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    Almost Best Girl#9371

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  1. Gospel of the Saint Queen (Hidden Valley)

    They walk out of the forest, two - the woman who pulses with the blood of the earth and a new man unfamiliar to her. The new man is short, or appears so from her rocky throne (as so many things do), and slender, and has the smell of autumn around him: cool and smoky and disciplined. And earthly, for he is full of grounded pride, a man proud to be a man. He is not like the Saint Queen, who is divine in her step, and not like Dove upon her impromptu throne. His mortality is superb. Compared to the other two, he seems misplaced, mismatched with the burning trees and the trickling, bloody water. A bystander who has stumbled onto the clearing with medicine akimbo, not entirely appreciative of the sort of meeting he’s entered into. For a terrible moment Dove feels that he’s just an extra in the scene. Then she remembers that nobody writes the scripts — nobody sees the future, not completely, nothing is set in stone — and there is no such thing as fate. The lich does not look up from her harpoon, but regards Nicolas with the same interest owed everyone. “Hello there,” she calls out, and dips the tip of her spear into the sourcepoint of the falls, which trembles in response. “And welcome back.” Trilith steps forward curtly. “Louise?” Dove pauses in her pointless, ceaseless task. “Louise? That’s a charming name. I wouldn't mind being called Louise.” “But I’m Dove,” she insists. She knows a little bit. There are some memories, fragments of conversation in that ring Trilith wears on her finger which resonates inside Dove’s head. There are orders and commands given in a voice she recognizes as her own. And writ in the stars, by some distant hand, there are hints of what the future looks like. Prophets have some funny tricks; if they may see the future then they may see themselves in it, and hold a conversation across the ages. Mirrors last a long time, after all. The closer Trilith draws to Dove, the more strongly the ring reacts as it transmits someone else’s living wish. There are images of burning plains, dying men, desperation. Vast, vast deserts, too, waters grey with ash; and all murky in the way that the mutable future must be. The warning is clear. “I like your harpoon. Help me stab something big and invisible?” Trilith gestures over her shoulder, towards the blaze and the crackling, cracked trees. Help her, says Louise, amusedly. “Fair game. And I have a few questions for you later, Queen.” Dove climbs down from her perch, stepping deliberately upon each slicked stone that formed the sides of the Falls. “Incidentally, this thing is quite obedient when it comes down to it. That ring of yours will be able to find it whenever you like.” She pokes Nicolas, the tip of the red, steely harpoon blunting as it jabbed into his hip. “Who’s the new man? Shall he be joining us on our hunt?” “What’s your name? I wasn’t expecting a third to come to meet us. But everything happens for a reason.”
  2. In spirit [artifact]

    They moved on. In their wake trailed a hearty, laconic silence which ebbed and flowed at the man’s whims. Hawke tried to speak some — flat observations here, meaningless questions there — and nothing which he said took hold. The man did not wish to speak, and they had little to speak of. With these compounded, the quiet seemed forgivable. Proper, even. So the boy quit and fell into step alongside, matching pace both physically and mentally and busying his eyes with the shrubs along the roadside, with inconsequential things as he was led in a direction the man found suitable for them both. He looked around. He whistled. He watched the sun rise in the sky and burn the azure envelope into cyan where it touched. His limbs were heavy but they were heavy with strength. The pouch had done a number on his spirit, a good number when it all came back into him and an alien number as he integrated snatches of other caught up in the mix. It swelled up inside him, inner strength and vitality. Hawke wasn’t much for flexing, though. He just kicked more at the dirt, deeper and bigger holes that his shoes ought to have made. He thought about the passing of days, and the mansion-shaped flatness which characterized the previous. A sigh came out of him, a little yearning, a little disappointment, and he flicked idly at the passing vegetation. Their bobbing sway, even cut cleanly into chips, pleased him somewhat. The man chose to break the silence after thirty minutes. “Now —” His scattered attentions snapped together. “—I wish we had that woman’s bike.” Hawke laughed, and went to bored pieces again. But this time the man did not stop. “Well anyway you did pretty alright back there. I suppose if you wanted me out of the way you had as much opportunity to just let me die as kill me yourself.” “What?” Undeterred, he pressed onward. “Now I know a thing or two about a long con, and I haven't discounted entirely the possibility that your game runs deep. But hey, I gotta take a chance sometime, right? So I'll give you something. Something small. And keep the rest to myself for now. My name's Jericho, and it's a right proper pleasure to make your acquaintance fella. I think you and me can work some serious wonders together.” The words hung in the air — some semblance of an olive branch, pitiable and stripped of its fruits and foliage. No, not that: those were for reconciliation, and the two had never been at war. Or so Hawke had thought, but there was a difference of opinion afoot. A marked difference of opinion. He tried to think of a response and pulled a dozen blanks. Something small, Jericho had said, displaying a generosity unknown to most because most would not call it “generosity.” “What?” He repeated, incredulously, and looked away. “Sure, yeah. Same.” This time, the quiet was his. It was a supreme, sullen thing, and it did not delight as much as he thought it would. ~*~ “Speaking of, do you even eat?” Jericho called out from their makeshift camp. He was sitting in front of the fire-pit, involving himself with yet more exoticism as was seemingly his modus operandi. “I have enough rations split between the two of us to get us partway to Tia but we'll need to find a settlement or do a hunt before then if we want to get to Tia with our fleshy bits still fleshy. It didn't occur to me to ask if you eat, until I started thinking about how you were with those spirits back there. Do you? Eat I mean. Do you sleep?” “Secret,” Hawke said, a hat pulled down over his eyes. The hat was of mysterious origin, being large enough that he could not have hidden it from within, and weathered enough that it should not have been a deliberate conjuration; it was, however, a very nice hat. It was made of straw and widebrimmed and covered the front of his body in shade. A suitable if cliche accompaniment to the tree he was leaning against, which faced out into the plains away from the campsite. His reply was mumbled. “I might. I might not. I know I don’t like what we’ve got, so I’ll find my own.” “And secret. But I’ll keep watch, if that’s what you’re asking. Say I don’t eat. You think you can make it back alive?” He nudged the bones of the caravaneer with his outstretched feet, sundried scraps of cloth limp on the dead, stained grass. Wild country, he decided. Not a hundred miles out of Tia and men could lose their lives for no good reason. Bandits? Wildebeests? It was nothing of consequence, but it’d sure be nice, he thought, if there was something out there more certain than Jericho.
  3. —the library of Magdalena

    THE FATED —those that are trapped— "Last winter, my mother withered away, the last of our withering house. That makes me free. Free from the shackles of that withering name." REDEEMED |ρ| —a bearer of faith. Estella Kireyev, a woman who seeks more trouble than she's worth simply because she has nothing else left to her. A daughter of a House which is long faded, she was aimless, directionless. And so she demanded of the Blood God, to prove to her the afterlife that would be her salvation, and so he did in exchange for her mortality. An afterlife the right to which she must earn back through her own blood, proving her faith unshakeable to Sauriel. Once a noblewoman, now a lowly knight; how swiftly fate turns. KIREYEV, ESTELLA Carmine Empire, Arcane East, Genesaris "I'll Booming Blade - it's all I know how to do. But make light of me at your own peril, commoner. I've slain bigger beasts than you by far, and my boon companion Argoth will crush you if I cannot." DUELIST |δ| —a singer of swords. Fiona Lear, illustrious daughter of House Lear turned adventurer and wanderer. Torn from her noblesse upbringing of magic and blade by the untimely death of her twin brother, Fionn Lear, she set out into the world to avenge his death and protect her city from destruction. Meeting her comrade-in-arms, Argoth, along the way, she eventually fell into the habit of the lifestyle and now wanders ceaselessly, forever scornful and acting her bit part, yet surprising in her nature to all she meets. She fights with a booming blade, for that's all she knows how to do. LEAR, FIONA UNKNOWN "It has been a good age, maybe, but this is where it ends." EINHERJAR |ε| —an alterer of history. History reads like a book and a prophecy all at once; patterns and irrefutable truths are woven into the earth and the former worlds that span all of memory. The human eye perceives spectres among the data and they grow to encroach upon all the mind. What did Lily de Noblet see there, one rainy night in August? She will not say, but it was true that her eyes were both opened that day; that she vanished the morning afterwards, along with every book in the library that even remotely touched the subject of dragons in antiquity. Rumors abound about a woman hailing from The Valley with a strange eye and a overwhelming, single-minded goal: "To save the world," she says, "from the fates." There is nothing here that is not the truth, and painful though that truth may be, Lily of the Valley will see it through to the end as best she can with that eye of hers. DE NOBLET, LILY The Valley, Nar Oeste, Eledaron "It makes me a bit sad, Madon. When we first met, little as we were, we believed in things like romance and chivalry when neither of us knew anything about it. Then we grew up and stopped believing in them, and now we're standing here, truly about to die protecting something and I'd love to have all that illusion back to comfort me, do you not think so?" SORROW |σ| —an administrator of miracle. Olivia Pleuvoir, third daughter of the Noble House of Pleuvoir in Zenith. She wasn't much for nobility, which is fine, because the house was eradicated; less fine, because she was taken and bred into a Princess of Glia. And still she clung to things like duty, to the bonds between a good king and his subjects. Throwing herself into her god-given role, abandoning vengeance because such things are pointless: the only good thing in this world is goodness. And the Princess of White must be good. She must. PLEUVOIR, OLIVIA Glia, Nar Oeste, Eledaron "Fuck, I really do not want to do this the hard way. Come on, man. Play nice. Make it easy on ya." MAFIOSA |μ| —a somniac for fish. Rosalyn Clemens is her name. She doesn't really want to have anything to do with you; she's a busy woman, and when life gives ya lemons, you exploit them for money. Keep moving. There's nothing to see here. ... ... ...Take a picture, it'll last longer. Creep. CLEMENS, ROSALYN Telvarnu, Draco South, Eledaron
  4. More Important is the Journey

    “Uhm, which?” Yonx replied, genuine confusion rippling unchecked across his face. Honesty was the blessing of the blind — they had never seen anything to hide, inside themselves and without. And so they didn’t hide anything, their hearts worn on their sleeve because it made no sense to wear it anywhere else. “Aren’t all the women present here good ladies?” How true it was, Arzada thought, how swiftly honesty cut through false language and worthless words of window-dressing, and so she laughed for the third time that day. The sound mingled with the background well: another table, set out with the cheerful tap of silverware and idle talk that signified the state of the happy normal, a routine family-like in its comfort. “Yes, Yonx, you’re absolutely right. It was a force of habit. Just — words, that I’m too used to.” “Good lady.” It had slipped out without meaning, almost sarcastic in its query. And what was a proud woman to do, when those around her had made such easy assumptions about her buyability? I don’t see why we need more mercenaries, Priscilla had remarked to Kinaaz’s seeming suggestion that the vampire ought to be hired. We have plenty already. She must defend her pride, somehow, and this is no exception for any man or woman with a bit of pride in them. Some grew angry, some responded with scorn. Arzada was used to the abuses of humans, but that did not keep a sliver of indignance from her voice, though that had eventually been turned into a platform for satisfying her interest. In the end only Michelee had apologized for the minor transgression; whether it was simply because humans were mercenary in nature and Michelee was innocent of this, or whether the beast-woman had felt something from the vampire that the others could not possibly feel, was unknown to her. But she nodded gratefully in her direction nonetheless, a dismissive, soothing wave meant to assuage her concern. It is nothing, but thank you, friend. Priscilla explained her situation. Arzada listened, careful not to lean too far into the lives of others, although she bared it all the same. The runesmith was in no mortal danger, but it was a situation that struck the vampire’s interest nonetheless. Someone who was so interested in human lives, and human emotions, never failed to find what they were looking for in the struggles and ordinary sufferings of anyone at all. Priscilla, she felt, must be nearing the edge of her endurance. Arzada smiled and nodded gratefully again. “Thank you for sharing. It does sound like quite the odyssey, and may luck be with you,” and thought to herself that she had found an opening to make friends with a tragic situation. “It should only be fair that I answer you with the same courtesy,” she said smoothly, setting down her fork. “You asked me if I were a noblewoman. I was, once. You could tell, couldn’t you?” “I don’t know if I still am. I don’t know who decides that, really. How do you tell?” She looked past Priscilla, around at the other wealthy spotting the dining hall in wispy, bejeweled congregations. Doles of doves, with feathers stuck up into the air white as the marble that built their mansions. They were obvious among the more ordinary crowd - the same sort that ringed the table before her. Mercenaries, swordsmen, an old, old fae and a tired young woman. “What makes a human noble? Is it their associations? Their land, or their authority?” “I still have all of those things. If I went back home, I’d have our land, and there are many who would still obey me. But I also know that I’ve left the Matton family behind. I still love them, for they are my brothers, my nieces, and my nephews, but they are not me, and I am not one of them. We don’t share much but our name, our blood, and our fortune. I don’t know what they’ve been doing, but I am certain I want no part in it anymore. It’s matters of war, or barbarism. Something cruel, I’m sure.” “I took a share of the fortune and told them I’d be living the lives that they would never have, and they laughed. Like beasts, stupid. Because they liked to do the same thing for their whole lives until they decay away into gibbering husks. But I wanted to see the world printed on the maps they liked pushing pieces around on. I wouldn’t say I’m particularly noble, anymore. I’m simply a wanderer with more freedom than most.” Freedom! What an alien word. She let the word murmur about her lips, and basked in its truth. She was free, free like no other nightwalker was.
  5. Gathering Materials [1/3]

    Eleazar popped off shots as he went, keeping his large frame against the wall to minimize the impact of stray bullets. Each which grazed his face left a thin streak of grey dust drifting into open air. Each was but a droplet in a sea of damage, but too many and his true nature would be revealed and that was something they were both avoiding as best they could. The Empire did not need more enemies than it had, and it already had just a few too many for her liking. One of their four assailants dropped clutching at his neck. The old man grunted and shifted his aim over to the next. Click, click, the trigger struggled hollowly. Without breaking stride, he took the barrel of the gun in his hand and threw it like a tomahawk to smash into the second man’s nose. Flicking his wrist, another pistol seemingly slid out of his sleeve and spun into his hand. He repeated the action with his other hand, and brought both to bear. Bullets sparked off the walls and pushed the remaining guards behind cover. “Right, you said,” he bent low behind the shell-shield which Noi had erected halfway down the corridor. “Sure. Right it is. I trust you won’t mislead us. Let’s move, then.” A spray of bullets from behind caught him in the back, to which he clicked his tongue. Eleazar shoved a hand into his abdomen and extracted from the swirling dust a submachine gun. “Kill the ones in front,” he ordered, and stood, turning to face the guards closing in from behind. Aureus had better stuff than this; if they did not move quickly, they would find themselves on the receiving end of bigger obstacles.
  6. Gospel of the Saint Queen (Hidden Valley)

    -in the future past- Locale: Hidden Valley, Terrenus, 8772 AO “Say — missy. Trilith, you said? Or do you prefer your title, Saint Queen? Either one works, I reserve judgement. I understand the appeal of having titles.” One teacup was balanced upon the deflated surface of a neglected ottoman, kitschy with plaid. The other remained in the standing woman’s hands, from which she took an immediate draw. The serene curls of steam wreathed the sides of her face as she drank, in the resemblance of the mane of a lion. It really was very hot; Trilith was not being particularly rude in neglecting hers. The woman set the cup down upon the corner of a table. “I used to have a whole lot of fancy names and titles, too. Though you might think that it’s not a lot of good in the dust bowl now — do you mind if I do a bit of cleaning? I haven’t had guests in a quick minute.” She unhooked a duster from the side of a cabinet and swiped at the dust gathered upon the window. Through the glass was a desert; a plain made up of a thousand years of sand swept by wind into a vast crevasse that was once a valley. “Anyway, names. Names don’t really have any meaning anymore, do they? Nobody left to answer to them, fear them, respect them. There’s nobody to know of them.” “…” “Fair is fair. I go by Louise now. I had others. Victor. Mary. There was a long time when I went by Dove, too. That was many years ago. Thousands, even. Not quite as far as Levas, if you know your history, but a few hundred years after that,” she said, moving onto the shelves and tickling the spines of books. “I can’t remember the exact date, but I’m sure it’s after the Desecrators started going out of business. I’m almost positive — yeah, by the time Jason of the Lions put a knife through Zengi’s face — Oh. I’m rambling. It must be terribly boring to hear of history that’s already been wiped into nothingness that no one remembers. All of that is just dust, anyway.” She stressed the word dust as she cleaned a sheen back onto the surface of a mirror. “Dust and old memories. And I’m the only one who remembers those.” Trilith found the reflection of Louise’s eyes looking out into hers from the silver. They were almost as red as hers, and they were not particularly weary, nor crinkled, anything of the sort. In fact they were downright energetic, smooth and shiny in perfect and impossible ways. Louise had gotten better at emulating the dynamics of eyes over the course of years: such was her art. She sculpted with her face, and painted with her skin. It was how she etched into memory the faces of those who she’d loved; aging them, changing them, taking on their form. The visages were put together from photos, memories, paintings, the wist of the mind. Once upon a time they had been rough and unfamiliar; now she thought herself indistinguishable. But no matter how well she changed herself, her eyes were inescapably old, completely unlike the once-child she was remembering. Louise leaned against the mirror, appraising the woman seated in her living room. “Still, you have to know about the brief reign of Odin Haze? The records must begin at least that early. Otherwise you’d be making a blind foray into a hostile, dark land. Isn’t that right?” “…?” “Word travels far, especially in empty space,” she remarked. “That you’re here is more than a stroke of luck on both our ends. It was bound to happen eventually. Inevitable, you could say.” The ding of the oven summoned her across the room, though her attention was unbroken. “When you return, you’ll want allies with you. If one woman could change the world alone, it might be you. But if you want to make that a certainty, I know another woman who’s quite capable. Would you like some biscuits with that, by the way?” “…” “They’re really tasty, I promise. I made them. I would know.” She bit a piece off a particularly flaky specimen with an impish look. “Yum.” “…?” “Who is she? Where is she? That’s a pretty good question.” Sucking on the biscuit thoughtfully, she returned the serve. “Say. Isn’t it funny? If we talk about ourselves in the past, we would use the first person. Say, ‘I watered the plants yesterday’, or ‘I went to Genesaris five years ago.’ It’s the same thing with the future, even though foreseeably we change so dramatically through the years. One might wonder whether you right now are the same person as you from twenty, thirty, fifty years hence and thence. It seems so much more suitable to talk about different people in the third person, doesn’t it? She said, he said. Yet we can’t let go of identity. They are us, after all, no matter how much we change.” She paused. “But to talk about this woman in the same way feels strange, especially when you are about to meet her. She’s nowhere to be found right now. You’ll meet her after you jump: you’ll meet the me of some thousands of years past.” Louise pushed aside her teacup and sat onto the corner of the table, crossing her legs and picking out another biscuit. “That’s how far you’re going, aren’t you? All the way back to the very beginning of this mess. Back when Odin Haze was starting to drift into myth, and the cities of Terrenus were beginning to dissolve from within.” “…” “I remember everything very clearly. The longer you live, the more you cherish every minute that is not like the last. And those were very important minutes, never to be replicated, and you’re going to make sure that they do not happen to begin with,” Louise nodded. “And she - I - will be helping you. I have to reward you somehow for coming all this way, and since you keep saying no to my biscuits this will have to do.” “You’ll want something she’ll recognize you by.” The woman brought a palm to her heart and breathed deeply — or made a show of breathing, as she hadn’t breathed once before this. At the apex of her breath, she threw out her arm, terminating with a fierce snap of the fingers. Grinning crumbily, she presented her open palm to Trilith with the manner of a street magician; a fluttering scrap of red silk was tucked, half-folded, between her fingers. “This marks a very special bond between you and I. And her. It means our fates are intertwined, in some form or another, or so the symbolism goes in those old novels. Idle words, really. Aren’t all of our fates tied together?” She laughed. “This is something she will recognize. It’s very important. Don’t lose it, mind. I’ll know if you have.” She closed her hand into a fist, and tossed a silver ring banded with red - a swift transformation - which Trilith snatched deftly out of the air. “I don’t know what I’ll do if you do, to be honest, but I’ll be very disappointed at the very least. And I’m sure that this world will suffer for you two never having met.” Her voice was mischievous, but not in the way that a child’s was; it was full of gravity that had been weathered into levity by the passing of years. There was weight and portent in her words. “Good luck on your journey, Queen. When you return, I’m sure you’ll be returning to a world where people really respect that title, where your inheritance is a bit more than a few bits of scum floating on the surface of the sea.” “…” “Oh, don’t worry your pretty little head about it. You’ll find her, or she’ll find you. One way or another. It’s something of an inevitability. She is me, after all.” The teacups clinked into the sink, washed by the sound of running water. It ran, and ran, and ran, synonymous with the soft susurration of the Falls just outside, clear water pouring out sourcelessly in a murky world. The wind began to pick up; in the distance, thunder began to rumble among the towers of dust dominating the skyline. “Oh, I forgot to say; she won’t look one bit like me, so you might —” Louise turned to address her, but the mysterious woman had already disappeared into the veil of dust swirling just beyond the perimeter of the falls. She eyed the empty sofa for a few seconds more. “Well. It was nothing so important, really,” she said shortly, and dried the dishes with a rag. “It is inevitable, after all.” Louise collapsed back into her chair, closing her eyes, and the falls rumbled. Without pause, the familiar sensation came around her into which all other feeling fell away; that of melting, of disappearance, of void. The cottage, its garden, and the embracing gentle flow of the Hidden Falls vanished into limbo. Locale: Hidden Valley, Terrenus, 28 AO Dove cursed, slammed her foot into the caking, crackling, drying earth beneath, and pulled. It was not a fair game; she was an unmoving, wooden post, and the Falls, a horse garroted to it by a wire round the neck. This did not mean that the horse made it particularly easy; in fact, that the post had to struggle at all to keep the horse in check was an alien notion which made it grit its teeth in annoyance. Each inch which she pulled was another inch of rushing water exploding outwards into air choked by ash. It was too late, she presumed, to appeal to the Falls’ sense of duty. It would let the world burn just to get away from her. Every inch which it gave was an inch of its sum total willpower. She pulled again, and again a length of thread emerged from the vanishing point through which the Falls had tried to escape via - what, teleportation? Some cowardly trick, which would not make a difference. It was inevitable, predestined, probabilistically unlikel - why is it not giving up? Another thread teased from beneath the hem of her dress, and shot to collide and entwine with the first. A third, a fourth, a fifth all followed, delving into the realm of the metaphysical where all cowards eventually fled, finding the core concept of the Hidden Falls and choking it. Dove took a little satisfaction in feeling the preternatural essence of the falls contract and cower beneath the crushing grip of her phylactery. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. — That was a good thought. She cleared her throat. “Should’ve given up while you had a shred of pride left in you,” she said to the inanimate object she had been wrestling with for the better part of an hour; five days, really, if one included in the count the battle of wills. “Play stupid games, win stupid pr—” A blade of water shot out from the quivering sphere of levitating water, filling her mouth keenly and drowning her last word in a torrent of coughs and sputters. Swallowing a good majority of the water, Dove wiped her face and let out a deep, shuddering breath. “I will…” She began, and suddenly thought better of it, clamping her mouth shut. Her eyes flickered as a thick harpoon took shape from her back and poised itself towards the Falls. The water chilled suddenly; the comfortable warmth it had acquired from the fires raging around them drained in an instant, almost freezing as a second, then a third joined the battery. Dove quirked an odd smile, one which filled her eyes with an odd glint. “This might be a tight fit.” Whenever Trilith might have returned at last from her fruitless hunt, Dove would be there, reclining atop a tower of rocks from which gushed a small stream and polishing a long, serrated ruby harpoon. The trees around steamed, burnt to coal and burning no longer. One might figure that the woman had not a little to do with the state of affairs.
  7. —the library of Magdalena

    THE FREE —those who wander— “The Greater Good doesn't work on an empty stomach. Not well, anyway. So if you wanna bump up those numbers..." KNIGHT-ERRANT |ν| —a protector of "ideal." Adelaide Fontaine, knight-errant who chases idle dreams, the passing clouds, and promises of gold. Those are the sorts of things she holds in her head; to wit, not much at all. She isn't much for thinking - much more for living. That's how life is best taken after all; paycheck-to-paycheck, thriving in a moment that might last forever if you put enough effort into it. She is loyal to a fault, and equally pragmatic. Above all, she's just a woman trying to make her way through this world... FONTAINE, ADELAIDE TERRENUS GENESARIS ALTERION “It had to have been pure unluck, nothing more than chance. Because if it's because of divinity, then it's divine punishment, and if it's divine punishment that means I've sinned. And I haven't. I am a good man. I was born a good man, I'll die a good man." CONFESSOR |κ| —a repentant of sin. Alan M. MacDowell, an ordinary scientist caught up extraordinary things by what he claims was no choice of his. His life is a series of misfortunes; his being, a forlorn rider carried along unwillingly. He'll tell you the day his life began to fall apart, gladly. All you have to do is believe him, when he says that he wanted for none of this. One must always question a man who is without agency. MACDOWELL, ALAN M. TERRENUS GENESARIS ALTERION “Mommy told me that the more things change, the more things stay the same. But I'm confused. Nothing ever changes. Of course they stay the same." DESTROYER |δ| —an alpha and omega. Aria. A little girl who exists beyond the ravages of mortality, and beyond its caresses. She's a personification of the first and the last, the greatest forces that nip at reality, chaos and order. One would suspect a grand plan at work; a prophecy to be fulfilled, a world to be saved. Really, it's nothing like that. A twelve-year-old (in spirit) doesn't nurture such dreams, and the people who do, who chase her to the ends of the earth, inevitably meet inglorious ends. All she wants is to catch a break. Play on the swings. Eat some candy. Make those she loves smile. Simple things. —————, ARIA TERRENUS GENESARIS ALTERION “We are shackled to our kingdom. Our crowns are chains, our thrones are prisons. To be a vampire, I think, is misery." WANDERER |ω| —a seeker of life. Arzada, just Arzada. A vampire? Maybe. Blood on her hands? Perhaps. She doesn't like talking about it. Rather, she'd much rather focus on the mountain range passing by in the window - isn't that something? The soaring, majestic peaks, blue beneath the sun? Isn't that...isn't that the most beautiful thing you've ever seen? The world's full of these sorts of things, of things that need be seen, acknowledged, marveled at, basked, experienced. She's had enough of killing. She's had enough of building fortunes atop the dried-out husks of humans. MATTON, ARZADA TERRENUS GENESARIS ALTERION “God bless you, and don'tcha forget me ever, 'kay mister?" MNEMNOCIDE |μ| —a fragment of memory. It is a city by the sea. The sea is bronze, the waters like molten gold and copper mixed by the tides. The seas of Venus, perhaps? It is cool. The breeze smells of autumn. It is quiet. And there is only one soul who walks these streets. Who knows who she is - I have never seen her. The city is equidistant to every single point in reality by a walk of eight hours. No more, no less. Cross the Dunes of Eternity, the Rivers of Memory, the False Woods, and you shall be approaching the City from the southern shore, without exception. The streets will be empty. Who would ever willingly seek out this city? Someone, perhaps, who envies its permanence. A faint giggle echoes through the corridor. BY THE SEA, A CITY TERRENUS GENESARIS ALTERION “Anything's possible, but I like to make sure the less likely things have a fighting chance. Isn't that poetic?" STATISTICIAN |σ| —a calculator of chance. Dove doesn't believe in fate. To this end, she has devoted lifetimes to thwarting it for nothing more than her own amusement. (So much for responsible use of immense power.) With the power of increasingly sharp and arbitrary prophecy, she adjusts the future to her liking; often to others' detriment, sometimes to their benefit. But irresponsibility eventually catches up to you, and prophets, no matter how immoral, often find themselves with a burden and a duty... —————, DOVE TERRENUS GENESARIS ALTERION “Th-this is fine. I've lost l-limbs before. I'm used to it. Just call Pilot or Evelyn, please. They'll know w-what to do." STUDENT |σ| —a boy desiring ordinary. Finn Cavalcante is nothing more than an ordinary college student studying magi-physics and topological mechanics and wishing to land himself a job, anything will do, what with the increasingly poor job market in Terrenus nowadays. As with all ordinary people, Finn doesn't get what he wants. Well, that's a bit of a lie. He does have a job now, interning with the Handymen. One wonders what such an ordinary-sounding job entails. Well, he's lost two limbs so far, and the prospects for the rest are looking rather grim. The tragedies of being unemployable... CAVALCANTE, FINN TERRENUS GENESARIS ALTERION "What? Me? Touch your wife? Every Wednesday for the past three months, minus your birthday four weeks ago that she felt bad about? That's crazy. You're delusional! Maybe you should give your wife a talking to, you know, fact check a little." PHILANDERER |φ| —a stealer of girls. Francis Avery is a student who very much enjoys life. Devilishly attractive, somewhat neurotic, his hobbies include theatre, acting, and girls and guys of any persuasion. He gets beaten up routinely, something he is taking lessons for, although the last time he was kicked in the face through a wall by his martial arts teacher for predictable reasons involving her attractive husband. Of course, he doesn't let it get him down, because Francis is better than that. AVERY, FRANCIS TERRENUS GENESARIS ALTERION "I'm sorry, but your trick questions won't fool me. I'm perfect. Flawless, clean, pearly, diamond, crisp bills and hefty bullion worth a billion. And I want to remind everyone, by the way, that megalomania never killed anyone. Not directly, at least." SPINSTER |σ| —a knitter of thread. Hawke, a mysterious thing in the guise of a boy who woke upon a mysterious island with a mind full of memories and a wild impulsive streak. He knows who he was supposed to be; but that is not he, and struggling with these questions he moves into the world hoping to make a difference; a difference different than that of the Prior, the Original, who was a hateful lich with a bitter and caloric nature. He likes eating oysters and doves. DOVETAILED, HAWKE TERRENUS GENESARIS ALTERION "If I had one wish - gosh, this sounds so ungrateful - it'd be for everything boring in my life to fall apart. Throw the world up, break something. To close my eyes one day, and wake somewhere new. Doesn't that sound cool?" MAHOU SHOUJO |μ| —a smiter of evil. Hana, formerly the daughter of a business-man and a no-nonsense woman of the old traditions in Weland, now a magical girl in service to Yomigane, the Goddess of Contracts, paying dearly for a wish made in jest as her sword cuts through the endless Yokai that plague the night in Weland. Not that she minds; anything was better than growing up in a life as boring as hers. But she does wish sometimes that she had friends. She's somewhat indecisive and not at all certain of herself, but she is certain in her sword and for now that's all that matters. KOSHOUSOU, HANA TERRENUS GENESARIS ALTERION "This gun is precious. I spent a lot of time on her, you know! I dub her Falle, after your grade in my class. Try not to lose her." PROFESSOR |π| —a seeker of truth. Auroch Jindal, Professor Emeritus at Hell's Gate Second Charter University of Magiphysics, Antiparticle Mechanics, and Political History. He has a hobby of chasing down eccentricities in spacetime (read: portals) and as such probably meets more foreigners to Valucre than the majority of his colleagues. He's also an avid weapons designer. On the exterior, a rather kindly old man who is a bit too good with weapons. Appearances are sometimes deceiving, but really. He's edging on 60, what do you want from him? JINDAL, AUROCH TERRENUS GENESARIS ALTERION
  8. TABLE OF CONTENTS ⊱ Characters ⊱The Free ⊱The Fated ⊱The Forgotten ⊱ Threads ⊱Adelaide Fontaine ⊱Alan M. MacDowell ⊱Aria ⊱Arzada Dolos-Matton ⊱Auroch Jindal ⊱A City by the Sea ⊱Dove ⊱Estella Senova Kireyev ⊱Finn Cavalcante ⊱Fiona Lear ⊱Francis Avery ⊱Hawke ⊱Koshousou Hana ⊱Lily of the Valley ⊱Olivia Pleuvoir ⊱Rosalyn Clemens ⊱Severa Campana ⊱Valentine Day ⊱Other ⊱ Acquisitions ⊱N/A
  9. In spirit [artifact]

    Hawke shoved his hands in his pockets and tilted his chin upwards while he paced, gaze listing among the clouds. He was not searching for an answer; if he had been, he would have looked inward and not to the skies. Answers always came from within, anyhow, from within other people or within the self, whoever pretended to know. He could get any answer he liked from the inside. It didn’t matter if it was made up, or if wasn’t exactly right, he could make it true. But Hawke wasn’t looking for an answer. The clouds drifted aimlessly reflected flat in his pupils. The sky was powdery blue, the sunlight warm. The brambles wilted and shied away from the sharply defined blades of morning. The soil was steaming, even, as if it were being cleansed by some holy fire, and so it may have been. The boy blew out his cheeks and pretended to suck in a lung full of the aftertaste of dying rot. (If death dies then is it life? Rebirth. That was the referent of the Sun.) It tasted good and unfamiliar. This place was seeing its better days, now. Its dalliance with the ghosts of the Pouch concluded, the very heart of the Woods began to lighten up. It began to smile and lose its identity. Hawke looked back to a patch of barren, bare soil somewhere a mansion once stood for something. It had stood for not fear, nor the cunning hunger of a predator, nor some force of maliciousness as judged by the hearts of men. That tangle of ghosts was simply there, in a place that welcomed it, mindless and confused and trying to make its way in a land where other things moved on past it. A conglomeration of a lifetime - many lifetimes - of regrets and maybes and should-haves and lost loves and hatreds. Wrapped up tight in a gift pouch prison. “That was a little easier than I thought it’d be,” Jericho said as he got up off the ground. “A little easier than I would have liked, even.” “S’how it is. Some things are easy. Some things aren’t.” Hawke stopped to touch the curling bark of a tree. “The place is cleaning up nicely,” he observed again, aloud. The blackened wood crumbled beneath his fingers. The Pouch dangled, forlorn, between Jericho’s knuckles, swaying like a pendulum in the breeze. Forward, and backward, sometimes into the sunlight, sometimes seething in the shadows. Jericho held it up to eye level, his steady eyes burning through it as they did everything that came before him. “I don’t mind when fate gives me a hand but I always ask myself, at what cost?” Everything has a price, Hawke recalled. “I think we’ve earned it,” he reassured himself. The leaves turned to ash where the sun lingered. The man regarded the pouch for a few seconds more. “I suppose that depends on the type of enemy I’m dealing with. His ideals. Self-interest. If we’re food to a starving animal, it’ll keep stalking us and trying us until either it gets to feed, or we spank it hard enough to show it that we aren’t food. I’m not sure if either one of those have happened.” Hawke shook his head. “I guess,” he said. “We ran round lots and lots and I sure don’t know what it is. Wouldn’t that be a good first step, you think?” He held up a hand, gesturing for the man to toss it over. “Can I take a look?”
  10. if virtue feeble were

    They went out of the courtyard like that, clutching at each other’s arms for no reason in particular except that Olivia thought it awful proper. If a knight should accompany a lady then he must lead her by the hand. Did they not make knights in Isore, proper ones? “Come on, Madon.” Madon had to have learned a few things about Olivia by then: among these, he had to know that objection was not productive. If she were a shield, she must be the one that was impenetrable; if a lance, the one that was unstoppable. Maybe he thought of pitting two of her against one another in some fictitious world as he walked. Olivia meets Olivia, two meeting in some vast plain of marble inside a thicket of stony trees, beside a stony fountain, where the water ran and ran and ever ran for their enjoyment while they talked. They’d point at each other simultaneously, with that loud, bold voice. “Who are you?” And maybe they’d tear each other apart, terribly, tooth and nail, insufferable and in-suffering. Or maybe they’d fall in love, deep love. Both seemed very likely, and no other scenario came close. But there was nothing to that dream, and he already had one of her beside, and that was enough of a handful but barely. Her hand filled his up hardly halfway. They were soft and polished and slender in his calloused palm. She’d never touched a lance in her life, had she? No, not any weapon, nothing that could ever give her a splinter, perish the thought. They were used to spoons and forks of silver or gold, some soft, dull metal, nothing that was a threat. Why, if she dared press her palms against the bark of a tree or the rough hands of a knight, her mother might cry out in fear. Madon had been wearing gloves at the ball, as had all the Isorians, so in this way they were spared from the conscious judgment of the Zenith Nobility, but there had been superiority in the air. They did not wear gloves. Their hands were points of pride. Rings and pale skin shone forth with unnatural pallor, like the reflection of moonlight off of snow. One could always discern the nobles of Zenith by their hands, marred at the worst by paper cuts from worshiping their books. At the best, they were as Olivia’s. These were a princess’s hands in Zenith. Nothing quite like it in Isore, nor in Glia, nor in Byrn. Nothing in this world could be as stupidly glass-like, like clouds and wool clinging desperately to bone. Still, she fancied herself dangerous despite her hands. All her sharpness was in her mouth. A cultivated, imaginary power, which bubbled like magma inside a fragile form which was alien even to the ravages of life, much less war. Olivia hummed along, uncaring about things like fragility. She carried herself without thinking; she was brazen like a trophy in a case. They walked out the gates of Princess’s Tower, onto the bridge that connected its mid-level to the city heights. The weather was fair that day, the sun broad-brimmed and the winds gentle across the sweeping plains which flooded the earth from just beyond the lip of the river to the distant-rising mountains of the horizon. The bridge flared out in every direction like the courtyard had; a vast, flat plateau of sparkling marble, and empty. The people of Glia kept their distance far, far away from where the foreign nobilities roosted for the brief weeks, and the streets branching down from the Tower were barren of everything but lonely pairs of guards who were hardly more than statues themselves. Olivia flung her arms open and twirled in the vast white, laughing, staggering in every direction and finding still more space to dance. She flit like a hummingbird, close to the ground, searching for nothing and finding it nowhere. “Isn’t it great? Nobody! Like the world is made just for me.” She ran over to the edges of the bridge. The wide, warm waters spread like a carpet a great distance beneath. Flecks of cheerful sunlight beaded on its surface, meandering slow and rippling in the breeze. The lingering scent left by the wind was that of grass. “Look at that - it’s so big. I always loved Glia, you know. I wouldn’t have minded growing up here,” she remarked, leaning her whole body over the railings and trying to swallow the whole length into her eyes. “It’s such a big world. A great big city. Nothing like Zenith, not at all. They’re right in the middle of everything. It’s like the city’s hugging the whole world. Don’t you think so?” She looked back at Madon and beckoned him to the railing. “I want to touch the river,” she declared. “That’d be fun, wouldn’t it? Let’s swim.”
  11. Gathering Materials [1/3]

    Eleazar moved with purpose, or some semblance thereof. “This way.” He did not know if it was the right way, but it was a way forward and Dove believed that good things came to those who kept moving, in any direction though forward was the best of all of them. They always found something at the end of the road. As the lights rose around them, they plunged down stairs, through thin caged halls, occasionally leaping, bounding, floating and flying over ship-lengths of open and empty space as the skeleton rods of metal fell away menacingly in the distance, shadowed from the outside by the cyan ambience. They were inside a Leviathan, the vast bones of which stretched above them from unimaginable heights into a rebar abyss beneath. How could those of Aureus live and breathe in such environs? One wrong turn and suddenly one is lost for an era. The two shuffling in the shadows were no better off – worse, perhaps – but Dove had a compass. It was no golden thread, but the distant pulsing heartbeat of the Seed would have to do. “Guide me. Where are we supposed to head?” His head snapped to the left, ear craning for an unheard sound. “We’re always getting closer, I can feel that, but tell me what the map says–“ Without flinching or stopping, Eleazar lifted a hand and discharged his pistol at a shadow that moved, suddenly, down the platform. Without a noise, it dropped onto the ground with the sound of fluttering papers. The bullet had caught the toppling file cabinet right in the center of its mass. Prone on the ground underneath the light, it didn’t look nearly as hostile as it did when it was falling in the shadows. The man looked at Noi, then at the barrel of his gun. Dove forced an awkward smile. “Force of habit. Oops.” Distantly, there came the sounds of soldiers. “Sounds like that gave away our position.”
  12. More Important is the Journey OOC

    apologies to all those who i seemingly "ignore" in my posts, this time @Mickey Flash and @Tia Dalma i strive for a lot of flow in my posts and sometimes statements made previously need to be properly addressed before i move on, otherwise it gets messy, weird, and uncharacteristic
  13. More Important is the Journey

    “Signy Matton, huh?” Kinaaz said, the slightest hint of a smirk upon her lips, revealing nothing. The trickster nature of the fae was blatant in her, Arzada noted. An aversion to reverence and respect, an insistence upon levity. She never liked dealing with fae for this reason. Humans, for the most part, lived and died honestly. From between the cracks in their facades, so easy to break, shone beams of the beauty of the heart. Fae never buckled. Fae were always pretending to laugh, or pretending to cry. There was no beauty in that. “Yes, I’ve heard tales of your people before, Nightwalker,” she said at last, chuckling. And I wonder what tales those may be, Arzada muttered, uneasy. Tales of her people? Her people were wolves: in spirit, literally, and in body, damned close. The other Families brandished daggers like elegance, sharp seduction, and pierced the hearts of humans with wit and tact. What did the Mattons have? She thought of Brandoch, Alexandros, Karalanos. They had madness. They had tooth and nail, claws, bodies that would outlast mountains, a love of physical strength and therefore a love of themselves. A peculiar talent for disregarding dignity. A hatred for physical weakness, even though they were all weak in other ways. A well of simple-minded sadism from which all their motivation was drawn. The other Families would laugh, maybe, but they were always afraid. You always had to be afraid of a pitbull. No matter that it couldn’t speak human tongues, or think with intelligence, or conduct itself with subtlety. For everything that it didn’t have, that slobbering mess whining in the yard could kill you. The only tales worth telling of the Mattons were those of their countless ravages and slaughters. Those were the only ones that existed. “Let they be good tales then, Fae,” Arzada said with a note of finality, and changed the subject. “A Dark Fae?” “Yes, I am a Dark Fae,” she grinned. She was proud of her heritage, if anyone could ever be proud of something given them. “Old? Perhaps – though not by my people’s standards.” Kinaaz chuckled. “I haven’t lived half the years I’m supposed to – if I’m not killed before, that is.” “I find it a bit morbid to consider depressing impossibilities,” Arzada remarked; there was almost a tone of reprimand in her voice, although her eyes were crescent with amusement. They were like old friends – emphasis on old – sharing a joke privy to no other. It was good to be understood. “You don’t think that you’ll die so ingloriously?” She pressed her fingers to her lips, abstaining from a smile. “But perhaps my privilege is showing a bit too plainly.” Arzada and Kinaaz knew that a long lifespan was not so different from one that was short. The frankness in their discussion stemmed from such an admission: that longevity was nothing good. Immortality, even more so. Without fear to keep one alive, pleasure dulls. Without sadness, life stretches with the elastic texture of apathy. The short-lived, however, envied the long-lived because envy can’t comprehend reason. Kinaaz seemed to sense the precarious direction of their talk. She turned her chin towards Priscilla to ensure the words carried. “Will you be joining us on our little journey? Another bodyguard?” The vampire paused. “Oh? I –“ “Miss Arzada doesn’t seem like she needs a job,” Michelee cut in harshly, eyes glued to her own plate of food. Her voice shook as she spoke. “She seems to be doing just fine wealth-wise.” “Pardon?” “Uhh—” Priscilla was startled into action by the sudden question. “Yeah. We already have plenty of people with us; given that we’re probably going to be there in a matter of days, anyway, I really don’t see why we’d need more people to come with us. They do bring up something I’ve wanted to ask, however; you look as though you’re doing well for yourself. Are you a noblewoman, by any chance?” Arzada frowned as she digested the words, setting the bloody fork aside on the tablecloth. “I’m not quite for sale, you know. I don’t think I look so buyable.” She cocked her head to one side, regarding the brunette curiously. “Or was there an ulterior motive to inviting me to this dinner, Lady Priscilla?” It was not a particularly targeted question, with neither edge nor audible displeasure, but the mercenary poise of their speech skirted around an issue that loomed over them all, invisibly. She saw a conflict, or a deep trouble, which gave the people around her an expectation of impressing those they met into their service. Priscilla, the center-of-all, the protectee, had more riding on this trip than a simple transit; or if it were exactly and only that, then there was something more that lurked without. It should have been none of her business, but – how to say it? There was beauty when people started to crack. She swiveled her gaze to Yonx, sitting beside Priscilla. His was an honest soul – something she could appreciate, if not emulate. “Yonx, is there a particular problem that seems to be facing the good lady here?”
  14. Gospel of the Saint Queen (Hidden Valley)

    A dog is what it is. “A dog is what you are.” Step by step, her feet carry her through the alluvial waters that have thinned to a mere trickle. Splashes punctuate each step, gentle, softened by dust and mud and almost milk-like in consistency. (The Hidden Valley isn’t much for purity). Caught half-formed into curtains of droplets, they hold and rise around her. All which is left of the short-lived river behind curls back upon itself and coalesces into a sheet that flares out behind her approaching body – a river no more. The cloak is hemmed by an unbroken thread which starts looped around her pinky, which grows more and more slack as Dove draws closer to the revealed source-point of the Falls. Her eyes glitter above curled lips. Between steps, she blinks. Slowly, deliberately, and without breaking gaze from the hateful look she envisions upon the Falls. The world has caught fire when she opens them. The heat doesn’t transmit to her skin, lacking nerves, but her imagination supplies it all the same. Warm, too much so. After a few seconds, it would have been unbearable. The mud upon her face should have hardened into a crust, which she wipes away, and the water enshrined in her service begins to simmer and seethe where they touch the wood. The wanton entropy does not dissuade Dove much, if at all, from her forwards procession, and her mind remains fixated on beating obedience into something that could stand to learn such mundane concepts. The string is still unbroken; the path forward is clear. “I’ve been told that it’s easiest to give in,” she quips. The Falls neither speaks, nor moves. It simply boils balefully, suspended in its sphere.
  15. More Important is the Journey

    The others – Jack, Yonx, and Priscilla – seated themselves at the table with celerity and without much trouble. Orders were placed, laughs and quips exchanged, and the awkward quiet that settles among strangers left as quickly as it came. Because they weren’t really strangers, because already the bare threads of a bond had come to form between them even if they’d met only minutes before. With Yonx, it was nothing more than chance and a kind gesture given to a blind man. With Michelee, there was an understanding that was understood to be verboten: matters of the heart, maybe, or those of the soul; whichever was deepest and most hidden in creatures that felt love and anger, who were afraid, terrified, of such matters brought to light. The rest had nothing more than names; that put them a tier above a nameless bunch, and they were far from faceless. Watching the way conversation sprouted between them, the way their eyes only chanced upon each other and never lingered for long, Arzada had the feeling that she was no more stranger to Priscilla than Priscilla to the rest, not by much. They were new bodyguards, or if not new, then ones the girl had never met. She might well have met them only the previous day. It was the beginning of a long journey, after all, which pushed people together who had no commonality other than their destination. It was a good time for paths to cross in strange ways. Hers, and theirs. Sweeney would’ve told her to make friends, too. Arzada mouthed a thanks to the waiter as he set down her food and picked up the fork set beside, an elegant, harpoon-like length of steel that some cook deemed to be the minimum finery for a first-class guest. “So. Vampire, eh? I heard it sucks.” That was Jack. The word crude popped into her mouth, which she swallowed with the first piece of flesh. Everybody deserved the benefit of depth of character. Quick judgments were what put witches to the flame and vampires to the stake. Not to say that most did not deserve their deaths. Arzada wiped her mouth, the napkin leaving her lips neutral. “Once upon a time,” she said and speared another chunk of meat through its fictitious heart. The fork was really a thing of beauty. Two slim tines twisted around and around, never seeming to meet. It reminded her of the glittering lances of a previous era. “Once,” she repeated, “but nowadays I try to avoid it if I can.” “Unless I’ve a compelling reason.” She looked at him. “Times change. So do vampires, even if we look the same forever.” “But I do think that it does not ‘suck’ as much as it did once.” Having imparted to Jack a reminder of her longevity and the offer of innumerable stories, Arzada looked to her other side. She met with the fae’s stolid stare. Unlike with others, this did not unnerve her. It was almost comforting. She held on for a few seconds more, the two looking into each other’s eyes as if hypnotized. The fae’s eyes were hard, gemlike, swimming with a familiarity that resonated. It had a touch of home. There was wickedness in them, Arzada realized, and shook her head as the fae spoke. “I am Kinaaz Achlys.” “And I, Arzada.” She recognized the show of strength offered her by the Dark Fae, and took it with a grim look. Without removing her gloves, she reached over and grasped Kinaaz’s arm in a firm grip. Arzada did not relish in its familiarity, but it was a necessary and practiced action; a tether to a time when strength were a substitute for words in a Genesaris where words got one nowhere fast. This exchange was a more common one in those days, and said much that words could not: that one was in the presence of fearful allies; that one had earned the right to life as much as the other; that they were equals. There was no word for that concept in civilized parlance, but Kinaaz and Arzada knew a better language. Old, old chains, she thought once more, and ones which ought to have become nothing more than bits of rust and decaying memory. Yet for all her sentimentality she knew that there was use still for strength: for impressing those who were impressed by such things. Useful things are not so easily forgotten. Arzada believed in depth of character, but she also believed in first impressions. “A Dark Fae, yes? You must be very old then – oh, what am I saying, a lady never tells—“ She chuckled, “And we’ve never met, I’m sure. But I’ve had a few brushes with your people in the past.” “Signy was what they called me then. Signy Matton.” The name slipped from her mouth tasting like mud. Old stagnation. Scum. Arzada smiled nervously. She began to regret bringing it up; but there was pride left in her for days gone by.