Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Innana: Discovery (Fiction)

I mentioned long ago about how much I enjoy getting into the heads of characters and when I race-changed into a Draenei, I had a lot of difficulty trying to get into the head of an immortal space-goat warrior that channeled energy from a talking and sentient crystal on a crusade for righteousness. So I swapped back to a human, and starting thinking about who she was and where she was in her life, what her day to day work was like, and what might make life interesting for her.

This is the start of what I came up with, I'll likely write this very slowly, and I wish I was an illustrator of any worth as I think this would make a fun, ongoing comic, but ah, well. Besides, non-funny Warcraft comics don't do well anyway, and this is far from funny. Anyway. I haven't drafted this as much as I wanted to but I'm trying to churn out more material more quickly and this was keeping me from other material that's a bit more urgent.

Read at your peril!

INNANA: DISCOVERY

There was once a girl who knew her place in the world. She would wake in the mornings and know the day ahead of her, and the day after that. Weeks and months unfurled like a written scroll, inscribed with foretelling and prophecy until the day someone set fire to her future.

Fire fell from the sky and reached out from the earth, horror consumed all of her tomorrows and when she woke up, her future was a wet clump of ashes in her hands. Her father's gardens were gone, her mother's maids were haunted and desperate women, shocked into senselessness. The men who served her father looted the house as it burned, and ran into the night, some into fire, others into axes and swords. Gold and silver scattered, the butchers uninterested in their gleam.

The girl, however, was too small to be noticed, too unimportant to matter, and when the butchering finished and the fire died, when the sound of horror faded, and she had slept and wept and slept again in the small hollow beneath the burned down house, she was illuminated.

A mailed hand reached down from the blinding light and she was lifted up from the ruins of her life into the comfort of a white tabard, staining it with her ashen hands.

Innana closed her eyes and sat in bed, the nightmares once forgotten were recurring more and more often. Outside her window, Stormwind bustled and there was life waiting for her to join, but she was far from it. Her maid, Alie, knocked and then entered, with a basin of water, and clothing for the day, and Innana put on her smile and attended to her bath.

There was always paperwork to be done. Documents to read, petitions to judge, treaties to be ratified, licences to be granted, wax seals dripping red on her untidy desk to press against one more parchment, and by the time she finished the last of it, the sun was in the west, and there was the Seminary lecture yet to give, a recounting of the Cathedral armaments to see if she could find the source of thieving and a personal consultation with a petitioner.

She had become another cog in the great machinery of the Cathedral of Stormwind, an instrument of the Light. From her window, across the plaza, she could see the holy edifice rising into the sky, the peaks of its steeples lost beyond the rim of her view. Priests, pages, knights, beggars, petitioners and the devout were always on the broad steps, flowing in and out of the Cathedral.

The girl from long ago had once walked similar steps in another land, in another time, in another place, with her mother, hand in hand, attended by servants, they had come bearing flowers and gifts, and standing in the pews while the church rang with the hymns, she felt the awe of divinity. Her mother leaned down to whisper in her ear, "You will wed here, one day as I did."

Her mother was wrong.

She was wed, but not in that church, which was burned and trampled beneath the war machine. It was here, in the Cathedral, that she was wed. Many years ago, and not to a man, no. For the second time in her life, she was illuminated by the Light - it descended from the great stained glass behind the Bishop. It was a small ceremony attended by the family of her brothers and sisters who stood with her, and a handful of petitioners who happened to be there - all strangers with only a mild interest in observing the ceremony, not the church bursting with guests for a great wedding as her mother had thought. The girl had knelt next to the other boys and girls, and then stood as a Knight of the Silver Hand.

She remembered the weight of the sword on her shoulder, the steel gleaming, "You are a weapon. A vessel for the Light. Woman no longer, you are an instrument of justice and righteousness."

And then the sword was in her hand, sword and shield, mace and censor, hands full of power, and there were wars, and terrors to overcome.

Innana closed her eyes, pinched the bridge of her nose. Where was this reminiscing coming from? This day was no more or less important than any other, no anniversaries to spark these distant nightmares and memories. She stood up, calloused, rough hands against the wooden desk, her left hand specked with red wax, and absently picked up her sword-belt. Even in Stormwind, without the armor, dressed only in her plain gray shirt and loose black trousers tucked into polished leather boots, she still felt the need to carry her sword. It was an extra limb, an extension of her will, and she buckled it, unable to withstand the rush of memory.

The girl from long ago had hated swords. She had hated weapons or violence of any kind, she loved the stories best where knights befriended the monsters and turned them into companions. Stories when love and friendship conquered what violence could not. Songs where queens and kings ruled in benevolence over civilized and chivalrous lands, and even the monsters were civilized, brought into the cities, discarding their bones and furs and taking the cotton and leather. She believed this was possible.

That was until the violence found her, turned her life around and left her to face a different world where violence was not just something meted out of anger but it had to become a shield to keep civilization from being washed away in the tides of barbarism and chaos.

Outside her door, in the hallway, there were other doors, some open, others closed, all filled with other cogs in the machinery working on their own paperwork. She set about her business. Visiting the Seminary did nothing to keep her from falling deeper into nostalgia. Her first weeks there as an orphan, getting used to sharing a large dormitory, no maids to help with her everyday processes, the two robes, one of which she was to wash herself every night to have it clean for the next day, the daily lessons in history, numbers, and the holy reed.

When she proved exceptional in her classes, she was moved into the more rigorous training - the deep mysteries of the Light, yes, but also rhetoric, logic, politics, trade, philosophy, music, arithmetic - the kind of education her brothers might have received had her mother born sons. Five years later, she was offered a seat into the priesthood, but she shook her head no, and undertook a new journey, even as her tutors of seven years stood gaping in shock, all of their attention and training wasted on a girl who would become a foot-soldier.

Here, now, she looked at the girls and boys who sat in a row of benches looking up at her, their faces open, and she remembered the woman who changed her life.

A woman with a hard face, short cropped hair with a shock of white running through it, her chin tilted from a blow making her too ugly for anyone to ever kiss, but who spoke with a grace that moved Innana to join her instead of the priesthood.

Today, would Innana speak with enough conviction to change the minds of one of these children?

The lesson ended, she blessed the class, her hand tight around the pommel of her sword, and rushed through her meeting with the Bishops, relenting to their wisdom in the matter of pilfered armaments, with little motivation to become involved in the matter. It was likely to be some poor footman or squire trying to feed his mother or pay his sister's dowry and the Cathedral could afford to part with some of its wealth.

The sun was low over the western hills above Stormwind proper by the time she rushed back to her office for the petitioner. Her stomach growled and she could not remember if she had eaten since leaving her quarters in the morning. Sometimes it seemed her entire life was spent trapped in this square, from quarters to office, office to seminary, seminary to cathedral, cathedral to quarters. Around the square, a team of men went about, lighting the lamps one at a time.

Her hand flexed. The hilt of the sword felt warm, the weight on her hip, the jingle of the chin holding the sword to her belt, and suddenly, she could have been in Northrend... there had been a life beyond this once. But there were worse memories to dwell on than her childhood and she returned to that confused stream gladly rather than her years in the field. She shut her eyes, willing them away, only to feel the horror and agony of all those years in an instant.

The frozen winds of Northrend blasted her, the hopeless chill of the Lich King was there, alive, in her head and the faces of the dead, her brothers, her sisters, the dead, the dead, the dead, the dead who came back, her friends who came back from the grave and the Light was in her hands, burning them as they screamed and they screamed... and she was screaming with them, until they sent her back and...

She opened her eyes. Something was wrong. This kind of melancholy and introspection was not unusual for her, but not this complete preoccupation to the point of paralysis. Perhaps some time with Mother Amina would clear her mind. She would write a note to her and have it delivered in the morning, petitioning for some time with her.

But there was one more task left for her to do before the day was over and she hurried up the steps into the administrative offices. Erik, the middle-aged clerk with infinite patience if not stamina sat at the desk on the first floor and looked up from the line of small text he was following with a finger, exhaustion evident on his face.

"Your petition is waiting in your office," he said. Innana glanced up the stairs were only two lamps flickered and all the other doors were likely closed and locked for the night. The office had no windows facing the west and it seemed all the more gloomy for it.

"Why don't you go ahead," she said, "I'll lock up."

"Thank you," Erik did not argue, gathering his cloak from the peg behind him, "I'll be good to eat dinner with the family for once."

Innana smiled at him and went up to her office as the clerk shut the heavy door behind her, eliminating what little sunlight remained in the office. She walked up stairs and into her room, unbuckling her sword belt and carrying it in her hand. A figure sat in a chair in front of her desk, cloaked and hooded, turned into a silhouette by the flickering candle on her desk that Erik must have left.

"Excuse me for being late," Innana moved around the desk to her chair, "It has been a long day and I appreciate your patience. I'm Innana, and I was given your..."

The figure lifted its head - her head, Innana saw the woman, a girl, really, a pale, sickly, thin girl with sunken, haunted eyes as if from nights of sleeplessness and the caved-in cheeks of a starving child. Innana slowly lowered herself into her chair, laying her sword belt on the desk, staring into this cadaverous face.

"... your petition to handle." She finished quietly.

"You're the wrong one," the girl hissed as if to foil eavesdroppers. There was something in the way she spoke that sent a chill up Innana's spine. The light in the room faded, dulled, the candle flame blinked, tilting to one side as if in a draft though the room was still, and then it was still again.

"What manner of help, sister?" Innana asked gently. Something was very wrong here. The cloak was far too bulky for a woman so frail. Something about her seemed very familiar. Outside her office, the hallway creaked, just an old building making noises in the dark, but Innana felt her hand reaching for the sword before stopping herself.

The girl whimpered, turned to look over her shoulder, and then leaned forward, "It wasn't supposed to be you," her face shuddered with terror, "No, no, no. They said it would be someone else who is not you."

Innana felt goosebumps running up her forearms, there was a feeling of dread building in her that warned of danger, close by, part of her felt flush with heat, another part shivered, thee smell of charred flesh wafted through the room then it was gone. The girl put her hands up to her head, holding it, and whined in a high-pitched tone that set her teeth on edge.

"Who are you?" Innana stood up, the sword lay on the desk between them. She couldn't remember the last time she drew her weapon in combat, a year ago, maybe? Two?

Something flickered around the woman, like an invisible barrier that enveloped her and then it was gone. The sword appeared in Innana's hand, she didn't remember drawing it, as she backed away from the desk, "What are you?" She hissed.

There, again, the flickering, and then it was gone for good replaced with the odor of rotting flesh laced with the sharp chemical smell of an apothecary. The thin face melted, and a cadaver stood in its place, the bulky robe hanging limp off of the frame of bones. Sunken eyes and cheeks vanished replaced by a mad flickering in hollow sockets and tattered skin stretched over pale bone.

"A mother," the creature said, her voice no longer that sharp tone but a guttural, wet sound, "A mother in search of her daughter."

1 comment:

  1. Oh that's a rough start... But an awesome beginning.

    Interesting that you didn't feel attached to the draenei. I've found that I can fit orcs and blood elves in to my head the easiest, trolls aren't as easy, but I can't deal with tauren or undead at all.

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