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Walk Among The Abyss

The Ruins of La Cierra (Quest/Closed)

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Evie was just starting her descent, one leg over the edge of the roof and her torn nails dug into the wood, when Keldorl set his bloodied palm against the ground and the great Bayan tree became animate.  Its aura sprawled out like its vast roots, claiming the land and bathing Evie in its ancient, steadfast presence.  It was like waking in the gullet of a whale- she was alone, and then she was surrounded, and every nerve in her lean body flinched at the realization.  A lucky scramble and a clawing snatch of an exhaust stack kept her from falling, but it was close, and a smattering of rock dust pattered against the ground like rain as she regained her footing.  It only took a moment for her to sort through the sudden arrival, but it was a long, panic-filled moment.

The business of setting a perimeter was just that, business- Evie was methodical as she made her way through the twisted streets.  She collapsed falling walls into the byways, smoothed dust so it would betray footprints, and set a myriad of common and indistinguishable obstacles that would require specific movements to move past.  There was nothing fancy or magical about any of it- it was just the understanding and exploitation of how people traveled and what shortcuts they took when they thought their movements didn't matter.  

Still, it took time.

Almost an hour passed while the woman set her watchers, and when she returned, the sun was three hands from the horizon and actively fading in the way that autumn rushes to greet winter.  A now-familiar path carried her back up to the rooftop where Keldorl waited, even as the thin muscles of her back rose complaint after complaint.

"..so," she began as she broke the roof's horizon and hauled herself up, a scramble carrying her further in until it was safe to stand.  "Were you going to mention the talking trees at some point?  It seems like we could solve a lot of problems with animate trees.."

Making her way over to their makeshift camp, she lowered herself to the roof and slapped the dirt from her shins, "You got any more of that coffee?  I vote we eat and wait until morning to head inside- someone had me running around like a porter today, and I'd rather charge headfirst into an unknown, probably-pollen-filled nightmare of a building after a good night's sleep.

In the meantime, you can tell me what you are if you're not human.."

Edited by Noko

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 "Were you going to mention the talking trees at some point?  It seems like we could solve a lot of problems with animate trees.."

He grinned at the voluptuous woman, "I've recently summoned them. They take time to rest. The reason why the sprites are my 'go to' so to speak. As they are now, I can only request minimal help from those I have made a pact with. Of course I can control the trees as inanimate objects but that requires a lot of energy and do to our odd surroundings, not something I want to risk." Patting her muscular lats with his right hand, he followed her. Plopping down, his hand searched inside his pack, having to first brush off some earth. Somewhere in here, his fingers investigating each item until the discovered a wood box, a cylindrical container, and small cups.

"Here's the coffee. Though I'm afraid I have no pyrokinetic abilities so, cold it will be," handing over the cylindrical container with a cup. Opening the box let out an odd aroma. Not enticing but not entirely off-putting. Round balls sat on top of one another. "It's a kind of meat and, other ingredients. It stays edible for long periods of time. It's best not to ask how it's made." Chucking a few balls into his mouth, his teeth broke them into finer bits. Each bite was an odd flavor of spices and dried meat. Sometimes it was tough like jerky. Other bites soft from the fat of animals. Calories were calories at this point.

"As you were saying, about the human part." Crossing his legs, he sat eye to eye with his new companion. "I am a mere human. For the most part. I've got, issues," His eyes glanced to his left arm, "But I suppose calling everyone human isn't the right term anymore. I've met a wide variety of species on this planet. Before the Collapse, a term used from my world, I had only met a handful of other beings who were non-human." Reaching behind his head to remove the string from his ponytail; white, thick locks brushed the tips of his shoulder. 

"The world here is," gazing into her eyes, windows into corridors to the soul, "different. But I like it. Mostly." 

"Now," He kept his voice low "Seeing as we have some downtime, shall we entertain ourselves? I want to start with your powers. I've met humans with telekinesis before. Didn't feel the same. Yours are a different form perhaps." The smile had formed on his lips before the questioning started. The thrill of guessing and learning new knowledge couldn't be helped.

"You took an immediate dislike to the possibility of slavers. You were once a slave? Or knew someone? And," his questions were mortars being let off, each question was followed by another. "You rather be stabbed in the back, does that mean you'd prefer not to know or...or are you afraid of who crossed you and you don't want confirmation." 

His questions would continue into the night. Each time she spoke, his ears collected her words. The man before her, he sat, and listened. Not out of demand or need, but out of genuine interest. 
 

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Very little would have Evie betray her mask, but for a hot second she considered the potential benefit of attempting to super-heat the coffee by rapidly shaking the air in it back and forth. I mean, she'd never had a need to - or even knew if she could, or if it would work if she could - but damn, did she think about it. That's all she did, though, that and sigh as she took a cup of cold coffee and threw her attention upward toward the fast pinking sky.

"It's a kind of meat.."

A kind of meat..

A rousing endorsement, if she'd ever heard one. Still, food was food, and it was hardly worse than the pressed nutrient discs that Argus churned out for survivalists and other 'calories-on-the-run' kind of people. It had taste, at least. 

Not a great taste, but...

Reflecting, she noted with a wry kind of amusement that she possessed unimaginable wealth and the power of nations, yet she was somehow always holed up in a barely habitable shelter eating something that could only broadly be considered food and wishing she was at home, buried beneath the covers, listening to her daughter and Aristotle snore.

Shh, don't tell him- it's an adorable snore.

She popped one of the meat substitutes in her mouth and chewed, her expression tightening as she gave Keldorl a bushel of side-eye and slowly shook her head at its 'flavor'.

"Now, seeing as we have some downtime, shall we entertain ourselves? I want to start with your powers. I've met humans with telekinesis before. Didn't feel the same. Yours are a different form perhaps.

You took an immediate dislike to the possibility of slavers. You were once a slave? Or knew someone? And, you rather be stabbed in the back, does that mean you'd prefer not to know or...or are you afraid of who crossed you and you don't want confirmation."

"You have a strange sense of entertainment... do you moonlight as an interrogator?" wondered Evie, brow curled as she choked down the remainder of the meatish sphere and eyed the weight of a second one against her flagging resolve. "We could just play cards.."

Leaning well over to the side, Evie shoved her staff of the top of her pack, grabbed the worn leather strap, and dragged the bag over to her. Straightening, she pulled into her lap and gulped down some more cold coffee, before beginning to paw through her belongings on the search for her cards. "..you did answer my human question, sort of - so I'll give you one answer, but you're gonna need to pick from that laundry list of an inquisitor's wet dream. I mean, you're never going to get a girlfriend if you start conversations like that.

You know how to play rummy?"

Edited by Noko

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“Tight-lipped, mysterious, unseeable power, and answering only one question of mine...I’d call that being as vague as possible. Well,” he chuckled, that rare occurrence, that oddity of a sound emanating from an old wolf, “I suppose I will keep on to my only question I’m allowed. That will make a game of – rummy you say? - a little bland for taste. But I get the feeling you prefer secrets over disclosure?” The feeling? He scoffed internally. She was all but screaming that she had 20 stone fortresses around her secrets and a moat to drown the unluckiest person who attempted to swim it. 

He waited with patience as she turned with cards, “I’m going to let you deal every time, if you’d please.” No point in showing every trump, or curse, that he had so irresponsible. In time, he’d be forced to show them all.  

The sun had all but faded away. The top of the majestic scalp still peeked above the horizon, darkness battled with the rays of light that still flew around it, the halo of light versus the darkness of night – there could only be one with the other – and soon the sun would sleep and the moon would wake. The small spirit yawned, with what could be considered a mouth of sorts. Flapping its wings, it nestled onto the balcony of the roof. It was a tree spirit, comfort meant little to the twig of life.  

“I’m not a card virtuoso, but I know enough of the games to play. Betting would be looked down upon,” another slight grin, “I’ve learned a few card games. Pirate. After all.” 

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"Tight-lipped, mysterious, unseeable power, and answering only one question of mine...  I'd call that being as vague as possible.  Well, I suppose I will keep on to my only question I'm allowed.  That will make a game of – rummy you say? - a little bland for taste.  But I get the feeling you prefer secrets over disclosure?"

"Don't forget charming and unspeakably beautiful.. " Evie jested, snorting softly as she shook her head at Keldorl, sending a half-mocking glance through her dark lashes as she countered, "It's not like I can make air visible..  besides, I meant like..  one right now, not one forever-until-the-end-of-time," she further commented, laughing as her foray into the depths of her backpack finally bore fruit and she pulled her hand out, triumphantly clasping a worn pack of cards with a faded blue etching of the Gensar gods on its back.  "..and not thirty-five in a mob flying at me like a barrage of arrows.  The list you threw out was straight up inquisitor-level - I felt like your next question was going to be when my moon last rose, what my cramps are like, and how I manage it out in the woods..

I get that you're maybe new here-- or maybe you've just been in the woods for a bit too long-- but we're going to need work on your conversation skills a bit.  Nobody wants to feel like they fell into a pit of Va'Elar, getting their thoughts ripped out."

Drawing her long-legs in, Evie sat and settled into an easy cross-legged hunch, with her forearms draped over her knees as she tapped the deck out into her palm.  It was clumsily split in half, then its halves forcibly shoved into each other like meat through a grinder, then split in half again and set out on the grimy rooftop for Keldorl to finish the cut.  Once done, she retook the deck, riffled thrice with the second attempt being a mess of cards jutting out like spokes in a wheel, then smoothed the edges, signaling her annoyance at the awkwardness with a roll of her eyes.

Her blue furred sprite crept out, wide-eyes evaluated the safety of doing so, and without hesitation it decided it would rather be sleeping and swan-dove into Evie's cavernous pack as Evie semi-smoothly dealt each hand with the flick of her fingertips- Keldorl got a mess of could-be-something and, if one gauged by the frustrated furrow of Evie's brow, she got much the same.

"I'm going to let you deal every time, if you'd please.  I'm not a card virtuoso, but I know enough of the games to play.  Betting would be looked down upon.  I've learned a few card games.  Pirate.  After all."

"Mmm, you might take that offer back if I keep dealing this junk.." Dirty fingertips plucked cards out seemingly and random, reordering them into some kind of sense, before she laid out the deck and flipped over the first well-worn card.  "After this, teach me a new game, then.  Maybe one from wherever you're from - I basically know rummy, blackjack, and a children's game called war, none of which are a ton of fun, or you could tell me about being a pirate while I lose this hand..

I would love to be a pirate.  All that open space..." she mused, filling her lungs with the breath of wistful daydreams, as days spent pirating through the wide expanse of the sky filled her thoughts.  The Dead had a pirate fleet; she should take advantage.  Granted, her spear was not a swashbuckling weapon, but she could make it happen.  Shaking her head, Evie glanced fondly at her staff- seemingly discarded, as it was, by her side, then grinned back up at Keldorl as she went on.

"I could tell you about all the insanity that happens here- for instance, did you know that the Emperor of Genesaris is supposedly an actual god, and a vampire who raises humans like livestock, and has an invitation-only feast on them every year like it's the fucking pumpkin harvest.

Lord of the Veins.." she echoed, her voice hollowed out with mock-ominousness, and discarded a four.  "That's what they call him."

Edited by Noko

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Names of places he did not know, her mention of female bodily movements, all things that he would have rather avoided as a discussion topic. Without hesitation, he pressed those topics aside with a wide-fan broom – Not like I want to even discuss that – but she was a little more joking. A sign for the best he thought. 

HIs eyes scanned each card as he moved them around with his gloved left hand. His face was calm, empty, a void in the sky where no stars shone – inside he was annoyed and filled with dread – two 8’s, one ace, three 4’s, one 7, two queens, and a sad jack of hearts. At least he had the 4’s to lay down on his turn.  

Picking up the first face down card – An Ace! - Oh how the gods shined upon him. Laying down his meld of 8’s, he placed the 7 faceup for Evie to see.  

“Lord of the Veins you say?” His eyes rapidly studying Evie’s hands and cards. Looking up, “It was difficult at first. Growing into a knighthood, a pirate was closely the opposite of my childhood. I adapted. Luck bestowed upon myself, I found that the clan was not the typical pirate. While we maintained some high seas presence, our main fleet was air born. I grew fond of that new world.” Shuffling the cards in proper order, “I was able to become a solider in their ground force and, well, history as they say.” 

“Freedom,” speaking softly with the grit of sand rubbing together, “I grew loving the freedom I had. Do as I please. That’s what allowed me to pursue...other venues in life.”  

“Pirate games? Same as any tavern game or late-night betting game.” He started to ponder to her question as he examined the night and the quietness. No alarms of threats from the beasts. The slavers could still be looking for their crew but that was highly unlikely. If it was dangerous for Evie and himself, it was dangerous for that group as well.  

“I know a game that involves dice and deceit. Maybe one day I will show you that.”  

Finally, given some thought to what his question was to be, Keldorl spoke monotonously, “Who are you really? The false façade is cleverly disguised but I’ve spent too many moons with those who try to conceal identities.” He chuckled lightly. “The men who dropped you off, they didn’t look like normal sailors. They looked at you as if you were an empress of sorts.” Before the others had arrived, Keldorl had placed eyes along the shoreline for the purpose of getting a close look at the group without their knowledge.  

“The way you carry yourself. The way you see around a corner expecting the blade of a knife to shimmer. Even inside the house, when the frame shattered, you went into a defensive mode.” Eyes were now watching hers. “I can’t see what you do. But I feel it. Call it warriors' intuition.”  

Placing his cards facedown, he leaned back, hands planted to hold his weight. The stars blinked in and out. “I don’t need an answer. But, that is my question.”   

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Beneath the confused steppe wrinkling her brow, Evie scooped up the four and the seven, then lay the four down on Keldorl's set of three before dropping her own short-straight of six-seven-eight, then shook her head. That was a lucky break- the rest of her hand was a flaming garbage chute of unrelated madness, flecked equally in black and red, with a mad accountant's throw of numbers- 10D, 9H, 6S, KC, 8D, 5S, as the paper would write it.

She mused, thoughtfully silent and calculating, looking over the use-worn cards as if the trace of her spring eyes could massage the nine-of-hearts into a nine-of-diamonds.

"It was difficult at first. Growing into a knighthood, a pirate was closely the opposite of my childhood. I adapted. Luck bestowed upon myself, I found that the clan was not the typical pirate. While we maintained some high seas presence, our main fleet was air born. I grew fond of that new world. I was able to become a solider in their ground force and, well, history as they say."

"Knighthood to pirate.." Evie's attention was fixed on her cards, even as her words floated out like butterflies. "That must have been a leap," she said as she rejiggered the squares in her hand, found structure in some sameness, then reset chaos as she plucked out the king-of-clubs and set it into the discard pile. With the pass of her hand against its edge, she collapsed the fan-of-cards into her palm and continued, "How did that happen-- don't they have conflicting moral codes- protect the kingdom vs.. well, piracy?"

"Who are you really? The false façade is cleverly disguised but I've spent too many moons with those who try to conceal identities. The men who dropped you off, they didn't look like normal sailors. They looked at you as if you were an empress of sorts.

The way you carry yourself. The way you see around a corner expecting the blade of a knife to shimmer. Even inside the house, when the frame shattered, you went into a defensive mode.

I can't see what you do. But I feel it. Call it warriors' intuition.

I don't need an answer. But, that is my question."

What was this, the fourth time in a scant day he'd accused her of nefarious intent?

It was at least the second time he'd cut conversation with the edge of interrogation.

Who would stick around for this?

"By the fucking Primera, you are 100% a crazy stalker." Frustration poured over Evie's expression like a spring melt over its dam and she let herself tumble backward onto the roof, sprawled as if the energy spent on this conversation had transformed her bones into soup.  "It's not intuition, Keldorl; it's paranoia; of course I'm capable- I'm a woman adventuring alone in this fucking insane world. You know, not long ago, my entire continent started falling out of the sky? You really think we make milquetoast in Nehelan? It's a little too hot for that," she announced to the star-flecked sky, acid in her words as her aggravation boiled over to paint them sharp.

"Oh wait, your manly intuition has overcome my feminine wiles; I'm starting to feel faint.." She set the back of her hand against her forehead, fluttering her eyelashes derisively. "I can't resist your overpowering strength. You figured me out, Keldorl- I'm Queen Gabriela. No, wait- I'm the reincarnation of the Primera, or Merida Persona, or.. Lilith Reiter.

Shit, that's it--

I'm Lilith Reiter.

A stroke of inspiration and Evie announced the name as if calling the arrival of a God.

"I'm the evil witch-demon cunt who set Nu Martyr on fire and killed half the province. 

OoooOOooOoo.."

It was hard to dodge the mocking faux-wickedness and real frustration that underscored her words. Whether Keldorl had intended to or not, the incessant suspicion had worn its last hole into Evie's patience, and as she declared herself to be Lilith Reiter she raised her hand from her forehead and threw an 'evil' finger wiggle up toward the sky like a stereotypical witch casting a malicious spell. Nothing happened, of course, and after a not-at-all-tense-moment, she tossed her cards down onto the rooftop.

"Fuck this, I fold," she stated, exhausted and weighty with disappointment. "How can I trust you to watch my back if you think I'm some kind of villainous.. I don't know, gardener? Here on my wicked task to.. what, get paid enough for five meals and a stopover bed in Veelos?

I'll pack up in the morning-- this job isn't worth the crazy."

Spoiler

For the OOC record, we cool!  Keldorl is entitled to perceive anything he wants, but factually (since precedent is a thing):

  • the sailors that dropped Phoebe off looked utterly normal as stated in the opening post because they're just cogs in the wheel
  • she carries herself like a random adventurer; subterfuge is her bread-and-butter, Phoebe's not going to trip up being a random normal person.

 

Edited by Noko

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Voices erupted throughout the hall. 

“You want to leave so quickly then go!” One voice screamed at Keldorl, a female from behind the table. 

“All you care about is the next mission. The next payday. What about the people you promised to protect?” The shadowy figure roared as the female spoke. A third person, face blanketed by darkness, “You can’t trust a single word anyone says, can you?” 

The swirls of faces, the crescendo of the yelling reaching the peak deafening his ears. 

The memory faded as reality crashed.


“Yes...” Pushing his cards to the middle, near Evie’s. “I suppose I poke and prod too much. Bad habit.” He scoffed at no one other than himself. Picking himself up, he stood, turning his back toward the woman. “You’ll get paid. I’ll see to it. I have reserve funds you can take.” 

 She has a right ya know, whoever she is. You were always one to poke the boar until it finally gored you. Trudging over to view the city, heavy steps felt heavier this night. His eyes glared at nothing and yet, they glared at everything. The streets were quiet. The night was quiet. Was, he chuckled in deprecation. How long had it been since he laughed with friends? Too long. His first discussion with someone who spoke eloquently and without grunts turned into an interrogation. “Always a fool Kel...” Whispering to himself as he sat his elbows on the concrete wall, one balled hand cupping the other and sank his chin on top.  

This was why he never got close. Why he stayed an arm's length away from anyone on a job. Distrust had sunk her teeth into him for so long that the venom had corrupted who he was. As he tied his hair back into a pony tail, he stood in silence, contemplating his next action. Alone or not, a mission was still active. 

The stars blink in and out of existence.  

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