Chapter 13 of IW Season One.
[b]Jaden/Synthetic Mindscape/Dawn 4[/b]
He knew something wasn't right. There were no stark white crystal skies or floating marble islands in Hyrule...and that old crone was just sitting on the other end of the 200-yard suspended mass.
[color=chocolate]"Where am I, witch?"[/color]
He started approaching Nora and got a better view of what she was holding...and then his hostility dropped a good bit.
"You only wish you had it this good, Jaden. As I said before, very few have ever come to this place. One I prepare for each heir to the People. Each is different...yours needs that tranquil white for the troubles you face. For what you know, you'll be here for months. But only one day will pass. Make the most of the time. Follow my directions to the best of your ability. And if something feels wrong, tell me right away!"
She was fiddling with Jaden's new equipment. He wasn't sure if it was real or not, but it looked immaculate. Made of that same stuff the witch's jewelry consisted of. Starmetal. Inlaid celestial gemstones. Stuff of the heavens. Sheikah normally were not this fancy, and the Chieftain seldom drew such a blade except in times of dire need.
There was a bastard sword perfectly set, and a pair of morningstars that looked lighter than air. Then there was his armor set. It had hide covering the plate, but it didn't look like there was as much material used in it as there was in his other one.
"It's real. And it's going to be yours, provided you pass the training here. Remember how I told you if you trusted me that your life would improve? I did not mean to force it on you. It was here for you when you were ready. I still wonder if you are..."
His eyebrow raised in disbelief as he turned away to pace for a moment.
[color=chocolate]"Look, it wasn't a lack of trust. It was more of a self-reliance thing. I thought you'd turn me into a weirdo like Kae, and I still wanted to be myself."[/color]
"Then why the contempt for all these years?"
[color=chocolate]"If you really knew me, I'm like that to just about everyone. Not comfortable with letting anyone get too close..."[/color]
The breeze was cool and smelled of sea air. He stretched his arms above his head and walked back over to Nora.
"That's part of the problem, but in a way, your way may have helped you develop a path in life. Kae isn't a weirdo like you say. She just had a different path to travel. And now it's a very dangerous one. She's been imbued as Nayru's Scion. While she may not look like that meek village girl anymore, Kae is still your sister, and she loves you very much."
His jaw locked in the open position as he tried to steady himself.
[color=chocolate]"A Scion is what, exactly? Some sort of half-celestial mutant? I knew we were moonchildren, but give me a break here!"[/color]
"If she wasn't related to you, you'd find her...irresistible. She was already quite beautiful. The imbuing brought out all of those qualities that should have attracted people to her and enhanced them. No longer pale, a light glow in the eyes, curves in all the right places, you get the idea."
[color=chocolate]"So closer to the Patron's likeness. I get it. And enhanced abilities too. Sort of like what you're doing with me here, but hers was off the charts."[/color]
Nora handed him the weapons and armor and nodded.
"Your intellect is sharp, young man. As a disciple of the Three, my processes are not much different in their intent. Their culmination is, however, the opposite. You're going to have to work very hard to achieve the aim of this ritual."
He asked for a brief moment of privacy and equipped all the new gear. It felt odd on him. Like it was too light in weight to be functional in the field. Like it was not durable enough to take a blow or survive a sundering slash. But when he pulled the sword from its scabbard, things started to make more sense.
It would always hold an edge. It couldn't be sundered. The previous enchantments on it were enhanced. And he could summon it at will, which is why the deep indigo gem was there. But of course, the special abilities siphoned from his life force, just like any other Lunar-powered item...
"We will start with your basic combat exercises. I will duel with you."
[color=chocolate]"Are you sure you won't break something in your old age?"[/color]
Nora chuckled lightly, standing up and readying her gnarled wooden staff.
"Among our people, one does not become old without being quick, resourceful, and efficient. Do not be deceived, Jaden Bryseis."
He didn't know what he was getting into at all. He forgot that she trained many Chieftains before in similar fashion. She knew many things, including stuff that no one would ever want to know about the inner mysteries of the universe. Martial combat and basic Sheikah Chieftain life skills were child's play compared to that.
Nora wasn't kidding. She held nothing back while coming at Jaden with the gnarled wooden staff that was probably older than her.
He wasn't sure whether to retaliate with full force or not. While this was a dreamscape of sorts, would real injuries carry over? Now was not the time to ask such a question.
It was not the easiest blow to parry. Deceptively hard and placed well, Jaden caught it near the hilt and forced her back with a flourishing defensive strike. He then advanced with a quick slash, but it missed terribly. Nora countered with a swift crack to his knee and knocked him flat on his back.
Pain felt real enough, and with a windmill flare kick he caught the instructor looking, putting her in the same position he was in only a moment before. These new tools were incredibly well-made; he didn't need to use nearly as much strength or precision as he did with his old gear.
A beam of cosmic energy caught Jaden in the side, stunning him as Nora rose to her feet to attack again.
His blade met her staff again and they were locked up. Eyes met. Nora's face had no expression. Jaden's was tenacious. He wouldn't allow himself to lose to an old woman. Little did he know she had a very good chance of beating him. She'd beaten all of them in the opening exercise.
The melee lock was held for a good twenty seconds before Jaden broke it with a knee lift. He dodged more beams as Nora rolled away from him, giving her a little room.
Was it worth making the gamble for an unbalancing strike? If he missed, she'd really let him have it. He decided to hold off for now on big swings and instead kept advancing with feints and smaller motions.
She didn't fall for any of it. Jabs of the staff to Jaden's chest and shoulder were firm reminders that one does not fake out an old woman.
"I didn't teach Kae any of those moves. These are self-taught."
[color=chocolate]"Ok, you're not fooling me. But that doesn't mean I'd go easy on you!"[/color]
The next round of blows gave him the break he needed, catching her with the backswing of a sweeping slash at her midsection. What was seen next defied logic. But then again, this was a dreamscape.
Blood flowed freely from Nora's waist for a second before the wound closed up with no visible signs of damage. And Jaden wasn't bruised from hard hits of the staff or beam spam. Their bodies regenerated.
"No decapitation strikes. That's the only rule. But you figured it out...don't hold back, boy."
She was fast. Too fast for his two-handed weapon techniques. It was time to speed it up. He sheathed the bastard sword and readied the morningstars. They were incredibly lithe in his grasp. He missed the axes a little, but these were far better in craftsmanship and functionality. He could slash or bash, or both. They weren't meant to do as much parrying though, so he had to keep that in mind.
Nora chuckled as he changed weapons.
"It won't matter what you use. Try everything out. You need to familiarize yourself with all of those things."
The armor was a perfect fit and due to lighter weight fatigued him a lot less than his old outfit. Being ambidextrous gave him some advantages with the morningstar set; he didn't favor one side or another in his advances or defense. Both weighed the same; perfect balance.
Knocking Nora's staff away with his right hand, he delivered a crushing blow to her ribs with the other. It also didn't matter how quick she was to avoid a blow either. If it hit her, that frail form would give easily. She went down in one hit at that point, but got back up.
"That...was fast...even for me. No one's done that to me before!"
She conjured a fist weapon of sorts in her offhand and kept the staff in her main. Anima flared and more beams came at him. Jaden knocked a few away but took one right in the forehead, flooring him. The assault didn't stop. He was playing ping pong with about four or five beams a second while rolling around and dodging the rest. It was a relentless assault. How would he avoid getting dominated now?
"And they're going to just sit there and let you beat on them all day? You can't close the distance, Jaden. You have to be in their face. They're going to exploit that unless you develop a way around it!"
He suddenly remembered the long scalpel he stole from the Twili camp. It was in his belt. Palming it in full rolling mode, he threw it at Nora and buried it in her neck. As soon as that happened, the attacks stopped. He kipped to his feet and charged her full speed leading with the shoulder, and barreled her over before she could do anything about it. He rode the charge down to the ground and started to pummel her, even though the anima caused a good bit of pain.
She regenerated with each blow, but did not yield. Her claw was buried into his right side, but he didn't stop bashing at any exposed area he saw. Blood was everywhere. That didn't go away. Surging pain only made him more infuriated. Uttering the command words to activate his morningstars, they gained a bluish-green aura and the speed of his attacks increased.
That was about as much as Nora could take before conceding the opening duel. She blinked out from under him and stood a good twenty paces away. Her robes were tattered and she was cringing in intense pain. While the wounds closed, some of the sensations remained. Perhaps using Kae's ichor was a mistake in that regard; it made this dreamscape hypersensitive in thought and feeling.
"Well done...not holding back...good...we should move on to aura mastery...you can give those little self-augments to others now if you focus hard enough...ow..."
Auras. Kae talked about them and how she had a hard time manifesting them without driving people around her insane. Lunar-based spells were heavily taxing on the mind and body, but especially the mind when non-attuned were exposed. Because Kae's mind and emotions were strong, she had to cut that part of the paradigm out of her grimoire of spells.
Jaden, however, had an odd problem with his self-taught abilities that would allow him to project these helpful auras based on Lunar Tarot aspects that Nora had selected for his training. The good thing was that people wouldn't be driven insane by exposure to temporary alterations to body and mind. The bad thing is that the potency and range were reduced.
Nora kept going over how they all worked, but he kept getting confused. Jaden didn't quite understand the importance of the Mesmer in his four. Nora probably shouldn't have used it considering that he was not very caster-like. He didn't know much about the Tarot, but he thought the Restorer or the Prophet could have served him better.
"Squabbling wastes time. If there's something we can do better with, we'll figure it out as we go. The ritual only allows for a certain amount of time for us to practice here."
"What good is the Mesmer really going to do for me? That's more of a Kae thing. More of a you thing. I can't call down bolts of fury from the heavens."
"And for those who have the aptitude? You being around them with that up will allow for a more potent assault. Remember, I am trying to help you become the ultimate crusader. The four Aspects chosen for you are for the sake of utility. To do your thing you still have your Indignance...and do not try to turn that into an aura. The stress on the body from your own tricks are enough to cause heart attacks or strokes. It'd kill mere men when exposed to it. Also, if you extend your aid for too long, it will drive you to the limit of exhaustion. Moderation preserves while extremes consume. Don't forget that either."
"Alright. So the Defiant for stronger blows. The Vigilant for better physical defense. The Subversive for magical defense, and The Mesmer for magical potency. I think I got that much. But tapping into it and projecting it...where does that start?"
"The same way you make your weapons glow. But not with uttered words; thoughts will switch things for you. And don't forget you'll have that regenerative aura whilst asleep or resting. It requires too much focus to use in a combat situation."
After the discourse, Nora lectured Jaden on what each Aspect embodied. She did admit the Mesmer was an outlier that could cause problems, but that the risk was worth it. Being tied to these meant more responsibilities, but that his "backlashes" would not be nearly as harmful as Kae's. His superior physical fitness allowed him to deal with the drawbacks.
Nora did not know about Jaden's reverse-backlash trick. He'd intentionally botch a useless mental focus rote and turn it into a mild healing spell. This would give him a nosebleed or headache, or at worse knock him out. And he couldn't use it on himself. But in playing with his basic skills, he discovered how to do this perfectly. If she ever found out, he'd get scolded horribly for misusing the power of the Three.
After conjuring a "practice dummy" of a Twili soldier, Nora gave it the spark of life and gave Jaden something to work with.
"Now, let's see if you can channel your different patrons...give me the Defiant."
Physical limitations cannot stop my fury...
A deep red light coated his body and fluctuated on the ground around him. As his desire to fight increased, it got larger. When the corresponding glyph appeared on his forehead, it was at its maximum radius and activity. This one wasn't difficult because it came naturally to him. He did this all the time when in a standard combat situation. It just never extended to other allies.
Nora could feel her muscles firm up and her focus sharpen. There was a reason she made him use it first. And she then instructed him to attack.
"Try going on the offensive now. You'll see an improvement."
He even activated the enchantment on his sword. Probably didn't need it.
The dummy raised its blade to parry and it shattered horribly. Jaden's blow not only sundered steel, it also cleaved his foe in two with very little effort. Mooks were fodder as it was for him. Nora levitated her staff and put it in front of him, instructing him to strike another blow.
Gnarled wood was not as it appeared. Three chops it took this time. Still, no other chieftain had ever done that in her training sessions. It mended again and she took it back.
"That...was quite...disturbing. It is no wonder the Defiant favors you. You've never really fit the mold among the people, and you do things that you really don't need to in order to get the job done. But what is it that really drives you?"
"A desire to be the best I can and serve Hyrule. As those who have come before me. I just see things differently than them."
Nora threw back her hood and thumbed at her chin.
"Try channeling the Vigilant then. And do not defend against my attacks. I want you to feel the difference here too."
A rather strange request she had. He had trust issues with her as it was. But he let her hit him.
Each blow felt less potent, even though it was of the same intensity. Channeling the Vigilant was hard enough to do, and he slipped up a couple of times, but she kept swinging the staff. Damage did regenerate quickly, but each failure was a reminder of the importance of positive thinking in dire situations.
"I want you to strike me now, to see if your training has had any effect."
"You said this wouldn't work on allies. If I'm hitting you, you're an enemy."
"You quickly forget about accidents, don't you? Such an aura could prevent fatal mistakes in your unit. A misfired arrow becomes a critical injury instead of a fatal one. Stray backswings leave minor wounds instead of deep gashes. Think about it."
Jaden sighed and let loose a brutal blow courtesy of one of his morningstars. The first strike did not have its desired effect due to his lack of concentration. He was then instructed to refocus and try again. This time, things were a good bit different. Much less blood. Much less bruising. Instead of shattering Nora's ribcage, only a few ribs broke.
"If you are truly looking out for your fellow soldier or companion, you can give them a moderate degree of protection from their own mistakes or even your own. This is not the primary function of Vigilance, but it is helpful. It is our current Chieftain's favorite aura. Not that he makes many mistakes, but he doesn't enjoy them."
Nora cringed as her form reanimated. Even as she observed from outside her crystal ball, the phantom pain from her mindscape did channel through somewhat.
Jaden was then asked to endure more concentration exercises to hone the projection of his influence. Loud noises, psychic disruptions, physical attacks, extreme temperatures, and just about every thing Nora could think of was used. This took hours, and he wasn't even asked to move on to learning his final two aura projections.
"Why teach the final two when your ability to manifest these is impaired? Learn the basics. The other auras are much harder to master because they require a different mentality that was never needed by you. You are not a mage. You may have to think like one in order to pass the final two tests."
Swirling clouds of miasma enshrouded Nora's mindscape. While she observed and operated from outside the crystal ball, Jaden's mind was linked to this plane of inner consciousness as his body rested.
He would need it for when the dreams ended, especially the painful tattooing. Kae passed out from that no more than eleven times, and Nora had wagered she could force Jaden into it at least once.
There was still much to learn for him about aura projection, however. Subvert and Mesmer were still foreign concepts to Jaden. It was difficult in the beginning, but after the mental control exercises, the Subvert made more sense. Not exactly a mind over matter problem; one cannot simply disbelieve magic and ignore its effects. It is a matter of spiritual fortitude.
After about three hours of being pelted by arcane blasts, it became much clearer. Nora summoned elementals of all six schools into her manufactured realm, running more tests. Of course, the Light Animus would cause the most problems considering Jaden's attunement. She saved that one for last. Education by overload was Nora's goal here.
"Alright. So you understand how to make this work on yourself. Your natural shadow resistance is impressive nonetheless; bolts of dark energy barely faze you it seems. But try protecting me, and we will see if you really do understand this."
A blob of shadow took aim at Nora's heart and unleashed a cascade of dark miasma. As it approached her, the magic began to fizzle as Jaden repeated his key mantra.
Share in my will's strength.
Nora dismissed her test subject and applauded her new pupil.
"Kae was right about you. It takes a while, but when you grasp the concept, you act as though you knew it for years."
"I'm not a mage. Asking me to do this is like asking me to undertake Kae's disciplines."
"You are not her. This much is true. But you are a Moon-child. Your abilities are...different. And you did a good job of teaching yourself. There have been discoveries of things in our paradigm beyond my imagination. And you've been that pioneer. But Kae and I can't do what you do."
"I read up on some of this. Physical and metaphysical augmentation is more of a solar paradigm specialization. I'm a rare breed."
"Lunar physical regeneration was unheard of in non-forest denizens until you came along."
Jaden raised an eyebrow and mused.
"When this is over, I might set some time aside to focus on these gifts. For now, it's a matter of having the tools to win a war."
Nora walked over to elemental remains and sat down, scratching her back with her staff.
"So you don't think I'm some old crone anymore?"
Her pupil chuckled and sat down with her as he stretched his lower back.
"We're all talented in our own ways, Nora. But I understand more now...why you are how you are..."
"Now that you understand the Subvert's power, Mesmeric Aura projection is almost the exact opposite. Instead of numbing your mind and senses to the potency of magicks, you open it up and make sure others feed off of the heightened awareness produced."
Grasping the concept was the hard part it seemed. Jaden almost wanted to take up offensive magic after less than one full session with his new teacher. Was it her persuasiveness that made it so intriguing? His mind could handle the rigors. But he realized his martial skill would diminish if he became as involved as Kae had been before her anointing. He simply wouldn't have enough time to do both. That was his problem. And he wished he could, because this seemed so intriguing, different, and new.
"Of course, this heightened awareness does lend itself to thought-noise dissonance and increased chances of offensive magicks hurting you more if they hit you. If you're using this aura, be sure not to activate it around enemy casters."
"But you said auras didn't affect enemies."
"They affect you. You are channeling the power and take on all the weaknesses when you project. Although, this can be a center-on-self rote and then you won't have that problem. Just get in the mindset and don't use the mantra if it isn't meant to be extended."
Nora got up and practiced her casting for a little bit. Jaden observed, trying to get a better understanding of how she did this.
"Now, there is a slight placebo if people are aware that you have auras. Most of the time they will not notice that it is you to thank for their enhanced abilities. It's better that way. If people become too dependent on your presence they will not always do their best. I told Kae similar before her deployment...Nayru had other plans."
"So is there some special incantation for the Mesmer or what?"
Nora covered her face with her palm and drove her staff into the ground.
"More to explain before we get to that. This is the final aura, and you need to understand much more before we move on. This isn't just some quick trick academy, you know."
After a bit of a rest, Jaden's final aura training began. Nora had many lessons to teach him through this. While he was very intelligent and focused, discretion was key when using Mesmeric projection. Enhancing one weakens another, just like phases of the moon clouding and exposing certain parts. The penalty would have to be paid somewhere. Whether he took it all onto himself or dispersed it onto affected allies was up to him.
"So using this will take my offensive capabilities out of a fight."
"Only if you decide to bear the burden. Those who accept your gifts assume responsibilities for their side effects. I can tell you that you'll probably hit things as hard as Kae does with her melee attacks if you don't share the pain."
"Then why doesn't the Defiant lessen magical potency?"
"Because you can bear that burden yourself. You don't use magic like others do and thus are outside that cycle. Each aura has one of those waxing and waning qualities."
"I love how this is the fourth session and this is revealed just now."
"The other three didn't matter as much, except maybe for the Subvert. That isn't much of a problem. If only we had it easy like the more traditional paradigms of Light. Of course more folks think better of the Solar-focused and Purists. Moon-attuned individuals are so misunderstood that we often get confused with Shadow practitioners. We're not that different in some ways. We both are very weak to the Light as they know it. But the hidden mysteries...unlocking those opens doors to inner potential that the Purists can only dream about."
Mesmeric projection required one thing: the will to bend magical energies to oneself. But what about those who don't channel it in known ways? That was the confusion that Jaden struggled for hours to try to discover. It was like picking up a weapon he'd never used before and having to fell a giant with it. In fact, that's what Nora used as a phantasmal practice dummy.
The old mystic sat there and fired cosmic rays at it while Jaden tried to focus. She grew frustrated at times and in other cases she tried to explain to him fundamental channeling techniques.
Eventually he found one. All life had some sort of underlying current fueling it. Nora and Kae believed this to be the Seventh Essence, the very stuff of the divine, woven into the world. By picturing a floodgate and the opening and closing thereof, he was able to visualize mystical aptitude. And simply by projecting belief, those around him could also open their inner magical floodgates.
"A bit complicated for a beginner. You might have to explain to others how to tap into it, but it is workable. Just practice it in your free time later. I understand it. But I also taught you how to do this in the first place. Others will not be as wise. Now go through your four forms and cycle them. It won't feel natural for a good while."
Her pupil did as asked, honing the mindsets and concentrations required to project. Of course, he could center the effect on himself and not amplify it if he wished. He wouldn't be in a group all the time. Besides, it was far easier for him to stir up his inner fire without having to share. Then there was the downside of wispy anima fluctuating in color. It wasn't subtle.
"When we're done here I will need to notarize this pact on your flesh. I hope you're alright with that. Think of it as making your life easier."
"Right arm. Celestial starmetal pigments. No anesthetic. It will hurt."
Jaden winced and resumed his exercises, hoping it wasn't as bad as Kae described.
"Brother, I can't quite explain how excruciating this experience was. Torture isn't even putting it lightly. Starmetal does not react well with mortal blood. It is a volatile response that in the mundane aspect just plain hurts. On an ethereal level it prepares the body for channeling divine energies, kind of like an immunization. The more you're able to use, the more ritual markings you'll need. I had my arms and back done...and more could come in the future."
I never felt any pain using my tricks before. What makes these new ones different? And how do the dabblers cast if they can't notarize?
There wasn't much left for him to do in this odd trance-like state.
Nora knew he wasn't going to be able to properly take on a Pact Sealing thanks to a lack of full moon. But with a New Moon, while the Pact would have less meaning, it would still stabilize his abilities. And backlashes would be far less taxing.
There was not much sense of how long they were in. It was going to take most of the day. Nora hadn't even broken her concentration to check her outside surroundings. Her apprentice-turned-Scion was fighting for her life against nearly impossible odds, Jaden was still unconscious and awaiting ritual markings, and the mysterious occurrences to Lynn did not have Nora's critical eye examining them.
Simply put, Nora was taking many big risks in preparing Jaden to enter this conflict on a larger scale. She was aware of it but deemed it necessary.
"It is time to leave this realm. You have done better than expected, young one. Is there anything else you need to do before I dismiss the mindscape?"
"I need to know if going through with all of this will really matter. It is a big sacrifice on both of our parts."
"I wouldn't have trained you if I didn't think it would affect this conflict in a favorable manner. I wouldn't have risked my life, Kae's, or yours. And the Sanctuary needs a keeper more than ever...most of our finest are on assignment and have left its defense to very few competent individuals."
Jaden nodded quickly.
"Then I get it. I am ready to swear to the Pact you'd mentioned."
"There is no turning back once ink melds with flesh. Very well. We will depart."
Nora opened a viscous deep violet portal and stepped through it. Jaden figured that was the way out.
He felt the weight of his soul return as consciousness crept in. Moderate pain wracked his back and legs from all the stress of escape. This didn't include previously treated injuries.
Then came the issue of his hands. In escaping badly-constructed handcuff bindings, Jaden dislocated his wrists and hand bones on purpose. He then had to re-set them quickly. There was a considerable amount of swelling and tenderness as a result, including a risk of permanent damage. Potions didn't touch it. His resilience staved off some of the pain, but functionality was an issue.
Jaden lay on his belly across a cot. He'd passed out there the night before while Nora prepared her mindscape training ground. As she was concluding this ritual, he watched intently, trying to figure out exactly how she did it. It was something to keep his mind off of assorted pains.
"It is not evening yet. We have a little more time to prepare. I can't open my second sight to the outside world just yet due to the necessity of focusing on your progression. Sorry, Jaden. I can't tell you how your sister is doing until the ritual is done."
"You might not have taught me how to reach out with my mind, but I fully intend to learn."
"If you break the veil, your Pact may fail to take. And then all you've learned will be useless. It isn't worth the risk. Kae is a Scion now. It would take a cataclysmic event to put her life in a danger worth being concerned about. Like fighting a Primordial One. Or Ganondorf. Or something that she most likely will not encounter any time soon. Focus, Jaden. Hyrule needs you."
"Someone's got to keep an eye on her!"
"I can't hold her hand forever. I told her this before. She is not a weak link, regardless of the lies others may propagate in Kakariko. They think I'm crazy for training her. They forget how many times I've saved them thanks to Infinite Wisdom's provisions. And I do not brag, Jaden."
"After reporting to Hyrule Castle, I fully intend to find out what she is up to."
"As is your right. But for now, we need to attend again to your wounds. Relax and empty your mind."
Jaden/Nora's Shop/Day 4(Ritual Veil)
While he healed faster than a lesser man would, Jaden still had some rather extreme injuries, especially that horizontal slash under his eyes that reached from one side of his face to another. It felt like hours while Nora undid all the damage sustained from his second trip into the woods, before and after. Undid being relative. He ripped sutures in his escape, had swollen hands from dislocated wrists, and superficial wounds that stung like hell.
His ankles also had been damaged with dark energies. That mended faster than the other injuries thanks to his natural shadow resistance. It wouldn't hamper his performance too much other than an annoying residual sting. It left another scar, but with Jaden, he had a lot of those. Each one was a badge of honor for him.
His arms save the shoulder area on his left side were good for tattooing. She was only doing his right, so there wasn't much of an issue.
"I told you before, and I'll tell you again, Jaden. This will be incredibly painful."
Jaden chuckled and sipped on a restorative tonic.
"Nothing can be as bad as dislocating my wrists on purpose. I think other than having arrow fragments dug out of my leg, that was as bad as it got."
Nora showed him the tool kit and asked him to think again. Large needles, very similar to the kind he liked to throw at his enemies to catch them off guard.
"Think again. The pigment is designed to be a vaccine against Celestial Blood Corruption. It's a primer to prevent a premature one-way trip to the Sacred Realm."
"The hell is that? Some divine disease?"
As she prepared her inks and pigments, Nora explained exactly how bad it was to contract and that she'd come down with it once before. It is almost always "lethal." A price must always be paid for using divine magic. After innate bodily reserves are depleted, life force begins to be sapped. If someone does not outright die from overuse in one day, a person's blood begins to transmute into that of a divine being's. Since the physical body wasn't made to handle that, it begins to overload. However, thanks to being made in the image of the Three, death is not immediate. Instead, the body begins to adapt. It starts to slowly become celestial until it cannot exist on the physical plane anymore. The victim is then banished to the Sacred Realm and cannot return. While some may see this as an early reward, the Three usually have less-rewarding places in their service for those who enter this way. Fools are the ones who end up like this, or just plain unfortunate.
There are very few ways of living through it. One is a high ritual performed on the night of a full moon for lunar adherents. It is a plea to Nayru for forgiveness. Power was misused and in order to live, utmost respect beyond the norm is shown. If she listens, the victim lives. If not, they're called "home" right away.
"I...see. Why'd she let you live?"
She paused and set her tray down beside Jaden.
"Because your sister was born three nights before. And someone had to be her mentor. I was performing too many divination rituals in an attempt to chart her life, and a backlash triggered CBC. I almost died on the spot. This is why you don't scry on Scions-to-be. The Three really don't like that."
Jaden had many more questions for her. This proved to be advantageous, because while time was shielded by the veil, more needed to pass before the Pact could take full effect. In a way, it was better to stall her. And hearing of a lethal divine disease got them both talking again.
Jaden/Nora's Shop/Day 4(Ritual Veil)
Needle would soon be meeting flesh. It had been almost eight years since she'd done this. She never thought it'd happen again. While she seldom wished to inflict this kind of pain upon others, it was necessary for Hyrule's defense. Instead of constellation designs, however, Nora chose to graft Jaden's four Patron Aspects and their corresponding glyphs. This would better reflect his abilities.
She also decided to add on a weeping eye to the Defiant's breastplate. All of her patterns were prepared in advance, and she was inking those so as to apply them. It wouldn't be as painful as Kae's ritual, but it would still hurt.
"I'm going to ask you the same questions she got. This is part of the Pact, so don't goof around."
Jaden gulped as Nora put her patterns on his arm.
"If I wasn't serious about this, I wouldn't be here."
"Very well. Do you pledge your life to the defense of our people's secrets and livelihood? And also to the aid of the Royal Family and its territories?"
"And to the celestial mysteries of our Lunar bodies? And to Nayru, Farore, and Din's service in their defense?"
"My life for the Goddesses and our moons."
Nora raised her needle, dripping with pigment.
"By my authority as spiritual counsel, I anoint you with celestial ink as a permanent reminder of your Pact."
Using telekinesis to wipe away excess blood and ink, she had her needle and mallet working rather quickly. Efficiency was key, but accuracy was of the highest priority. And it wasn't easy to work on a writhing target. Timing got very difficult.
Pain wracked Jaden's frame as he did everything he could to avoid crying out. His arm felt like it was on fire and melting at the same time. And Nora wasn't even finished with her first line. It had to seem like an eternity of agony for him. His moonchild roots didn't stick to him like they did his younger sister. People knew he was different...but he wasn't cloistered and eccentric.
His eyes were burning just like his arm. He could see violet seeping into his field of vision as though it was wispy smoke. There were also stars of pain, tears, and troubled breathing.
"You will be fine. This is only temporary...it is a reminder to avoid getting your blood corrupted...and your body adjusting to new-found potential."
A thick wooden bit floated toward his mouth, hovering.
"Do you need to bite down on this?"
He reluctantly nodded. Never before had he admitted to suffering like this. But this was no ordinary tattoo parlor. The very stuff of the cosmos was mingling with his flesh. His bite stick became his solace during the process. And then he wondered how the hell Kae could have handled her back and arms in one session. She was brave. Or she just passed out from the pain. Which is exactly what he felt like doing. While he wished he could shut his eyes, they were flung wide open.
Tattoos were not supposed to hurt this much.
"It will be over before you know it. Try to think of when this is done."
As soon as she said this, Jaden passed out. After angling his head to keep a clear airway, Nora resumed her tedious work.
Jaden/Nora's Shop/Day 4 (Ritual Veil)
He was a lot easier to work on after passing out. Part of it was that he didn't wake up in the middle of any bits of this process.
Kae woke up twelve times. Maybe more. She couldn't remember. Nora saw some amusing differences between the two siblings even with their pain tolerance. One was very bright but couldn't handle it. It literally took days to complete with her squirming. The other one could be brighter, but after overloading from shock, he hibernated. Which was odd. It was easy to wake Kae up because she was always in a servant's mind. Jaden seldom served others except in his duty. Off the clock, it was all about him.
If there was a next time, she considered using anesthesia.
In a way, this mark looked like an armband-styled job. Placed in the mid-upper part of his arm, four Lunar Tarot aspects were drawn. Their corresponding glyphs could be located somewhere on their persons. And a hidden Sheikah weeping eye was found on the hilt of the Defiant's sword, extending into its pommels.
Nora didn't know how long the whole thing took, but it did disturb her that Jaden slept through the rest of it, not even budging when she tried to stir him. Smelling salts did the trick, but it wasn't pleasant for her new apprentice.
I live to teach. Without a pupil, my life's purpose is sold short. Even though it's only been a couple of days, I miss having Kae here...
"Ugh...and to think you'd greet me with a liquid bread breakfast in bed...is it over?"
His arm still felt like it was on fire. But there wasn't anything poking or prodding at it.
"Beer is the last thing you should drink after a procedure like this. Give yourself the rest of whatever time we have to recover. When you're done littering Hyrule Field with Twili corpses, chug yourself into the commode."
Jaden could feel those auras stirring within, as though his body had become a wellspring. Activating Defiance, he stood up and stretched everything except that troublesome arm. Tingling sensations surrounded a live glyph.
"Hold on. You're not ready to go yet. I hadn't applied a treatment to it, and there are still things we must discuss. Visions that flooded this room during my work. Things you should know."
"Whatever you think needs to be done. I just want to get out there and introduce those infidels to the business end of my blade."
Nora sighed and handed him a mug of tea.
"This will help you mend faster. Also, remember that after this is over, there will be much work to be done in reconstruction. The people may look to us and the Royal Family, and it is our duty to provide. Or...we may need to win their hearts back...I have seen foreboding things, young man..."
They discussed nearly everything she had seen in her visions. If the Twili won, the Sheikah would go into further hiding than they'd been in for centuries. Networks of underground caverns. They'd shelter the Royals there until either a miracle occurred, or enough of an insurgency had taken effect to restore rightful rulers.
If the Hylians managed to fight off a mysteriously overwhelming force, they'd still have to repair a people's shaken trust. There would not be joy in this victory. Cataclysmic measures would need to be taken to ensure safety. Things not even considered before in punitive terms for an enemy deserving utter eradication.
She applied a treated bandage to tender flesh and instructed Jaden to rest. He would be ready for release in a few hours. In the meantime, Nora continued her work under veil to better understand what her role would be in the rest of this conflict.
Jaden/Nora's Shop/Day 4 (Veiled)
He was getting very impatient. But Nora's orders were there for a reason. Going out at any less than 100% would be a bad idea. There wasn't much for him to do other than twiddle thumbs, cycle through auras, and talk to the old crone. He'd gone through just about every topic except for his mission.
Which he basically was allowed to pick. He knew what he wanted to do, because so few of the heroes were able at the time.
"What are your suggestions for Hyrule's defense, namely the castle?"
Nora sipped on her tea a bit more, offering Jaden a mug.
"No caffeine. In case you can sleep. But you're on edge. A heavy burden is going to rest on your shoulders. Last night Kae foresaw an attack on Hyrule Castle proper. She said to never underestimate the power of one man's ambition. I don't doubt that there will be much sorrow at our Sanctuary this day. You will need to bring hope to the demoralized. You will need to be a leader. Fear nothing. Many do not trust us because they don't know enough about us. That's fine. But what you need is to go in there as the heir you are and lead our armies to battle."
He listened intently. Something had to pass the time. Better to do it by filling his mind with wisdom from a woman who'd seen over a century of life's shifting shadows.
They talked back and forth for what seemed like hours. A light dinner was also served. He could feel his arm starting to mend with Nora's salves too.
She reached into her desk, pulling out a dark green hide bag, bound with drawstrings.
"You might need this in that satchel you like to carry around. It comes in handy, but Kae doesn't even know I have it. Magic Powder."
"What makes it so useful?"
Nora held a palmful of white, sandy powder drawn from this mysterious bag.
"Well, it can blind. It can remove advantages that otherwise might seem impossible to overcome. Things that would normally be resistant to your melee attacks will take the full brunt. And it can also open paths of sorts. Light your path. And then there are other times when I'm not really sure what it will do!"
She lost him.
"So you're telling me this dust does all sorts of nice things? You sound like a street peddler in Castle Town."
"Well, here. Try activating an aura after you are exposed to it."
Puffing a cloud of this dust out of her hand, it clung to Jaden.
He couldn't even activate his weapon enchantments. This stuff really was an equalizer.
"It wears off with time. Or if you jump in water. But don't hit yourself with it! It is very annoying! This is one of those last-resort items. The bag refills each day slightly, but don't overuse it!"
"This stuff is...horrible...I love it..."
Jaden/Nora's Shop/Day 4(Veiled Time)
"Breaking the veil is probably safe now. You've had enough time to heal up. But there are still a few things you will need to do before you go."
Jaden was gathering what things he had, thinking on what she'd recommended throughout this long stay at her shop.
Yes, it was comfortable. Plush. Much more so than the other spartan abodes in Kakariko. He often wondered why she kept the place so upscale.
It made more sense. When someone is dealing with the problems she faces every day, creature comforts help take some of that pain away.
"But I did forget. There was something I wanted to show you. To offer you if you need a place to unwind or crash or simply get away from things that trouble you. It used to belong to Kae. Well, it's still hers. But you can use it too."
The back rooms. No one ever was allowed entry. People wondered what kind of stuff the crazy old witch kept in her shop. Jaden was about to find out, sort of.
Two bedrooms, a bathroom, a study, and a closet.
Kae's second bedroom looked much better than the one her parents furnished. A fluffy mattress, deep purple sheets, a stand for her harp, and lots of tall bookshelves amidst dressers. And a diary. It looked well-worn and recently used. He knew better than to touch it, considering the kinds of wards used in her younger years to keep people out of her things.
"Secrets contained within protected by some sort of marring enchantment. She's innocent in a sense, but so private too."
"Yes, you can sleep here if you need to. But try to avoid touching anything of hers. She stores most of what she owns in this place. Tampering with it could interfere with her getting what she needs when she needs it."
Nora did break the veil by allowing Jaden to leave her main room. And one of Nora's trade secrets was about to be unveiled. Yes, she had a crystal ball. But she also had a looking glass attuned to her apprentices, using it only when she sensed trouble. And it was glowing.
"Damn that girl, that new-found power must have gotten to her head! What kind of mess..."
Jaden just stood and watched. This new world didn't make much sense to him. He wasn't even able to use that telepathic communication unless someone talked to him first.
Her staff fell to the ground and so did she until Jaden rushed to help her stay afoot.
"This...is...horrible...I must consult my diviner's altar now to determine how this happened. But she wouldn't have done this on purpose."
Jaden didn't understand what he saw. That wasn't Kae. It didn't look a thing like her. But it was one of the most hauntingly beautiful beings imaginable. And it was in combat with something so vile...so repulsive...
This was a cataclysmic battle. Kae had found herself locked in an epic struggle against her will, and there had to be a root.
"If that doesn't corrupt someone's blood, I don't know what wouldn't."
"You think? The only good that could come of this is her buying you and the Hylians another day to prepare defenses. Leave by nightfall and you should make it."
After helping her get more stable so she could observe, Jaden rushed out of her shop and got to his home where he could make final preparations to depart.
And strangely enough, it was only a little past mid-day.
Jaden/Hidden Kakariko/Day 4/Undefined Time
Everything felt like a blur. Jaden's mind was in overdrive, trying to sort through what all of these new responsibilities meant. Nora did tell him he needed to deploy soon. But leaving the village was a challenge in itself when dealing with a new mission assignment. Since it was coming straight from Nora, the Chieftain would most likely let him go without much trouble.
He looked at the primary objectives and sighed. After spending three months in the woods, Jaden knew all too well how powerful the Twili had become. Sorcery, military tactics, mystical enhancements to speed up training time and boost morale, and an absolutely ruthless leader all contributed to a force that few things could hold off. And he didn't think the Hylian Royal Army was one of those things that could. At least without the help of a Scion and whatever he'd ended up becoming, among other heroes.
This was a war fought amongst the average man as well as the heroes. It was unfortunate to him that those with lesser callings would suffer far worse than those in his position. But was it really suffering? A quick, unfortunate death?
A captive general came to mind. A sister in peril also rang true. But why fight?
It was the right thing to do. With the means to face all of these problems head-on, standing by was not an option. He was taught to act. Trained to excel. And he wasn't sure what all means he did have. All of his edges were self-taught until today. Even then, there were still odd advantages and drawbacks to it. His perception was heightened to the point that large crowds gave him headaches unless he focused the pain away.
With his family out on assignment, their home was prepared for a long stint of no maintenance. Nora agreed to keep the well functioning and the heating up to par once a week, so when this was all over they could enjoy fresh water and warm hearths.
Kae had put wards on her room, but Jaden was used to that. She cherished her privacy and drove their parents crazy with that measure. It got her grounded a few times. But after seeing some of her secret life, he didn't blame her. Nora's world was very weird. He'd only seen a day's worth of it to understand.
His room was exactly as he'd left it, except for a note on his pillow. Kae left him something. Probably a way to keep her nerves from getting the better of her before deploying.
If you manage to get home before I do, then know I have been deployed. I understand your concern. Mother would hate the Chieftain for this, but she and Father are looking for you. They're scouring Faron and Lake Hylia for any sign of you. I only hope they got out of the woods before war was officially declared. But here are the details of my assignment that I can reveal. Lynn Annei and myself have been sent on a pursuit. There were reports of a dangerous fire magic user terrorizing Castle Town shortly after war's beginning. The Chieftain thought my knowledge of the arcane would help in engaging and capturing him. I will admit it is an odd pairing but I think Lynn and I would work well together. We've known each other for a long time and I trust her with anything. I only hope that...oh, that shouldn't be a problem. I'll have time to talk to her about that after this war is over. Our search begins in Lake Hylia and should conclude in Castle Town. If you get this, head there as soon as you can, provided no missions prevent you from doing so. I miss you, and I really want to see you.
Jaden knew better than to take the note with him. But it did make him sad. This was the Kae he knew, and he hoped that it would still be the same girl if he saw her again. After Nora's latest update, he feared the worst.
Something struck him as he read this. A compulsion to lie down in his bed. It wasn't much longer after he did this that he was fast asleep.