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"The tribe who neglects a child will one day awaken to that grown soul setting their village ablaze."

Valerna Jorgenskull

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I remember my days as a young girl living in a coastal village. Life back then was simple and without worry. My father often warned me about the heartaches besetting the world. However, they always seemed so distant and as mythical as the sagas of old. The sea brought us life; its waves lapping across the shore always seemed so tranquil. Nevertheless, it was all a lie. 

 

One day, foreign soldiers entered our little paradise. It was then that I realized those stories my father often forewarned me of were all too real. The beach turned red as blackened fumes polluted the cerulean sky. I was weak back then; I wailed while sitting amongst the dead. Eventually, the invaders found me and took me under their yoke. I spent many years as a slave. Those once placid waters seemed like a dream, a distant memory. 

 

War begot more misery and conflict. The southern invaders swept across the jungle with extreme prejudice. My people's weapons were ineffective as they were unceremoniously butchered like cattle. The soil was drenched crimson as the greenery of the wilderness became blackened by soot and ash. One day, I broke free of my bonds and raced into the jungle. There, I was picked up and traded one cruel master for another. 

 

The people I served now sought retribution. Against my will, I was conscripted into their resistance and handed a spear. The banners of both my masters were unremitting in their depravity. My body was used to satiate their carnal hankerings as my value as a woman was forever blemished. I was navigated across the board as if I was a pawn. I watched people die while these alleged "kings" played their little game. 

 

The body quickly recovered, but the mind was hardly so resilient. I learned that day that the complacency of my village had doomed us. The threading of language and subtle pushes protected me from meeting my end. However, perhaps it would have been better if my story had concluded there. One day, we marched like hogs of war to a dilapidated ruin. The trepidation was palpable as this site held grave significance to our people.

 

One by one, we accepted what was to come. We held the line against those southern outlanders. Their suits and weapons of metal made our most valiant efforts meaningless. I was powerless to thwart their sanguinary pursuit of violence. My comrades all fell as those of us unfortunate enough to survive were brought to our knees and forced to watch as the primordial heart, our most sacred of relics, was bashed to dust against the stone walls. 

 

What should have been my end had been postponed- Not by the tender touch of a higher being but by a shadow that spread across the battlefield. Overhead, I witnessed it, a massive tower of twisted and decaying flesh and bone. And before I could process what was transpiring, we were all sucked skyward and into its lesions. Inside I woke, that putrid odor still etched onto my mind. Others had survived between both sides as we stared across this world of biomass.

 

We were enemies before this point. However, realizing our situation, we worked together to find a way out. Somehow, we knew that those outside were falling victim to that eldritch edifice. They were depending on us, and if we failed to take it down from the inside, the totality of existence might very well be doomed. Gathering the weapons we had, we trekked across this foreboding yet alien world. 

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In the distance, we noticed a beating heart on top of a mountain of tumors. After much dispute, we agreed to scale it and attempt to stop its vile cadence. I ascended first, not from bravery but because I was deemed the most expendable. Once up top, we began poking, punching, slashing, and gnawing our way through the sinew. That repugnant taste still lingers in my mouth to this day.

 

Large spiders and other such insects were dispatched to stop our onslaught. What happened next was a blur. Many died, but I kept hacking and ripping my way deeper into the walls of the beating organ. Eventually, I felt one of those monsters leap onto my back before darkness. We awoke by the great river. The eldritch edifice sunk into its depths as we four survivors were oblivious to the taint we now bore. 

 

I returned home, foolishly thinking things could return to those blissful days. The sea was different, as was my father. We never talked much; despite living next to each other, it seemed we were worlds apart. The years went by before one day, I felt extreme pain in my back. Legs, like that of a spider, ripped through my skin. The people I once saw as my family looked at me with horror. 

 

That was the last time I saw my father. And that look of shame still weighs heavily on my heart. I fled, never to return. For a millennium, I wandered- an eternal voyager, the fox without a hole and the soul without a purpose. I never asked for any of this, but when did the universe care for our input? And rather than become consumed by the miseries of this undying malediction. I sought to direct that negative energy to create positive outcomes. 

 

I mourned through this undying odyssey. During my travels, I met many faces and names. I witnessed the rise and fall of oceans, the formation of mountains, and the entropy of empires. History may be keen to omit their stories, but I’m not so quick to forget. I’ve had countless lovers and buried a legion of children. Death and my lingering by their graveside had become routine. 

 

I lived many lives. Sometimes I was a mercenary; other times a soldier. I donned the mask of a savant, the work ethic of a laborer. I hiked many miles in a plethora of shoes. I told many harsh truths and whispered sweet lies. However, I started to notice a pattern emerging. That while the names and faces may differ and the particulars might slightly shift. The same tragedies and travesties kept materializing on repeat. 

 

I tried warning the world, but they weren’t inclined to listen. It was maddening to behold the same stories and the same outcomes with little variance. Notwithstanding my intervention, history appeared intent to keep running on that same wheel. Ironic that the world has changed, yet the people who inhabited it haven’t. It was then it dawned on me, a most stupendous of epiphanies. If the world were to alter its trajectory, it wouldn’t come from changes in its environment alone. But within the shifting of the people's hearts. And how would I introduce such a chance? Through language and culture. 

 

That is why I returned to my motherland and united the tribes. I had to play the long game. Patiently, I abided on my web, meticulously plotting each step. Milestone after milestone had been achieved. However, I had no clue if the experiment would prove successful. And whenever I felt doubt, I would look at the faces of my people to regain my resolve. Heavy is the crown, but heavier is the price of failure. Funny, despite thinking I was a free woman I now realize that I’m still a slave. However this time, the chains aren’t physical. 

 

Your belief in my account is immaterial. Just like my wishes, your opinions mean nothing in the eyes of the cosmos. After all, we're all just pawns in some cruel game. A cyclical pattern of interminable anguish. However, not anymore, as I wish to break the whole deal and change the world for the better. The advantage of immortality is that you have the time to wait and plot. One way or another, I will stem the tide and return those violent waves back to the placid ones of my childhood for the world to share. Even if only for a day. That will make all my suffering worth the cost.

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"Show me a man without principle, and I'll show you a child who has yet to stop nursing from their mother's teat."

Valerna Jorgenskull

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Many a fool regards an eternal voyage to be a boon. However, few can conceive the malediction lurking 'neath the veneer. I've experienced a myriad of tragedies and travesties alike during this unremitting odyssey. The insanity of kings and the viciousness of their folly unendingly weigh down their constituents' future. The wickedness of a selfish generation leaves behind the greatest mark. Those stoked with avarice to the point they pick up all the grain in the field and leave none in the storehouse for those that follow. 

 

The story never changes, only the actors and the most minute of particulars. I've come to see life as an excellent pollinator—an exchange not of the material world but the intangible facets that steer our strides. I've discommode many, however, never without purpose. If left unchecked, the appropriation of one's desire can only lead to misery. This epiphany, while seditiously circumvented for a time, can't be forever deferred, merely delayed. 

 

Power is a thing many pangs after, yet few can adequately define it. Fools surmise it to be the capability to destroy. How quaint. Such hypotheses only highlight the dearth inherent in their sagacity. Nevertheless, I've come to understand the burden of such pursuits. Strength isn't brawn, nor is it the spells one can hurl. No, it's far more subtle and scarcely detected. It's the ability to use words and circumstances to contort others to your will. 

 

A dolt pulverizes their opposition and crows as if it's a marker of triumph. Meanwhile, those who possess true strength need only eradicate their opponents' drive to fight. Tell me which epitomizes mastery more. The utter obliteration and the closing of your enemy's eyes? Or the nuanced art of influencing them so they might see the world through your lens? True fidelity isn't the sword to the throat. Fear, while a powerful motivator, can only result in erosion. But the persuasion, so when they throw themselves onto a blade of their own volition and express gratitude with their dying breath, is the zenith of power.

 

How befitting that my taint took on the form of a spider. An animal that spins its web and waits for its prey to surrender itself onto that filigree so willingly. Manipulation carries with it a slew of negative connotations. However, anyone who derides such sway is a nit. No tool is inherently evil. All implements within one's arsenal can disseminate untold ruination or deliverance. What makes something iniquitous is an amalgamation of the intentions and the consequences of its application.​

 

The heft of authority I bedeck in the form of a crown, not for wanton aims. I don that symbol out of servitude and rectitude. For those who are mortally inclined, their lives are ephemeral. And who better to improve their transient existence than one unsusceptible to time? I don't mantel this responsibility lightly, nor do I do so to slake some infantile want for a legacy or domination. I adopt it simply because someone else might get it wrong. And the cost for ineptitude is high indeed. Do you contest my assessment? You need only look at history's chronicles to substantiate my claims' soundness.

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Nonetheless, words are cheap and hold little value. But one's actions express volumes and can verify one's declarations. The Verdant Dynasty is a dream made real. The metamorphosis wasn't without a great deal of sacrifice. Nevertheless, all those girdled by my webbing know amenities, freedom, and security that would make their ancestors redden with covetousness. A unified identity that rewards diversity under a single umbrella hasn't been without episodes. However, those incidents are immaterial when contrasted with the dividends civilization received.

 

The halcyon of yore fails to compare with the elation I feel now. Reason is undying. All else perishes. Life is not a meadow. It's mountains, lowlands, and canyons. There is a grave blunder in permitting fear to dictate our actions—however, equal spades of stupidity to discount it. And no spirit is free unless they can command themself. But beware of the temptation of laxity. Complacency or inaction is what fuels the death of a person. And despite my long odyssey, I've never witnessed a nation that profited from extended periods of unrest. These truths I've learned through yesteryear's stumblings—both that of my own and the leaders of the past.

 

But how could I have accomplished so much? I learned to swallow my pride and accept the slaps of companions over the kisses of enemies. Be wary of those who say sweet things; they're often not your friends. Surround yourself with no men willing to oppugn your thoughts, for edification can be culled through the democratization of ideas. And should your comrade befriend your adversary, I counsel against conversing with them any further. 

 

But how should one respond to aggressors? There is no need to stress the outcome of a thousand conflicts if you remain cognizant of yourself and study your enemy. Materialize as weak when you're at your best. And powerful when most debilitated. Your plans must be impenetrable, not due to a stroke of subterfuge on your part alone. But due to the bravado and pomposity of your enemies. The fault in such logic isn't the imposing of constraints on one's own intellect. But the failure to regard the infinite idiocy that beset others. 

 

The takeaway is this. By being subtle and mysterious, one can be without shape. And, in turn, become masters of both their and their opponent's destinies. Just as the ocean retains no constant form, so must we be ever malleable to the changing of the tides. As a leader, one must swear to govern by example. It's best to be feared by your enemy and treasured by your allies and people. Anything else is nothing short of failure. And should you meet a swift end? I advise confronting that rendezvous with dignity, for there are fates far graver than an exit from this rancors world.

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"A foolish ruler shows their people not how they should live; but how they will end. It is a pedagogy bereft of meaning, a tragic tale as old as time itself."

Valerna Jorgenskull

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