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You are here: Home --> Forum Home --> Free form RPGs --> Fantasy RPGs --> The Adventures of Kith, the Cat, and the Khatun
Related thread: Kith, the Cat, and the Khatun Q&A
GM for this game: Eol Fefalas
Players for this game: Reralae, breebles
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Reralae
Dreamer of Bladesong
Karma: 135/12
2331 Posts


Dancing Mad

Piles of fabric, cotton, and thread littered the octagonal chamber to the point where the floor was not visible. The chamber was lit by a single chandelier in the middle of the room. The flames and shadows danced in the breeze blowing through the open window. Or were the candles moving?

With metalic creaking, the chandelier unfolded pieces of itself into bronze, spindly, wire-like arms, stretching as one might stretch after waking from slumber.

A thief, a cat, and a blade walk into a bar

Several bronze hands went for fabrics, grey, black, brown, and apricot, while others rummaged about, searching under the mess.

Things have become very exciting indeed

Needles and scissors flew of their own accord, sewing the fabric into two roughly humanoid shapes no larger than a toy doll, one distinctly larger formed of grey cloth, the other smaller and made of brown cloth save the tips of the arms and head, where the apricot fabric was used.

Time is against her. Her ants scurry about trying to fix the mess she has made, but there is no certainty, no way for her to know if she will be successful in her endeavours, let alone the success of her ants

Details are added. Cat ears, and elven ears, noses and eyes. A small black cloak. Little sticks like daggers.

I wonder, how desperate is she getting? Desperate enough to make... a deal?

Fabric, needles, scissors and thread fell to the floor once again, and in the bronze hands of the chandelier was a doll of a silver cat and a doll of a dark thief. But one arm kept moving, kept rummaging about in the piles of fabric

The desperate are always the easiest to make into a puppet

Finally the one arm stopped moving, withdrawing from under the mess two cloth dolls sewn together at a hand, one with red flowing hair, the other with brown. Red stitches formed a long line across the torso of the red haired one.

There you are

A pair of scissors was brought up, making a snipping sound as it was brought closer to the connected hands of the two dolls

I wonder... how desperate are you?



Posted on 2019-11-04 at 15:50:16.
Edited on 2019-11-04 at 16:03:34 by Reralae

Reralae
Dreamer of Bladesong
Karma: 135/12
2331 Posts


The flame in the dark

As Aranwen closed her eyes, it felt as if her blade had cracked again, an aching pain that spread from her heart, water pouring out of the crack as tears flowed from her eyes. She did her best to keep moving. Did her best to think about what she needed to do, what had to be done, how to get something done. Keep herself busy, so it wouldn't register in her head.

She was alone.

Aranwen could hear the others talking still, but the voices barely registered to her. She knew she had to pull herself together, and she tried. She didn't want her blade undone. She couldn't lose what she had left. 

Aranwen felt Kithran's touch, faint through the placement of the cloak on her lap. A connection that helped her start to find her ground. Where she was.

Then it was warm. She opened her eyes in surprise, finding herself embraced with silver fur. There was a moment of confusion, but then, Aranwen leaned into the embrace. It had been a long time since she had shared warmth like this from another.

“I know very little about what any of you believe about what comes after this world,” the kazari said softly, cradling Aranwen’s head against his chest, allowing her tears to soak into his fur, “but, among my folk, it is believed that the honored dead find themselves called to the Eternal Hunt.

It is a place of beauty and bounty,” he explained, “where pain is no longer found. When you leave this world, you are greeted in the next by those who were called to The Hunt before you – your ancestors and the companions who have fought by your side – and, for the rest of time, you feast in their presence, hear tales told of their bravery and yours, and remain guarded by Rrowl and Keziri as both of Khr’a’s eyes smile happily down upon you.

Death is not a thing to be feared,” he finished, tipping his head forward to press it against Aranwen’s, “but embraced. What awaits us on the other side are all the things we will never find here.”

The belief Ch'dau offered was not so different from that which Aranwen had hoped in her heart. There was a similarity, and as he spoke of the Eternal Hunt, Aranwen's thoughts turned to what had been called the Eternal Forest. Perhaps in some strange way, they were not really separate places. As Ch'dau spoke, she took comfort in his arms as her tears dried, and she found herself returned to the present.

"I do not fear death," Aranwen murmurred, her voice faint, "I dance with death every time I draw my blade in battle."

With her eyes closed, she looked at the grey crystal embedded in the blade of her spirit.

"But to walk the road without them feels... lonely."

Aranwen took the gleaming grey crystal from her blade, and held it close in her heart. Before, whenever she had done this, it seemed to be more painful to do than if she hadn't. In the here and now, she felt warm, almost rekindled between the faint embers of distant memory, and the gentle flame beside her of Ch'dau's spirit.

Looking up at Ch'dau, she gave a sheepish smile, "Second time in only one morning, you've held me in the present twice now."

It did embarrass her a bit. She hadn't meant for it to happen. Her burdens were hers.

She offered a smile to Kithran as well, "It's alright," Aranwen offered, "I'm not so fragile that a piece of cloth will see me undone. Else I wouldn't have offered it; you can use it, if you wish. But, thank you, Kithran."

Sitting up once more, Aranwen breathed deeply, centering herself on where she was, who was around her, and what they planned to do.

Aranwen took a breath, "Her name is Saeriel," She offered, "She died thirty years ago in this cursed land, while we were in pursuit of slavers," She averted her gaze, "Perhaps it might seem a long time to mourn, but if things were different she'd still be here. It's... a lot harder to accept when a Sylvari dies when you know they still had many, many years they could have seen, and their absence is felt so much keener."

"But, that's enough of the past for one morning," Aranwen observed as she started to re-don her leather, "I dare not indulge it again right now, unless I risk falling in once more."



Posted on 2019-11-05 at 10:14:40.

breebles
#1 Kibibi
Karma: 38/1
1236 Posts


Trouble afoot

"I do not fear death," the bladesinger murmured softly, "I dance with death every time I draw my blade in battle. But to walk the road without them feels... lonely."

She seemed to be coming back to herself, and while Kithran was grateful for it, she also felt frustrated.

Maybe not frustrated. But . . . .

She didn’t know what to do. She wanted--no, no, needed--her to feel better. They did need to move, after all. But something tugged at her too, and it was making her anxious.

Aranwen grabbed her attention with a smile, "It's alright,” she began, and Kithran was not sure at first if she had recognized her anxiety, “I'm not so fragile that a piece of cloth will see me undone. Else I wouldn't have offered it; you can use it, if you wish. But, thank you, Kithran."

You just came undone at the priest’s mentioning of it, she wanted to roll her eyes, and the new frustration relieved a bit of her anxiety. She gave her a small smile back instead, “You’re very kind, Aranwen. Thank you, but I cannot.” She stepped toward the door and her small smile turned back into her grin, “Perhaps I can go find one though!” She opened the door and slid out, wriggling her fingers at the cleric, “Forgive me, Father.”

“I’m not a--” but the door closed on the Cid’s words and Kith made her way back to the front of the inn.

She reached the end of the hallway and hugged the wall as she turned the corner, sighing when her hands went to her shoulders and for the second time that morning grasped nothing. She gazed over the crowd as she descended the stairs. The inn had grown a little fuller since their departure into the cleric’s room, and Kith spotted a few cloaks that may need a new home before thinking better of herself. It would be better to grab one off the street. The fresh air would be nice anyway, and perhaps she could find some new weapons for Ch’dau, or pay the nearby apothecary a visit for Aranw--

A group of three men shoved past her as she reached the bottom of the stairs. She turned to glare at their backs only to find they all briefly glared back at her as they passed, the last of whom looked to someone behind her and nodded, then continued up the stairs.

“S***.” A hand clamped over the thief’s mouth and waist and pulled her toward the door. One of her arms was trapped, but the other reached for her blade. She did roll her eyes this time as she again grasped nothing in the place Ch’dau’s dagger had once resided. Instead, she jammed her elbow into his gut at the same time she bit into his hand. His grasp loosened as he swore in her ear and Kith threw all of her weight straight down.

She rolled and bounced up and away, before shouting up at the hallway, “SAMUEL, ARA--” an arrow grazed her shoulder and stuck into the wall behind her. Kithran looked toward the back of the room, where a woman stood on a table while the patrons began to scatter toward the door, readying a second arrow in her shortbow.

Out of the corner of her eye, the larger man began to make his way back toward her and Kithran jumped into the swarm of people at the door. She slithered through the crowd and crouched down low as she came out the other side of the pack. These two would either try to follow her out if that’s where they thought she went, or follow the others to try to subdue the legendary creatures upstairs. Whichever way they chose, they would have to turn their backs to her. It was only a matter of t--

“Well, hello there.” Kith turned around and a darker, swarthier character shifted out of the shadows. Before she could move or attack he called out to the others, “Hey, she’s over he-OOOWW!” 

The man instinctively tried to hop away, but the dagger through his foot was lodged tightly into floorboards. Instead he cried out and swung wildly down at Kithran, who easily dodged the attack and jumped up to headbutt him under the chin.

An arrow did stick into the back of her shoulder then and she stumbled forward into the man before her, dropping down before he could get a good grasp on her. She pulled the graciously shallow arrow out just as the man above her landed a kick in her side. She bounced a foot or two, but as his foot dropped back to the ground, she lunged at it, jabbing the arrow into his achilles. He cried out once more, but it was short-lived, as she wrenched the dagger from his foot and struck up at him. The blade, as was her way, lodged into his throat, where his neck met his jawline. Instead of slicing down and flaying it open as she preferred, further ruining the floorboards, Kithran pulled the blade out, then hopped behind the figure, holding him up to take the next arrow from the woman on the table.

Kith glared at her, and noticing out of the corner of her eye that the larger man was finally able to wade through the dwindling crowd, she ducked down, away from the volley of arrows. She moved around the room, keeping as much furniture between her and her opponents as possible. When she felt it would take more than a few seconds for the beast man to get to her, she tipped over a table to crouch behind and pulled the smaller knife out of her boot.

She took a deep breath and quickly popped her ponytail up, feeling the arrow fly by it and stick into the wall in front of her. She grinned and hopped up, drawing her arm back to throw at the shortbow twat, but as she was about to release the blade, a chair crashed into her, throwing her to the ground and causing the blade to go wide.

Kithran could hear the footsteps of the large man growing closer, but then, from her place on the floor, she could also see a legendary Kazari and bladesinger at the top of the stairs.



Posted on 2019-11-05 at 18:32:14.
Edited on 2019-11-05 at 18:56:40 by breebles

Eol Fefalas
Keeper of the Kazari
RDI Staff
Karma: 456/28
8098 Posts


¡Don Gato al Rescante!

"I do not fear death," Aranwen murmured into his fur, "I dance with death every time I draw my blade in battle."

Life begins with violence and wailing, Ch’dau thought, recalling the words of his clan’s khr’dun, why would we expect anything less as it proceeds? He didn’t speak the words aloud, of course, instead, he simply nodded in silent acknowledgement of the bladesinger’s statement.

"But to walk the road without them feels... lonely."

Another nod from the kazari, then. “A warrior is never truly dead while their name is still spoken, Aranwen,” he said, “as long as that name is still in your heart and on your tongue, they walk beside you still.”

 "Second time in only one morning,” the Syl woman said, smiling sheepishly up at him, now, “you've held me in the present twice now."

“The present is where we fight, Khu’r Aranwen,” Ch’dau chuffed, once more pressing his forehead to hers as he released her, “and where we need you. It is all I can do.”

The bladesinger turned her smile to Kith, then, and said; “It's alright. I'm not so fragile that a piece of cloth will see me undone. Else I wouldn't have offered it; you can use it, if you wish. But, thank you, Kithran."

“You’re very kind, Aranwen,” the thief answered, a tight smile playing on her lips, “Thank you, but I cannot.” She stepped toward the door and her small smile turned back into her grin, “Perhaps I can go find one though!” She opened the door and slid out, wriggling her fingers at the cleric, “Forgive me, Father.”

“I’m not a…” Mosic started to reply, but the closing of the door stalled his words, “…father.” The little cleric sighed, smiled, and gave a faint shake of his head… Like a fart in the wind, that one, he chuckled to himself.

 His attentions returned to the two warriors who sat upon his rented bed and the kazari’s words of remembering a fallen warrior’s name echoed in his head. “What was the name, Lady Aranwen,” he asked, “of the one for whom you wear that cloak?”

"Her name is Saeriel," she answered, "She died thirty years ago in this cursed land, while we were in pursuit of slavers," She averted her gaze, "Perhaps it might seem a long time to mourn, but if things were different she'd still be here. It's... a lot harder to accept when a Sylvari dies when you know they still had many, many years they could have seen, and their absence is felt so much keener.

But, that's enough of the past for one morning," Aranwen observed as she started to re-don her leather, "I dare not indulge it again right now, unless I risk falling in once more."

The kazari offered a faint nod at that and left the topic alone lest anything else he said might provoke the Syl’s lapse back into her memories. As Aranwen began to piece her armor back together, Ch’dau rose from the pallet and took up the cloak Kith had given him. He had scarcely gotten the thing back over his shoulders when, beyond the door of the room, something of a clatter reached his ears. His eyes narrowed, snapping to the room’s exit, even as his ears perked up in the realization that the noise were the sounds of combat. “Trouble,” he rumbled, pulling the cowl over his head as he strode for the door.

“SAMUEL, ARA--”

It was Kith’s voice, he knew, even as clipped as the shout had been, and, as Mosic and Aranwen scrambled to their feet behind him, Ch’dau tore open the door and strode into the hallway beyond, already making for the stairs. Upon reaching the landing, the first thing he saw were the three monkeys ascending them, obviously intent on making the top of the steps before Kith’s warning shout had given away the situation. Beyond those three, in the inn’s common room, the half-syl thief had taken shelter behind an overturned table. A larger human stalked closer to Kith’s hasty cordon and, from somewhere just out of his sight, arrows whispered through the air to harass the wood of the upended slab.

“Hmmmmm,” the kazari rumbled, the sound coming out as something more akin to a low growl, and the three advancing up the stair hesitated for an instant.

Given that Aranwen had appeared at his side and Mosic at his back in that instant, though, that brief indecision was more than enough for the cat-man to take advantage. He charged down the steps, barreling through the trio even as he tugged the dagger from the waistband of the ridiculous pants he wore, trusting that Aranwen and Mosic would make short work of whatever had become of the bodies that fell in his passing. Midway down the staircase, he leapt at the larger, more threatening figure that closed in on Kithran’s barricade and, as he landed, sank the dagger twice, quickly and deeply, into the man’s back before lifting the stalking monkey from his feet and hurling him in the direction from which the arrows had flown.

The surprised squeak and pain grunt and clatter that followed let him know that the tactic had been, at least, marginally accurate so he didn’t bother to look back to gauge the results. Instead, he peered over the flipped table at Kithran, offering a hand to help her to her feet should she need it. “Are you alright, Little Kitten,” he asked even as the thief grinned/smirked up at him.

((OOC: Assuming a relatively positive, if somewhat snarky, reply.))

“Good,” he snorted, turning now in the direction he had flung the large human, “I will return for you in a moment.”

He prowled toward the table from which the archer had been toppled, sparing only a brief glance in the direction of the stairs where bladesinger and priest were dealing with the three he had bowled over in his charge. With a growl, he flung the table aside to find the archer trying to wriggle her way from beneath the heavier body that had landed atop her. The woman’s scream was muffled by the massive paw that closed over her face as the kazari forcibly extricated her from under the heavier corpse by her head. Ch’dau lifted the woman from the ground, stared into the one wide eye that peered at him from between his own fingers and, with a quick jerk, broke the woman’s neck before tossing her back in the direction of the table where Kith had taken cover.

“Are there any others,” he demanded of the crowd that fought their way toward the inn’s door, “Samuel is here!”



Posted on 2019-11-05 at 20:53:22.
Edited on 2019-11-05 at 20:53:58 by Eol Fefalas

Reralae
Dreamer of Bladesong
Karma: 135/12
2331 Posts


Underclothed but dangerous

"Trouble"

The word had scarced left Ch'dau's mouth, but Aranwen reacted quickly, opting to drop the armour she was attempting to don. Instead she grabbed her left vambrace and quickly tied it on.

"SAMUEL, ARA-"

Aranwen jumped to her feet, drawing her blade from the sheath beside her, "Ambush? Mosic, stay behind us. We know not what we face."

As she stepped into the hallway after Ch'dau, she was surprised to see just how quickly he moved, having not seen him in battle previously. Her eyes widened in surprise as he nearly knocked over the three men on the stairs. Rushing forward, her body more limber without the armour that normally protected her, she kicked one of the men in the chest before they could recover, sending him tumbling down the stairwell backwards. From the reverse momentum, she spun around, her voice echoing through the hallway as she began to sing, making a horizontal swipe that the second man just barely had time to duck under, having the advantage of being lower on the stairs to do so.

The two men still in front of her drew short swords, casting a glance at each other to make sure they were in this attack together, before going for the unarmoured woman before them. A clang of metal on metal sounded as Aranwen caught one blade with her own, driving it towards the wall beside her. The other blade she lifted her left arm up to catch, battering the blade away just shy of her shoulder with the vambrace. Seizing the opening, Aranwen breathed, bringing her voice to a low crescendo as she rushed between the two men, following the parry into a riposte and impaling the one man in their dominant shoulder, forcing the blade from his hand.

"Bloody banshee!" The remaining armed man on the stairs called, lunging towards Aranwen.

She brought her blade across, her vocal going off key in her haste. Thankfully, his blade was narrowly parried aside Aranwen's torso. With the blades locked, she forced his away with her vambrace once more. Her voice found a resonating low timbre and she added her left hand to her right with her blade, lunging forward before he could recover, and impaling him where he stood. Kicking the man's body off her blade, onto the one that was just recovering from their fall down the stairs.

Aranwen turned back to the man still in the hallway, holding her sword ready.

"Is this really worth whatever you were told you'd get for this trouble?" She asked the man, who had gone for a dagger with a shaking left hand.

"Maybe yer right," The man replied with a grunt. Then he threw the knife.

Aranwen parried the weak throw, and lunged, driving her blade through the man's side.

"When will I learn?" Aranwen muttered to herself, withdrawing her blade and watching the man's body crumple to the floor.

Mosic's eyes were wide as he stared at the body in the hallway just before the stairs, and having watched the entire battle.

"Is it always like this?!" The poor priest asked in shock.

"I've seen worse," Aranwen replied matter of factly, before giving a gentle smile, "You may feel unaccustomed to this, and that's okay. If only there weren't a need to be accustomed to this..." She gave a soft sigh and shrugged her shoulders.

“Are there any others? Samuel is here!”

Mosic flinched at the sudden and loud shout, "Sweet Father Falloes!"

Aranwen didn't hear the Cidal's shock as she called down the stairs, "Might be one guy at the base of the stairs. Another fell on him though, so he might be knocked out or playing dead."

"Mosic, please watch from the doorway and let me know if more come up here. I'm just grabbing my things," Aranwen asked as she ducked back into the room he had rented. After sheathing her blade and donning her belt, she quickly picked up her bags and stuffed the rest of her armour into one. She was still underdressed, all things considered, but she drew her black cloak around herself. That would have to do while they relocated to a safer place.

As she made her way down the steps and into the common room proper, she looked between Kithran and Ch'dau, before offering the swords she had collected from the two men she slew to the Kazari, "I recall you mentioned wielding two blades?" Aranwen asked

Aranwen looked back to Kithran, "So much for not being followed, huh?" She chuckled softly, "Well, we'd better move. No need to get bogged down explaining ourselves to the town guard and be sitting targets for another wave of mercenaries."

"Now then... if they were told you were wearing a black cloak, Kithran," Aranwen mused, "I'll go first out the front door. Decoy. See if I can't draw the attention of onlookers and lead any pursuers away if they expect I'm you and therefore that Ch'dau will be following, relying on you to scout ahead," She looked around the common room, before her eyes settled on the kitchen, "There's probably a side entrance for receiving food from the market there in the kitchen. The rest of you go that way. Get some medical supplies from that apothecary."

"Any questions or things to consider?" Aranwen asked.



Posted on 2019-11-06 at 01:40:08.

Eol Fefalas
Keeper of the Kazari
RDI Staff
Karma: 456/28
8098 Posts


Silverscreen - The Undolithe Estate

Adedre lounged in the musty, wing-backed chair that occupied one corner of her bedchamber, sighing softly as her masked attendant daubed an astringent poultice along the ring of sutures that secured the Ungoulid leg to the still healing stump of her once human thigh. Her breath shuddered a bit as the girl swabbed at the strings that secured her grafted leg to the faint curve of her inner thigh and, in reaction, the masked girl couldn’t help but flinch.

“Am I hurting you, mistress,” the maid asked, peering up at the witch from behind the thick eye-slits of the bone and leather face covering.

“Yes,” Adedre moaned softly, even as her legs quivered on either side of the child’s kneeling form, “Don’t stop.”

It had been the better part of half a day, now, that she had drunk a full cup of the kazari’s blood and, she imagined, had it not been so, she might have been given over to her impulse to wrap her legs about the girl’s head and pull her into her crotch, neglecting the tending of her surgery. As it stood, though, without the vim and vigor that the cat-man’s blood had filled her with these last few weeks, the pain had, once again, become preferable to the pleasure…

An adjustment to this one’s mask, though, might be in order, she thought as the girl dutifully returned to swabbing the stitches, a widening of the mouth slot to allow the tongue to pass, perhaps. She is quite attentive and eager and, judging by the state in which she left the guard who sullied her, a suitable pupil. Mayhap she will pay the tuition her sister could not.

…A sharp rapping at her door interrupted the witch’s reverie, then, along with the eager, nubile fingers that slid higher up her thigh than where the stitches began. Following a slow blink and another shuddering breath, Adedre cast her sickly yellow gaze toward the portal. “What is it?”

“A report, m’lady,” a muffled voice answered, “from the Countess and Cockatrice.”

“Enter,” the witch gasped as a bone on her attendants mask caught on a stitch.

The door creaked open on its rusting hinges, and the guard that stepped in wisely kept his eyes focused on the floor beneath his feet as he entered the room and took a knee. “It has not gone well, Lady Undolithe,” the guard reported, still refusing to look up at the necromancer who employed him, “The kazari was found, along with the thief we believe to have freed him, but all of those who were sent to fetch them have met their end.”

Adedre sighed; “And the whisperer who sent the news?”

“She is here, m’lady. Slipped out the back as the kazari killed Cade and Gypsy.”

“Send her in.”

“Yes, mistress,” the guard backed out of the room on his knees, only getting back to his feet after he had crossed the threshold.

“You may enter,” Adedre heard the guard say as she swept her skirts over her attendant’s head and shoulders with one hand and, reaching beneath the spill of fabric, lifted the girl’s mask with the other, “No! Not on your feet.”

“Tell me,” the witch whispered as the flaxen-haired serving wench crawled through the doorway, desperately trying not to look at the extra set of feet that issued from beneath Adedre’s gown.

“I… uh… I…” the serving girl forced her eyes to the floor as she had seen the guard do, then, and swallowed before continuing, “I weren’t sure, m’lady, tha’ I’d truly found yer lot afore the biggun spoke, but, when he placed ‘is order, I knew ‘is voice weren’t human, an’ th’ comp’ny he were in, m’lady -  an elf-bitch an’ a thief – I figgered ‘e musta been th’ one ye were seekin’… I… I…”

“Tecla!” Another gasp hissed past the witch’s lips and a hand moved to still the lump that moved beneath her skirts. “Stop… for now.”

Adedre convulsed a bit and her yellow eyes fluttered ruefully open to regard the girl from the inn who knelt on her floor. “Come closer, child,” she moaned, throatily, her hand still resting atop the now still rise beneath her skirts, “I can’t quite hear.”

The serving girl crawled closer, swallowed again, and chanced a glance up into Adedre’s eyes. “They got another with ‘em now, m’lady,” she said, trying to make her voice louder but not too loud as her eyes fell to the soles of the extra feet poking out from beneath the hem of the witch’s skirts, “A gen’rous s*** o’ a Pick. Cleric o’ Falloes if I ain’t missin’ anythin’. Rented ‘im a room an’ took th’ lot up, where I figger he was healin’ ‘em.

They were up there fer a spell,” the wench continued, “afore thief come back down jus’as yer crew showed. Li’l bitch speared one o’ their feet t’ th’ floor an’ raised a shout, callin’ them others down. Th’ three onna stairs got plowed over by th’ biggun as he come down t’ poke holes in yer man’s lungs an’ chucked ‘im a’ th’ bow-maiden like ‘e were a rag doll.

Seen tha’ an’ figgered I oughta come an’ tell ye wha’ I seen as I don’ reckon them as went up the steps come back down. Th’ common room cleared out right quick when th’ tussle started an’… an’…”

“You got scared.” It was a statement, not a question.

“Yes’m.”

“Are you scared, now?”

“Y-yes’m.”

Look at me, girl!”

The serving wench swallowed a lump in her throat that threatened to slit it but, with tears welling in her eyes, did as she was bidden.

“What is your name?”

“K-K-Kendra, m’lady.”

“Kendra,” Adedre repeated softly, pushing at the lump hovering beneath the spill of her skirts, then, to usher her attendant free of the fabric, “What do you fear more, in this moment? What you saw at your inn, or what you imagine is going to happen to you, now?”

“I… uh… I fear you, m’lady,” Kendra gulped as another girl slithered from beneath the necromacer’s gown, tugging an unsettling mask over her face before turning on her knees to face her as well, “Mos’ definitely you more’n them.”

A soft, dry laugh shushed past Adedre’s lips, then. “Good,” the witch tittered, absently stroking the masked girl’s hair as she eyed the wench from the Countess and Cockatrice, “very good. But, child, you have nothing to fear, yet. Not from me. It wasn’t you who failed me, after all. You performed your task as well as you could.”

“Th-th-thank’ee, m’lady,” Kendra gulped, unsure as to whether she should be looking at the witch or the kneeling mask.

“Oh no,” Adedre continued chuckling, “don’t thank me, just yet. I’ll give you plenty of opportunities for that later.

Tecla?”

“Yes, mistress,” the mask responded.

“Take charge of Kendra, will you, and ready her for what is to come?”

“Yes, mistress.” The masked girl answered, slowly staring to crawl toward Kendra as the witch, just as slowly, rose from her chair.

“Good girl,” Adedre cooed, stroking her boney fingers across the hair that spilled from behind Tecla’s mask as she glided past, “Once she is sufficiently readied, attend me in the library.”

“As you say, mistress,” Tecla replied, still crawling toward Kendra as salty tears streamed down the serving girl’s face, “I’ll have her ready, very soon.”

“I’m sure,” the witch purred as she passed through the doorway, delighting in the soft whimpers that echoed behind her, “Be sure to get the rest of the answers I want as you do, hmm?”

“Of course, mistress,” the answer came over the sounds of fabric being torn and the muffled squeal of pained pleasure.

A bit later; in Adedre’s library

She stood at the lectern, yellow eyes scouring the pages of the fifth tome she had lain open on the streaked and stained surface. She hadn’t found what she sought in the other four and they lay, hastily discarded, at her feet rather than having been returned to their places on the shelves lining the walls. “No,” Adedre muttered, rifling the vellum pages with irritated flicks of her fingers, “no, no, no. I’ll not find it, here, either.” Perturbed, she sighed and snapped the volume shut, swiping it off of the reading stand with one hand as the other lifted to pinch at the narrow bridge of her nose. “I know I’ve seen it,” she groused softly, her eyes closing against the flickering candlelight by which she had been reading, “but in which book?”

The door to the study creaked open, then, and was pushed shut, again, with respectful silence before the soft padding of feet across the floor reached her ears. Both of the witch’s hands came to rest on the lectern as she opened her eyes and watched Tecla approach. There was a a faint smear of blood on the chin of the girl’s mask and streaks of it, too, on two fingers of her left hand.As Adedre’s eyes met the girl’s, Tecla bowed her head and, halting her progress across the floor, knelt down to gather up the tomes discarded at her mistress’ feet.

“What of Kendra,” the witch asked after Tecla had the books stacked.

“She is prepared, mistress,” the girl replied, rising to her feet, the tomes nestled in the crooks of her elbows, “I left her with Rolf under orders that he wasn’t to touch her… or himself.” She turned away from Adedre’s gaze and whispered across the floor to return the volumes to their shelves.

“Good girl,” the witch nodded. “She gave you the information I wanted, then?”

“She did,” Tecla returned, slipping the third tome back onto its shelf, “and quite eagerly. She gave very precise descriptions of all of those in the beast’s company, including at least the first names of each. They’re calling the kazari Samuel, by the way…”

Adedre scoffed and shook her head, her eyes following Tecla’s progress from bookcase to bookcase.

“…Kendra also mentioned something of a beggar woman who accompanied the cleric when he first arrived. She had no name for the crone, though, simply that she was old with tangled gray hair, gnarled fingers, and tattered rags for clothing. The priest called her Mother.”

“Have we found this Mother?”

“Not as yet, mistress,” Tecla replied as the last of the discarded books was returned to its spot, “but we have people looking. Once she is found, she’ll be brought to you.”

“You’ve done well, child,” Adedre smiled approvingly as the girl turned with the intent of returning to her mistress’ side, “I’ll see to it that you are appropriately rewarded.”

“Thank you, Mi…”

“Stop!” Adedre’s command froze the girl in her tracks. “On the bookcase behind you, there, second shelf from the bottom…Bring that to me.”

Tecla’s gaze tracked to where Adedre’s finger was pointing and fell upon a curious looking codex with spidery script that she could not read adorning its spine. “The one covered with skin, mistress?”

“Yes, yes! That one!”

As instructed, the girl retrieved the book in question and carried it to the lectern, placing it before the witch’s ready hands, and watching with interest as Adedre tore eagerly through the cured skin pages. She watched, too, as Adedre seemed to find the particular page she had sought, and traced her finger over the odd writing there, her lips moving to form unspoken but indecipherable words.

Soon enough, the witch stopped reading and turned an almost gleeful eye on her attendant. “This is it,” she cackled, “I knew it was here!” She leaned over, then, and ran her tongue over the blood that streaked the chin of Tecla’s mask. “Your reward will be doubled, now, child,” she purred, closing the tome and lifting it into her arms. “I need you to fetch me a straw doll,” she ordered, “Soak a ribbon in the tavern wench’s moon-blood that I’ve tasted on your chin and, then, meet me in my tower.”

“Right away, mistress,” Tecla nodded, already turning to carry out Adedre’s commands, “I’ll not be long.”



Posted on 2019-11-06 at 10:59:42.

Eol Fefalas
Keeper of the Kazari
RDI Staff
Karma: 456/28
8098 Posts


Silverscreen - Part 2

Secreted away behind a nondescript bank of shelves in Adedre’s library, a corroding flight of iron steps curved their way up along the walls of this particular turret to find their ending at a rough-hewn slab of a doorway. Blood-scrawled runes painted upon the splintered surface seemed to crawl over one another when a hand was stretched out to grasp the latch and, when the portal was pushed open to grant access to the cornerless black chamber beyond, candles and braziers flickered to red-flamed life of their own volition. Despite the warm color of the flames, they cast a cold light over the decrepit, stump-shaped stand which squatted in the chamber’s center, and carved even colder shadows into the room’s fringes where things unseen skittered and scratched in protest of the grim glow.

It was here that Tecla, having retrieved the implements her mistress had asked of her, found Adedre waiting, looming over the flesh-bound tome that lay open on the table. The witch’s eyes flashed in anticipation, reflecting the red light from her yellow orbs as they darted from the straw doll to the blood-soaked ribbon and, finally, to the maked face of her attendant. “Close the door, child,” Adedre hissed even as she excitedly beckoned the girl closer, “and bring me those things.”

Tecla did as she was asked, shutting off the only exit from the creaking, cone-shaped room and stepped into the orb of cold crimson light, offering the doll and the ribbon over.

Adedre anxiously snatched the things from her attendant’s hands, her gaze flicking back to the strange script that spilled over the pages of the book. As she read, she muttered to herself, so low that Tecla couldn’t make out the words, and tied the bloody ribbon about the doll’s neck before laying it atop the rotting stump. “Yes,” the witch hissed softly, a rictus stretching her lips across her face as she wrung her hands together and nodded, “that should do nicely…”

Beneath the mask, Tecla’s features twisted in confusion. “What language is that, mistress,” she asked softly, hoping her query wouldn’t interrupt her mistress’ thoughts too much.

“Abyssal,” Adedre muttered in reply, “Continue serving me well, girl, and in time, I’ll teach it to you.”

“Of course, mistress. Thank you.”

The witch’s eyes snapped suddenly from the page, then, and wandered slowly over the girl at her side. “Remove your mask,” she said after a moment, “Should this summoning work as I hope, I shouldn’t want our guest to think it a mockery.”

Tecla nodded, blinking once more in mystification before lifting her hands to her face and stripping the bone-strewn leather away and concealing it beneath her robe.

“Good,” Adedre whispered, “Now, child, be still and don’t speak unless you are addressed directly. Do you understand?”

“Yes, mistress.”

With that, the witch’s eyes returned to the page and her finger traced over a line of script at its middle. Then, with a faint nod, she spoke into the air; “Puppeteer, extend your hand; I offer this doll, now, to speak with you. O’ witch of thread, send one of your threads to me that we may make a deal.”

The crimson light seemed to flicker for an instant, drawing closer in around them, as a pall of dust motes fell across the table, dancing in a mad spiral around the doll. As the motes of dust spiralled about the doll, the bloody ribbon came undone, floating into the air just above the straw doll. Then it tore, shredding itself into long red threads that twisted about erratically. The threads stopped for a brief moment, before the tips sank themselves into the doll, the straw sizzling with the scent of burning. The threads pulled taught, lifting the doll upright. With but a brief glance about to gather where it found itself, the doll's head tilted towards the two women beside it.

“My, that’s a call I’ve not heard in a very long time,” the doll said, the strangely inflected voice seeming to come from nowhere and everywhere all at once, “You have my attention, Adedre.”

Adedre smiled and bowed her head respectfully to the straw figure that had climbed onto the pages of the book before it. “Welcome, Morgana,” she cooed, “I find myself in need of your services.”

“Else you’d not have summoned me,” the doll nodded in answer, “Yes.” It seemed to glance, first, at the spidery script upon which it trod before lifting its featureless face back up to the necromancer who had awoken it. “Are you prepared to meet my price?”

“I am,” Adedre smiled, “Many times over should you be able to accomplish what my men seemingly cannot.”



Posted on 2019-11-06 at 14:01:45.
Edited on 2019-11-06 at 14:36:22 by Eol Fefalas

breebles
#1 Kibibi
Karma: 38/1
1236 Posts


Baubles

“Are you alright, Little Kitten?” Ch’dau asks as Kithran takes his hand and allows him to help pull her to her feet.

“Yes, of course, did you see,” she continued in the same exasperated breath as Aranwen’s song crescendoed on the other side of the room, “I just murdered a man, yet you are still going to insist on calling me a little kitten?”

“Good,” he snorted, dismissing the end of her reply, “I will return for you in a moment.”

“Return for me?” He stalked toward the table the archer had pinned Kithran down from, “Return for me?” she climbed over some of the rubble to search the body of the man she, a tiny, little, 5’10, baby, dagger kitten, had slaughtered, “Well make sure you remember to bring my bonnet and silk slippers when you do, Sir Prince,” she muttered to herself as she dug into the dead man’s pockets.

She found only a few coin pieces which she pocketed, his shortsword, which she tossed in the direction of the cat-beast snapping the woman’s neck, a ri-

“Are there any others, Samuel is here!” Kith grinned at the hand she pulled the ring off of and shook her head at the gusto of “Samuel”.

"Might be one guy at the base of the stairs.” The Sylvari called down to Ch’dau, “Another fell on him though, so he might be knocked out or playing dead." The silver cat prowled swiftly to examine the corpses at the foot of the stairs while Kithran made her way to the two he had just finished demolishing.

She earned a few more coins and baubles for her troubles, ignoring the squeaked-out pleas behind her, and was about to move on to the those Ch’dau had just finished off, when the shortbow caught her eye. Her eyes narrowed in irritation with it at first, but then Aranwen appeared at the top of the stairs again, and she glanced over at Ch’dau as well. In their upcoming battles, Kith would likely move to a more supportive role among these two incredible fighters. That was definitely fine with her, she thought as she reached for the bow and winced slightly at the tug in her shoulder from where the arrow had sunk in. This would likely aid her in such a role.

Kithran hadn’t played with a bow in a few years, but she had been a decent shot back when she had. Sometimes the bow would get caught on things while she would be sneaking around and lead to some very awkward interactions, so she had ultimately tossed her old one, but perhaps it would come in handy this go around.

She finished buckling the quiver to her back as Aranwen joined her and Ch’dau, "I recall you mentioned wielding two blades?" she asked the Kazari and handed him the blades.

“Oh, did either of you encounter a dagger from any of these thugs?” she padded her lonely hip, “I am on the prowl for a replacement.”

His new blades stowed, Ch’dau carefully grasped the tip of the blade she had given him and held the handle out to her, “If you are in need of a second blade kibibi, you may have this one back.”

Kithran shook her head at the dagger, “That old thing? No, thank you. That’s yours.” She grinned and turned to the Sylvari, “Any luck with the lot upstairs?”

“I believe I parried a blade up there that would have been much more potent in your hands.”

“Wonderful!” She patted the bladesinger’s shoulder, “Nice cloak, by the way,” and she bounded up the stairs to retrieve the dagger. It was plain and a bit dull, but nothing a little love and care couldn’t remedy.

Aranwen’s golden eyes were light as Kithran returned and she couldn’t help the preemptive grin she could feel forming on her face as she rejoined them. Their bladesinger seemed to be feeling much better. This Kithran could handle.

"So much for not being followed, huh?" The Sylvari chuckled, and the half-Sylvari shrugged sheepishly.

“Even Saina got through our defenses, Aranwen, we need to try harder.”

"Well, we'd better move. No need to get bogged down explaining ourselves to the town guard and be sitting targets for another wave of mercenaries." Kithran nodded in agreement and folded her arms as she listened to the bladesinger.

"Now then... if they were told you were wearing a black cloak, Kithran, I'll go first out the front door. Decoy. See if I can't draw the attention of onlookers and lead any pursuers away if they expect I'm you and therefore that Ch'dau will be following, relying on you to scout ahead," She looked passed Kithran, to the kitchen beyond, "There's probably a side entrance for receiving food from the market there in the kitchen. The rest of you go that way. Get some medical supplies from that apothecary."

"Any questions or things to consider?"

“Yes, if there are more of these louts out there and they think you are me, they may try to attack you. What happens if you are ambushed? Not that I don’t have faith in your abilities of course, but say they ambush you with a lot of louts, or one of Adedre’s horrid monstrosities? Why don’t we all go out the back here?”

She sighed at the look of confidence on the woman’s face and knew she often bore the same look in the face of worse plans that were questionable at best, “Or fine, it was just a concern but if you are set in this plan, where do you propose we meet up? I know the city alright so I can lead these fine gentlemen anywhere you’re familiar with. I'd prefer we don't meet at the wine cellar to avoid compromising them. And anyway, they already think I am a good, kind, valiant person. I'd hate to know what they'd think of me if I brought home a cleric."



Posted on 2019-11-06 at 19:10:49.
Edited on 2019-11-07 at 11:39:31 by breebles

Reralae
Dreamer of Bladesong
Karma: 135/12
2331 Posts


Swear to me upon this mask

"Lovely," Morgana's voice nearly purred, and the straw doll's hands were brought together, "It's so rare to be called by someone who knows my name lately, let alone titles."

The doll twirled about on one leg, before bringing itself to a sudden stop, twisted over on its side as though half limp while it's head moved in a glance between Adedre and Tecla.

"Now then, what services do you require?" Morgana asked. 

Tecla, as fascinated as she was by the morbid little construct, couldn’t help but look away as the thing flopped bonelessly to one side and peered in her direction. Adedre, on the other hand, seemed to delight in the doll’s antics. “It’s a bit of a complicated situation,” she said, leaning forward a bit, “bet let me see if I can explain it succinctly enough so as not to waste any valuable time.

Something very valuable was recently stolen from me; a creature both rare and powerful which took me a long time and great expense to acquire. It was intended as an offering to D’hurgen on the night of The Burning. An offering that was to secure me enough power that, in time, I might be able to challenge Amer’Loc, herself, for dominion over Sendria. Last night, however, a bothersome little thief found her way into my dungeons, set the creature free, and escaped with it into the streets of the city. Again, leading me to incure expenses which I was not prepared to pay and, worse, muddying the designs I’ve been weaving for months.”

Adedre sighed heavily and crouched beside the table, now, resting her chin on its rotting edge to gaze into the featureless face of the little doll. “Unfortunately,” she continued, “following their escape, my beast and the slippery shadow who absconded with him, have taken up company with a bladesinger of Sylvaria, and an Adherent of the Helping Hand. With their aide, both beast and bitch have eluded the best efforts of those I have sent after them.

What I require of you, dear Morgana,” the witch purred, now reaching out a finger to delicately stroke the straw-formed face, “is to retrieve my Kazari and the thief before the time of the Burning has passed.”

"Hmm," Morgana nodded the head of the straw doll, letting it lean onto Adedre's fingertip further for a moment, "I do believe I know of who you speak…"

Adedre’s eyes widened in surprise (or was it fascination), for a moment, but she quickly managed to subdue, at least, the outward traces of her astonishment. Beside her, though, Tecla swallowed a lump in her throat that was large enough to make a sound when it went down. The girl, despite having been warned to keep her movements to a minimum, felt the need to turn her head in order to avert her eyes far enough from the straw puppet to feel comforted by it.

... The straw doll really did go limp this time, falling backward on the book as the threads withdrew from it into a bundle of threads floating just above, in a vague semblance of a hand. There was the sound of fingers snapping. Several threads tore the straw doll open as if they were razors, slicing it into quarters. Then straw became fabric, and the four piles shifted into four fabric dolls. A shadow doll, a silver cat doll, and two elf dolls. The red headed elf doll was picked up by the red threads, almost invisible against the doll's red hair.

"Ahh, much better. Straw is convenient, but not comfortable," the red headed doll seemed to stretch its far more limber body, the red slash sewn across before its body seeming to pulse as if it might bleed. The doll then gestured to the motionless dolls beside it, "These are my targets?" Morgana asked, "And you are requesting two alive... Unusual, most unusual. Most ask me to bring death, but you ask me to bring life..."

“Only for the kazari and the thief,” Adedre nodded faintly, “and the shadow bitch you can have, as well, once I, and perhaps the retinue of my guard house, have had our way with her. “The cat-beast, though, I wish alive and kept so for my purposes, so long as I have him before the Burning. After that, I’d have to consider the value of keeping him alive for another year versus the power his life might provide…” Adedre clucked her tongue almost dismissively, her yellow eyes, at last flitting only briefly away from the much prettier puppet than had begun the conversation. “…Time passes and ceatures come and go. I have learned to keep myself fresh as the need arises and, should I have to wait another year or more,” her thin shoulders hitched in a shrug, “I’ll not like it, of course, but, if I must…”

Morgana chuckled, twisting the doll's body around as if it were in dance, a far more graceful performance than that of the straw doll, "Then, my price for this will be jewels of particular quality. One for each puppet I bring to bear against these individuals."

“I have no such jewels on hand, sweet Puppeteer,” Adedre confessed, “but, if that is your price, I have the means to get them. Can I assume that my promise is good enough for the time being?”

"Of course," Morgana had the doll stop, tilting it into a curtsy for her host, "That you offer this shadow walker is of particular interest to me. I hope that her will remains unbroken; that would be even lovelier. A broken will makes for a... bitter taste, so to speak. Though given how young she appears, the body is appealing regardless of what else happens to her..." Morgana mused.

"Ah, but I distract myself," Morgana lifted the doll back up, raising its hand, and Morgana leaned in over the table, the silhouette of a slender looking woman, one hand outstretched over the table, her thin fingers meeting the red threads that controlled her doll. It was nearly impossible to determine any details of the apparition, aside the silhouette being clearly that of a woman, and a black mask that reflected the flickering candlelight, nearly featureless save a bright, starry ruby in the forehead and painted red lips. Given how hazy the image was, it was clearly a projection.

Tell me how many gems you will procure, and promise them to me upon my mask, Morgana's red lips moved with her speech; this particular mask was no simple mask.

“I will procure as many gems as you bring me lives,” Adedre almost moaned, watching those red lips dance, “That, Thread Witch, I promise you. The life of the kazari, though,” and, at this the witch’s eyes flitted to the ever unravelling girl at her side, “and of this one,” she sighed, almost contemptuously, “are mine to do with as I see fit.”

Adedre leaned sideways, then, and coaught Tecla’s chin in her taloned hand. She cruelly wrenched the girl’s face toward her and danced her black tongue over the girl’s pink lips before looking back to the red, satin doll that writhed so seductively over her table. “You may have your choice of my men, your specification of jewel, your burning of soul, Morgana, but the kazari and this girl are mine.”

Morgana's lips curled into a wide smile, Then, my dear, we have a deal. And do not worry about time; my puppets are already in the city's streets.

Morgana lifted her hand, drawing the red headed doll back to her before doll and sillhouette faded into shadow, as the illusion she was.

By the way, open the silver doll if you wish. What's inside may be of interest to you.

The seam was not hard to find, but Adedre's talons nearly tore the doll apart in her curiosity. There, safely in the doll, was a vial of still fresh blood.



Posted on 2019-11-06 at 22:28:00.

breebles
#1 Kibibi
Karma: 38/1
1236 Posts


Little Kithran Pt. 3 of 5: The Adventures of Kithran and Tara

28th Day, Sempore, 437 E.R., Coria City, Coria

Kithran can feel the sun as it presses in through the window in Tara’s room. It warms her feet through the blankets first, then her legs, her stomach, and she is able to ignore it all until it finally finds her face. She scrunches her eyes closed tighter and rolls onto her stomach, throwing an arm out to find Tara. Her eyes flip open as she hits nothing and she sits up, looking around the modest room, “Tara?” She had left her? Without so much as a goodbye this time? She was just gone? But she always said goodbye. Was it because Kithran would get really sad when she had to say goodbye and she didn’t want to have to worry about a sad, weeping little girl again? Would she really be waiting for her in Calestra, or would she become restless as she always seemed to do and leave without her then as well? And then when would she see her again? Would she even be in Coria in the upcoming months? Did it even matter to her? “Tara?!”

She hears footsteps racing down the hall before the door swings open and the blonde, crimson-clad woman bursts through, "Yes? Sorry, I had to take care of some things before we left. What is it?" Tara walks over to sit next to her on the bed, "Are you okay, darling?"

The half-Syl narrows her face into a scowl and turns away.

Tara leans on her elbow, tilting her head to try to meet her eyes, "What is it? Come now, tell me.” She pokes the girl’s shoulder, “Did you have a bad dream?"

Kithran shakes her head, refusing to look at her.

The Maiden taps her lip as it curls up to the side, "Hmm, is it because . . . you missed me?"

The girl's mouth thins into a line and Tara chuckles, "Ah, so I am getting closer. Let's see, is it--oh no," she hops onto her knees in front of Kithran and takes her face into her hands, "Darling, did you think I left you?"

The anger melts from Kithran's facade now that she cannot hide from her and she nods, leaning forward to hug Tara and cover how close she is to letting her tears fall. Tara holds her tightly, "I would never leave you without warning like that, you must know that by now," she leans back and presses her forehead to the teary-eyed girl's forehead, "I am not her. I am not like her. I will always come back for my little Kithran, okay?"

Kithran nods again and Tara rests back on one of her arms, smiling sweetly again and patting the relieved little girl's messy little head, "Good, because I've actually done quite the opposite. I went to speak with your father this morning, and he has agreed to let you travel with us to Calestra. It is one of his next destinations after all, and he thinks for some gods forsaken reason that you listen to me better than him. So what do you think? Would you like to come along with me and give life as a Maiden a try?"

Kithran tackles the maiden and she laughs, giving the girl another squeeze, "I'm glad you approve, since I just dragged your belongings the entire way back here. You have so many dresses, child." She sits up and scoots toward the edge of the bed, "Oh, and speaking of ‘your belongings’, your father was quite upset when I pointed out all of the trinkets you had hidden around the stall."

Kithran shoots up and glares at her with her still-puffy eyes, "Why?! Those are mine!"

"I am positive they are not yours, but from one sticky-fingered peach to another," she holds up a hand and wriggles her fingers, "I swiped them all back for you." The odd mixture of frustration, gratitude, and admiration that flits across the young girl's face warms Tara's heart, "Perhaps I will give you some advice on how to refine your craft along the way as well. I am rather incredible at it."

"A little too good sometimes, Tara," Kithran grumbles back.

Tara’s eyebrows pop up questioningly, "Oh, not interested then?"

"I am!"

The blonde maiden grins, "I thought as much. Now, I'm going to change out of this dress and into my leathers, go on and get ready yourself, darling. We'll be leaving within the hour."

And with that, Kithran leaps off the bed, rushing to prepare for her next adventure with Tara.

* * *

Her wrist is caught before her fingers even reach the pocket, and Tara raises it up over her head. Several other Laughing Maidens crowd them and live up to their jovial titles, as they watch their resident thief toy with her ward, “Tsk tsk tsk, unlucky. You’re still giving yourself away, darling,” she drops the arm and leans over on her horse to look the girl in her eyes as they pass over the Indigo River, “You show me what you're aiming for each time with your eyes and your hesitation. Whenever I’ve taken anything from you, I’ve always looked you square in the eyes while I did it. Speaking of which,” she holds a sparkling dragonfly pin up between the two of them, “who did you manage to swipe this from?”

Kithran pat the pocket of her red dress on the far side of her body away from Tara, “How, Tara? How?” She snatches at the dragonfly pin while Tara laughs at her and her blonde mentor allows her to take it back.

“I told you, first be quick in your mind,” she puts her gleeful face in Kithran’s face so close and so quickly this time the half-Syl nearly slides off her horse as she jerks away, “then in your hands,” and Tara holds the pin up once more.

Kithran’s eyes drop to her hands, empty now save for the reins, and she groans, “How. Are. You. Doing this?!

Tara holds the pin back out to her, “When all else fails, you need only be quicker than your opponent, Kithran, whether in your mind, your hands, or in your feet if you are caught.”

The girl grumpily pockets the baker’s stolen pin once more, “I am the fastest among my Corian friends of Fortune.”

“I have no doubt that you are,” she says, unabashedly proud, “but be that as it may, I have many more years of practice than all of you--an entire sixteen on you, in fact. But not to worry,” a wand seemed to appear in her hand from nowhere and she tapped Kithran on the shoulder with it, “we’ll find you a lot of practice among this gro--”

“Tara!” A curly-haired maiden on the other side of her mentor yelled, “Give me back my wand!”

Tara grinned at her ward before turning back to her friend and handing it over, “Apologies Esme, I was just--” Kithran could have sworn she saw Tara’s arm twitch just then, “--trying to make a point. I will stop taking your wand.”

Esme nodded at their thief and rode ahead to avoid any further harassment. Tara turned back to Kithran, now holding out an apple, “Hungry, darling? You were looking peckish and I just so happened to find this on a greedy, but frighteningly powerful sorceress just now.”

Kithran’s smile nearly split her face in two as she laughed at the sticky-fingered maiden and took the apple from her hand.

Tara beamed, watching the girl, grateful to have been able to spend as much time with her as possible before she left for Sendria. Her smile wavered a bit just thinking about it. Kithran was going to be so upset with her when she broke the news, and she was going to be away for such a long time.

As if she could read her thoughts, the half-Syl girl looked up at her with a mouthful of the sorceress’ apple, “Whadd’re you rooking at? Do you wan’ bite?”

The maiden shook her head, “Very generous, but I stole that for you.”

“Mkay,” she chewed a few more times and swallowed hard, “why are you staring at me?”

Tara shrugged, “I just love you and am happy you’re here.”

The girl’s eyes went wide for a moment before settling again, and she gave the maiden a small smile back, “I love you too, Tara,” she mumbled, “thank you for bringing me.”

“My pleasure, darling. Oh,” she holds up the glittering dragonfly pin for the third time, “are you just giving this to me or what?”

Kithran’s mouth dropped open as she reached into her empty pocket, “HOW?!

* * *

“All that traveling, all your life with your father, and this is the first time you’ve slept simply under the stars?” Tara lay several feet from the fire so as to better see the constellations, one arm beneath her head, and the other outstretched for the girl buried in her shoulder.

Kithran shrugged, “It was always cozy and warm in the wagon.”

The maiden chuckled and Kithran looked indignantly up at her, "What are you laughing at?"

Tara silently picked out the stars she knew while she answered, "Is it not a warm and cozy night tonight, Kithran? It is summer. It is always warm and cozy here in the summer. And you do travel in the summer, yes?"

"Well, yeah," she mumbled, "but . . . ."

"But?"

"But . . . ."

"But you wanted to cuddle and your father prefers to sleep inside."

The upset half-Syl pushed herself up away from Tara in order to give her the full force of her glare. "That's not why!" Tara rolled her eyes dramatically, "It's not! I just prefer to sleep insi-"

The maiden poked the inside of the elbow Kithran was leaning on in such a way that it jerked backward and she fell forward.

Tara pulled her back down against her with little protest, "It's okay, my cuddly little Kithran," she teased, "I am a cuddler too."

"That's true." One of the more muscular maidens, Serena, called from a few feet away, "She once tossed my broadsword aside, nearly into the fire, to make room for herself. It was disrespectful."

Kithran looked up questioningly at Tara, who shrugged, "Serena makes me feel safe," she turned to the fierce maiden, "Look at yourself, Ser."

"I didn't say I didn't understand," she grinned, "or that I didn’t allow it to happen. It was just disrespectful."

"She holds me very tightly," Tara teases back. She can feel Kithran laughing quietly and gives her a squeeze, “See? Don’t ever feel shame in the things you enjoy or the things that you want, alright?”

Kithran was about to agree when Esme’s voice resonated from the other side of the thief, “Unless it’s taking other people’s wands and apples, Tara.”

The thieving maiden shouted back at her, “The child was starving, Esme. What did you want me to do?”

The sorceress sat up, looking pointedly at Kithran, “You were not starving, were you?”

The half-Syl girl looked up at her sadly, her eyes bright and mirthful in the moonlight, “Dreadfully, Esme, thank you for sharing with me.”

Many of the other maidens around them chuckled at her response and Esme scoffed, rolling her eyes nearly as hard as Tara had, and laying back down.

Several moments passed in silence, save for the crackling of the campfire they lay around, and the light rustling of grass beneath the feet of those keeping watch.

Kithran’s eyes grew heavy as they stared up at Tara’s face, listening to the soft, rhythmic beating of her heart while the maiden herself stared up into the sky. Lit by the movement of the fire, she watched the contented smile at the corner of the maiden’s mouth, and was happy Tara seemed happy she was there.

1st Day, Olemra, 437 E.R., Elanfalee

Kithran and the Laughing Maidens rode into Elanfalee by midday, and made their way first to Shinara’s temple. The young half-Syl was well acquainted with this city, a beautiful, delicate blend of Sylvari and human life and buildings-roots larger than the homes and neighborhoods they wrapped themselves around, buildings that seemed to emerge from stone and tree. It felt ancient and new all at once, and Kithran was excited to play around in it once again.

She could spot the curious young Lovers as their group traveled through the city. They leapt from tree to building, ran along the vast rooted veins, and disappeared into the brush. Kithran grew more and more excited with each step. They were going to go wild when she told them her story about falling through the roof.

She turned to Tara, still grinning at the thought, when she met the woman’s weary brown eyes, “What?”

Tara sighed and motioned her to the side of their company, then grabbed the reins out of the girl’s hands and Kithran’s face fell.

“Go on then.” Tara nodded to her friends.

“Really?!”

“Do not break anything. And if you do, do not get caught. Understood?”

Kithran grinned and nodded enthusiastically.

“Good, darling. Remember, mind first, then hands. And get to the temple before sundown.”

Kithran was still nodding as she slid off her horse.

In awe, Tara watched as she instantly leapt up the side of a house and disappeared up into the trees beyond, all while only slightly destroying her green dress. The maiden was considerably impressed, and also realized why Randel purchased so many dresses for his reckless daughter.

The day passed too quickly, and not quite wildly enough, but by the time she entered the temple, she was both relieved and surprised that Tara was not there to greet her.

“My word,” their young blonde healer, Serah, gasped as Kithran enter the hall, “Tara warned that you might be in some kind of, of state but . . . what happened to you? You are sopping wet.”

Kithran stopped and water from every inch of her began to pool at her feet. She wiped the soggy hair out of her eyes, “Tara isn’t here?”

Serah motioned her to follow, “No, she will be out for the night, but she usually stumbles back in later in the evening.” Serah shook her head, and Kithran wondered at the disapproving air she let off, but the healer continued, “Now go on, Kithran, tell me what happened.”

Her lips tightened and she looked up at the healer, “Will you promise not to tell Tara?”

“Yes, of course.” Serah found a blanket to wrap around the girl and continued to her room.

“I jumped into a well.”

Serah stopped, “You did what?”

“I jumped into a well.”

The young cleric hesitated, trying to imagine what the girl meant, “You were, leaning too far over and someone accidentally pu--”

“No, I jumped in.”

Serah sighed and continued on their way, “Okay then. Tara did warn me, and I’ve known my fair share of young Lovers. But why?”

Kithran shrugged, “It looked like fun.”

“Was it?”

“It was okay.”

Serah shook her head, but a smile grew on her soft features, “Sounds like Fortune’s Favor did not decide to fall on you tonight.”

Kithran grinned back and shrugged, “Fortune favors who it favors, Serah,” and the maiden laughed with her in reply.

2nd Day, Olemra, 437 E.R., en route to Settlestone

Tara looked terrible as they made their way out of Elanfalee the next morning. Kithran wasn’t sure what time she had come back the night before, but she had woken up to the maiden half-dressed and breathing her awful breath right on her face. Now the woman was nearly falling asleep on her horse.

Tara had pleaded at one point with Serah to call on Shinara for some sort of blessing that would make her feel better, but Serah told her she had warned her and refused. Kithran could not understand the cleric's reaction at all, she felt bad just looking at her. She had even approached her at one point to tell her about the well and maybe coax a smile out of her, but she had only gotten to, “Yesterday I jumped into-” before Tara held up a palm without looking at her and begged her, “Please, I can’t right now, Kithran.”

It wasn’t until midday, after she had drank all of her water, the majority if Kithran's, and kept down a chunk of nut bread Esme begrudgingly parted with, that color began to return to her cheeks, and Kithran was able to tell her about the well.

Tara was not pleased about the well, but she was glad Kithran hadn't broken anything.

Kithran decidedly did not tell her about any of the things she had broken.

* * *

Tara's eyes flitted open and she gently rustled the young girl draped across her chest, pressing a hand over her mouth as she started to protest. She slowly rolled over, so that the fire was at her back, taking the girl with her and keeping her from the flame, “Sorry darling, things are going to be a bit overwhelming for you for just a moment.”

The hand slowly came off her mouth as the half-Syl’s eyes caught movement in the flames, “Look at me Kithran,” she began softly, and waited for the girl’s flighty eyes to meet hers, “they are going to take me away from you. When they do, I want you to go and hide in the bushes right behind you, okay? Once you’re in there, move to a different location so they won’t know where to look for you. Try to be very quiet.”

Terror and understanding washed over Kithran’s face and Tara can feel her breathing quicken. She kissed the girl’s forehead and grinned, “There is no place for fear among Shinara’s flock. And besides, this is the fun part, darling.” The light dimmed behind Tara as a figure approached, “Get ready.”

“Well, look what we ‘ave over ‘ere,” he bent over and Kithran could see just how massive he is, accentuated by the meaty hand he reached out with for Tara, “'ope yer a lively one!” He wrapped his hand around her entire arm and yanked her up to her feet. As he did, Kithran did as she was told and scrambled to her own bare feet, diving into the thick brush that surrounded their campsite.

“Aye," the man called out, "and there’s a live one over there!”

Kithran looked briefly back toward the camp as she moved away from the spot she dove into, just as Tara had instructed her to do. She caught glimpses of the man, twice the maiden’s size, struggling to subdue her. At one point she thought she saw the woman scramble onto his back, repeatedly jabbing her palm into the back of his neck, but Kithran continued through the brush.

There were no other maidens to be seen and her fear rose as the realization. Had they taken them all? What happened to them? Were Kithran and Tara the only two left? Now there were just five other large, dirtied men with weapons searching around the campfire

When she looked back to check onTara again, the lithe woman was just leaping off of the body, now fallen facedown to the ground. She looked like a shadow as she looked around, and then disappeared, running off to melt into the dark surrounding the camp.

Suddenly a burst of fire erupted on the face of one of the men in the clearing and he screamed at the pain. Kithran, like the men, was unable to see where the blast came from, though they all searched fervently.

In the next moment the campsite is drenched in a bright light and all of those within its perimeter shout first in their blindness, then in pain. When her sight returns, Kithran can see several more maidens with various weapons drawn now bathed in firelight and blood, grinning over the fallen raiders.

She was about to pull herself out of the bushes when some rustling behind her caused her to freeze. Two hands grabbed her ankles, pulling her back from the clearing, “I knew I saw a small one tryna to flee.” He straddled her and began clumsily trying to pull her gown up.

“Tara!” Kithran screamed before the man slapped her across the face and went back to fumbling with the front of his pants. She tried to move, tried to break free, kick, punch, anything, but with one meaty hand he pressed her down at her chest and she was unable to move away from it.

She couldn't look away as he loomed over her, his pants nearly down as he repositioned himself, and his hand began to grope at her.

Then a palm appeared at the side of his neck, and Tara’s voice, colder than she’s ever heard it, hit her ears, “Close your eyes, Kithran,” but she didn’t, and she watched as the butt of the thief’s palm jerked forward. A blade slipped out of her sleeve and into the man’s jugular, before retracting again.

The man cried out and Tara’s palm jerked again, and again, and blood began to drip down onto Kithran’s gown. He swung weakly at the maiden but she easily jumped away, then lunged back at him with all of her strength, throwing him onto his back. She pulled Kithran's gown back down and then stepped over her, making her way to the man rolling on his back, and grasping at his neck.  The young girl followed her movements, watching as she knealt above his head, her face twisted so far into a sneer that she seemed hardly recognizable. With one hand on the side of his face to keep him steady while he begged her for his life, she angled her other palm at the front of his neck, and looked back at Kithran, demanding behind her clenched teeth, “I told you to close your eyes.” This time she followed the order because she didn’t want to see anymore, though she did hear the blade release nine more times before Tara moved back to her.

“Alright darling, come along.”

Kithran opened her eyes and it was Tara again, normal Tara, and she clutched at her, pulling herself up with the maiden’s help. She wrapped her arms around Tara while she helped guide her out of the brush.

“Tara, I’m so sorry, I did what you told me to but, but--”

Tara squeezed her around her shoulders as they made their way to where the rest were gathered near the fire, “No need to be sorry, Kithran, none of what happened was your fault in any way. These were bad men. That was a bad man. They are at fault, not you.” She stopped when they were by the others and put both hands on the girl’s shoulders, “If anything, I am sorry that this is what your second night sleeping beneath the stars was like. I promise they are not all this way. You are not hurt are you?”

“A few scratches from the bushes.”

The corner of her lip twitched and she nearly rolled her eyes, “I mean from that man. He didn’t hurt you, did he? I came as fast as I could when I heard you, heard you . . ." her breath seems to quicken briefly, but she shakes it off, "He didn’t hurt you, did he?”

“He slapped me really hard when I screamed, but that’s all.” Tara’s face began to twist in that way again but she shook her head once more and took a deep breath.

“If only I were a necromancer, so that I could raise him and kill him again.” She looked over at their healer, “Serah, please look Kithran over and make sure she’s okay, I have to take a walk.”

Serah turned to their thief, “A walk, Tara? Do you need company?”

She shook her head, “I won’t be too long, just have to clean up before this one mauls me again,” she gives the healer a little smile and pats her ward on her disheveled head, “Don’t talk about me when I’m gone,” and she walks off into the shadows.

Kithran looked to Serah when she couldn’t spy Tara anymore, “What is she doing?”

The young cleric shrugged, “It is difficult to say. She was scared when she couldn't find you after we took care of these lovely bandits. I was with her when you called out and I've never seen the color drain from one's face so quickly." Her eyes wander for a moment at the memory before settling again on Kithran, “Sometimes after things as brutal as this, we need some time to assess what's happened or could have happened. Fear isn’t a credence we of Shinara’s flock give much weight to, you see, so when it does hit us as hard as it can sometimes, it can take some time to, I suppose, get through it.”

She assesses the girl then, ensuring she has no wounds that would warrant the use of any of Shinara’s favor, “Life is made only of chance, and we are either granted Fortune’s Favor or we are not, as you so beautifully put it. All we can do is control our actions and reactions, so why worry? However, her case is a little different in regard to what happened with you back there in the bushes, as she did . . . .” Serah cut herself off, pausing in thought before continuing, “Has Tara told you anything of her past? Before she joined Shinara’s temple and the Laughing Maidens?”

Kithran shook her head.

“Ah, then perhaps when you two have a moment you should ask.”

“Do you think she’ll want to tell me about it?”

“Perhaps," she shrugged "there’s only one way to find out.” She put a hand on Kithran’s shoulder, “However, she loves you a great deal, ‘daaaarling’,” she teases in Tara’s voice, “I am sure you will find little hesitation from her if you ask her for her story.”

“I suppose,” Kithran grumbled, and the healer turned back to the few who had suffered some minor injury.

While the Maidens had nary a scratch on them, their attackers had been utterly demolished. They disposed of the bodies and spent some time moving and adjusting their campsite so as to keep away from the rot. Kithran wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but as her eyes grew heavy staring at the fire, she heard the light footsteps of her mentor approach and lay down behind her.

Tara had only just laid her arm over the half-Syl’s shoulders before Kithran rolled over and tackled her to her back as they had been sleeping before the attack, and she could feel the woman’s laugh as she rested her head once more on her chest. Instead of the leathers Tara was accustomed to sleeping in on the road, the Maiden had changed into her nightgown, which was much more comfortable to sleep on in Kithran’s opinion, and she smelled clean, as though she had just jumped out of the river.

"Thank you, Tara."

"Of course, my darling," Tara wrapped her arms tightly around Kithran once more, and fell asleep listening to her soft, safe breaths.

2nd Day, Olemra, 437 E.R., Settlestone

Settlestone is a cozy town, much like Kithran’s home in Stone’s Hollow. It isn’t vast or grand, like Calestra or Coria City, and it isn’t an exotic playground like Elanfalee. It is quieter, save for their local gathering spaces. A town full of folk working to get by, and drinking to get through the week. It was the perfect place for the cadre of Laughing Maidens to relax after their disruptive night.

As Settlestone could not boast of a temple or gambling hall dedicated to Shinara, the maidens rented whatever rooms they could all cram into at the inn and went about their day stocking up on what they could for the last leg of their trip, ultimately ending up back in the full inn, partaking in the local drink.

Kithran had only been to Settlestone a handful of times. There wasn’t a lot of business for her father in this town, so normally they would only stop off during the colder, wetter months, when the roads were particularly treacherous to traverse.

Regardless, once they had settled into their room, Tara changed into a dark blue dress to match Kithran’s and did both of their hair before strolling about the town. The maiden looked striking, of course, with her perfect blonde hair and lightly tanned skin against the rich blue of her gown, and her bright smile. Kithran walked beside her as her smaller, shadowy counterpart, pointing out areas she had rallied the local children to climb or jump, or do some other unnecessarily risky act, and Tara was torn between disapproving of the Lover-like behavior, and pride that the girl was so good at recruiting others into Shinara’s flock.

They returned to the inn as the sun fell beneath the horizon, and found the place to be incredibly more full and lively than when they had left hours before. Tara wrapped her arm around Kithran’s shoulders to keep her close as she shoved her way through the rowdy crowd and found a table for the two to join.

“What is happening?” Kithran asked the delighted maiden, but it was for naught, as Tara had stood up on her chair to signal one of the serving girls.

She hopped down and leaned over to Kithran as she sat back in her seat, almost giddy to the girl’s eyes, “What would you like, darling?”

“Should we go upstairs?”

“Well we will, later. Or you can now if you’d like, but I do love a celebration.”

“What are they celebrating?”

Tara’s grin widened and she put a hand on Kithran’s shoulder, “Us, the Maidens. Large groups of lovely women shambling into small towns always creates quite a stir.” She glanced their poor server finally pushing her way through to them, “Come now, what would you like?”

“Do you mean for food, oooor . . . ?”

The maiden raised her eyebrows, “Oh, suddenly feeling up for the celebration are we?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never had anything like, mead or wine or anything before.”

Tara straightened her back, “You broke into the Cinderfell warehouse twice and claimed none of that overpriced drivel for yourself?” She shook her head, “I knew I had my work cut out for me, but this? How do you even call yourself a sticky-fingered peach?”

Kithran narrowed her eyes at her and grumbled, “I don’t call myself a st--”

“‘ello, ‘ow are ye? Apologies fer the wait, bit busy here t’night.” She shrugged.

Tara turned her bright smile to the woman, “Not to worry! We’ll both have a bowl of the stew, with a slice of bread and I’ll--” she glanced at the girl, “my daughter and I will both have wine, please.”

“Right,” the server seemed to eye Tara for a moment, but the maiden never wavered, and eventually moved on to begin their order. She return in just a few minutes, setting the cups full of red liquid in front of them before disappearing back into the horde.

Kithran smelled the wine. She had always thought it smelled strange, though not terrible. Just unlike anything she had ever tried before. She began to lift it to her lips, but Tara pulled her arm back down, “A few things before we begin: First, do not tell your father about this. Second, do not drink too quickly,” based on the darkening shade of her mouth, it was clear the maiden had already had her first swig, “And third, it’ll likely make you feel funny. Enjoy it if you can, but if you cannot, let me know.” She held out her mug for Kithran to tap, “To you, my darling,” and she took another large drink.

Their stew came by the time Kithran was halfway done with her drink, and Tara had been right, she did feel funny, but stew had never sounded so good in her life. The two in their matching outfits devoured their food and Tara slammed down her second mug of wine, then went to search for the server to bring her another.

She plopped back down in the chair beside Kithran, her cheeks lightly rosey, but then Kithran’s were feeling a bit warm herself.

At more than one point men would try to sit near them, or would tap on Tara’s shoulder to talk with her, and she may give them a moment, but ultimately she would wave them away and return to whatever it was she and Kithran were finding so silly in that moment.

It did, however, serve to remind Kithran of what Serah had suggested the night before. She took another sip of her wine, of which she may have had only a third left, and turned to the droopy-eyed maiden, whose hair was no longer as perfectly placed as before, “How did you come to this life, Tara? Have you always wanted to be a Laughing Maiden?”

Tara’s smile slipped a little and she set her cup down, regarding Kithran for a moment, deciding how best to answer her ward through the slight haze of the drink. Her grin suddenly returned and she leaned forward, “Kithran, I am . . . very beautiful, am I not?”

Kithran nearly spit out her drink, swallowing hard before laughing back in Tara’s face.

The maiden joined her, “No need to laugh so hard!" She shoved her shoulder, "But since you’re obviously blind, I will let you know that yes, I am very beautiful.” Her smile remained as she waited for the girl to regain her composure before continuing on, “At least, I have always been told I was beautiful, all my life, and unfortunately, some of the worst sort seemed to have believed so as well, in the worst way, when I was far too young to be thought of as such.”

The half-Syl’s grin suddenly faded as she listened and through the fog of her own mind began to realize what her mentor was telling her.

“I grew up in an orphanage in Sendria until I was about six. The orphanage became much too full and the owners ended up selling me and several others to some very bad men who . . . lent me to other bad men. I am sure I do not need to go into the details.” Kithran was glad she did not, as anger and sadness swelled inside her for her mentor, replacing the mirth of just a moment ago.

Tara took another swig of her drink and continued, “Somehow, ten years passed, I was sixteen and at the very end of my rope, so to speak. I saw only two ways out of that life I had lived: either continue on in this way, or try to escape and likely die. Staying was no longer an option, so one night, when I was with a, a client I suppose, I decided I would fight back. And I did. But this man was much larger than me, much stronger, I stood no chance.

Luckily, a group of Lovers of Fortune just so happened to be in the area for who knows what reason that night.” She side-eyed Kithran at the mention of her Lovers and sighed at the pride evident on the girl’s face, “They heard me fighting, screaming, heard me likely about to die. They arrived just in time and disposed of the man beating this sixteen year old, this child, and they whisked me away to a temple of Shinara. My life was changed then forever. I joined the Lovers--” she held up a hand to stop Kithran before she got all haughty about it, “for a little while.They taught me some things, helped me solidify others. For the record, I have been sticky-fingered since my days in the orphanage, which should come as no surprise. It was the charm that came later,” she winks at the red-faced girl, who laughs at her again.

“Oh, I hope I’m not interrupting anything, ladies” another stranger pulls up a chair and sits close to Tara.

She looks this one up and down, and Kithran was not sure what sort of test she was silently putting these men through, but apparently this one passed. He took up the rest of the maiden’s time, but by the time Kithran had finally finished her first cup, she was ready to go.

She tugged at the back of Tara’s dress, and the maiden set down yet another mug of wine, interrupting the man to turn to the girl, who was half-out of her seat, and seemed half-asleep.

“Oh, darling,” Tara muttered, she put a hand on Kithran’s shoulder before leaning over to the man and whispering in his ear. He whispered back into hers before smiling and taking his leave. Tara slowly stood up then and half-lead, half-carried Kithran by her shoulders up the stairs to their room. She let the girl’s hair down and changed her into her nightgown before laying her down, pointing out the cup of water on the floor beneath her, and a bucket if she felt ill.

Waaait,” the girl muttered into her pillow as the maiden made to leave, “I want you to stay.”

Tara’s head spun slightly as she crouched before the drunk girl and she ran her fingers through her thick black hair, “I will be back.”

“When?” Her closed eyes scrunched and Tara hoped she wasn’t spinning.

“Soon.”

Her dark eyes opened slightly, but then closed again quickly before she could glare, “You always say that.”

“I always mean it, darling.” She kissed her forehead and stood up to leave, taking another moment for the room to right itself.

“But you never do.”

I never do . . . soon? Tara smiled, “I shall endeavor to be as quick as possible tonight.” The girl mumbled something incoherent and Tara took her moment to leave.

* * *

“Tara, what is happening?!”

“Wh-wha?” Tara awoke to the sound of retching. She blinked and tried to find her head and stomach, but both seemed to be wildly out of place as she pushed herself up from the wooden floor.

“Why are you on the floo--” Kithran spewed once more into the bucket, and before Tara could tell her that she had no idea why she was on the floor, her head and stomach flipped and she joined Kithran over their bucket.

Several maidens had pounded on the door that they were ready to leave, but it was Serah who finally barged in on the two horrific figures. Both huddled over a disgusting bucket, one in a nightgown, crying because she had no idea what was happening to her body, and the other a nightmare. Tara hadn’t taken her hair out the night before, so swaths of it stuck out at every angle, she still sort of wore her blue dress from the night before, though parts were torn, sullied, and she was half-falling out of it.

Serah shook her head, “How could you do this, Tara? And to your sweet, little ‘darling' as well?” She crouched before Kithran, placing a hand on her shoulder and muttering the words of a simple restoration incantation. The girl suddenly stopped emptying her guts into the bucket, and color instantly returned to her cheeks.

She leaped at Serah and hugged her as one dying of thirst in the desert may embrace a passerby offering water. “Oh gods, thank you Serah, that was the worst thing I have ever felt in my entire life. Is that what wine does to you?” Tara continued heaving in the background, “I will never drink again, never.”

Serah scoffed, “And where have I heard that before?”

Tara weakly waved her away between heaves, “Fix me or let me die, please do not taunt me as well.”

“We have just been through this, Tara.”

Kithran grabbed the kneeling maiden by her collar, “What are you doing? Why won’t you fix her?”

She sighed, “I will this once for you, Kithran, and because we need to leave and you two are sorely delaying us, but I can’t be kept around simply to keep this one from drowning in her own bile.” She pressed her hand to the sickly maiden’s shoulder, muttering the same incantation before Tara once again comes back to herself.

Her eyes are bright as she copies Kithran and leaps onto the other maiden, effectively tackling her to the ground, “You are the greatest cleric there ever was, Serah!”

“Get off of me,” she shoved at both of them, “You may have your minds and bodies back, but you still stink. We have no time for you to bathe now, but the first river we come across, you two are jumping in. Now get moving, we have to go.”

* * *

It is one more day before the tiered, imposing skyline of Calestra begins to rise out of the horizon. Kithran and Tara spend the day reminiscing on their trip, laughing once more at Esme’s apple, reviewing the new thieving skills Tara had drilled her on day after day, and commenting on how short their trip seemed. They spent the night pointing out the stars and constellations they knew. Tara knew them all, but she enjoyed listening to the girl do her best to list them off.

Tara considered telling her of her trip to Sendria after their time in Calestra. Kithran would not be able to accompany her on the trip, and she would be gone for so long--perhaps up to a year this time. She decided to wait and instead spoke of all the wine she was going to drink once she got to Calestra, prompting Kithran to accuse her of being more reckless than the Lovers for that reason alone. Kithran only sometimes threw up while off on an adventure with the Lovers. Tara was messed up every time she went out drinking.

That reasoning caused the maiden to laugh so hard and so suddenly that Serena yelled at her to shut up from across the campsite. This caused Kithran to join in the laughter until the group started throwing things at them to get them to stop.

Their stomachs still rumbled with a little laughter, but the two fell into silence, Tara staring up at the sky, Kithran resting her head on the maiden’s stomach, looking up at the contented smile on the other’s face until both fell asleep.

* * *

Excitement and melancholy both rush through the half-Syl girl as they approach The Gate of Marches. Kithran loved Calestra, it was truly her favorite city. Not only could she find anything she wanted at more, but the largest sect of Lovers of Fortune in all of Antaron resided here, and there was always so much to do with them.

At the same time, it also meant their journey was over. Her father would return in a few days, so she still had some time with Tara before she’d go--

“Ah, I better hide the wine stoppers.” The familiar voice shook her out of her musings and she turned to the red-haired Sylvari boy who seemed to have materialized beside her. He bent forward to look past her, “Hi Tara.”

The maiden leaned forward and waved, “Hello Castien.”

He leaned back into place and cast his gaze on the half-Syl, a band in similar Cinderfell vestiges following behind them, “Welcome back to Calestra, Kithran, I hope you don’t feel the urge to take anymore wine while you’re here.” He grinned at her.

She grinned back, “Thank you Castien, I hope I don’t either.”



Posted on 2019-11-07 at 11:18:14.
Edited on 2019-11-10 at 23:36:40 by breebles

Reralae
Dreamer of Bladesong
Karma: 135/12
2331 Posts


Shadowed Pages

The Witch of Threads

A presence easy to miss, as the masterful puppeteer whose hands remain unseen while she draws the eyes of onlookers to the dance of her puppets. Detached from the world as a puppeteer is detached from their stage, Morgana ever remains hidden, never seen, but always looking for those who might request her services.

Her unseen threads extend over her domain, a domain that knows and cares of no borders. She does not contest anyone's claims, merely extending her threads into a subtle web that hides her hands and expands her reach, those fingers playing with the threads of her puppets.

The dolls of the witch come in many shapes, sizes, and designs. Morgana prefers the humanoid shape, whether that of the tiny straw doll purchased for a child, or the larger mannequins of even Sylvari shape that wear her masks - black as pitch, with no features defined aside a single jewel embedded in the forehead and red painted lips. She hides behind her masks as well as she hides her hands.

Those who would speak to Morgana would best take a child's doll, straw or felt, and tie upon its neck a ribbon bathed in blood. With doll ready and prepared, all that is needed is for the threads to reach it. Invite Morgana to do so by calling her.

Puppeteer, extend your hand; I offer this doll, now, to speak with you. O' witch of thread, send one of your threads to me, that we may make a deal.

But be warned, to invite Morgana is to call on a performer who will not suffer an invitation without reason, the best reason being to request of her a service, with payment ready or to be promised.

A life for a life

Offer to Morgana the thread of life of an unbroken soul, to send her after another life's thread to be severed. This is the price for this performance: one life given for one life taken.

A jewel for a jewel

Offer to Morgana a gem of great quality, and in return she will make one mannequin perform one task, adorned with the self same jewel that was provided upon its mask.

To deny Morgana payment is to offer one's own thread as a substition.



Posted on 2019-11-08 at 01:47:41.

Reralae
Dreamer of Bladesong
Karma: 135/12
2331 Posts


Revising the plan...

“Even Saina got through our defenses, Aranwen, we need to try harder.”

"That's... been bothering me a bit," Aranwen admitted, and not just because of her name, she thought, before she added, "I did feel as though I were being watched or followed on the way here, but I don't remember seeing her. Of course, I was not looking for a curious child, only for thugs like these unfortunate individuals."

“Yes," Kithran offered, "if there are more of these louts out there and they think you are me, they may try to attack you. What happens if you are ambushed? Not that I don’t have faith in your abilities of course, but say they ambush you with a lot of louts, or one of Adedre’s horrid monstrosities? Why don’t we all go out the back here?”

She sighed at the look of confidence on the woman’s face and knew she often bore the same look in the face of worse plans that were questionable at best, “Or fine, it was just a concern but if you are set in this plan, where do you propose we meet up? I know the city alright so I can lead these fine gentlemen anywhere you’re familiar with. I'd prefer we don't meet at the wine cellar to avoid compromising them. And anyway, they already think I am a good, kind, valiant person. I'd hate to know what they'd think of me if I brought home a cleric."

Aranwen chuckled, returning a smile at Kithran's rapid questions, "Those are fair questions to raise, Kithran. My thought was that, should I be ambushed, then I'd wager that I was successful in drawing their attention. Better for one to be caught than for all to be caught, in this case. Especially one that they are not actually after - I doubt they'd linger overlong when they realized they went after someone they weren't being paid for," She explained her reasoning.

"As to where to meet up..." Aranwen fell quiet a moment as she considered it, "Yes, I agree the cellar is far from ideal. Even if it is still safe, I'd rather we not reveal it so as to possibly have some place to return to after being done. Given her objective, and her haste to have it done, we can't afford to linger longer than we must - we need to return to Adedre's estate and put an end to this. We'll need a way in..." she frowned, "I doubt I could make the same bluff twice, and the entrance you entered through may have likewise been discovered. So we need another method, something new..."

Aranwen shook her head, "But that is something to consider when we are not here. Let's meet up near Adedre's estate. I think I remember a small garden a few streets away from it. It may take longer for me to arrive there than you, depending on what happens."

Aranwen pulled her hood up, before passing her coinpouch to Mosic, "For the apothecary, and should I be ambushed I'd rather not have my coins added to their paycheck."

"Everyone ready?" Aranwen asked



Posted on 2019-11-08 at 02:20:20.

Reralae
Dreamer of Bladesong
Karma: 135/12
2331 Posts


Side by side

338 E.R, Megilindar Nost

Aranwen laughed as she tumbled over, in spite of the aches in her body that made laughing hurt. Landing on the grassy forest floor, she looked up at the tree canopy above. The sunlight shone beyond the leaves, painting stars upon the few leaves that allowed the sunlight through. A shadow loomed over her, their long, red hair giving them a warm glow about them in the sunlight.

"Are you okay?" Saeriel asked, concern writ on her face as she offered a hand to Aranwen.

Instead of taking the hand to get back to her feet, when Aranwen grasped Saeriel's hand she pulled quite suddenly. Saeriel's violet eyes widened in surprise but she couldn't keep her footing, and she fell into Aranwen's arms.

"Must you do that every time?" Saeriel asked, her lips pursed in a pout as she shifted over to lay beside Aranwen.

Aranwen shrugged her shoulders, her golden eyes with a mischievous glint, "You always look so stiff and proper; you really should try to relax more often," She suggested.

Saeriel smirked, "And you should try to yield before you get so hurt," she replied, lightly poking Aranwen in the side and watching Aranwen wince, "This is form practise, not endurance training," Saeriel pointed out.

"It's all the same," Aranwen replied with a sigh, "The others seem to get into it so easily. They can last longer, strike quicker, more accurately..."

Saeriel shrugged, taking Aranwen's hand in her own, "It's not a competition. You've nothing to worry about."

"Another of your visions?"

Saeriel shook her head, looking over at Aranwen and giving a warm smile, "I don't need a vision to know that. If you were going to give up, you'd have done so already. It's been a couple of decades since you arrived here, right? Do you remember?"

"Don't remind me," Aranwen covered her eyes with her arm, "That was so embarrassing, I think it took me several months to get used to the layout of the fort. To learn which practise area was which, and so on."

Saeriel gave a giggle, her voilet eyes distant in remembering, "Well, think of it this way. If you weren't such a klutz, you wouldn't have knocked me over in the library, and then we wouldn't have met."

"I'm sure we would have," Aranwen pointed out, "The Blademaster pairs us as partners for training most often."

"Okay, but it wouldn't have been as... cute," Saeriel giggled again.

Aranwen uncovered her face, her cheeks flushed red as she looked over at Saeriel, "You didn't think it was cute - as I remember you were very annoyed that you lost your page!"

"At the time," Saeriel admitted, before she gave a warm smile, "But, in hindsight, was it really such a bad way to meet?"

Aranwen leaned back, and returned a shy smile, "It was just us in the library that day. And I was curious about you, having seen you there several times, always lost in some book," She looked back at Saeriel, her head tilted towards one side, "Why do you bring it up?" She asked.

Saeriel's smile seemed to get warmer, and her violet eyes refocused on the Sylvari beside her, "Look at where you came from, to where you are now. Can you imagine your past self being proud of you for what you have been able to learn and do?"

Aranwen blinked a few times, letting her mind wander as she thought about the question. For a while the two bladesingers in training just lay there, listening to the sounds of others' practise and the gentle wildlife nearby. Finally, Aranwen nodded, "Yes, I think so," her voice relieved as she thought more about it.

"It's the same for me," Saeriel added, her voice gentle and soothing, "I'm slow to learn, but I wanted to be a bladesinger rather than a seer, and I'm getting there, bit by bit. Myself before I arrived here wouldn't have been able to imagine herself able to wield a blade at all. I might not be that good yet, but that's okay. If there's something we have, it's time."

Aranwen smiled, "No rush..."



Posted on 2019-11-09 at 16:21:42.

Eol Fefalas
Keeper of the Kazari
RDI Staff
Karma: 456/28
8098 Posts


Exit - Stage Left

“Might be one guy at the base of the stairs,” Aranwen’s voice called, “Another fell on him though, so he might be knocked out or playing dead.”

Ch’dau chuffed and stalked to the foot of the staircase. He eyed the two bodies there for a moment before crouching down and stabbing each through the base of their skulls. “He no longer plays,” the kazari snorted, rising to his feet and flicking the blood from his blade before returning it to its scabbard. He turned, his gaze falling on Kithran where she was occupied with pilfering from the dead. He offered a fiant shake of his shaggy head in response to the blatant thievery of it but, at the same time, couldn’t deny the practicality. With that thought in mind, the kazari moved to the larger human’s corpse and, for a moment, studied the bracers lashed about the man’s forearms. Following that brief reflection, the cat-man shrugged and, then, stooped, to undo those bracers from the monkey’s arms and, with an adjustment or two, lash them about his own. When he rose, again, Aranwen was descending the stairs and, once she reached the bottom, tossed a pair of shortswords, complete with baldrics, in his direction.

 "I recall you mentioned wielding two blades?" The Syl woman smiled as he caught the offerings and nodded his appreciation.

Ch’dau set about situating the newly acquired weapons beneath his borrowed cloak, one baldric over either shoulder so that the thick leather of the belts criss-crossed his chest. Once he had adjusted the placement of the scabbards and snugged them securely in place, he drew the dagger Kithran had loaned him and offered it back to her. “If you are in need of a second blade, kibibi,” he rumbled, “you may have this one back.”

“That old thing,” the thief grinned, shaking her head, “No, thank you. That’s yours.” 

Concealed beneath cloak and cowl, the twitching of ears and flicking of tail went unseen but the kazari “smile” was expressed nonetheless. “Thank you,” the cat-man nodded, securing the dagger to a convenient spot on the baldrics, “I am honored.”

A few words were exchanged between Kith and Aranwen, then, and the darker woman bounded up the stairs in search of a dagger (and likely whatever else of use she might find on any bodies that were left there). While she was gone, Ch’dau took the opportunity to add to his own kit, taking a pair of bracers from the larger monkey and adjusting them so that they fit decently about his own forearms and, also, pilfering the man’s belt as there were a few pouches that hung from the thing in which were found things like a whetstone, a few coins, and various other items that would likely come in handy.

As Kithran returned from upstairs, both Ch’dau and Aranwen’s gaze turned to her. "So much for not being followed, huh?" the bladesinger chuckled softly, "Well, we'd better move. No need to get bogged down explaining ourselves to the town guard and be sitting targets for another wave of mercenaries.

Now then... if they were told you were wearing a black cloak, Kithran, I'll go first out the front door. Decoy. See if I can't draw the attention of onlookers and lead any pursuers away if they expect I'm you and therefore that Ch'dau will be following, relying on you to scout ahead," She looked passed Kithran, to the kitchen beyond, "There's probably a side entrance for receiving food from the market there in the kitchen. The rest of you go that way. Get some medical supplies from that apothecary.

Any questions or things to consider?"

“Yes,” Kith replied as Ch’dau was still fiddling with the fit and function of his newly acquired gear, “if there are more of these louts out there and they think you are me, they may try to attack you. What happens if you are ambushed? Not that I don’t have faith in your abilities of course, but say they ambush you with a lot of louts, or one of Adedre’s horrid monstrosities? Why don’t we all go out the back here?”

The thief sighed at the look of confidence on the bladesinger’s face and knew she often bore the same look in the face of worse plans that were questionable at best, “Or fine, it was just a concern but if you are set in this plan, where do you propose we meet up? I know the city alright so I can lead these fine gentlemen anywhere you’re familiar with. I'd prefer we don't meet at the wine cellar to avoid compromising them. And anyway, they already think I am a good, kind, valiant person. I'd hate to know what they'd think of me if I brought home a cleric."

 "Those are fair questions to raise, Kithran. My thought was that, should I be ambushed, then I'd wager that I was successful in drawing their attention. Better for one to be caught than for all to be caught, in this case,” Aranwen explained calmly, “Especially one that they are not actually after - I doubt they'd linger overlong when they realized they went after someone they weren't being paid for.

 "As to where to meet up..." Aranwen fell quiet a moment as she considered it, "Yes, I agree the cellar is far from ideal. Even if it is still safe, I'd rather we not reveal it so as to possibly have some place to return to after being done. Given her objective, and her haste to have it done, we can't afford to linger longer than we must - we need to return to Adedre's estate and put an end to this. We'll need a way in..." she frowned, "I doubt I could make the same bluff twice, and the entrance you entered through may have likewise been discovered. So we need another method, something new..."

Aranwen shook her head, "But that is something to consider when we are not here. Let's meet up near Adedre's estate. I think I remember a small garden a few streets away from it. It may take longer for me to arrive there than you, depending on what happens."

Aranwen pulled her hood up, before passing her coinpouch to Mosic, "For the apothecary, and should I be ambushed I'd rather not have my coins added to their paycheck."

"Everyone ready?" Aranwen asked.

“As you say, khatun,” the Silver Cat chuffed, bowing his head slightly. The Sylvari woman certainly did have a knack for command, it seemed, so he thought the term appropriate.



Posted on 2019-11-11 at 11:24:05.

Reralae
Dreamer of Bladesong
Karma: 135/12
2331 Posts


Exit - Stage Right | Apothecary

Aranwen's golden eyes looked to Ch'dau with a hint of confusion within them, her head tilted slightly towards one side. She wasn't sure the title she was being addressed by, but she could tell it was something significant, by the way Ch'dau's voice seemed to echo the hint of something important about the word native to him. I'll have to ask about that later, she observed. It was strange to be addressed by a title, all things considered; she had never had one before.

I only hope I am worthy of what you call me, she thought. Making her way to the front door, Aranwen could see the crowd still gathered outside, of those who hadn't seen what had happened, those who had and were just hoping to go back to their meal, or those who just were curious.

"Out of my way!" Aranwen lifted her voice a bit as she shouted, just to try to sell the deception even a bit better as rushed headlong into the crowd, holding the cloak's hood close to obscure her features.

Though the crowd didn't part before her, she didn't wait, pushing people apart left and right as she went through the crowd. She felt a hand grab the cloak at some point, but she kicked back to push them away, and disappeared into the side streets of Dravnor.

* * *

For a mercy, no group of bystanders had clamoured about the kitchen entrance, and though rightfully wary, no danger appeared to pursue the others as they approached the Lovely Lavender apothecary.

Entering the shop filled the nose with a myriad of pleasant, earthy aromas. Behind the counter sat a human woman, idly counting out dried herbs on a sheet of parchment, her face, obscured by a white veil. Rows of organized shelves sit behind the shopowner, all of them with different plants and powders. Displayed openly around the store are many potted plants and a shelf with incense, and another shelf with tea. The woman immediately perked up on seeing customers, lifting her hands together and clapping them happily.

"Please, come in," The woman greeted Mosic and Kithran, her voice warm and welcoming, and perhaps even a touch relieved. Mayhap it was a slow day for her thus far, "What might I be able to help you with today?" She asked.

"Good morn," Mosic replied with a smile, "I am looking for spare bandages and perhaps some balms or ointment to help soothe sutured skin. Anything also that you might recommend for treating open wounds or cuts."

"I see," the woman nodded to Mosic, "I do hope you remember to look after yourself as well. I've known one or two devotees to Falloes who look after others even to their own expense..." she then turned, seeming to look more directly at Kithran, "Oh! Might I interest you, my lady, with perfume? I know a variety of recipes. I can provide a sample if you would like," She offered keenly.

Kithran sighs inwardly and turns away from sniffing at the incense to face the woman. She points to the Cidal before her, then to her throat, and makes a series of gestures indicating that unfortunately she was unable to speak, but that the priest she was with could take care of their business. Without another glance she bends back over to investigate the interesting smells, waiting for Mosic to take the apothecarian's eyes away from her.

"Oh dear," the shopkeeper lifted a hand to her lips, "My lady, are you unwell? Please, tell me of her symptoms. If there's something I can do to help..."

"She, err," Mosic looked back at Kithran with a slight confused look on his face, and receiving a return glance from Kithran he looked back at the shopkeeper, "It's that she can't speak. From since she was a child."

"That's terrible," the shopkeeper leaned back, "You're sure there's nothing that can be done?"

Mosic shook his head, and the shopkeeper seemed briefly at a loss of how to proceed, clearly wanting to sell something to Kithran, but taking advantage of an ailing woman seemed to give her pause. Only for a moment however, since she looked back to Mosic, "Does she have any pain? Do you need any throat medicine? May I take a look at her throat?"

"No-no pain," Mosic held up his hands in an attempt to slow the woman's ceaseless questions, "And I've spare in my satchel. Please, the supplies, if you would."

The woman seemed to sigh inwardly, before nodding, "Yes, of course," She began to examine the shelves behind her, "Let's see, so you'll be wanting things to help stem blood flow, something for pain..." She pulled out a compact bundle of bandages from one shelf, placing it on the counter.

"I do believe I see a sparkle of fine jewelry under that veil you wear," Mosic observed, "Why do you wear something to obscure it?"

The woman gave a chuckle, "You wouldn't believe the number of patrons that come by asking for poison. I'd rather such individuals didn't know my face when I lock up and depart in the evening," she replied before returning to the shelves behind her, examining the labels she had put on the shelves.

While the woman was searching through her collection of wares... on the street a tall, Sylvari looking figure garbed in a brown cloak that hid their features approached, and walked directly towards the door. Their head was slightly bowed, as though to conceal their face, but they moved with certainty of purpose. If one were to examine them closely, however, there was definitely something off about the way they moved. They had no scent save the strong perfume they wore, which served to mask the wooden smell underneath...



Posted on 2019-11-11 at 12:11:45.

   


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