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Waking up every day was a miracle, nothing less. The dreams that frequently wound their way around Dorothea Atlin’s very soul as she jerked into wakefulness, however, were less stunning.

There were two kinds. Less prominent, thankfully, were those that featured her mother. That day nine years ago. If she thought of it too much, it would paralyze. The other sort, despite how she abhorred them, were still preferable.

In those dreams, a faceless, nameless figure moved over her, along with her. The sensations bestowed manifested in bursts of dark oranges, purples and reds, all blending into a pulsating supernova of pleasure. From this, she woke up in a flutter, chest heaving in the searing aftermath of illusory emotions.

This sort was the dream that heralded the start to another day. As she caught her breath, she outstretched an arm towards the ceiling and spread her fingers, looking at the space between them before studying her hand. All intact. Not that it made sense to expect anything else at this point. Just… It didn’t hurt to make sure.

She waited until the heat that had suffused her abated. No one had said that a life of celibacy would be easy. Not that she had consulted or been encouraged by anyone before self-imposing the lifestyle upon herself, but still. Goodness, did it become ever more confusing and difficult the older she got.

Once calm after diverting her thoughts, she sat up and folded her hands, bowing her head over them. “I give my thanks to Extremis for being allowed to live another day. Oh gracious God Zeal… Please help me continue to be strong. Blessings be.” This was usually the extent of her daily worship, in appeals to the Gods of death and love respectively, that didn’t focus on daydreaming or introspection. There were so many other pressing concerns.

The primary worry of this day was the upcoming gathering of the snowbound nation of Sirpo’s council; Dorothea was the leader of this small, select group. The council was responsible for making major decisions for the sparse yet varied population of the neutral territory.

After she had groomed and dressed, she picked up her most valuable preparatory tool, which always remained in its place on her bedside table for nightly reading. The text of An Unbiased and Unabridged Record of Sacer and Ghuria felt neither unbiased nor abridged, but it provided a thorough overview of all conflicts to this date between the warring nations of Sacer and Ghuria as they lay below Sirpo in all their anger and violence. Though she mostly skimmed, as much of the general content was committed to memory and the reading itself was just to help her feel calm, her eyes got caught on one passage in particular.

To close this introduction, we will make our one and only note of the Atlin family line, whose Juncture magic has the capability to alter the very flow of time. There have been sightings of Atlins in each war, confirmed by testimony from surviving veterans and written records: Katya Atlin in the War of Seasons, Lilia Atlin in the War of Domains and the War of Gods, Petra Atlin in the War of Trading, and Mischa Atlin in the War of Blending (notably the first Atlin to have not fought on the Sacerian side, as he was allied with the interbreeding sect). Accounts of the presence of an Ophelia Atlin may only be found for the first year of our current war, the War of Wither, and are considered to be falsehoods among some. We may now only assume that the Atlin line has died out, as there would be no moral excuse for a line with such magic to be completely uninvolved. In any case, while we will provide extensive discussion of all other family lines and their magics in Part Two of this record, the Atlin name will no longer be mentioned.

We cannot rely on such false hopes, after all.

 

Dorothea laughed quietly to herself as she eased the tome closed, taking care to be gentle with a spine worn from use. No moral excuse, eh? Bold words from the esteemed author, Sharee Nobelis, and so much for her lack of bias.

No matter. She didn’t read the book to feel indignant or to question her place in the world. It was a way to know where she had come from and how she and the Atlin line had gotten to this particular point in the current year of 269, the ten-year anniversary of the start of the War of Wither.

But she was indignant! A simple glossing view was in no way able to come close to the genuine emotions of the affairs. Yet that was all the sacrifices of the Atlins were worth, eh? Immoral, they were branded. False hopes. The words didn’t capture the stories, good and bad, of Katya, Lilia, Petra, Mischa, and the Atlins that had passed before and between. There was certainly no way the soul, impossibly beautiful yet fractured in memory, of Ophelia Atlin had been captured.

Dorothea had to take a breath and stop herself before she got too incensed. Regardless, it had felt important for her to review the text one last time before the meeting. Today, the Sirpoan council would re-re-re-discuss their overall position of neutrality in the War of Wither. It seemed that several villagers, primarily more recent refugees from the warring lands, were expressing dissatisfaction with neutrality. Guilt perhaps? Dorothea wasn’t sure, but the final decision rested with her either way, and it was no secret she was staunch towards remaining completely uninvolved.

Part of this was selfish preservation, no doubt, but she also felt it was basic common sense. Any form of aid meant that a side would have been chosen. As in, if they lent support to the Sacerians, the Ghurians could very well label the people of Sirpo as enemies and vice versa, giving license to attack. They weren’t equipped to handle the worst case scenario, so Dorothea constantly opted to stay on the safe side. Most of the council agreed with her position, but she could sense a slow change in the air as the slaughter continued far below Sirpo’s snowy mountains and still lakes. It would be a mite more difficult from now on, she figured grimly, to convince others to see her side of things.

It wasn’t as if she wasn’t sorry that the Sacerians and Ghurians were dying slowly in what had devolved to a war of attrition consisting of battles few and far between but devastating at each turn. It was more that there was no point in trying to help them now or ever. There would always be another war, another demand for sacrifice. The death of so many Atlins before her had proven that.

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About the author

Sara Mullins

Bio: Hi everyone! Hope anyone who reads this is doing well and taking care of themselves. I love storytelling and aim to become better and better as I continue to write and practice. In terms of what I like to write... In truth, though it's what I'm worst at, the goal is just to get to the fluffy romance scenes. The obstacle is only what lies before and between. Alas. Again, take care, all.

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