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Fantasy Terrorchild: Awakening

2. Get Angry - Until now, fear and loathing has dictated your actions with Corrinth. Your hidden power might be able to drive her back. If only you could find it! You have to summon up that awful side of yourself...

You struggle in vain against the hex she's placed on you, your mind harmlessly thrashing against its padded restraints. There's nothing you can do with an inarticulate tantrum, and Corrinth simply smiles at your grunts and facial expressions. You have to fight it, and drag the darkness back out of your heart... But it's eluding you. You feel helpless as the witch circles around you, sizing you up as she searches for... something.

"What's your implement? A ring? An amulet? ...A wand like mine?" she asks, but it's less of a question for you and more of simply her, thinking out loud. "Maybe you're hiding it under that cloth...?" she asks, giving you a sickly smile as she sets her finger on the edge of the towel, where it's tightly wrapped into itself to prevent it from falling down. Your heart pounds as she considers undressing you to find whatever it is she's looking for; you can't possibly suffer that indignity on top of everything else.

"No..." you hiss through your clenched, paralyzed jaw. "No... wand..."

Corrinth walks freely around you, a thin thread of smoke encircling you like a lasso and tying you to her. "Are you sure, sister? I could think of a few places to hide one..." she snickers. "Wouldn't that be fitting? An actual stick up your ass!"

Her laughter is like cold rain blowing through a broken window. You're getting upset. The longer Corrinth spends talking to you, the more you remember the rage that fueled your first kill. Your body tingles and twitches with the arrival of your hidden hands, the ones lurking behind your own. Arms reaching throughout you, not from Corrinth, but from somewhere deeper and much, much darker than black, begin to painfully wrench your body loose from her grasp, but she cannot see it yet.

She only feels it.

"Whoa..." Corrinth mutters, sensing the pulse of your pneuma as if it were a trumpet blast of thunder. "I feel your power," she admits, her voice falling to a reverent whisper. Her surprise melts back into contempt, this time tinged with fierce competition. "...But you can't hurt me while I control your body, sister. Your hands are empty; your pneuma is like a chained animal. You only torture it by provoking it like this," she declares triumphantly.

You imagine her being quartered by two, dark horses. All that you see is slowly consumed in shadow, until all you perceive is your tormenter ahead of you.

And she is focusing harder and harder, drawing more of herself into the spell, trying to maintain her control despite a growing concern in the back of her mind: is she taming a beast, or is she merely cracking a whip at a thundercloud? "No more secrets," she grunts, her eyes more wild now as she holds the wand to your face, just off the tip of your nose. "Take it off and show me!" she demands.

Your hands obey - briefly.

The moment your hand wraps around the edge of the towel, threatening to humiliate you utterly, the spell is bent and broken in spectacular fashion. The smoke rising from your body glows a hellish red from below as you dissipate the binding. Your power surges forth like a broken dam, as all the repressed rage and destructive instinct takes over. Corrinth's expression melts into true terror for a moment before the wave crashes over her, spreading out for dozens of feet in every direction.

Trees splinter. Plants die. Rocks crack and shatter beneath your feet.

As it finally subsides, you feel lightheaded, dropping to a knee as you look around for Corrinth. At first, it seems as if she simply vanished into thin air, but then you see her, high above in the sagging, twisted branches: a crow with a wand in its talons. Now you understand how she snuck up on you in the first place, and it infuriates you. You let out another roar, sending your power ripping up through the tree trunk toward her so quickly that the bird barely has time to lift off before the inky ribbons make the leap to her legs. The wand is snatched away, and Corrinth, now dispelled, loses her wild shape and crashes through the boughs to the ground.

You pull the wand back toward yourself, but all at once your power dissipates, leaving it to tumble to the ground between the two of you. You step forward and find your legs rubbery, as if you were poisoned. Corrinth seems much the same. The two of you look at one other tiredly, your pneumas spent, and with it, your physical strength.

"You..." Corrinth marvels, "You're a hexblood. I've- I've never seen one before. If... If that thing you did, if it had hit me, I'd be dead right now, and you'd have been lost out here until... Oh praise, sister... I'm so glad I found you."

1. Forgive - Even after you attempted to rip her limb from limb, Corrinth has nothing but doe-eyed praise for you. You feel a strange sense of wonder and pride as well, thinking over everything which just happened. "...I need to know how to control it," you mutter. Reluctantly, you gaze at Corrinth's beaten body. "...Can you help me?"

2. Punish - Corrinth doesn't fear you like she should, you think. You decide to break her wand, so that she would have to behave like any other mortal while she leads you both to safety.

3. Abandon - You have no sympathy for Corrinth. The fact that she might be about to become your second victim makes your blood boil, and almost reignites your pneuma on its own, but you're too tired for that, nor do you even really want it. You decide that if Corrinth wants to show her appreciation for your arrival, she can give you her shoes, to celebrate.

4. Kill - What you just did... felt good. For once, you don't feel cursed to hold such power. While your pneuma might be depleted, you have another weapon hidden on your person with which to finish the job. You take out Lachlaen's knife...
 
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1. Forgive - Even after you attempted to rip her limb from limb, Corrinth has nothing but doe-eyed praise for you. You feel a strange sense of wonder and pride as well, thinking over everything which just happened. "...I need to know how to control it," you mutter. Reluctantly, you gaze at Corrinth's beaten body. "...Can you help me?"

Having caught her breath, Corrinth grins and nods. "Yes! Yes, I can teach you about witchcraft. I would love to teach you anything you want to know, I-"

"I stand by what I said before," you interrupt. "I'm not joining your coven or praying to Syrith."

Corrinth's excitement dulls for a moment, replaced briefly with concern, but she soon shakes it off. "The invitation is always open," she replies. "They're lucky they didn't test you in Yan's Find; that would have been a mess, ha, ha! But... Regardless, I won't try to force your hand again," she says with a slight bow, half-apologizing for her earlier behavior.

"I couldn't, even if I tried," she adds, more seriously.

She crawls over to her wand and, holding up her hands to reassure you she means no harm, stoops down and collects the item before stashing it back in her belt. "The coven will know when we've arrived in Tashlaan. There's nothing we can do about that, but I can warn them to keep their distance from you. You see, I'm... the elder sister of our circle."

You stare at her blankly, and she flushes with embarrassment.

"...I'm the strongest witch in Tashlaan," she admits, looking a bit ashamed. "Look, it's not a very big town, but usually we can hold our own when we're not trying to grapple with something bordering on legendary." She reaches out, and you take her hand so that she can lift you onto your feet.

"Can... Can you tell me your name, now?" she asks, cautiously.

"Agranne," you answer, tiredly, but you nearly smile when you see how much Corrinth is genuinely excited to hear it.

Walking with you through the woods, Corrinth finally asks what happened to your clothes.

1. Truth - You tell her the complete story of your encounter with Lachlaen after wading ashore from the river. You explain that he chased you off after you lied and stole from him, and warn Corrinth not to hurt him if you go back for your clothes.

2. Refuse - You tell Corrinth that you don't want to explain, and that you'd rather get new clothes that better match the local style.

3. Half-Truth - By now, you recognize that a half-truth is often more dangerous than an outright lie. You feel a bit vindictive after being made to feel so powerless - you tell her about Lachlaen, and how he initially promised to take you to Tashlaan before accusing you of stealing and trying to kill you.
 
2. Refuse - You tell Corrinth that you don't want to explain, and that you'd rather get new clothes that better match the local style.

You figure that retrieving your threadbare woolen rags aren't worth causing another run-in with Lachlaen. You don't imagine it would end well for any of you, although admittedly, a part of you would enjoy seeing the elf knocked down a peg after his comments about your race. Besides, you're already looking forward to wearing something fresh and new, for once. More than half the clothes you had back home belonged to Rigatte before she ran away, and you're awfully tired of looking at them.

Ahead of you, Corrinth studies the lay of the land and seems to recognize something in the trees ahead. "The trail is up ahead," she says with a bit of relief. "It'll probably be dark by the time we reach town, but at least we're finally on the right track."

You nod. "That's good," you reply blankly.

Corrinth's smile disappears with a sigh. "Are you holding up okay? You've been through a lot," she asks, but you only answer with a stare. Of course I'm not alright. My whole life is unraveling, things aren't turning around just because we've decided not to kill each other, you think. Corrinth shrugs. "Okay..." she says, reaching into her bag and pulling out another apple, probably one picked from the same tree as the one she was eating earlier in the day. She can already see your distrust, and pauses, gathering a pocket knife out of the same bag. "I'll cut it in half, alright? I don't just go around with poisoned apples in my pocket."

Without waiting for your permission, she sets about carving it in two.

"So how many people live in Tashlaan, anyway?" you ask.

Corrinth hands you half of her apple. "Around half a thousand. There's five of us in the circle."

"And what do you do?" you ask.

The witch looks at you oddly as you both suddenly break into the clearing where the hard-packed dirt trail disappears into the distance in either direction. "What do you mean, 'what do we do?' We live our lives. We have jobs," she explains, tartly. "We have our gifts, but we keep them secret and commune with our elder sisters by night, when it's safest. We do what we can to stack the odds in our favor."

"Odds?" you repeat.

Corrinth nods. "In the bigger cities, the elder sisters usually find themselves in powerful positions. Power comes with a lot of coin, you know."

"Yeah. I know," you reply, bitterly, "same as it is for everyone - witches or not."

The two of you walk in silence for a while, before Corrinth starts in again. "Would you give it all away, if you were rich?" she asks.

1. Altruism - "If I were rich," you say slowly, thinking it over carefully, "all I'd ever be able to think about is how poor my family is, and how that's every family in every country outside the cities, in one season or another. I don't think I could let myself enjoy it," you tell her.

2. Pragmatism - "If I were rich," you answer, "I'd want to keep myself safe. Keeping it all in my pockets doesn't make me any safer... Sometimes it's better to have friends."

3. Cynicism - "If I were rich?" you echo. "I wouldn't know what to do with it, so yeah... I'd probably give it away or lose it all," you say with a shrug.

4. Greed - "If I were rich, I'd probably keep it all," you answer honestly. "Maybe people would try to take it from me, but... I guess I'm strong enough that I don't have to worry about it. And if they killed me, maybe I'd rather be dead than be poor like I was back home."
 

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