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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.