Date: 12 November, 5 CLE
What once was beautiful enters the chamber with a grave air about her. Her exposed skin is a dull grey, mottled and scarred by battles unknown. Her deep violet hair is frayed and unkempt, a mess in need of care. Her wings are torn and burnt, a vestigial reminder of the life she abandoned long ago.
Adorned in decorated robes, she is greeted by High Councilor Ashram. Her response is perfunctory, a few cold words laced with disdain. Her sullen voice demands to get on with this performance, for she has no time to waste. Ashram opens a door, and motions her to follow him inside. Morgana lets out a grunt of disapproval, though she obliges.
The room was not merely well lit. Lights shone to the point of stinging Morgana's eyes, and from what direction, she could not tell. The walls were not simply white, but glowed with some kind of radiant energy. Though simple and blank, the intensity of the room forced Morgana to shield herself. She could not figure out why, but this room made her feel bare.
“You may wish to make yourself comfortable before we begin,” Ashram said. He made a few gestures with his hands and a seat appeared, woven from red velvet. His hand motioned at the piece of furniture, inviting his guest to sit.
“I will stand,” Morgana answered with the slightest hiss in her voice. “Get it over with, Ashram.”
“Very well.” Ashram folded his hands behind his back and turned away from Morgana. His voice echoed, “Why do you wish to join the League, Morgana?”
“Must we suffer these empty gestures?” Morgana asked, making no effort to hide her impatience. A few moments of silence passed as the high councilor said nothing, not even budging. “We agreed that I will serve in your arena as a champion, and you will give me access to your magic. I need you arts to dethrone the tyrants of my world.”
“Morgana, I must warn you,” Ashram begun after clearing his throat, “the process of bonding with a summoner is, how shall I say, intimate. If you are to be a champion in the League, you need to be ready to expose yourself. None of these surface thoughts and half-truths.”
“You think I'm lying?” Her voice rose, a blend of irritation and indignation. “You think this is some kind of facade?”
“Ah, not quite. But we're going to need to delve deeper to see if you're ready for this. Pardon, but this may sting for a moment.” Ashram turned to Morgana, lashing out a hand. White light shot from his palm, searing the fallen angel's eyes. It was more shock than pain that caused her to cry out, hands covering her face in reflex. When her eyes stopped throbbing and she could see again, she saw nothing but the image of her sister. Her radiant beauty, tempered by her cold demeanor, not yet fully matured. Morgana wanted to scowl, but something held her back.
“Interesting,” Ashram's voice echoed. “You know nothing of your parents?”
“They died in the war shortly after my birth. Others looked after us, but Kayle was the one who took care of me.”
Why am I answering this?
“She must have been young herself. I wonder, would you say she knew what she was doing? Her efforts to protect and raise you as a child, were they adequate?”
“Enough questions!” Morgana swiped a taloned hand at her sister, only for her claws to pass through the visage to no effect. “What does any of this matter to you and your **** arena games?”
“Once more, Morgana. Summoning is a taxing procedure, and if you are unable to cooperate, we will have difficulty in the future.” Any sign of patience was fading from Ashram's voice. “I will ask you once more before elevating the depth of this probe. Was your sister an adequate guardian?”
Who are you, to pry into my past?
“I am your benefactor, Morgana.” The answer to her thought stunned her. Was he reading her mind? “You cannot hold reservations or mistrust if you are to be summoned. Believe me when I say what I am about to do is not out of malice, but for assurance. I have every reason to believe that you are powerful enough, but the question is if you're strong enough.”
Ashram's last words had only enough time to reach Morgana's ears when her senses went swimming. A thousand voices, a thousand visions bombarded her all at once. Some pleasant, some distasteful, many willfully forgotten. Through the din, one voice overpowered the rest. Again and again, it echoed her name, each repetition piercing her ears deeper than the rest.
No, not you. I am past you! Leave me be!
“Morgana!” A switch snapped onto her hand, biting deep at her skin. Morgana clutched her wrist as she whimpered in pain. Peering through her golden locks, she could see Sir Renzo again. His towering height made his eyes all but invisible beneath the shadows of his hair, but his glare was no less present. His lips pursed into a lifeless crease. Lively as stone, his voice descended upon her. “Enough daydreaming. Recite the fifth vital tenant of divine magic.”
She knew the words by heart. More than anything, she wanted to stand up tall in spite of the pain and speak them with pride. Instead, fear seized her by the throat and the words that leaked out were confused and strangled. The lash came down again, striking her across the cheek. The pain sent Morgana out of her chair and to the floor, writhing in a stream of her own tears. Why wouldn't they let her outside and play? Why did they have to trap her in this dark cage and beat her?
“Shameful.” Renzo's voice was full of disdain. “What would your sister say if she saw you right now?” Morgana wanted Kayle to be there, to barge into the classroom and defend her. Kayle was strong, she would be able to protect her from Sir Renzo. But Morgana knew. Her sister would only side with Sir Renzo, and chastise her for being so absent-minded. She brought this punishment on herself, Kayle would tell her. This was what she deserved.
“I feel as if we are on the verge of a breakthrough here, Morgana.” Ashram's voice had permeated her thoughts again. “But my, does this hole go ever deeper. If you should be able to survive just a touch longer, then our magic will be made available to you in no time at all.” One protest was all it would take to end it all. Walk away, and the pain would subside. Morgana said nothing, thought nothing.
Chains bound Morgana's wrists and ankles; ropes tied her wings together. Torchlight lit the room just enough for Morgana to see her sister's face. Kayle should have been angry, even furious at the crime Morgana had wrought to deserve this. But the drooping corners of her lips made her look disappointed, maybe even sad. Sad that her sister had become a heretic, a stain on the family pride.
“Please Kayle, I didn't mean to,” the younger sister begged. The impending punishment felt like a cold knife at her throat, ready to sever her freedom at any moment. “Let me go and I'll run away. Nobody ever has to see me again, not even you.” She began to sob with her last words. She choked with desperation, ready to say anything to escape this mess. With tears, she gave Kayle one last pleading look. Nothing.
“You have sinned, and thus you must be punished.” The words came from Kayle's mouth but Morgana could not hear her sister saying them. The room flared with light as Kayle's sword ignited, blinding Morgana for a moment. “I harbor you no ill will, sister. This is merely punishment.” Morgana screamed and begged. Her sister's only response was to put on her helmet, that cold and lifeless mask she used to conceal her face. Kayle raised her sword high, the fire of judgment raging in the air.
“Kayle, no. No!” Morgana's protests climbed to a shriek. The heat of Kayle's magic bore down on her skin. But the flames had yet to burn away her wings. Then why, why did it hurt so much already? The tears forming in her eyes were not in anticipation. The pain she felt inside, that was the true torture. “Kayle,” she said, her voice collapsed in defeat. “Sister, I love you.”
It did not stop Kayle from tearing away her wings.
“There we have it, Morgana. Are you ready to answer this time?” Morgana could barely hear Ashram's voice over her own sobbing. “Why is it that you wish to join the League?”
“Because I want to be strong too,” she let out between whimpers. Watery as her vision was, she could still see the image of her sister, straight and tall as always. “I just want to be like you.” Morgana buried her face in her arms. Guilt, anguish, and shame poured out of her eyes.
“That wasn't so difficult, now was it?” Ashram looked down at his subject. Her worn body had curled up on the red chair, wrapped in her vestigial wings. Ashram stood over her, eyes analyzing her reaction. “Is there any feedback you'd like to provide, so that we can better refine this process?” The echoes of Morgana's sobbing flooded the empty room. “I see. Perhaps it would be wise of us to relax the judgment a bit, yes? Your agreement would appear to be implicit.”
Ashram left the room without a second thought. Morgana remained alone in the chamber, with only her memories to keep her company. For all she cared, she could have stayed there forever.
I'm so sorry, Kayle.
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