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Patience is Power [Artifact Quest]

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We rest.

This means different things for different people-- for most it is sleep, or sitting, or taking the weight off one’s feet. Stillness. Sinjari finds stillness comfortable-- the stillness of snow, of silence, of death. The stillness of her crystal bones, when unbroken, unfractured, and whole.

She draws close to Koru as they trudge through the snow.

“I broke once,” the girl says quietly.

Her father looks to her, his brows knitting together. “Oh dear. You haven’t been very careful.”

Sinjari hangs her head. “Sorry,” she says, in a voice even quieter than before.

They fall silent as they enter the manor. Sinjari eyes the walls with a dull gaze. At the mention of a fire, she a slight frown crosses the girl’s face.

Koru settles on a creaky armchair “Let me see it.”

Sinjari lifts her arm. Gently, the man takes it. With practiced ease, he runs his hands over the limb, examining the break. A hairline crack threads over Sinjari’s skin, the faint glint of glass and metal visible on either side of the fracture.

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The fire burns quietly in the snow.

It isn’t large, only two handspans wide, but it serves its purpose well. The smoke trailing from its blaze dances and coils in the air before venting through a gaping hole in the roof. Rune sits by the edge, warming his hands. The old man and young girl are inspecting her arm.

“I’ll recon for supplies later.” There’s no doubt plenty. Food, water, perhaps even ale. It’s all theirs, now that the residents are dead. “There should be more than enough to last us the duration of the mission.”

He doesn’t plan on staying long.

While no one can say for sure what it is they’re looking for, he suspects the hardest part will be finding it. Despite her injury, the girl has proven herself capable. The old man, too. Rune knows himself. They should be able to handle whatever beasts or monstrosities are guarding the precious item, or whatever warlord might have it in their possession.

With warm returned to his fingers, Rune rises from his seat and begins his patrol of the house. So many rooms, so many closest. It will take a while for them to search them all. “If you decide to wander off,” he speaks from across the room, “bring anything of note back here. We’ll start a pile and sort through it together.”

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Sinjari remains perfectly still as her father retrieves two tins from the folds of his robe. The crack is sealed with a pale resin; a dusting of alabaster powder conceals the break. Koru performs the task in silence. His motions are that of one performing a well-practiced task, yet he moves gently, painstakingly slow. These moments of quiet are to be savored. He clings to these routines they share, drawing out these seconds of peace.

The man’s brow furrows as he puts his tools away. His daughter offers him a rare smile. Satisfied, Koru moves closer to the fire. The quiet puts him in a pensive mood; the warmth of the fire a reminder of the cold bodies left in their wake. Trembling fingers clasped together, stretched towards the flames, a silent prayer leaves his lips.

Before him, Rune rises to his feet, uttering another terse instruction. Their brief respite ends here.

Sinjari tugs on her gloves. “Adeir? I’ll go upstairs.”

Koru nods. "Be careful, neika," he echoes his warning. He watches the girl pad to one end of the room, picking her way through the debris on the ground to peer at a gap where a staircase once was.

The uncertainty of their task bothers him. Uncertainty, however, is the only constant in his and his daughter’s lives. He steals a longing look at the fire, makes a futile wish for more quiet moments.

Koru is last to rise from his chair, the motion gentle, painstakingly slow. With quiet steps, he heads deeper into the mansion.

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While the mansion’s outskirts have shouldered the brunt of time’s passing, the interior is surprisingly preserved. Cobwebs dominate the corners. Dust has layered in thick sheets. But the rot is minimal, the mold even less so. Much of the furniture is intact, with a great deal hidden by grayed dust cover sheets. Even after so many years of abandonment, you can sense – feel – the affluence seeped into the foundations of the place.

It isn’t much different from the home he grew up in, Rune realizes. A noble home, overflowing with wealth and status. It seems like a lifetime ago, now, separated by an ocean of blood. Where has the time gone, he wonders?

He enters one of the many nondescript rooms occupying the current hall, his hand – slowly becoming cold once again – resting on the handle of his blade. The weight of his step causes the critters to scatter, fleeing to shadows and burrows they’ve made in the wood. The room is decorated simply, its furnishings – and lack thereof – suggesting it was for guests.

The assassin takes his time going through the drawers, pulling them out and spilling their contents across the floor. Most are empty. Some have miscellaneous articles of clothing. Trinkets. They clatter or gather on the floor soundlessly, forming piles to mark his progress across the room. He searches the room for nearly a quarter hour before deciding there is nothing to be found, and leaves.

Eight more to go, he tells himself, and sets off to the next one.

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Sinjari makes her way upstairs.

The floorboards creak underfoot. She enters the first door and finds it a wardrobe, stuffed with dust and moth-eaten coats. She enters the second and finds herself in a bedroom.

Rune hasn't offered to elaborate what they are looking for. Koru hasn't offered any guidance either. For a moment, Sinjari stands in the doorway, unsure, then pads over to the drawers. She finds nothing but moldy fabric, old tins and dusty bottles. The mirror is intact. She traces a face in the dust, smiles, and moves on.

Nothing in the closets. Nothing under the bed. Out of curiosity, she knocks on the walls. Solid wood, though one of the boards has rotted enough to crack under her fist. One of the paintings rattle. Sinjari looks up, squints. Beneath the dust lies a portrait of a couple. They are dead now, Sinjari thinks, staring at their frozen smiles.

The girl moves onward, checking two more bedrooms. Each are as richly-furnished as the first, with canopy beds draped with once-rich cloths and elaborately-carved drawers. She wonders about the necessity of so many possessions. She and Koru carry what they need. How strange and sad for such large rooms to lie empty, fading away into dust. She finds a necklace with a simple crystal pendant. It seems unlikely what they could be searching for is mere jewelry, but the girl loops it around her wrist. It matches her arm.

On the dust of every mirror she passes, she draws a simple face - two dots, a straight line. A way of marking her progress, yes, but also for the small pleasure it brings her.

There are more paintings in the rooms depicting the dead man and woman. In the last room hangs the largest painting - one that nearly takes up the whole wall. There is a third person now, though. Sinjari furrows her brows. It is difficult to make out their features, but the dead man sits on a chair, the dead woman stands behind him, and beside him-- a new figure. A brother?

Strange, but likely not what they are looking for.

The girl continues pulling out the drawers and opening closet doors.

Edited by Csl

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Koru finds himself in a kitchen. He checks drawers and finds nothing but rusty cutlery.

He moves onward, nearly trips as his next step finds the floor in the next room a few inches lower. It is dark; Koru reaches inside the folds of his robe and produces a crystal. At a whispered word, it begins to emit a soft glow.

He is in a pantry. A family of rats scatters at the light; another hisses as he opens a cupboard. The man recoils for a moment, then sighs. It is unlikely anything of value is in here, with whatever food long-eaten by the creatures who've made their home in the mansion. Still, he takes his time to check every storage area, finding little intact but sealed cans and bottles then moves deeper into the room.

At the far wall, his crystal casts three doorways into light. One illuminates a staircase leading down. One seems to lead to a hallway, more doorways yawning into darkness. Yet another leads into another storage area- a winery, if the glint of glass bottles is any indication.

Koru moves closer to the first one, allowing the crystal to illuminate more details: a frayed rug, a broken coat rack, a line of shoes. Close as it is to the kitchen, this wing of the mansion appears to have belonged to the servants.

It is different from Kasnivale - he has only been to the city once, but he knows his beneficiaries do not keep servants. In the place of men and women, the lords and ladies had beings of light and stone to serve them. Such a wondrous sight it was, yet so strange, that he had never tried to return.

He is better suited to the life of a wanderer, he and his daughter.

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