Just to the right of the cooled coals, my back pressed to another pillar, I was hit with a blast of something that echoed the effect the spirits words had given me before. Sonar like in it assault, my mind felt scrambled, vision blurring as I dropped to a knee and held my head. Verek felt it, too, and something more. A bit of its essence echoed within him, and I felt a touch of panic from the air spirit.
Blinking blearily in the dank darkness, a strange wetness seeping from my ears, my hands withdrew from their cradling of my skull.
Whatever attack that was, I had to avoid it again at all costs.
I dove again into the Between, reappeared at the coals, and snatched one of the blacker ones up in hand before disappearing into the folds of space once more. Looking back, I saw a ripple in the air shoot past where I had been. That must have been what had hit me before. No sound. Just the odd cue of disruption of space.
A seal is a contract of another form. It binds an entity or place either within another, or to a certain area. It must have at least five elements dictating the terms of the seal.
When I reached the first of where I would lay down the five points, I drew a symbol for earth.
We bind you in earth, my mouth moved, but Verek was the voice that spoke. Earth whose deep roots of rock are unwavering in their task.
As I finished the sigil, a faint tint of gold flashed over it.
Earth is pounded to helpless sand under the might of waves! We are not bound to earth, little priest.
The temple shuddered as it spoke, that same bubbling chitter of voice causing me to look warily to the broken stage. I dove swiftly for the next point I wished to mark, appearing in the space several yards further away, making a clockwise motion through the temple. The third sigil would be hardest, because it would put me right in its grasp.
Still, only at the second point, I wrote down the symbol for Air.
We bind you with Air. Air which parches the earth of its water, and drives away all moisture.
Water is merely turned to vapor, where We may poison the very air you breathe, priest. it hissed.
I saw a ripple in the air before the chasm, and dove when the pulse of disruption shot toward me. Even then, I still felt a faint ringing in my ears as I fell further into the Between, landing at the opposite end of the temple. The third point would wait.
I wrote swiftly, my heard racing.
Fire. Parallel to the Earth, opposite Air.
We bind you in Fire, Verek's voice was clear, ringing. Fire that melts ice, boils water. Cleansing it of its impurities.
Fire only frees the water from its icy prison, unleashing us in floods that wipe the lands of its people. No, insect, you cannot bind Us with fire!
It was still trying to bait me, to get me to waver long enough to ensue doubt. The heart of the person conducting the seal must not falter, otherwise the effort was for naught, and there is no strength behind the seal's magic.
Moving with the added strength of Verek's nature behind me, I shifted to where the next point would be, closer to the stage.
The sigil for Water was written along the stone floor, giving a faint blue glint when it finished.
We bind you in Water. Water that gave life, water that washes away filth.
Little fools! it laughed, that accursed dizzying sound causing my world to tilt and waver as I dove for the final, most dangerous spot at the very stage itself.
You cannot bind water to itself. We are what is stagnant, unforgiving. We are the waves that destroy. We are the vapor of breath that stifles. We are the end of all things!
Standing at the back of the stage, staring down at the chasm that lie before me, I wrote against the wall a sigil for Spirit.
I bind you, I said through Verek's voice, in Spirit.
Dragging my hand along the side of my temple and down, feeling the warmth of my blood, I lifted my hand to flash the red substance to my unseen opponent. I then wrote a single sigil in it along my chest that combined two forms.
Blood of my blood, I echoed Persea's words, rebuking her summoning. Sacrifice of sacrifices. In Spirit I bind you, twisted thing. For the body is only a vessel, and the soul itself eternal. No water can corrode it, poison it, or stifle it. This is the truth in which I commit this seal.
Turning my hand palm up to the heavens, Verek's voice rang out:
Instantly the five points of the seal ignited, lines of power shooting between them to create a pentagram. In the very same instant, tentacles burst through the chasm, writhing and twisting to pull the stage apart and finally free the spirit fully into my temple.
I stood my ground, had to, now that I was part of the circle. I could feel Verek in the back of my mind racing to expand the faint golden lines of power tracing long past the initial heart of the seal. My second hand lifted, charcoal dropping to the floor so that it was free to trace sigils along the air itself.
I watched on with a detached sort of wonder at these movements, reading them as the spirit used my body.
A second lighted circle began to etch around where the beast was encased.
The snare; the seal's target. Script I barely recognized echoed the movement of my hands, when suddenly my fingers flexed and grasped, and if holding on to something.
But the stage broke, split apart, and I found myself trying to remain standing as the slab I stood upon tilted and began to slide down toward the beast.
It was then I saw it revealed.
There were no words. A twisted abomination, tentacles and glowing blue eyes of a creature that was not truly recognizable as one sea entity or another. The greater bulk of it seemed encased in a great shell like a hermit crab, some legs therein, but tentacles where the pinchers would have served their purpose.
The tentacles about where its mouth would have been wriggled and shifted, lifting to reveal a strange pinching sort of orafice that pulsed in its fleshy bed.
It seemed to be shivering with the want to move forward, but could not. I realised then the significance of my clutched hand, and the script circling its form.
With a grim knowing in my gut, Verek and I uttered one final word.
The lines of power that had expanded through the temple, along its walls and onward, flexed and snapped in back toward their source: me. Forcing the temple to collapse in around itself, around us, I looked between the rocks about to crush me beneath them, and the creature. Its mouth had shot out, an undulating tubular form with its teeth, aimed at my chest as I at last started to fall toward it. Distantly, I heard a broken carillon as the bells in the towers over head began to tumble from their lofty perch.
Mephyst shot awake, gasping for air, wretching with a need for it.
He smelled jasmine.
Looking down and away where his head had been, he stared at some nightblooms of the flower that were glowing faintly in the moonlight. Without thought, the Kelari's hand had buried itself amongst the stems, intent to rip the accursed flowers from the earth and ruin them.
His actions were stalled when he heard a muffled grump behind him, then: 'Meph?'
Erythia had awoken from her mat at the opposite side of the fire--now faint embers.
Forcing his hand away from the flowers, he turned to her and put on a smile. His dear, safe mask.
Waving her back to sleep and assuring her he was alright, it was only when she had dozed back off that Mephyst looked back to the jasmine blooms, his smile melting away once more.
Rising, he walked away to clear his head, and get the smell of its memories out of his mind.
Before we knew of Ember, I'd thought of a very small island in the chain named Hecatatus that Mephyst would have been from. Small population, with two main spirits they served in temples for called the Aeoli. Cescoli, the fire bird who lived more at the heart of the island in its volcanos, and Suquetza the air serpent, whose temple was at the edge of the island, near the sea. The island had 'seasons' where one spirit reigned as the head, but the two were basically equals.
Unlike some islands, Heca was inclined toward offerings over sacrifices. What sacrifices they did do were not of fellow Kelari. They were sort of 'hippie light' in that regard.
Aderfos/brother, and Aderfi/sister were quick google searches for appropriate Greek words for siblings.
'Between' is what Mephyst calls planeshifting. As an individual, he would be classified in his talents as a Riftstalker, but an unpracticed one (at that time).
Again, thanks for the read. Please disregard all typos, derps, and wats.