Adventures in Ri'atal

Adventures in Ri'atal

A mixed technology world of intrigue!

905 readers have visited this universe since Blackfridayrule created it.

Introduction

It's so far past what we consider modern day that nobody is alive to know what "modern day" was like. This is a mixed technology world, so most of the people live a "medieval" type existence--riding horses, no electricity, ect. There are, spread across the land, small towns called "outposts". Generally they're simple, usually run under their own little governments, but there is an overhanging national law that dictates general rules like no theft, murder ect., and also...rules governing the rights (or lack thereof) of vokurians. To be explained. On the other side of the spectrum, there are the Colonies. They are few and far between, and the people there Ilive as close to a modern lifestyle as possible in this world. Skyscrapers (though not as grand as today's) the military has guns (think 18th century type) electricity is primitive but exists, and people get around by train or horses. Colonies are not places you just visit. If you enter, much is done to keep you there. People outside the borders dream of entering, people inside, if they weren't born there to begin with, dream of getting out.
Most of this world is unoccupied wilderness--deserts, forests, plains, mountains, whatever. The south is virtually uninhabitable because of the dangerous creatures that reside there. (and be creative with those)
The majority of existence is human, but other races exist and aren't uncommon. What those are....send me a character app, if they're non human and I like the race you've chosen, they exist. I don't really have many specifics in mind. Feel free to get creative.


So. The plot:

The mystery and intrigue of the Colonies is undeniable. Witty storytellers spin tales about them to wide eyed children in Outposts to entertain them at festivals, but no one really knows what they're like or where to find one. Until...
A strange man wanders into town, claiming he's been to not just one, but several colonies and, after sparking a conversation, offers to take whoever will follow him to one by the coast.

Will you follow him? Or will you stay in the comfort and familiarity of the Outpost?

Toggle Rules

The usual things: no godmoding, no controlling others's characters, be reasonable, be clean, ect.

And be original, guys. I may go postal if I hear anything about vampires/werewolves/demons/angels/spirits/zombies or any other painfully overused cliche.

Post often.

You MUST be an ADVANCED writer. This means considerable post length, well developed characters, and significant detail in your posts.

The Story So Far... Write a Post » as written by 2 authors

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Constance frowned at Ro's response. "I did not mean to stare at them Ro. I just," their ways of thinking really were completely different at times, "I just wanted to able to do... something for them." Constance's shoulders slumped under Rohaan's arm. Would the Vokurians even want her help. Likely not. Perhaps she should learn to simply keep her mouth shut and take Rohaan's advice. It was not that she did not trust in his word, just something about her usually wanted to defy it. Maybe to prove to him that she simply could. Either way, she did just that. Shut her mouth and let Rohaan guide her onward.

It was then that an opportunity seemed to through itself in their path. Two poor girls emerged from an small alley. One dragging the other, who was quite obviously injured. Rohaan glanced to Constance with a look that said it all. She did not know what the girl was screaming, but had a pretty good idea. Her friend, possibly her sister, was in dire need for medical attention. Constance was no doctor, but she had helped enough to know a little. As Rohaan kneeled beside the girl, Constance took the opposite side assessing the girl's wounds. The most life threatening likely being the protruding arrow. Green eyes flashed quickly to Ro's in silent communication that they would have to remove it to help her. He was already shirtless and sopping up the girl's glittering blood.

Constance quickly went to work as well, motioning for the other girl's cloak. She seemed to quickly understand and gave it freely. Pushing Rohann's already soaked shirt to the side, she then used to cloak to help with the rest. "We have to remove the arrow, Rohaan." This was said quietly in between Rohaan's conversation with the girl, that Constance assumed was chatter to keep her alert. Constance was sure he knew as much already.

When he asked if she could sew, she glanced up with a mixed look of horror, disbelief and confusion. "I-I, I'm alright at it, but my," she looked down at her arm. Now, was not the time to make excuses or doubt her ability. Clearing her face of any worry, she nodded, "Yes, but we need to hurry." Rohaan had already instructed the girl to retrieve the supplies needed. Together they worked to dislodge the arrow. It was a grueling process during which Constance nearly chewed a layer of skin from the inside of her lip.

Rohaan did his best to calm the girl. Later Constance would commend him on his sweet efforts, but now she could think of little else aside from stopping the girl's bleeding. The arrow had been removed when the other girl returned with sewing materials, the type used for clothing. Constance cast Rohaan a worried look as she reached for the the girl's findings. Pain shot up her injured arm. Hesitation was all she showed of it, before she took the needle and thread. With Rohaan's help they managed to provide her with some decent stitches and at the very least, managed to seal the wound and stop any further bleeding.

As they snipped the last of the thread, Rheaj skidded to a halt next to them. "Gi'io'au'ri!" It took him a moment to access the situation, there was shock in his eyes once again, even after the breakfast conversation. Quickly he recovered, "The other's and I are going after the Ji'ci'ira. A few of them got away. Adau will tell you more, but," Constance did not miss the twin's accusing glance to the human, "It was as if they were looking for something. It might be best if we found them. Fast."

Constance's eyes flashed to Rohaan filled with panic and fear. What did that mean? Were they looking for her? Was Constance the reason they came? Was she truly responsible for all of this? Her chest felt pained and she quickly grabbed at it. A dizziness in her head followed, causing her to drop both the needle and thread and stumble backward. The last thing she remembered was gray sky.

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Silver blood wetted my hands as they became increasingly slippery. That arrow needed to be dealt with, but i hesitated to tear it out just yet. If her sister couldn't find sewing materials in time and we pulled the arrow free, her chances of bleeding out increased exponentially. Even now, with the arrow still lodged into her shoulder, she was losing a graphic amount of blood and wouldn't last long.
"Iri'eio, tol ginauanji a'ae...tol ginauanji a'ae."
Iri'eio didn't speak at first, but instead her hand near dragged to my pantleg and just gripped it. She was weak, but her grip was still pretty solid. That was a vokurian--a fighter to the end. "Nonyeh unur..." ((get rid of the arrow)) she said softly but desperately.
"Tol," ((in this context, "wait")) I said, like a captain telling his archers to hold their fire.

The younger sister came back and near thrust the needle and thread into Constance's hands. She was doubtful of her ability, but at this rate, anything would be helpful. "Iri'eio, tol ginauanji a'ae," i told her again, but this time my tone was different, almost cautious, like she was supposed to glean some kind of warning from it. She apparently did, because her grip on my pants tightened suddenly and she sucked in a shallow breath and held it. "A'aita..." i said before i placed one hand on her chest and the other around the shaft of the arrow. I had to take a few breaths, myself, lest i lose my concentration and do something stupid. "La, jo, cahn! ((1, 2, 3)) With sudden force, I pulled up on the arrow, pushed down on her shoulder and tore the weapon free from her flesh. Iri'eio screamed, though the cry was sharp and shortlived due to her inability to take deep breaths and get adequate air into her lungs. Almost immediately, blood began to pour faster out of the now open wound, and that's when Constance hesitatnly stepped in to sew it up. I could tell she didn't want to, likely out of fear of doing something wrong and further injuring the girl, but she managed to finally stitch the woman's wound back together At this point, she was barely conscious and I could feel her grip on my pantleg loosening gradually. In that moment, like a child longing for his parents in a storm, I wanted Berlin at my side, so much so that a sick feeling struck my stomach when i told myself that wasn't possible. Berlin would know what to do. Berlin would know how to save her.

Agonizing minutes ticked by with the chorus of harrowing cries still carrying with the wind. The younger sister was in silent hysterics, and while she stood frozen in place, shaking like a frightened dog, i noticed that no parent came to their aid. No grandparent or aunt, not even some form of adopted godfather came to answer the girl's call for help. Just us. It occurred to me then that they had no parents, and this young girl depended on Iri'eio. They were all they had left. My throat began to feel increasingly dry. Finally, Constance was done, just as Rheaj suddenly halted before us. He took a second to drink the situation in before speaking further, telling us that the Ci'deia was going after the ji'ci'ira responsible. One thing he said that really struck me, however, was the fact that these soldiers seemed to be looking for something. Or someone. It clicked, then. The last time we made contact with humans, Constance escaped from her captor and I escaped prison. They came looking for us. A twisting sensation wrenched through my stomach as again I lay eyes on Iri'eio's bleeding figure.

"Ja'aisen!" Rheaj's voice was as quick as his arm; he reached quickly out to catch a falling Constance before she could hit the ground. Both of us cursed and the younger girl allowed small, "eep!" to escape her clenched lips. Now what was I supposed to do? I had an injured woman, an unconscious partner-in-crime, and vigilanti justice to uphold. "Gi'io'au'ri, if you're going, you ought to do it now..."
"Rheaj...a'ae--" I didn't know how to answer him.
"Stay, Rohaan," came Audaj's voice. I turned to the left to face him, and it seemed like he'd already taken his account of the situation before approaching. "Get help for the girl and stay with Constance. Things have turned ugly around here--honestly, I don't trust her in any other care than ours, for her sake. Get someone to help you and move them both back to the house--it's still standing, as far as I know. My crew and I will go after the soldiers....this time, I want a prisoner...to show them what it's like to be tortured..." His voice was dark and threatening, much like Shadow's when she was angry, and honestly sent a chill through my spine. Audaj was deadly serious and he meant exactly what he said.
I just nodded and watched them go for a half second before calling over for someone to help me bring both Iri'eio and Constance into Audaj's home.
And then a sickening, gloomy thought touched my mind.
Just how many people like Iri'eio were there in the village, exactly?

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"No, no. I'm fine. Really," Constance insisted to the woman whom she suspected that Rohaan instructed to watch after her. "I was just... " she struggled for the right words, though it was not like the woman would even understand, "dizzy. Maybe from the blood lost," she forced an excuse that sounded reasonable. The woman just looked back to her with slightly fearful eyes and offered her the damp cloth again. "No. I said I was fine. I'm getting up now." This time she did not wait for the woman to try and understand. Constance was up and out of the bed before the Vokurian could protest.

Looking around, Constance found that while she had been unconscious, the Ci'deia's home had become a makeshift village hospital. Rohaan's doings, she guessed and warmed a little. Rohaan's actions today were swirling about in her head. All around her Vokurinas were helping and treating the ones injured during the attack. The woman from the orphanage was there as well, wrapping up a young man's leg. Constance's hand went mindlessly to her arm. For a moment she only stared around the open rooms. Every drop of silver blood that was shed this morning was on her hands. She knew it. The wave of dizziness from before threatened her again as the thought sunk. This time she fought it and gripped at a chair for support. No matter how much she wanted to be with Rohaan, there was no justification to putting others in harm's way.

The woman from before was right there at her side once again, speaking words that Constance did not understand but assumed she was trying to get her back in that bed. "No. Um, Je." Constance waved her hand around the room with growing frustration, "Help the others. Help them, not me." I don't deserve it. The woman only looked back to her with confusion. This situation was becoming overwhelming. This woman did not understand her. There were people all around who needed immediate help. Being helpless was not suiting to her. With a aggravated huff and a quick glance around the room, she found the two sisters that her and Rohaan had helped earlier. "If you do not understand me," she grumbled, "then I will just have to show you what I mean."

Constance found that the injured sister had already been patched up pretty well. Bandages were covering her chest and her hand was in a homemade stint. The girl appeared to be sleeping while the other was diligently looking over her sibling. Now that the two of them were cleaned up there was no denying their relationship. Constance approached the bed and took the girl's wrist in one hand, placing two fingers near the base of her hand. The girl's pulse was weak, but still there. That was a good sign, she hoped.

After seeing to the sister, Constance went to the next bed, that was actually just a blanket thrown on the floor. It was the blind man who had freed Rohaan last night. He had done something wonderful for them only hours ago and this is the thank that he recieved. It looked like he took a stab wound to the stomach, very similar to the wound Rohaan had took days ago. Constance crouched down beside him. It was so busy, no one was seeing to him at the moment. The rag absorbing his blood was past the point of being full. Constance shook her head and quickly went about removing it and placing a fresh piece atop his oozing wound. "C-can you hear me?" she asked softly as she gripped his hand. Constance did not know if he could speak her language, but she hated to see him alone after what he had done for Rohaan. A small nod was his answer to her. "My name is Constance. Thank you for what you did last night, for Rohaan."

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"Je! Je!" The black haired woman was almost frantic, but she was somewhat distant with Constance as well. A part of her feared the other woman for what she was, but the weathered blonde, Gi'io'au'ri, she could trust and he told her to look after this woman. As the human woman resisted her, she found that the blonde lived up to his name. Phantom, he was called, and phantom he was. She wished he was with her to act as a buffer between the two of them if things went sour. "Tol!" ((stay)) she urged, but the woman again rebelled. She spoke, but the vokurian could only catch two recognizable words: 'no' and 'blood', and eventually no again, but in her native language. The human stood, shakily of course, and went about checking other people in the room. The girl was honestly too flustered to say anything else at that point. Not only was she supposed to be watching her, but she was a human and was making a huge effort to...to help vokurians. The image was positively baffling, but kind of nice at the same time. So, shyly and uncomfortably, the vokurian stood by and watched, ready to step in if needed.

When Constance approached the blind old man, Ganion, he acknowledged her presence by reaching up to touch her face. He scowled lightly; he didn't recognize her by her voice or her face, but two words finally helped him make the connection: Constance and Rohaan. "Cohnstaance," he repeated with a heavy accent. "A'ae ginauanji ira..." ((I'm close to death)) A bittersweet smile touched his lips slightly. "Nonyeh a'ae." ((let me go))

"Je! Je'nonyeh ja'ni!" I hardly realized I spoke to Constance in vokurian until several seconds afterward. Things had been so hectic since I began herding injured people into Audaj's home. It was the best place for them--the building was one of the largest in the village, which wasn't saying much. But now people would call after me for aid while they waited for their turn and while I dashed around like a madman in search of supplies and such. I barely had a moment to think. "Sorry," i said. "What I meant to say was, don't let him go...he's asking for you to let him die."
"Rohaan..." he said, merely acknowledging my presence."
"Hi'a, he's bleeding everywhere..." My eyes scanned the man's broken figure for a moment before an idea struck me. The cocktail! Of course! I reached for it quickly, but found only my bare chest. Right. My shirt was lost in the fray of bloodied cloth and my jacket and bandolier were outside by the door. spinning on my heel, i bolted outside, leaping over weakened bodies on the floor to find my bandolier. Strapping it across my chest, it felt better to have it's familiar weight against my torso. I ran back inside and dug for the vials of the bizzarre blackish liquid and cracked one open so i could pour some of it into Ganion's mouth. Instantly he wanted to spit it out, coughing and sputtering and making a twisted, puckering face that suggested it tasted absolutely rancid, but that quickly faded as it set in. I couldn't give him the whole thing--other people needed its help too--but he had enough to curb the pain. I gave half the other vials to Constance. "Here, distribute it as best you can to those who need it most. And--" i stopped myself. "How are you feeling?" The question was rushed but sincere. After she answered, voices outside caught my attention. In a panic, i quickly explained to someone what to do with the cocktail vials and told them to distribute the medicine before running back outside.

A blue dragon came down from the sky and made a purposely rough landing. In the process, it managed to toss an armored body around like a dog shakes a piece of meat and the man's face dragged in the dirt. Thin gray lines of smoke oozed out from the dragon's leathery nostrils--Somewhere, something, or someone, was burning.
"Rheaj! That's enough! I want him capable enough to be interrogated. If you feel more damage should be done, then you can crush his legs. He won't need them anymore." Audaj's voice was venimous as he called out to his understudy after shifting from a swallow form. Da'ehra and Kidau did the same just as Ji'ien arrived in the form of a horse. However, he carried an additional figure upon his equine back--a young woman, only a couple years younger than Constance, with sleek blonde hair that hung almost halfway down her back and was now matted with both silver and red blood in some places. Already she had bruises forming on her face and her arms as they clung to Ji'ien's neck as tightly as tentacles; It was obvious she'd been rescued from the greedy hands of the soldiers and it was all too obvious, to me anyway, why they wanted her. Girls, when turned in for a bounty, were worth much more than boys. Ji'ien shifted back and swung the girl around to his front, even though she still hung to his neck. Her blue eyes were empty and hollow; she was in shock. Since she refused to let go of Ji'ien, he just scooped her up with his arms under her shoulders and knees and carried her to the house next door. A shudder racked my spine that rivaled any of winter's chill.
The soldier didn't say much either, but I felt no pity for him and his frightened tears. He didn't apologize for his actions; instead he just hoped beyond hope that the blue dragon with the leathery white nose wouldn't really crush his legs. Rheaj, however, was not so merciful and quite literally jumped on the opportunity to cause the man pain. While some part of me enjoyed the retribution, at this point, it nearly made me sick. Enough blood had been spilled this morning.

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The sensation of having her face touched was awkward but Constance only forced a smile. Something the old man could feel under his fingers. The words he spoke were lost to her and she shook her head softly that she did not understand then patted the wrinkled hand on her face. It was then that another voice spoke to her, in Vokurian as well. Constance had to look away from the old man to realize that it was Rohaan who spoke. He had likely been using in his native tongue all morning, at least in the past hour or so. At first she was unsure if Rohaan had been speaking to her or the old blacksmith, then he apologized and spoke again in Ri'atalian.

His translation might as well been in Vokurian, for his words were still confusing. Constance's brow scrunched a little to show her misunderstanding. How could she control whether the man lived or died? Glazed green eyes moved from Rohaan to the old men as her grip tightened on his hands as if that alone would keep him from death. "Je," she said to him in a soft but commanding tone. Too many had died this morning and though she knew not what she could do to prevent this one, she was determined not to allow it. Silently she willed the man to live as he acknowledged Rohaan's presence and Rohaan mumbled the obvious, but sad truth. Again, Constance removed the soaked rags and started to add fresh ones. Before she could finish, Rohaan hopped up from their sides and ran off. She looked after him for a second in exasperated confusion, before she quickly returned to the rags. "What is that man doing?", she mumbled to herself as she desperately attempted to mop up the silver blood.

Moments later, just as she had finished and was applying pressure to the man's wound, Rohaan returned. Constance had no time to realize Rohaan's actions, as he quickly began force feeding the old man something. Constance reached out her hand to protest as the man tried to spit out the liquid. "Rohaan! What are y...", then she realized it was the contents of the black vials Berlin had given them days earlier. What had they called it? The cocktail. Understanding set in on her features as she watched the old man's face grow slack. He wasn't dead and likely was not in any pain either. Constance prayed that it would help him.

Not wasting any time, Rohaan thrust several of the vials in her hands with instructions to distribute their contents to others in need. Constance only nodded and rose with him, ready to do as he told. Without further words, the two began to separate, Constance already in search of whom to give the next sip to, when Rohaan turned sharply and asked how she was feeling. The sentiment was rushed, but a note in his tone and the look in his eyes were sincere. For a split second she met his eyes with hers that voiced unspoken words. In nearly the same rushed tone, she replied, "I'm fine. Go!" With a sense of urgency she turned away from him not waiting for any response or to see where he was headed.

For the next few moments Constance was consumed with both the injured and uninjured Vokurians. It was frustrating how many of the un-wounded did not want her, the human, putting any unknown liquid into their loved one's mouth. Thankfully the other girl that Rohaan instructed was quick to step in and help with the explanations. Even after that, Constance still caught their scrutinizing and sometimes fearful looks. But then there would be one for every several that would look her in the eyes and thank her with honest sincerity and that sent her agility out the window. It was enough to spark an interest in medicine and wonder why she never thought to study it before.

Several minutes and seven empty vials later, Constance stood back to look around the room. The entire atmosphere had changed. It was calm and near quiet except for a few muffled sobs and cries of those weeping. Not tears of pain, but those of sorrow and perhaps hope. Wiping her brow on her shirt sleeve, Constance decided she needed some air. On the way to the door she made sure to stop by the old man again. He seemed to be sleeping, but was still breathing. Switching out the rags again, she was happy to see that his bleeding had finally stopped. With a smile, she stood again looking for Rohaan to tell him the hopefully good news. Her Vokurian was no where to be found.

Constance went to the door of the house and emerged into the cooler that made a rush for her exposed forearms. There she found Rohaan, immediately locking her gaze, she strode over and stopped, facing only him. "His bleeding finally stopped. I think the cocktail is keeping him from pain. I think he will be alr..." Constance's voice trailed and for the first time she registered the scene around her. The members of the Ci'deia were gathered all around staring stonily at one spot. Her eyes brushed over their faces before she followed their gaze to the base of a tree. There a hunter lay, beaten and bloody and severely injured from the waste down, with his back pressed firmly into the truck. His eyes, brown, had been looking fearfully from each of the blue-eyed Vokurians, until Constance came out. Now he was only looking at her, wide-eyed and staring baffled, likely at the fact that she was clearly not of silver blood.

It took less than a blink to process what was happening. The Ci'deia had found a hunter and even though Constance was fully aware of the pain and torture him and his band just put the Vokurian village through, still the sight and realization of their intentions took her aback. Without another word, she only stepped closer to Rohaan and gripped his arm for support.

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Constance's cold hands coiled around my bare arm, adding to the pre-existing chill that leeched all heat from my body. This made me turn to her for just a second, my eyes tearing away from the screaming soldier and the white and cobalt dragon breathing angry smoke over his broken frame. Something about the whole scene just broke my heart. I don't know if it was the blood on both my and Constance's hands. I dont' know if it was Rheaj's rage and his readiness to cause serious harm to the human that lay under his scaly feet. I don't know if it was the frightened expression of absolute fear in the poor woman's eyes as she clutched to Ji'ien like a raft in a stormy sea. Whatever it was, it conjured a twisting, sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, and yet it brought forth a deeply rooted pain and anger that made my ears burn despite the cold weather. In a lot of ways, I enjoyed watching the soldier squirm in pain, watching him try (and fail) to fight back tears. He deserved it, did he not? He was actively a part of the ruthless marauding that went on that morning, wasn't he? That alone made me furious. However, I knew what it was like to be put on the other end of the situation. I knew what it was like to be tortured until death seemed like a more appealing option than ever seeing daylight again. To watch it happen to someone else was hard.

"Ira ja'ni!" It was the first time the traumatized woman spoke, or even tried to, and her voice cut through the stagnant air like a sword, even as it trembled and cracked slightly. "Ira ja'ni! Ja'ni ira a'ae u'eio!" (kill him! He killed my friend!!)
"Rheaj!" Audaj spoke quickly, interrupting the girl before the dragon could respond. "Don't. Remember, I want him alive for questioning."
"But...didn't you hear her? Don't you know what they would have done with her had they escaped? They were going to hang her, Audaj! Turn her in for a prize and hang her for those ji'ci'ira to watch!" Rheaj protested.
Darkly, Audaj answered, "his time will come. But not until i'm through with him..."

The soldier managed to point a quivering finger at Constance and I as he put on a wicked smile that he seemed to pull from out of nowhere, like he had some hidden reserve of confidence that he didn't tap into until then. "This is your fault, Phoenix. And you too, woman. If you had any wits about you, you'd have given yourselves up and saved a great many lives, however worthless they might have been..." He opened his mouth to say more until Rheaj shifted his weight so that he crushed the man's legs even further; a scream tore from his lips.
Anger burned in my chest. How dare he! After a comment like that, even I wanted to kill him--the other wrongdoings he committed just gave me all the more reason to finish him off. But that wasn't my business. Audaj would take care of that--maybe not at first, but he would, of that i was certain. I was also certain that things, from here on out, would go surely downhill with this soldier, and he would be resistant. Resistance was always met with a quick fist or a sharp claw in situations like that, and, of course, there was the inevitability of spilled blood. Constance didn't need that. I didn't need that.

"C'mon," i said to Constance, once more tearing my eyes away. "Let's go on back inside...there's work to be done."

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Constance did not feel anything for a moment. Not cold, not heartbreak, not vengeance, just an utter numbness. It was as if she had been put in a trance, she only bore at those around her as if she was separate from the whole ordeal. Truly an outsider looking in. She didn't move, didn't blink and possibly didn't even breath.

Watching through the gauzy state of her mind, she saw rather than heard the Vokurian girl cry out. Constance was not sure where the girl had came from, only that she just noticed her. With wide eyes, she looked slowly from the girl to A'da, to the dragon, then back to the hunter. Constance could not even tell if the dragon was speaking or who the dragon was. It was the icey tone of A'da that finally triggered a reaction in Constance's body. The promise of brutality in his voice began to slowly bring her back, as if being lifted from quick sand.

It was then the hunter took a threatening turn and his finger shot up, clearly pointing in the direction of Constance and Rohaan. His words provoked instant trembling, starting in her hands. As he spoke, her mouth fell open and she felt struck as she inhaled a short, icy breath. The weight of his words hit her like a boulder, so much so that she may have even stumbled back. The beaten hunter confirmed the thoughts she had been struggling with. It was her fault.

The hunter's rant ended in a tortured scream that had Constance spinning on her heal, now feeling dizzy and faint. Within seconds, Rohaan was again leading her away, back to the house, telling her there was work to be done. For a moment, she just let him or followed him, it was a mechanical reaction. When they were almost to the house, but significantly away from the Ci'deia, Constance stopped in her tracks.

"No." Shaking, she brought one trembling hand up to her mouth as if to filter a sob and looked to Rohaan with huge, scared, green eyes. "No, Rohaan. He's right," she waved her hand back toward the hunter. "He's so right. This is all my fault. I shouldn't even be here. It's putting everyone else in danger." The hand covering her mouth went to hair to rake through the curls in a nervous manner. "I just want to be with you... but... for this? I'm just as guilty as he is. I should be the one they're killing. I... I...", covering her mouth again, her eyes darted, clearly she finished her thoughts in her mind. Constance had been trying to keep calm, trying to be strong, but what was she really doing? Who was she fooling? These people should not be being nice to her, should not be treating her in any kind of special manner. Even if she was pretty sure she was falling for one of their own.

That didn't matter. None of it matters. Again, she looked to Rohaan with frantic eyes. In her mind she knew she had to leave. It was best for everyone. He was not alone anymore, he was surrounded by Vokurians who respected him and would want him to stay. He did not need Constance anymore. A thousand logical thoughts crossed her mind as to why he would be better off without her, all of which her heart completely rejected. No, her heart would not let her get even one step away from him. Their conversation last night meant nothing. Her heart knew her words were a lie, and who exactly was she protecting with those lies. Herself or Rohaan?

"Oh, Ro," she choked out to her partner in crime, who was undoubtedly looking at her like she was a crazy person. "I'm sorry," Constance whispered, still shaking, "I don't... I..." Even she was unclear as to what exactly she was saying or trying to say. She felt guilty and selfish and vile for wanting him. For wanting to be with him, knowing that it only bring disaster. Her arms moved on their own accord as they lifted and wrapped around his neck, ignoring the throbbing pain in her arm and in her thigh as she stood on the tips of her toes.

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As we walked away from the increasingly violent scene, Constance suddenly halted and just lost it, tears and all in her frightened green eyes as they looked pleadingly up at me, like i could help her. She felt so guilty, saying that all the deaths were her fault. For a moment and only a moment, a thought crossed my mind: if this truly was her fault, and I was the one who got her into this in the first place...would it not make it my fault? The idea brought a quick twist to the pit of the stomach, but my own instinct of survival and preservation kicked in, telling me that no, it wasn't my fault. Berlin always said that I couldn't blame myself for anything and everything that followed a particular action. He told me I had my part to play, but so did the rest of the world and I couldn't count myself responsible for their actions. Sometimes I lived by this, other times I failed to see it.
"Constance, you can't do that...you might have been a spark, but if there wasn't a load of kindling already there, nothing would have happened. To be real honest, they'd come here eventually, whether you were involved or not--it's a fact. B-but you can't blame yourself. You didn't even know it would happen...."

Constance stuttered over something for a moment before throwing her hands around my neck as she stood on her tip-toes. in another situation, I might have tensed up a little and found an excuse to separate from her, but this didn't bother me. It was less...intimate and more...supportive. My own arms found their way around her shoulders. "Tele'a'jahi..." (be at peace) I whispered. "Je'gata vio'ae." (you're not to blame). "This is part of the life you chose, Constance. You're an outlaw now and you have to understand that people will always be coming for you, hunting you..." I pulled away, just enough to look into her eyes. "Ji'au'ri--that's what we're called..."those who are hunted". It's...not an easy route. But the important thing is...what i'm trying to say is you didn't cause this. Even if you and i never came, those soldiers would have come and done this--it's what they do. They've done it for centuries. You can't blame yourself for all this because, sadly, it would have happened with or without you. I don't mean to be harsh but....but that's how it is. Don't you remember that I'm Ri'atal's most wanted?" The last part was meant mostly as a joke, something to lighten the mood a bit, but it was still true. I /was/ Ri'atal's most wanted and there were complications and obstacles that came with that--obstacles that Constance would have to overcome.


(((SOOOO sorry for the delay! College eats your life!!!)))

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Did Rohaan really believe that? That this attack would have happened anyway? That instead of going about their normal lives this morning that they would have still ended up injured and dying even if Constance and Rohaan hadn't came? It was tough to swallow. Da'ehra and Ji'ien did say, just that morning, that the attacks were happening more and more often. That they needed to move. But they couldn't move now. Not with a house full of wounded.

Rohaan's Vokurian words did help to calm her down somewhat. That and the comfort of just being in his arms for a few moments. When he pulled back, she met his eyes. He was right of course, she did choose this. Choose him. Would she have if she knew some many were going to get hurt? Looking back into his gorgeous blue eyes, she was afraid of the answer to that questions. While he was speaking she lowered her hands to rest on his chest, realizing now that he was shirtless and probably freezing and here she was keeping him out in the cold. After he finished, her only reaction was to study him for a moment. As if to see if he was telling her the truth or simply what she needed to hear. Either way, she finally nodded.

Constance was bordering an emotional breakdown, but fought it with every fiber of her being. To loose control, would be selfish. She had to keep it together for Rohaan and for the others. There were wounded inside and here she was, outside having a pity party. Gently, she pushed away from Rohaan, nodding again. "You're right. There's work to be done." Her voice was lacking, but it was the best she could muster.

((It's okay, mine is short too.))

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Constance surveyed me for some time, likely studying me as well as trying to figure out her own feelings and thoughts on the matter. Something in her eyes s truck me as familiar--something I'd seen before, both in others and by looking in the mirror on occasion. I remembered a particular job the Cyradan did some six years ago that ended poorly; The crew was locked up in one of the more formidable and well-prepared Outpost prisons I'd seen in my career (if it could be called such a thing) and our captors even had the wherewithal to not only capture me, but they did it properly, tio'ira and all. Usually, when the crew was facing capture, we had something of a code that said every man must fight to the end in defense of his brother or sister in arms, and I fell outside of that code for the sake of a backup plan. Berlin instructed me to escape at all costs so that later on I could liberate the rest. This particular time, that plan failed. Things looked pretty grim, and one member, new blood that went by the Cyradanian name of Soho, who never did adjust to the life of a bandit and later retire to pursue the 'straight and narrow', nearly lost it as he sat in the jail cell. I remembered the look in his eyes, the frantic expression that signaled an oncoming wave of choking panic. The lengths we went to to get Berlin in physical contact with him so that he could forcibly calm him down were comical, looking back on it, and altogether desperate. We managed to escape alright, but I won't ever forget Soho's eyes when he snapped.
Constance wasn't there yet, but i could see that same look brewing in her eyes.

She turned, saying that there was work to be done in a listless tone. "Whuh-whoa, wait." I reached out to gently touch her shoulder. "Yes, there's work to be done, but you're no good to anyone half-snapped. If you're gonna go back in there, then just take a minute and breathe. Okay? I need you with me, a'ae ginauanji," I said, tapping my forehead. "Remember, you didn't cause this. Don't think for a minute that you did; don't listen to what the soldier said--he's just trying to fire you up because he knows he can. Don't let him get to you. Ok?" My hand, almost of its own volition, came to touch her cheek and rest there a moment in an effort to console her a little, but it felt strange to me. Goodness, it'd been so long since....
I blinked, pushing my own thoughts aside and focusing back on the present. These people needed help and they needed to move. They weren't far from the mountains and though the road would be a hard one, if they settled there, it would offer them protection that they desperately needed. But now they had more to move than just homes--they had wounded people that couldn't make the trek on their own--and if the Ji'ci'ira decided to strategize a bit, they could be waiting just outside of town before making another assault. These people needed something more than the Ci'deia and Constance and I.

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When Rohaan touched her shoulder, Constance's eyes drug back up from the ground to meet his. He was right again, she did need to calm down, but for Constance she found it easier just to put things out of her mind and concentrate on others. Easier but perhaps not best. It was always her face that gave it away. The girl had rarely been good at keeping her emotions, her feeling, her anxieties to herself. It was, however, something that seemed to be improving throughout this journey. She was about to shrug it off and say the usual 'I'm fine' when Rohaan's hand came up and touched her cheek.

Constance knew that he was just trying to comfort her. Trying to assure her that things were as they were going to be with or without her presence. With that being known, as soon as he touched her, her eyes fluttered shut and she inhaled a short, sharp breath. This is what she wanted. Him. Comforting her, soothing her, wrapping her in his arms. Right behind that split second of bliss was a moment of sharp, festering pain, like added salt to a fresh wound. Constance knew she couldn't have what she wanted. Knew that it was for the best that way and perhaps easier too. Instead of throwing herself into his arms and covering his jawline in kisses, she put on her best emotionless smile and simply opened her eyes to look toward him again.

After a moment, she then mustered a smile that she hoped was reassuring and convincing all in one. "I'm fine, Ro. Really. No one's getting to me." Except for maybe, you. Of course she was not really fine but fine enough to move on and get done what needed to be done. Or so she thought anyway. "And thank you... I'm not going anywhere, Ro. I'm staying with you."

It was then, looking up at Rohaan, that Constance suddenly did not care anymore of being strong and keeping her emotions hidden. If she was going to be here dealing with all of this, then she did need to be with him. Not lying to him. Suddenly she no longer cared if he did not feel the same. It did not matter at the moment. She just needed him to know how she felt. And in Constance's experience, her actions always spoke louder than her words.

With that conclusion of raced thought, Constance stood on the tips of her toes and conformed her body to Rohaan's. With her hands on each side of his face, she pulled it to hers until their lips met. In that one moment, of pure passion and bold honestly, her mind was only on Rohaan. The undeniable emotions that had been building for him the second he covered her in a blanket the very night he captured her broke free and there was likely no turning back.

There was no more denial. No more holding back. No more lying. No more hunters. No more injured. Just him and her. In that moment, things were perfect.

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"Fine?" I asked, cocking a straw colored eyebrow slightly. "I'd beg to differ," I teased, ending with, "alright, if you say so. But if you need a moment, or someone to talk to, or food or something, don't hesitate to step aside. Like I said, I need you with me." I offered a small smile and Constance just stared back at me. Something in her eyes just....changed. I didn't understand what it was at the time, I just saw this flash of thought run through her face as she paused in silence for a few long, drawn out seconds. And then she moved. She extended her reach by standing on the end of her toes, her cold hands resting against my unshaven cheeks as she pressed against my body and brought her lips to mine.

I had so many reactions, I wasn't sure exactly how I felt. At first my lungs almost involuntarily drew in a sharp breath through my nose and my body flinched away, just slightly. Then i found myself moving into her, felt my hands sliding across her shoulders and the back of her neck. No sooner had I done that, I started to feel a twinge of guilt as I remembered Hunter--it felt so wrong to be with Constance like this, and yet it felt so right. No matter what I did, though, my lips didn't leave hers. I felt as though I couldn't stay and somehow I couldn't leave.

I pulled away just long enough to take another breath and to say, "mmmconstance....you're...horrible for doing this...to me." Oh gracious, why couldn't I stop this? "Toying with..my emotions....you're so.....mean." I thought about pulling away again--fully away--but i couldn't. Instead i just leaned in again, enjoying her warmth and....just...her. Being there with her, the two of us together, nothing and no one to stop us....

Finally i stepped back, but my hands stayed on around her shoulders. My eyes were bright and they locked onto hers. "You do make this hard, Constance. And yet you make it so easy....I'm not totally sure how i feel about what just happened but...but i'd be lying if i said it wasn't fun..." a tiny smile touched my lips.

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Even after Rohaan finally pulled away, and honestly she was glad he had for she felt she would have never had the will power or the strength to do so herself, Constance kept her eyes shut. In a moment she tried to control her breathing to a normal state once again, which was nearly impossible as all she could focus on was the taste of Rohaan's lips, the feeling of his hand on her neck, the excitement of being so close to him... Yet so far away.

Slowly and only after inhaling a short breath and letting out a soft sigh, Constance opened her forest green eyes to settle on Rohaan's. Perhaps a mistake there, for when she saw the vibrant blue eyes gazing back at her, her heart nearly leaped out of her chest and the earlier impulse washed over her again. Almost forcibly, she let go of his face and took a step backward drawing her hands backward and close to her as if they had been stung.

Fun. Just fun? Toying with him? Some of Rohaan's words, spoken just seconds ago, started to register in her brain. Is that what I'm doing? Is that was he thinks I'm doing? Anxiety spread as her features crumbled into a worrisome frown. "I... I... I'm sorry. I... I... just..." Constance stumbled and stammered over the simple words like a school child caught in a lie. Truth. Truth! Something screamed inside of her. Truth? The truth was ridiculous and impossible.

Constance forced herself to focus, to regain control of her voice. To curb any emotions that threatened to spill from either her eyes or her mouth. Frantically she searched for a way to end this. To end this situation. With more power then she thought she had over such things, she quickly turned the worried frown in one of nonchalance. Even threw in a one shouldered shrug. "Fun. Yeah... Fun."

Her eyes searched his a moment, before taking another step backward putting her closer to the door, her hand going to the bandage on her arm. "Um, this hurts... I should probably get someone to look at it... You need a shirt." With that lame excuse uttered, Constance turned on her heel and made a beeline for the door to the makeshift infirmary.

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We pulled away. The chill of the winter air stung my lips and the underside of my hand as they no longer touched her warm body, and all over again I had a rush of whirling feelings. My stomach twisted in regret. Oh, what had I done? Sure, she made the first move, but i went along with it, i went right along! Considering all I said earlier about not being able to do this so quickly, i probably was sending all sorts of confusing mixed signals to the poor woman. I shouldn't have done that. Why did I do that?
Because I wanted it. That's why. That much was clearly apparent as I almost had to force my hands back down at their sides to keep from embracing her again. The feeling was so natural and right that it seemed strange that all i could think to myself was that i shouldn't feel that way...that I couldn't. Maybe it was my ego, my 'legend' manifesting within me. The elusive Rohaan Ja'aisen can't fall in love! He doesn't fall in love, he answers to no one and gives himself to no one. That's how the rumors went. And a part of me began to believe it. After all, how could someone like me, someone so impermanent and reckless ever fully understand love?
And then I remembered I did. There was a time when I gave myself, all of myself, to another person. A woman. A woman I loved. Yes, i loved her. I remembered my devotion to her and the way i felt when she smiled at me or when she spoke my name. I remember the joy i felt when she was happy. So Rheoaan Ja'aisen was capable of love. The question was, was this love?

Constance pulled back like my very figure was venomous and became withdrawn. Had I said something? Done something? Perhaps I did it all wrong.
"Fun. Yeah. Fun..." the words came out like bricks; slowly, heavily and with almost some...what was that? Not regret... Wait! i wanted to shout. That wasn't what i meant! But before I could explain myself, she was already off and changing the subject. I watched her go and couldn't move for a moment. What was I supposed to do? What was i supposed to say? I didn't know and I had no way of knowing--i could hardly even decipher my own thoughts and emotions.

"Dun just stand there, Rohaan...." The voice made me turn sharply to find Ji'ien, who was likely ordered to stay in the infirmary and do what he could while Audaj and the others interrogated the captive soldier. He'd given the traumatized vokurian to his two female comrades to be taken care of, and on his way back, he saw Constance and I and our...exchange. His hair, crazy and multi-directional, matched the wild, bright look in his blue eyes, and he wore a small grin.
Turning back towards the door, i murmured, "It's not like that, Ji'ien..." No, it's much more complicated than that...
"Jo'a!" ((liar))
I dont know what happened, but i swiveled around on the ball of my foot, caught his shirt in one hand and his face against the open palm of another. Ji'ien yelped like a startled dog whose tail had been stepped on, but, grinning, he retaliated with a teasing strike of his own--his hand, of course, stayed open. In real fights, vokurian used fists. in little scuffles, only open hand-strikes were acceptable. "Quiet, you..." i growled, using my grip on his shirt to twist him into a more submissive position
"Aa-oo!" he howled in pain as i contorted his arm behind his back. Still, he was chuckling. "Tele'a'jahi! Oi! There ain't nothin' wrong with it, I'm just sayin'..."
"Well don't."
"Why not? She feels a'ayan to you, don't you see it?" ((lit: "a high degree of loyalty" but is also the word for love))
"Yes, yes I do," i admitted quietly. "But i'd rather not speak of it."
"Why not?" he asked again. he twisted his head up in an attempt to look at mine, in turn making his plumes of hair tickle my neck. He studied my face for a moment, then, as his eyes trailed down to the bronze coin tying off my small braid, it clicked. "Oh. Oh I see." He relaxed in my grip--a surrender--and i let him up. "Can't let her go, mm?"
"Silence, Ji'ien."
"It's okay to," he continued, despite my warning glare. "My mum wore the bronze too, but she found her gold. You can too, Phoenix." (("wearing the bronze" is a term that describes wearing the bronze coin--it means to be widowed. "wearing the gold" refers to finding love again and adding a gold coin in addition to the bronze one.))
I turned away, back towards the infirmary and answered him in a small voice, "i have things to do, Ji'ien. Come help with the injured." Wordlessly and like a disappointed dog, he followed and set about being useful. My eyes sought out constance as I stepped through the door. What needed to be done? Finding clothing again would come when i had a moment to do so, partly because my time was better spent in the infirmary than looking for a shirt and partly because it'd get bloodied anyhow.

Ji'ien, in the midst of carrying out soiled rags, caught Constance by the arm with two fingers and whispered, "Don't lose hope. On Ro, i mean." he winked a little. "He avoids the conversation, but he feels a'ayan to you, i know it. if he says otherwise, he is jo'a." he was about to continue on his way, when he realized he'd mixed his languages again. "Er....he feels....l-loyalty? Is that the word? Nah, something else. He likes you. A lot. and if he doesn't admit it, he's not...telling the truth...what's that word again?"

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Once inside the door, Constance shut her eyes for a moment. A split second to literally clear her mind, if were even possible. So many thoughts, so many feelings, too many to sort out, too many to think about and upon reopening her eyes, seeing the dozens of hurt, bleeding and possibly dying Vokurians, she absolutely did not have time to think or sort any of it right now. No, as was said earlier, there was things to be done. Possibly preparing for a move which was now going to be so much harder that was seemed like half the village was injured. My fault. No! She could not think about that right now. Rohaan was right. Constance needed him to be right, at the very least about that. This was not her fault.

The notion would keep repeating it'self in her head as she set about the room. First she checked on the blacksmith. He was alive, even if barely and even if it seemed as if he might have been dead out of it thanks to the cocktail. It's not my fault... She checked on the girl that has been taken, the one Ji'ien had carried in. The girl was not hurt much, but clearly shaken and possibly suffering from some sort of traumatic stress that caused her to glare accusingly at Constance despite any offered help. It's not my fault... There was children, elderly, woman, strong young male Volkurians, all with some affiliation or another caused and or given to them by the hunters. It's not my fault...

Each new reminder drove her to work harder. Washing off blood, wrapping a wound, smearing a salve even simply holding a hand to the few that would allow her to do and to those that were in too much pain to care. And then there was some, like the captured girl, that would only glare. Look at her through narrowed eyes. So accusing and cold that stuck her with instant regret and guilt, so much so that she almost uttered the words I'm sorry aloud. Constance did manage to hold it in, not that it wasn't repeated over and over again in her mind.

I'm sorry. It's not my fault. I'm sorry. It's not my fault. I'm so sorry. It's my fault...

The abrupt motion of someone grabbing her arm pulled her out of her hurried thoughts and actions. Looking at first to the fingers that had stopped her mid-action, then to the face, Constance discovered the culprit was Ji'ien. It took her at least three blinks before she correlated his words with the earlier situation. The injured had indeed proved to be a distraction from her near constant thoughts of her and Rohaan and Rohaan in general. When it did register, the human instantly felt a slight flush wash over her cheeks and chest. If Ji'ien saw, who else saw? Did they 'all' see?! See her pretty much just rejected? What do they think she was the fool that she felt so much like?

Constance shook her head just once, a short jerk with narrowed eyes that were trying to follow along and mostly understand just what the Vokurian man was saying to her. Even as he began to turn and leave, she almost reached out for him to explain more when he stopped and did just that. But even after those words, though they carried more meaning, left her more confused and wondering, though perhaps in a different direction. It was as if Ji'ien's touch had left her frozen, still carrying a few bandages in both hands, now completely forgotten about just where she was carrying them to and why. All thoughts were back on Rohaan. What he could be thinking. What he could be feeling. How could she figure out? Did she even want to know anymore? It was all too much to think about right now. Too much, just too much...

A Vokurian woman jerking a bandage from her hand somewhat snapped her out of the trance that Ji'ien's words had induced. With the woman's scowl, Constance nodded an apology and went back to work after a nod to Ji'ien as well if he was still there. What else could she do? Despite Ji'ien's confidence, Constance felt none. Even though the feelings were strange to her, they were still there and sparking, but it was apparent Rohaan's was not sparking at all. And she could not blame him, he was perhaps in a different place than her. It was something she needed to get inscribed into her mind and fast if she was going to be able to continue on their journey with him. She had always been the stubborn type. This thing with Rohaan had to be forgotten and truthfully this time. Not like last night, where she was so weak as to give in less than a day later. No, she had to stick to it this time and stop whatever it was before she ended up doing or saying something that would really damage their agreement and partnership. It had to end.

Perhaps an hour or so later, Constance had been absorbed in trying to help another woman stitch up a knife wound to a handsome young Vokurian when Da'ehra came up to her. "Constance, a few of us are gathering together to discuss the move... I mean..." the girl looked around in a secretive manner, "What we were talking about this morning. Rohaan should be there and you should be as well." The warrior girl spoke to the stitching woman in Vokurian and another girl stepped in to take Constance's place to relieve her. After washing off the glittering silver blood from her hands and arms, Constance followed Da'ehra outside, where dusk was falling, to a fire near the middle of the village. Several others, even some that had been treated for injuries earlier that day had already gathered there with some food and drink awaiting the discussion. Following Da'ehra's lead, Constance was given some bread and took a seat on a flattened log near the fire with a few others. Her green eyes swept over the small crowd searching for Rohaan, of course even though she wasn't quite sure she was ready to face him.

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Ji'ien watched as Constance became frozen at his words; she stood there for the longest time trying to process what he'd told her and he wondered if he finally made her snap. She was pulled from her trance when a woman tugged away a bandage from her arms and Ji'ien knew that was his cue  to move on. Wordlessly the man clapped a hand on her shoulder reassuringly and left her to work, doing the same himself.

Some time later, Audaj appeared, his stride purposeful and urgent. On his hands was a faded red tint, like he'd dirtied his hands in human blood and tried to hastily wash them off. He came to find me, though at first I didn't realize this since i was busy throwing out soaked bandages and stitching up wounds. When I didn't acknowledge him, he said, "Rohaan," and waited patiently for me to respond. Nothing. "Rohaan," he said again, this time a little louder. Once more I was too distracted to even register my own name, as my thoughts were both on stitching a boy's leg and on the conversation Constance and I had moments earlier. Actually, it was less the conversation my mind fixed on and more what happened. I could still feel a tingle on my lips where they'd touched hers, could still feel my heart hammering against my chest in an attempt to escape, could see those eyes staring back into mine...
No, Rheoaan. You can't. Remember? For her sake. For your sake. You can't do this right now. Someday, maybe; someday when you've had the chance to heal and when she's more accustomed to life on the road, when she's sure this is what she wants. Maybe then, I thought to myself as I tied a knot at the end of the thread used to close up the boy's wound. But no matter what I told myself, I couldn't get that one moment out of my head, couldn't shake that lingering desire to get up, pull her aside again and apologize, tell her I was stupid for not sweeping her off her feet, for not responding to all this like I probably should have.

"Rohaan Ja'aisen!" The bold voice finally caught my attention and I sat up as though I'd been struck by a bolt of lightning in search of the owner of said voice. Audaj was there just staring at me with a look that said, 'what's wrong with you?'.  "Look at me," he said finally. "I need you with me. I dont know if you've noticed, but a great deal of these people look up to you, Rohaan Ja'aisen, and I can't have you lose it while they're all watching." Of course. I was Rheoaan Rohaan Rio Ja'aisen, Phoenix, Ghost, Gi'io'au'ri, Sota'e'i'isen. I was one of the most well known criminals in Ri'atal, and my people saw me as a beacon of hope in a dark time, as a catalyst to a revolution. I couldn't falter. Not now. My gaze shifted downward as though I'd just been chastised and knew I was beyond guilty, but Audaj's hand came to rest upon my shoulder. "Hey, look at me," he said, not in a stern voice but in a soft one. "What's your problem?"
I blinked. "I'm fine. What do you need?"
"Jo'a..." he accused, but he let it slide. "The council is meeting to discuss moving the village...it's important to all of us that you're there. You and Constance both."
"Moving? Now?" I asked in disbelief.
"If we can get across the mountains, we'll have the high ground in any battle to come."
"Have you ever tried moving an entire village, Audaj? You don't just pick up and move, there's all manners of disassembling the homes, gathering supplies..."
"We've done it before. The Ci'deia have protected our people and guided them on many a move, we can do it again."
"After half your population is left beaten and bloodied? Audaj! What you're asking is asinine! What if there are more soldiers lying in wait?"
"There are about thirty left, Rheaj is leading an attack party to ambush their camp and retaliate. They were instructed to leave none alive."
"Thirty?" That was doable between a group of about seven vokurians with a little strategy... "How do you know?"
Audaj's eyes drifted down to his reddened hands and said darkly, "Ji'ci'ira will dance for you if you bring them to their knees hard enough."
I nodded. "Who else knows?"
"Just the council...we've kept it quiet for now. Come...and for goodness sakes, find yourself a shirt, you'll freeze to death. Remember, I need you with me. I need you in one piece. I can't do this alone, Rohaan."
Again, I gave the older man a nod and said, "Heia sota, gata iviia a'ae." ((yes sir, you have me.))
"Good," he said, giving me a final pat on the shoulder before swiftly disappearing outside. I moved to the corner where my things had been stuffed and rummaged for a spare shirt. The one I found and slipped on was a heavy cotton material in a dark indigo color. It seemed more fitted than i was used to, and then i remembered that the shirt i had been wearing belonged to Berlin. Oops.

Outside, a group of about ten patrons were already gathered around a fire, Constance among them. Rheaj was missing, of course, but the rest of the Ci'deia was present, along with Ra'oi'ah, Teledaisen's elder. The other members were citizens who varied in age and had some significant experience regarding battle and or prison--most of them had missing fingers, clipped ears, or other scars to prove it.
"I assume you all know why we are here," Ra'oi'ah said. "In my heart, and In Audaj's too, I've known for some time another move was in order...Teledaisen is currently without shield or sanctuary, we're out in the middle of these flat plains with naught to cover us but darkness. I have the feeling these grasslands won't serve us for long."
"Why move when we can bad together and crush Lomme? Their steel is no match for our entire village," someone suggested.
"They carry more than just steel, Avaan. In recent years they've come to make weapons with tio'ira. So you may think you can fight through being struck with an arrow until you realize said arrow is tipped with tio'ira. If you're a winged creature, they could drop you from the sky like stones," Audaj informed him. "I have also wanted to take my revenge, but there are a great many reasons not to. Besides, Ra'oi'ah won't have it."
"I will not," she affirmed. "I've seen too many of my sons and daughters fall today...more bloodshed is not what we need." ((note, Ra'oi'ah is, as a matriarch, considered to be a mother to Teledaisen, so all her people are her 'sons and daughters')) "If it appeases your need for retaliation, Rheaj and a band of warriors have already been sent to decimate what's left of the invading party. Those men will not go unpunished for their actions."
The man who spoke earlier, Avaan, nodded as though that was enough to satisfy him. "Where would we go, then?"
"The mountains," Ra'oi'ah said.
Audaj cut in, "There would be more shelter there and we would have a tactical advantage should they dare pursue us."
"Getting there won't be easy," I said. "I've been across those mountains with the Cyradan years ago and it was no easy journey. It would take time and plenty of effort, but you need the cover. In the south, we had the ocean to hide us when the Ji'ci'ira came. You would have stone. But you'll have to ask yourselves if it's worth doing immediately, considering the condition of most of our patrons. We have a lot of injured to take care of."
There were a few nods, then a spell of silence before one council member, a woman, turned to Constance and asked, "what say you, human? You know your people and your capabilities--would they be able to follow us into the mountains? Or would it deter them from raiding us?"

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Constance's eyes flickered from speaker to speaker as she sat close to Da'ehra. Listening to them speak was hypnotic in a sense. A mix of Vokurian and her language; a special blend of exotic that was fascinating to hear and try to decipher. That and it gave her mind something focus on other than a certain Vokurian standing before her. Still, when he spoke she watched and listened. The weight of all their words bearing down on her shoulders, piercing her mind. She also took time to study the elder, her words and their meaning. It was similar to Narconia in a way. The elders, though male, always had the highest say. Despite the other's rightful concerns, it would most likely be the older Vokurian's will that would determine their futures.

Green eyes continued to bounce from each person before the settled on a woman close to her. "What say you, human? You know your people and your capabilities--would they be able to follow us into the mountains? Or would it deter them from raiding us?"

Constance almost continued her gaze, about to search for whom the woman had spoken asked the question, fully expecting to find said person and await their answer. It took a single blink to realize the woman had been speaking to her. She was 'human' and the the only human here. Constance straightened and clasped her hands tighter together in her lap, it was more in attempts to calm the sudden rush of nerves than to appear confident.

"Well," she started out softly, then cleared her throat and rose the volume in her voice. Her eyes flashed to Rohaan's, only to lock for a second, then back to the woman who addressed her. "They would be able to follow... us," with the word, her eyes again sought Rohaan's, "into the mountains but it would be difficult for a large group to do so. A small group of scouts or trackers are likely to be what they would send instead. A large group would not be able to form an attack, at least not a worthy one. A raid would be even less likely." As she spoke, her voice gained some confidence, her eyes meeting the bright blue of others around her.

"It would be safer than here. Here, they've seen your village. Know that they can surround you with a large group. In the mountains we would be more spread out, it would be much to risky to send in a small group to attack for fear they would be easily outnumbered and you would have the advantage, which you most definitely would. I believe a move to the mountains, tough as it will be, will be beneficial to you all."

Constance nodded as if confirming her beliefs. Da'ehra nodded in return, as if reassuring the human that she did fine. Still, Constance's eyes went to Rohaan. She had yet to discuss any of what the other did with her this morning. What were his thoughts? His opinions seemed on the fence, as they say. Would he stay with these Vokurians? At least to see them through the move. Unwinding her fingers, she placed her palmed flat on her thighs and braced herself for the reactions of the crowd, more specifically, Rohaan.

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Eyes turned to Constance, awaiting an answer from the bewildered human beside me. She took a moment, then answered, addressing the awaiting council. Atta girl. Admittedly, I'd be a bit nervous too if a host of powerful people (physically and socially) who, because of the long history of our races, already were wary and distrusting were looking to me for such important answers. The wrong decision could easily cost many people their lives and further destroy an already fragile relationship. But she held her own, even on the fly, and I was once again reminded of why she had done so well entangled in all of my escapades. Constance was tough, smart, and quick on her feet, even under pressure. As she spoke to the council, I watched her, but it wasn't long before I had to forcefully tear my gaze away to hide the small grin that touched my lips.
Now's not the time, Rheoaan.

When Constance finished speaking, a low rumble erupted amongst the group as they whispered to their neighbor what they thought of the idea of moving, discussing the pros and cons. No one of them ever argued with anyone else, rather, they just spouted their thoughts to a listening ear in order to organize their thoughts and paused to let the other do the same. Ra'oi'ah let this go on for a minute or two before she lifted a wrinkled hand and called, "yevai'anh!" ((trans: "hearken" or "focus")) The council silenced immediately and all eyes fixed on their elder. However, instead of speaking again right away, she placed a soft hand on Audaj's arm.
"Rohaan's right; we do have a great deal of injured that can't move on their own, much less pull carts and help with shelters. I think an assessment needs to be made to determine how many of us are able bodied and how many would need to be assisted." A collective nod around the group, then,
"If you were to ask me, I'd say we'd almost need to make two trips," i said. "Take all the materials we can in one trip and the wounded in the second."
"Rio, are you suggesting we split our numbers? That's...." the man who spoke searched for the Riatalyan word and failed, ending up with it's Vokurian equivalent instead. "Ikhalyir!" ((Trans: "folly" or an absolute stupidity))
I held up my hands as if to pause the conversation and said, "please, Rohaan, to all who will accept it. I am with you and I hope you are with me as well." At that, there was a unified repeating of "Rohaan" amongst the council--a good sign, because if there were any who did not answer, it would be indicative of their distrust of me, and right now the last thing the council needed was tension. "And yes, I am suggesting we split our forces--"
"But our strength lies in our unity, if we don't have that, what do we have?" A woman asked.
"The first group will be small, a scouting party of sorts led by a few members of the Ci'deia and a small handful of others for defense purposes. The rest stay behind and look after the wounded and prepare them for the journey, and when they're ready, they follow. Otherwise you end up trying to carry building materials and the injured in carts. Space gets tight, mistakes are made, people get hurt. I don't advise it."

There was another burst of conversation amongst the council before Ra'oi'ah stopped it again, this time to speak. "I think a move would be the best for our people. As for how it will be done, I trust the judgement of Audaj and his crew, and that includes Rohaan and Constance." She paused and not a soul spoke or made noise as the elder allowed this to sink in. "Go, gather your families and take account of who is wounded and who still stands. Come back and, when you do, be ready to leave. Telekanyeh." It was as if Ra'oi'ah's 'telekanyeh' was the final word that disallowed anything to be spoken afterward, because no one made any further comments; they just dispersed to do as they were told.

Only then did I allow a smile to Constance. "Well done. I hope you know, you're making leaps and bounds of progress in gaining trust with these people. Not just anyone gets invited to speak at Council."
"Not just anyone," Ra'oi'ah repeated, approaching the two of us. "Thank you for help, Constance. I never thought a human could be so...compassionate." The aging woman laid her hand on Constance's forehead. "Avi'vokae Akavi Avi, I name you. Teledovye," she said, lifting her hand. Ra'oi'ah left, then, off to carry out the business of gathering those who were able.
I turned to Constance, my face wrinkled in genuine surprise. "That's quite the honor, there....not only did she give you a vokurian name--all three of them, mind you--but it's what she named you that surprises me. "Avi'vokae is 'Vokurian's friend'. I mean, it's fitting but...I would never have expected to hear it from anyone but the Ci'deia. Ah, and teledovye is...like...'may you be strong'. You ought to feel good about all that."

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Constance allowed herself to breath only after completely convinced that the Vokurians were at least someone satisfied with her answer. She wondered if her nerves would ever calm around these people and doubted very seriously that they ever would. She wanted to be right, wanted their approval more than she even realized yet. For many reasons. One being the blonde man standing next to her but it was something more than that. Back in Narconia, Constance had tried to offer her opinions and advice to the elders, begged for change from the Protectors, more so in earlier years during the increase in spunk in her late teens. Eventually though, after time and time of being ignored, told to keep quite and blatantly told that a woman's, a girl's especially, was not needed, a part of her gave up. Of course she still tried to show her worth to her father and the Protectors, but somewhere along the way her voice was lost concerning the issues of her people.

Thus is was enough to nearly put her in a state of shock and disbelief, when among this entirely different race, her words and ideas actually seemed to be noted and taken into consideration. So much so, that she completely missed Rohaan's ghost of a smile. Her wide, alert eyes continued to dance around the meeting, flickering from Vokuiran to Vokurian, male and female all voicing their concerns, the pros and cons of taking the journey. In the end it was decided. They shall move and in two trips it was aimed to be finished with everyone, injured and not safely into the mountains. And herself and Rohaan were going too it would seem.

When the elder woman, Ra'oi'ah, finished up, Constance waited a few moments to stand and face Rohaan as he spoke. With the new status of their journey having been mapped out, she seemed to have more to occupy her thoughts at the moment then just wrap their-selves around him. Still his smile was contagious and she couldn't fight matching it, easing her prior tension in the slightest as she met his eyes. Before she could respond to his comment, the elder woman spoke up as she drew close to only them. Constance jerked her gaze to the woman then looked slightly away, remembering she wasn't supposed to make direct eye contact.

The human was sent right back into the state of shock that never seemed to fully leave her nervous system ever since she arrived in the village. Even her face flushed and heated as the woman spoke. "You're welcome... I was just being honest." What shocked her most, Ra'oi'ah then actually laid her palm on Constance's forehead. She froze instantly, completely unsure of how to react so went with being completely still. Not knowing what to say or do, she was left blinking after the older woman spoke and shuffled away.

It was up to Rohaan to pull her from the momentary paralysis, easily done as he spoke to her. Green eyes darted to meet blue, she was never afraid to meet his eyes, in fact she found she adored the very act. After a moment's searching, she found her voice.

"Sh-she named me?" states softly then looks to the side in thought as she repeated the name as Rohaan explained their meanings, "Avi'vokae Akavi Avi..." Tasting the new words on her lips, she looked back up to Rohaan with innocent questioning, "Is that... a pretty name?" Of course it was a girlish thing to ask, but she was still stunned from the entire ordeal to be poised at the moment.

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I smiled down at her. "Aye, she named you. I've seen it done only a few times before but...I think that's the first time I've seen it happen to a human. Every time I've seen it, It's been a vokurian from another Ruvi'aehir--er, sorry, from another...um...clan? town? group? Anyhow, they'll sometimes assimilate into another community and if they make a big enough impact, they can be renamed by the elder. But...I've never seen a human be officially renamed...that's really quite the honor." I blinked off into the distance as I rolled this around in my head. What would I use to address her? Of course, Constance would always be fine to use, but...perhaps Akavi would be more on a ceremonial level? Or when I introduced her to others of my kind? Probably.

Constance asked me if the name was a pretty one, to which I openly laughed. "A pretty name?" I repeated. "Avi'vokae Akavi Avi..." My blue eyes met her green ones, and there was a pause in both my words and movements. Moments turned to long seconds that marched on, my eyes searching deeper into hers. "Avi'vokae.....er, sorry, not my place to use that name, Akavi, sorry. Yeah, yeah, I like it. It has a nice flow to it. Constance Avi'vokae Akavi Avi....." there was a long pause of silence where all I could do was stare back into her gaze, and then...

"Rohaan!" Blinking, I turned to find the source of the voice calling my name. The dark-haired Audaj was looking expectantly at me as though he'd been calling my name multiple times. "Rohaan, I need you--both of you--to help out in breaking down the buildings and get them loaded into wagons, carts, anything you can. Everything that won't fit will have to be carried somehow....those that aren't in talyis might be able to carry it in the air, or perhaps in tandem somehow. I trust the citizens to figure that out on their own. ....Rohaan," Audaj snapped his fingers, "are you with me?"
"Heia, Sota. You have me," I said, nodding. "C'mon Constance. Always work to be done...."

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"Avi'vokae... Akavi... Avi", Constance let the words roll off her tongue in a whisper once more as Rohaan explained the rarity of the elder's act. Still in a bit of a shock, Constance's head bobbed once in a nod of understanding. But did she really grasp the weight of it. The human had only been in their village a night. Only just arrived, yet so much had happened. She wondered again if she were the first ever taken. Never once had she heard of a human mingling with Vokurians. In fact just weeks ago, she herself would have regarded such a claim to be fairy tale or perhaps even a nightmare, as Vokurians were supposed to be cruel and heartless. Monstrous beasts incapable of compassion. Incapable of love.

Green eyes had roamed to the scattering Vokurians around her but at the last thought, they flashed back to catch Rohaan's. Her new first name has just spilled from his mouth after an amused laugh to which she couldn't help but smile in return. He apologized for using the name. After a moment's confusion, she remembers why. It was a special named reserved for only the closest of heart. Family and lovers, perhaps. Who here would ever get to use that name? If anyone was in place to do so, surely Rohaan was the one.

"I like it too. And..." Constance smiled again as she searched for the appropriate words to express her feelings, "I, I'm honored. Just... Wow..." Their eyes locked for an extended moment. Words weren't necessary, she felt Rohaan could likely tell by the look on her face that she stunned in the most amazing way of being so. And even being in the current state, still the weight of his stare made her heart quicken and slow all at once sending her chest into a state of frenzy.

The moment was short lived, as it always seemed to be, interrupted by Audaj. Before she could think too long on just how long the man had been failing at getting their attention, he was already rattling off his purpose. Probably figuring he better be quick, less he loose them again. The realization of that brought a light pink hue to her cheeks, which she hoped was hidden by the cold. She really should focus. They were moments away from embarking on a rather dangerous journey and she was bound and determined to prove to them that she was worthy of carrying a Vokurian name.

Constance dipped her chin in a firm nod to Audaj, though he had barely addressed her. She found her feet were already following. "Will Rohaan and I be going on the first trip? To help scout out a location? A human could come in handy, ya know? In case we come across other humans. I am also pretty good at monitoring a perimeter. And I'm a decent fighter." And just like that she was promoting herself to the man. It was very similar to conversation she had had so many times with her father. Near begging him to let her become a Protector for Narconia. Of her father always said no, outright refused even the idea of such a thing. Maybe, just maybe things would be different this time.

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There were several, long moments where there was nothing else besides Constance's eyes meeting mine. It was odd, really, as I wasn't really one to hyperfocus like that. I was always thinking about some sound off in the distance, about whether or not there were shadows appearing over my head, looking at a leaf swirling in the wind--something. But this time I found myself strangely content to just stand there and exchange....well, they weren't really glances, they were more like stares, really. And that was fine. All fine and good until Audaj pulled me out of the moment. When he did, a rush of things came to my attention; the little cut in my leg that had long since stopped bleeding but still smarted and throbbed, the bone-rattling chill of the air and how it chewed at my nose and ears, and the severity of the situation we were in.
Focus, Rheoaan.

Constance tried to sell herself to Audaj as a guardian as though she was trying to sell a chicken at the market. Audaj caught this and hid the tiniest smile from his lips as he nodded and said, "I think you would do well with that task. Besides, Rohaan, you say you've been over the mountains before? The two of you could scout out possible landing sites. Somewhere we could settle for a long time, if at all possible. And Constance, pay attention to how difficult it is for you, as a human, to reach this area. I want it to be difficult to do--impossible, if you could manage it. I want to make sure no band of worthless Ji'ci'ira come parading into my Ruvi'aehir, into my home. Understood?" The man cocked one dark eyebrow as he searched our faces with his cobalt eyes.
"Heia, Sota," I answered, giving him a quick nod before moving to the nearest hut--a simple building maybe half the size of Audaj's home--and began dismantling it. It was no ordinary demolition; these people had a very precise and streamlined way of breaking down the structures so that none of the materials were damaged in the process, and all they had to do to rebuild was put the pieces back together. Those pieces were loaded into a once covered wagon that had, earlier that morning, served as someone's home. Now it was being quickly transformed back into a wagon to carry lumber from a house that didn't even belong to the wagon's owner. That was Vokurian culture in a nutshell--when times were tough, they would always band together and pool their resources to benefit the group as a whole.

In a surprisingly short amount of time, perhaps an hour or so, the half of Teledaisen that would embark on the first phase of the journey was packed and ready to go, some in man form, some in the form of various beasts like horses, oxen, and even large, red-scaled dragons that carried what wouldn't fit in wagons high overhead. Ji'ien brought forward the horse Constance and I took from Narconia and then shifted into a horse, allowing one of the Council members--one who seemed more seasoned in combat than some of the others--to ride upon his back.
"Under orders of Ra'oi'ah, you lead, we follow, Ja'aisen," the councilman said, touching two fingers to his forehead and dropping them down into his lap. As was customary, I answered by placing my two fingers on my forehead and then lifting my hand upward; the exchange of gestures was a way of communicating the councilman stepping down in authority and me taking up the helm, so to speak, and it was one visible by everyone so that orders concerning who was in command could be carried out quickly.
"To the north, then," i said. Mounting up on the our horse and stretching my hand out for Constance to join, we made our way to the front of the masses and made a strong pace towards the looming mountains. "If anything goes wrong," I told Constance, "Be prepared to take the reins, because i'll probably fly off and make sure the problem doesn't persist. I'll leave your involvement in any combat situations up to you, though I have a good idea of which route you'd chose between fighting or not fighting." I offered a smile, twisting around in the saddle so she could actually see it.

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