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A budding priestess

She is born to a robber, Wandering Moon, who’s partner, Brilliant Frost, was killed when they were caught. Her mother found out in captivity that she was pregnant, and pleaded that even if she could not live, her child had done nothing wrong. Of course, in the Haslanti League, having another mouth to feed can sometimes kill the entire family, but a kindly wandering disciple of Kilidos named Morning’s Joy decided to adopt the child. His wife Whispering Sky had died in childbirth a few months prior, and he saw this new life as a way to deal with his own pain and grief. He spent the final months of Wandering Moon’s life talking to her about herself and her husband, so that he could tell the child once she was old enough to understand. Only one thing did Wandering Moon beg him to never let the child know: Her fear that Brilliant Frost had already been dead when they conceived. They had been together when the ambush came, and Frost had been shot, dying in her loving arms.

Her adoptive father named her Last Wish, to honour her mother’s last wish, and raised her lovingly. They were poor, but never wanted for the most important things in life: Shelter, enough food to stave off starvation, and love. She was happy, and he taught her to not fear death, to always look for the story behind everything, to give what comfort she could. The first few years he stayed in one village, but once she was old enough to join him on his travels, he set off again. They travelled in various directions of the Haslanti League during the warmer months, and spent the cold seasons in whatever village it seemed best to be, guided by his common sense and dreams from Kilidos, who certainly knew a loyal and precious devotee when she saw one.

Compassion unrivalled

She was a young teenager when they stayed at the village of Dark’s Reach, five days north of Icehome, for the winter. Morning’s Joy was a good man, firm but fair, and he was of the opinion that as long as she had finished her duties — and she had quite a few of them — she could do what she wanted to do for fun. She was a fairly lonely child, because although she was friendly and had an easy time to get liked, she rarely cultivated the friendships, knowing fully well that she might never see her new friends again, as they moved on to the next village, the next person who needed comfort. Thus, she found a set of caves a bit outside the village, entertaining herself with climbing and exploring them, until the day when she’d lost track of time. It had already started to darken, and she knew she had to get home. Suddenly a girl in her own age was standing there, glaring at her.

“Go away!” The girl snarled, making Last Wish stumble, and she started to turn, the girl yelling at her to go away, until something in the girl’s voice resonated with her. Her voice was griefstrucken, she was in pain, and Last Wish knew that it was her duty to stay and help her, so as kindly as she could she told the girl no. It took a few tries, but eventually the girl calmed down enough so that they could talk.

Her name was Jubilant Sky, and she was sad because she was worried about her little sister. Last Wish didn’t ask for too many details on what it was she was worried about, figuring that it was better to not hurry things, but rather asked Sky about other things: The rest of her family, if they’d lived there long… Yes, they had, in generations. Her father had died in an attack by hobgoblins, and a few years later her mother remarried, so the little sister was her half-sister. “And what a sweet little thing,“ Jubilant Sky said with a wistful smile. “Blue eyes, blonde hair. She’s really adorable, happy…” They talked for quite a few hours, before Last Wish realised she had to go back. She said she’d be back the following day, and Jubilant Sky smiled, nodding some, before slinking away between the rocks.

When she came back to the house, Morning’s Joy was beyond himself, starting to yell at her for having been out all night, but when she started to explain he grew silent and shocked. He asked her for every detail, and obediently she gave them, figuring he’d explain it when he was satisfied, which he did.

Twenty years prior, a young girl by the name of Jubilant Sky had disappeared from the village. She lived with her mother and stepfather, her own father having died in an attack by hobgoblins. Five years after she disappeared, her mother gave birth to her little sister, a happy blue-eyed and blonde little girl. When it dawned on Last Wish what she had met — what she had calmed down! — she started shivering. They both knew she had to find out what Jubilant Sky wanted, so the following night she waited, with Morning’s Joy hiding to be there in case things turned ugly. She confronted Jubilant Sky, who at first denied everything, until she started to sob, admitting that she was dead, but she was scared. Her stepfather had killed her after doing things to her he shouldn’t have, and now he was looking at her sister in the same way. She just wanted to go home, have her shallow grave be found, and her murderer brought to justice.

And so it was. The last Wish saw of Jubilant Sky was her fading away, surrendering to Lethe, her reasons for clinging onto unlife gone. That was when Last Wish realised that it was not enough to comfort the bereaved and calm the dying. What the world needed was justice, for living and dead alike.

Hard-boiled detective

— In her own words {#inspector}

“It was a dark, dreary night, many years after I had met Jubilant Sky. I was employed by the city guard of Icehome as an inspector, to investigate subtler disturbances of the peace, and though I did not know it as I stepped into the precinct, that was the day that would change everything. That was the day they first found a woman tortured to death, wearing a blindfold, marked with a glyph on her collarbone. She had been abused in ways most would prefer to not think about, but someone still had to, and that someone was I.”

She pulled a drag of the cigarette in it’s ivory holder.

“I hunted him for years. I dug deeper into the psyche of evil than I care to think of, and we were closing in. We found out more of what happened, why he did it, and my heart ached. Ghostly servants, gravegoods in a living form. By marking them through necromantic rituals, they were destined to serve him once he died. And not a single of them had seen him. He blindfolded them, his final words always a soft whisper that they would see his glory when he came to collect them. We found ten women across seven years. Each one discarded. How many did we not find? How many were buried where he could visit them again and again?”

A moment she grew silent, looking out over the frozen landscape, collecting her thoughts, forcing herself to be calm as they slowly gathered around the one thing she had never thought she would lose. The one thing she had not been prepared to lose.

“Her name was Whispering Dawn, and I loved her. I have been told my beauty is cold, like the frozen wastes of the north, but hers was warm, like sunshine and honey, and she brought me joy. We had met briefly in Dark’s Reach, but at the time I saw her only as Jubilant SKy’s sister. We then met a few years after I became an inspector, and we loved each other. Then she was taken.

“I well knew the signs by then, I saw the signature he left behind — the crushed petals mixed with blood —, but I still hoped against hope. The victims that were found were all found discarded, like garbage, within four weeks of their disappearance. They had been left to be found, and all had been dead for at least three days. There was suggestions that he’d either had victims concurrently, or at least catching a new victim right after having killed his prior one. So, I still had hope.

“She had been gone for three weeks. I was getting closer. I know I was, because when I was on my way home right before dawn one snowy day, I suddenly stepped on a red rose, the red petals crushing beneath my boot. The sun was rising, the blood red tones mixing with my blood as someone came up behind me and beat me over the head.”

She stopped, watching her own reflection in the glass of amber liquid, lost in her own thoughts.

“When I woke up again, I was bound and blindfolded. A man was there as well, his voice slightly guttural, deep and hushed. As he spoke he sent shivers down my spine. He taunted me, asking if I really thought I could have challenged him. If I had any idea who he was.”

Once again she paused, forcing herself to not get lost in things not to speak of, her hand going to her collar bone.

“He left me right before darkness fell, and I could hear the howling of hungry ghosts. Even worse, I could hear sobbing, and I knew then that Whispering Dawn was dead. That he had killed her, right before he took me. I also knew that if I did not get ourselves free, there was a risk that she would tear me apart once her higher soul had departed. And even if she didn’t, I had no way of knowing how many victims he was holding prisoner here, or where the others were.

“It was the third night that they tore into the room I was bound in. I heard them howling, and Whispering Dawn was with them. She was part pleaading for help, part looking for revenge, not caring who or what she took out her revenge on. I knew it was a fool’s errand, but I could not — would not — die without even attempting to save them.

“I pleaded with them, with her, telling them that I was a victim too, that it would not serve them well to take out their anger and hate on me.”

She exhaled, taking a sip of her drink.

“It was pure luck that the first bite managed to instead break the ropes, allowing me to pull off my blindfold to see these poor abused creatures as they were, as they’d been turned into. I backed into a corner, all while begging them to remember what they had been, and it seemed like I could almost reach Whispering Dawn, but then the second ghost lunged into me, tearing into my arm. I knew I was going to die, and I did the only thing I could think of. I prayed to the world at large, that it would help them, show them the mercy they hadn’t gotten, to give them peace.”

Exaltation

It was hard for her to continue explaning, and it felt too private to share the intimate details, so she only said: “I exalted”, as her mind remembered the details of how powerful she felt. She saw a world of injustice, of pain and suffering, the pour souls living — and unliving — through it. She felt the need to fix it, to help the ones who could not speak up for themselves, and as she knew that she would bring it to pass, she knew her true fate, the room ablaze with the light of the noon sun, the ghosts pulling back, giving her enough breathing space to free herself of the bonds.

She grieved the need for those actions, but she struck them down, burning their corpses with a touch a touch. She wept, because knew that even with those actions, it was too late for most of them. If they had not answered the call of Lethe, they were trapped until their master — her master — had accepted Lethe. She looked into the dead eyes of Whispering Dawn, a moment of peace from her ghost, and then she burned her in a blaze of heavenly fire, giving her up to save her, weeping until she could weep no more.

She found an old cloak to wrap up in, fleeing as she tried to find her way back, to get backup. After all, even though she was still feeling the power coursing through her veins, she was well aware that she was a young exalt. If their captor was more than just hot air, he might be able to defeat her, and that would help no one.

When she returned with a few squads, the cottage she had been held prisoner in was empty. He had most likely arrived at dawn and found her missing, and decided not to wait for her return. There was precious little she could salvage, but she did find a few keepsakes from his prior victims that she brought with her, to never forget. Of course, she would also never be able to forget the glyph burned into the skin on her collar bone, the telltale of the destiny her ghost was foretold to have.

The guard of Icehome would not have objected to her staying in the guard, though some of them were a bit wary. She however felt that it was more important that she understand what she was, how she had come to be that, and why. Also, it seemed quite clear to her that he had moved on. She had to find him.

Fate and Destiny

She partly wandered, partly investigated, the path taking her further south. Occasionally she heard things that suggested her quarry had gone this way or that, but more than anything she followed memories, thoughts dreams of a past.

That past eventually led her up a mountain on one of the small islands in the frozen North Sea, into a sturdy marble building seeming a part of the snow and ice, though it was warm and welcoming inside.

She could feel the humming of power as she explored the rooms, each of them warmed by a never-dying fire, lit with beautifully carved lights. The library was decorated in mahogany with huge bookcases housing books from far more than a millennia ago. On the small reading table lay a few books, one with a bookmark in it. She felt the warmth of the charm at one end of the tassel, realising to her surprise that it was orichalcum decorated with opal. As she held it, she suddenly got a flash of memory.

She found the circlet in the basement, alongside a casket beautifully created in bronze with decorations of silver and gold, and though she had no memory of it, there was a tingling sensation that made her realise that this was her. Her prior incarnation, Lady Kerhia, Queen of the Winged Ones, lay there. A part of her recognized the craftmanship, and it became even more obvious when she compared the circlet and switchklaive that it had been crafted by the same hand: The No Moon that had loved her through the years.

A single feather of an eagle, cast in silver, paired with her own knowledge of the past suddenly filled her with dread and guilt. Her children! Marama’s Fell, Camp 17, were they there? Had they been brutally murdered alongside other inmates as well? They had done nothing wrong, they had been good. She could not let them suffer there anymore. She had to help them. She had to get there, and find them.

And thus, suspicions of her dark fate hiding in Marama’s Fell, alongside the fear that her past’s beloved creations were still there, led her steps to Whitewall. She could not let them hurt longer, and she had to save the poor souls bound to Him.