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Phaedara

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About Phaedara

  • Rank
    Fanatic
  • Birthday August 20

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  • Gender
    Female
  • Location
    Japan
  • Interests
    Writing (duh), drawing, reading, video games (primarily PC), board games, exploring the wilderness, airsoft, medicine and cuddling all the animals! Oh, and definitely rain. I love me a good thunderstorm.
  • Occupation
    Veterinarian Technician

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    Phaedara

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  1. The Ties Left Behind

    “And yes,” Zara continued pensively, oscillating her pen back and forth with an animated flick. “I also happen to be standing over there, right behind my father on the pier. Or--well--okay, maybe that’s not quite the full truth. I’m not really existing here and there--that’s a whole different spectrum of magic that I’d rather not try getting into now, but trust me, the entire concept is so convoluted and so abstractly riddled with nonsense about interplanar dimensions and quantum synchrony that I'm literally getting a headache just thinking about it." For a moment, Aelyria thought Zara might break for a pause so she could vocalize her agreement to move their conversation forward, even if her curiosity had be piqued by the unusual terminology. She couldn't decipher if it was just poor translation on her part for understanding, or if this spirited young woman was just well versed in magics she hadn't ever heard of before. Unfortunately, it seemed once the gears to Zara's voice started ticking, it was hard to get them to stop turning as they setting off a tangent of other gears that became increasingly more obscured from the initial motive. "Ohh, but this is nothing like the headache that I got after listening to this one mage physicist droll on and on about the subject. I mean, he was cute, in that kind of nerdy but impassioned sort of way, but I seriously couldn’t wrap my head around everything he was saying and even though I was obviously bored with it, he kept insisting on trying to ‘tutor’ me to perfect my illusions. As if I even asked for his help! I swear, some people are just so situationally unaware and so besides themselves that they can’t even--” “Stop. Stop stop,” Aelyria said, hastily interrupting and breaking her silence once the patience had finally run thin. "Let's shift backwards a little, shall we?" "Hmm? Sure," Zara replied, seemingly unconcerned to the bite of the woman's tone as she smiled airily. "From what you said, I gather you make illusions? So that person over there that looks just like you is actually an illusion you control?" "Yes!" Zara exclaimed, beaming with flagrant pride. "But it requires a bit of concentration to manage it, especially from afar like this. Thankfully my father is a bit oblivious to what's going on around him when he gets worked up with business, so he's yet to notice that 'I'm' not moving very much." Aelyria couldn't help but scoff at that, an unladylike reverse snort signaling her amusement. Like father like daughter I suppose. She crossed her arms and cocked her head, raising an eyebrow at her as if ready to reprimand a young child. "And why exactly are you here and not over there?" Zara frowned, notably puckering her lips with dismay. "Heeey now, why exactly am I being interrogated now? I haven't done anything wrong! I'm just so terribly bored of being forced to follow him around," she said with an audible groan. "I'm stuck listening to him all day, talking about how to do this and that when making a trade and how to properly manage wares and prepare them for shipment and--bleeecch! It's exhausting! And boring." "I get the feeling you get bored fairly quickly," Aelyria gibed, but the young woman didn't seem the least bit bothered by the remark, shrugging with indifference. "But I suppose I don't blame you. My father attempted much the same with my brothers and I growing up. I wish I had your skill for illusions--it could've been quite useful to avoid some of the more unpleasant things." She turned her eyes to regard the gentleman with his fine coat, throwing his hands up animatedly as he and the captain seemed to enter an argument. Her jaw tightened as her teeth clenched shut, the muscles in her shoulders tensing as if half expecting things to turn violent between them. "I imagine your father isn't really a pleasant man to be around then?" Aelyria asked, tearing her eyes away from the unfolding scene, claiming ignorance if it should escalate. "Hmm? No, quite the contrary I'd say," Zara said as she looked up, contemplating further on the question as she tried to shift through memories. "I mean, well, I suppose he's not always pleasant. He's pretty docile most of the time, but he can get a little frazzled every now and then," she continued with a smile. "But it's nothing that a little hot tea with a spoonful of honey couldn't fix. If you're referring to how he is right now with Captain Hendry, I'd say they're always like that. It's almost like a choreographed dance between them they go through every time they haggle on shipping prices... Like some sort of cryptic mating ritual between two old, grumpy men." Aelyria quirked an eyebrow and saw she wasn't the only one disturbed by the imagery as Zara shuddered, shaking the visual from her head. She turned her attention back to the men and sure enough, they returned to some sense of joviality and heartily grasped each other's hand in reconciliation. A surge of shame brushed over Aelyria for her hasty prejudice, and the realization tickled at something on the back of her mind that she tried to ignore. "He can be difficult at times to deal with," Zara confided, her legs kicking freely over the edge of the barrel as she reflected. "But it's not as if I'm completely free of blame. When I was at the mage academy in Mageside City, I begged him to let me come home when...well, no matter why. I begged and begged and eventually he got so fed up with me, that he threatened to disown me if I ever did come home. So, what did I do? I ran away, of course! I don't know what came over me... I'd like to say I was trying to call him on his bluff, but I was just so seriously upset with him that I got my things and left the academy without so much as a plan or idea how to get by." Surprised by the sincerity that this strange woman was showing her unbidden, Aelyria remained silent as Zara recalled the event, chuckling. "I was completely lost by the second day. Did you know the little arrow on a compass points north like all the time? Apparently you're supposed to turn the dial or something and use a map to triangulate your position or something like that. Anyway, I was lost and had no idea where I was. I was so sure I was going to die out in the wilderness, alone, hungry, and filthy. I hadn't had a decent bath in those two days and I was absolutely miserable. I don't understand how people do it, especially without warm water." Aelyria stilled her tongue as she realized she hadn't had a proper bath that didn't involve cold stream water since leaving Union City. Best not mention it. "Well, turns out my father caught wind of what had happened," Zara continued. "By the end of the fifth day, he had found me and for a moment, it had crossed my mind to run. He looked so angry that I was sure he had only come to find me to tell me in person he had intended to disinherit me. Instead, he told me to get on his horse and he took me to a camp where he had set up a search party, just for me. So much wasted resources... all because I did something so incredibly stupid." For a moment, there was a glimpse of deep-seated regret, but it was quickly masked by a buoyant smile. "I did get a stern talking to but we talked at length about everything that had happened. Eventually he came to accept my return home on the premise that I focus my energy and attention on the family business. You know, sometimes he seems just so indomitable, but that day I realized how much of a facade that really was, to hide how much he really cares." Zara's unadulterated affection for her father reflected in the soft smile she shared with Aelyria, who couldn't help but smile back. She wondered how it must feel to have someone like that in your life, who cared for you beyond all reason and would walk through hell on earth to reach you despite personal qualms that would deter less than affable companions. Realizing she hadn't answered Zara's previous question about Renkor, she felt as if the tale deserved at least some sort of compensation, but there was a sudden shift in the young woman's expression that was skewed with fright. "Oh no," she whispered, as if somehow trying to disguise her voice. "I lost focus for far too long." Aelyria turned her head to see what Zara was watching, and saw the suited gentleman turn to the woman's illusion and noticeably become irritated. He swiped a hand through the image and it passed through with a flickered, as if it there was nothing but empty air in front of him--which there technically was nothing but air. Zara's father's face reddened and he stamped his foot, his head turning sharply to search for his missing daughter, calling out her name. "Well," Aelyria chuckled, watching the man grow more irritated by the moment as the Captain he had been speaking with slowly slinked away apprehensively. "You said yourself you promised to focus your 'energy and attention on family business'. I guess it's understandable he'd be upset--" She turned to back to where Zara had been sitting and saw the space unoccupied. Curiously, she reached out and felt the air in front of her, wondering if the illusionist could also camouflage herself into the environment. Her hand passed through nothing and feeling a bit ridiculous, she stepped back away from the barrel and searched for any signs of the woman. That was quick, she thought disconcertingly at the absence of at least a farewell. Aelyria turned back around and rested her back against the wall of the building once more, halfheartedly anticipating Zara would return as she watched the man storm off away from the docks. However, as a short time passed, she realized that wouldn't be the case and she thought instead on what had been shared between them. 'Sometimes he seems just so indomitable,' she had said. Who had she known just like that? Someone so overbearingly obstinate and fixated in their ways that it seemed nearly impossible to get them to change their minds. She bit her lip as a flash of Renkor's face seeped into her mind, calculating cornflower blue eyes peering at her from under the wolf-skull headdress that had initially frightened her so. 'But that day I realized how much of a facade that really was,' Zara's voice cooed still ringing in her head. Renkor's face shifted. The sadness in his eyes as he recollected the awful things he had done had always resonated with her. She had so desperately wanted to save him that day from the unseen foe that haunted him. The one that he felt so convinced would never change. 'To hide how much he really cares.' "Velmesh!" Aelyria slammed a closed fist against the wall, the sting of the blow not nearly as painful as the heavy weight that pulled at her heart. She pivoted sharply away from her outpost and headed back for the Bumbling King's Tavern and Inn, hoping it wasn't too late.
  2. Where the Skeletons Dance

    Quietly, Aelyria listened to Caliben's story unravel, the tears of what he left unsaid being patched together by what information she already knew. She knew a little about the Spider crew. Unfortunately, it was hard to gather information about the crew that not many spoke of, as if somehow a mere utterance of their name was synonymous to inciting a curse to any whose ears had the misfortune of hearing. Even Tye had been uncomfortable with the topic at his most vulnerable moments and eventually she left the matter alone. But as new information flooded her mind, she found only more questions stirring, prodding her for answers. Thundermasters? She had never heard of him mention those before and as she scanned her memory for any trace of information, she frustratingly came up empty-handed. Aelyria had to know more about what he meant. Who were these thundermasters and why was he running away from them? Yet, she held her tongue and listened. He held her gaze but she had the impression that perhaps he was not really looking at her. As he recalled the morbid events that led to his crew's downfall, she recognized the deadpan look of his eyes of one getting lost in a memory... a memory bereft with so much pain that the only way to suffer through it was to learn how to numb oneself to it by envisioning it over and over again. But there was a slight shift in his expression--perhaps a pained look at the mention of a woman's name. Cerise? When he choked on her name, she felt a strong tug at one of her heartstrings, the melody a somber, dismal thrum. Her heart ached for him and she wanted so desperately to tear her eyes away from him, unable to take the pain that he tried to hide behind them. Fortunately, he was the first to return his gaze to the fire, yet no relief came to lift the sinking pressure in her chest. A chill rolled up her spine as he continued recalling the memory. Never decayed? Just what in the world did that monster do to her? Aelyria shook her head subconsciously. What did it do to him? For the first time since they had met, she had got a real glimpse of who Caliben was. She drew up her knees and hugged them to her chest, resting her chin on the tops of them as she watched him from across the campfire. The stew was still kept warm by the fire, and although it had been completed and suitable for eating--as Caliben had already determined--she no longer felt hungry. Or rather, what she was hungry for was something entirely different. She wanted to get to know this man inside and out. Aelyria was frightened that perhaps she might be pushing her luck with him and at any time he could clam up and shut her out, but she couldn't help but feel the need to know him more. His eyes returned to her and she almost felt embarrassed for staring, but instead she offered a smile, watching with masked jealously at his fire play. She was by no means envious of how he had been forced to unlock the potential, but it seemed so natural to him to flicker the flame in and out without much forethought. It had taken her years to even learn how to boil water hot enough to scald, and now that her magical power had been corrupted, she go no longer hope to ever light a fire so effortlessly ever again. True, there was something dark and powerful about this new magic of hers... but it just felt wrong. It felt so out of place in her hands yet when she wielded its chaotic energy, she couldn't deny that the sensation was marvelously... exquisite. Almost sensual. It was that kind influence that darkness had over her that terrified her. "So Aeylria," Caliben began, coaxing her for the next question. "What will you be doing after we reach Aelindra?" Aelyria frowned. She honestly hadn't thought about that much though she had been the one to suggest they go there. Pursing her lips, she glanced to the side, trying to imagine what Aelindra must be like and what she might do there. And as if on cue, the Urge prodded her. It was nearly time for another kill, another soul to steal. Slaying mere rodents and various aves was not nearly enough to satisfy the appetite of the Urge, and despite the handful of fresh kills back in Union City, it hungered quickly. She tried not to let the disgust mark her face so clearly, but it was difficult to accept the cowardice that had led her to such a macabre arrangement. "Find work firstly, but that's a given." Aelyria sat up and ran a hand through her hair, as if somehow rearranging the locks on her head would set her mind straight. "But after that? Well, Aelindra is a city of magic and magi-tech combined, isn't it? Maybe...maybe I'll finally find some answers to explain my powers... To maybe even help figure out what is happening to me and how...how to make it stop." She clenched her teeth. Why was it so hard to talk about? The shadow? It was like as if any time she wanted to explain the darkness that had consumed her, something was reeling her back from speaking. Was it the Urge? Was it controlling her, trying to manipulate her from seeking help? Twitching her nose dismissively, she focused her attention back to Caliben. "What about you? I know Aelindra was my idea... But you say you've got these...Thundermasters chasing you? Are--are they still chasing you?"
  3. The Ties Left Behind

    After escaping from the tavern, Aelyria quickly discovered that although the building had been nearly bursting at the seams with patrons, even this late in morning, its swarmed occupancy was but a small reflection of what the streets could hold. Workers, merchants, and residents zipped by her carelessly, one nearly toppling over her with a large barrel hoisted over his shoulder. He scarcely uttered a disapproving grunt as she dodged at the last minute, her reflexes kicking in the knack of time, and kept on his way without sparing a glance as he had enough on his plate than to deal with some fumbling tourist. She rolled her shoulders and carried on, trying to loosen up her joints as she adapted herself to the oppressive city environment, having spent so long in the forbearing, open wilderness. She would have to stay quick on her toes and readily aware of her surroundings in a place like this. Once adjusted, it didn't take time for Aelyria to put considerable distance between the tavern and herself, weaving in and out of the traffic with such ample dexterity that came so naturally to her as long as she was aware of her surroundings. Determined to get away as quickly as possible before she changed her mind, she pressed forward and willed herself not to look back lest her resolve faltered. Some distance back, she heard a man shout but it was so drowned out by the rest of the commotion around her that it was unintelligible, so she attributed it as another call for workers needed for the docks as often was being shouted in her ears as she passed them by. As she neared the docks, she felt the reality of her decision weigh heavy in her chest. Aelyria swallowed back the suffocating tightness that gripped her, wishing that for once she could truly be as lionhearted as she tried to appear. Then, perhaps, she wouldn't feel so damned conflicted. But it was the right choice, right? I can't imagine any kind of danger that Renkor isn't capable of getting out of. She skewed her lips, her nose twinging in response. Chances are, it's nothing and he'll just be irritated we even showed up. But the longer she thought on it, the more complicated her feelings became on the matter. What if he really was in danger? Ted only seemed speculative in his proposal, but if they had known each as well as he claimed to, then wouldn't he know better than her? She shook her head vigorously to chase away the thoughts, spurring a man that approached from the other direction to pass her with a wider-berth. But he's better working alone. Hell, he scarcely needed me. I just had to sit and pretend to be useful. Useful. She hadn't even been that, had she? Aelyria shuddered, remembering the contempt in his eyes and the iciness of his voice at their last encounters. Even their farewells had been terse and bitter. She didn't doubt that he blamed her for his exile from Valjer--it was mostly her fault after all for getting them caught up in the whole ordeal. Aelyria had avoided the idea of meeting with Renkor again, steering her mind away from the thought should it ever crop up. Though, in the times she dared let it cross her imagination, she envisioned the sylph with his gaze bearing down on her with such scorn that she would find herself nearly on the brink of tears, as if she could practically feel his hatred for her manifest, choking her. There had only been one other man who could make her feel that way. Who could make her hate her own existence so absolutely. As Aelyria approached the docks, she turned her attention to focus on her surroundings. One didn't have to see the docks to know they were close as the concentrated smell of fish and brackish water was enough to signal its proximity, but seeing it in plain view during the day was another thing entirely. Originally she thought there was no possible way the southern district of Methzaluen could ever get more packed, but upon seeing the mess of bodies, barrels, crates, and boats, she quickly counted herself as woefully wrong. Carefully, she navigated the street that ran alongside the wooden piers, searching for a locale to scout from, preferably that nice little spot up the hill and in the shade of a shanty building's overhang that seemed vacant of any bystanders. Beaming with delight at having found such an opportune location, she settled herself standing against the wall of the building beside a closed barrel, arms crossed casually over her torso. Now all she had to do was wait for one of the dockworkers to show up from the tavern and lather icing on top of the cake she had planted--especially since she had even less money to bargain with now that Caliben and the funds he carried was out of the picture. She did take the opportunity to scan the docks for any familiar faces so far, but as expected, none stood out. It would likely be a while until the workers returned from the tavern, but it didn't hurt to at least look at alternatives. She spotted a few potential targets, in particular a group of men nearby that were loading a boat with what looked to be stone. But as she reviewed the workers, she noticed what was most likely the boat's captain in a heated debate with an older suited gentleman, and what was probably his young courtly daughter standing idly by obediently without muttering a word. Chances were slimmer with an irritable captain. As she waited, Aelyria found her mind wandering back to the conversation back the tavern with Ted. She tried to brush it aside, but what he said just didn't sit right with her. Ted's relationship with Renkor, the 'contingency plan', and all that damned gold. Just who the hell was Renkor really? There was so much she didn't know about the man, yet somehow he felt it pertinent enough to put her name on his list of people to turn to in case things go awry? For what? A sacrifice maybe? She had known a little of Renkor's scope of magic. Who was to say there wasn't some dark blood magic involved too? Just exactly what was she to him? Then, she remembered something Ted had said. "Like a father," she hissed, not realizing she had begun to think out loud. "Oh, yes. I'm sure Renkor and my father would've gotten on with one another real well. 'Yes, let's share tea over biscuits'," she said to no one in particular, mimicking holding a cup in her hand and plate in the other. "'And let us discuss how much we loathe that little burden of our existence that Aelyria is'." "Wow, you're good at that. Who's Renkor?" Aelyria nearly jumped out of her own skin at the sudden manifestation of the voice beside her, whirling around to see a prim young woman sitting on the barrel beside her. "Who in Velmesh are you?! And where did you come from?!" She had been so sure the overhang was vacant of other people, and although Aelyria had been lost in thought, there was assuredly no way the girl could've snuck up right beside her without some kind of noise. The woman blinked with mild surprise, but there was perhaps a twinkle of amusement in her hazel eyes. "I don't understand the question. Or the terminology. Veil-mess?" She cocked her head to the side. Gods, Aelyria thought with reluctant appreciation, she's a beauty. "And is that a hint of a foreign accent I hear. Anyway, I was already here to answer your second question, but I do believe I asked you one first." Still unable to wrap her mind around the whole circumstance, she examined the aloof woman, gauging by her fine clothes, laced gloves, and wide-brim blue-ribbon sun hat, that she was of some form of noble birth. She sat with her legs crossed over the edge of the barrel--though it was difficult to tell with her long, petticoat dress--and with an open sketchbook lain flat across her lap, pen in hand. At first glance, she realized the woman had been drawing a sketch of her, and Aelyria conscientiously wondered if she really did look that austere from the outside. Brushing the petty concern away, she realized then that the woman looked familiar with her golden-brown curls and over-zealously freckled cheeks. She peered up to the docks close by to where the gentleman had been arguing with the boat captain and spotted the daughter standing there still, the same blue ribbon hat propped on her head. Aelyria turned back to the woman beside her, who seemed to understand her confusion and offered only but a smile as recompense. "That's...you. Over there," Aelyria surveyed, eyes narrowing suspiciously and pointing at her. "But you're here." The woman nodded haphazardly, as if expecting the scrutiny. "Yes, very much one and the same." "But, you're here," she pressed. "Yes. I am. Your point?" Realizing they would end up no where at this rate, Aelyria shook her head. "Renkor is just an old acquaintance," she said, propping a hand on her hip. "Renkor. That sounds like an interesting name. And I'm assuming that you're Aelyria then? Also interesting. Very unique," the woman rambled, scribbling something down on her sketchpad before looking back up, her face alight with mirth. "Ooh! Let me guess then! Based on your name, attire, and that funny little slur in your speech--" "Slur?" Aelyria interjected, incredulous. Ignoring the interruption, the woman continued. "You must be an adventurer, aren't you?!" "Adventurer?" Aelyria quirked an eyebrow at which the woman seemed so enraptured with the term, and now, with her. "No... I wouldn't say that I am. I don't do very much 'adventuring'. Renkor, perhaps..." "Oh! Then you must tell me more about this Renkor! Tell me, what does he look like? Is he burly and stoic? Is his face riddle with scars and archaic tattoos? Or is he like more of the lady-charmer type with a strong jaw and long locks?" Aelyria, overwhelmed by the current bombardment of questions could tell the woman would prattle on endlessly if she could, so she held up a hand to signal her to stop. "Whoa, whoa. Settle down there. Just....where the hell are you getting these ideas from?" She shook her head. "Nevermind, not important. You never answered my first question and I answered two of yours." "Ugh, fine," the woman said, laying down her pen to pay full heed to the other. "What was it again?" Really? She forgot already? Already, Aelyria could feel the twinge of a headache blooming. "What was your name?" "Oh, right. You did ask that." The woman smiled apologetically. "The name is Zara. Zara Vikturian."
  4. Where the Skeletons Dance

    The concept of magitech always fascinated Aelyria. She had experienced but a handful of encounters with the technology and never in depth or at length. It was not that she had the technical skill to wrap her mind around it, but she was curious how magitech worked since her own homeland lacked anything nearly as advanced. There had been some research into alchemical magic, but she had left long before having seen any results substantial enough to be worth the attention. So, upon hearing Caliben's roots being somewhat founded in it, she eagerly wanted to pick his brain on the matter. That was until he shook his head and laughed with what she gathered to be cynical undertones. "To think," he mused, "I wanted to be someone like him. Stuck in a office all day." As he stood and gathering more fuel for the fire, she tried to imagine Caliben in an office setting. While he had his attention drawn away from her, Aelyria jumped on the opportunity to scan him over. Though he may have not been a particularly brawny fellow, she gazed at him appreciatively, his toned musculature likely developed from years of physical labour, whether that involved simple 'day-to-day jobs' as he aforementioned, or more nefarious opportunities that she had heard spoken of 'Moss' back in Union City. Either way, not many scholars shared such a well-bodied aptitude as he, so imagining Caliben as scrawny and pasty from days spent indoors with a nose glued to a book proved a rather difficult endeavor. Before long, she caught herself staring at him, soaking in the sight of him with little to no shame. Velmesh, Aelyira! She darted her eyes away, trying not to look embarrassed for the invasion of privacy and the ill-timing of it. Get it together! He's obviously upset about something to do with this father and doesn't need you leering like some predatory animal. A deep sigh cooled her lungs and restored some control to the emotions that were scattering across her face. It that hadn't been enough to assuage her, then his next question surely did. Aelyria had expected as much as a follow up, but it didn't make it any easier to answer. But, with a wry smile on her lips, she wagged a chiding finger at him. "Nu-uh. One question at a time, that's the game of it, Master Cal. But, seeing as you're being a good sport about this, I'll cave this one time." Languidly, she stretched out her legs in front of her, rubbing her hands along the top of her lower thigh and knee to idly massage the dull ache of a day's travel away. "Well... I had just given birth to my son, many... many years ago. I was still a young, naive girl then. Nineteen summers I think?" She shook her head, realizing the fact wasn't that important. "Anyway, the father was a man of considerable means. I guess you could say he was a 'noble' in Genesaris terms, from an prestigious bloodline and in a substantial position of power. Lord Damis Flouren was his name. I suppose it's important to understand my son wasn't born out of love," she conceded rather flatly, as if she had long ago come to terms with the ordeal of her child's conception. "I was taken advantage of by this man and despite post-precautions that I am not... particularly proud of admitting to, I conceived." For a brief moment, Aelyria fell into silence, the memories that the Urge had unlocked for her during her near-death experience with a potent poison now flooding her thoughts. So much blood... An involuntary shudder snapped her from the reverie and she refocused her attention on Caliben, attempt to bite back the wave of nausea rolling in her stomach. "But to actually answer your question now that you've some context," she continued. "I had originally thought Lord Flouren had come the day I gave birth, after months of successfully staying in hiding from him, fearing he would take my son away from me, claiming him as his own. He had been adamant in marrying me long before the...incident...so I figured he'd coerce me into finally accepting his proposal by holding my child hostage." "I was wrong," Aelyria croaked, not realizing the clench of her esophagus and threat of watery heat behind her eyes. She quickly cleared her throat and blinked to push back the tears. "He came to kill him. He succeeded and... well, long story short, I was pretty good at deceiving myself into believing otherwise." "But," she exclaimed suddenly, bolstering herself against the tidal of repressed emotions and focusing her attention solely on Caliben. "There has been something bothering me ever since we left Union City. See, Auron--that big muscular baldy guy that was leader of my crew if you remember--had pinned down your location when I met up with them after you left the orphanage. You were in this house in the Pits and when you stepped out of it... it was in flames. I can only assuming you're the one who set it. But why?"
  5. The Ties Left Behind

    The pressure in Aelyria's chest tightened and then dropped, the anchor to her heart sinking to the pit of her stomach. Even after preparing herself for Caliben's choice, the sting of betrayal still prickled her skin hot. It seemed no matter where she went, money always had more value than anything she could ever hope to offer. Her disappointment didn't stem from some delusion that she was so uniquely indispensable to be worth such selfless loyalty. She just hated being reminded that she was, in fact, not important to anyone at all. So, Aelyria watched the exchange unfold between Ted and Caliben in detached silence, the glittering of gold enough to purchase any number of friendships she had ever made in her lifetime. Even her own family hadn't hesitated at the first decent offer. How was the brief relationship with Caliben any different than that with her own flesh and blood? When Ted turned to address her, Aelyria knew his words should've affected her in some way. Anger, bitterness, sadness, or guilt. Any emotion at all could be expected to bubble to the surface in response to his pointed reprimand, but all she could feel was a numbing emptiness, the desire for self-preservation barricading her from any other feeling lest she spiral into loathsome self-pity. 'Do not be jaded', she thought mockingly in resemblance to his tone. 'Lest you end up like Renkor.' Heh. A little late for that, mister. And who do you think we have to thank for showing me the art of it? "Either way, I would need your answer now," Ted insisted, staring them down with urgency. "We should depart from here as soon as possible, lest we have to wait until tomorrow to catch an Airship to Terrenus. So, what will it be?" She didn't need to wait for Caliben's answer as it seemed so clear to her what it should be. Any person in his situation would be just as eager to accept the offer and be a fool to do otherwise. So, she ever so casually reached out and slid the coins back towards Ted, patting them appreciatively before rising to her feet, leaving all five gold pieces remaining on the table for all prying eyes to see. "Thank you for making the time to come find me for this little...rescue mission of yours, but I regret to tell you it was in vain as far as I'm concerned. Luckily for you," Aelyria said while tilting her head in Caliben's direction. "We happened to be traveling together so it would seem not all your efforts were entirely wasted." She then turned to her traveling companion and offered him an acquiescent smile. Go ahead, she seemed to be saying though a closer look would see how strained her smiles was. You deserve this break. During their travels together, they had the opportunity to get to know one another. Each of them had their fair share of hard times, so she understood what this opportunity could mean for him. "But as for me," she continued, smoothing down her clothing and adjusting her satchel until she felt moderately presentable. "I have a boat to Aelindra to catch. So, if you don't mind, I won't hold up you fine gentlemen any longer so..." With a terse, mocking salute, she turned sharply on her heels and almost ran for the tavern door, it taking all her willpower to walk away with some semblance of decorum. Her face and neck were flush with heat, the barricade to her emotions quickly crumbling as she made her escape. No more goodbyes, no more looking back, she thought, gritting her teeth. Just keep moving forward.
  6. Where the Skeletons Dance

    "Why are you here in Genesaris?" Caliben asked. "I'm sure that island you lived on was a paradise." Aelyria snorted derisively, a delicate little sound that came unbidden, much to her embarrassment. Sheepishly, she diverted her eyes away for a moment and twirled a lock of hair around her finger, smoothing down its length until meeting the ends. Idly, she twisted the ends with her other hand and returned her gaze to him. "Paradise is not really the term I would use for my homeland," she mused, pursing her lips in thought as her eyes flitted away. "Perhaps for some it would be if you like cold, clammy and rainy weather, but compared to the places I've been so far... No, not so much. It doesn't even come close in comparison to Genesaris or all the other lands I've had to visit just to get here." Scrupulously, Aelyria inspected Caliben, locking eyes with him for a fleeting moment before returning her gaze to the fire, the pleasant aroma of their meal wafting its way to her eager nose. Some of Caliben's answer to her question, she had expected. Based on the information she had gathered about 'Moss' in Union City, she knew he was a bit of a freelance. Of course, she hadn't quite made the connection that Caliben had indeed been the very same person, but afterwards it had become clear. But she was surprised to hear more than what she had anticipated, expecting him to be vague and dismissive as he had been in the past. His father? An inventor? Now that was interesting. She wanted to pry more information out of him, but she couldn't just ignore his question. Habitually, she licked her lips and locked eyes with him with a sportive smile. "How about this," she purred, drawing her knees back down to sit crossed legged, hands pinned to her ankles. "We go back and forth, asking each other a question of their choosing, no matter how personal or invasive it might seem. You can always refuse to answer, but you give up your right to ask another question for one turn and the other can ask two more questions instead of the one refused that you have to answer. Otherwise, your answer can be brief as long as it does address the question. We can always pry with more questions." She raised a closed fist to her lips and cleared her throat exaggeratedly before settling both hands in her lap primly, as if ready to engage in an austere meeting. "I'll go first and reply to your question since you already asked," she went on, though admittedly, she found it difficult to find the right words to say. After all, her reason for leaving home and coming to Genesaris wasn't a simple matter. And it was, by all means, not an easy one. "I'm in Genesaris... because I gave up trying." Her bubbly exterior quickly phased away, golden-flecked eyes downcast on the flame. Hazy memories flooded her mind and for a moment, she thought she could smell him, the sweet scent of something so pure and beautiful. "I had a son and for a long time, I thought he had been taken away from me. I chased a trail of shadows searching for him and eventually it led me here to Genesaris where it suddenly went cold. So, I had given up searching, but being so far away from home, I didn't know what else to do... So I stayed, though I always hoped I'd still find him, grown into a young boy." Anxiously, she bit her lip and toyed with the idea of looking up at him. She was frightened of the expression he might give her. Aelyria had never told anyone this before, fearing their contempt and disapproval. After all, what kind of mother lets her children get stolen from her and then give up trying to find them? Even now, she hated herself. Still too nervous to look up, she shook her head and continued. "Turns out, I was never meant to find him. Turns out I had lost him long... long ago," she lamented, returning her hands to toy apprehensively at the ends of her hair. But, fearing her silence would be mistaken for a desire for pity, she quickly looked up and flashed a half-hearted smile. "But speaking of family, you said you had a father who was an inventor," she exclaimed, interjecting before he could speak. "So my question to you is, what kind of inventor was he?"
  7. The Ties Left Behind

    Aelyria never considered herself ignorant when it came to her propensity for letting unbridled emotions take reign over sense and logic. At times, such impertinent passion opened doors that no one dared tried to break through, unbarring the way towards great strives that those too reserved and critical were afraid to reach for. However, it was times like these that she wished she had better control, having thrown in her hand preemptively and exposing her weaknesses before she even had the chance to correct them. This man--Thaddeus as he called himself--had the upper hand now and wasted no time in trying to twist her arm into submission, so she shifted tactics. Months of fibbing, sweet-talking, and misdirecting people for information in Union City had forced Aelyria to learn the art of apathy, masquerading disparate emotions that befitted the situation while suppressing her true feelings as not to reveal them. So, as 'Ted' answered her questions, Aelyria leaned back in her chair with a mien of indifference, her thighs crossed and arms folded loosely over her torso. She caught the implication he made about one of her 'associates', likely one of her old crew mates, but with the barrier against her own frustrations in place, she quickly realized his attempt to tug further on her heartstrings was of an inopportune choice. After all, if one were truly seeking help from an associate's acquaintances, one did not torture said acquaintance's friends and hope to win their trust. Nonetheless, the thought someone selling her out had drawn her jaw to a tight clench. She had no doubt any number of the crew would've given up her location for some quick cash, but the only person who could've even possible guessed the direction they had headed was Tye. Perhaps she had misjudged his loyalty for her, though she hardly felt deserving of it in the first place. "As for how I know Renkor?" He continued, that irksome puckish look about him still grating her nerves. There was an aloofness about this man she didn't quite like. It wasn't quite like Caliben's carefree charm that brought a sense of reprieve during a trying time. No, this strange man possessed a kind of careless charisma that made you wonder how long you would live to see the next day. "We ran together back in Scales Village, must have been a decade ago now, back when I was still a greenhorn. He's saved my life more times than I can count, and kept me afloat during some hard times, though I imagine it was more for personal gain than any true attachment." An involuntarily scoff escaped her impassive facade in response to his last statement. Aelyria had come to feel much the same about Renkor's demeanor, a fact she had been brooding over since her time in Valjer with him. She had just been an asset to him, a key to unlock the hidden doors that only conformity and adhesion to the town's customs could unveil. Granted, she knew as much from the beginning of their agreement to enter a false 'marriage', but as events shifted, Aelyria had unwittingly fell victim to the belief that they had shared a sort of kinship with one another. The impression from him, however, had left her feeling she had been completely alone in the possibility. However, it would appear she was not alone in this understanding of Renkor's true intent. As Ted pressed the sheet forward scrawled with whose handwriting she could only assume was Renkor's, she raised an eyebrow at him curiously. Contingency plan? Renkor had enough conviction in this man to trust him with a contingency plan? It left her wondering what exactly the two of them had been through together to place such faith in one another and to actually honor it. Sure, Renkor had entrusted her with something of a similar nature, to call upon him with the power of the wind should she require his aid... But when he had arrived--due to a rather convoluted misunderstanding--he had made it perfectly clear that coming to her assistance had been a chore. Despite attempts at reparation, the utter enmity of his stony eyes at their reunion had left a bitter taste in her mouth that couldn't be washed down, no matter how much she tried to brush it clean away. Now, it looked like Renkor was calling upon her--or rather, her and Caliben--through a proxy that she hadn't even realized ever existed. And she was expected to actually take up arms with this perfect stranger and come running to his aid? When had she ever signed up for this? At the end of Ted's proposal, Aelyria realized her stoic pretense had faded away, a wry, twisted grin skewing her lips. With a terse snicker, she leaned forward and slid the paper back in front of him and returned to her repose in the chair, her arms crossed more taut than they had been before. "Yeah, well, I think you might have the wrong people or, at the very least, he made an error with my name being written there," she vexed, the sardonic smile still holding firm. "Things didn't end that well between us, so he must have forgotten or was very drunk," though admittedly she had never imagined him to be anyone who would willingly put themselves in such a vulnerable, dull state, "otherwise he would've never put my name down there. And if you or Renkor think you can purchase me a change of mind, then you're severely mistaken. The fact you'd even have to offer such recompense should tell you all you need to know." Aelyria clenched her jaw again, trying to confine her tongue so it couldn't wag on endlessly as she wished it could. There was so much more she wanted to say on the matter, but as she tried not to steal a sidelong glance at Caliben, she felt to say anymore would be selfish. His name was on there too. Well, not really his 'name' per say. His alias anyway. But this was an opportunity for Caliben. So far, she had been dragging him through the muck to get somewhere that had been solely her idea. He offered little debate on the subject so he had given her little reason to feel guilty, but she had been convinced a while back that they would have to eventually separate. So, why not now? If this Thaddeus character was really offering a hefty sum for compensation--of which they both desperately needed though she'd already denied--then why not take up on the offer? Refusing to say more lest she sway his decision, Aelyria turned her eyes away from the men to pick the dirt under her nails, deceptively indifferent.
  8. Where the Skeletons Dance

    Aelyria tried to keep her focus on the book, but her thoughts kept weaving in and out as if it were a needle stitching a long neglected hem, never able to rest until the job was finally done. Curiosity compelled her to peer up, but when she realized Caliben had been looking at her, she immediately looked back down to the pages and tried not to squirm uncomfortably, self-conscious under his gaze before it turned elsewhere. However, the damage had been done, her mind no longer concentrating on the words before her as she read the same line at the of the prose for the fifth time. Frustrated with her inability to focus, she was ready to retire the book from her hands when he spoke, breaking the silence to inquire about it. She lowered the book to her lap to listen to his musings, her eyes entranced by the magic play of the fire in his hands. Though she was well aware of his new powers--or, she guessed they were new--she had not quite yet asked about how he obtained them. He was fairly vague about the details back in Union City, but seeing them now, she felt her curiosity prodding her incessantly for answers. "I've never had much of a past time in my life," he said and she sensed a trace of regret behind his tone, but she couldn't be sure if it were just her imagination. "I've been lucky to just sleep the days and nights away, when I am able to of course. Sometimes hunger makes that difficult." Solemnly, she nodded in response though he didn't seem to be looking her direction. She remembered bits and pieces about what Caliben had told her about his life, but just as with his powers, he had been vague and evasive. Her eyes traced his features as he talked, trying to soak in the details and lines of his face as if seeing him for the first time. Aelyria hardly knew him, but there had been such a strange magnetizing kinship between them that she had forgotten that he was still a complete stranger to her. Yet, when she thought on how difficult it had been to reach even remotely friendly terms with Auron's crew in Union City, she couldn't help but wonder why Caliben had been such an intense exception to her life. However, he wasn't the only one, she mused. Another had stumbled into her life--or rather she stumbled into his--of which she had felt so completely tethered to beyond all reasoning. However, when they last spoke, it was not on good terms. Since the event in Valjer, Renkor and her had had a falling out and yet... the bond still teemed with vexatious life. She frowned thinking on it, the pit of her stomach sinking to a nauseating low when Caliben looked up and locked eyes with her. "Also doesn't help I haven't really learned to read anything besides the common tongue," he continued. "And the book you hold there looks pretty old." "Old?" Perplexed by his description, she snapped the book closed and flipped it in her hand from cover to cover, inspecting the state of which it was in. "Well... I suppose you could say it looks old. It's been through one heck of a journey for sure, but it's only about 10 years old or so." She paused and then it occurred to her what he might have meant. "Oh! The lettering?" She pointed at the title of the book with its collection of markings and dots. "You think it's ancient writing? No. No, no. You had probably forgotten--and I don't blame you with all that has been going on--but I'm not originally from Genesaris. My home is oceans away from here, on an isle much smaller than here." She smiled and ran her fingertips along the etched golden lettering, a flood of memories drowning her thoughts. Turning the front cover, her eyes gleamed over the handwritten lettering on the other side, her heartstrings being tugged at awkward angles at the last line. Forever yours, Kaede. "I brought this with me from my homeland," she continued, forcing her eyes to peel away from the book and flicking it closed again. "It was a gift from someone very close to me... It's just filled with a bunch of silly love poems. If you ever need a past time, I can teach you to read this--but it'd probably be a pretty useless skill, unless you really enjoy sappy poetry." With that, she set the book down beside her open satchel, though for the briefest moment, she was tempted to toss it into the open fire. She wished she had, but as it would turn out, she wasn't ready quite yet to let go even after all these years. Turning her attention back to Caliben, she shifted her legs from underneath her and stretched them out, feeling a dull ache in her calves. "So... you never really did tell me what it is you really do. When we first met, you said you procured goods but after our last conversation on the matter, especially about Mr. Lyles, I have a feeling that's not really the whole truth." She cocked her head to the side, waves of silken hair cascading over her shoulder carelessly. "I mean, if you didn't have much of a past time, then what is it that you did?"
  9. The Ties Left Behind

    Navigating the crowded tavern to get to her seat had proven to be challenging, but once finally settled, Aelyria planted an elbow on the tabletop and used her open palm to prop up her chin as she leaned forward, listening intently as he rambled on. He had a habit of it on occasion, but admittedly she found it rather endearing, the slight tug of her cupid-bowed lips curled into a grin. When he pulled back from his plate to relish in his meal and wait on her response, she took advantage of the opening and quickly snatched a morsel of crab meat, popping it into her mouth much to the appreciation of her grumbling belly. Appalled, Caliben shot her with what she figured was an attempt at an ornery glare, but she deflected it with a teasing smile and playful crinkle of her eyes before leaning in her chair, mimicking him as she too savored the stolen treat. As she drew back, Aelyria crossed her legs with careful contrivance, exposing the side of her upper thigh suggestively at a few wandering eyes she had seen not so discreetly watching her throughout the tavern. Her time in Union City had given her an opportunity to improve upon a certain set of skills she had severely lacked expertise in before, and it had proven useful in opening many doors. Today, if they had any hopes of getting to Aelindra in decent time, they needed a boat. She didn't necessarily plan to seduce her way onto one, but men--particularly these dockworkers that kept the tavern busy this morning--often found it difficult to think straight when the prospects of what a pretty woman had to offer was on the table. A realist, she intended to explore all possible avenues and setting up a foundation to build upon was important if they wished to haggle for low fare. Meanwhile, as a few sparks of interest came alight in some of the more amenable dockworkers' faces, Aelyria lightly tugged her shoulders in a placid shrug. "We need to find ourselves a boat," she said, letting her voice rise a little higher than usual to be carried over to nearby eavesdroppers. "Or at least someone kind enough to take us down the river to Aelindra. It'd be the fastest way, short of paying an arm and leg for airship travel. I'm so weary from walking that I'd nearly do anything it took to just be able to travel off our feet for a while." The responses and second glances were just as expected. She had done her subtle part to get the idea drilled in some of the workers' heads, and she leaned forward with her arms folded on the table. "By the way, thanks for getting us a room. I know it wasn't easy with what funds we have on hand, but you came through and it was nice to be able to sleep indoors, away of the rain for once." She smiled and sat up straight with palms planted firmly on the table as if ready to stand. "And on that note, I'm going to order some grub at the counter and when I come back--" With scarcely any time to react, a man in a dark coat manifested beside their table, tearing away a chair and depositing himself down firmly into it without so much as an invitation. Startled by his sudden appearance as she hadn't heard him approaching with all the bustle and noise of the active tavern, Aelyria quickly flicked a knife free from the garter belt secured to her thigh and flipped it around, ready to strike in case he proved himself full of hostile intent. Without even an opportunity to retaliate, the man nodded to them and in a hurried string of words said, "Oh boy, sorry for interrupting your meal, ran into a bit of trouble with the local guard, mind pretending like I have been here all along if anyone comes through the door looking for me?" Dumbfounded, she didn't know what to say to him as he littered their table with a disheveled stack of papers and what looked to be a red, mystifying orb. He cleared his throat and in that moment she seemed to regain some articulation, firmly shaking her head to clear the befuddlement. She moved to interject and command him to promptly leave, not remotely in the mood or position, for that matter, to take on someone else's troubles. But when he peered up and his expression skewed after taking a look at them, she found her tongue caught with confusion once again. He rummaged through his papers and after selecting an appropriate one, pinned it up in the air near her face. She nearly slapped his hand away reflexively but instead, slunk back in her chair, as if to get further away from whatever it was he was about to do. Despite her grievances with the stranger, he didn't appear hostile and because of that, she didn't quite know how to respond. "Aelyria?" He asked, lowering the sheet. "Well... this is incredibly convenient. I thought I was going to have to search across half the continent to find you." If she had felt disoriented before, now her head was spinning in circles in a relentless maelstrom of confusion. Her hand pumped the knife's handle, using it to steel herself against the tide, a cold reminder that she had to still be on guard. He slid the paper towards her, face up and oriented in her direction, only to find a portrait of her likeness on its crumpled surface. A second later, another sheet materialized from the pile and was presented to Caliben. "I assume that makes you Forest then?" He continued, the use of one of Caliben's aliases striking her as odd. The last time she had heard it was in Valjer. That meant this man wasn't involved with the crews in Union City where they had known him as 'Moss'. So... who was he? She stole a glance at Caliben, trying to discern if there was any familiarity on his face with the stranger, but none manifested itself. She turned back to the man, clenching her jaw as he leaned back, sighing with frustration for what reason she didn't understand. "We need to talk," his voice a heavy contrast to just a moment ago. "Renkor sent me." Instantly, her heart dropped. Not in a thousand years did she think that name would ring in her ears again. Without giving herself time to think, she acted on impulse and shot up from her chair, slamming her free hand on the table with enough force to clatter Caliben's plate, while her other hand still wielded the knife, now in plain sight. "Who the fuck do you think you are, walking in here with those portraits and throwing that name around?" The tables in their nearest vicinity went silent for a shocked moment, but after seeing the dispute did not immediately turn to violence, they returned to their meals and conversations, though stealing sidelong glances on occasion. Admittedly, even Aelyria was surprised by the intensity of her voice. Heat rose to her cheeks, turning a red against the faded freckles, and she returned to her seat with steamy embarrassment. She turned her head to the side to avoid the mens' eyes as she ran a finger along the ridge of her brow, attempting to stabilize her emotions to think clearly. With a defeated sigh, she returned her gaze to the stranger. "Okay. Okay... Let's track back a bit," she digressed, slipping the knife back into the thigh belt. "Start from the beginning. Who are you, how did you find us, and how do you know Renkor?"
  10. Where the Skeletons Dance

    A quizzical eyebrow tweaked upwards as he made attempts to fend her off from inspecting his shoulder. He had been less objective to her prodding when she first tended to him, probably out of necessity to treat his wound, but she still found his behavior perplexing. She had long ago observed his nervous quirks around women and even teased him on occasion for it, but she hardly thought he saw her in the same light as others. After all, they had fought and battled the wilderness together, and such closeness bred a sense of familiarity that often than not dissipated such awkward boundaries. Was his anxiety around her the result of something other than her sex? She had seen him interact with other women before, a charismatic picture bolstering with confidence and airy aplomb--or, so she imagined. Was he frightened of her for a particular reason? Perhaps her fears of bringing misfortune to those around her were not wholly unfounded. Perhaps he feared she would bring his ruin too. Aelyria tried to ignore the discomfiture that forced her muscles to tense and began to peer downwards, when she was suddenly taken back by his question and forced to flicker her eyes upwards at him. He held her gaze which made her instantly turn away, unable to bear the attention. As casually as possible, she played off her abrupt evasion and looked down to her side, patting it gently as if to inspect her own wounds. A light wince twinged her lips, but she shrugged in response to his question. "I'm alright I suppose. My chest still hurts like hell, but I guess that's expected with a few broken ribs," she said while rising to her feet. "But there's not much I can do for that except let it heal on its own. I'd take something for the pain if I could, but a lot of what I had burned down with the orphanage and I'm saving what I can for emergencies. You, on the other hand," she began with a finger pointed firmly at him. "As soon as we get to Mezthaluen, those sutures are coming out. I can't keep them in there forever and at the first sign of tenderness, you let me know so I can check your wound. " Deciding it was better not to push him further on the matter, she returned to her spot by the tree and sat down, placing the book back in her hands while the stew came to a languid simmer. Like most nights, they often went to tend their own personal duties while the food cooked, each taking turns to see that the meal was properly made. So, expecting much of the same, Aelyria flipped through the pages until she found her mental bookmark and began to read, or at least she tried, her mind still buzzing with uncertainty.
  11. What's in your speakers, nukka?

  12. Pictures of Us

    Oh gawd. This is an older one, but it made me realize how much I miss having longer hair (and mind you, it's not even really that long here). It takes forever for it to grow! D;
  13. Hello

    I was eating pizza this fine morning and upon browsing Valucre, your name popped up. So naturally, I had to welcome you aboard! It was a sign! :3 Hope you enjoy your stay here!
  14. Where the Skeletons Dance

    For once since the time he had started the habit, Caliben's whistle took her by surprise. She often could tell when he was returning back to camp without his warning, but stuck in the lulling reverie the book offered, she had completely forgotten the outside world. Embarrassed, she set the book down in her lap hastily and looked up at him, trying to appear nonplussed by his arrival. However, she couldn't help but quirk an eyebrow at his catch tonight as he tossed the owl in the pot that she had already filled with rooted vegetables to go with their meal. She couldn't necessarily complain about the oddity of the game since they had settled down for camp at a later time than usual, considering they had spent a majority of their daylight trying to catch up on lost time due to inclement weather. At the mention of a secondary catch, her curiosity was piqued, so she set the book down and crawled over to the pot to peer inside. An involuntary grimace twisted her lips and she picked up the dead rat by its tail, the rodent spinning in place before coming to a still. "Perhaps we should just roast this separately from the rest," she muttered and laid it next to the pot to be pitted through later. She sat back on her knees and unlatched the waterskin from her belt, pouring its contents she had reserved specifically for the stew into the pot, seeing that Caliben had already prepared the foul appropriately enough to cook. She did give it a quick once over with the water outside the pot, but then set it in with the vegetables and herbs for a slow cook. It would take some time before they could actually eat, but such was the price to pay for progress. She set the pot to the side for now to rise to her feet and propped the branches she had reserved to tepee over the campfire so they could suspend the pot over the flame without burning their food. "Thanks, I suppose. But the weather had been a bit kinder today, so I can't really take all the credit," she said with a shrug, though admittedly the compliment bolstered her dwindled confidence. With the contraption in place, she tied a wire used for her trappings to the pot and then to the apex of the tepee with just enough room for the flame to lick the bottom of the metal to cook the stew evenly through. "But you know as well as I do that we wouldn't have made it much farther on that horse than we had anyway. We would've been in Mezthaluen by now if not for the rain." Aelyria took a step back to inspect her handiwork and ran a hand through her hair, tousling it without so much as a forethought to doing so. It was an ancient habit for whenever she kept her hair down, an unconditioned response to feeling she had performed a job well done. With all there left to do was wait, so she turned to return to her spot at the tree when a thought crossed her mind. She whirled back around and pointed towards him. "How is your shoulder doing, anyway?" Aelyria had noted him rubbing his feet, feeling sympathetic for her feet felt much the same. But aching feet was a minor thing and it merely brought her attention to the wound at his shoulder. She had been able to suture it closed after some intensive cleansing when they had the time to stop, but it was crude compared to what she could've done in a much more suitable environment. She skirted around the campfire and came to kneel beside him, tapping him lightly on the arm of which he had been wounded. "Let me see. I want to make sure there's no signs of infection."
  15. Where the Skeletons Dance

    The glimmer of sparks faded as they flickered off the steel edge of the knife, failing once again to catch on the tinder Aelyria had worked so diligently to prepare. With an exasperated sigh, she adjusted the flint in her hand and struck again in the direction of the dry bundle, willing it to ignite. When it failed again, she nearly tossed her instruments in frustration but instead clutched them tighter in her palms to resist the temptation. The journey with Caliben to Methzaluen so far had been a miserable one. The first night it had snowed, a pestering light flurry that didn’t stay long enough to stick to the ground and instead made the terrain slurry and icy beneath their feet. The second night and nearly every night since, the spring rains poured, bearing down on their heads with freezing drops while the plains provided little protection against them. Gratefully, the rain proved useful to cover their tracks out of Union City and any concern of being followed had all but been eliminated from her mind, but it had also slowed their progress considerably. Today, the rains seemed to be offering them clemency from their drenching oppression, but the ground was still moist and it had proved difficult finding dry tinder and kindling for a campfire. However, Aelyria’s frustration didn’t originate solely from the rainy conditions; she had grown tired of being so damned useless in the wilderness. She had never been much of a hunter to catch game, and though she knew how to set traps, they scarce had time to wait around for a hare to stumble unwittingly on tripwire. Even if she did have a bow to shoot, she was no master archer, and catching them by hand was out of the question for she was not nearly fast enough to be successful. Thus far, Caliben had been their primary provider for their meals, Aelyria merely supplementing it with shoots and berries as she stumbled across them in her search for dry wood, but even those were far and few inbetween as the season provided little vegetation until spring was in full bloom. To make matters more frustrating, her search for dry wood had been a mostly fruitless endeavour and more often than not, they had been forced to resort to Caliben’s fire magic to provide them a suitable campfire since her own fire ability had perished when the shadow magic took over--not that he had been aware it anyway. Eventually, the guilt of her helplessness wrought itself into self-contempt as she struggled to be become a burden to him. She had already been convinced he was better off without the loom of death that seemed to accompany her wherever she went, but yet she clung to hope that perhaps she would be needed--that he would want her to stay. While lost in her thoughts, she idly struck the flint again. With the turbulent emotions rolling through her mind, she almost didn’t notice the flicker of orange as the tinder began to smoke with the whisper of fire. Spotting it in time before it died from neglect, she gasped and hastily crouched down, blowing softly on the embers until it caught flame and spread to the kindling. A heavy sigh of relief burst from her chest as the campfire burst into life, and she continued to feed it with fuel until it was a satisfactory source of warmth. All she had to do now was wait for Caliben to return from his hunt so she stood and nestled herself against the base of a tree in the small woods they had retreated into when the sun began to set. Aelyria took a moment to soak in the landscape of the small clearing they had settled in, the gnarled branches of each tree entangled with those of their brethren, leaves boasting a youthful vibrant green as spring had stirred them from their slumbering buds. It was enough to provide an adequate canopy, shielding them from any expected rain, but Aelyria’s appreciation stemmed from the sense of security under their reaching arms as the campfire’s light reflected off them, much like how a mother’s arms feel when protecting their child from the terrors of the night. Or, at least, that’s what she thought it was supposed to feel like. When night started to envelope their campsite in darkness, she began to worry for Caliben. She knew it was unwarranted as he had proven to be self-sufficient unlike herself, but small threads of anxiety tended to unravel in her mind during long periods of wait, and she knew he had still been recovering from his wound though he scarce showed it bothered him. To distract herself from such restless thoughts, Aelyria pulled the ribbon free from the end of her braid and slowly began to comb out the weave with her fingertips, silken threads of fine tawny hair cascading freely over her shoulders, freshly liberated from their tight bonds. Against her better judgement, she had let her hair grow without restriction, the furthest tips reaching the small of her back. She knew it was a crutch in combat, but a selfish desire to retain her femininity stopped her from cutting it short, even though logic dictated her to do otherwise. With her hair now free of knots and tangles, she anxiously sought another task to distract herself with as nothing else could be done until Caliben returned with game. Typically by now, he’d have returned only to see her still struggling to get a flame going and be forced to help her, so it was unusual to find herself with time for leisure. So, she pulled her satchel from the ground beside her onto her lap and began to peruse through it, organizing bits here and there of the collected herbs she had found on their journey thus far. That was when she spotted it, the gilded spine of a small book she had long forgotten was stored within one of the isolated compartments. Her hand froze, as if frightened that touching the book would singe her fingertips if she dared. But, as if magnetized to linen surface, she ran her finger along its spine, tracing the letters that of a foreign alphabet she had not seen in what seemed like ages. With nostalgia bolstering her courage, she pulled the book free and flipped it over to its cover. The Sigh of Winter A Book of Poems by Ashinaii Kelv And, as always, against her better judgement she opened it and began to read.
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