Published at 21st of November 2020 10:20:08 PM

Chapter 241: 241
Murderous rage bubbling under her calm demeanor, Winter said, "You always do this . How many chances does someone get just because they're family? Does it matter that Dem-"

Orison put a finger to her lips as she had done to him many times when he was about to mention something she didn't particularly want to hear . "I don't want to know his name, love . It will make what I'm about to do easier . "

Trying her best to look concerned over smiling blood lust, she said, "You probably shouldn't kill him . You'd only regret it later . . . Maybe just rip off a leg or three?"

Orison shook his head . "What's the point in violence . I'm certain someone among us had already tried to teach him with fear and pain . If that was effective, we wouldn't be facing this now . No, I have a much better use for him . "

He ignored the guilty look she wore as the ominous declaration stimulated the darker side of herself in a very physical way . The young mage felt like he had a small insight into the struggles for spiritual redemption she must have faced fighting such a strong, wicked impulse .

"Before we confront him, there's a couple of things I need to tell you, Winter . I think I know why I wiped so much clean . The monster that we faced, the thing everyone is calling the blue eyed void, it corrupts and drives people mad with knowledge . It's that simple .

"It's to a greater degree what the creature I and 'the boy' used to start our climb and probably has a grudge against us because of that, even though we had little to do with what happened . I believe that entity may be one of its spawn and when that entity was hurt, it fled to its parent . If Gnarly IS that parent or a relative of some affection, it would suddenly make much more sense why it targets and tortures us .

"I don't need to know all the gory details but how did we succeed in driving it off? From what little I've gathered of 'the boy's dealings with it, Gnarly isn't something capable of being fought . It's avatar is only a tier five down here but it gives off the sense of being 'unending' and I use the term 'only tier five' loosely . That's plenty powerful enough to be soul shockingly terrifying in its own right . "

Looking haunted, Winter said, "Its an agent of chaos purer than any demon . It was already here, had been for some time . It only moved out into the open because of you . No one knows what you said to it but whatever that was, it seemed to amuse it . All its hidden agents and meticulous plans, it just cut them loose and went away while this plane was left to deal with all of it .

Orison nodded . "That's for the best . The more we think about that thing and its doings, the more of its attention we draw to ourselves . It bothers me that I won't be able to know for sure, among all those I know, who survived or fell but time and climbing will no doubt reveal that . Every survived calamity has its rewards, however .

"While we were getting to know one another again, I have been investigating myself and drawing on the fading secret knowledge that only unmoored and shedding souls possess . Our daughter's soul has moved beyond my reach to retrieve but she's somewhere being reborn in the mid-dimensions . Our time with her may be over but her journey is far from . We can take some solace in that . "

Winter gave him a weak smile and nodded .

He added, "While I was floating out there in the Beyond, I have a sense that I fought against something and reached a truce of some kind . It let me bring some souls back with me . Most had moved on but there were a couple that hadn't yet . Their attachments to the world or each other required more time to fade .

"There are a lot of things I can't share and I'm meant to forget . There's one thing I can share, though . Even before you were a deep elf, you were a Draconos named Rose . The 'struggle with darkness' is part of your soul's journey . Mental disease, demon blood and addiction were all different parts of that journey at one point or another . It's a harrowing and dangerous one but there's power in it too . Every time you succeed, every small battle won makes you stronger . "

Over the last couple of days, he had argued with himself if it was the right thing to do to tell her . In sharing, he had essentially taken the journey of her soul and given it's hard won power over to form a 'key' to climb instead . The Gany-mead and the inner power he siphoned to her through the patron mark had helped her build a hollow tier four existence with no understanding of law and no 'steps' to climb .

He had a vague awareness that journeying souls had their own form of climbing they did through facing a specific set of challenges but they did so through living lives unaware of what came before . Being a climber wasn't superior to that in any way and possibly not as far removed as he had once thought . He tried justifying his decision based on their entanglement and the inevitability that she would become a climber as well but it rang a little hollow in his heart .

Right there, in the middle of the street they were walking down, Winter experienced her first two baptisms . As strong as she was in body and spirit, she barely even sensed the first one but when the second one descended on her, she shuddered and looked at Orison in wonder and awe . A touch of the old fanaticism gleamed in her eyes once more .

Orison cautioned . "Spoon feeding that to you was no favor . Sharing your soul's journey with others weakens its ability to strengthen you . Tell no one . If someone guesses, that's all well and good but volunteer it and your name to no one . If you should ever awaken a true name then it's fine to share your given name . But, once again, never volunteer your true name to anyone . "

Winter's eyes smoldered . "I want to carry you back home and have my way with you . But then I remember, we have no bed and I don't want to get splinters in your backside . "

The young mage chuckled with equal parts nervousness and anticipation . He had become all too acquainted with the dubious benefits of having a wife that was a 'touch' crazed . He took the bad with the good because he loved her . He focused on the good because it was easier . And considering the parts that were 'good', it wasn't that hard to do .

On the rest of their walk, he regaled her with the small stories he could remember about Rose . "Remember, I was still a part of 'the boy' at the time . "

She smiled wickedly and said, "But I still taught you how to fight dirty . You killed me but then brought me back . I confessed that I thought I was in love with you and you threatened to get a restraining order!?"

Orison snorted . "'I' was a little scared of you but also more than a little curious . 'The boy' didn't particularly care for you and I wasn't in any position to dictate his love life . Another had already taught me the err of trying by then and it didn't seem right anyway . I was 'supposed' to be a silent partner that helped as much as I could, not a backseat driver . "

She caressed his face and said, "Aww, poor baby was in the back doing all that hard work and never got to have any fun . "

The young mage shrugged . "It wasn't all bad . It was kind of funny how he thought he was me most of the time . I never felt 'that' left out . He took a moment here and there to thank me . Though, looking back, he was mostly thanking himself .

"You know, since he thought I was him and most of the stuff he praised came from him to begin with . Now that I think about it, he ragged on me pretty hard unknowingly . He was quite the accidental narcissist . "

Walking through the Prize Pig Inn, they noticed a lot of unfamiliar faces . Peppered among them were people Winter recognized by reputation . Those reputations weren't good or bad but there were a lot of religious folk with a gavel or flat sided war hammer depending on which branch within the church of the god of law they served . It bode ill of what waited for them above .

In the upper suite of the inn, they found Orison's nephew having a grand time . The soft, somewhat over weight young man was reclining in a cushioned chair flanked by guards of the church who didn't particularly look thrilled to be there . None projected that displeasure more than a man whose eyes radiated a touch of his patron's power .

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Oriosn smiled faintly . "You were roped into this family squabble by a generous donation to see that justice was served?"

"A sad truth of the world that even justice is bound to secular need for sustenance, shelter and equipment," the man said .

The 'nephew' was about to speak but was pushed into dry swallowing silence by two sets of glowing eyes staring at him with disdain .

Sighing and squeezing his wife's hand for patience, the young mage said, "What legal standing did he use to claim our property?"

"You were deceased . Even though you have returned, it is not within the body of a bloodline descendant of your mortal family . You were never married to Winter in the laws and traditions of this country . Common law marriage doesn't exist here . " the man said with regret, obviously aware that the 'justice' being served here hinged on a technicality to veil the greater 'injustice' it protected .

"And Winter's private property that was seized, how is that accounted for?" Orison asked .

The man said blandly, "A thirty day notice to evacuate the premise was issued thirty-eight days ago . "

Orison smiled . "What are an ancestor's rights the the physical property of their loins in this country?"

A corner of the man's stern mouth twitched upwards . "An archaic reference to a kingship's standing allows for a father or grandfather to claim the bodily physical property of a descendant if that descendant is considered to be of vital importance to the continuation and prosperity of a line . Even so, the descendant in question must be declared legally incompetent by an unbiased medical professional . "

Orison smiled wider . "And is there a medical professional within your retinue capable of making that legal declaration?"

"Yes . Is your counter suit for physical or mental incompetence?" the man asked .

Seeing that things had taken a dangerous left turn for himself, the 'nephew' in question said, "This is audacious! I paid the donation! Why does he get to make allegations?"

As a nearby cleric cast a 'hold' on the young man, the Divine Representative said, "You requested justice . If you had desired biased intervention, a mercenary company would have served you better . "

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To the side, Orison added . "A difficult proposition due to having gambled, dank and wh*red away the legacy his grandfather had left for him, leaving several mercenaries looking for a new company employer once the doors to the security firm closed . These are my official arguments for declaring incompetence . Him being the only living descendant is my claim on that Kingship's standing . "

"And you evidence for these allegations?" the Divine Representative asked .

Orison gestured around . "Are the present witnesses to his activities within this establishment and current circumstantial evidence substantial enough for Your Honor?"

"They are, assuming you can produce an ancestor capable of holding the claim . " The man said .

The moment Orison withdrew Evan's soul, the nephew began shouting charges of necromancy that gained no traction . Aside from a small one that the Divine Representative severed, there were no curses twisted on the soul, much less ones empowered by Orison . Some testimony later, the Divine Representative ruled in the soul's favor and restored it to the land of the living within his grandson's body .

With a donation from Orison, the man put a little extra effort in reviving Evan's physical pattern . With some creative tweaks to bring out the best, the holy judge completed the revival . After taking hold of 'the nephew's soul, he turned to Winter .

"As a party to this trial, are there any testimonies or claims you desire to press?" the man added .

Winter nodded . "If I wasn't in a good mood, I'd massacre the lot of you and feed your body parts to your acolytes for making this farce even possible . You should thank the indulgent heart I have for my little husband that this ended peacefully . "

He stared grimly back at her and said, "By the power invested in me by my god and in accordance to the laws of this land, I absolve this soul of any further debts or considerations to the parties present and commend it for consideration before the god of the dead . "

He looked one last time at the weak and feeble soul and released it from the protection of his aura . "May They have mercy upon you . "

While Evan recovered from the fugue of revival, Orison whispered a few words in his ear and turned to Winter . "'My little husband'?"

"Turn about's fair play . Or are you going to pretend you didn't just speak for us both without so much as a backwards glance towards me?" she said with a wicked twist of a smile .

Orison sighed before conceding . "Touche . And you DID hold yourself back from doing something that would have caused us endless grief while getting a fairly satisfying lick in at the end there . . . We were never officially married?"

Winter said, "I asked you to be mine and you said yes . Our care and devotion is the only proof we need to declare the truth of our joining . If the day comes that is no longer true, we no more need anyone else to make the ending of our union official as we did the beginning . Church and legal documents are an excuse for lazy feelings and self indulgent complacency . "

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Wryly, Orison said, "And I'm sure our loud and verbal arguments over that fine point is what inspired that sh*t we sent packing to the afterlife to do what he did . "

Annoyed, Winter said, "And as I've said many times before, when its your turn to be queen of MY heart, you can have a wedding . That was the compromise . "

With mock hurt, Orison said, "Does this mean our second honeymoon's already over?"

Switching emotional gears like a professional 'feelings' race car driver, she shot back, "It hasn't even started yet and that's something I fully intend on taking charge of . Do you have a problem with that, 'little husband'?"

"What do you tell people who ask you if I'm whipped, 'queen of my heart'?" he asked .

"Yes, but only when he asks sweetly," she replied saucily while black lines formed down the side of his face as he chuckled listlessly .

Reviving Evan, AKA: Hefty, had been a lot easier than he thought it would be . But bringing Owen, AKA: Mellow, back from the dead was a little more complicated . Evan possessed a rather uncomplicated soul but Owen was as much of a hot mess spiritually as he was in the flesh .

Two weeks later, everyone witnessed the awkward and bittersweet reunion of the two 'funny buddies' . It 'only' took the body of a soulless cultist who botched a devil summoning, Orison playing musical chairs with bodies and a reserved lady aristocrat with appreciation for the 'fine arts' . She found it all 'very exciting' and Owen was revived with one financial patron already procured .

Old debts paid and a few wrongs righted later, Winter finally talked the young mage into a vacation . That vacation slowly transformed into a world tour . They made love, hunted rare ingredients capable of potentially surviving the 'last big leap' into the mid dimensions and Orison finished polishing off the law insights he had . They had become a force nearly untouchable within the lower dimensions, even being so close to ascending .

As months bled into a year, Winter finally said, "I know that you're nervous but you can't begin that new journey until you take that last step of this one . I'm perfectly fine continuing to wear the bra in this relationship but I've enjoyed the privilege long enough to let you take charge for awhile, if that's what you really want . I know that we both want another child and I can't afford to step down from my soul's current challenge . "

Orison said, "There's so many unknowns . Our progress is slowing down, I know, but we're safe . It's the first time since I started climbing that I've spent so much time feeling carefree and not having to worry about some horrible surprise coming to ruin my life or kill me . "

An annoyingly pleasant and familiar male voice Orison hadn't expected to hear again said, "Could there have been a worse time to show up? That's absolutely dreadful and ominous . "

Another man's voice that stirred a warmer reception in the young mage's heart said, "By the shadow in my bones, is that you Orison!?"