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Ink Fox

Forget - Me - Not

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A small side story began by

@ianthine and myself,

Anyone is welcomed to pop in


It had been atleast two nights since her fateful meeting with the priest. It was an uneasy feeling to the demi-gorgon having lingered so long in one place. She was used to constantly moving, --always escaping from imagined hunters she anticipated could be after her any day now.  --but things were different now, --felt different now. Things had changed inside of her and thoughts of a deity that could watch over and protect her soothed her anxiousness. Still her wandering feet, scarred with miles of dirt road, had taken her to the outstretches of the farmland just at the base of the hill. Her mind and body were at odds, muscle memory compelling her down the long stretch of dirt road. --but she wasn't leaving... she just needed to stretch her legs, didn't she?  It was a lie she was telling herself. A sore feeling panged in her chest. She was a coward-- 

Halting in her mindless walking, her grey eyes caught a speckling of blue in the lush green fields that flanked the road. She crouched near the edge, looking at the tiny cornflower colored buds. Five healthy green sepals held eye fetching blue petals aloft, --bright yellow nestled at the center of each flower like a precious jewel. Slender fingers outstretched to graze the soft foliage. It was simple things in nature that made her feel at home. The rural town she had been staying in was loud with life. People  going about their days, hustling and bustling. Xildara felt out of place here, and not only for her startling appearance that overcame her at night. Daytime held some respite for the woman, luckily her features remained humanistic during the day, but there was still an odd animalistic air about her that seemed to draw attention.  

A soft chiming caught on the breeze drew her attention from the tiny flora. Xildara glanced down the road, intrigued by the soft tingle of metal upon metal. --what she saw made the woman blink in disbelief.  Familiar bronzed features and long burgundy hair that fell in dark waves shivered memories to the forefront of Xildara's mind. "Teha...?" The name fell from her lips in a whisper.

Down the road, coming towards her sauntered a figure she had seen once before in her life; when things had become their darkest. Golden eyes punctuated a stern yet stunningly beautiful face, which was supported by a strong and graceful frame. Her eyes held the same luster as the golden trinkets decorating the woman's wrists, neck, ears and bottom lip. The woman regarded Xildara with cold eyes and nodded her head in Xildara's direction politely but continued on without an ounce of recognition in her features. Xildara's eyes welled up, hurt at first, but she suddenly realized why Mateja had acted as a stranger. Mateja had never seen Xildara in her human form. --of course she wouldn't recognize her at first glance. 

Mateja seemed to be headed for the village of Coth,  leaving Xildara with an uneasy decision.  Staring back at the long lonely road and then towards Mateja's slowly shrinking form; Xildara decided this was a sign and turned to follow after the woman. She wasn't sure what she'd say to Mateja, or even if she should tell the nomadic woman the truth, but Xildara knew she had to meet her again, in some way-- 

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Coth. Such a peculiar little town. It had been target of some of the most fabulous rumors as of late, and the sorceress wasn't one to keep away from rumors. More so when they talked about better times for the town, and better lives for the villagers. A new God, one that answered. Mateja wanted to find out if these miracles were actually so, or if this was work of a powerful sorcerer. Though, a part of her really wanted it to be true. 

The attention the town had brought wasn't all positive though, and that was the other reason why the sorceress had directed her steps towards Coth. Bandits, thieves, lowly people wanting to take advantage of such vulnerable targets. It made her blood boil. She knew about war, about famine and death...and she did not want that for the Cothines. 

Golden eyes shifted to the road in front of her, and she could already see the quiet town at the distance. From here, it didn't look much different from the many places she had visited through the years. Little homes, busy market, honest people doing honest work. Her mind wandered back to her home for a split second, and the woman couldn't help the tightening of her chest, nostalgia wrapping itself around her like a familiar shawl. A frown deepened on her stern features, forcing her thoughts back to the road. 

 But the energy...the energy here in Coth definitely felt different. Stronger. Magic was present here, and Mateja could feel it on her fingertips. 

It was then that she heard the faintest of gasps, and a pair of eyes piercing at the back of her skull. The sorceress lifted her gaze to meet with eyes of silver. A young woman looked at her as if she'd seen a ghost, and the sorceress knitted her eyebrows together for a moment. The town wasn't used to strangers, then? If they were so put off by a traveler like her...or perhaps...so scared were they of thieves and bandits and this young woman believed her to be so? The thought made her shudder, and for a moment she wanted to approach and soothe the nerves of this girl, but the moment had passed and she had only nodded to her before continuing with her business. It was better to show her actions instead of telling her intentions. 

It wasn't long till she reach town, and unlike what she was thinking, she wasn't received with contempt or distrust. People were kind when she approached with a small nod and a greeting. For a moment she strolled around the market, talking with merchants, asking about the morale in town, about their defenses and their troubles. She learned about Father Constans, a man she knew she would need to talk with soon. She heard about a group of bandits attacking at night, and she heard about the splendor of the green fire that now seemed to be an integral part of town. 

And in every step, she felt a presence not so far. Lurking. Watching her. At first, Mateja believed it to be a curious child, but as she walked through the intricate alleyways, she realized this was someone who was not just curious about the new face in town. She walked in a slow pace, her shoulders stiff, her hearing alert. Timid footsteps followed her, and in the corner of her eye she could always see the petite silhouette of a woman. 

She took a turn, and stopped abruptly, feeling her follower crashing against her back.

"Why are you following me?"

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The young demi-gorgon did her best to keep up with the nomad as Mateja made herself familiar with the place right away. It was fascinating to watch her, --Mateja had a way of easily communicating with others that Xildara often found hard to grasp. Even now the demi-gorgon couldn't muster up the courage to just go right up to the tribes woman and greet her. Instead Xi hung back, shrinking behind stacks of crates or attempting to look nonchalant in the quickly moving background of the market place. A few stray sheep seemed to enjoy blocking Xildara's way, and were slowly putting distance between her and her target. The silver haired woman grumbled and scuttled about the meandering livestock, hurrying to catch pace.

Mateja's line of questioning seemed to have come to an end as she turned and headed into the narrow alley that lined the back of the growing market street. Xildara hot in pursuit swept after her as quietly as possible --but the jig appeared to be up when the young woman nose-planted right into a sturdy yet feminine back. Mateja-- the sly sorceress; was onto her. 

"Why are you following me?" The sorceress asked. It was a perfectly deserving question. One that Xildara had neglected to come up with a plan for answering. Panic crept into Xi's features, and then fell blank. 

"I --uh..." She looked like a thief or a mugger. Xildara was surprised Teha hadn't slugged her by now. "--Y-You look new in town..." Xi stammered. Well duh-- Xildara's heart sank. she was making a fool of herself. It was time to rethink strategies. She took a deep breath and put on the most disarming smile she could muster, --which was more awkward then disarming.

"--I just thought you looked a bit lost, and needed some help?" The inflection of her voice pitched at the end making it sound as though she was trying to convince herself of her own lie. Though she held a mostly composed veneer, inside she was squirming at how stupid she felt. --Just tell her who you are! Idiot!! 

Xildara squeezed her eyes closed for a moment, pushing back her inner dismay. "I could help show you around if you'd like?" The demi-gorgon was shocked at how easily lying came to her, and she managed to do it this time with a more convincingly innocent cadence. 

 

@ianthine

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The girl looked young, scared, as if she had been caught redhanded. Wide eyes stared back at the pyromancer, and Mateja could only arch her eyebrows as the girl stammered. It felt as if with every word, this young woman shrunk in size, making herself smaller, as if she could will herself to disappear. But she wasn't going nowhere. Not until there was an explanation. 

She didn't look like a smuggler. Too clumsy for it. Too nervous. Though, perhaps she was just a decoy, a distraction while the ambush positioned itself. Golden eyes shifted from the girl, looking at dark corners, at any sign or just the slightest movement...but saw nothing. Just this girl in front of her, still trying to come up with some kind of answer. Eyes returned to the snowy haired girl, and the pyromancer felt a pang on her chest, a vague familiarity coming back to her. She didn't understand what was it about the girl's eyes that made the pyromancer falter...perhaps it was the desperation, or the helplessness, or just the need to get someone's attention, to get someone to help. She had seen children and the elderly during war times, and every time, she felt her heart shrinking. But this girl...there was something about this girl...

 Mateja rose a hand in front of her, as if to stop the stranger from continuing, a stern gaze boring itself on the girl. "Is that so?" The girl wanted to show her around. It could not possibly do any harm, right? "That is very kind of you..." 

"Have you been here long? I've heard about the miracles...the magic. What do you know about that?" 

 

@Ink Fox

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Mateja had the air of a matriarch, and for many who did not know the woman --could describe her as intimidating. But to Xildara, Mateja was like a governess; a stoic authority figure that had a caring heart and the best interests in mind. She could tell Xildara was struggling and halted her stammered words with a simple gesture. The dusky beauty was merciful and played along, entertaining the idea of a tour and inquiring into Xildara’s residency. Well, Xi hadn’t expected to get this far.

“Oh--" an expression of surprise threatened to break her cover but Xildara regained herself and tried to smile as she prepared herself for a ton of verbal sidestepping. “Ahem—Not too long actually, heh.” Xildara’s voice crackled with nervousness. –only two days but she didn’t need to know that right away.

“but it’s nice to see another new face in town.” There was a bit more confidence in her statement this time, because it was true --though Mateja’s face was not new to Xildara.

The gorgon gazed at the nomad; nostalgia glowing in Xildara’s silver orbs. She wanted to reach out and embrace the tribes woman but fear of rejection loomed over her. Xi’s human face was unknown to Mateja, --the sudden affection would probably shock her. The demi-gorgon would have to take things slowly, maybe then she could muster up the courage to tell Mateja the truth. Xildara shifted from one foot to the other as she considered the notion of miracles in Coth. It was true she had witnessed some miraculous things since arriving. The events of the night she met the priest played through her head. They had been miraculous yet terrible. She could still remember the stench of crisped flesh. Therefore, Mateja was most likely referring to the priest himself; a man of God --wielder of his wrath.

“You’ll likely want to see Constans…” most folk in the town referred to the man as ‘Father', but Xildara was still yet to be fully initiated into the religious traditions of the town. “I can’t really say much about these ‘miracles', but I have also heard the rumors of the day the sky bled green.” It was something she had heard in passing since living among the Cothites.

“—but I have seen the green flames myself…” it was the least she could admit. “Come—I’ll take you to the church on the hill. You’ll find what you’re looking for there.”

Xildara’s nervous demeanor seemed to melt away in the presence of Mateja's warm aura. The demi-gorgon ushered the woman out of the alley and lead her down the market. ‘I suppose I should say something about the village itself… she might get suspicious.’ Xildara glanced over at Mateja as they walked down the market street. It was easy enough to make small talk among the miscellaneous stalls, but as they left the market street and entered into the growing trades district; things became more difficult. Xildara found it impossible to make sense of the symbols carved into the signs adorning the doors of the businesses as they strolled past. There were only a few things she could infer from the windows of the shops and the smells gently wafting from within.

“This is where they make bread,” She chirped as they passed the small bakery. The next shop they pass threw her off. The smells that came from within were not as pleasant as the bakery, in fact it somewhat stung her highly perceptible sense of smell, but there seemed to be livestock and other various dead animals being carted into the back of the shop. Xildara took a quick guess, completely unknowledgeable in the many uses of animal hide.

“That’s the butcher--" It was actually the tannery, but Xildara didn’t lose pace and continued down the path briskly ushering Mateja along.

 

@ianthine

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With every passing minute, the young woman before the traveler seemed familiar. Perhaps it was the way she gesticulated, how her hands move as she tried explaining the town in front of her despite it was obvious she was just as new in Coth as Mateja was. Perhaps it was the way the voice raised an octave or two when she got nervous, when she mentioned something and stammered, backpedaling. Perhaps... it was the stoney eyes, so expressive, so wide and big, like they could swallow her whole with just one look. There was a hidden story to those eyes... a story Mateja felt she had heard before. 

"Constans?" Her golden eyes shifted back to the young woman, and back to the conversation, eyebrows arching slightly. "Is he the one making the miracles?" she asked. If so, then that was the man she definitely wanted to talk about. Before she could ask to be taken to this man, Xildara was kind enough to mention she'd take her to the church. So, he was a man of faith? "The green flames...you've seen them, yes? Would you say they have helped this town? Where do they come from?" 

Magic was inexplicable; it came from nowhere, from the most unimaginable places. In her case... the little sparks of fire were with her ever since she could remember. The crones from the village said she had been born in a red moon, and it was an omen for bigger things. An omen of the great dragon. Things hadn't been simple though...and those dreams of magic and heroes mostly disappeared with the war and the scars it brought upon her little town. Her little town that was gone now. 

Magic had come back to her life though...

Fire was her specialty, but...green fire was new. Green fire was something she had never seen. Had never even heard about before this. And it was something she definitely was interested in. 

They passed the bakery, the young Cothite explaining the small stalls to her. And then..."The butcher..." Eyebrows arched at that, and Mateja couldn't help the little rasping of her throat at that. "Actually, the tannery." She stopped, as she looked at the girl. "You're newer to the town than you let on, hm?" She wasn't angry or offended by the slip. Just curious. What was the girl's interest in her? "What is your name?" 

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The two of them strolled a little further towards the hill. Mateja all the while making sharp observations and questions about the town and priest. She wanted to know about the origin of the green fire and the miracles, but Xildara could only speak of what she had seen. Yet she was reluctant to—any detail she let slip reminded her of the night Mateja had first come to her. She was a strong individual with a pure heart, and conviction. She had saved Xildara when no one else would—when everyone else was too scared to. Instead the demi-gorgon found herself falling into a hushed awe as she watched the woman.

Small fractured memories clouding her mind. She kept comparing Mateja’s strong features in the sunlight compared to how she had first seen her in the dim torch light of the cavern burrows where they had hidden the demi-gorgon away. Even though Mateja had seen her with serpents for hair and scaly skin, she still chose to help her. Xil's mind was drifting, and she was mindlessly making small talk until the slip happened. Mateja, a hawk of a woman, quickly corrected Xildara’s labeling of the tannery, and caught onto the fact that Xildara was as foreign to this town as she was.

The silver haired woman stopped in her tracks and held her silence for a moment, considering giving up the ruse. Deep down she didn’t want to lie, in fact she wanted to thank her for everything Mateja had done for her. The nomad asked her name and Xildara wondered if she’d even remember her.

“Xildara—” She said, as if on impulse. “Xildara is my name…” Her grey eyes locked to Mateja’s eyes as if pleading with those golden pools to reflect some form of recollection.

@ianthine

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Xildara. The name echoed inside of her mind, slipping into the deepest corners of her subconscious. It kept slipping her consciousness, just twisting like a snake in her hand, unable to keep or grasp the familiarity of it. She knew she had heard it before sometime in her life. Perhaps a long time ago. It was not a common name, that was for sure. Not from these parts of the world. A foreigner. And for a moment, she wanted to know more about this girl's story. What did she gain by helping her now? Giving her a tour through a town she was unfamiliar with? 

But then those eyes. Those gray eyes that plead. That begged her. 

Eyebrows furrowed once again, golden eyes shifting back to the road in front of them. They had reached the bottom of the hill in no time, Mateja seeing the old building she could only imagine was the church looming in front of her. The answer to her questions just in front of her. But turning back to the girl...she knew there was something she was not saying. Something she was missing. 

And then it came back to her, raising to the surface of her consciousness like a forgotten treasure. The memory of shiny scales, of serpentine hair hissing, of a curled up frame, cowering away from the world...from all the hurt suffered. The thought of that fated encounter made her chest tighten. The injustice of it all, the cruelty of it all. She hadn't been able to bear it. She had been young and rash back then...blind fury had guided her back then. She had had no mercy, no pause for those men...

Those bastards had gotten what they deserved. 

And that gorgon girl... Mateja hoped she had found her footing in this world...that she had found kinder people...

"It is a pretty name. Not common." Golden eyes shifted back to the young woman in front of her. Mental calculations told her the gorgon girl would be...around this age right now. But...it was impossible. Was it? 

"I knew a Xildara once... many years ago."

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There was a silence that fell over the two. Yet no recollections came flooding back to the nomad, spurring slightly sour feelings in the gorgon. Perhaps she didn’t remember her. Sadly Xildara led on, but Mateja seemed lost in thought as they approached the cusp of the hill. Finally the bronzed nomad spoke up, admitting that she had once known a Xildara. It was a small window of opportunity, but Xildara was eager to take it. She walked a little ahead of Mateja in order to bar the woman’s view of her slowly glazing eyes.

“Is that so?” Xi began, cupping her hands behind her back. “This place is my new start—a long time ago, I was held against my will—my life was not my own. Until someone saved me. For a long time I thought that person was the only being in the world with a pure heart, but I met Constans. And he saved me just like that woman did years ago. One person gave me my freedom back… and the other gave me the choice to do something with that gift—and I plan to. But if it hadn’t been for that woman… I wouldn’t be standing here today… In this village… in this sanctuary… at first I didn’t think I deserved this chance… but when I saw you coming down that road—I knew.”

The silver haired woman stopped in her tracks. The elevation of hill gave her a good view of the stout little village below. The breeze whipped through her long moonbeam tresses, and Xildara glanced back at the nomad once more. Hoping her story had stoked the fire of Mateja's memories.

@ianthine

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Xildara was quiet, her expression unreadable, as she stepped ahead of her, her back to her. The girl's frame was small, and she looked so vulnerable even now, even when Mateja couldn't see the expression on those eyes. The nomad opened her mouth to ask about it, had been about to step around the girl, search for her gaze, when her soft voice broke the silence between them. The pyromancer froze in place, a concerned frown knitting her eyebrows together. She listened intently, the girl's voice heavy with memories, but at the same time light with yearning for something better, for some hope. 

 

The pieces came together with each word that left the girl's lips, like a golden thread stitching the parts together until the complete scene was seen. And once again, Mateja was that young sorceress, finally free from the shame and guilt that war brought upon survivors, searching for herself. During that time, all she had wanted was to help others in ways she hadn't been able to do as a soldier. She wanted justice. She wanted a place people could be free. She had wandered for so long, stopping in small villages to help with the reconstruction of homes after attacks and raids, or just to help with the little chores some of the villagers couldn't do on their own. She was eager, and there was so much to do. 

She had stumbled across word of men finding some kind of rare crystals, very valuable, in a nearby village. Rumors said they mined them from a small cave only they knew of. If she could only convince them to give her some of those in exchange of work, she could bring them back to the poor villages, help the people. And so she had promised herself she'd find them. She had traveled for weeks, through forests and mountains, and with little clues and tips she had received from people around, the young sorceress had come across a hidden cave deep in a mountain range. She had been ecstatic, hopeful, and relieved. 

What she found in the cave, though... filled her with an unimaginable rage, that to this day still burned. She did not find the crystals, as the stories went. She did found a girl, all skin and bones, so hurt and weak...and so scared when she approached. She could remember the flinch when she reached out a hand, and it haunted her. A gorgon, the girl explained. Scales covered her skin, and serpents covered her head instead of hair. She had never seen such a creature...but the look she gave her...it was all Mateja needed to know this was not right. This creature had feelings, had hopes and dreams, had thoughts and yearnings, just like her. And she was being stripped from it all. For...what? For some coin? It wasn't but a heartbeat, and the sorceress decided to set her free. She had told her to run away when the men arrived and noticed their golden goose was gone. And she had burned the place down with the wrath of justice. 

 

And now...that girl was here. It was her. There was no mistake. "But you...look so different." she said lamely, golden eyes wide, her stern facade completely gone. And then...the tiniest smile curled at the corner of her lips as she stepped closer to the girl, and wrapped her arms around her in a tight embrace. "It doesn't matter. I am glad to see you well." She loosened up the embrace, pushing her back a little to get a good look of her. "Of course it is you. Have you been well?" 

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The arms that encircled her were a welcomed surprise. She could feel the warmth of Mateja’s body against her’s and hear the somber recollection in her softened tone. The woman had been taken aback, and her stony demeanor melted into tender reunion. Teja remarked on her outward appearance, shocked by the transformation. But she could see passed it. Xildara could feel it in her embrace.

It was a small triumph that sent shivers over the gorgon’s aching heart. Like a coil of tension had been released, and now Xi was basking in the relief. The weight was lifted, and what she had feared never came. How awful it was to always have a shred of hope, and yet expect disappointment. It was tiring to be this guarded, but Coth—the very air in the town felt different. It made her feel safe, as if she would finally find some acceptance. It was a small start, but Xildara was growing her circle of intimate friends and she knew in the coming days she’d probably be attached to the woman’s side. They embraced for a good moment, until Mat grasped her and took a good look at her face, asking earnestly how Xi had been, looking her over with bright golden eyes edged with mirth. Xildara chuckled nervously unused to such positive attention. She squirmed lightly under the sorceress’ grasp; abashed by Teja’s intrigue.

“Well enough, dear wanderer—But I’m afraid it’s a long story… I’m glad to see you in good health as well. I never thought I’d see you again, I was worried those hunters had—” Xildara stopped, her silver eyes trailed to the ground. She didn’t even want to finish that thought, the imaginings were too terrible. “But you’re here now…” The young woman said with some awed tone in her voice. The coincidences were too much. “Are you planning to move here?” The gorgon’s heart rose with some joyous hope.

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"We got nothing but time, do we not?" Mateja answered with a spark on her golden eyes and a playful arch of her eyebrow. She squeezed the girl's shoulders affectionately, before taking a step back, shaking her head lightly to brush away the gorgon's worries. "No, I got out of there with my life. A few scars remain,-" she pointed at the long gash on her side, "-but, seeing you here, and well, and free... it makes it all worth it." 

Then she asked if she was moving to Coth. The mirth melted away from her gaze, her face scrunching up unconsciously at the thought of staying in a place for long periods of time. No...she had had a home, and that home was gone now. All that was left for her was to wander, to help people, to do something. To have an impact. "I...am not sure yet." Mateja didn't want to break the hopeful expression on the younger girl's eyes, but... "The rumors of the green fire brought me to Coth. I admit I am curious to know more of this God and his miracles." A part of her wanted to know about herself...about her magic. What it meant...if it was connected somehow. "There also has been talk of bandits and outlaws. If I can help take care of that to make the town safer, then I'd do anything in my power to do so." the sorceress added with a nod. "What comes after that...well, only the spirits now, yes?"

"But you keep mentioning Constans. Was he the one who helped you? I am glad you have found a place for yourself. That life has been kinder to you."   

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"It was Constans who offered me that kindness-- Truth be told I'm still very new to town. I hardly know anyone but the priest." She shrank a little and coiled a tress of hair about her finger sheepishly. She had been hiding in his basement all this time like a coward. It had to be Mateja's sixth sense that had brought her into town on the very day Xildara had been brave enough to venture out. Even more so, she had shown up just when the demi-gorgon was having her doubts. --But the woman was right, they had all the time in the world now, they could finally catch up. Xildara was excited to hear Mateja's stories of her travels. She cast a forlorn gaze onto the scar on her side. The pale line of flesh bringing back memories of the hunter's flashing swords, and hails of arrows as they escaped the tunnels. Certainly this woman had seen more action in her life time; the thought of Mateja's fearlessness bore a seed of courage into Xildara's own soul. How she wished she could go on adventures just like her--and maybe she would. One day.

Xildara nodded, accepting Mateja's honest answer to her question, and listened to the woman's reason for arriving. Apparently Constans was more re-known than Xildara had realized. Of course it wasn't like the forest animals discussed the on-goings of townsfolk on the daily. She had never even heard of the 'miracles' until coming to the town itself, but people were obviously flocking here for a reason. It made her more curious about the priest, bringing a warm sensation to her cheeks as she contemplated his mystery. Mateja's presence drew her from her thoughts, and she remembered they were on their way to the church now.

"--Well I suppose you should talk to the man himself if you intend to get any solid answers..." Xildara smiled earnestly and shrugged her shoulders, somewhat abashed and regretful she hadn't been more upfront with Teha in the first place. "Shall we?" Xildara nodded towards the structure at the top of the hill, and led the way. The bones of the church stood faithfully on the precipice of the hill, and from the top, the entire village could be seen. Xildara took a moment to let the sweet breeze sweep through the threads of her hair; breathing in the taste of freedom. It felt different with her old friend there. Like things were finally starting to feel real. Locking eyes with the nomad, and smiling as if proud of the view Xildara dipped her head, leaving Teha to enjoy the view while she bounced over to the tall wooden doors of the ruined church and tugged them open enthusiastically. 

 

@ianthine

@KittyvonCupcake

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It was not the priest standing amongst the fallen stones that decorated the ruined floor of what was once the church’s interior sanctum when Xildara opened the door, but an elf with ink stained fingers and a pen in her hand. It hovered above a creamy page of vellum in a leather bound journal, poised as if it were a cobra waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike down upon its prey.

While Xildara and Mateja made their ascent up the hill, Ioreth Rhavon exited the study, already bogged down by the prospect of this morning’s work. Stacks upon stacks of Constans’s writing scrawled along the piles of parchment cradled in Ioreth’s tattooed arms. Scrolls enclosed in slim tubes painted with ornate sigils bumped along her hip with each footstep up the stairway. Corners of envelopes peeked out from the satchel slung over her shoulder, each letter to be sent and decree to be announced jostling each other for room over the weighty tomes and spare writing tools that settled to the bottom of her bag.

Meetings at dawn between the Father and the scribe were common. As his day began, hers was winding down towards its end before she fell into a slumber fragmented by the interruptioning noise of Mythandriel stomping in and out of the cabin or Viscerex hammering dead deer against the door. Today, however, her time with Constans was brief. There something unspoken pressing its weight on him, and Ioreth felt it best to grant him solitude and rest. Her own questions could wait for a later time.

One could often find Ioreth in the skeleton of the church, perched atop a large fragment of the fallen roof in a corner untouched by dawn’s warm light that came to serve as her preferred place for quiet reflection as she puzzled over drafts of the Cothite god’s messages. This morning was no different. She placed her journal and pen down upon the stone and rose to her bare feet, her belted robe of rich blue whispering of silk rustles as she moved. In the sunlight, the pupils of her upturned violet eyes constricted to thin slits.

“If you came to see Constans,” said his scribe in a cold voice tinged with a smoky accent, “he is occupied with other concerns. What is your business here?”

 

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The heavy doors creaked open, revealing the inner sanctum of the dusty church. The fractured canopy of the roof allowed in a few beams of misty sunlight that cast darkened shadows across the vacant space in deep contrasts. Still in the corner of the room that had been untouched by the glow of day, Xildara caught the movement of a tall graceful figure slowly unfurling from their seat and silently creep from the shadows on bared feet. Xildara instinctively froze, taking note of the being’s sharp features as they spoke in a hollow tone that compelled Xildara to turn and leave. Yet she stood frozen, fully scanning the woman as she came into the light.

 Tall elegant ears, flowing smoky tresses, sharp cheekbones, and cat-like eyes that rang with a deadly intelligence. The stranger smelled of parchment and bitter ink, with an undertone of fresh leaves and wild herbs. Befuddled and awed all at once, Xildara stared; her mouth falling open slowly as she traced the markings etched into the pale skin of the elegant female. Symbols crested her forehead and dark lines stained around her lips and eyes, accenting the fullness of her lips and sharpness of her eyes—while other more cryptic and complex designs adorned her arms, and legs.

Like prey caught in the gaze of a predator, Xildara’s eyes turned saucer-like and she began to stutter more the closer the unknown woman drew. As if the stranger’s very presence was exerting pressure over her, Xildara slightly shrank.

 “I—uh—We—Well, you see—I didn’t mean—Maybe you could—um I didn’t…” Unable to form a complete sentence, Xil cast a desperate gaze over to her braver cohort who was still admiring the view of the village below. No one was going to come to her rescue—nevertheless she had made a promise to herself to stop being so helpless. Refocusing and taking a deep breath, she convinced herself that social interaction was going to be a thing that was a part of her new life now. She’d have to get used to talking to people, even if they were slightly scary.

“I came to make an introduction—” Xildara started again, slowly and more calmly. “This is Lady Mateja—” She motioned to the nomad standing at the edge of the hill’s precipice. “--She has come here after hearing about the miracles and the green fire… I was sure Constans could tell her more about it.”

@KittyvonCupcake

@ianthine

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