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I am dirty. It is a dirtiness that has seeped to my very core. I deeply wish to seek help, yet know I cannot. The most I can do is carry on my humble service for as long as I can, then leave before it becomes too much. Corruption is slow, for now it is without pain, though texts say it may become arduous in later stages. I fear not the pain, nobody fears the pain here anymore- for it is a fact of life itself. My true fears of this curse come in full from the impact of it. It is said that the true signs of a branch of a church failing are when their healers are put into harm. It pains me deeply to know I am the sign of my church’s weakness. My whole life has been spent devoted to this church, and now I may be the one who brings it to ruin.
My curse came upon me a week ago, if the symptoms are any indication. As for what may have caused this, my only guess is one of my patients somehow passed it to me. I do not blame the poor lost sheep for what they have done, for they no doubt knew not what they were doing. However, there is the chance that this was intentional, and that would mean my church is under direct attack. If that is the case, I could now only pray to Ordu to safeguard my people. My gloves served two purposes now, one to protect the hands during my duties, and a second to conceal the Mark of Ollpheist. The dark brand has seared my left palm, a permanent reminder of what fate holds for me. I could not bring myself to weep upon its arrival, only to sit there and shake.
A healer never cries, that is the first edict of their teaching. A healer must look strong and resolved to all weary souls, and thus may never shed a tear. For years of training, I was honed to shed no tears, to internalize my pain in order to alleviate that of others. Despite my marking, I must not break my edicts, I must not cry. Despite my resolve in such matters, my inner turmoil has leaked to my face. Distant looks and regretful frowns plague my face. The other clerics write this off as me venting my inner emotions, something we’ve come to call “Pathos Letting”. Long periods of quiet, reserved sadness, a time of inner reflection and pessimism. By their count, this was my first letting. By my count, it was my last.
I’ve seen the mark before, we all have. Not only is the mark taught to us from a young age, we see it on so many of the dead. Poor souls consumed by Ollpheist, their bodies twisted into new forms. Today a corpse was brought in, their skin was rough like dragon scales, and they smelt of brimstone. A part of me wonders what Ollpheist will do to my body, and if I would look regal or horrific. Upon imagining myself as regal, I respectfully went to confess my pride. A healer must never show pride, a healer is humble.
I recognize the danger in keeping my vigil at this point. If I have the mark, it could spread to others. But I cannot abandon my post yet, it is too soon. The physical manifestations tend to come long before virility, so I should have some precious time left to serve. Abandoning the church and leaving my sisters to combat the dark alone so quickly would be tantamount to blasphemy. Ordu is literally the goddess of Order, and my leaving would cause great chaos. I cannot leave yet, I will resist the call of Ollpheist the Beast as long as I can. I am strong, I am of the order.
Today when I awoke, I was greeted by hairs. By Ordu’s graces, the brown hairs were on my hands, my gloves would continue to protect me. When I am off duty, my mind wanders. Haired beasts are an odd sort, if I remember properly. Some are large and fearsome, others sick and mangy. For the sake of my church, I hope I’m crippled, it will make me far less of a threat. A part of me, deep inside, wanted to be big and strong. My face went pale, was this Ollpheist’s seduction? I broke into a prayer, bowing my head low. Such thoughts could not do, they are against the very principle of Ordu. A healer must pray to Ordu for guidance before all other help, for if she cannot help you, it is not to be helped.
I am fidgety. The mother cleric called me fidgety. I apologized feverishly, promising I will do better. She seemed to be jesting, but yet a part of me still wonders if she is on to me. Paranoia, that describes this dread. I’m so ashamed of myself, and so afraid they’ll all find out. Of course, if they find out now, they could end me and save Ordu the shame. Why do I feel so against that? Is it Ollpheist forcing me to live, or is it me truly not wanting to die? Regardless, I must go confess and pray for forgiveness. A healer cares for herself last before others, she will die if need be to save another.
The only male who works with us healers is the Cleanser. They were raised from birth to be a direct line to Ordu, a way to confess sins to her. Our Cleanser is quite old, there is talk of his replacement being trained as we speak. I know not his name, for a Cleanser is only that, they need not use a name. He listens well, as a Cleanser should. Confessions are very frequent. The very inkling of sin, a healer goes to confess, that is the way it goes. He says he does not mind the frequent work, but I can tell he is tired and worn. Where does a Cleanser cleanse? I do not know, I do not wish to know. My demons will stay hidden, I shall respect his. I thank him humbly as I leave. The Cleanser is our link to Ordu, he is sacred.
I hear other healers giggle at me. They are far from quiet, not that I can blame them. The edicts only say we must wear our gloves to protect our hands while we practice. By extension, I do not need my gloves to handle broth. The elder healers merely view this as devotion, a letting does often lead into increased devotion, they commend me. I feel sick. They commend me for this? For suffering? I take a deep breath. They do not know how I suffer, I cannot blame them for commending me. I finish my broth in silence. It is warm and filling, just as it should be. Once I finish, I go to confess my burst of anger. The Cleanser notes I’ve been confessing more frequently, I mention my letting and he buys it. Did I just lie? I cannot tell, regardless, it is a strange feeling indeed.
Thicker than a few days ago, there’s no mistaking it. I stare at my hands, the hair is thicker. My hands are warmer now, the gloves make them feel hot. It is an awkward heat, one of secrecy and shame. I noticed hairs on my bosom as well, not as thick as my hands, but there. Today I made up my mind. When my face begins to grow the hairs, I shall leave. My service will be terminated. In the time I have left before Ollpheist takes me I shall travel far from this church. My last act in the name of Ordu. That thought rings hollow in my mind. Would I really be servicing Ordu by running? I pray, the prayer is not fervent, it is quiet and meek. Ordu binds us to the world, she is our link to the heavens.
My days have fallen into a rhythm once again. Things are not better though, it is an uncomfortable rhythm. I will not have many more days here, I recognize that. My chest is aflame with mahogany hair, if it weren’t for private bathing I would have been gone long ago. My robes are hot, I sweat now within the cool air of the church. The elders say that I am aflame with love of Ordu. They explain everything this way, for a healer must not feel the pain of the world, just the links to Ordu. I’ve always held that true, I truly have, but now it is getting hard. Ollpheist may be corrupting me, but a part of me feels this pain is my own. Have I been blinding myself to my hurt? No, this is the curse, eating away at my love for the church. Isn’t it? This is all so frustrating.
I woke this morning as I always do, with a yawn followed by a prayer. I preemptively checked the mirror in my room, before doing anything else. Today was the day it seemed. The blazing fur was on my neck, high up it too. No gloves or robes will hide this, there is no way. I hang my head, knowing what I must do. I am a coward. I should burst out my room and beg to be put down. But here I am, packing a bag with whatever meager belongings I was allowed. I am a coward. I am running away, I know that. I am a coward. My bag is light, I don’t have much worth bringing. I am a coward. I’m opening my window, my eyes drift to my clear white gloves. I am a coward. My gloves lie on the ground now, they are of Ordu, they belong here. I am a coward. I have left my room, weakly making as much ground as possible before I rest. I am a coward, and I’ve started to cry.
The woods are not awfully terrible. I’ve spent a few nights calling them my home. The berries and mushrooms are not as filling as the broth was, but offer sustenance. My arms are covered in fur, it keeps me warm during the nights. I still wear the robes, I’m not ready to discard them yet. What I do next is uncertain, I’m not being compelled to attack a village, at least not yet. Ollpheist seems to be quiet, there is no perversion of the mind, nothing major. The most that seems to change is myself. Self preservation has become my top priority. Is this vanity? Is this pride? Is this the curse? It’s so muddled, I’m confused more than ever. Ordu is no longer my goddess, I cannot bring myself to pray for her. Is this out of Ollpheist binding my soul, or out of me no longer seeing her light?
The sun is warm. It feels nice to sunbathe. My back is only just getting its pelt, and my pale skin is kissed gently by the rays. I’ve managed to find small comforts in my world now, replacing the certainty of the old with the randomness of the new. My mind feels strangely open, I’ve done things I’ve never even considered before. Just yesterday I found myself splashing in a river. I wasn’t entirely dirty, I just did it. These changes do not seem so beastly, am I truly cursed? That is a dumb question, I have the mark, I have fur, if I am not cursed then the grass below me is surely not green. I find myself being drawn deeper into the forest, something wants me to be inside. Right now, I think I’ll comply.
My shoes are no longer required it would seem. There has been a tight sensation with my feet these past few days, it had grown rather irritating. Back at the church, they would simply give you a new pair of slippers when yours grew too tight, but I had no new slippers to wear. So I discarded them. My feet are very animalistic now, long claws which I honestly would have expected to puncture a hole in the fabric shoes, deep red fur, and a strange muscle structure. The abruptness of the changes did not inspire much fear in me. I’ve grown used to the changes, and the fear from earlier came from being found. Walking on these new feet felt very natural, they had padding to protect me from anything pointed I may cross. I do wonder how much longer it’ll be till I know what beast I am.
Today I realized I had not thought of the church for a week. Such a concept was bizarre, but yet it was the truth. I only thought of the church today because of my casting away of the robes. My fur was so thick, there was no point in using the robes. As I looked back on the crumpled garment on the forest floor, I felt a twinge of guilt once again. Shouldn’t I at least fold it? But yet, why? The church seems to have forgotten me, I never once felt, heard, or saw someone looking for me. If they do not need me, I do not need them. Guilt rippled through me, was I truly being so flagrantly disrespectful to Ordu? Of course I was, I need to live up to that. I have forsaken her, no matter how unwilling I was. I need not grovel. These thoughts filled me with something, I sat for some time wondering what. After all my reflecting, I believe that feeling was confidence.
I’m a lycanthrope. My face, I can’t even process this all. I’m a lycanthrope. I woke up this morning, going to fetch some water before I continued to trek deeper into the woods. What greeted me was a gaping muzzle, with long sharp teeth. It startled me at first, much like a loud noise would cause one to jump. My hands shook as I felt it, fur clad and firm, it’s so bizarre. In some ways, I like it. Lycanthropes are large beasts, very healthy and strong. This newfound self preservation liked that idea. I apologize to my former peers for this, but I think it is time I confess this, one last confession. I forsake you Ordu. Have you ever seen a lycanthrope suddenly shudder and whimper without any prompting? That’s me right now. Perhaps I’m not quite ready for that.
Everything is so close. My changes are so fast, my head is lupine, my feet are lupine, my hands are lupine, I’ve even grown a tail. It’s quite the appendage. It’s so chaotic and lively, it’s fitting. This whole situation is chaotic, nothing is orderly. My changes are not the only thing that are close. I can feel whatever is drawing me deeper into the forest is close, a few days of a hike if that. My changing body is strong, I can cover so much more ground. At this point, I could care less if this is going to corrupt my soul. It’s my choice to make.
I am officially a monster. I woke up and found no trace of humanity on me. A human would try to kill me on the spot if not run away in sheer terror. Despite this form, why have I not decided to give in and devour a town? Ollpheist does not seem to be eating away at my sanity, my head has never felt more clear. In a sort of acknowledgement of this form, I reared my head and howled. The sound was primal and raw, echoing far through the dense trees of the forest. Whether or not I still can speak human tongue is unknown, I see no reason to try. I suppose if I see a human, I’ll try to speak, but now it doesn’t seem necessary.
The source of the call driving me into the forest was no demonic soul eater. It was others. Other monsters, primarily lycanthropes. I approached apprehensively. Just because I wasn’t bloodthirsty did not mean the same for them. One with dark fur approached me, sniffing me for what seemed like an eternity. They seemed so sane, so awake. These were not the ravenous monsters who plagued the town. The dark furred one noticed my confusion. The look the gave me, it was an understanding look, one of genuine concern. I think I was going to stay here for some time.
I’ve learned so much. The first of which is that monsters can in fact communicate with one another. It isn’t exactly vocal, but through our minds. It’s rough, and often body language gets feelings across far better, but it works for information. Not all monsters are beasts. There are those who find places like this, those who find the comfort they so desperately need. And there are those who cordon themselves off, to avoid hurting people. They are the ones who go mad. These beasts did not search out our village to eat, they were hiding there from the start. It was a cruel irony, those who wished to hide in their homes were the ones who caused the most pain. It would seem I was of the first variety, my mind was not to rot.
I asked of Ollpheist, that only received angered howls. Ollpheist is a false name, at least in the eyes of my new fellows. She is not a beast, though her form may take that of one if necessary. The word they, and by extension we, called her was Mathair. The Mother, She Who Leads The Pack. Her mark does not guarantee death and pain, but is an invitation. She seeks the weary, those who are in a position they cannot sustain. Mathair offers them a new path, one where you can start anew. I blush upon hearing this, was I truly a soul worthy of such an offer? The alpha, the dark furred on from earlier, noticed my worries. The look they gave said. “We were all worth saving.”
I then asked of Ordu, the goddess I worshiped for so long. To them, she is not named Ordu, but Slabhrai. She is The One Who Binds, The Chains. I began to protest this, saying I was more than fine in my tenure as a healer. But the moment I went to voice it, I began to doubt it. Was I fine? They pushed so much onto me, I could not live for myself. Any thought relating to myself in anything but a serviceable light was deemed sin. Issues were to be internalized, not voiced. I was a tool. I felt bile growing in the back of my throat. Was I really nothing but a tool? It felt that way now. I’m sitting by the fire, the flames heating my face. I’m obviously in a bad mood. The pack keeps checking on me. It was weird at first, but now it feels good. They’re really looking out for me. They want me to vocalize my pain. I think Slabhrai is a fitting name for that being, now that I think on it. I’m no longer going to be held in chains.
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