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Church On The Hill

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COTH

The town of Church On The Hill

Low Tech setting

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The History:

4/18 Church on the Hill, or Coth as it is commonly called, is a growing town in Terrenus just beyond the domain of Blairville. For many years, the eponymous church stood alone atop the highest hill in the region. It was once the center of a populous parish in the ages before the great cities of Terrenus came to dominate political and social life. In recent times the church stood as more of a watchtower and repository of old knowledge than as a hub of community. The Gaian religion, to whom the church originally belonged, grew lax in replacing deceased clergymen as the location waned in importance until the building was occupied by a mere single man who was forced to live off scant alms and the generosity of local farmers and friends. This man's name was Constans, and though he prayed every day to the great mother of his religion, he had long given up hope that his faith would be rewarded.

Times changed, as they are wont to do, and the Church on the Hill bore witness to even further degradation. In the wake of a faraway civil war the patrolmen, nobility, constabulary, and military of Terrenus receded away from the rural lands the church stood watch over, abandoning the fertile farms and meager hovels of its agrarian people. Once the protection of the nobles and their armies were gone, evil began to take root. Monsters and beasts not seen for years began to creep from the deep places of the world, and men turned on each other in banditry and violence. The people cried up to the sky and down to the earth, but found no peace. Meanwhile, Constans watched in horror as families dragged corpses by their hundreds to his church for burial. Starved men and women, murdered children. The peaceful age was ending. 

Yet one fateful night, a tearful Constans called out to anyone who would hear, any god or great spirit who would ease the suffering of the people and of one broken priest. Miraculously, his call was answered. A great fire exploded inside the church, blowing the very roof off the building and blasting a column of mystical green flame into the sky like a beacon. Among the holy fires, Constans fell victim to a fit of great and terrible visions portending the rise of a new world. For hours, the priest was held in the clutches of these mad prophesies, all the while safe inside the tornado of green flames. When it was over, and the flames subsided, word began to spread across the land. Those who had seen the miracle from afar had rushed to witness it themselves, and had seen the priest among the flames. Others, hearing secondhand stories, flocked to the ruins of the old church to hear the preaching of a holy man who had been chosen by green fire. He preached a message of a new social order in which the people worked for their own good and organized under no higher authority than that of a god. Men were weak, the priest proclaimed, and their promises were illusions. Only the power of a god could be relied upon to hold together a mortal realm. He encouraged his followers to work and share in equal measure, to respect each other's property and freedom, while submitting themselves to the will of a divine monarch-- not some self appointed human king claiming to speak for a god, but a king who was a god, and an authority which no man could undo. 

It was not long before this appealing promise of protection and community drew huge crowds of abandoned farmers, cobblers, blacksmiths, porters, cooks, healers, herdsmen, and laborers. Seeing himself at a crossroads of destiny, and urged by the whispering of a god, Constans proclaimed the masses of scared commonfolk to be one sanctified people, the people of Coth, the seed of the new world.  

Canon History

7/18  Coth has begun to achieve the dream of its founder, yet while its people celebrate a feast, a cohort of powerful raiders charges toward the nearly defenseless town. 

11/24 Coth has been saved from a barbarian raid by the efforts of its heroic citizens Nyra and Tirkas, and the Partriarch Constans settled the violence once and for all with a miracle of turning the sun green for approx. 10 mins, a miracle which could be seen across all of Terrenus. In the aftermath, Constans has claimed a vast tract of land between Blairville and Dougton (the pink region here) as land under the stewardship of the Cothic Religion. 

The Thread Setting:

Coth is an open, low tech, persistent locale characters can freely enter or leave as they like. Coth itself is a 25 square mile area which includes a citizenry of approximately 4000, their domiciles, farms, and workshops arranged at the base of a tall hill upon whose pinnacle sits the famous, half destroyed church.

Coth has a small-town feel. People are familiar with each other, helpful, and oftentimes oblivious to subtlety. The townsfolk are overwhelmingly derived from the lowest rung on the social order of Terrenus. Many have never seen magitech, or magic for that matter, yet what they lack in formal education they make up for in skill and spirit. They are working class people, and their work has helped the town of Coth spring up around the ruined church with alarming speed.  

Rather than have individual threads, I have elected to tell all stories in and around Coth in this single thread. This will give the town a sense of continuity and permanency, in the hope that actions taken by one player can impact the experiences of others. Often, stories told in Coth will be submitted for canonization, and canon events will be featured here in the first post to help inform newcomers and regulars of developing events.

If you're unsure how to enter Coth, or aren't sure your character would fit its low power, low tech setting, message @Vansinfor assistance.

 

Resident Characters:

Coth has an agreement with the esteemed booksellers and loremasters of Book|Ends, who have arrived to advise Constans as he seeks to develop Coth into a model society that can inspire a world-spanning change in religion, morality, governance, and civilization. A tribe of Ice Giants, led by the mysterious Yahweh, has also made a pact of nonaggression and mutual aid with Coth, and their embassy hosts a quartet of hulking giants who smith for and protect the fledgling town. These character can be found in the town, and their writers are invested with moderator authority within this thread. If I am not around to ask questions, please contact one of them. 

 

Headers & Graphics

The below graphics have been made for us by the renaissance woman @KittyvonCupcake. While these artistic headers are not mandatory, text headers are highly encouraged to discern where the many characters occupying this thread are. 

Concerning headers (lifted from an announcement on page 2):

Spoiler

[Hello everyone, old and new! 

Considering the exciting amount of participation we're receiving in this thread, I've decided to implement a simple rule to help everyone keep track of where all of our separate stories are taking place. For now on, please add a tag at the top of your posts detailing your location. The tag will consist of two parts: a general area and a specific. Some examples are: 

[Coth: The Church Library]

or

[Outside Coth: The Mysterious Grove]

Because stories here may travel to nearby locations which are not exactly in the purview of this thread, but may be important for story purposes, it's also acceptable to have a tag like: 

[Outside Blairville: Forest by the Road] 

And if you are using a post to travel from one place to another, you may wish to signify that in your tag, like so:

[Coth: Wylda's House --> Coth: Town Square]

Now, there is no map of Coth yet and so you're free to invent realistic locations in town (a town well, or a certain person's garden, or a NPC's house no one's ever mentioned before) so long as the location keeps in step with the rural, simple image of Coth as it stands now. Obviously don't head over to [Coth: The Crashlanded Alien Spaceship] unless you want a PM from me. Really, there are so many easier ways to get my attention.

Thanks! Enjoy Coth!]

Graphics examples:

Spoiler

 

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Edited by Vansin
New Canon Territory!

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"...the forgotten ones, the discarded ones."

Constans words struck a cord deep within her heart, and they dangerously tip-toed along the border of uncharted territory that marked her vulnerability, her pain, and her past. With the right push, they would spring to life. The blonde, however, would not allow for such thing. Instead, she poured her focus on the crowd before them. Wrinkles marking aged faces. Rough callouses on the palm of their hands. Tired eyes. These were people whose life consisted of physical labor, which was the complete opposite of the luxurious life people in Blairville had. Instead of farming tools, they had pencils and books. Their hands never had to endure the strain of toil. Manon's gaze shifted to Constans then to the elves he had requested to meet with. It was clear that he intended to make his people grow not just in strength, but in intellect.

Once Constans announced her as the paladin of the church and held out the sword, Manon, without any hesitance, firmly gripped the handle of the sword. She paused. Protecting these people and the church was something she vowed to do until her very last breath. It was no longer a question on whether this was the right path. She was prepared to take on any task, and go against anyone who posed a threat to the people of COTH. So, with a firm decision in mind, Manon raised the sword high above her head. As if on cue, green flames started at the base of the sword and descended upwards towards the tip of the blade. The warmth of the flames against her hand were no longer foreign to her. It was something concrete that she knew would be constant in her life. In a way, it provided a sense of reassurance.  

The blade igniting into flames seemed to mark the official start of the feast, and Manon, albeit nervous, was excited to partake in the nights activities, and to familiarize herself with the people of COTH. 

 

Edited by Hani

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Constans came to realize that COTH knew how to party.

Manon's sword had set it all loose. People had screamed, thrown their hats in the air, grabbed each other and danced. And of course they did-- they'd seen a miracle. Church on the Hill seemed to be full of miracles. And elves. And giants, as it turned out-- four huge icy men who ate more than anyone. It didn't matter, the late afternoon was awash with beams of warm yellow light. Clouds rippled like ocean waves overhead and the music of the men below seemed to ride them, far into the distance. On the ground, the dust shook with the pounding of feet as stomping dancers and skittish animals carved their legacies into the earth. Their lives seemed to sweat off of them, dripping into the thirsty ground as they shed themselves and joined the pulsing life of the party. Together, their voices transformed into a ceaseless din, a constant hum of so many songs and conversations.

And above it all was Constans. 

He could smell them, all the people below. He watched them and found that as they passed each other, jostling for food and exchanging dance partners and running off to secret places, he couldn't seem to follow any one of them. They bled together, a mass of oily, tanned muscles; strange simple beasts from another world-

Constans blinked. Again. These thoughts. Why did he keep having these awful thoughts?! 

He rose from his seat, and regretted it immediately. An accordion whined to a halt. People stopped dancing at once. Everyone began turning toward him. He realized he hadn't gotten up once the entire feast. How long had he been sitting there? Had anyone tried to talk to him? Would he have heard them over the wild revelry? 

"I..." he began. He what? He thought they were all animals? What did they want him to say? He hadn't thought that! He'd just...the thought had just...in his head...

"I don't think god has heard you yet! I think you have to do it louder!" he shouted, cupping his hands over his mouth and throwing it at them with a laugh. The crowd cheered and guffawed, and the musicians leaned back into their instruments. The party began again, and the smile dropped off of Constans' face like a splash of water. 

He looked down at his hands, and cupped them. In the bowl of the cup, where no one below his raised dais could see, he made fire. It was a little thing, a green speck of life that fluttered so tenderly. He looked at it, at the liquid green color. It was the color of his awful thoughts he was looking at, he knew. Green. Like a green eye watching.

He closed his fists. 

He had no idea what it meant. 

The strange feeling vanished quickly. As though he had taken the wax out of his ears, he suddenly could hear the party again. He looked at the smiling faces and wondered if he'd really thought those things anyway. Maybe he'd just had too much to drink? He ran his fingers over the short shape of hair that was beginning to grow over his formerly bald head. It felt stiff and he liked running his hands over it. At first he thought it made him feel better, then he realized it hadn't.  

Constans descended down the staircase on the side of the raised wooden platform whereupon the high table sat and he walked away from the main throng of revelers. The sun was gathering its light at the end of the day, but still throwing pale pink beams across the sky. The sight of it nearly brought tears to his eyes. There was nowhere in the town that was entirely empty, yet the homes and pathways between were eerily silent. That was what Constans wanted. Silence. 

He stopped walking in the middle of the road. He tried not to think about anything.

He just breathed for a long time. 

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  If one wished to seek out the elvish book sellers and their companions, there were several clues that would lead one to their selected locations among the mirthful crowd. 

  Kir, the wolfhound, was the easiest to find. He was a bounding flash of shaggy gray fur followed by small stampede of giggling children, delighted with his new pack of tiny bipedal creatures that felt obliged to scratch behind his scarred ear and leave offerings of whichever scraps they could smuggle away from their plates. The second most obvious were the mercenaries, uniformly dressed in reinforced black leather armor, as they had stationed themselves around a caravan the color of a rich merlot. The ledge wagon had been newly repaired by the competent hands of the local carpenters and a smith, who were compensated with a grateful sum of coin and the promise to return their gracious assistance at a later time. While Book|Ends’ caravan attracted a throng of curious villagers, the presence of the mercenaries placed a slight strain on their desire to admire a new oddity in peace. Despite several of the group sporting half of a human lineage, there was an ice cold sensation of foreign detachment one could see in their cat-like eyes. They had little interest in striking up conversation with locals, preferring to remain in the silent company of each other.

  The white elk that pulled the caravan were content out in the fields, so long as no unknown person began to come too close. They were not docile nor fully domesticated, and the male elk were known for lashing out with their rack of antlers when someone they were not yet familiar with approached the elk too swiftly.

  The tutors that Draug had promised to COTH’s initiative on education were more challenging to uncover.  Eá, a serene figure in a dove gray cloak with a set of white woven braids, could be see perched beneath the shade of a tree with a circle of young women. If one did not have a general idea of where to look, she would have been difficult to find beneath the hefty weight of far too many flower crowns. A bee, intoxicated by the scent and dazed from the torches burning against the waning light of the sun, bumbled over her head. Ru, a recent addition to the Book[Ends staff, was wandering about like a fish out of water if that fish had suddenly sprouted a pair of lanky legs. Raised by his human mother exclusively in Ashville, this is his first journey outside of city limits. He had found himself swept up into the crowd near a villager playing the fiddle besides a casket of the Hill’s finest homebrew. 

  Draug Rhavon, chief executive officer of Book|Ends, managed to find a patch of near-quiet beneath the shade under one of the open air tents designated for feasting. His plate upon the table was scarcely touched; roasted vegetables migrated from one end of the plate to the other and formed a blockade around herb encrusted goat meat. Reclining back in a wooden chair, he left his boots propped up on the bench before him. His right hand, illustrated with an open mawed wolf, rested on the holster for his pistol, but it was his left that received the majority of his attention. An earthenware tumbler containing wine swirled in front of his thrice broken nose and provided a welcome distraction from the enthusiastic stream of locals that all seemed to want to shake hands. Andras, his associate, before him on the bench with his elbows leaned back against the table. “Do you think this is all rather strange?” he asked in Duendaic, on the off chance that someone else with a set of inquisitive ears would make an attempt to eavesdrop. Draug gave his wine another sniff ---elderberries, slightly overpowering--- and raised a gray brow before taking a sip. “I think all religion is strange.” ---should have been left in its barrel for longer--- “Have you seen Ioreth? She could tell you about this cult that accidentally worshipped an academy student recovering from a week long bender. They believed he was a vampire learning how to daywalk.” 

  Ioreth Rhavon, however, had disappeared from the view of her kin. Her feet carried her away from the music, away from the laughter and dancing and feasting, away from the noise. If only for a moment. In her thoughts dwelled the expression on Constans’ face, the sudden contrast in his nature. He had, it seemed, everything he desired: a new disciple gifted with the same powers as him, a loyal following, land rich with life and possibility. Her toes curled in the grass. What grew here would flourish, this she could promise with certainty. Time slowly inched on, prodding her forward from her position in a clearing between the looming forest and a row of homes along a dirt pathway. The sun continued its descent to the horizon as she gave one last glance at the wilderness and turned to the follow the path. A breeze picked idly at the diaphanous deep green fabric of her long dress, drifting through the tumbling waves of her hair before it died down to a whisper in the atmosphere. This was when she saw Constans, and felt concerned by a noticeable lack of the warm energy that exuded from him since they met earlier that day. 

  Despite this, there was something about him that seemed as though he would not begrudge the presence of another. While she watched the sunset by the priest’s side, she softly asked, “What preys upon you?”
 

Edited by KittyvonCupcake

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[Quest: Help With the Chickens]

While travelling through northen Terrenus, Haru caught word of the Church on the Hill, and the grand feast that the small town is to hold. She is not of mind to know or understand anything of the church, or religion in general. Instead, her reasons for joining are far more simple.

The first reason, was food. Haru is but a poor wanderer, surviving almost purely on the fruit of wild trees and whatever else nature had to offer for her. While she isn't sure what exactly she is, she was something more than human, leaving her wondering if food was, in fact, an absolute necessity for her survival. Still, lack of food made her stomach growl and her belly painful, something that applied to her friends as well, and she did not want to risk it. 

Since her escape, she found herself appreciating access to food a lot more, especially great quantities of quality, and delicious, home-cooked food. This feast alone could last her for many more weeks to come, during which she could seek sources of income to feed herself properly. Job seeking and evil hunting would be easier with a fuller stomach.

The other reason, was the people.

Haru slowly finds her way through the town, to the massive hill in its center. The Hill of the Church on the Hill. She easily notices the bustling crowd, how loud and excited everyone is, how they danced and sang with such joy. Every time her hometown had such celebrations, she could not join them, for she was stuck inside her own home. How she longed to be like them. But now, she has her chance. Even Tachi, the little white mouse who sat on her shoulder, squeaked "What are you waiting for? Go on and have your fun now!" in excitement.

As Haru approaches the crowd, a deep male voice rings from one of the pouches on her belt. "Now, Tachi, don't go wandering off on your own. I would hate to see Haru frantically searching for a puny little mouse in such a big crowd of humans." He, whoever he is, talks proudly and sternly.

"What a wet blanket!" Tachi pouts. Haru, however, did not speak. She has her nose poked in the air, sniffing like a dog as she walks, seeming to be carefully following smells.

"I think she smelled food."

@Vansin 

Edited by HotPizza

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"Well you can't have it!" Constans heard a little girl say as Ioreth approached him. He didn't turn around in surprise when the elf appeared beside him. He'd already known she was coming. He found himself knowing lots of strange things, lately.  

The little girl appeared in front of them shortly, a responsibly closed pair of garden scissors in her tiny hands. A young boy was following after her, his face wet with tears. 

"But I want it! I asked for it!" 

"But you don't know how to use it, you'll hurt yourself!" the girl countered, and raised the tools above the younger boy's head as he jumped for them amidst sobs and phlegmy breaths. Despite himself, Constans smiled. He could relate. 

"I don't know." Constans said, answering the elf's question.

"And there's so much I don't know. There's so much more to this than I ever thought. People are so...different then I thought they were. I'm different then I thought I was. I used to be nobody, and I had so many complaints. I was so miserable, but I had so many ideas. I looked at the people who I thought were supposed to be helping me, and I could list to you everything they were doing wrong. Now I'm the one who is supposed to be taking care of everybody and I have no idea what to do-- or in what order things should be done. What's important? What can I do later? What will help? What mistakes am I making right now that I don't even know I'm making..." 

 He held his hands up again, balled into fists. 

"And the people are the least of my worries. I was chosen by some god I'd never heard of. I learned so many things from him already but there's so much I haven't learned. Does he want me to discover it on my own? Why doesn't he just tell me what I need to do? Maybe he already has and I'm just too foolish to see it? Sometimes I think he's right here, watching me, whispering in my ear, trying to get through to me. " 

He sighed, lowered his hands and turned toward Ioreth. 

"You must think I'm a silly person. But you've probably learned more things in your life than I'll ever learn. I feel like I can talk to you because...I'll never be wise or well traveled or worldly as an elf. When I'm an old man, I'll still be like that child," he said, pointing to the pair of children as they argued out of sight, "compared to you or your kin. I wonder if that's how you see me-- all of us. I'm being ridiculous, right?" 

@KittyvonCupcake

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The party was going strong. Perhaps a bit too strong. 

"Where in god's good grace are all these damn people coming from?!" old Wylda hissed. She was a very short, very bent woman who had been among the first new pilgrims to COTH. She'd seen the god's pillar of green fire with her own eyes and she believed. 

"Last I counted there were only three thousand four hundred and twelve of us. How are all the chickens served already?!" she continued as the skinny, messy-haired boy next her did his best to look innocent. It was a foolish gambit on his part; an old crone like Wylda could smell that sort of nonsense and wheeled on him almost at once. 

"It was you, wasn't it? You served too much food, didn'tcha?" 

He hadn't. But that wasn't about to stop old Wylda. 

"Go back out there and get some of that food back! If someone's not eating it, I want it! Got to make a soup of it! Otherwise we're going to run out of food! I told Nancie: "you didn't cook enough", "you think everyone's as peckish as you!" never trust a skinny cook!

The boy blinked stupidly, but a whack from old Wylda's cane sent him running to go collect chicken from people's plates. It dawned on the old girl pretty quickly that the boy probably wasn't coming back at all, so she hobbled out of her cooking tent and spied another little ratty looking kid. Haru.

"EY! YOU!" she cried. Her voice cut the night like god's fire and struck like lightning. Wylda hobble-ran at the girl-- a ridiculous looking and feverish wobble that propelled her shockingly fast toward Haru's side. 

"Child, come with me! I need you to fetch me a chicken!" 

Expecting to be obeyed, the crone waved young Haru back to the cooking tent, but stopped outside the front of it. She pointed to a home lower on the hill. The home was a sturdy little thing with a large bit of land fenced in. A chicken coop dominated one side of the fenced-in land and a few hens were clucking around picking bugs from the grass. 

"Go get me some of them chickens! We need more food, so don't you go eating anything more, you hear! Save some for the guests!" she scolded, unaware that Haru was one such guest. 

@HotPizza

 

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  Faced with a stream of anxiety, Ioreth thought it best to refrain from using instant reassurances as a dam. Instead, she watched the little boy’s frustrated objections with sympathy as the pair made their way along the path and asked, “Is being a child bad?”

  “The strengths of children are often forgotten. They are adaptable, resilient. They find joy and wonder in places we---” her hand fluttered up to rest at her chest “---have grown too familiar or too cynical to appreciate. They can create an entire universe in the palm of their hand with ease. Their hearts are already full of curiosity, of love. We...” She paused to offer Constans a smile before waving her hand in the space between their shoulders, a gesture to signal a connection. “We have the ability to encourage their spirit and their link to the soul of the world or to crush it. Possibilities are fragile without protection.”

    With a slight tilt of her head, she shifted her attention away from the setting sun and onto Constans. It was easier for some to forget about the differences between their species in the daylight. In the darkness, her natural home, her violet irises were swallowed by dilated pupils. Her eyes gleamed like a cat’s in the dimming light. “You are the protector of these people, but you also represent possibility. When you come to peace with that, I believe that duality will carry you far.”

  “And you would not want to be like an elf,” she added with a smirk and a playful scoff of derision. “Unless you enjoy centuries of pretending to know everything and everyone has a constant desire to touch your ears.”

  “Have you tried to actively communicate with your god? Perhaps you only need to find the right question in order to answer your concerns.” 

@Vansin
 

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"I've only ever communicated with him once." Constans admitted. He remembered a night, a fire, that had turned his eyes green.

"I pray sometimes, I ask for clarity. Either he's not listening, or he's answering me with you." 

Constans returned Ioreth's smile. 

"All that pretending seems to have paid off. You do sound like you know everything. Strange thing is, I think you just might." he said, his own widening eyes darting around Ioreth's. She was like nothing he had ever seen, a strange animal considering him with a foreign mind. Could he ever learn to see the world like she? What parts of her were different? He was intensely curious to find out. Later.

"I hear your advice." he said, crossing an arm and stroking his chin. Pensive, he glanced over at the low sun and then back to Ioreth.

"I think there's a part of me that's afraid to contact god." he explained soberly, "I think I'm afraid of what I might find. It's silly, because the visions he gave to me were beautiful. So many impressions of a peaceful world. But there were other things. There were visions of my future, visions of burning places-- more than just the church. I saw things that scare me. But when I think of them as metaphors, as abstractions, I feel some peace. I won't bring fire to the streets of the world's cities. I'll bring a message that will spread. Hope, like fire, will catch in the hearts of this country." 

He waved it all away. The fear, the expectations. They were only distractions. 

"So I can't be afraid." 

Constans took his hand off his chin and held it palm-up between them. He considered it for a moment, hesitation behind his vivid eyes. Then, the corner of his lip twitched and between his curled fingers green fire blossomed. It didn't move like a normal fire, flickering in all directions. This fire was still, at first. Then it swayed to the left and swayed to the right, one time each. It was as though it were looking. It was as though it were thinking. It leaned toward Ioreth, and only then did it begin to quiver.

Constans' nostrils flared. He waved his free hand over the flame. It was warm to his touch, not hot. He uncurled his fingers and grew the fire. Soon, it was as large as a man's head. At its edges, Constans could see slivers of blue and red flaking away into nothingness. He'd never noticed the colors hidden in the fire, he realized, because he'd never really looked at it for very long. Why hadn't he ever just looked at it? It was so alive

He ran his free hand through the flame again, cupping it as though to-- no, he did scoop some. A tiny flame, small like the first one had been, clung to Constans' other palm. He flourished it, and it sputtered audibly between the man and elf. Yet when he lowered his hand before her, offering the fire to her, it was strong. 

"Take it. I know you can." 

@KittyvonCupcake

Edited by Vansin

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Arriving at the quaint little celebration was a figure of unknown beauty yet disturbing in mystique. The creature whose name was near impossible to speak preferred the moniker of Riley. Hailing from the eldritch depths of the ocean, she searches the world for understanding and information about why this world was what it was. At this moment though, she was simply interested in having a bit of fun with these humans.

It was difficult to find the right person, but the Deep One believed she found the right human. The one named Draug, who was organizing an event, seemed to be the person she should talk to. White robes billowed in the wind as the priestess expressed her wishes to join in on the revelry.

"Hello, my name is Riley, and I would like to join in on your poetry battle." 

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[Quest: Help With the Chickens]

Technically, Haru's an adult, but only barely. She's probably as good as a kid in Wylda's eyes.

The loud, thundering voice of old Wylda caught Haru and Tachi's attention immediately. Haru manages to remain mostly composed, for she has seen a few of such women of her type back in the village she had recently (or not-so-recently?) escaped from. As noisy, rude, and controlling as they were, they did help keep the village in order and ensure everything in it runs smoothly. Haru herself had been of the recieving end of their scoldings before, in the times she had snuck out of her house and gone places her parents did not approve of, only to get caught by women like Wylda. Still, their voices strike fear into Haru's soft heart, precisely because she knows how they are like and what they are capable of.

"Y-yes?" Haru stood still as Wylda ran, or hobbled, at her. Tachi covered his ears with his paws as Wylda shouted like thunder, whimpering. Haru raised a hand to pet him and calm him down. "Thanks, Haru." He relaxes a bit. 

Haru follows suit obediently as the crone waved her over to the cooking tent, knowing better than to defy someone as fierce and relentless as she is. The moment Wylda finished her instructions, Haru answered with "Okay, will do now!", and quickly ran off, down the hill, towards the home with the chicken coop.

"Sheesh." Tachi let out a sigh of relief as Haru took off. "Even Moe and Geki have nothing on her."

"Er, who?" Haru asks in confusion.

"Moe's the spirit of fire, Geki of lightning. I know you've forgotten, but it still hits me... ah, nevermind about that for now. How could you let someone treat you like that? At least the women back at the village were, well, people in your village. You've literally never met this old crone before." Tachi glances over his (or Haru's) shoulder, and frowns. 

"She was fierce." Haru shrugs. "But I'm used to it. Also, did you hear her? There's not enough food for everyone, and there are a lot of people. What if I don't get any food before it all runs out?"

"Just take whatever food they have before anyone else gets dibs on them?" Tachi suggests innocently.

"Tachi, no!" Haru turns her head to glare at him briefly, before turning back to look at where she's running. "We can't do that. They're plenty of other people who I'm sure are as hungry to get some food as I am. Maybe even more desperate than I am, seeing I can forage reasonably well in the wild. It wouldn't be right. Besides, I might lose in the food race against however many people are involved in this feast, which must be a lot. I ought to help with something as simple as catching chickens."

"Speaking of simple," Tachi asks as Haru reaches the farm and hops over the fence. "How do you plan to catch the chickens?"

"Oh, you know, the usual." Haru has dropped her voice into a whisper as she lowers her body, trying to walk stealthily. Tachi's on her shoulder, so he can still hear her easily. "Sneak up from behind, get close enough, then leap and grab their legs."

Haru stays silent as she slowly walks towards one of the hens pecking at the grass, her hands ready to sieze chicken legs...

Edited by HotPizza

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From farther up the hill the sounds of revelry flowed down. It poured past Haru and Tachi like water on its way down to the plains below and the forest beyond. It swam between the new homes, the tall granary, the pig pens and, yes, past the chickens. 

The chicken coop was emptier than it had been since COTH had risen up around the church. The only specimens of the fowl race left were a gamut of layers (chickens who were bred to lay eggs, nonstop; decidedly not for eating) and a scant few of the sort Haru had been sent to find: boilers. Boilers lived sad lives. Bred to become exceedingly fat in the breast, these chickens were, as a rule, slaughtered at 14 weeks old. Yet even in that short time, a boiler would suffer from horrible joint problems (all the extra weight forced them to be continuously off balance) frequently infected eyes, and all the behavioral problems you might expect from a creature which was bred to grow fat and die at the height of its adolescence. Boilers were, by no fault of their own, awful creatures. 

Awfully delicious

Farther up the hill, heedless peasants were goring their teeth into the tender flesh of these unfortunate victims. They gripped their white bones with filthy hands, slurping the oils and meat clean, chomping while spitting their saliva down on the carcasses of the sacrificed animals. They banged on the tables to the music of the feast and the dead chickens that laid bare on the platters jiggled with all their overdeveloped meat. When you thought about it for a while, it was pretty gross. 

But when you looked one of these pitiable boilers in their sickly eyes, all you could see was defiance; as though eons of selective breeding had somehow imbued these fierce, doomed creatures with a mortal prescience. If they were caught, they knew, they were killed. How they knew it, no one could say. But the birds knew. They knew, and they resisted.

Worst of all, they did so boldly. 

Perhaps it was why men had been killing them for so long. You ended up kind of wanting to, because chickens didn't just run, they fought. They pecked, kicked, battered with their wings-- anything to stave of that inevitable mortal conclusion. It was hard to blame them, but much like the people of the city looked upon the people of the land, men tended to look at chickens as necessary pests. Certainly, if there was something easier to deal with that tasted as good, chickens would be extinct. Like unruly peasants. 

These thoughts and more might feature in Haru and Tachi's minds as they stared down the fierce hen before them. She was a brilliant white thing, her neck straight up and down despite the heaviness of her artificially influenced body. Her eyes wept foul gook, yet behind that she was a terror. She pawed the loose dirt with talons big enough to put your eye out. Her head twitched, he wings repositioned themselves in preparation for the fight she could smell coming. She eyes Tachi, stomped, and struck the earth with her sharp beak. 

 Come get me, she seemed to say. 

@HotPizza

Edited by Vansin

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  “You know, the last time a man said that to me, it…”

  The words grew tangled in her throat and faded along with a passing thought that wondered if it is acceptable to share with any ribald confessions with a former priest turned prophet. Although stalling from decision making and darting about like a nervous bird were instinctual, that drive turned to ash as she continued to watch the green flame flicker.

  Were the stars not just fire in the heavens?

  Reaching out both hands, she murmured, “Nu a arde, de thoil e.”

  Please, do not burn.

  It did not. Instead, it felt like the essence of a living creature rested in her palms. It was the land, the village, it was Constans. Face illuminated by the calm flame’s verdant glow, she beamed at Constans and let out a surprised laugh. Being a night elf with a gift for magic, it was second nature to make an attempt to ascertain the metaphysical nature of the energy in her hand. To do so, she tucked away her immediate reservations and opened her mind. In order to understand the soul of something, one must in turn leave one’s soul vulnerable. Like a flick of a switch, she then felt an eye open and the village fell away into the night. One hand still held the flame as though it were locked into place. The other hooked around the priest’s upper arm, seeking stability. 

Now, the flame was her. It took a curious glance at the future---artificial light in pink hues flooding run down street corners, a woman in creaking corsets tracing the heart line of a man’s palm as they sat atop a pile of cushions---before surging backwards into the past. Ravenous, it tore open doors that had been slammed shut decades ago: tiny arms draped around Ioreth’s neck, a river churning, laughter, folk music soaring out from around a firepit, the sound of a fist against flesh, bioluminescent orchids turning their heads to the moon, countless libraries, an arrow burrowing into a white doe’s neck, sunlight streaming through a window seen through half sleeping eyes, little feet running along the Terran coastline, smoke billowing over th---No. At first, the voice was small, but it held its ground against the oncoming tide of memories. A wooden comb gliding through soft white hair, raindrops cascading down a tin roof, gone, they were gone they were---

  No.

  The eyes blinked and the doorway disappeared. Out of her mind, the fire pierced her heart. For a moment, Ioreth and Constans could see a pair of boots and a cup of wine at the feast, a pair of violet eyes hard and hawkish near hidden beneath a cloak, the questioning face of an elder female elf, small flowers growing at the base of a tree, a stone bridge reaching over a brook, before they disappeared into a place that no longer existed.

  We carry the stories of our kindred in our blood. Even our ancient roots are there. Though buried deep, their hearts still beat as one with our own. The Duende are no different, no matter how time smoothed over tales of their history. Drums pounded alongside heavy footfalls and provided a foundation for a droning chant that shook the forest like rolling thunder. Lightning flashed in the sky, punctuated by shouts and the clatter of bones against bone before it fell silent. There was little one could see in the dark: gleaming eyes, white teeth gnashed and bared like wolves. They blended into the trees and became one with the Wilds. 

  A figure stood apart from them, proud and haughty, with a face like a skull and bare antlers curving from his shaved head. When he spoke, one could see his teeth were filed down to points. He finished his chant and turned his head to smile coldly at Constans and Ioreth. “We will return,” he hissed, simultaneously in ancient elvish, modern Duendaic, and commonspeak. “But what is your worth?

  “You are a shadow of what we once were,” whispered a female elf wearing a headdress of bird skulls. Her tangled and matted hair spilled over her face like a veil and dragged beneath her feet, twigs and leaves clinging to strands of silver. The entirety of her skin had been covered in black ink, spare the breaks in her skin where fresh scars depicted runic symbols. She glided from behind Ioreth to stand beside the male elf. At Constans’s elbow, another figure shrouded entirely in black began to speak and the forest glade gave way to a battlefield filled with slain fae-like creatures breaking down into glittering celestial dust, to an ocean stained red by a solar eclipse, to massive elk covered in moss and prehistoric flora grazing in the darkest realms of the wilderness, to wolves with golden eyes and open maws. “Sgàilean ais faen adh sgàilean ais dhe lleadh thiadruil,” the voice said. 

  The village rose back into view.

  Ioreth felt as though she had been flung unceremoniously from both the bowels of the earth and the apex of the sky. Her knees gave way to the mercies of gravity. Without grace, she fell with a thud onto the path and held her legs close to her torso that felt hollow. She made herself as small as possible, lacking the energy to find a place to hide. To rest. Words would not come. It was impossible to force her tongue and lips to create coherent speech. She remained silent and watched fragments of old memories wash up along the shores of her consciousness. A hint of green flashed once in her eyes before it faded from sight.

@Vansin
 

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Constans stood stunned for a few moments, then leaned away from Ioreth and vomited in a small house-garden. He held on to a vine covered post for stability, which he now lacked in every conceivable manner. His legs were shaking. His breath rattled feebly. His eyes were bloodshot, red splotches spilling out from the green. He tried to take a hand off the post to wipe spittle from his lips and nearly crashed into the soiled flowers. He decided to take a minute. 

Yet when it had passed, he hardly felt better. He lowered to the ground, wiped his face on the hem of his robe and crawled over to Ioreth. She seemed better off, physically, but her eyes were unfocused. He reached out to her, touching her like a newborn. 

"Ioreth..." he whispered. He let a finger trail across her forehead, moving aside a stray hair that had crossed her face. Now that the impact of the visions were fading, he realized none of them shook him as deeply as seeing her like this. A minute ago she'd been joking. 

What had shaken her so? Certainly not the medium. Sure, Constans yakked like a kid who'd drank too much fermented milk, but he was just a guy. She was an elf-- transcendent visions couldn't be new to her. No way. He'd felt that from their time together in the vision. She opened herself up in there, and he'd seen the glimmer of a soul at home in the metaphysical world. No, it had been the message that had disturbed her so. But what the hell was the message? 

Still laying his hand on her shoulder, Constans looked into his other palm-- at the space where the offending flame had been. What is wrong with you? he asked, though he wasn't sure exactly who he was accusing. 

"Ioreth..." he started again, and then it hit him, "Those were your people. Those were your ancestors." 

He blinked in dawning realization. Aside from Ioreth's clear emotional injury, Constans couldn't help but appreciate what a rare treat he'd just been subjected to. In hindsight, it was definitely worth the vomit. Elves. Ancient elves. They were like animals. Wise, wise animals. He'd sensed that otherness he'd been wondering about earlier-- that inhuman aspect that separated Ioreth and her kin from anyone else here. They were enduring custodians of a natural order-- not removed, not apart, but in union with what lied beyond the physical appearance of nature, flowing through the cycles of life and death without the barriers that men constructed around themselves, physical or spiritual. 

Wow, Constans mouthed, making sure Ioreth couldn't see. 

 

@KittyvonCupcake

Edited by Vansin

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Not too far away from COTH...

 

The forest shallows where a man could see the road but also hide from it, that was where Chief Viscerex had placed his far-eyes. As for the rest of the raiding party, they were deeper in the forest, some with their spears turned out to defend against anyone who slipped past the far-eyes but most in a half-circle around a bloody tree. Slumped at the foot of this tree sat Hanser, surrounded by the misery of his brothers-in-arms. Perhaps fifteen men were around him, some kneeling and some standing, wiping their eyes with their sleeves and cursing bloody vengeance under their breaths.

For Hanser, you see, was dying. 

He was the youngest of them, and this was his first ride with Viscerex and the raiders. It was sad to see a man die before he had a chance to really fight. He'd been enthusiastic, foolhardy, and had tried to sneak up on an armed caravan headed toward Blairville, an offense against the Chief's orders that was now all but forgotten in the sad, angry mood that had swept over them. Hanser sat, breathing in gasps, hands wrapped around the javelin that had punched through his stomach. Blood was everywhere, and still coming. The sound of it dripping from him was masked by the gentle tip-tapping of the light rain hitting the forest canopy. He groaned, but only those closest could hear it. 

"Water..." he asked, and it was given. No matter that it would just leak out of him in a minute. You took care of your man when he was dying, in the hope that one day another ally would take care of you. 

A short, sharp whistle cut through the din. Another followed, and another after that. During the time after the first whistle but before the third the fifteen men had all stood up alert. They resumed their relaxed mourning again, though. Three whistles was good, the Chief was returning. Indeed, they heard the hoofbeats of his horse shortly after, and those closest raiders turned to behold their leader as his and five other horses skidded to a stop on the muddy forest floor. 

Chief Viscerex was the strongest of them, and nearly the biggest. He wore a long chain-mail tunic with a leather and gold belt around the waist from which hung his leaf-shaped blade, his close quarters sidearm. He held in one hand a spear, and in the other the reins of his horse, both of which he quickly passed to one of his men as he swung himself over the back of his lean steed and onto the ground. Hanser looked up at his leader's approach, past the sword, past the leather and gold belt, up the broad armored chest and at the chief's impressive full-head helmet. The front of the helmet covered Viscerex's face completely, and the metal was finely shaped to look like a stern, powerful hero of old. Atop this already impressive mantle the Chief wore a bear's head and skin which had been fashioned into an intimidating hood and cloak. He wore leather gloves, but took them off as he walked through the throng of men, who parted for him so that he could kneel before Hanser. 

He touched the boy's face, the skin was white as death. The smell of his insides invaded Viscerex's nostrils but the steady face of the helmet showed none of the chief's disgust. 

"Forgive me, Chief..." Hanser moaned. 

"You were brave today, your soul will join the great fire that is our god. When we battle, we will call upon your favor in heaven. Will you watch over us from beyond death?" 

"I will, lord." 

The raiders cried out at the injustice. Even Viscerex felt a tear run beneath his iron visage. He steadied his voice. 

"Death is the great test of the warrior. Meet it bravely--" he said, and then to his raiders, "Someone get me the banner!"

 They quickly found the requested cloth pennant. It was a dirty green thing, though much of it was covered in stained red handprints. The Chief folded it over one arm. The boy knew what to do, though before tonight no one would had ever guessed he would have to do it so soon. 

 Viscerex wrapped his powerful hand around the javelin shaft. He looked Hanser in the eyes and pulled. The boy whined piteously as the tip came free of his stomach and the last waves of his blood rushed out of his body. He struggled to lift his hand, for it had fallen, but Viscerex helped him dip it in the blood and stamp its print onto the green cloth banner. By the time the hand dropped from the cloth, the boy was gone. His chest rose and fell a few more times, then he was still. 

The Chief's shoulders slumped. Around him, men beat against the trees and stomped the mud. They all stopped, however, when one of the far-eyes gave a single, warning whistle. 

Someone new was coming down the road. 

 

@Bastard

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