Hexe: Self-Initiation AQ Ordeal

GM: Gretchen
Player: Hexe
Summary: Rating 4 Astral Quest Self-Initiation Ordeal for Hexe, moving from Grade 1 to 2


Gretchen was mad at her. That was always a problem. It certainly meant much to lose one's only real connection to the world outside oneself. But it mattered little, here, now. Within the lines of chalk, setting in the candlelit room of her residence. No. In that there was only forwards. And so, there is a sigh. And so, Hexe sat, then stood, and in the circle of her golden hair she grinned and brought the weight of her desire down full upon the world. And all things shook. And all things knew her will. And all things bent to please her.

All that remained was for Hexe to close her eyes and take the metaphysical and metaphorical plunge; reality beyond reality beckons. But this is a reality that none will ever truly comprehend, though some who have the innate gift may be able to take hold of some measure of intangible power — power beyond the ken of mere mortals — should they have the personal fortitude to wrest it from the grasp of the universe itself.

Many may wade into the shallows, but few return from the depths…

And yet it is the depths where once more she goes. Where the answers lie to those who can see. She has again the hammer of witches, and it is not confidence it brings, but a sense of wholeness. One long missing. There is no fear here. There is only what awaits.

From one instant to the next, Hexe's consciousness is at first aware of her surroundings in the Crank — the knowledge of her arcane designs scribed upon the floor in chalk, the aromas of the candles filling the air, the closing of her eyes — and when sight returns, the sorceress finds herself in a circular chamber not unlike something she may have experienced in a dream sometime in the past. The walls and floor are made of a polished white marble with grey and silver flecks of quartz. Lush carpets decorate heavily trafficked areas, and elegant furnishings abound, though this is very much an arcane laboratory, a place of study and contemplation and diligence. Shelves upon shelves of great leatherbound tomes line much of the wallspace, and multiple ritual circles reside on a large dais that takes up a fifth of the large area.

One desk in particular (a desk that Hexe will acknowledge as her personal study area) bears nothing but a single sheet of parchment and an inkwell with a white-feathered quill pen resting beside it.

Ah yes, welcome back to Oxford. Hexe lets out a sigh, but she knows well enough the drill. Her eyes move, and her body follows, setting herself down at what was undoubtedly her desk. Eyes moving over the parchment. "I suppose I will have to call them all muggles."

Hexe has been down this path before. This is not her first time with the Dweller, as it is called among others. Her hand picks up the quill. Her sins were her own, and they had long been recognized. And so she writes. "I really do wish you did not have to pretend to be something other than myself."

The parchment begins to feel warm to the touch and the letters scrawled upon it start to glow like the filaments of an old lightbulb. The ink quickly turns from black to orange, then shines with a whiteness so brilliant that it blinds. In a flash the sheet disintegrates, spiderweb cracks of heat emanating from each letter to utterly consume the paper, leaving just the pen and inkwell left on the desk.

At that moment, a thunderous booming begins to resonate throughout the chamber with a regular rhythm. Every few seconds the very stone itself rumbles with clockwork precision.

And so it would be. Also, a note for foci earplugs. Everything always had to be so loud here. From her seat she moves, and knowing that wherever she went, there she was supposed to be, she picks one of the hallways off the lab to walk.

The halls are well-appointed with tapestries, carpets, arcane light sources hovering above ornamental wall sconces and occasional nooks with small tables and accompanying armchairs. An overall circular structure to this place is implied; while the corridors are generously wide, they curve, preventing one from seeing very far ahead or behind, and no windows are visible, though there are doors every twenty meters or so, delineating the rough size of each room around the circumference of the central study where Hexe's note to self was written.

Always forwards comrade, never back. As it was for Stalin, so it was for Hexe. Here, more than in reality, she is home. And almost she relaxes, knowing this place that fit her. Her footsteps carry her onwards, waiting for a moment that would become reality.

With the Malleus Maleficarum in hand, Hexe comes upon a large mass of marble that appears to have literally pulled itself from the walls of this place through some means, leaving a gaping hole into one of the rooms where it appears as though the corridor wall has simply melted away. The mass nearly fills the corridor with its amorphous shape, occasionally seeming to merge with the floor and walls in some sort of locomotion that relies on portions of its form flowing like liquid, then hardening and falling to the floor while another section of it flows out to repeat the same action. In this way, it slowly extends one part of itself at a time, and as each 'fold' of its shape collapses to the floor, solidified once again, this shapeless golem pounds out those resonating blows that threaten to shatter the stone underfoot.

Though it may be slow, it is on a direct course for Hexe.

"Evolution." Hexe notes, eyeing the beast that was not. "If you want locomotion, look only to what billions of years have brought." A tilt of her head, and then a step back, towards one of the other doors. If only to see if this was a threat, or something that could be mindlessly bypassed.

A large portion of the marble golem is laboriously pushed outward, then smashes into the intersection of wall and floor, echoing out another incredibly loud boom. The huge lump ceases to move, blocking the path ahead, while behind the woman, a portion of another wall 'melts' and the semi-liquid mass resumes its slow, deliberate approach from much nearer.

A meter-thick extrusion reaches out toward Hexe, high up overhead, threatening to crush her once it solidifies.

"Pity." Hexe notes, then moves. Here on the astral she was free. Here on the astral, she was finally herself. Movement at the speed of thought. Death with the power of will. She had the Malleus, and so it will be used to clear her path.

Place of battle indeed. But this is what Hexe was for. The third pentacle of Mars, that which is for driving away spirits. The Malleus Maleficarum was meant for one thing. And so, Hexe releases devastation, her will made manifest unto an elemental that was in no doubt unready for it.

The amoebic form of the elemental marble mass is unable to withstand the onslaught…

Hammer down. Hexe has spent her entire life building for moments like this. Child. Student. Security. Shadows. But it was always here on the Astral where she was truly at home and herself. Unfortunate for the elemental tasked with stopping her. She flows not like water, but like blood, thought made manifest. And in the wake of her hammer, there lies only ruin. So be it.

The curving hall is partially blocked, both ahead and behind, by the abandoned form of the streaked-marble manifestation of elemental forces. The closer mass of white, quartz-streaked stone is a crumbled pile of rubble, shattered by the Malleus Maleficarum into jagged shards.

Large, ornate double doors line the outer wall of the ringed corridor at measured intervals of twenty meters, and it is clear that this is an interior passageway due to a distinct lack of windows.

As it should be. The nature of a quest is a path, and that is what Hexe will follow, if the marble is too much to get past, then she will go to the nearest door. Windows or not. After all what would they show?

The ornate double door nearest Hexe resists any attempt to open it by use of the handle.

Then, it would seem, Hexe would knock.

The knock is rewarded with nothing but the hushed echo of rap-rap-rapping down the marble corridor.

Hexe gives a small shrug, and her head turns. And then she tries the next door down.

The next door down is still between the two forms of the same defeated elemental; the smooth, glossy marble mass from before it traveled through the walls, and the jagged blocks of shattered white stone that were laid to waste in the elemental's failed attempt to reach the sorceress.

Door two is just as the first, unresponsive, and the only sounds are more hushed echoes of the knocking that drift down the corridor only to return moments later.

Hexe knocks again. With a hammer. When in doubt and all that, hit it with the Malleus Maleficarum. It solves a lot more problems then one would think. And after all, everything looks like a nail.

The double doors finally concede to Hexe's insistence on entry, battered down with the mighty Witch Hammer. They fly off their hinges, toppling back to reveal a room filled with little more than a howling wind due to a massive portion of the white marble structure having given way or been shattered by a great force. Aged, weather-beaten carpeting still rests on some of the floor tiles, and some collapsed bunks and desks line the walls nearest the door, but only meters into what should be a dormitory, the floor is absent, revealing a vista of a great windswept plain with a point of red light in the distance through a chasm between jagged peaks that jut upward like predators' teeth toward an endless sky — a valley of nothingness that leads to a river of magma.

You are an absurd height above this valley, able to see into a vast landscape of elemental emptiness. If you were to dive off, you'd have skydiving amounts of air time if real world physics applied. This tower is either built on a high peak of one of the jagged granite mountains lining this ravine, or the tower is, itself, immeasurably tall.

And still no windows. Hexe places her hammer back at her side, breathing out for a moment. A close of her eyes, breath retaken in. Then she is moving forwards once more, hands clasping behind her back, eyes forwards and ahead. Focused on her path, and the obvious next step.

The winds howl around Hexe, whipping at her clothing relentlessly, and evidence of this is visible out in the valley far below as well, as clouds of dust and small whorls of elemental air form in the intersecting currents, dance momentarily, then dissipate, only to be replaced by new patterns of earth carried upon the air.

At your feet, near the very edge of the shattered exterior and collapsed floor of the white tower lies a small granite box decorated with inlaid blue crystal almost buried in the silt carried here by the endless gusts. The granite looks like the same material the bare mountains in the distance consist of, and similar twinkles of blue crystal can be seen embedded in the landscape as well.

And so the box. It was always about containers wasn't it? The world. Foci. Magic. Man. But it wasn't. That was the message everyone always missed. Will uncontained. That is magic. Hexe looks downwards, at the box. Her eyes moving over it, studying it.

With the sweep of a hand, the near-weightless silt obscuring the stone box is easily brushed aside, revealing seams. You intuitively understand the mechanism to open the box by pressing against two of the nodules of blue crystal, not unlike opening a briefcase with two thumb latches, and within lies a mask of the same granite, face down upon maroon velvet.

"I wear no mask." Hexe states, leaning down to pluck the object from its former container. Spinning it in her hands, eyes never leaving it. "I fear not what I am."

The mask is near featureless, and contrary to its polished granite appearance, it weighs almost nothing, though weight is of no consequence here in this place of magic. The eye sockets on the face of the mask appear as though spikes of the blue crystal were driven into the stone then broken off to leave jagged shards jutting outward but no blue crystal breaks the inner surface; it is immaculately smooth on the interior.

Assensing the mask reveals that it is indeed a magical tool, and a powerful one at that, but the elemental forces here — the howling winds and the relentless grit of airborne silt — prevent a more in-depth analysis.

"Bridge." Hexe notes, to herself. After all who else would she be speaking to? Her hands flex for a moment, and then she sighs, slipping the mask onto her face.

Upon donning the stone mask, a painful sensation causes it to cling to Hexe's features as the broken-off crystal spikes seem to drive themselves through the stone, as though elongating through her eyes to make direct contact with her mind. The mask is now firmly anchored in place, and through the pain, a new vista is made clear to the astral traveler — it is as though you've been given not just a means of seeing from the perspective of being at the bottom of the valley, but you feel distinctly as though you /are/ now situated on the plains leading toward the flowing river of magma, much nearer than the view from the shattered room of the white tower behind. The harsh gusts of wind batter at you, and even at a distance, the heat emanating from the glowing crimson and gold river is tangible.

"Bridge." Hexe repeats, with a small nod. A look downwards, to her feet for just a moment. Then onwards. Towards the change in scenery that meant it was the next step in the storybook.

The mask did indeed serve as a form of bridge, transferring Hexe from her location high upon the white spire overlooking the valley, down into its depths. Closer to the magma, deposits of the crystal shimmer where they lie streaked through the native stone perhaps in response to the heat, perhaps made more visible by some means provided by the mask itself.

Out in the expanse of molten stone, a small crystal island shimmers like a mirage, sinking slowly as its inner light fades from one moment to the next, and upon this rapidly vanishing point of blue in the churning golden-red, a figure seems to be using their own inner strength to combat the inevitable, keeping the island afloat by pure force of will alone.

And in the end, that was all that mattered. Will. Desire made manifest. She did not speak it this time, she only demanded it. As the old words went … Hexe stood, and in the circle of her golden hair she grinned and brought the weight of her desire down full upon the world. And all things shook. And all things knew her will. And all things bent to please her.

Bridge.

And Hexe steps into the lava. Trusting that it would not be there when her foot landed. Not trusting. Knowing. Magic is nothing more than will made manifest. And here in the lands of pure magic. There is will alone.

The figure in the middle of the magma flow is none other than Gretchen herself, struggling to retain her footing on the shifting crystalline island, only a few meters in diameter now. Her boot heels, clothing and skin sizzle with raw heat simply from proximity, though she isn't actively burning up. Nor is Hexe, whose steps over the surging mass are made possible due to some feature of the mask dug into her eyes by the growth of the crystal spikes. Gretchen scrambles and howls at the encroaching lava as it threatens to engulf her, but the other German woman's bold strides bring her near to the scene, long coat and blonde hair still whipping in the superheated winds over this elemental river of fire.

The copper Pentacle of Mars upon Hexe's warhammer glows in the immense heat.

"This I choose to do." The old words, from forgotten others come unbidden perhaps past her lips. "If there is a price, this I choose to pay." Written long before she was born, yet spoken now as if they were always made for her. "If it is my death, then I choose to die." Her footsteps make the transition from magma to crystal without pause. "Wherever this takes me, there I choose to go." Her hand finally moves, stretching outwards towards Gretchen. "I choose." An offer, waiting there in this hell of her own making. "This I choose to do."

Gretchen is only a meter away, a single step with hand outreached, but she resists the contact, bootheels to the line of molten stone and metal that creeps ever higher on the crystal with thick curls of acrid smoke. She acts feral, not recognizing Hexe, and she refrains from speaking, simply making guttural sounds with frenzied eyes.

Gretchen is making guttural sounds and being in a fit. Which meant it was Tuesday. Hexe stands, perfectly still, hand still outstretched, and pours her will around her. Let it be written, let it be done.

The Gretch-imitation begins to fade from sight, from existence, little by little as each centimeter of the distance is closed by Hexe's fingertips. The other figure becomes steadily more hazy, rapidly dissipating in wisps of spectral blackness. This form begins to seem almost… peaceful, the more its existence is driven back to its origin. Perhaps this is another aspect of the strange mask, or some innate understanding that this place is not for the being that has taken a familiar form. This doppelganger must surely be a trick of the mind.

The figure fades with a calmness that implies gratitude, scattered into the ether by the driving gale. In that moment, the crystal island rises, forming a scorched bridge to the far side of the magma, but its blue light glows from beneath the blackness scorched upon its angular surfaces.

Hexe watches the being go, staring after it for moments longer than making sure it was gone would imply. Her face as always, a mask. Only after does she step forwards again, letting her feet settle on the bridge. Slowly crossing.

Well, what is the most important step a person can take? It's not the first one, is it Gretchen?

In time, it would always become apparent that it is never the destination that brings power, or worth, or even answers. It is the journey.

A citadel is not a place, an object, a castle, or an ending. It is what you find along the way. Within, and without.

Hexe watches the lava, the bridge, the plains, and well behind her the tower, fade, and fuzz, and slowly break apart. Her pace never changing as it slowly transfers into an empty field of bright whiteness, only leaving it's memory behind. She doesn't stop even as her own body flakes and cracks, breaking away like sand caught in the wind behind her. Until nothing remained.

This I choose to do.

When Hexe awakens, she finds the curiously weightless granite mask still pressed upon her features, with the sensation of the crystal spikes still driven through her eye sockets. When the mask is touched it is evident to her that there are no longer any crystal spikes on the front of it — the eyes are perfectly smooth. Only when it is lifted from her features do the spikes retract, seeming to pull back through the stone to form the jagged, inch-long crystal spikes over the eyes on the front as when she found it. The inner surface is now perfectly smooth, formed to match Hexe's features as though to invite its next use.

Yes, because one always enjoys getting their eye sockets poked. Hexe places the mask with her books. A curiosity for another time. Lighting the candles around her room before she goes to sit on her cot.

As the weary astral traveler turns to seat herself, two simultaneous clacking sounds originate from the bookshelf. The mask has undergone further transformation after having been released — while Hexe lit her candles, the polished granite face cracked and crumbled into the same dust that tore across the astral landscape only perceived moments ago, and the sound was that of the crystal cluster eyes falling from their place in the brittle stone to settle upon the shelf, now surrounded by fine grey powder.

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