The Rite of Awakening is one of the ceremonies performed for members of the Auguries when they complete the tasks of a certain rank. Each Rite of Awakening (like the Rites of Nascency) are custom-written for each Augur, following only a loose structure.
Thanks to @Kalaneya
for the large amount of help in writing this, everyone from Glomdoring who came to watch, and @Esei
for humouring the thornbeast antics!
A strong gale has developed here. Large chestnuts tower around this small glade. Between the boughs, clumps of holly and sedge cluster close together, mottled with nettles and other tall plants. The glade itself is covered with long grass, marked with the fallen leaves and nuts from the trees above. Three trails lead away from the clearing, two through the bushes in a western direction, and a third forming an avenue through the trees to the north. Casting darkness all around, a shadow totem thrusts up from the ground, chilling the air. A mature blackthorn tree stands proudly here.
The screeching of a crow echoes through the dark woods, sounding almost like harsh laughter.
Rancoura closes her eyes and inhales deeply, absorbing the scent of her surroundings.
Stepping into a cleared, roughly circular patch within the glade, Rancoura turns to gaze at each of you in turn. "As some of you are aware, the Rite of Awakening is a significant milestone reached within an Augur's journey. It is a mark of their tah'vrai and a recognition of the beginnings of their Othersight. It is a moment of commendation, and of devotion to the Hallowed Dark."
"We give thanks to the Hallowed as we gather for this Rite upon this blessed evening." Rancoura quietly intones, dipping her head in reverence. To Esei now, she whispers, "Proselyte, present your creature, and the item which is bonded to your growth as an Augur."
Gurashi folds his arms behind himself, taking a step back to watch the ritual in silence.
Esei bows her head solemnly and offers the harpy's corpse and the master's paint palette to Rancoura.
Esei gives the corpse of a black-feathered harpy to Rancoura.
Esei gives a master's paint palette to Rancoura.
Odd sounds echo through the gloomy forest, their source undetermined.
Pausing only a moment to consider the harpy, Rancoura places the corpse upon the ground, setting the palette next to it. Without hesitation, she slashes viciously at the creature with her athame, spilling the its foul viscera upon the black soil, the cloying stench of death thickening the air. With a practised precision, she slices away the haggard corpse's claws and wings, placing a handful of the talons at the southwest and southeast edges of the circle before laying a wing at each of the northwest and northeast edges.
Retrieving a segment of reed from the underbrush, Rancoura flays one of its ends with her athame as she returns to the dissected corpse. Wetting the makeshift brush in the harpy's already-coagulating blood and mixing it with the tints upon the palette, the Haruspex paints a five-pointed star caught within an archway upon the creature's wrinkled forehead, surrounding the emblem with arcane runes and symbols that spiral out along the creature's visage. Pausing only to ascertain the quality of her work, she then saws through the harpy's neck, severing head from mangled body.
Grasping it with solemnity, Rancoura places the head at the northernmost edge of the circle. Drawing her athame once again, she gouges arcane runes and symbols into the loam, filling the spaces between the segments of the creature. As she finishes, the esoteric symbols blacken, their lines savage and foreboding; casting the lines but a cursory glance, she glides to the western edge of the clearing and beckons to Esei.
Esei steps up to stand next to Rancoura.
The last vestiges of midnight shadows flee as Mother Night hides herself from the luminous arrival of her shining mate as he chases her across the bowl of the sky.
Gurashi watches each of Rancoura's motions intently, occasionally lifting his head to glance at the others within the clearing.
"Ascending Dusk, stand with the Hallowed before the horizon. Witness as the cloak of Night lingers," Rancoura whispers, gesturing to the struggling light of the sunrise through the spindly black trees, her hands stained with blood and bits of feathers and flesh. She kneels reverently, beckoning Esei to follow.
Esei kneels in front of Rancoura, bowing her head.
"Mother of Eternal Shadow," Rancoura begins quietly, her soft words carrying a reverent weight. "We speak to You, as Your devout. Proselyte Esei has begun to See, as it truly means to See. She carries Your gifts, and with them enacts Your will, beholden to her tah'vrai. We beseech You -- open her eyes, for they require opening further." A monotonous hum fills the air as she continues to chant under her breath upon the prayer's conclusion.
The minutes pass. Though the sun slides higher into the sky, the boughs of the Glomdoring nor the layers of shadow above it do not allow its rays to penetrate far. Turning her gaze groundwards, Rancoura pushes the paint palette deep into the wyrden soil and covers it with dead bracken and underbrush, melding it with the woods themselves.
From behind Rancoura and Esei, a shadow stirs. Creaking wood and clattering rocks accompany its rise from the soil: a thornbeast, and a massive one at that. Writhing shadowborn tendrils whip wildly from it, reaching towards Esei as if sensing her essence.
With sudden violence, the thornbeast lashes out, but its tendrils do not seek Esei -- instead it grasps at the soil around her, pulling and digging with increasing desperation until it looses its prey from the ground: Esei's shadow. Rancoura rises fluidly, gazing to Esei before looking behind her at the strange beast as it cradles the shadow delicately, nuzzling its caliginous form with a curiously maternal disposition.
Rancoura whispers to Esei, "Before Sun ascends to his apex, you shall need that back." With a nod towards the Wyrd-woven beast and an arched eyebrow, she adds, "Do what you must."
Gurashi watches the thornbeast intently, tilting his head as he stares, bewildered.
Esei ponders the thornbeast carefully, observing it. Then, she reaches out and grasps at her own shadow. "I would like that back," she says to the thornbeast.
With an aggravated rustle, the thornbeast's tendrils tighten around its prize, lashing out at Esei to cut her extended hand. Clearly, it is not willing to forsake the shadow so readily. Rancoura folds her own hands as she watches, saying naught but observing Esei carefully.
Esei grimaces and closes her injured hand, stepping back to observe the thornbeast again. "Seems we'll have to do this the hard way," she murmurs, drawing her athame and pointing it at the thornbeast.
Eyeing the drawn blade, the thornbeast shrinks in on itself, its thorn-riddled vines now lashing violently in the air. A wan smile upon her lips, Rancoura nods to Esei in silent encouragement.
Esei cautiously takes a step closer to the thornbeast, shoulders tense. She reaches out for her shadow again, ready to fight for it, if necessary.
Viciously, the thornbeast whips out its thorns at Esei, the tendrils wrapping around Esei's wrist as it attempts to immobilize her wielded weapon. It draws the shadow deeper into its tangled roots, baring its thorny teeth at Esei in a challenge. Rancoura arches a brow at this, gazing from beast to Proselyte.
Gurashi winces in pain.
The sun reaches the zenith of the firmament, pausing in his quest to allow the land to bask in his shining golden rays.
Esei gives a grim smile and hurls herself into the thornbeast, reaching back for the shadow as the sun reaches his apex.
Rancoura takes a sudden step forward as the thornbeast's body all but swallows Esei, but halts, as though catching herself. In a writhing, uncontrollable mass, the creature rolls around, as though attempting to throw Esei out -- but alas, its defenses have become its downfall, for Esei has been tangled within its organic coils. All but forgotten, Esei's shadow soon slips away from its imprisonment, the beast far too occupied with the intruder to notice.
With one motion Esei unsheathes the dagger from her scabbard, cutting up through the thornbeast from the inside.
As Esei's shadow contentedly returns to her, the beast jerks and twists before collapsing into a pile of shrivelled vines, dotted with violet-black holly berries. A mist rises from the creature's corpse, tinging the air green and saturating it with an astringent stench. Rancoura nods, clearly pleased as shadow and owner are reunited. "Very well done," she whispers.
Gurashi chitters at Esei with energetic clicks of his mandibles.
Drifting forward, Rancoura offers a slender hand to Esei.
Esei takes Rancoura's offered hand, blinking off the rush.
Continuing the hunt for his dark mate, Father Sun presses forward in his journey, lowering himself in the sky yet still casting even, full light upon the land.
Rancoura draws Esei to her feet, offering an approving tilt of her head. Gathering them from the ground, the Haruspex proceeds to drape the withered, holly-berry-strewn vines over Esei's neck, the berries' juice staining her armour with a gelatinous, reddish-black fluids, drifting a step back afterwards with a slightly bowed head before turning to the slowly-dissolving body of the thornbeast.
Gurashi smiles softly.
Rancoura busies herself with scattering the last of the thornbeast's remains throughout the circle, surrounding the harpy's corporeal parts with the shadowy, twisted debris. As the seconds pass, her form seems to blur, becoming more and more unclear whilst her surroundings remain eerily in keen focus.
In sharp relief, a roiling, mist-like blanket of shadows snakes out from between the trees on all sides, small crimson sparks flickering within them. None of the gathered seem to notice as the dark tendrils slither menacingly towards them. Rancoura straightens, but only to survey the layout of the ritual circle; satisfied, she begins to drift clockwise around the perimeter, hands extended with palms towards the ground as she whispers strangely inaudible sanctifications. She makes no indication of awareness as the serpentine darkness coils around her, spiralling around her body and circling her neck.
Rancoura freezes, but with such an unnatural suddenness that it appears she is caught in time, her lips half-parted in a paused prayer, one foot only partially set upon the ground. The creeping shadows coil around the others gathered as well, save for Esei, whom the umbra utterly ignores. The others, too, freeze as the adumbration slithers around their necks -- and at once, the shadows tighten, each frozen Wyrden one releasing a high, keening sound, as a creature might cry within its final throes of dying.
Their flesh and chitin darkens, colour leaching from their eyes until they turn white -- only for them to soon glow red, as swirling rivulets of scarlet bleed into their blank irises. Suddenly, their keening stops; no echoes of the cries remaining, naught but a heavy silence replacing the sounds. They remain frozen for a moment longer -- and then Rancoura begins to move again, lips forming words as her whispered prayers resume and she casts the last scarred roots of the fallen beast over the circle.
The others stir as well, colour returning to their figures and the scarlet glow vanished from their gazes -- each bizarrely unphased, as thought naught had happened. Rancoura approaches Esei, her hands clasped, their pale skin still red and now criss-crossed with tiny cuts from the thornbeast's now-futile physical defenses.
"It is time," Rancoura whispers as she studies Esei for one final moment, still oddly offering no reaction to what has come to pass. "Bare your chest, Proselyte, and prepare yourself for the mark of the Hallowed."
Esei nods to Rancoura, carefully unbuckling her chestplate and baring her chest to her.
Shadows grow longer in anticipation for the return of their dark mistress as Father Sun's chase brings him closer to the world's edge.
Rancoura dips her fingertips into the ichor and berry juice leaking from the vines around Esei's neck, and traces a rectangular curve upon her brow. Long, branching lines are marked along Esei's limbs, and a circle over her heart, flaring flames surrounding it. Finally, the Haruspex marks curves upon Esei's temples, the lines curling intricately towards her eyes.
Gurashi politely tilts his head down, twiddling his thumbs.
Drawing back, Rancoura whispers, "Speak now the sacred Covenant of the Auguries, Proselyte, before the Hallowed Dark, and before the Glomdoring."
Esei nods to Rancoura, and begins to speak in a soft voice. "As I take my first steps among my shadowed path within the Covenant, I swear by my soul and these very words. As I brush against the Shadowveil, I shall act always with an openness of mind and a keen sense of wisdom; may my ears never be deaf nor my eyes ever blind to the whispers and the portents of the Hallowed Ones." She glances skyward, briefly, towards the darkening sky. " May Night's Kiss eternally rest upon my brow, Crow's Eye ever gaze upon me, the thrum of the Shadowbeat always fill my mind, the Black Idols offer their wisdoms unto me, and the Dark Spirits drive me perpetually forth." Then, glancing at her communemates, she continues, "May I be found forever worthy to commune for the Wyrd, lest my being fade to naught and my voice become naught but silence in the echoes of the Darkrealm. To this oath do I commit, by the blood of my life; for nothing matters but the Glomdoring."
Solemnly, Lady Haruspex Rancoura So'hthae, Ole'noc Caihel whispers to Esei, "And so shall you be held to the words of your voice. Awaken, Proselyte, as a true Augur of the Heart of Darkness. Glory be to the Glomdoring."
Gurashi smiles softly at Esei.
Muttering in a barely audible whisper, Kyalrhin Ysav'rai says, "Glory be to Glomdoring."
Softly, Exemplar of the Tah'vrai, Gurashi An'Ryshe says, "Glory be to Glomdoring."
Evette Stormcrow, Herald of Strife exclaims, "Glory be to Glomdoring!"
Eliron Shee-Slaugh, Herald of Nightmares says, "Glory be to Glomdoring."
In a low, soothing voice, Shadow Witch Kreon Zayah, Attendant to the Wyrd says, "Glory be to Glomdoring."
(Edited for typos)