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Grubbistch

Reconnecting With the People

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Many people enjoy the beauty of the capital of Ursa Madeum, enjoying the sights of the city and the experiences it brings with it. What many don't see however, are the smaller towns or villages that also reside on the island known as Corinth, who struggle every day just to survive. These people, mostly humble farmers and fishermen, can't be reached by conventional aid efforts due to isolation or due to others having a greater need for the resources. To combat this inequality, Lady Illyana Uldwar regularly makes trips to different villages or towns on the islands, hoping to alleviate their suffering and provide them with the materials and knowledge necessary for better living. They call her a saint for such deeds, but she feels blessed just for the chance to help others live a better life in this cruel world of theirs.

One such village was a small place outside of the capital known as Wiltshire, a farming village that grew hemp to take to market. There were over a hundred people living in Wiltshire, and they were having difficulty making ends meet since a storm washed away a bridge they depended on to leave heavy jungles they resided in. With their mission in mind, Illyana knew the first step in helping these people would be to repair the bridge.

"How long until the bridge is completed?" Illyana asked the engineer, an elf who had just finished finalizing the plans with his builders.

"For the moment the best we can do is make a simple wooden bridge between the banks. It won't hold much, but it should serve until we can begin constructing a proper stone one for a permanent solution. Just have to hope the weather doesn't turn on us, or it'll get washed away." Showing her the designs for each structure, the noble lady nodded in compliance.

"Wasn't the old one made of stone as well?" She asked, wanting to make sure this new bridge didn't get washed away like the old one did.

"Old one wasn't being maintained as well as it should have been. It's likely someone just forgot about this place, hoped they would just disappear or something." He shrugged, noticing how upsetting the news made Illyana, but having no answer for her. "We can make sure that doesn't happen again."

"Yes." She said. "No one is getting forgotten this time. How are we going to get supplies over to the village while the bridge is being erected?"

"We have a personal airship that can take you and a few others over with some supplies." He answered.

"Good. Pack it with as much food, water and medicine as you can. I'm going to be on the first party who goes over."

"As you wish." The engineer said, and went off to do his duty.

Looking over to the other side, Illyana could already see a local or two, come to see what the commotion was about. Hammers went about putting together the bridge, making a terrible noise in the process. Illyana did her best to communicate over the harsh sounds. "Don't worry! We are here to help you!" Help them they would, by the grace of Gaia she would do this, and make this world a better place.

@Venus Sprite

Edited by Grubbistch

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When Torie saw the construction site ahead of her, she nearly plopped down into the soggy mud at her feet. It had been a four hour walk from the last signs of civilisations around the capital and now her path was blocked. Or rather, washed away. From her vantage point higher up the hill she could see the river’s steep muddy banks, recently subject to flooding which had removed all the foliage and scattered the remains of a bridge downstream like a child’s blocks. The river was still moving very fast. Those builders working on the foundations of the wooden bridge were anchored by ropes around their waists to save them should they lose their footing – not a job Torie imagined was comfortable at the best of times.
She looked down at her own feet, caked in mud and aching from carrying her huge bulk for miles through the hot, tropical jungle. She was wet all over from the rain, her fur moulting in clumps despite the fact she had been in the tropics for over a month now. Torie was also a particularly heavy lion – in fact that was an understatement. She was inconceivably huge, even by her own standards, and the extra rolls of fat behind her ears and on her tail, and the enormous amounts of roly-poly blubber covering her flanks did nothing to help ward off the heat.
Just when she was considering forging the river to see how far she got, she heard a gasp as a man said, “Look, my lady. A tiger.” Torie looked over to see an elven man dressed in overalls speaking to a lady, who turned around to follow the elf’s gaze.
Tigers were locals around these parts, Torie had realised some time ago. The locals tended to treat her with respect and amazement – respect because she was a tiger and amazement because she was enormously fat, with a belly that almost dragged on the floor (and which did if she had a substantial meal). That was, until she opened her mouth.
The other builders lined up with their tools, obviously ready to frighten her off should she prove bloodthirsty. But Torie simply sat down in the mud and waved with one paw, spreading a toothy smile across her chubby striped face.
“Hello,” she said, in a deep tiger’s burr.
The looks on their faces never got old, though she didn’t dare approach without invitation.

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"Wait!" Illyana said, stopping the workers before they tried anything violent to ward off the tiger. There were some things that could be solved without violence, and she had a feeling this was one of them.

Approaching the fat cat with courage, she cocked her head so as to examine the creature more carefully. "Looks like someone has spoiled you rotten." It was highly unusual to see such a round animal, especially one of a predatory species like the rotund feline. There was no telling what it's intentions were, but if the tiger wished to attack them, it would have done so already.

"You can talk, can't you?" Smiling at her, she asked another question. "What's your name? I'm Illyana Uldwar, of House Uldwar, but I promise I won't hurt you."

Many associated her family with the idea that they were all war mongers who used brute force to get their way. Rejecting that idea, Illyana had adopted pacifist ideals in order to show people there was an alternative to violence. Sometimes it made things much more difficult, but those difficulties were worth it in order to prove her ideology was valid. This would be one such example, where she would do everything in her power to understand this oddity, without exerting violence upon it. Slowly, she gingerly removed a small piece of dried beef from her pack, holding it out for her to take.

"Are you hungry? You must have been traveling for sometime, and I think you could use some a friend in a place like this." Everyone could use a friend, no matter who they were, or what they looked like. Torie didn't seem like she had anyone else with her on her journey, so perhaps she would like to be part of their group? "We're here to try and help the people on the other side of the bank, they haven't been able to cross the river, and so they suffer."

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As Torie listened to the lady – Lady Illyana Uldwar – a suspiciously expressive smile spread across Uschi’s chubby face. When the lady produced a sample of meat Torie’s ears and whiskers perked up with interest. With quivering enthusiasm she reached forward gingerly and grabbed the piece of meat in her teeth, swallowing it instantly. Then she cocked her head up at the lady. For a moment she considered playing the dumb animal, but she didn’t want to pull any tricks on such a nice person.

“Thank you,” she said, speaking slowly so as to annunciate clearly around her tiger’s thick and pointy teeth. “That’s the first of anything I’ve eaten since leaving the city, and I am indeed famished! I am Torie, of the Torata tribe. And I spoil myself, thank you very much.” She winked, her eyes scanning over the bridge builders, and the villagers on the far bank. “Are these your men then? It’s not often I find a noble lady out on the road. Usually they’re hiding in mansions or grovelling to princes in palaces.” She rolled her eyes in mock derision. “Why are you out here yourself? Surely your men can build the bridge without you.”

Her stomach grumbled loudly, and Torie grimaced. “I don’t suppose you have any more food, do you? I could eat a horse. Or a pig!” Just the thought made her mouth water and her eyes roll up in pleasure.

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"I am no normal noble lady." Illyana stated with a smile "just as you are no ordinary tiger." At her command a boar was to be slaughtered and used for a welcome meal for their new guest. "It's not quite as good as a pig, but I think it should serve."

They spoke while things were prepared.

"My purpose here is to personally see to it that the people on the other side of this river are doing well. There's a good chance they don't have enough essential supplies, and may be in need of medical assistance." Looking over, there was a small gathering of villagers, looking at them, watching them work. Their curiosity was understandable, though perhaps more to the sight of Illyana casually speaking with a tiger.

"An airship is being prepared now for me and some others to travel over while the bridge is being constructed. If you would like you can join us on the trip. I'm sure there's plenty of things you could do, and its always good to get an extra pair of hands Er, paws, to help out." Her smile was known to melt the hearts of most men, overwhelming them with her pure innocence as she worked to help her people. In some ways, she felt it a useful means of diffusing tension while comforting those who needed it. Gaia blessed her with beauty, and so she would use it however she could for the betterment of her fellow mortal.

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Torie's eyes followed the workers heading off to fetch the boar from its pen. It was only at the last minute she realised Lady Illyana was talking to her again, and her attention snapped back.

"I would be honoured to join you!" she said, grinning broadly, and did her best to curtsy - though it was really more of a bow of the head that made her fat rolls and ruffles gather up behind her ears. Whilst her head was down she spied her muddy paws, crusted up to the elbows. "I would hate to get mud all over your airship though. And I don't know many manners that are befitting for the... um... company of a lady. But I've never been on an airship before," she added eagerly, lest the lady turn her down.

Somehow, judging by the lady's soft smile she was reassured this wouldn't be the case. There was something very disarming in this woman's gaze, as if one of the benevolent gods of her people had been born in human form and was smiling down at her.

"Er… so this is your land... right? Does that make me your subject?" she asked awkwardly. Her ears swivelled when some of the bridge workers began to laugh. Obviously this conversation had drawn more attention than just the villagers on the other side of the bank.

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"I do not rule these lands." Illyana explained gladly. "The lands my family rules over some of the land of a smaller island named Misral, though I don't like to use my authority to force people into doing anything they don't want to do." Those who would abuse such power, in her opinion, were always on a slippery slope to becoming a tyrant, no matter how small the act.

"Is the ship ready?" She asked one of the workers.

"The ship is ready and supplied, my lady. You may use it whenever you are ready to do so." After reporting to the noblewoman, he went off to rejoin the others in their efforts to construct the wooden bridge across the river.

Looking back to Torie, Illyana directed her towards their means of transportation. "You won't have to worry about getting dirty, my own dress is absolutely filthy, but I don't mind it very much. We all must be willing to venture out of our comfort zones, if we are to help those in need of our support and grace." Sometimes she would get this feeling, this tingling in her scalp, racing down her spine until it ended at the soles of her feet. This occurred mainly when she felt as if she were speaking something that her goddess Gaia approved of, which brought joy to her heart. Such moments were treasured dearly, as it allowed her to feel close to her deity, her soul wrapped in the warm love that she offered all things.

Arriving at the ship, it looked to be of a somewhat boxy, clunky design, likely an older model that could be bought cheaply to serve the purposes of their missions of charity. Tied to the sides were an assortment of crates and sacks, provisions meant to be distributed evenly amongst the villagers for their benefit. Torie would definitely see the extent of the grime that caked her boots as she was helped onto the craft, a rising stack of crates put together as steps for the tiger to use. "We call this little thing The Mercy, and it serves us well in our efforts to transport what we need across great distances. Might be a bit of a bumpy ride, but it'll get us there."

When everyone else had boarded the ship, Illyana gave the order to go, and the pilot began to manipulate the controls at the front most console. There was a small hum as the magitech began to awaken, the engines struggling to achieve lift off.

"What's wrong?" She asked.

"Don't worry, my lady. She'll get us off the ground, just takes a moment." With the weakening of the Arcanosphere, vehicles that required pure magical energy had begun to struggle as of late to function properly. If The Mercy didn't lift off, they would have to find another means of getting across the river, or else wait for the temporary bridge to be constructed first. That would mean a severe delay in delivering supplies to the villagers, which could lead to someone possibly dying because she wasn't fast enough to get there...

With a start they were finally off the ground, The Mercy making slow progress across the ground as it ascended a few feet, allowing the taller members of the crew to touch the high up leaves of the canopy. Illyana let go of the breath she was holding in, not realizing that her hands had been clenching hard enough into fists that there were small red lunar marks where her nails dug into her palm. Her work regularly made her feel tense, intense feelings of guilt putting the responsibility of healing this land all on her, and sometimes it took a heavy toll on the young woman. With a silent thanks given to Gaia, she smiled upon Torie and said cheerfully. "There we are. Now we'll be upon the village in no time. I'm sure they'll love to see someone as interesting as you are."

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Torie sighed with relief. So, she wouldn’t become enslaved or anything then. The more she heard from Illyana the more she liked her, even if she was a little sickly sweet.
The sight of the airship made her tiger eyes widen, as she’d only seen one in the distance before. She climbed up the crates and stepped onto the floor of the airship, which groaned under her feet. As it struggled to take off Torie grimaced – maybe she should get off. She knew she was a very big tiger, and wide besides, and had to weigh nearly a ton. But to her relief the airship lifted off eventually, and Torie let out a roar of excitement, then bolted to the nearest window to take a look.
“We’re flying. We’re actually flying!” she said, watching the bridge and the river retreat below them. The airship leaned dangerously as she pressed her nose against the glass. A servant of some sort approached and cautioned Torie back towards the centre of the ship, which gradually levelled out. With a sigh of disappointment Torie settled down among the crates of supplies.
“You have an interesting way of ruling, Lady,” Torie said. She began to lick the dirt from her paws though by her expression it was obviously a task she abhorred. “How can you rule if you can’t ask your people to do something they don’t want to do, at least every now and then? Back in my tribe we even rotated who would remove the night soil the next morning. It was an awful job and nobody wanted to do it! Likewise, when Falx had killed Ternie because she rejected his advances. We had to execute him… but nobody wanted to.” She shuddered at the memory.
Only then did she realise the tension in the lady’s posture, the hardness of strain around her eyes, the muscles in her arms and jaw clenching. “Are you alright?” she said with concern, jumping up with a grunt and standing beside her, pressing gently into her leg and putting her head underneath her hand. “Do you not like flying? I’ve heard some people talk about how nervous it makes them. Why don’t you sit down?”

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After taking a deep breath, Illyana got a hold of herself, taking a seat as suggested by her new companion. "Yes, sorry about that. Sometimes I just...I get a little scared, you see. It's difficult at times, to do all of this, to be away from my family so much. Do you have family back where you're from?"

Based on what the tiger had told her so far, her tribe was based around a culture of barbaric necessity. The need for survival outweighed the trappings of more civilized people, such as laws and trials. It was possible they behaved like this because they were in small numbers, but Illyana couldn't be sure until she got to know her better and she revealed more about her life. In a way it wasn't unlike the largely primitive tribes of Bugbears who lived in Misral, whose lives were based on a system of hunting merits and physical strength than logic and reason.

"We've made it over the river, my lady. Touching down now at the other side." As quick as it was, Illyana was glad that they were on the other side now. The door opened, and she could see quite quickly the large amount of people gathered to investigate the strangers that had arrived.

 

"All right, everyone, let's be friendly now." Illyana advised, stepping out to meet with one of the town elders that had come to greet them.

"We were beginning to think we had been forgotten." Said the old woman, wrapped in a shawl, her wrinkled face showing the years of experience she had endured. Both she and Illyana embraced, while the others began helping with the unloading of supplies.

"You will never be forgotten, so long as I have anything to say about it." Illyana promised, smiling at her before asking. "Do you have any sick or injured that need tending to?"

"This way dear. We will take you into Wiltshire, and you can tend to the people there. We are very honored t receive your help." Looking to Torie, she asked. "Who is this, now? A friend of yours, my lady?"

"Yes, this is Torie. We met just today. She is a traveler and wanted to help us in our mission of charity."

The elder woman smiled. "Bless you, sweet thing. We will be delighted to receive you as well. Come now, come, Wiltshire is just beyond the hemp fields."

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"I have family, yes. Mother and father, and five siblings. I'm on my Journey, to gain experience to increase my status in the tribe." She cocked her head. "Is your family in danger?"

Torie doubted that Lady Illyana had heard her, though, for the captain (she presumed) had informed them they had made it over the river. The ground lurched and so did Torie's substantial stomach as the craft settled onto solid ground, and she walked out a step behind Illyana towards a large crowd of people.

"Do you know each other?" Torie said to the elder woman and to Illyana both. It would explain a lot, such as why a lady was going out of her way to help a tiny village. In Torie's mind it didn't degrade the nobility of the act. Helping a friend was just as important as helping strangers.

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Illyana shook her head. “We are not related, not in blood, anyway. Both of us are avid worshipers of Gaia.” The elder woman nodded in agreement and Illyana smiled at her. “Worship of Gaia isn't very common around here, but I am hoping to change that by reminding them of Her unending love. Come, let us go to the village and see where we can be of use.”

They traveled on foot to the isolated town, both Illyana and the elder, who introduced herself as Sarah Haynespar, who spoke much of the town's history. “It all started with a family and a dream, a dream of creating a community of people wanting to live in peace and security. Even during the dark times, we pulled together and never allowed our spirits to be broken.” Sarah's voice was warm yet creaked with the age of one such as her. Her cane clicked against the cobblestone road that began to appear the closer they got to the town, her old eyes wrinkled with countless lines from a long life.

“The town already looks very lovely, the people must take good care of it.” Illyana complimented.

“You are kind to say that, but all honesty, things have been going downhill since Damien rose to power. Fields are barely tended to, overrun with weeds and vermin. Our houses are falling down with no tools or workers to fix them. Disease is running rampant, and threatens to destroy most of us.” She sighs, taking a moment to stop to look up onto the dilapidated area that is her beloved town. “Our spirits are not broken, but they will not remain so for much longer.”

“That is why I'm here, Sarah. To right these wrongs, and to heal these people, Gaia willing.”

“May She forever receive glory for Her kindness. Come, we keep the sick in the temple, the power of Gaia promotes good health in those who patron Her house.” Leading them to the western edge of the town, they arrived at the steps of the small temple that made up their religious center. “They are inside, and are suffering from a pox that we are I'll equipped to treat, I'm afraid.”

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Torie had seen many towns on her travels, and a few cities besides. This one didn't seem so terrible. Neglected perhaps - some roof shingles were missing from the main buildings. The farmsteads were overgrown and weeds grew between the cobblestones, but at least weeds were growing. Better than having the opposite problem, where nothing grew at all. And the few people about seemed bedraggled but otherwise healthy, likely because the sick ones were kept inside the temple.

All at once Torie began to have doubts, as to what she was even doing here. She slowed down a little, falling behind the group.

"I'm not much of a healer. Not of people," she said, to both Sarah and Lady Illyana. "Will... will you really have much use for me here?"

Then a thought occurred to her, and her ears perked up.

"Vermin... you said? I might be able to help with that. I'm a druid. I can talk to animals... sort-of. Not really with words or anything, but I can direct animals to do things... could that help?"

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"That would be a splendid idea!" Illyana said, glad that she wasn't feeling unable to contribute. "Taking care of the vermin will go a long way to helping this place recover. If you can convince them to leave then we won't have to spend so many resources trying to exterminate them." 

"I will call over some of the farmers, and they can direct you to the worst of the problem." Sarah said, glad that there is someone willing to help so much. 

As Torie was directed to the largest of the fields, the local farmers explained in further detail. "Rats are all over the place. Little buggers are chewing on the stalks of our crops and anything else that isn't properly secured. Just be careful, there's some folk saying they've seen a dire rat too, and those things will attack on sight." They let her have her space, not wanting to spook the rats she would be speaking with. 

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