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Fantasy The Legend of Lisias

Sub Genres
  1. Adventure

The Great Sage

The Storyteller
Moral Authority (*****-----)

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Prologue: A Grotesque Animal

Clack, clack, clack, clack.

The world around you rumbles and shakes along to the frenzied cadence of a horse being pushed to its limit. A hooded oil lamp clacks discordantly against a carriage wall and struggles to cast light down a ragged country road, assisted only by the subtle glow of a crescent moon hanging high in the night sky.

CRACK

A man whips the animal in a futile bid to coax the creature into quickening its pace. Beside him a woman is screaming with the manic energy of the broken hearted. You have no real idea of what is happening because you are just an infant, and the world is confusing and strange.

“Please!” The woman cries against the wind and over the creaking and calmour of the cart as it flies down the dark road. Between sobs she paws at the man and shakes uncontrollably. Although you don’t know what her words mean, you recognize the voice of your mother and you instinctively fear her pleading tone.

The man stays silent aside from an angry “Geddup!” as he cracks the whip again, venting his own fear and anger onto the poor animal.

“No!” Your mother cries. Again and again. “No! Please no!” Tears and mucus run down the woman’s face as she writhes in the misery only a powerless mother can know. You shake in her arms, swaddled in a bundle of white cloth. The carriage, a simple cart belonging to a simple farmer, bounces and moans as the horse that draws it flees from the stings upon its back.

Time doesn’t mean anything to you yet, and the terror you feel radiating off of your mother occupies all of your simple thoughts until you are lurched forward violently as the driver, your father yanks hard on the reins and the horse skids to a exhausted stop with a terrified, screaming bray. You hear a heavy thump upon the ground and the cart, relieved of some of its weight, shifts.

“No… no no no no no!” Your mother desperately pleads as she tightens her grip upon you and shrinks to the side of the cart.

“Give him here!” Your father growls.

You feel a pair of rough hands grab hold of you and tear you away from your mother without a hint of gentleness. Crunching feet upon gravel… you feel the chilly night air invade your swaddle, leeching the comforting heat of your mother’s body away from you for the final time of your life. You are deposited roughly upon the ground, and with your little limbs paralyzed inside your tight cloth bundle, all you can do is stare upward at the starry sky framing your father's severe face and wonder at the strangeness of tonight. Your father stares down at you for a long moment. You don’t understand the look on his weathered features, but it’s uncomfortable. The poor farmer purses his lips and turns away. You hear the crunch of his feet upon the road again… getting more distant with each step. A grunt... the crack of the whip. You lay where you are and listen to the fading sounds of wagon wheels punctuated by the incoherent screaming of a broken woman.

The night becomes peaceful as the wagon retreats into the darkness. The screaming and banging is replaced by a steady chorus of nocturnal insects and the rush of a gentle breeze.

You hear another noise. Very close, but you can’t turn your head to look. First the sharp click of metal drawn across metal, and then a deep creaking. Light fills your vision as a stranger appears above you holding a thick wax candle.

“What have w….” The stranger starts with a smile, but the smile fades as soon as he gets a good look at you. He turns away quickly in a flurry of thick brown robes. Before long he returns, this time with two others.

“By all the saints and prophets….” One of them says.

“This can’t be the work of the saints.” Comes the reply.

“What do we do with it?”

The three men stand around you, quiet in contemplation.

“We will show compassion, brother.” says one, breaking the silence. The one who says this picks you up and cradles you in his arms. “We will do what we do with any lost child: Warm up some colostrum and prepare a crib.” The kindly man smiles cautiously at you. “Fear not little one, you will be safe here. I am brother Keegan and you will be called Lisias.”

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Age four

You wake up as you do any other day. On a hard mattress in a small, cold room with sheets that are too thin.

You’ve been living in the monastery of St. Hector ever since you were abandoned here by your parents four years ago. The monastery is a self-contained community of several thousand monks who are mostly farmers and gardeners, though many professions are represented by at least one monk, even if only in an artisanal way.

The monks have taught you how to talk, how to walk, how to pray, how to say thank you and how to humble yourself before the gods. There are a handful of other orphans here, some close to your age, others not. You scare the other children... in no small part due to certain senior monks telling them that you are soulless and cursed. The children often make a show of keeping away from you during play time or pointing warding gestures in your direction when the older monks aren’t looking. Your life is a lonely one. The only friend you have is brother Keegan who was among those that found you on the threshold of the monastery and who seems to have a particular soft spot for you, and while at least you have him, it isn’t the same as having a friend your own age that you could play with.

There is a knocking upon your door that immediately dispels any hope you had of getting more rest. Irregular. It’s still too early for prayers, and even if it weren’t, you’re always called out of bed by the morning bell. Who could it be?
 
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Silanon

Four Thousand Club
Too early. That's Lisias' first thought, this morning. There's no bell, so it has yet to break the silence. And that's bad. It means there's no rush, no need to hurry, just... time. Lisias doesn't like time. Unless it's with Keegan. Having time means that the others have time, too. And the others - they are worse. Worse than having time. They are bad. Mean. Many. Better. The monks like them better. He likes them better. They run, and laugh, and play. He... doesn't. They don't wait for the bells to ring, and for the very last moment to get to the prayers in time. He... does. Not because he doesn't like the prayers; the prayers are good. The others are there, too, but they pray. In those moments, they are not that bad. They pray, and he prays, and it's not at all like when he is there too early and the monks aren't there yet, and the gods aren't there either. The gods - he likes the gods. They mean peace. He doesn't really know what that words means but if it means feeling like he does when it's just him and the gods - then peace is good. Good like Keegan, and little else.

No, that's not right. He has a bed, and food, and shelter. And he thanks the gods for that, and the monks, like they taught him. And in moments like these, when his thoughts were bad, he asks the gods for forgiveness, like the monks taught him, too. He always tries to do what the monks teach him. They know what's best. They speak with the gods, and the gods are wise. That's what they say. When Lisias prays, the gods are quiet. Maybe the others are right with the mean things they say. Maybe he is cursed. He doesn't like being cursed. He wants to have a soul, whatever that might be. The others have souls. But they never show them, of course. They just laugh that he doesn't have one, and doesn't know what a soul is. And they're always mean when he asks them, and call him stupid, and so he stopped asking. He never asked Keegan or the monks, of course. He wouldn't want Keegan to think he is stupid. And he doesn't want the monks to think he's stupid, either, because maybe they like him better when he's not stupid. When he just does what they teach him... he would like that.

He would also like to sleep until the bell wakes him again, but there's someone at his door. There never is, at this time. Or at any other point in time, really. Of course, the monks come by regularly, but the others - they don't. They keep their distance, and these rooms are too small for that. Large enough, of course, thank the gods. But not that large. For a moment, he hesitates. He knows he shouldn't, because the monks say that he should pay attention, and be nice, and it's probably not nice to not answer the knocking, now that he's definitely awake... but it could be worse than the usual morning hours before the bell rings. It could be the others. Maybe they sometimes wake up too early, too, with screams in their ears that they can't quite remember. With a horse's... scream? He doesn't know the right word. But he knows that he doesn't like horses, and that he sometimes wakes up early just to be afraid. Maybe the others wake up like that sometimes, too. He hopes they do. And he doesn't, because that's not a nice thing to hope for. Just like it's not nice to think these thoughts while someone is knocking. He doesn't know who it might be, but he knows it's time he reacts to it.

"I'm awake", he shouts, loud enough to be heard, "I'm coming." And he leaves the hard mattress and blanket and any further hope for rest behind, slips into his robe, takes a moment to make sure that his hands are mostly covered in the sleeves, because some say that his hands are wrong, too; and then he shuffles over to the door, and opens it just enough to peek outside. "I'm up. Who is it?" And of course, his voice betrays him, because it sounds tired, and weak, and afraid of what might lurk on the door's other side.
 
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The Great Sage

The Storyteller
Casting off the blankets is easy since they do barely anything to insulate you against the brisk spring air that flows freely into your room from the single glassless window that your room boasts. Swinging out of bed, your feet land on the cold stone floor of the orphanarium - the large dormatory that serves as home, kitchen and school for the abbey's younger children. Your robes are simple and aesthetic as is preferred by the order of St. Hector and are easy to slip into. Over the head and done. Your fingernails - dark and thick like the claws of a dog, catch upon the rough fabric in your hurry but with a tug they come free and allow the garment to fall into place.

"Who is it?" You inquire as you handle the heavy brass latch that secures an old wooden door that has been polished so many times that is has begun to harden and shine as if it were made of resin.

You pull the door open a crack and peer outside. You see there two unfamiliar monks; one wearing the simple robes of a novice which are not unlike the robes of an initiate which you wear. The other, who stands ahead of the first is wearing the friar's habit and cloak - a layered outfit covered by pockets and pouches - the hallmark of an adventuring Hectorine preacher who wanders away from the monastery to teach the precepts of St. Hector to the lay people who live and work outside of the abbey.

The friar, a tall man with an unkind face peers at you with stoic curiosity for a moment before putting a large callused hand against your door and pushing his way in.

You are tiny compared to the seasoned wanderer and even if you wanted to you wouldn't be able to offer much resistance to him, whose body has been conditioned by years of travel and hardship. As he enters your room he is flanked by his companion and you are crowded backward, feeling somewhat as though you are being herded like a sheep.

The friar stops before you. Quickly and without much consideration for your comfort he grasps you tightly by the chin, twisting your head to the side to better inspect the egg-like nubs that grow somewhat above and between your temples and your eyes. The friar's upper lip pulls back in just the barest hint of a sneer.

"Tell me child." The friar's voice is hard, "Wouldn't you like to be like the other children?"
 
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Silanon

Four Thousand Club
"Wouldn't you like to be like the other children?"

For the briefest of moments, the answer is clear. There is no doubt in his mind. And yet: As Lisias opens his mouth to respond - the movement somewhat restrained by the giant's hand - not a single word escapes his lips. Suddenly, there's too little space where there was plenty before. And the clarity, the truth; it falters under the preacher's gaze, as if these eyes draw the words from his mind before he can even think his thoughts. There's a blankness, all of the sudden, not in awe, or in hope - no, in fear, instead. Of course there should be no reason to be afraid, gods forbid. These men serve far away from food and shelter, with little more than the gods' guidance. Few are as dedicated, that's what some of the monks said. And that's a good thing, the way they said it. But still... the words are gone.

Instead, Lisias nods. Or rather, it's the hint of a nod. Barely enough to feel the man's hand resist. It's a hesitant movement. Quick. Uncertain whether this is the thing they expect. Whether it's the truth, even, right now. The man's scary, and tall. And Lisias doesn't like the question. He doesn't like standing here. He'd like to be early to the prayers, just to be gone from here. The other children - they're mean. But they aren't scary. Not scary like the man, at least. They stay away and don't eye his forehead like it's.... something worthy of a preacher's attention? And they just laugh and don't ask questions he can't answer. He gulps. Teeth bite down on his lower lip - pointier than usual, but not sharp enough to draw blood that easily. And then, without forewarning, words come forth, mumbled quiet enough to barely be heard.

"I want a soul." He doesn't know why the words come now. Or why he blurts out these words, and not others. And as soon as he's spoken them, there's a regret he can't even explain. He shouldn't have. But there's no way back. And the man seems even taller, the room even smaller, and those eyes - he doesn't know. He doesn't understand why he's all wrong, and different, and why these men are here and ask questions like that. The other children - they just know he's different. And he knows it as well, and so he knows what to expect. This man, though - Lisias doesn't know what to expect. Doesn't know which words are right or wrong, nice or forbidden.
 

The Great Sage

The Storyteller
"I want a soul."

The words have an unsettling effect upon the looming friar. The corners of his mouth curl upward in a predatory grin that does nothing to hide a row of chipped and yellowing teeth.

"Of course you do." The phrase slips out from his lips like oil over water.

He releases your chin and turns to his companion. "When I heard stories of the disfigurement, I thought they must have been exaggerated."

"Do you intend to go ahead with the procedure?"

"Of course I do." The friar replies as if the question were an extremely stupid one, "An opportunity like this has been delivered to me as an act of providence, and I do not intend to waste it."

The friar turns to regard you again. "Lie down." He commands and gestures toward your bed, then to his companion, "Prepare him." The friar strides over to the window ledge, which is the only work surface available to him in this spartan bedroom. He busies himself with removing several items from the deep pockets and pouches that hang from his robes: a bottle of viscous amber liquid, a roll of brown cloth and a large iron file.

Meanwhile, the other monk steps toward you while producing a coil of braided twine the thickness of a year old sapling. "Please lie down. This will be over before you know it."

From somewhere within you, a growing chill. You're surrounded by other orphaned children and the rector of the orphanarium, brother Peter, is merely a few dozen yards away, sleeping in his own chambers at the end of the hallway. Yet somehow you feel alone, cornered by unfamiliar men with uncertain intentions.
 

Silanon

Four Thousand Club
Disfigurement, exaggerated - providence, and waste. Words that do little to comfort a child. The grin doesn't help. The voice doesn't, either. Lisias' eyes rest on the file. None of this makes sense. None of the grand words that only adults would use. Neither the cloth, nor the twine. But the file - it's stands out, even among the other things. It's out of place. Whatever a soul is - why would one need that? A part of him knows that something's amiss. That maybe he should shout, or try to run. But the other part - knows that monks speak with the gods. That the wandering preachers are supposed to be wise. That maybe, this will indeed just take a few moments. Whatever this means.

Where neither part gets the upper hand - no decisive actions are taken. The single step towards the bed - it's a step away from the window as well, where cold iron waits to be of use. After that - he remains frozen in place. Lost between what he was taught, and what he sees. There's no scream, no shout, no question. Nothing. Nothing but the men, the file, their words. Not even his breath. He holds it, for a reason he doesn't quite comprehend himself. Like he might drown in this room, in the preacher's presence. Dreading what comes next - one half unable to change it, the other unwilling.
 

The Great Sage

The Storyteller
The younger monk, a man no older than twenty, sees your hesitation.

"Don't worry." He says as he crouches down to get down to your eye level, "Master Aaron is a famous healer. When he heard about your... about what makes you different, all he could think about was making it back here to help you." He smiles, and it's not without warmth. "I won't lie to you, we have to tie you down because it's very important that you stay still while the master works. It may hurt a little at first, but we think that your... your horns are not unlike those of a goat. Not much feeling there, right?"

You're not so sure about that. The small nubs that protrude from your brow have always been very sensitive. Bumping your head in the wrong place makes you see stars, and if you press on them hard with your thumbs it fills your vision with strange flashing lights and shifting patterns made of impossible to describe colours. The monk's words are soothing, though. Maybe these men aren't so bad?

"The lay farmers know the secret to keep the horns from growing. They do it to keep themselves and the other goats safe. During the master's travels he has learned these secrets and wants to use them to help you. To help keep everyone safe. You want everyone to be safe, don't you?"

The young man slowly reaches towards you and takes hold of one of your wrists, his movement is measured and careful as if he were trying to tame a wild animal.

"Have you been learning about all the saints and their earthy trials?" He asks, his eyes flitting between yours and your thick, boney fingernails, which could very well be described as claws without any apology.

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Without waiting for you to respond he continues, "Think of this as your trial. The gods would want you to be brave, wouldn't they?"

You steal a glance at the friar - Master Aaron. He's wrapping the bottom of the iron file with the brown cloth, fashioning a suitable grip for himself.

"Quickly now." The master rumbles.
 

Silanon

Four Thousand Club
The gods like bravery - that's what the monks say. And they talk with them, so they should know. And thus, Lisias nods as he slowly sits down on the bed, pondering what else the nice monk just said. Because those things - they didn't make much sense at all. Of course, the monks would know best, and the wandering preachers would know even more than that; but the words still sound wrong, or most of them, and that file doesn't look any better, either.

Of course, he wants everyone to be safe. Every time he prays, he prays for that, too, just like the monks taught him to. But why wouldn't they be, here of all places? The monks always speak of the dangerous world, out there. But they also always say that this place here is safe, as long as everyone speaks their prayers. And everyone does that, the monks make sure one doesn't forget. And even if one does, there's still the bell, and no one could ever miss the bell, right? Or did he miss the bell, today. Is that why they're here, now? He quickly glances over to the window - but really, he's certain that it's too early, still. And someone would have come to scold him, surely, and these two didn't say a word about that.

And the horns? They aren't like those of a goat. Or maybe they are, he wouldn't know, but they aren't like what the monk said, just now. And how does Master Aaron know? He hasn't been here before, or Lisias would have remembered - or at the very least, the Master would have come earlier, because he wanted everyone to be safe... that's what the nice monk said, right?

"Are there more like me?" He hopes not, because being like him isn't good. But maybe that's how the Master knows. "And these aren't at all like what you just said." His free hand points out the horns, careful to not touch them. "They hurt when I touch them. And the others said we'd be safe here, and they always close the gate at night." That's a lot of words, all of the sudden. They come as soon as the first word is spoken, and he doesn't even need to think for them to come, either. The monks always say one should think carefully what one says, and maybe he shouldn't have said anything at all, because the monks know best - but he doesn't like the file, and he doesn't like Master Aaron, and the other one is nice, at least, and maybe he listens.

"And I don't know why I'm all wrong, and I want us all to be safe, and I want to be brave, and..." As he speaks, his eyes begin to glisten, and his voice, now freed, gets louder with every word. And even if that's not brave, he can't hold it back, and knowing that it almost certainly isn't brave at all and that the gods like bravery does nothing to hold back the tears, either.
 
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The Great Sage

The Storyteller
You're not at all what the young monk had expected. Not what he was told to expect. A growing chill takes root in his heart as you speak to him. He wanted you to be an animal. A cursed thing forgotten by the grace of his God. A creature made wrong by some pernicious evil. Something that he could help fix... but this is not what he finds when he looks at you. He watches the tears well in your eyes, he listens to your words and what he sees is not a monster; just a child. A child hurt by his own strangeness. This shakes his young man's faith. Or perhaps it helps him remember it.

"Master, maybe th..." the monk begins, but the friar is already striding towards him. It takes only two steps for the older and much stronger man to close the distance and when he does he has hold of his young assistant by loose fabric of the novice's robes.

"Pathetic fool!" The master growls and shoves his assistant so hard that he almost flies out the door. You can't see him land, but you can hear it and he doesn't land well; a sickly crack followed by a pained cry then a dull thump like the dropping of a heavy sack. Finally comes the sustained wail of the freshly injured.

The friar slams the bedroom door and throws the latch. He turns toward you, his brow furrowed heavily. The old wanderer seems to fill up the entire room, his presence is like a heavy summer heat that radiates out and violates even the deepest shade. You are finding it hard to breathe. From outside your room you hear a clamor. The crying of the injured monk has roused the rector who has burst out of his room and is demanding to know what is happening.

The friar moves towards you, quicker than such a big man seems to have any right to move. Before you can react, master Aaron has you pinned to your bed, one huge calloused hand around your tiny throat, the other grasping the iron file.

The Master draws his face within inches of yours. The forest of grey and white bristles that cover his face shine with oil and sweat. When he speaks you are blasted by the revolting smell of decay;

"You fucking deamon." He spits, "I will draw you out of this body if I have to flay it apart one layer at a time!"

A rattle at your door, then a banging.

"Lisias!" It's rector Peter. He has always kept his distance from you, but his loyalty towards caring for the monastery's children significantly outweighs any prejudice he might have. "By the gods, open the door!"

You can hear some of the other children, awoken by the commotion and emboldened by their curiosity calling out for brother Peter from the thresholds of their rooms.

The pressure on your throat increases and flecks of black begin to tear away at the edges of your vision. You can't speak, you struggle to swallow and as panic sets in you begin to flail your little limbs uselessly against the much bigger man, who takes no notice at all.

The last thing you see before your sight collapses into a kaleidoscope of strange and rapidly fading colours is the terrifying sight of the iron file being raised to your head.

You're only barely aware of the feeling of your skin being shorn away by the teeth of the rough tool as the master begins his work. You listen, confused, to a gnawing, scraping noise that seems to emanate from inside your head backed up by shouting, rattling and banging that seems like it comes from far, far away.

There is a voice somewhere begging you to stay awake... but you're so sleepy. Maybe if you just... for one moment....

---​

You stir in your sleep. You feel need. Deep need. You are not content to be awoken, but this smell.

You open your eyes. Only one works. The other is covered in warm, sticky blood. Your blood. No, not yours. New blood. New and yours? It's too confusing to puzzle about.

Above you, a filthy ape. His hand on cold iron, with it he gnaws away at your flesh. Fear strikes you. You are not something that fears easily, and the fear, like oil poured into a hot pan, flashes into anger.

You feel new, but you are not new. You are old, and you know secrets. Secrets like how to use the weapon called death.

Your hand plunges into the hairy animal's neck like a spear and you curl your fingers, grasping the stiff, wet flesh and slippery tubes there. With all the strength you can muster you pull. Too little strength. You should be more, but for this task at least you are enough. The ape staggers backward, his cold iron clattering to the stone floor as he presses both his hands onto the ragged, mortal wound you've gifted him. Pathetic. This disgusting animal makes you furious. Did he believe that he could scrape you away with his putrid metal? As weak as he is?

The newly torn skin and meat that hangs from your claws smells wonderful. Sleep is good, but the visceral pleasures of the flesh have such a unique flavour.

The dying man slumps backward and into a corner, gurgling helplessly, his blood draining onto the masoned stone floor and running tracks along the mortar between the slabs. He looks at you with foolish, surprised eyes, stunned like a rabbit and unable to do anything but await your next move.

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---​

(You have now unlocked the duality of your character and the mechanic of "Moral Authority", the current strength of which can be found at the beginning of this thread. Lisias is a creature with two personalities - himself and the ancient, dangerous creature that resides within him: the grotesque. From this point forward you can choose to have the grotesque assert itself at any time, which will give Lisias access to many lifetimes worth of predatory instinct and a savage, animalistic fury at the cost of one point of Moral Authority. The grotesque may also assert itself automatically in high-stress situations such as this one, which will not cost Moral Authority. From now on, as these situations arise you will be given the option to block the grotesque from asserting itself at the cost of one point of Moral Authority. In this current case, the grotesque is weak and sleepy from his long incubation and you may wrest control from him immediately without having to use Moral Authority... or else you can use him to take revenge upon the friar. If ever your Moral Authority reaches 0, the game will end and Lisias will be trapped forever behind the ego of the grotesque. Moral Authority can be increased by preforming selfless, courageous or otherwise virtuous actions. The higher your Moral Authority, the more difficult it will be to increase. Moral Authority will have an impact on divine spellcasting when you unlock that ability.)
 
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Silanon

Four Thousand Club
The next move... the first move after... he does not understand. "You want everyone to be safe, don't you?" - that's what the nice monk asked. This... is anything but safe. There's blood. There shouldn't be any. Or only a little, he wouldn't know. But he knows that there's too much of it, now. That the preacher shouldn't sound like that. Look like that. The monks are wise. The Master should've been wiser. And instead? Blood. Like when... he doesn't know. Nothing compares. There shouldn't be that much of it in a single body, right? It's not just the friar's blood, of course. Somehow, he knows, even though most of it is a haze. He couldn't breath. There was the friar. And voices, but mostly the friar. And then... there was something. He remembers striking, but not quite how. Remembers anger, but doesn't know why. Remembers being weak, and yet incredibly strong. Remembers smelling... blood. Flesh. And then he stood here. Covered in blood. That's what ended the haze. Too much of it, where there should've been none.

It doesn't make sense. He eyes his hand, in disbelief. Lets the other wander upwards, hesitantly - over cheek and forehead, towards well-familiar nubs. In the daze of confusion, he feels, fingers, and his eyes never leave the other hand out of sight. The one that struck. Like it could strike again, at any moment. It never did, before. Never like that. The friar made it strike, somehow. He made Lisias struggle for air, and forget. No, not forget. He still knows. It's all a haze, but he knows. That there is something. He doesn't understand, but he knows. And the friar - knows as well, but doesn't understand, either. Even though he should. He should be wise, knowing the world.

But he seems to be as confused as Lisias is. Stares like the four-year old does, in disbelief. Both nearly motionless, because maybe the man doesn't know what to do, and Lisias certainly doesn't. The boy leans back, against the wall of his room. Stands first, and then slowly slides down until he kneels, because the legs don't see much reason to carry his weight. Blood. It smelled different, just now. He's certain of that, but doesn't know how. It's over, at least. Or so he thinks. Listens to his pounding heart. Listens inside, like there's something hidden within himself. Like there was something he briefly touched, before he noticed the blood. And then, as he listens, his lips move. They form words, but don't let a single sound escape. Words that the monks taught him. Because if even the wandering preachers don't know - then only the gods know. That's what the monks said, sometime. And maybe it's wrong, like when they said it'd be safe here. Or maybe it's right. He doesn't know. But he knows the words, has learnt them by heart. And he knows so little else, right now. Just that there's blood. And the preacher. And something within.

And he wants it all to be a haze, and then... gone. The preacher. The blood. The memory. He wants to hear the bell, and know that it's safe, and hurry to be almost late, but not quite. He'd even be different, if it means not being that different. But he is. And there's the preacher. And blood. And tears he didn't notice before. And words. And even though it's hard to remember some of those, it's better than to remember the rest, right now.
 

The Great Sage

The Storyteller
Confusion is like a ringing bell in your ears. Everything seems hazy like a compelling dream that starts to fade the moment you open your eyes. Your eyes are open now. You stand, staring at the friar as his face slacks and goes pale. His hands drop to his sides and he begins to stiffen, sliding down the stone wall, his legs smearing his blood across the floor.

The banging on the door continues as your thoughts struggle to make sense of what just happened. You barely register the latch finally giving way and the heavy door being thrown to the side.

Peter bursts into the room in a flurry of worried energy. Energy that seems to disperse as soon as he processes what he sees. "What...." the old rector whispers. He stands behind you for a moment before he regains his composure. He puts an arm around your shoulders and leads you from the room.

When you turn you see the curious faces of some of the other orphans filling your doorway.

"He killed him." Says one.

"Hush!" Hisses the rector. "Nathanial, go get brother Keegan. Now."

Nathanial is nine years old, the eldest orphan who hasn't yet been confirmed as a novice, and he does as he's told.

The rector leads you out of your room and past the injured monk. He had landed badly on his foot which is now contorted at an odd angle. He sits on the floor moaning and rocking back and forth. If he cares or even knows about what happened to master Aaron he doesn't show it. You are lead down the hallway and into Peter's personal chambers which serves as both an office and bedroom for the old rector. He sits you down on a plain wooden chair and tells you to stay there.

The next few hours are confusing. A strange monk visits you with a basin of warm water and a cloth which he uses to clean your face and your hands. He fusses over your head, which burns terribly and makes you want to cry. He applies a white paste to your wound that feels cold and makes the pain go away. Several more people come and ask you to tell your story and ask you questions. None of them seem satisfied with your answers. Eventually brother Keegan arrives. He takes you away from the orphanarium and brings you to the abbey, which is the biggest and nicest building in the whole commune. You are sat down again, this time in a nicer chair with comfortable pillows in place of solid wood. Many old men wearing fancy and colourful robes arrive and they all look at you with concerned faces. One by one as they arrive they disappear into an adjacent room. Before long you can hear raised voices:

"By the gods, he's only a child!"

"Murder has no age, brother."

"He can't stay with the other children, that much is clear."

"So we abandon him? After taking him in and giving him bread we cast him out?"

"There are other solutions."

"I can't believe that you would even insinuate...."

"Stop!" This one holds authority, and the raised voices subside.

More time passes. You dare not move from your seat, having been commanded to stay where you are and so the only thing you can do to pass the time is watch the rising sun dance through the stained glass windows of the abbey. The windows are mosaics which tell the stories of saint Hector of the Grasses, the patron saint of the monastery. St. Hector was a man who wandered the land several generations ago teaching the people what grains were best to plant and where in the wake of an age of famine. Trying to emulate St. Hector is the reason that so many of the monks are gardeners. The monastery never wants for fresh vegetables, roots, berries and grains, and regularly sends out wagons loaded with fresh produce to the nearby villages. There is even a large communal orchard behind the abbey that grows many different kinds of exotic fruits. The monks aren't strict vegetarians, but since more than enough food is grown inside and around the compound for everyone, very few ever bother to hunt or raise animals. A few have pet chickens, and since St. Hector was a beekeeper many of the older monks keep a hive or two which does much to serve the health of the gardens and orchard, but that's it. There are no pigs or goats or cattle anywhere in the commune.

It's a long time before the door opens again. When it does, brother Keegan stands in the threshold.

"Lisias, will you please come in here? We have to talk about something." He reads a look on your face, "No not about what happened. About what's going to happen. Come." He beckons you in and you obey.

You enter the room which is the abbot's personal audience chambers. The room is covered in holy artifacts which have been crafted from finely milled metals and etched by masterful artists. There is a large, grand desk at the end of the room and on either side the walls are lined with chairs. On the chairs sit the four old men in their fancy robes. Behind the desk is the abbot - the leader and spiritual father of the whole monastery. The abbot is old, and his loose, wrinkled face seems to almost melt off his skull. His eyebrows are bushy and wild and atop his head is an almost comically large pointed hat. Despite his hunched shoulders and thin body that is obvious even beneath his dark red robes, his eyes are bright like those of a much younger man.

Brother Keegan leads you into the middle of the room and if not for him remaining there with you, you would feel completely surrounded.

The abbot clears his throat slowly, the sound is like a handful of large pebbles being ground together, his eyes lock onto yours and then he addresses you, "I have often wondered to myself since you came here, young Lisias, four years ago, if it had been a mistake to let you stay at the orphanage." The abbot closes his eyes and takes a deep, shaky breath, "After the events of this morning I think that it was. Not a mistake to keep you. No. It was a mistake to ignore a sign that could only come from the gods." The abbot raises a skeletal hand covered in liver-marked skin and twisting veins and points at you with a knobbly finger. "You, child, are different. And in our ignorance we tried to treat you as if you weren't."

When the abbot says this, Keegan rests a hand on your shoulder.

"Sometimes a young novice with a natural talent for one thing or another is removed from the regular path towards confirmation so that he may pursue his talent in order to best benefit us all." The abbot continues, "And this, I think, must be your fate."

One of the old men makes a noise sort of like a cough. The abbot glances toward this man and makes a sour face.

"One of our brothers, Lysander, lives in seclusion near the edges of our community." The abbot gestures toward Keegan, "A friend of your friend as it so happens. You will, from now on, live there and learn what brother Lysander has to teach."

The cough again. "Send one killer to another."

The abbot slams a fist onto his desk. The sounds is like a thunderclap in the quiet, reverent room. "Enough!" The abbot shouts, "This is my word and I will see it be done!"

There is more talking, but none of it seems very important. Brother Lysander? You don't know him. Is he really a killer? Are you? Before you come to terms with any of the thoughts swimming around in your head the abbot dismisses you and Keegan leads you out of the abbey. When you get outside you notice that it's after midday, and even though you haven't eaten anything you don't feel hungry. You actually feel pretty good, physically at least.

"We had best go to Lysander's right away." Keegan says as you walk, "Do you have anything you want to bring with you? You might not be back for a while." He knows you don't have anything. You get the feeling that he just wants to say something.

Keegan takes you to the monk's kitchen and has you wait outside while he goes in and fetches a parcel of food for the journey. Before you set out you both visit the well and fill a skin each with the spring-fed well water. Slinging your burdens around your shoulders you both depart down a little-used side road towards Lysander's. Keegan mention that the walk takes a few hours and on the way he tells you about his friend.

Lysander was not born a monk and came to the brotherhood after he had already lived a full life outside the monastery. Keegan tells you that he is a hard man and has lived a hard life, but despite it he is not unkind. You are told that he carries a great weight in his mind and that weight often makes him sad. Most importantly, Keegan says, is to never ask Lysander about the marks on his skin or about his life before becoming a monk. Keegan tells you that such things summon a great storm within Lysander that is terrible to behold.

The walk is long, but not unpleasant, and it's the first time in your life that you can remember being outside the commune... even if you aren't really outside of it. You talk with Keegan about many things and he tells you stories about heroes and saints. The path you must walk winds down the small hill that the abbey was built on and into a sparse forest of maple and oak that goes on for many miles. Finally the forest breaks into a small meadow in which a single small but sturdy hut has been built. From a handsome stone chimney plumes a graceful wisp of white smoke. Around the hut is a respectable garden filled with many different kinds of plants.

"This is it." Keegan says as the hut comes into view. "I think you'd better wait outside while I go in and talk to Lysander. He doesn't know we're coming and that you're going to stay with him and... and well you'd better just stay outside until he's ready to meet you."

Keegan sits you down on the grass under the single stand of oak that grows within the meadow, some fifty feet away from the hut. He unwraps the parcel he'd carried with him and lays it out before you. It is filled with a few handfuls of berries, a small loaf of fresh bread and a clay pot of clover honey. Keegan smiles and puts a hand on your head before turning away and going to the hut. He knocks on the door and without waiting to be invited in, opens the door and enters.

You hear a pleased roar. "Keegan!"

Then the voice goes quiet.

Several minutes go by and then suddenly a bear of a man emerges from the threshold of the hut. It must be Lysander. The man is six feet tall at least, and his chest is built like a wine cask. He wears the brown robes of a novice and the sash is barely long enough to be tied around his waist. The man's arms are like tree trunks and are covered in coarse black hair, and his hair and beard are unkempt and wild. Even from this distance you can see the man's disfigured face - a large gash that begins above the eyebrow and runs down to ruin his left eye before curling the corner of his lip up in a perpetual sneer.

Lysander stares at you in bewilderment.


Age Eight
You've been at master Lysander's now for more than half your life, and can barely remember anything else. The the first few months you were here the master didn't talk to you at all. He fed you, built you a small room as an extension of his hut and made sure that you were comfortable, but it seemed like he either didn't want to talk to you or didn't know how, in fact if you ever caught him looking at you during this time he would quickly turn away as if embarrassed.

Slowly, he started to open up. At first he would only ask how your meals were or if you needed anything. Regardless of your replies he would only grunt and nod. As time went on he would slowly start to teach you things, like what type of soil was right for what kind of plant or how best to cut a log so that it would lay flat against another. After a few years, if not friends, you've certainly become comfortable around one another.

Your days are filled mostly with gardening, meditation and whittling, which is a skill that Lysander is uniquely skilled at. You've practiced enough to make little dolls out of blocks of wood that look almost somewhat human, but by contrast the master can carve animals that, if not for their size, you could mistake as real, and he can even make chains and ornaments that sell for some money to the traders that visit the monastery once or twice a year.

Very rarely the master spends the day with you doing strange things. Sometimes he will take you out to the old oak tree that shades the garden, tie a small wooden hoop to a low hanging branch and ask you to try to thrust a stick through it as quickly as you can. Or sometimes he'll have you practice certain strange stretches and maneuvers, almost like he wants to teach you to dance but doesn't quite know how to do it himself. Today is one of those special days.

You're following behind Lysander as he walks through the forest. He's looking for sticks. Every so often he'll stop, pick up a fallen branch, mutter something and toss it back down. He's obviously looking for the perfect one.
 

Silanon

Four Thousand Club
Time passes. Seasons come and go. What was new, in the beginning, is familiar routine now. But through it all, the confusion still lingers; that fateful night was hard to grasp when it happened, and time hasn't really sharpened Lisias' understanding. Often, his mind is busy enough with other tasks to not bother too much. But sometimes, at night, or halfway through a meditation, or during a familiar task that allows the mind to wander off - memories return. Questions return. And there are few answers to be found. Only words from back then, half of them not the ones that were actually said, back then. Murder, killer - those two he remembers correctly. As well as the blood, and the waiting in front of the chamber. Keegan. Lysander. And not much else that'd make any sense.

Luckily, there are often things to do. And when there aren't, it takes much concentration to turn a piece of wood into art. He likes the working process, the cutting and slicing. He rarely likes the results, himself. Abominations that have little to do with the graceful figurines his Master manages to produce. They often feel like imperfect copies of those, just like he often felt like an imperfect copy of the other children. Those aren't here now, at the very least. Lisias certainly doesn't miss their presence.

Especially not on days like this one. These are confusing days, that don't make much sense. It's easy to see how gardening or many other things have a purpose. They yield results, even though they are might be lackluster from time to time. These days like today, though, full of unusual tasks - he doesn't know what the point is, thus far. Only that they're new, and different, and therefore as far away as possible from the familiar chores, and thus the nasty thoughts that sometimes come with those. He likes that. Though he doubts he gets it right most of the time, even though he tries. There's no comparison with anyone else, it's hard to read Lysander, and there's nothing to get out of it.

Maybe today. The master, at the very least, puts much effort into getting things right. The man gets most things right, so he'll succeed, even though Lisias doesn't quite know with what, exactly. The forest is always full of branches. Some old, some new. Some dry, others covered in moss and vines. What could other branches have that these ones don't? He doubts it's just for another figurine. There's still enough wood back at home. There wouldn't be any need.

"What should it look like, Master?" He asks the obvious question - short and precise, like he learnt in Lysander's presence. The Master has never been a man of many words. Lisias tries to imitate. One hand picks up a random branch from the forest floor, eyes it for any sign of special features. He doesn't spot any. It looks the same as the one Lysander tossed away just now, at least in an eigh-year old child's eyes.
 

The Great Sage

The Storyteller
Your words stop the big man in his tracks. He turns his head over his right shoulder; his good side, and peers at you a moment before answering.

"Long. Half again as long as your arm and with a burl at one end." Lysander turns forward again and stomps down the rough footpath you've been following. "And in this whole damned forest there has to be one!" He shouts.

He seems like he's getting agitated, and you've learned that master Lysander is not a man blessed with much patience. He's never been violent towards you, but he's certainly thrown some fits over the years. Once night last winter while you and he were sitting before the fireplace carving pieces for a classic board game, Lysander's knife has slipped and he had cut deeply into his hand. You remember his scrunched up face as he stared at the cut, eyes narrowed into dark slits as if he were daring his wound to start to bleed. The moment the blood did start, Lysander began his lesson on curses. The master stalked around the cabin, holding his hand, kicking furniture and shouting. Before he finished his third circuit, he had run out into gently falling snow and howled at the moon like an animal. It took him at least a half hour to calm down, and before he did he had tossed every block of wood, tool, or rock as far as he could, making a huge mess of the yard. That night was the first time you'd stitched together a wound. The master had regained his senses by then and had calmly directed you through the whole process while drinking deeply from his special water skin. Afterward he remarked that you'd done better than any real healer; and the master wasn't one to give an insincere compliment.

"Stupid trees!" Lysander goes on, "Not one can grow right! At this rate I'll be made to carve one down from a trunk! Spend a whole rotten year at it... and the thing'll break the day after, too, just you wait and see!"

It may be best to leave Lysander alone so that he can blow off some steam. Maybe you could even find this special stick for him? Or you might try calming him down. In any case, he seems completely absorbed in what he's doing and probably won't notice if you slip away.

---

You are on a rough footpath that branches off from the wagon-road which leads from the cabin to the main compound of the monastery. Master Lysander is stomping through the brush here looking for a long branch with a burl at one end.

To the northwest is the old oak tree.

To the west lies Lysander's cabin.

To the southwest is a small brook.

To the east is the wagon-road through the forest and towards the main compound.

---

(You are now free to move from room to room. Your location will be tracked on your map at the top of this thread. There is no wrong way to go from here. On the map you will notice that the area to the east of your current location has a curvy line with hashes through it; This represents a room that contains an event that will progress the story and end the current scene.)
 

Silanon

Four Thousand Club
"There should be one like that, somewhere here," Lisias quietly agrees. The description - though curious, to say the least - doesn't seem that specific, all things considered. That's probably what the master thought, as well - but the forest, thus far, disappoints. And Lisias doesn't like that, not at all. These days are special, even though they are strange; it'd be a shame to only get to the shouting, and not to the actual fun part of it. And thus, his eyes leave the path ahead, where Lysidas hasn't had any luck - and instead turn towards the deeper forest where the master might have just missed what's needed. To calm the storm instead - doesn't really come to mind. Words are difficult, in moments like these. Better to get to the root of the problem - and conveniently get a bit of distance between the master and himself. Not that the master would be dangerous - but he looks the part all the same.

"I'll take a look over there, master, if that's fine." Lisias points roughly southwards as he speaks, where the crook should run, somewhere. there shouldn't be much near the old oak, or the master would've spotted one prior; the same, naturally is true for the hut. And towards the buildings - is very much Lisias' least favorite direction. There are memories. And the others. And little of interest. And there are more sticks in the forest than on the road, anyways...

He gives Lysidas some time to respond - it wouldn't be nice to just vanish on him - and then, unless the master protests, makes his way towards the running water, eyes focused on potential branches that might fit Lysidas' description.
 

The Great Sage

The Storyteller
You call out your intentions to your master who responds only by mumbling that you must make sure that the stick is perfectly straight. He gets like this when he's carving sometimes - so focused on what he's doing that he seems almost oblivious to anything else. He's not going to snap out of it until he's able to find what he's looking for.

After a minute or two it becomes obvious that you won't be getting much more out of Lysander unless you can find a stick to unstick his thoughts. The forest is full of sticks, but something like the master describes might be a little harder to find. A burl is a kind of deformity, almost like a tumor, and finding one just the right size growing in just the right place might boil down to a matter of luck.

You wander away from the forest path and toward the brook, which isn't far. At the edge of the treeline where the forest breaks into the meadow there are several stumps scattered around - monuments to the trees that gave themselves for the construction of the master's cabin.

Gradually the smell of leaf litter and decaying plant matter give way to the sweetness of the wildflowers that dot the meadow. The meadow grasses and clover don't grow much higher than your shins, and the brushing of your robes against the delicate blades produces a satisfying 'woosh'.

You hear the brook before you see it - a pleasant burbling of crisp, fresh water running briskly over a bed of pebbles and stones. You've never traced the brook to its source, but the water is always fresh and cold, even on hot days.

You arrive at the brook, which is small enough at any spot you've been to step over easily. Along its banks are various water-loving weeds, many of which grow taller than your waist. These weeds seem to prefer growing in dense patches which serve as home to the many insects and small rodents that depend on the brook for food and reproduction.

From one of these patches you notice a gentle rustling.

From where you are now you can still see the shadow of master Lysander moving about within the forest, brief blurs of colourless motion as he trudges between the trunks.

From farther up the brook you can see a wake in the grass that runs contrary to the gentle spring wind, as if there were some kind of animal moving beneath. It's too far away to spot what could be making the wake and you'd have to get closer if you wanted to find out. The largest predator you'd have to worry about here is a badger or maybe a fox. Both creatures that would much sooner flee than fight.

---

You are standing near a small, pleasant brook.

To the northwest is the garden.

To the north lies Lysander's cabin.

To the northeast is the forest path.
 

Silanon

Four Thousand Club
The running water makes it easy to feel at ease. The master has taught him how to meditate, and how to seek the gods' peace, of course - but in places and moments like this, it comes more natural than anything Lisias ever picked up from that. Not that he doesn't try his best whenever Lysander teaches him; it's just that here, he really doesn't have to try at all to feel like everything will be alright. Being alone helps, of course; other than the master in the distance, busy with his search.

Speaking of which - he should search as well. See what can be found, perhaps, with a little luck, and a little patience. Though maybe, there's something else to be seen as well - both the rustling and movements give away that he's not quite as alone as he thought, just now. And it shouldn't just be boring insects - though some of those are useful, Lysander taught him that - but something a little larger, maybe as large as things become, near the hut. That'd be nice. He likes seeing those creatures of the forest, whenever they show. They always seem like they're right where they belong; like they've naturally found their place in the world without even trying. He envies them for it, sometimes, even though that's probably foolish. They don't create or form the world like the gods teach it, after all; but they also aren't bothered by the lack of straight and burly sticks. Or by deeper, darker matters. Like lots of blood in a little room, for example.

For a moment, Lisias pauses in his movements; eager to avoid even the slightest sound. Sticks don't run away, after all, so there's no rush - and animals run when one is too loud. He doubts that there are any left where the master stomps through the forest, for example. His eyes do scan the surrounding for anything that might remotely look like what the master described; but really, his attention is mostly on the nearby weeds where the rustling came from, and on the movements further away after that. For just a moment, Lisias waits for anything to reveal itself; if nothing happens, he slowly approaches the nearby source of noise, trying to not shoo away whatever's hidden there.
 

The Great Sage

The Storyteller
You spend a few minutes watching the wake in the grass move across the distance and towards the brook. The wake then stops for a time before appearing again; this time headed away from the brook.

You approach the patch of weeds from whence you heard the rustle. Even at this young age you command a respectable kinesthetic sense, and you are able to move gracefully through the vegetation without causing much disturbance.

As you draw nearer to the source of the noise, you see a few stalks of thick river grasses dancing wildly in rhythm to an unknown beat. Parting the weeds to get a better look, you suddenly become audience to a life or death struggle played out in miniature:

Within the weeds and just beyond the banks of the brook there is a grey mouse who has been caught from behind by a large toad. The mouse is halfway down the amphibian's throat, clawing franticly at the muck, trying to grab hold of whatever stalk it is able to reach in a frenzied attempt to pull itself free. The toad, a great muddy brown lump of warty flesh, stares into the beyond with its beady, emotionless eyes. Every few moments, the toad widens its mouth and lunges forward, pushing the mouse farther down its gullet.

---

You are standing near a small, pleasant brook.

To the northwest is the garden.

To the north lies Lysander's cabin.

To the northeast is the forest path.
 

Silanon

Four Thousand Club
Of the possible things he could have found... this one is not at all what Lisias expected. Not that he'd know what he expected, really; but not this, that much is clear. For a moment, he simply stares at the scene; unable to act, and likewise unable to turn away. There's an odd fascination, seeing the struggle - one he can't quite explain. Maybe it's because one rarely encounters potential death like that. Or maybe it's because there was a struggle just like that, years ago. He was the mouse, first - then the toad. He still doesn't quite know what happened, in-between. And doesn't know whom to cheer for, now.

Or whether to act. Mice feast on grains when they get the chance - but this one's far away from the hut. The toad - he doesn't really know. Only that it tries to feast just now, gulping down its prey. Is there a point to deny it? It'll catch something else. And something else will catch the mouse. But that's not the point, right? He recalls some of the stories. Of people who acted despite not having a good reason. The monks liked to tell those, back then. And right now - well, he doesn't know what's right, or wrong. But watching now means the mouse is dead. Just like the wandering master, back then. Without a way to go back. Maybe there wouldn't be blood. Maybe there would. It'd be the same result, either way. But it won't be that result, now.

Lisias moves. This time, there's not as much focus on remaining quiet. If his movements shoo the the toad - that'd be fine if it means spitting out the mouse, right? And if not - maybe it's possible to pull out the struggling rodent. Toads shouldn't have teeth to hold it in place. And it'd be better than having to touch the toad. It doesn't look like it should be touched. Of course, the mouse has its own teeth and claws - best to avoid those, two, grab its near its neck as long as enough of it still shows. That's the plan. It's not well thought out. Maybe it's stupid. But he doesn't want to simply watch. He watched death, once. Kind of. Saw the surprise in those eyes. It's different, of course. But still - it's similar enough. Watching - reminds him of a thrill that wasn't his own, back then, and he doesn't like being reminded of that. His hand reaches out - for the better or worse - to safe a life, because it might be right, bust mostly because just watching might be far worse.
 

The Great Sage

The Storyteller
Despite your hopes, you aren't able to save the mouse simply by spooking the amphibian. A creature of base instincts and little else, the warty predator remains singularly focused on devouring his prey as you draw close.

However, it soon becomes clear that the toad is no match for you. You loom above the scene with all the power of a god. The tiny creatures wriggle and writhe in their struggle, but you are deft and are able to pinch the nape of the mouse's neck, which stills its movement. Using a single claw you easily pry the toad's mouth open. As soon as you do the mouse realizes it is no longer pinned and flails violently, pulling itself free before you can tighten your grasp. As soon as it gains purchase upon the ground, the agile little thing darts off into the weeds and out of sight.

The toad remains sitting on the muck between the weeds. If it has any thoughts about what just happened, you certainly can't read it on it's face.

The parallels you draw to your past swim in your head. You find that it's a little hard to breathe... as if you were laying beneath several quilts.

Something stirs inside of you. Something alien. Not a voice or an emotion... more like a flash of impulse, a sudden brand upon your thoughts. A terrible moment of sinister intent.

It tells you that you should crush that toad until all its bones are broken. It tells you that it will make you feel good.

---

You are standing near a small, pleasant brook.

To the northwest is the garden.

To the north lies Lysander's cabin.

To the northeast is the forest path.
 

Silanon

Four Thousand Club
That urge - it's there, suddenly, without a warning. It'd be easy to squash that toad, he knows that. So easy... even easier than saving that mouse. But what for? No, that's not the right question to ask here, really. Why let it live? It's just one of many. It'd feel good. So good that the clawed hand already reaches out before the mind can protest. It wants to feel the lowly creature, rip through it - but is stopped midway. A moment of hesitation. It's the eyes. They don't give much away, really. But there were others, before. Filled with surprise, and fear. And Lisias remembers those. And part of that fear from back then - it's his own, now. The fear of what he might do, and become. The fear of moments he doesn't remember. Couldn't even remember moments after. The fear of coming to his senses, surrounded by blood.

Why let it live? Not because the toad matters. But maybe because not giving in to that urge is best. Less bloody. Less different. Back then, he wanted to be like the others. He isn't, that one night showed it clearly. But being what he could be, instead... is scary. Frightening. It means being that other thing, not himself. And being himself, right now - isn't bad. Sometimes boring. Often tiring. But not frightening. And Lysander had plans, once he finds that stick. He was looking forward to that, kind of. He wasn't looking forward to being that other thing, ever - not once during all those weeks, months and years since then. So... he tries not to be, now. Tries to pull back the hand, and retreat backwards. Leave the toad behind, and the weeds, and the creek - get away from this abundance of life.
 

The Great Sage

The Storyteller
The violent urge fades quickly under your resolve. You walk away from the scene, far enough that even if you wanted to you're not certain that you could find the same patch of weeds again.

Your senses seem particularly acute now that the strange urge is gone. The smell of floral pollen, fresh water and fertile soil fills your lungs with a rich natural perfume. Your mind is sharp and you're able to see individual blades of grass waving in the lethargic spring breeze as you take yourself into the meadow and away from the creek.

From this position, you can still see Lysander, who is searching for his special branch in the trees closest to where the forest breaks into the open meadow. He looks somewhat like a wendigo or bigfoot; obscured enough by the intervening foliage that you can just make out his bulky outline topped by his wild mop of wiry hair. It's him though, for sure. Nobody stomps through the forest quite like master Lysander.

Something that the master told you once keeps playing in your head: "Every day you got... every moment... is about choosing one path or another." he had said, "You gotta make that choice. If you don't make it, you're choosing to do nothing, and that's never the right path."

You remember the master looking awkward after he had said this. Maybe he thought you didn't understand him. Or maybe he was frustrated that he couldn't explain the complicated thoughts in his head.

Today you chose to save a mouse and to spare a toad. Was that the right path? It might take some thinking to puzzle that one out, but one thing is for sure: in relation to finding a long stick with a burl at one end, it was the wrong path.

---

You are standing near a small, pleasant brook.

To the northwest is the garden.

To the north lies Lysander's cabin.

To the northeast is the forest path.
 

Silanon

Four Thousand Club
No stick thus far - that's certainly true. But it feels like a victory nonetheless. This sudden burst of clarity - it's invigorating, after the moments of fear. Leaning back against one of the trees, Lisias breathes deeply, his eyes never focused on any particular thing for too long. The grass, the leaves. The bark against his back, and in sight. Somehow, everything feels new. Special. Like he hasn't quite seen anything like it before. That's silly, of course. He's seen plenty of trees, and has heard the creek's gurgling voice often enough. And yet... it's different. He doesn't know how, or why - just that it's like that. And he prefers it over blood and death.

The Master's words, from back then - they come to mind. For a moment, they're all he bothers thinking about. Somewhat hard to grasp when he spoke them - there'd been mostly only one path until then. No real choice who he was. Or what happened that night. Or before, and after. Still, he'd thought he understood, back then. Now he knows better. He didn't really understand, until just now. This time, he had a choice. Two lived, none died. Not just blood, and death.

Part of him wants to tell the master. Part of him thinks his explanation wouldn't satisfy Lysander either. Both sides agree that it'd be pointless to tell him anyway, as long as the master's still searching that stick. Once the man has made a choice, it's hard to make him change his mind. Maybe that's the lesson he learned from his own choices. Lisias wouldn't ask - he was warned not to, after all - but it might be. Which only means that the stick should be found.

For a while longer, Lisias leans back, bathing in the clarity - scans the surrounding in search of a lucky find. Then, he hesitantly leaves his resting place behind, and - eyes wandering here and there to not miss his wooden prey - begins to search the forest, slowly headed in the master's direction. The creek, it seems, has taught its lesson for today. And the grass there makes finding anything a bother anyway. Maybe a bit farther away, things look better...
 

The Great Sage

The Storyteller
The way back to the forest, although not far, takes some time while searching as carefully as you do. You find a couple of branches that might just be right and so you stoop to gather them up before continuing toward the main road.

The section of forest by the main road is from where you and Lysander do most of your foraging. Firewood, nuts, berries and mushrooms all come from around here and so unlike the other parts of the forest which surround the meadow, this part is filled with rough trails that branch out from the main road; the echoes of previous walks where Lysander had forged ahead with a hatchet in one hand, clearing branches from the way as he went. If you weren't so familiar with these little trails they'd be easy to miss since they aren't marked or well-worn, but for you they're obvious.

Lysander is here down one of these trials, still searching for his branch.

---

You are on a wagon-road which leads from Lysander's cabin to the main compound of the monastery. Master Lysander is stomping through the brush here looking for a long branch with a burl at one end.

To the northwest is the old oak tree.

To the west lies Lysander's cabin.

To the southwest is a small brook.

To the east is the wagon-road through the forest and towards the main compound.
 

Silanon

Four Thousand Club
A short moment of rest to examine his findings - where Lysander couldn't find a single one, it seems suspicious to find a couple. One by one, Lisias rechecks the sticks, wondering which requirement they might not happen to match; but ultimately decides that his Master will have a far better idea of that. As things stand, Lisias could dig up another dozen branches just like these, without any better idea what to look out for - which means that there's really only one thing to do.

With his eyes still on the surrounding forest floor in case there's more to be found, Lisias begins to walk down the trail that Lysander seems to have taken, meanwhile pondering what happened just a few moments ago. The mouse and toad... they'll busy his mind for quite a while, he reckons. Just like that one particular night has robbed him countless hours of sleep. Right or wrong. Life and death. Decisions, and consequences. Hard concepts to grasp, to understand; today, some of it became much clearer, it seemed, but it's still murky mess in his mind. Perhaps, the Master can help clear up some of it, in time. For now, though, his task comes first.

Without too much haste, Lisias attempts to catch up to Lysander - and announce himself once he is in hearing distance. Closing in, then, he presents what he found. "Would any of these do, perhaps?" The obvious question, straight to the point.
 

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