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."
"Awhile 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.