Vicissitudes in the Dark Woods (pt. 13)

Part 12: Rubin takes Pan to his home away from the University, the Temple of Atyx. There they meet his mentor, High Priestess Nella. While Rubin is overjoyed to be reunited with her, Pan cannot help but feel like she is dangerous.

The Temple of Atyx shone like the noonday sun cast it’s gaze upon it alone. Rubin looked back at Pan, the revenant’s pallor starkly contrasted by the light of Atyx. The instinctive revulsion he felt whenever he saw or thought of his companion’s condition arose but this time he actually tried to push it down, they were trying to turn over a new leaf after all.
Beyond the borderline blasphemy that was his very existence, Pan otherwise fit in with the people of Verwich much more smoothly than Rubin. His fierce red skin was exotic here, but almost more importantly, his cloistered upbringing at the university had affected the manner in which he carried himself somehow. Pan walked like a local, he had the air to him of someone so unimportant and uninteresting that more people than not didn’t even notice his strangeness. Meanwhile Rubin walked with the pride of one raised to know he was special, it inspired deference in some and resistance in others but rarely indifference.

“So, this is it, huh?” Pan’s seeming indifference was almost insulting.

“This is the Temple of Atyx, second in significance only to the Temple of the Pantheon in capital. Don’t tell me you’ve spent time in Verwich and you’ve never seen it?”

“Of course I’ve seen the Temple, that’s not what I meant. This is your home, isn’t it?”

Rubin shifted, sharing personal information with a Revenant still felt off, “I suppose. And the University, of course”

“Of course.”

Together the pair crossed the square to the stairs of the cathedral. Light bathed them, enhancing their unique appearances within such hallowed grounds. With confidence the pair made the ascent into the magnificent stone building.  A brief conversation between Rubin and one of the monks and they were escorted through the public area into the monastry.
Even inside the light was everpresent, softened only slightly by the enormous windows stained with scenes following the five revelations of Atyx. Within the monastery the light was even greater than the Cathedral proper. The centre of the roof opens to the sun, beneath which a beautiful serene garden is tended by the monks.
The pair are led through to a third connected building, this one subdued in it’s display compared to the Cathedral and Monastery. Here, the monk took them to a door and knocked.

“Enter.”

The voice from within was female of advancing year, and to Rubin carried a emboldening familiarity. Wordlessly, the Monk opened the door bowed as they entered, closing it once more behind them as the enter.
The office of High Priestess Nella was every bit as no-nonsense and warm as Rubin remembered the woman herself. And just as he expected she stood in wait by the desk.
Upon seeing him, Nella smiled widely. Pan hesitated at the sight, but Rubin knew her well enough to recognise the genuineness behind her bestial teeth and rushed forward to meet her approach in a tight hug.

“My word Rubin, you’ve grown since last I saw you.”

“Those mercenaries you signed me with were more interested in having me carry things than test my magic.”

“Good. The university and I were too soft on you, Atyx teaches us to not blind ourselves by focusing too much upon a single thing.”

The exhange was affectionate, but even Pan could tell that this powerfully built woman was the type who didn’t say anything she didn’t mean. He distrusted people like that, honest folk lied just as much as everyone else just differently.
As Pan considered the Priestess, she turned to face him. Meeting her gaze, Pan immediately recognised the power behind them. Whether intelligence, conviction, cunning, or something else he couldn’t say, but he immediately felt himself go on guard.

“May I introduce, Nella, one of my companions, Pan.”

Pan bowed deeply, as appropriate of the difference in their station. He dropped his gaze maybe half a beat later than he would have with a less intimidating individual.

“A pleasure to meet you Pan, am I right in assuming you served in the King’s Army on The Finger’s?”

“That’s right.”

“I thought so, you carry yourself like a soldier and your kind are uncommon in the warmer climes.”

Pan nodded wondering if she meant insult or simply did not care about the unspoken societal agreement to ignore the revenant condition.

She continued, “I appreciate your accompanying Rubin to visit me, but I wonder why it is that your Captain Telfor was not the one to visit?”

In his peripheral, Pan noticed as Rubin blushed in some shame, “He has already departed for Capital, Priestess. Our schedule and injuries have forced us to make our ways seperately.”

“I see,” her tone declaring the subject settled as she turned back to Rubin, “Enough pleasantries then, what is the purpose for this visit?”

Rubin lowers his head in contrition and pauses long before speaking, “Nell… Verumalleus has fallen. We were attacked by a great beast in the southern forest and she was killed. She saved us, but we… I couldn’t save her.”

The Priestess watches Rubin’s confession without a single emotion entering her expression. As he finishes, she lay a large hand upon his shoulder and lowered herself to meet his gaze.

“Thank you for bringing me this news Rubin. Word had made it to my ear some days ago, but to hear it from you gives them new meaning. Do not blame yourself for the crusader’s death, she is in the Luminescence now, a hero for eternity. Accept your grief as proof that her life had meaning, and honour her by living in a way that would make her proud.”

Tears on Rubin’s cheeks burn as he nods at the wisdom in her words. Nella had a strength that made him believe and trust in her words when the same thoughts had seemed so meaningless coming from his own mind.
Across the room Pan watched, and while the sting of being reminded of Veru’s death pierced his heart as painfully as ever, he looked on as stoically as the Priestess. He studied her for some sign of what it was about her that made him so on edge, but to no avail. She seemed somewhat callous, but such wasn’t uncommon amongst church officials, something to do with their perspective on death he assumed. Whatever it was, he decided, it shouldn’t matter, now with their message delivered they would be leaving.

“Excuse me, Pan,” High Priestess Nella’s said, “Would you permit my student and I a quick word in private. I will make haste, I understand you must be in a hurry to catch up with your companions.”

With concealed frustration Pan inclined his head, “Of course, I will wait in the hall”

As the revenant stepped from the room, the high priestess nodded to Rubin who drew a weave of magic over the room to keep all sound within.

“Your other message also arrived.”

As she spoke, a door at the back of the office opened and staring daggers of pure hatred, the sorcerer Oliver enters.


It’s been a few months.  Life can be difficult is all I’ve got as an explanation. Hopefully this time I can get back into the habit and actually finish this story.

Featured art credit I believe is to https://twitter.com/kaitan0908, though I couldn’t confirm the sauce, I just found it online and that was the strongest lead I found.

Author: Zairron

I'm writing to build a habit, practice, and be creative.

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