By Any Other Name

by Zirilian in Dark Ages



But the aisling is more than just a dreamer. He is a doer. He can be more than any mundane can be. He can have Insight. How he uses this insight is his own choice--but all Gods would urge him to use it well. For with knowledge comes power. Knowledge can give one the power to heal. Many aislings heal others. But the ability to think, and to reason, brings with it huge responsibility.

One who thinks can also devise plots. One who thinks can be helpful and loving. But one who thinks may also be a tyrant. The ability to think is a blessing: one can make his own decisions, then. But the ability to make decisions can be a terrible curse. For, make the wrong decision, and you’ve no one but yourself to blame.

With thought comes alignment. One cannot be a true neutral: he must always tend towards good or evil. And there is, of course, the choice of which to preach; and which to practice. And, as any thinker can tell you, appearances can be deceiving...

Tasha and Brendan. Two aislings, in the truest sense of the word. Since childhood, they had known each other. Since childhood, they had romped in the woods together, sniffing at the myriad of colored flowers: some elicited sneezes (which elicited laughter), others brought only a happy face at the beautiful smell.

Both aislings put their spark to good use. Brendan was a poet. He could capture any scene in words on a simple sheet of parchment. He could make the weakest man brave, or cause the strongest warrior to cry. His descriptions were so vivid that the blind could see, and the deaf could hear.

Tasha was an artist. As Brendan painted with words, she took brush in hand and set the scene to paper in her own special way. She drew anything, and everything--the tiny squirrels and vipers in the woodlands, the fog-covered mountains at twilight. Her paintings seemed so real as though they may, at any moment they chose, jump from the page of their own volition.

Tasha and Brendan fell in love. Both seemed to have been two halves of the same whole--both were kind hearted aislings, and both had a special affinity for using their talent to its fullest, and sharing it with the world. Their time together was a happy one.

Brendan was a warrior, but certainly not of what was considered the norm. Few warriors he knew wrote much poetry. His hair was an oaken brown, his eyes a strange orange-blue; as though twilight had met morn and the two had melded into one. If one looked at them, they could almost be lost in the seemingly endless depths of those eyes.

Brendan, though possessing nearly twenty-six insights, usually preferred a plain blue jupe and blue boots. A blade hung at his side: it was a blade that any warrior would have been proud of. It was well-cared for, the hilt was a ruby red, with gold at the ends. The blade itself was a shining silver; one could use it for a mirror. It reflected the sun and seemed to glow like an angel’s weapon, making Brendan appear all the more awesome in battle.

Tasha had quiet purple hair, that hung to midway down her back. It hung a bit in the front, too, and she often had to swipe it from in front of her eyes. The wind liked Tasha’s hair, the nearly silent breezes sent it curling up and around, and then back down. Tasha was a wizard, though she did not hunger for hard fact as much as many.

Tasha mostly shunned the normal wizard’s garb, opting instead for robes. She found many robes: some were made of fine silk, others of heavy cloth that was quite comfortable. She enjoyed these robes immensely, and scoured Temuair in search of them. It quickly became her hobby, and whenever she passed by Abel she spoke with the mundanes to see if anything new had come in on the recent ships.

Tasha learned secrets slowly but surely, she was a mage of sal, for, she felt, this fit her personality. The mundanes, though, soon whispered of something new: necromancy. A new secret, for any wizard to learn.

Necromancy had an allure. It was dark, centuries forbidden by the Gods. Aislings so easily tempted by anything which is not allowed. So Tasha listened intently to everything the mundanes had to say.

Zombis. Strange parts of stranger beasts. Deep, dark places and spirit-infested mansions. All of it so, so tempting.

* * * *

Tasha crouched next to Brendan, examining a strange leaf the two of them had found in the woods. Brendan took a few notes on the leaf, rolled the parchments and shoved them in his rucksack.

Tasha had found a new robe in Suomi, woven from fine plant fibers into an extremely heavy but beautiful and comfortable material. The cloak flowed over her such that one could see only her face, and her hands, when she bothered to extract them from the cascading garb.

Finally, Tasha rose to her feet. "And what might you be doing?" Brendan grinned at her and stood up as well.

"I’m going to go learn one of the new secrets...the mundanes should have them figured out by now," she giggled.

Brendan laughed. "Dare I ask what it is?"

"Oh, you can ask. But will I tell?" she teased.

Brendan grinned. "Alright then. Just you be careful."

"Of course," Tasha smiled. "I’d be afraid you’d get bored without me." The two shared a quick kiss, and then Tasha dashed off to learn what she could.

* * * *

"Yes...I have something," the wizard hissed.

"What?" Tasha asked excitedly.

"Summon Beast," the mundane replied. "Name says it all." His rasping voice lent a very eerie quality to the conversation, seeming to issue from his mouth and fade instantly into nothingness. Tasha had to lean close to hear it, as the very breath that carried the sound out whisked it away as soon as it left the mouth.

"How much?" Tasha asked.

"One...million...coins," the mundane whispered. Tasha was a bit taken aback at the high price of the secret, but it would be worth it, she assured herself. She fished into the crevasses and folds of her robe and withdrew money enough for the spell. The wizard made a few notes in spidery handwriting in Tasha’s spellbook.

"There," he murmured. "That will do. Begone now...lest the darkness that congregates here, find you." His voice seemed to chill Tasha, for she pulled her cloak tighter about her, and turned sharply, then strode off into the gathering twilight.

* * * *

Tasha stood alone, a good distance from the shop where she had obtained her new spell. She looked down into the spellbook, where the mundane’s strange style of writing seemed to crawl across the page. She pondered the words for a moment, then voiced them.




Suddenly, the air chilled to a nearly unbearable temperature. Tasha grabbed her cloak and pulled it tight to her, but the wind that swirled about her form seemed unhindered by the thick cloth. It bit into flesh, bone, and soul.

Finally, the isolated little gale cascaded to Tasha’s feet, and just beyond, and convened, manifested. The wind, Tasha thought, must be the breath of Evil, some otherworldly force come to bring a terrible beast to devour her.

And a terrible beast it was. A smile, but not the happy smile she and Brendan shared. It was the crazed grin of an insane jester, caught in mid-cackle by some horrible twist of time. Its eyes were empty, blackness was all that returned her stare.

The creature come to her had a strange body, covered in some hard carapace, almost cylindrical, but narrowing into a tail at the end of the body. It made no sound other than a strange and disturbing hiss...hiss... Tasha realized it must be the thing’s breath, summoned from the deepest of fiery pits, called up from the most evil, Sgrios himself.

Tasha called her chants to the fore of her mind, ready to destroy the beast, should it attempt to harm her. But it merely stood, and stared. Although the eye sockets were empty, the thing seemed to be focusing. It seemed to know just who and what and where it was looking at, and Tasha could feel it was not blind.

She backed slowly away, and it followed her. Somewhat panicked now, she moved further, and still the beast came forth, stopping always a few feet from her. Its shadow, cast by the mocking not-light of the bright full moon above, stretched far past Tasha, running many feet behind her, as though the beast were possessing all this place.

And then, Tasha realized, this truly was the effect of her spell. She had called this creature to her, and it followed her will. Beast and master stood in the utter silence: the crickets had stopped chirping, and the birds ceased singing, as though in awe of the young wizardess and her charge.

Tasha’s form was darkened by the creature’s bounding shadow, the sickly pale illumination of the moon negated by the thing in front of her. Tasha moved slightly, and now half of her bathed in shadow, while the rest of her was played off of by the shining, elderly moonlight, nearly cast away by the encroaching darkness.

And Tasha laughed. She looked at the beast, standing at military attention, the only sound its rasping hiss-breath. She tossed back her head, drunk with the horrible new power she had been given, and laughed, cackled like an insane witch. She drunk in the dying moonlight, fed suddenly off its sickness and paleness and the evil that those wandering beams held.

Tasha howled, half rage and half insanity, and the creature stood and rasped.

* * * *

The next day, Brendan sat with Tasha, quietly setting quill to parchment. Suddenly, Tasha looked up. "Will you always love me?" she asked. Brendan looked at Tasha, somewhat surprised.

"Always," he responded with conviction. "On my honor." He grinned. Tasha smiled softly, and both returned to their work. Brendan pondered the question a moment, then returned his mind to his poem.

* * * *

Each night, Tasha wandered deep into the woods. At first, she had to ward off the beasts that dwelt there. After a few moons, though, she began giving off some strange sense to the other creatures that they should not approach her.

Tasha would find a clearing, and chant the words.




A creature would appear, and Tasha would practice: moving, coordination, spellcasting. Each night she became more drunk with this power. Although its source was Sgrios, it flowed over her like the sweetest wine, coursing through her and lighting her whole body aflame with its tingling sensations.

And each night, she became more consumed by this evil power, more taken up by the need for this summon, as though Sgrios called her to an irresistible duty.

And each day, Brendan could feel Tasha becoming more distant, and he worried. He would ask, and she respond that it was nothing, only his imagination playing tricks on him. But still Brendan doubted, he could almost feel the strange force at work behind his love.

Finally, one night, Tasha knew she could stay in the civilization of Temuair no longer. She must leave the town and learn the true mastery of her new art. Leave everything behind. Clutching her red-hued robes tight to her, she dashed off into the night.

* * * *

The next day, Brendan searched. And searched. And searched. But Tasha had left no trace when she disappeared. And so Brendan searched. For moons he looked for his lost love, finally resigned to never finding her.

So Brendan trained, to take his mind from his heartbreak. He became strong, knowing many things of the warrior’s craft. He never taught young warriors, but always honed his own skill, pushing his limits as far as they would stretch.

Although he despaired of ever again seeing Tasha, something nagged at the back of his mind, something that would never let him forget her. Sometimes he cherished it, at others he wished it would vanish. But it was always there.

* * * *

Many deochs later, Brendan’s sleepy town was given a rude awakening. Something assailed the town. Nobody could tell what it was: it was buried deep beneath a tattered red cloak, fast becoming threadbare. The town militia was raised and sent against the thing, and it killed them all seemingly only with a thought.

The townspeople needed a hero. They came to a recluse, a warrior by the name of Brendan. He was supposed to have great strength and greater courage. No one knew much of him, for he had left the town a good time back and gone to live in the mountains.

They told him of the thing that was destroying their town. He knew he had deserted the town long ago, but that he could not let it be destroyed. Brendan swore that he would try to combat the beast.

Sword in hand, he started down the mountain.

* * * *

It was nearly twilight when Brendan arrived at the town. The sun was lying itself down on the horizon, giving rise to the moon, still as pale and sickly as the day Tasha had vanished. It seemed almost proud of its dominion over the world, cackling down on the little people below.

Brendan crested the rise, seeing a lone figure on the field. It seemed bent and misshapen by the cloak piled upon it, and he could see nothing more than its shadowed form. Something about the creature was familiar, and Brendan lowered his sword slightly as he approached. His shield was strapped across his back, he used it only for a rear guard.

He approached the creature, wondering if he might even have a chance to fight it before it killed him. But it merely stood there, almost seeming to float. He came within five feet of the thing and murmured, "I’m here."

The form nodded, a splinter of moonlight revealing the worn red color of its robes, beaten by the passing deochs into a threadbaring mess that seemed to be the creature’s only wardrobe.

Brendan heard a hissing sound emanating from beneath the folds of the fabric, and realized it was the thing’s breath, pained and slow. The figure raised its head, and the cloak that hooded it revealed a face. The features were battered, the flesh grey and twisted. The eyes seemed to be a strange, red-black that reflected the moonlight into a strange illusion that placed water in the eye sockets.

"Fiend," Brendan accused softly. The creature shook its head almost imperceptibly. "I’ll kill you," he said, his voice seeming to be sucked in by the thing, as if it were feeding off his anger. "You have decimated hundreds of my people..." Brendan’s anger rushed to him, filled him, yet he could not--or would not--lift his sword from the ground and strike down the thing.

He looked at it again, then finally found it in himself to bring his blade above his head. The thing’s hissing seemed suddenly more focused. "Bren...dan..." it rasped. "Bren....dan..."

Brendan felt almost a physical blow hit him at the sound of the beast’s voice. His own mouth moved, but no sound came out.

"Ta...sha..." the thing continued. "Ta...sha..."

"Tasha?" Brendan asked urgently. "What of Tasha, what do you know of her?"

"Meee," the thing hissed. "Meee..."

Brendan started, this time feeling the wind fly from him. Now he knew what secret Tasha had gone to learn so many deochs ago. Necromancy had influenced her, twisted her. It had feasted on her flesh and her sanity, and now she was Evil’s servant.

The beast looked at Brendan with pleading eyes. The eyes told of an anguished soul, one that wished it had never gone into that shop all that time ago, never learned that secret, never read those words.

It held a parchment out to him, scratched and dirty. It was scribed upon in long, spindly handwriting, the creature’s own.

"Reeaddd..." it implored.

Brendan looked at the thing, at Tasha, at her soul, asking to be released from this body and this torture. He gave the creature a kiss. "Always," he told her.

And he read the words on the parchment.




A warm wind swirled about the two of them, warding off the cold night. It came close to them both, hugging them tight and warming each bit of them that might be cold. And Brendan looked at Tasha one last time, and he smiled.

And Tasha smiled back, a contented, loving smile, of an agonized soul finally put to rest. And as she smiled at Brendan, she faded into the night.


Skye Warrior