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The Hummingbird

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  1. The Hummingbird

    Ruzahl's Spire

    “Cut it down! “Cut it down, Seventeen!” Even worse than the pain was the memory. Sharp as a unicorn’s horn and vivid as its glorious visage, it struck at times like these – times when he felt utterly alone and trapped. Close to death, even. Oh, he had come to terms with his mortality long ago, but that didn’t mean he liked the idea of dying. Definitely not in dismal place like this, surrounded by flesh-hungry wolves, freezing cold, and lifeless rock. When she touched his arm, her fingers sliding across the mass of scar tissue, bruised bone, and wounded muscle, he started. No one he ever knew wanted to get so close to the signs of a memory so harsh. Not only that, but to be touched there… it made him nervous, uncomfortable. It hurt. His first instinct was to pull away, but before he could, she did… something. The ration dropped to the ground. At first he thought she was trying to kill him. The every-lingering pain in his arm erupted, flaring into new heights. The agony was exquisite, as it had been when the wounds that gave him the scars were first inflicted. It was like the world had turned into glass and abruptly shattered. The shards cut into his skin, the skin of both arms. He could almost see, feel, smell the blood, thick and viscous, pouring from wounds burning with misery. He gasped, inhaled – he was going to scream. That was when the pain began to recede. Like white fire he could not see, the pain whirled from his arm, flowing from his body into her. He could tell she was taking the pain from him, at the cost of herself. It was some kind of magic, but he couldn’t tell what. It resembled a combination of Empathy and Healing, but it was neither of that. A faint memory glimmered in his mind, but when he reached out to grasp it, it faded. The pain receded, abated – it was gone. He stared at his arms, his breath exhaling in a shudder. For the first time in years, he was without pain. If one could imagine, if one could see, the sensation of being free was almost like a fever dream, a euphoria, a high that could never be replicated by any drug or herb. The shock on his face broke into a confused, bewildered, yet nearly ecstatic smile. Then he saw Adira. Here was his answer, then. She was entirely innocent. More than innocent. It was his turn to be beside her, then, hands gently gliding over her arms in a soft touch of comfort and empathetic compassion. He whispered words that had been spoken to him. Words of understanding, of security, of reassurance that everything would be set right.
  2. The Hummingbird

    Ruzahl's Spire

    Knees drawn up and his hands folded across, Garnet stayed quiet, thinking about how much he hated this place. So cold and lifeless. Dead. His thoughts wandered back to the land that Genesaris reviled; Terrenus, Land of the Saint-King. He remembered the verdant greens of that kingdom, the lush forests and wildlife, the birds and their gentle singing, and most of all, the flowers. He missed those the most, their bright colors and the care put into growing them. One of every kind. “I… am sorry.” Blinking, he glanced up, staring at her with an unreadable expression. It almost looked like utter disinterest, but in reality, he hadn’t expected an apology. It caught him a little off guard. Why was it so hard to say, those three short words? He listened to her, letting her speak as he traced one hand down a fine line of silver in the tiny cave. It was cold and rough. He looked outside, noting the nonstop hail of snow. At some point it would end, and they would have to travel on. When she finished, he sighed. “It’s not easy to trust anyone. In fact, it’s wise not to.” He fell silent again as he slid off his rucksack, opening the flap and rummaging inside. He drew out a pair of ration bars, two strips of dried meat and a bar of cheese. He broke the bar, giving Adira half, a ration, and one strip of meat. An inglorious meal. Meant for travelers on long voyages, it was preserved food meant to last, but it was filling and would have to do. He took a bite out of the cheese, chewing thoughtfully before swallowing “You don’t expect me to understand?” he finally said. He put down the food, and tapped one wrapped arm. “Do you want to take a closer look?” He slid a finger under the bandage, prying the knot loose and slowly unwrapping it. The bandages fell away, exposing the skin. From shoulder to wrist, the skin was a mass of scars. Long slash marks, from a smooth, keen blade, perhaps a knife. Though it appeared they had healed well, they looked deep and cruel. Garnet held the arm up, rotating it. “Before you ask, yes, both arms. Life has not been easy for me either.” He leaned back, picking up a ration bar. “You say it is not easy to trust people. The truth is, as few people trust you as you do them. All the same. I know you could stab me in the back at any time, yet I’m forced to trust you not to. I’m forced to believe you’re an innocent in all of this,” he waved outside. “Am I right? Are you innocent?”
  3. The Hummingbird

    Ruzahl's Spire

    Garnet rolled his eyes at her weak answers. He stopped as she did, glaring at her intensely, his eyes vivid against the white background of snow and ice. They almost seemed to glow – like the wolf’s. It was clear he did not believe her, that she didn’t know anything. She had to know something, and he wanted an answer. Yes, he was working for her, their relationship a purely professional one; employee and employer, but he felt perfectly within his rights to know why she attracted such danger. He was risking his life for her, and here she was keeping secrets! “Why would you lie to me?” he echoed, his brows creasing together. “For many reasons. To keep yourself safe… safer, for one. You’re making a mistake in that regards, Rueta.” He turned abruptly, head up as the death song of the wolves sliced through the wind, calling and answering in turn. Instinctively he dropped to a crouch, the sword hissing as he drew it from its scabbard. He listened for a few seconds, measuring the sound of the hunters, calculating distance before slowly rising and continuing to walk, pushing onward along the trail. The wolves were persistent, and while they too would be slowed by the snow and lack of discernible tracks and scent, standing still was a deathtrap. “Get back here,” he said sharply as Adira walked ahead of him. He shoved past her, putting himself in the lead again. “If you want yourself protected, don’t order me around. If you want to help, watch my back.” He glared her again. “Let’s get this straight. You’re the client, but I’m in charge. Gods know why I picked you,” he muttered. Around them, hills began to rise. Small at first, then growing larger as the pair traveled further into the wilderness of Ruzahl. It seemed as if they were in the mouth of some great, white beast, surrounded by its teeth, claws, and fangs. Its freezing breath, the wind, continued to blow in great heaves, forming frost around their eyes. The snowflakes grew larger and heavier, falling fast and steady. Through it all, the howls of the wolves continued, sometimes loud, sometimes faint. Without speaking, Garnet veered off the path in a sharp turn, leading the way into the depths of a great outcropping of granite, rock, and stone. Here, hidden well away was a small cave. There were no hot springs, no vegetation, but it was quiet, clear of snow, and faced away from the chilling wind. “If we keep walking in this weather we’ll just freeze. Get in.”
  4. The Hummingbird

    General chat thread

    I don't know, Seriously. It just happened. I hadn't eaten anything that should've made me want to die either.
  5. The Hummingbird

    General chat thread

    So yesterday I go to work as usual. I'm blasting through my chores when suddenly, I find myself throwing up, like a lot. I work in a bakery, and naturally, they don't want me hanging around. So they send me home. Today, I'm feeling off, but that's okay. I go to work. At the bus station, I go into a sprint to catch the bus, when suddenly I trip somehow, attacking the ground with great prejudice. The ground wins, leaving me with knees torn to hell, and aching arm and aching ribs. It hurts to walk. Work sends me home. I hurt about as much as my paycheck next week >_>
  6. The Hummingbird

    Books on the mind

    Scar Night, which was written by Alan Campbell, one of those responsible for the Grand Theft Auto franchise, has many faults. The world, however, is definitely among the most interesting I have seen, and I think Campbell handles its presentation well. I personally didn't have a problem with its pacing; that said, the characterization could use some improvement. It is worth noting it is the first of a trilogy, so you can handle it like you handled Shyamalan's Unbreakable; this is an introduction to a world that is far more than what it first appears to be. For those who are fans of dark horror fantasy, I'd give it a chance.
  7. The Hummingbird

    Books on the mind

    Having finished A Handmaid's Tale (seriously, read it), I'm starting up Pet Sematary by Stephen King in preparation for the movie. I was thinking about reading The Name of the Wind. The summary of the book wasn't impressive to me - seemed like everything I had read before and then some. The only reason' I'm avoiding it now is because I hate having to wait years before the next book comes out because the author is too busy being famous.
  8. The Hummingbird

    Ruzahl's Spire

    “Garnet… Do you hear that?” He heard. The sharp growls and gnashing of teeth, the snuffling and snarls as the wolves examined the provisions Adira had abandoned. By the sound of it, there was at least four, maybe five. Perhaps more; he was not sure. He scowled to himself, shooting a glance at his charge. The wolf from before had been all too focused on her – why? As vicious as the wolves were, he was sure he could handle them, but with Adira to protect, his job had become much more difficult. Abruptly he turned. “This way,” he said sharply. Snow fell heavy around them, filling in their tracks as they struggled through the snow. They tread as lightly as they could, but even so they would find themselves sinking more than once up to their waist at the deep embankments. The temperature was dangerously low now, and the frigid air could be felt even through their thick cloths and furs worn for just this type of weather. Ironically, it was Garnet who seemed to be more affected by the cold. His teeth were clenched and he shivered, drawing tight his cloak. The going was steady but slow, and even that only because Garnet kept a grueling pace. His eyes scanned the area constantly, watching their surroundings. Nothing went unseen by him. There was another howl, hollow and harsh, but it was only the wind. For now, it seemed they were blessedly alone. At last, they came to a strip of land that at first glance seemed very odd. The terrain rose in sharp ridges and dipped in low, erratic hills. It gleamed as if it were glass, and it was this that would tell Adira what it was – a small river, frozen into ice. “Here,” Garnet said breathlessly, pointing to a bit of what appeared to be as bit of fence encased in ice. “This is the trail, beside the stream. There should be other caves and refuges up ahead when we need to stop for the night.” He had hoped they might meet other foolhardy travelers. There was safety in numbers, but no such luck. Garnet trudged up to the trail, peering into the white oblivion that lay ahead. He could only imagine what they might encounter next. Hopefully nothing at all. The trail was straight and relatively flat compared to the rest of the mountain. The snow still made it hard to travel, though there was some odd kind of comfort from being on a path made by man. Soon enough it would end, leaving them to face the wilds utterly alone, but for now, they could enjoy it while they could. As they walked, he turned that sharp, focused gaze on Adira. “Why are they after you? Wolves don’t usually discriminate.”
  9. The Hummingbird

    General chat thread

    Helm 2. It looks awesome.
  10. The Hummingbird

    Ruzahl's Spire

    Stepping away from the wolf’s corpse, Garnet tore two strips of cloth from the bandages he wore around his arms. With one he cleaned the slick, steaming blood from his sword; the other, he used to bind the wound on his arm. Luckily, it was not a deep injury and he doubted it would impede him much in their journey up the mountain. Drawing the loose ends of the bandage tight with his teeth and free hand, he looked away as Adira paid respect to the dead beast. Perhaps it was just trying to survive, perhaps it was just following its instincts, but to Garnet, the eerily intelligent and savage black wolves were what humans always called man-eaters. Monsters. He strode over to his own backpack, left untouched and whole. Slinging it over his back he surveyed the outside. The blizzard was growing in ferocity, snow falling heavily in great drifts and piling up around the main entrance to the cave. This was a good thing. Their prints would be covered, and make it hard to follow them. He nodded to Adira as she dressed quickly, himself rolling up his sleeping bag and strapping that to his back too. His sword followed. “I have rations for both of us. It should last a few days if we’re careful.” The high-energy bars of meat, fruit, and fat would serve them well. He motioned for her to hurry and then pointed to the back of the cave. They had entered the hot springs through a fissure in the back wall. It was just as well. If they had known only of the cave’s main entrance they would be dead in seconds in the jaws of the wolf’s companions. As if to confirm this, another howl cut through the roaring snowstorm. It was getting closer. “Quick!” Garnet snapped, giving her a shove. He rushed around the hot springs, and in due time they made it to the fissure, a few feet above their heads. He could see the flurry of snow through it, and the dim glow that existed even in the shadow of night. It was big enough for them to squeeze through, but the wolves would not be able to follow. If they were further distracted by the provisions Adira left behind, they would have a good head start. Good enough, Garnet hoped, that the wolves might give up. Garnet went first. He latched onto the side of the crack, pulling himself up. It was cold, almost freezing, the temperature continuing to drop. His breath hissed out in a haze of mist. He thought about why he was here. Then he reached down to Adira. “Grab my hand. The trail isn’t far. It won’t take us all the way up either, but it’s safer than out here.”
  11. The Hummingbird

    General chat thread

    The past is gone, yet will haunt you forever. The future comes bearing down fast upon you, and you will pay for your crimes with pain beyond your comprehension. Your present life will be filled with failed trials and consequences. -Welcome to Reality ^_^
  12. The Hummingbird

    Ruzahl's Spire

    Infuriated, the vile beast struggled with the bar. Its teeth strained against the metal shaft. Its paws –gigantic, clawed feet – set hard on the ground, and the nails tore great rifts in the earth. It heaved one last time against the ice pick and finally, finally, it seemed to give up. The long, domed head retreated… and then it lunged again. Its teeth clamped down hard around the ice pick’s handle, narrowly missing Adira’s fingers. With a mighty twist, it wrenched the pick from her faltering grip and flung it aside. The wicked blue eyes never left hers as it growled, and in the shadow of the cave it almost seemed to grin with those gruesome, bloodstained teeth. With Garnet nowhere in sight, it leaped. Several things happened next. The wolf’s hungry snarl turned into a startled yelp as Garnet slammed into it – not from the back where he logically would have been, but from the front; at a senseless speed, the Edgemaster flew directly over Adira’s head to ram against the wolf’s chest. The collision sent the two rolling, fighting and writhing across the earthen floor, eventually sliding into the steaming springs. The wolf reared up howling in rage, shaking water from its drenched black fur. Garnet struggled to his feet, his sword pulled back, water falling from the glittering blade like oil. Blood drawn from snapping teeth welled and slid down his left arm, soaking the wraps he wore. But Garnet knew blood and pain, and seemed wholly undeterred as he slashed outward. The creature lunged into the air, obviously trying the same maneuver as before, but Garnet was not stupid. He twisted in the water, swing the sword up and around, using the momentum to increase speed and force. The sword bit into the wolf’s throat… and continued down to its waist, slicing the wolf nearly in two. The beast screamed as it fell to the floor. It squirmed as blood poured from the grotesque wound, and even in this state it struggled to reach Adira. Its maw opened and closed in futile efforts to bite, and its claws slashed against the earth in wishes to rend and tear. Sloshing out of the water, Garnet strode over to stand over the wolf. He raised his sword and plunged it through the wolf’s head, giving the blade one twist. The body shuddered and stilled. Somewhere in the distance, eerie howls echoed through the night.
  13. The Hummingbird

    [Veelos] As the Crow Flies

    Perfectly seasoned with a secret combination of herbs and spices, the roasted lamb also caught Zenahriel’s attention. While he had not scorned the food offered by Fowler’s crew, he had also grown tired of the standard fare; bland cheese, hard biscuits, and dried meat cured with an abundance of sea salt. To drink, there was only water. At first he felt guilty, for most of his flights ended with sumptuous cuisines at various restaurants or, more often of late, whatever fine banquets the local royal palace had to offer. It was easy to become spoiled this way, so he was relieved when he realized Rou was no more thrilled at the meals then he had been. He took the offered kabab set into the skewered chucks with clean and polite bites. This was not to flaunt his apparent nobility – habits and mannerisms carried over from the mortal’s life he had taken, and Zacharias had been properly raised. In any case, he proceeded to savor the quick meal before discarding the stick in a bin as he followed Rou to the weaver’s display. Never before had Zenahriel given much notice to Orisian artwork. Most of what he had seen were paintings, and as impressive as they were, they were nothing the masters of the mainland could not match. The depiction of Orisian seaships, coastlines, and various lands and even heroes and the Black Queen herself were well and good… and ordinary. Standard. But here, in the softened daylight, he saw the carpet’s intricate colors, patterns, and designs. Every stitch was perfect in representing the Isle of Summer, and Zenahriel suddenly understood how massive Orisia was. Despite it physically being rather small, it was yet larger than any land he had ever seen. Its true size, and its art, was something that could be replicated nowhere else but here. These thoughts passed through his mind, and he was so profoundly stricken by the enlightenment that he didn’t even reproach Rou’s remark regarding the “drab” queen. Instead, he too reached out and touched the carpet, feeling the complex stitches under his fingers, sensing the work and dedication that had gone into making such a masterpiece. The work, the dedication, the love. “I have never seen Orisia in the daylight,” he confessed to Rou. “But I will tell you this; it is remarkable at night, too. That is when I fell in love with this place, before anything else.” Children passed them by, except one, a tiny girl, who stopped and stared at Zenahriel – or rather, stared at his wings. Tentatively she reached out to touch a long pinion. He shifted, and flicked the wingtips. She squealed in a combination of fright and pleasure and raced away. He smiled, though the expression faded quickly as Rou spoke on the unrequited love of the Carmine Dominion, of mistakes long passed, of calamity, of trust. When she finished, he was smiling again. For he had harbored suspicions that she might cause some kind of trouble here, for the Black Queen. Perhaps not malicious intent, but still deliberate. Now he knew, for sure, that she was not here to cause strife or pain. He still did not know her plans, what she intended here, but it was not to harm Orisia. It was not to make it another Patia. “Love for a new Empress,” he said, leaning close to Rou to be heard over the crowd, “takes time and trust, which you will earn in over time. They may never love you the way they loved the Queen, but they will love you still, Rou Ji.” He straightened. “I admit my trust in you was unstable at first, but I find it well established now. Just don’t make me fetch you from trouble too often,” he teased. He ran a hand down the rug before turning, heading toward one of the stalls selling gold and silver crafts. “Now, I must get something for the Queen. It is disrespectful to ask for an audience without a gift,” he explained. “Usually, I bring something from home, but I thought this time she might appreciate something closer to her home.”
  14. The Hummingbird

    Ruzahl's Spire

    In a time yet to be forgotten, Garnet was trained to sleep lightly. This was not to say he woke easily to any disturbance, but felt the tension in the air, even in dreams. His sense of danger had been sharpened to a keen point, and this tool of survival was vital for any Edgemaster. It had kept him alive more than once. When Adira reached out, he stirred. Her hand never touched him, but his brow furrowed, eyes slowly opening. His arms still ached from the vivid nightmares that always plagued him in sleep. His body still felt the pain, the burn, the torture. Yet none of this affected his instincts. He rolled over silently, quickly, smoothly rising to his feet, knees bent as his eyes landed on the threat that now focused on Adira. The creature froze as Garnet moved, but it was not in fear. A low, rumbling growl issued from it, punctuated by the glitter of sharp fangs. Still skirting the hot springs, it resumed its pace, slowly closing the distance between them. The growl grew louder, a challenge, turning into a hungry snarl. A few meters from them, it paused again, and the two travelers would see what stalked them. Feared by nearly everyone, the dreaded White Wolves of the Cold South were intelligent, savage, unpredictable killers. They were daunted by nothing, but usually stayed in tight groups in the South. But by pure unfortunate fate, a few had migrated to the mountain range, and evolution had caused them to adapt to the harsher environment they had chosen. Their fur became as black as the midnight sky, the crimson eyes lightening to a blue that could pierce the darkness, and their size became larger, much larger even for a wild wolf, to fight off and kill the competition for meat. Garnet reached out, his fingers curling around the handle of what always slept as his side; his sword. Sheathed in a scabbard of hardened leather, the weapon was a masterpiece, carefully maintained and cared for. The handle and crossguard was one, solid piece of iron, silver, and steel, with a pointed pommel made of amethyst. The blade itself was damascus, the edges dusted with diamond, and was no stranger to blood. “Don’t move,” he whispered to Adira. The wolf snarled again, and its voice rose in a high-pitched howl. Garnet didn’t wait. He sprang forward, pushing off from the ground with every ounce of strength. He sprinted toward the wolf, skirting the water, his weapon held adjacent to his side. The wolf, too, charged, maw gaping in a wide trap set with deadly teeth. Garnet swung at the wolf, fully intending to cleave the wicked thing in half. The wolf leaped… … and landed behind Garnet. Fur bristling, it roared, dashing straight toward Adira.
  15. The Hummingbird

    Ruzahl's Spire

    Silent, Garnet watched Adira without any expression that might betray his inner thoughts. Though he had never treated diseases as she had, he too had witnessed and studied to some length various ailments humans and other races fell heir too. Some were not too concerning – infections, soreness, aches and pains – while others were very much terrifying; atrophy of muscular structure, dystrophy of limbs and bone, terminal illness and even positive results of rare disorders and plague. But they were all from things he had heard, things that could be treated and in some cases cured. Things that were known, and understood. When he saw her arm, and the blackness that engulfed the flesh, he knew it was not something that rightfully belonged in this world. When he saw her arm, saw the form her peculiar illness took, he understood her fear, and her determination to challenge Ruzahl’s cliffs. He gazed at it for only a moment before respectfully averting his eyes. It was not his place to persuade her to change her mind, as it was not his place to encourage her either. She had hired him only to help guide her through the treacherous mountainside wilderness, to protect her should she need it, and he had gone for his own reasons. He nodded as she suggested getting some sleep, but allowed himself some time to soak in the hot springs for a while longer, rinsing off the dirt of travel and washing his hair thoroughly before wading to the bank and drying off with a towel, watching the flurry of snow beyond the cave’s entrance. The weather had been vicious here for a while, but the skywatchers had claimed that the storms would cease the next day or so, and remain clear for a time. He frowned, for sometimes the skywatchers were wrong. He turned away from the storm and checked his possessions to make sure all was in order for tomorrow. Everything seemed will in hand, prepared and orderly. He unrolled his own sleeping bag next to Adira’s and slipped into it. It was a ragged. worn thing, but was still serviceable. “We start tomorrow, milady Elaezar,” he said, turning his back to her. “Sleep well.”
  16. The Hummingbird

    General chat thread

    Acies ab Vesania runs a DnD session every other week with some Valucre members.
  17. The Hummingbird

    Ruzahl's Spire

    For a long moment, Garnet did not reply. Completely taken by the natural beauty and tranquility of this cave, he stared at the shimmering water surrounding him. With the glowing insects hovering amongst the soothing blues of the many dangling flowers, the reflection there was arresting, illusory as it wavered when he shifted knee deep in the hot springs. Unlike his charge, Garnet did not flinch or waver at the heat, finding it instead as comforting as a warm bath. Reaching out, he touched one of the flowers. His eyes were wistful as he finally turned to the woman. “It looks… odd,” he said, his soft voice sounding hollow, echoing slightly in the wide spacious cavern. His outstretched hand fingered the blue petals a moment longer before turning to grasp one of the fruits, pulling it free. He turned it side to side, frowning suspiciously at its furry exterior before taking a small bite. His frown deepened. “It’s too sour.” He tossed the fruit away, letting it land amid the roots of the blooming trees. He waded up the bank, seizing hold of his pack, well stocked with provisions and varying supplies for long traveling. From this he procured a sugar cube which he popped into his mouth, chewed, and swallowed. By nature or circumstance, Garnet was a solivagant – a lone wanderer who was not used to company. But Adira’s situation and her objective was too captivating to ignore, impossible though her goal was. He wasn’t even sure then that she really meant it – really intended to scale the perilous heights of Ruzahl. “Are you sure?” he asked once again. “It’s not too late to turn back. Ruzahl isn’t very welcoming to… well, the unseasoned,” he said apologetically. Turning, he waded back into the deeper parts of the hot springs, until he stood chest deep in the waters and his long, jet hair spreads out around him like a fan. “Personally, I think you would be better off trying to find a dedicated mage.”
  18. The Hummingbird

    [Veelos] As the Crow Flies

    Staring down from the crow’s nest of the mast, Zenahriel observed the activity of the ship in silence. He had talked little since their departure from the coast of Genesaris’ northeastern docks, disliking the idea of wasting time and energy required of having a ship sail them to Orisia. Flying, he had disputed, would have been more convenient and easily dealt with, but Rou Ji would have none of it. It seemed, at least, that she and the Black Queen had one thing in common – a fear of heights when surrounded by the great, open sky. He hadn’t understood it, and was terribly unused to the cramped space of a seaship, but he resigned himself to her wishes and quickly made himself scarce. His keen sense of hearing prevailed against the rush of wind, and word traveled fast among the ship’s crew that they would be docking at Veelos, the city known for a great battle and though greatly repaired, still in the process of reconstructing some of its more scarred areas. Zenahriel had never seen it before. He had been absent during the conflict, but he had heard of the death and chaos that had ensued, and he was not all too sure about visiting such a site now. He also knew that the nearby Ellwood Forest was another area he would very much rather avoid, protection from the sedative air or not. He knew too, that there was nothing to do about it. Like it or not, he had long committed to the journey and everything it entailed. As they drew close to the Veelos harbor, he spread his wings and fell forward from the crow’s nest, turning his sharp descent into a slow glide that landed him on the ship’s deck. He gave not one glance to those who stared in impressed amazement, turning only to look to the land he had seen only in the depths of night. Already, he felt his power waning as they crossed the vast water, telling him that La’Ruta still ruled here. It was a small, and inconvenient comfort. His abilities were not completely nullified, but they were harder to call upon, made slower and less potent than he liked. He had to remind himself that he had survived being here before. Steered by skillful hands the ship rocked to a halt at a formerly empty dock. The sun was high and hot, reflecting off the water in bright scorching rays. Curious eyes of all the folks at the harbor met the ship’s crew and their guests, and as he and Rou Ji stepped from the ship those eyes sharpened with both awe and suspicion. Very few had seen the likes of either of them. Even those scant few that might know of Zenahriel viewed him warily, for rumors and gossip – all that they had for information – were not to be trusted. The High Lord did his best to ignore their stares, raising a wing to shield his face from the sun and turning his attention to his companion, the chosen Empress of Umbra. And if they knew, the unwelcome replacement to the Red City’s throne. Veelos seemed to be in better shape than Zenahriel expected, and while the bright sunlight was uncomfortable it illuminated the city in beautiful golden hues and highlights, and he could already see the modest, becoming architecture, as well as the glitter of souvenirs and various baubles sold at shops and street kiosks arranged neatly in rows and columns down cobblestone paths. Life was lively here, and Zenahriel could not help but pause to admire the activity and cheerful feel the city gave when the night was yet far away. Rou Ji hooked him by the arm, a gesture he accepted graciously. He spread a wing over her to provide some shade as Captain Fowler gave his fair warnings that off sounding more like threats, though Zenahriel doubted that his warnings to were given for no reason. He gave the captain a single nod of acknowledgment before letting Rou push him into the crowd of people gathered the docks. Now, they were unusual sight, he with his wings and Rou with her lovely, darker complexion, but the stares did subside as they moved closer to the Commercial District; Orisia had already prided itself in it diversity and welcoming atmosphere to any and all races and species, and two oddities were not enough to warrant much undivided attention for too long. Zenahriel allowed himself to relax slightly, looking to Rou and wondering as he had many times why she was here. She had never once given hint of her plans despite some mild persuasion and after a while, he had given up. He supposed he would know soon enough, but for now, it was high noon, and the Black Queen could not show herself during the daylight hours. The smell of fish faded, replaced by the scents of fruit and pastries. Everything was being sold beside the streets; fanciful clothing of rare material, bolts of silk and lace, sparkling goldwork, jewelry of silver and other precious stones and metals; there were stalls selling ornate armor and weapons, stalls selling wines and books and foods of all kinds, even one or two stalls selling trained messenger birds flapping noisily against their cages. Merchants called and shouted out their wares, enticing those passing by to take a look and hopefully buy something. There was conversation and haggling and children playing in the roads, with street performers and magicians nearby, and there were games and gambling too, and restaurants never far away. Zenahriel took it all in, and it was a few moments before he finally spoke to Rou. “Do you see anything you like, milady?”
  19. The Hummingbird

    Books on the mind

    Perhaps some of you have watched The Handmaid's Tale, but have you read it? Full of broken emotion and poetic styling, this dystopian novel is truly a prize to pick up and read.
  20. Some shine because they must. Others, because they can.

    1. Twitterpated

      Twitterpated

      Some because they greasy. 😂 

  21. The Hummingbird

    Ataraxy Learns/ Tries to Draw

    Nevermind then. Sorry for wasting your time.
  22. The Hummingbird

    Ataraxy Learns/ Tries to Draw

    Hey man, you've got a great start. Your hands are running slightly small though. I draw a little,and found this was worth the whopping 15 bucks: https://www.udemy.com/character-art-school-complete-character-drawing/ It has a lot of great pointers and many other classes as well.
  23. The Hummingbird

    Buried 'Neath The Ashes

    Whatever he was, Zenahriel was not a stranger to humor, and his lips curved as Rou doubled over in laughter to his minor joke. What she said next did not diminish the smile and only made it grow; it was true – he did admire the human Zacharias for his strength of body and mind, for his will that made him fight the losing battle against the marauders as well as seeing him surrender his life to Zenahriel. He finished the blood orange and, spurred on by the sight of Rou’s “divine cake,” proceeded on to a fine fruit tart decorated with slices of peaches, kiwis, and a mélange of various fresh berries atop a layer of rich cream. It was delightful to say the least, and Zenahriel could not recall when last he had such a meal. Recent transpiring events had wiped away his appetite, which he now found was returning with a vengeance. Was that a result of the taste of this dessert, or his new company? Zenahriel’s dark eyes steadied on Rou as she returned to the subject of the Black Queen. A brief nod of acknowledgement coupled with a nonchalant shrug assured that Rou would not spoil his mood talking of Gabriela. While the Black Queen had been the cause of much pain and the catalyst of a great change in his view of life, he still harbored a strong love for her. One that was, fortunately, no longer mere infatuation, but a passion tempered with respect. Now here rose the predicament. To which did he owe the most service – the Black Queen of Orisia or Empress of Umbra? Zenahriel munched a bite of the fruit tart thoughtfully. He didn’t like making hasty decisions. He studied Rou carefully, weighing her words and promises. They all rang with an honesty he appreciated, and at last decided to repay her in kind. “I will see to it that no harm touches my Queen of Orisia,” he said dutifully, “as well as to see that no reckless action reaches you, my Empress of Umbra. Send me the details to my private quarters, and… I look forward to our departure, my Lady.” There was no more to be said. Politely finished the fruit tart, he excused himself, bidding Rou a good evening. There was much to be done, after all.
  24. The Hummingbird

    General chat thread

    Today the Christmas music on endless repeat begins. "LAST CHRISTMAS, I GAVE YOU MY HEART, BUT THE VERY NEXT DAY, YOU GAVE IT AWAY..." Look, I like some holiday tunes as well as the next person, but I'd rather listen to Trans Siberian Orchestra or something.
  25. The Hummingbird

    Buried 'Neath The Ashes

    For all the four hours that passed, Zenahriel’s eyes never left her, this new rising Empress of Umbra. They remained focused, thinking, pondering over each and every word she spoke, absorbing her story in careful silence. Not once did his attention ever waver; he was an avid and respectful listener to a passionate tale of sorrow and loss. The only time he diverted a portion of his attention was when he bent forward to refill her glass of wine, though even this he stopped when he deemed she’d had enough. Even the hardiest of drinkers could fall ill to too much. When she finished, Zenahriel said nothing at first, one set of fingers unweaving themselves from the other hand to tap pensively against the table. Rou Ji’s life had been hard, and would have broken or at the very least killed any other woman, whatever powers she held… fire or other abilities notwithstanding. Yet here she was, whole. Scarred, but unbroken. At last he nodded. He did not offer any of the useless words a normal man might procure, words of being sorry for her, words of pity – things she didn’t need. He merely smiled in gratitude. “Never in my life had I heard such a story. You have been through many hardships, Rou Ji,” he said softly, “truly I see why my King has chosen you.” He waved a hand. “Bored? Nay, anything but that.” He looked over his shoulder, out the window to a waxing crescent moon that just begun its long nightly journey into the deep blue sky. What time had passed! He turned back to her and tilted his head. “My turn, is it not?” he finally said. “Well, Rou, my tale is not so fascinating as yours, I’m afraid.” Bracing his arms against the table he stood, wandering over to the window, staring out at the night, listening for a moment to the quiet sounds of the evening – an owl’s call, crickets chirping, the sounds of low conversation held in other buildings, other rooms in a city risen by stalwart ambition. “My name, they say, is Zenahriel Zacharias Darkness. But it is more than just a name. It is what I am. I was not born. I was created by gods even I am not privy to know.” Zenahriel was no spirit, no soul, not an object given sentience. He was a force, a source of energy drawn up from the night and shadows and all things that drew power from what the sun had abandoned long ago. That force had been cast down to the material plane, and it was then animalistic instinct told him he could not live there, not without a body that world was meant to sustain. “I found him, lying in the mud, in a lonely wood. A father had built a house for his wife and daughter, so they might live in peace, away from the corruption of great cities and the squalor of village ghettos.” Zenahriel’s eyes glowed dimly in the moonlight shining through the window. The peace had not lasted. Marauders, men without conscience, men of greed and killer instinct, had hunted them, and sought to destroy the house and its three inhabitants. The father had taken up his only spear, and sought to defend his family. But the men were too much and too many. “They took him out back, stabbed him ten times, and left him there. He was going to die, he was meant to die.” Zenahriel took in a sharp breath. “So strong…! He refused to die. Even with his body bleeding out, he meant to crawl to his house, to somehow defend his family. I decided, then, to speak to him, to show him not all was lost.” The man’s name was Zacharias. The deal the force offered was simple. Zacharias would dwell silent in his own mind, his soul resting in the depths of sleep, and give his body over to the force to do was he wished. In return, the force would save his family, watch over his descendants, and see that his blood would spread across the world. “He agreed. What else could he do? So I took his body, merged what I am with what he was. I killed the marauders, saw his family safe, and left.” The force then chose a name for himself. Zenahriel. Zenahriel looked down at his hands, clenching them into fists. “Of course, there are consequences, and there was a consequence for me for taking a body that still lived.” Had the body been dead, there would have been nothing to be concerned about. As it was, all the emotions, the feelings, the memories and desires and sensations Zacharias had been enjoyed (and sometimes mourned), now belonged to Zenahriel, the being who claimed his body. Anger. Joy. Sadness. Love. “This ability to feel has given me such misery and gladness over the time I have been alive.” Zenahriel’s gaze grew distant. “At one time… misery outweighed all else. The Black Queen of Orisia, she is good at unrequited love, you know? I intended to sleep, for eons perhaps, when she wouldn’t return what I unwittingly felt. But your King woke me. I drank of his blood, and now, as his mate, I am given purpose I have never known before.” He turned back to Rou, grinning. “I love life, Rou. This body has lasted me… for so long. Zacharias was not only strong in spirit, but in body too. He is able to contain the force that I am and still live. Someday, this body will finally decay and die, and I will have to find another, but so far this body has shown no signs of wear. And…” he laughed, “he Is rather handsome, don’t you agree?” He returned to the table, sat down, and picked up a blood orange, peeling its skin back. “I don’t have to eat,” he said. “Or drink, or sleep. But it is enjoyable, and I like to take care of this body so it may last me even longer. Some may call me a parasite, Rou, but… it is pact we have, Zacharias and I.” “There is just one thing,” he added as he discarded the skin of the orange to an empty saucer. “In other lands, my power wanes. Only in Genesaris, here especially, is my power at its absolute potential. In Orisia and other lands – Terrenus, Tellus Mater… La’Ruta and their respective magic rules supreme, not I, though I still have some power. So I do not yet know what you have to ask of me, but I am not sure what use I would be.” He bit into the orange, chewed and swallowed. It was well ripe, tart-sweet. “But I have decided, Rou Ji. You are most worthy of being Empress.”
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