Story:Holy Opposites Chapter 16
Cavria lay in bed with a sick grin on her face. Her face was sheened with sweat, her hands were clenching and unclenching the sheets, and her legs were grinding together, tangling the blankets. She was in the throes of a heady dream of delight.
In her dream, she was wearing an outfit of velvet, leather, silk, and lace. She was walking down a barren hall of unlit stone into a prison cell. On the floor, she saw mortals sprawled about, dressed in rags and filth. They sat there with blank expressions, huddling for warmth without moving. As she walked among them, they stirred to life, mewling and whimpering for her attention. Chains and ropes sprang up from the ground to hold them in place, and each of them clamored for her attention.
She idly selected one, and he cried in joy as his ropes fell away. The others just cried in bitter disappointment as the selected victim threw himself at her feet. She materialized long, thin knives and began torturing him, driving the spikes through his bruised skin and drawing beads of blood. Knifes of sharp obsidian left thin cuts that didn’t draw blood, while long and jagged metallic ones spilled blood all over the floor. The mortal writhed in ecstasy and agony as she tortured him, growing more aroused as she watched him suffer. She flensed his skin in places, skewering his eyes and genitals with barbed hooks, all while he begged for more, more, more…
Cavria launched up from bed with hands over her mouth. Several of the sisters of the temple grouped by her bedside with their eyes wide. “Cavria, Cavria, for Ryaire’s sake, calm yourself!” one insisted. “What in the world is wrong with you?”
Cavria held back a spate of giggles that turned nearly to a vomiting spell. It was a fair question. “A… a nightmare, sister,” she managed, still clamping her hand over her mouth in disgust. What in the fucking hell had just happened to her? Was she getting off to visions of herself torturing people? “A… most horrible nightmare. I… oh, I sweat the sheets through,” she lied. “I need to clean this. I’m so terribly sorry for waking you all,” she said, flushing with humiliation as she saw the number of sisters who had clustered around. “Please, return to sleep. I’ll be fine.”
Cavria ran her hands over her sheets as she waited for them to dry. She was standing there when Axio wandered up behind her. “Good evening, sister,” he said.
She didn’t turn. “Hello, Axio. Couldn’t sleep?”
“Nope.” Cavria sighed. “Nightmare.”
“Me too.” Axio shrugged and sat down beside the little garden. “I spent the evening with the Elder Brother from Ilmater’s church. The Oracular Cleric, you know.”
Cavria glanced over at Axio. He was standing in a nightshirt and loose pants, leaning back against the outer wall. “What did he say?”
Axio sighed. “I asked him to render an oracular sight for us, to help solve this abduction epidemic. He… told me much. Riddles, most of it, but Brother Forswaithe helped me solve much of it.” He ground his hands into his eyes. “I, uh… he prophesied me dying.”
Cavria spun. “What?”
“He prophesied my death, at the hands of people with many blades,” Axio muttered. “Not when or how, or where, but that it would happen at the hands of many people with blades, or a large group of foes.”
Cavria sat down beside him and put a hand on his knee. “Axio, I’m so sorry,” she said. “I’m… I don’t know what to say.”
Axio squeezed her hand. She looked up at his noble face, which even with her darkvision, she could see he was troubled. The black-and-white image her fiendish eyes projected showed her the bitter worry creasing his face.
Her stomach had been a mess from her… not really a nightmare, she had to admit; this wasn’t making it better. “Well… I’m very sorry you’ve been put through that,” she said softly.
“Thank you,” he said. “What about you?”
She grimaced. “I had a lucid dream,” she muttered. He deserved her candor. “It was… I mean, I enjoyed it at the time, but now it terrifies me. I was… I was back in Hell,” she said, screwing her eyes shut. “I was torturing petitioners, mutilating them. I was enjoying it, in my dream, I was laughing for more…ergh,” she groaned as her stomach lurched. “I feel so dirty. I’m a devil, I’m supposed to enjoy that stuff, and now…”
Axio turned her face towards him. He had darkvision too. Her face was perfectly normal with her amulet on. “Listen to me,” he said firmly. “Come back. Don’t dwell on it if makes you sick, Paladin.”
She felt a moment’s surprise that he was pulling his superior rank on her, but it made sense. That was how he felt he could assuage a fear that was damaging his subordinate. In fact, if she had him gauged properly, she thought to herself, he would probably feel bad about it later. “Right. Well, I woke up, and I was a mess, and I had woken all the other Sisters up with my thrashing and wailing, and… ugh. I just feel like a deviant right now,” she admitted.
Axio nodded. “I asked Ryaire for a resolution to your mysterious pain in the ritual before I went to bed. I imagine you could ask for help with this nightmare problem, too.”
Cavria rubbed her eyes and glanced miserably at her sopping-wet sheets. “Right. I’ll ask tonight, I suppose.”
The Aasimar looked at her sympathetically. “I’m sorry; I’ll leave you to it. I’ll try to get some sleep tonight, in case we get called for battle soon by the Watch.”
“Yeah. Well. Good night, Axio,” she said. “I’ll try to rest as soon as I can.”
I watched as Axio walked back in, head hung low. I rubbed my eyes as I turned back to the laundry. We all had a lot on our minds, at least.
I sat down under the bright moonlight of Selûne and closed my eyes, and instantly fell asleep.
In my dreamscape, I immediately rolled to my feet in horror. I wasn’t in Hell, and I wasn’t in the backyard of a temple garden in Waterdeep, either. I was somewhere far away, in a walled-off block of grass and trees, like a park, with a huge table before me. I was clothed in just simple white undergarments and a flowing nightgown, with no shoes or sandals.
Another lucid dream? I tried to shake myself out of it, telling myself that I was just about to launch into another nightmare. Nothing happened. I turned, looking for other people in the dream, but there was nobody there, just the table with its cornucopias of food and flowers.
There was a way out, I saw. A large doorway with no door, leading off into an endless grey mist that never quite rolled through the archway. I took a step towards it, wondering what in the world was going on.
I heard some sound behind me. I spun around, hands raised, and froze in shock. Ryaire’s avatar was there, clad in her simple white raiment and glowing aura, eating at the table. “Come, little sister, you’re not leaving yet, are you?” she asked over her shoulder.
I slowly lowered my hands. “Lady Ryaire?” I asked in disbelief. “Where am I? What is this?”
Ryaire waved a hand. “This is the Weeping Garden, and despite its name, it’s actually quite nice. Ilmater lends access to his most troubled faithful, when their stresses are too great. You’re not here, by the way, you’re napping in the garden of my temple, safe and sound. This is merely an illusion,” she said frankly. “Come, child, enjoy it before I dispel it.”
I slowly walked up beside her and sat down, still feeling a bit whiplashed. “My Lady, I…”
“I heard your Oath today,” Ryaire said. “I heard it, and I do approve.” She shot me a little smile. “I do love you, Cavria, like a daughter. You’ll make me so proud.”
I blushed. “Thank you, Lady Ryaire, that’s wonderful to hear.” I recalled the pain and flinched. “I, er… something went wrong,” I told her.
“Oh yes, I know, and I’m sorry I didn’t notice,” Ryaire said, huffing in annoyance. “Not until it was almost too late. That was Asmodeus.”
I chilled from head to toe. “Asmodeus?” I asked, and my voice was quavering. “He found me?”
“He found you the moment that Planetar found you and sent you to Arvandor,” Ryaire explained. “He would have intercepted the portal if he had been willing to fight Corellon and the angel at the same time. But no, he chose not to act, not while you were in the Arbor.” She smiled a merciless smile. It didn’t really suit her. “The coward also knew not to fight me in the Arbor, no matter how badly he wants to plunge my playground into Malsheem and watch my children suffer. If he did, Tyr, Torm, Helm, Ilmater, and I would be on the offensive in seconds, and Eilistraee would be not far behind, with Dumathoin and Moradin hot on her heels. No, he’s attacking you now, when you’re away from my direct range of action but still well within my sight, to mock me as much as punish you.”
“Punish me?” I spluttered. I slammed my hands down on the table in pique. “He threw me out a window to what he thought was my death!”
“And now he’s angry that you had the gall to survive,” Ryaire said mildly.
“What a petty little stain he is,” I snarled.
“Mmm. Eat, girl, it’s all fake food, you may as well splurge,” Ryaire said. I stared at the food before tentatively nibbling on some. It actually was delicious.
“That’s my girl. You know, I heard Axio’s prayer to help you, and I’m glad to do it,” Ryaire said. She smiled again. “I do love that boy, but he’s like a puppy. So happy, eager, feisty… but he does like you. As a friend, you know. I think he feels a certain kinship with you that he doesn’t feel with the other monks.”
“Why? I’ve known him a week.”
“You are both beings touched by the planes, you see,” Ryaire explained. “That marks a person. Like the Horizon Walkers of old, the men and women who forged trails across the planes, across the Spelljammers and Sigil and Abeir. It puts a certain color on the soul. That, and he admires your courage.”
I bit into some poultry and found my stomach grumbling. My illusory stomach. That was something, certainly. What a mighty illusion. “Well, that’s nice of him.”
I ate in silence for a while before bringing up my somewhat more recent experience. “My lady… my nightmare, well… I had a nightmare tonight,” I confessed. “It, er… disturbed me.”
“I had a horrible nightmare, of… myself in the Hells and enjoying it,” I admitted. “I was torturing people and… it was almost sexually intense.”
“Mmm. Probably Asmodeus again,” Ryaire said disgustedly. “You may wish to invest in a ring with protection from evil woven into it, or something like that. Asmodeus may be trying to give you visions of things you’d like if you hadn’t… well, if you hadn’t been rejected from your batch of High Succubae Prototypes.”
“I reiterate my earlier remark about pettiness,” I said disgustedly, but inwardly I quailed. He haunted my waking and my sleeping, now. Would I ever find rest and comfort again? “What should I do until I can afford that?” I asked.
Ryaire looked over at me, and I felt my soul warm from her friendly expression. “Sweet daughter, laugh it off tonight and pray for my help the next time you feel it happen. There’s no reason I can’t help you out when he does this.”
“Well… thank you, Lady Ryaire,” I said, deeply touched, “but is it not the wish of Lord Ao to Sunder the role of the divine from the role of the mortal? Won’t you get in trouble if you keep helping me?”
“Possibly, but Asmodeus thumbs his nose at free will all the time, and if there’s one thing Ao actually respects, it’s free will, even if he doesn’t like to let people know,” Ryaire said candidly. “I fear no retribution, not for helping an innocent woman live her life.”
I looked back down at my plate, almost tearing up. Yes, I told myself for the umpteenth time, I had fallen in with a good sort. “Thank you, my Lady,” I managed.
Ryaire cleared her illusory plate and stood. “Well. It’s time for you to wake, little one,” she said. She rested her hand on my shoulder. “When you are ready, please walk through the doorway into the mist. You will awaken from the illusion, right where I left you.”
“Okay.” I polished off my wine and stood too. “Thank you for your help, my Lady Ryaire, I appreciate everything you’ve done.”
“You are my bonded servant now, Cavria,” she reminded me with a smile. “I extend certain privileges to the faithful.”
I awoke with a smile on my cheeks. I straightened up and looked at the sky – indeed, not a minute had passed, but I felt refreshed, as if I had slept ten hours. I saw Axio’s shape appear in the doorway as I rose. “Cavria,” he said sounding pained, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have assumed that tone with you before. When you were talking about your nightmare, I was too sharp with you.” He sighed. “Especially since I had just done the same thing.”
I smiled, recalling my earlier suspicion. “It’s quite all right, my friend. Go to bed. I’ll speak with you in the morning.”
|The tale of the Holy Opposites ||
|Arc 1: | Prologue | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 |
Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10
|Arc 2: | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 |
Chapter 16 | Chapter 17 | Chapter 18 | Chapter 19 | Chapter 20
Chapter 21 | Chapter 22 | Chapter 23 | Chapter 24 | Chapter 25
|Arc 3: | Chapter 26 | Chapter 27 | Chapter 28 | Chapter 29 | Chapter 30|
|Arc 4: | Chapter 31 | Chapter 32 | Chapter 33 | Chapter 34 | Chapter 35 |
Chapter 36 | Chapter 37 | Chapter 38 | Chapter 39 | Glossary