The Bear
The Mysterium Compact
Book I: The Ghost of Winter's Past
The Bear




A scream fills the air, a mournful wail of disbelief and horror that accompanies unthinkable pain and violence. Fingers are wrapped tightly around the handle of a needle-like dagger, the six inch length of the blade currently swirling in the gore-filled eye socket of a young blonde woman. She carves out her own eye much as she had the last one, fluid pink and red streaked staining her cheeks and green robe. A child cowers at her feet, wide-eyed and spattered with her blood.  

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"No!" Comes a cry from the wings of the cathedral, followed by the clattering noise of plate armor and chain. The now blind priestess is tackled to the floor by a heavily armored man, her dagger wrenched from her hand and flung aside, skittering to a stop by the nearby child's feet. "Stop this madness!" The dark-haired knight exclaims, wrestling with the thrashing priestess, restraining her wrists to the blood-soaked tile floor.

She continues to wail, her back arching and legs kicking, fingers curling against her palms so hard her nails pierce the flesh there. Teeth saw through her tongue serving to muffle her scream if only for a moment. The paladin astride her is transfixed in horror, his eyes as wide as the sigil of an open eye on his tabard.

The young boy nearby fetches the bloodied knife from the floor, hands trembling. He watches the priestess writhe on the floor, spitting blood from her lips and bubbles of spit, momentary curses spat out alongside the mess. "What is going on?" The knight demands, flashing an accusing look to the tallow-haired child who watches the scene unfold. While the priestess' screaming is profound, she is not the only one wailing within the cathedral. Other voices from within — and without — are joined in a choir of agony and horror.

The boy has no words, and no time to find them before a brick smashes through a tall stained-glass window depicting the Last Azlanti, Aroden. The tall panes of glass shatter, cascading to the floor in a riotous crash, revealing the burning cityscape outside and the silhouettes of men and woman clashing in the streets.

"She… she said she saw…" the boy murmurs, and when the knight is momentarily distracted by his mumbling the priestess throws him off in a fit of blind madness, hurling herself towards the now open window. She throws herself on the jagged glass jutting up like gnarled teeth from the bottom of the window frame, dragging her body along them in order to disembowel herself.

Her screams are choked and strangled, she collapses onto her side on the floor, clutching the unspooled organs now coiling down towards her ankles. She screams, eyeless, on the floor in unimaginable grief until she can scream no more. Once she is silent and motionless, the paladin knelt nearby to her is paralyzed in horror. Not a fear like he would dispel through faith, but a simple horror in revelation of the truth. Not a compulsion, but a choice. I cannot act.

The child holding the knife looks askance to him, and the bloodied blade clatters from his palm to the floor. The noise shakes the paladin from his torpor, only to see the deed the boy already succeeded at. Two deep red lines drawn from wrist to elbow on his arms.

"No!" The paladin screamed in breathless disbelief.

The madness knew no limits.

Previously The Locksmith
Continued In A Shadow on the Wall
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