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Eclipse: And Found

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((Continued from Lost))

Fire... did not burn that way.

She blinked in confusion at the pillar of flames licking upwards to a dark ceiling. Dirt? Her gaze stupidly followed the column of light back down to it's base. It was an object- a totem. Recognizing the thing in the ground jogged her to full awareness. She suddenly recalled her name, her history, and recent events- the spirit walk, the letter to the Grim commander, the funeral. Kerala also became aware of pain in her leg.

She glanced down at herself. On a pile of furs, she laid beneath a blanket of plain cloth. She threw it aside, turning onto her hip and elbow to get a look at her leg. It was a deep cut in her thigh. Some kind of herbal paste filled the wound, but still it burned. She touched it gingerly, but her opinion did not change- it was not actively bleeding, only painful. Non-important.

She inspected her surroundings. The room was very large, but bare. The column of fiery light left the far edges in a murky sort of gloom, rather than full darkness. Other than the furs beneath her and the flaming totem, there was only a statue of a tauren male reclining in a chair carved right from the ground. Her eyes flicked over the odd sight, habitually searching for an exit from the odd place she found herself in. Not immediately finding one, she frowned.

Kerala's dark green eyes flicked back to the statue. It, too was made of earth, carved in high detail. It sat relaxed and calmly regarding the pile of furs, and thus her. The carving was elaborate and detailed enough to discern a pattern of fur. He was even clothed in leathers and holding a pipe, but the statue was very obviously just.... dirt. More immediately concerning was the notion that she was trapped and buried here with the thing. Wherever here was. Well aware that looks were often deceiving underground where shadows and colors tended to meld together, Kerala intended to get up and explore for the tunnel she hadn't seen, that must be here. Firstly though, her leg needed healing.

Within herself, Kerala released the magic.

Like water breaking through a dam, the druid was flooded with information even as her mind expanded to understand it. Scar tissues, records of old wounds and experiences, were laid out before her like a detailed map of her life. She was somewhat confused to notice shallow new scars overlaying them all, like some sort of strange artistic filigree. A new crack in the nasal bone, and in the edge of her eye socket had been healed. Had she been in a fight?

At the same time, the current state of her body became known. The slash in her leg went to a major vein, which was now clotted, but the minor countless vessels in the split flesh had been cauterized to seal them, the muscle and tissues burned. The herbal paste was medicinal in nature, mildly numbing a pain that actually should have been far worse, and with other things to sooth the scorched flesh and speed healing. Irrelevant now.

With a thought, Kerala directed the wound to close and cells regrow. The foreign particles of the poultice were pushed out as the body's natural defenses oozed clear fluid. Ordinarily, it would dry and form a protective scab like a shield from the outer world. Nature's swiftness was astounding, healing beneath her fingers. Skin grew from the edges inward, tender and pink while from the depths, new muscle fibers assembled and knit together, filling in the large gap. New and excessive blood pathways spiked through it all, supplying the nutrients and oxygen necessary for such repairs.

Beneath her fingers, the wound in her thigh swiftly filled in and disappeared. The skin finally sealed, whole, and she did not stop until the pores sprouted new hairs. The previous pattern was marred, now causing the hairs to grow in a new seam on the haphazard patchwork coat of fur that was hers.

Finished, only then did Kerala realize something else amiss from usual. A blankness. She had a new foreign something within her. She frowned as she considered the mass nestled within the many folds and crevices of her brain. It blocked some of the myriad tiny pathways of electricity. It did not belong. She could not immediately do anything about it, though- there was no way to get it out without first creating a wound for it to leave through.

The druid closed the floodgates of magics, returning to herself only an instant after she'd begun. The hand on her leg went then to her head, but of course there was no lump or anything. She knew there wouldn't be. She'd just had every bit of intimate knowledge that could be known about her body, and there was no evidence, yet she could not quite believe it still. Why was there no scar? No wound to explain how anything that big could have gotten there? The foreign thing was -inside- her, and it bothered her greatly.

“What has been done to me?” she wondered aloud.

A scent reached her nose, then. Spicy and sweet. Smoke, but of a different flavor than that from ordinary flame. Her dark emerald gaze fell, hawk-like, on the reclining earthen figure.

Statues did not smoke pipes.

Edited by Kerala
16/09/23 fixed link

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Kerala eyed the largest shaman, no, the largest -tauren- she had ever seen in her life. She was about a foot under average for a female, being only eight feet tall, and he had to be at least twelve. It would be a lie to say she was not a little intimidated by his height alone, but also being armored in earth? Every creature had instincts, and hers were screaming at her.

Every animal recognized the innate power of an alpha.

When he stood, she did as well. She could not bear to remain lying down. It was a position of submission, and despite the certain knowledge that she was outmatched here in his own home, she could not appear weak. It was too deeply ingrained in her- strength was life.

“Who are you? How are you covered in earth? Where am I?” she immediately asked. It irritated her that the gruff Desolace accent was back in her voice, like the last time she'd woken without memories. She made an effort to smooth it back to normal. She gestured to her head. “What is this 'constant entity' you have put inside me?”

Then, thinking of the question he'd already asked her, she said “I'm nobody. I tried to gather our people, as Cairne once did, but I failed. I am self-proclaimed chieftain of nothing. A stupid child. What could you possibly want with me? To heal you?”

He'd mentioned things that, previously, Kerala had not had any interest in. She was goal-oriented, but her entire experience had shaped her to aim for one thing at a time. First, gather the shu'halo. She'd never accomplished that, so the idea of becoming involved in the grander plans of the horde had not even occurred to her. What could she do, alone? But that was before she'd had a reason to really care. She thought of her sister, broken and a simple seamstress.

Suddenly, Kerala wanted to be a part of the forces keeping the whole of the world safe, and she could not find fault in this shaman's logic. What he said was true, from what little information she had overheard from people like Darrethy, who were far more knowledgeable than she was. She briefly wondered what the warlock would think of this bull.

“My... companions,” she said, using his word “...know more of the dangers you speak of than I do. I will help if I can, but... I have certain obligations. It may be that in fulfilling them, I can help the others avoid the petty distractions they are so willing to let consume their attentions. To stop them from chasing the rattlesnake's tail.”

That was a very big 'maybe'. She waited for his response.

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Kerala sat outside the garrison in the snow, resting. The weakness in her muscles was slightly alarming. She'd had to pause and catch her breath too many times on the journey back from Mudhide's den. The cold ground gladly leeched warmth from her body at the same time that it wetted the cloth she wore draped around her. Kerala loved rain. Warm, cold, sprinkles or torrents- she loved water that fell from the sky. But snow... this frozen form was loathsome and uncomfortable, too cold to consume without dangerously lowering body temperature, and easily dirtied.

The druid looked on her current home, thinking about all that the strange earthen shaman had told her. He'd seemed disappointed that she was as caught up in the current 'distractions' as any of them. She'd explained the curse that affected her, and what little she knew of Accalia. She'd elaborated on her debt to the Grim. He did not understand why she chose to follow such an ancient code of their people either, and she didn't bother enlightening him.

In the end, he decided she was useless to him. She had agreed to return when she was able. It was not a promise, but he had helped her. Kerala planned to one day return the favor. In the meantime, he'd given her a lot to think about.

The garrison was well-lit, even at this small hour of the morning. The frostwall watchers patrolling had done as she asked, and placed the watch fires behind them. They made their patrols, careful to face away and protect their night vision. It did not take long for them to spot her approaching.

Mudhide had offered to return Kerala in the same manner that he'd retrieved her, but the druid had declined. The journey back, though it had taken several days, gave her time to think, as well as help restrengthen her body. She still did not know what she would tell Agiga. No, Lomani.

Thinking of her twin, Kerala still felt a rush of gratitude toward Konro and the orc spy Karthok that had changed her life. The mixture of grief that came with it was still fresh and mildly painful. Kerala didn't really know why. She'd known countless people who had died, and thought herself well-hardened to the concept that everyone was temporary. There was no point in forming attachments or allowing trust- to do so was to invite pain when they betrayed you.

And yet, she missed Konro greatly, and Breygrah too. Neither of them had wanted help, or accepted it, which Kerala supposed was partly to blame for why she'd failed. Though she had the title of chieftain, it was a lie. She was no leader, and she knew that now.

Kerala allowed herself to be led directly to the tavern without really paying attention, these thoughts weighing on her mind.

She was surprised to find Coqui awake, and fully armored as if on watch. Chanchu was downstairs with her and dressed, but the red monk slept stretched out on a fur rug beneath the dart board.

“Kerala!” the sunwalker exclaimed. Chanchu snorted, startled awake. “We thought we'd lost you!” Her purple eyes raked over the druid as she stepped toward her, taking in the torn blanket serving as clothes, the slightly deeper hollows showing in the spaces between bones. But the dark eyes were the same. Exactly the same. The Horns chieftain showed not a single sign of the mental trauma that had kept her senseless for the last month. Coqui pulled the woman into a hug. “LOMANI!!” she then hollered. Her deep voice was loud enough to probably be heard from the next building, and it carried easily up the stairs and through the grate in the ceiling to the sleeping quarters. There came a few muffled thumpings, and then Kerala saw her.

Lomani came flying down the stairs, the long ropes of her braided hair flying and bouncing. She wore a simple undyed wool nightgown with a pretty ribbon tied at the empire waistline. She cried “Kerala!” the same way Coqui had, and also tried to rush into an embrace.

The seer ran into Coqui's armored hand rather hard as the sunwalker pivoted to put Kerala opposite. The druid wasn't prepared to be thrown around, and only Coqui's arm around her kept her on her feet. Lomani, not understanding, looked shocked and heart-broken for a second. The expression on her face caused a matching pain in Kerala's chest. She hoped never to see it again.

“Cursed,” Coqui reminded firmly. Lomani and Kerala both frowned, and the druid wondered how she had ever not recognized this woman as her twin sister.

“Here,” came the soft voice of Chanchu from behind them. The monk held a patchwork fur blanket in one hand, and leaned on a table with the other. She tossed it, badly, but Coqui caught it anyway and, releasing Kerala, managed to snatch the torn wet blanket off over her head and wrap the fur one around her like a snuggly cocoon. The blanket was still warm from Chanchu's body heat, and Kerala pulled it closer around herself.

“Now hug her.” Coqui told Lomani. The seer let out some kind of squeaky sound, and the half-blinded druid was squeezed inside the fuzzy wrapping. It was several moments before Kerala eventually shifted, and Lomani let her go.

Kerala waited a moment to make sure she wouldn't be squeezed again, then reached out a hand to lift the flap of blanket that had been covering her head. Lomani's pale green eyes were leaking slightly. Her sister cried way too easily, Kerala thought.

Anura was downstairs now too, the shaman in a shapeless yellow sleeping gown that had obviously seen many years of use. She smiled at Kerala. Of the three, she seemed the calmest, as if she alone had known that Kerala would come back fine. It made sense, the druid supposed, her being a shaman and Mudhide being a shaman.

“Is there anything to eat?” Kerala asked. “I'm hungry.” They all laughed at that, and Anura turned to go find something in the kitchens downstairs.

Kerala was directed to a seat, where the skytotem women peppered her with questions about where she had disappeared to, and then about the shaman she had been with. The druid was absolutely shocked to learn that she was missing not just a day this time, but nearly a month. Her questions about why Kex'ti had not woken her sooner led to learning just how worried Lomani had been, how many people had tried and failed to bring her out of the blackout. She'd apparently almost died for the second time since the Eclipse.

“Anura's theory, which matches what I can see now, is that you actually did die once, of suffocation. The dreams you were stuck in, they all had a similar theme and she says it's possible to revive someone who suffered something like that. Such as drowning. You can act fast, before the spirit has realized the death of the body, and sort of trick it into staying long enough that the death is reversed.” Lomani shrugged. “I didn't really understand it all as she told it, but it makes a general sort of sense.”

Kerala just shrugged, not remembering any of it- either the dreams Lomani mentioned, or whatever traumatic death that might have spawned them. She was still struggling with the idea that Konro had not been buried only days ago. That she had been gone a month. It made her feel ill to think that while she had just been laying there, both Breygrah and Kex'ti had been taken and nearly killed as well, when she should have been able to prevent it, or at least help them. What if Lomani had been the one to get into trouble?

Gradually, the sky outside lightened. The other healers, Coqui especially, eventually drifted away to their beds. Lomani stayed, telling Kerala all that she had missed. Eventually though, the druid yawned as well. She'd eaten from a tray of raw vegetables and sliced fruits, and though she'd spent the last several weeks apparently, asleep, she was tired.

Lomani gently helped her chieftain up the stairs with the other healers. For once, they could all rest, no longer on shifts of a deathwatch, or wary of Vionora. Not that it meant the herald wouldn't try to come back, just that there wasn't quite the need anymore to be on high alert about it.

The seer found Kerala's embroidered blue gown for her, and then saw her situated on a fur rug flat on the floor. The druid claimed that hammocks were just too weird to be comfortable, and Lomani was not about to argue, having watched over her for far too long lying in a hammock recently.

Kerala curled beneath the fur blanket in a tight little ball, and once she stilled, seemed to fall quickly asleep like those recently recovering from any illness were wont to do.

The seer stared at her chieftain, and as she did, her eyes shifted focus. She could do it at will, now. Blooming within her vision, like a candle flaring to life, appeared the glowing auras of the people around her. Lomani thought of them as souls, but truly, the colorful rainbows were not those. Rather, the seven points of light that glowed and swirled with concentrated energies were more like anchors for the spirit. They were vortexes in a subtle body, not physical and not purely spiritual. A layer of rainbow light where life force moved. The anchors spun and drew in the currents to keep everything in balance mentally, physically, and spiritually. It was an artistic painting of a person as they were in that moment in which she observed them.

Lomani had spent a lot of time observing the people around her lately. She could see things about those around her that she almost wished she hadn't figured out. The direction of the swirling chakras, the speed of the swirl, and the shape of the vortex itself told her things. Secrets.

The seer could see Coqui's abusive past, most likely with a spouse. She knew that Chanchu's stealing was an addiction, a compulsive act rather than to be funny or annoying. She could see in Anura how age added to the rainbow. Her seven anchors were bright all the way up to the white- she had an inner wisdom, a knowledge of life that allowed her to be content. The elderly shaman was not afraid to die, and her spirit was ready and open to the divine. When her time came, Anura would go to the Earth Mother willingly and happily, rather than linger as a ghost here.

Lomani looked at Kerala, her anchors forming a tight curl as she slept in a fetal position. It was clear now, what she had only glimpsed before when she had not yet understood. She examined the druid, her eyes staring with that faraway look that made seers both respected and somewhat feared among their own people. Eyes that saw everything.

Lomani viewed the brilliant red vortex, swirling left. Deficient. It was by far the largest anchor. This was the root of the rainbow. It represented the most basic tools of survival. Instinct, security. It was the right to simply be. Kerala's was gigantic. She'd fought for that right a long time. The left swirl betrayed the chieftain's lack of esteem for her own self, her insecurity despite the sure front Lomani had always seen before.

The orange anchor in the druid's pelvis also swirled left, and instead of a smooth column of energies, this one was squashed, its whirls forming a flattened fat oval. Like the once-swollen belly it represented. Kerala had borne a child at some point in her life. The pace of the swirl showed Lomani her chieftain's aggression and volatile emotions were due in part to the red anchor, because the deficiency in orange led to shyness, a resentful and untrusting personality, and guilt. Yet she knew that Kerala, despite her violence, was still mostly friendly, and she did show a concern for others. This anchor was also responsible for why the druid had frozen in fear.

The yellow anchor at the belly button represented a person's inner fire, their right to act. Kerala's was mostly balanced. The chakra swirled, tumbling into and over itself almost in harmony, with just the slightest left swirl. In general, she had a good sense of her own personal power, and nothing to fear. This anchor was shaped in a steep V. Kerala was introverted, like Lomani was. Within the center of the cyclone was almost a completely separate and tightly-spinning current of it's own. It was at the very bottom of the whirling funnel. Kerala's claustrophobia.

Red, orange and yellow were all the basic anchors. Almost everyone had these colors shining brightly and strongly. Above these were the other three dealing with more complex issues, and they could be far different.

Kerala's heart anchor was paler compared to the first three. This anchor showed a person's compassion, their tenderness and love, their equilibrium. The druid's green was in the shape of an uneven hourglass. It swirled quickly right at the top, and slowly left at the smaller bottom half. Kerala was both? Left meant she would feel unloved, afraid of letting go or sorry for oneself, and yet Lomani had not noticed that at all in her chieftain. How odd. Above a tight constriction the faster taller right swirl matched Kerala's tendency toward mood swings and the tenseness she usually displayed when around people.

Then Lomani reached the blue anchor in the druid's throat, and the slightly concave column made Lomani recall- the hourglass was merely closer to a balance- allowing both the right and left swirls before the anchor thickened in true balance. Kerala's heart was simply more balanced than any of the lower chakras.

Her throat was more balanced still, but not quite. The swirl was stationary and even, but the shape wasn't quite right. Blue was the ability to communicate, both literally and through artistic expression. Kerala spoke her mind without trouble and lived in the now for the most part, though Lomani knew her history tended to influence her quite a bit. The druid also had very little creativity, something which those inward-curving walls also indicated. She was independent, which Lomani also already knew.

The seer was further surprised to see the highest two anchors were also balanced, and not as pale as she had expected. How could that be, when she knew that Kerala absolutely had no religion? Were these not the two points that dealt with things beyond the physical?

The violet wheel of energy was located at a person's eyes. It was related to sight, but not necessarily natural. It was a person's intuition, the ability to trust their inner guidance. A balanced eye anchor indicated that Kerala was not materialistic all all, had no real fear, had a total sort of vision and was more or less a master of herself. And yet, Lomani could not argue- Kerala was not a coward or unable to express to her thoughts, nor was she over-sensitive. As well, she was not arrogant or manipulative. She never talked down to others. Lomani had never thought of the instinctive manner Kerala displayed as being part of the violet anchor, but it must be, for the swirl was almost completely nuetral. Or, maybe it was the way she trusted those instincts absolutely. They could be a sort second sight, after all. With time and more experience, the purple anchor would likely grow brighter.

Lastly, Lomani saw the white anchor, at the top of Kerala's head. Like Lilliana's this one had a very strange flow AROUND it, completely vertical. Energy rose through the center, and fell on the outsides, but the anchor itself was absolutely still. Frozen. Given Lilliana's pale spiritual rainbow, Lomani had guessed the reason why. She had no idea what had inspired that idea within her, but everyone else's swirled normally, either left, right, or in a tumultuous balance. Kerala's was like Lilli's, and now given Anura's theory about the source of Kerala's underlying phobia, she knew why. Still, it's shape told her much. Kerala was not now, nor had she been, afraid of death itself.

Nothing she saw in the druid's subtle prism made Lomani think that her chieftain was anything other than what she had believed all along. Not knowing exactly what had prompted Kerala's supposed attack on Syreena, or any of the events that had followed, Lomani had not been certain. She'd had faith that, despite what Lilliana had said, and Darrethy as well, that Kerala was a good person. Not the kind to do those things that had been told to her. Lomani had not the skill to probe Kerala's mind to discern the truth for herself, but it was enough, she thought, to know the truth of Kerala's character.

The seer blinked, and her pale green eyes refocused on the real world around her as the shimmering rainbows of light faded away.

She wasn't tired, not the slightest bit, and it was morning besides. Lomani had a special project that she was working on, and she knew now that it was worthwhile. Kerala's armor had needed extensive repairs after the beating she'd received. Feathers could mask the reinforcements in the vest, but there was no way the leather kilt could be salvaged without looking like it had been. So Lomani had had the garment scrapped for other, smaller projects. Instead, she was assembling new armor, and if she knew her chieftain at all, the druid would have need of it soon.

The seer did not need Sight to know what was coming.

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