Choices
Jigano Silversmith
the Sage
Provost of the Loreseekers Soul Shepherd
Portal Guardian
Age: 29 | Height: 6'2" | Race: Attuned | Nationality: Outlander
Level: 10 (Level 5 Abandoned) - Strg: 30 - Dext: 30 - Endr: 30 - Luck: 30
ISUMA - Mythical - Gryphon (venomous)
Played by: Cirago Offline
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#1
What price a prayer? The remnants of his week spent in fevered hallucinations still lingered in a chill that had settled into his skin and a tremble in his hands that no amount of rest seemed able to recover. They were frustrations, among a list of many that itched beneath his skin, twisting his mood from dark to darker, and he had retreated from the company of others. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that he had never returned to them, after waking in his den in the Glade. He had chosen a more solitary path since then, choosing isolation over the perceived anger of those he had let down.

It had given him time to think, if it had done nothing else. Time to sulk brood and ask himself questions, to replay conversations and wonder if things would have changed if he had done things differently.

He had carved a large apple into a small lantern, with a grinning face and a cat's whiskers etched into the red skin, standing stark and pale next to the holes for eyes and laughing mouth. Of course he had sought Ludo's Woods for his offering...

And so he had not found them, the first lesson of navigating the Greatwood lost amidst his emotional turmoil. He had, instead, found his way to another Shrine, and so he had set the small candle stub upon the altar, lighting it and placing the apple atop it so the light flickered out merrily amidst the twilight shadows that cloaked the Woods. Isuma reep!ed cheerful curiosity as she bounced after the dancing sparks of light that moved across the ground, and Jigano sat and folded his hands his knees, bowing his head hesitantly. The last time he had called he had received no answer. Perhaps this would be another such failed attempt...

But that's what faith was, wasn't it? If the gods answered every time, it wouldn't require trust in the unseen.

"Ludo," he said softly, "my soul is sorely in need of guidance, if you're willing to speak with me."
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Spooky Rags


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#2

"Sure. Why not?"

Was it because Ludo was in a playful mood, or a bad mood, that it chose to appear to Jigano as a memory of one he had lost?

Was it because Isla, the medic-turned-unicorn, was now sufficiently not human minded enough that she counted as dead anyway?

Was it because this particular admin winged it and thought this would be a fun twist? Who knows!

Ludo crouched beside the lantern with Isla's body, her face, her smile, reaching out to poke at the apple face curiously. "Rae would disapprove of wasting the fruit," she remarked. "I like it all the more."

LUDO
she's still here if you believe it hard enough
Jigano Silversmith
the Sage
Provost of the Loreseekers Soul Shepherd
Portal Guardian
Age: 29 | Height: 6'2" | Race: Attuned | Nationality: Outlander
Level: 10 (Level 5 Abandoned) - Strg: 30 - Dext: 30 - Endr: 30 - Luck: 30
ISUMA - Mythical - Gryphon (venomous)
Played by: Cirago Offline
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Posts: 2,543
MP:
#3
Of all the faces the masked god could have worn, Isla's was one of the least-expected. Jigano drew in a sharp breath as she appeared, his old friend and colleague, and he felt something clench hard in his chest. "Isla..." he breathed, knocked off balance, but of course it was impossible for her to be there. She was back in the settlement with Remi, all four hooves and silky tail and healing horn of her. He had struggled for months to come to terms with the way she had changed, caught between mourning her death and feeling guilty for mourning a woman who still technically lived. In some ways, Ludo's choice of face might be a wounding joke... but in others, it was a release. Permission to mourn one who was truly lost beyond the bard's ability to intervene, if he'd ever had the right to.

The white haired man bowed his head, dragging in a steadying breath past a throat choked with emotion. He managed a tremulous smile as Isuma reep!ed happily and bounded over to greet her medic-friend, and he merely shook his head at the thought of Frey's disapproval. "If it makes you and Isuma smile, it's no waste." And it least it wasn't bouncing around trying to eat anyone, though with Ludo's sense of humor that might well be what happened to it later.

Another breath, trying to collect thoughts scattered by the god's appearance, and Jigano cleared his throat self-consciously. "I am worried," he admitted, the words uncharacteristically simple as his fingers continued to tremble faintly on his knees. "Two of my friends among the Ascended have changed recently. I do not know if it is of their own volition, or if they have been influenced by their goddess beyond what would come naturally to them. And Edy said that Zariah, a powerful Abandoned, was sent on a personal mission from the Voice. And with the blight in the Greatwood... I am worried about what she intends." Not only what she intended, but what he might be able to do about it, to protect his friends from machinations he no longer felt undecided about. He had lost his mask of unbiased neutrality slowly but surely, and he could no longer pretend to stand in the middle. Safrin had asked him a question that he had been unable to answer to her satisfaction once before, and it had gnawed it him ever since.

"Is there a way to strengthen the old gods? And the Old Gods? To reduce her influence?"
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Spooky Rags


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#4

Ludo tutted as Jigano called Isla by name, waggling a casual finger in his direction, as if to correct his mistake. Not that it really minded either way - perhaps it was in a playful mood after all. Leaning down to pay Isuma well deserved fuss and leaving the little apple lantern to glow about the shrine, not-Isla scritched at feathers and fur, cooing happily at the little gryphlet.

"Worried? About Ascended? Save your energy, bard. By the look of it, you will need it more and more as Deepfrost grows near." Ah yes, because Ludo could see the blight worming around beneath Jigano's skin - could see the blackness in his veins and the exhaustion in his face.

Tilting Isla's head, Ludo let out a long sigh and straightened up from Isuma. "Abandoned and Ascended. You want to strengthen the Old Gods but spend the majority of your focus on the Voice, her underlings, and those unblessed by the gods themselves." It shook its head. "Your actions speak more for supporting the Voice by caring for her bright ones. Faith, shrines, offering and prayer. All hard graft. There is no magic word to boost the power of a god."

Not that Ludo had encountered anyway.

LUDO
she's still here if you believe it hard enough
Jigano Silversmith
the Sage
Provost of the Loreseekers Soul Shepherd
Portal Guardian
Age: 29 | Height: 6'2" | Race: Attuned | Nationality: Outlander
Level: 10 (Level 5 Abandoned) - Strg: 30 - Dext: 30 - Endr: 30 - Luck: 30
ISUMA - Mythical - Gryphon (venomous)
Played by: Cirago Offline
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Posts: 2,543
MP:
#5
It was a well-earned rebuke, although thankfully a gentle one, and Jigano managed to recover outwardly at least. Still, seeing his friend's beautiful face added a bittersweet note of yearning to the manifestation of the god, and he had to curls his trembling fingers into fists in his lap to keep himself from reaching out to take her hand as they had done before, on a Deepfrost night not so very long ago.

"I'll be fine," he said with a shake of his head and a small, grateful smile. He was still ignorant of the poison that coursed in his veins, thinking only that the masked god was admonishing him to take better care of himself. "A leafchange fever, is all. And the stress of... well, everything." Most of which he didn't think Ludo would have much care for; the machinations of mortals, power changing hands and friendships being strained and tested. Small things, in the greater scheme of life and death. It seemed that his worry for his Ascended friends would have little impact on Ludo - perhaps any of the old gods - and Jigano bowed his head as he realized that there would be no help for them here.

But that was only part of why he had come. He might not agree with the idea that caring for anyone, be they Attuned or Ascended, was wrong, but he had (hopefully) learned a lesson about arguing with the gods. The starry goddess' words came back to him, and he nodded slowly at Ludo's statements.

"Safrin... when I spoke to her, she said that I had not chosen," he said slowly. "At the time I thought... well, I misunderstood a great deal of that conversation. Afterwards I didn't know if she meant that I had not chosen her, or the Old Gods over the newcomer." He looked up to the face of his friend, his colleague, his partner in curiosity and laughter, and tried to see past the beautiful face to the mask behind it...

But oh, it was hard.

"I've made a lot of mistakes. I may not be worth much, as a soul, but... if you would have me, I would pledge myself to the old gods, and to Mort's service."
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Spooky Rags


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#6

"No, you won't," Ludo murmured in Isla's voice, the tone as frank and quiet as any of her diagnoses when she had been alive and human. "That is no fever, bard. You suffer with the blight, like so many within the Greatwood and the Hollowed Grounds. It is in the people now, and the danger is real."

Straightening up from fussing Isuma, Ludo regarded Jigano quietly as he explained; explained about Safrin, about choices, about pledging. It tilted its head, Isla's golden hair falling about its shoulders, and it hummed out a sigh. "Why?" it asked. "You would pledge yourself to death, bard. To memory, to the swansong of this life that mortal beings are given. It is not glamorous and it is certainly a thankless job. Why Mort?"

LUDO
she's still here if you believe it hard enough
Jigano Silversmith
the Sage
Provost of the Loreseekers Soul Shepherd
Portal Guardian
Age: 29 | Height: 6'2" | Race: Attuned | Nationality: Outlander
Level: 10 (Level 5 Abandoned) - Strg: 30 - Dext: 30 - Endr: 30 - Luck: 30
ISUMA - Mythical - Gryphon (venomous)
Played by: Cirago Offline
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Posts: 2,543
MP:
#7
Ludo’s Isla’s voice echoed strangely, each word clear, but together making little sense. The blight? In him? But that couldn’t be right. He hadn’t so much as touched any of the blighted plants or animals in the Greatwood-

(A week he couldn’t remember; falling asleep in the farmhouse, waking up days later in the glade without memory of how he got there or when or what he’d done while the fever shook him)

-The bard swayed where he sat, and Isuma peeped worriedly as Isla rose from their game. The gryphlet padded back to rest a taloned paw on Jigano’s knee, looking up at him in concern, and he absently stroked her head, focusing on the trembling in his hands with fresh intensity. Not the remnants of a fever, but a symptom of the blight that wounded the Greatwood and changed the plants within it?

Would he be changed, too?

But it was Isla’s voice that delivered the diagnosis, and Isla’s eyes that watched him with his friend’s frank compassion, and he didn’t even think to question what she said.

Why, Isla Ludo asked him, and Jigano drew a breath that tasted of Leafchange and the dying of the seasons, the fading of the year, and the coming cold that would be the end of no few lives beneath Deepfrost’s blanket of white.

He had the blight.

But did that matter, in what he did today, or would do tomorrow? Did it change any of his choices, his promises, his mistakes?

“Just because the job is thankless, it doesn’t make it less necessary,” he said quietly, lifting Isuma into his arms to cuddle her gently. ”And I have long been pledged to memory. But death is a part of life as well. For mortals, at least,” he acknowledged with a slight tilt of his lips towards a smile, for Ludo was beyond such, as far as he knew, even though it was Isla's lovely face watching him now. ”Life is a gift, beautiful and full of wonder, and I don’t mean to slight Vi for giving it to us, but we hold to it so tightly, know it for being precious, because it is so short. Because there is an end to it, and to these mortal forms.” He paused, hoping the god would be patient as he tried to distill the feelings in his heart, seeking to put words to what had begun to coalesce into wordless certainty before he had made the decision to seek a shrine.

”But this is not all there is, is it? You have let me help you gather souls before, those who were lost and those who were waiting. When we led them to your realm after Long Night I realized that death is the end of a chapter, not of the book. Dying can be hard, but death? Death, at least on this world, is neither cold nor empty. Vi’s gifts aren’t to be given up lightly, but that doesn’t mean death is something to fear, beyond leaving tasks undone. And even then… even then many of those tasks can be left to those who remain.” He said the last softly, a painful realization he had only come to after passing the kingship to another. Running from it… but being forced to recognize, in the process, that he could not do everything himself. That sometimes he had to trust others to pick up the pieces that he had dropped.

”It is worse, I think, for those souls who can’t or don’t find their way to Mort’s embrace. Who wander lost or forgotten, caught between where they were and where they’ve yet to go. And while life will always have its protectors who recognize the importance of it… there is a balance that I seek, both within myself and in the world as I’ve seen it, in learning to serve Mort. To protect and preserve the memory of life, and to help those lives that have ended to find their way home again, to you... and to him."
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Spooky Rags


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#8

Had Isla been Isla - or rather, had Ludo been trying to trick Jigano into believing she was alive - she might have reached out to take his hand, to offer some of the support that had once been so innate to her personality.

But this was not Isla, so as the bard swallowed the diagnosis and the heavy weight it carried, as he considered and teased and chose his words so carefully, Ludo merely sat and waited. Its fingers brushed again over the little apple lantern, and it turned to fix him with a pebble blue stare as he gave his explanation and his reasoning.

"Balance," Ludo said softly in her voice, taking the apple lantern into its hands. "You would bring home those wayward spirits. You would pledge yourself as a keeper of memories, a shepherd of souls." It smiled.

"I believe it," Ludo said. "You are desperate for it, to right the wrongs for which you feel responsible... Do not let that cloud your judgement, however." Rising to its feet, not-Isla kept the apple lantern held close. "You have been heard, Jigano Silversmith. Heard, and seen. Now show us the proof of your pledge in your actions, and perhaps we might soon have more to discuss."

LUDO
she's still here if you believe it hard enough
Jigano Silversmith
the Sage
Provost of the Loreseekers Soul Shepherd
Portal Guardian
Age: 29 | Height: 6'2" | Race: Attuned | Nationality: Outlander
Level: 10 (Level 5 Abandoned) - Strg: 30 - Dext: 30 - Endr: 30 - Luck: 30
ISUMA - Mythical - Gryphon (venomous)
Played by: Cirago Offline
Change author:
Posts: 2,543
MP:
#9
There was catharsis in putting words to what he had felt, had been feeling, growing in him over time. When he finished it was not only his hands which shook, but his shoulders as well at the release of the emotions. Even knowing that it was Ludo he spoke with it was somehow easier to explain himself to Isla's blue gaze, and he was grateful for the god's mercy in giving him that gift, however bittersweet it was.

When he was finished he felt wrung out, as exhausted as if he had been running, but he raised his head to listen to Ludo's words, spoken in Isla's husky voice. The first three words were a benediction, but the next were a warning he was too vulnerable to deny the need for. Guilt had driven so much of what he did. Did his need to atone color his decision to seek out Ludo and pledge himself to Mort? Yes, however much he might wish it otherwise. He was what he was, and though he sought to make something better of himself, he did not always succeed.

Sometimes he failed and backslid in truly spectacular ways.

He watched Ludo-as-Isla stand, though he remained on the ground, cuddling Isuma and running soothing fingers over the gryphlet's feathers as she peeped brightly up at the godmother she had missed in her human form. It was relief that washed through him at the soul guide's words, and he bowed his head obediently. It was the nature of faith, but more importantly, it was a ray of hope, and a willingness to give him a chance. That was what he had been seeking without realizing it, what he had found with Rory, who had given him a place on Caido and a home.

"Thank you," he spoke, looking up with a lightness in his eyes, a weight that had not been lifted, but had shifted to settle more comfortably on his shoulders. "I will do my best for you both."
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Spooky Rags


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#10

Ludo gave Isuma and Jigano both a smile that truly belonged to Isla; cheerful and warm and promising that things would work themselves out. That had sort of been true for her, she supposed... it had just taken a long time to get there. "We expect nothing other than your best," it replied softly, thoguh whether that was meant to be reassurance or expectation was unclear.

"Be well, bard. I will hope that the sickness in you does not end your story before it has truly begun." With the apple-lantern in hand, not-Isla turned away from Jigano and - in a sudden billowing of rags - was entirely gone from the shrine.

LUDO
she's still here if you believe it hard enough
Jigano Silversmith
the Sage
Provost of the Loreseekers Soul Shepherd
Portal Guardian
Age: 29 | Height: 6'2" | Race: Attuned | Nationality: Outlander
Level: 10 (Level 5 Abandoned) - Strg: 30 - Dext: 30 - Endr: 30 - Luck: 30
ISUMA - Mythical - Gryphon (venomous)
Played by: Cirago Offline
Change author:
Posts: 2,543
MP:
#11
The smile ached, striking along a nerve the bard had thought already numbed by past mourning. He bowed his head, stunned at both the unexpected strength of emotion and humbled by the reassuring warning. It was no easy thing, to have the eyes of gods upon his actions. Such was the danger of calling attention to himself, for stakes he could only imagine a fraction of. But to find a place where he belonged, a purpose worth devoting himself to... for that, he would dare much.

He looked up in time to see the rags flutter away, much to Isuma's peeping dismay as she wriggled out of Jigano's arms and hopped after the vanished tendrils of cloth and shadow. The words were a sobering reminder that all his good intentions and the sincerest of promises might mean nothing if the blight wormed too deeply into his bones. He had not thought he had much farther to fall until this. Now... now, it seemed, there were depths not previously dreamed of to which he could still descend. His life was in danger...

And he had some decisions to make about who, if anyone, he should tell. Rory, yes. But the rest...

He did not know.

Rising slowly he bowed to the now-empty Shrine and called Isuma back from her search for their lost medic. He smiled tiredly down at the gryphlet, then began the journey home. His hands still shook, but there was a straightness to his spine that had been missing for weeks. He had work to do, regardless of the corruption coursing through his veins.

And miles to go before he slept.
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