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[ARC 1] Tales from the East

PostPosted: Wed Feb 28, 2018 2:19 am
by Chef
SOMEWHERE IN NARIIN, CASTINIS . . .

Sajaa stood at the windowsill of the small shack they called a home and watched the people of Nariin advance slowly in the line. It extended down the entire street, effectively clogging traffic. The file contained the young and the old, the weak and the strong, the poor and the rich. They were all scared, some quivering in their spots. The only thing they all had in common was fear. Sajaa did not know much of this new disease, but she knew she didn’t have it. She felt fine. She ran every day, helped her brother with his tasks, ate the right food, drank lots of water. Illness was not a possibility.

“Leave them be, sister,” came a voice from behind her. Sajaa did not heed it. She looked on, watching as the white robed man beckoned for the next person to come and disappear into his tent. Sometimes they didn’t come out. A young boy, likely her age, was guided by the man in white into the safety of his clinic.

“You should be in line with them,” the voice came again, closer this time. It was Zufar, her brother. Being ten years older, he towered over her. She met his friendly smile with a stubborn frown.

“I’m fine,” she said, crossing her arms, leaning into the wall. “I’m not sick.”

“Are you a doctor?” Zufar asked, hands on his hips. “Do you know medicine?”

“No.”

“They you don’t know. They know. They are doctors, they are smart. I went in the other day. Friendly folk.”

“I’m not sick.”

Zufar looked at her hard for a moment and then let out a sigh. He ruffled her hair as he passed by and exited the shack. Sajaa followed him out, hoping to get the chance to hit him in the back of the head before he took off. Outside, the line had stagnated. The boy’s entry from before had halted all progress. Some were raising their voices. Workers at the clinic, some from Nariin, diffused the situation as best as they could, offering reassurance. Not seeing her brother in the street, Sajaa went to the backyard. Zufar stood in the open stable strapping a saddle to Sufya. The creature’s eyes followed Sajaa as she moved forward and it let out a friendly grunt.

“Where are you going?” Sajaa asked Zufar as she unstrapped the other side of the saddle, causing it to fall into his arms. “What are you doing?”

“Sajaa, please,” Zufar threw the saddle over once more, shaking his head. “Why do you treat me this way?”

“Where?”

“I told you the doctors were nice, Sajaa,” Zufar said, tightening Sufya’s straps on each side. “They offered me a job. Can you believe it?”

“What kind of job?” Sajaa asked, impatient. “Are you going to kill for them, too?”

“Sajaa,” Zufar walked over to her and squatted down to her level. “Never that. Never again. Okay?”

“Then what do they want you to do?”

“Delivery!” Zufar smiled. “Honest work. They gave me a message to send to their other clinic, in Flamelle. When I get there, I’ll get another message to deliver. It’s steady work, good pay. I’ll send you everything I don’t spend on food.”

“Flamelle?”

“People are suffering all over, Sajaa. That’s what the doctor told me. I’ll be helping people for once. Doesn’t that make you happy?”

Sajaa did not respond, but tears began to well in her eyes. Zufar embraced her quickly, not wanting to see his sister cry. After a long moment, he released her and put the rest of his supplies in Sufya’s pack. The beast leaned forward and licked Sajaa’s neck, but it did not make her smile.

“Your sister will take care of you, okay?” Zufar said to her as he mounted Sufya. “I told her to make you a big meal after she is done working.”

Zufar looked at her for a long while before riding off. He never said goodbye to her, couldn’t bear to. When Sajaa was a child he promised her that he’d always come back, no matter what. It didn’t matter what kind of job he was on, what part of the world he had to go to, he’d always come back.

Sajaa took her seat back at the windowsill, watching her brother’s figure grow smaller and smaller in the distance. When she could see him no more, her eyes shifted back at the clinic. The line was now advancing once more. When this occurred, someone would always come out of the tent, all smiles, happy that they had successfully avoided the horrible disease. The young boy did not emerge.

Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the East

PostPosted: Wed Feb 28, 2018 8:39 pm
by Kamikaze_X
AYA SASAKI
VILLAGE OF IZU | KYOKAI

Aya woke up early with a yawn and a stretch, much like every morning of her relatively short eighteen years of life. Crawling out from the warm covers of her futon, she stood by her window, opening the wood shutters with a slight creak to peer outside. The village was already waking up, though the sun had only just risen from its slumber. Squinting against the twilight, she could see the shapes of figures, stooped over as they slowly moved in neat lines through the shallow water of the rice paddies.

Izu village was the place she had been born and raised in, and had thus spent every day of her life there. She ate the local crops, spoke to the local people, and smelt all the local smells—of which there were many to be sure. Nature surrounded the small village, giving it such character. As a child, she always looked with wonder at everything within her little bubble of a world—the gnarled limbs of cypress and cherry trees, the pink blossoms that fell every year; such a short time after they’ve only just bloomed. The curved, thatched straw rooflines, and tall spruce trees covered in feet of snow; the warm glow of candlelight and lanterns hanging by doorways during the winter. The snow-capped peaks of the small mountain range to their north, and the glimmering fresh water of the rivers and brooks.

Yes. Izu Village was the only world that Sasaki Aya knew. And until recently, she had been convinced that would be the case her whole life.

But there was a new smell in the air—not the musk of cattle that usually roamed the dirt streets, nor the smell of freshly caught fish by the docks.

No. This was the smell of adventure. The beginning of something new.

And so, as Aya watched the first of autumn’s leaves fall from the trees, its once vibrant reds and oranges and yellows now dulled as if in preparation for a long winter, she knew that her time had come to finally strike out on her own.

She wouldn’t be the first to do it. In Izu, it was almost a custom that folk leave the village at eighteen to discover a bit more of the world, and of themselves in the process. She’d heard stories as a child of some never returning to the village; news of them finding love, or a new path in life in one of the big cities. Most often, they returned though, and just stayed in the village. Some only went so far as one of the towns to the north or south of their island of Hekkaido.

Aya had never even seen a big city. Not once!

Izu was great and all, but as far as she was concerned, the world was her oyster. And she was in the mood for seafood.

As an only child, she only had her parents to confide in; and nevertheless, Aya had a feeling they had been preparing for this moment their whole lives. She had always been a rambunctious child. She liked to climb trees, and fish with her father. She enjoyed skipping rocks along the Sendai River that flowed through their village. Aya couldn’t count how many hours she spent throughout her childhood, laying in the fields nearby and watching the stars pass overhead—daydreaming of all the adventures she would surely have one day.

The nearest thing to a city was the town of Sendai to the north, in whose province Izu was located. Though there were certainly more people there, and much more commotion than in a sleepy little village like Izu, it couldn’t be compared to the places she had heard about. Yukijima to the south was little better, though with its ports and ships coming in with trade from the mainland, stories of wild and wondrous things once and a while came to Hekkaido.

Places with tall buildings, and palaces, and great towering walls. Places with thousands, perhaps millions of people walking around, busy with their interesting, everyday lives. Places that don’t smell like fish all the time!

Aya sighed as she daydreamed, until she felt her chin slipping from the palm of her hand on which it was resting. She glanced back into her room—a patchy rucksack was already sitting half-packed in the corner of her room. Heading for a small wooden trunk, she packed what remaining clothes she had to her name, and carefully packed them, along with an unmarked journal, an inkwell, and her set of brushes. 

Sliding the door open from her room, she quietly stepped into the nearby pantry and grabbed a few small things to pack as well—a couple of onions, a potato, a small sack of rice, and a strand of burdock root. A creak behind her prompted her to jump.

“Congratulations.” A stern voice stated behind her. “You’ve turned eighteen today, haven’t you?”

Aya turned to spot her mother, standing behind her with arms folded. She had obviously been in the fields digging for vegetables as her clothes already looked dirty. Despite the flatness in her voice, her eyes betrayed her feelings of apprehension and worry. “You need a pot you know.”

“A wha—“

“A pot. For the rice.” Her mother sighed, shaking her head. “How do you expect to cook any rice without a pot?”

Aya said nothing for she could feel something closing in on her throat; choked by her own emotions.

“Were you at least going to bid us farewell? You’re still in your night robes.”

“Of course! I just wanted to finish packing.” Aya managed after a moment. “I… think I have everything I’ll need.”

Her mother said nothing. The silence was overbearing. Oppressive. Aya felt her throat start to tighten again, and her eyes start to water.

 “Leave the bag there. I may have some things you could use.” Aya’s mother finally said. “Go wash up and get dressed.”

Aya left, doing as she was told. She shivered as she dumped a wood bucket filled with cold water over her bear skin after stripping from her night robes. She scrubbed and rinsed as quickly as she could, dumping a final bucket over her head as she grit her teeth against the chill. Aya watched as the soap suds vanished under a iron grate in the floor. She always hated the late fall, as their water would always be cold unless they took the time to heat it.

Wrapping an old towel around herself to dry off, she wondered how often she would be able to take a bath or clean herself on the road. It hadn’t occurred to her at all, but something as basic as hygiene could be easily taken for granted. Suddenly she was grateful for that cold bath.

Brushing out her hair, she padded back to her room to change into a cleaner pair of robes, finishing off her morning’s ritual after securing a cloth sash about her waste. Heading toward the common area, something was already bubbling in a cast iron pot over the cooking fire. Her mother knelt by the pot, stirring methodically and humming a tune she often sung to Aya as a child to calm her down.

“Your father will be home for breakfast at any moment. You’ll stay to eat at least, won’t you?”

“Usually you go without breakfast…” Aya spotted her bag, sitting nearby the door. A freshly carved walking stick leaned against the threshold nearby. The bag looked more plump than it did earlier.

“I only took what I needed. Nothing more.” Aya said, looking to her mother. “But you added so much more.”

Aya’s mother offered a coy smile. “It’s fine. You need to eat well, you know. The world is a big place, and I won’t let my only daughter walk out of my home without enough to get by on.”

Aya couldn’t hold back the tears, wiping them away with the back of her hand. “You… you don’t have much, mama…”

Sinking to the floor, she sobbed quietly. Her mother’s arms fell around her, wrapping her into an embrace she knew she would miss greatly in the days to come.

“It’s fine. It’s fine.” Her mother told her as her hand rubbed her back consolingly. “We have enough, and the harvest isn’t finished yet, this year.”

Aya nodded her head, still sobbing, even as she heard the footsteps approach their front door, and her father enter into the house.

“Never thought I’d see the day our Aya would be whimpering like a pup on the floor.” He said, hanging his patched straw hat on a hook by the door. He passed by the two of them and sat by the fire, scooping out some of the contents from the boiling pot into each of the stoneware bowls in turn. “Sit now. Come and eat.”

Aya sniffed, her eyes stinging from the tears, and again did as she was told. The three sat by the fire, gave their thanks to the gods for a bountiful harvest and for the food they were about to eat, then dug in. Her mother had prepared a warm rice porridge with slices of onion, bamboo shoots, and mushrooms.

“We should have enough grain for the winter.” Her father suddenly commented, still looking at the flickering flames dancing beneath the pot. “The harvest has been good this year. Thank the gods.”

“I… see.” Aya managed. Though her stomach was in knots, she forced herself to eat every drop from her bowl. The porridge was delicious; it always was when her mother made it.

She’d miss her cooking. She’d miss her mother’s warmth, and her smile.

She’d miss her father’s jokes, and the way he always seemed to cheer her on, in his own way. She would miss fishing with him, and hunting in the forests with him. 

When they all finished with their meal, they again thanked the gods above and cleaned their bowls in a vessel of soapy water. Wordlessly, the three of them walked to the front door, her father grabbing her bag and walking stick for her. Standing in front of the only home she had ever known, she looked around at the world in front of her.

“I guess this is where we part ways.” Aya heard herself say. 

Her mother looked longingly to her for a moment before giving her a final embrace and a kiss to the cheek. Her father handed Aya her rucksack and stick before embracing her as well.

“Take these, Aya. They should help on your travels, I think.” He finally said. From inside his robes, he withdrew a short dagger in a worn, curved sheath. Heading back into the house, he came out with a bundle of cloth, which turned out to be an old cloak with hood, as well as his recurve bow and a quiver of arrows.

“I-I can’t take these… father, please. You need these, don’t you? You hunt with this bow.” Aya pleaded. She couldn’t bare the thought of taking more than she should from her family. 

“I can make a new one in no time at all. It’s fine.” Her father replied, waving a hand dismissively. “You need it now, more than I do. Take it.”

There was a long period of silence before Aya took a deep breath and closed her eyes. 

“I’ll be back. I don’t know where I’ll end up, but I’ll return and tell you of the world. I’ll see what’s beyond this island.” Her voice shuttered, but it ended with a resoluteness she hand’t felt only moments before. Perhaps her mother and father gave her the courage she finally needed to say goodbye them.

She turned about after stuffing her cloak into her bag, and slung the bow and quiver across her back, and ran to their arms, giving them both a final, lasting embrace.

“Return safely, Aya.” Her mother said, holding her face in her hands and looking her deeply in the eyes. “Come home to us, so you can tell us what the world out there is like.”

“I will!”

Aya turned in step, and willed herself to ignore the heartache and pain that welled up inside. She knew it would eventually disappear after a while, at least somewhat. Heading down the main street in her village, she knew everyone knew what was happening. The waves she received were unlike the typical greetings and farewells given by the folk of Izu Village; they were different.

Gods speed. May the Gods watch over you. Good luck. Return to Izu safely. 

She willed herself to continue ever forward and away from her childhood. From the safety of the bubble she had lived in for eighteen years, and everything she knew. Aya recalled that she had once read in school a famous Kyokan proverb: 

‘The greatest of journeys begin with a single step.’ 

She breathed. And took a step.

Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the East

PostPosted: Sun Mar 04, 2018 8:19 pm
by Chef
KAZ AND MAYU
Kumano | Kyokai


The beast cocked its head to the side, motion from the nearby brush grabbing its attention. The woods seemed to quiet at its movement, as if to anticipate whatever was about to occur. It had already made the decision to bolt, it just didn’t know if it was the moment yet. Something was threatening its vicinity, a nearby predator. The beast was still as a statue, its entire body tensing up like a slingshot. Seconds pass, and a missile flew through the sky. It passed between its massive rack of horns, crashing harmlessly into the foliage.

The deer ran away.

“Shit,” Mayu muttered under her breath, lowering her successive arrow in disappointment. She stood up from her prone position, brushing off the dead leaves from her tunic. It was an easy shot, a fact that was already bothering her. Nerves had gotten the best of her once more. Or I’m just getting worse at this, she thought miserably. I have to remember they aren’t targets. They move, after all. Stupid, stupid woman.

Still muttering to herself, Mayu stepped forward in search of her lost arrow. She knew the trajectory, fortunately, but the forest floor was thick with weeds, grass, and dead leaves. Ten minutes passed as she walked back and forth along the arrow’s path, feet crunching against the forest floor. Eventually, her foot grazed over the shaft, ending her search. Recovering the failed missile did not feel satisfying in any way. It was only evidence of a missed shot, and a reminder that she’d have to return to the hunt-master with empty hands once more.

“Curse your luck, Mayu,” she said, wiping the sweat from her brow. “What will Kaz say?”

It’s no big deal, Mayu! We have enough bread crumbs to last us until the end of the week! Even thinking of his response caused her to roll her eyes. Such an optimist, her husband was, even in the worst of times. She began her journey back to the hunter’s camp, a necessary pitstop before making it home. Smoke billowed from the central fire and several tents circled it. Hunters finished with the day were already getting started on the drinking, laughing as they spilled their alcohol over each other.

“No kill today, Mayu?” a grating voice came from behind her, far too high pitched and merry to fit her abysmal mood. Jiro, a younger man with a patchy beard and crooked teeth shot a grin at her.

“No kill,” she responded, attempting to end the conversation there by walking right past him. Acting offended, the kid started to walk with her, matching her step.

“It’s not your fault, you know,” he shrugged. “It’s pretty dead out there, lately. I think we took too many of them out last year.”

“I don’t need you to console me, Jiro, I’m just fine,” she said, shaking her head.

“Maybe we could start hunting together,” Jiro said amiably, stepping in front of her. “It’d make the hunt less of a bore.”

“You really need to open your ears, Jiro,” Mayu grinned, pushing him aside lightly and continuing her stroll. “Maybe that’s why these girls forget about you so quickly. You don’t listen.”

“Low blow, Mayu,” Jiro said, feigning sadness.

“You were begging for it.”

“Anything to get the attention of the great Mayu.”

“Right.”

To Mayu’s relief, the boy left when she reached the hunt-master’s cabin. It wasn’t a grand structure, but it was covered in racks, a dangerous obstacle if one wasn’t paying attention. She pushed open the door and was immediately greeted with the warmth of a fire.

“Mayu!” the gravelly voice of Taichi, the hunt-master, met her from across the room. He was a massive man, an equally massive beard stretching down his chest. She’d known him long enough that she had witnessed it turn from a fine black to a ratty grey. “Pleasure to see you.”

“And you, Taichi,” Mayu said, bowing slightly. Whatever was coming from the pot at the fireplace smelled heavenly to her, as usual. She was tempted to ask for a taste, but couldn’t bring herself to stoop that low. Whatever happened, no matter how tight money was, she refused to become a beggar.

“What can I do for you today?” Taichi said, walking to her and taking a peek into the boiling pot. A sudden look of concern washed over him as he came closer to her. “Say, Mayu, are you well?”

“I am, hunt-master,” she said, averting her eyes for a moment. His response was not the first she had heard. Earlier in the day, Jiro had asked the same thing. Though she had always been known for her sharp features, Mayu was looking more gaunt than usual, a sickly appearance that was made worse by her graying hair. “Listen, I just came to tell you that I may be looking elsewhere for work.”

“Elsewhere?” he wasn’t surprised, but he at least pretended to be.

“Only for a while, at least. I’ve had rotten luck lately, and it seems I can’t escape it. I need something that is more consistent with pay. Just so I can get back on both feet again, you know?”

“I understand, Mayu.”

“Thank you,” she bowed once more and turned for the door.

___________________________________________________________________________________

“It exists, I know it exists.”

Trinkets of all kinds of sizes and material flew across the wagon, clattering, and sometimes shattering, on the wooden planks. Kaz, barely balancing on a step stool, reached to the highest shelves, shoving objects aside in desperation, praying to hear the distinct noise of jingling coins.

Occasionally he would stop to rest and curse his predicament at a volume far too loud to be neighborly. Eventually, however, he would take a deep breath and continue the search. The wagon was full of merchandise, memorabilia, and junk that hardly had any worth anymore.

Rifles were stacked together in a massive pile, along with a large amount of powder. Money could easily be gained by selling these objects, of course, but the issue was finding a buyer. No one could afford his merchandise unless he provided an enormous discount. Not gonna happen, Kaz thought to himself. There is a buyer out there, I know it! This was a massive investment. I’m going to sell my stock and eventually move on to better avenues. This just comes with the business. Highs and lows, it’s part of life.

“Now, if I could only find what I’m looking for and move on,” Kaz grumbled to himself. His hands reached onto the next shelf, causing more items to cascade below. Eventually, his fingers tapped the edges of a bottles. Oh, that sounds beautiful. Carefully, he lifted it from the shelf and brought himself back down to the floor. Inside was a collection of coins. A rather disappointing collection, but a collection nonetheless.

“Could’ve sworn there was more,” Kaz said to himself. “It may be enough to last the week if we keep rationing everything out. It’s not luxury, but it's something.”

Happy with himself, but unwilling to even glance at the disaster he created, Kaz left the wagon and quickly locked it up. The day was close to its end and he was already feeling the call for sleep. He walked directly to their home, a small but cozy cottage. With each passing year, however, it was starting to look less and less like their home. Most of their personal belongings were disappearing with each passing month, more and more being pawned off for money. This month the painting of Kaz’s home village was now gone, leaving a vast, empty space in the hallway.

Coins jingling in the jar, Kaz walked through the barren hallway. Entering their home always produced an odd feeling. Disturbing as it was, with each possession lost, the memories faded with them. They’d inhabited the house for nearly a decade, a lengthy time to get to know the structure. They dressed it, spoke to it, lived with it. Years were spent in this home. It was frightening that their lengthy investment seemed to be disappearing right in his hands. It made him all more eager to hit the road once more, seek different avenues, and hopefully discover a new life. It was what his father would have done.

“Mayu?” Kaz called, voice echoing through the barren interior. Nothing, but he knew she was there. Privacy was no longer possible. Everything seemed to carry within the home. The house wore their emotions the same way it used to wear their possessions. Today, the house was crying.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

“We have to leave, Mayu.”

They sat at the table, eating what was left of their rationed rice and dried venison. A fire lit the room, filled it with a comforting noise to fill the silence between their breaks in dialogue. Mayu wasn’t hungry that night and was very tempted to scold her husband for making too much for them.

“It could be fun,” Kaz shrugged, taking the last bite of his rice.

“You’re an idiot,” Mayu broke into a brief chuckle. “Only you would look at a situation like this and think about how much fun we can have.”

“I’m serious!” Kaz laughed, scooting closer to her. “It’ll be like the old times, right? Two young vagabonds, venturing to find the top buyer--”

“We were hardly young then,” Mayu shook her head. “Hardly young now.”

“I think you’re overthinking things. You like to do that. For once, let me do the thinking, alright? I’ve got a plan.”

“Oh, do you?”

“Yes.”

“Let’s hear it.”

“We just… go.”

Looking at her husband, she could tell he was serious. Kaz, even with his bum leg, was quick to get around, and recently he had been jumping all over the place, checking high and low for things that no longer existed in their home. There was an energy that was pent up inside a man who was never meant to reside in a single location. Adventure still existed in Kaz’s heart, even if it was only slightly beating in hers. He was so sure of himself, so eager for her to say something positive, to respond in any way that could be interpreted as a yes.

“Go?” she said, after a moment’s silence. “Just go?”

“Yes, Mayu,” Kaz said. “Just go.”

They locked eyes for a moment, each gaining a quick reminder that though the memories of their home were fading quickly, everything else existed within themselves. Mayu was afraid to smile. It felt like a childish instinct, a sin, but she couldn’t help it. Kaz’s smile was infectious.

“Okay,” she said.

“Okay.”

Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the East

PostPosted: Sun Mar 04, 2018 8:34 pm
by Kamikaze_X
AERETH DU LÉON
SAINTÉ BOURDEAUX | FLAMELLE

Aereth lay awake in bed, her deep brown eyes transfixed on a large portrait of an old man and woman across the room, hanging on the wall over the bedroom door. A long, drawn out snore broke the silence beside her, coming from the figure of a man lying facedown into his pillow. She sighed, running a hand through her long dark hair.

Another snore. She glanced at the night table that stood nearby the bed. Two wine glasses sat on a silver platter, a small bowl of red grapes and pine nuts next to that. One of the glasses was entirely empty, drained by its voracious drinker. The other still looked full.

Well, I suppose it’s time. She looked again to the man next to her, running a finger down his bare back. I don’t think I ever got his name, come to think of it.

Leaving the covers, she was almost entirely naked, aside from her undergarments. She looked once more to the portrait and made a grimace. Padding over toward the door, she reached up on the tips of her toes and grabbed the painting from the wall, turning it the other way and sliding it behind the nearby bureau. Sighing once more, she felt better.

Picking her clothing up off the floor, she was certain to leave no traces behind as she got dressed. She even took the time to carefully wash the glass she took a sip from and place it back onto its shelf. She didn’t mind making any noise, as she knew the man wouldn’t wake up from it.

In fact, he wouldn’t stir at all until sometime the next morning or afternoon. She was absolutely certain.

Stretching lazily, she walked about the house, taking everything in before retracing her steps back into the bedroom.

Time to get to work.

Her red dress fluttered quietly behind her as she headed for the man’s study. The door was locked, of course, but that posed no real issue. From a small hidden pouch within her dress, she pulled out a pair of lock-picking tools and quickly got to work on the bolt. It was opened in less than a minute. 

Edging inside, Aereth found rows upon rows of bookcases, lined from top to bottom in prose. She was sure that some of those books would be worth something—a testament to the man’s obvious wealth, which he had no problems flaunting in public—however she wasn’t learned in the value of such things. No. She had something else on her mind entirely.

Aereth headed for the desk, a piece of ornate dark wood and intricate chiseling. The workmanship was exquisite, and must have taken the craftsman months to complete. A globe of the known world sat on top, a tiny flag planted on their own country of Flamelle. She brushed aside notes and stood, pondering the desk and all of its contents.

Reaching beneath the desktop, she found that there was a thin center drawer just above where one would sit. Sliding it out, she found what looked to be important financial paperwork, and a single golden key. She grinned, finding exactly what she was looking for.

Heading back for the bedroom, she found the man in the exactly place she had left him earlier that night. Standing in the doorway, casually spinning the gold key on a chain around her index finger, she thought back to the last evening.

She had been out, with no real intention of doing work—merely to have a glass of wine and enjoy some fine cuisine. Being early Autumn, it was the perfect time of year to sit out at a restaurant and enjoy the fresh air, while being able to curiously people watch and adore the fall colors of the trees, the view of the snow-peaked mountains not too far away, and hear the gurgling of fountains with ornate sculpture sitting in Flamellen courtyards.

And so, as she sat to enjoy her meal, the man approached her from the street. She had hardly listened to the twit’s mind-numbing coo’ing—something about beauty, and fate, she thought she heard. He wasn’t her type at all… at least until she took note of his appearance. He was richly dressed, well manicured for an oaf, and held himself in obvious superiority over most others on the street.

She decided not to complain when he barked at a nearby waiter to bring a seat for him to sit at her table. Calculatedly, she batted her eyelashes and gave him a seductive smile, then introduced herself as one Sonya Du Léon.

They had a decent enough conversation that evening, and when she suggested that they take a walk to see the lights, he couldn’t refuse. Naturally with other things on his mind, he offered that they extend their night at his villa, which he described as ‘having a view to rival the King’s’. She supplied him with enough girlish giggling and banter that he must’ve thought that she was as good as his for that night.

Indeed, right up until they got into bed, and he got her to take her dress off for him, he likely felt as though he truly did stand above everything and everyone in the vast Kingdom of Flamelle. One more woman he was able to conquer!

But alas, he shouldn’t have allowed her to pour his wine.

He hardly paid attention to her hands, as his eyes were trained elsewhere on her person. Slipping in her own personal mixture was a simple task—evidently as simple as seduction for her. She graced him with a final smile and a little sip of her own wine—delicious vintage, of course—while he went ahead and drained his glass entirely.

It was doubtful he even heard her say ‘sweet dreams’ before falling face-first into his pillow.

Lights out. And lucky for her, he wouldn’t have any memory of the events leading up to their evening jaunt. She leaned over his side of the bed and looked at the man’s face.

A shame. He’d probably be somewhat attractive if he wasn’t a pig.

He snored again, as long and drawn out as his pompous blathering about his wealth. She rolled her eyes.

Opening the doors to his walk-in closet, she looked about until she found a large iron safe situated at the far end. Found you. Sliding the golden key she found into its lock, she placed her ear onto the safe, and her hand onto its side. Closing her eyes, she concentrated on the locking mechanism within the safe, and reformed it into its unlocked position. Breathing deep, she pulled the level on the safe and it swung open without issue. Nothing a bit of clever alchemy can’t take care of.

Neat stacks of gold coins filled the interior of the safe. Precious jewels sat off to one side.

Jackpot.

She headed back into the man’s closet and found a bag that she thought would be able to fit everything. Back at the safe, she scooped everything into the bag and threw it around her shoulder. Closing the safe, now completely empty aside from some bank documents that meant little to her, she made certain to re-lock everything before leaving.

Before gathering the last of her things, and throwing a cloak over herself and the bag, she bid the man a fond farewell and thanked him for his generosity. Just as she was about to head out the door, her feet stopped by the threshold. Turning in step, she headed back to the room. From behind the bureau, she grabbed the painting from where she placed it and hung it back over the door. Seeing their judgmental looks made her grimace once again.

There, like nothing ever happened.

Without wasting another moment, she left the man’s villa with a view to rival the King’s, and headed back into Sainté Bourdeaux, just as the sun was starting to rise.

Aereth sighed happily, finding a new spring in her step.

“I think today will be a good day.”

Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the East

PostPosted: Sun Mar 04, 2018 10:00 pm
by Chef
ALRIC AND SCRATCH
Somewhere near Maqae, Castinis . . .


Shifting sands whipped across the shack, slipping through every microscopic crevice they could find. A thick atmosphere of dust covered the waning sun, leaving the desert alone in its darkness. Boards creaked as Taliq walked across the room. He stopped at the window, parting the curtain just enough to see the wasteland the country had become. The curtain was nailed tight to the corners of the window, only loose enough to allow the men to peek out and keep watch. Hakam sat in his seat, watching his brother. He pulled his facial scarf down just enough to spit dusty phlegm on the floor.

“Disgusting,” Taliq said, observing the snotty goo from afar.

“Where else do you want me to do it?” Hakam snorted. “Outside?”

“Sure. Maybe if I’m lucky the winds will take you away too.”

The girl stirred. Both of them froze, cutting off their time-wasting drivel, and stared at the near lifeless body of their captive. She was tied to a chair, wrists tied behind her back. Her legs were sprawled out in front of her, limp and dead. The girl was a corpse, or so they thought. For the past hour they hadn’t heard as much as a breath come from her. Hakam walked towards her slowly, stopping when he was face to face with the blood-soaked face of the woman. For a good minute he stood there, waiting for the cool, stinky breeze of the dead girl’s breath, but nothing came. He turned around, shrugging to his brother.

“It’s nothing,” he said, starting to walk. “You know, a doctor-friend of mine used to say--”

Before he could finish his sentence, he felt a tight grip on his ankles. The woman’s legs shot forward, feet crossing over his. Hakam did not have time to process this movement. When she pulled her legs back, he toppled over, smashing face-first into the planks. He screamed in a mixture of agony and fury. Hakam leapt to his feet and pummeled her in the face, knocking her unconscious once more. Taliq couldn’t get enough of this. He sat at the window-sill, hardly able to contain his laughter.

“Why the hell did we not tie her feet?” Hakam shrieked. His nose was throbbing, surely broken, and splinters covered his face. “Tie her legs, Taliq. Tie them.”

They switched places, Taliq grabbing what was left of the rope and attempting to secure the lady’s unpredictable legs. One of their comrades from the cellar below came upstairs to see what the commotion was, but Hakam waved him away.

“Don’t half-ass it,” Hakam said to Taliq, arms crossed. “She’ll bite you in the ass next if you’re careless.”

“There won’t be a next time by the looks of it,” Taliq chuckled, looking at the woman’s battered face. “You did a number on her, Hakam. Hakam?”

The brother’s silence was unnatural. All conversations ended with his say. Taliq, feeling as if the atmosphere had suddenly turned a shade darker, turned quickly. A spear protruded through the window, its blade going through one temple out the other. Hakam tried to move his mouth to scream, but his life left him so quickly he could not give a response. His brother’s body toppled over and a man leapt through the window, far more agile than his large stature would suggest. Blade in one hand and a shield covering his back, the man charged at Taliq without hesitation. Taliq reached for his weapon but the man was quicker. The razor severed most of his finger’s before they even met the hilt. He attempted to scream in agony due to his severed hand, but the man quickly rushed him, covering his mouth. The man slammed him into a nearby table.

“Where is--” the man’s first words were cut off quickly. His gaze lingered on the battered body of the woman. Taliq could see a change in this man’s eyes. When he had first entered they were steel, unwavering, professional. Now he could see them boiling in his sockets, see the red rage overwhelming his senses.

“You…” he said, trailing off. Taliq had no time to respond. The man’s blade slid through his ribcage, piercing his heart. His life ebbed away within a minute. The man watched him as he died, releasing the limp body and letting it fall to the floor. Not hesitating, he rushed to the woman’s side, feeling her neck for a pulse, any sign of life. It was faint, but it was there.

“Please don’t die on me,” he said, frantic, attempting to wipe whatever blood he could from her face. “It was my fault, I know it. It’s on me. Just… stay alive a little longer. Please.”

Alric held Scratch’s face in his hands, waiting for a sign of life. He’d already loosened her bindings, which had been on long enough to cut into her wrists and ankles. She would need the help of a healer or infection would set in. A painful death, one she didn’t deserve for helping him.

“You didn’t know what you were getting into,” Alric said, nearly weeping. “I didn’t either. If I’d known… I would’ve wandered off to die on my own.”

Suddenly, he began to feel movement. Scratch was stirring, but her eyes were still glued shut. She was barely on the edge of consciousness. Overjoyed, Alric began to speak with her, attempting to draw her out, to bring her back into the land of the living. Expecting her to meet him with open arms, Alric was hit with surprise when she spat in his face. Bloody spittle dripped off of him.

“I’ll kill both of you assholes…” she mumbled, her words slurred.

“Scratch, open your eyes!” Alric wiped his face, laughing. “It’s me, Alric. I came back. I came to save you.”

Her eyes slowly parted. She jumped in her seat, immediately sitting upright, glancing around her surroundings. Quickly, she felt the pain of her movement, slumping low in the chair. Alric attempted to support her, but she pushed him away.

“You need to take it slow,” he said to her. “I don’t know what they did to you, but they… they did enough.”

“Gabriel,” she said, eyes still wandering about the shack. “Is he okay?”

“Gabriel? He’s here too?”

She nodded slowly, pointing her finger to the ground. Alric understood. The cellar. When they both silenced their tongues they could hear quiet murmurs coming from below. Every so often there was scattered laughing. Alric walked to the fallen body of one of the guards, ripping the spearhead from his skull. He looked to Scratch, seeing that she had every intention to come. He shook his head, gesturing for her to stay behind. Wincing from the pain of her movement, Scratch nodded. Her range of motion was compromised. Scratch got to her feet, leaning hard into the walls of the shack. Alric nearly ran across the room to catch her, but she held her hand up.

“I just want to get my bearings,” she said to him lowly. “Go. Find Gabriel.”

Alric approached the cellar door, opening it as quietly as possible. The pained screech of the hinges, nearly gave him away, but the guards within gave no indication that they had noticed. From the sounds of their voices, Alric could tell they were drunk. Three, playing cards. He could see their shadows dancing in the lantern light as he descended the stairs. The floor was dirt and the walls were cracked brick. Whatever this place used to be, it clearly wasn’t designed to uphold a garrison.

The guards played at a table that was severely unbalanced. Each time one of them played a hand the table shook violently, coins clattering against each other. They were complaining about the absence of their two friends, Taliq and Hakam. Evidently they had promised a game of cards later on. It’s going to have to wait, Alric thought, lifting his spear slowly. As the dealer began to shuffle the next deck, the spear shot across the table and plunged itself deep into his chest. There was a pause of surprise as they two shot their eyes towards Alric’s direction. Pulling out his curved sword and charging the two remaining soldiers, he went to work.

Though drunk, they were far more prepared for a fight than the other two. They pulled out their weapons in time, one of them flipping the table into Alric, immediately stopping his assault. Alric backed into the stairwell, choosing the narrow corridor over the wide open space. With a shield in hand, he had a distinct advantage. They charged at him with their scimitars, Alric easily deflected the curved blades with his shield. With a quick riposte, Alric managed to bash one of the guards in the face with his shield, dazzling him. A quick slice to the throat sent the man to the ground, clutching his neck and choking on his own blood. Alric leapt over the body and began the offense. The last man was weakening, panic starting to set in. There were clear indications that he meant to give up. Alric ignored them. The glory of battle was setting in. Alric was becoming a monster, his movements becoming rapid and more reckless. With a shattering blow, the guard’s sword was sent flying into the dirt.

Before the losing guard could even raise his hands to surrender, Alric’s sword went through his gut. He ripped it out, leaving the guard in a pool of his own gore.

Breathing heavily, the adrenaline of battle began to fade. Alric’s senses returned to him, allowing him to witness the carnage he created. What will they think this time? Alric thought to himself. Gods, is this why you curse me? He let his weapons fall to the floor. Feeling his knees start to buckle, Alric caught himself on one of the support poles. Before his self-loathing grew too powerful, Alric noticed a distinct shape in the background, barely illuminated by light.

“Gabriel?” Alric grabbed the lantern and began walking towards the seated figure in the corner of the basement. At first, Alric was beginning to smile, as his bloodlust may have caused something positive to occur. Gabriel was one of their companions, another he had dragged into this mess. If he had managed to save both of them, the gods could possibly forgive his violence. As he walked closer, the smile slowly faded from his face. It was Gabriel, he knew it had to be, but there were no recognizable features other than his golden hair, much of it matted with blood.

“Please,” Alric said, reaching out to see if there could possibly be life left in the corpse. The body was cold, stiff. He was long dead. “Gods,” Alric muttered to himself.

“First you give me this curse… now this. What do you want from me?”

His eyes shot towards the stairs. Scratch was struggling down the steps. Before he could tell her to stop, her eyes caught the figure of her dead friend in the lantern light. She paused for a long moment, gaze unwavering, then began to move forward, faster than before.

“Scratch, I’m sorry,” Alric said to her, reaching out. “He’s gone.” As she moved past him, he grabbed her shoulder. “Don’t. There’s nothing you can do for him.”

“Get your hands off me,” she said, shaking free. He saw the knife in her hand, the cruel dagger she reserved for the worst of her enemies.

“Scratch,” Alric watched her in shock, but made no move to stop her. “What are you doing? Are you mad?”

She ignored him, continuing towards her friend. When she reached his bloody corpse, she knelt to the earth, wincing in pain as she lowered herself. She moved the dagger towards his chest, causing Alric to look away, afraid of what the woman’s crazed intentions were. Hearing nothing other than a quick snip, he turned his gaze back to her. She was already on her feet, walking towards the stairway. In her hands, she held a sizable purse.

“Let’s go,” she said to him. “Let’s go far away from here.”

“Scratch--”

“Now. I’m done with this place.”

_____________________________________________________________________

The storm was at its end when they emerged. From the stables they retrieved their stolen horses and resumed their journey across the desert. When they stopped to rest for the night, neither of them could sleep. Fatigue plagued their bodies, but it was not enough to ease their minds of recent events. They made camp beneath a lone tree, long dead, eating whatever was left of their rations. It wasn’t much, but neither of them were hungry.

“You didn’t want to do it,” Alric said, breaking a long silence.

“What?” Scratch said, not lifting her eyes from the waning fire.

“It’s okay to feel sorrow for your friend,” Alric said, looking to her. “You cared for him. I know you did.”

“He’s dead, Alric.”

The silence between them became even more menacing. Alric did not want to let it go, however. His blood was boiling. Though he had no respect for his career of choice, he had treated Gabriel as an equal. Leaving the body behind was a mistake, in his eyes. Robbing it was an even graver one.

“You know what you did was wrong,” Alric said, his voice growing darker.

“I didn’t do anything,” Scratch looked away from the fire for the first time, sharp eyes locking with Alric. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You looted his corpse like a common criminal.”

“He was a common criminal. This is what he would’ve wanted.”

“You can still ask for forgiveness,” Alric’s voice was raising in volume. “The gods are watching.”

Howling wind interrupted them, gave them a much needed pause. Neither broke eye contact. Both were watching for the first display of weakness, the first flinching movement. It never came. When the wind died down, the quarrel began once more.

“I saw the bodies, Alric,” Scratch’s face growing into a cruel smile. She’d travelled with him long enough to know of his weaknesses. “They were young, weren’t they?”

For a moment, she thought he was going to leap at her and wring her neck. The fury that boiled in his eyes was strong. With every fiber of his being, Alric fought the urge to kill the woman before him. The rage slowly subsided as he realized the folly of such a decision. Scratch was young. She wasn’t in control of this conversation. He knew her guilt. Even if she wouldn’t show it, she knew Gabriel’s death was bearing down on her.

“Fine,” Alric said, eventually. “I’ll leave you be.”

Late in the night, both lay in their bedrolls, each on either side of the camp. Alric thought of the curse the gods had planted deep within him, a plague of spirit that threatened to destroy any semblance of peace around him. Each night he attempted to understand it, to justify it. Maybe the gods are mistaken? he thought to himself. Do they seek to avenge the death of the Fifth like everyone else? I didn’t kill her. It wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t my fault. IT WASN’T MY FAULT. IT WASN’T--

Before Alric’s thoughts tore him apart, he heard the muffled sound of sobbing coming from across the camp. He did not dare move an inch, for the source was obvious. All of his thoughts faded as he focused on this single, pitiful sound. She sounded like a wounded animal, a young girl, a vulnerable woman. Scratch was none of these things. In the moment she had transformed into someone else, a person that Alric desperately wanted to comfort. He fought every urge to rise, knowing that doing so would only spoil her sorrow.

Scratch… he thought. If the gods are watching, they feel your sorrow. I hope you can take comfort in that. With nothing but the howling wind and Scratch’s sorrow to break the silence of the night, Alric found himself slowly drifting off to sleep. The world became black, a dreamless state where not a single speck of thought exists. Alric found distinct peace in this abyss. He let his mind travel far away from his body, let it relieve itself from his endless questions for concern. There was peace here, a peace that he gravely needed. To him, it was beautiful.

Then he woke up.

Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the East

PostPosted: Fri Mar 16, 2018 11:46 pm
by Kamikaze_X
MORIYAMA KOJURO
TSUKISHIMA, ISLAND OF JOUSHU | KYOKAI

The pond was still.

Surrounded by gnarled juniper, with their boughs curled every which way, a lone pond sat at the edge of a large manor. Flat stones led in a curling path from the manor to a small sitting area at the edge of the water. Lily pads dotted the surface of the still pond, along with white orchids, tall pond grass, and a few koi fish that swam to and fro near the surface of the water.

A small stone bridge spanned across one of the narrower sections of the pond, upon which sat  the still figure of a man in meditation, his face as calm as the water, and his eyes closed. Laying across his lap was a sheathed curved sword. 

At the side of the pond, there sat a small stream which fed its waters, ending in a small rocky waterfall. A shishi-odoshi sat by the slowly running water, giving a hollow ‘tap’ every few minutes once it filled to its brim and let loose its contents into the pond. 

Overhead, the sky turned hues of crimson and gold as the sun had started to set—already the moon and stars started to show on the surface of the pond, speckled brilliantly and partially covered in a vast array of thin clouds. The man’s eyes opened then, gazing fixedly at the reflection in the water and sighing contentedly.

His gaze shifted only when the sliding shoji doors of his manor slid open with only the faintest of noises, and a warrior in robes, resting on his knees, bowed to him.

“Moriyama-kyaka, many apologies for disturbing your meditation. You’ve a message awaiting in your chambers.” The warrior said. “It seems urgent.”

“I see. I’ll be in shortly to receive this message. Oerbitos na.” The man named Moriyama Kojuro replied, nodding to dismiss the guard.

Grasping his sword from his lap in one hand, the man silently rose from the stone bridge and strode around the pond and back to the manor, careful to remove his sandals before entering.  

Kojuro’s estate was sprawling and ornate. It’s rooflines slopped gracefully with polished tiles. A grand entrance stood with a wide porch that surrounded the entirety of the manor, bordered on both ends by a pair of full-time warriors who guarded his estate. Gardens surrounded the home, set apart by a narrow line of small pond stones before transitioning to a trimmed grass lawn dotted with juniper trees and evergreen. An outer wall separated the manor from the street outside, a single main entrance with double doors barring entrance from the outside—always well-guarded, as befit a man of Kojuro’s status.

The manor at which he lived was lavishly furnished in the traditional Kyokan style. Long hallways of dark polished wood surrounded partitioned rooms with tatami mat floors of woven bamboo threads. Scrollwork and ink paintings hung in alcoves, lit with small candles whose light danced in the semi-darkness. At the center of the manor sat a dining hall containing a large square stone fire pit, which burned most of the day. Its smoke rose to the high ceilings and gave the open rafters a darkened hue and a rich earthy scent.

Kojuro padded his way down the hall, his robes flowing behind him as he walked swiftly toward the main entrance. Rounding a corner, he stopped as he noticed his wife, Haruka, standing by the doorway. Alongside her stood the warrior who fetched him, one of Kojuro’s childhood friends—Takayama Yukichi—who had sworn their blade to his clan, and the messenger, who knelt by the entranceway holding a sealed scroll in his hand.

“Gratta aeturo, messenger-jaan. Why have you come, so late into the evening?” Kojuro asked curiously. He noticed the wave seal upon the scroll as soon as the messenger lifted it to him. Kojuro's gaze grew stoney.

“Our Lord summons you, Moriyama-kyaka.” The messenger relayed, handing off his message.

Kojuro broke the seal, which bore the White Orchid of the Moriyama Clan. Unfurling the scroll, his eyes quickly scanned the message from his Lord, Moriyama Sanousuke. He looked back to the messenger and nodded.

“Good. You may leave, thank you for delivering this.”

The messenger bowed back quickly and backed into the genkan entranceway of Kojuro’s manor, slipping his sandals back on. He bowed one final time before sliding open the shoji and disappearing into the night. Yukichi gave a quick nod to Kojuro before exiting the manor himself to resume his duties as guard, leaving he and Haruka alone in the hall.

“Kojuro… what does our Lord seek of you.” Haruka asked, looking to her husband. Her eyes were filled with worry and anxiety—a look that happened far too often, of which Kojuro could never get used to.

Haruka, his wife of five years, was his closest confidant, his best friend, and the love of his life. He had known her since being lifted out of poverty by His Lord; the daughter of a nearby provincial lord herself, she was often at Lord Moriyama’s estate whenever her father did business in the area. He and she had grown close, playing together and slowly, over the years, realizing their love for one another. At first, her father was determined to have Haruka marry someone with greater status, however even as a child, she was rebellious and obstinate. She had already made her choice, and was hardly afraid to let her intentions be known in front of her entire family.

Kojuro always knew she carried a roaring flame within her, worthy of the title of samurai that she carried just as proudly as he.

“Lord Moriyama bids me to travel to his estate tomorrow. He does not mention the reason why I must go, but says it is indeed of urgent matters. No mention of his health, but…” Kojuro paused, sighing as his eyes scanned the note once more. “But his hand falters. I can see it in his writing. I worry for him.”

Haruka wrapped her arms around her husband, her head resting against his broad back.

“This doesn’t seem good, Kojuro.” She said softly. “I fear for him. And you.”

“Don’t fear, Kaede.” Kojuro replied. “Whatever the Divines have planned for us, Inari watches over us all. Fate will decide what is to become of us in the end—it is not up to us mortals to worry and fear over the future.”

Not particularly calmed by Kojuro’s somewhat fatalist beliefs, she embraced him tighter. “I won’t give you to the Gods anytime soon.”

Kojuro smiled, turning about and kissing her. “The Gods should fear your wrath, for I certainly do.” Kojuro smirked, and she made a face. “Nevertheless, I cannot keep our Lord waiting. If I’m to be there tomorrow, I should make this an early night and rest while I can.”

“At least have some supper. I’ve been told our meal is prepared at the hearth.”


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Not long after finishing supper, Kojuro retired to their chambers. The journey into Eidou from the countryside on which his manor sat took a few hours by horse. Even one that was as swift as his own steed.

Washing his face, he tried to freshen up a bit before donning a pair of night robes and retiring for the evening. Haruka walked into the room soon after, already clad in her own night robes, colored an off white with small pink and teal cranes adorning the hems of her long sleeves. They sat for a while, looking outside from their bedroom windows and chatting before tiredness got the better of them.

With their futons already laid out, the two slipped under their covers and soon fell asleep, allowing the nearby candle to snuff itself out long into the night.


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Kojuro awoke an hour before dawn, as if his internal clock set itself earlier because of his trip that day. Turning under his futon’s covers, he spotted Haruka sleeping next to him, her face peaceful as she soundly slumbered. He watched her for a long while, brushing away a few strands of hair that had fallen over her face. Eventually, he knew he had to tear himself away; never a task he found easy.

Managing to do so, however, he quickly left their quarters to fill a tub for his bath, making certain a fire was lit to warm the water before getting in—especially needed during such a particularly cool Autumn morning.

Briskly he washed up, and then dressed in his best robes; garments specifically meant for visiting Lords and Ladies of a higher status than himself. After tying back the length of his dark hair into a high ponytail, he trimmed his beard until his appearance befitted that of a samurai. Finishing his preparations, he entered a closed room nearby the entrance to his manor. It was a large open room with polished wood floors, rather than tatami mats. At the far end sat a suit of armor, lacquered black with teal and red ornamentation. A lofty helm with a pair of gnarled horns sat atop a demon-masked face.

At the suit of armor’s side sat a sword stand with four different blades situated on tiered shelfs—Kojuro grasped the top two by their sheaths; one long sword and the other short. Both were richly detailed, finely crafted with sheaths of red with black and gold inlaid ornamentation. Both sword guards were equally detailed with intricate design work, and were in the shape of concave diamonds. Kojuro slid the two swords into his obi sash, then headed for the door.

Sliding open the shoji, he was greeted by the rising sun of the morning. Squinting against the light, the guard standing nearby the entrance greeted him with a silent nod and a quiet murmur of ‘gratta manturo’. His horse was quickly brought to him, already brushed and bridled; prepared for the journey ahead. Bidding his guards goodbye, he left them instructions to keep his manor under guard for the duration of his trip.

Sliding into the saddle, he waited until the double doors of his walled exterior entrance were opened before quickly trotting away, leaving his home well behind him.

Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the East

PostPosted: Sat Mar 17, 2018 2:29 am
by Chef
JEANNE GIROUX
Bariis | Flamelle-Castinis Border


“There’s truly nothing you can do for him?”

Jeanne knelt beside the bloodied corpse, mangled beyond comprehension. A horse drawn cart had flown down the street, trampling this man before slamming into the side of a building. The horse and the driver would never walk again, but they would both live. This man, however, was less fortunate. He’d been dead for a while before she’d gotten there. His limbs were already becoming rigid, a surefire sign that he was beyond the point of being saved.

“Well?” the voice came again, more irritating than before. The villager had his arms crossed, glaring down at Jeanne as if she were responsible for the horrific accident. “Aren’t you going to do anything?”

“Look,” Jeanne stood, squaring up with the man, “when I saw you running down the street, calling for help, I assumed that your friend here was still alive. It’s been long enough that he’s already getting cold. There’s nothing to be done here.”

“Cast a spell on him, or whatever it is you monks do,” the man was shouting now, attracting even more attention to the scene. A crowd was forming around them. “I’ve seen others with that magic book come through here. They helped people. Why carry that book of miracles when you refuse to use them?”

“I can’t bring your man back to life,” Jeanne said, “and I’m not going to waste paper trying. I’m sorry, truly. If there was something I could do, I would do it. I’m no beast.”

Jeanne turned to walk away, but felt a hand grip her forearm. Initially, she was expecting to have to defend herself from this hysterical man, but the hand felt far too small to belong to him. She turned to see a young boy, tears rolling down his cheeks. His eyes glanced towards the destroyed body and then back to her. Was the dead man a father to this boy? Uncle? Guardian? It didn’t matter. She knelt down in front of the boy and embraced him.

“I am sorry,” she said to him. “I am so sorry.”

___________________________________________________________________________

Jeanne sat at the open windowsill, enjoying some evening wind. It’d been a long day. Two had died, not counting the man from the accident. Some were bloodied, others were sick. For the sick, there was little they could do. Modern medicine was preventative. Too many would walk into the clinic when it was far too late to reverse their conditions. More often than not, all they could offer was a room for a night, a temporary quarantine to keep them away from their healthy families.

“You okay?” the voice came behind her, followed by the lingering smell of pipe smoke.

“Yeah, Ed,” Jeanne said, turning to the thin man. “I’m okay.”

“Long day, huh,” he said, joining her at the windowsill. Though the smoke that followed him was nearly putrid, she was okay with accepting his company.

“Long day,” she repeated, shrugging. “Comes with the territory. How about you? You okay?”

“Not really,” he chuckled, quivering a little at the question. “Could use a drink. Care to join me?”

Jeanne smiled coyly. “I don’t want to get too comfortable here.”

“You could’ve just said no, heartbreaker.”

“Oh, please.”

They looked out on the streets for a while, darkness slowly overtaking the area. Torches were lit outside, illuminating a nearby clinic. It was smaller, a makeshift contraption of tents that looked like a hasty version of the aid stations Jeanne had once worked at. Men garbed in white worked there, drawing in civilians to test them for a strange disease. Jeanne knew nothing of it, but it was beginning to cause incredibly anxiety in the district. If a disease was erupting, that would mean great danger for the entire populace. Past outbreaks were evidence enough of the devastation they could cause. Whoever these men in white were, it appeared they were at least trying to prevent something terrible from occurring. Not eager to think more of the subject, Jeanne turned her attention to Ed. He was young, younger than her at least, with only a few strands of grey in his fiery red hair. Grey hair was the true mark of the medical profession. None could escape it. It always caught you.

“We really appreciate what you’ve done for us today,” Ed said to her, breaking the flow of her thoughts. “It’s not often we see strangers who are willing to help. You really are something else.”

“It’s my job,” Jeanne said, shrugging. “Even though I’m far away from home I’m not going to stop doing it. I’m not going to waste what was taught to me. That’s just stupid.”

“You make it sound so simple,” Ed laughed. “Surely you know most people don’t think that way. They see danger and blood and they just want to walk away. You stayed. I respect that. In fact, I talked with the staff here and they all feel the same way.”

“You don’t need to keep complimenting me. I already turned you down, you know.”

“And you don’t need to remind me. Look, I’m not asking you for a drink this time. I’m asking you to stay. For all of us. The hospital could use another pair of hands.”

“Ed, please.”

“We’d offer you room and board. Food, cleaning, an allowance, they’d all be provided for. You could make a big difference here.”

Jeanne bit her lip. The man was infatuated with respect for her, that was certain. In the hospital, most had treated her well, though she could not help but notice the odd looks she got from some civilians. Some feared the book at her side, as legends of their practices had crawled across the globe slowly. Most of them were truths twisted to become black and foul. Sometimes, as with the incident in the morning, they even expected her to perform far beyond her capabilities. As much as it pained her, Jeanne had to use her pages sparingly. Once an offering was put forth, it could never be used again. Only those who truly needed miraculous treatment were offered a page. Sometimes, if Jeanne believed she would only be prolonging the inevitable for a few more days, she would refrain from spending an offering. It hurt her, but it was necessary. She was far from home, and far from acquiring another grimoire.

“I can’t stay here,” she said softly, touching his hand. “Your hospital is a fine facility and your employees are more than competent. Like you said, I was only an extra pair of hands today. Your doctors know far more about medicine than I. My book can only do so much, despite what some may tell you. These people… someday they’ll come asking for more. I won’t be able to give it to them.”

“You don’t have to,” Ed said, gripping her hand. “They’ll understand. You just have to show them.”

“You’re far too optimistic, you know that?”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

Jeanne stood up and released his hand. “I’m glad I was able to help today,” she said, her back to him. “I’m glad I was able to meet everybody here, to meet you. But I really can’t stay. I have to keep moving. What I’m looking for… it just isn’t here.”

Ed sat at the window, a colder breeze rolling through the room and chilling them both to the bone. Jeanne walked for the door, hand lingering on it for a second before opening. She turned to him, hoping to find fitting words for her exit. He looked to her, expecting anything, hoping for her to change her mind. She said nothing.

Jeanne left the hospital. She never came back.

Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the East

PostPosted: Mon Mar 19, 2018 12:00 pm
by Maikuolan
Off the coast of Mibu, in the Shogunate of Kyokai.

Somewhere in deep water, not too far off the coast of Mibu, nestled within Fuyuzuki Bay in the Shogunate of Kyokai, a small fleet of fishing vessels congregated. Such was the life of those aboard these fishing vessels that each morning, they would set out to the bay to cast their nets, working through the day as the tides dictated for what was their livelihood and their identity as fishermen.

Most of those in the ad hoc fleet had known one another since early childhood, having been taught their trade by either a parent or some other member of the immediate local community, inheriting their way of life from a young age, and most being collectively born of one of the various settlements lining the bay. There were some exceptions, of course; A few various immigrants from elsewhere on the Kyokan island of Joushu that became members of the local community in search of a quieter life than would have otherwise been impossible from where they came. The most noticeable exception of all though, would be Kaie; A single individual born from outside of Kyokai entirely, and a single toshkhat within a group that otherwise comprised entirely of humans; humans specifically of Kyokan descent.

Most of them had their favourite places to seek their bounty, each humbly tending to their own work independently, at their own pace, in their own space. Today's routine, however, was a little different; One of them had just turned 40, and such things were cause for celebration. A birthday on the bay.

Though working indepedently most of the time, there were times that they would occasionally all work together, and in either case, they remained a tight-knit community. In addition to the times that they would all work together, they would also often come together at times such as these, as such milestones were rare, and a thing that ought to be celebrated, often with food and drink, and other simple revelry shared.

The small fleet had been gathered together for the better part of a few hours. Some of those onboard had brought an instrument or two, a gentle folk twang permeating the background noise above the gentle water's surface. One of the fishermen had brought along some homebrew sake and low-end moonshine that had recently come to maturity, appreciatively shared among the those in the ad hoc fleet, putting further emphasis on the overall mood. Most of the food of that day had been sourced from that day's catch, primarily fish, as well as some small amounts of crab and squid, and onigiri prepared from earlier in the day, before they'd set out from their various villages and towns. Despite the subtle, ubiquitous chill in the air, owing to it being the peak of winter, the weather, as well as the overall mood, was good. The sky was clear, and the water was fairly still, with no indications of any impending storms approaching the bay from the ever-turbulent Arashi; the sea of storms.

For the most part, conversation tended towards shared memories, with particular focus on memories involving the birthday boy, Hiroyuki; Sometimes pleasant, sometimes embarrassing. They would talk about the good years, as well as the bad, which years had the best catch, the times when strange things happened, or when rare changes occurred in the lives of their quiet villages and towns. Many jokes were told, with many laughs followed.

Eventually, after enough drinks and memories were shared, the conversation invariably shifted towards dare and bravado. "Ha! That's nothing! Remember that really big storm, several years back? The one that wiped out that village.. you know.. the one that nobody talks about anymore.. and may their spirits find eternal peace. I was out here that day, hauling in my catch! And it was a BIG catch! And nobody would help me that day, because of the storm, so, I was out here by myself. At the peak of the storm, when I hauled in my net, it must've been four times the size of yours! So by far, I think I've hauled the biggest, most dangerous catch of anyone here."

"Pfft.. You can't prove that, Goro. If nobody was with you, nobody can verify your claim! Why would you use a net that size in the middle of a storm, by yourself, anyway? That's silly! Why not just use smaller nets? Or better yet.. Not go out in the middle of a storm like that. Like everyone else."


Some background chuckles. "Are you calling me a liar?! Since when have I ever lied about the size of my haul?!"

Momentarily silence, shortly broken by someone else. "Well.. I can't claim to have hauled a net that large by myself, but I did haul something almost that large a few years back, about a year after that storm. Eijiro and Hitoshi were with me that day, so they can verify it. Not quite as impressive, but probably about the largest verifiable haul that I know about personally."

'Goro' wasn't about to let up, however. "Excuse me, but verifiable or not, mine was still the biggest!"

Another from the group then interjected, changing the course of conversation. "Ahem.. I'm curious.. Have many of you have tried spearfishing before? I tend to stick with lines and nets, but I've heard they prefer spearfishing on some of the outer islands, and along some of the river communities, where the water is shallow and they can't use boats."

Some shook their heads, indicating a "no", while others nodded, indicating or saying "yes". Daisuke, a particularly tough, tall-looking fisherman in his mid-30s, perhaps somewhat intimidating in stature to those that didn't know him better, but in reality, a jovial and friendly character that cared about his fellow fishermen, answered in more detail. "It's not exactly difficult to do, but it takes a long time, and it's less efficient than using lines or nets. If you're fishing somewhere where you can't use boats, traps are always an option, too. A good, well-placed fish trap can sometimes catch as much as a medium-sized net, and often with less work involved. Still need to know what you're doing though. I've heard some spearfisher's will do what they call 'sea walking', too, where they hold their breath, sink to the ocean floor, and walk with spears, to catch fish. I've never seen it though, so I don't know whether there's any truth to it, or whether it's just fable."

A much smaller, scrawnier-looking fishermen, also in his mid-30s, spoke up next. "Hey.. How long do you all think you could hold your breath for underwater?"

Various others then added their quips. "Probably longer than you! I managed to go a whole 5 minutes underwater once before, haha."

"Bahaha! Only 5? My daughter can easily go for 8! I went for about 12 minutes before, once."

"Shinjimasen! There's no way you could do it for 12!"


It was at that point, that the fisherman known as Eijiro, had an idea to lead to their next order of activity. "How about a bet? Whoever thinks they can hold their breath underwater the longest, we put it to the test, right here. Whoever can jump in, dive under, and stay under the longest, wins. As for the stakes.. Hmmm.. How about..."

At that point, 'Goro' interrupted. "Screw your stakes! I'll take the bet anyway, just to prove the point!"

"Birthday boy better join in too! I'd like to see how long he could do it for!"


Hiroyuki, the birthday boy, laughed. "Haha. Yeah, alright. I'll bite. May as well anyway, while the water's still calm and steady."

Daisuke shook his head. "I'm quite happy to stay dry on my boat, thank you, and I don't care much for proving points, haha."

Several others joined in with his laugh, also not so interesting in joining in with this 'bet'. There were others though, that seemed eager. Within minutes, seven people all up had lunged into the water, including Hiroyuki, having lunged from the highest point of his sleak, dark-wood, medium-sized boat, the Shizukesa.

Kaie, the one toshkhat in the otherwise entirely human group, didn't join in. The idea seemed fun, and somewhat appealing, but he'd worked hard at developing a good rapport with the community since his arrival to Mibu half a year earlier; He'd worked hard at learning the language, picking up enough of it that he understood about 90% of what everyone said when they spoke, though possibly somewhat less when they spoke under the influence of alcohol, which is one of the reasons he contributed very little during the course of their semi-drunken banter; He'd worked hard at gaining their trust and at being 'likable', despite being of a different species, of an intimidating stature, and hailing from a nation that none of them had ever even heard of before. His rapport, at that point, was good, but he didn't yet venture risking it by upsetting egos or by being brash and reckless. His close friend Ichiro, the one that had warmly welcomed him to Kyokai when he'd first washed up six months earlier, stood beside him on Ichiro's own somewhat weathered, but well-loved, reliable, sturdy, and well-maintained vessel, the Arashihime, the two of them watching from the stern as their comrades of the bay began their dive.

Those that had remained on the boats watched closely.

The first surfaced again after two minutes. "Only two minutes?! Haha.. Better luck next time!"

Over the course of the next several minutes, one after another resurfaced. By the eighth minute, only two remained under the water: Goro, and Hiroyuki.

The water remained calm, but Kaie briefly looked a little further out, away from the dive point; Something felt slightly wrong. A dark shadow, not belonging to either of the two remaining divers, and far too large to belong to any human, slowly rose from the depths, approaching the dive point. The bristles of his fur stood up on end and his eyes locked onto the shadow. He didn't know what was in the water, but he could feel instinct quickly kicking in; A sense of danger, balanced against the aeons of Sudai tradition of hunting in shallow waterways and rivers, and a desire to overcome whatever was rising up from the depths. The time spanning the moment of first feeling that something was wrong to the point of instinct kicking was perhaps only a few seconds, but it was enough, as Kaie quickly darted from the position where he stood, grabbing two particularly large, menacing-looking and very sharp fishing spears from where they'd been tied on the boat, leaping over the railing of the Arashihime onto the deck of an adjascent boat, darting within seconds from that boat to another, making his way to flank the rising shadow as stepping one foot onto the railing of the closest boat, he leaped over the edge, drawing both spears back to thrust them down onto the unsuspecting shadow.

The few seconds that had passed weren't enough for anyone else present to immediately recognise what was happening, but as Kaie approached the shadow from above, Daisuke, who'd always had a good sense for danger and had been watching everything closely from the start, noticed, and furthermore, as the shadow approached within a few mere meters of the dive point, noticed what the shadow belonged to. In alarm, Daisuke yelled out, loudly enough to draw the attention of everyone within earshot. "DEVIL SHARK! OUT OF THE WATER, NOW!"

Devil sharks, and an extraordinarily rare but notorious species of shark, similar in size to tiger sharks, and so named for being known to possess magic and being capable of wielding it, an otherwise entirely unknown phenomena among shark species. Far more unpredictable and ruthless than any other known species of shark, they'd also been known to hunt in packs and occasionally ram fishing boats.

Aside from Kaie, nobody dared enter the water, though everyone looked intently without exception for where Goro and Hiroyuki were expected to surface. Goro, having heard the commotion on the surface from under the water, immediately rose, saw the shadow behind him, and swearing under his breath, quickly grabbed the side of his boat and darted up and over its railing to safety. Hiroyuki, however, had evidently not heard the warning.

Just as the devil shark moved onto Hiroyuki's position, a few mere feet from where he remained underwater and with its maw open and ready to attack, Kaie landed, extending the sharp, retractable claws of both his feet, digging into the soft back of the shark as he rammed both fishing spears deeply into either side of the shark's flank. Immediately thrashing around in the water in reponse, to seek the source of the sudden biting pain the shark could feel on both its sides and its back, it was distracted from its impending attack on Hiroyuki. Hiroyuki, meanwhile, having felt and been startled by the sudden turbulence in the water caused by the thrashing, panicked, lost his breath, and quickly rose to the surface.

Kaie wasn't about to become a substitute meal for the shark though. With his tightly held grip on both fishing spears and his claws not letting go, as the shark thrashed around, Kaie's own movements and his hold on the shark remained locked, and the shark, being unable to shake Kaie from its back and being unable to reach its own back due to its anatomy, continued thrashing. Kaie twisted sharply on the spears, digging in further. Enraged, the shark dove back down into the water, dragging Kaie along with it - or perhaps hoping to use the depths to shake him loose, though it didn't happen.

Twisting and turning in the water, Kaie became lightheaded and momentarily disorientated, though held on, and remained focused on his objective. Realising it couldn't break Kaie off its back, the shark began to glow, slowly at first, then gradually brighter, preparing to use magic to shake loose its assailant. Unforunately for Kaie, though he knew the signs of magic, and knew what it looked like, he'd never personally learned any magics growing up, and had no immediate, appropriate recourse for such things. Taking a risky, but calculated chance, as one twist levelled out, Kaie pulled one of the two spears - the spear on his left - and aimed it at the shark's head, and thrusted with all his strength into its left eye. A successful hit, Kaie twisted and dug in, the shark suddenly stiffening in the water, then growing limp.

The glowing faded as quickly as it had appeared, and Kaie's vision become clouded as the water rapidly turned a deep, crimson red, permeating in all directions. As the shark slowly turned belly up, Kaie remaining on its back and now facing downward to the ocean floor, he struggled to find his orientation to gravity.

After a few minutes, and almost running out of breath, he rediscovered gravity, loosened his claws, and positioned himself to begin the ascent to the surface. His left arm continuing to hold tightly to the spear attached to the shark's eye socket, his right arm reached for the surface as he kicked upward with both his now free feet.

Daisuke had already reached down and pulled Hiroyuki out of the water the moment that Kaie had descended, attached to back of the shark. By the time he'd resurfaced, the surface now painted red, everyone else had moved about the railing of their various vessels, trying to spot some sign of either he or the shark from their boats. Eijiro happened to be looking at Kaie's particular patch of water as he'd resurfaced, and wasted no time letting everyone else know the moment he saw Kaie appear, with the now dead devil shark in tow, pointing to the water and yelling out. "He's over here! Over here!"

The moment over, instinct and adrenaline faded, Kaie looked sheepishly to those watching from above. "So.. Who here likes shark..?"

Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the East

PostPosted: Mon Mar 19, 2018 6:28 pm
by Kamikaze_X
AYA SASAKI
FUSHIMA | ISLAND OF JOUSHU | KYOKAI • Pt 3

It was likely that Fushima would have been a beautiful city, filled with charm and character. After all, it sat as a port city, looking out to the greenish-blue glacial waters of the Sankatsugawa Strait, and the northern Hagane Ocean. Cultures from around the world came at a crossroads there with merchants touting their wares at the marketplaces; many selling exotic trinkets, foreign spices, or expensive treasures to the perceptive shop-goers of Kyokai. Fushima was a city of wealth, beauty, and intrigue. Aya had entered with wide eyes, filled with curiosity and anticipation of her adventure’s grand beginning.

Intrigue turned to dismay and loneliness however, as Aya stood alone in a city of many thousands.

The winds of the storm had started to howl through the city as its eye had started to move. As she stood in a cobbled square with large buildings surrounding on all sides, Aya felt the first drops of rain start to fall. Drawing her cloak tightly about her, she felt as though she was to be blown about by the wind as it grew in intensity.

When she noticed that everyone who had been out and about quickly heading for their homes, Aya made her way down the main street to look for an available inn to take refuge. The streets cleared quickly of people seeking shelter. So quick that many of the nearby inns lost any and all vacancies.

As the rain started to fall as larger and larger drops, Aya knew the storm would be ferocious. She felt the panic inside her starting to grow with each passing minute. Passing one inn after another, her eyes caught the signs hanging from posts nearby their sliding doors—stating either “NO VACANCIES”, or pricing that far exceeded anything she carried from Izu.

Biting her bottom lip, she came to the entrance of the last inn within the large courtyard nearby the pier. Its owner had just greeted a party of three into its busy entranceway and gave Aya a look of pity before turning over the sign near the door.

NO VACANCIES.

Aya stood watching, helpless, as the sliding door was shut in front of her. The rain fell in earnest as the storm approached. The wind howled as it rushed through the city. Even from where she was, she could hear the waves smashing against the pier.

Despite the patchy cloak that was wrapped about her, she was quickly becoming thoroughly soaked to the bone. Utterly miserable, and finding her situation helpless, Aya aimlessly walked about the main street until she found a narrow alleyway between buildings. Though slightly ashamed of the thought, Aya saw no other option than to wait out the storm there in the alley. Though she’d have no refuge from the rain, perhaps the buildings would dampen the force of the wind blowing through.

Sitting alongside a large wooden crate that sat alongside one of the alley walls, she hugged her knees, drawing them in close. It was only then that she realized how badly she had been shivering. 

Thunder rolled in, loud and hard. Lightning flashed in the sky as everything became quite dark, with the only light coming from the buildings outside the alley. She was left in darkness. A long cracking noise made her jump, frightened, though she knew not where it came from. More thunder. More lightning. More rain and more wind.

And the loneliness truly crept in. Her thoughts went back to Izu, her warm little home, and her loving parents. She wondered how the village was doing, and whether everyone was still out in the fields that day. Every thought of home made her heart sink just a little bit more, and the consideration of forgetting about her grand adventure and simply returning to Hekkaido became more real. Certainly, no one would think any less of her for returning so soon.

Tears fell down her cheeks, easily mistaken for rainwater. Shivering from the cold and utterly soaked from the driving rain, she weeped silently there in the alley of Fushima.

A city of many thousands. And one.


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


When she woke the following morning, Aya was curled in a ball next to the crate. Her clothing was drenched, though having laid in a puddle for the duration of the night certainly didn’t help. 

Peering down at her reflection in the water from where she lay, her eyes were tired and bloodshot. Her dark hair was matted and wet with bits of debris from whatever flew through the alley during the storm.

Sitting up straight Aya wordlessly gathered up her cloak and rucksack and headed out from the alley. She immediately met the hustle and bustle of the city, however its vibrance and activity somehow lost its luster for her.

When passersby started to gaze at her disheveled appearance, she averted her eyes with shame. For a moment, she looked toward the pier, at all the ships being prepared for departure, but something deep within forced her feet to turn away. Walking down an adjacent street and away from the portside, she noticed several trees that had been ripped from the ground, roots and all—she figured that was the ripping sound she heard the night before from the alley. With measured interest, she watched as people helped to pick up litter and debris that was thrown around during the storm.

Hugging her cloak about her, she made her way south through Fushima, following the signs pointing anywhere else but where she was. If any happiness was to be gleaned from her current situation, it was that the sun was out, and would eventually help to dry her clothing.

After a long time of walking, the outer walls of Fushima rose in front of her. A massive gate towered ahead, guarded on both sides by two warriors bearing long pole-blades. She noticed other soldiers walking the walls. No one bothered to stop the miserable looking peasant girl when she passed beneath the gates—not even a “good day” or “safe travels”, which would have been expected in Izu.

Are all city folk like this? Aya wondered dejectedly. 

As she faced the coming wilderness, which seemed to stretch far into the southern horizon in front of her, she felt her spirits finally start to rise once more. Outside the walls of Fushima, farmland spread across a vast plain to her east. The main road ran along the coast, granting full views of the rocky Kyokan coastline and the rushing waters of the Strait of Sankatsugawa. Though the day was sunny, clouds blanketed the area in which her island of Hekkaido lay.

With afternoon fast approaching, and very little in her grumbling stomach, Aya moved off the road and on the grassy ledge overlooking the ocean. Far enough from the walls of Fushima, as well as the farmland that lay just outside, she decided to strip down to her undergarments to give her soaked clothing time to dry in the sun. Careful to place some rocks on top of the clothing so as to not have them blow away in the wind, Aya hummed to herself as she lay out on the grassy slope and opened her pack to take stock of her food.

Though her bag was soaked through as well, her food had been wrapped in large leaves to keep everything dry. Pulling out a rice cake and unwrapping it, she felt her mouth start to water. Her hunger had been intense, having not eaten a thing since she was onboard the Tenshi no Miwa. Nevertheless, she took care to thank the Gods for her meal, and appropriately rationed any leftovers to add to her stock. Though she was ravenous, she hardly wanted to run through her meager food supplies on only day three of her adventure.

Upon eating her fill, Aya spent some time simply watching the waves and listening to the wildlife of the plains. Eventually, however, she sighed and picked herself from the ground and brushed leaves of grass from her undergarments. Stretching, she bent down and felt to see if her clothes were any dryer. Making a face, she picked everything up from the ground.

“Still damp… oh well.”

Ahead, a vast woodlands stretched out on the side of the road opposite the coast. Once she finished dressing, she hiked up her pack once more and set off down the road. Hearing the sounds of nature helped to further brighten her spirits as she tried to forget all about the night before. Birds flittered overhead, tweeting and chirping as they chased each other into the trees. Butterflies danced about the wildflowers growing in the fields at the edge of the road near the eves of the woodlands, their colors already muted as if in preparation for the coming winter’s hibernation.

A brisk Autumn wind rushed along the coast, rustling the leaves in the trees. It felt liberating, for Aya as she breathed in the fresh air deeply. The sun rose and started to fall in the blue sky overhead; the day waned and the sun had started to set.

Off the road, Aya made her camp. Finding a clearing she set stones in a circle once more and prepared another fire, uttering the magic words she had been taught so long ago by her mother. Luckily, she had plenty of dead branches and kindling nearby, so she needn’t fear for her fire going out with nothing to keep it going. Sitting by the flames, her eyes were drawn to its burning embers, the peaceful snapping and popping helping her to all but forget the dismal start to her adventure.

Nevertheless, she peered across the fire and sighed.

How nice it would be for someone else to be sitting there. To have someone, anyone to talk to would be a wonderful treat.

Using her pack as a pillow, she let her still damp clothing dry nearby the fire as she wrapped herself in a hand-sewn blanket her mother had given her for her journey. She found that she quickly drifted off to sleep, as though blanketed in her parents’ warm embrace.

Re: [ARC 1] Tales from the East

PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2018 4:55 pm
by Chef
ALRIC AND SCRATCH
Bagrada, Maqae | Castinis


“You have to help her. You’re the only one who can.”

Wadha looked at the two with her arms crossed. They were dirty, tired, desperate. Scratch could barely support herself. Bandages covered her body, filthy with old blood. It didn’t look good for her. Alric stepped forward, a small bag of qa in his hand. His eyes were red and wild, the look of a crazed man.

“Please,” Alric said, attempting to place it in her hands. “We don’t know where else to go.”

“Just take the money and fix me up already,” Scratch said, her voice raspy.

Wadha sighed, eyes trailing to the slotted window as a few children ran past. Commotion could be heard outside, a usual sound for the apartment. Her home was deep within the city, a hole in an alleyway off of the main market road. Quarters were tight and confined, but it was clean. It wasn’t the slums, though the amount of murder sometimes made one forget that. In the center of Bagrada, crime was more organized, more professional. If someone was killed you knew it was for a reason. Wadha took comfort in that.

“I thought you two were leaving for good,” Wadha said, taking the bag of coin and sifting through it quickly. “People are already looking to replace you, Scratch. You ran business better than anyone else. A lot of people are upset about you leaving. Everybody loses.”

“It wasn’t my choice,” Scratch said, stumbling towards the table to lean on it. “The Teeth kicked me out. According to them, I was making too much.”

“This isn’t about business,” Alric said, shaking his head. “Can’t you see? This is about a human life. Scratch needs help. Now.”

Wadha looked from Alric’s hard eyes to Scratch and smirked. “He really hasn’t been in this world long, has he? Fine. We’ll get her looked at.”

Alric looked at her for a few moments, confirmed that she meant what she had said, and backed down. Life in Maqae was foreign to him, far different than what he experienced in Bikhari. In its capital, Madrigal, men were appreciated for how hard they worked. In Bagrada, men who worked were seen as foolish. The only way to come out on top in the cursed city was to step on the head of another, hard enough to bury them in the dirt. Liars and cheaters prospered here. It was not a life he was used to. Alric walked to a seat at the table and pulled it out. Before he sat, Wadha got his attention.

“I don’t think so,” she said, stepping forward. “I don’t want you hovering around here when the doctors arrive. You’ll make them nervous.”

“Are they really that fragile?” Alric said.

“Leave. Let her be for a while. Take a break, find a whore, do something to get your mind off of this. She will be fine and, trust me, she will find you later. She’s working for your money, after all. Gabriel is bound to have something to keep your mind busy. Where is he?”

“Let’s not talk about Gabriel,” Scratch said, voice weak. “One thing at a time. Please.”

“Fine,” Wadha said. She beckoned for one of the silent shadows in her room to step forward. Whispering a few words in the man’s ear, he nodded and quickly left the building. “You do the same, Alric. Leave. Wait in the plaza. We will come to you tonight.”

“Very well,” Alric said, hesitantly. “This treatment better be worth our time. Neither of us wanted to come back here.”

“Fortunately for you,” Wadha said with a smile, jingling the bag of qa in her hand, “you get what you pay for.”