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Public Tomb of a Nameless Witch

Discussion in 'Tantari Desert' started by Rawiya Shahr, Jan 26, 2017.

  1. ((I'm soloing, but if you can think of a legitimate reason to be here, feel free to jump in anyone.))

    The barren sands of the Tantari Desert could be treacherous to traverse for those lacking knowledge of them. Even the Gerudo people would be hesitant to delve too deeply into the seemingly endless dune seas. The trek was made easier when one was privy to the secrets of commanding the sand to her own will, and guided by the the esoteric knowledge of a living book which had come this way many times in ages past.

    By no means did that suggest such a journey was simple, however. The gerudo sisters had been home well over a week before the more magically inclined twin had had set out on her own. Her loyal steed Sindbad had been left behind in exchange for a camel that could better brave the harsh environment, saddlebags loaded up with generous rations and as much potable water as the beast could possibly could be burdened with. This was the fourth day of the witch’s journey into the dune sea, and the bags were already a great deal lighter than when she had left home. No oasis had shown itself for her to be able to replenish her reserves of water, but as long as she completed her business today, she would have a reasonable amount for the trip home, with only little need to stretch her thirst.

    Sand spread around where she stood in every direction, meeting the horizon far in the distance. She felt as if she was standing on the ocean she had only ever read about in books, the dunes no different from great waves. Malgyorgs would help complete the picture, she thought, but it was all the better that she had not encountered any of those monstrous sand sharks. Nor had she encountered any of the Molgera Queen’s children, for her territory was deeper still, on the approach to the the unceasing sandstorm attributed to King Dragmire’s great magic. It was difficult to believe there was once a path to the southern part of Hyrule that way, but such was what history books and those old enough to remember claimed.

    The only thing breaking the illusion of the sand sea was the building protruding from the sand, much of it buried under a dune blown by the scorching wind. It must have been quite gorgeous in its day, but time was a cruel master to all. The presumably once-lustrous stone surface of the parts exposed had been bleached by the sun to a faded yellow-white. Idols and monuments of gods the storyteller did not even recognise were chipped, and broken, with fragments strewn about and others buried under the sand. One that she did recognise was the Sand Goddess, her ever-present serpent coiled around her arms—a headless serpent, however. Eyes roved downwards to find the head lying half buried on the ground. Striding towards it, the woman placed a wrapped palm on its eye, needing only to crouch slightly for the snake’s head was as big as her own torso. The one buried here had asked the Sand Goddess to watch over her in the next life. Had the Goddess done exactly that and eventually grown tired and left? Or had the Sand Goddess never watched over the tomb to begin with, an empty stone idol simply sitting there for centuries? Gods were fickle beings after all, if legends and stories were anything to go by. Gazing up, the woman realized other pieces of the Goddess were missing as well: an arm, a fragment of her chest, a piece of her crown and brow. Did she care so little for her own appearance, or was this idol simply no longer worthy of her?

    Rawiya banished the thoughts from her mind. She was not here to debate with herself about the nature of the gods, after all. The front door to the tomb was certainly buried underneath the sand, so she would need to find another way inside. It took only a brief scan with her eyes to find a place where the roof had broken apart enough to allow a woman of her figure to squeeze through with little difficulty.

    Securing the camel to a large fragmented stone so that it could not be tempted to leave her alone without water, the gerudo witch draped a coil of rope over her shoulder and began the climb...
     
  2. The drop was higher than the storyteller witch had been expecting. The rope—threaded through and heavily secured by a piece of the stonework on the roof of the tomb—dangled fairly high above the ground. It was moments like this that Rawiya was thankful for her abilities as an Earth-altering mage, for she trusted a rope threaded through stone far more than one simply tied around it. But the rope did not appear as if it would be quite enough—the drop was high enough that jumping down even from the dangling end of the rope would risk spraining an ankle at the least, but be more likely to break a femur. Perhaps entering the tomb through the hole in the roof had not been the safest route, but the witch could not afford to expend all of her magical energies boring a tunnel through the stone wall itself.

    Safely descending into the tomb would require some improvisation then, but from where she stood, perched atop the roof, she could hardly get a good visual on anything she could manipulate inside the tomb itself. With her pack slung securely over her shoulder, the gerudo witch slid through the narrow opening and climbed down the rope, gripping it tightly with hands magically cloaked in sand—a measure to improve her grip as well as to shield herself from rope-burn. Dangling there, the gerudo’s eyes roved the room for any sign of something she could use to help herself get down. Rawiya certainly wasn’t unfit—quite the opposite in fact, as a result of rigorous adventuring—but neither was she a model of athleticism, and she felt her arms straining against the weight of gravity and her own, thankfully light, body.

    The chamber below was largely empty, save for a collection of broken statues that mirrored the ones outside. A chest sat on one side, though the lock was broken and lid wide open—empty, from the look of things. Adventurers had been here before, though nothing about the surroundings suggested the previous party had been here recently. Would the deeper parts of the tomb still be untouched? It would such a shame to have come here, just to find everything of value cleared ou—ouch!

    Rawiya’s left shoulder protested at clinging to the rope for so long and the witch redoubled her effort to find a safe way to the ground. Sand was scattered on the ground—most likely blown in by the wind through the hole in the ceiling. There was nowhere near enough to form an earthen cushion to catch her, but perhaps enough to complete her rope…

    “O sand betrayed by wind, cast into death’s home. How must you hunger? Take upon yourself the form of a fiendish serpent which craves its own kind. Your brother’s tail dangles above you: sink your teeth into his flesh.”

    Incantations such as those were the method by which the witch often directed her chosen element to complete more specific tasks such as this. The sand scattered in sparse amounts across the room seemed to gather itself together as if by an unseen force. It clung to itself and did indeed take on the vague shape of a serpent or rope, as it climbed higher towards Rawiya. Ignoring the protests of her shoulders, Rawiya climbed up slightly to make room for the ‘serpent’ which latched onto the end of the rope and pulled it taut. Recognising this as her moment, the storyteller let her sand cloaked hands slide down the length of her makeshift pole until her feet touched ground.

    Somewhat exhausted from the ordeal, the woman released her magical energy just as her arms slumped to her side, aching somewhat from the effort of clinging to the rope. The sand-serpent fell to the ground and scattered in a shower of granules. Sira’s arms certainly wouldn’t feel like jelly after such a simple workout, now would they? A few minutes of rest and a few mouthfuls of water while sitting against the wall would serve Rawiya well before she would continue on...
     
  3. The tomb was definitely larger than it had appeared to be from the outside, much of it dug into the ground and parts meant to be above ground still buried under shifting dunes of sand. The witch had been descending down a spiraling sandstone staircase for over a minute, lit torch in hand. She was likely quite deep underground by now, though she had no method by which to determine exactly how deep. The room she had entered through above, as well as the adjoining chamber and prayer space had been sadly devoid of anything of value, quite possibly stripped of their treasures years if not decades ago.

    But Rawiya knew from Irfan’s words that this was a tomb, not simply a house of worship, and that knowledge had spurred her forward where other adventurers would have likely thought the ancient building empty. It had taken several hours work of patrolling the upper tomb’s rooms and meditating on the stonework, but eventually Rawiya had sensed a looseness where it should not have been and pushed the stone aside to reveal a passageway that had been sealed as a measure against looters.

    Reaching the bottom of the stairs, the gerudo witch arrived at a small antechamber. A large, circular stone door was set in the wall opposite the stairs, a pedestal in front of it. Torchlight flickered across the walls, depicting ancient hieroglyphs which would take the scholar hours to decipher even with Irfan’s help—time she could not quite spare if she hoped to ration her water for the trip back to civilization. Her pack contained charcoal and parchment with which she would make rubbings before departing, though. What she did do was scan the walls for any sign of the glyph for ‘warning,’ ‘danger,’ or ‘curse,’ all of which were important details to look out for in such a place.

    Drawing a fistful of sand out from the waterskin she used to hold it, Rawiya fastened her torch to the wall with a makeshift sconce, freeing both her hands to peruse the draconian leather-bound tome she carried everywhere. Perhaps it would have further insights to offer...
     
  4. With the tome’s assistance, Rawiya had found the way forward. The circular stone door had wanted an offering of blood, and the witch had provided it. The shallow cut she had made in her left palm dripped crimson tears upon the pedestal, which almost seemed to glow with pleasure at the offering—but of course, that was just a trick of the mind, right? The gerudo woman blinked and the pedestal was just as it had been a moment ago, albeit with the offering seeping into hairline cracks on its surface.

    A slow rumble as the ancient magic within the stonework completed its task, the the circulate stone door rolling to each side—two slabs of stone made for better security than one, Rawiya supposed. As the witch stepped forward, she was greeted by magically lit torches on the walls, casting an eerie glow around the large, rectangular crypt with their violet flames.

    And it was certainly a crypt, for in the center of the chamber was an ornate sarcophagus which would have been the envy or royalty, embossed in gold and inlaid with precious gemstones that Rawiya could not even begin to count or even completely identify. But upon this sarcophagus sat a lit lantern which the witch surely could identify as the binding item of a poe. How many centuries had it lain here? Could the being bound to it even maintain its sanity for such a long time in isolation?

    “Hello?” Rawiya called hesitantly in the gerudo tongue, for this was certainly the tomb of one of her people. “Do you slumber, Nameless Witch? I have come seeking your guidance.”

    Silence… then light.
     
  5. The light was a violet flame, having sprung to life in the poe lantern set upon the sarcophagus. It shone with a contrary bright darkness: the purple breathtakingly vivid, yet not lighting up the crypt as it seemed it should have been doing. Instead, the rest of the room seemed to even dim somewhat, only further drawing Rawiya’s attention to the lantern.

    “You are far from home, little vehvi.” A formless voice echoed as if emanating from the walls themselves. “Why have you disturbed my slumber?”

    “I am no child,” Rawiya said, feeling her heartbeat rise at the sound of the spirit though she stared down the lantern with confidence on her surface. “I come seeking your knowledge, O Nameless One. I have inherited the tome Irfan and wish to uncover the secrets hidden in its pages.”

    “Inherited!” The echoing voice was half shouting, half scoffing. “Do not lie to me, vehvi! I have known everything the book knows since you set foot in my home. It and I are bound, just as it has now, however regrettably, been bound to a whelp such as you.”

    A violet haze seemed to take form, pouring out the the lantern and onto the floor like a heavy mist. It grew in size and took on the form of a cloaked woman, and Rawiya knew this to be the poe whose body was buried here. The young storyteller felt her spine tingle with apprehension. She had fought monsters before, but never anything so powerful as the poe of an ancient witch. She had little doubt the being would be able to kill her without much effort if it truly wished to.

    “Treasure hunter, fortune seeker,” if the ghost could spit, it would have. “You did not inherit the tome, wretch. You stole it away from a tower with no more thought for it than idle curiosity. Your apathy disgusts me.” The poe glared daggers at her. “Why should I teach you anything, when I could far more easily bury you here. You would find better use as a stalfos guardian for my resting place than as a mere spinner of yarns.”

    The threat of undead conversion was enough to unnerve even the oft cool-headed gerudo. She swallowed a wad of saliva in anxiety, but when she spoke she attempted to maintain her confidence as best she could. The poe wasn’t exactly wrong about how Rawiya had acquired Irfan, though she preferred to think of it as liberating the tome from a dusty old ruin rather than stealing it. “I do not know what you mean by apathy, Nameless One,” she said, truthfully. “Would an apathetic student of magic have sought out a master such as yourself?”

    The poe studied Rawiya for a long moment, her ethereal eyes roving the living woman top to bottom from under their hood. At last, she spoke, “Tell me, vehvi, why you began the study of magic?” Although the spirit was calmer, her voice was sickly sweet with all the patronization of an adult humouring a child.

    “My sister has always taken care of the both of us on the road,” Rawiya admitted. Although she found the poe’s tone with her irritating, the storyteller had always been patient with insults. At least it seemed she was making some form of progress. “I wanted to learn magic so that I could be of use to her—more than just company and a sly tongue when it was needed.”

    “Liar!” the Nameless Witch snapped, bewildering the young woman who thought she was being truthful. “You would never have begun the study of witchcraft if you hadn’t stumbled across the tome purely by chance. You have no love for the arcane—you are a hobbyist. You travel from place to place, looking for whatever thing of fancy to amuse you.” The glare the poe gave her was a knowing one, and Rawiya recalled her earlier claim to know everything that Irfan knew. “You are a vagabond and a scoundrel, who cannot see past the tip of her nose. Treasure, women, adventure… and magic. All of these are idle pursuits for a wretch with no dreams or aspirations. You wander aimlessly in the dark, lacking any form of direction. It is sickening.”

    Rawiya opened her mouth as if to speak, but found herself at a rare loss for words. Was it true? She was a wanderer, it was true, was that not a goal in itself? Before she could wholly gather her thoughts, the poe continued: “Irfan may have bound itself to you, Rawiya Harumi Shahr, but I refuse to acknowledge you as my heiress. Not until you have proven yourself a worthy successor.”

    Rawiya nodded, lips terse. “How is it that I can prove myself?” she asked after a moment. “I wish to be worthy of learning, Nameless One.”

    Silence permeated the crypt as the poe of the Nameless Witch thought the question over. They might have stood there for ten minutes in the silence, or perhaps just two, for but it felt like an eternity to the young woman.

    Finally, the witch’s ghost spoke. “I will offer you a task, vehvi,” she said, speaking without any overt form of malice for the first time. “If only because I do not wish my legacy to die, I offer you this chance to prove yourself.”

    “Very well, Nameless One,”
    Rawiya answered, “What task do you ask of me?”

    ————————————
    By the time Rawiya emerged from the buried tomb, night had fallen and the desert had taken on a slight chill. The camel remained tied to the stone fragment, lying asleep. The young witch was quick to rouse her mount from its slumber, however—night would be the least exhausting time to travel the dune sea, and sleeping while thoughts were racing in her mind would be a near impossibility anyway.

    The woman began her journey home.
     

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