Ashes from Ashes
While treatment for the children would be considered relatively minor, Inga had suffered tremendous damage to throat, heavy bruising across her entire body, and the most extensive injury to prove the most difficult if not impossible to fully heal is her crushed womb, and her shattered pelvic region in general, parts of her thighs and lower spine are severely damaged as well, with the pelvis almost completely shattered like glass. Due to the extents of these injuries, she has yet to wake.
"This one will take awhile to heal, even with the best of chirurgeons."
"A while or slow by your own standards?"
"Both. The best bet would be either to terminate her or methodically remove and and replace that which is destroyed."
"If the High Inquisitor deigned this person, regardless of their black stained history, worth saving, then we cannot terminate them."
"True enough, but this level of damage is..."
"Oh come off it. It just means a tad bit more work on your part, maybe an extra dollop of effort, but you can do it while we get the other preparations ready."
"Indeed, you've seen worse and dealt with it in kind. There is little need to get worked up over this when you've successfully restored near dead mounds of flesh to proper condition."
"Yes, I get it. If you would leave my space while I begin my work, that would be most helpful."
One of the children is noticed pressed up against her mother's side, despite having originally been kept in another room entirely, it is also noted to be slightly different from the others, while most of the hair is pink, the hair growing from the back of the head is distinctly golden blonde. However everything else, except for her tiny size compared to her sister and two brothers, is the same, including the distinct pink eyes of the family.
The child seems to unusually focus directly on the two speaking and squeezes herself tight against her mother, seemingly wanting to be left with her.
"Hm, a little one..."
"From your tone, you don't seem to mind them being here."
"In the room, no, but against the patient is a different matter entirely."
"You aren't moving to remove them?"
"I'd imagine that this particular child understands that they need to move, else nothing good will come of it."
"And why is that?"
"You learn these things when you do this on a day to day basis."
The child seems to slowly inch away from her mother, pausing when it reaches the edge of the bed.
"Further and I can begin my work."
"Any further and they'll be on the ground."
"No, there is a cradle programmed for such cases here."
"Ah. We'll be on our way then."
The child seems to stare intently at the drop, before seemingly appearing on the floor as if she was always there.
"Tsk, the cradle would have been more sanitary, but if that is your desire, so be it."
Various liquids begin to float around the room, some combining into solids, others rapidly evaporating.
"This should be enough."
The child makes its way to said cradle after a time and rests with its brethren, exhausted. Nearby Inga is a large bound tome which seems to glow with green runes, which seems to glow aggressively if disturbed, but has bothered none who have left their curiosity in their proper place. It keeps itself well away from anyone besides Inga.
Such a risk, but the High Inquisitor knows best in these situations... At least, when the Grand Inquisitor spares reprimand.
The liquids surround the room while the solids organize themselves into small masses. The gas produced dissipates over the room, generating a warm yet chilly sensation as the liquids connect to Inga while the solids shift and change shapes.
A slight wheeze is heard as she exhales, croaking as she inhales, then is silent.
Beginning bone and organ tissue replacement...
The liquid seeps through Inga's skin slowly, the solids liquefying to merge with the already moving liquids.
She seems to cough heavily in response, the tome unbinds itself and numerous small green symbols float about her head, before she untenses and her coughing settles into quiet rasps.
Damage to ocular region detected... But that is of little consequence at the present. Not compared to recreating muscle fibers and replacing ruptured organs.
The tome appears to be providing specific life support such as oxygen and nutrients autonomously, changing its sigils as the situation demands, it seems to have stabilized her but nothing more.
Useless olde world magicks, not worth the time or effort to use at this point... And, tissue fully restored along with muscle fibers. Bones will take another two ours, but tose can simply be left to mend while I take care of other business.
The runes on the tome seem to glow fire red as it seems to 'look' in his direction, it opens and pages whirl for a moment, strange noises are heard akin to a dark form of speech, before it returns to a emerald color and hovers directly over Inga, now radiating a sphere of green light which completely envelopes her. It appears to realign and overall mend most bones over the course of a few minutes. After it completes its task, it seems to transform in a blaze of emerald fire into a staff which hovers above Inga with a white ivory color.
Inga seems to be closer to the realm of consciousness after this occurs.
Aye, useless olde world magicks. There's a reason we Inquisitors simply ignore the stuff.
"The High Inquisitor will like a report at this point. May as well get that written."
One could almost hear the faintest of laughs squeeze from the unconscious witch's lips.
An indeterminate amount of time passes before voices can be heard once more.
"...Implying the Crusader Drive would bond to an unfit vessel."
"If its restrictions and parameters were lowered, it could work."
"The current parameters are the lowest they can be and only two-percent of all Great Knights can use it without overexerting themselves. If lowered any further, it'd be as if you strapped them with extra dead-weight."
"But all of the..."
Unlike before, upon approaching it is clear that Inga is awake, sitting up, and though her eyes unseeing and glazed, she is looking directly in the direction of the speakers. A faint shimmering can be seen about her, as if the vague shadow of a witch's hat and armor are superimposed on her. She remains silent, but her aura carries a strong hint of distrust.
"Ah, she's awake. The Inquisitor of Land should be informed of this."
"Aye, they should be with the High Inquisitor at the present. I'll inform them."
A flaming emerald eye appears next to her, appearing to be looking for something, her eyes are shade of green. While it briefly looks in their direction, it seems more preoccupied with another matter, busily looking for something else in the room.
Not much later, heavy footsteps echo from afar, denoting an armored figure- or a person of considerable weight. It doesn't take long for Inga and everyone else in the immediate area to feel a passive, yet great pressure coming from the person en route.
The shadow begins to intensify to where it is predominant and has gained a faint green hue with licking flames coming off of it. While a form of magic, it possesses unusual qualities. Another eye has appeared, focused on the doorway while the other one seems to locate the children, and makes a sonar like noise before disappearing.
"So the witch is indeed awake," says a soft, metallic voice. The passive pressure seems to swell with each word. "Why have you shown her no hospitality?"
"With all due respect ser, she-"
"Is our guest until further notice. Should that change, it will be dealt with then," chides the owner of the voice, "Until then, treat her as you would your kin."
The eye trained on the doorway now focuses on the newcomer. Meanwhile Inga blinks very slowly, then speaks.
"Answer my question, and you will truthfully answer, lest ruin come to you." She says simply and continues on in a matter of fact manner, "So I would ponder this question before you answer: What has been seen in the Dread Witch's heart that somehow compels the Order of Beowulf to spare her life and convinces them of it? I do not see it. Do not sell me an answer of simple charity, it doth not exist, nor speak of innate goodness, for everyone's good intentions are subverted by the desire to use another to gain something else."
"Because leaving three children motherless would have been cruel, simple as that, witch. Otherwise, why save someone who, by all means, would be a target of the inquisition? Rest assured, we have no intentions of using you- nor do we need you- but I imagine the more special of your three children does require you for something. You were spared the blade for that reason only, and that reason alone. Should you take issue with that, you may face the blade or disappear and never be heard from again," The soft spoken figure says coldly, hardly phased by the threat. "Look not a gift horse in the mouth, else you'll find yourself lacking in comparison to those bearing the gift."
"..." She is silent for a moment, eyes closed. "So that is what you based your decision on, and nothing else..." The shadow ceases to flame, and now merely blankets her like a dark mist.
"Despite everything, the determining factor was if I carried them or removed them..." She mutters briefly before opening her eyes.
"While my initial impressions were wrong, you still are exactly what I imagined... ...a platform for man to stand upon and proclaim his goodness and his justice and never questioning who is the monster and who is the knight."
The shadow dissipates utterly and she makes her way to the cradle without another word. The world never changes. It will always see me for what it turned me into, not what I was. ...I don't even remember what I was like before... ...has it been so long?
She mulls as she surveys the children with the help of the orb.
"Were it not for your collection of souls to fuel a certain ability, there would be less of an issue with you. You have been stained black, by the world you say, but that in itself is a result of your ultimate choice, not a simple driving force, witch. Some of us once walked a similar path, but therein was a choice to continue and another to turn over a new leaf under the eyes of one who believes in second, third and fourth chances." The soft-spoken figure is utterly indifferent. "And, no, man is as much a monster as beast can be, whether it be in his 'holy crusades' or the anarchy caused by the differences in his beliefs. The difference between us and them is that, we care not for man or beast when deciding who shall be hunted, not a one-sided crusade against those who are different in race or ideals alone. But enough of that talk, it appears that you are indeed in good condition, so I need not bother with you until a later time frame."
"If you're aware of my ability, then you should have even the slightest comprehension of what it means for humanity when causality can be altered if not totally overruled. You saved a black hearted witch who happened to bear four children. But who saved the child who fell from a skyscraper and lived, who was then desired by the whole world as a military weapon to annihilate their enemy? No one, save herself. No, she was doomed to a life of murder and torment, and forced to watch as her heart first turned to ice and then to emptiness when it was her only escape from a living hell and the possibility of causality being in the hands of mankind.
There was no Order of Beowulf to rescue her when she was forced to run from home and kill others just to survive. No Templars or knights in shining armor when over eight hundred years pasted and the girl now a monster returned home to find her mother's grave, only to be landed with the fate of being a weapon once more looming upon her shoulders.
No, Inquistor. There is no justice. Not from man, or myth." She says this in an empty tone, her voice carrying the eight hundred years of her empty life.
She strokes one of the children's cheeks. "Not when four more threats to this world exist, yet they were spared because her mother could not kill them, knowing she would just become like the rest of the World by doing so, and rob children of their mother. They at least, can have a childhood. Mine was taken forever. I can't even remember it anymore, or if I even had one before my endless exodus."
The soft-spoken figure sighs. "Eight hundred years ago, there you would have been burned at the stake. Six hundred years ago, your flesh would have been flayed from your bones. four hundred years ago, a cursed sword would have been driven through your heart. Two hundred years ago, you would've been weaponized to fight in a great and bloody war. One hundred and fifty years ago, you would have been imprisoned in a mobius cube. One hundred years ago, your soul would have been extracted from your body and placed in a lifeless doll. seventy-five years ago, you would have been caught in a bloody war and sealed within the moon's shadow. forty years ago, you would have been dissolved and distilled into a replicable solution to fuel a super weapon. Fifteen years ago, you would have simply been observed until you became a threat, after which you would have been torn apart by the Hounds. Only in the past ten ears, would you ave been given a chance to live a more earnest life, a proper life, because the last seeds of conflict have finally been removed. You may not believe in justice, witch, but to those who would carry that flame within their heart, it is their guiding, blinding light, just as your emptiness blinds you. Unfortunately, the unenlightened rarely see this and continue along their path, unable to see that chances aren't as abundant as one would think- not the meaningful ones, at least." With that, the soft-spoken figure leaves, the pressure following them as they do.
"Congratulations, you made one of the few people who advocated for your life upset," speaks another person. "If not for him, you'd be that yellow bastard's plaything or a rotting corpse at this point. And before you say anything, witch, know that your speech of an empty life means absolutely nothing to him or us. Emptiness is nice compared to the hell we five went through. Now get some rest, lest the new biological material holding you together start rejecting you as a host." This person sounds far more spiteful as they stalk off to a place unknown.
Inga 'watches' them depart, then after briefly looking after the children, retires to her bed, while she does not truly sleep, her consciousness leaves her body to commune with one from another plane, her body long ago already laden with many wards and trigger spells to alert her of developments.
"I don't understand why you'd save her of all people, even now!"
"I have my reasons. Even if ending her life would have been the easier route, it is not the route I would take."
"Cryptic nonsense again... You know I wouldn't have even touched her if it weren't a direct order from you."
"Which is why I ordered you to do so. I am not entirely pleased that you did not fully restore her as you were instructed to, however."
"She doesn't need sight or taste or anything of the like."
"You know exactly what I mean."
"...If I didn't cut her down to size in some way, I'd be willing to bet that she'd have attacked our trainees, our squires."
"You forget, you were once similar to what you predict."
"Don't bring that up."
"Ah, but you are allowed to behave as such? Truly, you haven't changed."
"Just because you rank higher than I do, it doesn't me-"
"You forget your place. I believe that, given time, she will attain peace, as we did."
"As you did. The rest of us may no longer be simple beings anymore, but you are the only one who has reached that peace you refer to. Or did you forget that in your old age?"
"We speak of entirely different things. I refer to peace of mind and heart, you refer to tranquility, lucidity and ultimately, the origin of all things, zero."
"There you go again..."
"Lord Inquisitors," called a voice.
"Yes, sir Knight?"
"We have reason to believe that one of our own is a spy for the Erthsgard, sir!"
"Oh? Do explain."
"You recall the incidents where several squires claimed to have spotted a figure perched on one of the castle towers, yes? Recently, those squires have been turning up injured by a lacerating blade of sorts or under some sort of delirium."
"I see. Carry on as you would normally, but make sure that the squires are kept supervised and that the few who were attacked are treated with the utmost priority. Land, if you would?"
"Aye, can't have any of the children croak. Lead me their way."
"Hm, the biological matter is bonding rather easily with her."
"What do you expect from the person who literally does this and more every other day, an accident?"
"Knowing their temper, an accident of the purposeful sort."
"As if the High Inquisitor would allow that. After all, he does know them best. I'm much more worried about the current mind outta body thing happening here."
"Oh? But couldn't you stop that?"
"Aye, but until I'm certain harm is being done I'll just remain... alert."
Whatever transmission she is delivering, it is spoken in a tongue of unnatural origins, making the context of her endeavor unknown until she abruptly switches to an understandable wavelength.
And while I would like to see such a world realized, it is not within my power any longer, and even if sight returned to me, Oub'oturo, fate has given me... ...other directives. You already have the resources to enable your endeavor to its conclusion. Consider our ties terminated.
Unideed, Oub'oturo uwil ventri thy tranciev.
Inga's consciousness returns to her body, and she begins to enter a light sleep soon after.
"You caught something?"
"Aye, but nothing worth reporting yet... And she's finally resting."
"I see. I wonder if the preparations on Wave's end are complete."
"Knowing her, they were complete before she got on Land's case."
"That's accurate, I won't lie."
"Oh right, you can sense stuff like that. I forget that you have trivial abilities like that, Dust."
"Trivial? Perhaps it is at the present, but the future may deem it otherwise."
"And now you sound like the High Inquisitor again."
She sleeps for a few hours before finally stirring once more, though faintly. After a while of laying down, she sits up slowly and manifests a book of some description, and busies herself in reading.
Inga feels a glancing presence for a moment.
"Hm, you're almost fully stable. Half a day at most before you can move relatively on your feet."
And with that, the presence is gone.
Inga pauses for a moment.
Ignoring the fact I'm more humoring them rather than incapable of settling that issue on the spot...
She glances through the pages of her book. They probably don't realize I spared them the mercy of being slaughtered by him... ...hmm, perhaps I am a bit softer than usual. Can't let that stay a habit. That's what got me into this situation to begin with.
"Origin." She intones, as a pressure burst releases from the book, dissolving it in pink light which engulfs her, restoring her body and usual functions to its primary condition prior to her injuries.
"That's better. ...No, wait. Still cannot see. It was supposed to... ...unless my vision was just terrible from the beginning, and my Causality... ...that would make sense. My earliest memories always were blurry but I attributed them to the time..."
She smiles. "You learn something every day, was it?" She soon grimaces as her vision begins to go black.
"I forgot about that." She faints from the energy toll.
"Hm... If she grows violent, you may have to suppress her, Dust."
"Easier said than done, my Heritage is unstable still."
"And she's not at full capacity. It's an even match, so to speak."
She doesn't take long to awaken, only an hour or so. When she does, she doesn't initially move.
"System Check," She intones, and a circuit like blue light runs across her body before fading. "...Despite low spiritual output from Overuse... ...functional."
She lets out a soft sigh. "If I didn't have the environmental energy take most of the hit, I'd have been finished..." She looks around briefly.
"Quit whispering about, I know you're watching and your location. For that matter, I have no interest in you lot. Your trainees have insufficient souls, there wouldn't even be a point in slaughter. For the record, you vastly underestimate my prowess with magic, and in most normal cases, you'd find that in a day, much like any who have threatened me, there would be no Order left. This is not normal cases, however.
I'll also point out briefly I took your mercy and aid into consideration last night when I told my colleague to not annihilate the entire order, so we are either even or you in fact owe me. Said debt could be repaid by not fearing my very presence, as I have no desire to put myself and children at risk. The only people who will be injured or face death are the ones who draw their blades. That being said, practice keeping your swords and weapons where they belong, sheathed, and no harm will come to any.
So relax." Her tone carries minor tones of anger and annoyance, before sitting up and pulling out a book, this time purely for recreational purposes.
She hears raucous laughter from afar.
"Believe me when I say our order is a bit harder to handle than you would think. Alas, our job is to monitor you and make sure that you get optimal treatment from Land, but that's a different topic. Should you attempt to harm those... children, we'd be forced to act, just as we would should you deign to attack us or our leader. So why don't you relax, it's far less of a hassle than being stressed."
"Oh, the High Inquisitor may be coming by again."
"I will not dignify a response, as once again your organization proves wet behind the ears and incapable of understanding the most plain of speech."
She closes her eyes. "What nonsense. Such insecurity and paranoia, ill befitting of such an organization." There is a strange pop, and their words cease to reach her, telepathic or otherwise.
"Congratulations, she muted us."
"Ah well, her loss. It's unfortunate that she didn't realize that she's being used to lure out a traitor."
"Indeed. Once that's over, the High Inquisitor may send her on her way."
"I fancy that he only has her here for that, and that he'll port her elsewhere soon after, mayhaps to the past."
"Imagine for a moment, that every sound denoted the future, every touch told ancient stories of creation and destruction, and every glimpse of a person told you unbound prophecies of great fortune, emptiness, or total, absolute ruin. What if you could be a person, know everything about them, based on the briefest of interactions? What would such a world be like? What things could you see? What people could you save, what marvels of advancement could you create?"
Inga says, if she is addressing them, it is unclear.
"To know is to suffer in silence, for the future and past may not be changed, not by the unsanctioned many's hands."
"..." Inga is silent.
"I have little patience, Inquisitor. Speak your real mind, not your poorly veiled disguise. For the record, this was a punishment you two. The next time you fail to understand the most basic of expressions and intentions, you will not be forgiven."
A loud pop is heard, and they can be heard once more. "A curse of melding flesh to sew your mouths would be far more fitting a fate for such empty minded beings. Be grateful for my mercy." Her eyes are a faint shade of red.
"What do you need from me? I wish to attend to my children and eat."
The echo of heavy footsteps signals her coming answer. "And you yourself know best? Rubbish. I came to inform you that the situation briefly changed, but nothing more. In addition, you may try to place a curse, but you'll find that will be rather ineffective, witch." The footsteps then grow distant.
"And you want to keep her around why?"
"Because, her being here makes luring out the Erthsgard agent more clean and because I've yet to find a nicer place to send her so that she may live in peace. I may have to create one, but that has yet to be seen."
Inga's eyes are closed. "I do not appreciate liars. Nor will I aid liars or those seeking to use me." She summons the children to her side and is silent as she engages with them.
"I am also terribly hungry. Unless you intend to eventually kill me via gradual starvation."
"It isn't the appointed time for food to be served."
"Indeed, another two hours before the kitchen work is done."
"I have not eaten in days."
She glances at her children, her expression momentarily softened at their presence.
"Regardless, you must still wait until there is food to serve."
Inga's face hardens in response to hearing their voice. I am really starting to lose my tolerance with these individuals. They know next to nothing about me, and clearly let alone why I was called Dread Witch in the first place. Too many made the mistake of believing divine instruments or tools against magi could protect them from me...
Inga sighs. "Mortal beings are such stressful creatures..." She resigns herself to occupying the children's attention, lest their own hunger cause a ruckus.
"I'm under the impression she misunderstands."
"Aye, not that's it is very important... Hm, no signs of the preparations being done, but at least the seasoning is done."
"Ah well, time to go back to making sure the trainees are properly studying."
"Indeed. I'll make sure nothing untoward is directed towards the visitor from Land."
Before long, Inga has collapsed into her bed, with her children clinging and crawling about her. Only the youngest is relaxing, cuddled against her. She is also the most developed out of the four, despite her age difference.
The three other children are showing signs of discontent and are on the verge of crying. Inga lightly sits up and tries to keep them distracted longer.
One starts to audibly cry, and Inga shushes the child quietly, stroking his head.
The others eventually begin clamoring, and Inga sighs, and begins trying to feed them.
I don't believe I'll have enough until after I've had a decent meal...
She grimaces. They'd better hurry.
"Hm, I need a new set of armor soon."
"Already? Didn't you just get a new set?"
"Indeed, however this one has a leak. A small leak, but enough of one to prove troublesome."
"...I'll let the Forgelord of Life know."
"Very good. It would be ill-suited for miasma to be released here."
"You and the High Inquisitor share that issue."
"I am aware. For him, it's a sign of his past. For myself, it's a sign of something soon to come..."
"Indeed it is Wave. To think that you, too, would awaken within this life time."
"You give me too much credit, Lady Alma. I just followed in his footsteps, not unlike my sister."
"But unlike her, you aren't helping a near madman pursue revenge."
"Aye, but that is the path that she chose and it isn't my duty to stop her unless she breaks the Covenant."
"Ah yes, your oath. You and the High Inquisitor both made different oaths, is that correct?"
"Aye, his oath and mine differ, but as you know we are unable to discuss the details of them."
"I remember... Let us change the topic. Are your preparations complete?"
"They have been as of the past twelve hours."
"I believe in getting the jobs assigned to me done with minimal delay."
"Ah, of course."
Inga begins murmuring incantations, faint symbols comprised of the space around her itself flicker in and out of view in a circle as she chants, only ceasing when a pale glow covers the children and they return to sleep. She then reminiscences, an occurrence rare for the witch, but what remains unclear, as her protective measures and defenses bar access to her mind. She remains this way for a great period of time, almost tuning out completely outside disturbance.
The High Inquisitor looks down from a spire of the castle. Below him lies a sea of clouds, but with a whisk of his hand the clouds to him become transparent, revealing the courtyard far below. A faint amber glow burns under his helm as he takes a closer look at the courtyard, its details clear as day to him. He watches as several cloaked figures emerge from the shadows and make their way towards the medical ward, steam slowly escaping the helm's grill.
"So the rats take the bait."
He makes a simple gesture and a transparent globe forms from the air near him. "Bring supper to our guest. She and her children have waited long enough. Inform Land of pests en route."
The globe winks out.
Inga meanwhile has largely remained motionless, though a black mist hovers in her vicinity as her children have once again begun to mewl in hunger, the sound greatly agitating the tired mother.
"Oi, wake up," an irritated voice Inga has come to recognize as Land's snaps. "Food's here." As he says this the smell of freshly cooked meat and vegetables wafts into the room along with a cold, tangy scent and a warm herbal scent.
"...I'm not asleep." Inga says, movement coming to her limbs subtly. After a moment...
"...I can't see my food."
"Can't see?" Land doesn't seem bothered. "Hm. Sight would be important I imagine. One moment." There's a loud bang followed by a cry of sorts claiming to be after the witch and then a shriek a room over. A few more surprised yells follow and then the other room goes quiet. "Tell you what, I'll make you some glasses, but you'll have to apologize to the High Inquisitor first." Land seems nonplussed by the sounds from before.
"Depending on what you want me to apologize for, I will either readily accept or immediately refuse. You have your code, and surprisingly, I have mine." Inga says indifferently.
"Mainly acting as if he's your enemy when he was the one who rescued you and your children, essentially decreed you a guest rather than below a Serf, had you healed and was straight with you. Dunno if you realize it but your life was in his hands. Still is really, but he doesn't renege on promises without informing the other party," Land intones. "It's a matter of respect really. He doesn't care because he expects as such, but I care just a bit. So it's an easy trade: glasses for two words that won't cost you much if anything."
"I won't refuse on the grounds of disrespect to hosts. Bare in mind, that until the High Inquisitor said as much, for all I knew, at that point, I was in the hands of my enemy. And I was powerless. I haven't felt that way in eight hundred years, and I ran from my days on Earth because of both those who tried to use me, and those who looked upon me from afar and judged my worth to be a monster."
Inga straightens up. "I've made my point clear though. I already said my peace, and my view was discarded. If he is listening, then I apologize for my actions based on hysteria in a moment of weakness. I will not change for you, but as I have done thus far, I will heed your council and do what you whim - to an extent. That is as far as I will bend." Inga had looked in the direction of Land's voice while speaking, and looks away after finishing.
"If he is not able to hear me, then I will repeat myself if that is required."
"No need," Land says as a hard object falls into Inga's lap.
"...?" Inga reaches out for it, fumbling a bit.
Some fumbling indicates the plastic arm of a pair of glasses.
She tries her best to secure them onto her head, with trouble, though once she opens her eyes, she recoils from an increased sensitivity to light, and has to spend some time naturalizing herself to the sharpened vision. When she is finally able to stand the light, she slowly removes her hands from her face to observe her surroundings.
She notes that she's in a simple room devoid of furniture aside from a bed, a tray with a plate of food, a cup of tea and a bowl of yogurt, a playpen of sorts and a cradle. Standing at the far side of the room, with a fitting look of disdain, is a child no older than ten in appearance with long red hair near reaching the floor tied back in a ponytail with two bangs framing his face, piercing blue eyes with a minor green tint with bags so heavy one might infer they never sleep wearing a pristine labcoat over black slacks and a white top. He's holding a clipboard in hand. "Better?"
"..." Inga is observing him, not processing what she is seeing. "...I know that I picked up on your being young... ...but I didn't think this is what my senses meant. ...Right. Yes, better. ..." It takes her a moment to say the next phrase...
"...Thank you." She says, as though unused to the phrase. She brings her attention to the food, and slowly begins to eat.
I'll keep any other commentary to myself... In any case, he appears to be a stickler for manners... ...That'll be difficult. The last time I said 'sorry', barring just now... .......was what I told Mother while she slept.... Her expression carries no indication of her inner thoughts, as she silently eats and recollects.
"You're welcome," he huffs then turns to leave. "Don't hesitate to pipe up if you need anything. My job, until further notice is to keep you safe. Call me on a whim and I'm not liable to listen." And with that Land exits the room.
"..." She continues to eat her food, and then after some time, she beings to nurse the hungry children, who are by this point more than grateful to eat. She then spends some time comforting them, as after the loud noises, were fairly rattled.
She doesn't speak or do much during this time, but regards the children with an uncertain look.
There are a few muffled cries a room or so down that gradually fall silent.
Inga takes note, but is unreactant for the most part, choosing to continue looking at her surroundings, still unused to her vision.
I can't remember how long it's been since... I could see the world without all of its mysteries handed to me, and just seeing the world for... ...what it is. ...It feels... ...nostalgic?
"Land can be nice from time to time," Dust says, surprisingly right next to her. Clad in full plate barring a helm, the young man has shockingly green hair and equally green eyes. He looks to be in his late teens to early twenties. The odd thing is he's made no sound the entire time. "Oh right, should explain. I'm 'immune' to walls and such so sometimes I accidentally walk into walls and out of others."
"Things like that would not bother me." Inga responds quietly, as though not remotely surprised this was the case. "When I was little, I fell from a skyscraper. I should have died, except for the part where I dizzily stood up, got home, and proceeded to fall into a coma for the rest of the year. That is when my Causality awakened, and the Witch that sits before you began to be born."
"Fair enough. Good to see that you're doing well at least," Dust says. "Allegedly I just divide things by zero or manipulate large scale probability, but I prefer being 'immune to walls'. Easier to say, easier to think about."
"I will accept 'well' as a definition for how I am doing. Earlier I was tempted to see if I could amplify the range of crying infants to such an extent that all in the area would share in my frustrations, but food came before I lost patience, so 'well' summarizes my mood." Inga says simply. She eyes one of the children about to crawl off the bed and without changing expression, grabs them and puts them in her lap, an unreadable expression on her face as the child fidgets there.
"You aren't sure what to do with them," Dust remarks. "But you would see them safe."
"...Correct. The thought occurred to me to simply rid myself of their existences while they swelled within my womb. I considered them, like me, merely threats to the greater picture of things. If captured, they could wield terrible power for those who do not understand it. ...I thought of Mother as well. I don't understand why I didn't do it. What prevented me from carrying it out..." She trails off.
"...Perhaps it is simple as a mother wolf protecting cubs, following their natural instinct..." Despite what she says, it doesn't seem like an answer, but confusion, attempting to rationalize something she doesn't understand. "...Is this what feeling is?"
"Probably familial love," Dust says. " You imagine that them living could result in disaster and yet you would spare them the figurative sword and protect them. Seems like maternal love and instinct rolled into one."
"...I assume from the occasional ruckus, that the purge of your guests is continuing as expected." Inga says, picking up the child as it begins fussing, which seems to sate their need for attention for the moment.
"Land is probably interrogating them. Something something meat popsicles." Dust shrugs.
Inga doesn't say anything, but Dust notices something odd, she notes that Inga's eyes have very little of their original pink, and have dulled into a hazy dark grey, with only a faint ring of pink toward the pupils, though thinking back on it, the color had seemed to be growing more and more dull over the passing days, but Dust hadn't really noticed the color also shrinking in prominence like this either.
"Hm. Well yell at Land as needed, need to check up on my trainees." And like that Dust just seems to pop.
Inga after a while, begins to nap, with the children all slumbering adjacent to her.
Inga perceives in a dream, a vague smoky figure, gaunt and seemingly leeching the light of the stars themselves as it grows, looming over Earth and the remains of Echo, with the former greying and its surface turning to dust. In its eye sockets, two women are embedded, glowing with red light, seemingly serving as 'eyes'.
When Inga wakes, she seems to remain silent, observing her children, before silently reaching out to the outsider she had made encrypted contact with before, and making use of a similar but alternative encryption, the message is faster, and seemingly frantic, as if hurried in composition and in urgency. Once she has finished, she quietly observes the children, before quietly attempting to 'play', mostly in the form of awkward attempts at tickling.
After some time, she falls silent and takes no further actions.
Eien... from that encounter, I'd say he had slipped further along that course... and judging by what happened afterwards... ...the Joining of the Mother and Muru will take place within the next few months. In addition, if his leader made such a move, then the rest of them will not be far behind. And that vision... what I sensed... indeed, things are moving quickly, much more quickly than anyone realizes. Before they know it...
...What do I care... if they cannot see the obvious rising danger, then they are all fools, doomed from the start. While they have been nipping at tiny fleas, the true threat is on the verge of making itself known. Alpha has been busy. Becoming more desperate. It's close now... it'll find that soon.
Inga closes her eyes. No good will come from any of this.
"I assume you have some reason to disturb me," Inga says, alerted by unseen forces and her eyes opened.
"The Master Inquisitor wanted to ensure your health," a masked figure states. "Were you not we were directed to move you and any other person save for the Exiles to the medical bay."
"I am fine. The children are accounted for as well." Inga says indifferently.
"If you are certain, we shall pass that message along." The masked figure vanishes.
I was almost certain that blame would have been assigned to me, knowing that one... Inga silently ‘observes‘ the situation as it develops.
Inga silently takes out a tome with many handwritten notes. It's been a while since I finished my observations of that realm... it's too bad that people were too busy trying to kill me to notice what I was observing. After all, I was the one who let Oub'oturo in on that particular issue. Not like I never attempted to leave subtle hints, but no one would listen to a Dread Witch.
Maybe I'll let them borrow this if they ask nicely...
Inga quietly desummons the tome. Knowing that red head, it'll never happen. Still, might make for some amusement.
Inga spends some time stretching her muscles, and putting the children to bed.
"...So they don't understand, after all. Perhaps I will give them a hint." Inga claps her hands, and a brief flicker of power emits from her.
"Run that by me again," Land says, voice devoid of emotion as he looks at what appears to be a mound of pulsating meat held up by strange yellow fibers. A vague human mouth can be made out, whimpering an answer. Land's eyes narrow and the mound begins to expand and protrude boney ridges and spines, the mound screaming as it does. "Try again. I know that you're the head of this little incursion, Hilde, and I'm thoroughly disappointed in you. Especially when I was perhaps a day away from recruiting you to the Pneuma division, no less."
The mound whimpers a response as Land circles it, glancing at the inert forms of five other humanoid beings, each breathing in a labored manner. "If you answer this question, I'll let you go and return you to your original form, Hilde. You'd be stripped of your rank and your knowledge of this place burned away, but you'd be able to live outside. Try my patience more and you may remain as you are now until your expire naturally in a few hundred years. So it's your choice really; Tell me who informed you of this place or stay silent." Land waits for several moments then sighs. "Silence it is. I hope you enjoy your new life, Hilde."
As he walks away he hears a weak cry.
"W-wait... I-i-ill talk, Ma-master Inq-ui-iiis-tor! Pl-please!"
"Very well," he nods, eyes sharpening as his irises fade to a toxic yellow. "Tell me everything you know and spare no detail..."
The mound of flesh jumbles out words as Land glares at it. Much of it seems to be the mad babble of a fraying mind but a few things stick out to him.
"So the Moon's Shadow would stir and attempt to strike. How foolish," he says, eyes narrowing. He stares at the mound and it begins to quiver violently before bubbling and deforming, a horrific shriek issuing forth from it as thin yellow needles form in the air and stab at it, methodically and carefully picking it apart as flesh colored foam and yellow bubbles spew from it, the shriek muffled into a gurgle as the entire mound becomes engulfed in the foam and bubbles, needles still picking at it until the gurgle ceases as well, an inert human form left in the middle of the bubbles and foam, which soin decay.
"Be glad, Hilde," Land says to the unconscious form as he leaves the chamber, "Your memory of this place are gone, but your punishment will haunt you until you die."
Land walks up a set of stairs, passing a few Squires. "There are a few Exiles that need to be clothed and taken out-" And then everything shakes and the Squires begin to glow and shake. They soon fall to their knees and begin to mutate as mismatches of scales and fur grow from beneath their skin outward. Screams and shouts echo from throughout the castle as a yellow glow sets in, though Land begins to glow violet and dispel the glow. Soon emerald, crimson, indigo, gold and ashen grey auras intermingle with the violet aura from across the castle grounds and the yellow aura fades. The two Squires gradually begin to return to normal, though their appearance is haggard at best. Land narrows his eyes. "To the medical bay. Now." He snaps and five masked figures appear. He directs one to Inga's room while he directs the others to begin aiding others.
One returns to him shortly thereafter. "Your guest is accommodated, Master Inquisitor."
"Good, contact the others if you haven't. I take it we're about to have a big meeting."
"As you command."
Minutes after the masked figure vanishes does another appear.
"Master Inquisitor, you are being summoned."
"Expected. I want a fully compiled status report when I return."
"As you command." Land shakes his head and vanishes in a cloud of vapour, reconstituting himself in a room where Dust and three others wait.
"Took your time, Land," Dust shrugs.
"Called collecting information from unwilling parties. Takes time," he returns. "The Moon's Shadow is active."
"Joy," sighs a caramel haired woman with long and curly locks of hair clad in billowing robes. "First some calamity strikes the Earth and its harmonic, splashing at us and now that lunatic is mucking about?"
"Aye, Alchymia," Land nods, finding a seat. He looks over to the two figures clad head to toe in armor. "Our guest is fine."
"Good," the shorter of the two nods.
"Our best bet in regards to Earth and its harmonic, on a larger scale is to let them sort themselves out," Dust proposes. "The time it would take to gather proper information regarding the larger issue would be too long, even if we set our resources to solely handling such. It would be better to launch relief measures across Earth, whether that be rebuilding cities or providing food."
"Seconded," Alchymia says, "Though I doubt much of the populus will accept the aid of people from a flying castle or knights. We may need to resort to more covert operations."
"You could just say you want me to go and fix things," Land states. "Wave and the old man can't leave the castle, Dust would likely break more than he could fix and you'd need a large amount of time to get things done effectively, Alchymia."
"This is not incorrect," the shorter of the fully armored figures says. "You would be our best bet but you look like a child Land. You'd need an escort, both for safety and appearances."
"You know good and well I can handle myself," Land returns. "Besides, I could take a Mask or two."
"Denied," the taller of the armored figures says. "The Masks are unerringly loyal to us Inquisitors and that works against your goal if a 'child' is called 'Master Inquisitor' by adults."
"And what would you suggest then, old man?"
"I would accompany you," the last figure says, a young woman in her twenties with blonde hair and grey eyes wearing a simple robe.
"L-lady Alma? Why?"
"I've business on Earth regardless," she says patiently. "Besides, who else would reign you in should your temper flare, Land?"
"I understand," Land says, "though would you not need an escort? "
"I've a dashing knight at my side, though his temper and means of doing things leave much to be desired," she says dryly.
"Hmm, I would skip the free lunches. As I understand it, there's only so much time left, before mere beasts of power remain, and what dark secret Echo contained is finally freed. Oh, and I really do mean, even your organization will crumble, and those who survive the pruning process will turn into unimaginable monsters. No thought, no emotion, only the desire to live and survive as beasts." Inga's voice rings out from a faint sphere.
"If you want to have that knowledge you were discussing earlier, you just so happened to take prisoner the one person who could tell you everything. Who also is terrible at communication magic, so this message should-" The orb abruptly pops.
Inga feels an immense pressure, as if something predatory is dissecting her bit by bit with its eyes. She hears a voice in her head immediately after.
"Very well then, honoured guest," a pleasant voice says, though it leaves her ears ringing. "If you would share such information, by all means do so." The voice, while pleasant physically hurts, not due to malicious intent or purposeful harm, but the sheer restrained power within it, as if an ocean were attempting to fill a water bottle through a filter.
"If I am allowed to leave my quarters and discuss this with the rest of you. Else I will just send my research notes."
"You may." A simple gate opens in the air for her to pass through.
Inga passes through, and summons her staff. She takes a quick glance at those gathered before sighing.
"There's a reason Echo is so obnoxious to travel to and generally around, why it's buried so deep in the fabric of things, and why its flow of time is so off balance. It's the same reason that your men developed scales, fur, and other mishaps. Why realms were briefly merged and then ripped back apart."
Inga summons a large tome, with glyphs on its face. She waves a hand over it, and they disappear. "For more specific reading, for whomever is the most trusted individual you can think of. But the point..." She draws a deep breath.
"Echo is... rather, was, the prison of an ancient being, one whose origins lie in the foundation of all that exists now. I will assume you are familiar with the manifestations of Order, Chaos, and Balance? Well, if you could consider them all 'siblings', then the being that lies within the ruin of Echo is none other than a lost sibling of Chaos and Order, from their earliest years.
A being that remembers what the old world was like... a time before sentience, and only power and strength, primacy. Its prison is fractured, and with that mere crack, the world remembered what it was, and began a process of Reversion. It doesn't matter anymore if you saved those men from what happened to them. Reality itself will enforce its will soon enough. For now, it will happen slowly. But... exponentially. Until the world we know ceases to be, and remembers the old power of Stagnation." Inga closes her eyes.
"I'm not expecting you to believe me. Nor do I expect you to be capable of doing anything about it. But for what it's worth, you can consider me a monster for my actions, I frankly don't care. But even an individual such as I, warped and blackened, values her own existence, and..." She trails off.
"Well, I'm not willing to cease to be on the account of a being whose time long past." She says finally. "I'm in the same boat as you, in other words."
The taller of the fully armored figures stares at her and the pressure she felt before quintuples. There is no ill intent only ancient power washing over her, whispering eldritch promises and sweet tales before the pressure fades, leveling out around her.
"Another ancient gaol threatening to shatter," the High Inquisitor breathes and Inga gets the feeling seeing and hearing him is detrimental to her based solely on his presence. "The Starfallen is not a welcome occurrence."
"You know what she's on about," Land asks.
"Aye, for reasons that are my own."
"...So you are aware of that thing." Inga says, for the first time since being there, an emotion is present in her voice: dread.
"I felt its presence the moment I set foot on that world. I didn't dare look down for the longest time. I have seen many things... ...but only that thing ever made me feel even a glimpse of what true fear was. Madness almost overtook me. I made it a rule to never look at the ground there if I could avoid it again. In any case... you know what it is... you must know... ...about who would benefit from its release." Inga says, weary.
She then looks at Land and the others. "My advice, is to quarantine anyone who showed signs of being altered. They may seem rectified for now, but I promise that won't remain the case. Their existences will have been made unstable, and anyone in contact with them is in danger of sharing their fate. The alterations can spread like plague, if not kept in check. If you don't like that, then don't blame me when I get to say, 'I warned you'. If you really want to waste time on Earth, feel free. Unless you could do something about the present situation on Echo, there isn't much that can be done.
...I've said my piece. Browse through my notes if you really wish. I don't see what use I have to you now, so I will excuse myself, and return to my time out corner." With that, she returns herself to her quarters.
The High Inquisitor sighs. "Alchymia, the notes are yours to research. Land, handling a quarantine would be easy for you. Dust, see to it that Pneuma is clear to continue. Wave, tighten the defenses in the area and monitor the Paladins," he barks, voice clipped and even.
"I take it you and Lady Alma have much to discuss," Wave states more than asks, her superiors nodding. "Very well."
"Roger," Dust salutes before vanishing as if he were never there.
"Gonna need an explanation for this later, old man," Land growls, eyes flashing blue.
"I'll get right to it," Alchymia says, picking up the notes and peering through them.
Alchymia's first sightings of information appear at the beginning, which seems to be from Inga's earliest days, initially describing her experiences with the world, seemingly prior to her described observance of what lay below. She seemed to have taken immediate concern to the odd nature of things, such as how teleportation and other means of travel were very inaccurate if not dangerous to attempt, how time seemed to be incredibly out of sync, and just the sheer scale of the realm.
It's not until a brief maddened log describing something that she saw 'below' the realm that Inga's concern transitions to enlightenment. What follows is a detailed yet vague series of logs describing these bits of clarity:
"It makes sense. This world was never meant to host life. It was meant to be a living, breathing fortress. If one does not calculate the correct temporal flux, one is flung into distant past, distant future, or nihil. If one does not interpret the complex spacial anomalies, one may be flung into the heavens, or into the very bowels. These aren't by accident... ...whatever I saw that built this plane... ...did these things intentionally. It wants to keep... ...it wants to keep the Universe itself away from this place. To keep it away from... ..."The rest of the passage falls into madness, as though Inga had been struck mentally ill by witnessing what had lay below Echo's surface, and this trend continues for a while, until it abruptly pops into clarity, up until it appears to discuss her travels toward the Moonlight Shire, the kingdom of Echo's Fey, after which, the log is seemingly encrypted in a foreign tongue, as well as guarded by fearsome hexes. Inga obviously never intended anyone to read what followed in this passage. There are other such encrypted sections, with plain parts in between.
Most curiously, after these points, is when Inga starts to make mention of The Black King, and the forging of an alliance with him.
Alchymia pauses, eyes glowing red when she notices the hexes. "Hm. This will be time consuming." Potent Wards and Arrays begin to appear in the air as Alchymia begins decrypting the text and picking apart the hexes for relevant information.
The language appears to be that of the native tongue found on Echo, but a more advanced version than the common folk's, meaning someone of relatively high status, such as the Royal Family of Chinmoku would have had known about this dialect written here, which in of itself is odd, as it's known that the special version of the language isn't shared to outsiders, so how Inga is capable of writing it isn't clear. The hexes are more easily dealt with, but the language contains few translatable parts in its current state.
"High Inquisitor, your expertise will be needed," Alchymia intones, "Once you are available that is."
Far above the floating castle soars an odd black object, teardrop in shape, smaller than a human head. A single red light flickers on and off, indicating the activity of its processing unit. Sets of small thrusters allow it to travel incredibly fast, which it uses to gain ground on the castle.
Traveling into range. Beginning scan.
Scan complete. Quarry #1 identified. Secondary subjects identified. Designated as 'Ignore'. Quarry #2 identified. Target location's protections scramble direct location of Quarry 2. Designated as Top Priority. Assuming orders: Ignore Quarry #1 and respective secondary subjects and focus on securing Quarry #2. Failure is assumed intolerable. Analyzing threat assessments from last known databank: Treat with serious caution and attempt to attain Quarry #2 without threat of violence. Unit Tao has accepted orders. Unit Tao should now proceed to secure a temporary means of communication.
Its diagnostics being complete, its thrusters engage, and rocket it towards Castle Schere, becoming akin to a meteor before crashing into the ground, being mostly embedded in the soil.
...Unit Tao is now embarrassed. Unit Tao is now stuck.
With no ability to free itself, and noting its red light is still visible, it makes full use of it by beginning to flash it in a very specific frequency:
"... --- ..."
"Land, send a Body to deal with the interloper," the High Inquisitor intones, mid conversation with the Grand Inquisitor. He pauses. "Yes, any Body so long as it has a rudimentary nervous system."
"An interloper," asks Alma.
"Aye. It will get a single chance to explain its purpose here and, if deemed unsatisfactory, it will be carved from this space."
The metallic pod, buried quite well in its impact crater, 'watches' the local onlookers with its eye like light, which appears able to move across its surface without limitation, maintaining the constant repetition of the sequence of flashes it started earlier. The 'eye' is even vaguely expressive, narrowing whenever it sees someone holding a weapon remotely nearby it.
A vaguely humanoid form with gangly limbs and a skeletal frame manifests above the pod, falling upon it in an unceremonious heap.
’’Unit Tao expressing annoyance. Proceeding to deal with situation...’’ Without warning large black spines extend from the unit, quilling the form, before roping into the sinew and stitching itself inside. A sudden flash of holy light obscures the pod and form until a nude masculine angel like being with blonde hair and slate grey eyes emerges from the light, while not changing their expression, they give Land the impression it is displeased.
”I am Unit Tao. I am here to evaluate and confirm if an individual whose fate is very much the dire concern of my master is truly present at this location. I am then to perform a procedure to ensure they avoid a calamitous end. I will not hinder your operations, if you do not attempt to obstruct my own.” The being called Tao says, unemotive but their seriousness is unquestionable. However, their presence seems oddly wispy and undefined, the High Inqisitor unable to pin precisely where they actually are aside from vagueness and a sense of them being everywhere in the castle grounds yet in one place at the same time.