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Eclipse: Does Not Play Well With Others

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((Thread is past-tense, to explain Kerala's activities of the past week for my RL inability to RP))

It did not take Kerala long to locate the small carving. It was her only precious possession left, now that she'd burned the other.

The totem was a smooth length of bone with scratches in it rather than actual carving. Even those markings were rather worn, a detail Kerala hadn't noticed when she'd put it away. The Skytotem shaman had etched a bird at the top, for Kerala, it's wings spread vertically above it. Below that was the Skytotem itself. The sun beaming from behind a cloud raining onto a tree. Light, mist, water, nature. Every Skytotem tribe member was a healer carrying such a sigil- a skytotem topped with their own identifying symbol. The shaman's had been a swirl like a gust of wind, and had been built in some sort of metal. It's sharp edge had birthed Kerala's totem.

Kerala held the totem in a fist, and cast her healing on it. The call was sent.


* * *

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The first Skytotem healer to arrive was a strange twitchy woman. Chanchu Mistdance. She carried a staff like Kexti did, though without his small jug swinging from it. Kerala assumed her to be a monk. The woman walked like the elf monk as well, though her limp was much more pronounced than his. Her fur was a reddish color. Black horns swept out and backwards from her brow in a graceful manner, and Kerala noticed that she kept her mane cropped short like the strands covering her neck. Her totem was topped with a flower and was carved from some kind of wood.

The second to arrive was a sand-colored shaman. She was an older healer, with a slight hunch to her frame. She carried a mace and shield like she was well-used to them, however. Her small curving horns and friendly face made her easy to like, and yet there was something odd about her. Kerala realized that the woman's amber gaze was usually fixed not on Kerala's eyes, but her mouth. Eventually, the shaman took out a board and wrote on it with chalk, smiling. It took Kerala some time to read the woman's name and greeting. Anura Skysong was completely deaf. Her totem had a shell on top and was carved into a flat piece of actual shell, shiny on one side with ugly ridges on the other.

A day passed without another newcomer, and Kerala learned more of her tribe members. Anura liked history and books, but her love was the ocean. Chanchu went crazy for peaches, and her favorite color was pink. It turned out that she was also a compulsive thief, and quite skilled at it. The only reason Kerala found out was when several members of the garrison complained to her. She questioned healers, at which point Chanchu apologetically returned the knick-knacks.

A third healer to answer the call was a dark one. The woman was gigantic, her short black fur soaking up the sunshine like some kind of tangible void. Her horns were wide and matched the size of the woman, but two very thick long braids broke the illusion that the person standing there might be male. It was hard to tell beneath the dusky violet plate armor. She wore a long dark cloak, but Kerala did not miss the lack of movement beneath it. The Sunwalker's tail had been broken at some point and hung completely limp. Coqui Skytotem carried a totem topped by a sun carved in a rod of black volcanic glass.

Kerala had just taken Coqui to meet the other women when Lomani appeared in the tavern doorway, her face serious.

“This is all of us, then. Five.” the silver seer's tone was absolute. Then she smiled, seeing those assembled. “Girl power!”

The seer's appearance surprised Kerala. “I didn't know...” she began. A wordless sound of glee from Anura stopped her. The shaman hopped up and ran to give Lomani a hug.

When they separated, she looked to Kerala with a sheepish expression. The little gray woman fished in her mane until she found it, then lifted the looped braids on that side to show Kerala a small skytotem carved in a greenish stone. The top looked like a feather. “I did not know you were a Skytotem healer either, chieftain.”

“It's sort of a recent development.” Kerala admitted.

Chanchu, flashing glimpses of a pale orange peach still in her mouth, asked the blunt question. “You called, and we came. Why are we here?”

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Kerala told them everything.

She told them all of Konro and Breygrah's bickering, of the guilds <Sanctuary> and <Grim> at odds with each other. She told them how Konro had left the Horns, how he was pestering Breygrah. She told them of the curse and it's effects, how it was spread, and what she knew of it's origins. She told them of the attack on Breygrah that wasn't Konro's doing- the shadow worgs. She told them of Konro's reported empowerment, and how erratically he'd been behaving. And she told them the short list of known cursed individuals, ending with her own name.

Chanchu almost choked. Coqui slapped the gasping red monk several times on the back, rather hard, which didn't seem to help.

“Wait, YOU have the curse now? How?” Lomani demanded. Chanchu gulped from the nearest mug of liquid, and finally got her airway cleared.

Kerala told them of healing in Ashran, and how she must have touched a cursed person.

Anura waved to catch Lomani's attention, causing them all to look at her. She made some complicated gestures, a sort of hand language, apparently. “She wants to know why... why are you looking normal? Shouldn't you be starved for mana?” Lomani translated. Anura confirmed the question with a nod.

“I'm actually not normal. I'm kind of.... energized. I feel like I could go for days without sleep. I'm... I'm happy and there is no reason to be. It's very odd.”

Coqui brought them all back to topic with her gruff voice. “So basically, we've got an old god worg acting up again, we've got a brother gone off the deep end serving the thing and maybe with only half his spirit, if that. And this curse is to get the bitch up here with us, and it's spreading like wildfire. Of those, the curse sounds the worst thing we can do something about now. What do we do about it?” Kerala liked the no-nonsense sunwalker.

“Quarantine the infected?” Lomani suggested.

The chieftain should her head, bouncy curls flying. “The curse has disastrous consequences. It -wants- to be spread.” she reminded them. “Not doing so might make a host ravening until they do, or otherwise it simply turns inward on them and consumes their resources like a parasite until they die of it.”

The room was still for many moments as they thought of that, but for the squelchy sounds of chewing from Chanchu. The monk gradually drew all four pairs of eyes, and eventually must have felt the stares, for she glanced up like a child caught unawares at the receiving end of a teacher's question. She fidgeted.

“Ah.” She said around a mouthful of fruit. “Well...” her face lit up. “Can't you just hibernate for a while or something and not spread the curse around anymore? Druids do that, right?”

Kerala scowled. “I have full gloves already, and besides that I'm past the dangerous part. I'm... well fed, you could say. I won't spread it anymore than I have.”

“Plus she's only one person. Not all victims are druids.” Coqui agreed.

Anura began gesturing again. “That's not a bad idea though.” Lomani translated. “If we could put them in a sort of stasis, the curse may drain them, but their own needs would be so little that it would take much longer for it to become fatal.”

“Without regenerating their reservoirs at the natural rate, we'd effectively nullify that source of power for the old god too.” Coqui mused. Chanchu grinned childishly at her good idea and continued eating, her tongue manipulating the peach pit around her mouth to let her bite the flesh from around it.

Lomani shot the monk a slightly disgusted look. “Assuming we can do that...” she looked to Kerala who shrugged, but nodded that she could, “that will be a lot of senseless sleeping people. What do we do with them?”

Kerala shrugged as if that was easy. “Stack them up somewhere. It's not like they'll be awake to care. Store them until this is all over.”

The seer frowned, but Coqui nodded. “There is plenty of space here. Stick them in the cavern, the mine, the jail, whatever. Just make certain they are out of the way to prevent anyone from touching them accidentally and infecting themselves.”

“I'm sure the old god won't like that.” Lomani commented, sounding very much as if she wished she had a better idea than storing people like objects.

“Indeed.” Kerala said. “That brings us to the herald. Breygrah said the woman was incredibly strong, and made the shadows attack her in the form of worgs.” Even with her healing abilities honed, the young druid had no idea how to fight something that didn't technically exist.

Anura, having been staring at Kerala's mouth, turned to look at Coqui at the same time that Chanchu did. Kerala took the cue and looked to the dark sunwalker as well. Coqui exchanged glances with the silver seer. “Shadows are no trouble.” she said, her eyes still on Lomani. “An'she's Light will banish worgs made of shadow just as easily as He banishes the dark of night.”

“I weave mists, not Light.” Chanchu pointed out.

“We'll team up.” Kerala ordered. “I don't want anyone running into Vionora, Konro, or even a regular cursed alone.”

Lomani began gesturing to Anura, causing Kerala to pause. The two healers “spoke” quietly back and forth a few times before the chieftain cleared her throat meaningfully. Lomani looked at her.

“I am not confident in my abilities. I can heal, yes, and I can keep the shadows at bay. But I don't know how much I can do with” Lomani gestured with her left hand upward to indicate the missing horn. “…my disability. Anura told me not to worry, that she will be my partner. That's all.”

Kerala nods. “Then Coqui can go with Chanchu.” The sunwalker scowled, but nodded curtly. She promptly swiped a new peach from Chanchu's hand before the monk could bite into it. Chanchu grabbed another for herself without complaint.

“What has me worried,” Lomani continued, “is not the herald so much as what she is working for. Our Brother is lost to an old god.”

“How do you know?” Chanchu said, licking a drip of juice from the fur of her arm.

Kerala spoke up then. “Konro was somewhat suicidal, before, but he was aimless. Directionless. Lomani tried being kind to him, but at the time he was in full support of the orc leader Garrosh, even after he was unseated from power. It was the only thing that held his interest. If you poked him about it, he acted like a den mother whose cubs were just threatened. Lomani thought he just needed to be guided back to a proper path, where his misplaced loyalties would no longer be in direct conflict with the Horde as it is now. I tried to talk to him, but he was completely unreasonable. Mostly drunk all the time. He switched from undirected anger to depression.”

Anura gestured, and Lomani said for her, “Like he was grieving.”

Kerala shrugged and continued. “When the portal turned red, we lost track of him for a time. When I caught back up to him after all the initial settling, he seemed alright. But then I guess he got some kind of fixation on Breygrah. He's a nuisance at the best of times, but...” Kerala tried to brush a few errant curls away from her eyes, and instead only managed to wedge her fingers in the squiggly mess. She gave up and looked through the waves at the group. “He's been through a lot. I don't think any of it is something that would cause him to break, especially not now. I've seen evil, and he is not it. Or wasn't. Confused, yes. But not evil.”

There was silence for a moment as each Skytotem considered Kerala's words.

A quiet voice broke it, then. The silver seer told them, “When the chieftain came to tell me that Konro had left the Horns, he had begun acting out then. It was right at the beginning of the lunar festival, and all this curse mess. I'll be the first to admit the -very- slim possibility that Konro could be acting entirely on his own. But he's had a mate. He knows, or at least its probable, that you don't treat women like he has treated our Sister. From what I've heard, he is possessive,” Lomani's gaze flickered to Kerala, “like a beast possesses a female for breeding. Not like a man who wants a woman. If this Vionora can wield the shadows into worgs, I would guess she also has the capabilities of any priest with mind magics. It wouldn't take much to twist him into a tool to suit her purpose, especially when he has so foolishly been giving his will up to alcohol already.”

The rest of them nodded. Anura began gesturing, her hands moving so fast that she created clapping noises occasionally. Kerala made a note that she would like to learn that language. It could come in very handy.

Lomani translated haltingly as the shaman signed. “From what you've told us, if this herald... has really forced another spirit onto him... it may have displaced Konro himself. A soul already damaged...” Anura stopped signing to shrug. “He could be fighting the invader... or it could have pushed him out partially. We need.... to find him before we can see if he is corrupted. If he is... perhaps we can remedy that.”

“And.... put him back together?” Chanchu asked.

Anura nodded. “It can be very difficult. Once free, some spirits reject the... captivity. Even with training, spirit walking is dangerous.”

Kerala nodded as if she understood that particular concept completely. “What can we do to make it easier?”

“I'll need items to help focus.” Lomani translated for the shaman, “Things that are dear to him to guide both him and us. When we are ready, I will need help.”

Kerala remembered the last time she had seen the black-furred warrior, suddenly quite symmetrical, and especially sour-faced. She grinned broadly. “What about his horn? Rumor has it, some willowy elf beat him in a fight bare-fisted. I'm sure there is more to the story, but perhaps she will let us borrow her trophy.”

“If she doesn't,” Coqui quipped, “Chanchu will probably borrow it anyway.” The red monk grinned.

“Float it in alcohol, throw in some fur from his wolf Stranger- you'd have yourself the makings of some powerful voodoo or whatever.” Kerala added.

The others laughed, but Anura nodded as well. “I like all of those ideas.” she signed.

Lomani waved, a habit she seemed to fall back to readily so that she had Anura's attention as well as the rest when she said “What about Sister Breygrah?”

“What about her?” The black sunwalker was all business again in an instant.

“I don't know...” Lomani tried to backpedal under the gaze of four pairs of eyes, but Kerala's instinct was to step to Lomani's side. The silent show of support did not go unnoticed. “I don't know her as well as Kerala, but she hasn't been to the garrison in days. Weeks. With Konro out to get her... I have a really bad feeling.”

“I'll trust a Seer's whims more than any omen or portent.” Coqui snorted. “Do you have anything to support your worries?” the question was suddenly gentle, coming from the plated sunwalker with the violet dagger-eyes.

Lomani shook her head, a lopsided sort of movement. “No, not really. I had what I think was a vision the day Kerala told me shadow worgs attacked her, but it wasn't helpful. I haven't seen her since then, but Kerala and I both needed a bit of time to recuperate after that.”

“She seemed well enough to me?” Kerala said.

Chanchu squinted at the skinny chieftain. “That was more question than statement, you know.”

Kerala stood there a moment searching for words. “She was fine, as far as I could tell. I mean, I didn't try to heal her or anything...”

Anura gestured, and Kerala didn't need to hear Lomani's translation to know a prompt when she saw one.

“I don't know. She seemed so confused when we met before. I tried to help her, but I think I only made it worse, somehow. I'm not that good with people. When I met her again later, she seemed less.... torn, like she'd figured it out, whatever was bothering her. It could have been indecision regarding Konro, for all I know.” The druid frowned, remembering the warrior's open hostility toward the male. “She told me she was fine, so I accepted that as fact, but now I think maybe I shouldn't have.”

Coqui nodded. “We're stubborn even in the best of times. If she was being tormented, perhaps she was angry at you for not intervening.” Kerala's eyes widened, but the dark sunwalker finished quickly. “It could be that if you did not help her before, she was too proud to ask for it then.”

“What was I supposed to do, abandon Lomani?!” The druid demanded, gesturing angrily.

Coqui held her hands up in a defensive pantomime. “I'm just offering one explanation. It is not your fault or hers, and I might not be right. But she very well may have lied to you. Or,” she offered, “perhaps you sensed something about her that she herself didn't know.”

Chanchu looked very seriously from Kerala to Lomani, then back again at least twice. She seemed to be assessing them, somehow. Anura and Kerala both noticed the monk's concentration. Finally the shaman poked her companion gently.

Chanchu blinked. She glanced at Anura, then back at the group. “...More than a simple hunch.” she muttered. Then louder, “If I were betting on it -not that I do that- I'd say we need to seek her out if she will not come to us. If anything, it will serve to put that worry to rest so we may focus on the other tasks.”

Kerala nodded, as did the other healers.

Behind Chanchu, the giant sunwalker shifted her weight from one leg to the other. She used one hand to count off topics as she spoke. “Ok so- we stay in pairs to hopefully avoid surprised from this sneaky elf wench. Me with Chanchu and Anura with Lomani. Kerala will be knocking out cursed folks and never by herself. RIGHT?” The violet stare fixated on the chieftain, who nodded.

“I think I'll take Chanchu to meet the elf girl who can beat up on our Brother.” Coqui turned to Anura. “You take Lomani and go find Breygrah, if you can. See if she'll let you check her out.”

The grey seer nodded. “We won't try to pressure her into returning here though. If she's doing alright where she is, we'll let her be. We don't need to add stress where there might be none.”

Chanchu flicked a peach pit into the fire. “I'll add one more thing, since no one else has said it. Let's not get ourselves cursed while we're at it. Or killed. I like living. It's nice, most of the time.”

“Yes, no dying!” Coqui declared with a laugh. “Alright, it's night. Let's go to bed and we'll tackle this at first light.”

Chanchu smiled and scooted toward the wall. She hunched down against the furs piled behind her, looking content to make that her sleeping spot.

Anura stood and clapped her hands once to get attention. She signed, smiling broadly. “It is good to have the skytotem gathered again to work together. It has been too long, Sisters.” The bent shaman extended her hand to Chanchu, who grasped it. She was surprised when the woman hauled on her arm, and she stood rather awkwardly into Anura's embrace.

Coqui smiled and threw her arms around both healers together to squash and lift them for her own hug. She set them down rather abruptly, and Chanchu nearly fell over.

Lomani stepped over to them to collect her own hugs, and Kerala watched the women with a smile. It was nice to have them together. She watched Coqui hand Chanchu her staff and joke about having to protect a thief. Lomani and Anura began signing to each other. They all looked like a group of good friends.

The druid was surprised when Coqui tucked the red monk beneath her arm and practically carried her over to Kerala.

“We're headed to bed, chief.” Chanchu made to hug the boney druid, but stopped when Kerala flinched away. The crestfallen look disappeared a second after it shadowed her expression. “Oh right. Curse.” She awkwardly extended a hand instead.

The druid checked her gloved hand, then allowed Chanchu to shake it. It was a rather lonesome gesture, but Kerala smiled anyway. “Sleep well.” She shook Coqui's hand as well, and the two started upstairs, the monk protesting that she could manage just fine, and Coqui retorting that they were going to 'stick together' like goblin glue and to just shut up.

Anura and Lomani, seeing the other two leaving, approached Kerala as well. Even with the extra curve in her back, the shaman was taller by a few inches. “We're headed up too.” Lomani told her. Kerala nodded at them and shook hands. Anura clasped Kerala's glove in both of hers sincerely, as older women tended to do. Lomani smiled to her as they clasped hands “Goodnight, Sister.” Kerala watched the pale women climb the stairs, then she turned and headed outside.

It was a clear night, bright with a moon still waning from full several days ago. On the balcony outside the second story of the tavern, the black-furred sunwalker stood in the darker shadows, still in her dark armor. Inside, Chanchu had already maneuvered herself into a hamock. She watched the boney druid standing there below, her own form motionless and still. After several long moments, the fuzzy-headed chieftain looked around, checking, then headed across the courtyard to a large flat rock jutting from the side of a slope over some bushes.

Coqui wasn't really surprised when the wild-furred scarred druid ducked behind the bushes, obviously intending the spot to be her outdoor sleeping place. The sunwalker found it curious, though, that Kerala did not bother to shift into a form. All the druids she had met who preferred the outdoors environment found their comfort in animal forms. Instead, from her high vantage point, Coqui could see Kerala lay down behind the bush in her natural shape. The skinny young chieftain folded herself into an improbably tiny compact fetal position directly on the gravel. It made Coqui frown, thinking about how uncomfortable she would feel trying to sleep like that.

What a strange lady this was, who had sent out the call to them all. The sunwalker had the feeling that a curse was not the only thing they might end up healing.

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