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-Lilium-

[Nymeria] Bone collector.

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  The Bone Forest, Nymeria [Past Tense]    
           
      Still, calm, quiet. Things that plague an endlessly murky sea. There are those who trespass against it, and those who thrive in it. And sometimes those who've become lost in it's gentle sway.    
           
      Deep within this darkness rests a sprinkling of bones, long since discarded and forgotten. Given away to the tumultuous currents and creatures tucked beneath the oceans frothy surface. None too many survive such an enclave, nor would they expect to. Monsters of darkness dwell here, forbidding the existence of life outside their own. As does the weakest nestled beside it's core…    
           
      Carefully, lovingly, so very gently… are the puzzled together remains of two salt and barnacle poxed skeletons. Worn and thin, pieces left unfixed leave sand filled spaces between long decayed joints. Yet somehow, some way, two hands have joined one phalanx after another to create a stack of small tube-bone pyramids. Dominoed over with each rock of the water as it pushes past.    
           
      Small fingers adjust them, sliding against sand and shell to fix what is broken. Each bone placed just so, until a weak smile can be cast upon them in a pleased fashion.     
           
      Bruised knees bend and fold, heels cupping the back end while the top bows and rolls into a slump of frail shoulders. Wild green tendrils curl and tumble against those lowered curves, catching in the water to lift and tangle while a wheeze of breath escapes the flat chest. Tiny bubbles escape and float in a swirl before rising, up and up, then away. Nonexistent.     
           
      With a quick puncture and scoop of sand, then another and another, is the exposure of thin ovular concave chunks of mud larger than the size of an adult hands span. Decorated of snail shells and coral, they are lifted and placed over broken skulls. Completing the portrait necessary to facilitate a mourning of sorts. Routinely committed too, and always remembered. For this is where she lays. Over bony fingers, hands, and arms. Folded between the two and fitting perfectly. Tiny and and alone among spirits of the dead. Just as forgotten, just as restless.    
           
           

 

 

@Lacernella Rubra

Edited by -Lilium-

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The ebb and flow of the Tide was a ruling factor in the lives of those beneath the waves. It determined when and how they would become citizens and to what form that might take. Those that could not conform were forgotten and left to the predators of the ocean floor. The dumping grounds had come home to so many wasted lives that they had become a children’s nightmare, a story told in caution to the younger in hopes that they would not grace the Bone Forest.

While many avoided, the task of cataloguing the growth and the transference of shed skin and cartilage was the duty belonging to the Chroniclers. As grief toiled in the sand, filling it with vengeance and spurring on the spirits that had yet to find rest, a figure floated serenely through the misty waters. Alabaster in entirety, the flowing wisps trailing behind were bound in gentle shells, a headpiece of shiny and glittering shells adorned the achromatic crown. While a ghost she was not, one would quiet easily assume.

As graceful, webbed digits graced the sand and bone alike, ruby vision was brought upon the childlike creature that had taken herself to a home in the forbidden forest. A gentle frown tugged lines across her visage, as kneeling became paramount as she approached.

“Are you a spirit, child?” A firm question, the woman hiding none of herself from the view of the grieving – nude and prideful as the sand shifted beneath her, a single scroll in her hands. Her frown melts, however, disappearing into the thinnest of smiles, stretching her visage as gills alongside her neck flare.

“Surely not, no. For no children are thrown to the abyss. Come…” A motion of webbed fingers is made, drawing the girl near.

“I’ll take you from this place, nothing grows here…surely you will flourish elsewhere.”  

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    There are no words to be spoken. Comfort now broken by the disturbance of a trespasser. Fear drives the child's actions, propelling her off the ocean floor. Her small hands grabbing the masks from the guileless skulls she had lain between.    
         
    Once the grit and grime that stirred from the motion settles, glowing citrine halos take a chance. A hurried glimpse at the speaker. For the child fears nothing. It is with devout protection over her collection of marrow-less bones and the two masks fist gripped into her hand that she concedes to face down the intruder.    
         
    A sense of calm and wonder transfix her as her eyes alight on Eilwen. So ghostly an apparition can only mean one thing. Peace. From aggressive to tranquil, the child forgets the preservation of those beneath her. Hypnotized by the boundless spark of white shining so brilliantly in the abyss they traverse.    
         
    Freshly emptied of burden, two hands reach out. Hesitant and shaking as they take hold of the one being offered. Peace.    
         
    Raspy and gargled, a plea comes forth simple in nature, though its true complexity waits to be defined. Misunderstandings all too common when speech is limited. “Ta-take...hooome nowa?    
         

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Eilwen find the small creature far too engrossing and fragile to simply leave. As hands grasp her own, a gentle pull upward is given, bringing the smaller frame against her own, smooth flesh. Gentle fingers entwine in the leafy tendrils that attach at the girl’s crown, smoothing back the tears and frantic tranquility alike.

“Yes, Child. I’ll take you home.” Eilwen offers, picking up the masks that were so easily discarded. It can only be assumed that this child belonged to the exiled, however, Eilwen desired not to leave her on her own. Every child deserved a chance – clearly this one was strong enough to survive in the Bone forest.

Lifting the child to her hip, Eilwen moved from the Bone Forest, her new find far more interesting than the thing in which she came out here for. After a while it was likely to be assumed that Eilwen was not taking the child anywhere but back to the city – perhaps a city she would grow to detest, or love in her own right. The far reaching consequences were not on the Chroniclers mind, as she bestowed the child a burden of her care.

Eilwen held the girl fast as they made their way into the city – right to the quarters of the Mistress as the child was set upon plush bed. “Now then, Child. What is your name?”

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Five years later...

         
   

“Paulianna, is what they call me. Who are you?”

Twice. This being the second time she'd swam from the depths of Nymeria up to the surface world and broke free of the ocean's surface to breathe in the sultry air of the small port town. More often than not, time was spent just below the ripples of water she calls home. Too afraid to be caught belly surfing onto the beach by an audience.

Days like these are planned carefully, her curious behavior becoming more duplicitous than what her mentor probably intended when allowing her free reign over her chosen path. Equal to a magnet, she feels repelled by the home she's resided in while unable to break from the heavy pull of her humanity. Only making it easier for her to trespass against their borders.

What pulls her onto land today, however, is the company she currently keeps. A young man had been sitting on the edge of a small boat, barefoot with his toes in the sand. His hands busily tug and tie thin long ropes repeatedly to produce a small portion of net, unduly catching her attention.

After watching him endlessly for what feels like hours, she emerges from the cold clashes of white waves along the shore in order to make closer inspection of his handy work. The fisherman's first expression was surprise, quickly darting his eyes around in search of another boat close by. Upon not finding one immediately, his next became alarm with a hint of curiosity.

Though their world's are filled with a multitude of rarities and unexplainable events, watching someone barely clothed, they hadn't seen go in, suddenly walking out of the water straight towards them… It does things to you. Makes you think it's a trick of the light, or maybe even that you've not gotten enough sleep, maybe drank a little too much.

Whatever thoughts he may have had were cut short by her graceful stature, and assuredly due to the lack of clothing clinging to her frame as she moves. Rather than indulge in such shock, his lower jaw hanging hanging ajar his mouth, she perused a different course of action. Questioning him about the knots he uses and what he intends to catch with the net, to ensure it can hold that amount of weight before breaking.

This eventually leads to different netting methods and of course fishing, which she has never done. A promise is made for him to someday teach her about swinging a pole with a hook tied to a string into the water. But like all things must do, their conversation has to come to an end. Her time on land brief for a reason.

While her mentor Eilwen slept off another high and teaching session, she would be rising soon to notice her vanished presence. But before he would allow her to escape his attention he requested her name.

“My name is-"

Paulianna does not catch the rest of his answer, having already begun her dive back into the depths of the sea. All the while wondering what will be awaiting her return home and cringing as her imagination takes over.

   
         
         
Edited by -Lilium-

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Whilst Eilwen dreamed of poppies and large sharkmen, or nymerian men in general, her protégé was becoming her own person. Encouraging the acts of defiance, little by little, though Eilwen strongly reminded Pauliana each day of the dangers of humans. Of how they were wicked and truly vile, no paragon of beauty, to be certain.

As each day passes, the young girl transforming into a woman in front of all of the society to see. While Pauliana goes about her business, Eilwen is gentle and firm in her teachings – the young girl given discipline when needed, though her adventures to the surface are never harshly punished. Instead, Eilwen demands to know what she has discovered, as plans formulate in the Keepers’ mind.

It is with this thought in mind that Pauliana’s training begins. It is strict and formal, no compassion given from her teacher as she is led through the martial arts – rather than the artists training. She is given no reprieve, and no quarter as she is far too old to be receiving the training, therefore the amount of catching up she must do is near impossible. Eilwen has faith, however, in the girl. She watches her blossom into a fine young woman, no doubt, hoping she has given her the best of chances in the great deep.

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Five years later...

         
   

 

Time heals all wounds.

Or so they say. The agony of remembrance burns through her soul with an electric fire. Coursing along her marrow and veins, and allows her inner fury to fuel her coordinated movements. If not for Eilwen, Pauli would surely be nothing more than a weak little failure. Much smaller than her peers physically and sometimes mentally, she has to work much harder to prove her worth.

In the beginning, Paulianna did not understand why Eilwen had chosen for her to stay so close. Possibly in need of another new pet project. But… The woman’s depth of knowledge had always been so profound. So when Eilwen told her to go train, she did it without question. Knowing that it was for a future she could not yet see. And unseen it still is.

When she trains, she meditates. When she sleeps, she meditates. Almost at every draw of breath, Paulianna must meditate to keep her emotions from confounding her. Lest she be left unable to breathe. Eilwen’s fierce but loose guidance on the matter brought her a peace she never would be able to feel otherwise. This makes returning home for a visit, comforting.

Although she does pray for her eyes and ears upon entering; always being confronted by the basking nudity of Eilwen and her lovers.

   
         
         

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Pauliana would find that her delicate sensibilities were not overwhelmed by sight nor sound – in fact, the area in which she returned to was downright timid. While Eilwen might have not considered the implication of taking the child under her flighty wing those years ago, the gravity of the situation sometimes settled on the woman’s shoulders – most often when Pauliana was otherwise consumed with activity.

Sending Pauliana for Psyren training would give the girl purpose, direction, and technique. Her frustration and anger, the pain that often threatened to swallow the girl whole would be put to a use beyond her own. All she needed was a push, a shove to grasp ahold of the iron will that Pauliana possessed. Eilwen gave the girl the freedom to choose, an important aspect of Pauliana’s short life.

For now, however, Pauliana would find only a sprinkling of scrolls littering the floors and desks that were present around the small apartment within the Vaults. Eilwen, despite her dalliances and flighty persona, was dedicated to her work. A single kelp cake sat in the middle of one of the tables, cleared for this purpose. The cake was a remembrance of the day Eilwen had picked up the stray, so to speak. Since her birthday was elusive, they celebrated on this day so that some celebration was had at all. Carefully, Eilwen had made the cake with her own hands, it flourished in the gentle waves, the gelatinous mass carefully decorated and lovingly placed on the table. Next to it, presents in wrapping sat as well.

Each crafted by the Mistress herself, the first box were two blank deathmasks. While she had not known of Pauliana’s parents’ visage, she hoped the presentation of the masks would inter the girl with a sense of closure. The next, a gift from Q’m, the pelt of trench beast that had crossed his hook one too many times. It was a large creature, large enough she could do with the pelt whatever she wished. The third wrapping would be a weapon. A finely crafted sword, made of a large shark tooth. It was as long as her forearm, and it's strength was immeasurable. Eilwen had it crafted just after Pauliana had left for training. The last wrapping, however, was yet another surprise. A shell crown with the Meraki clan symbol attached to it. This solidified the fact that Eilwen had adopted Pauliana into the fold of her clan, gracing the girl with her name and family ties. This would allow her much more freedom and prestige to do as she pleased. 

When the young woman arrived, the pale apparition rose from her desk with a welcoming, warm smile. Her arms outstretched to envelope Pauliana into the warmest of hugs. 

"Welcome home." 

 

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It is with great surprise that she finds normality in the small abode. A shock from the opposite end of the spectrum. However, she regales in memory and prepares to glide her hands quickly through the water in order to shield her unsuspecting eyes from any bare skin that may attempt to scar them.

   
    But nothing comes to wound them. In all actuality, the only thing disturbing their wary gaze is the table laden with specialty cake and...gifts. It is in these small gestures, Paulianna finds the love of her adoptive mother. The woman can't forget a thing if she tried. Not when it counts most.      
   
"Eilwen..." Startled by the apparition of the woman as she stood from her tome to greet her, she bows respectfully. "I am so glad to be home, mother." Were she excited enough she may have hugged the woman in that moment, but her curiosity pulls her towards the table she'd first set those citrine gems on. Like always, the present are tousled with first. And each causes her gills to seal tightly beneath the floating kelp of green above them. 
   
         
    Nothing but the best came from her Uncle Q'm, the crafty huntsman. Nothing can keep her from running her fingers along the thick pelt he'd left for her. The knife of tooth and bone, glistens in her grasp as she holds it fast and moves her forearm with defensive intent as if testing its fit in her fingers. What comes next causes her to freeze in place completely, a new statue to decorate the vaults. The death masks to some could be considered an odd gift, but to Pauli it is a profound kindness and generosity that threatens salt to crystallize in the corners of her eyes. Shocking and yet, beautifully serene. There could be no better perfection in them or a gift to top them. Or so she thinks.    
         
   

The last is unwrapped and pulled from it's box, leaving her even more twisted up inside than the last. Acceptance. Not only as family, but as a societal member to a group she never felt she would belong, and her adoptive mother had mad it so, She would now be of the Meraki clan. Words take a few moments to form, but it is how she has always been. Turmoil within, proprietous without.

"Thank you..." It is a simple whisper, for to find her bearing would take some time. "Why don't we try this beautiful cake, mother?"

   
         

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Eilwen finds her hug open and wanting, but pays little mind to it as hands drop to sides. Gaze trailing along Paulianna’s, she is amused that she takes to presents immediately. Each reaction is a gift to the albino, her lips stretching into a smile as Paulianna reveres each.

She had planned with such thoughtfulness, afterall. Eilwen shifts to move towards the girl – no, she is now a young woman, beautiful and noble. Approaching to her left, the woman pauses and gently places the crown ‘top of Pauli’s floating tresses, decorating them and her brow.

“You are always welcome, little light.” Affection packs into every syllable. While Eilwen may have been at times fleeting and careless in her care of the girl, she has never once denied Paulianna affection or praise.

Her attention then turns to cut into the kelp cake that had been lovingly prepared by her very hands. She sets a piece on a little plate, offering it to the young woman as she takes her own. Motioning, she sits in a plush chair, crossing her legs at the knee as a bare foot dangles in the slight current.

“Tell me of your training.” She entices.

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There are times when Paulianna finds herself to be cruel, or unjust to the woman before her. Having felt so undeserving of her mother's kindness for so long. She forgoes watching Eilwen's arms gliding back down to their sides because of it. It is a jilted pang of regret that follows, but if not for the continuance of conversation she may have graciously bowed out by stepping further away. 

How can she be so? Not even she is certain. There is a longing in her heart waiting to be filled, though she has yet to allow such a thing. Fear of more loss, perhaps? A niggling thought that always trails her mind. Those two masks bringing forth such a powerful need of remembrance. Their faces, so distant now, beg to be defined. Yet she cannot seem to so much as imagine them. However, when she turns again to look at Eilwen, the woman holds a visage that Paulianna knows she will never forget. Though she does hope there are points of reference that never resurface. 

Images too private to have been shared, that were witnessed and blinding. It makes her blush and laugh suddenly.Taking the cake she follows Eilwen, to stand by her chair. Taking a few bites before answering the question.

"It has not been easy. At first I thought you might have been punishing me, even when I knew you were providing your best guidance toward my outcome. We have learned to be stealthy and quick. To live in and breathe the shadows we must scour. Listening, watching, fighting when we had to." It runs a chill down her spine. These thoughts of being able to manipulate the world and it's information to her-their benefit. "I truly enjoy it." And that is the truth. From here an elopement occurs, a flounder of legs and arms as they reach out for the woman's shoulders when she leans downward, to give a gift she barely ever offers. A hug.

"How have things been while I was away? Is Uncle still fawning over your every...uhh...word?" She clears her throat and lets the woman go in order to better observe the cake nearly floating off of her plate from the movements she was making. "This is delicious!"

 

   
         

 

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Eilwen, to her credit, shows no discourse on her visage when her hug is rejected. This has become an expected action from Paulianna, and she has long ago soothed the hurt that came with it. Her patience with Paulianna has always been paramount, unending and fathomless.

The ghostly woman may have been flighty, and perhaps a tad negligent at times of the young woman, but she had never left her to fend for herself for anything.

“I would never punish you in such a way. I knew you needed direction that I could not provide. While it pained me to think of you so far away, I knew it would benefit you in the long run.” Eilwen states dramatically, a hand waving about in the water around them to mimic a fanning motion. With it, however, comes a slow smile. Eilwen may have teased the young woman, but her intentions had always been to raise Pauli as her own. Even at the suffering of her social standing – Eilwen would not allow any of them to turn the young woman out, as would normally be done with the children of traitors, lest they hold the same testaments as their parents.

Eilwen nibbles the cake, mulling the flavor of it in her maw for a brief moment before she chuckles deeply at Paulianna’s questions.

“Ah, you know how Q’myha is. Such a doting man. I pray, someday, you find such a person for yourself.” Though her dalliances were nothing more than casual, Eilwen holds a fondness for the man above others. “Mm! I am glad you like the cake, I made it myself!” It is in this moment, she looks proud. Her hard work and slaving over the cake had been all for worth the hug that Paulianna granted her. It warmed her pale flesh and she crooned ever so gently.

Clearly, Eilwen was pleased. Moreso, pleased that Paulianna was pleased.

“You have more training yet to do, yes? Everything is going well, you aren’t having any issues with anyone, are you?” A rapid fire chain of questioning, the woman leaning forward. She wants to know everything about the schooling and social life the young woman has led.

“I tidied your room back up, I would be happy if you used it during your stay. …I would understand if you would rather not, however.” Oceans knew the poor girl had been subject to many a traumatizing sight. “Are you staying for the Ulatal festival? It would be fun to paint each other like we did when you were a child.”

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The gift of touch had been enough to color her cheeks, but the additive of a possible future companion… only further deepen those reddened tones. Thoughts of such connection were bitterly tattered and discarded and replaced by the strength to carry on. To fight and survive, and live another decade. The idea of sharing that time with a flesh-lived companion, simply too undesirable for her current circumstances. At least in her mind. Had Eilwen had her way, it might be possible to assume Pauli would have men around her at all times for a multitude of...appreciations. As if that doesn't terrify her more than the express nudity shown in their own home on nearly all occasions.

Thankfully Eilwen’s next question pushes her moment of weakness back into the shadows. “No, I haven’t had any problems with anyone yet. We need one other to survive. Any weaknesses, could tear the net we so carefully lay over our enemies.” A pause for another bite of cake is made before her words continue onward, “Oh yes, there is still much for me to learn. We train every day and even at night. They have given us many different obstacles in which to face, to help us learn to adapt to different situations. And I believe it helps to have strong people watching my back. It's all very instructive and intensive. I wake up sore every day.”

Despite her Mother’s many wants for Paulianna to have a life, though she lives, she remains content to be absolute in tending to only herself outside of her duties. Would Eilwen be disappointed in her? Maybe, but not so much in the way of anger but more so in the way of sadness. And Pauli chooses not to be pitied. “I would like that very much, Mother. I can stay. And maybe I’ll be able to introduce you to some of my..comrades at the festival.”

Paint. Pauli remembers it very well and this causes her to smile and laugh. The idea of reliving a childish moment not too far fetched. Though it would be a renewing experience to say the least, unable to remember the last time she had actually done it. Pauli the painter back in action. Throwing paint and wearing it well.

“It’s been so long since we’ve done any such thing. I think it’s a wonderful idea. I do enjoy painting, no matter the canvas.” Truth be told, she’d brought home some sketches and blotches she’d made during those few moments of free time on nights when they were allowed to relax their tired bodies from training. One day, she would have to share them with Eilwen again.

“When is the festival?”

 

   
     

 

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