~ Recipe: Brew of the Witches' Moon
○ 120 mL of moonwater
○ One whole shamrock (Four leaves)
○ One whole leaf of basil
○ Six drops of blackwater
- Stir into a bowl
○ One fresh fairy, whole
- Ground lower half in mortar. Do not detach from the rest of the body
- Add in to the mixture
- Wait until death
- Grind rest of fairy
- Add granular mass to Moonwater Solution
- Imbue with magic beneath the light of a jubilant moon.
~ A hand-written recipe from Witch Perchta’s grimoire, which is always permanently damp. The ink is runny and never dries fully.
Soft rain falls down from above. Isaiah lifts its head, looking up towards the clouds that fill the night sky. Their heavy, leaking forms obscure the light of the full-moon.
It lifts a talon, reaching up towards the light above its head. The moon feels very close tonight.
— How strange.
Isaiah tilts its head, watching as the droplets of rain cascade around the roost, splashing against the now-cleared table and the roofs of the little houses atop the tower.
The festivities had gone well. The selling of their image as a divine, holy place went extremely well. Despite everything, it has, in fact, gone perfectly.
The bishop and his followers are all believers now and they have established a truce. The humans will be allowed to gain access to the dungeon for the resources the regenerating floors can provide them with. This is not a demand that the church made. They made no demands at all and were willing to agree to Isaiah’s terms without condition, no matter what they were.
But Isaiah knows the ways of humans. The city has many religious people. But it also has many of no faith. Many of these people are in positions of power. So, it has thrown in a bread-crumb to satiate even those hungry maws.
— They can economize the dungeon and use it like any other dungeon in the world to gather materials and Isaiah will see to it that nobody here dies inside of the tower, on the condition that the church establishes a presence and preaches the good word of the gospel of Isaiah.
Isaiah had no idea that such a thing existed, honestly. But Rorate has been busy to say the least. The dark-elf has been using her free time to not only write sermons, but a whole packaged manifest of teachings and wisdom that Isaiah doesn’t exactly remember ever saying. But it’s fine.
“- Moon sure is bright tonight,” says Red, flying over towards Isaiah.
Isaiah looks at her and nods. “It is. Are they done?” it asks, referring to the guests from the church.
Red gives it a thumbs-up. “They’re packing back up now. But they’re not leaving until the morning, what with the whole road being ripped free from the world and all.”
“Green,” says Isaiah.
Green looks out from his nest on the branch of the very-big-tree. “Yeah?”
“When the morning comes, please make a stairway off of the island, back down to the road below.”
“Uh… a stairway?” asks Green. “Are you, uh, are you sure?” He tilts its head. “Isn’t the island like… almost three kilometers up in the air?”
Isaiah shrugs. “There will be a lot of stairs.”
“What about carts and carriages?”
Isaiah shakes its head. “A tribulation,” it says. “One must journey far in order to reach the tower.”
“Oooh!” says Crystal, popping out of his nest. “Wait! We have those pilgrimage tokens, right?” he asks. Isaiah nods. “What if we set it up so that you only need to walk once, but next time, if you have a token, you can just warp up the stairs?”
“Can we do that?” asks Isaiah.
“Dungeon-magic solves a lot of problems,” replies Crystal. “I think I can make it work with Gray’s help on the tokens.” Gray nods.
“Very well,” says Isaiah. “Then it is a plan.” It looks up towards the sky. The moon really does look odd tonight, doesn’t it? It’s large and bright. But perhaps this is because of the rain clouds. They’re drifting past the heavenly body, always half-obscuring it and half distorting its full form.
“Red,” asks Isaiah. “How often does a full moon appear?”
“Huh?” Red looks up towards the sky. “Uh, every two weeks, or?” she asks, looking at the other uthra, who nod in agreement.
Isaiah points up towards the moon, unusually large, bright and nearly orange. “Then why is it full again?” asks Isaiah. "Was it not just full the other day?"
It’s quiet for a time as everybody stares up towards the sky in confusion.
“…It’s the witch…” says a voice quietly down below. Rorate. Isaiah turns to look at her. “Oh no…” says the dark-elf, the rain splashing against her face, as she seems to realize something.
Isaiah blinks, realizing. Didn’t she live in the east? In the darker part of the forest that surrounds the tower?
— In the forest that it had just ripped in half?
“- Red!” calls Isaiah, turning sharply towards the uthra.
Red sighs, shaking her head. “It really is always going to be like this, isn’t it?” she asks. Isaiah jumps up to its feet in a panic. No. Not now. Not like this. Not after everything has lined up so well for the first time. Not after everything it has given up to make this work like it has.
It remembers witches. Witches aren’t just normal casters, like a sorcerer or some geomancer or some random adventurer. Those normal types of magic-users are bound by the laws of the cosmic-system that governs the world. But witches…
“— Get everyone inside!” it orders, looking at Red. “Now!” Isaiah points at the others. “GO!” They all shoot off out of their nests.
The clouds break. The rain, previously at a drizzle, begins to pour.
“- Ow!” yelps Rorate, covering her head. “OW!” Isaiah flies down, grabbing her and shielding her with its massive wings. It moves off towards the house atop the tower, moving to get Rorate inside and out of the rain. The others scramble.
- Witches aren’t bound by the normal rules of the system. While they’re integrated into it like any other man or woman or monster, they're able to bend the rules so far that they’re essentially above it entirely. There’s a reason most of them have been hunted and killed by the church in times most recent. Only a handful remain in the world, few and far between.
Shrill screams rise up from the grounds of the tower, traveling all the way up to the top of the roost which is at a dizzying height. The tones are carried unusually far and high, as if some presence were lifting them all the way towards it, just to make a point.
Isaiah opens the door and pushes Rorate inside. “Stay out of the rain,” it says. “I will return.”
“Wait, I can help!”
“Help by keeping the others safe,” says Isaiah and then rises back into the air, closing the door at the same time.
The black rain, consisting of a liquid that feels acrid and thick, runs down Isaiah’s pearl-hued body, dripping off towards the base of the tower. The white construct oozes from the top down as the inky downpour runs down its exterior, like rotten pus trickling down along the body of a wound-puncturing needle.
Isaiah shoots down off of the roost, heading down lower towards the ground where people are scrambling all around. The guards, the priests, the cardinals, the adventurers — everyone is making a rush for whatever shelter they can find. Many try to get into the carriages, but the guardsmen of the nobles push the many of them out and back into the rain. The anqa, tethered to the carriages, fight against their reins and bindings.
The uthra fly in and out, dragging terrified, screaming people across the grounds as they claw into the grass and the stones, not aware of the intention of the entities pulling them into the shadows and the dungeon.
Isaiah lands down on the ground, its palm pressing into the wet grass as a terrified, screaming face tears past itself, pulled into the tower by Black. People lay around the carriages, flailing in pain as the befouled rainwater burns their faces and bodies. Red puts up a magical barrier from her skill-set, gained at level three, trying to cover a few of them. But only a handful make it inside. Many of the priests and priestess lift their hands, creating their own shielding walls of magical light above their heads. But the damaging rain quickly eats through the limited barriers.
Isaiah turns its head, staring across the grounds and across the river that is flowing faster than ever as it floods. It looks towards the dark forest on the other side of the water, awash in gruesome moonlight.
The clouds in the air that had been silhouetting the unusually large, full moon, move into place, creeping like a growing fungus as they obscure half of it in an entirely unnatural pattern, causing the moon to look like a long, crooked face with a jagged, hungry mouth. The rain that falls from the blackened clouds looks like the drool of a feral monster, running down its face.
As Isaiah's eyes wander back down towards the grounds of the forest below, it sees a wraithly, gangly figure standing there in the forest across the river, staring its way with the coldest, emptiest eyes it has ever seen.
— Eyes that are visible even at this distance, in this poor light. They shine with a hollowness that causes Isaiah to feel even its own hairless skin prick on end.
The witch's hair flows in uncanny, impossible directions, as if she were a drowning corpse, sinking into a light-less ocean.
“Good luck, chief,” says Red, wincing as a drop of rain strikes her on the neck. Isaiah feels something pressing itself into its taloned hand. It’s the golden sword it had Gray make for the final encounter with the second inspection team. “- You were my favorite core. I’ll really miss you when you’re gone,” she says, patting Isaiah on the shoulder before flying off to tear more people out of the rain.
Isaiah lifts the sword, looking at the entity standing across from itself. “Witch Perchta,” it says, pointing the blade her way. “May we speak?” asks Isaiah. “I am afraid that I -”
“- YOU DESTROYED MY HOUSE!” she screams. The woman, the creature, grabs her own open mouth with her left hand, her four fingers pressing into the inside of her cheek. She rips it back open, pulling the meat of her face away as if it were a mask. But rather than revealing something human-resemblant beneath the loose skin, there is only a decayed gestalt with a long, crooked snout and gangrene, jagged teeth that jut out of its bony, skin-taut face. It is the skull of a jackal, melted and rotten, attached to a drowned corpse. “A CURSE! A CURSE ON YOU!” she howls. The witch lunges forward, leaving the wet ground as she flies across the river, black-water cascading down her monstrous, warped body.
Isaiah pushes in, lunging in to meet her with the golden blade in hand, moving alone through the night as the only thing of contrast; a snowflake amidst the heavy storm.
Perhaps it is time to finally meet its other neighbor.