For the love of order

18-Feb-2015 (Gilly)

Of Sacrifice

The mountain loomed before me, impossibly tall, all jagged crags and ragged peaks. < Meet me at the summit > she had said, < and show me what you have learned of Sacrifice and Willworking. > With wings spread, and golden scales flashing, I took to the air, ascended. Hours upon hours of flight, and still sight of the top eluded me. I spied a mountain goat, and dove for it, weary and hungry and thankful for a meal. With incredible dexterity it bounded, but proved no match for wits, speed, aerial maneuvers, and magic. Sated, I settled to rest briefly.

I awoke with a start, blood and flesh-gobbets coating halfling arms, willed myself True to no avail. Gazing upward, I steeled myself to the task, now the more difficult. For a while it was not too troublesome, my cloak kept the worst of the cold off but my hands were raw before I glimpsed the peak, and those soft leather shoes ruined. Inbupenita lay coiled there, sinuous and perfect. < Dear One > she spoke. My heart leapt at the sight, and I half-stumbled, half-ran to her side.

< I have come as you have asked. >
… < And what is Sacrifice? >
< I have many thoughts on Sacrifice, Beloved.>
… < And what is Sacrifice? >
< In part, when you risk what is precious to you for others. >
… < And what is Sacrifice? >
< When I am prepared to die for my companions, it shows Sacrifice. >
… < And what is Sacrifice? >
< Sacrifice is having the courage to bear loss that others may gain. >
… < And what is Sacrifice? >
< Sacrifice is the willingness to know cost. >
… < And what is Sacrifice? >
< Sacrifice is difficult, even for the tempered. My companions and I were hard-pressed to admit the need to spend our treasure, our favor with the universe, though our lives and more were at stake. >
… < And what is Sacrifice? >
< Sacrifice is when I am willing to give what I must, to climb this mountain, to come before you with lacerated feet and hands— >
… < And what is Sacrifice? >
< Sacrifice is my pursuing protection for my comrades, when I could be seeking power for myself. >
… < And what is Sacrifice? >
< Sacrifice… is a dream I had, where love and blood could fuel powerful workings, and— >
… < Enough. Point at the moon no more. Sight Of Possibilities. >

The magic washed over me, a spell I had never encountered before. I did not resist, and my vision altered, an overlay of glowing web strands across the barren landscape, reds predominant, silver and blue next, but every color of the rainbow in attendance. I paused to examine the knots in my possession. They were Workings, or metaphors of them, strands of Power I could tweak to achieve some effect.

< And What Is Sacrifice? >

In seeing, immediate recognition. It had to be, that impossibly orange nodule. Why orange, I could not say. I did not answer, but only stared, briefly wondering if all this was worth it. Sacrifice I might gain (or is it lose?), but I knew I did not have the mastery of Willworking necessary to perform the feats I saw in my dream. A moment only, then my resolve hardened, and I stretched out my… arm. My little halfling arm, not nearly long enough to reach. I took a step, but the web moved with me, the task as difficult now as before.

Gathering my Will, I mentally demanded that the web reshape to allow me to claim Sacrifice. At first, nothing happened, then slowly the topology morphed according to my command, bringing the nodule closer. Inbupenita watched intently. But as it approached, its movement slowed, and it came to a stop a mere inch from my grasp.

Physically and mentally, I strained to my utmost, but to no avail. Then the thought sprang into my head: the claws will extend your reach. I manifested them, but something was unexpected about the space. The claws collided with the nodule instead of grasping it, and sent it spinning it slowly away from me.

In an instant, I sized up the situation. The web held me as surely as I held it. Was there perhaps something keeping me from… and then I understood. That bright red strand, weak but beloved, my first memory of using the wondrous powers of a dragon. Flammae. It pulled in nearly the opposite direction. I found I could bring myself to cut that tie, in one swift motion of the claws, and lunge for the mind-bending orangeness. It was intensely hot and charred the skin touching it, but I held on.

Did I just undercut my connection to the Draconic? Or only my childish and incomplete understanding? Flammae was never a powerful Working, though it served me well many times. To know a dragon as one who breathes fire, is this the foundation, or the facade? Still the orange power seared my flesh, though quickly it was being brought into my sphere of influence. I knew I had passed the test, and I knew I had failed it as well, and the incongruence of these thoughts bore strangely on my mind.

I looked into Inbupenita’s eyes, but no answers were to be found in those limitless depths. < Dear One > she spoke as the web faded to colorful wisps of memory. < You spoke of protecting your friends. I will show you a power of Sacrifice for now, while you continue to study Willworking. It is an extension of Manifest Scales, fueled by Sacrifice and contained in a resonance field, like thus… >

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