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Fantasy Terrorchild: Awakening

1. Scheme - "...Tell me about the witch hunters. I want to know what we're up against," you say.

Corrinth nods. "I will, but first, let's finish with the crows before they start shitting all over my mom's tables," she says quickly. "Now listen close, because sending a message is harder than receiving one. When you told the bird to speak, what you really did was an act of compulsion - a minor one. Compelling a person is a lot harder than an animal because their minds are so much more complicated; it takes a lot of magical power, given in a very particular way to make them obey. But birds and other small animals are so simple that even the slightest hint of magic is overwhelming to them."

One of the crows caws impatiently on the table. Corrinth draws her wand. "Shut it!" she orders, and the bird drops to its belly on the table, shutting its beak and remaining still.

"How does the bird know what you mean?" you ask.

"It doesn't. But I know what I mean. The mind and flesh obey your will, and not your words," she clarifies. "When I sent my birds in search of you, the day we met, I only needed to flick my wand in the general direction of a whole murder of them and say, 'go find her.' I knew I was looking for a tabaxi, so they knew they were looking for one. I knew you were somewhere along the river, so they knew the same. Understand?"

You nod, hesitantly. "...So the difficulty of sending a message is that I need to know what needs to happen."

"Exactly," Corrinth confirms. She cracks the window open again and points her wand at the first of the three birds. "Vanach - tell them about the danger, and congratulations on the new sisters," she orders. The bird flaps out of the window and disappears into the night, and Corrinth closes the opening behind it. "Do you know how to get to Vanach?" she asks you.

You don't, and you shake your head as much.

"Then you wouldn't have been able to send that message; the bird wouldn't know where to go." She then sends another message with the second bird, opening and closing the window as necessary: "Turunave Creek - tell them: message received."

You watch the second bird fly away and ready yourself to be tested on the third. "So what should I try?" you ask, staring down at the final crow, which was still lying on its belly. "Nevermind," you add. "I've got it - stand up and spin." You give the command authoritatively, and the bird immediately obeys, springing to its feet and spinning wildly until you order it to stop.

"Good enough," Corrinth says, dismissing the bird and closing the window behind it. "Always remember that if you can't compel a crow to act, it's because someone else has already given it a stronger compulsion. That's how you broke down my spell when we first met; you compelled yourself with magic and overruled me."

The other witches offer their input as well, describing different tips and tricks about how to get the most out of your new servants in the trees. You're warned by Embryx against sending them too far without rest; you need to imagine the crow maintaining a steady pace rather than flying at full speed the full time, or else it'll work itself to death. Faran also tells you that in some cases, you'll need to compel them to forget the message if they're stopped along the way, since light mages might overrule your compulsion and force the crow to speak your message early.

After the lesson concludes, you ask the circle again: "So, what do I need to know about witch hunters?"

They beckon you over to sit by the candle again as they describe the hunters, or as Ika derisively (and rather infectiously) calls them, "baggerz." You soon learn that the hunters are often relatives of coven members, or relatives of victims, with a special grudge against witchcraft. Most are men who harbor deep suspicions against unwed women and those in positions of power. Although often employed by the church, most aren't heavily religious, and don't often distinguish between those who have merely awakened to dark magic, and those who practice it in the most terrible ways.

Nytha, speaking up after having been quiet for most of the meeting, gives you a stark warning: "we can't keep the kinds of records that they do, because they don't fear discovery like us. While each witch is on their own journey to learn the extent of their magical grasp, each hunter has books, recounting every ingenious idea we've ever had, so that if we ever accidentally rediscover it, they'll know of it first."

"Then how do we win?" you ask.

Ika cuts in. "Catching them off-guard iz alwayz a good plan. They can't defend againzt a witch if they don't know there'z a witch."

"And if they do," Embryx adds, "be wild and unpredictable! Anything you might do that seems obvious will be obvious to them, too."

Corrinth snickers. "There's also innocents," she says in a slimy sort of way. "The hunters don't like having to go through children to kill a witch..."

"...Not that they won't try," Faran adds, tiredly.

Then, Corrinth explains the dangers of light mages who hunt, growing more serious as the candle burns low between you. "The mages who hunt us are the worst of all. They know all sorts of wards to keep away evil - you know, us - and how to go tit-for-tat on spells, like the telekinesis you want to learn. Light mages are no joke, Agranne; don't face them alone."

"Speaking of telekinesis," Nytha says, "one of us is going to have to stay behind and give her lessons," she says, speaking as if you aren't there.

Corrinth gives her a look. "That's on you or Embryx; you're each better than us three when it comes to moving things around."

Embryx rubs her eyes. "I know I said I'd do it, but it's getting really late, isn't it?" she asks to a murmur of agreement.

The candle between you all suddenly goes out with a stream of sweet-smelling smoke, having burned all the way to the bottom. "How about it, Agranne? Who's losing sleep tonight?" Corrinth asks.

1. Embryx - You decide to make Embryx honor her word. Even if she winds up unhappy about staying up a bit longer, you figure she'll at least be nicer than Nytha about it.

2. Nytha - The elf keeps making her displeasure with your presence known. You decide it would be better to keep her here, where you can either learn what's bothering her (beyond simple prejudice), or else get a head start on antagonizing her by keeping her from her bed.
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2. Nytha - The elf keeps making her displeasure with your presence known. You decide it would be better to keep her here, where you can either learn what's bothering her (beyond simple prejudice), or else get a head start on antagonizing her by keeping her from her bed.

"If Nytha's the most skilled with this, then I'll work with her," you reply to Corrinth. Nytha hardly reacts at all, just giving a subtle look of confusion in your direction, while Embryx reacts more strongly - clearly upset that you would pass her up. However, nothing is said about it as the other witches head out for the night, once again welcoming you to the circle as they disappear out the door and into the dark. Corrinth departs last, after handing a spare key over to Nytha for the night.

Finally alone with the elf, the two of you stare at each other for a moment from across the darkened room. She's quite tall when standing; her silhouette looks quite unnatural against the dim moonlight glowing in the windows. "So," she says, her voice as silky as her hair, and yet as pointed as a dagger.

"So," you answer back, unafraid.

Things get uncomfortably still as each of you wait for the other to break the icy standoff. Finally, Nytha decides to air her grievances first. "...Before we begin, I have to ask: when you killed that merchant back in Zuklanar, did it satisfy you?"

"Satisfy me... how?" you ask slowly. "It was an accident."

"Then you meant to torture him."

"No...?" You cock your head a bit at her line of questioning. You wonder if someone's been spreading rumors about you. "I mean that my awakening is what killed him. It happened suddenly, and then I ran for my life, terrified of what happened."

Now, even in the near-absence of light, you can make out the confusion on her face. "That's not what I was told," she says.

"What were you told?" you ask.

"I was told that you killed an elven merchant - the only one in Ryggander - because even impoverished as you were, you saw us as lesser."

A moment passes in silence before you begin to crack into laughter. "...What!?" you exclaim. "Not only was that merchant not an elf - he was human, by the way - but I've never had a problem with elves."

Nytha remains silent for a moment, processing what you've just told her, before she practically roars with anger. "...Embryx!" She paces the room for a moment, utterly infuriated with the drow before elaborating. "I thought she'd have enough of a brain to be honest about you, since I hadn't the time to get to know you, and she seized on that. Hells! About the first thing she told me is how much you hate elves! And what about me, did she tell you the same? That I hate tabaxi!?"

1. Truth - Apparently, Embryx is a snake, and this seems like the perfect opportunity to flip the script on her. No wonder she was caught so off-guard when you passed her up for magic lessons! "Yeah, she did. She told me I wasn't welcome at your house because you hate the smell of tabaxi," you admit, and watch the steam pour from her ears. Whatever happens now should prove to be deliciously entertaining.

2. Lie - Wait, this is bad. Witch hunters could be in town tomorrow morning, and if the circle is feuding with itself over gossip, several of your new "sisters" might end up dead - or worse, you could end up dead because Nytha and Embryx are too busy clobbering each other to defend you. You decide to cover for her: "I don't know where she heard that story, but no. She didn't say anything about you, other than that you're skilled with telekinesis."

3. Lie (Inverse) - Oh, now this is going to be good. If Embryx has nothing better to do than to stir shit, then you're going to outdo her. "To be honest," you reply, "the first thing she tried to do with me is connect over a mutual dislike of your kind. She brought up some old grievances with you that I didn't quite understand..." You smile as you see the whites of Nytha's eyes - shock and disgust. But now, for the chaser: "When she realized I wasn't biting, she said that, despite your skills, you're the slowest learner in the coven, and she expects to be your elder, soon."
1. Truth - Apparently, Embryx is a snake, and this seems like the perfect opportunity to flip the script on her. No wonder she was caught so off-guard when you passed her up for magic lessons! "Yeah, she did. She told me I wasn't welcome at your house because you hate the smell of tabaxi," you admit, and watch the steam pour from her ears. Whatever happens now should prove to be deliciously entertaining.

"Oh, that bitch. This is all because she wanted to be the next elder of this circle after Corrinth. First, she turns you against me, and then she gets to tutor you in the magic I taught her. She'd probably stunt your learning just to stay ahead a bit longer...!"

You watch her dignified stance melt away in the blistering heat of her scorn. She paces the room, grumbling to herself before finally taking out her wand. "Okay, so here's what I'm going to do:" she announces, "I'm going to teach you everything I know - no matter how dangerous. You figure out what your limits are - if there are any - and then surpass Embryx. Leave her in the dust! Surpass me, too, I don't care!" she spits. "You're the hexblood; it's only natural."

You watch in silence as she points the tip of her wand at a chair near the center of the room. With a steady hand, she lifts the chair off the floor telepathically and then draws it in toward herself before setting it down. "...Okay. Let's see you try it," she instructs.

You do as you're told, holding your hand out toward the chair and trying to pull on it, and while it leaps toward you, it's uncontrolled. It skips across the flooring and nearly tumbles before Nytha's magic seizes onto it and halts it in mid air. "Ah- I'm sorry!" you quickly explain, "I know how to push and pull, but that's about it."

"That's all you need," Nytha calmly replies. "Remember: you don't just let magic fly, like an arrow. It's more like music, and you're conducting it with your will. Instead of pulling the chair toward yourself, push and pull it in measured amounts, from more angles than just toward you or away from you."

You think about that for a moment. Until now, you've pictured your magic reaching out from your body, any time you called upon it; but that's only natural considering your sorcerous ability. Your magic is within you, so it needs to... branch out? You begin to picture giant, slithering, shadowy limbs moving and manipulating the chair from multiple angles as if it were trapped in your clutches.

Cautiously, you put up your hands in the same arrangement, trying to lift the chair vertically. It shakes, then leaps off the floor, and you barely catch it in time to prevent it from crashing into the ceiling. It falls again, and you steady it, until it finally floats in place, rotating lazily and threatening to slip from your grasp. Nytha walks up and grabs onto the chair by its legs.

"Okay, let go," she says. After you do so and she puts it down, she smiles. "You're doing quite well, sister. If I were Embryx, the lesson would end here tonight, or soon after. But there's more that we can do. How did that feel?"

You nod, nervously, before answering. "It took all of my concentration to keep it there," you admit. "I don't think I could have moved it through the air toward myself."

Nytha grins. "Yes, you can. You've already moved from thinking of your magic as a single beam or a lasso to recreating the clumsy movements of your own digits. But you can do more. Trap it in a cage, and then move it!"

A cage? It's clear that Nytha's concept of magic is slightly different from your own, since yours is an extension of yourself, and you only have two hands.

Wait... Yes.

You get it now. You have flesh, but your magic is free to obey any form your mind conjures for it. You lift your arms again, and now the dark, swirling shadows begin to erupt from them freely. Instead of two manipulating hands, you imagine a spider-like array of eight, grabbing the chair in each of its clutching limbs and wrapping it into the silk of your magic.

The chair rises and turns steadily at your command. Now, you pull the chair toward yourself under total control, until you can grasp it in your physical hands, calmly setting it down onto the floor as the magic dissipates.

"Magnificent," Nytha lauds. "We'll practice this each night until you can move the chair without expending so much effort. Once it's natural for you, we can move on to liquids, and then... Living things."

You catch your breath and thank Nytha for the lesson. She's right for leaving off here. The few attempts you made tonight, especially the finally one, took quite a bit of your pneuma to produce, and you could use the rest


The following day, you awaken to the town church bell ringing. For a few minutes, you sit and breathe a sigh of relief; you had been suffering a nightmare. The witch hunters had come, and they dragged you from your bed at the inn, towards the stockade that was surrounded by kindling.

You remind yourself: you are just an apprentice to a farrier, an ordinary tabaxi girl. You have no close friendships in town, but you're chummy with a goblin fishmknger named Ika, and acquainted with the tavern's owner, her daughter, and several of their regulars. You know nothing about witchcraft.

With your story straight, you dress in your red outfit again and depart the inn. For a moment as you stand in the crisp, gray, early morning air, you consider simply sneaking out of town and waiting for all this to be over. But you also worry that if you're conspicuously absent, someone will notice.

1. Obey Summons - You head for the church to maintain appearances, making no effort to link up with the circle.

2. Make Yourself Scarce - You drift away into the woods for a bit. You can't shake the feeling that your dream was a premonition.

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