Decisions, Decisions

Janie can't help but feel vaguely uneasy at calling on Maximilian's services this time; while it's unlikely she and he would come to blows, the fact remains that she's enlisting a spirit's help in learning a spell that has no purpose other than severely and specifically harming spirits. Still, to learn a spell this complex she'll need all the aid she can get, so she makes the call and sets up an appointment.

The spirit is equally uneasy, though with some coaxing from Janie reluctantly agrees to perform this service, bound if not literally, than by honor- Janie was offering up a part of her own spirit for the service, after all. When all the preparations are complete, Maximilian tears open an astral gateway for Janie, transferring her into the void. At first, there is no sound, no sensation at all… but after a few moments.

"Hello, Janie" says a voice behind the Shaman adept. It's a familiar voice- May's voice. but there is something off about it, something a little bit hoarse. When Janie turns, she will see why. The Dweller takes on the face of May, but it is marred with blisters and scars, seeping vile green puss which fizzles and burns at her scragged clothing as it oozes from her sores. "I'm so sory, Janie…" she says then, "You just kept keeping me out, hiding things from me… it turned to sadness, and then to anger. And my anger drove me to the Toxic path…" the dweller says, barely more than a whisper.

Janie blanches and flinches backward. Her deepest worry, her worst fear. Having failed her lover… No. "This isn't ye, May," Janie replies, trying to make herself believe it. "This is somethin' that might be - but I've no intention of lettin' it come to this. I won't let it happen. " She takes a deep breath, then deliberately steps forward, reaching out to May's ravaged face. "It won't happen. I promise."

"Then tell me… tell me all the secrets you keep… tell me everything, Janie." May says, moving into the touch even as the acidic puss burns at Janie's fingertips, causing an unpleasant stinging sensation. "Tell me everything…"

Janie grits her teeth as the acid starts to burn her skin, but doesn't flinch back. "No, May," she replies steadily. "I've sworn to keep these secrets as best I can, even from ye as long as not knowin' them doesn't endanger ye. I trust ye with y'r secrets, an' I'll keep nothin' from ye unless I've no choice… An' I'll ask ye t'trust my judgment as I trust ye."

May's hand comes up to hold Janie's as she closes her eyes, "I understand…" she says, even as she fades from view, and with an audible whir, the blackness of the void is swept away leaving Janie standing alone in a green field, a village visible in the distance, and the breeze blowing against her skin. She finds herself dressed in a simple woolen dress and leather boots, and as if he was always there, there is suddenly a tall elven man standing before her,w earing similarly antiquated clothes- a leather jerkin over an un-bleached white shirt, and a pair of heavy sack pants. "I know what ou seek, Janie. But first, I need you to answer me a riddle- There's no need to rush, you have until the sun sets to answer, but you cannot leave this place until you do answer. The riddle is this:"

"I am the beginning of eternity."
"I am the end of every time and every place."
"I am the beginning of every end, and the end of every place."
"What am I?"

"Those in the village can offer hints if you need them, but they will ask that you pay in some way. You only have one chance to answer correctly, so choose wisely."

Janie nods, then looks up at the sun to get a feel for how much time she actually has.

Instinctively Janie knows, she will have exactly as much time as it takes to perform one task in the village- the sun hangs low.

Janie decides to waste no more time, then, and heads into the village to see what hints are offered, and what tasks required.

In the village, there are three clear choices. There is an elderly lady struggling and failing to carry two large pails of water across her back, while there is a young girl crying for her mother. The third option is someone dressed in fine silks rather than rough wool and linen like most of thsoe here- offering a hint in a simple exchange for gold pieces.

Of all the hateful concepts and vile words, "Triage" is quite likely the one Janie dislikes more than any other. Not because of what it means in and of itself, but because of the circumstances it always implies - whether it's an emergency room with too many dying people and not enough surgeons, or too many people starving and not enough food to save them all… Or, as in this case, more people in need of help than she has the resources and ability to help. Having to choose, knowing that whichever you choose to help means someone else won't be helped… And knowing that every second you waste trying to decide who to help is another second you aren't helping someone.

All this goes through her mind in the space of two or three heartbeats at most, then she walks over to the child. "Hush, girl… I'll help ye find y'r mother. What does she look like?"

"Mommy is tall, with curly hair, and freckles on her nose like mine. An' she has pointy ears like mine too." The girl says to Janie then.

Janie nods. "Let's go an'find her, shall we?" she offers.

You think you spot a head of curly, mousy brown hair just above the crowd near the village green where a market is going on.

"Is that her?" Janie asks, indicating the head she's spotted. "Let's go an'see…"

"Uhmmmm… Maybe." The little girl says as she happily follows Janie along through the crowd which seems to be getting thicker and thicker the harder one presses for the center of it. Eventually though, a woman scoops the child up, and gives her a hug, "Anabella, I told you not to wander off, you had me so worried." She murmurs. She then looks to Janie, and says, "He's not a thing you can feel or touch, but a thing you can read. He's a letter."

Janie blinks, then frowns briefly before nodding in thanks. "Thank ye, ma'am," she offers to the woman, then makes her way back to the man who'd posed the riddle.

The man waits, framed by the setting sun, exactly where he was when Janie left for the village. "Welcome back, Janie. You chose the needy over the greedy, and the young over the old. You favor growth- death and rebirth. Now tell me, what am I?"

Janie glares back. "Ye're someone who pretends at cleverness by communicatin' poorly to put those who listen t'ye on th'wrong mental track an' make them seek complicated solutions to a simple riddle. Ye've th'beginnin' an'th'end o'eloquence, but lackin' in form. Ye're in style an'pretense, but not in truth…"

"… Ye're E."

The being simply smiles at that, "I see you saw through my riddle- half of answering any riddle is determining what the riddler is asking." he offers, still smiling as he fades away, and the sun rapidly moves from setting to set, and it seems like the whole sky is spinning, days and nights turn to weeks, weeks to months, and months to years as the little village is transformed into a large stone keep right before Janie's eyes, the ground beneath her feet into a pathed road. The way is obvious.

Janie nods to herself and steps forward, walking down the path to the keep.

As she walks, her scenery continues to change, the grass growing pale and then withering, the leaves falling from the trees, and the road falling into disrepair. The sun stops rising, leaving this realm trapped in night, and dark, frightening things loom on the horizon as Janie heads towards her final destination.

Janie grins humorlessly. When has a Warrior ever strayed from her path just because the destination seems a bit scary? Yea, for though she walks through the valley of the shadow of death, she fears no evil - because if evil wants to take her, it'd better be prepared for the fight of its existence.

Evil apparently decides that now isn't a good time to get the hell beaten out of it, and declines to waylay her as she makes her way through the keep and out the other side.

Moving through the darkness, Janie's skin will prickle and turn cold, and her vision will cloud, her joints will ache and her breath will burn. But once she makes her way through, she emerges on a glowing pathway to a great white citadel, here the floor and the sky are one, and paths converge. This is the center of magical energy on the metaplanes, and the destination of Janie's journey.

Janie slows down as she approaches the Citadel. Not out of trepidation, but out of respect - and awe. But still, she pushes on, toward her purpose for coming here.

Though no one guides her, Janie's path is obvious. Though no-one says it, her destination is clear. Wandering seemingly without aim, she will find her way to an antechamber, where literal representations of spells glitter about. Amongst this chaos, she will find what she seeks, a glimmering shard of knowledge, an aspect of the Spirit Bolt magic spell.
Janie reaches toward it with some regret but no hesitation. Like her Manabolt, this spell has one purpose and one purpose only - to end a life. Unlike her guns, there is no way to modify this spell to do anything less… But she knows she will need to use it, and possibly soon. She exhales slowly, then grasps the shard firmly.

As it is grasped, it is with a kind of gentle, cold-burning sensation that it shatters, and shatters, and shatters again until it is but dust, and it flows into her body, spreading the sensation of pins and needles throughout. Eventually as the numbing, tingling sensation reaches her head, the world begins to spin and fade into blackness. Soon, Janie will awaken in her lodge, exactly as before she left, with a greater knowledge of the precise workings of the spell she sought imprinted upon her mind.

Janie opens her eyes, sighs once more, then takes up the figurine representing the spell and prepares herself mentally for a long study…

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