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#1

ASHE
   There was no escaping the prickles of dread that worked their way up Ashe’s spine as dusk blanketed Caido. Her steps were ever silent, her cloak rustling softly as she strode with purpose for the grassy shrine. One hand held a pair of bracers, and the other was laced into the hand of the man who walked beside her. With a sidelong glance upwards, she squeezed his hand, sending a ripple of gratitude down the bond to Kalt . While she would be the one praying… she hadn’t wanted to do this alone, and she didn’t even need to ask him.

   The pair of unicorns they’d rode in on stood behind them, and she could feel Percy’s apprehension, his rapt attention on his rider. Ashe herself kept her fire blue eyes fixed forward upon the shrine, her heart thudding unsteadily as she came to a halt. She had no idea what might be asked of her, what precedence there was. She was here for the impossible, for what wasn’t done. She was here to bring Ronin back from the dead.

   Ashe set her jaw and steadied her breathing, looking up at Kalt before she released his hand to step forward to the stones with strange runes. She felt both apprehensive at what she was doing and foolish from the lack of any religion before Caido - she had no idea what was considered the right thing to do here, didn't know any prayers. The she wolf clicked the button on her prosthetic, and with the plume of flame that came free from that little finger, she crouched down to light a black candle that was sitting before the stone.

   She hesitated as she rose, her chest tightening. No matter how Mort had been described, this was… She sighed and looked up to the sky, where Ronin’s star had glimmered to life beside Vanya's in the dark blue sky. She gripped the bracers in her hand tighter, and Safrin’s pendant was a comforting weight upon her. Live. His voice was insistent and warm in her mind, and she stood a bit straighter as she set firm eyes forward.

   "If Ludo must guide me, then I ask for Ludo,” she said clearly. She took a slow breath before she went on, ”I need to speak with Mort. “  
Break through the barricade
you gotta keep on fighting, facing giants, unafraid
born to move these mountains out of your way.


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#2
Safrin

Starlight cascaded around them, creating almost a sphere of light that dissolved before it fully touched the grasses. In the center, just to the side of the shrine suddenly stood Safrin. Cloaked in the whispered of galaxies as she often was, this eve her expression was pained rather than confidence, worried instead of wise.

She had expected Vi's disappointment, but never on the level of what she had received. He had never threatened to cast her down before, and after all the centuries they'd already been apart? Her heart exploded timeless fractals, but still as she felt the weight and warmth of Ashe's mounting energy, she set her own internal turmoil aside to appear as she had promised.

"Much is happening above since the barrier fell. We must be patient." She said with a soft but sombre smile.
Kalt Ravenshire
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#3
KALT
RAVENSHIRE
   He stood beside her at the shrine, his hand in hers with their souls humming together through the bond. Needless to say, this wasn’t exactly where he thought his life would end up once upon a time. Then again, he couldn’t help the undying - pardon the pun - curiosity that he had over whether or not this would work.

   When Ronin was alive, the two men didn’t exactly have the time to become even really acquainted, but he could feel what Ashetta felt towards the deceased man, and from everything she told him about Ronin… Well, very few could compare.

   This was Ashe’s moment. He stood beside her as her support, and because there was no way in five hells he was going to let her run off on her own to demand the return of a soul from the god of death. That just wasn’t going to happen. He had his doubts about the success of this, as any sensible person would, but he had seen incredible things since coming to this world, so he was learning not to jump to any kinds of conclusions. That thought was only furthered by the appearance of Safrin. She had been the one to send Ronin to the stars, so if she was here, surely that meant she was going to help, right?

   His jaw feathered slightly at her words, and he gave another small squeeze to Ashe’s hand. “Patience…” Not one of his favorite virtues, but he supposed it wouldn’t exactly be wise to rush the god of death. Then again...

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#4

ASHE
   Ashe wasn’t sure why she was mildly surprised that Kalt didn’t hang back or leave her side or release her hand when she had stepped forward. She supposed she had let herself grow too used to trying to handle everything on her own. Too used to being left alone to handle things even when she did want a certain person there. She had trusted, but mistrusted just enough to still shoulder every burden like it was hers and hers alone. It was still an instinct she had to work through, a knee-jerk response to hardship that she needed to break down and relearn, because she was wrong. She knew it was not weakness to have people she could rely on and have faith in, but a strength.

   Of course with that in mind, it still came as a shock when starlight cascaded around them, leaving her with the impression of the two of them lingering in the stars themselves. The wolf girl’s eyes pulled away from Kalt and found Safrin , her heart lurching at the sight of her cloaked in cosmos and looking… worried. Ashe swallowed and tightened her hold on Kalt’s hand, taking a slow breath. ”I wasn’t sure you would come,” she admit, answering the goddess’s unease with a smile she hoped was confident.

   Would they come? She knew she would wait until they did, or keep coming back until she was face to face with Mort, or she would go and find him herself. ”Patience...“ she muttered in echo of Kalt, turning her eyes from the goddess and up to the stars - to Ronin. And.. she waited.
Break through the barricade
you gotta keep on fighting, facing giants, unafraid
born to move these mountains out of your way.


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#5
Safrin

"I said I would." Safrin whispered back. Stepping forward, she brushed a dark lock of raven hair from Ashe's face. "Much has happened since the barrier has fallen." She added, regret lacing her voice in a way which seemed entirely strange.

Her lips twisted into the inklings of a smile as she cocked her head to the side slightly as if listening. There was no sound, nothing that Ashetta would be able to hear anyways, but something rustled in the cosmos and caught the goddess' attention.

"He is coming." She whispered, giving the wolf's shoulder a reassuring squeeze before stepping away, eyes trained up and to the sky.


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#6
"Safrin." A voice as warm as the sun rang through the starlit sphere, and suddenly a rather unimposing figure appeared at the goddess' side. Dressed in a long cream cable-knit sweat with hair a disheveled mess of curls, Mort's eyes gleamed with a brightness that put Safrin's stars to shame. "I have missed you, brightest one." He gushed, and though he was not particularly tall, as he reached to encircle her in a hug, time and space seemed to bend awkwardly such that his arms fully wrapped around her in a way which should have been impossible, yet in the moment looked perfectly ordinary.

Stepping back, his cheeks plump with adoration, he looked over his shoulder to where Ashetta stood. Continuing his gaze towards Kalt, the god smiled. "Very kind of you to come and lend your strength to her." Mort said warmly, before turning his dark gaze towards the former assassin.

"Hello Ashetta." He said with a curious casualness despite the momentous moment that this indeed was. "I am Mort."
mort

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#7

ASHE
   Her eyes fell from the sky and down to Safrin - as dazzling as the sight above. It was… almost motherly, the way the goddess moved aside an errant lock of raven hair. ”The barrier falling, for one,” she said wryly, but the attempt at humor did little assuage her nerves. Especially when the goddess turned her head, when she said he is coming. Her eyes went round, her hand gripped Kalt’s tighter, and..

   A young man appeared. And his face as he greeted Safrin so warmly.. it jarred her far more than it should have, deeply familiar in a way that left her feeling disoriented. Disoriented and disarmed. Her mouth went dry when he greeted Kalt, and then he turned his dark and fathomless eyes upon her, greeted her gently.

   Ashetta looked into the eyes of Death, and she found warmth.

   ”You … You answered.” A smile flickered, at herself or that Mort had come when she asked wasn't clear. Ashe had known death intimately for a long, long time. Even in a land without gods or religion, Death had been the singular entity she could always count on coming when she called. Death had kept her alive and her over-service to it had twisted her irrevocably. She often wondered if her metaphorical patron would abhor her for what she was, or if she hated herself enough to cover it. Face to face with Mort himself…

   The wolf-girl tightened her other hand over the bracers, holding the god’s gaze steadily. ”There is a soul,” - she turned her eyes upwards for a moment before looking back to Mort - ”And he had so much more life to live. He must come back.” Her voice was far stronger than she expected it to be. Calm and even. ”What do I need to do to bring him home?”
Break through the barricade
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born to move these mountains out of your way.


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#8
Mort smiled reassuringly as he nodded. "I did, yes. Though I'll be honest with you Ashetta, your soul has been full of these thoughts for days now. So this was not unexpected." He said flashing her a warm smile.

Thoughtfully the god wrapped his arms around himself in a posturing of thoughtfulness as he looked at the wolf. Her phrasing was so decisive. So confident. He liked that about her, that she would stand so tall before the god of death, asking for things of which she knew so little about. Love indeed could be so strengthening, and he adored her for her courage. Safrin too.

"By definition the souls who find their way to me do not have more life to live." Mort corrected kindly, more as a point of fact that an argument. "But I know what you mean. The circumstances of Ronin's death were unfortunate. Though not enough to revive him from the dead, I'm afraid. There are too many who leave this world in situations that are unfair. Sadly my realm is full of souls departed too soon in situations that were not entirely just, but that is life."

Ashe should know that better than most, given the life she had led.

"But it is not the circumstances of Ronin's death that have brought me here. It is the circumstances of your life. Your soul has...been protected, you might say, so that it would never reach me. Endlessly it would wander, never reaching the veil of my world.
Do you understand what I am saying?"
mort

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#9

ASHE
   Her soul full of the thoughts.. No, it came as little surprise that he knew what she came for, what she intended to do. Her surprise was in his presence. For all her determination to reach him, she had expected to put up a fight, to have to search, to implore, to argue her case before the god of death himself would come to her. Instead… here he was. His face painfully familiar, like an echo of another life. His smiles warm and his eyes impossible to draw away from.

   Ashe’s brow furrowed, but she remained silent as he spoke. Nothing he said was wrong, though the words bit deeply however gently he delivered them. How many lives had she cut short before they had a chance to even fight for their right to that life? She had wondered it before. She knew what she was, and she had tormented herself more than enough with wondering after the pain she left behind in those that had to live with the death she left behind. But this was Ronin.

   Ashe opened her mouth to argue and press her case, to glean something - anything - on what she could do to get his heart beating again and bring him back where he belongs. The god of death continued on, however, and she closed her lips with wary eyes. Her life? She swallowed and adjusted her grip on Kalt’s hand, like holding onto him tight enough would make what Mort had to say easier to bear.

   The world seemed to stop existing beyond the sphere of starlight that contained them. Eyes that had been narrowed slowly grew round, her heart stumbling and her limbs growing cold as what he implied settled in her; the realization sank down gently in the murky depths of her soul until it buried itself in all that she was.

   Silence had fallen between Death and the wolf, silence filled with the weight of eternity. Her hand went slack in Kalt’s, her grip on the bracers loosened, and her breath left her lungs all at once with a quiet huff of shock. ”Immortal,” she remarked quietly, taking a single step towards Mort with searching eyes. Immortality yawned open before her and threatened to swallow her whole. ’Endlessly it would wander, never reaching the veil of my world.’ ”How? I’m not..” She began shaking her head, uncomprehending. ”I’m just.. I’m not anyone.”
Break through the barricade
you gotta keep on fighting, facing giants, unafraid
born to move these mountains out of your way.


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#10
Through the stretched silence, Mort simply stood, gracious and gentle while the wolf let the cogs of her mind whirl. "Yes." He agreed with a gentle nod. "Immortal."

Slipping his hands into his pockets, for a moment the god lowered his head as if searching the grasses below for the words. "But you are someone." He said after a moment, soft eyes looking up with a warm smile. "Both with those here around you, and to me." He placed a hand gently over his heart, and for a moment Ashe would feel a warm thrum of some strange sort of pull. The pull of being known. The omniscience of being seen combined with Mort's boundless and eternal love.

With a chuckle he continued. "As for how...well. I suspect that has more to do with how you came to be here. With what the Voice did, or what her devices did, to bring you here."
mort

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#11

ASHE
   Ashe couldn’t breathe as Mort confirmed her immortality. She couldn’t be, she was no one, just a killer from another world that struggled to learn how not to be one. Just a girl who’s mother had been taken from her, who had starved and nearly frozen to death in a snowdrift before she was handed over to the worst evil she had ever known, who had done so many terrible things…

   But then there was that tug at her heart, reverberating into the furthest reaches of her with such a gentle and powerful pull. She understood it inescabably then: Mort’s love was vast and open and warm, and he saw her. Ashe couldn’t help it when her eyes prickled unexpectedly or when her hands started to tremble. Love had never been particularly easy for her accept, and for once? She was thoroughly humbled.

   She swallowed roughly, blinking back the shining in her eyes. The Voice had brought them here, changed them, change her. She would live and live and live and everyone would leave her. Her eyes glanced to Kalt, a growing dread prickling up her spine, something painful twisting in her gut like a knife. To face an eternity alone… Her eyes snapped back to Mort, both raw and sure. ”Take it,” she breathed.

   She didn’t release Kalt’s hand, even as she stepped forward to Mort with her thundering heart, arm lingering behind her. She didn’t want to comprehend what a forever existence would be, not without her family, not without the other half of her soul. ”I don’t want this, I didn’t ask for it,” she pressed. ”For Ronin’s life, please, take it.”
Break through the barricade
you gotta keep on fighting, facing giants, unafraid
born to move these mountains out of your way.
Kalt Ravenshire
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#12
KALT
RAVENSHIRE
   The god of death came, a foreign tug towards the deity blossoming in the assassin’s chest, but still, he kept his footing where he was. Even at Mort’s compliment, Kalt remained as he was, merely giving a small smile and nodding his head in thanks. Admittedly, he was struggling a little bit for words for the...well, it was very uncommon that it would happen.

   ‘I’m not anyone.’

   Ashetta would feel the turmoil that conflicted so deeply with that statement, just as clearly as Kalt felt how genuine she was being when she said that. She would feel the disagreement that he sent her way, but he didn’t speak, as Mort countered what she said. Again, a small smile crept on his face. The god of death…

   When she looked back at him, he met her eyes, feeling the pain and dread that spread through her, drawing his brows together, but he definitely didn’t expect her to just up and throw it away! “Ashe…” he breathed into her mind, something that could only have been described as shock settling over him. “You’re giving up eternal life.” As if she didn’t know that, but he couldn’t understand why she would so willingly and quickly give up living forever..

aftermath of something lethal
an echo of inflicted evil
Messenger

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#13

ASHE
   Ashe paused and furrowed her brows, glancing over her shoulder to Kalt as his words fit seamlessly into her thoughts, whispered into her soul. All the things she could do with an eternal life, to walk this world forever, find new worlds, experience and see and do anything and everything... but none of it mattered. Not without him. Not without her family, her friends, the people she loved.

   She smiled gently at him, squeezing his hand in her slender fingers. ”Eternity is empty without you,” she answered quietly, warmth and surety thrumming down the bond before she turned to look back at Mort, resolve -- no, hope -- shining in her eyes.

   ”I will gladly give it to you,” she said. ”Please - give Ronin back to us.”
Break through the barricade
you gotta keep on fighting, facing giants, unafraid
born to move these mountains out of your way.


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#14
Gently Mort pulled a hand from his pocket and held it towards the blue-eyed woman. "This will be...not entirely pleasant." He hummed apologetically, the smile on his face crooked and sad. "It is death and rebirth all in one. But I will be with you."

Looking towards Kalt, the god offered an understanding smile. Though the man might be Ashe's companion, in this moment he could walk this path with her no further. For this was a discussion between death and Ashetta, a moment long overdue.

"Come. Take my hand." He said—or did he? His lips hadn't seemed to move, still curled into that sad but adoring sort of smile.
mort

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