- Markshire PCs:
She looked around her and saw only blackness; she peered harder, forcing herself to concentrate. Well, it’s cold, she thought curiously, so this can’t be Elvidnir. Or maybe it was: there was a disgusting, grunting, ripping sound as well. Then she remembered the blindfold. Imbecile, she thought to herself, as she reached up and tugged it back up to her forehead.
The image before her came in a flash. The polar bear’s tracks leading up along the wood’s edge and out to the body of the first kobold, then up to where a spray of her blood lay in the snow next to the shaman. She had startled it when she stood up, obviously, and it now nuzzled into the shaman, feeding vigorously. The marks her own body had made rolling down the slope were clear—for whatever reason, the bear had not pursued her, but now turned to look at her as her torso sat up in the snow.
And in that moment, in that flash, she saw it. She saw it all. Whether it was the strain of peering stupidly into the blindfold, or the glare as she pulled it off from her unadjusted eyes, or the concussion she undoubtedly had suffered, or the beady black eyes of the polar bear in his white face dripping kobold blood, what exactly it was she would never be able to say. But in that moment, she saw it: the line where light meets dark, where nothing and everything can exist at the same time. It was a path of shadows, of possibilities and impossibilities. It was the Serpent Way.
Surprised beyond measure and understanding, she blinked, and in the split-second her eyes were closed, the afterimage itself changed, as if, on the inside of her eyelids, there were painted a near-black bear, with glowing white eyes, standing on a pitch-black hill.
She opened her eyes to see the bear start menacingly toward her, and she willed herself unthinkingly into the image she had seen during that blink—into the black, shadowy snow of the hill. And the bear stopped, confused, then stood to scent the air. It fell back to all fours, roared again, and after a moment turned back to feed on the shaman.
She was safe—and at long last a Serpent. She felt tears come from her eyes, tears of joy, she supposed, at her hard-won discovery. She wiped them off with her sleeve, staring curiously at the fresh blood she saw there, realizing only then, her fear of the bear fading, that her eyes ached painfully. She was a Serpent, perhaps, but it was both all and not at all as she had thought.
She looked back at the bear, and closed her eyes for several moments, forcing herself to relax. The sight and the afterimage faded—she had to concentrate to maintain it, and concentrate hard, with eye, mind and will. And so she did, practicing her newfound skill for the very first time, sneaking out across the snow in the afternoon light, up the hill, the only sound her eventual soft call “Anycetylaa,” the Ancient word for “Eclipse.”
She stood for a long time atop that hill, looking at the line, and at the kobolds, and at the bear. Eventually, she stopped concentrating and grimly wiped her eyes with the bandage-turned-blindfold-turned handkerchief. She fingered the two claw-marks at her neck, below her right ear, that would probably become permanent scars. Her metal-thread hood had blocked most of the blow; if not for that, the bear might have taken her head clean off. She stooped to the bear, but paused with her skinning knife poised—had this bear earned a better fate? But, she thought, what better fate could there be, for a bear? And so the polar bear’s meat ended up in her pack, along with its skin. And along with the two claws that, judging by the elven flesh stuck beneath, had gotten past the hood.
She hoisted her pack and trudged through the snow back to Foothold, elated, exhausted, and anticipating eagerly with each step a hot bath and a long, dreamless sleep.